Tuesday, April 30, 2013

April wrap-up

May will be a challenging month, as I'll be having the second set of eye surgeries, this time on my right eye. That means, essentially, doing very little running... or at most, easy running... all month. So I guess I will need to really reduce my goal from 60 to, say 30...
In other running news; Suz and I have signed up for her first half marathon in October. I felt pretty torn about suggesting this. On the one hand, I wanted her to have a magical experience for her first half, which made the Tinker Bell half in January seem like the perfect race. I mean, it's women-friendly, it's DISNEY, and it's got an AWESOME medal. :) But on the other hand, I didn't want her to lose her momentum or have to spend November and December wondering if she would be able to complete the half in January.
So hearing about the Biggest Loser half marathon in October, well, it just seemed perfect. It will be a smaller race, in Seattle, and since we signed up before May 1, a bargain at $45. It's completely walker-friendly, too, which will give us plenty of time if anything goes wrong. Besides, it will be a good way to prove that she's ready to run -- which means she'll be more confident and happy going in to the Tink! So I'm excited about that.
I've also been looking in to some of those "fun" 5Ks. I'm a sucker for a Groupon/Living Social/Zozi deal, so I was happy to pick up 2-for-1 entries to the Seattle zombie 5K as well as the Color in Motion 5K. I haven't really run many 5Ks lately -- seems a little silly to pay money to just run 3.1 miles as fast as I can. But I have decided I want to try to run a few different sorts of fun races. (Of course, I laughed out loud when I saw an ad for a 10-miler in Austin, TX, advertised as "no mud, no foam, no chocolate... just ten miles"... and I totally get that.)
There's a piece in the new issue of Runner's World magazine about color runs, etc., noting that over a MILLION people will run color runs in 2013, and that the largest demographic is women running their first 5K. Hey, if that gets people out and active, and makes them think about running, well, I'm all for it! And like I said, I don't need to pay someone to let me run 3.1 miles... but I wouldn't mind paying someone to let me run through mud, over obstacles, through foam, through color powder, or away from zombies. Why not?
I've added a bunch of "proposed' races to my races page, including a color run (registered!), a zombie run (registered!), a foam run, an "electric" run (glow sticks, baby!), and even a "run" where I would be a zombie rather than someone trying to elude zombies. We'll see how many I actually end up doing... but I think mixing it up a bit is a good idea.
I do still want to actually run a fast 5K at some point -- pick a race that isn't too large and try and PR. I think it shouldn't be a problem to PR, as I'm faster now, but I would like to have it be "official". Just probably not while being blasted with color, foam, or zombie gore... And as for the fun runs ... is anyone interested in being a "shuffling zombie" with me?!?


