Monday, April 23, 2012

Record Store Day Half Marathon

Still nursing a sore Achilles tendon -- and an unhappy hamstring -- we went for a loooooooong walk for this week's half marathon. Up to the lookout, down to Golden Gardens, along the trail to the locks, then past the train tracks to Myrtle Edwards Park. A little ways down the waterfront, up the stairs to the Market, and through Seattle Center to Easy Street Records.

Phew. It took a lot longer to walk than to type, even though that's a really long and somewhat boring paragraph.

Wil managed to pick up a couple of things at Record Store Day, too...

Monday, April 16, 2012

Run Raleigh Half Marathon Race Report

Recipe for an angry hamstring:
  • 1/2 marathon
  • 4 hours driving from state to state

Combine these two ingredients, then let sit overnight.

The next morning, add in another:
  • 1/2 marathon
  • 1 hilly course

For extra flavor, mix in one stumble over a tree root, a pinwheeling near fall, and an immediate limp. Please note: this is optional and only recommended for advanced chefs.

My “race strategy” for the day was to run for first 5 miles, then take it easy and recover the last 8. I was going to be strong and brave and not fret about people running past me – I was thinking about the long term.

before the start
Things went fine this morning – got up, had some bread and cheese, and then waffled on clothes. Capris or shorts? Sleeveless or short sleeves? Jacket?

But in the end I went with capris and a sleeveless top, and no jacket. I stood on the balcony for a few minutes – it was muggy and not as chilly as yesterday. I walked the few blocks to the start, milled around for a few minutes, and then felt thirsty. What? No water at the start? Wow. Luckily the guy at the running store let me go back to use their drinking fountain. Still, kind of weird not to have any water.

White Memorial Presbyterian Church
(historic postcard - trees are bigger now)
We started by running up a slight incline – hamstring felt a little tight, but I figured I could just run till it got warm, or loose, or whatever. We ran a funny “lollipop loop” around a pretty old church. On the way there, we were running past some big mansions. As I fumed about their right-wing political signs out front (yeah, I get it, you’re the 1%...) I tripped over a bump in the road from a tree root. In order to stay upright, I executed an amazing maneuver involving a stutter step, a twisted ankle, some select cursing – but managed to avoid falling. Of course, I also managed to make my hamstring hurt even more. Whee.

Anyway, I limped my way toward the church, thinking “wow, how pretty! It’s like a little English church, but we’re not in New England.”

I assure you that it was only a couple of seconds before I laughed at myself. Honest. Hadn’t I spent part of yesterday’s drive laughing about the city of Charlotte and the county of Mecklenburg? Oh yes.

Okay, back on track here…. But in a lot of pain. I thought that maybe I just needed to gently warm up a bit more – so I slowed to a brisk walk somewhere between miles 2 and 3. A lot of folks passed me, which was hard to bear, but as I always say, you have to run the race you have, on the course you have, in the weather you have, and in the body you have on the day. Today was not going to be a very good day.

Welcome to Downtown Raleigh
I’ll say this about the course – it was pretty. After the side trip to the church, we ran past a university (Brownstone, maybe?), and then down down down a hill. We passed a big sign – “Welcome to Downtown Raleigh” -  but there were no buildings in sight. Kinda funny.

"Downtown Raleigh" -- immediately after the sign

Down, down, down some more, past a “correctional facility”, and then into a big park, where we followed a trail on boardwalk through a genuine swamp. I was nearly alone at this point, which was a little nervewracking… I kept worrying that I would somehow make a wrong turn or get lost in the wilds of Raleigh, NC.
swamp -- for real

nice boardwalk to run on

But the trail was pretty, shady, and cool, so I just enjoyed it…. Until we came to a dark tunnel. Luckily the organizers had put in temporary lights so it wasn’t pitch black – but it was spooky dark. I was glad that I suddenly had a few other folks nearby!

spoooOOOOOOooooky (and much darker in real life)

The rest of the course passed pretty unremarkably – the water stop volunteers got goofier and goofier – in a great way – as they got tired and punchy. This race had great volunteers.

