Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Sri Chinmoy 7-Hour Race report

To be honest, I don't know where or when I heard about this race. I think I was aware -- at least faintly aware -- of their recurring 2-mile race series, since it shows up on local race calendars. I think maybe they entered my consciousness when I heard about the 3100-Mile Race, held annually in New York City. (More on that at another time...)

But the the last couple of years this race has been knocking around my consciousness. And this year, I screwed up my courage and signed up. I was nervous -- I mean, how far COULD I run in 7 hours? Remembering, of course, to factor in that I hadn't run longer than 13.1 miles in months and months and months...

Race day dawned with a drizzle. I packed up some extra clothes, spare shoes (in case my feet got soaked), a water bottle with some energy drink, and some snacks (sausages, quinoa cakes, and paneer) and drove out to Magnuson Park for the race. Daulot, the race director, had sent really helpful instructions before the race... trust me, it's easy to get pointed in the wrong direction inside Magnuson Park!

well signed, and nicely detailed driving directions -- always a good omen!
When I approached the start/finish area, I spotted a couple of runners and knew I was in the right place. No one was moving with particular speed, but then again most of them had already been running for OVER FIVE HOURS. I parked the car, hyperventilated nervously for a minute or two, then got out and went to the registration table. 

they drew stars on my bib -- how cute are these people?!?

Everyone was SO AMAZINGLY NICE it was ... totally disarming. I said that I was nervous and everyone -- runners and volunteers alike -- all were cheerful and optimistic and supportive. I picked up my race number and nice long-sleeved tech tee ("the women's shirts were running large, so I went one size down for you") and then looked around a little, trying to calm my nerves. 

There was a nice banner:

"If we believe in our own Self-transcendence task, then there can be no unreachable goal." - Sri Chinmoy

And a set of information boards about Sri Chinmoy -- whose face really exudes kindness, I think!

perhaps the epitome of "run happy"?

I am both intrigued and delighted by a person who believes that we can achieve transcendence -- SELF transcendence -- through exercise in general, and running in particular. And in the hours to come I would have a LOT of time to think about it.

This public art work, "Fin Art", was the last stretch of each loop. I came to use the fins as something to lean on to dig gravel out of my shoes, and it was with a little relief that I ran through them each time.

"Fin Art" is made from decommissioned submarine parts -- and grouped like the fins of a pod of orcas
But the kindness of the volunteers and spotting some running pals still wasn't enough to calm me down, so I went to sit in the car for a few minutes. Breathe in, breathe out...

With about 15 minutes before the start, I went back to the starting area to take a look around. I was introduced to my counter. That's right, I had my own personal counter who would track my laps and splits. 

We had a brief pre-race talk. The course was marked with orange flags on the left-hand side of the route, except where the course turned right, then they would be on the right-hand side. Simple. (And really, really well marked.)

Everyone looked a little nervous -- well with a couple of exceptions. But most of us had never attempted this sort of thing before and had a "well, we'll see" sort of attitude. 

We had a moment of silence and then Daulot blew a horn, and we headed off. 

I was really nervous that I would somehow lose the route and get lost ... so I might have run a little too fast at first, keeping up with the fellas for most of the first mile. But then I realized that the course was really well marked, so relaxed and forced myself to walk intervals to "save my legs".

The course was really nice -- a mix of paved roads, packed gravel, packed dirt, and even some springy grass and bark. You might think that a loop of 1.54 miles, run repeatedly, would be really boring -- but it's not that bad, really. First, there were a lot of different "feels" along the course, from the paved road (like a walkway in an urban park), then the packed gravel around grassy knolls, past baseball diamonds and a mixed use soccer/ultimate frisbee field, then into a forest trail, then onto a disused road, then through the grass and bark (and Fin Art) back to the finish.

It occurred to me that the course was something of a mandala -- a repeating pattern to help you meditate. But then again I got pretty tired and endorphin-goofy along the way...

Janice (a Mainly Marathons / Sweet Quadzukilla fellow traveller) told me that she (and some others) had an early start at 8am so they could wrap up at 3. I was surprised by this, and wished, momentarily, that I had known about that option. However, it was POURING early in the morning -- and for me, the rain never was stronger than a drizzle. So clearly the universe was smiling on me and my fellow standard-start 7-hour runners!

