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The San Francisco Hot Chocolate 5k (Race Recap) January 16, 2014

it was a hot chocolate party

it was a hot chocolate party

Yesterday was the first official race I’d done since last June (See Jane Run). I was excited, I was nervous, I was happy. I started myself on the couch-to-5k program again a few weeks ago, and as of this week I’m up to Week four. I told myself I’d just go at whatever pace felt comfortable, and I just wanted to finish and celebrate being back in the (sort of) running world again.

I was a Hot Chocolate Ambassador for this one, meaning they sponsored my race registration (thanks Hot Choco folks!). I have to say, for someone living in the East Bay, this was one darned inconvenient race. First of all, there was no same-day packet pickup, so all race packets needed to be picked up at the San Francisco Presidio Sports Basement beforehand. All I can say is, it’s a good thing I am still not back to my job yet! I LOVE Sports Basement the store, and the Presidio is absolutely gorgeous, but MAN, it is not an easy place to get to. I was giving it directions from THREE separate GPS devices (two apps plus my car) and not ONE of them could locate the store correctly. Fail. I kept driving PAST it or OVER it on the freeway. So, that was a pain. Once inside the store, though, the place was teeming with Hot Chocolate volunteers and there were virtually no lines. I was able to present race information for a dozen people and get EVERYone’s goodie bag. BTW, the goodie bags were AWESOME.

pile o goodie bags!

pile o goodie bags!

The biggest item (aside from chocolate!) in the goodie bag was this fantastic fleece HOODIE complete with thumb holes. So great for a chilly January day. So much better than the (hardly ever used) stack of coupons and protein bars that come in most goodie bags…

The race folks also sent out a dozen emails warning us to NOT park in or near the race, and to take these shuttles, but there were no East Bay shuttles (cough: for next time, please) and BART trains did not start running until half an hour after the start of the race. So it was a real trick getting over twelve East Bay runners over to the park for start time.

It was emotional starting the night before, setting up my pre-race pile. I hadn’t done that in so long, and it is such a beloved ritual.

pre-race pile

pre-race pile

One of our Team in Training honorees, Justin, recently passed away. This was such a heartbreak for our team. Justin came out at the start (and end) of many of our race trainings and he was so inspiring and encouraging and… relentless. I was so so sad to hear about this loss of such a good young guy. His memorial service was yesterday also, so I made sure to wear our team shirt with his name on it, and this run was in his honor.

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I couldn’t sleep well all night. I kept waking up about every hour, worried about sleeping through my alarm. Four-thirty came soon enough and I got up, ate my traditional whole wheat English muffin + peanut butter, and then went to pick up Lily for our carpool. It felt so great to be picking her up in the pre-dawn hours again! So many times we did this during our triathlon training, and it made me feel all emotional and nostalgic.

We met up with Annie, Lisa and Mary for our carpool and then headed over to the city. My friend Caroline had posted a welcome sign (Happy Running, Susan & Friends!) on her garage door. Awww! We could see lots of people on the streets all headed to the park. One last stop at Starbucks for hot coffee and bathroom, and we were off! I was toting my big inflatable gold “5″ with me. (for my fifth year of running and 5th healthaversary!)

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The race itself was BIG. I had no idea how big it would be, but they announced something like 10,000 runners. Pretty awesome! I lined up in the last corral which was the one that allowed walking. There were LOTS of people there!

Corral E/Start line

Corral E/Start line

I had that nervous happy butterfly feeling when we inched toward the start line. Then the air horn went off, and we start shuffling off! It was one of the most crowded races I’ve been at – similar to Bay to Breakers – and the road we were on  was so narrow, we could not help going pretty slow. I hung with Lily, Mary and Lisa (her first race! Ever!) and we got nice and warmed up until the course spread out and then we did a little bit of slow-running intervals. There were a few loops so we got to pass the faster runners going the opposite way on a few occasions. That’s always inspiring and exciting.

Mary, Lisa & Lily at the start!

Mary, Lisa & Lily at the start!

This race had some rolling hills – some flats – going through Golden Gate park, which I LOVE. For the first three-four years I lived in San Francisco, I was always just a few blocks away from the park. I spent a lot of time in there, getting lost in the trees and paths. It felt like coming home.

We did alternating jogging and walking, whatever felt right. (mostly depended on up or down hills!) It felt like a push from my regular workouts, but also not painful. Julie and Anne met us right at the the finish line and urged us to push through the last bit. It felt good to do a little sprint but then I was panting! In a few minutes, Lisa and Mary came through. It was so exciting to see Lisa cross her first finish line!

Woo hooo! First finish line ever!

Woo hooo! First finish line ever!

Victory chocolate! We had little chocolate fondue cups with bananas (ergh) and other stuff to dip in. Marshmallows, mmmm.

hot chocolate fondue, mmm

hot chocolate fondue, mmm

We took a bunch of photos, met up with the whole group.

 

It's @sarahlou1976!

It’s @sarahlou1976!

Team Weight Watchers!

Team Weight Watchers!

George, who had been my first mentee when I was a mentor for Team in Training, is now a traithlon mentor himself, as well as training for his first 50-mile ultra marathon race. BEAST, George! So happy to see him again.

Triathlon Team reunited!

Triathlon Team reunited!

All in all, I was really happy to return with this sweet not-so-little race. I was really glad to be surrounded by friends. After all that happened in the latter part of 2013, this felt like a great way to start the year. Yay for chocolate and running!

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Race Recap: My 3rd See Jane Run 5k! June 12, 2013

Yes, I was pretty cranky going into this race. I had originally registered to do the half marathon. I was feeling injured and tired of being injured. It was promising to be a really hot day. All of this was hard to shake in the week coming up to the race.  But a few days before, my fabulous co-worker/buddy Stacey texted me about the race packet pickup and expo. If there’s one thing I love, it’s race packet pickup. I don’t know why. I love the excitement and anticipation building. I love the expo and all the cool stuff that is being given away or sold. I kind of love it all.

It always helps to share these experiences with other people. Race packet pickup, especially with someone who has never done a race before, can be pretty darned fun. This was no exception. It was by far the smallest race expo I have ever been to (yes, the smallest. It was in a tent!) but it was also one of the best. It had a large percentage of chocolate booths including this one by OCHO (stands for Organic Chocolate and NO they are not a sponsor of mine but I’d love them to be- oh my goodness the deliciousness!).

yes please OCHO Organic Chocolate!

yes please OCHO Organic Chocolate!

The official race shirts this year were lime green and pretty sweet. I love the V-neck. But I also got to pick up a bonus See Jane Run SuperJane Ambassador shirt as well and that was nice tooooo. AND… a bunch of my terrific Weight Watchers Wednesday night meeting members had organized to get a special T-shirt made with all our names on the back. Island Girls! (because our meeting and the race is on an island! Alameda!) By that night I was in a total quandary about what to wear to the race. The tech shirt was the most comfortable and fit the best, but the SuperJane one was an honor and very special, AND the Island Girls one was, well…. EXTRA special.

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choices, choices….

My other running buddy Sofia texted me the night before to ask if I wanted to carpool to the race in the morning. You know what? It’s ALWAYS a good idea to carpool. Because it is so nice to arrive with someone, to share the buzz and specialness about getting up early to do this thing. It’s fun to drive around in circles for an hour looking for a parking space  arrive to the race venue, watching other people walking that you know are also going to your same race.

Our meeting spot was the Extremely Conveniently Located home of one of my WW members who lives across the street from the park where the Start Line was. Everyone was wearing their pink Island Girls shirts, so I knew I had made the right choice.

Wednesday night WWers ROCK.

Wednesday night WWers ROCK.

Being with this group of women made me feel so happy. These are my peeps! The tropical looking gal in the grass skirt is Tammy, my meeting room receptionist and all around fabulous pal. She is the best staff person a WW leader could ever ask for. The BEST. She signed up at the last minute and it was so awesome to have her there with us. All of the people in this picture have lost between 25-100+ lbs and transformed their lives and health. They all lift me up, motivate and inspire me. For most of them, it was their very first organized race.

When everyone arrived we walked over to the park where they were doing warmups and the Half Marathoners were getting ready to start. At this point I was just feeling absolute relief that I was not going to be attempting any 13.1 mile run. Just YES this was the right decision. I was not hurting but I knew that 5k was going to be juuuuuuust right. Right before they took off, I spotted Stacey who was looking so ready and excited. Her first race, and it was a half marathon! Go girl. So proud of her!

