Monday, August 7, 2017

Next up: Wyoming!

Wow! Summer is flying by. It is unbelievable that the first week of August is already over. Where do the days go? As much as the running in the first part of July was difficult due to the heat and humidity here in CT, these last couple of weeks have been really nice. Cooler mornings feel wonderful, and for some of my afternoon runs, cloud cover has been plentiful. Both circumstances are a welcome relief from the higher temps earlier in the summer. 
I am gearing up for my next half, the Run with the Horses in Wyoming. I’ve been pretty worried about this one. This trip was planned with the focus on catching the full solar eclipse heading to the U.S. in August. The race was second priority. I don’t know that I would have chosen this race if it weren’t for the timing of the eclipse. I suspect I would’ve gone with a larger race like the one in Jackson Hole or Yellowstone; however the description on the race website has me excited to run in what I suspect will be stunning (if difficult) terrain.
The race site cautions runners to the difficulty of the race, and it seems that only about 150-200 runners compete in the combined collection of races (full, half and 10k). The race takes place at elevation, starting at approximately 6100 feet and rising about 1400 feet or so before the turn around to head back down. Certainly not a course for the faint of heart. I usually try to avoid hilly courses, but this being the race that coincided with the eclipse, I just have to deal with it. 
It will be a slow go for sure for me, especially after the difficulty I experienced in Colorado in the altitude…and that was on a downhill course! I’m just going to take it slow and keep my legs moving. Taking a look at results from last year, the winning female finished in just under 2 hours, so I expect to be a fair chunk beyond that. (Originally I thought the first place female for the half finished in 3 hours which scared me to death, but when I double checked, I saw that it was closer to 2 hours. I can handle that.)
So apparently the run takes us through high plains desert terrain with views of buttes and mountains. Sometimes there might be a glimpse of wild horses. It should be incredibly gorgeous. I plan to try running with a Go-Pro camera for this one to try to catch some of the beauty. I can’t wait to post some footage on the blog of what the camera captures. I figured that since I’m mentally prepared to not be running for a PR this time around, I may as well have some fun filming it, right? Hopefully the results turn out ok. With my luck, I’ll get finished to find that the camera was pointing at the sky the whole time! Oy!
The rest of the trip to Wyoming will feature hiking and visiting the National Parks, along with a visit to Jackson Hole and the eclipse, of course. I look forward to experiencing the beauty of this part of the country. Only a few more easy training runs to go before the big event. What a wonderful way to wrap up the summer. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Bonus race--just for fun! The Narragansett Beer Summer Running Festival--Half Marathon--July 16, 2017

