Friday, July 19, 2013

Long-Overdue Update

I've been a bad blogger lately. 
But I have some really terrific things that have been taking up my time! - Here are the highlights:

1) On June 30, we added a new member to the family!  This is Louie, a pitbull / boxer / whoknowswhat mix we rescued.  He's about 18 months old, but seems to be new to everything - walking on a leash, basic commands, NOT jumping on people... we have a lot of work ahead of us to get him up to speed.  He's really sweet, loves to cuddle, and enjoys killing any squeaky toy that crosses his path.  (Quite the "strong chewer" this one!)

Handling this bug guy has required some minor lifestyle changes:  I'm getting up early every day to take him and Coty on a morning walk.  Just a short one, but if I can get him up to speed (no pun intended) and learning to run, this could mean I start having some morning runs!  All these years and I never thought anything would convince me to start running early in the morning, but there you have it.  Sometimes you just have to find the right motivator.

Since Louie is new to even the most basic commands, we're spending time every day working with him on learning to sit, stay, lie down, etc.  "COME" is going to be a big one - this guy is a runner, if you drop that leash he just takes off wherever, and does NOT come back.  (Once you catch up with him, he's perfectly happy to come with you though.)

2) I've done a fair amount of work-related travel recently - some overnight, mostly just long drives, which make for long days. Work continues to be very challenging and very rewarding. I love my job, and I'm really glad to be back to doing the work I was meant to do.

I've kept the drives interesting by stopping every now and then for an impromptu photo shoot when I see something cool on the side of the road.

If this interests you at all, there are more pics on my personal Facebook page, here.

3)  I've continued with my physical therapy - in fact, today is my last day, and I'm really sad about it!  Is that weird?  Seems like I should be glad I've been pronounced healthy and essentially injury-free, and cleared to continue training for my two fast-approaching half-marathons.  I do have some ongoing issues with my calves and my low back, but they've given me all the tools I need to continue working on them at home. 

Maybe I'm just really selfish:  I go in there once or twice a week, they warm up with me and listen to my runner problems and ask how I'm doing, then massage all my aches, and give me homework to do - I have my own personal team!  My PT is a runner - is in fact a member of my local running group - and I feel like I've had a "coach" for "my sport" - for the first time in my life!  I'm really going to miss them.

They had me do some running on the treadmill a few weeks ago on video and did some analysis of my stride and cadence.  I got some really good feedback - my stride is solid, not too much heel-strike, though I have some homework to do on that as well, but the main thing I need to work on is my cadence.  I plan to go back in a couple of months to video again and see if there's been improvement.

4) Speaking of my upcoming half-marathons:  my long runs quickly got to be VERY long!  I've had two 24-mile weekends in a row!  4th of July weekend I ran my 5-mile race (more on that to come), plus took the dogs on some SERIOUSLY long walks and an 8-mile training run ... 23.65 miles over 4 days!  Last weekend I had a 9-mile training run on tap (plus a 1-mile dog walk and a 0.5-mile warm up & cool down) on Saturday, then Sunday a 4-mile pack walk with Jason and the dogs, plus over 8 miles on the bikes... 23.32 miles for the weekend.

I'm looking forward to a new challenge this weekend:  a 10-mile training run.  This will be my longest-ever run.  And on orders from my PT - I will be doing lots of pre-run dynamic stretching, post-run stretching and foam rolling.  I'm gonna need it.  But I know I can do it.

5) And speaking of all that mileage:  I owe you a June progress update, which I will work on later today.  Spoiler Alert:  I did not hit my 500-mile goal in June. 

That's because I will hit my 500-mile goal this week!!  I'm so excited about it I can't wait:  Total mileage by my count is at 496.65 right now, so I'm less than 4 miles from goal! 

Well that's all I have time for right now.  I hope to post a June Stats Update and a Park2Park Race Recap by the end of the weekend, and will definitely post an update on that 500-mile milestone soon. 

I'll close with my most favorite picture from this past weekend:  Jason and the dogs, half-way through a 4-mile walk.  In their defense, it WAS pretty darn hot out.

Have a great weekend, all.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Race Recap: 2013 Run River City Marathon Relay

OK I swear I started writing this post about a month ago, but craziness kept interrupting!  Here is how I started it off... 

So this is LONG overdue, and my memory is fading, but I still want to share what I can about the incredible experience that was Run River City.  This is Peoria's VERY FIRST marathon event, and I was really proud to be a part of it!  I ran the fourth leg of the relay:  the last 7.5 miles.  But I'm getting ahead of myself. 

It turns out, the hardest part of running a marathon relay isn't the running.  It's not even the WAITING for your turn to run, which a number of people (collectively referred to as "They") warned me about.  It's not getting up at 4am to drive an hour in order to meet your team members. Not even the part where you need to get creative and figure out something like a "team uniform" for four relative strangers to wear so that you can recognize your fellow teammates when they're heading down the final stretch to hand off that baton. 