Sunday, April 28, 2013

University of Charleston Half Marathon Race Report

I would like to apologize in advance for the negative thoughts I had going in to this race. See, yesterday I ran the Park to Park Half in Waynesboro, Virginia, and it was AWESOME. But when I got to Charleston last night and went to check the information for today's race, I was dismayed to see that only 144 people were running the half. Oh.
Now, our first ever half marathon had fewer than 75 people in it, so I'm not sure why the low number spooked me. But I was worried that this race would be poorly organized so I was dreading it a little. I mentioned it to Rebecca over IM, who reminded me that I had never come in last, and wouldn't this time. But to be honest, that's not what was bothering me. (Heck, we've come in close to last a couple of times, and it's okay. Really!) I think I just worried that it was indicative of the quality of the race. Here's what's even weirder -- the 5K race only at 53 people registered.
Anyway, woke up to rain, rain, rain, which caused me to make a last-minute adjustment in my outfit... I swapped my shorts for a pair of capris and very happily unearthed my LSD Lite Jacket (which is so great!) But I ate my bagel, drank some water, and was on my way to the race by 6:15. One very nice thing: when a race starts on a university campus, there's pretty good signage directing you to the place!
Got to the University of Charleston a little before 6:30 as the rain fell harder and harder. Packet pickup was easy, though I almost forgot to pick up a shirt because the shirts were at a different table. Oh, and the shirts were nice and simple: black shirts, with the race name in yellow on the front, and a large and quite handsome race logo on the back. No sponsors or other stuff. Simple.
I took my stuff to the car and decided to just sit in the car for a few minutes. The rain made me feel a bit sad and even less motivated to run. The course would be open for three hours... and I figured I would probably need close to 2:45 of it, given that I had run yesterday. I waited till the last possible moment to leave the car and walk the 25 yards to the start. Did I mention it was raining?
I think the race director was speaking, but no one could hear him... There was certainly no national anthem or fuss, just a blast of an airhorn before the small crowd took off. A "golden eagle" mascot was caught off guard, and had a bit of a time avoiding collisions. Nice.
Golden Eagles!
before the near-collisions
The course was a little strange -- two modified loops, each of which had a "lollipop" at both ends. Okay, maybe a baby rattle? Anyway, we ran out of campus, turned left to run along the river, then turned back in and ran along a straight for a bit. We would run this straightaway four times, which meant I felt like I got to know the kids at the water stop.
The course was actually quite pretty, as we spent most of it along the river or on small streets lined with pretty houses. And at every mile, we passed a water stop with efficient and friendly student volunteers. And speaking of volunteers, every one of the many turns along this course was manned by a volunteer holding a sign. I actually felt bad for them -- it was a miserable morning. I mean, it's one thing to run in the rain, it's quite another to stand in one spot for three hours.
I noticed that I was runnning too quickly again. I didn't feel particularly bad or particularly good... and I even considered just walking today, but the three-hour cut-off spooked me a bit. So I decided to run to mile 5 and assess the situation. Miles 1-5 all went by in about 10-minute miles. Man.
I plodded on, mainly alone, though I was following folks just to keep an eye on 'em. I hit the second loop and decided I should take a couple of pictures...
The state capitol:
West Virginia State Capitol
oooh, shiny
These weird giant flowers popped up in two places along the river... and later I noticed ones and twos of them in front of various houses:
giant fake flowers along the river
I didn't get a picture, but the only wildlife I saw on this run was a squirrel and a bunny. I guess that's what happens when you run in a town rather than in the countryside! BTW, I realize now that the "squirrel colored" corpse from yesterday must have been a large-ish bunny.
Oh, and this is what it looked like on the road by the river. Not a lot going on there. If you look waaaaaaay ahead in the distance, you can probably glimpse the nearest person to me. I spent a lot of time on my own today.
UC Half Marathon 2013
pretty lonely out there
By about mile 10, I just wanted to be done. I had slowed down a little, but was weighing the difference between keeping running (finish sooner) and just walking it in (relax and rest a bit). Then something weird happened.
When I was on the back half of the second loop (that is, was heading back to the finish), two women came running from a road to the right.... cutting the course. By a mile or so. I watched both of them, a little fascinated, wondering what was going on. One woman -- turquoise jacket -- turned off to the left after a block, and I realized that she was just out for a run. Either that, or she had another shortcut planned. (I hadn't seen her before.)
But purple jacket kept going. Now, in her defense, she probably just followed the other runner rather than, oh, the course markings. (There were LOTS of course markings.) So I'm sure it was a mistake. But still.
I tried not to let it bother me -- you know, tried to run my own race. But it bugged me. I kept imagining conversations I would have with her... or whether I should tell the course marshals. (Not sure there were course marshals, but still.) I kept wondering what age group she was in. Of course, running a hundred yards or so behind her, I couldn't tell. But I was not about to let someone finish in front of me -- potentially in my age group! -- without putting up a fight.
So I sped up to close the gap. I felt a little dumb doing this, because I was tired and was on decidedly dead legs. But who cares. I caught up with her gradually over the next few hundred yards, and was a little surprised when it was a woman I had passed around mile 2. Sheesh! But I still wasn't sure how old she was. Still, I was clearly able to run faster, even with tired legs, so now I just had to hold on.
I got ahead of her a bit, then slowed to a walk at the water stop at mile 12. I decided that I would rather have her in front of me than behind me for a little while. When she passed me again, I let her go... but then caught up when she slowed to a walk. I decided that it was time to pass her for good... so sped up and left her behind.
I kept running for the final mile, passing another woman, following a man who went slightly the wrong way (and then leading that woman the wrong way after me...), but I could recognize the campus and knew I was close. I wasn't sure if the other women were close, but I decided to pick it up as quickly as I could, so I sprinted across the line -- thinking, for some reason, of Hiromi, the tough little Japanese lady at my boot camp who said she loves to watch me run.
I had my jacket zipped, so my bib wasn't visible -- but I hope they still managed to spot me. I mean, they were using bib tags, so that should have all worked okay.
After the finish I collected a handsome pin. Now, I thought we were going to be given medals, but with a race this small it may have been cost-prohibitive to get nice medals made. Still it's a good looking pin!
I went over to get some water and was handed a brown bag with pretzels, a banana, and a granola bar in it. Nice. I thought about standing and cheering, but then I remembered that the breakfast at my hotel was open till 10, and hot biscuits and eggs won out over supporting my fellow runners. Selfish, selfish me.
I still feel a little funny about the woman who cut the course. In talking to Wil later I told him that I felt dumb for being so petty and chasing her down, but it also just seemed a little odd. It's one thing to cut the course when something has gone wrong, like at our first Birch Bay Road Race -- when we had long since run the 15K advertised and people just wanted to stop... lots of folks just skipped the last few official kilometers. Of course we didn't! But to cut the course when there wasn't any reason to? Odd.
That said, purple jacket served a purpose today -- she made me keep running at the end of the race. I'm not sure what my official time was, but I think I finished right around 2:15. Yep, faster than yesterday, though admittedly today's race was much flatter.
Now I'm sitting at O'Hare Airport, feeling like the race was days ago (and killing a lot of time before my flight to Seattle). I was thinking about the last time I came to the Bronto Summit, and the races I ran the following weekend in North and South Carolina... and how I was a little embarrassed, but I couldn't really remember either of them very well. But I spent some time during the run today thinking about them -- Palmetto in SC on the Saturday -- starting and finishing at the shopping mall, running out to a pretty little lake, "sparklebutt" and "hippy dippy", and the nice medal..... then Run Raleigh on the Sunday -- starting and finishing at a running store in a strip mall, running around a pretty old church before doing a long loop that included a paved trail through the woods. And the acorns... all of the acorns.
Hopefully I'll be better at remembering these two distinctly different races a year from now!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Park to Park Half Marathon race report

Wow -- what a great race. In fact, this is now one of my two favorite smaller races of all time. High praise, coming from me. (The other winner? The Scenic Half, in Sandpoint Idaho…)

Arrived in cute Waynesboro, Virginia, on Friday afternoon after taking the train from Durham to Richmond and driving to Waynesboro. I decided to go right to the packet pickup, which was held at the Best Western in town. I love when a race offers packet pickup but doesn't require it. That means, if I can make it, I get my stuff early. But if I can't make it, I can still get my stuff on race morning.

I told the person my name, and she said, "From Seattle? Washington? REALLY?!?" One of the guys (quite possibly the race director) said, "Oh, wow...tell me you came all the way out here for the race." I smiled and said, truthfully, that I was in NC for work, but did come to Virginia for the race. I think he was still pleased with that. :) I also told him that it was my first time in Virginia, so a woman called across the room that I needed to pick up a "Virginia is for Lovers" sticker. Awesome!

When I got my shirt -- a handsome logo on a light blue tech tee, with the very nice addition of a small "Boston" ribbon -- I was fussed over a bit more. I said that I guess I would come in first among racers from Washington state... but then laughed because I would also come in LAST among racers from Washington state... They told me to focus on the positive.

The whole process took all of 4 minutes, including the chat -- but i was impressed by how friendly and efficient everyone was.

Another thing that really impressed me -- how good the design is on their race logos, and how well branded the Run the Valley race series is. Sometimes it's simple -- a couple of nice "feather" banners, consistent branding and colors... but it's so nice to see. Nice bibs, nice shirts, even a very, very nice medal. (Not to get ahead of myself....) Yeah, I'm big on the branding...
Park 2 Park Half Marathon start panorama

Race day was perfect -- a bit chilly (I love to run in cool to cold weather), but with clear, sunny skies and no wind. Apparently it gets windy in the valley sometimes. I drove over to the start, where the parking situation was handled efficiently, there were plenty of toilets, and everything was set up nicely. I put a few things into my drop bag (donated by a local credit union) -- car keys, sandals, a jacket in case the weather went weird -- and left it to be transported to the finish. Oh, did I mention this was a point-to-point? Fantastic!!! Park to park, geddit?

