Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 in pictures

Just for fun I took a picture of everything I got at races in 2013. This is only what was included with my entries, not the few pint glasses I bought or the Strength shirt I bought at Indy.

That's 15 medals
2 jackets
14 shirts
5 posters
3 buttons
a beer mug
a hat
a cooler
and a plaque

Favorite shirts: Chicago, Legend, Cincy (I won't wear it to work out because I don't want it to get stained!)
Favorite medal? I can't possibly pick just one! The Detroit ones are always great, the Flying Pig is really nice, Lansing is great. Aesthetically Chicago is nothing special, but I loved the race, so it gets bonus points for that. I like the sparkly green martian head. I can't possibly pick!!!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas gifts for runners

It's funny. Christmas was the first time Bill and I gave each other gifts and they were all about running :) I want to support his foray into running and he wants to support my habit. I knew months ago that I wanted to get him a gps watch. I knew if he chose his own, he would spend months researching different watches, trying them on, reading reviews, and wouldn't get one. So I fast forwarded all the legwork and got him a Garmin 10. It doesn't have a heart rate monitor, but has two features I really like - you can preset a run-walk pattern and it'll beep when you need to change, and you can preset your pace and it'll tell you when you're going too fast or too slow.

I have running pants but I don't like them because they're too short, both in the legs and over my stomach, so he went to Athleta and bought me a pair of tall running pants, and a pink running shirt. It has a floral pattern on the shoulders and sides, so it actually looks like a woman's shirt (unlike my blue one that i got from the men's dept...). The shirt is tall as well, so the sleeves are long enough!!!!! Whee!!!! The forecast is looking to be upper 30s tomorrow, so I'll try out everything then. He also paid my entry fee into the Toledo and Detroit marathons :)

Something else I was given - not for Christmas, but because I work with a nice woman - is a pair of Christmas Story sleep pants. I told her about the race and the "major award." Then the next time I saw her, she had a pair of pants that had been her daughter's. They're super cute, but too small and too short. They're a child size medium - anyone want them? Ho Ho Ho :D

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Bucket List #19 - Done!

When I travel, I like to have one definite agenda point that I absolutely have to see. The rest is more flexible and allows for time to see things I didn't know about ahead of time. Sometimes it works really well (seeing the Red Bull air races in Budapest), other times it's a dismal failure (missing the free Placido Domingo concert in Madrid).

When I was invited to London and Paris this spring, I had a definite destination for each. In London, it was standing on the Prime Meridian. In Paris I had to take a day trip to the Normandy region to see Omaha Beach and the American military cemetery. I had tried to make this trip on my last trip to Paris in 2007, but couldn't find anything the day before I wanted to depart. Oops!

In anticipation of the trip, I took Stephen Ambrose's D-Day and read it through the first half of the trip. I had studied the invasion in grad school, but that was several years ago and I wanted to refresh my knowledge. I could have guided us on a private tour, but I wasn't so sure about driving in France, so we booked a half day trip with Viator that would provide us a small group of 8-10 people, an English speaking guide, and transportation to each of the sites.

We booked an afternoon tour that we met in Bayeux. Neither Bill nor I knew anything about the town, but I felt adventurous so I booked us on the first train from Paris that got us to Bayeux around 9 am and we spent the morning there.

We met up with Mags our tour guide who first took us to Point-du-Hoc, where the Army Rangers scaled the cliffs on D-Day. Many of the bunkers and pill boxes had been destroyed, either during the invasion, or after. A few remained, however, as did all the divots in the ground. Mags explained that the land had been given to the United States with the expectation that it would not be changed. It's not American land in the same sense that an embassy is, but more like a national park.

Monument commemorating the Rangers where President Reagan spoke in 1984

The next stop was Omaha Beach, the primary site of the American invasion. The tour we booked was the American version, so she took us to the American sites, knowing there wasn't enough time to visit everything. If I went back, I would figure out the car situation and spend several days visiting all the different sites and museums.

There were two monuments - for the 50th and 60th anniversaries of the invasion. The invasion stretched from the shore line, across the street now in place, and up the hill. We were there at high tide, so the invasion was so much further due to landing at low tide.

After leaving the beach, Mags took us on a quick detour to an overlook of Omaha Beach. We saw a tree in the field, that was actually the cover for a German bunker. Of course I went inside. It was a cold damp room with nothing to see inside. The vantage point, however, gave Germans a panoramic view of the entire beach.

The final stop was the American cemetery that also overlooked the beach, where over 9,000 soldiers are buried. The military offered to ship home the remains they could identify, and 60 percent of the families wanted the bodies returned, so the number buried in Normandy isn't even half of the dead whose bodies were recovered.