Trick question: When is a half marathon race not a race? Answer: When you enter and run it as a final training run. Yup. That’s just what I did last weekend. First time for me using an actual organized half as a training run, but it was pretty cool. Here’s how it all came about…
About a month or so ago, I found an email in my inbox from Race Wire advertising the Narragansett Beer summer running festival. Because my races for this year are already booked, I normally wouldn’t have taken the time to look at the upcoming race, but for some reason (probably for future prospects), I decided to open the email and see what this race was all about. Due to the “Narragansett” moniker, I assumed the race took place in Rhode Island. I figured maybe sometime in the future (after I finish the 50 states), I might like to run some local-ish races. Rhode Island certainly isn’t out of that realm.
To my astonishment, when I looked at the race information, the race did not take place in Rhode Island, but rather in Easton, MA at Stonehill College. This just happens to be the place where I spent four years of undergraduate study. I never knew this race existed, let alone that it took place at my alma mater. Now, I realize this may not be very monumental news to most readers, but there is another very cool aspect to this that made the timing and location of this race so remarkable.
Time for a short back story…my freshman year at Stonehill, I was lucky to have Fatima Velez as my resident assistant in the freshman girls’ dorm, Boland Hall. Fatima is from Spain, and she was a senior that year, so after she graduated, she moved back to Spain. Fatima administers a summer camp in the States now, so she visits the U.S. each summer, and through our amazing circle of friends, we usually get together each year to see one another. Back in Spain, Fatima and her husband, Jose-Luis, are big runners. They compete in full marathons and ultra marathons while somehow also balancing the work/life balance of raising three children. They are basically amazing. 
For years at our summer friend gatherings, Fatima has said that she wants us to run together. She has even said that I need to go to Spain to run with her. Certainly an invitation I plan on accepting when the 50 states runs are done. So with all of this in mind, I forwarded the Narragansett race link to her with a message that expressed my disbelief at its location and hope that we could run it together, if not this year, then sometime in the future. In no time I heard back from Fatima with an enthusiastic, “YESSSSS! Let’s do it.” She had to check her schedule and rearrange some things, but within a few days, I received a definitive yes that both she and her husband would be running. That was that!
Inside Boland Hall with Fatima, 1990
Outside Boland Hall with Fatima, 1990. Ready for floor hockey.
It was a very busy weekend for me, too, with events both before and after the Sunday race, but I was committed to run with my good friend. It was something we had talked about for so long. We both agreed to take the run on the slower side, and I told her I just wanted to use it as a training run for Wyoming (next month) rather than trying to race it. Plus with the heat and humidity common for July in New England, race organizers were cautioning runners against going for a personal best. Fine with me. 
Sullivan Hall, the dorm I lived in for most of my time at Stonehill.
The race start time was set at 7:30 am, so with a two-hour ride ahead of me, I left my house at about 4:30 am. The drive up was pretty easy with no traffic, and I made it to campus about an hour before start time. That left plenty of time to eat my breakfast and get my number, etc. I parked up in the Pilgrim Heights area of campus, right near the dorm I used to live in for much of my time there, Sullivan Hall. It is really amazing coming back to campus 20+ years later. So much has changed! There are many more buildings on campus and even a football stadium and outdoor track now. It really is impressive.
I picked up my bib (ironically in front of Boland Hall where Fatima and I first met), and headed over to the t-shirt pick up. The woman handing out the t-shirts immediately pointed at me and said “WSHL!” Those are the call numbers for the campus radio station where I was a dj for four years and station manager for two. I cautiously said, “Yessss….,” not knowing how she knew me. Turns out, it was Erika, one of the station board members who came after me, but we had connected through the WSHL Alumni Board that I once participated in. It was good to see her and catch up. She and her husband were volunteering at the race and also displaying their company, Bibs2Bags, as a vendor. They make various bags out of racing bibs. Pretty sweet. Their booth looked great at the finish line vendor area, by the way. Here's a link to their website:
So after all that excitement, I started to head back to my car to eat breakfast, when I ran smack dab in to a woman I had met when I raced out in North Dakota. No kidding! I recognized her right away and stopped her and reminder her of our meeting out there. When we met in ND, we laughed that we were both from New England, and it turned out through our conversation that she had my father-in-law as her high school chemistry teacher. So funny! So we chatted a bit. She had completed her 50 states races and was now working on finishing 100 half marathons. Impressive! I told her I was still working away at my 50 and that this one was just a fun training run with a friend because we both went to college there. Then she told me she went to college at Stonehill, too! So crazy! We wished each other luck. I’m sure we will bump in to one another again in the future. 
Meeting Fatima outside Boland Hall pre-race. Old friends united!
I ate a  quick bowl of oatmeal back at the car and talked briefly with Fatima who was now on campus. We met a short time later in front of Boland Hall. It was so amazing to be standing there with her about to run a half marathon. So awesome! She and her husband and myself exchanged greetings and last minute race nerves. We set out to brave the growing porta-potty lines just prior to getting in to the race corral. 
The race start ended up being delayed a few minutes due to the long bathroom lines, but after a few selfies, we set out with a goal of trying to stay in front of the two hour pacing group. 
Starting line scene. 
Fatima and myself just before the start of the race.
For those Stonehill friends who may be reading, we lined up behind Boland/The Courts and the starting line brought us slightly up the side road that goes up to the admissions building and then u-turned just below Alumni Hall right down to the main road toward Duffy. We turned right to head out the route 138 exit, and sitting right there on my left was my sister-in-law, Jenn and her daughter Riley! What a surprise! I knew they were thinking of coming, but as any race spectators know, getting to the early start of a race just to watch isn’t easy. I ran over to them to give them hugs and thank them for being there, and we were off!
