Sunday, September 29, 2013

Alpine Races Half Marathon race report

New day, new state. Drove to Lake Zurich, Illinois last night so I could run the Alpine Races Half Marathon.

Having run relatively fast yesterday, I wasn't sure how today would go. My main goal was to finish, ideally in under three hours. But considering how sore I was when I woke up this morning, well, that felt like a big challenge.

I stayed across the street from the start at Paulus Park, which meant I could saunter across the street 20 minutes before the start, pick up my packet, check a bag, and get ready to run.

Lake Zurich, Illinois

It was stormy overnight, but the day was bright and cool. And isn't Lake Zurich pretty?

There were lots and lots of runners milling about. I spent some time trying to loosen up my legs -- apparently it didn't occur to me to stretch out my quads yesterday. Sheesh. Anyway, soon it was time to start, and the runners lined up on the path behind the line. One sad thing -- the race wasn't chip timed, so I was 30 seconds behind from the get go. (Ha ha.)

But we ran out and I tried to settle in to a rhythm. I decided to be disciplined and run/walk 5:1 intervals from the very start. Or at least as long as I could. After about a mile I felt a bit looser, but the field was small enough that I was soon running with only a few people.

The course ran through neighborhoods as well as along the lake. Pretty, but unremarkable. It was also surprisingly hilly. Not hilly like Seattle, of course, but lots of rollers. But pleasant enough. There were also lots of water stops, which meant I got to take extra breaks. Yay for extra breaks.

I got to mile 5 feeling pretty good, which made me think of the 5 miles + 5 miles + 5 kilometers breakdown. I also got to mile 5 just after being passed by the front runners on their way back. Yeah, they were more than 3 miles ahead of me at that point.

Miles 5-8 were around a loop through some more big houses (potentially a golf club?). I was bored and tired -- but that's more my fault than anything else. I just kept running and walking and moving along.
As I got close to mile 8, I saw a woman walking the wrong way on the course. She was wearing a half marathon bib, which confused me, because I didn't think I'd been there before. But then I saw that the sign -- about a block away -- had been blown over. When I got to the guy standing at the mile 8 marker I said, "A woman missed a turn on the course -- she's going the wrong way." He looked up the street -- she was barely visible -- but didn't say anything. I said, "She just missed the turn -- because the sign is blown down and there's no volunteer there." He just shrugged and said something like, "Well, she wasn't going to win anyway."

Now, I assume this guy has a radio -- or could have asked someone else to go after the woman. But he didn't. I hope the woman didn't get lost, or that someone pointed her in the right direction. I feel bad that *I* didn't go back to help.

I've been that person at the back of the pack, feeling tired and lost. I just hope she didn't get too lost, and that she was able to finish the race. Hopefully there was some sort of course sweeper that made sure she got back to the finish line.

Anyway... I made my way back to the finish line, taking shorter runs and longer walks, but moving. I was really happy to get back to the lake!

The last two miles passed slowly. I was in a little clump of runners all slowly getting to the finish, swapping "leads" and, somehow, encouraging each other. I can't tell you how happy I was to see the big purple arch.

At some point I was trying to calculate my estimated time. I decided that I couldn't possibly beat yesterday's time, so I should just take it easy. And then I decided that, even if I walked, I would be able to finish under 2:30. But, somehow, as I approached the finish, I saw that it was just over 2:23. I guess if I had pushed it a little bit, I would have beaten yesterday's time. Oops.

I crossed the line in 2:23:43 (gun) / 2:23:29 ("chip"), feeling much the worse for wear. I picked up my "breakfast bag" (well stocked with yogurt, bagel, cream cheese, orange juice, trail mix, a granola bar, and an apple), my checked bag, and then just slowly trudged back to the hotel for a hot bath.

Not my finest performance -- even if the time was pretty good. Most important, of course, is picking up state #22 -- Illinois!!!

Oh, and I can't forget to share this pic of the race shirt... a day-glo hoody!

well, it will be a colorful addition to the next race quilt...

Brewers Mini-Marathon race report

When I decided to attend the Annual Summit in Chicago, my next step was to find a half marathon or two for the weekend before. Located just a couple of hours north, Milwaukee's Brewers Mini-Marathon was a perfect choice.