Then I saw on Twitter that my pal Pubsgal was volunteering at the registration table. Poor gal had injured herself the night before but she still showed up to help out at the race (YAY). We got to hug and celebrate our 4 year meetaversary! (4 yrs ago at this very race)

Meetaversary!

Meetaversary!

Then the 5k crowd got ready to start. They had some nice signs up so it would start in waves (never did this in such a small race, other than triathlon swims, and it was LOVELY and smooth and… so smart). I put myself in the 12-15 mile group which I was expecting. My plan was that I would do what felt the most comfortable, whether that meant walking, walk-run intervals, or running. I thought I’d start out running slow and see how it felt. As it turned out, it felt just fine. This race is so sweet and relaxed and supportive. I just ran at my own nice pace. I wasn’t pushing and I wasn’t really totally taking it easy. It was perfect. It was hot though, so even at mile 1 I was glad to see that hydration station. I took a cup of each. The Gatorade was like 200% concentration though and undrinkable. Toss!

I don’t know. It seemed to go by really fast. It was totally flat (my favorite) and along the waterfront (beautiful) and it just felt friendly and great. One of the huuuuge unexpected highlights of the race was when someone came running up beside me and called out, “Is that Foodie McBody?!” I was like, “Um, yes…” It was a blog reader! Recognizing me!! (hiya Lynette!!!) She said she recognized the BACK OF MY HEAD from my blog. Whaaat? That completely blew me away and also made me laugh. What a fun moment. I also got TOTALLY excited when I saw someone wearing a bright green Fitbloggin‘ shirt. (which is coming up in a couple of weeks! YEEEEHHHHHAH!)

It’s an out-and-back course, so I got to pass most everyone I knew going the opposite direction either in front or in back. I just ran at my own pace. I was feeling pretty relaxed.

Then before I knew it I was near the finish and I heard my name – Sofia! who had finished before me. There’s nothing like hearing your name being called in the finish chute. It was so motivating for me. I pumped it up and sprinted through the end. (then of course had to walk around in circles a bit so I didn’t keel over) It was HOT. I had a cute little medal (THANK YOU SEE JANE RUN for giving bling to 5kers! It means the world especially to first timers!)

Feelin pretty darn good

Then I got to cheer all the others coming in. I was screaming with excitement and feeling so proud of each and every one of them.

Two bionic knees and she crossed in hula style!

Two bionic knees and she crossed in hula style!

One of the best things about a SJR race is that they are so fantastically supportive AND they give you champagne and chocolate at the end. Sofia and I had a little photo op with the See’s Candy lady. Love that outfit. Can I work there? I want a bow tie like that.

"Great Race, Now Go Eat Chocolate!"

“Great Race, Now Go Eat Chocolate!”

I did a costume change into my See Jane Run Ambassador shirt, and met up with fellow SJR SuperJane and race buddy Christine. I love seeing her at races!

SUPERJANE Ambassadors! Yeah!

SUPERJANE Ambassadors! Yeah!

I thought it was going to take my coworker buddy Stacey around two and a half hours to finish the half. She told me she ran “slow.” But then I got a text from her at the two-hour mark and she was already in line getting her champagne! Speedy bunny! (sub-2 hour half/ What?!?!)

Her first race, her first half marathon! ROCKSTAR.

Her first race, her first half marathon! ROCKSTAR.

All in all, this race which I had been semi-dreading and kind of glum about, turned out to be one of the very best races ever. It reminded me that it’s not about distance or time.  It’s about community, and encouraging others, about being inspired and having fun.

Rockin' those medals - FINISHERS!

Rockin’ those medals – FINISHERS!

After I checked my results, I was astounded to find that I had come within ONE SECOND of my PR for the 5k. Given all of my nontraining and injured state, that was pretty encouraging. Now I’m really excited about doing the See Jane Tri in October. My goal is to do the same – to have fun, to be active, to be part of an encouraging and supportive community. I’m soooo glad I did this race and so happy to be a Jane.

 

Running and Candlelight for Boston April 20, 2013

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So, the exhale after such a tough, painful, exhausting and wrenching week. I started this post yesterday but it feels so much different writing it now, today. Of course there is still ongoing grief and healing ahead, but still. Whew.

On Thursday, I attended a run and candlelight vigil for Boston, the Boston Marathon bombing victims, the runners and spectators, the whole community, well all of us. It was co-organized by See Jane Run and the Oakland Running Festival, two organizations that I love and feel so connected to. I have run two See Jane Run 5k races here and here, and am registered to run in their half marathon in June (and hopefully the See Jane Tri in September also!).  I have also participated in the Oakland Running Festival three times: the marathon relay, the 5k and the half marathon. They are like my “home” races and I feel such affection for them.

It was fitting that the 3-mile run start at the See Jane Run store and finish at Snow Park, where the Oakland Running Festival began and end. I was not so sure that I’d be running any or much of it. Until the day before, my hip had been really, really bothering me, ever since the Oakland half. I tried to get a physical therapy appointment but there was nothing available until the end of May. I was sort of resigned to the fact that I’d be walking, or maybe jogging super-slow.

I took an Ibuprofen before I left the house. By the time I got to the start of the event, I was actually feeling pretty good; ie., pain-free. Shock. There were hundreds of people milling about in front of the store. Most people were wearing blue and yellow, the Boston Marathon colors.

photo credit: Christine Wong

photo credit: Christine Wong

I actually arrived there about one minute before the run began. Before I could get my bearings, people took off. At first we had been told that we would be running on sidewalks only, but there were so many of us, it turns out we got to run down College Avenue for quite a ways, and there was a police car escort complete with flashing lights. I was running with my buddy/coworker/boss Stacey, and I realized I would have to keep up a slow running pace if I was going to stay ahead of the police car. I didn’t want to get swept for the first time in my life! If we were going to stay in the middle of the street (as opposed to on the sidewalk) we were going to have to run. I figured I would go as long as I was able, then I’d slow down, walk, or hit the sidewalk.

the last runners ahead of the sweep car :-)

the last runners ahead of the sweep car :-)

And here’s the thing. That moment never happened. When we turned from College Avenue onto Broadway, everyone pretty much got on the sidewalk. The police car stayed nearby and actually blocked all the intersections so we could cross them.  Stacey kept asking me how I was doing. I was sort of amazed that I was doing just fine. My hip wasn’t hurting! And suddenly I thought, maybe this was just the therapy I needed: RUNNING. Because walking has been none too comfortable in the past couple of weeks.  It was fun running with another physical therapist as we discussed the possibilities of having tendinitis vs trochanteric bursitis or whatever. But the best part was that it was NOT acting up during this run!

I actually hadn’t anticipated running much, or at all. I was wearing a big clunky backpack thing that I had loaded up with my wallet, jacket, a bunch of Runners United to Remember race bib printouts, some packaging tape and safety pins and a pair of scissors. This would have been fine to amble along in, but running.. not so much. Hah. Awkward.

me and my little boss

me and my little boss

Three miles felt just right. We got to Snow Park just as it was getting dark. There weren’t enough candles to go around (how awesome that there were way more people than had been anticipated), but a woman near us was handing out little blue clip lights, and she gave us each one. (thank you nice person!) It was really nice that the neighborhood Trader Joe’s for donating bottles of water. Much needed.

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A minister from First Presbyterian Church of Oakland stood on a bench and spoke some comforting and inspiring words. It was so moving. She led an interfaith prayer, my favorite kind. As we were dispersing, I saw another little knot of people gathered around someone who was leading a cheer for Boston. Turns out it was my coach Al from Team in Training. It was so good to see him and give him a team hug.

After the run, we carpooled back to the starting point. Convenient that See Jane Run is located just steps away from Zachary’s pizza. :-) I hadn’t had Zachary’s stuffed spinach and mushroom pizza in like… years. There were lots of other runners in there (great minds, etc).  There were a few of the Boston Marathon runners in there (who, unlike us, had run round trip six miles!). We were going to buy them a pitcher of beer but, being marathon runners, all they were drinking was water. ;-)

All in all, it was a really uplifting and moving event. I was happy to be part of it. I wonder if the positive nature of it had something to do with the miraculous healing of my hip. One never knows!

Later , exciting to see that we were on the news! (see us running at the very back o the pack, 1:43 mark – you can see my crazy bouncing backpack!)

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Thanks again to See Jane Run and Oakland Running Festival for putting together such a meaningful and uplifting community event. We needed it.

