Friday, November 16, 2012

richmond 2012 - part three

 running a destination race comes with certain challenges: you need to be prepared to take your favorite snacks and fuel with you, you need to navigate an unknown city (sometimes on a dark Friday night, sometimes during a VCU home basketball game), you can't forget your perfectly broken in shoes.  and? you might find yourself in the finish area without your family and friends to celebrate with you.

i was fortunate enough that my cousin and her friends were still hanging around the beer tent when i finished my race (understandably, since most of them live in Richmond, they had other obligations after the race, and couldn't hang out with me all day). and i was also fortunate that my mom and my aunts "just happened" to be having a sister's getaway weekend in RVA this very same weekend.  (they weren't at the finish, but we celebrated later over an awesome meal at Tarrant's.) my adopted training team was gone...  i don't blame them for leaving me.  heck, they really didn't even know i was on their team!! ha!

but somewhere on Brown's Island, there were people waiting for me.  well, waiting to meet me.  or, rather, they kinda sorta knew that maybe i would show up and introduce myself.  enter the #runchat tweetup!! some of you know that earlier this year, i set out on a mission to meet some of the amazing people who live in my digital devices.  and i've done a pretty decent job of making myself step out of my comfort zone to do just that.  (i've had drinks in atlanta, drinks in wilmington, drinks in concord...  erm.  i'm sensing a trend here.  a-hem.

anyhoo, i was really looking forward to this particular tweetup, as the #runchat community on twitter has provided me with countless moments of motivation, advice, empathy and sheer entertainment.  after the 15K race last month, it was #runchat people who talked me through the merits of proper hydration and all that electrolyte mumbo jumbo.  they urged me to try compression socks, and oohed and ahhed over pictures of my newest shoes.  these guys get "it" - and have become my virtual running group.  i was thrilled to find out that i would have a chance to meet some of these incredible people!

after wandering around a while with my complimentary race beer (guess i should add "drinks in richmond" to the list), i was able to track down liz, who had just finished her first half marathon, as well.  in solidarity, we waited (and waited, and waited) for any sign of other #runchat people. (pro tip: finding people who look like "#runchat people" in the finish area of a race with 10,000+ participants who look like "running people" can be more challenging than one might think!) we happily chatted a lot of folks, and liz must have lent her cell phone to a half dozen who were trying to connect with their friends and family post race.

then there they were, in the designated spot: david and scott heather and jen and several other people.  lots of introductions and high fives and hashing out of what had just happened on the course for each of us.  stickers and temporary tattoos were passed around. smiles and hugs were shared.  (not surprisingly, high fives and smiles are even better in person than they are on-line.) i am thrilled to have been able to spend time with these guys, and happy to call them my running group!

after a long walk back up that steep hill to my hotel, my afternoon was filled with text updates from jack's football game with intermittent periods of napping.  and hydrating.  cousin liz and i caught the tail end of the Taste the Local craft beer festival/fundraiser, where we met briana of Still Easier Than Chemo.  she is running 12 half marathons in 12 months in memory of her mother.  amazing!! 

dinner was phenomenal, and bedtime was early! back home on Sunday, i realized just how easy it is to talk about my race experience to anyone who dare asks, "so, how was it?" i'm also pleased to report that my medal goes with just about every outfit i own! ;)

so what's next? another race, of course!! several, in fact.  jack and i will run a few 5Ks over the upcoming holiday season. i'm participating in Runner's World Holiday Streak (run at least one mile every day between Thanksgiving and Christmas). my favorite trail run has done away with the 10K and added a 15K. and i have my sights set on another destination half in march or april (rock and roll D.C., anyone?) 