There wasn't much time to kill before the start, but I enjoyed the nice vibe. There weren't crazy lines for anything; everything was so darn efficient! I headed over to the starting area and started thinking about what I wanted from this race. What I wanted -- other than a Virginia half marathon, of course! -- was to take it easy... to see if I could be disciplined and run easy 12-minute miles to rest my legs for tomorrow. Heck, I'd just go out and have a nice relaxed time. If I felt I needed to pick it up at some point, okay, I could... but for now I would just have fun, chat with other runners, thank the volunteers, etc.

After a few words from the race director, a prayer for peace in memory of the Boston victims, and a surprisingly nice live version of the Star Spangled Banner, and it was time to go. The 650 of us surged under the arch and we were all headed for Stuarts Draft.

The first two tenths of a mile were run over grass through the park -- and it was the only time I felt any crowding or awkwardness on the course. But it did have a slightly crazy off-road feel to it for at least those few minutes. Is that was a cross-country start is like?

From then on we were on roads, going up and down Virginia's rolling hills. No huge ups or downs, mind you... but nearly constant ups and downs. Still, it added some nice variety -- and I have come to realize that I actually like running up hills.

We hit the first mile marker and I thought, uh-oh... too fast. 9:58. That's just not what I wanted... but I figured that the grassy scramble and the joy of the start of a race meant that I had just lacked discipline. Now that I could settle down a bit and run my own pace, I'd slow down nicely.

Mile 2: nope. 10:02. Even with my consciously "slowing down".

Mile 3: crap. 10:02. I'm NEVER consistent... so why was I being consistently faster than I wanted to be?

Mile 4: 9:57. Really? Why?!?

Mile 5: 10:04. Well, at least I'm slowing a little. Maybe I should add in some walk breaks, you know, force myself to relax.

Mile 6: 9:56. Okay, so that didn't work.

I should point out that I felt great -- the scenery was pretty, the people were nice, and I was having a great run. But I started to get a little nervous about what would happen on Sunday if I didn't start getting a little more disciplined about things.

Mile 7: 10:10. Atta girl.

Mile 8: 10:10. Hey, look, I'm being consistent again.

The miles kept clicking by -- and speaking of miles, the reason I know my splits is because the miles were CLEARLY MARKED. Now, this may seem like a simple thing, but I've run a number of races where the markers were hard to spot or nonexistent. Here the miles were marked with signs on poles at about chest level -- just a sign in an orange cone with a number. So simple, so easy. And they put the signs on both sides of the road, so no matter where you were, you would see them.

And speaking of things that are clearly marked, the course was beautifully marked. Again, signs on poles with arrows, standing in an orange cone.

There were lots and lots of water stops -- I actually started wondering if some weren't just impromptu stops -- but the volunteers were great and I never felt bunched up and never had to wait for a drink.

Pretty, pretty country the Virginians have got. :)

I'm not sure when I actually started to slow down. I had a gel with my water around mile 10, which meant I took a longish walking break... and then it just seemed normal to take it easier. By mile 12 I was feeling my usual grumpy self, just wanting to be done but not wanting to bother with the running.

Also, this race was run primarily on country roads... so it shouldn't be a surprise that there were lots of "sleeping" animals... but there were two that I frankly couldn't identify. Well, three, if you count the one that was really just entrails. (Does that mean that someone skinned it? Good heavens.) But one of the beasties was squirrel colored, but big. And another was sort-of like a raccoon, but had a very different face. What do American badgers look like? Hmm... a little Google image search action makes me think he might have been a woodchuck. How much wood would a "sleeping" woodchuck saw?

Then I saw this sign and it made me laugh and laugh:
Animal Hospital of Stuarts Draft: Run like a big dog is chasing you
how cute is that? who doesn't love race-themed signs?
I could see a turn ahead, which meant we had to be almost at the finish -- yay! So I picked things up a little. I passed a guy who seemed to be struggling, so I called out to him and said, "Let's finish this thing! C'mon, let's go!" But I could tell that he was well and truly gassed, so I didn't pressure him at all. I started running as light and as quickly as I could, offering encouragement to my fellow runners. Boy, I hope that's not annoying. I think I'd like someone to be chipper at the end when I'm not. As long as I can see the finish line, that is!

One guy responded with a smile, and he picked up his pace, too. Turns out he just ran his second fastest ever run. Atta boy Jeff!!!

By the way, look how cute this start / finish arch is:
Run the Valley finish arch
yes, I went back around to take this
After a too-fast start, I slowed it down to finish in 2:19 on the dot -- a time I'm happy with, even if it betrays my total lack of discipline!

After the race, I picked up my medal -- custom, big, and a bottle opener -- NICE! I was then surprised to be handed an embroidered running hat... who knew? I also picked up a cool damp towel, which was one of the nicest things ever. I passed on the bagels and bananas -- though I did overhear someone admiring how nice the bananas looked -- that they weren't all bruised like the often get, post-race. I easily picked up my bag, along with a ice cold bottle of purple Gatorade, then made my way to a bench to stretch and change my shoes. After a few minutes (and some pics of the finish line, ahem), I got on a bus to go back to the start.

Once there, another joy awaited -- the organizers had arranged to have the showers for the public pool opened and available, so I was able to take a shower and change into fresh clothes. I think that made all the difference to how the rest of the day went!

It is absolutely clear that the organizers of this event are runners themselves -- they know what makes a race not just good, but great. If I had one concern -- which didn't affect me at all, frankly, it was that the last few blocks in Stuarts Draft required us crossing a busy 2-lane road... which meant that we ended up running next to some pretty frustrated drivers who were being held up by us. It made me wonder if there wasn't some way of moving cars more efficiently around us, somehow. But people here in the south are pretty polite -- there were no horns, no revving engines, just quiet. Or maybe I just couldn't hear anything above my huffing and puffing!

Tomorrow is the University of Charleston half... wish me luck!

Friday, April 26, 2013


Southern folk are so friendly!