Packet pickup the day before was fast and efficient -- even if I got a little lost trying to get into the parking lot. And did I mention that parking was free?? Pickup -- and the race start -- was at Miller Park, the beautiful home of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Signage was excellent, and I was quickly headed up a very long escalator.

I grabbed my goodie bag -- real goodies -- and bib, reviewed the map, tried to suss out the parking, and left. I was in and out in under five minutes. Perfect!

Brewers Mini-Marathon goodie bag
sweet goodies!
Nice touches -- a personalized bib, a voucher for a free ticket to a Brewers game in 2014, and... what's that in the upper-right-hand corner? Why, it's a Hank Aaron bobblehead, of course!!!

Hank Aaron bobblehead
Hammerin' Hank!!!
Race morning was glorious -- I got to the park quickly, got great parking, sat in my car for a bit tryingto decide whether or not to wear my long-sleeved shirt, and then decided to trust the weather reports and headed to the start.

Miller Park

Best part about starting a race at a major-league stadium? Loads of indoor bathrooms! And did I mention the free parking again? Plus it gave me a chance to have a little sneak peek inside the very pretty ball park.

The wall behind the big screen is glass, so you could see the sky brightening. It's such a pretty park!! After wandering around for a while I decided it was time to head out to the start area. When I picked up my bib, it said I was assigned to corral "I". I was sure hoping I hadn't fat-fingered my time again (like one particular Rock 'n' Roll Seattle!) and gotten myself assigned to the first corral! But I was glad to see that I was in letter I, not number 1.

A little pumping music, a nice simple rendition of the national anthem by someone in the Brewers organization, and the race started. We started 10 minutes late -- probably due to the number of folks struggling to get into the parking lots.

I love running races in cities I don't know. My only Milwaukee reference point was Happy Days,which wasn't even filmed there. But the course took us around the stadium, and then all over town. There were no significant hills, but a lot of little inclines and downhills. We ran through some industrial areas, along rivers, and across bridges. The first "landmark" was the Harley Davidson Museum. I somehow managed to pretty much miss all of it apart from the sign. It was, however, the site of the only bad thing from the race.

I got a cup of water and was walking off to the side sipping it. (I lack the coordination to drink from a cup while I run. Well, okay, I can drink from the cup, but I end up also snorting it up my nose, choking, and gasping for air. It's just faster for me to actually walk and drink.) I took the last little sip, poured it into my hand, and then dampened the back of my neck. Even though I wasn't too warm, it's just a habit.
I dropped the cup n a trash can and suddenly -- SPLASH!!! -- what felt like half a cup of water got dumped down my back and a guy trotted past. I said, "What the hell was that for?" He stopped and started saying that I should wet the back of my neck to keep from getting too warm. WHAT?!?!?!
"Mr. Helpful Runner Guy" stood there smiling as if he expected me to thank him. But I just shouted at him that, actually, I like to manage my own hydration and temperature control, and that now I had one very wet foot. He said, "Oh" and tried to fist bump me. (WHAT?!?!?!? again). I waved him off, told him to go away, and tried to run past him. But he kept talking at me. I told him that I was no longer listening to him, told him to leave me alone, and eventualy had to shout at him to GET AWAY FROM ME before he moved away.

So weird.

So my wet right foot and I headed on our way, me seething and trying to make sure I kept far away from Mr. Helpful Runner Guy. But the sun was out, the course was nice, and I decided to just forget him.

A few miles later, we passed the Mitchell Park Domes, a set of greenhouses which are probably amazing, but pretty underwhelming from the road. I was starting to feel a little tired by this point, but decided to see how it would play out if I just kept going.

Two-race weekends -- which I don't do often -- are a conundrum for me. Do I take it easy on the first day, maybe walking the second part of the race, in order to save my legs for day two? Or do I just go for it? I never really know. Add to that the fact that I haven't run a half since Rock 'n' Roll Seattle back in July, and have barely run at all since breaking my finger. I wasn't even sure I would be able to finish one race, let alone two.

I was feeling pretty "done" when I got to mile 9. We made a sharp turn and... suddenly... entered Miller Valley.

