Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 Race Roundup

I thought that I hadn't managed to run many races in 2014. Especially given how few miles I ran! But looking back, I still managed to run:

12 half marathons
3 10Ks
6 5Ks (including the 4 in day)

and I volunteered at a race, too.

Of course, the other "marathon" was the multi-day trek along the Inca Trail -- which was tough and well deserving of the medal, darn it! (And the one-day Rim to Rim trek in the Grand Canyon, which deserves a medal, even if we didn't have them!)

It's hard to pick my top three race moments, but here goes:

1. Indy Mini Marathon: seeing the first little sign that said, "SPEEDWAY" made my heart pound a little, and seeing the grandstands looming up in front of me made me cry. Then stopping to kiss the bricks made me a little euphoric. Plus I wore checkerboard knee-highs, so I think this was my favorite race this year.

2. Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon: running in the driving Santa Ana winds along the Santa Ana River Trail, and suddenly coming across a massive group of cosplayers in excellent costumes. I got lots of love for being dressed as Ms. Marvel ... especially from the ladies who were themselves dressed as Ms. Marvel or Captain Marvel.

3. Not a race, per se, but the Inca Trail Marathon Adventure: arriving at the Sun Gate on the fourth morning and suddenly seeing Machu Picchu... and bursting into tears. Dirty, dusty tears.

And now for some awards...

Best Costume: Hulk and Ms. Marvel, Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon

Hands down, our costumes for the Avengers Super Heroes Half were fantastic. I'm still super pleased how they turned out, despite being so simple.

Runner up: my Cheshire Cat costume for the Tinker Bell Half. Not the easiest thing to run in, but I looked great, right?

Best Learning Experience: Oso United Mudslide Benefit 5K

Me not knowing the course at the Oso Mudslide 5K ... missing the turnaround, and adding a quarter of a mile to the distance. I'd feel much worse about this if I hadn't managed to run a PR later in the year.

Best Race Mascot: Sage Rat Run Half Marathon

Okay, so it's the only race with a real mascot... but Dusty the Sage Rat from the Sage Rat Half Marathon was amazing.

Runner up: Blerches at the Beat the Blerch Half Marathon

Best Medal: Sage Rat Run Half Marathon

The medal from the Sage Rat Run Half is GINORMOUS and beautiful. I love this race! What's more, if you ran a race the second day, you earned a third mega medal. As they say, "don't wear these medals near water" -- you might drown.

Runner up: the medal from the Rock 'n' Roll Vancouver Half. I love those lions on the bridge!

Most Room for Improvement, Medal Category: Emerald City 10K

Yep, this medal has a typo on it. An otherwise handsome custom medal, spoiled by having the name of the city misspelled. Oops. And this isn't a photo of the finished product... it's clearly the design proof!

Best Race Shirt: Indy Mini Half Marathon

Admittedly, I'm never going to wear a red shirt. But the long-sleeve shirt from the Indy Mini Marathon is one of the best-looking shirts I've ever received. It's tech fabric without looking techy -- and is the sort of shirt you could wear in the real world without looking like a freak.

Runner up: the handsome, black and green technical long sleeve from the Beat the Blerch Half Marathon

Best Race Logistical Challenge: Daffodil 5K Challenge

I almost called this "Best Race Logistics", but that would be wrong. (The race had more than a few hiccups, but it was an ambitious race and I would hope they'd fix them for the 2015 running.) But moving from city to city to run 5Ks along 4 different parade routes, well, that was pretty fun -- especially while wearing these ridiculous daffodil hats. And we got to see princesses.

Best Race Branding: Flying Pig Half Marathon

Wow, did they have the branding down pat. The blend of a repeating race logo and a different twist on the theme every year, meant that they had a great range of merchandise at the expo, and everything looked great.

Runner up: Beat the Blerch Half Marathon ... which isn't surprising, because the race is based on the comic...

Best Post-Race Nosh: Marathon to Marathon

Every runner received a voucher good for either a post-race breakfast or lunch in the town auditorium. Omelets, pancakes, and hashbrowns cooked and served by local firemen, eaten at tables shared by the sweetest little old ladies imaginable.Perfection.

Runner up: Hagg Hybrid Half Marathon

After the race, the organizers served up breakfast (for those faster than us!) and then burgers and veggie burgers for lunch. We sat in the sun and ate and drank soda out of our very nice medals mugs.

Best Race-bag Swag: Flying Pig Half Marathon

In addition to a handsome "suitable for framing" print, a good-quality shirt, and a wide range of Proctor & Gamble Products, runners were given a "race premium" .... which I think was a waterproof backpack. Either that or a very smelly backpack. But I suspect it's waterproof.

