Archive for the ‘Other length’ Category

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My friends, I am obsessing with the thistle in this damn picture (a trail at my office I try to spend my lunch on running once a week). I wanted to post a few close-up shots I took of it, except…I already did. A few posts ago – down there vvv.  In fact, the picture I am specifically obsessing about is that one. I have no idea why other than that there has been some type of monsoon hitting Southern Ohio and the gray and rain just. WILL. NOT. STOP.

This picture is not gray and rain. If I reach for it, I can smell the perfect weather air around this thistle. It smells like warm with that slightly dusty feeling. I run past the foreground at the top of this section of trail before turning a corner to go over the bridge you see. At far left, that hill is a steep set of stairs which lead up to an overlook before heading back into the buildings of our office complex. All in all, this section is probably just over a tenth of a mile, but it marks the usual halfway point of my lunch run. I always stop at the overlook. I like to breathe there and look for deer and birds down in that pool of tall grass. Remind myself for a moment that I am more than spreadsheets and cubicles. Then I turn around, head back down the stairs and return whence I came – back past the thistle and through the woods on campus back towards the building where waits my cubicle and spreadsheets.

It is early, on a Tuesday and I am with my coffee. I have a new coffeemaker – it has a “bold” button. A BOLD button. There is now a button with BOLD on it in my life. That I can push. And be made BOLD by dark beverage.

I am sore. And I woke up STARVING! which is annoying. I do not like waking up to my stomach complaining.

After an entire week of too much excellent food and missing workouts for work, my body was begging for movement. So yesterday lunch came with a treadmill and no thistle, because rain & gray. (Did I mention it just won’t stop raining?) A 30-min progressive run following by 10 more minutes of bringing it back down gradually on pace.  Then I hit up a Slow Flow yoga class after work. I needed that bad! But slow is a speed, not a skill level – so it was a good workout too. Today = sore, and probably a pool day this afternoon. I need to get back in the water too.

Germantown Gem 13.1 is in less than 2 weeks and I need to get my ass moving if I’m going to feel even remotely ready for that. Eric & I joined ORRRC for 2016 – which is RIDICULOUSLY CHEAP for membership. So add those to the races I’ll be doing regularly.

It’s also time to start training for Run the Bluegrass 13.1. I’m pretty excited to be run-ambassadoring for that again for 2016 and leading the yoga classes at the hotel the next morning. Every time I think Eric & Rachel can’t possibly come up with anything new to add to race weekend, they add more. This year, a big addition is Running Nannies – people who watch your children while you go run. How awesome is that?!

The Topo Winter Series has already passed race #2. Race #1 was back at East Fork. After some rain earlier in the week, it was muddy but WARM.

Friends, some day I will run East Fork when it is not a muddy mess.

Can you even believe running a trail race in Ohio in December in short sleeves?! 60-degrees! I’m proud of how I did on it. Eric took Fred’s leash and started with her at the very back, then quickly caught up to me. We ran most of the 5.2 mile loop as a family, with me setting pace and finishing together. So that was really cute. When I looked later, I’d beaten my Summer series race time on the same loop by more than 6-minutes!

Topo #2 was at Big Bone Lick State Park in Ky. We bagged that one because of rain and gray and weather radar that looked like Pac Man was about to gobble up the course. Friends who ran said it didn’t start to rain until the last mile, but photos tell me it was still a mudpit of a run.

We’ll miss Race #3 because it conflicts with Germantown. 😦

It is just before 7am again, with coffee and snoozing dogs. I like to write in the morning. Mornings set a precedent for the rest of the day in that way that they come before everything else.

By 10am, I usually know whether or not I am going to kick that day’s ass.

My body is sore this morning. An ache across the neck and shoulders, and what feels like a sense of phantom fatigue through the ankles and shins. That’s after the chiropractor and a full day’s rest on Monday – other than training work with Fred, which involves numerous climbs of stairs at the moment. Some walking and yoga yesterday.

That’s the result when you venture into a 7-mile trail race after two months of slacking in the 3-to-4 mile distance range.  Fact: you can’t cram for a race. It just doesn’t work. And it makes your training-run-skipping ass sore.

On Sunday, Eric and I had put a race on the calendar. Eric a 13.1, me the quarter at 6.55 miles.

The day dawned pretty enough – a chill 28-degrees when we left the house with “freezing fog” that was starting to burn off. The sky looked like it was going to go blue, and eventually it did. As we picked up packets and got settled, big drops of water began to fall from the trees as the frost melted, slicking up the trail a bit.

My friends, when you’re short-cutting through foggy woods, and sunlight begins to stream through the fog, sending big droplets of nature down onto your head, it’s like the universe is telling you a pretty awesome secret. Most people don’t get to see things like that.

The run was at East Fork Lake – which is GORGEOUS – but has also brought me my WORST, MOST AWFUL, I HATE ALL THE RUNNING THAT IS MADE OF RUNS run earlier in the Summer.  At another trail series, I did an 11.8 miler there in calf-deep mud that about broke me. Thinking about that, and the slick below my feet, I had to shake off some negative head shit – a dullness from 2 margaritas at dinner and a migraine starting up – remind myself that I was only going 6.55 today. I’d survive.

Wave start put Eric on course 10 minutes before me. The first mile was on pavement to let people sort themselves – I really would’ve like less pavement time, but I can’t argue that it kicked off my first mile with a solid split.  Then it was off into the woods. East Fork rolls. Few flat spots in it. Several kinda challenging uphills which are offset by long slopes of down-hill. It’s a GOOD course for making time if you can handle the uphill consequences that go with those long downhills. I heard some people talking about what a rough course it was, but I guess after Mohican and Rugged Red, my definition of a tough uphill is altered.

I was still keeping good time through mile 2, but into mile 3 the wheels started to come off in the form of nausea. The migraine was starting to up it’s game. I backed off to a 3:1, then let that go to a ‘do what you can do’ after stopping to help a runner that twisted her ankle and then wiping out myself.  East Fork is also mostly single-track, so once the fast marathoners started lapping me, I had to keep stepping off course to let them pass.  It’s a courtesy. And also, you’re kind of an asshole if you don’t.

Not feeling well at all, I decided to focus on enjoying the scenery, get the demons out of my head. Even with the slickness – it’s not very technical in my opinion. A few spots for tricky footwork, but not a lot of climbing over things or navigating rockbeds. There are moments when the sun breaks through the trees, hits the mud on the ground and reflects that slick surface as if the trails were made of gold. Nature can make mud dazzling.

