Be Tucson Women’s 5K

Last weekend, several of my friends were off running a 50-mile trail race and various marathons, so I feel a little wimpy talking about my 5K. I have learned that while I enjoy racing up to the half marathon distance, I don’t really like racing marathons and sometimes I feel like a lesser runner because of it. Saying “A 5K” when people ask what you’re training for sounds underwhelming, but enough about my distance insecurity.

This was the first of three 5Ks leading up to my goal race in May, and I was looking forward to running the distance again. I had talked with my coach about it, and the “strategy” was to go out hard and see what I was able to do. Last year’s time was 22:28, and I wanted to go sub-22.

I could rattle off the names of several women in town who run faster than I do, but I didn’t see any of them when I picked up my number. I started to think, Could I actually win a race? Then I saw my friend Jamie, who is much speedier than I am, but she’s been injured. Next I saw Pam, who also usually beats me, but she’s been dealing with injury as well. I visited the potties, had my Chocolate Cherry Clif shot, ran an easy mile, and it was race time.

It was a gorgeous, sunny morning. I’m not the most well-traveled person, but I believe that Southern Arizona in the spring is one of the most beautiful places in the world. I tentatively took my place directly behind the starting line. I like racing with men, but sometimes it’s nice just to compete against the ladies. The course was simple: three loops around an outdoor mall, complete with quick descents and steady climbs.

 Be Tucson Start

The first section was a fast downhill, and I went for it. I was in the lead, and it was strange and exciting. I was wearing my Garmin, but I wanted to set my pace by feel for the most part. I was able to entertain thoughts of winning for about three quarters of a mile until I was passed by the eventual winner. Someone who has more experience leading the pack might have tried to catch her, but it was still early and I wanted to keep running my own pace. I think it was a smart move, because she ended up beating me by almost two minutes.


Getting dropped by the winner

My Garmin beeped at 6:21. I question the accuracy because it was another twenty seconds before I crossed the mile marker and it was also a second faster than I have ever run a stand-alone mile. A couple of other women passed me before we headed back to the steepest downhill section of the course. I surged past one of the women on the decline, but she overtook me again once the course flattened out. Jamie passed me around the mile and a half mark. By this part of the race, I was starting to feel the strain of my fast start. I though about running off course to shop when I passed Ann Taylor (a clothing store, not a person). No, not seriously – they weren’t open yet 😉 I started catching up to the walkers and had to weave through some of them.

Be Tucson

Run now, shop later

My second Garmin mile split was 6:52, which was a lot closer to what I was expecting. This time the incline leading back to the street felt much steeper than before. I started to hear shouts of “Go Caroline,” but I didn’t turn to see how close she was. My mental DJ selected Linkin Park’s “Bleed It Out” as I tried to stay strong for the last half mile. Jamie was no longer in my sights. 


Down to the wire

My Garmin showed 7:13 for the third mile, and I felt like throwing up by this time. The last part of the race was uphill, and I dug in. I was starting to pick it up as I approached the finish line, and then I heard an announcer say ,”This is going to be a race to the finish.” Somehow I was able to squeeze out a little more and finished less than a second ahead of Caroline. I was fifth overall with a time of 21:55. Even though each mile got progressively slower, I was happy with my race. Sometimes you need to go out hard and test your limits.

Be Tucson Fun Photo

Fast women have good times

I ran a couple of cool down miles, refueled, and chatted with some friends. I also met a few new people whose names I recognized from past race results. There was a “Fun Photo Booth” set up, so some of us grabbed some goofy headbands and got our pictures taken. Free race pictures were posted on Facebook later that day, which is always nice. Out of respect to everyone who was out for an enjoyable morning of shopping that morning, I decided to head home and keep my sweaty self out of the stores. Thank goodness for

I like color blocking

Long live color blocking!

Race data:

Ragnar Del Sol 2013 (12 friends, 2 vans, 202 miles)

The Ragnar Relay concept is simple: create a twelve (or six, if you’re really nutty) person team and take turns running until 200 or so miles are covered. Be it noon, midnight, or 5:19 in the morning, someone is running.  Each runner is assigned three legs of a pre-determined distance, totaling anywhere from 11 to 20-plus miles. Heavy on food and light on sleep, it’s like a slumber party where you switch out the horror movies and Truth or Dare* for running. 

This was my third time doing the event and I was again part of Team Workout Group. Last year we placed first in the Open Mixed (6+ females) division and were hungry to defend our title (or maybe we were just hungry; lots of running can do that). Last year we completed the race in 25:51:20 and I really wanted to see if we could go under 25 hours. We would need to run just under 7:30 minutes a mile to do it. I guessed I’d be good for somewhere between a 7:30 and 7:45 minute pace. In the past, I had always been in Van 1, which does a larger share of the running. Steve, the team captain, ran some calculations and found that by switching the vans, we could cut about an hour off our projected time. Those former Van 2 folks aren’t pokey.  

A few minor crises occurred leading up to the race. Tim dropped out, but we got newbie Paul to join us. Sheryl got injured and wasn’t sure she could run all of her legs. In anticipation of having to run an extra leg, I switched legs with Paul so I’d have fewer miles and more recovery time. Monica, the other woman in the van, also agreed to step in and run an extra leg if needed. To still qualify as a mixed team, only another woman can run for an injured woman. One runner had to drop out the week of the race, but we were able to persuade Tim to come back.


