Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Ah, woe is me! Race Recap: MCATF 5k

This week has been another busy one! Saturday was the McLean County AIDS Task Force 5k race at Tipton park. This is fun, conveniently located just a couple of miles from home, and for once the weather gave me a break and it was lovely weather for a run.

 I didn't get up all too early but as it turned out I was the first participant to show up and get checked in. I was surprised by this but didn't think much of it at the time. I've run it once or twice in years past and it's a small race but well supported by the community. Or at least it has been in the past. We'll get to that.

My first clue that this would be an Especially Small Race came when I told the volunteers that I was per-registered, and they said "oh, YOU'RE the one!" This is not a good sign. I was the only person in the entire community - a community of over 100,000 people and with a lively GLBTQIA community as well as several active and engaged running groups - the ONLY person to register ahead of race day. I was truly shocked to hear it. It got worse...

I have a dear old friend who volunteers for the MCATF and whom i really only see once or twice a year at events related to the Task Force. I hung out in the check-in area and we talked for a bit while the other racers arrived and checked in. I took a 10-minute walk around the park to warm up and headed to the starting line. The race started a little late; I think the organizers were hoping more people would show up. When we finally got going, there were exactly TEN runners. TEN!

I could hardly believe my eyes. Five men (well four men and ontoilette boy on his bike - oh so cute riding while his mom ran!) and five women. I felt just terrible for the organizers of the race - I imagine they must not have raised enough money in registratin fees to cover all the T-shirts they'd printed! We were joking at the start line about how everyone was likely to get a trophy or ribbon today, just out for showing up! 

So the proverbial gun went off and we headed out. It really was a beautiful morning for a run around the park. I was, of course, dead last (the dreaded DFL). In a group this small I had no illusions of beating anyone to the finish line. It's ALWAYS just me, competing against myself, in every race, but never quite so literally as today. I initially planned to run about a half-mile at a time, with short walking breaks, but in the first leg I felt so good - like it could just keep that pace up forever - that I decided to run the full first mile before taking any breaks.  I had my Garmin on and saw my pace for that first mile: 11:11 - good but not so good I was worried about going out too fast and bonking half-way through. Of course, a 5k isn't as much of a stretch as it once was! It's not unusual for Coty & me to head out on a 3-mile run on a Monday night.

So I'm feeling great, still in last place (I preferred to think of it as being in 10th!), but you know, I found there's a certain clarity of purpose that came with the knowledge that, yes, I'm going to be THE last person to cross the finish line today. This race really was All About Me. I decided to shoot for a PR. Time to beat today was 37:41, or a pace of 12:20, and it was looking totally do-able! I never lost sight of the older gentleman who was next ahead of me. He looked around periodically and I knew he was checking to make sure I was still hanging in with him. With so few racers and volunteers only placed at the mile markers, we runners we're looking out for each other. I was only about 20 seconds behind him at the first mile, but he was pulling away (slowly, but definitely pulling away).

 I ran all of Mile 2, as per my revised Plan for the race, and hit the water stop with a pace of just under 12 minutes for Mile 2. I walked a bit longer through the water stop and poured some on my head, as it was beginning to get quite warm. At this point there were runners passing me going the opposite direction, after the turn-around point which was around the 2.5-mi mark. Everyone was passing on a good word as we passed one another - "Keep it up!" "You're doing great!" I was keeping an eye on my Garmin, checking the average pace and starting to get excited - it looked like I was on track to beat my Personal Record, but it was going to be close.

 I did take another short walking break about a quarter of a mile from the finish line, gearing myself up to run hard the last leg. My last mile was at a pace close to 13 minutes, but the Garmin had my final pace at an average of 12:06!! Alas, the Garmin was giving me credit for time I wasn't moving, like when I picked up water at the stop, etc., and my total time was actually 38:11, so no PR for me today. Still, a good pace and I really enjoyed the race. Plus, I was still looking forward to my first (and likely ONLY) ribbon for placing in the top 3 for a race!

 The overall women's finisher was a young girl (woman I suppose), maybe 19, maybe in her early 20's. Aside from her, there were four of us women and I figured at least one of them was under 30, so it was reasonable to think I'd get 3rd place ribbon for my age group, and I had spent about 38 minutes of my 38:11 running time enjoying the prospect. But it was not to be. Go figure, 5 women compete, and ALL FOUR of us were in the same age group!!

