Archive for November, 2013

and running and training plans and how late sunrise is now…

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Inaugural run.  When I see those two words attached to a run, mulling is required. A lifted-eyebrow look at who is putting on the race and what they plan to do with it. And then usually, unless there is something that really reaches out and grabs me, I decide against it. I’ve done inaugural runs before – and to put it kindly, in my experience, it’s better to wait until year 2 for a run. Let them work out the kinks in planning and set up on someone else’s run/body.

But then – when two different sets of completely unrelated people mention to you that they’re going to do it , there’s some buzz, a little incentive to showing up in the form of saying ‘hi’ to friends you don’t see often – your trainer is doing it – and it’s ONLY a 5k so it won’t last that long if it’s screwed up.  OH – and it’s for a REALLY GOOD CAUSE that is near and dear to my heart – supporting our country’s veterans in any ways needed.

You shut the mulling up and register.

This was the case with the DAV 5K, which I ran on Nov 9th.  I had never heard of that run, but in the space of two days I had a couple mention it over dinner and my trainer mentioned it at Sunday morning workout.  I checked out the website, started seeing it pop up on Twitter and got my registration done. I hadn’t set up anything formal to connect with the friends I was hoping to see, Eric elected to sleep in, and so I was going solo for the whole thing.

The day dawned chilly but beautiful weather-wise.  There was an early packet pickup, so I was able to leave for the run a little later (another run around the ballpark area of Downtown) and got there with about 10 mins to spare on stretching. Then we were off! 

Walkers and runners were heavily mixed in the lineup – so I started out with a lot of bobbing and weaving through the crowd. At run’s end, my Garmin had me at 3.22 – so another 0.12 miles of running sideways around people.  But I started off at a pretty good clip and while I wasn’t on my way to hitting the goal I wanted, I was on track to setting a pace PR – though I felt like I was moving a little slower than the numbers show.  There were soldiers in uniforms with full packs and flags running through the crowd – a thing which I found really inspiring. If they can run with 30-40 lbs of gear on their back, why the heck am I slowing down?! 

I skipped the first water stop as I’ve been trying NOT to stop for water in 5k’s. A solid quality run seemed like it was in the bag.

The second water stop was where I noticed something really interesting – because I did decide to grab a swig at this one since my legs were still feeling heavy. Ya know how when you finish your swig, you dump and then throw the cup – and there is some nice volunteer there to take care of that blatant littering for you – USUALLY? Well, I took my swig, I dumped the excess, I looked for the spot where people were throwing and…

Then I looked for the spot where people were throwing their cups again and…

NO ONE WAS THROWING. There were 2 garbage cans just past the water stop and EVERY SINGLE PERSON was handling their own trash. The volunteer with the cup rake was standing there with nothing to do and a look of disbelief on her face.  She’d expected a mess and didn’t seem to be getting one. Seriously folks – in 6 years of racing – I have NEVER been on a course where everyone fielded their own trash.  Some are cleaner than others, but there’s always trash. I don’t know what it looked like before I got there and I don’t know what it looked like after I passed by – but this was the cleanest water stop I have ever seen in my life! I would like to think it was out of respect for the cause for which we were all running. I probably should’ve expected that a run organized by military-minded people would be clean and efficient.

And then there were motorcycles.  Yes, motorcycles.

As part of the DAV 5k, there was a motorcycle rally that started just before the run. The motorcycles were going to ride the course, kind of like a biker parade of sorts since a lot of vets are riders and since one of the sponsors was Harley-Davidson. I missed the takeoff in favor of staying warm at home for a few extra minutes.

In the home stretch of the last ¾ to half-mile, there were the riders. The bikes were parked to line one side of the course and in front of them – I kid you not – were what had to be a couple hundred motorcycle riders in all their black leather and gear – standing as close to each other as they could in a line – with HUGE smiles and HIGH-FIVING runners as we all passed.  Spanning a distance of about a quarter mile.  You know I went and got my high-fives on from almost that entire line of leather! Oh – to have my camera for that – I wish, I wish. (But I don’t run with it.)

Unfortunately, I was so inspired by the high-fiving that I picked up speed as I went down the line and ended up winding myself. My Garmin says I was at a 7:48 pace (!!!) for that section of run. When you’re regularly a 10:30-ish – that’s not good. Ooops.  So I needed to walk to get my breath back and watched my pace PR disappear. You’d think the sprint would make up the time for the recovery, but a sprint goes by much faster than a recovery. Meh. So what. The high-fiving was too cool for me to care. I’m a sucker for a high-five.  The finish was nicely lined with cheering spectators – and after I finished, I doubled back to cheer people in – specifically 3 guys with packs, gear & flags who I knew were not far behind me – and ended up connecting with 2 friends I didn’t know were going to be there. BONUS!

Official finish time put me at around 10:40 pace – with the added in 0.12, Garmin has me at 2-seconds over my pace PR average. But as we all know – what’s on the Garmin ain’t what’s in the history books.