Scenes from the Run

After the Bronto Summit ended, I wanted to go out for a run and to explore the campus. Besides, I hadn't managed to actually get up and out for any of the morning runs! Campus was weirdly quiet - the day after the last day of classes and just before finals start -- but I looped around until I came to the Duke University Chapel -- very pretty. I also poked around the student store and decided that I didn't need a bedazzled Duke sweatshirt, but I did want some string cheese.

I then headed back to the Washington Duke, adding in a loop of the Buehler trail for good measure.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Seahawks 12K Run Race Report

Sunday morning Suz came by and picked us up for the trek out to Renton for the Seahawks 12K Run. The weather was a little dodgy -- grey with bouts of drizzle -- but not too cold. We arrived a little early, but probably just in time to still get good parking -- always key! We sat in the car for a bit, but since we didn't actually know where the start was, we figured we should follow the other runners while we could. I was also pretty pleased that we had picked up our packets the day before -- something I often don't bother to do -- because it meant I had some idea where to park!
2013 Seahawks 12K race shirt
nice shirt!!!
The race starts and finishes at The Landing, a sprawling retail/restaurant/residential complex that seems to have sprung from nothing in the last few years. Okay, sure, I don't get to Renton all that often, but I really didn't know The Landing existed until recently.
We followed the other runners -- especially easy to spot because most of them were either wearing the super cool race shirt or other Seahawks gear. Then we heard music and we had clearly found the right spot.
We were pretty early, but a good-sized crowd was already there. It's been a while since we ran anything other than a half marathon, so it was nice to see the "race expo" in the parking lot. There was a long line of empty porta-potties at the edge of the lot. I laughed and said, "It's not a race if I don't pee in a plastic box," so I headed over there. Here's what's weird... there were no lines for the porta-potties. (Yeah, it was still pretty early.) I just walked right up. Here's what's weirder... they were spotless. The only smell was a rather pleasant lemony disinfectant / cleanser smell. (Yeah, I know, still pretty early.) But also a little weird.
We wandered around a little bit, looking at upcoming races (I meant to go back and pick up some brochures! Dang it!) and looking at the crowd. But eventually we just moved closer to the starting area and stood around chatting. We also remembered to take a pre-race snapshot!
Wil, Sunny, and Suz before the Seahawks 12K
Wil, Sunny, and Suz before the Seahawks 12K
I wish I had taken more pictures of the crowd -- not sure why I didn't. There were some colorful Seahawks fan outfits: lots of tutus, some painted poodles (seriously!), lots of blue hair and facepaint, a retro Steve Largent, complete with helmet, jersey, football pants, and socks, and even tiny Tony Ventrella. Okay, that wasn't a costume, it was just Tony Ventrella.

Finally, it was time to start. Suz was running the 5K, Wil and I were running the 12K. We split up and got ourselves into the starting chute.
Wil and I didn't really have a plan for this race. We've only ever done two 12Ks before (Bloomsday and Bay to Breakers), and for various reasons we didn't really run much of either of those. But we figured we would just go out and run and see how things felt.
The course started with a loop around the outside edge of the shopping complex, past the Boeing plant. The 12K and 5K courses split at the half-mile point, and I was surprised at just how many 12K runners there were -- pretty crazy. I guess that if you are a Seahawks fan you would really want to do the 12K? Even so, the crowd really thinned out at that point and then it was pretty clear running for the rest of the race.
We had to cross railroad tracks several times -- a sign of the industrial past. I think these are the tracks that the Rails to Trails organization are currently hoping to convert... which would be sweet.
We eventually ended up on Lake Washington Boulevard, and there were plenty of folks controlling intersections (though there was really no traffic). In fact, there was hardly anyone out there other than the volunteers... and the super cute barista at the Cowgirl Coffee stand, who was leaning out the window and cheering like crazy.
Somewhere between miles 2 and 3 I saw a police motorcycle heading towards us, and shouted "runners move right -- lead pack coming!" and was pretty surprised how many people listened. Of course, much later on, when a police motorcycle was moving quickly down the road with sirens blaring, and I and several other runners were shouting to move right, one particular runner with her headphones on was OBLIVIOUS. Sigh. But, as Wil always reminds me, I need to run my own race. But the leaders went screaming by. I can't imagine what it's like to run that fast.
The route was surprisingly hilly. No serious hills, mind you, but lots of rollers. Around mile 4 I started fretting that I hadn't "coached" Suz enough -- hadn't reminded her to run her own race, take it easy at the start and speed up later, leave nothing in the tank, and smile at the finish because she was going to PR today. So I started thinking those things over and over in my mind as I ran, sending her good vibes. I hope they worked! (BTW, she PR'd -- so huge congrats to Suz!!!)
We ran out to the VMAC (Virginia Mason Athletic Center), where the Seahawks train. I was a little disappointed that there wasn't more Seahawky action going on. Perhaps the very beefy men at the water stops were players? No idea. Several members of the Seahawks drum line were there, as was the helmet car, but that's it. I kind-of wanted something else -- perhaps some folks scrimmaging on the outdoor practice field? Maybe some SeaGals? The highlight was probably the little kid holding up an oversized Marshawn Lynch head...
As we headed back to the start we passed the team of police officers and their police dog running in full uniform and gave them a cheer. Wil says their shoes are probably super comfortable and built for long hours on their feet. I don't care -- I bet they're still not awesome to run in! (Still, waaaaay more comfortable than the firefighters I've seen running marathons in full gear, including the boots. That has gotta hurt.)
The rest of the way back was pretty uneventful. We saw Tara (who didn't recognize me in the blue and green - ha!) but surprisingly not many other folks we knew. As we neared The Landing, I started to feel a little woozy. But I spotted "Steve Largent" and decided I needed to "go fishing" -- which was weirdly easy once I had a target in mind.
Over the last half mile or so we caught several other runners, but I felt pretty gassed. I told Wil I didn't have any speed left (so no sprinting down the finish chute!), but we grabbed hands and gave all we had. As we rounded the final corner, I heard Suz and flashed a huge grin her way. Let me just say this -- this is possibly the finest race photo I've ever had:
Team Wil-Sun approaching the finish at the Seahawks 12K
photo courtesy Suzanne Roman
(Suz, if you are ever in need of a new career, may I recommend race photographer?)
We finished in 1:14:22, which is easily a PR for us. Heck, we're pretty sure that our 5K split would have been a PR for that distance, too! We averaged 9:58 miles, which is great for us.
We found Suz, who offered water and jackets (such service!) and told us that she had PR'd. I apologized for my lack of coaching, told her I tried to send her good vibes, and she said, "I felt like I could hear your voice in my head!"
We considered hanging out, but then decided to just cut and run. We made it back to the car, took a little shortcut out of the parking lot (hooray!) and were on our way home before 11. Other engagements prevented us from having a post-run pint, but other than that it was a perfect day.
Nice things: lots of people running with Boston tributes. My favorite was the couple who had used tape to spell out "SEA <3 BOS" and "4 M. K. L." on their backs. Suz running a huge PR. Passing Steve Largent. Passing Tony Ventrella. Getting a sweet race shirt. Blue and green poodles. Policemen and a police dog running the 12K. The barista cheering like mad.
"Opportunities": still feeling queasy at the finish when I push too hard. What is causing that? Left big toe still feeling not quite right at the "knuckle" -- but not a big deal. I also dressed a little too warmly -- had a thermal tee under the race shirt. Of course, most of the time I could have taken off the warm layer, but this time it was underneath to show off the "12th man" top. I think I could have run with arm warmers and the tech tee -- would have been cold at first, but then fine once we got going.
1st Annual Running Bloggers Virtual Race
I've joined the 1st Annual Running Bloggers Virtual Race. Though this was a 12K, I'm just calling it a long 10K. :) The RBVR is raising money for Burma, and you know I'm a sucker for charity races. In addition to this "long 10K", between now and (date), I'm running a 5K and a half marathon, swimming a mile, and riding my bike for 13 miles. (The bike will be the challenging part... but that's the motivation I need!) You can learn more about the Virtual Race on the Running Bloggers site, or even donate to Carla's Run for Burma goal.
Thanks so much to Wil for being the driving force behind Team Wil-Sun, and Suz for inspiring us both!!!

