San Francisco Half Marathon (A Race to Love)

Racing opportunities thin out during the summer in southern Arizona, so I kept my eyes open for events in cooler locales. I had several friends who were heading up to the San Francisco Marathon and Half Marathon, and I decided to join them. My husband Ted and I volunteered to drive our fuel-efficient Hyundai Elantra and Keith and Monica were game to travel with us. We decided to break the 880-ish mile trip into two days with a stopover in Bakersfield.

We crammed ourselves, luggage, and a couple week’s worth of snacks into the car, and waved goodbye to hundred-degree temperatures for a few days. Before we even left town, we ended up doubling back for sunglasses and a cell phone (the names of the forgetful parties have been withheld). A harbinger of other things to come… Finally, we were on out way, and our GPS (hereafter referred to as Dot) was plugged in and ready to navigate.

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Driving was pretty uneventful for a while, which is a good thing. We broke into our snacks and talked about our goals for the race. Monica wanted to break two hours. Keith, who averages over a marathon a month, had set a PR of 3:01:18 a few weeks ago and was feeling good. Personally, I was just wanting to go under 1:45 (My PR is 1:40:03). I knew it was a hilly course, and my training had been very short-distance focused lately. I had met my goal of breaking 21 minutes in a 5K and simply looking forward to getting out of town and having fun. We stopped in Phoenix for lunch and took few more pit stops along the way. It’s funny, no matter how much food you pack for a trip, you always want to buy more. Monica bought some gummy octopi, which led to her sharing this video with all of us: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=astISOttCQ0. Warning: Watch only if you like obnoxious things.

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Standing outside the General Patton museum at a California rest stop.

Keith brought his Sirius radio, and we listened to some classic rock and old school, “new wave” alternative music while it was sunny out. As night fell, our moods mellowed, and we dialed in Sirius XM Love. Easy 70’s tunes abounded, which was fine for everyone except Ted. Then it happened. The moment that set the tone for the rest of the trip. Minnie Ripperton. Loving you. Tweeting birds. La la la la! La la la la! La la la la la la la la la! Doo doo doo doo doo! And… ahh ahh ahh ahh ahh! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kE0pwJ5PMDg Yes, we sang. And it sounded awful. Runner’s lungs are not necessarily singer’s lungs. Our vocal chords strained and sputtered. But there was lots and lots of love in the car, and we dubbed this the road trip of love to the city of love. We were still feeling it when we arrived at our Bakersfield Super 8 super late that night.

Keith, Monica, and I met in the morning for an easy five-miler before we hit the road again. It was slightly cooler than in Tucson, which was nice. After we hit the road, Keith handed us his iPhone so we could hook it up to the auxiliary, and Minnie’s high notes poured through the speakers. The miles rolled by, and I gave Dot the expo address and she dutifully took us to Treasure Island. We saw a marina with a lot of expensive boats, but nothing that looked like a convention center. Then I realized that I had chosen the wrong zip code. Oops. We made our way back over the bridge and right into the heart of downtown San Francisco. Dot did her best to guide us, but the GPS signal frequently got lost amid the tall buildings, so some of her instructions weren’t very timely.

We were about to give up on the expo for that day and just head to the motel, when we passed several people carrying marathon bags and saw the convention center. When we arrived, we decided to split up so we could each look at what we wanted to. I started searching my purse for my phone to make sure I had everyone’s number, and I couldn’t find it. I frantically emptied my whole purse on the floor,and it wasn’t there. This amused some people… Ted had his phone, so he was stuck with me for a while.

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Yeah… I keep a lot of stuff in there.

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To paraphrase Templeton the rat from the first animated Charlotte’s Web movie, the expo was a veritable smorgasbord, and I tried almost everything. Bars, snacks, bars, drinks, chews, bars… Apparel, massagers, hydration systems, and all the usual stuff was present. I ended up buying a Tiger Tail and some sunglasses. Keith, who is an Ambassador for the race, met up with his fellow Ambassadors at their booth. He was also interviewed by a local news station because he had been at the Boston Marathon. We also messed around at the TRX station. Photo ops abounded.

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Because Keith was an ambassador, he was invited to a special dinner at a Thai restaurant and we were able to come as guests. The food was delicious and plentiful. After dinner, we walked around by the waterfront. The Bay Bridge was lit up beautifully. I had brought my sweater, but I still felt chilly.

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We decided to drive around so we could see the Golden Gate bridge and get a feel for the course, which went right over it. When we turned around in the little park, the bottom of the car scraped on something, and one of the underguard thingamajigs came loose (are you overwhelmed by my automotive knowledge?). Ted and Keith wrestled with it for a while, and were eventually able to completely detach it. More Minnie was needed… Ah, feel the love.

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We spent the next day at the Expo, and then Ted, Monica, and I took a side trip to Sports Basement, where I scooped up some running and tri gear and Ted got a free beer. Then we stopped at Trader Joe’s for some lunch salads and more snacks. I ended up finding my phone in one of my other bags. Who knows why I had put it there instead of my purse.