 

Race Recap: 2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon January 22, 2013

IMG_0308I know that I’m wayyy behind on my blogging. I still want to post about my New Year’s Day 10k race, and my 4th Healthaversary. But while things are still fresh in my head I want to do my race recap for my 3rd half marathon and 2nd Tinker Bell race.

This race was really a do-over for Junior and me. Last year, she and I and Juniorette came down to Disneyland for the Inaugural Tinkerbell race, but she got really sick and in the end, only Juniorette and I got to run the race. So I promised her we’d come back and do it together this year.

The nice thing about doing the same race multiple times, is that you learn things the first time that either work or don’t. We learned that we most definitely wanted to repeat staying at the hotel which is basically a few hundred feet away from the Start AND the Finish lines. That works. Yay!

We got to town in plenty of time to go to the Expo. That was a great thing, because last year I got in late and didn’t get to go. I kind of love race expos.

I got to meet the awesome Jeff Galloway and buy his book. He’s so encouraging and inspiring. I figured I’d better read it, since I’m already more than halfway to 100 years old. ;-)

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IMG_0225We looked around at tons of sparkly skirts and wings and stuff, but nothing really grabbed us as THE perfect outfit for Tinkerbell. So in the end we decided we liked the official race shirt enough to make that our race outfit. After the Expo we went to downtown Disney to find something for dinner. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to eat. The classic “carb loading” pasta dinner didn’t feel really like what I wanted. So we ended up with tilapia, Brussells sprouts (with bacon!) and a soft egg.  It was insanely yummy but not too filling.

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Then we found a few carbs for dessert :-)

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We set our alarms for 3:30am. (o boy!) Amazingly, we were able to fall asleep pretty quickly – before 10:00pm anyway -and the wakeup call came early enough. It was not really all that painful to wake up and get dressed. We were pretty excited.

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I had brought a ton of warm clothes to wear to the start line, but in the end we just decided to go with our race shirts. We went downstairs and right in front of the hotel, there was the start line. PERFECT LOCATION.

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I gave Junior a hug and she took off for Corral B (the fast people) and I headed back to E. (the END!) It wasn’t quite as cold as I remembered last year being, or nearly as cold as the New Year’s day 10k.

Back in the End, we could see the fireworks going off. That was exciting. But then we waited. And waited. We could sense the D, C and B groups taking off. FINALLY it was our turn – probably after 5:30am. We’d been out there for almost an hour.

First, we wound through Disney California and Disneyland Parks. It was pretty cool. The “Mickey Wheel” and the water-light show was all lit up and beautiful.

IMG_0270One of the things I loved about going through the parks was seeing all the Disney employees out there cheering us on. They were awesome, and so encouraging and enthusiastic. Big Mickey hands everywhere!

IMG_0323I’d say that the first five miles went pretty well. I didn’t feel super springy and awesome, but I didn’t feel bad either. It just felt pretty easy and relaxed. It was exciting to be going through Disneyland and seeing all the sights. I didn’t stand in any lines to get photos with any of the characters. I got pretty excited when I saw Mary Poppins though.

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Running through Sleeping Beauty’s Castle as the sun was coming up, and past the holiday lights of It’s a Small World were pretty great.

So. Around Mile 7, the front of my left ankle (tibialis anterior tendon, which has plagued me in the past) started hurting. And my stomach was feeling kind of bad. In fact, I was hungry. SUPER hungry. I had had some oatmeal at 4:30am, but that felt like an eon ago. I suddenly got it in my head, I have almost halfway to go. In other words, I have to do what I JUST DID. It seemed kind of impossible. I was feeling a little down. I pulled out my Mickey Mouse pretzels (saltzed pretzels is one of my “must haves” during a race, and I forgot to bring my own from home this time).

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I ate some of them, but I think they had been in the hotel gift shop for a long time. They weren’t stellar. I was still hungry. Or something. I remembered that my buddies Ayala and Becky, from my TNT Triathlon Team, were running too. I wondered if they were anywhere near me. I pulled out my phone and texted Ayala. Where are u? I am between mile 7-8.

I really needed something at that moment. I was feeling pretty bleak. Not HOPELESS, but not awesome. I think my actual physical discomfort was in the 3-out-of-10 range, but my mental distress was about at an 8. I was freaking out a little bit inside. I was worried, what if it gets worse? How am I going to deal with 5-6 more miles of THIS? I was starting to unravel a little.

After the mile 8 marker, it was Gu time! Volunteers were handing out packets of Vanilla and Mocha. I really needed that blast of energy. I felt a little bit better.  Around mile 9, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Ayala! and Becky! I almost cried from joy. Ayala had been my buddy at the Wildflower Triathlon and she is truly one of the sweetest, most encouraging people I know. She kept me going during so many of the tough trainings last year.

We ran together for a while and by the time I was ready to take off again, I was feeling like a new person. I perked up and started paying more attention to the people around me. I saw this guy up ahead running in a suit. I wondered, is that for real? Why a suit? What kind of costume is that?? And then I caught up with him and… it was Walt Disney! Hahaha. Great.

"Cryogenics does wonders!" he said.

“Cryogenics does wonders!” he said.

A little bit further up, I saw a lovely trio. Peter Pan and Tinker Bell were taking turns pushing Captain Hook in a wheelchair. They all looked super chipper and glad to be together. I loved them. Captain Hook grinned and said, “Arr!” when I took their picture.

IMG_0319I had told Ayala and Becky that I wanted to take a picture together with them at the 10 mile mark, but when I got there suddenly I was feeling perkier than I had the whole race. I felt like I just couldn’t stop. I also knew that if I stopped or slowed down I might not be able to start up again.

Around this time I got a couple of worried text messages from Mr. McBody and Junior. He had been tracking my progress online. Apparently my 5k time was realllllly slow, and then for some reason my 10k marker didn’t show up. So like 2 hours had gone by and they’d heard nothing from me. (I heard all about this yesterday) I hadn’t heard their texting coming through my earbuds because I had decided to go the no-music route. (partly because the course was so entertaining I didn’t need it, and partly because I wanted to save my phone battery)

I sent them this picture as reassurance.

IMG_0282I remember a lot of the mile 10-13.1 from my other (two!) half marathons. During my first, the Las Vegas Half, I was pretty much dying at mile 11. I mean dying. I was in AWFUL pain and not sure I would make it. And at last year’s Tinkerbell, the last couple miles were the hardest.

This is the first half marathon where the last couple of miles felt the strongest and best. After I passed the ten mile mark, I knew I could do it. I relaxed. I stopped freaking out.

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After mile 12, I was definitely on a mission. I wanted to get as close to the 3 hour mark as I could. My last year’s time had been 3:16 and I just wanted to shave as much time off of that as possible. Normally, my run pace for long races (and even for short races) is what most people would call ambling along.

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But when I knew I just had a mile and a handful to go, I suddenly got determine. I started RUNNING.

game face!

game face!

Pretty soon the finish line was in sight (although – not happy! they moved it about 200 yards further from last year. Psych!). I saw Junior standing by the fence waving. And then I was through and I had my medal.

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I found Junior. She had finished over an hour ahead of me (2 hours 45 seconds, my little rockstar!) and had had a great race.

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Pretty soon I found Ayala and Becky. I was so happy to see them! They had really contributed to my big turning point near mile 9.

IMG_0309Junior and I decided to wait in the long line for the free massage tent. It turned out to be utterly and completely worth it!

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We were pretty pumped full of endorphins at that point, feeling good, and hungry.

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Junior was craving fajitas so we went to a Mexican restaurant in downtown Disney and enjoyed mass quantities of guacamole.

IMG_0313THEN it was time for a nice long nap.

IMG_0315We had bought all-day Park Hopper tickets, but in all honesty, there was no way we felt like hopping any parks. Happily, I was able to sell the tickets to a friend who is returning for the Disney Marathon in September. Whew.

So we went to the pool and soaked in the hot tub and lay in the SUN (wow! how awesome!).

IMG_0322All in all, it was a sweeeet race and a sweet weekend. I loved spending it with my girl. We had a great time and I was overall really pleased with how it went. Now I’m feeling pretty excited for the Oakland Half Marathon coming up in March, and…. looks like I will be doing the See Jane Run half with my dear Shannon in June!

 

Race Recap: The Muddy Buddy! October 2, 2012

I really worked hard for this bling.