Fresh, clean, and ready to go!

Due to a stroke of luck, we were team number 1. Our captain happened to check the website and saw that registration was open before Ragnar sent an email out. We decided to have fun with it and nicknamed ourselves Team Uno. We drew pictures of ourselves as running Uno cards and brought cards to stick on other team’s vans.

One of the nice things about being in Van 2 is a later departure time. I was scheduled to be picked up around 11, so I was able to teach my morning Spin class and grab some meals at Trader Joe’s beforehand. I got the back seat in the van, so I had plenty, er, adequate room to stow my things and stretch out. We headed off to pick up Paul, who had “slept like a baby” the night before, meaning he woke up every hour and cried. Craig found a note from his daughter as he went through his things.


Craig has a fan!

Anyone need their muscles kneaded?

Knead anything?

The race starts in Wickenburg, but because we were in the second van, we headed to the dusty parking lots of Tonopah. We stopped at a travel center on the way, where I picked up a Subway breakfast sandwich and some very important knowledge (see picture below).

Tonopah Bathroom

It all makes sense now!

At the exchange, we went through the safety briefing and got our and team numbers. We still had a couple of hours to kill before Van 1 was supposed to show up. Monica took a turn on the mechanical bull and Sheryl danced for a free Nawgan drink. We had gotten the last available start time (2 PM), and there weren’t a lot of teams left in the area. Some teams had started as early as 5:30 in the morning. There was plenty of time to use the port-o-potties and no lines. Strangely, however, only a few of the potties were “Open”, but I didn’t dwell on it. Later I found out that some team thought it would be cute to set a bunch of them to “In  Use”.DSC02405

There wasn’t much else to do, so we headed back to the van to fuel, relax, and breathe clean air. It was after 5 when the rest of the team arrived and we were now required to wear reflective vests whenever we stepped out of the van. They were seven minutes ahead of schedule. Head lights and a blinky butt light were required for the person running. I had bought some fiber optic hair barrettes for the team to wear at night for some extra fun. I don’t have any good pictures, unfortunately, but they looked great in the dark.


The team (minus Tim, who was running).

Leg 1, 7.8 miles (

It was cooling down fast, but I figured I’d be alright running in a tank top without arm warmers. One nice thing about Ragnar is that I could wear my jacket right up until it was time to run, then hand it off a teammate. There was an all-male team waiting around for their runner and I heard one guy say to the other, “You can catch her.” A volunteer announced “Team One,” and I saw Tim barreling toward me like a wild bull. My adrenaline was pumping, he slapped me with the baton bracelet, and I took off. I did not want to be caught!

First Leg

It was dusky when I started and the straight road stretched ahead for miles. One of the fun things about Ragnar is racking up “kills” by passing other runners. I couldn’t see anyone on the course, which took some of the excitement out of it. I was maybe half a mile in when I saw a guy running toward the exchange. I assume that he would be handing off to the team that was trying to catch me. It was very quiet, except for my illuminated yellow vest slapping against my chest and the sound of trickling water. I couldn’t see any rivers or canals so I wondered if I was hearing things, but I later learned that Tonopah has an extensive underground aquifer.

I was running my miles at a good clip when I finally saw a red blinky light in the distance. Adam Lambert’s “If I Had You” was running through my head, probably because I had taught it in RPM class earlier in the week. I grinned when he sang about “the flashing of the lights”, but I don’t think he had a relay race in mind. I was gaining on the light and started to get excited until I realized that it was just a Ragnar pillar telling me to go straight at the intersection. There was one aid station, and I took a cup of water.

The road turned to dirt and I wished that there had been another sign assuring me that I was going the right way. I was pretty sure that I was supposed to run straight for most of the leg, so I kept hustling along. Ragnar 1 Mile to goIt was getting dark and I couldn’t help but think that this was the kind of rarely traveled road where people dump dead bodies. A vehicle went by, revved its engine loudly, and stirred up a bunch of dust. There was one good-sized hill on the course, and I chugged up as fast as I could. I was glad I left the arm warmers behind because I was getting plenty sweaty. My splits were a little slower, but thought I could still make it in under an hour. After a while, I could see what looked like high school stadium lights in the distance. Sweet civilization. Ragnar puts a signpost up when there’s one mile left, but I didn’t see mine until mile 7.4. Oh no. Fortunately, I soon I reached a volunteer who radioed ahead, “Team Number One,” and I knew that I was almost there. I ran to the exchange and slapped the bracelet on Monica’s wrist. 59:48. I did it! Now to get out of these sweaty clothes and eat.

At the the next exchange I learned that the runner who had tried to catch me was ten minutes behind when he started, and still ten minutes behind when he reached the exchange. That felt good. Monica ended up getting off course during her leg and ran some extra miles. The rest of our first legs went smoothly. Captain Steve ran a 13.5 mile leg (the longest in the history of Ragnar) and got a special medal for it.

After Sheryl finished her leg at 12:32:05 AM, we headed to the next major exchange while Van 1 did their thing. Good, I thought, Let them run for a while. We were now 11 minutes behind our projections, but hoped that Van 1 would be able to make up some time. In years past, the exchange had been crammed full of vans, but there were only a few around. We settled into our van seats and closed our eyes. Lying down with tucked legs was semi-comfortable. I’m not sure if I actually slept or not. We received several text messages from Van 1 updating us on their progress. They had lost some time as well, and it looked like I’d be running around 5 AM instead of 4:30.