Runner up: Boring Half Marathon

Another handsome race shirt, and -- I love this -- a BORING race sticker. I still can't believe more races don't make these.

Best Mid-Race Food: Beat the Blerch Half Marathon

Birthday cake? Nutella sandwiches? Grape soda? I had it all. AND managed not to throw up. Awesome.

Single Toughest Day: Rim to Rim Hike

To be brutally honest, I didn't know if we'd be able to do this. It was harder than we thought, but I think we did better than we feared. And coming out of the canyon at the Bright Angel Trailhead to cheers from our fellow trekkers -- and being greeted with a shot of tequila -- will stay with me a long time.

Best Run Over a Historic Bridge: Santa Runs Tacoma Donner and Blitzen 21K

We got to run over the Murray Morgan Bridge in Tacoma -- a beautiful old industrial bridge, now named after a local historian. Doubly sweet.

Best Race Featuring a Giant Inflatable Colon: Get Your Rear in Gear 5K

'Nuff said.

What was your favorite race moment in 2014? What awards would you give?

Sunday, December 28, 2014

2015 Goals - looking ahead

Now, I know what you're thinking. "She didn't achieve SIX goals last year, only a paltry 3. How on earth is she going to achieve TEN?!?!?"

I decided that I wanted my goals to be both long-term and short-term, and give me different things I could focus on at different times. I feel like these give me a good opportunity to achieve different types of success throughout the year. So, in no particular order... (other than that I drew them in this order...)

1. Run 700 miles
You've heard this one before, of course. But if work on the other goals, I'll achieve this one. Of course, hitting this would mean running more than 2.5x as long as I ran in 2014. So this is a big, hairy, audacious goal. But a little cuddly on the inside. Or something.

2. Run 15 half marathons
This is a bit of a stretch -- except I have a plan that might just work. Besides, isn't it nice to think about the symmetry here? (Suz, I'm talking to you, here...)

3. Break 2:10 in a half marathon
This is a big stretch -- I haven't run close to that pace in nearly 2 years, but I think on the right day, on the right course, I could hit it. We'll see.

4. Run 15 in '15
Ahh, this. After my spectacularly poor performance in 2014, you'd think I wouldn't be fool enough to take this on again. And to add that additional mile. BUT this time I'm thinking about it differently. I'm giving myself a couple of "joker weeks" -- essentially, get out of jail free cards. And I'm going to try to achieve a lesser percentage of success, rather than 100%. So if I hit the mark 90% of the time, I'll still give myself an A. 80% will score a B, 70% a C, and so on. Yes, 2014 was a big, fat FAILURE. So the only way is up, right?

5. Run half marathons in 5 new states
Last year was about hitting some bucket list races... this year is about picking up new states and getting back on schedule. If all goes as hoped for and dreamed, I'll actually get one or two more states than this... but the stars will have to align.

6. Run a sub-8:00 mile
This is also a big tough goal. My fastest mile EVER was somewhere between 8:15 and 8:30. I never ever ever work on my speed. Nor do I ever run on a track. But I would like to try and run on a track every couple of weeks to do a touch of speedwork and improve my times. Some time in January I will run a "time trial" and see how far I have to go.

7. Break 1:00:00 in a 10K
A year ago I would have thought this was a real long shot. Except when we "took it easy" at the Tinker Bell 10K in January 2014 and ran 1:02 and change. Then a month later I ran 1:01 and change. So this year I'll run a couple of 10Ks and see if I can't get my time down a bit more. This one feels within reach.

8. Blog an average of 2x / week
This shouldn't be difficult -- but I would like to develop the discipline of blogging more often... and about more than just race reports. (Thanks for the tough love, Suz!)

9. Run a 5K PR
If I work on my speed even a little, this one shouldn't be too tough. My current 5K PR is 29:32; anything under that will feel like a big win.

10. Run to work 50 times
Other than that I'm lazy, that I hate carrying stuff on my back while I run, and that it's pitch black in the mornings right now, there's no reason that I don't run to work more often. So this goal is just to push myself to do it once a week or so.

You'll notice that I don't have any non-running goals (well, other than this running blog!). I thought about adding in something about cross training, improving my flexibility, etc. But then I figured that I'm tracking some of those in my 101 in 1001 project, so look there for those.

What are your goals for 2015? I'd love to cheer you on!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

2014 Goals in Review

Let's just say it. If running was my job, and this was my annual review, I think I might get let go. Or if not let go, I would be put on a "PIP" -- a Personal Improvement Plan.

I don't have any excuses for somehow managing to run LESS than ever before. I usually go through my goals one by one, but this time let's start with...