Eventually we headed up the big hill we came down early in the race – that I ran down, thinking “use the hill” and concentrating on not tripping again. I wasn’t sure quite where we were on the course, which brings me to my biggest criticism of the race:

There were no mile markers.

Now, sure, I had a GPS on. And after mile 8, the water stop volunteers told everyone the mile. But still. Mile markers make a difference for people. If nothing else, it helps them know they are still on track. It just seemed like a really obvious mistake. I don’t need clocks or anything fancy …. I just want something saying where each mile falls. Not having that seems amateurish.

somewhere pretty on the course... not sure where, of course...

All of a sudden I was at the turn by my hotel. For the most part, the volunteers and the police officers were fantastic in keeping the road clear for runners. But when I approached the intersection, neither the cop nor the volunteer seemed to notice me. Sure, today I was slow and late. But the course was supposed to be open for another half hour. I ended up standing on the corner, and then shouting “Which way?” twice before the volunteer noticed me. He said “just down the street and then you’ll see it”. Yeah, sure, but perhaps you might want to stop traffic so I could cross?

Anyway, I crossed the street, went down the road, and then spotted the finish line. I considered running to the finish, but that seemed disingenuous. All I wanted to do was get done in under three hours, and that was well within my reach. So I smiled, thanked the people who were cheering, and strode across in 2:58

Got my handsome medal, some water, and some potato chips, but didn’t see much else to hang around and do. Never spotted the advertised “beer tent for runners”, but all I really wanted to do was shower. So I headed back to the hotel.

Not a race I could recommend to others – really, mile markers. Really. But it’s another state checked off… That makes 12!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Today's goal: just finish without injury

Woke up with a twinge in my right knee and an unhappy right hamstring. So today I am going to run as well as I can to the 5 mile point, and then probably walk the rest of the way. Maybe this back to back thing isn't super bright...

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Palmetto Half Marathon Race Report

I left the warm cocoon of my giant rental car ("a medium crossover," the man at Dollar said. "A Ford Escape." Um, this is the biggest car I have ever driven...) and walked the few hundred feet to the start. Despite the cold, I decided to go jacket less, wondering when exactly I had stopped packing disposable running gear. But the sky indicated that it was going to be a lovely day, so I should warm up fast enough.

pre-race sunrise
 A lovely balloon arch marked the start, and I had the usual pre-race happy/scared feeling. A few announcements, a fine, Irish-tinged rendition of the national anthem, and off we went.

I was a little nervous that everyone would be fast -- but I was happy to see a few folks setting off, determinedly, at a brisk walk. I figured that, if nothing else, I could walk with them.

I started off mile 1 with my usual "oh, no, I can't do this... I'm stiff and cold and wah wah wah." But then came mile 2 and I settled in -- and suddenly we were at mile 5. Very nice.

We had run out of the shopping mall, along a busy highway, and then through a nice neighborhood where we passed "golf-cart crossing" places and fine looking sand traps. A little further along, the frontrunners came flying toward us. One guy on his own way ahead of all the others, and then 6 or 7 other men before the first woman (who ended up winning -- I noticed her because she was wearing Brooks).

We turned down a shady road and ran around a gorgeous little lake, marred only by the "PRIVATE LAKE. NO TRESPASSING" signs dotted around it. I liked the fact that the grand houses showed variety -- they weren't all cookie-cutter McMansions.

The stretch was really lovely and I ran comfortably through it.

I hadn't really formulated a "race strategy" for the day. Given that I am running again tomorrow, I didn't want to go all out. I originally planned to check in at mile 5, the halfway point, and definitely stop at mile 10. But 5 and 6.55 passed smoothly, and when I got to 10 I was surprised to by the time -- I was on pace to either PR or run my fastest race since, oh, 2009.