Our lonely vans

Leg 2, 2.7 miles (

I got out of the van about 45 minutes before I was supposed to run and couldn’t fully extend my left leg. My right leg was fine, so I think it had more to do with my sleeping position rather than the running. I limped around and tried to loosen my leg up, but it was being stubborn. It had gotten cold overnight, and I decided to run in full-length tights, a tank top, arm warmers, thick gloves, and a headband that covered my ears. My heart rate monitor strap was still damp, so I left it in the van. I had one of my caffeinated Chocolate Cherry Clif Shots with about twenty minutes to go. My leg started to loosen up a few minutes before Tim arrived.

When the volunteer announced “Team One,” I ripped off my jacket and bolted. I was ready to run my short little leg hard. Steve shouted, “Come back and wait for Tim!” Oh yeah, that hand-off thing. Chalk it up to extreme morning brain? I jogged back and waited for a proper bracelet slap. My legs felt decent and I pushed it. The first part was slightly uphill. Finally, I saw a red blinky that was attached to a person and notched my first kill. I checked my watch to see how far I had gone, and it read 1.22. I hadn’t even heard that auto-split beep at the first mile. A guy blazed by me right before the course turned onto a winding neighborhood sidewalk. I figured he was long gone, but then I started gaining on him. I darted to get around him, and about 10 seconds later, he blew by me again. He was obviously a better runner than I was, so maybe he was just using me to give himself a rest interval. I’m still counting him as a kill.

There was a fork in the sidewalk, and I took the lower path because it appeared to be the main one. I saw a red light blinking on one of the neighborhood lights on the upper path, but it wasn’t attached to a Ragnar sign, so I figured it was just for decoration. I didn’t see the guy up ahead anymore, but I thought maybe that was because the trees and the undulating nature of the path. I started to fear that I had gone off course, and when the sidewalk ran into the end of a cul-de-sac, I was sure of it. I ran back to the flashing red light and took the high road this time. The detour probably only cost me an extra 200 to 300 meters.  The course tilted upward again, and I did my best to run hard. I could see the exchange and kicked it in. I would have hit my projected time if it hadn’t been for my mistake. Even though it was a short run in the cold, I had gotten sweaty enough that I changed clothes again.

It was light when we hit the next major exchange, but we were still in the vesting hours. 538148_512940932082248_1137816654_nMonica put some makeup on, because as she said, “I’m single right now and you never know when you might meet someone.” She did get some positive male attention from the other teams, but as far as I know, no running dates were set up. Sheryl, who was pretty sure she would not be able to run her third leg, got a massage. I sought out some hot tea. My legs were feeling surprisingly good, with the exception of some calf stiffness. I had felt so much tighter after the second leg at Ragnar last year. Maybe it was because runner 7 didn’t start with a long downhill leg? We were starting to see more teams on the course, which was fun. One runner noticed my Fredbird hat and asked if I was from St. Louis.

Leg 3, 3.5 miles (

We pulled into the last major exchange with plenty of time to spare. We tagged some more vans with Uno cards, and noticed that one someone had put a ripped card back on our van. Another person had written Dos on our card before sticking it on the van. We had also been tagged with an orange target sticker and a Batman magnet. There wasn’t much to do but eat, rest, review Body Pump choreography, and use the port-o-potties. I did each thing multiple times. After Van 1 showed up, my friend Keith pulled me aside for a serious talk. “Show no mercy. Kill as many as you can.”

It was still cool, but as the sun crept toward it’s zenith, I started to feel hot. The heat was a big factor last year during the late legs and I started to worry. I was also experiencing some intestinal turmoil. Nerves and a jumbled eating, sleeping, and running schedule was taking its toll.

Our team was announced and Tim and I had made our sloppiest exchange of the race. Once I headed out on the road, there was a subtle, cooling breeze and I didn’t feel hot at all. The hill I was running was not so subtle, and between the the incline and the churning stomach, I wasn’t feeling great. There were some people up ahead that I knew I could catch, however, so I zeroed in on them. A couple people were walking. I had been reviewing Body Pump 77 and Enrique Iglesias’s “I Like It” and Shinedown’s “Boom-Lay Boom-Lay” bounced around my head. At the top of the hill, I had to stop for a traffic light and I wasn’t completely upset. Most of the Ragnar course is not closed, so unlike normal races, runners have to stop at the lights.

After crossing the street, there was a short, screaming downhill section, and then it was back uphill. Boom-Lay had given way to another Shinedown song, “Now I Own You.” I can work with this, I thought. What do I own? This hill? Those runners up ahead? Yes, yes. Another down, and then back up. I had five kills and saw two runners in the distance, Could I get them? Then it was as if Keith appeared in the sky and said, “Kill them. Kill them all.” There was a little over a half mile to go and knew I had them. I caught the runners, stopped at one more light, and sprinted down hill to cap off my final leg. It felt great to be done.