One of the things I have loved the most in this past year has been bringing people along on their first official race. Mary joined me in her first 5k at See Jane Run; Sofia joined me in the Color Run (and went on to do her first half marathon and is now training for her first full marathon — WOOHOO!) and this past weekend, my friend Ericka threw her fears to the wind and joined me in the wackiest race of all – the Muddy Buddy. I don’t even remember how this happened; but I think it was via a Facebook post when I thought she was joking about joining me. Ericka has been my workout buddy with our beloved trainer DJ for several years now – we have sweated together plenty, but she has always declared herself “not a runner” and she was content to cheer me on from afar.  I actually have no idea what came over her, but I was so psyched!!

DJ really helped us get our butts in gear for this one.

Ericka and I have both had our health battles recently. We celebrated our 50th birthdays, and then I got diabetes and she was hit with Graves disease. Our combined age is 105 (!!!) which put us squarely in the “Women Masters” category for this race. I reminded her that we are in a tiny percentage of 50-year old women with chronic diseases who are participating in athletic events at this level.

I have done a few “fun runs” of 5ks recently, and they truly have been fun for me. But I knew this one was going to be tougher – including off road biking on a mountain bike, likely hills, and those crazy obstacles. If there’s one thing I don’t feel super confident about, it’s my upper arm strength. However, I told Ericka that our aim was to FINISH, and to finish was to win. I really believed that.

We are both writers, and we needed a team name. She came up with “Dirty Wordsters” (haha). I made us matching team shirts (thanks to watching my daughters make dozens of them for their crew team in the past 6 years) and she decorated the bike with dirty words like “filth” and “slime.” We so clever!

pencils on the move!

“dirty words” – hahaha

Mr. McBody and I picked up Ericka at 5:30am and we drove down to San Jose to this park. Lily’s husband, who grew up there, had already warned me it was “pretty hilly.” Since he was a varsity triathlete at Cal, this was something I took very seriously. Ack. HILLS. Not my favorite.

We got there, jumped around to warm up, visited the PortaPotty, and tried to relax. But I was hecka nervous. I heard the race announcer say that the first mile was “straight uphill.” NICE!

We were in the last wave to start, the “Women Masters.” (ie, the old ladies) I was relieved to see other women our age. It’s not often you go up to other women and ask, “How old are you?” but I did just that and when the other women said “53″ I jumped up and gave them high-fives. Yeah baby, we rock. I was feeling pretty fierce and ready.

Rawr!! Dirty Wordsters!

We moved on up and saw the other waves taking off. We saw some people walking their bikes right from the Start line. I kept saying, I’m gonna walk, I’m gonna walk, but then when I was at the Start and I saw everyone on their bikes, shame took hold of me and I was like, well, I’ll ride, until I can’t. I’m actually glad I did.

At the starting line: pretty nervous

The starting horn went off and I got on the bike. I was glad to make it up a few hundred yards before it just got TOO steep. At that point I’d say 90% of the participants were walking, pushing their bikes. Damn that bike was HEAVY. Pretty soon the “runners” were overtaking us (bike members went first, then runners). But they weren’t really running either. Like I said, it was hecka steep. And it went on. And on. I felt like I was eating dust, just heaving for every breath. It went on for a full mile. Just up. And up. And up. It felt pretty darn grim.

At the top of the hill was our first obstacle, and time for me to leave the bike in the “Bike Drop” for my buddy. Of course she had passed me by, walking! We climbed on this spiderwebby thing, up and over. I got a tad bit freaked at the very top, but managed it OK.

Then it was more rolling hills, run, bike, obstacle. Each of us had 3 bike parts and 3 running parts. I was jealous that her first bike was this gorgeous downhill section! But then I got to run that as well.

What can I say? It felt long. It felt really, really hot. We were out in open fields with NOTHING out there but for a dirt trail. But it was okay. There were lots of other people around us – ie, we weren’t being left in the dust – including what seemed to be many younger people (what???). We kept passing the same folks off and on.

The obstacles, which I had been nervous about, weren’t too bad at all. There was a mud tunnel, which I have to say we were very prepared for. We do a lot of low crawling and walking in our trainer workouts. The high things were not so bad. Until the very end (I’ll get to that).

The entire course took us about an hour and a half (OK, exactly an hour and a half)! Which had been my optimistic estimate. I’d looked at other race results and saw that many women our age were coming in between 1:30 and 2:00. So I was hoping for 1:30 at best, and well, whatever it took, as long as we finished.

For the final leg, Ericka was on bike and I was on foot. She had to wait for me for a while because we were supposed to do the final 3 obstacles, including the Mud Pit, together.

waiting on the road for her buddy

Eventually I showed up. We were both pretty tired, but stoked that it was almost over. The first obstacle was a some sort of giant ladder climbing thing. (I think) Not bad. The second one was a rope climb over this blue wooden wall. It didn’t LOOK that bad. I grabbed the rope. Then started to walk up. Hahahaha. The wall was covered in something very slippery — lard? butter? soap?? In any case, we tried and tried and after a few minutes just looked at each other and said, “Uh-uh.” We walked around it.

thwarted by the soapy, slippery wall! This picture makes me laugh and laugh.

Then it was time for the infamous MUD PIT. Ooooh boy!! I will say that the cold wet mud felt REALLY GOOD after all that dry dusty heat. We crawled under the flag ropes like a couple of mud puppies. Laughing.

Then we had a little female mud-wrestling moment.

Then clambered out. I don’t think I’ve ever truly understood the word “clamber” until then.

It helps to get a helping hand from one’s buddy.

Then we ran through the finish holding hands. Then we got our medals. We were PSYCHED!

I thought they were cups of water, and was very excited to find Oreos inside

Then it was shower (aka garden hose) time. Boy did we need that.

Ayeeeee!

To say that we were filthy was an understatement. But that was the point, right? It was darn hard. It was challenging. We really, really pushed. But in the end I am proud to say that we came in with 43 other teams behind us, most of them younger than we are. That made me feel really good. Not bad for 52 and 53, huh?

So many people asked me, “WHY on earth would you voluntarily sign up for something like that?” And looked even more incredulous when I answered, “Because I’d never done one.” Ha ha, I know, most people haven’t, and have no desire to. But for me, it’s about changing it up, finding new things to do to stay active and most importantly to have fun.

Special shout-out to Mr McBody, star medic, bike tech support and paparazzi. Love!

What’s the wackiest, craziest or most fun race you’ve ever done?

 

Race Recap: My first Duathlon! Mermaid Duathlon, Alameda June 9, 2012

they had such a cute photobooth there!

Well, it’s been quite a time for spontaneity around here. I had such a good time at See Jane Run last weekend that I was all excited to do See Jane Tri in the fall. But lo and behold, it’s the same weekend as Fitbloggin’ 2012. BIG conflict! No way I am missing Fitbloggin’ so I was all bummed out about that. Then Pubsgal told me about the Mermaid Tri/Du that was happening – in like 4 days. GULP.

I went through SO many mental contortions this week leading up to the race. First, I thought I’d like to do the duathlon (my first) because I just didn’t have time to get a practice swim in. It was in the Bay, and could be sort of choppy and salty, and who knows how that would go, especially given my not-stellar swim performance at Wildflower. So I was thinking, cool, I’ll just bike and swim.

I have never done a duathlon before. I think I was pretty unclear on the concept. The website had course descriptions for “Duathlon First Run” and “Duathlon Second Run.” I thought… we got to choose which one to do. Hahahahahha! But no. The first run is in place of the swim. Then you bike and run again. OOHHHHH.

I didn’t figure this out until Thursday night, when I proceeded to have some kind of weird tantrum meltdown. I didn’t wannnnt to run twice! Even if it was only 1.5 and 2.5 miles!  So then I started contemplating changing my registration to the tri. I went to race packet pickup on Friday afternoon and they told me I could change even at the Very Last Minute on Saturday morning. I decided to go over and check out the swim course. I saw a bunch of VERY gnarly looking waves and I decided right there, NO WAY.

I was very happy to get up this morning (at 5:00am) and know I was only going to bike and swim. Mr. McBody was feeling kind of low because of a recent bug he’d had, so I told him to stay home and rest. (famous last words) Last night I had packed my little gym bag with all my stuff, but then this morning I thought, I have a tri bag. Maybe I should bring my tri bag. (“But you’re not doing a tri, isn’t that overkill?”) and on and on. I transferred the stuff into the tri bag, put the bike in the car and took off.