Nothing impressive on the finish. On the whole, it wasn’t an awful run – more in line with numbers I put up when I first started trail running than the ones I’ve been putting up lately. Slow. SLOW. Amazingly I did not finish last. I knew there was at least one person behind me, but frankly, there were a few more people back there than I knew about – so that made me feel better when I checked results. After the run, I pulled the car closer and got changed into warm clothes while I went to wait on Eric’s finish, hang out with my Team RWB peeps and listen to my head pound. My entire focus shifted on getting some migraine drugs and going to bed.

The good news, is that I get a second shot at it this upcoming weekend. Hopefully without the migraine, and definitely without the pre-race margaritas. Topo’s actual trail series kicks off back at East Fork on Saturday 12/12.

The Topo Adventure Winter set is a series of trail runs going through some of the more interesting trail systems in the area. It starts with a signature marathon, with a 13.1 and 10k option, that has all the frills of shirt, medal, pint glass, timing but still manages to keep it cheap at $40 for the 13.1 and $25 for the 6.55.

After the marathon, there are six (6) no-frills trail races – $15 a pop regardless of distance, no swag and hand-timed. Most offer 5-or-10 mile options. The first one is back at East Fork Lake this upcoming weekend.

IMG_3484It’s Saturday. A slow coffee kind of day, starting with a movie on Netflix and afternoon-ing some miles in with both dogs. Despite just finishing up two weeks of vacation, recent life has felt fast. There was a trail 5k I wanted to do about an hour East, but my legs are still tired from last weekend, and frankly, a day of quiet is in order. Soul feeding quiet. Observing my friends’ FB feeds fill with results from a local pavement 7k/14k.

This is how I think of races now – pavement or trail first, then the rest of the details.

Somehow the year of being 40 turned me into a trail runner.

Since Run the Bluegrass, there were 2 shorter pavement races – Joseph House 5k (which was an EXCELLENT little race & I highly recommend doing again) and the Flying Pig 10k, where I stepped in to fill a bib for a friend at the last minute.  Beyond that, the Summer has been spent on a slew of trail races to good and hard result. I can’t say a day on trail is ever bad, just good or hard, or good AND hard. There was…

Forget the PR, Mohican 25k, which began April with a great big DNF. A heck of a way to kick off a season. A HARD, but fantastically beautiful course with long, steep hills that never seem to end. I learned there’s a thing you find out when you run trails and you’re slow, and that thing is what ALONE feels like in a whole new way. Lonely and ALONE are verrry different. In this race, I found my limit on being alone at mile 12 and I simply didn’t have another 5 miles in me. DNF.

A week later, the local Dirt Days Trail Series started. This is where Eric joined in the fun. After a Winter of mulling, a decade of repairing me after races, and some time spent watching the snow fall from the treadmill, he got his own bib for the Ault Park Switchback run – and every race thereafter. We did 5 of the Dirt Days races together – from a HORRIBLE, NASTY, (humbling), MUDDY MUDDY MUDDY 11-miler at East Fork that *still* makes me shudder, to a repeat of the Powder Keg 5k where I beat last year’s time by 9 minutes.

Somehow the year of my being 40 turned Eric into a trail runner.

Interspersed with DD, was the Topo Adventure Sports Summer Trail Series. A good, no-frills race setup. I like it. Also, these guys stay till the last runner comes in with a smile. I really like how they handle their show. Through these two series I learned that if the trail is wet, you step in the first mud puddle you see. Get it over with. Your feet are not going to stay dry, so find a way to be happy about it, and take the race that comes to you. Also, Body Glide on your feet is GOOD.

Finally, though the season still isn’t over, all of these efforts culminated in running The Rugged Red last weekend.The HARDEST terrain I’ve ever run. 1700 feet of elevation gain, some of climbing on all-4’s up round-edged sandstone. I came into the finish line to find my husband and a crew of my RWB peeps who’d waited over an hour for me to come in. People, that is some love right there! I still can’t believe I finished it – which was one of only two goals I had  – (1) finish and (2) beat the sweeper. I beat the sweeper with only 10 minutes to spare, but I did it. I’m not sure how. And that guy that kept trying to pass me again after mile 9-10, I kept him behind me. It might’ve been a full on goddamn sprint at the finish to make it happen, but it happened.

Somehow the year of being 40 upped my level of badassery just a little bit.

Recovery from all of these beatings came in the form of swimming and yoga (which I’m still teaching, but at a new place now). The training sessions at Caesar’s Creek last Summer taught me I was a pretty crappy swimmer. A new gym membership came in December and twice a week 6AM swims started in March with a friend training for her first half-Ironman. Swimming lessons followed to build the skill set, and while I’m working on strength and endurance, I’ve started to do decently in the pool. At some point I went from dreading the water to looking forward to a good swim.

Somehow the year of being 40 turned me into a swimmer.

My house is usually a mess because we’re too busy training. The dogs are usually stinky because four legs get muddier than two on trails. The number of pairs of running shoes in my house has almost doubled. Some of them aren’t even mine.

And I started giving my bike the side-eye about 2 weeks ago…when I turned 41.

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It was A Midsummer Night’s Trail Run that started it all. Like I said, I’ve been cramming an entire racing season into the past few weeks, so when I started to write about this I would have sworn to you that this event was in July. It seems so many runs ago, but NOPE, MNT was on August 12th. Just 8 weeks.

A 5-mile trail run through Mt. Airy, the run is sponsored by RCGC, which makes a point near and dear to my heart of keeping run fees CHEAP and swag minimal. I remembered having my eye on this one in 2013, mainly because I liked the name of it, but I hadn’t done any trail running at all other than the trail at my office and I didn’t know anyone else going.  Basically, I talked myself out of it.

Since I’ve been training with Team RWB though, there’s definitely been a shift in my thinking about my training – and even better for me, there’s a trail running contingent in the group. When I saw the run event for 2014, I realized I would KNOW people AND after months of listening to my knee groan, FINALLY I’d gone a few consecutive runs with no flare ups on my knee. Now mind you, those runs were paved, and only 3-4 miles max, so I wasn’t exactly ready for this one. I also know that Mt. Airy is not wimpy trailing. Eric and I spend part of every Summer hiking the trails with the dogs. There are a LOT of elevation changes in Mt. Airy, that’s why it’s MOUNT Airy and not INCREDIBLY FLAT Airy.