I had decided to run short intervals to try and save my legs: 2 minutes running, 1 minute walking. Lather, rinse, repeat. This actually lasted for quite a while, with the exception of the first lap after the top of each hour, when I would pick up some food and eat it while power walking along. I actually was even banking time. See, I had set my goal at 50K -- for which I would need to complete 21 laps. So, three laps / hour.

It actually went okay for the first or so hours. I was ahead of pace, moving well, and feeling pretty optimistic. But then my hip started hurting (perhaps a storm was a-comin'?) and I decided to back down my intervals to 1:15 / 1.

I sent Wil a text just before 3:30:

a little good news, a little bad news...

So at the halfway point, I was well past my mileage goal. However, the wheels had pretty much come off.

From that moment on, I probably didn't run another step.

See, I discovered that, for me anyway, it's much easier to think "okay, just 5 more miles left" or even "okay, just 10 more miles left" than it is to think "okay, just 3 and a half more hours left". HOURS. It was clearly a mental effort that I wasn't prepared for.

However, right before this point, I passed a man on the course. He asked how I was doing, and I said, "okay" but without much enthusiasm. He said, "You should be proud of your all you have accomplished so far ... and you should be kinder to yourself."

In my tired and endorphin-addled state, this was enough to make me burst into tears. But I kept thinking about it, over and over, as I moved around the course. It's good advice for all parts of my life, frankly. (I also went off on a tangent in my mind about "if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him" phrase one often hears; but then thought "if I met the Buddha on my run, I'm guessing he just gave me good advice"...)

Many of my fellow runners had shirts with Sri Chimney quotations on them. One of my favorites: "Exhale the dust of the past, inhale the perfume of the future."

The course included a couple of spots where runners would pass each other, and I would always exchange greetings with everyone. But after 3, when a lot of "early starters" finished their 7 hours, the course got pretty lonely:

But that was okay, because each time I came into the start/finish area, the counters would let out a cheer ("Sunny! It's Sunny!") and the person manning the tracking board would give me a little encouragement ("double digits!"). And if I went over to the snack or drink table, someone would gently refill my water bottle and suggest a treat before sending me back on my way. Really sweet, really gentle. 

At around 5:30 I was balancing against one of the "Fins", digging out gravel from my shoe, when a passer-by said, "Don't worry, you're almost finished!" in an encouraging voice. I said, "Yes! Only 90 minutes left!" and they looked really confused. "No, really -- it's just around the corner!"

Occasionally I would be approached by someone who asked what on earth we were doing, and they always looked at me with horror... "But ... but ... SEVEN HOURS?!?!"


I started doing math in my head ... I knew that partial laps wouldn't count, so unless I got back to the start/finish with, say, 23-27 minutes to go, I wouldn't make it around in time. Then I realized I couldn't think that far in the future or I'd start to self-sabotage -- that is, make sure I didn't have enough time for a last lap! 

So, round and around I scuttled, across the road, down the paved walkway, along the "causeway" through the swampy bit, around the grassy knoll, back along the causeway, up the hill and past the increasingly deserted playing fields, into the woods, through the bushes, along the abandoned road, on the turn through Fin Art, and past the start/finish to cheers from the counters. Tootsie Roll Midgee, Dixie Cup of Coke or ginger ale, and a little mental reset, and I was back out on the course. 

In the end, I limped in -- and yet was still hailed as a conquering hero -- with 17 minutes to spare having completed 19 laps. Two laps shy of my goal, but still more than a marathon -- so I felt pretty great about that. 29.26 miles. Oof.

this board showed everyone's lap count -- maybe I could squeeze one more lap in in the remaining 14 minutes? nah...
I made a point of thanking all the counters for being so supportive -- they told me that every time I came through they all sang "Sunny" amongst themselves -- and stood near the finish to cheer the rest of the runners in. It was pretty astounding to watch. I mean, look at that board -- some of the people ran dozens of laps in their 13-hour day. Crazy.

Once it hit 7:02 (the races had all started at :02 past the hour), Daulot blew the horn again and we all whooped. Everyone had come in and now it was time to celebrate, commiserate, and EAT.

Silence Heart Nest restaurant in Fremont had brought in a delicious vegetarian dinner and all the volunteers quickly got it set up: mashed potatoes (seriously, some of the best I have ever had), mushroom gravy (sooooo good, and when I used Bing to look up the URL for their restaurant, the second suggested result was "Silence Heart Nest mushroom gravy recipe"), "Neat Loaf", their hearty vegetarian meatless loaf, and a spinach salad. I inhaled a plate and resolved to eat in the restaurant sooner rather than later!