Monica’s at it again

The rest of my teammates ran their last legs hard. Paul finished with a huge smile. Craig and Steve crushed it. Monica felt strong as she took on the last 5.4 mile leg for Sheryl. She even managed to look great during it. When we saw her approach the finish line, all twelve of us crossed the line together in 26:07:35. It wasn’t what we wanted to do, but it was good enough for us to retain our Open Mixed title. The next team in our division was less than three minutes behind us, which made me think about how important every team member and leg was.The top team overall was a group of high school boys called The Lactic Acidholes who finished in 22:44:35.

All done!

Still Team Numero Uno!

We got out medals, free pizza, used a real bathroom, and headed straight home. I think all anyone wanted to do was shower and sleep.

Kill count

Posing with our Uno Card drawings and kill counts.

Racing is usually an individual endeavor, so it’s fun to do something like Ragnar where you compete as a team. I am truly blessed to know so many wonderful people. It also doesn’t hurt that they run really fast.

* Well, some truth might come out after you spend hours in a van together and the race itself is basically a dare.

Fine Valentine’s 4-mile Race and Couple’s Relay

Love can make your stomach turn and heart race. So can running. Once a year, the Southern Arizona Roadrunners celebrates the two simultaneously during the Fine Valentine’s race. Participants have the option of entering the two-loop race as a team, with sweethearts or just friends categories available. A self-proclaimed “B-Race,” the event inspires many fun and clever costumes. Nearly every Disney movie was represented and R2D2 made an appearance as well. Marriage has been proposed, and this year was no exception.

It was 34 degrees, clear, and sunny. The teams were given a baton filled with carnations to hand off after the first lap was completed. A “PDA Zone” was set up for the exchanges, and some couples used it to generate heat on a cold morning. I was running alone, so I was depending on my arm warmers and (non-compression) heart knee socks to keep me toasty.


I was fighting a cold, so I decided to hold back on this race. I started at a moderate-hard pace. Several of my friends who had a 20+ mile trail run planned for the afternoon were volunteering, and it was nice seeing their friendly faces on the course. The first lap was a mix of passing and being passed. The back of one woman’s shirt let me know that he “should have put a ring on it,” and Beyonce’s voice accompanied me for a mile or so. While this is a light “hearted” race, it certainly isn’t easy. The course leads up the ramps of the college football stadium for some thigh-frying fun. I was starting up the ramps as Janet, who ended up snatching the top female spot, blazed down.


I ran through the PDA zone and started the second lap. Several carnation buds that had been shaken loose from their batons were strewn along the course. I had generated enough body heat to feel comfortable, except for my hands which burned from the cold. It seemed like the ramps grew taller the second time around. As I headed down the home stretch, my mind wandered to the next weekend’s run. Maybe I should run the Saguaro Loop. I hadn’t done that in months. Loopy-loo, loopy-loo…

I saw a baton-less woman ahead of me in a blue jacket. She’s too far away, I thought, oh well. Then, just like Lambert the Sheepish Lion watching a wolf drag his ewe-mom away*, something snapped in my head. I had shown no spunk at at the end of my last few races, and I was sick of it. I unleashed what might have been my most ferocious kick ever. I bore down on her with the fire of a thousand suns. I knew that one of the reasons that I was able to run so hard was because I had held back during the race, but it still felt great to experience that surge of power. I passed her and held her off through the finish line.




After the race, I connected with friends, including the “Incredible” Paul and Mo Sheldon. I enjoy discovering how love and love of fitness are intertwined for so many couples. As Mo got to know Paul, she also started to embrace his love of running. They are each other’s biggest support as they race together and plan their vacations around Run Disney events. Mo posted the cutest status update on Facebook and I had to share: “Hehehe, I’m all sorts of giddy, yay!!!! Just got a new pair of running pants. Gotta say, I’m stoked that I’m down a size in pants & they’re fitted!! For a gal with meat on her bones & bodacious curves, that’s never happened, fitted pants!”


I ended up with the 3rd fastest open female time and won several gift certificates. As the winning couples were awarded their prizes, and more PDAs ensued. The race directors did a fabulous job getting the local business to donate prizes for the event. A steady stream of 80’s love ballads filled the air. Free pictures were available on the event’s site. This race is one of my favorites because it does such a great job of paying tribute to the relationships that have been forged and strengthened through running.


Me and the fabulous Janet!

Race Data:

* Laaaaaambert! I grew up watching a lot of Disney cartoons.

Surf City Half Marathon

After setting my half marathon PR (1:40:03) last November, I immediately started looking for a late winter half with the goal of breaking 1:40. My friend Keith had run the full Surf City Marathon the year before, and it sounded like a great race. The course was relatively flat and I liked the thought of running near the ocean. I also really wanted the surfboard medal.

My high hopes collided with reality as I have been running slower lately. Nagging voices in my head told me that I was past my prime or I had some insidious medical condition, but the more likely culprits were the reduced training volume and recovery that followed my December marathon. As Michael Scott of The Office would say, “The timing was nothing short of predominant.” My runs have been improving recently, but I decided a realistic goal was 1:45.