The male competitors (including the little boy) were spread out a little better between age groups, so each of them won a ribbon of some level. I was the only participant in our little 10-participant race who went home empty-handed. Ah, woe is me. :-)

 After the race, I got home and realized there was no one else to walk the dog(!) so I decided to take her out while I was still enjoying the remnants of my runner's high. Believe it or not, we ran another 5k! Albeit much more slowly, as we needed lots of walk breaks and of course had to pee on everything as we went (that's Coty, not me - I swear). It was lovely.

 Next race will be about 2 weeks from now if I remember correctly: the Evergreen 5k, out at Lake Evergreen /Comlara Park. I think it's a Trail Race (as opposed to Road Race) and if so, it will be a first. The time since Saturday has been very busy; I've been traveling and got to see the family (some of the family, anyway) but I'll have to update on that another time, as this post is plenty long enough as it is. Suffice to say I'm writing from sunny southern California (or it was sunny when I started writing in any case; it's past dark now) and won't be home for a few days yet. Till then...

Thursday, July 19, 2012

All caught up

After the 4th of July race, I had 5 whole days off work to recuperate.  It was nice to have such a nice, long weekend, but I didn't veg out the whole time like I usually do... not this time!  I walked the dog every day, got in two more runs - about 3 miles each (which felt like marathons in the heat), and got some household projects taken care of.

Free image courtesy of
Often when I have a big chunk of time off work, I go completely off the rails with my diet and exercise.  I don't normally use this blog as a food log and discuss much of the "diet" portion of my diet & exercise regimen, but I will say I managed to indulge during the week without going crazy.  It helped that we didn't have any big plans with friends or family during the week.  Jason had to work part of the time, so I had a couple of days all to myself, and a few days to hang out with my hubby.  We went to our favorite watering-hole a few times (confused bartenders wondering what we were doing there in the middle of the week) and had a few beers and a few burgers, but managed to stay within reasonable limits.  My weekly weigh-in showed me at +/- zero pounds for the week, and I called it a win.

What fun could we have during five days off???  Well... we were watching a lot of television, specifically a lot of Holmes on Homes and Kitchen Crashers, which prompted a lot of speculation about what we might be able to do to spruce up our own kitchen.  This speculation grew to a conviction that, yes, we could tile our back-splash; nay, we should; even we WILL!

By Sunday (the day before I had to go back to work, yes, we procrastinated even with all that conviction behind us) we had been to Lowe's, Home Depot, and Menards several times each, for ideas and options, and finally settled on a plan of action.  But until Sunday morning, we hadn't bought a thing.  First order of business:  buy stuff!  Lowe's supplied the tiles themselves, and we got everything else we needed at Menards.  (We had a couple of rebate credits from Menards so most of the supplies were covered by the rebates, thus the extra trip.)

By the end of the day Sunday, we'd laid all the tile. ("Laid"?  Is that what you say when you put it on a wall?  Whatever... it was up, anyway.)  All that remained was to grout, caulk, and seal it.  It didn't sound like much work left to be done, but grouting certainly turned out to be a bigger chore than we expected.  I really thought that was going to be the easy part!  We got the grout and caulk done on Tuesday and left it to cure for a few more days, and finally I got it sealed on Saturday, so the deal is pretty much done!

Leave it to us to stretch a weekend project out for 6 days.


The down side of all this crafty home improvement project activity is that basically, as soon as I went back to work, all formal exercise came to a halt.  A sudden and complete halt.  Finally last Saturday it was time to get back in gear.  I declared "BREAK'S OVER!"  I got up just after Jason left for work and took off for a nice long run with the dog.  We got a five-mile jog in, and felt just great!

Perhaps my body was really looking for a break from the routine... my weigh-in on Sunday:  down 2 pounds for the week!  Go figure...

This past week, just doing my regular routine, work, workout, run, hit the gym, help make dinner... blog!

Whew!  Now, finally I've caught up after my little hiatus.  Now I've got to get ready for my next race:  only a couple of days away!!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Race Recap: Park 2 Park 2012

I've caught up to FOURTH OF JULY!  Yay!