Again, everything around the finish area was immaculately clean and well-organized. There were nice tents and things of interest to vets set up. My friends and I grabbed a cup of coffee – they had big cups, not the tiny ones (THANK YOU!) and headed over towards one of the rendezvous points that they had for each of the different military branches – which was where I’d parked. As we were walking, there were still people finishing – including several significantly older vets who could barely walk without assistance but were doing the walk.  I started cheering for them, though in retrospect, I wish I’d crossed back over the line and walked in again with them.  They deserve that. Then homeward bound.

REALLY IMPRESSED WITH THIS RACE! If this was their first year, then you know it’s only going to keep getting better as far as participation and offerings. I will note that also for first year races – participation tends to be low in general – usually less than 500 participants (and that’s being generous) unless there is some wacky theme to draw people in. This race had more than 2,000 participants in it’s inaugural run.  It will definitely be on my to-do list next year!

Some things I would change – and it’s a really short list –

1. I would improve the sound system for announcements. I ALWAYS get a little patriotically misty-eye inspired at the singing of the Star-Spangled Banner, but I barely heard it before the run. I think – especially for a veteran oriented run, hearing this loud & proud was important. I was mortified to pick up on it being sung in the last 3-4 lines and realize (1) it was being sung, (2) I was missing it, and (3) I still had my hat on as did most around me because no one could hear it. 

2. I would separate out the run start and the walk start times. Getting out of the gate with all the walkers that seeded themselves up front was a little frustrating.  Even 5 minutes between the two would make a difference.

Thanks for a great run experience DAV 5k! See ya next year!

Some things – they just aren’t about the clock.

When I first registered for the ADA Step Out 5k, I was feeling really torn about it. It happened to be the same day as the Monumental 13.1 in Indianapolis – which was the focus race the running group had been training for all Summer. I was feeling wishy-washy about a 13.1, but after Hudy felt like I could get it done if I went that way. There were also a few other stops I was considering in Indy, including a meetup opportunity with the Run The Bluegrass peeps, and I could knock them all out with this one drive.

But then there was my friend Mark.  You see, ADA stands for American Diabetes Association. Mark lost his mom to complications of diabetes early in the Summer and was fundraising for the ADA 5k as a way to honor her. It was going to be a family affair – Mark is my Maine’s husband – so yeah, family to me. Go to Indy with the people I consider my running family, or walk with Mark and my friend-family.  Did I say I was torn? Let me restate that. TORN. I’m sure I sound a little like an asshole for even having that dilemma, but if you run regularly with a pack of people, there’s a loyalty there that’s hard to understand if you’re not a group runner. Also, I have a kind of skepticism for corporate charity fundraising mechanisms, but that’s a separate thing.

THEN, I reminded myself that I hadn’t touched my 5k PR from last year and was running out of good running weather to make that happen. SELFISH DECISION MADE. Do the 5k and put in a good faith effort towards a PR, support my friend, earn a good breakfast out.

AND THEN, I talked to Mark some more as he started showing up to my yoga classes – turns out, Mark wasn’t just fundraising & walking – he was planning to RUN this as his very first 5K. And he’d been training for realz! Started hitting the gym, cleaned up his diet, gave up alcohol until after the race – HE WAS COMMITTED! If the man was gonna honor his momma – he was going to do it right! No half-ass effort.  Just looking at the changes he was making on his way to race day, I was really awed. I have pretty awesome friends – but once in awhile – I get knocked on my ass amazed at just how truly incredible they are. This was one of those times. Mark awe-smacked me! He worked so hard on this thing that he even had to raise his fundraising limit because he passed it with time to spare & felt like he could raise more. How could I have ever considered NOT being there to support his effort?

The day dawned bright and sunny, but also chilly with more than a bit of wind. Our happy little group of 10-12 was huddled in the breezeway at GABP waiting for things to get started. This group included my Eric, who I had registered as a runner so that he could start with us (the walk start was a 10-min delay). I knew he would at least run a few parts of it – because he’s my husband and I know him. Man says he’ll walk it, but if everyone else is running it – he’s going to do at least some running. Also, he walks faster than most of us run. I’ve actually gotten shin splints trying to keep up with him. (Seriously honey – SLOW DOWN – your wife is short! Love ya!)

The race got underway and we all started out loosely together – staying close to Mark for about the first half-mile. Then we began to spread out. I realized pretty quickly that my legs just weren’t in PR mood and decided that I would be helpful by doing what I call “playing carrot”. Sometimes when I am running, if I’m struggling, I pick a person a distance in front of me to be the carrot – I promise myself that I am going to keep them in sight as if they are a carrot being held in front of my nose. I may not be able to pass him/her, but I will do my damnedest to keep them right where they are in front of me.  I know other runners that do this too. So I pulled out about a block ahead, where the group could still see my back and tried to match their pace from there – figuring if Mark could see my back only a short distance ahead, it would help him stay running.  Though – he had Maine by his side the whole time, as well as Maine’s dad and my Eric. Mark was running with a personal posse of coaches!