So knowing I wasn’t fully ready to race it, I set the intention for myself of not worrying about it. Just get it done. Monitor the knee. Enjoy myself. So long as I started the line and crossed the finish, my Eagles would be there waiting for me when I crossed. Also, Maine decided to meet me there and run along too. Since my injury, I haven’t been able to run with her as much as we did before, so having her meet up was a nice bonus. I can never pass up on a chance to connect with my BFFs.

I had no problems parking, getting there about 20-mins before the start. Packet pick-up was race day, organized, quick and easy. (Am I the only one whose heart swoons over an uncomplicated packet pickup?) My car was close enough to walk my little swag back right back to it and get back to saying hello to my RWB peeps. I saw Maine getting out of her car. The event was that uncluttered – all of this was very easy – and there was plenty of space to stretch and socialize.

Then the race began.

The first mile was the getting used to it – trail running. I set myself at the back to start, so as we streamed into the trail, there were 2 girls ahead of me, 1 almost directly behind and another a little further back. I knew we were towards the end of the line but there were still another few runners a little further back than that. The trail was a single-file trail, no running 2-or-3 wide. As soon as I spied a broader spot, I stepped off right and let the girl right behind me pass. We’d been chatting but I could tell she was itching to speed it up and I didn’t want anyone breathing down my neck.

First mile split was around the 15-min mark. I can walk faster than that. Except that I hadn’t done any walking at all.

This, my friends, is the weird voodoo of trail running. You can be running the entire time, but the pace that you have to slow to when navigating tree roots and rock beds to keep from busting your ass, makes it seem like it would be quicker if you just walked it. Except in the same breath, you know that isn’t true. If you were walking, you’d still have to slow down your walk to navigate obstacles. Slowing down your slow. But your mind does this thing where it starts to compare your WALKING ON PAVEMENT times against your trail RUNNING times, and you realize you’d PR if you were walking. But then you look around, kinda laugh, and decide you don’t care. This is trail running.

After the first mile, I was mostly by myself for the next three. In a pavement race, that would be utterly depressing to me, but watching the greenery go by – Mt. Airy is forest, so trees, shrubs, rocks are most of your view – I still felt like I was flying. Plus, you have to concentrate on what you’re doing in the moment of trail running. You get lost in your head comparing this and that, you fall down and go boom. Fact. If the first split on my Garmin at 15+ mins gave me food for thought, my next split was just about 17 minutes. There’d been a lot more rock bed to navigate and I’d taken a pause to keep from getting hit by the same mountain biker twice.  But somewhere in miles 2 and 3, I went from being cautious to feeling really happy about what I was doing. Mile 3 brought me back down into the 15-min range, and as the run opened up into the ONLY point where it broadens into meadow for a split second, there was the water stop.  The gentleman running it asked “Are you Cynthia?”  Yes.  “Your friend is a little ahead of you, she said for me to keep an eye out for you.”  Awww.

I wish I could tell you more about the trail, which trail names turned on to which and this one was this way and that cool thing about that one. I can’t. When I’m focusing, distance starts to blur into swatches of greenery. Plus, I have the sense of direction of a dryer sock. The one that never reappears when you’ve finished folding everything and are left with one unmatched sock. Yeah. I’m the lost sock.

Mile 4 the path started undulating more aggressively, but the track itself was wider and smoother, less rocks. 13+ on the mile 4 split and right about mile 3.5, one of the runners behind me came into view again. Sometimes just over a block’s length behind me. and sometimes much closer, I decided I would not be passed. I was fighting the good fight for my run, slow as it was and I wasn’t going to give up to someone behind me this late into it. I made concerted effort to keep my time up and navigate obstacles more aggressively.

Finally, the vegetation started to clear and I could hear people – UP THE HILL. Bless the hearts of up hill finishes everywhere – my, my, don’t they make us stronger.  As I crossed the line, Maine was right there with a high-five. Some of the RWBers I don’t know yet were there, but the ones I did know came back to the finish as soon as they saw me. Apparently there were snacks up at the pavilion! Seeing as how I mainly run so I can eat what I want, knowing there were snacks made me happy too. When someone tells me it’s a “no frills” run, I don’t expect snacks. Snacks are frilly. AWESOMELY frilly!

Maine & I wandered up, got some GOOD sandwiches and chips. Included in the swag was a cute pint glass, but I didn’t really want a beer. Just lots of water.  Y’all, trail running is HARD! I mean, regular running is hard for me too, but trail running is HARD!! That run really took a lot out of me! In the best way possible though – I was exhausted but I felt AMAZING. Happy. Content.  It was a completely different thing than I normally feel when I’m racing pavement.  I knew there were only a few runners left behind me to finish, but I honestly could have cared less. We stayed to listen to the awards, and I ended up winning a tote bag as a door prize.

A five-miler might have been a little aggressive for a first trail run choice, and the soreness of my hips and abs the next day let me know that was fact, but I’m glad I chose to try it.

This is on my ‘must-do’ list for next season.

LATE ADD-ON: That runner that I promised I wouldn’t let pass me – when I dug in deep and committed to really working the course, ended up checking in 4-minutes behind me. Amazing what you can do when you decide to try! (Phhhht.)

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Since I don’t usually run with my phone or camera, picture is another one from the Northern Cali tour this Summer, taken by Eric. Yup, that’s my butt.

First off – y’all – WHY didn’t anyone tell me I hadn’t raced since May?!?!  What the heck?!

Second – before I get to the race recap – you have to check this video out – all the way to the end please. I’m sharing it because its been inspiring the hell out of me for the past few weeks. I have been following Laura’s blog for awhile and watching her chase the 140.6 dream. This is hands down – THE BEST FINISH LINE VIDEO I HAVE EVER SEEN! Girlfriend went ballstowall HARD for 10 hours and 34 minutes. Let that sink in for a minute. 10 hours and 34 minutes of your hardest training effort.

And then – joy. Pure joy. Friends, that is a champion. It’s what it’s about.  Like I said – inspiring the hell out of me lately. I encourage you to read her full recap if that’s something that interests you. I will also add, that if you view the post-race thank you video at the bottom – the first 4 minutes – it’s like she wrote that part of my story too though our endings are our own.