So it was a bit of a dilemma. Do I stick with my plan? Or do I go for it?

So I went on, having a little conversation with myself... reminding myself that I had to run on Sunday, that it was getting really hot, that I was having a hard time breathing already, and it was just getting worse as the temperature rose. So a PR was by no means a sure thing. Conveniently, my hamstring piped up to remind me that it had been feeling a little strained for the past couple of runs -- so that sealed the deal. So I dropped to a walk, and just made my way to the finish line.

My new goal was to finish ahead of two other runners I had dubbed "sparkle butt" and "hippy dippy".

I'm sure I'm not the only person who picks out another runner and decides to try and "beat" them. In this case, I picked out a girl in a cute sparkly running skirt, and another with a tie-dye shirt. Now, there was nothing else remarkable about either of these women -- I just decided that they were identifiable and I would watch them as I ran. I'm pretty sure someone tagged me as "green socks" and watched me. It's just something to do while passing the miles.

I had dropped sparkle butt early on -- but didn't know if I would see her again now at I was walking (I didn't). But hippy dippy came and went. I was well ahead of her at one point, but with about half a mile to go she passed me again while I walked.

We were coming to the "final turn" -- I could see the finish arch in the distance. So I started to run. I briefly thought I should rally the handful of women around me, with a "come on girls, leave nothing in the tank", but I had stiffened up with the three miles of walking and wasn't even sure I could speed up at all. Sure, I had stuff in the tank, just no spark. Or something.

As we came to the final 30 yards or so, I gave it all my creaky legs would give -- and passed hippy dippy somewhere between the "name tag" marker and the finish line. Success!

Oh, I also got a nice shout out from the announcer -- "Here comes Sunny.... all the way from Seattle, Washington!" That got an "oooOOOOoooo" from the crowd. Nice.

I picked up my medal, had some Gatorade and half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a little bag of potato chips, and stretched a little. But I was feeling antsy, so I headed to the car, changed clothes, and hit US 1 for the (completely fantastic) drive to Raleigh. South Carolina -- CHECK!

2012 Palmetto Half Marathon medal

Pre-race jitters

I have run a bunch of half marathons. I often feel a bit jittery before the race, but usually I have my lovely Wil to settle me. I have run alone three times, but in two of those cases I was in Seattle (so I knew where I was all the time) or I was at a Rock n Roll race (so I knew the race management style). But this race is a real mystery to me.

I will say that packet pickup was well organized, the web site well laid out, and we have had lots of helpful emails from the event management. So all should be well.

That said, I sure wish Wil was here. I know that most people run races on their own, but I have enjoyed the luxury of a running buddy for years. Yep, I'm lucky!

It is lovely and crisply cold this morning -- 50 degrees -- so folks are bundled up. I may wear my light jacket for a while. Today's race isn't about time, it is about completion. Pure and simple. Get across the line today, have a bit of fun, and then run again tomorrow.

Friday, April 13, 2012

A run in District 12

Got my Katniss Everdeen on for a little shakeout run in the "forest" (er, clump of trees) on campus at UNC. Plenty of squirrels and some large, noisy, but unseen animal moving through the undergrowth. And really loud birds.
Today I am driving to Columbia, SC to prep for the Palmetto Half Marathon tomorrow. Not feeling particularly fit after the week of Southern Living, but we'll see how it goes.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Oak Barrel Half Marathon Race Report

People in Tennessee are nice. Just plain nice.

See, breakfast in the hotel wasn't supposed to start until 7am ... which, frankly, was cutting it a bit too short to make an 8am race that starts a 20-minute drive away. Wil and I planned to have everything ready to go and then try to grab a piece of toast or something as we ran out the door at 7. This made me nervous -- I do hate being late -- so we went downstairs at 6:45 hoping that we might be able to grab something early.

Imagine my surprise when the elevator doors opened to a breakfast room FULL of people -- all with their race numbers on! And a harried but friendly employee filling and refilling the basket of bananas and bagels. So we grabbed some breakfast and headed out the door at 6:50.