Now, I know the Brewers play in Miller Park. And I guess I probably knew that Miller Beer was brewed in Milwaukee. But I somehow didn't connect "Miller Valley" with Miller Beer. But we ran down a hill and entered the brewery.

We passed a replica of the original brewery, the historic caves, and ran under the "Beer Bridge" (which for some reason made me think of Laverne & Shirley...). The road was crossed with sections of cobbles, which made for some slightly tricky footing, but everyone seemed to navigate it okay.
Running through Miller Valley was, for some reason, really energizing. Maybe because it was such a surprise for me? Maybe because I love industrial heritage? Who knows. But I came out the other side feeling chipper.

Soon we were crossing over another bridge (or was it an overpass?) and I knew we were headed back to town. I guess the downside of running in a new city means you don't really know how far you are from the finish.

Which shouldn't imply that the course wasn't well marked! This race used the most ingenious mile markers I've seen. Each marker included a clock with gun time, a large mile indicator, and a flag to signal race conditions. It's not the hfirst time that I've run a race that followed a flag system (green, yellow, red, black), but it's the first time that I've actually SEEN flags on the course and been clearly notified in advance of how runners would be informed in the event that things started to go wrong. Thankfully, we stayed green all race long.

Eventually we got close to Miller Park, doing a little loop around part of the parking lot before running into the stadium. Did I mention how lovely Miller Park is?

Brewers Mini-Marathon
entering the field
Brewers Mini Marathon
runners on the jumbotron
We ran around the warning track from left field, behind home plate, and out again along the first base line to right field. I made a point of high-fiving the kids who were cheering like mad in the front row. As we passed home plate, we were shown on the jumbotron. One small miss by the organizers -- have a timing mat that pops up the runners' names so during quiet moments you can announce their names. Disney does it at the Disneyland Half Marathon and it's awesome.

Then out of the stadium, up a tiny hill, and the finish was straight ahead. I tried to pick it up a bit, but I was already on empty. I crossed in 2:22:12, feeling pretty surprised to have done pretty well, given the situation.

I made my way through the goodie gauntlet -- skipping bagels, but grabbing a banana, an amazing chocolate chip cookie, a carton of chocolate milk and, oddly, a large bag of Lays Air Pops chips. I then headed over to the post-race party, where a band was playing (or at least music? It was pretty crowded), food and drink was being served, and people seemed to be having a great time. I considered getting one of my TWO free post-race beers, but the beer area was crazy busy -- no clear lines, just masses of people -- and, hey, it wasn't even 10am. So I decided to bail.

Now, I try to have a goal for each race. Not necessarily a time goal -- just to either learn something, to stay positive at mile 12, or even to remember to smile at the race photographers. For the Brewers Mini-Marathon, other than picking up state #20 (Wisconsin!) my one goal was to have my picture taken with one of the racing sausages. As I headed out to the parking lot, I saw them! Now, which one should I choose? German Sausage, of course!

(who knew they were so tall?)
Lots to love about the Brewers Mini-Marathon. I thought it was very well organized, had a nice shirt, great course, and tons of great volunteers. If I could change two things, I'd have an announcer calling out names inside the stadium and more people serving beer at the post-race party. But that's it!
Hooray for state #20!

farewell, Wisconsin!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Bubble Run race report

An awful lot of time passed between Run For Your Lives and this event, but, hey. Nothing like a little surgery to slow you down a bit, even if it is only your finger!

Having run a "color run" earlier this year, and since this was the year of weird little fun runs, I simply couldn't resist the Bubble Run ... especially when we saw that there was an Amazon Local deal. (Or was it a Groupon?) Anyway - we got a deal on signing up, and Long-Suffering Friend Suz agreed to run in with me. I also shared the news with Reba because her daughter Meg had been wanting to do a color run, so on race day the four of us met up.

Being extra awesome, I was midway through a weird, chesty cold that made me sound "extra sexy" (a.k.a. hoarse and raspy), so I wasn't breathing all that well. Oh well -- it's an untimed fun run!