3. Run half marathons in three new states in 2014 - COMPLETE!

I ran three new states this year. Most importantly, I also ran three half marathons that have been on my race bucket list for YEARS: the Indy Mini-Marathon in Indiana, the Flying Pig Half Marathon in Ohio, and the (Half) Marathon to Marathon in Iowa. These were huge races for me -- even if my performances weren't all that great. Having the chance to "kiss the bricks" at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway -- and get choked up just seeing the grandstands -- will be one of my all-time great running memories. In a very different sort of memory, I'll always remember the Marathon to Marathon's race director's pre-race warning: 
"We've had reports of serious storms in the area, and baseball-sized hail elsewhere in the state. Stopping the race for bad weather is entirely my decision. This is Iowa. So if a bus pulls up behind you and tells you to get on...  GET ON."
Three new states = woot!

3 out of 3
0 half marathons
3 half marathons

4. Set a PR in the 5K 10K (?!?) - COMPLETE!!!

PRing in the 5K has been a stretch goal for two years straight… though I didn't actually run any real 5Ks in 2013. At least any 5Ks where I didn't have to climb an obstacle, crawl through mud, avoid zombies, or get doused in color. So imagine my surprise to pick up a PR in the Tinker Bell 10K on 1/18/14 -- a race where we were "taking it easy" because we were running a half marathon the next day. Oops.

Then back in April I missed the 5K turnaround and a new PR at the Oso United Mudslide Benefit 5K. I had given up on hitting this goal this year -- since I didn't have any 5Ks planned -- but then on a November Sunday I rolled out of bed and decided on a whim to drive out to Redmond to run my pal Keely's "Get Your Rear in Gear 5K"… and somehow managed to both PR and break 30 minutes.

A PR in the 10K? A PR in the 5K? And finally breaking 30:00 in the 5K? Result.

6. Blog!

I love writing this blog, even if hardly anyone reads it. But I want to keep writing and try to get more regular with my posting… if only because I love looking back over the blog to see how far I've come as a runner. I'm calling this goal "achieved" because, well, I did blog all year long. More some months than others, of course... However, as my LSF Suz pointed out, I stopped posting about training, and really just started posting race reports, "which isn't as inspiring as following your training". Fair. I guess I just worry that my training (or, ahem, my lack thereof), isn't very interesting. I'll try to address that next year. 

(Also: the fact that I have to call this an achieved goal is a reflection of the fact that I did a very poor job of writing the goal -- it definitely doesn't fit the SMART structure!)



2. Run at least 700 miles.

Good lord. This is my lowest annual mileage since we started running, despite running 12 half marathons. Of course, there were several months where the half marathons were the ONLY miles, so I don't know why I am at all surprised. Of course, I'm not surprised that I didn't hit the goal per se... but I AM surprised by how far from the goal I ended up. 

I may not have logged all my runs in Nike+, but I suspect I did. And my total miles? A shocking, shameful, sad 250.1. Last year, 323 miles. 2012, 570 miles. Ouch. 

I could say that this summer we focused more on hiking and climbing stairs rather than running, since we were prepping for the Inca Trail. But that might cause a slight dip, not such a huge drop off. 

Despite supposedly "recommitting" to my goal in early September, where my total mileage was a terrible 160 miles (in 8 full months!), the latter part of the year was almost as bad, where I ran 90 miles in nearly 4 months. 

1/1 - 9/7: 160 running miles (ouch)

0 miles 
504 miles!

After "recommitting"
9/8 - 12/31 : 90.1 running miles (sigh)

0 miles
224 miles!

In a desperate attempt to think positively, my percentage did go higher... but.

5. Break 2:10 in the half.

Well, I would have loved to break 2:10 in the half. But given how little I ran at all, I should be pleased to have run a single race under 2:20. Maybe in 2015 I'll nurture my mojo a bit more.



1. Run 14 in '14

This was the key goal for the year -- everything else paled in comparison. The idea was that I would run at least 14 miles every week. And I performed MISERABLY. In all of 2014, I managed this task a total of EIGHT TIMES. I don't know what to say. I'm really disappointed in myself. That said, while it's simply a lack of running (duh), the goal was also set up to fail too easily. When I missed the first week, the goal was shot.

So when I finalize next year's goals, I'm going to rejigger this a bit. So stay tuned.


Still, successes and joy outweighed my uneven performance this year. I ran some fun races, wore some great costumes, and -- may I mention it again? MADE IT  IN TO THE RUNDISNEY AVENGERS SUPER HEROES HALF MARATHON VIDEO!!! Yep, the highlight of my racing year is captured in this pixelated screen shot:

Here's to a great 2014... and to an even happier 2015.

Friday, December 26, 2014

So, it's almost the end of the year?