I was about halfway to the course when some synapses smashed together and I remembered the little tiny manila envelope with my RACE CHIP in it. Which I did not remember putting into my tri bag. AGHH. I pulled over to the side of the road and frantically pawed through my bag. NO ENVELOPE. I called Mr McBody who was enjoying his rest, and started caterwauling about not having my race chip and that he HAD TO BRING IT TO ME RIGHT AWAY. My friend Christine happened to be working as a registration volunteer at Mermaid, so I also frantically called her and she said they would not give me a replacement chip, that it was coded to me, and I needed mine. So poor Mr McBody got in the car after locating the little envelope in the gym bag.

I was a bit of a basket case when I got to the course. The parking lot was filled up at that point, so I had to park several blocks away. This was ALSO one of the first local races I was doing all by myself with no support crew or person to drop me off. Of course at that point I was infinitely grateful that 1) I had a tri bag; and 2) I had practiced biking with it on at Wildflower. Yay! I very comfortably strapped it on and rode the few blocks to the transition area. I racked my bike and got my stuff all set up and then went to the intersection to wait for Mr. McBody. He got there about 15 minutes before the start and then went back home to rest for real.

This was a smallish race, so things were not one hundred percent clear. I wasn’t quite sure where the Du run was supposed to start, but I followed what looked like a semi crowd and got to the inflatable start thing. I was a little concerned that there was no timing mat underneath it. I still don’t quite get how that works. A bunch of women all crowded together under the thing on a very narrow path that fit about 4 across. I was in the “over 40″ start. Then they counted down and the air horn went off, and… there we went.

The first run was actually pretty pleasant. I was going at a nice pace and nothing hurt. It wasn’t bad at all. Sometimes I have a lot of pain in the first mile and I was worried that might be the case, but it was pretty comfortable. I got back to transition and got ready to get on the bike. I knew that my transition was going to be longer than some peoples’ because I was changing from running shoes to bike shoes. Now that I’m used to wearing clips, I’m pretty attached to them (no pun) and didn’t want to risk getting my dumb shoelaces caught, which has happened to me more times than I can count. So I sat on the ground and changed shoes. Changed headgear. Found my gloves. ARGH. They were inside out from the last time (Mt. Diablo?) and all knotted up and I probably wasted two minutes untangling them and getting them on my hands. (NOTE TO SELF!!!!!! Put the gloves right side out before the race!!!!!!!!!!!) I saw Christine cheering for me as I ran toward the bike mount area.

Got on the bike. The route was two loops of absolutely flat road. Which sounds lovely on one hand (it kind of was) but also, flat courses means no downhill and less chance to rest. (my butt) I remembered doing this EXACT course when I was training for the first tri, and it was really, really hard. I remember having the hardest time stopping, starting and turning. I got really tired. It was super hard. I may have almost cried. And I almost cried again this time because I could see how very far I’ve come in less than a year. That was pretty awesome.

The bike ride was good. I enjoyed it. AND I got to utter three words that I have NEVER ONCE SPOKEN during a bike race, ever: “On your left.” Yeah, I passed people! Sure, a ton of people (more than I can count) passed me, too, but people, I have NEVER passed a SINGLE PERSON on a bike. Ever. Until today. So imagine my shock and thrill when I realized I was going to actually do so, maybe a dozen times. It was exhilarating! Woo hoo!

I rode into transition and saw my buddy Lily with her sweetie and sweetie dog, jumping up and down and screaming my name. That was so awesome. Then I changed shoes and headgear AGAIN and went to do the second run. OMG. I had to pee so bad! SO BAD. I knew I wasn’t going to make it but a few hundred yards. Thank goodness for portapotties. But that was a minute or two. Then I got on the path and started running for real. OH the pain! I mean pain! My feet and calves were cramping up and just felt like they were saying “oh hell no you don’t!”

The 1.25 mile out before the turnaround were really, really uncomfortable. I was hobbling, walking, running like a penguin, just trying to find any kind of comfortable position. I just knew I had to run it out and let things loosen up. I stopped and stretched out my Achilles against a light pole. I took more walk breaks than I wanted to. But damn. Then I got to the turnaround and I was like, Come ON, just a mile more, you can DO this. I fiddled around with my iPhone and tried to find the most uplifting, motivating music I could find.  Found the song “Safe and Sound” that had been the soundtrack to the video I did with Big Blue Test last year. I think of this as my “Lily” music. I knew she would be at the finish line with Ed and Mosely.

It wasn’t until I was almost at the finish chute that I started feeling good, I mean without pain. I felt like I was going to be able to bring it in strong. So when I got to the last 100 yards I just poured it out. I finished under 2 hours, which seemed like a good thing. Better under than over, right?

Instead of a medal, they gave out cute little necklaces. I like! Very much!

adorable finishers’ necklace

So that was it, my first duathlon. I’d say it was pretty good! It was definitely a heck of a lot more challenging than last week’s 5k. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t killer. And it made me think about what people have said, that there are truly no “easy” races. The faster you get, the more challenging it is because then you’re wanting to place (I do not see this in my future). But no matter what, you’re always pushing yourself to do your own personal best. I put my best out there today, I had fun for the most part (except for a few unfun moments) and I was really glad I’d done it. Another first, done!

Have you had any recent firsts lately? Tell me all about it!

 

Race Recap: Wildflower Triathlon/Mountain Bike Course June 3, 2012

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30th anniversary bling

So my second triathlon is done. This experience was so very different than the first in so many ways. Starting with the training. When I did my first tri last fall, I was so religious about completing every single assigned workout, both the coached and OYO (on your own) ones. This time, not so much. Not so much at all. This season was plagued by illness, injury, travel, job changes, distractions from every direction. So about halfway through the season I decided to switch from the Maui Olympic Tri to the Wildflower Sprint (aka Mountain Bike).

I’d heard scary stories about Wildflower – mostly about its brutal hills and the sheer size of the event. The Marin Tri had about 500 people total, and Wildflower was something like 13,000. YIKES. I’d heard that the Mountain Bike course was as hard as an Olympic anywhere else. But it felt like my only option other than dropping out completely, which I did not want to do.

So I entered Wildflower Weekend with no small amount of apprehension, but determined to give it my best shot. Did I mention that Wildflower has been dubbed the “Woodstock of triathlons”? That’s because there are thousands of people camping out the whole weekend, with kids and dogs and Port a Potties and the whole works. Which makes it unique – on one hand, it’s kind of rough not having all the familiar comforts of home in which to prepare for a race. On the other hand, it IS a totally bonding experience.

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it takes a (tent) village

Saturday had two events: the Sprint/Mountain Bike course, and the Half Ironman Long course. I was (no doubt) doing the first one, which consisted of a 450 meter swim, 9.7 mile trail/road ride, and a 2 mile run. I’m going to be honest and say that training for this event has been kind of lonely and a tad demoralizing. Out of our team of 40+ participants, there were often only 2 of us training for the Sprint at any given time. So it felt “uneven” to say the least, and even though nobody ever explicitly said so, I often felt “less than” the people who were training for the Oly or the Long Course. It wasn’t until I actually entered race weekend and knew that there were 500 other MB course participants, that I felt like it was a legitimate event.

As it turned out, there were 4 of us from our team doing the Mountain Bike course. One of my buddies, Ayala, who is also doing Maui, decided to sign up for the MB course at the last minute. She has an incredibly big heart and generous spirit and has been a huge encourager for me during our workouts. I met another woman who lives far from us and so hasn’t been at a lot of our team trainings. She turned out to be awesome and we have a lot in common. So it felt exciting to load up our bikes and tri bags and head out of camp together on Saturday morning. The whole team gathered around to see us off and cheer us, and the energy was just great.

here we gooooo!

 We got down to transition which was super huge and crowded. At Marin Tri, we basically had what was equivalent to a walk-in closet for our transition space; and here, it was more like a shoebox.

a little crowded?

But I managed to organize things pretty neatly. Then we got our race numbers (and ages!) marked in permaSharpie on our bodies. We had a good couple of hours before the race started, and it was beginning to get HOT, so we waited a good long while to put on our wetsuits.

When we had done this swim at training weekend, it had been “just right” – not easy, but not impossible. I was able to keep swimming, swimming, and it just ended pretty quickly. So I was feeling maybe a tad overconfident about the swim. I had never been in a situation where I was swimming with SO many people who are thrashing around in the water. The swim start at big races has been compared to a washing machine, a blender, etc., and I never had experienced that.

That was what happened this time. First we got to splash around, get water in our suits, pee (hah!), and otherwise get warmed up for a few minutes. I was feeling pretty good. Then we splashed back to land to wait for the air horn. BLEEEP. I dove in to start out my “gentle-kind” routine. So far, so good. I was going slow, but I was relaxed.