(and, oh yeah.   i totally took advantage of a discounted race fee and i'll see you next year, Richmond!)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

richmond 2012 - part 2

corral K inched ever closer to the start, i decided pretty much at that moment that i was going to run sans run/walk prompts from runkeeper.  i had been mulling over this idea most of the night - would i be able to hear the prompts (i don't wear earbuds or listen to music when training), would my phone battery last the morning, would my gps be strong enough to get an accurate reading throughout the course, etc. any one of those issues could have been easily solved, but i think, in that moment, i really felt that the best way to run "my race" was to experience the "whole race" by trusting that my body was ready and my mind was willing.  i will never, ever regret this decision.  

and with that, and an awestruck glance into the marathon line up happening to my left, we were over the starting line and headed down Broad Street! i love the beginning moments of a race, with everyone jockeying for position and pace, friends and strangers cheering, no thought of the miles (and miles, and miles) that lie ahead... i honestly believe that i know within the first four minutes of a race how that race is going to go for me.  and here i was, jogging through  a city i'd never visited before, with the silliest grin on my face.  i knew, i knew right then that i would run and smile my way through richmond, and i sure as hell didn't need runkeeper to tell me how to do it!

the first half of the race is a little bit of a blur for me, but there are some definite highlights:
  • passing the first band, and silently groaning when they messed up the intro to "Sweet Child of Mine"
  • hearing "Eye of the Tiger" from speakers on a random building
  • marveling as the elite marathoners passed by
  • seeing my mom and my aunts cheering for me shortly after mile 2
  • singing along (loudly) to "Fat Bottom Girls"
  • smiling at the boy who was obviously handing out his Halloween candy as we ran by
before long, i was rounding the u-turn between miles 4 and 5, and found myself in conversation with a young woman who was running this half for the second time.  we stayed together for a bit, as she filled me in on what was yet to come. i shared my concerns about the hills (i live in coastal North Carolina, and there's not much opportunity to train on hills in my neck of the woods). she shared that the "worst of the hills" would be through Bryan Park and cautioned that many people hit the wall shortly thereafter because they push it too hard in that section.  

and after a few more turns, there i was, on the slow decent into the park. (the park is a loop, with an in/out entrance.  i don't think anyone missed the fact that, while we were enjoying this easy-ish downhill into the park, thousands of runners were making their way back UP, just on the other side of the caution tape.  for me, this was a little added incentive to keep it cool through the next few miles.)

and then i found myself alongside a training team.  training teams are a Very Big Deal for this race.  Sports Backers alone had thousands or runners participate in their half training program.  (is it like this in all bigger races? i was fascinated!) this particular team and i were running at about the same pace, and i absolutely let them pace me through the park. see them there in the blue tank tops? i loved this little squad and their chipper chit-chat.  i loved the woman who called their cadences by the timer on her watch.  i loved the woman who asked if anyone wanted a pretzel, or Skittles.  i loved the guy who reminded them to turn their knees out on the downhills (who knew?).  seriously, I LOVED THESE GUYS!! 

before i knew it, we were across the 10K mark, and nearing the last of the bryan park hills.  i was still running and smiling, taking water at every stop, and eating my gatorade chews about every three miles. coming up one of the final hills, i came across the sweetest grandmotherly type offering a "peppermint patty for a pick me up." how sweet!! i ran with that peppermint patty in my hand for a few minutes, debating what to do with it. as it started to get a little bit melty, and with one last thought about the fact that "you shouldn't eat it if you haven't trained with it," i popped that little sucker right into my mouth. within minutes i was nauseous! i don't know if it was the candy, or the two cups of water i'd just had, or a combination, but for the first time in over two  years of running, i actually felt like i might throw up! thankfully, the moment passed, and the lesson learned? don't take candy from strangers :)

who knew that a peppermint patty was just the beginning of the crazy things that i would be offered throughout the second half of the race?!? coming out of the park, we slogged through the sticky block were kids were passing out Accel gels. (again, i took one. and i carried that sucker with me for five miles before chucking it in a trash can!!) what is it with me? apparently i will accept any gift that is offered to me on the race course!! where were the people with sparkly headbands, i ask you? now THAT'S a gift i would have loved!!