Also – you will totally miss the dude who did the 26.2 mile run portion in a Wonder Woman bikini if you don’t watch the video all the way to the end. So there’s that. You’re welcome.

Back to Hudy.  8.7 miles are NOT 140.6 miles. Actually – it wasn’t 8.7 miles either. My Garmin said it was 9.1 miles – as did a few other Garmins around me. Garmin corroboration – it’s a real thing. Not sure what was up with the extra bit, but a 0.4 miles is more than a tangent difference…just sayin’ Hudy.

I did NO prep for this run, and in fact, kinda forgot about it. Shhhhh!  I’ve been kinda distracted busy lately. I might have mentioned that like 50,000,000,000 times. When I went to bed (late) on Friday night, I wasn’t sure I was going to do the run. When I woke up at 6:20 on Saturday morning and it was gray, and drizzling, and cold, I was sure I wasn’t going to do the run. I turned off the alarm and went back to bed. Except that after 40 minutes of trying to convince myself otherwise, I had to pee.

And here is why my bladder’s an asshole.

If I hadn’t had to pee, I wouldn’t have checked Facebook on my way back to bed. And if I hadn’t checked Facebook, I wouldn’t have found out Maine was already on her way to the start line. You know how I love to race with my girls!!! PLUS, I hadn’t seen Maine in awhile. So at 7:10, I went from peaceful, sleepy with pictures of a movie and coffee in my sugarplum head to hunting down the Bodyglide like a mad person and cussing out a twist tie because it wouldn’t get. on. my. shoe. for the chip timer. Trying to make an 8am start time.

At 7:35, I was barreling towards the ballpark (it started at Moerlein Lager House) – realizing I was driving ON THE RACE COURSE – and that I hadn’t eaten or had anything to drink. For a 14k run.

LEAST PREPARED RACE EVER.

I shoveled a handful of “emergency almonds” I keep in the car down my gullet and washed them down with a swig from a water bottle that had been in the car for a few days. Blech! Then I walked into a crowd of 4,000 people – looking for 1 of them- with about 5 minutes to spare. (I kid you not – I actually did have spare time. Apparently there is a time vortex in my car now.) Peeps, I SWEAR THIS NEXT PART IS TRUE – I took a deep breath, did a quick hip opener, walked down the line of people and said to myself “If I were Maine, I would be right about here” – then I stopped and looked to my left and BOOM! THERE SHE WAS! What are the odds of that?! Like, 1 in 4000? Okay, that’s not real math, but it’s not likely regardless. So we chatted – she was doing the 7k with her dad (who kicks both our running asses) – and then split up as we crossed the start.

In the few minutes of calm I did find on my way to the race, I did do some useful thinking. I knew I hadn’t done anything over 4 in 3-weeks and that my last 8-miler sucked badly. Entertaining the thought of a PR would be ridiculous and even trying to insert some speed intervals would be stupid. All I needed to do was just get through the distance. So I started thinking to myself that all I wanted was a solid execution. A quality run. Work my weak spots. Push my strong spots. Do my best with the rest.  Do my work.

So that’s what I did.

I’m pretty happy with this one – especially in the context. Garmin says I was pulling a steady 10:30-11/mm with 2 sub-10/mm surges after mile 6.  Not fast, but I wanted steady, not fast. Told myself that I would run to the 5k marker, then 3:1 interval to hold off a bonk since I had no sugar in my bloodstream.  At the 5k mark, I felt good still and decided to push on without the intervals to the halfway point – which would be after a long, slow incline (my kryptonite) – so I would get my real work in there. Stuck that incline like a champ! At the half-way (4.5 by my count), I opted for the intervals but didn’t stick to a 3:1, skipping the rest breaks when I felt stronger.  With the quality run I was getting in, I can’t help but wonder how much better it would’ve gone if I’d had something reasonable to eat before the race, or if there had been some Gatorade on the course (there was only water).  I was happy to see the downhill turn onto Eggleston, especially since my head had been running numbers since the 6-mile marker and I could not figure out how the heck we were only at mile 6? By my figuring, we were further down the road than that. Also, because I always pick up speed going down Eggleston. 🙂

Finish was solid. Overall, good run. Not my best, but far FAR from my worst.

The course itself was ugly. Least attractive course I have ever run. But – this is where we live – this is our city – these are parts of our city too. Parts with lots of history that should not be ignored. I have a favorite graffiti art wall near Beekman hill that I want to photograph, except that it’s not a great idea to get out of my car with an expensive camera there. We got to run past that, so it was nice to see it on foot. You do see the city in a different way when you’re running than you’ll ever experience from your car.

While I still had adrenaline going, I walked back to the finish to cheer people as they came in – something that always inspires me. Its one kind of inspiring to see someone finish first, like Laura, but its another kind of inspiring to go watch the “back of the pack” come in. I know a lot of people watching a race don’t give it any thought, but those people coming in last – for their own goals, they are working so damn hard! Most of them will never see a winners medal – but just getting over that finish line – it’s a victory. It’s a win. For me, they are champions too. I’m not an “everyone gets a trophy type” – I believe in winners – but Just once I’d like to see a race figure out a way to honor the last person across the line too – for sticking with it. Having heart.

The after party was much better organized than the last time I did this run, but still crowded and uncomfortable. The cold didn’t help – when you’re wet and cold and you stop running – you get REALLY COLD, REALLY FAST. Just like I hadn’t prepped any other thing, I didn’t have a jacket – or even long sleeves. So I was freezing my ass off in short order – the big tents helped keep us out of the wind but once I found a few friends that were wandering outside the tent, I needed to finish up and go get warm again.

On to the next one…

Considering the Power Play 5k on October 19th. That was my 5k PR last year – also not a pretty run with the bus terminal and smell of asphalt but the final up-hill is between GABP and US Bank Arena and that’s fun to push. It also comes with a ticket to the Cyclones season opener, which is my second love to baseball.

Also, can’t help but consider that even if I had dropped to a slow walk for all of another 4 miles at Hudy, I would’ve PR’d a 13.1. Kinda has me thinking about Monumental Half Marathon on 11/2 or Mason Half Marathon on 11/3. I could be very well prepped for either with 5 weeks to do it.

There’s also a 5k for diabetes research on 11/2 that the girls want to do – so…another opportunity to nail a sub-10/mm before end of season might be hard to pass up.