We exited the campus and ran across the street through the “Sheep Pasture” property across the street from the college. This part of the race was unpaved, utilizing a dirt and gravel road. The dirt road portion wasn’t super long, and brought us through some grassy and wooded parts before bringing us out on a main road heading in to Easton. We turned left on to this road and shortly thereafter a right that brought us into a neighborhood with gorgeous old houses. This road brought us through some lovely park areas in Easton and out to the “Long Pond." I vaguely remember this from my time at Stonehill, and I’m not sure why. Maybe my commute to my student teaching position brought me along this route? Old brain. Can’t remember. 
Fatima and I were having a blast running together, and we commented on how beautiful Easton is and how we never really explored any of the town while at Stonehill. We mostly just stayed on campus or took the school’s shuttle to Boston. We didn’t have cars then, so getting around the immediate area wasn’t something we did all that often. I remember in later years at school when I had a car or friends with cars, we would get out to places like Borderland State Park which was just beautiful.
As we made the turn around the pond, Jenn and Riley appeared again to cheer us on. They were the best! Not only did they come out to spectate, they moved along the route to cheer for us twice! 
We made the turn and headed further into another neighborhood development. Again, the houses were just lovely, and the road brought us by pretty landscapes, too. 
As we neared the half-way point, the first couple of front runners passed us by on their return trip (it was a mostly out and back race). The furthest reaches of the race, however, brought us into a neighborhood with a loop, and the loop brought us back on the road we traveled out on, but a little further along, so we didn’t see anymore of the front runners. We were hoping to see Jose-Luis and cheer him on, but it wasn’t meant to be. 
At this point in the race, we were keeping good time (still ahead of the 2 hour pacing group), but the heat and humidity was starting to get to me and my ankle started to really hurt. I could feel myself slowing down. Fatima was a wonderful coach, helping me get through this portion of the run. She talked to me about how she stays motivated in a race when she’s hurting, like visualizing her children’s faces or other things she absolutely loves. She was an amazing help! 
We made it past the Long Pond and as we got close to the center of Easton, the two hour pacing group passed us. We were hoping to stay in front of them, but at this point I was not in any shape to try to speed up. Slow and stead was good enough for me this day. 
One fun side note about this race…the water stations were largely manned by Stonehill students, so pretty much every time we grabbed water we thanked them and told them we were alumni. It was fun to connect with the young generation in this way. 
We made our way back through Easton and into the sheep pasture via a different trail. This trail brought us through the gardens that the school now has there. From what I have read, students help grow food there that is actually used on campus. Pretty neat. That was not done when we were there. We got through this section quickly, crossed the street and headed back on to campus for about a mile and a half stretch before the end of the race. 
This was actually a really cool part of the run, even though I was hurting and hobbling my way around. We came in through the route 138 entrance again and turned right, which brought us into the new football stadium and outdoor track the campus has. Wow! Sweet! Then we headed toward the sports complex, which has been added on to and looks gorgeous, and out along a new paved walking path to the old Sem. The Sem looks pretty much the same, and running out there reminded me of fun times with friends who lived in that dorm. We looped through the old “rugby field” which is now a finished looking multi-sport field. There were soccer nets there and football uprights. I think I saw a sign that it is used for club sports or something to that effect. 
That road brought us out to the main road that now comes in the front entrance to Stonehill where we passed by the new and very impressive science building. Wow! Again, very impressive, and Fatima and I were remarking that we barely even recognized the campus. Next, we ran up the quad, past the Martin Institute, the old Student Union (has a new name now, but I don’t remember it), the new library and then I’m not sure exactly where the route took us, but we saw a police officer (Rosie!) who used to be there when we went there. She still works there and remembered us (not sure if that’s a good thing…). Somewhere along this part, Jose-Luis found us and ran the end of the race with us. He told us that he was pretty sure he won 1st in his age group! So cool!
We passed through the Commonwealth Courts, ran the path and footbridges out near O’Hara, ran back through the middle of the quad and up the road on the right side of the “big house” as you are facing it. Up behind there was the finish line, and we crossed with our hands linked in victory at a time of 2:04, slow, but not too bad. It was a blast to run with a good friend in our old stomping ground. 
Triumphantly crossing the finish line together!
The finish line activities were really festive. There was a band playing and many vendors offering products and services. Jose-Luis seemed especially interested in Erika’s tent of the repurposed bib numbers. Shortly after finishing, as we were stretching out, our other good friends from school arrived. They missed our crossing of the finish line, but they came to spend time catching up. We hung out for a while at the finish line festival, enjoying the complimentary Narragansett beers (a generous 2 free per runner, so there was plenty for sharing) and getting caught up with each other. 
The finishers! Jose-Luis shows off his 1st place age group beer glass.
A beautiful day for a practice run, and a medal, too.
We continued our reunion with a walk through part of campus to the Notre Dame Du Lac dorm, where we had permission to use the showers after the race. The runners got cleaned up and the spectators got to hang out and chat. 
Same ladies in front of Boland Hall, July 16, 2017.
Afterward, we headed out for a well-deserved lunch. It is always such a wonderful time when this group of friends gets together. We missed Chrissy (who lives in Florida) and Heidi (who wasn’t feeling well) this time around, but it was absolutely food for the soul for those of us who were able to meet up. We got caught up on all the goings-on with our families and shared the latest pictures of our kids…they are all growing up too quickly! It was a fantastic day, and after lunch we said our goodbyes, until next time. What a wonderful, wonderful training run this was. I can’t thank Fatima and Jose-Luis enough for making time in their schedule for this event, and for Sue, Jenna and Nancy for making the trek to be there with us. It was the best! "Franks for the memories!"
Race bib, t-shirt and finishers medal.