Oh, December... where have you gone? For that matter, where did 2014 go?

Over the next few days I'll be looking back over 2014, and looking forward to 2015, in a series of recaps, roundups, whatevers.

Saturday: 2014 goals roundup
Sunday: 2015 goals
Monday: 2014 race recap
Tuesday: 2015 races

But before I get to year-end, I should think about month-end. December is always so busy -- especially now that I essentially work retail (albeit online retail). There have been lots of long, hectic, and stressful days... and not much else from a productive standpoint!

That said, I did managed to squeeze in a few things for the 101 in 1001 project. I may not have been particularly successful this month, but I do love this project -- I love having longer than a month to complete things. And since some of my tasks include doing something monthly, I won't complete them until the end of the project. But here's how things look right now:

Completed tasks: 8 / 101.
Plus one "monthly" task on target.

So, a long way to go, but I'm doing something.

Tasks completed in December:

14. Set up a new Twitter handle
84. Make cheese at home
92. Make Christmas card tree

Tasks I've made progress against in December:

76. Visit 5 new museums or exhibits - 1/5
77. Prepare 1 new recipe / month -- 4/4 so far!!

A task I completely failed at:

61. Run 14 in 14

Yeah, about that... I'll talk about that in my "goals" post, coming soon...

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Holidaze, part 2

Wil was looking at the Fbooks the other morning and said, "Oh, you tagged me in a photo." Since I hadn't tagged him in a photo, I took a look... and it was this photo:

Oddly enough, my pal Robyn had tagged me in it, commenting "You guys are so cute!" I thought, oh, she must have been at the race and I somehow didn't see her... given that she's an ultramarathoner and all that. I figured she might have seen it in the race photos and posted it. 

But then I saw this:

Ha ha ha. Ho ho ho.

I can only hope we make next year's flyer. :)

Thursday, December 18, 2014


Today my team had our Holiday Webstravaganza - bocce, bites, and booze at Das Rhein Haus. We also had our second annual Secret Santa exchange, where everyone did very well with their Santa-ing (if not always guessiv who their Santa was!). 

I received this bag of awesomeness:  

A Star Wars calendar and mini terrarium. Of course, I knew IMMEDIATELY that my Santa was Nikki. (That's St. Nikki, to you...)

Speaking of Star Wars, the Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend Race Guide was released this week, along with corral and bib assignments. Now I just have to sort out the costumes!!!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Santa Runs Tacoma Donner & Blitzen 21K race report

I like a holiday-themed run. There. I've said it. I like putting on stripey tights and a Santa hat (which I always find annoying after, oh, 5 minutes) and running with a bunch of festive folks. We ran the Jingle Bell Run way back in 2007, attempted to run the 12Ks of Christmas in 2008 when the race was cancelled due to snow. (And, while you can't control the weather, you CAN control your website messaging... or your outgoing phone message. Ahem.) And then, during Wil's 40@40 project, we ran our own Happy Christmas Half Marathon on Christmas morning in 2012.

So I was really happy when the Santa Runs Tacoma added a 21K distance to their event this year. It seemed like a great opportunity to squeeze in one last half marathon this year. And, yes, WEAR OUR SANTA HATS!!!

Drove down to Tacoma -- the race had a very civilized 9am start time, so we didn't even have to leave super early. I both love and feel a little sad for downtown Tacoma -- beautiful old buildings and lots of empty holes in the ground. But, still the weather was glorious -- a bit bracing, but a perfect morning for a race!

We picked up our packets on race morning. To be honest, if we had had to pick them up the day before, we wouldn't have run this event. In our bags we had a few flyers, a mini Clif bar sample, the odd "King of Shaves" sample, a pair of black gloves (oddly unfestive?) and this:

Nope, that's not a swim cap, though it does look a lot like one. Just a weird, very thin beanie. I can't bring myself to post a picture of it "in use" -- because it was just too weird looking. I think I would have preferred a headband. Or a pair of embroidered gloves. Or... nothing. 

But, mustn't grumble, eh?

We went back to the car, found a spot where we could park for more than 2 hours, and then headed down to the start. There was a sizable crowd -- over 1100 people spread across the 3 races. And plenty of dogs...