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Okay, okay – so I already posted this photo once, but I like it. So here it is again. There is something about indirect sunlight on hardwood and pavers that just makes me all dreamy. It is odd to me, or maybe it is just a disfunction of my nose, that such a place smells more like sawdust than horses. Though really, either is just fine with me.

After the run was over, I was laying on a massage table with some very nice man named Todd giving me a rubdown on my legs and glutes. (Appropriate, professional contact to you people who are still finding me through weird search terms. You know who you are.) This is the first time I have gotten a post-run rubdown while still at the race – not that they haven’t been offered at other finishes, just that the line has always been LONG LONG LONG by the time my little turtle-butt got done. This was the advantage of switching over to the 7-mile option as opposed to the 13.1 half-mar. I got done before most of the crowd and went straight into a rubdown. I wrote a little bit ago that I was considering downgrading to the 7, and I finally pulled the trigger on that decision after taking my training pulse and deciding I just wasn’t ready for a half marathon.

IT WAS A VERY VERY VERY VERY VERY GOOD DECISION. But I’ll get to that.

So, Todd & I are chit-chatting through the awkwardness of him stretching my legs out, and he’s a runner too – and he asks me “So was there a lot in the swag bag on this one?”. Something we all want to know when we register for a race – whaddathey gonna gimme at the expo? I tilted my head and said – “No. Not really. It was a really small expo – which I liked – I’m not much for the expos. I had one thing I wanted to buy there, which I got. Beyond that, I picked up my bottle of bourbon, got my bib and got out of there.”

Um, bottle of bourbon?

Yes. One of the perks on this race was a special label bottle of Knob Creek Bourbon. The run crew went and did a tasting and picked out a cask and had their own bottles made up for the run. You had to buy them in addition to your run fee, and only 144-180 people could get them, but I was fast with my little mouse-clicker and got on the list. I’m a bourbon girl – usually with the Maker’s Mark, but Knob Creek makes a damn fine glass too. Bourbon. It wasn’t in the swag bag – it came with it’s own little bag and certificate.

But I feel like I haven’t really told Todd the truth, so I go on. You see, they didn’t really do the thing with all the chip clips and pens and mini-powerbars. There were a few vendors about nutrition, but not a lot of stuff. Which I’m okay with – I have enough chip clips, and the mini-powerbars are very often found dead in the bottom of my gym bag about a month after the expo. I tell Todd – they did it…different.

They organized stuff for us to do. Other than run. Like some tours of horse farms and distilleries.

This isn’t something I’ve noticed with the Flying Pig or Country Music Half-Marathon (Nashville). Nashville does a concert, but I didn’t notice any group discounts to zoos or museums or local attractions. Things that say – come for the run, but stay for the city. 

In Lexington,  I didn’t just show up for a run, there were these other things to do set up. I got to know a bit about the Lexington community. I had the tour schedule for what I’d signed on for (again with the speedy-mouse-clicking) and was armed with a list of small LOCAL restaurants (no Applebees or Panera)  they provided – which included a great little Coffee Pub that we hit up twice – once being the first place we stopped when we got to town. THANK YOU COFFEE PUB!  And when I first signed on for the tours, I thought – ‘Oh great, we’ll see how a horse farm works.’ 

Um, in Lexington, they don’t just have horse farms. They have HORSE FARMS. Like farms that house MILLION DOLLAR+ RACEHORSES with names that I recognize like Supersaver and Colonel John and U.S. Ranger. Derby horses. Famous horses (that I may or may not have placed a few Derby bets on). Beautiful, beautiful animals.

Seriously people, I GOT TO PET TIZNOW. TIZNOW!! He feels like supersoft velvet.

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The jacket says Bodemeister, but the horse is Tiznow.

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Also, I learned that Tiznow sperm costs more than my house.

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And that horses wear boxing gloves when they mate. You wanted to know this.  I learned about horse sex. What’s more, I just wrote that on the internet. Oh, the possible search terms just keep on coming…

This was just on our first tour – which we did when we first got to Lexington. Before the expo. Before the distillery tour. Before the run. After the coffee.

The run, you say? Oh right, it is a race recap. Um, all of these gorgeous horses and farms and literally, THOUSANDS of acres of green pastures – you run through it. No big intersections or roaring crowds. It’s two lane country roads surrounded by oceans of green. In the early morning, when all the horses are out grazing and just getting their mojo on for the day.  They stare at you curiously with ears up and eyes wide as you run past. Some come right up to the fences – some with foals. These are picturesque moments straight out of postcards. You simply can’t believe how pretty it all is – and for me, at least, it reminded me how darn beautiful parts of this country are. I got a little misty patriotic. I live an hour from this! Having decided from the very beginning that I was doing this run for scenery, not for time – I took my sweet time to look around and take it all in. I encouraged other runners to look up – over there! how pretty! – and I pointed at horses right up by the fence curious about what we were doing. I even stopped to look behind me a few times. Took walk breaks.

My time wasn’t great – though I did a 7-miler in what it took me to do a 10k just a year-or-two ago. But really, who cares? If I had been all about the time, with my head down and my game face on, I would have missed so much. But…and there’s always a butt…all this scenery comes at a price. Being without question the MOST AMAZING RUN COURSE I have ever seen,

IT IS ALSO THE HILLIEST. This is not a course to be trifled with. Hills don’t bother me. I train in hills. I’m built for hills. I PREFER hilly courses. I am not afraid of even pretty serious hills. This course – even at 7-miles – was BRUTAL!!! and I’m a Flying Pig 13.1 veteran. This course makes the Pig look flatter than an airport runway. No joke.  Had I done the 13.1, I would not have been walking the rest of the weekend. If you’re considering this run next year, train hills, then more hills, then even more hills – and not gentle hills. Do not take flatland breaks between hill repeats. Train on brutal, nasty – so steep you don’t like to drive on it – hills. 

Dear self – if you do this next year – consider adding stadium step running into your training plan. Love, self.

The views – the scenery – the beauty – WORTH EVERY SINGLE HILL.

So no – there wasn’t a lot in the swag bag. I didn’t get another chip clip. Instead, I got to pet one of the most famous horses in the world. I got to see country I’ll never forget – and can’t wait to get back to. I got run-challenged – I know I’m doing this run again no matter how hard it was.  I got to pet a month-old foal that tried to bite my stomach. I got camera practice and a generous tasting of bourbon. I got to have an old-timer tell me all about the Blue Devils and educate me about Navy aircraft carriers.