So this was the big day:  my third run of the Park 2 Park 5-miler.  This is a FUN race: park your car at the finish line, take a bus (or catch a ride) to the start, warm up running around beautiful Miller Park and listening to the animals at Miller Park Zoo rustling around, calling out to everyone, expressing their curiosity as to why so many visitors are milling about but none have come to visit them, listen to the Star Spangled Banner and run back to your car!

It's a 5-mile route from Miller Park to the "Corncrib" - the ballpark home of our local Frontier League team, the Cornbelters.  The route was changed two years ago - they used to run from Miller Park to Fairview Park, one of several locations where the community hosts fireworks in the evening.  This was my first run of the new route and I was hoping the changes would take us through some more shady areas!  The first time I ran P2P - you'll never believe it but it's true - it was raining and actually quite chilly.  It was fantastic!  I finished in just over an hour.  The following year, I was not so lucky:  it was hot and I got dehydrated during the race.  I had to stop at the mile-three water-stop for about 5 minutes and take several glasses of water and Gatorade.  My time definitely suffered in the heat.  I was hoping to beat the "hot" time, even dreaming that with all my recent training I might bust out with a PR...

Jane and her husband and son picked me up a little after 6am, and it was already near 80 degrees.  Wow, but it was HOT!  (You'll notice this is the theme for the day.)  This was her son's first-ever race!  I think I was more excited for him than he was.  The ride over was fun, he had all sorts of questions about the logistics and I was pleased to have enough experience with racing to be able to help answer some of them.  It made me feel like a real pro!

We got there early enough, we had plenty of time to mill around and chat with friends from our running group, stretch and use the facilities, and take a 10-minute warm up walk around the park.  With the route change, the starting line had been moved and I got a little confused at first, but we found the crowd before the singing was done and set ourselves up at the back of the pack.  Jane took note of the police cruiser that would be following at the end of the line and said something I'd never thought of before:  "There's the vehicle we have to beat!"  Indeed, as long as we don't get to the finish line in the back of the cruiser or an ambulance, I think we've done as well as need be!

Just before the start of the race, I noticed a soldier in full gear, boots and rucksack and all, prepping directly ahead of us.  I was in awe that someone was even considering such a feat in this weather.  It is amazing what our soldiers are trained to do.  He was ahead of us much of the way, and steadily pulling ahead in fact.  I lost track of him somewhere between Mile 3 and Mile 4 but someone posted photos of him online: (link is to the LRC Facebook page, which is an open, public group, but I didn't get a chance to ask if it would be alright to post the actual photo here).  Pretty inspiring stuff.

Jane and I had decided to start the race together, and I was using my new Garmin to help me maintain my pace and not head out too fast, which has been my habit the past couple of races.  The plan was run 6, walk 1 and stick to about 11:30 pace while running.  The first mile was great, good pace, feeling loose.  We passed right by my friend Tony's house, but I wasn't paying attention and forgot to look for him.  We were on a street heading East, with a little breeze at our backs.  After about a 1/2 mile we turned North and lost all the shade, and the breeze.  I'm guessing by now the temp was somewhere in the mid-80's.  We stuck to our intervals and kept right on trucking, going strong.

Mile 2:  Got some water at the first stop, still feeling pretty good.  I was carrying a water bottle with me, but it was already turning into warm water.  Maybe slowing down a little, but the Garmin sort of yells at you when you go outside the pace-range you've defined for your workout, so I was able to dig a little deeper and keep up.  Here's a picture one of the volunteers took around this point:[Side note:  Notice my shirt: it's a promotional shirt for the We Care Twin Cities half Marathon event.  This is the first location 1/2 marathon in our community, being organized by the Lake Run Club for the last weekend of September.  I'll be running the 10K event and volunteering for the 5K, hoping to help with the organizing in some way over the next couple of months.]

Mile 3:  The half-way point.  This is where I started flagging.  Seriously, I know I'm harping on this, but it was HOT out there and it was really draining me.  I started ignoring the Garmin's prompts to "Speed up!" and taking longer walking breaks.  At this point I switched to Gatorade at the water-stops and the main purpose of the water-bottle in my hand became to pour liquid on my head rather than into my mouth.

Mile 4:  Still, by the way, searching for the SHADY part of this route!!  See that picture up there?  See any shade in that picture???  Nope, none.  Straight up North, no shade.  The breeze was nowhere to be found, blocked by buildings and houses.  I could tell I was starting to hold Jane back and told her to please feel free to go ahead without me.  I was almost able to keep up with her but just... not... quite.