Keith decided to run the full again and his friend Brian was signed up for the half, so in the spirit of friendship and frugality, we drove out together. We arrived at the expo Saturday morning. It was held in a large tent in a beachside parking lot. I had been wanting to try Skechers Go Run 2 shoes for a while and I ended up buying a pair. They matched my running outfit perfectly and I was tempted to wear them, but I did not want to break the cardinal rule of racing: “Thou shalt not try new things on race day.” I also sprung for some protein bars, a triathlon sticker for my car, and an entry to the Women’s Half Marathon in Scottsdale. I snacked on peanut butter and frozen strawberries and checked out some running apparel with amusing sayings like: “I Love Running…Just Not While I’m Doing It,” “It’s A Hill…Get Over It,” and “If You See Me Collapse, Pause My Garmin.”


Keith is an official member of the Marathon Maniacs, so we joined a group of them at Buca di Beppo for dinner. There were people who had done over 200 marathons, some who were trying to run one in every state, and others who had done back to back marathons on the same weekend. Brian and I sheepishly admitted to being halfers this weekend. The dining experience was interesting. Entrees were listed as serving 2 or 4 and family style dining was encouraged. I ordered a bowl of pasta marinara with one of the Maniacs, passed it down to share with the rest of the table, and there was still some left over.


On race morning, Keith got up around four, then rousted us at 4:30 (5:30 Arizona time, thank goodness). The marathon started earlier than the half, and getting there early would help us beat the traffic. I had an apple, some peanut butter, and a Cafe Latte Muscle Milk before we left. I donned an old race T-shirt and tube-sock arm warmers to stay warm before race time.

Port-o-Potties were plentiful and I was able to use them a couple of times without waiting. I started imagining an action movie where the hero is being chased, starts running with a group of marathoners, and then hides in the Port-o-Potties to elude his pursuers. Brian thought the hero should stuff the bad guys into the potties and somehow lock them inside. Yeah, it’s not quite ready for prime time.

The expo tent was open and we were able to hang out in there for a while. We even had a chance to take a picture on the plastic surfboard without waiting in line. Soon it was time for Keith to start the marathon. Brian and I had another hour to kill, so I ate my Z Bar and we did some people watching back at the expo tent. We saw a Where’s Waldo and his Waldette and a guy dressed like Superman. I had my Chocolate Cherry Clif Shot about 15 minutes before the start. It was warming up, so I ditched the shirt and “arm warmers” at bag check before heading to the corral.


Shortly after 7:47 my corral was off. We were serenaded with Beach Boys tunes and other surfer music for the first couple miles. The ocean was visible, but I couldn’t really look at it without severely craning my head to the left. Large gulls landed in front on some of the runners, and I wondered if they’d go Hitchcock on us, but they flew away. The first few miles felt pretty easy and I was running faster than the 8-minute miles I needed. I decided to keep running by feel and I allowed myself to consider that I might have a great run. Just before mile three, the course veered right and we ran through a semi-hilly residential area. The course turned back on itself and I saw Brian who had started in the coral ahead of me. I cheered, but he was in the zone. I caught up with some of the marathoners soon after. Then it was back on to the Pacific Coast Highway, where I saw Brian again. This time he cheered back.

Things were pretty uneventful until the turnaround. Water stations were plentiful, and I started thinking that I could have gotten by without my little hydration belt. They were handing out something called Vitalyte on the course, but I stuck with the water. I felt I was adequately fueled, plus I had some Sports Beans in my belt just in case.

After reaching the turn, we ran straight into the sun. The temperature was rising, and I felt it. My pace slowed. I ended up taking a drink from my own bottle around the 11th mile. I grumpily assumed that Brian was already done by now (he was, he ran a 1:18:42 for 3rd in his age group).

Even though I was nearing the end, I found myself losing focus. I watched some of the women who were ahead of me, thought about trying to catch them, but didn’t go for it. My watch was showing a really high heart rate, but I wasn’t sure I could trust it because these straps were known for being erratic. I had already replaced one. When I finally saw the finish line, I mustered up a little kick. I really didn’t have that much left. Maybe it was the heat, the lack of recent long runs, or maybe I just started out too fast. Anyhow, my official time was 1:44:30, so I was happy.

Volunteers handed me water, a Mylar blanket, my surfboard medal, and a bag of food. My legs were trashed and I was a sodden mess. I met up with Keith and Brian and we took a picture by the beach before our long drive home. When all was said and done, I had traveled around 1000 miles to run 13.1, and it was worth every one.

Race Data:

Overall: 977 out of 14787
Women: 251 out of 8857
F 35-39: 43 out of 1418
Age/Grade: 64.09% Place: 868
Finish: 1:44:30 Pace: 7:59
Tag Time: 1:44:30
Gun Time: 1:47:41
We SURF-ived!

We SURF-ived!

Tech Trek 10K

I had been planning on doing this race for a few months, but hadn’t sent in my registration. It’s pretty low-key, so I figured I’d just show up on race day and go. The race started at 9 and I set my alarm for 7, figuring I’d give myself time to eat my normal breakfast instead of having a bar. When the alarm went off, I heard the steady thumping of raindrops. I turned over and thought about skipping the race. I haven’t invested any money, I’ll run in the afternoon, it would be so nice to spend a lazy morning drinking hot tea and listening to the rain. Besides, this race was a school fundraiser and wasn’t being put on by “serious runners.” For all I knew, they would cancel. I finally got myself out of bed to check the website, but there weren’t any updates. Around 7:40, I finally decided to go; if it was cancelled, I’d run on my own. Even though it’s tempting to stay inside when the weather is bad, some of my best runs have been in the rain. I ate a Luna bar and headed out.