Oh! – OH! – Oh! – and I got to feel – for the first time, like I had a personal link to the Race Director almost every single day. THAT’S RARE! I don’t think I can name even a single 5k I’ve done – or any other race I’ve done – where I’ve felt such a personal connection with the race organizer. But Eric at Lexonomics – DUDE! I feel like we’re buds. The social media campaign on this race was done PERFECTLY – not overwhelming on the emails – with a fine dose of humor and excitement on Facebook and Twitter.  PERSONAL emails about the tours we were registered for as opposed to spam waves of nonsense addressed to 30,000 people. This race billed itself as 100% World Class and 100% Local. They should have included 100% Personal also, because it was obvious that this race was run by people who really cared about making it lovely. People who took every detail personally.

They got it 100% right.

Some more photos of Winstar Farm. I’ll be putting up a few more from Donamire Farm, Woodford Reserve and the Aviation Museum (I’m not sure those took though.) as I get finished editing them.

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Gemologist. These horses make me feel like a munchkin.

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All horse farms have dogs. Fact. Still haven’t figured out how to photograph through glass. Unfortunately, the reflection shows pretty badly in this one. This pie-eyed border collie was napping when we came in, stood up just like that and then went and hid when some little boys began tapping on the glass. Dog looks like he’s hypnotized.

So, as I was waiving a white flag at a huge hill on Erie Avenue last night in the sweltering heat, it occurred to me that I had never updated about how the Hyde Park Blast 4 miler went. Erie being the same miserable, uphill S-curve that consensus has is the worst part of the HPB route.  Also, that I was being a lazy fuck about updating this place.  I’ve done two runs since then – so, as a result of my posting laziness lately, you get served a triple-header! Look at all the words!

HYDE PARK BLAST:  Um, HPB went bad? For the most part. And I think part of the reason I haven’t written about HPB is because I’ve been alternating between trying to figure out what the hell happened and trying to create amnesia about it. As a tip – you cannot create amnesia by drinking lots of Gatorade. I guess there’s this pesky thing called rum that you need to put in it and I don’t have any.  Stupid absentee rum. Rummm…I digress…and I’m totally screwing with you ’cause I don’t even like rum. Back to moving my ass –

I’d done the route twice in the weeks before the run, and actually been pretty proud of how those two runs had gone. I’d found an approach to Erie that was working. I felt good about it. Cautiously optimistic even. But then the race started and the Garmin data shows that things just went way wonky.  I sped up where I’d slowed down before, and slowed down where I’d sped up before. It was like it was Opposite of Good Running Day – an utter disaster. And I have no idea why. Okay, a little idea, but it took me awhile to get to it.  The only thing I can think of – which may be the reason why on the whole my training runs go better than my races BY FAR – is that there are other people in races.

BA-DUM-BUM!

So basically, I blame the other runners. What? You didn’t think my crappy run was going to be my fault, did you?

Pi-shaw to your pesky logic.

Hear me out. HPB is a HUGE community race – they cap it at 3000 runners & usually sell out. And there are tons of strollers and dogs participating in the race too. TONS. More than in any other local race I can think of. TONS.  And I was VERY VERY VERY distracted by them.  I distinctly remember this super fluffy white dog as I was going up Erie hill – and instead of thinking to myself  ‘shoulders back, neck long, even breathing, even stride’ – which is what I’d practiced with – I found myself thinking things like  “Holy Fuck Lady! It’s 90-f-ing-degrees and you’re making that dog run with a full coat! Ya know, you CAN shave it short for Summer! That thing looks like it’s going to die!”. So see, distracted. First mile went great. Last mile went great. The middle – meh. Distracted.  I ended with a 1:09 PR for that specific run (which set my best run pace for all of 2011), but not a pace PR for this year. I was 18 seconds/mile over my best pace and not happy about it.

Can you keep a secret? Part of the reason the last mile went great – it was because I saw a girl in my running group pass me who has never passed me before. And instead of thinking good for her, I went to the ‘OH HELL NO!‘ place.  So I played leap frog on the route with her for a tiny bit, then dusted her in the last half-mile.  But that’s not a very nice thing to think, so SHHHHH! K?

In hindsight, I think the dog/stroller/distraction thing is what is making me come to the realization that I don’t enjoy racing all that much. I LOVE running with my group, but strap a chip timer on me and I just flake – and I think a huge part is the distraction. With group – we all know the rules – move right to slow down or walk, pass on left,  make room. But in a race setting, particularly those that draw a lot of walkers, it’s CHAOS.  Getting pinned behind strollers or walkers that are taking up a whole lane with their pack. Swinging wide around leashed dogs and small children. CHAOS. Chaos doesn’t jive with my nature very well. I like calm. Running group is calm. Familiar. So, that’s something for me to think about and decide how much work I want to put into fixing my race approach, or if I just want to forget about racing for awhile. Ponderances.

For the first time this year, we went back for the party afterward – which includes an elite runner 5k and criterium cycling races of different classes – ending with an elite criterium race. WOW WOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWWOW!!!!! Those were SO COOL to watch. I will be going back again to see those. I guess there was about a 1-mile course with several 90-degree turns at intersections – which the elites were SLOWING DOWN to 27-mph to make the curves. They were topping 40 mph on the short straightaways and the pace-car was looking stressed trying to stay a good distance in front of them and not careen off into the crowd. AMAZING!! I didn’t think I would ever be interested in watching cycling, but damn! that looks cool!

GREENDALE 5K:  For a small, community run, I have to say, this was a pretty well organized event.  For 3.1 miles, they had 4 water stops and a misting station at the end – perfect for a 90+ degree, sunny run. At the outset, they requested repeatedly that all strollers and walkers stay in the back – and PEOPLE ACTUALLY PAID ATTENTION, though I did hear a small grumble or two from stroller-bearers.  This was my second run in a 12-hour period out in the heat – and the first run I’d run HARD with the training group – so I had NO expectations from myself on this one other than to finish. My boxing studio was one of the sponsors, and I knew one of the girls working with the organizers. I was just there to show support. First mile and a half felt labored, then the heat got to me. I intervaled for a bit, and then just walked until I decided to jog it in at the end. Nothing too noteworthy. Good little race. If I were going to change anything, I’d move the start time to 8am (instead of 9am) to try and cut out some of the July heat – and as it was on July 4th, I would have had someone sing The Star-Spangled Banner at the start.