Then there were medals for all, and awards divided into three age categories. And well, this was a surprise:

trophy? I got a trophy???
A pie raffle, pie and cake for all, and then the party broke up. I had managed to let myself get really cold, so hurried to the car and shivered all the way home. (Full disclosure: I got home, stood in a hot shower for a long time, and then collapsed on the couch for hours.)

There were many times that I thought, "I can't finish this" and "I'll NEVER do this again". But the kindness of the volunteers and my fellow runners ... has me thinking about running next year already.

Race information at http://us.srichinmoyraces.org/Seattle7and13.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

I ran! To work! AGAIN!!!

My legs felt like lead. I didn't get in all my intervals (should have been 7 sets) because I just ran out of sidewalk. And as a bonus I forgot to turn off my GPS until I was getting in the shower....

But I ran. And that is another big victory. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Tinker Bell Half Marathon race report

On the flight home from Long Beach Airport (#bestairportinamerica)... it's time to write up the half. 

After the 10K, we decided to take a Disney day off -- just like last year. Originally we talked about going for a hike in Runyon Canyon, but thankfully learned that the park is closed for repairs before we left the hotel. 

In the end, we decided to have a quirky Hollywood day, first starting with a trip to the Hollywood Forever cemetery, where we saw "the sign"...

... then visited Johnny Ramone's grave ... 
(Seemed odd to have a tribute from Lisa Marie Presley?)

... then a little memorial to Toto...

... a marker for Jayne Mansfield, who isn't buried here... and she was actually 5 years older, apparently...

... and it was Rudolph Valentino's birthday. I guess. 

After the cemetery we decided to drive Mulholland Drive -- lots of fun twists and turns, some great lookouts, and some very irate locals passing the tourist vans and cars on blind curves. Woot.

This might be the best trail sign ever. 

Oh, and, well, we went to a Souplantation. Because it's almost a Sweet Tomatoes. Then back to the hotel for an early night. 

Why early? Because we had a 4:45 am wake up call for our 5:30 race. Oof. But, hey, at least we didn't need to be on shuttles 2 hours before the start!

It was a nice morning, and we easily slipped into our corral (B!) just in time to the national anthem and the wheeler start. 

View to the start:

and a view back along the long line of corrals:

And then we were off. I had an achy hip from the slippery 10K the day before, but was otherwise pretty okay. 

The course was interesting -- a swing around the outside of the park to stretch out the field, then into Disneyland for a bit. Due to the build-out of Star Wars Land (!!!), we ran a very different route from previous years, but still spent some quality time both on- and off-stage. We both especially liked the hairpin out-and-back along the riverside to the Haunted Mansion. 

I had been concerned that there was an overlap between mile 5 and mile 12 on the course -- that the slowest runners from the rear corrals and the fastest runners from A might come into conflict. But of course Disney had that figured out. When we got to the stretch, it was clear that the lanes were divided up, and no one had come around to lap us yet. (Phew.)

Then it was time to head into the quiet streets of Anaheim, where a flock of wild parrots squawked noisily at us and I started to really flag. 

But soon we hit the "far point" near the Pond... and a MASSIVE group of Red Hat ladies. They arrived exactly where I needed them: right around the eight-mile mark. I LOVE the Red Hat ladies. Probably 100 yards of whooping, cowbell-clanging, purple and red goodness. So great. They had lots of little  Pink Hat girls with them, too... and some great sights about inspiring strong women. I always blow kisses to the ladies and exchange high fives and laugh and whoop till my fave hurts. It's bringing tears to my eyes just remembering it. 

And, as a bonus, Strangers With Candy were right in the same area, so I got to eat a Red Vine...

Then we turned back toward the parks and the finish, down long flat stretches of road interspersed with surprisingly few bands. 

Finally we were back on property, where I was a little surprised to see that they had already closed the course so that we didn't see anyone at mile 5 when we were on 12. 

(Brief 10K memory: after the race we were walking back to our hotel and spotted the unmistakeable signs of a sweep point: buses, bicycles, lots of volunteers, and some weary folks. This was around mile 4, when the remainder of the course would still be on property. It made me sad to see, but I did wonder if the people were at least a little relieved?)