We were there at the end of the day to see the American flag taken down while "Taps" played.

Bill and I both enjoyed the day immensely. He thought the amount of history and commentary Mags provided was excellent. As a history student, I wanted tons more information, and unfortunately I could identify parts of her narrative that weren't entirely accurate, but I kept my mouth shut and enjoyed the day. I told Bill to go back to Paris and leave me in Bayeux for the rest of our trip :) I felt like we saw the main parts, yet there was still so much more to see and do. I could have foregone Paris altogether and spent six days traveling throughout the Normandy region. 2014 is the 70th anniversary and part of me wants to go back!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A big decision

I have a different approach to racing for 2014. Rather than do a lot of half-@ss races, I'm going to focus on ONE quality (faster) finish. I'm going to train hard and run my legs to half dead. I'm not going to "save" any energy for the next race. The race was selected months ago as the Flying Pig in Cincinnati.

At least that was the plan. Then I thought about it some more. I really really like the Glass City marathon in Toledo. I've done both races so I have the luxury of knowing the courses, and Toledo's course is a much faster one than Cincy. It's extremely flat and downhill, compared with the constant hills of Cincy. Not to mention I'm doing the "4-way challenge" again, so I'll be racing 9.3 miles on Saturday before the Sunday full marathon.

It just makes sense to do Toledo again this year, knowing a flat course is tons more conducive to a major PR than is a hilly, more crowded course.

I had considered the Martian because it's so close to home, but both times I've done it, the weather has been abysmal and completely not worth it. I might do the half this year, only if the weather is good!!! I thought it would be fun to do Louisville on my birthday, but I'll wait on that as well. Toledo is the goal this spring. See you at the finish line!!!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Running is not an option :(

It's Saturday, which is long run day. Saturday has been long run day since late 2009. I'm healthy and not recovering from a race, not resting for a race tomorrow, yet it's a no run day :( It snowed several inches this morning, the roads are a total mess, the sidewalks are covered in snow and I don't have reliable transportation to drive to the gym, assuming I'd even want to go out on the snow covered unsalted messy roads. I shoveled twice, but that worked my back and cramped my hands, and did nothing for my heart or lungs. I sure hope it's better tomorrow because I don't like unrunning when I want to :(

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Goodies in the mail

November was a great month for receiving goodies in the mail :)

The Flying Pig marathon had a deal at the Chicago expo that if you registered then, you'd get a free t-shirt. I like the piggy design and it's the one definite marathon on my spring schedule, so I had my credit card in hand to sign up. The wi-fi wasn't working, however, so I wasn't able to register then. The woman working the booth said to email her if I had any problems getting the free shirt when I registered. It took several emails, but this little piggie came home.... Runners could pick the shirt color - I went for red.

The medal I received at the Indianapolis Monumental marathon was damaged, so Blake and Heather quickly sent a replacement upon my email requesting one. Most people wouldn't notice the damage, but I paid good money and dragged myself through misery to get it, and I look at my medals no fewer than 38 times a day, so I wanted an undamaged one. The damaged one will be donated to Medals for Mettle next time I see them at an expo. The medal is fine and they replace the ribbon anyway, so I don't feel bad about donating a damaged ribbon.

The next package was a surprise from Disney and goes a long way toward explaining why the race was so expensive. They sent a really cute box, seriously the box is my favorite part. Inside is a personalized booklet and a flash drive. So far as I can tell, its only contents are a link to the Disney website, so I deleted it and I have a new flash drive that lights up green when plugged in :) 

The same day I received the Disney box, I received my surprise box from Nita for winning her contest of who ran the most miles on a treadmill and survived to post it on her blog. All I knew was that she had goodies from the New York marathon so the actual contents were a surprise :) 
She sent orange sunglasses, an orange massager, chapstick, a carabiner, Chomps, Chia seeds, Vega sport mix and a pair of thunder sticks that I promptly gave to Bill to use at a future race - they can't be any worse than the cowbell he picked up at the Chicago expo!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Christmas Story "race" review

I received my goodies over a week ago for the Christmas Story House run and finally did the "race" today. The actual race in Cleveland is this Saturday, but the forecast here is a brisk 23 degrees, compared with the mid-40s we had today. It was nasty cloudy and twilight lasted for three hours, but if there was a day to run outside in the foreseeable future, this was it.

I put together quite an outfit for the race - shorts and a long sleeve tech shirt, wool knee socks, gloves and a wool hat. I looked like a dork, especially with my reflective vest, but temperature wise, it was the perfect choice. I had two thoughts for approaching this race - either try to break 1 hour, or run the entire way without walking.