Scenes from the run

In Raleigh (or is it Durham?) for the Bronto Summit. Got to the hotel, unpacked, changed into running gear and headed out for a little shake-out run. The Al Buehler Cross Country Trail is three miles of gorgeous, rolling trail through the woods around the edge of the golf course at the Washington Duke Inn. Hillier than I expected, but also much busier. Lots of folks out for a run or walk. Now I guess I have to get cleaned up and go to the reception downstairs. Frankly, I would rather go out for another lap!!!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Boston. The image of Bill Iffrig being knocked down by the shockwave of the first blast -- I just kept crying because I was so worried about him. And my relief when I heard later that he was able to get up and walk across the finish line.

I kept worrying about what happened to the runners who hadn't gotten to the finish yet -- I had heard they were stopped, but didn't know where, etc. It was nice to read, this morning, that although they were stopped about half a mile from the finish, they were cared for by locals who rushed out with food, water, blankets, and clothing... and that they cared for each other in those frightening times.

I know quite a few people who were in Boston -- lots of people have their "I was there just the night before" sorts of stories. I wasn't there.

I have felt sorrow, confusion, and fear for the welfare of others. But now I just feel anger.

I'm angry because I don't know how Martin Richard's family can ever get over it.

I'm angry because I know how exhausting it is to run a marathon. And how happy you are at the finish. I'm angry because whoever did this took that away from my running brethren.

I'm angry because I love running races. And I love running races because I love running with others. Sure, sometimes I get grumpy at my fellow racers, those who perhaps are less gifted in their race etiquette (or spatial awareness...). But my endorphins essentially turn me into an "I love you man" sort of person by the end. I love being inspired by other people, their stories, their dedication. So I'm angry that someone messed with my people.

Someone asked Wil if he would consider running Boston -- or any major marathon in the future. In short -- of course. I would be honored to ever run Boston, but especially next year. And I will continue to race -- whenever and wherever I can. I'm not afraid. Not that I'm brave or anything like that. It's simple math -- chances are VERY SLIM anything like the attack in Boston will happen again, even slimmer that I would be in the wrong place at the wrong time. But I will not stop running or racing. As long as I can move, I will race.

Don't let the bastards stop you from running.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A little change of plan

This weekend we were planning on running the Magnuson Series Earth Day Half Marathon on Saturday. Why? Because I have never run a race in that series and it seems like fun, and of course I wanted an April half for the 13 in 13 project.

Except, well, I have TWO half marathons the following weekend...and the Seahawks 12K is on Sunday. Wil loved the idea of the Seahawks run -- he'll get a Seahawks shirt, he can run in his jersey, etc. So I checked in with Suz -- would she be interested in running that 5K instead? Sure!

So I just signed myself and Wil up for the run:

Al Buehler Trail

Now that the Bronto Summit is behind me, I have a few minutes to catch up with the blog. I met a lot of very smart, very creative, very interesting people, and am leaving with a lot of great ideas. I also had a chance to go for a couple of great runs on the Al Buehler Trail.

The trail surrounds the Washington Duke Inn, where the Summit was held, and where I stayed in a very nice "old school" hotel room. The trail map was a little complicated on paper -- which made me worry that I would get lost... so I actually carried a copy of the map in my back pocket.

The first time I ran it, on Monday afternoon, I ran counter-clockwise because that's the way the miles were marked on the map. Besides, I do like to stay to the left whenever possible. :) The trail is packed dirt and winds through the woods in a loop around the golf course... which led me to believe that it would be flat. Nope. Lots of rolling hills pretty much the whole way round.

It was lovely and shady, which was good because I had dressed too warmly -- I had a long-sleeved top over a tank -- and I ended up being very, very sweaty when I got done. The best part of running on the trail was that it was well used -- there were lots of run-walk groups, families out walking, and folks out for a run. Being on a university campus, they had lots of emergency phones, which for some reason makes me more nervous than soothed.... but it was nice to have lots of other folks out enjoying the nice evening.

I believe the trail was marked in quarter-mile increments, but as usual I missed several of the markers. (Typical.) I was pacing myself about 15 yards behind two men -- on the uphills they would get a little farther ahead, but I would catch them on the descents and relax behind them on the flats. At one point, as we were headed up a hill, there was a weirdly loud shrieking / squawking noise. The men stopped to look, which meant that I almost caught up with them. i said, "Umm... is it a carnivore?" The one man said, "Those are owls!" in a sweetly excited voice. The second man said, "Technically, yes. Carnivores." But we agreed that we weren't what the owls wanted.