Friday, June 16, 2017

State #35, Revel Rockies, Denver, CO, Part 2

I set my alarm for 3:45 am and woke up accordingly after a pretty sound night of sleep (thankfully). Andrew wanted to sleep until 4 am, so I tried to be quiet as I went about my morning routine. By the time I was dressed, he was up and getting ready. I don’t know if it was the altitude rattling my brain, but I felt so scatterbrained gathering my things. I had to check everything two or three times to make sure I had what I needed. I didn’t realize until we were at the starting line that I didn’t tape my hamstring, something I always do for half marathons. Oh well, good thing it was a downhill race. 
I left the room around 4:20 to head to the lobby to get some hot water for my oatmeal, and I told Andrew I’d meet him down there. Shockingly, no one was in the lobby, so feeling a bit alarmed, I asked the front desk attendance if the buses were still there and he said they were. Whew! Just as I was getting my hot water, a woman came in to the lobby from the buses doing a “last call” as the buses were about to leave! I texted Andrew in a panic to hurry! They held the bus for us, thank goodness! I don’t know what we would have done if we’d missed it. We had no idea where the starting line was and there wasn’t any parking there, and it would throw off our whole schedule of running, getting back to the hotel and off to the airport if we would have had to drive back to the race start to pick up a car. Oy!

The bus ride was fun. It was jam-packed with runner bodies, and to everyone’s delight, it was a party bus complete with fancy colored lights! Woo-woo! The crowd was friendly and fun, and it seemed we got to the start location pretty quickly (in about 30 minutes or so). We exited the bus and headed in to the parking lot of a dental office, the designated runners village for the morning. We huddled close to the dental office to stay warm. It wasn’t super cold, but a light wind and slightly lower temps than what we had at the lower elevation made waiting around a chilly affair. Andrew and I just relaxed, and I gulped down my oatmeal. With about 45 minutes to the race start, the lines for the porta-potties were getting really long, so we decided it was then or never. Luckily, the line moved quickly, and we made it with still a good 15 minutes or so to spare. 
Prior to coming out to Colorado, I had heard from a fellow Weight Watchers friend that a member of our Thursday group (which I haven't attended for quite some time due to my work schedule) was not doing well in her battle with cancer. I wrote her a note a couple of weeks before the race to let her know I was thinking of her and to tell her that I'd be running for her in Colorado. So, with Cindy in my heart, I headed to the starting line up.
Runner's village at the starting line.
Starting line selfie. Early morning.
I convinced Andrew we should line up near the 1:50 pace group (not that I was expecting a super fast run, but it can’t hurt to try). At the start of the race, a guy lined up a few rows in front of us and was taking pictures with some friends (or so I thought). Come to find out later (Andrew told me after the race), he was Ben, a former guy from The Bachelor. Who knew? My first brush with a celeb runner, I guess. 
View at the starting line (before the bachelor lined up!).