We got near Lynchburg pretty quickly, but then got caught in the line to turn into the main square. It took us 15 minutes or so, but everything moved smoothly and there were plenty of cops and volunteers directing traffic. 

We parked on the grass in a large park, made pre-race pit stops, and then headed up to the starting area. I always love the last few minutes before the start, as people get ready for their race. This time of year there seem to be a lot of first-timers, which is especially lovely. Some folks are chatty, others very quiet and focused. Then a live singing of the national anthem, and then we were off -- literally, "... hoooome of the braaaaaave. HONK!"
obligatory pre-race photo
They started to play upbeat music as we walked towards the start; I always feel like dancing a little (probably using energy I could have used later - ha!) and of course I let out a little whoop as we crossed the line. I LOVE this part!

course map -- and if you could look very carefully, you'd be able to track me walking around the finish area for 15 minutes, picking up a soda, eating a hotcake, stretching...
 We ran with the pack, off into the backroads of Tennessee. Not what one might call a "flat" course... more "constantly rolling".... and with one great, big, loooong hill. But that was still to come. So we ran and ran on the absolutely perfect morning. Clear blue sky, a tiny bit chilly, and not much wind to speak of. Perfect!

And then, somewhere around mile 3, we ran through past some sort of livestock farm. Goat? Cow? Heaven knows what, but we were downwind from their cesspit. Not "ew, it smells like a cesspit". It was an actual cesspit -- perhaps cesspool -- steaming in the morning sun. And we were downwind... and I thought I was going to throw up. I tried breathing with my mouth, but that was just as bad. I know I'm a city girl, but I defy anyone to find that just "nature". Vile.

Luckily, we passed it relatively quickly ... and then we started climbing. Here's how the organizers describe the course:

"Understand, that because Lynchburg sits in a valley, the race course incorporates a few hills. The scenic beauty of Moore County, however, will far outweigh any of the challenges presented by the hills. This will NOT be a "flat and fast" personal record setting course but hopefully will be a fun and memorable race."

Now, we're from Seattle. Sure, we live at sea level and all, but we know from hills. So when we started up "character building" Whiskey Hill, I thought I might not be so bad. It just went up. And up. And up. Because the road curved a bit, you couldn't really see where it was heading, where it would end, etc. And it just got steeper as it went.

I slowed to a walk -- no sense blowing all my energy before mile 5, right? Other people were trying to run it, but we frequently passed them -- it did sorta feel like we were all just staying in place. And then we saw it... the switchback. I don't have a picture, but "I Run For The Hills" snagged these two pictures from Facebook last year:

runners headed up the switchback on Whiskey Hill
the teeny tiny dots are runners headed up Whiskey Hill... seen from the top of the hill

Um, wow. That was indeed a hill. It was like the hill in Seward Park... but longer. Maybe like the hill in Stanley Park? As we got to the switchback -- a turn so steep it would be a little nerve-wracking in a car -- I could hear "Running on Empty". Indeed.

But we made it to the top, and wobbled our way to the water stop, where I gulped Gatorade and water. One downside to getting to the top of the ridge? We got into the sun for most of the rest of the race. Good thing I had my visor!

We ran along the top of the ridge, passing fields, barns, the occasional horse, and a few spectators. My absolute favorite folks were an elderly farming couple, standing at the edge of their driveway, cheering. The farmer had a pair of wooden clappers (perhaps for calling cows home?!?), and his wife had her arms up in the air, saying "Go go go!" Adorable!!!!

Wil wore his "40@40" shirt again, and I had added a "#5" tyvek "bib" he could pin on the back. We chattered a lot with other runners in our area about the project -- I think adding the number was a nice touch. It will be even nicer when the count gets higher!