We hit the first of two significant hills just after the 2 mile mark. I climbed it to do my own hillwork, then doubled back. The group was coming around to the base of it just as I was coming back down to cheer and run the crest of it again. After that – it was last mile! The struggle was becoming real as Mark said aloud that things were getting hard and his calf was beginning to cramp – he’d done the distance in training runs before and knew he could do it – but as we all know, races are different, harder somehow. Maine was still coaching him like a champ – staying right alongside him –  and I started reminding him to breathe yoga class style – get the oxygen down into that calf! Recheck form. Relax shoulders.

Finally we rounded the last corner, which was onto the field at the ballpark  (Mark & Maine are huge Reds fans too) and as we crossed third base, heading for home and the finish line just in front of the dugout – MARK TOOK OFF! GO MARK! – sprinting his very first finish! With Maine & Eric on his heels and me coming in behind to watch them all cross.

Mark had run all of his very first 5k!! How cool is that?! And equally cool – my husband surprising the shit out of me by running almost all of his first 5k!! Eric had taken to doing some Galloways – having heard me talk about them enough to know what they were – letting himself walk when he needed to and counting off the 60 seconds rest before running to catch back up. He’d kept up with us the entire run! Seriously – how could I even have considered being anywhere else? This was freakin’ AMAZING to be a part of!

And also friends, looks like Mark is one of my running peeps now too. 🙂  (Eric = still not convinced. yet. muahahaha)

For details on the race itself – I have to say – not sure I would do this one again.  Pros:

  • The route was nice and water stops were okay.
  • A big pro of it was that they had a pretty good post-race spread of food – sandwiches from Honey Baked Ham & soup from Zoup!
  • The kids got to play on the batting field Kids Zone at the park.
  • They had volunteers with giant foam fingers giving high-fives to everyone as they walked off the field after crossing the finish line. I REALLY LIKED THAT!

But the rest of it was kind of a pain in the butt. Cons:

  • After you registered, you got this packet in the mail. I saw it and was thinking – great! They mailed us bibs! – NOPE. It was a fundraising envelope and your event waiver. Which you had to bring with you to get your bib at the event. Thus giving the volunteers the opportunity to side-eye the empty-envelope non-fundraising shmucks. Since I don’t mind contributing – and did so ONLINE above and beyond my registration – this irked me. I do too many runs a year to solicit for them beyond my own donations. Then, when you got to packet pickup at the event, it turned out that you didn’t really need the empty envelope. Just carrying it around for no good reason.
  • I found out LATER that there was a packet pick-up opportunity earlier in the week that I would have happily gone too instead. Except that finding this detail on the website was like trying to ferret out a cheat code for Tombraider. Eric & I had to leave the house by 8:30 for a 10AM race which is 8 minutes from our house to be sure we had time to do packet pickup. Usually I would not leave the house until 9:30 for a 10AM race at GABP.
  • There were too many pre-race ceremonies – like 30 minutes worth. To me, this is a sign of non-runners organizing a run event. You just don’t leave runners standing around out in the November cold pre-race for long periods. Runners dress differently to run than they do to stand around for 30 minutes and not everyone has a person to leave jackets & warm gear with who is not running. Other than a 2-minute announcement and the Star-Spangled Banner, ceremonies are a post-run thing.  I was chilled to the bone before the run ever started and never quite shook it off. Everyone else appeared to have frozen tuchuses too and watching the kids get cold from standing around made my heart hurt.
  • Post-race water. FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS FLUID. When Mark got done with his sprint finish – and Eric too – they needed water. Like NOW. We all know how that feels. Except that there was none. To get water, you had to go up out of the field area and to the Smokehouse pavilion – which is about another .2 miles including the stairs. I’ve seen water put in some funky places before – but this was the furthest from the finish that I have ever seen water. A volunteer told me that GABP wouldn’t let them put the water any closer – to which I called fraud. I’ve done several runs at GABP and not had it be this far away before. “Well, that was during the season…” she said when I responded the same. “Well, we just didn’t have that many runners, this is more a walker event…” she said. I don’t care. You have runners – you have water close to the finish line. It’s an unwritten rule. Seriously, this makes me want to flick someone on the forehead. You should never have a situation where an exhausted runner has to go search out water. Also, I had to walk by 3 different vendors giving out water bottles (empty water bottles) while looking for actual water – that’s just mean.
  • Finally – results. Not that I actually cared b/c like I said – PR got thrown out the window. But – I couldn’t find results anywhere on the race page – not even a link. On a google search, I found a link that showed everyone’s name but no times – and there was supposed to be chip timing. FINALLY and much later  – I find a link on the race FB page for results. Sorry people who aren’t on FB – no results for you. Again with the cryptic website crap. People, runners want to know when, where, where to pick up a packet and where to get results. That information should be up front and easy to find on a run website. Nothing more frustrating – especially when you’ve had an awesome race – than not being able to find the official results or having them delayed a ridiculously long time.

So overall – really glad to be there for my friend, and I do appreciate the cause – diabetes research needs LOTS more funding – but not thrilled with any organization that throws a race and then puts the racers second.

Put the racers first and the money will come.

My prediction for Winter…

Posted: 11/03/2013 in Photos
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Super Woolly.

Might want to get out the extra warm socks.