As usual, it was nearly impossible to hear the pre-race announcements. I think someone sang a Christmas carol? Maybe the national anthem? I have no idea. But we took the obligatory pre-race photo:

And a quick photo of the crowd:

No, that *isn't* a swim cap. Nor is it warm. 
Then it was time to go. The highlight of the race course came early -- we ran across a wonderful old bridge which was originally built in 1913 as the "New Steel Bridge", later renamed the 11th Street Bridge, and rededicated as the Murray Morgan Bridge for its centennial.

the 11th Street Bridge, circa 2013

with the central span raised
The bridge used to be a freeway route from downtown Tacoma to the tide flats, but was bypassed in the late 1990s, and, well, when an old bridge is bypassed, the funding disappears. Following the I-35 bridge collapse in 2007, the bridge was closed to cars, and it looked like it might be destroyed. But a grassroots effort to save the bridge -- and renovate it -- was successful. To make it all the more awesome, they renamed the bridge after local historian Murray Morgan, whose book "Skid Road: An Informal Portrait of Seattle", is one of my two favorite local history books. (For the record, Bill Speidel's "Sons of the Profits" is the other...)

across the bridge and around the waterfront
After the bridge, we did a loop around the waterfront area, running next to the Museum of Glass and some swanky new(ish) housing. The course then just followed Schuster Parkway and Ruston Way.

I was a little surprised at how good I was feeling for most of the along Ruston Way. My foot was feeling okay, I felt strong, and we were making good time. But at around mile 6, it sent me a little message, saying, "Umm, hi, remember how you were supposed to be resting? Yeah. About that."

I started thinking about when I might want to stop running and walk... which is always a bad thing, because then I mentally give up. Luckily Wil has having similar thoughts. We decided that we would run to the turnaround... so imagine how grumpy I was when the "turnaround" was really a weird double-out-and-back that stretched over 2 miles. When we made the turn into the Point Ruston development, Wil said, "Let's run until we leave the park"... not realizing that it would be quite so far.

I began to wonder if we were somehow spelling out a word or drawing a shape on the map, but, no:

double out-and-back in Point Ruston... doesn't seem to spell anything....
So, in the end, we ran until almost mile 9, then happily settled into a comfortable walk. We saw the 2:20 pace group go past, then the 2:30. Sigh. (Okay, maybe we weren't quite so happy to be walking?) Still, one particular highlight: We always make a point to thank volunteers and the police officers who control traffic on the course. One officer said, "Love the matching outfits. Especially on you, sir." Awesome!

Donner and Blitzen 21K course map
But we went over the final overpass (I do love a working rail yard, which I realize as I type makes me a complete nerd), spotted the finish line, and trotted across holding hands. We got our handsome medals, grabbed a banana and some water, a couple of cookies in the Half Fanatics tent, and then skedaddled.

post-race pic
Amusingly, the finish line was far from the start -- so we had to figure out how to get back to downtown. Hurray for the Murray Morgan Bridge, yet again! Except, oh. Wow.

Ha ha, psyche. (There's an elevator. Phew.)

Things we loved about this race:
- the Murray Morgan Bridge, of course!
- packet pick-up day of race
- a Fanatics "VIP" tent
- a pleasant course

Room for improvement:
- it's a quality medal... but I hate the 3 massive Bud Light logos on the thing. (Did we somehow miss a beer tent?)
- it's tough to start the different races together -- even a smallish race gets clumpy at the start

Not sure we'd necessarily run this race again, but I can recommend it to anyone looking for a small, well-produced event in December. 

2014 Tacoma Santa Run Donner and Blitzen Half Marathon medal
2014 Santa Runs Tacoma Half Marathon (aka Donner & Blitzen 21K) medal

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Musings about pain...

It started not long after the Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon. A weird sensation in my foot. Not a stabbing pain, more like a dull ache, made worse by activity. Maybe not even an ache? At night, lying in bed, it felt ... like I imagine a subterranean fire to feel... a slow, hot burn.

I stopped going to boot camp -- it hurt to run or jump on it, and I've never been good at pacing myself. I didn't want to hurt myself more, and knew I needed to rest it.

Two weeks after the race, after feeling like things just weren't right, I went to the doctor.

I love my doctor -- Amy Deans. She's always patient, honest, and pretty conservative. She's not one to order a battery of tests just because.... though she makes a point of telling me what's available, what it might or might not tell me, and what her recommendations are. She'll also tell me when she doesn't know something off the top of her head, or wants backup.

She started out by telling me that she doesn't know a lot about feet. After all, she's an internist. We quickly ruled out broken bone (no really sharp pain, no swelling, no bone poking out of the foot...), which left us with a stress fracture, or tendonitis, or tenosynovitis, or even an inflamed ligament. She said that x-rays wouldn't tell us anything, and we talked about an MRI... but knew that seemed a little excessive.

Especially when, most likely, the recommended treatment would be... REST. Sigh. She also reminded me that, for most people, two weeks of rest isn't really that long. Double sigh.