When I arrived at the school, the rain had let up. I registered, paid my $27, got my number, and relaxed in my car for a bit. I had a chocolate cherry Clif Shot about 20 minutes before the start. It was a fairly small group, and the men far outnumbered the women. Last year the fastest woman had finished in 45:27. If I were at full capacity, I could run around that time, but I’m still running a bit slow. Still, in most races, I wouldn’t have even a glimmer of hope that I could win. Since the crowd was so small, I started right behind the line. Some of the men and a woman in a blue jacket took off. The rain had stopped, and it was 60 degrees and 90% humidity. This is the desert, and anything above 20% feels stifling. The clouds lingered low around the mountains. I had worn capris and quickly wished that I had chosen shorts. You’re not supposed to feel hot during a run in January, even in Tucson.

The course had several rolling hills with some decent climbs. There were five water stations. After about a mile, I was passed by a woman who had a dog leash attached to her waist. She asked what my time had been at the mile mark and I told her “About 7:53.” She said that they were going to fast and the dog wasn’t being a good pacer. I ended up passing her around the second mile. As far as I knew, only the blue jacket woman was in front of me. I could see her about 200 meters up ahead. My next two mile splits were faster than the first, but at the time I didn’t know if it was because I was getting stronger or if it was an easier part of the course. The version of U2’s song Magnificent that was a part of the current RPM release was running through my head.

After the fourth mile, there was a stretch of dirt road. Parts of the it were firm and only slightly wet, but there were also some slick muddy patches. I kept thinking of the Seinfeld episode where Kramer overhears some men talking about a horse race that was going to be run in the rain.

Man 1: “This horse loves the slop, it’s in his bloodlines. His father was a mudder. His mother was a mudder.”

Man 2: “His mother was a mudder?”

I am ignorant of my bloodlines, but I wasn’t loving the slop and it did slow me down a bit. I ended up losing blue jacket around here. It was back to the pavement with about a mile to go. There wasn’t anyone to close to me either in front or behind. I wanted to finish strong, but I didn’t push as hard as I would have if this had been an A race, there was a PR on the line, or there was someone to run down at the finish. As I crossed, the announcer confirmed that I was the second-place woman.

I ran a couple of cool down miles and then headed back the the gym. After I changed into some dry clothes, I took a banana and half a wheat bagel and ate them along with my 2nd Luna Bar of  the day. The woman with the dog said that she recognized my name from other races and I recognized hers. She was the third female finisher. I was awarded a $40 gift certificate to the Running Shop for second, so in a sense, I got paid to race that day. I was a minute faster than at the 10K two weeks ago, on a tougher course in worse weather. I’m still not back to where I was, but progress is encouraging. I also ended up with a new Facebook friend. Getting out the door was definitely worth it that morning.

Race data:


Mountain Man Triathlon (2012)

There are a lot of nice things about living in Tucson, but the weather in August isn’t one of them. So when I went searching for an Olympic distance triathlon to cut my teeth on, heading to north to Flagstaff in late summer sounded ideal. I plunked down some money, bought a wetsuit, and continued to swim, bike, and run.

A few months before the race, I started reading some race reports on Beginner Triathlete. I knew that there were hills involved and the climbs were challenging, but I had forgotten that what goes up must come down. And when you’re on a bike, that coming down can be very fast. Some people had reached speed of 50 miles per hour. My insides were turning to goo at the thought. Some might enjoy flying downhill protected by nothing more than plastic, styrofoam, and technical fabric, but I am not one of them. Fortunately, I hooked up with another triathlete named Tracy who was familiar with the course. We biked it together, and while I did freak out in some places, I made it down the hills.

On race morning, the alarm went off at 4. I ate some Icelandic yogurt, berries, and granola before leaving the motel. It was a bit chilly and I was glad that I had some yoga pants. I parked on the side of the road like we had been instructed to. When I took my bike off the rack, I noticed that my aero pads were moist with dew.

My warm-up consisted of, some trips to the car, a couple visits to the port-o-potty, and the wetsuit wrestle. This was my third time wearing the suit, and it must have stretched out slightly because it only took about 5 minutes to put on instead of 15. I had a 2nd Surge caffeinated gel and headed toward the lake.

Swim  (

00:27:38 | 1640.42 yards | 01m 41s / 100yards
Age Group: 6/19
Overall: 122/288

The water was cool, but I was comfortable in the wetsuit. With about 4 minutes to the start, I felt the urge to go to the bathroom again (not the type that is easily done in a wetsuit either), but told myself it was nerves. I positioned myself toward the top third of the group (all Olympic women and Olympic men 45+). I had been warned that the altitude would probably be a factor at the start of the swim, and it was. I felt out of breath and hemmed in by the other swimmers. The lake water was a muddy brown and there was no visibility. I told myself to relax, get lots, of air, and just keep going. Lifting my head up to sight was awkward and tiring. I altered my stroke to extend the time on my side and take in more air.

This was my first open water swim. I had heard my people say that nothing can prepare you for it, and they were right. There was contact, but at least the “washing machine” felt like it was set on the gentle cycle. Maybe it was due to this being a smaller event, but I was grateful. My hands slid off a few neoprene-clad bottoms and I wondered if that’s what petting a dolphin felt like. I felt a few hands slide off my bottom as well.