There was one point where I felt unsure of which way to go -- the other forks were between a main and a smaller trail, but this one was pretty evenly divided. But luckily the hotel was visible to the left, so I just stayed left.

I finished up, all sweaty, and headed back in to the hotel looking extra bonus awesome. Now, sure, there were lots of old men in ridiculous plaid shorts... but I looked a mess. I rode the elevator up to my floor and when the doors opened, I *thought* it was my pal (and account manager) Jess, so I smiled and said, "Hi!" But, of course, it wasn't Jess... and this poor woman was shocked. Hee hee.

Again, I didn't run the rest of the summit -- but I ran yesterday. This time I ran clockwise, though I don't think the route was any easier or harder. Though it was earlier in the day, there were still lots and lots of people on the trail.

I'm now on the train going to Richmond, Virginia, to head out to the Park 2 Park Half Marathon in Waynesboro. I am starting to think that I should have taken a nap on the train...


Monday, April 15, 2013


There's nothing to say.

We watched the race at work, following the elites in the live streaming, and then tuned out. Then Doug said, "There have been explosions at the finish line" -- and the day went all pear shaped. I watched way too much coverage online, getting more and more upset about it. One image, that I saw repeated, was of an older gentleman running only a few yards from the finish, when the bomb went off and it knocked him off his feet. I was really worried about him -- I mean, it wasn't clear what had happened, but he just dropped.

But, wonderful news -- his name is Bill Iffrig, he is from Lake Stevens, and he is fine. Shaken, of course, but fine. Oh, and did I mention he's SEVENTY-EIGHT years old, and he was running a 4-hour marathon. BAD ASS.

My thoughts go out to all the runners, the spectators, and their families. My heart goes out to all of the first responders. I also can't help but feeling bad for the folks who were prevented from finishing their race. I can't imagine what that must feel like.

Tomorrow I was going to swim, but I think I'll run instead.

Healthy living, part 2

Healthy living, part 1

Today I tried a new boot camp - Trinity Training in Woodinville. Why? Well, Vast is in hiatus... And of course there was a Groupon involved...

The Metabody Fitness Pass offered 30 classes at your choice of 14 gyms and studios around Seattle. And for $20, if I only go twice, I am still ahead of the game.

I had a rough time finding the place, and I turned out that I was the only person at the 7am slot... Which was funny because about 8 exhausted people were leaving the 6am slot when I arrived.

Mike, the trainer, was friendly and funny and super encouraging. I found the cardio part easy, and the strength part very hard. This felt very much more "butch" than I am used to... It was much more of a "boy" boot camp. But very, very cool.

The space is a baseball gym -- batting cages, posters of baseball players, weights, signs for catcher and pitcher camps. But in the mornings, Mike puts people through their paces. And pace me he dd. Lots of push-ups, none of them modified. A lot of ab and core work. Chin ups. Yeah, chin ups. (Well, okay, assisted chin ups, but still...) My arms are already tired and it has only been 17 minutes since the workout ended. Ooof.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Runner's Bookshelf Book Review - "Swimming to Antarctica" by Lynne Cox


Swimming to Antarctica b Lynne Cox

Other than Olympic swimmers such as Marc Spitz, Michael Phelps, or Ian Thorpe, the only famous swimmer I could have named was Diana Nyad. I have hazy childhood memories of a woman slathered with lanolin and swimming in a shark cage... which I guess i assumed meant she swam the English Channel or something. Not to discount Diana Nyad's amazing -- and continuing! -- achievements... but how is it that I never heard of Lynne Cox, an American who, at the age of FIFTEEN, got the world record for swimming the English Channel? Not the women's record, mind you... the world record?

In Swimming to Antarctica: Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer, Lynne Cox recounts her life in the water, starting as a chubby nine-year-old who decided to keep swimming through a storm when her teammates wanted to go indoors. She described that workout as if she were "swimming through a giant bowl of icy tapioca" while "hailstones floated to the water's surface and rolled around my body as I swam through them." Then she finally got out of the pool, one of her teammates' mothers rushed over to her to wrap her in a towel. As she tried to warm the girl up, the woman leaned down and said, "Someday, Lynne, you're going to swim across the English Channel."

It kind of took my breath away, but from the moment she said it, I believed that it could happen... Even though I was only nine years old at the time, I somehow knew that one day I would swim the English Channel.

When Cox was twelve, her parents moved their family to Los Angeles so the four kids could work with a new swimming coach -- Don Gambril, the head coach for the United States Olympic Team. On her first day with the new coach, she is introduced to Hans Fassnacht and Gunnar Larson, who both medaled in the 1972 Olympics.

Getting to talk to them was pretty heady stuff. But somehow I managed to reply, "Thank you. Someday I hope I will be able to swim in your lane." I was a chubby, awkward, twelve-year-old girl without any intense training and with no reason to believe I could ever be as good as they were. I was only filled with hope and promise.

Over time Cox got stronger and faster, but her coach noticed something others hadn't -- that she was stronger at the end of a workout than at the beginning. So he encouraged her to enter an open-water race, the Seal Beach Rough Water Swim. She entered the three-mile race:

And I swam as if I had learned to fly. I raced across the water. My strokes felt powerful, and I felt strong, alive, as if awakened for the first time. Nothin in the swimming pool gave me this pleasure. I was free, moving fast, feeling the waves lifting and embracing me, and I couldn't believe how happy I was. It was like I had gone from a cage into limitless possibilities.... There were no walls, no black lines to follow, no lane lines or backstroke flags; I was surrounded by the wide-open sea and the infinite sky filled with puffy white clouds.

The ended up winning the women's race -- coming in third overall. An hour later she entered the two-mile race, which she also won. She was a little disappointed to only place second in the one-mile. ("I wanted to do better, but another girl was faster.") A few days later, she joined an open-water swimming team, and later was part of the first group of teenagers to make the swim from Catalina Island to the mainland, a distance of 26 miles.

The summer after that successful swim, Cox went to England and swam the English Channel. A year later she went back to swim it again, regaining the world record at the age of 16. Cox kept seeking out -- and completing -- more epic swims, including across the Strait of Magellan, around the Cape of Good Hope, across the Strait of Gibraltar, and across the Bosphorus.