The key, she told me, was to find a way to walk or stand that didn't hurt. Which sounds a bit silly, but I actually understand. I was offered a few different options to help keep my foot immobilized, from a borrowed boot (thanks Carrie!):

to a "post-operative shoe":

I tried both around the house and actually found them a bit more painful than just wearing shoes all the time, rather than go barefoot. (That said, being snugged up in the boot while I sit down with my foot elevated feels pretty darn nice...)

In the meantime, I have been pretty inactive. No boot camp, no running. This week I walked to work 3 days, but I took it easy.

Still, as I sit here typing, I feel the weird "burn" in the top of my foot. Not pain, just ... smoldering...

It reminded me of an article I read recently on entitled "The Science of Running and Pain". That, even after a body has physically healed itself, the brain may still be protecting the body by signaling pain. Which isn't so much "the pain is all in your head", but that pain is the perception of threat to your body.
In many cases, this is a good thing, as pain helps protect you from damage. If you put your hand on a hot stove, you want the body to feel pain. If you tear a muscle or a tendon, pain is a necessary reminder to stop using the injured limb. The problem in running is when the brain decides to continue saying "ouch" after the tissue has healed. After an injury, the body retains discrete memories associated with specific painful experiences. Sometimes when healing occurs, the body may treat these painful memories as reality even when there is discord between the brain and tissue.
The author goes on to recommend ways to transition to pain-free running by creating new memories ... notably by running intervals. The idea being that you can have good, pain-free experiences and re-train your brain not to prematurely put on the brakes by signaling pain. He recommends running 1- to 5-minute intervals in sets, whereby you can accumulate mileage while not overtaxing yourself, willing "easy victories" along the way.

And, being a nerd, this may be my favorite blurb of the article:
Think of pain as a bug in the operating system, not necessarily a hardware fault. Inputting the right code with easy victories, running drills and soft tissue interventions can help reprogram the subconscious brain to view running with the same enjoyment that our conscious brain brings to the sport.
Clearly I'm in the "did you turn it off and on again" part of the process... and a smart person would probably continue to rest a little, then starting off pretty gently with some short runs.

But whoever said I'm smart ... at least when it comes to running? Saturday we'll be running the Donner and Blitzen 21K as part of the Santa Runs Tacoma race. Yes, I will take it easy -- my only goal is to finish, after all. Well, that and wear my sweet "Ugly Sweater" tech tee:

(Full disclosure: I work for Brooks. The "Ugly Sweater" tee was my idea, and I'm thrilled that we produced it. I get no kickbacks of any kind. I just love love love this shirt!)

I have been super lucky, and I have rarely been injured in other than a few nagging aches and pains. Wish me luck out there on Saturday -- I may be in for a long day!

Monday, December 1, 2014

101 Tasks in 1001 Days November Wrap-Up

It seems like the days are zooming past -- how is it December already? -- and I worry, sometimes, that I'm not getting much traction on this project as I'd like! But it's good to take this chance to look back and see where I've made at least some progress.

Tasks I've completed this month:
1. Finish my list of 101 tasks -- finished 11/13/14!
57. Run a sub 30-minute 5K -- completed 11/02/14!
72. Watch all of West Wing -- completed 11/30/2014
73. Watch all 6 Star Wars films in one day -- completed on "ThanksGEEKing", 11/27/2014

Tasks I've made progress against:
43. Use or refund all expired "Groupons" -- made list on 11/4/14
76. Visit 5 new museums or exhibits - 1/5 (Pop! Departures, Seattle Art Museum, 11/30/2014)
77. Prepare 1 new recipe / month -- 3/3 so far!!
78. Complete the Rosetta Stone Spanish software -- I installed the software and completed the first lesson on 11/11!
88. Take cheese courses at River Valley Cheese -- attended the first one on 11/22!

Clearly, I have a lot left to do -- but starting to tackle my "Groupons", starting the Rosetta Stone spanish software, and finishing the list of 101 tasks feels like real progress.

I predict December will be extra chaotic (You too? Yeah, I know...), but I would like to finish at least the first disc of the Rosetta Stone software and complete one of the Craftacular projects as well.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon race report (finally!)

Race morning was dry ... a little warm ... and Very, Very Windy. How windy? This windy:

I've raced in some pretty awful weather -- torrential rain, freezing cold, even wind strong enough to make me feel like I was running in place. But I've never raced against the Santa Ana winds... or the duststorm those winds can cause... or had to jump out of the way of a police barrier picked up and tossed by a wind gust.

But I'm getting way ahead of myself here...

We flew down to Disneyland early on the Friday morning, arriving at the Expo about an hour after it opened. We snorted a little derisively at the big line in the packet pickup area. (Team Wil-Sun: "What's the line for?" Volunteer A: "Can't you guess?" Team Wil-Sun: "Is it a line for photos with a characters?" Volunteer A: "No... it's the line for purses." Volunteer B: "You mean, it's the line for ebay sellers!") We got our bibs, our pins, and my necklace, before heading up to the merch area.