i was NOT tempted by the liquor shots, or the dixie cups of beer, though.  i know my body well enough to know that either of those would have been a very.bad.idea. the gummy bears just before mile 10 seemed innocuous enough, and i actually did enjoy those.

i knew from my 12 mile training run that miles 9-11 could be tough for me.  i was, in fact, having a nagging ache in my left hip/lower back. (twenty five year old back injuries never really let you forget about them, do they?) i played around with my stride and pace, and took some advil.  it was either the pain reliever or the Lady Gaga played by the college age DJ, but they symptoms disappeared quickly.

my adopted training team was still nearby, and shortly before mile 10, i came upon them at a standstill.  in fact, the police were stopping all of us for a moment as the first marathoner came flying by! this was the point where the two courses came together, and i'll tell you what: there is nothing more humbling than chugging along at a thirteen plus minute mile and hearing a five minute miler sneaking up on your left!

at some point in a long run, you realize that you're "only" this many more miles from the finish.  one of my favorite parts of this race had to have been the Endurance 5K "starting line" at mile 10.  there was a fresh energy at this point, and it was really fun to run under that banner and pretend (even for a moment) that we were just starting an easy little 5K.

the final three miles were a little challenging to me, physically.  i was definitely tired, but glad to have staved off the nagging back ache. we had to run through some areas where spectators had already packed up and headed  home. it was warm. a few times i expected to see a mile marker well before i actually did. but i was still running! and smiling! i know i was slower than i had been, and was getting a little frustrated that people i hadn't noticed earlier in the race, were now starting to pass me. or, at least, that's what i assumed was happening when all of a sudden i would see different shirts around me.  looking back, i know that i was actually passing some people who had been ahead of me the entire race.  i was actually able to "reel in" a few people, and for me, this close to the finish, it was a HUGE feeling of accomplishment!

and then? then i rounded that final corner onto 5th, and the street literally swept down towards the river and the finish line.  it was breathtaking! and steep.  when they advertise a downhill finish, they mean business!  i was very emotional and wondering how i was going to breathe and run and cross the finish line while fighting back the CRYING. (does anyone else suffer from this?) thank goodness someone from my adopted training team showed up at my side at just that moment.  we fell into easy and inspirational conversation all the way to the finish. most importantly, she distracted my from CRYING. (seriously, adopted training team, I LOVE YOU GUYS!)

and then, and then i crossed the finish line! three months and so many miles past, and i remembered to throw my arms up and enjoy the moment!!

 and even though the official clock was showing the finish times for those insane marathoners, i knew immediately that i finished in under three hours!! and listen, when you are a slow runner who is (let's get real) a bit afraid to set finish time goals, small victories like finishing a half marathon in under three hours is a really big freaking deal!! like, "i could have signed up for an earlier wave" kinda big deal!!

the finish area in richmond was beautiful! within minutes i had received high fives and a medal and was on the lookout for my cousin, my bag, and a beer.  my adopted training team had dispersed, and for a moment, i was just one finisher among thousands, feeling a little lost in the crowd.  it's a good thing i still had a #runchat tweetup to look forward to...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

richmond half marathon 2012 - part one

here is the post as it appears on amuse-bouche.

richmond 2012 - part one

whoa! did you see that dust cloud when i opened up blogger this morning? my apologies!! i know it's been a while since i visited, but i've got stories to tell that won't be told in 140 characters (ahem, twitter).  why don't you just grab a cup of coffee (or tea, or chai, or water) and i'll tell you one of them...

last weekend, i went to richmond, va to run my very first half marathon!!  what what?? that's right! aw c'mon, you guys...  you've known about my running for a few years now.  you remember when i came in DEAD LAST in the 10K trail run just a year ago.  (no, really.  dead. last.  you should go read that post.)