Then, when I was almost at the turnaround buoy, the horn sounded for the Blue Group behind us. I don’t know what their age group was, but they were FAST. And they overcame me within a minute. Suddenly there were bodies coming at me, and when I turned my head and saw them like a pack of sharks, something inside me just flipped. I was momentarily paralyzed. I started panting and then wheezing and then, well… you know. I headed for shelter at the first kayak I could find. I tried to find my calm happy place but it was not readily findable. The young woman in the kayak was very patient and kind and at some point I knew I had to push off. But I was rattled by that time and I pretty much spent the rest of the swim going from kayak to kayak. I lost a lot of time, and I think I got a little seasick. By the time I got out of the water I was feeling pretty demoralized and a little woozy. Not to mention the fact that I had to keep my goggles on back to transition because I’m blind without my glasses.

“Which way is transition?”

I stumbled back to transition and saw Ayala and Liney waiting for me, all ready for the bike portion. I just didn’t want them to wait around for me because I was feeling so shaky I wasn’t sure how long transition would take. I knew they had been ready to go for a while. So I waved them on and began stripping off my wetsuit and booties. I think I was a little out of it. I kept putting on my running cap instead of my bike helmet. I was moving very slowly. I was there for more than 10 minutes (ouch) but then finally I was on the bike and ready to go.

I was very nervous about the bike portion but it turned out to be not so bad. It was slow, but I just pushed through pretty slowly and steadily. I even passed a few people. (which absolutely never, ever happened during the swim) I didn’t get off and walk on the road hills, even when I saw other people walking (I always assume if anyone has to walk, then I do). I only walked during the very last hilly trail part that was kind of on loose sand, very hard to get a grip on. It was when I was walking that it hit me again, that I was feeling kind of hot and sick. I took a minute to stand under a tree and drink some water from an aid station. Then it was the long steep hill DOWN (wheeeee) and back to transition.

Transition #2 took me less time – 6 minutes – still SUPER slow but at least not in the double digits and I was off for the “run.” Haha. At this point I knew I was near the tail end of the sprint field. I could just tell. The run portion was only two miles – a mile out and back – with a few little short climbs. I decided to just try my best to jog/run as much as I could during the flats and downhills, and to walk the ups. That plan worked fairly well. When I was going out, I ran into Ayala and Liney who were on the way back to finish. I was so happy to see them! Since I had taken SO LONG on the swim, I had felt like I was doing the majority of the course alone out in the wilderness. At the mile turnaround, there was a great volunteer with a water hose who sprayed me down. That felt awesome.

The last mile in to the finish wasn’t great, but it wasn’t terrible. I alternated walking and running and I could pretty much hear the announcer the whole time. One of my feet was hurting but it wasn’t like agony. I wasn’t DYING. I just didn’t feel super sprightly. By the time I got to the finish chute (longest finish I’ve ever seen!!) I felt like I was able to keep up a steady jog and enough to raise my arms and have a happy crossing of the line rather than crawling over half dead.

I finished! I was happy to see my coaches and a bunch of my teammates at the finish line. They had these awesome towels soaked in ice water which they draped over our heads. That felt SO GOOD. I mean, SO GOOD. I think that towel was one of the highlights of my day.

ahhhh icy cold towel!

I was happy to get my finisher’s medal knowing I had finished every inch of that course. I had endured, I had completed every part of it, albeit slowly, and I finished. That felt good.

The entire thing had taken me about an hour and a half. I wasn’t brave enough to look at my results until today, but they pretty much confirmed what I had thought. My swim was by far my slowest portion, and the part where I really, really fell way behind the pack. It was all that stopping and wheezing and hanging onto kayaks. I was pretty much one of the last ones out of the water. The bike portion fared just a tiny bit better, but again, I was so behind. The run was my strongest as far as comparison with other participants went. I guess maybe some people walked the whole thing but I did pretty much a 50-50 split.

For someone whose training looked more like holes than cheese this season, I think it was not so bad. It certainly could have been a lot better and I only wonder what would have happened if I had trained as consistently as I did last time. But I didn’t, for a variety of reasons both in and out of my control. I’m not gonna beat myself up over it. I just finished my 2nd triathlon!

One thing I feel proud of is dedicating my triathlon to the amazing Christie O., who inspired me when I was first thinking about doing a triathlon in the first place. She was just diagnosed with the “cansuh” and this weekend had been dedicated to swimming, biking and running in her honor while she underwent surgery. Christie had sent me a superhero cape after I finished my first tri, and I wore it proudly this weekend. This one was for you, Christie!

Christie is MY hero

This weekend has given me a lot of time to contemplate and think about what I want to do next, and how I want to do it. In many ways this tri was better than my last, and in other ways it was much worse. Here are my thoughts for the next time around (and yes, there will be a next):

  • My next goal is to ENJOY every minute of my next triathlon. Which means choosing an event that is not out of my range of comfort and ability. (Marin was really probably too long for me, and Wildflower probably a tad too big and hilly, given my training) Of course, no tri is ever EASY, but I would love for it to be an enjoyable challenge, if that makes sense. I’m thinking of doing a sprint-distance ‘Tri for Fun” and really focus on the fun. I did this at the Tinkerbell Half Marathon – I wanted to enjoy it and have FUN, and it really was.
  • I hereby solemnly swear to only do events that I have appropriately trained for. Enough said.
  • I love Team in Training- I really, really do – but this season was a challenge on many levels. There were only a miniscule fraction of people training for Sprint distance tri this time, and that made for a kind of lonely and weird experience. I often felt like I had to stretch to do the Olympic workouts, even after I had decided I wasn’t doing an Olympic event anymore.
  • I think that TNT Tri training, in its current form, does not really truly have a well-fitting program for novice/beginning/developing/SLOW/older/weaker triathletes. I think about the Walk Team program that they have. (and which I participated in) For many people on that team, it is a LIFE GOAL to WALK a half marathon. It’s a crowning achievement. And they take those people, and they train them to start at square one (walking a mile) and they slowly work up to Walking a Half Marathon. They don’t have them doing the same program as full marathoners or runners.
  • In (my) ideal world – and I have no idea if TNT will or would ever offer this – there would be a separate team, and coaching, JUST for Sprint Triathletes. Who are starting from square one, much like walking half marathoners. And the whole idea would be that their culminating event, their big Kahuna, would be a sprint triathlon. There would be no 27 mile bike rides or mile long swims. Maybe a practice sprint tri to put it all together. And they would be SO well prepared for a Sprint, it could be that challenging but joyful event.
  • As it was, I always felt like I was in over my head and I often felt embarrassed or ashamed to be “only” doing the Sprint. The training workouts were never really designed for a Sprint distance. Sometimes a Sprint workout would show up on the calendar, but that was mostly for the OYO (on your own) workouts. The big coached workouts were long and grueling and pretty much designed for the Olympic and Half Iron distances. It could be a chicken and egg thing – there is not a real emphasis on Sprint training because 95% of the participants are doing Oly and HI. But I bet if TNT put a real emphasis on “Everyone can do a triathlon!” and really invited beginning athletes to give it a try/tri, I think it could happen.
  • I’m not blaming any of the coaches or staff. They were patient and encouraging with me and my neverending Issues. Nonetheless, as a sprint distance athlete I often felt like a second class citizen, and either invisible or ignored. At the campfire the night before our event, there was a great rallying pep talk about the Long Course (half Ironman) the next day – what to expect, what it would be like, how to psych up for it, etc. There wasn’t a word mentioned about the Mountain Bike course and what the four of us should expect. It was really all about the half-iron athletes and this huge thing they were facing (true). I felt invisible and again, ashamed, for being Less of an athlete. In a team where EVERYone was doing the MB course, that just wouldn’t have happened.

This ended up going much longer, and more philosophical than I’d planned, but there ya go. I think that’s what happens when blogging falls off for various reasons – when you start up again, there’s just too much to say.

What else? I love my 30th anniversary Wildflower medal. I love the bonding experience of that intense weekend with my teammates. I love the team and the fact that people are doing this for so much more than their own selves. I loved being a mentor and seeing the amazing changes that individuals underwent. On balance, it turned out to be a wonderful experience, but it’s given me a lot to contemplate for the future.

 

Race Recap: Rhodes Race 5k April 15, 2012

TNT race swag!

I almost forgot to write this race recap today – making me realize how “everyday” a 5k has become. Which is incredible, considering my humble beginnings and starting up, when a 5k was the ULTIMATE, the PINNACLE, the longest race I could ever imagine doing. And now I can just decide a day or two before, “Think I’ll do a 5k this weekend!”