My favorite swim in the book was across the Cook Strait, the water between the north and the south islands of New Zealand. During her attempt, her crew received hundreds of radio calls from New Zealanders to cheer her on, while captains of fishing boats radioed water conditions, Air New Zealand pilots radioed weather updates, and a cross-channel ferry came near so the passengers could cheer for her. But Cox was struggling. Several hours into her swim, however, and when she was feeling as if she couldn't go on, she and her crew were surrounded by several dozen dolphins, who swam and leapt around them for more than an hour. When the dolphins left, Cox had made progress and the South Island had come into clearer view.

When she struggled again, ten hours into the swim, a smaller group of dolphins reappeared... as they did again during the final, dangerous stretch to the shore. And when she cleared the water, after twelve hours and two and a half minutes of swimming, she could hear the dolphins chattering.

One of her big dreams was to swim the Bering Strait, from Little Diomede, which belongs to the United States, to Big Diomede, which belonged to the U.S.S.R. Despite being only 2.7 miles apart, the water temperature -- between 30 and 40 degrees -- made it extremely unlikely that anyone could survive a swim of that distance. Even colder, of course, were relations between the two nations in 1975.

Cox spent the next twelve years working toward this swim -- writing letters every day to try to get approval from the two governments, finding sponsors, and preparing her body to survive such cold temperatures. And in August, 1987, she eventually got permission and made the swim, receiving praise from both Gorbachev and Reagan for her actions.

Finally, the book details Cox's swim of over a mile to Antarctica in 32-degree water, arriving on a beach filled with penguins.

So, why a book about long-distance swimming on a blog about running? Because Lynne Cox is one of the most inspirational writers I have ever read. Throughout the book she doesn't hold back from talking about her fears, the times she wanted to quit, the times she felt she couldn't go on. But each time she was able to dig deep, to reach within herself to find more strength. And her dogged pursuit of permission for the Bering Strait swim seems the perfect model for achieving your dreams -- just believe in yourself, surround yourself with other people who believe in you, and keep at it.


Friday, April 12, 2013

I love this company -- Carb Happy at Boston Marathon Expo

Friday workout... the bad and the good

I simply couldn't make myself get up today. Not sure why -- I mean, we had had an early night, my meeting had gone well yesterday, and I wanted to go to Boot Camp. Well, okay, clearly I didn't want to go to Boot Camp ENOUGH...

But when my alarm went off I just got up, turned it off, and returned to bed. A while later, Wil and I realized that our normal (6am) alarm hadn't gone off at all -- perhaps when trying to reverse the auto-update for Daylight Savings Time (which used to happen the first weekend in April, so our clock always tries to force it) we had actually moved it a day ahead.

So I guess I got to sleep in until 6:30... Wil got up and rode to work, I lay in bed willing myself to get up and exercise at SOMETHING.

Since I had run on Tuesday and Thursday, I figured I should do some strength workouts... so I turned to my Pinterest board, "You Better Work (Out)", and decided to do these three things.

1. "10 Minute Crossfit" (not cross fit at all, reallly, but a good little 10-minute cardio blast that got my heart pumping)

2. This "sexy leg" workout

(Which I didn't think was going to be that challenging, but I can feel that I did a bit of glute work already)

3. This core and arms workout

(My third time doing this, and it's still challenging.)

So I didn't get to enjoy quality time with Kerry and the Vast Fitness crew, but I do feel like I had 40 good minutes of cardio and strength training. Better than nothing!!!


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Scenes from the run

I don't know who makes these arrangements, but they are always a pleasant surprise when I run around Green Lake.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Monday Motivation

Woke up feeling weirdly woozy this morning. I considered skipping boot camp, but knew I would be sad if I did. So I got dressed and grabbed my gear and headed out.

Today's workout was a circuit -- my favorite type of workout. I love the way the variety of exercises makes the time go more quickly.

But when I was done, I worried that I hadn't tried hard enough today -- that I didn't give it my all. I feel like I didn't push myself as hard as I usually do, and that makes me sad. Of course, I know that every day I get to start over, but, still.

Kerry's post-workout motivation email really hit home:
All YOU can do is YOUR BEST at EVERY workout; and that is usually pretty uncomfortable. It's one hour and YOU CAN DO IT!! You've made the commitment to get and stay healthy and this may require a few more changes to your current lifestyle.   
What can hold you back?
That little voice in your head that says "I'm too tired" or "I can't go on." Sometimes the voice says. "If I take it easy I can make it through the rest of this." That little voice, often caused by self-doubt and fear, can rob you of benefits in a bigger way than you can imagine. This is due to the "Overload Principle". This simply means that to get the greatest benefit you must stress yourself beyond demands of previous activity. This is inherently uncomfortable to do. The greatest benefit is gained when you continue when it is most difficult to continue. This is often why some people get great results from working out, and others never seem to make much progress.  The same is true for making wise food choices day in and day out. 
Of course, I'm still worried that I didn't push past my comfort zone today. I know all too well the "If I take it easy I can make it through the rest of this" voice. But Wednesday is another chance to work harder!

In other news, I have changed my stance on not eating anything that has a face. Well, sorta:

While down in the International District on Saturday, we had amazing foot massages at East West Massage, great veggie dumplings at Szechuan Noodle Bowl, and then did a bit of shopping at Uwajimaya, where we picked up some "egg shapers". That's right, egg shapers. You hard-boil eggs, peel them while hot, clamp them in little molds, put them in cold water for 10 minutes, and voila -- friendly eggs!

I bought the set with a bunny and a bear, and am already regretting not also picking up the fish and the car. Who doesn't love a little fun with their food?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

All about the Alter-G

Thursday was my final trip to the land of altered gravity -- my last run on the Alter-G. I know I have written plenty about my experiences, but I figured I should put together an omnibus post... with PICTURES.

This is an Alter-G anti-gravity treadmill:

Alter-G anti-gravity treadmill
The Alter-G

To get started, first you must wriggle into a pair of neoprene shorts with a rubberized "flange" (there's that word again!). It goes without saying that the shorts look ridiculous. Think Zagora Hot Pants + a spray skirt you'd wear in a kayak + something reminished of what the B-52s would have worn in 1984...

The shorts aren't particularly comfortable -- especially when you're in the compression tent. But more on that later.