Nope.  It's getting four people to agree to run a race together.  And KEEPING those four (or getting replacements) so that on race day, you still have a team to race with!

This whole thing started with me and Liz.
I've known Liz since college, circa 1996; we had ECON 101 together and we were both obsessed with Ani DiFranco.  I was wearing one of her concert tees (likely a version of this one), and, as if we shared a secred code-word society, Liz said, "Nice shirt."  The rest, as they say... is way to complicated to get into.  Suffice to say we were fast friends and fell in love, they way girls do, and I hope that never changes.

Liz and I cooked up this idea of running the relay, mostly because the Run River City event didn't offer a 10k, and a 15k seemed more than either of us was prepared to take on.  We christened ourselves "TEAM FOLKIN' YOU UP" - a reference to how we met.  (Ani created her own record label, Righeous Babe Records (RBR), whose one-time slogan was "Folking You Up Since 1990.")  So I roped a couple of running friends into running with us.  One dropped out but we found another.  Then the other dropped out and found her own replacement.  Then that replacement dropped out and two days before the event, we found it was just me and Liz again!  Oh, the DRAMA!  I put out an emergency call on the Lake Run Club Facebook page and two people VERY GRACIOUSLY agreed to join in the fun. 

Our team was set:  Liz, Ray, Anne, and myself.  I had met Ray once before, actually just a couple of weeks before - we had worked a finish line together - but had never met Anne.  I don't think Anne and Ray knew each other at all, and of course, being from Chicago, Liz didn't know either of them.  After some debate and uncertainty, that was the order in which we ran:  Liz, Ray, then Anne, with me coming in as "anchor". 
Liz came up with a general uniform for us to wear (bright yellow shirt!) and made us these awesome tutus and headpieces.  The tutus served so very many functions!
Sadly, the one thing the tutus couldn't do was help us to identify one another on the morning of the race - there was a very hectic and stressful time when Liz and I were together, and we knew that Ray and Anne were here, somewhere, but we couldn't locate them.  And Liz and I had all 4 tutus.  Eventually, we did find eachother and here's where our story begins:
Obligatory pre-race, near-dawn photo, HAD to take it in front of the Army of Port-a-Johns!

I think Ray got the best compliment while running in tutu: a woman shouted encouragement as he passed, and he overheard her a moment later telling another spectator: "Now it takes a REAL man to run in THAT!" He did look mighty spiffy..

I don't know about everyone else, but I found the tutu very useful in dealing with the baton.  I was wearing my normal fanny-pack to hold the normal race gear:  ShotBloks, gum, ChapStick, phone, iPod, etc, etc, etc.  On its own, there was no way I could fit the baton in there, but it turns out I could sort of wedge it in there and pull the tutu over it to hold it in place.  This was great because it was so terribly hot and humid, my hands were really sweaty and gripping that plastic tube was a pain!

So after all our preparation and all the emergency get-a-replacement-runner drills, the race was finally ON and the gun goes off:  Liz was up first.

I was easily entertained/infatuated/slightly obsessed with my tutu.  Also, I hadn't really had my coffee yet and we had over an hour to kill while Liz ran her leg.  So... THIS picture exists.

We were able to wait along the course at about the 2-mile marker - I took these as she passed us.  It's easy to find her:  just look for the tutu!

Then it was time to pass the baton:  Liz handing off to Ray.

From there, Liz, Anne and I walked to Ray's car (and just missed seeing him on the way - we could here people calling out to "that guy in the tutu!" darn, those things were GENIUS!  Thanks Liz!), and drove to the next exchange point.  Just enough time to use the facilities and get some water after we parked the car, and here comes Ray:  just look for the tutu!
Fun fact:  Ray had run a 10-mile TOUGH MUDDER race the DAY BEFORE this marathon relay!  The one where they ELECTROCUTE the participants!  How's that for commitment?  This guy is a BEAST!  And so generous of him to do this with us!  THANK YOU, RAY!

Ray passes the baton to Anne:

Once Ray got some water and hit the head, he, Liz and I got back in his car and drove to the final exchange point.  Again we had some time to kill.  (The race organizers provided really great directions between exchange points so it was really efficient.)  We parked at a Walgreens and I was disconcerted to realize I hadn't taken any photos of me in the lovely feather-boa headband that Liz had concocted for me!  This is the best I could do:
I was NOT winking!  The sun was in my eyes!  I swear!