Starting line selfie.
Before long, we were off. Immediately I was hurting. The start of the race was uphill, and due to the lack of oxygen, it felt like I had never run a step in my life. I was huffing and puffing and having a super hard time. The first hill leveled out a bit, but then a second hill appeared. That one was just as tough. By the time I got to the top, I was so out of breath and had to pee again already. Sheesh! What a lousy start. Luckily, there was one lone porta-potty at the top of the hill and no line, so I was in and out quickly, but the 1:50s were long gone. I decided at that point that I better just focus on trying to get through breathing in the high altitude and not worry too much about time.
Thankfully, from that point on, the course was all downhill, and a beautiful downhill course it was. We ran along a pretty major road, but half of it was blocked off for runners only, and traffic was only being allowed in one direction. Beautiful, big houses with seemingly gorgeous views dotted the hillsides, and the pine trees were plentiful. They reminded me of a giant outdoor cathedral. Just majestic! I did my best to keep a decent pace, and I knew the breathing should get easier the lower down the mountain we ran, but I had a really hard time regulating my breath in my normal pattern. I felt like I was constantly trying to catch my breath and reestablish a rhythmic breathing pattern. Not easy. Still, the miles didn’t feel like they were dragging. I knew I wasn’t running super fast, but I wasn’t super slow either. And the 2:00 pacing group hadn’t passed me…yet.
By mile 6 or so, I was starting to walk through the water stations rather than try to run, drink and breathe all at the same time. The 2 hour group passed me around the halfway point, but I vowed to keep them in my sights. I wanted to be as close to 2 hours as I could for the finish. I hate when I go over that mark. I just kept going the best I could.
By the time I got to mile 10, I felt pretty good, and the downhill slope was pretty strong, so that helped a lot. I tried to visualize my 2.5 mile run around my neighborhood as the last bit of this race. Only one loop around the neighborhood to go until the finish line! The last couple of miles actually felt pretty good, and I passed the 2 hour group in the last mile. Success! I knew I’d finish under the 2 hour mark. Hooray!
The finish line of the race was in a town called Morrison, just at the base of the Red Rocks Park we visited the day before. What a nice way to end! Down the last bit of the hill I came, only to be greeted by an uphill finish! Thanks a lot, race directors! I managed to cross the finish line at 1:58:37, and  I was just fine with that time. Come to find out, I managed to get 25th in my age group! Not bad at all! I collected my medal, met up with Andrew, and after a short chat, we headed back to where the shuttle buses were to pick us up. On the way, Andrew pointed out the Bachelor guy to me, and we had a chuckle about our celebrity runner. We managed to catch the 9 am shuttle back to the hotel, which was perfect. We would have enough time to shower, pack and get to the airport on time. 
Race number, tee, socks and medal. Really good swag.
The Revel Race series again didn’t disappoint. The race was well organized, and the route was lovely. Staying at a host hotel was very convenient, as we had our own bus to bring us to the start and bring us back to the hotel. My only advice would be for non-altitude trained runners to get out there earlier to acclimate to the air. It was definitely more of an issue than I expected. Colorado was beautiful, and I wish I had more time to explore it, but that will have to wait for another trip. State #35 is done, and only 15 more to go!

**Post race follow up: I wrote the above post on the day of the race, June 11th. This morning (June 16) while making breakfast and going through my morning routine, I read Cindy's obituary online. She passed away on June 10th. Rest in peace, lovely lady. Your spirit, drive and sparkle lives on in those of us who knew you. Thank you for bringing me the strength to get through this difficult race.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

State #35, Revel Rockies, Denver, CO, Part 1

It has been far too long since I’ve posted anything, and as such, my next half marathon is here already! Time flies when you are over-scheduled, over-loaded and generally handling too much. 
I left on Friday, June 9th on a very early flight out of Bradley Airport for Denver via Minneapolis St. Paul. The flight was fine, and I got out to the Denver area without incident and on time. 
The half I chose for Colorado was the Revel Rockies series half marathon. I ran their half in Salt Lake City, Utah previously and was impressed with the organization and beautiful run. And, truth be told, I didn’t want to deal with the mountains in Colorado so much. The Revel races hold the niche of being downhill races. Enough said. Done deal. 
My cousin, Andrew, was to join me for this one, but he wasn’t scheduled to arrive in Denver until late on Friday evening, so I had the afternoon to take care of some mundane errands (groceries, shoe shopping, lunch) before I made my way to my hotel in Lakewood, CO. I was thinking I would maybe try a short run when I got to the hotel, but the area I was staying in was very commerce heavy with busy streets, and the temperatures were in the mid-90s, so I decided to ditch the idea and just relax. 
As excited as I was to run in the Denver area, I was very worried about the high altitude. Upon arrival, I didn’t feel any effects of the altitude, but after I had dinner and was back resting in my hotel room, I noticed my heart racing and breathing strained. 
Andrew arrived around 11 pm, and we said our hellos and did a little bit of catching up. We were both so tired from the travel, and I had been up for close to 24 hours at that point (plus I’d had a terrible night of sleep before my flight), so off to bed it was.