(Now may be a good time to mention the absurd Wall Street Journal article "The Slowest Generation"which argued that the reason the USA hasn't won an Olympic Marathon gold medal in forever is because young people aren't competitive enough, and cited color runs -- "which are UNTIMED" -- as the real problem. Yeah, tell Desi Davila, Kara Goucher, and Shalane Flanagan that they aren't competitive enough. Jerks.)

ANYWAY, we headed up to Everett, quickly picked up our packets -- bibs, white shirts, plastic visors that made me feel as if my skull would collapse if I wore it, temporary tattoos -- and then went back to the car to relax and stay warm. About 20 minutes before the start of the race we headed back to the start area, met up with R & M, and then hung out for a while. The mood was festive and there were more people than I expected. As an added bonus, despite weather predictions of rain (and sad warnings from the organizers that "rain and foam don't play well together"), the sky was bright if not sunny, and the day was dry. Hoorah!

Obligatory pre-race photos:
R, M, & S

Suz (LSF) & Sunny

I had learned my lesson from the Color in Motion 5K. There's absolutely no point in trying to squeeze into a corral -- we waited until the first wave was loose, then the second wave moved forward and we just slipped in. More dancing, more waving at the folks in the apartments right next to the starting chute who woke up to discover dance music pumping outside their homes at 9am on a Saturday... Our personal favorite was "shirtless man". We want to thank you for not standing up.

Suz was going to do the rest of her long run that day -- an additional 7 miles -- so we had decided to take it nice and easy... which meant we lost R & M right after the start.

Let me say this -- downtown Everett is actually really cute. Nice main drags with interesting little shops, and streets that quickly turn into pretty residential areas. I know cities welcome races in the hopes of attracting business to their towns; well, Everett, I think it worked. I would like to go back and poke around in your pretty downtown.

Anyway, off we ran through downtown Everett. Our first color station was pink. Now, I know we were told they would be deep with foam... but... they were DEEP WITH FOAM! I was surprised at just how deep they were. Lovely bubbly!

a runner entering the pink bog

We giggled our way through the pink bog and kept going. Another kilometer or so and we hit the green bog -- even deeper!

headed in to the green bog

wall o'bubbles
Suz waist-deep in bubbles

coming out the other side

looking back at the green bog
 Something slightly funny -- the bubbles didn't really cling to cloth... but they sure did cling to skin!


A little ways past that we did a funny little double out and back -- imagine tracing the outside of the top of a T -- and soon we were on the main drag coming back. Then the best bog of the day, the blue bog:

This was so foamy, so ridiculous, that we had to stop and take photos:

going in to the blue bog

going in

it's all blue...

so... my waterproof cover was covered with foam.... but that's a very blue Suz

selfie, with foam

Even better -- and possibly the image of the day in my mind -- was this foam-filled stroller. You can't really see the kid very well, but let me just say that the little "smurfette" was NOT AMUSED.


The one small disappointment was with the yellow bog -- I think they must have had some power issues? There wasn't much foam, but we did see a guy sprinting toward it with an extra cord. Oh well... we just looped around and ran through the pink bog again because it didn't have any runners in it.

Then back back back toward the start. When we picked up the packets we laughed that we had to go uphill: "Uphill? At a FUN RUN???" Well, it turned out that we had to essentially run up the other side of the hill, which made us a little sad. We turned the corner toward what we assumed was the "finish"... but on the way were handed granola bars and bottles of water. Huh? Did we miss a finish line? We hadn't even quite gone three miles???

As we hustled down the hill -- thinking we had to get to the bottom -- we found R & M. We all headed down to the bottom of the hill where the foam cannons were disgorging foam on the finish party. Fun, but weirdly wet and cold. We took a few more pictures, and then headed on our way.

foam cannons at the finish

Suz & Rebecca
Would I do another "Bubble Run" again? Probably not -- but it was pretty fun*. Though the foam was a novel touch, there was much less color than in a dry color event -- and none to throw around in the after party. (Why weren't the foam cannons at the end splooging out different colors?) The course was nice, the communications from the organizers was very helpful and thorough, and we got lucky with the weather. But at the end of the day, my shirt wasn't as crazy colored as I would have preferred.

not as colorful... but the run was indeed bubbly!
\* To be fair, I'm not planning on doing many fun runs anymore -- but it was fun to spend a summer doing them!