Sighting was tough. When I lifted my head up, half the time I didn’t see the buoys, only the bodies in front of me. I felt a tug at my ankle at one point, and a lady told me that I was swimming off course. This was a very polite group, and many sorries were exchanged as contact was made.

Once things thinned out, I was able to settle into a decent rhythm. I got some extra minerals as I swallowed lake water a few times. I had no idea if I was swimming well or  how long I had been in the water. I only knew that I was slowly headed somewhere. After rounding the buoy to head to the boat ramp, I was hit with the glare of the sun. At least I could make out people leaving the water up ahead, so I focused on them. I kept swimming until my hands made contact with the lake bottom.

Transition 1


Where is that darn zipper leash?

Pebbles, ouch!

Pebbles, ouch!

When I reached the shore, I wobbled upon standing. I would have flunked a field sobriety test. The rocks were sharp and I gingerly made my way out of the water. I tried to run to the transition area, but my legs weren’t very peppy. I really struggled getting the wetsuit off of my feet. I stood and tugged, then sat and tugged, then stood, then sat… Why don’t the wetsuit manufacturers take a cue from Guess jeans in the 80’s and put a zipper by the ankles? If anyone has tips, please share. I had half a Z bar and a drink of water before heading out.


01:21:19 | 24.85 miles | 18.34 mile/hr
Age Group: 11/19
Overall: 190/288

This is the part I was dreading. After my test ride with Tracy, I had ridden some semi-hilly courses near home the last few weeks and hoped that would help.

The first part of the course was fairly flat and fast. The road is smooth with a very wide shoulder. It wasn’t coned off, but traffic was light. It’s really beautiful. The lake and the pines were a nice change of scenery for this desert girl. I had decided ahead of time not to use my aero bars for this race. I am still getting used to them, and the course had enough up and downs that I didn’t feel super comfortable. About 7.5 miles in, there was a sizable climb. Knowing that I would be surrendering time as I braked and gave my legs a rest on the descents, I decided to push the hill. I teach indoor cycling and I am used to climbing intervals, so chug, chug, chug I went, passing several people. Maybe not the best strategy, but it was fun.

Finally, the moment of truth came: time to ride downhill. Part of the fear comes from the initial approach when you can’t see the bottom of the hill and it’s easy to imagine falling straight down. I had gotten to 29 MPH on my test ride. I feathered my brakes and started down. Soon, I was talking to myself. “Come on! You’ve got this!” Feather, feather, feather… It took about 3 minutes and I saw 32 MPH on my Cateye. I didn’t enjoy it, but was thrilled to be done.

Toward the end of the ride I started noticing some dull hip flexor pain. My hands were also starting to go numb. In hindsight, I probably should have ridden some of the course in the aero bars. I think I started to lose focus toward the end of the bike and let my pace slow. I had been intermittently drinking Body Armor sports drink and felt fueled and hydrated, but not overly so.


A flat part of the course.


Trying to smile for the camera.

Transition 2

I probably slowed down and jumped off my bike too soon. As I was switching shoes, I was trying to decide whether to take some Sport Beans with me, use the port-o-potty, and/or put some Body Glide on my feet (I had put some blister powder in my running shoes before the race, but had felt a little hot spot on my left foot during the bike). I did nothing. Thankfully, I remembered to take my helmet off. I applied some more sunscreen. I burn easily and wanted to be safe. The hip flexor pain was completely gone.


00:50:20 | 06.21 miles | 08m 07s  min/mile
Age Group: 2/19
Overall: 54/288

At the start of the run, I noticed that the rubber-leg feeling was much more pronounced than on the sprint triathlons I had done. I think it went away faster, though, probably because I wasn’t trying to book it out of transition. About half a mile in, I realized I had forgotten to put my race belt on. This was despite putting it under my running shoes so I would have to look at it in transition. I decided to keep going. Even if I got disqualified, I wanted to know what I time I was capable of on this course.

I settled in to a good pace, knowing that the hill was looming. I had heard from about it several people, including one who said “It goes straight up.” I had checked out the elevation charts online, and while it was steep, it looked less menacing than Saguaro Monument East in Tucson, which I have run dozens of times. I had also gotten a preview by truck a month ago, thanks to Tracy. I knew that there was a long stretch, and then more to climb after the switchback. Many people get discouraged here when they realize there’s a lot of hill left and start walking.


In the middle of the hill.

Once I got to it, I focused on a short, quick stride and tall posture. Several people were walking and I racked up some “kills”, to coin a Ragnar term. One was a woman in pink compression socks that had passed me on the bike. When I reached the end of the pavement, I was directed onto a dirt path. Tracy had pointed that out, but because we didn’t actually drive it, I had forgotten about it. The dirt wasn’t super-deep, but did slow me down a little.

When I hit the descents, I let go. I run down hills well, and stayed quick on my feet and let gravity do its job. When things flattened out again, I tried to keep my intensity, but ended up slowing down. I think physically and mentally, the race was beginning to wear on me. After the fact, I realized that other than the one marathon I had run up to this point, this was the longest race I had ever run. During the final mile, the pink-sock lady passed me. I thought about picking it up, but couldn’t or wouldn’t summon that little extra. I did manage a little kick toward the end, but she finished 3 seconds ahead of me. After we stopped, I noticed the faded 36 on her calf and realized that she was in my age group. We chatted for a while, and she told me that she had been chasing me ever since I passed her on the hill. She was using me as a rabbit and thanked me for pushing her on the run. When she told me her name, I recognized it from other race results and had expected her to beat me going in. Anyhow, I now have a new Facebook friend.