Saturday we slept in a bit, then made our way out to the Colorado School of Mines to pick up our race packets and bibs. It is always so interesting visiting various parts of our country, seeing the topography and thinking about how different each state is. Andrew and I mused that Colorado was the perfect place for a college of mining. Can’t imagine there are many of those specialty colleges around the U.S. The campus was nestled in a little valley surrounded by hills and lovely landscapes. It was a small campus, but pretty cool. We easily collected our packets and checked out the elevation maps and race routes. To my great relief, the map I originally thought was the elevation map turned out to be the race route. It was full of twists and turns, which I read to be miles up and down. Upon closer inspection, the elevation map showed a cool, long downward slide. Just perfect!
Photo of elevation map poster at packet pick up.
From the packet pick-up, we headed to lunch at a place called Blue Sky Cafe. We had a great lunch there. Andrew had a doctored up oatmeal bowl and I had a quinoa, peanut, lime, chicken bowl with other great stuff in it. Super yummy. We stopped back at the hotel briefly to drop off our things and figure out where we wanted to explore in the great outdoors of Colorado. We decided to check out the Red Rocks Park & Amphitheater because it was so nearby. 

One of the rocks surrounding the amphitheater.
The drive up was beautiful, looking at the sparsely vegetated hills decorated by the massive hulks of red rocks. As we drove up the road to the venue, we had to pass through a tunnel in the red rock. Fun! We parked and went to look at the music stage first. I have always wanted to visit the Red Rocks Theater ever since U2 released their iconic Live at Red Rocks album back in 1983. The venue is gorgeous! I can only imagine seeing a performance there, and I now will have to get back there for a concert sometime in my life. While we were there, the crew for Big Head Todd was setting up and going through some sound checks. 
View of the stage from the top of the amphitheater. You can just see Denver off in the distance to the left.
There were some walking trails around the Red Rocks Park, but the trail map was a little confusing, so we started up on one trail that we thought was about a mile and a half, but it turned out to be a little shorter. The views were beautiful as we walked along, and the red rocks dominated the landscape. It was still super hot out, so it was probably a good thing that we didn’t take on a more strenuous walk. It was hard to breathe on the ascent as it was, and I didn’t want to overdo it the day before the race. We were really sweaty by the time we were done, but it was nice to get out in to the Colorado outdoors. 
Another of the beautiful red rocks in the park.
Back to the hotel it was to shower up and rest a bit before dinner. We tried an Italian place called Brodo, on the recommendation of the guy who was working the check in desk at the hotel the night before. It was a new restaurant in the area with all made from scratch pastas. The decor was hip and the atmosphere was relaxed and cool. We sat at a high top table in the bar side of the restaurant, and had a great meal. We split a green salad and the grilled ciabatta bread. I had the bucatini pasta with meatballs for dinner, and it was divine. A wonderful Italian choice in the area. 
We stopped in a local artisan craft shop across the street after dinner where I found magnets for my kids. We made a quick stop at Starbucks on the way back to our hotel so I could get coffee for the morning, and then it was back to the room and pretty much straight to bed. Race wake up was going to be very early the next morning, as our bus to the starting line was scheduled to leave the hotel at 4:30 am. Yikes! Off to sleep it was.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Focusing in on Lent

So it is Lent, and this year I decided to forego wine and beer for Lent. Definitely a sacrifice, but one I decided to do to try to refocus my nutrition and finally lose that 5 lbs. that crept up on me last year when I was working full time. I've been trying to get rid of those last few pounds since last summer, but it really hasn't budged. I figured it was time to quit the empty calories of alcohol for a bit to help speed things up. So far, so good.
I just barely squeaked in with my WW weigh in last month, too. Maybe it is because February is a short month, or because we were so busy skiing and doing other things, but I just didn't make it in to the WW meeting room until the last day of the month! I was only .2 off of last month's weigh in, so better than I expected (especially considering that most ski days have us eating out both breakfast and lunch!). Crisis averted on that front. It should be easier to get in to the meeting room in March, assuming that ski season winds down, although with a predicted nor'easter coming next week, who knows? I'm definitely ready for winter to take a hike so I can get back outdoors for running.
Lent has also got us eating more fish. Our local little fish market just reopened for the season, and recently we tried the arctic char for the first time. What a delicious fish! It looks like salmon, but the flavor is more mild and it is buttery tasting. I baked it with just a bit of cooking spray on it, and it came out amazing. Our kids wanted seconds on it. It was that good. I'm looking forward to trying other new types of fish over the next month or so and seeking out new recipes to try. I really love fish, so I don't mind having more of it this season at all.
Spring is coming fast, and a bit of sacrifice now is worth it to feel strong and healthy for summer. Focusing now for fun later. Sounds good to me.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