Pretending I'm not dying.
Finally, with about a mile and a half to go, we turn West and THERE!  Oh thank heavens, praise all the gods that are or ever were, there's a BREEZE!!!  Still no shade, but that breeze was like jumping into a pool.  (At this point I'm completely soaked, stem to stern, and let's just assume it was from pouring all that water over my head, so that breeze really cooled me off more than it should have.)  Here's another picture from somewhere in the Mile 3-4 time frame:

Shortly after that turn into the breeze, the route headed North again.  have I mentioned how this whole route is on a slight incline?  The elevation increases slowly but steadily pretty much the entire time you're travelling North.  And of course, the temperature is rising as well, this year...

Walking as much as running now, I trudged along up this short strip of Constitution Trail and hit the 4-mile marker in the shade.  There was someone there with a camera, but I haven't been able to locate any photos of me.  Must have dodged the lens!  At this point I'm seeing people actually running BACK to the starting line... they've completed the race, recovered a bit, and they're headed home!  How do they DO that??  But it was refreshing to know I had less than a mile to go:  even if I walk most of the way, I'm done inside of 15 minutes.  I still had a slim hope of at least beating my time from 2010, but I no longer really cared.  I wanted to know I finished again.

That last mile was, at least, mostly in the shade (a blessing as it was near 90 degrees, maybe more by now.  All I know for sure is when I arrived at home and checked, it was 98.)  I took one last walking break with about a quarter of a mile to go, just as I crossed the street and entered the Corn Crib parking lot.  Lots of folks were out along the route now, seated in lawn chairs even with the sun beating down on them, cheering on all the runners and shouting encouragement.  I took a deep breath, said "F**kit" under my breath, and got my legs moving again for the last push.  Made it across the finish line and managed not to collapse until I was out of the chute.  Jane found me, she was with her husband and son - he had a GREAT first race experience and it was fun to hear him tell how it went (while I attempted to regain consciousness).  After a while, I made my way to the snacks and Gatorade, found my husband and cooled off in the ballpark's breezeway.

Ultimately, it was a good race and I'm proud of how well I did under the circumstances.

Official Park 2 Park finishing times:

2009 (cool and rainy):  1:09:3.4
2010 (warm and dehydrated):  1:13:0.2
2012 (freakin' HOT):  1:10:47.7 - 2 minutes shaved off of last time, and less than two minutes behind 2009.

As tough as it was, this race went pretty well and I'm pleased with my time overall.  As usual, not as well as I had hoped, but well enough.  I beat the cruiser anyway!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A new running partner and a very tough run

Still updating from my little hiatus:

The Saturday after our last TNAM meetup, I met my new friend Jane for a morning run.  She lives right in my neighborhood and we've been in both Catch the Wave and Heat Wave groups together.  We hit the Trail with a plan of running 6-minute intervals, walking 1-2 minutes, and running another 6.  We jog/ walked about 4 miles that morning, but I was chattering away like a silly girl half the time, and we ended up walking quite a bit more than planned.  It was great to have a chance to get to know each other better.  I really enjoyed having a one-on-one partner to run with - quite a change from my normal solo runs.  It's funny, even with the groups, because I bring the dog with me, I'm often running a bit behind or ahead of others to make sure Coty stays out of the way of the other runners.  It was a great run, and I'm looking forward to doing it again some time soon.  

Free image courtest of

The Monday following, we met again for our weekly Heat Wave group.  I know I've mentioned the radical heat wave we've actually been experiencing here, and this day was pretty extreme.  The high had been 103. At 5:30pm, I parked the car at the park where we meet up, and just before I got out, the radio announcer said the current temp was 98.  He was about to advise the Heat Index (how hot it "feels") but I decided I just really didn't want to know!!  I wanted to get out there with my girls and get going before I changed my mind!

Free image courtesy of

I had a really tough run that night.  Even Coty seemed to be struggling a little (not running ahead much, keeping pretty close, etc.) but MAN, I was really BEAT!  I did have a water bottle with me, but couldn't keep up with the planned intervals (just a 4-5 minute interval).  Looking back, I realized I hadn't had enough water during the day at work, and had maybe not eaten enough at lunch either.  The heat was really brutal and I was struggling, big time.  Jane stayed back with me for about half the time, but I could tell I was slowing her down and told her to feel free to go on ahead.  The group leader caught up with me at the turn-around point and stuck with me till we got back to the park.  That was seriously one of the toughest runs of my life... and it was only 2 miles!!  Took me about a 1/2 hour to do that much.  Really, REALLY tough night.  