We hit a loooooong downhill at some point, essentially from mile 8.5 to mile 11. This was the good part -- I felt strong and pretty happy. And then I got a bit tired. As usual. I need to work on the mental part of my running -- I mean, I never thought I wasn't going to finish. I just felt tired, wanted to walk more, and started having trouble breathing. And the weather had gotten hot. Or at least hot for us northern types. Wil kept me moving, as usual, and I was really happy when we passed the 12 mile mark on the road into town. It's always nice to know a bit about where you are, right? 

We passed the distillery and approached the final turn into the square, where Wil grabbed my hand and we took off as fast as my tired legs would allow us. We got a nice shout-out from the announcer, had some cheers, and smiled wide as we ran across the line. Given the hill, the heat, and the bad night's sleep the night before, I was thrilled to finish in 2:34:32.

Crazy hair, red faces, and sweet medals. Oh, and yes, I did run with a necklace on. What, you don't run in jewelry? I should just be glad I remembered to take off my freakin' charm bracelet...
Lovely volunteers handed us bottles of water and put very handsome oak medals around our necks. They are beautiful -- laser etched, blackened on the edges, and decorated on both sides. They also happen to smell gorgeous. Completely and totally gorgeous. People kept saying that they were made out of JD barrels -- but I suspect it's just the same oak. But who knows -- maybe that's why they smell so good?

 After the race we wandered around the square and enjoyed a very fine spread -- possibly the best at any race I've ever seen. Hotcakes? Yes please! Pizza slice? Sure! Ice cold Diet Coke? Oh yes. We didn't have the soup, but people were enjoying that, too. A guy was standing on a flatbed truck, singing and playing guitar; people were sitting around, chatting and eating, and we just stretched and took it all in.

Eventually we went to the car, changed shirts and went back to the square to do a little shopping. We then decided to go to the distillery to buy one of the engraved bottles -- I mean, why not get a "decanter" as a souvenir? But the line to get things engraved was really long and moving really slowly... and I was a little nervous about packing a $75 bottle of whiskey in my suitcase that still had a lot of flying to do. So we decided to go back to the hotel for a shower and a nap instead. (I still feel this was a fine choice.)

All in all, the Mach Tenn running club put on a fantastic race -- plenty of water, excellent post-race food, gorgeous swag, and a fantastic medal.

A few random highlights:
- the group who ran in the "Disco Shorts" from BetaBrand
- our "pacers" over the last few miles
- and one of the greatest race moments ever: the hidden boom box that suddenly started playing "Dueling Banjos" as we approached Whiskey Hill. I may have a real purty mouth, but I *still* don't wanna squeal like a piggy!

Friday, April 6, 2012


Flew in to Nashville today, picked up the car, and headed south to Tullahoma. After the early morning (3:40 alarm, 4:00 taxi, 5:30 flight...) and then longer-than-expected drive, we happily checked in and showered before heading the last 25 minutes south to Lynchburg.

Went to the Jack Daniel Distillery to pick up our surprisingly sweet swag bags -- a string bag, a Nike Dri-Fit long-sleeved top, and matching embroidered running hat -- and our numbers. Ah, personalized bibs. Is there anything finer?

My one regret -- last year's shirts were black. This year we get white. Sigh.

We then headed over to Lynchburg's cute town square, but most of the shops were shutting down for the evening. Or at least the official shop was....

Back up to Tullahoma where we had a surprisingly nice meal at a place called Fazoli's. I had seen the logo and assumed it was a "sit-down" but casual restaurant -- perhaps the Olive Garden of the South? Nope -- it was what I believe is known in the biz as "fast casual" -- you order at a counter but the food is actually good and you are encouraged to stay. Nothing fancy, but tasty and fresh. Or at least laden with cheese...

Now back at the hotel, we have our gear laid out for the morning. I feel a little nervous, for some strange reason, but I'll feel better when we toe the line tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Some days I feel like this on the treadmill...

We've all had our awkward moments on the treadmill -- touch wood, mine have never been this, um, spectacular. Or captured on video.

Sending a virtual hug to the guy at 53 seconds in. Bless.