State #34, Myrtle Beach Half Marathon, Myrtle Beach, SC, Part 2

Race morning brought temperatures in the 30's here in Myrtle Beach! Ouch! Definitely not the weather I was expecting for this one. Thank goodness I thought to throw one set of long running pants and a long sleeve half zip in my suitcase, and good thing I picked up those cheap gloves at the expo yesterday. Yikes!
Aunt Linda and Uncle Pete were troupers getting up at the crack of dawn with me to get me to the starting line by 6 am. This was an early start, for sure, and for two retired folks who are used to getting up late, they were rockstars! 
We made it to the parking area at Broadway at the Beach by 6 am, and after sitting in the truck for a few minutes (to avoid waiting around in the cold too long), we headed to the starting line. I made a detour for the porta-potties before heading to the corral. Pete & Linda took their signs to line up near the starting line with hopes of seeing me run by.
Starting line up. I love the guy giving the thumbs-up on the left.
The corral entry was lined with metal barriers along the sidewalk, producing a narrow walkway for runners to enter through. This was all backed up with runners, so to avoid being late and shuffling along in the hordes, I chose to walk around this area to an open field and jump the barrier in to the wider line up area. As I was heading through the field, the starting command went off, and I panicked a little bit, but others around me assured me it was just the start of the wheelchair division. Whew! I didn't think we had cut it so close. 
The line up was packed with runners, and I couldn't get up to the 2 hour pacing group, so with only a few minutes to spare I snapped a couple of starting line photos and hoped for the best. I decided to stay near the left side of the road, figuring that was the side my aunt and uncle would most likely be on based on the way they walked over from our parking spot. At the starting command, a song about South Carolina blared from the speakers, and we were off.
Starting line selfie. Not my best smile.
As expected, Pete and Linda were up ahead on the left side with their cute signs. I gave them a wave and made my way the best I could through the crowded street. This race was very tight which always makes for difficult running. I kept getting stuck behind slower runners or trying to find a way to weave my way around others. It was really slow going until about mile 4-5 which is pretty unusual, but this being the 20th anniversary of the race, perhaps the registration was more crowded than usual. 
The race moved along well. The first two miles led us from the Broadway at the Beach area through a small neighborhood and out to the commercial route 17. This road was your typical beach thoroughfare, lined with restaurants, tourist trap shops, retail shopping, grocery stores, bars and everything else you can imagine. I chatted with a guy who was running the full marathon...he complimented me on my crazy hat. I told him it was so my aunt and uncle could pick me out of the crowd. I told him to look for them at the finish line with their signs. We followed this route until we got to about mile 6, where just past the airport we turned right in to the Market Common neighborhood. 
Market Common was a combination of high end stores and restaurants along with condos and single family homes. There is a nice walking/running path that winds throughout along with small ponds and a playground. It was a fun space to run through, checking out all the good shops there. When I come back to Myrtle Beach sometime, I will head here for some shopping and good eats. It was a cute little area.
As we made our way out of Market Common, we crossed route 17 and entered on to Ocean Drive, the road that parallels the beach area. It was lined with hotel after hotel. Unfortunately, at this part of the run (mile 8) the wind was against me, and the shadows of the hotels made for consistent shade, and I started to feel really cold. I removed my gloves at mile 4 but now it was time to fish them out. My fingers were getting numb. There weren't many spectators along this stretch despite the overabundance of hotels. I'm sure the cold temperatures and early morning start time kept some folks away. 
This was my hardest stretch of the race, due to the cold, long distance (miles 8-11) and undulating rises and dips in the stretch of roadway. Even though this race is pretty flat, those small inclines and declines make a difference when the wind is in your face. I could feel myself slowing down a bit, but I tried to push on as much as I could. 
The fun thing about Ocean Drive was looking at the cute swimming pools of the hotels, amusement park, water park and catching glimpses of the ocean in between the tall buildings. It seemed to take a long time to get down this road, but once it was done, the finish line wasn't too far away. 
We turned left off Ocean Drive on to 10th Street South, back through a neighborhood area that led back to the more commercial Broadway at the Beach surrounding. As I neared the finish line, I looked for Aunt Linda and Uncle Pete. I crossed the finish line with a net time of 1:54:17, well below my goal of 2 hours. Hooray! Just past the finish I spied my aunt and uncle with their signs. They are the cutest spectators ever!
My fans! Aunt Linda and Uncle Pete with the signs my girls made.
We met up and walked back to our parking space, and we traded stories about all we had seen both as a spectator and a participant. They were so amazed at all the people and set up and activity that surrounded the event. It really is a huge undertaking! I stretched and then we headed for home so I could shower up before hitting breakfast. 
We went to a place called Johnny D's Waffle House that was awesome! In addition to their eclectic waffle menu, they had all kinds of other breakfast stuff, and I ended up with a California eggs benedict, featuring avocado and tomato. Yum! 
Dinner at the Roadhouse.
Later in the day, Aunt Linda and I hit Talbots to cash in on their 25% off sale. That was fun! I scored a pair of light pink pants, a flowered shirt and two oxfords for work. Yay! Their collection this season is really cute, by the way! We stopped at World Market and a junky tourist shop for other souvenirs to take home. I took a nap in the afternoon after all that excitement and then we topped off our wonderful day with dinner at Uncle Pete's favorite place--The Texas Roadhouse. That was my first time there, but the steak tips really hit the spot after a big morning workout. 
Race t-shirt backside, number & finisher's medal.
I am so grateful to have participated in the Myrtle Beach Half Marathon and to have spent such terrific time with my relatives. They are fabulous people, and we don't get to see each other nearly often enough. This trip solidifies that I need to get down here more often for more fun! Maybe I will have to repeat this race another year, and maybe Aunt Linda will try the 5k so I can go cheer for her. Thank you, Pete and Linda for an awesome weekend! State #34 is in the books!