COLOR ME RAD: LOVED IT! LOVED IT! LOVED IT! Much like the Tap ‘n Run, this is one you do for enjoyment and people watching, not time.  In fact, it’s not even chip-timed. I’d say it’s overpriced if I hadn’t gotten a groupon on my registration to cut the fee to $20.  If you’re thinking of doing one, keep your eyes open on your local groupon or ‘livingsocial’ website. I think I picked mine up 2 months before the run – and I know there was another discount offer about a month before.  So you can probably find a deal on it if that’s important to you. 

My friend Nashville & I went together – and honestly, I think this is the run I have liked best all year so far.  Nashville is WAY faster than I am, but she was sore – so she kept pace with me and we jogged the whole thing together. We haven’t run side-by-side in years, so that was awesome! No dogs. Not too many strollers.  LOTS LOTS LOTS LOTS of walkers – but chatting with Nash kept…well, really anything at all from bothering me with the crowd chaos. There were water stations. It was only 80-ish degrees at the start. I say ONLY 80-ish, because the Midwest has been in a nasty heat snap and we haven’t had many days under 90-degrees in the past few weeks.  There was one guy running in tighty-whities w/a jock strap over it, and a wife-beater on top – and all I could think to myself is “I don’t want to see what happens when his ass crack starts to sweat and all that color starts to run”…because my brain is a little broken sometimes. The people throwing the blue cornstarch were coated with it from head to toe – so there was an entire station of Smurfs. Color bombing at the end was really cool to see and I left coated in all the different colors. Also, I was pretty impressed with how well everything washed off of me.  A little longer shower than normal, but it all went away. Good time.

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It’s a bottle opener!

Someone, somewhere along the way is going to get all ‘new & improved’ on this bottle opener idea and try to add a screwdriver to it. *shudder* 

Just to please the lawyers: I am NOT suggesting that’s a good idea. Runners fall down and go boom sometimes. Preferrably not on screwdrivers attached to medals.

That being said – I do think this medal is pretty darn cool! I am sure one of them is going to spend the summer hanging off a fencepost on the patio right next to the grill. The run was a little pricey for a not-even-5k, so having a cool medal was a redeeming factor. Now about the race…

I think if you went into this thing with even a smidgen of an idea that you were going to actually run it. for time. and really invest yourself in PR’ing. you’re an asshole. you would be pretty upset.

This wasn’t a race. It was barely even a run. Hell – for some of the people there, it wasn’t even a walk. My friend Mike did the thing in a wheelchair due to a torn meniscus. And one guy’s costume involved a walker – like the kind old people use – so he was kinda assisted-walking it.

In fact, the thing kinda reminded me of this photo I have from Kindergarten halloween where I’m with my friends and we’re all dressed up in our costumes inside the classroom waiting to go parade around the schoolyard. I was a cross between a princess, a ballerina and those girls that do acrobatics on the backs of horses (c’mon, I was 5.). My friend John was a vampire and Keith was Superman. I can’t remember what Pat was – sorry, Pat. In Kindergarten. Not last weekend. Not that I can’t remember what Pat was in Kindergarten – I mean, Pat was Pat in Kindergarten, but I can’t remember his costume. Oh well. Simpler times. Guess ya had to be there. I assure you, we were adorable. I digress…

So the not-run race thingy, was pretty much a not-Halloween Kindergarten Halloween School Yard parade. For people over the age of 21. Who want to dress like giant Supersperm (oh, yes, there was). And drink beer. Costumes were glorious! I honestly think there were better costumes at this run than at ANY run I’ve been at before. Especially the team costumes. This would’ve been excellent to photograph if I’d had my camera.

Organizationally…it was a bit of a cluster. I don’t think they were really prepared to handle the 4000 people who showed up. In order to drink on the route (4k, so about 2.5 miles, with a 3-4oz chug of beer at each ‘k’), you had to get ID’d before you started and the lines to do that were LONG LONG LONG. Except that Eric (the husband) did this with me and he is masterful at the art of cutting in line. So for us, not so long. They were doing wave starts every 3-4 minutes – mainly because the starting line was at the crosswalk of a REALLY BUSY STREET and since they wanted us all to die didn’t shut down the street, we had to wait for the light to change to cross. Yep, you heard that right. There was a cop helping, thank goodness! Also helpful, that most of the 4000 people were still sober at this point. I’m assuming. It was the start line after all.

It was stupid hot out for a run/race/not-run/race thing, which made me glad that Eric came along on this one and that we were walking the whole thing together. It also made me glad that he’s not into the running thing – because he was all ‘hey – let’s skip the parts where it loops back on itself and there’s no beer to go grab’. The route was almost completely in the sun – as was the beer and as were the fragrant & upwind porta-potties. Yikes! If he hadn’t been there to be the evil angel on my shoulder encouraging me to skip the pointless parts, the beer would’ve been really warm when I got to it. And I would’ve been unhappy. He also went all evil angel grabbing us extra beers in the chug stations. I love him so much.

People, I married that man with MANY good reasons. Line-cutting, Shortcutting, and Beer Sneaking are just some of the top exquisite details on the list of ‘Why I said I DO!’.  He makes an excellent partner in crime.

He also rolls down hills pretty well. Which is what we did as we were leaving.

One of the nice opportunities this race brought was a chance to meet in person a FB friend that I’ve had for about 4 years. Completely pathetic that we’re both runners, live about 15 minutes apart, and up until last Saturday – had never met. BUT…on the flip side, if it weren’t for FB, Jason & I may never have met at all – and he’s the kind of person who DOES remember his camera for cool shit like weird ass not-Halloween beer-drinking parades. Unfortunately, 3,998 other people made him a little difficult to find so the husband & I didn’t catch up with him until we were on our way out and tipsy on rapidly transfused warm beer and sunshine. And we only had about 5 minutes to talk before I turned my head to see Eric somersaulting down the large hill next to us. People, he does that shit all. the time.

Since Eric didn’t die at the bottom of the hill, I decided to follow suit.

At 37 years old, I rolled down a hill for the first time ever.