We decided that it would be fun to go to Little Italy for our pre-race dinner, so we piled into the car (people who live in the area might be laughing at us right about now). All of the parking lots in the area were full. Roads were blocked off due to some kind of street fair. Dot sounded annoyed as she repeatedly told us she was “Recalculating.” Traffic was congested. Dot faded in and out, and gave us our directions after we had already passed the turns. We drove up and down some of those crazy, steep hills that you see in the movies. An hour and a half later, we returned to the motel and ate pizza at a place across the street. I ended up having a veggie pizza sub and a salad.

It was another really cold evening, and I was regretting not bringing warmer bottoms to the race. I decided to ask the front desk for trash bags, figuring I could wear them to keep warm before the start. The desk guy raised his eyebrows, but gave me the bags. Monica kindly gave me a pair of throwaway gloves and let me borrow one of her fleece jackets. I had at least had the foresight to bring some tube sock “arm warmers” to toss.

I set my alarm for 3:20 the next morning. Bruce and Terri, who are also from Tucson but were staying elsewhere, kindly offered to drive me and Keith to the start. Ted was going to drive Monica to her start because she was running the second half of the course and didn’t have to get up as early. Bruce and Terri were also having problems with their GPS, but we made our way to the start in plenty of time. Security looked through our bags, but it didn’t take very long. It was a cool morning, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. With my extra layers and garbage bag, I was completely fine.

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*******************Skip if you don’t care about potty stuff********************************

Being an Ambassador, Keith was able to wait inside a restaurant and drink nice beverages and use plumbed toilets. Meanwhile, I made my way to the port-o-potties, and thankfully didn’t have to wait in line. If you have read my other race reports, you might have picked up on the fact that when it comes to the solid stuff, I usually have to go early and go often. This morning, nothing. Not at the hotel. Not in the plastic blue facility. Not even after taking a caffeinated Clif shot. It must have been that pizza sub. I don’t normally eat white bread. I knew that white flour can be used to make paste. Add some gummy cheese, and well, you get the point.

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I put Monica’s fleece in my gear check bag and headed toward the second corral. The air was cool, but I was fine in my tank and arm warmers. I also chucked my trash bag. It was crowded at the beginning, but I didn’t have to weave too much. My mental DJ cued up Republica’s “Ready to Go”.

It’s a crack, I’m back yeah standing
On the rooftops shouting out,
Baby I’m ready to go!

Because I wasn’t feeling the need to be aggressive in this race, I was fine with a slow start. I hit the first mile mark in 8:16. We ran along the waterfront, which was beautiful. The next couple miles were just under 8 minutes, then in the 7:40 range. The aroma of sourdough permeated the air. There was a steep climb as we approached the bridge. Now, My Chemical Romance’s “Famous Last Words” coursed through my head. I am not afraid to keep on living… That mile was run in 8:36.

Now for the highlight of the course: running on the Golden Gate Bridge. While it was still crowded and I needed to make sure I didn’t crash into anyone, I made sure to look to the side from time to time and take in the view. I had discarded the “arm warmers” and gloves by this time. The air was cool, but it felt wonderful. I saw Keith making his way back across the bridge around mile seven. There was some gentle ascending and descending, but I didn’t feel like it made that much difference in my pace or effort. At the end of the bridge, we ran into the park for the turn-around and then ran back across. A live band played some classic southern-style rock. I was feeling really, really good and decided I’d try to push the pace a little. Cascada’s “San Francisco” was in my head now. I had recently taught it in RPM, and well, I was in San Francisco. At least “Loving You” did not make an appearance. 

19913_4294477140486_1286549467_nAfter leaving the bridge, we headed inland a bit. After a sharp ascent, there was a nice view of the houses below. Then it was time to fly down a long, steep hill.  The last couple of miles were more up and down, emphasis on the up. I was still feeling good, and cranked up my effort and started passing some people. I saw someone with a sign that said “Lauf, Micha, Lauf!” I speak a little bit of German, and pretended that the sign was specifically encouraging me to run.

264894_4294477260489_1691156455_nAs I approached the finish line, I was passed by one person, and I decided to see if I could reel him in. I dug in and went for it, and I got him. My chip time was 1:43:17, and I was really happy with it. Ted and Monica had been able to see everything from the sidelines and got some great shots.

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Behind the guy in gray…

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Not anymore

I met up with Ted and Monica and got my dry clothes at bag check. While the weather 1005875_3280320263584_1794908932_nhad been perfect for running, it was a bit cool for just standing around. I picked up some Greek yogurt at the finish, which was delicious. I appreciated that they provided something with some protein. Soon it was time for Monica to line up for the Second Half, and Ted a I took a long walk to the car and drove to the finish line. 