Back to the half: so maybe I wasn't surprised that they had already swept some people, given that they wouldn't have made it through Anaheim at the pace they were going. 

Finally, on a very sore hip and tired feet, we made it to the finish line, getting a costume shout out (which we didn't get at the 10K!!!) and having a nice kiss at the finish line. 

We picked up our medal haul, took some pictures (custom challenge backdrops!), and picked up our snack boxes before heading out. Oh, and of course we decided to continue the tradition of having a cocktail at the Uva Bar!

We went into the parks, rode Pirates, Haunted Mansion, and Star Tours; stopped in California Adventure for a beer, a cheese dog from Corn Dog Castle, a fast pass for Radiator Springs and then headed back to the hotel for a quick dip in the pool and a nap. Oh, and some #blingpix:

The weekend's medal haul: 10K, Half Marathon, Pixie Dust Challenge, pink Coast-to-Coast, and blue Coast-to-Coast. 

And a collection shot of all five of my Tinker Bell Half Marathon medals... Oh, and did I mention the Legacy Runner ribbon? Nice. 

After a well-earned nap we went back into the parks where we won our race in Radiator Springs...

decided on a whim to go see Jungle Book in Downtown Disney, and made it back to the park for World Of Color. 

After that ended we crossed over to Disneyland, wandered around under the fireworks, took a Suz-inspired photo:

... then rode Autopia, where Wil got to experience being the car in front. (Be afraid. Be very afraid.)

We ended up walking on to Buzz Lightyear, where somehow I managed to pwn Wil. 

(yeah, that's my score on the left...)

Finally, we capped the night off with the big sparkly parade (well, that SHOULD be what they call it) and that amazing float with Mickey:

Today we wrapped up our weekend with a ride on Luigi's Rollicking Roadsters (so cute!!!)

Fulfilled Wil's dream of Star Wars name badges:

And I got to compare shoes with Mickey. (I'm pretty sure he was jealous.)

We had a fun weekend, rode more rides than we often do, and even had a day "off". Nice. 

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Tinker Bell 10K race report

We're halfway through Tinker Bell Half Marathon weekend -- let's get a little caught up. 

Flew down Friday morning, got settled in the hotel, went into Disneyland to ride Pirates of the Carribean, then headed over to the Disneyland Hotel. 

It had been drizzling, so the carpeted ramp was super slippery. And, apparently, black and white. Must be the rain. Disney noir. 

First we picked up our bibs. Amazingly, we had NO LINE. My luck may have rubbed off on Wil. We were celebrated as Legacy runners with a shout out... and a special bib. 

We took our "challenge" photo, then headed over to this congratulations wall: 

The 900-ish runners all have their names up on the board. So simple, yet so charming! Basically, seeing this made me #tinklegacyforlife ...

Me and Wil on the board. 

Then it was time to receive our "legacy gift". The Wine and Dine legacy runners received a spatula... We Tinks got... a mirror compact. 

(I'm actually pleased with it, Wil less so...)

Then to the expo proper...

We picked up our shirts (meh....) and took a quick pass through the Expo... but then went to go look for the official merch. 

I'm not ashamed to admit it -- we waited in line for 10 minutes to shop the merch. But the line moved quickly, and the shopping was actually pleasant because there wasn't a huge crush of people. We found all the medal pins (to go with the rest of the race pins we preordered) and a runDisney ornament, and were surprised by the amount of things still available. (Race jackets! We could have bought race jackets!)

Then back to the hotel to survey the haul.  

So. Many. Pins. And, no, we never managed to get past year's pins on the lanyard. 

There was some park time, some "Alertos" burritos, and then an early night. 

We woke up to a weird noise...  Was it the wind? Nope. Rain. Rain rain rain. 

But off we went ... All costumed up, but also wearing our Nanopuffs. 

We walked through a very wet Downtown Disney,

got into our corral: B; and then got ready for the start. Here was our view of the start:

and a view back down the corrals. Look at all the Tinks!

Finally, time for A to start!

Which meant it was time for our pre-race photo!

And... our turn to Go!

Managed not to take any photos during the 10K, other than this attempt at a Castle photo. Teeny tiny castle!

I had a surprisingly hard time. No idea why. Just struggled. But we finished.

And got a nice medal. 

Tomorrow: the half.