Today’s race was very familiar and comforting in many ways – it was the perimeter of Lake Merritt, which I’ve run on dozens, maybe a hundred times. So I know the course like my own hand. And the race itself was organized by Team in Training folks as their way of fundraising for the cause – so it was also like a giant family reunion of hundreds of TNT people. I got to see friends from my prior triathlon team, and my hike team coach, and some of the running coaches that I know by sight. It was cozy and fun.

sporting our nifty team shirt

The race itself? Well it was all informal like, with people saying “line up by that sign over there” and then an airhorn went off, and boom! As ususal, I started out way too fast and pooped out very quickly. All that adrenaline! My Runkeeper told me that I was running about an 11 minute mile after 5 minutes. That is nowhere NEAR what I’ve been averaging lately, so I knew it was a bit much for me. Sure enough my feet started cramping up and my calf was also super tight so after about 10 minutes I was in full hobble mode and had to stop and do a good stretch.

I ended up running with a bunch of my teammates that I usually run with, and it was all friendly like for most of the race. We kept passing each other back and forth and it just felt… comfortable. Some of our teammates totally rocked it – Coach Nick won 2nd place in the 30-39 division and Lily and Holly loved it so much they doubled it up for a 10k!

coming through the finish a 2nd time!

The race was fun because they also had a “Canine Division” (so many happy dogs running!) and a “Stroller Division.” The winning kids and dogs even got prizes.

coach Mark, doggie Molly and Lily

It was all huge fun. Timewise, it turned out to be pretty much the slowest 5k race I’ve ever done. But you know what? I didn’t care. I felt happy to be out there on this beautiful day with a great group of people, and it was all good.

GO Team!!!!!!!

mini donuts at the finish!

so great to see prior tri teammate Katherine & hike coach Carolyn!

... and current teammates Ayala & Tori. Love them!

 

Event Recap: Yosemite Snowshoe Hike! February 13, 2012

Junior and me under a Yosemite Falls rainbow

I can’t believe it’s been more than a week since returning from my TNT Yosemite event weekend, and this is the first chance I’ve had a minute to sit down and recap it. I have to do it today before the memories completely fade!

I have to say that this experience with TNT was completely unique from all of my other seasons. Instead of facing the Big Weekend with some degree of anxiety, dread, fear and adrenaline, I went into this one thrilled to be going on what felt like a weekend vacation. In beautiful Yosemite! Yay!

At sort of the last minute, Junior and her housemate F joined me for the weekend. Junior hadn’t been to Yosemite since she was about eight years old and she was very excited. We arrived just in time to get to the snowshoe fitting and then the Send-Off (pre-event) dinner.

honoree flags

The mood at the dinner was festive and relaxed. People had made flags with their honorees’ names on them and they were draped along the wall, a good reminder of Why We Were Doing This.

"Take a picture at 11:11 wherever you are"

Coach Carolyn gave us our instructions for meeting up, carpooling to the SNOW at Badger Pass, meeting up with our respective guides, and taking a picture at 11:11. We were divided into four groups based on exertion level. I was in the “Mighty Mo” or ‘moderate’ group which would later prove to be not-so-moderate, but still just right. I had just done that Tinkerbell Half, and was about to re-enter triathlon training, so I didn’t need to prove anything at this hike.

candle ceremony for honorees

We did a little candle lighting ceremony and then blew them out as a symbolic gesture to “snuff out cancer.” We were thinking about one of our honorees, my mentor’s husband, who had been planning to come to Yosemite, but was in the hospital back home following some complications. It was a reminder of Coach Carolyn’s words about life not always going as planned. Randy had grappled with deciding to come to the event weekend, but the doctors had reassured her that her husband would be safe and cared for in the hospital. This lady has been through so much.

When we woke up, these nice mats were outside of our hotel room doors:

put a little lump in my throat

my mentor Randy at breakfast

After breakfast we drove out to Badger Pass. Yosemite is so breathtakingly gorgeous, pictures can never really do it justice.

We got up to Badger Pass and there was SNOW! We put on our snowshoes… which took about half an hour of grunting, moaning and dealing with buckles and such. Finally… ta da!

Just call me BigFoot.

Then we split up into our respective groups and headed out with our guide. UPHILL. Going uphill on snowshoes at 7,000 feet elevation is… well, it’s no walk in the park. I was winded after about twenty yards.

It was also pretty darn cold, in spite of the sunny weather. Here’s teammate Dorothy holding a hand warmer packet up to her frozen nose. Nose warmer?

warming up the nose

Up hill!

At 11:11am we found ourselves near what looked like a giant flaming snow cupcake. You see how my mind works.

cupcake in the snow

Here’s our trusty guide Zach, who was infinitely patient with our sometimes high-maintenance (ahem) group of women.

poles in the shape of "11:11" Get it? LOL

We got to the top of the ridge and had us a nice lunch break on the sunny rocks. This is not something you get during marathons and triathlons!

rock sunning

It was so pristine and beautiful up there!

coyote tracks in the snow

On the way back down, we separated out to do solo meditations for a few minutes. I found a tree to lean on and just soak up the peace and quiet for a while. It was one of my favorite parts of the whole hike.

ommm...

We got back down to the lodge after about five and a half hours of snowshoeing. Which felt “just right” in terms of a damn good workout, a beautiful hike, but not horribly painful. I had gotten a good day’s work in there.

When we arrived down to the Valley we got the sad news that Randy’s husband had been transferred to the ICU and was in very grave condition. My buddy Jon volunteered to drive her down to the hospital, over 4 hours away, so she could be with him right away. This is what team spirit and our mission is about.

Jeannette, Randy and Jon

The rest of us celebrated the end of our season and our hikes, thinking of them and sharing a moment of silence.

The next morning we walked up to the beautiful Yosemite falls for some photo ops.

go team!

Then it was the amazing Ahwahnee Hotel for their insanely delicious brunch. What a way to wrap it all up.

so beautiful

mmm... dessert buffet!

With this event, I earned my Team in Training Triple Crown pin for participating in three different sports: marathon, triathlon and hike team. It felt good.

Badger Pass, Hike Team, Triple Crown!

Hike Team was very very different from other “endurance” events but it was a welcome change of pace and something I’d definitely do again at some point. They have incredible hikes to the Grand Canyon and other stunning locales.

In final news, I’m almost….. almost… almost... done with my fundraising. But not quite. If you’ve enjoyed reading about this very unique and different type of training, please consider dropping a few dollars into my Leukemia & Lymphoma fund. I’d be so very grateful.

I’m not fundraising for the Triathlon team this season because I’m mentoring the team and will be putting my efforts toward supporting my mentees. This is the last chance you’ll have to support me and my amazing team until… next time. ;-)

All in all, it was a beautiful, active, inspiring experience. I recommend for anyone who is interested in being part of an active team that’s working for a good cause. Thumbs up.

 

 

Race Recap: Tinkerbell Half Marathon! January 31, 2012

most ginormous bling ever!

I did not go into this half marathon race with high expectations. In fact, I was kind of dreading it because my running training has fallen short of my intentions. So I was just hoping it wouldn’t be a big, enormous painful fail, and that I would come home with one of those pretty Tinkerbell wing medals.

Originally I’d signed up for this race as a great mother-daughter bonding event. But the best laid plans, you know? Poor Junior, who had actually TRAINED for this race, came down with a gnarly flu/sore throat/feeling like hell on Friday night. She had gone down to SoCal early, and because I had my TNT Kick-Off on Saturday, and Juniorette had crew practice, it was up to poor Junior to go to the Expo to pick up our race packets and chips and all. What a sad thing, to be amidst all that wild enthusiasm and excitement, knowing she probably wouldn’t be able to do the race. Wahh! I really felt for her.

She picked up all the stuff and then we met up at the hotel where she was lying in bed looking miserable.

"hug me... but don't catch my germs"

After taking some medicine she did feel well enough to go over to Disney California for a bit. We headed straight for our most favorite ride, Soarin’ Over California, which is both relaxing and beautiful. At that point, Junior was feeling better than she’d had all day, and we entertained the idea that maybe she could walk the race slowly. But the night was a rough one, with fever and discomfort and no sleep. So when the alarm went off at 3:30am (!!!!!!!!!) it was just Juniorette and I who got up.

One of the VERY BEST DECISIONS I ever made was to book the hotel right at the start/finish line. So all we had to do was take the elevator downstairs, and the race staging area was RIGHT THERE. I knew that other people were having to WALK a mile or more to the start, and that just would not have been a happy thing.