My friends Heather and Chuck and their son were waiting for us at the third exchange point.  We got to visit with them for a good 20 minutes or more while we watched for Anne's approach.  Anne is fast, and this was the shortest leg - 5.75 miles - but it seemed like it was taking quite a while.  Probably because I was expecting it to go so quickly, and the anticipation of starting my leg was killing me!  "They" were right; that part is hard.  I kept yelling, "Where's my TUTU?!?  I wanna see that tutu come this way!"  (Look, I said from the outset that I am slightly obsessed with the tutu... You were warned.)  Evenually, she did - and made great time, too!  I told the team they could expect me in about 90 minutes, and headed out on my own.
I didn't get any pictures of the hand-off from Anne to me, because... well, I was running at the time.  
I won't go into great detail about the specifics of my leg, but here are the highlights.  It was really hot and humid.  I had run the Lake Run 12K just two weeks before (about the same distance) in two-mile intervals and hoped to do the same with this race, but it was not to be.  By the time I started running, it was after 10am and quite warm.  I was struggling to finish a half-mile at a time throughout.  Plus, Peoria is a hilly place.  None of the hills on this leg were terrible, but more elevation changes than out at the Lake, certainly. 
I knew early on that there was no way I was going to finish in my planned 90-minute timeframe.  I was walking too much.  (You may remember, this was my 4th race week in a row and equal to the longest race just 2 weeks before.  That's a LOT of racing for me and my body was pretty well worn out.  I'm never doing that again.  If I'm going to do all 4 of these races next year, I'm going to need more conditioning.)  Enough with the excuses - my speed was pretty decent, when I was running, and I was so excited to finally be doing my part, I just wanted to finish happy and strong and without injury or incident!
As planned, about the half-way point of my leg, I took a couple of ShotBloks and two waters from the nearest stop.  Those help so much!  I use the ones that don't have caffeine, just electrolytes and whatnot.  The "Performance" ones, not the "Energy" ones.
About 4 miles in, we took a turn onto this lovely paved trail.  Lots of shade, no wind.  This was one of those good news, bad news things... lots of shade!  but it's still hot and humid and now there's no wind.  I used the talk-to-text feature on my phone to send Jason a message:  "I am at Mile 23" (Sidenote: I love that my phone keeps all this stuff.  I can see now that I sent that message at exactly 11:00am.) Another mile, and my feet were KILLING me.  (This foot issue was what got me into the PT office; it was getting worse, but I didn't want to see a doctor until my spate of races was done.  Dumb, I know.)  Mile 5 or so, my hip was feeling stiff and beginning to feel sore. I was feeling pretty low.  I took my last ShotBlok and waited for the boost that was sure to follow.  
This is where the volunteers and organizers became AMAZING.  I can't tell you how great it was to hear people shouting "Go tutu!"  "You got this, ballerina" (Yes, that's right, I am a dainty ballerina, a fairy, even...  light as air, and that means I can run forever. Oh HEY, there's that guy who's dressed like a fairy!  Running the whole marathon in that outfit, now THAT takes some eggs... and he's passing me after 20 freaking miles - that is SO badass! wait, where was I, have I slowed down?)  Overhearing little girls asking their moms o the sidewalks... "Is she a princess?"  "Princesses can run too?"  (Oh, HELL yeah they can, little Padawan, yes we CAN.)  (Yup, that was a Star Wars reference.  I'm THAT geek.  I thought you knew this already?
There was one guy, not sure what he was doing, maybe adjusting orange cones or road blocks or something, but he was in a golf cart, and at one intersection, he noticed me and made a point to make eye contact and yell something.  (I have no idea what he said, and it probably doesn't matter, but whatever it was, I was really soaking it in.)  Five minutes later, I was walking and massaging my hip, trying not to limp on my stupid foot, when the golf cart passed me.  He got out to do whatever he was there to do, noticed me again, and again made a point of eye contact and cheering me on.  Maybe he was doing that all day, maybe I really looked like shit beat, maybe he made a point to do that with one runner at every stop, I don't know, but I found the energy to yell back at him and tell him how much I appreciated it.  Of course, I think all I could muster was a hearty "YOU are AWESOME!  Thanks!"  But sometimes, that's enough.  I started running again.
At 11:35am, I sent another talk-to-text message: "I am half-mile out" - this must have been just a few minutes before that next picture was taken.

Jason made the trip over the Peoria and met up with my team while I was running my leg.  He took these when I rounded the last turn and approached.  

That's me, that speck in the back there.  Just look for the tutu.  :-)

Getting closer... never mind that woman with the blue hair.  :-)

I don't mind telling you, I nearly burst into tears when I laid eyes on those bright yellow/green shirts and pink & black tutus!  And then again when I saw my dear hubby.  I wasn't feeling broken but I sure was beat.

 And here I am! 

 And off we go - the whole team runs the last quarter-mile ...

And crosses the finish line together!!

I will DEFINITELY run this race again!  Lots of fun and they did a great job organizing it.  Plenty of water stops, lots of GU and Shotbloks and candy on the course, and TONS and TONS of community support.  It was really great!! 

Signs I caught along the way:

Plus, this race had some SWEET BLING!  

Our results:  TEAM finished 90th out of 125, and I finished 65 of 73 women for the final leg.  As you can see, several minutes shy of my 90-minute goal.

Oh, and there IS one more thing the tutu is good for:
Drunk pics of my dog.  She HATES playing dress-up!  But I find it so VERY entertaining!