You then approach the machine from the back, while trying to avoid stepping on the clear part. You step over the blue bar (it surrounds you) and into the hole in the middle of the tent. (What looks black on the picture below.)

Alter-G anti-gravity treadmill, ready for use
Step right up!

Then you grab the two blue bars on the sides and pull straight up. This lifts the tent around you. When you get it to hip height, you slide the lever over halfway and let it click into the locked position on its own. The numbers go up to 14, and I set it at 13... but I guess I'm pretty leggy, if not very tall.

Then you take the "flange" and tuck it into the edges of the tent. You match up the zippers and start to zip yourself in. It's not super easy to do, mind you. The zipper goes all the way around you, and then sort-of tucks in to itself. On one early visit, I got the zipper about halfway around and got stuck. I was envisioning having to try and call someone at the front desk to free me -- but in the end, I managed to zip in.

getting started on the Alter-G
flange tucked in
lining up the zipper
lining up the zipper
zipping the shorts into the Alter-G
zipping in to the machine
zipping in to the Alter-G
almost done

Once in, the directions say to stand still with your arms folded while the machine calibrates. On the second or third time I used the machine, I decided to fiddle with the remote control for the big flatscreen TV that's in the room. This caused the calibration to error out, which in turn made me panic a little. But all I needed to do was wait a few moments and then press start again. Phew.

Alter-G calibrating
stand still... I'm calibrating

The calibration takes less than a minute. Basically there's a whoosh as the tent inflates around your legs. I get the sensation of being slightly lifted off my feet -- it must be how the machine checks your weight? -- but then you settle back down. A few seconds later, the lifting sensation is back, this time more pronounced. It's not like you actually go airborne or anything, but it definitely puts you up onto your toes a little. A couple of numbers flash on the display screen. Mine always say "L65" (not my age, thank you), and "155" (not my weight, either).

I noticed that the timer starts right away -- whether or not you've started the belt. Hop to it then!

The treadmill part is pretty much a standard treadmill. You set an incline (supposedly a percent; I have been running at 2 or 3%) and set your speed. The speed goes all the way up to 10 mph. Faster than I can run, even for a short burst, in the real world -- but slower than elites run marathons.... sigh.

Alter-G control panel
Alter-G control panel-- pretty standard

The interesting part, of course, is the weight. You can set what percent of your weight you wish to run at. On my first visit, the staffer set it at 80%, so that's where I ran for the first few visits. But after a while I decided to go a little wild. I often gradually ramp my speed up 0.1 of a mile/minute while lowering the weight percentage by 1%/minute. On Thursday I started that really early, and got up to where I was running 7-minute miles (much, much faster than I can run in the real world) while running at 70% of my body weight.

A couple of people have asked me what this actually looks like -- please forgive the really blurry "action" photo and the reflection from the plastic window in the tent.

Running on an Alter-G
Running hard in the pressurized tent.

Running at 80% is really pleasant -- I feel light on my feet.. but I guess that's what would happen if I lost THIRTY POUNDS.

Running at 70% is a little odd -- springy, sure, but slightly uncomfortable. See, the shorts are tight... and you are being lifted by the shorts... which puts some pressure on your "gusset". Well, actually, there's no gusset. Today I spent more than a few moments wondering if men have different cuts of shorts, because I cannot imagine these being at all comfortable on a man. But I digress.

running at 70% of my weight

Running at 60% is very, very strange. To be clear, it's not like your feet don't touch the treadmill, or that you don't have to run hard; you are just moving less weight. But at 60% your hips are really held in place -- I get the feeling like I'm pulling against the front of a harness.

running at 60% of my weight

Yeah, okay, I tried running at 50%. I fear that I wouldn't be able to stand upright if I lost 75 pounds in the real world. But I sure can run fast. How fast? 6-minute miles. At least in the bizzarro world of Alter-G.

running at 50% of my weight... whee

I wasn't even sure if the treadmill would go below 50%. Yep. I tried 40% for a minute, but it was just too weird.

running at 40% of my weight -- too weird to do for long

Apparently the machine goes all the way down to 20% of your weight. Which might be perfect for someone just getting back from an injury.

Anyway, when you finish your run, you just hit the stop button, and the tent depressurizes. I was warned on my first visit that you need to gradually increase your weight before you finish, otherwise your legs would feel like lead when you stepped off the machine. So I followed that advice... until Thursday.

You know what? You feel awfully heavy when you've just virtually gained 45 pounds. Oof. Even stepping down from the machine made me feel wobbly. The sensation goes away pretty quickly, but I wouldn't have wanted to run for a while! So, yes, if you are going to run on an Alter-G, bring your weight back up to as close to 100% while you are cooling down.

Once the tent deflates (it takes only a few seconds), you can unzip the shorts (just as challenging as zipping in, mind you...), release the lever, and lower the frame to the ground. There's a funny "whoosh" as all the air rushes out past you. And that air will be WARM. Then you exit the machine from the back, again trying not to step on the clear part of the plastic.

I always make a point of peeling off the shorts first. I don't know how other people feel after, but, well, my shorts are always soaked. Not "Oh, I've got some damp patches." Soaked. Crazy soaked. They are, after all, neoprene. Because, even though you aren't running at your full weight, you are running hard. How hard? This hard:

A truly unflattering photo of me, post-run on the Alter-G
Yes, I know I look TERRIBLE.

Now, obviously, the Alter-G isn't designed for curious bystanders like me -- it's meant as a recovery tool for injured runners. You're able to get a really great cardio workout -- and your miles in -- while recovering from an injury. I wouldn't hesitate to spring for more sessions if I needed to recover. However, if I stay healthy -- knock on wood -- I won't be running on the Alter-G again.

I used the Alter-G at the Washington Foot and Ankle Sports Medicine Clinic in Kirkland, WA. Other than the Groupon discount anyone could have purchased, I received no special treatment from them. Which isn't to say that their staff wasn't super nice and helpful -- they were always very, very friendly.

Not in greater Seattle? The Alter-G website maintains a listing of locations with an Alter-G, searchable by zip code, along with some videos of the machine in action.

Have you run on an Alter-G? Were you rehabbing an injury, or just curious, like me? I can wholeheartedly say that this was one of the best "daily deals" I have ever, ever bought. slightly random, something I wouldn't normally have done, but really enjoyable.