When we first entered the area we were greeted by some Pirates. That was pretty awesome, and took the sting out of the fact that it was still pretty much the middle of the night.

Arrr! Pirates!

I have to say, this pretty much spoiled me for every other race. If we aren’t greeted by pirates at the crack of dawn, then I’m gonna be sad.

When it was time to go to our corrals to line up for the start, Juniorette and I had to split up because she was in C (younger faster folks!) and I was in E (the End).

I was verrrry happy to then meet up with (out of 11,000 people) two of my friends! What are the chances of that! I found Christine and Sabrina, both of whom with I’d done the Fight for Air Stair Climb last year. It was great to have people to hang with while we were waiting to make our way to the start line. It was Christine’s first half marathon, which was exciting, and it was Sabrina’s 16th! (her first this month- she’s doing a half every month!)

Sabrina, me and Christine waiting to start!

While we were waiting around, I did several minutes of calf stretches. When I had been at the TNT Kickoff on Saturday morning (which, by the way, was awesome) I met up with a foot doctor at their mini-expo. I described to him the excruciating foot pain that has been plaguing me worse than ever. I told him about this sole-stabbing PAIN that came on without fail pretty much every run, after about 1/3 mile, and which persisted until it started subsiding around mile 2. I’ve learned that I can “run through it” but man, it has not been pleasant. It always makes me think of the Little Mermaid who has these knife-stabbing sensations in her feet when she walks (I did a paper on Hans Christian Anderson’s Little Mermaid in grad school).  Anyway, he said it sounded like a case of tight gastrocnemius muscle and he showed me exactly the stretches to do. Which I did, crossing my fingers. I thought how nice it would be to not be running on knives through Ariel’s Grotto.

Finally it was time to move up to the start line. It was still pitch black, and then fireworks went off (of course) and… wooo! Juniorette texted me that Sean Astin (aka Samwise Gamgee from LOTR!) was in her corral. Squeeee! They called Corral C, then D, then it was our turn: Corral E – proceed to the starting line! Boom!

We ran around some random streets for a while and then after a mile or two (?) we were back in Disneyland. That was surreal and fun, running through the empty park, through the back lots and Secret Areas while the sun was just starting to come up.

Just as we came up around the It’s A Small World ride (fond childhood memories) I saw this big line and thought, what, port-o-potties already? No, it was Snow White and Sleeping Beauty and a few other princesses. And a heck of a long line. I knew that I did NOT want to stand there for 10-15 minutes that early on. Or maybe ever. But then, after mile 2, I saw these two guys standing there – with NO LINE! (or maybe just one person ahead of me) I couldn’t resist.

Tarzan and Hercules!!

I also could not resist the real, clean, flush bathrooms right near there. Even though there was a waiting line, it wasn’t any longer than the Port O Potties line, so I went for the flush kind. I was really happy I did that, especially early on, because it made for a much more comfortable race.

Just when I got to the 5k point (3.1 miles) I realized something. MY FEET HAD NOT BEEN STABBING ME. Thank you, Dr. Footdoctor, at the TNT expo! He had been so right. It felt so amazing to run on pain-free feet!!

Pretty soon we came upon Cinderella’s castle. How awesome was that.

I was one of few people not wearing a tutu or wings.

Feeling pretty good!

I actually felt just relaxed and great through the first eight miles. I was so happy about that. I knew that I had a mental block coming up around mile 9, because that was my longest run in the past many months. OK, my longest run since the Las Vegas Half in December 2010. So I knew I was once again heading into uncharted territory, and I remembered how absolutely MISERABLE and deathly feeling I’d been at mile 11 in Vegas. I was kinda nervous.

I started texting Mr McBody because I knew he’d give me a little pep talk. So every time I passed a mile marker I’d type in the number and word for how I felt.

I was totally psyched that at Mile 10 I was feeling GOOD.

(that's the time from when the race started, not my time!)

Up until this point I really did not have any discomfort other than what felt like a blister on my right pinky toe. I kept sort of shifting around in my shoe to avoid the tender spot. But it wasn’t like it was killing me.

The last couple miles weren’t EASY (I texted, “I’m feeling it”) but they weren’t horrible. I wasn’t suffering or praying for mercy or anything like it. I wasn’t feeling any systemic problems. I had been drinking a half-cup of water and half-cup of PowerAde at every water stop. I had a little pouch of salted pretzels which I took in steadily, and I had one packet of Gu at Mile 9. (good place for it) I felt perfectly balanced, which is pretty much nothing short of a miracle for me. No GI problems, no tingling, numbness, asthma, nausea or the like. All of which I’ve had in large amounts. I was so grateful but also proud of myself for having figured that part of it out. There was one woman running near me with her hands up, and her friend was massaging her fingers. I gave her some pretzels and said, “need salt” and she was so happy. (“Those Team in Training people are so helpful!”)

I was also really proud of the fact that I ran the entire race WITHOUT MUSIC. Which is also nothing short of miraculous, considering I’ve been pretty dependent on my tunes since day one. It was just that my phone battery was down to 3/4 even at the start line, and I was super nervous I wouldn’t have enough juice to text people at the end (or during if necessary). So I didn’t use my Runkeeper ( which really drains the juice) or ANY music. I listened to the cool high school marching bands and to the speaker music when it came around every mile or so. That was enough, and I think having music as a “special treat” now and then helped me really appreciate it. Having said that I think I need to invest in a Mophie or one of those extra battery things.

Finally we got to mile 12, back in the park again, and I was so happy about how good I was feeling. The last mile between 12 and 13 felt pretty long, but again, I wasn’t dying. Then we got to mile 13 and I was so happy. I saw Sabrina and that was great, to see her at beginning and end (and a bunch in the middle too). When we got to the finish, I did a little jump in the air (I hope Brightroom.com got that one!) and just felt so happy. Then a few feet later I saw Pauly, whom I’d run a bit with during HER Las Vegas half in December! (she is also a TNT mentor, down in LA) That was awesome.

I’ve gotta say, there were HUNDREDS of TNT runners, spectators and coaches through this whole race. It is so great to have people call your name and say “Go Team!” just because you’re wearing this purple shirt. Toward the end, maybe Mile 12, I think I may have been looking a little ragged, and this TNT coach ran with me for a while. He talked to me about drinking water in the last mile, and he was just so encouraging and coach-y, it was as if he’d been training me all season. That made a big impression, the huge community that TNT is everywhere.

I was super stoked to get this giant gorgeous medal!

Yippeee! Look at this beauty!

Then I found Juniorette, who’d been waiting for me OVER an HOUR (she rocked it!!!). We went up to the hotel and pretty much crashed. It felt so awesome to take my shoes off. Junior had slept through the whole thing. Poor baby!

The afternoon was pretty much a blur of napping and lying around, and then later on we went back to the parks to play before Junior’s plane ride home. Juniorette and I had an awesome dinner at Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen then stayed out super late playing on the rides. She convinced me to go on the Tower of Terror, which WAS terrifying but actually really fun and well done. We also did the new 3D Star Tours (AWESOME!) and Indiana Jones and a few others. Finally dragged back to bed around 11 and crashed hard.

This was my second half marathon and I have to say it was one of my happiest races. I’ve had a lot of pain and suffering in many  of my events, and even though I was glad to have finished them, they were hard won victories. This one just felt good from beginning to end. (is there something to running a race in the “happiest place on Earth?”) It was slower than my first half marathon by seven minutes, but it felt 100% better. So I’d call it a personal best of sorts. (and I know that time difference was for the Tarzan and bathroom stops!)

I just feel so good about all the things that went RIGHT for this race:

  • The hotel location was PERFECTO. Nothing sucks more than having to walk 1-2 miles back to a hotel after you’ve just run 13.1.
  • Salt, water and sports drink ratio were just right. Yay for salty pretzels, water, PowerAde and Gu, all in just the right amounts at the right time. How awesome to not feel SICK.
  • No painful feet! The calf stretches were amazing, and I wore my ankle brace and orthotics (and compression socks) but didn’t overdo it with tape and extra stuff. I felt well supported but not strangled. It was great.

I feel really good about this race, considering that my training was less than stellar. It made me think, wow, what could I do WITH some good training? Maybe my next adventure will be a TNT half or full….

But for now, my next schedule race isn’t until June, the South Maui Triathlon. I want to feel as good about that as I did about this half marathon, so I’m excited to dive into training with my new team and my new coach. WAHOO!

 

 
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