Keith finished his marathon in an impressive 3:03:49, while Monica was happy with her 2:06:12. Bruce gutted out a 4:55:32 for his fifth marathon this year. I never saw one of our other Tucson friends, Brian, on the trip, but I saw that he won his age group with a 1:23:46. I ended up seventh in my age group of 431, which was a pleasant surprise. We headed to Pizza Orgasmica for some post-race fueling. Was it as good as it sounds? A lady doesn’t eat and tell 😉

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After lunch, it was back into the car and we headed to Bakersfield. When we asked Dot to take us to a Mexican restaurant that had been recommended by a local, she led us to a cemetery. Tall buildings weren’t the problem this time, so we banished her to the glove box for the rest of trip. On the way home, we refueled at a Love’s (where else?) travel stop.

This race was one where I was able to simply enjoy being a runner. I came into it without any real expectations, pressure, or plans. I just let my body do what it felt like doing and enjoyed the moment. Sometimes the fact that running is a celebration of being healthy and alive can get lost in the splits and mileage logs. Any day that I can move on my own power in a new and beautiful place is a good day indeed.

Race data: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/329579065

Food Tripping

We all have those tumultuous relationships that bring us joy, guilt, pleasure, and anxiety. Sweethearts, parents, bosses… I will confess that I have one with food. It’s emotional and chemical. Many of us have been conditioned to enjoy food as a reward for a job well done, or to soothe ourselves with it after a tough day. I deserve this treat. Certain foods activate the pleasure centers of our brains, and once those sensations wear off, feelings of guilt and self-loathing sometimes follow, which can lead to even more eating… A study found that rats that were constantly fed a high-calorie, high fat diet displayed decreased stimulation in their pleasure centers, began to overeat compulsively, and eventually became obese.

I never had a full-on eating disordered, but I have definitely struggled with disordered eating. I loved to eat, especially junk food. I wanted to be thinner. Since these desires are at odds, erratic behavior ensued. Periods of severe restriction alternated with binges. The day after a heavy indulgence, I was convinced my thighs felt bigger. If I didn’t hate vomiting so much. I might have become bulimic. It has been a long process for me to eat a consistent, healthy diet. I am now able to think of food as nourishment and fuel most of the time while still allowing for the occasional treat. My palate has changed, and I enjoy food that’s healthful. Give me fruits, veggies, whole grains and good fats. My regular foods. Acceptable restaurants. Dietary détente.

Last weekend I took a road trip to the San Francisco Marathon (I ran the half) with my husband and two runner friends. Between the driving and the time spent in the city itself, it was five days away from home. Lots of time sitting in a car. Stopping when it was convenient and grabbing what what was available. Going easy on the water to avoid too many pit stops. Boredom munching. I didn’t go crazy, but it was a definite deviation from the norm.

Two nights before the race, we attended a complimentary Thai dinner, courtesy of my friend Keith who is an ambassador for the race. There was a buffet, and being a vegetarian, I was very limited in my choices. I ended up having a couple of spring rolls, which I de-skinned, and some Pad Thai, where I tried to go heavy on the veggies and light on the noodles. There were a lot more noodles than veggies, though, and I didn’t want to be a hog. As I was eating, I kept thinking about the oil, the refined rice noodles, and the sugar in the sauce. It made it kind of hard for me to enjoy the food, which was good, but not outstanding (I think it’s more a reflection on my affection for Pad Thai than the restaurant itself). I also had two of the mini cupcakes for dessert. While I do indulge sometimes, my general rule is that if I am going to eat something that’s somewhat unhealthy, it had better be amazing. I had the same feelings about the veggie pizza sub the night before the race and some cheesy mushrooms (the menu said stuffed mushrooms, but they were delivered swimming in a big, melty basin) that I had at a Mexican restaurant on the trip back. Good, but worth the calories?

I started thinking about how my issues with food haven’t gone away. When I go on trips, I usually enjoy having “treat” food for a few days, then long to get back to my regular eating routine. I no longer enjoy the food, I don’t feel like myself, and start to worry about gaining weight. Also, even though I stay active when I travel, it’s usually to a lesser degree than normal. Part of me thinks that I should just relax and enjoy myself. I don’t travel that often, and I believe that what you do day in and day out far outweighs the blips here and there. On the other hand, some people come back from trips several pounds heavier, and as we all know, weight is much harder to take off than to put on. Is either view completely right or wrong? I certainly don’t want to be a person who misses out on life’s experiences because I’m completely preoccupied with what I’m eating. I’m curious to know how others eat and think while on vacation.

I was up three pounds the day after the trip. A week later, I’m back to normal or maybe plus one. Even during normal life, weight fluctuates, so it’s hard to tell. The trip and race were incredible, though, and I will focus on that in an upcoming post.

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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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The team (minus Tim, who was running).

Leg 1, 7.8 miles (http://connect.garmin.com/activity/277388235)

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.

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Our lonely vans

Leg 2, 2.7 miles (http://connect.garmin.com/activity/277388246)

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 (http://connect.garmin.com/activity/277388260)

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.

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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.

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.”

AtTheExpo

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.

PreRaceDinner

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.

Surf

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: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/269650693

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!