I seriously could. NOT. STOP. LAUGHING. I may need to do that everywhere I go from now on. Because I’m an innovator,  I decided to do the barrel-roll technique instead of the somersault. Also because I thought I’d have better luck getting my ass around under me to stop – which I did every few feet just to make sure I could since I was a beginner barrel-hill-roll-downer. Don’t want to rush things and get a rolling-down-a-hill injury.

I’m not sure you can collect disability for that.

I’d love to have a closing point for this, but I don’t. Costumes, clusterfucks, warm beer, sunshine, kinda-new friends, and dizzy-laughing are all I got. Which ain’t a bad day in my book.

Fail. Blatant crap-ass failure.

That pretty much sums up my race experience for the Pig. It was like everything I know about running – and more specifically, about ME running – went right the straight fuck out of my head. In case you were ever wondering, it is possible to be both incredibly overconfident and abysmally sloppy at the same time. Give me the gold star for figuring that out.

Things I know about me running:

  • Where I seed myself is incredibly important. I tend to pace my opening to move with the crowd.
  • I tend towards starting out too fast when I am not paying close attention to NOT doing that – which is why I need to seed myself properly. I use the crowd to keep me tamed until I’m ready to speed up.
  • If I go out too fast, I crash equally fast. My body has a run warm-up process that will not be rushed. So says it and it will be obeyed.
  • If I run with music, I’m not good at listening to my biofeedback or working my mantras. In the background at the gym – AWESOME! – in my ear directly during a run, it’s a huge distraction. I literally can’t hear myself think. For a training run where I can ignore the Garmin, no big deal but I am not mature enough at my speedwork to have music directly in my ear for a race.
  • I usually have a better quality run when I take a few moments to be quiet and focus my intention right before the run. Set an intention. Think over the route one last time. Asses how I feel and take a deep breath.
  • Humidity is evil. It is my Moriarity. Sometimes aggressive, sometimes sneaky – but always, always trying to do me in when it has opportunity. Humidity is as evil as the word ‘moist’. *shudder*

These are the things I knew before I got into the Pig Corral. What did I do when I showed up to the Race?

  • Spent my time before the race & even standing in the corral socializing instead of focusing. Quiet time, schmiet time.
  • Programmed my iPod with some really fast music – and then put it in my ears & hit play. Insert overconfidence here. Somehow I had convinced myself that running with music was going to be really enjoyable – and it would have been had I been focused at all and been running my own race. But I wasn’t.
  • KNEW I’d been signed into the wrong corral & was going to be starting with a group WAY OUT OF MY LEAGUE. I even told my friend who was there (& runs a full 2+ mins/mile pace faster than me) that I was in the wrong place and needed to let them go as soon as we started moving. I put myself as far back in that corral as I could get. My intentions to let them go were good.
  • But then I didn’t let them go. Mind you, I wasn’t pacing them 100%, but I was moving with the crowd. The way-too-fast crowd. Apparently the really fast people are super-skerred of zombies, because I was running like I was running from zombies. Which is excellent considering I’ve been focusing on speedwork and working hard at improving my 5k pace. Not excellent when you’re doubling that distance, plus some. Oh – and it was 60 degrees at 4am (when I got up for this race) with 90% humidity that had me sweating before I even got dressed. I better hope the zombies can’t run further than a 5k or I’m toast.
  • I ignored Moriarty. Really fucking dumb. Change that – REALLY FUCKING DUMB.
  • I did not ignore my Garmin. In fact I found myself looking at it in disbelief way more than I should have saying ‘WTF? Slow down!’ – followed by ‘WTF? Why aren’t you slowing down?’ Some day – that will be good – where I will be running like the wind and all will be well. Pig Day was not that day. Pig Day was the day I saw my run becoming a train wreck I couldn’t look away from and seemed powerless to stop. And my Garmin just had me freaking out even more. Instead of using it to make good decisions about my run, I let it and the heat send me straight into panic mode.

I ran really hard until about 2.5 miles in and then crashed just as hard. We made a turn, went up a small incline, and then into what should’ve been a nice flat 1/2 mile draw before the serious hill started The turn was also into the rising sun – what felt like my personal rising sun sent straight from hell to turn the pavement into a giant oven just to bake me. I couldn’t look up for it being in my eyes, and it seemed like there was a halo around the entire crowd. Considering that the halo could be a sign I was dying, I dropped into a walk/run interval and from that point it was all over. I never got any kind of running mojo – and if the garmin is to be believed, I never held a steady pace from there on out for longer than 30-45 seconds – I yoyo’d all over the place with my pace control right up until the hand-off point.

6.84 miles of really hot failure. I swear I had a plan going into this race. I even visualized how this run would go and how it would feel while I was doing it. But it all just went straight out of my mind when I got moving. *sigh* Rookie mistakes. Lessons hopefully learned.

Things that were good:

  • The husband was super supportive for the whole run. The man rode around the course on his bike to meet me at the handoff and then back at the finish, stuck with me through HOURS of cheering on running buddies he’s never met, talked over me saying I sucked to tell me how wonderful I am, let me bankrupt his iTunes account to load up my playlist, and got up at 4am to paint this on me:   This later became extremely ironic as people were patting me on the back to say ‘thanks’ and ‘dig deep’ as they passed when my deep felt like a shallow grave – also, props to ‘that pink girl’ for the inspiration on the warpainted calves. I totally stole her idea. I can’t find the post, but trust me, I’m a thief. If I ever get the chance to run with that chick, I totally am – she seems like my brand of crazy.
  • I got to know 3 people at my boxing gym a bit better through the relay team – one of whom I didn’t even know until the day before the run. I had to hand off to her. She stayed & hung out with me while I cheered on other people – so I made a new friend.
  • I got to scream my fool head off when my friend Jene not only PR’d her marathon, but beat her former record into the ground with a sledgehammer. Peeps – she shaved 9+ minutes off and became a sub-4 hour marathoner. I was there. I saw it.
  • My boxing trainer (the gym sponsored our relay teams) was on his bike taking pics of the teams and the crowd. He managed to snap some decent photos of me – which we all know how hard it is to come by decent running photos.
  • And finally,This horrible event gave me some fresh perspective on how I want to train for some Summer runs I have coming up – ones where I do want to PR and conditions may be less than desireable. “Remember the Pig!” just became a cautionary mantra for running in the heat.
  • Oh, and yeah, I got to add another one of these to the pile:

On to the next one….