well, i'm still running, despite the threat of the blair witch (i TOLD you to go read that post!) and, in fact, i've run 7 races this year already, with at least 2 more to go. but this one? this was a and it all started this summer with a (not so) innocent text from my cousin:
 now, liz ran the richmond half last year for the first time.  i remember her telling me about it as we waited at the start of a turkey trot shortly thereafter. you should be very, very careful at the beginning of a turkey trot when you are all feeling like a competent runner and your cousin says you should shoot for a half marathon. just sayin'.
 so, despite the fact that i don't live in richmond. and i hadn't run further than 10K at one time since february, (i even registered for a half down here in tiny town, but an injury prevented me from participating. that injury was more mental than physical, but more on that another time), i found myself coughing up the registration fee and searching frantically for a couch to half app.  (there are many stories to tell about the training, but i'll get to those in another post.  i certainly don't want you to miss out on my zombie runs. or the 15K race that changed everything about how i run. or how running saved my life.)

but, for now, fast forward to last weekend.  i arrived in richmond friday evening, checked into my hotel (i don't often get to take advantage of my hotel family travel perks, but finding a hotel two blocks from the start? SCORE!!) then i made my way over to the expo, which was an entirely overwhelming experience for me.  just walking in the door sent my emotions into overdrive. with bib in hand and shirt retrieved, i made approximately forty-seven laps around the expo floor.  since i had arrived in town with most everything a girl could need for her first half marathon - fuel belt? check. compression socks? check. The Stick (tm)? check.-  i wasn't really looking to buy anything. but i couldn't shake the feeling that i *needed* to get so much more: a sparkly headband! a wacky runner's humor tee shirt! throw away gloves! gu!  i picked up a pair of thermal sleeves from one more mile (functional! and witty!) and headed out to meet up with liz and her friends for dinner.

and then i was back in my hotel room, pacing and setting alarms and not hyperventilating.  i laid out my outfit, suffered through a twenty minute phone call with an overtired 11 year old who couldn't get skype to work, and settled in for the night.  i set my first alarm for 4 (the plan was to eat a bagel and go back to sleep for a few hours). i awoke as soon as it went off, and had the bagel in my hand, only to realize that i had only dreamed the alarm went off, and it was, in fact, only 2:38!  at "the real 4 a.m." i ate my bagel and fell back to sleep, thoroughly lost in that dream when you are approaching the starting line, but it keeps getting further and further away from you.  you know that dream? that dream SUCKS!!

at six, i was up for real, drinking a cup of coffee and a eating clif bar. i rolled out my calf muscles a little, did 100 ups, double checked the bag that i was going to check, and texted this quick snap shot to the family. (do i look nervous? i was going for "hey, i got this! it's gonna RAWK!" i don't think that's exactly what i got.) then, it was downstairs for the two block walk to the starting area.  i loved this commute!!

 the 8K race was just starting as i followed the crowds toward the corrals. to say the air was electric was an UNDERSTATEMENT!! with 8,000 runners registered for the half, plus another couple thousand each in the 8K and the marathon, it was a veritable sea of spandex and bathrobes and hats and trash bags (it was cold, and the wind whipping along the street where the porta-potties were line up was bone-chilling!) i ate a banana and some gatorade chews, stowed my long sleeve shirt and checked my bag, and caught up with liz. she took this photo to email to our moms so they would (hopefully) be able to pick us out of the crowds as we ran by them. this was also the last time i would see liz until beer.  i mean, the "finish area."

 i made my way back to the K wave.  the back of the pack. the "when i signed up for this race, i truly wondered if i would make the four hour cutoff" corral.  i planted myself somewhere right in the middle, and listened to the chatter around me. the half marathon began at 7:30.  and it would be 22 minutes before i crossed the start line...

Thursday, November 08, 2012

one foot at a time

and now

five years ago, i started this blog, with the intention of completing a marathon before my 40th birthday.

five years later, and i'm almost 43. and tomorrow i leave for a trip in which i will run a half marathon.

i'm am excited beyond measure!!

don't put time limits on your goals, kids. 

see you in 13.1