I know the walking thing is ALL in my head, and it seemed the better option today. Hal always say to start slowly enough that you can maintain that pace the entire race. He also says it's better to go faster at the end, than it is to fall apart at the end due to going out too fast. Huh, what do you know? Both ideas were great in practice today!

I didn't concern myself with my time or my pace and I wore my watch only for distance. One mile, two miles, they kept passing easily and without pain. Around mile 4, I was on Rosedale, which is my favorite street for running and I started picking up the pace.

I finished all 6.2 miles without walking a single step. Wheeeee!!!! Success!!! Equally great - I negative split the "race," so the second half was considerably faster than the first half. I could have kept going indefinitely, but it was dark and I had things to do after.

The race organizers posted that they have leg lamp knee socks for sale. Me thinks I might make a small purchase to commemorate the awesomeness of no-walking and negative splitting a 10k. Certainly not my greatest "race" ever, but I'm happy with what I managed. Dare I say it? It was EASY!!! Now I need to go faster next time and make it harder :D

Monday, December 2, 2013

Buying a lottery ticket

When I got to school this morning, one of the secretaries said the New York marathon lottery opened today. I'm obviously nowhere near the qualifying times, but she said it doesn't matter - the lottery is for everyone. All along I though the lottery was conducted only from those entries who meet the time criteria, but they're actually two different systems. Some people get in based on qualifying time, others get in on the lottery. Still more get in via charity spots, but I don't like asking people for money, and I certainly don't have enough myself to make the required donation, so I never pursue that route.

Well, this was big news. Today only it was $5 to enter the lottery, tomorrow through March it's $11. I  kinda feel like I'm throwing away the $5, but at the same time, I managed to get in to Chicago. Why couldn't I get lucky twice? 26 people will be chosen tomorrow, the rest have to wait until March. Fingers crossed! I know if I somehow win the drawing, it'll be a big expensive hassle of a weekend, but like Chicago, if I get in, I'll be there without a second thought.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Christmas Story house run goodies

My "fragile" package arrived today from Cleveland. It could only be one thing - my goodies for the virtual 10k Christmas Story House run!!! Truth be told, I only entered this one because I wanted the  medal - it's a major award!!!!

Aside from the medal, I got a shirt, which is enormous. When did "medium" become a euphemism for XXL???? It's cotton and totally not worth mailing back for a smaller size, assuming they'd even offer that. It'll become part of the "lounge around on Saturday and never leave the house" rotation. Also included were a race number, a certificate of completion and a single serving of Ovaltine :D
The medal is gargantuan. I held it in my hand for sake of comparison. It's bigger than my Chocolate 10k, which was the biggest in my collection. When they said it was a MAJOR award, they weren't kidding!!!! The ribbon is solid red. The back is empty - nothing engraved.
This one started the third row of my hanger, where the half marathon medals and the Chocolate 10k medals will quickly be relegated after the Goofy. Side note: I hung my bars further apart than the company displays show because I want to see the ribbons too, not just the medals.
Since it's a virtual race, I don't actually have to do the miles to receive the medal, but I will. Maybe this Saturday, perhaps next. The actual race in Cleveland is December 7th, so maybe then. They will be done!!!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

They say that breaking up is hard to do

I love Hal Higdon. He's been the most important man in my life since 2010, yet I've slowly been coming to the horrible realization that this relationship isn't really working for me anymore. We've reached the point that we have different goals and expectations and need to take some time away from each other.

Hal's expectation is that I'll be ready to finish each race, that I will have trained safely and injury free, so I can experience the thrill of finishing a full marathon.

That was good for me the first couple years, but I'm ready to progress a little. I'm slow slow slow and while it was a perfectly ok goal just to finish the first few races, eventually I want to consistently be out of the 5-hour range.

Disney is at a weird time of year because it's too late to be part of my fall race schedule, but too early to be considered a spring race. I decided months ago, after reading tons of accounts of it that I'm not going to run it for time, I'm going there to have fun. If a ride is open during the marathon, I'll ride it. I'll be the dork lined up to take photos with the characters. I'm not buying park tickets (park admission is NOT included in the race fee) so I need to enjoy the park for the few hours I'm in it. As long as I finish within 6:30 from the time of the last starter, I'm good to go. I submitted a finishing time, so I won't be in the last corral, so that gives me 6:46-ish or more to finish. I managed to finish my first full in less time than that, even with walking 9 miles straight, so I'm not worried about getting swept off the course.