Wil and I both had the genius idea that we should go and pick up our pins and pint glasses in the official merch first -- before getting our shirts -- the rationale being that they're not going to run out of shirts.

We were a little confused by the long line of people -- ahh, they must be waiting for a character photo? A helpful castmember said, "This is the line for official merchandise. The end is out in the lobby." We were both a little stunned. Wil asked how long the wait was, and the castmember said, "About 2 hours at this point."


I actually had a moment when I thought, well, okay, we'll wait. Wil was adamant that we were NOT doing that. Which, when I cleared visions of medal pins from my head, I saw was TOTALLY LOGICAL.

Wil reminded me that we've never been to the expo so early before, that we've always gotten the couple of items we want, and that, in a worst-case scenario, we could resort to ebay for the pins we wanted. Even at grossly inflated prices, if we had to wait for 2 hours to buy them, well, it's still possibly worth it.

So we went and picked up our very nice shirts -- black long sleeves AGAIN?!? Dear, sweet runDisney -- THANK YOU for making tech shirts I will be delighted to wear!!!!

We then headed back out of the expo and to our car, which we drove to our hotel, checked in, and started our day for reals.

(We did go back over to the expo a couple of hours later -- the walked right in to the merchandise area, which had been pretty picked over, but were still able to get the medal pins and pint class we buy at every race. And, since we had bought our new annual passes in the meantime, we also got a discount. Nice.)

Race morning, verrrry early, we set out in our gear, nibbling on bagels as we made our way across Downtown Disney. I probably say it in every Disneyland race report, but I LOVE this quiet walk. I always love listening to the chatter, spotting the first-timers (bibs on the back of their shirts is a dead giveaway), and looking at the costumes.

Unsurprisingly, there were some pretty awesome costumes for this race -- people LOVE a super hero theme! Oh, and us? This is us after the race:

Darn it, getting ahead of myself again.

We got in our corral (D) pretty quickly -- they were already calling runners to the corrals when we arrived in the start village. I was intrigued by how they were setting things up -- smaller corrals at the front, larger corrals at the back. We could hear but not really see the announcers, so we decided to just move over to the side and sit down.

the view from Corral D

obligatory pre-race photo
The announcers were chatting about heroes and such, there *may* have been an appearance by a character or two (maybe?), and then the countdown started. May I note here that we have gotten Very Good at timing our mornings for Disneyland races???

the race start
We were told to move up as A and B were both starting together... and because C and D would be starting together.

Tangent: I find the science / art of corrals super interesting -- and I can see that even by having these smaller corrals starting together, they're still (semi-)effectively breaking up the crowds by time. But it made a lot of people chatter in the corrals.

The wheelers left and promptly disappeared (so fast!), then went A & B. The announcers clearly enjoyed calling out all of the costumes... notably "representatives from Stark Industries".

Another tangent: There was a lot of chatter on the social channels complaining about why Iron Man wasn't included in the race imagery -- "because he's the most popular one". Anyone who races knows (or should know?) that "Ironman" as relates to swimming, biking, and running competition is trademarked by the World Triathlon Corporation. Disney may own Marvel now, but they also honored the previous deals.

We had stationed ourselves toward the back of the D corral, so this is how it looked from the start of our wave -- still pretty far back.

the start for corrals C and D

Once we had started -- waving at the announcers and getting a shout-out as we passed -- we ran out along Disneyland Drive for a brief stretch before going backstage at California Adventure and then bang right into the park. 

Full disclosure here: I managed to take ZERO photos while running this race. Between the wind gusts and the dust and MY RIDICULOUS WIG, I just didn't do it. Luckily, costumes definitely make you a target for the Marathonfoto photographers, so we ended up with a ton of photos from this race. 

My favorite stretch in Disneyland used to be Main Street USA... but now my favorite paths are in Cars Land -- especially "Route 66" at night, when all the neon is lit up. 

 We then ran towards Paradise Pier, but turned to run behind Grizzly River Rapids -- the loveliest, quietest stretch of the park. 

Things get pretty fuzzy here. We ran out of California Adventure near Soarin', crossed the plaza, and entered Disneyland somewhere backstage. Then we ran around behind and I *think* we came onstage in Critter Country, following the river around past the Haunted Mansion, and then around Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (quite possibly the quietest and loveliest stretch of Disneyland) into Fantasyland.

We ran past King Arthur's Carousel -- which wasn't spinning, but had all 7 dwarves and Snow White sitting on horses and waving. (Those poor characters assigned to the carousel ... I'm glad they don't just keep 'em spinning the whole time!)