Friday, March 3, 2017

State #34, Myrtle Beach Half Marathon, Myrtle Beach, SC, Part 1

I arrived in Myrtle Beach last night after leaving for the airport straight from work. My flights were fine, and I easily met my aunt at the baggage claim in the airport. Easy trip! That's always a good start. 
My uncle was waiting in the car to pick us up curbside, and we were off to their house. They only live about 15 minutes or so from the airport, so that was good. I arrived around 9:45 pm and we were at their house in no time. We chatted about everything...running, Myrtle Beach, family, work, and before we knew it, it was midnight! I never stay up that late!
The next morning we took it easy, getting up around 8 am and relaxing over coffee and breakfast. Linda and I headed out to the grocery store, as I planned to cook dinner for them pre-race. Whenever possible, I prefer to to be in control of my pasta meals. If I can have whole grain or whole wheat pasta, spaghetti squash and turkey meatballs, then I'm good. So tonight dinner was on me. 
Race number, t-shirt and race map.
We met up with Uncle Pete after the grocery run and all headed to the sports center to the marathon expo to pick up my number. The vibe there was festive and upbeat. I got my number and t-shirt and along with the t-shirt the race directors gave out Myrtle Beach Marathon socks and sunglasses. Cool! I like this race already. We perused the vendors, and I ended up purchasing a cheap pair of cotton gloves. The race morning temperatures were going to be in the 30's! Not what I was expecting. Good thing I threw in a pair of long running pants and a long sleeve half zip just in case. We also took a look at the race route map, and then took a ride along the route so I could see where I'd be running. We drove along some commercial areas and some residential areas and finished up along Ocean Drive that runs along the beach. It was a nice route, and I know it will be a great run.
We went to lunch at a place called Mrs. Fish. We had a nice fish lunch (I had salmon), and they told me that Mrs. Fish was a favorite local place that was no frills but good food. Yes and yes. After lunch we drove down to the beach for a short walk. What a lovely beach it is! You can see beach for miles and miles. The tide was out, so the beach was extensive. We walked a little bit just taking in the sound of the waves and the views. It was lovely.
We headed back to their house and relaxed for a bit, and then I worked on getting dinner ready. We had a super meal of pasta, spaghetti squash, meatballs and salad. It was nice to have a home cooked  meal together. So much better than eating by myself in a restaurant somewhere. Luckily everyone enjoyed my cooking. 
My distinguishing hat. 
After dinner I got my running gear ready for the morning. My aunt found some ribbon I could pin on my hat to make me stand out more in the crowd so they could maybe spot me easier tomorrow. I might look silly, but it will be fun.
What a great first day in Myrtle! Good night!