Hal always says to take considerable rest time after marathons, but I've always scoffed at his advice. That's for newbies, right? Maybe not. I was burnt out after Cincinnati and didn't feel ready to begin fall training when it came time. After Columbia City, however, I've taken two weeks off, with the exception of the Chocolate 10k. 6 miles in two weeks counts as good rest :)

Tuesday is back to running day. My plan for Tuesday through Disney is the following:
Tuesday - set treadmill at 8:00 mile pace and run until I fall off. I might only make it 0.3 miles the first time, but then I try for 0.4 the next week. Yes, I'll have a spreadsheet with me at the gym to keep track :)

Thursday - go to the track and run 800m repeats at a harder-than-comfortable pace.

Saturday - Hal says it's perfectly acceptable to walk. He says a good strategy is to run 9 minutes then walk 1. I've always used this strategy, but like our relationship, that strategy is coming to an end. Saturdays are now run a comfortable pace as long as I can without walking. Then go further the next week.

I've already paid for Disney, booked my hotel and paid for the flight, so I'm doing it, but at this point, Cincinnati is the only spring race I've entered. If I can't get faster and maintain it, I need to stop running myself into the ground. The fall was not fun (except Chicago - that was a blast!) and after every single race I said I'm quitting running. It's still possible, or maybe I become a 5k or 10k runner for a few years until I figure out the speed thing. At this point, I'll trade distance for speed. Obviously I CAN finish multiple marathons, but that's not good enough anymore.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Logistics of my fall race schedule

To keep straight six races in seven weeks, three of which involved traveling, I had to make a spreadsheet, then print it and carry it around with me. Dorky? I prefer "organized." It definitely worked and I always knew what needed to be done, when, and where I needed to be :)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Kona Chocolate 10k Race Review

Sunday was the Chocolate 10k, the first Kona sponsored race I've done. Jeff raves about the company and their races, so I was looking forward to it, especially considering the majority of my running friends were doing it, and it would be Bill's first 10k. He's come to my last five marathons, but this was his first race in many years.

They offered number pick-up on race day, so we did that. Bill hopped out of the car to get our numbers while I found a parking spot, then I went inside to meet him. The first person I ran into was Nita! It was great meeting her, after following each other's blogs for two years :)

Bill had our jackets and numbers. His jacket isn't what it was supposed to be. The men were supposed to get black jackets with blue vertical stripes. Instead he got a navy blue jacket with white stitching. I actually like it better than the original design, but seems pretty crappy they were giving different jackets to different men without any rhyme or reason.

Tutu from 6th grade ballet recital :D
We headed to the start and saw... ZERO bathroom. Huh??? Evidently there were 22 porta potties, but they were hidden so well we never saw them before, during, or after the race. Panera and StarBucks were both open, but 4 toilets isn't going to work for 6,000 people.

It rained. All my clothing got soaked and I got chilled. I had really wanted to break 1 hour, but it took me 1:02:13. My "official" time is completely wrong, but I did cross the finish line three times....

I finished the race in 62:13 by my watch. The big clock was at 64:04, yet the website claims it took me 1:05:35. I wasn't right at the front of the start line, so my time was less than the big clock. There's no way possible to be over the big clock time.

I told Bill that after I finished, I would immediately turn around and find him, then run in together. 25 steps from the finish line, a woman had collapsed and was lying on the ground. A police officer was talking to her, asking her name, her age and where she was, but NO ONE was helping her. I understand the other runners wanted to finish their races, but the spectators were just standing there and I didn't see any medics, so without giving it a second thought I hopped back on the course, and a man volunteer and I supported her weight so she could finish. Her body wanted to collapse again at the finish, but we kept her upright until medics arrived. I think finishing with her overrode my original time, but that's totally ok.

I headed back and found Bill and ran in with him, for my third finish. He really wanted to break 70 minutes, and managed a 69:38. Yay!!!!!
Bill's group!
We got in line for the chocolate and it was ridiculous. There were THOUSANDS of people in line, and it split in to TWO lines??? They needed 6-8 lines, if not more. Even once we got through it, we got a small cup of hot chocolate, half a cookie, and a pretzel, marshmallow and 1-bite Rice Krispie treat dipped in chocolate. That's a far cry from the "chocolate buffet" they advertised.
There were so many people that it was impossible to sit anywhere, so we ate everything in about 3 minutes and left. It seemed like Kona kept expanding registration and wound up with tons more people than the park and logistics could physically support.
Pretty weak food. This was EVERYTHING I got :(
The jacket is ok. The medal is massive - bigger than any of my full marathon medals. Yes, it's nice, but it feels like it diminishes my marathon medals. I don't even know if I'll keep it on the hanger because it was just a whatever race, certainly not on par with a marathon.
Kona is offering the "grand slam" option next year for runners who complete all four of their sponsored races. I had planned to do it, but after the disorganization of the chocolate run, I'll keep my $200+ and avoid the headaches.