I learned my lesson, though, from that night's bad run.  Wednesday would be July 4, and I was registered for the Park 2 Park 5-mile race here in town, and the temperatures were NOT going to let up before the race.  I spent all day at work Tuesday drinking water, water, and MORE WATER!  Tuesday night, since we both had the next few days off of work, Jason and I headed to our favorite local bar for dinner.  I had two beers and 3 gigantic glasses of ice water, and a cheeseburger.  Headed home to bed early and set the alarm for 5:45am.  Jane was picking me up to drive to the race together.

 More on that tomorrow, with a P2P race recap, and my official time for my 3rd try at this unpredictable race.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

TNAM 2012!

Two years ago I completed my first "marathon" with an official finishing time of 6 hours, 10 minutes, 21 seconds.  This was after completing the Lake Run Club's Thursday Night Accumulative Marathon.

The program works like this:  for the meager sum of $13, you get to run with a group each Thursday at Lake Bloomington.  The group runs the same route as the Lake Run, 4.37 miles - which is an accurate 1/6 of a marathon.  Over the course of 8 weeks, you run at least 6 times and a lovely gentleman by the name of Kirby records and tracks the time you submit for each run.  (Honor system here.)  There are NO PERKS in the program:  no water stops, no snacks afterward, no music, no organized start / finish line, no well-defined start time even.  Just get your ass out there (with your bottle of water and hopefully your dog) and run your ass off!  No matter how many times you do the route, Kirby counts your 6 best times and accumulates them toward your Marathon finishing time.

(I hope you're laughing at this point, because I've completed this program TWICE, mainly because it cracks me up!  It's a group running program with a great sense of humor.)

At the final TNAM group run, you get your fresh, new running shirt (this is maybe the best part... the shirt has the TNAM logo, and the following slogan:  "I did it, but I took my time; 26.2 miles, 8 weeks"), fancy door prizes (translate:  little trinkets from the Dollar Store), water and some snacks, and your Official TNAM Certificate of Achievement!

Free image courtesy of

This year's final Thursday night run was two days into our ridiculous, freak heat wave toward the end of June.  It was 103 degrees at 6:30pm when Coty and I arrived, and I didn't even bother to put my running pants on... I had already completed 7 of the required 6 routes, so we were going to do some walking, and not the full 4.37 miles, either, in that heat!  I got there and visited with Kirby and some others from the group (several people recuperating after actually running the route - brave souls), then walked around the lake homes and wandered around a bit.

I knew it was time to go when Coty decided to jump into the lake.  Apparently she has determined she is not only a hunter, she's a fisherman as well.  She heard a catfish or something, and dived in!  We were both melting.  So I gathered my shirt and my Fabulous Door Prize and my Certificate.  My official finishing time for 2012 TNAM (my SECOND "marathon") was 5 hours, 47 minutes, 37 seconds.

Well, look at that!  I cut 23 minutes off of my "marathon" time!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Too hot to think!

During the past 10-12 days it's been miserably hot - we had a crazy heat wave that really sapped my ability to function properly.  I kept thinking to myself, I need to sit down, spend some time thinking about this process, and write a blog post.  But I really haven't felt like it was within my power to draft a complete sentence without assistance, let alone a coherent post worth reading.  Now that the weather has eased up, I feel like I can THINK again.  I feel like I can MOVE again.  In short, I feel like I can WRITE again.

Over the next few days, I'll post some updates to bring you up to speed.  It's been a pretty active couple of weeks overall:

  • Final TNAM group run (sort of) and official time for TNAM
  • A terrific Saturday morning run with a new running partner!
  • Training in 103 degree heat / humidity
  • A 5-mile race on the 4th of July, again with heat index over 100 degrees
  • I had 5 days off, and logged 11 miles during that long weekend!
  • How I managed NOT to gain weight (for once) during my mini-vacation (reference all that exercise, above)
  • A kitchen update?  Yes, that's right... a kitchen update!

There WILL be pictures.