The highlight of pretty much every Disneyland race is the chance to run through Cinderella Castle. Sometimes you get lucky and get a good "castle pic"... sometimes not. This time, DEFINITELY!

That picture made us very, very happy. Then, a couple of days after the race, I was riding the bus to work and I noticed that Disney had posted the race video. I always love watching the race videos, remembering the race, always kind-of hoping that we'd get a glimpse of ourselves...

Then, bam.

50-some seconds in, there we were, running through the castle. I let out a little whoop on the bus. Best. Castle. Pic. Ever.

But back to the race... And, no, I have NO IDEA where these next pictures were taken. I mean, that really looks like the Matterhorn, but ?? Staring at the image, it's probably taken on Main Street USA (aren't those trolley tracks?)... but Wil isn't wearing sunglasses... Still, look how happy we are!

Then, as usual, we were out of the parks all too quickly. I *think* we ran through the little tunnel under the main bus entrance before popping out onto Harbor Boulevard just before mile 3. 

Not much to report out here, other than crazy wind, even crazier wind gusts, and most of the mile markers getting blown over. 

By the time we reached the Crystal Cathedral, my wig -- attached to my forehead with spirit gum -- had blown off (though I quickly retrieved it and jammed it in my race belt), we had dodged a police barrier that had been picked up by the wind, and we may have been stopped in our tracks -- along with all the runners around us -- by a particularly violent gust. Pretty crazy. 

I suddenly realized that the sodden waterstop volunteers (voluntEARS?) who were standing in puddles of water were soaked because some of the tables had been blown over. Tables weighed down by hundreds of water cups. Poor little bears. I'm always very grateful (and noisily so) to the volunteers, thanking each group multiple times as I move through the water zones. But I felt so bad for them during this race! 

A couple of miles later and we joined the Santa Ana River Trail. Now, I love the idea of running along the river trail, especially about halfway through the race, when the pack will have strung out quite a bit. Sure, it's not a river, river, but it's a beautifully paved trail. There was a lot of whining after the race from people saying how dumb it was to run along the trail in a windstorm. Sorry, Disney can do a lot of magic, but they actually don't control the weather...

Also, a group of cosplay enthusiasts had stationed themselves along the trail, so it was a really great distraction to see their amazing costumes, get shout outs for being dressed as Ms. Marvel, and high-fiving tons of superheroes. Despite the crazy, dusty, gritty wind, I felt totally energized during this stretch (even if I kept apologizing for taking my wig off!). 

We turned off the river trail and into Angel Stadium right around the mile 8 marker... well, what was left of the marker. A short stretch across the parking lot:

I look as if I've taken someone's scalp...
... and then we headed into the stadium, which was, as always, marvelous. 

Please note that Wil managed to make his "Hulk Face" at almost every photo op.

Once out of the stadium there was a really lovely stretch where we ran past a group of WW2 reenactors in full uniform, complete with some lovingly restored Jeeps and other vehicles. Lots of high fives here as well -- looked amazing!

Things were pretty quiet -- other than the wind gusts -- for the rest of the race. At some point I did get to take candy from strangers ... possibly twice? Hey, getting to eat a few Red Vines is a highlight of any race, okay?

We ran through what I like to think of as "my" underpass, sadly sans cheerleaders this race, and then parallel to I-5 and past the HoJo. (I love the HoJo.) Then back onto park property, through the tunnel, and backstage behind Cars Land again -- the same way we ran at the start, but in the other direction. 

Was a little surprised at how sparse the area was through the parking lot behind the Paradise Pier Hotel -- but I guess that's often a staging area or a finish area? There were several cheer squads and drill teams -- possibly relocated to this spot, given the winds.

The stretch to the finish seemed impossibly narrow -- and the course was a little winding, so it was difficult to see where we would be going. Was absolutely THRILLED to see the finish -- it had been pretty rough out there. But in preparation -- and because I'm vain, I guess -- I decided to put the wig back on while we were still backstage... which, I think you'll agree, was Worth It. 

home stretch!!!

finish line!!!

I love that we got a nice, clean finish line photo (AND that the finish line didn't blow down!!!). But these two photos, because they have a very "paparazzi" look to them:

Phew! Mission accomplished. We smashed the half!

Things we loved about this race: 
- an interesting new course
- the cosplay group and WW2 reenactors along the course
- the valiant volunteers trying to save the mile markers when they were blowing over
- great shirts... and handsome medals

Room for improvement:
- well, if Disney could control the weather (ha ha)...
- more characters (as usual)

I'm not sure we'd necessarily make this race a must-run event... though it is scheduled for our anniversary weekend again in 2015. :)

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon medal

2014 Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon Map