Beautiful scenery and a gasping runner.


I changed into some dry clothes, connected with some friends, had one of my Hammer protein bars and some cold watermelon (sweet nectar!) the event provided. It was pretty warm by then and the sun felt especially intense because of the altitude. As I drove away, I passed several of the Half Ironman competitors on their runs, and frankly, I was happy not to be one of them (this year anyway…).


Final time: 2:44:57
Overall: 110 / 228
Age Group: 5 / 19

There were a lot of firsts for me with this race (Olympic distance, altitude, wetsuit, open water, substantial hills), so I didn’t want to put a lot of pressure on myself. I definitely have room to improve on my open water swimming, biking, and transition skills. I should weave the race belt through the shoes so I have to touch it to put the shoes on. I wish I had brought a visor to shield my face from the sun. My run time was pretty much what I was expecting and strong for this course, but I can’t help feel that I wimped out a little. Granted, I did push hard, but if I’m honest, I didn’t want to take the pain to the next level. Still, I am mostly happy with my performance.

The Mountain Man Triathlon is a great race. The course is pretty and challenging, and the event has a nice, laid-back vibe.

Sun Run 10K (the Pancake Race)

The Sun Run is the official start to the Southern Arizona Roadrunners Grand Prix series. Both a 5K and 10K are offered. It’s a “pancake flat” course around Reid Park with a pancake breakfast served afterwards. The course and cool temperatures should yield fast times, but I am never in peak shape this time of the year. All of my PRs have been set at the Cinco de Mayo 10K, even though it’s a much tougher course. I think I am still dealing with the after effects of the marathon I ran five weeks ago, but found some encouragement in my workouts this week. I’m starting to get some pep back and was anxious to see how this run would go.

A night owl like me appreciates the 9 AM start time. I woke up at a very civilized 7:20. As the season progresses, races start earlier and earlier in an attempt to beat the desert heat. This was not a problem today. The event’s website says that the temperature is typically 55 degrees. When I arrived, my car’s thermometer read 28. I came prepared, wearing tights, my short-sleeved Ragnar shirt, arm warmers, gloves, a headband that covered my ears, and a jacket. I got my bib quickly, and then chatted with some friends. Putting my bib on was a challenge because I did not want to take my gloves off!

Sun Run

I headed back to my car for a bit to enjoy the relative warmth, had a Chocolate Cherry Clif Shot (I already had a Luna bar and hot black tea before leaving the house), and then headed out for my warm-up run. Almost immediately, I felt the urge to use the bathroom. When I saw the lines at the port-o-potties, I decided to run to another area of the park where I knew there were bathrooms instead. It took me longer to get there than I thought, so I had to hustle on the way back. I threw my jacket on the car, dashed to the start line and made it with a few minutes to spare.

It was a little bunchy at the start, but thinned out quickly. The 5Kers had a separate start about a quarter mile away (one of my friends almost ran the wrong race!). I ran the first mile at what felt like a decent but controlled pace. I passed Steve (Ragnar captain) and my friend Shane. Steve always starts slow and then finishes ahead of me. I hadn’t raced Shane in a while, and he’s been improving tremendously as of late. They both ended up passing me before too long. At the first mile, I thought my watch said I was few seconds over 8, but when I reviewed my Garmin data at home, it read 7:35. Maybe I was looking at the wrong field or something. My mindset at the time was to pick up the pace because I knew even if I wasn’t at full capacity, I could go faster than 8.

The next few miles were about getting into a groove. I could see Shane’s bright orange jacket up ahead. Come to think of it, bright orange was everywhere that morning. While this course is about as flat as you’ll find outside of a track race, there was a gentle upward trend for miles two and three. I swiped a quick drink at the water station. After mile three, the course started to slope slightly downward and I tried to take advantage. People were passing me here and there and I wasn’t passing anyone. My heart rate was right where it should be for a 10K. One of the women who passed me had a bouncy running style, and I hoped that she would get tired and that I would be able to catch her. I concentrated on running smooth and getting my feet off the ground quickly.

In the sixth mile, my focus wandered a bit. When I saw my split of 8:10, I knew I needed to pick it up. The last .2 miles were a miserable push, which is the way it should be. A couple more people surged passed me and I couldn’t catch them. I heard a few friends cheering for me, which is always nice. I finished 7th in my age group with a 49:01.

In conclusion, there was plenty of sun at the Sun Run, even if there wasn’t much heat. Former Olympic Trials Marathon runners Craig (30:00), Gina (36:33), and Paula (36:47) tore up the course. Shane matched his 5K pace. My friends Tia, Stu, Melody, Cindy, Chris, Pam, and Keith all picked up age group awards. There was some tough competition in my age group today and even my current PR would not have cut it. I was disappointed that my pace today (7:53) was slower than my Half Marathon pace from last November (7:38). On the other hand, I had improved from 8:09 pace I ran at this race two years ago. I know that all races can’t be fantastic, so I’ve just got to trust the training and keep on running.

Race data: