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!
video

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!

February or May?

I meant to post this last weekend, as it was the last weekend of February and the temperatures in Connecticut hit 70 degrees! I was lucky enough to be able to get two back to back delicious outdoor runs in on February 25th and 26th. In fact, on the 26th, I wore short sleeves and my running skort. Bare legs in February. No joke! I loved it. Every minute of it.
Celebrating bare arms and legs in February!
Although I should really be tapering more for my half marathon in Myrtle Beach next weekend, I just couldn't help myself getting out in to the spring-like air. In my defense, I held myself to 5 milers only. No need to push too much. 
As a complete 180 to the outdoor running on Friday and Saturday, our family went skiing on Sunday for our usual weekly ski outing. The conditions weren't the greatest after the very warm temperatures, and after two runs, our youngest had tumbled hard a couple of times and was ready to pack it up for the day. I ended up hanging out with her in the lodge until my other daughter's lesson ended. Just as well, I certainly didn't need to catch an edge and fall and injure myself. 
I'm looking forward to my next race next weekend. I'm running the Myrtle Beach Half Marathon the first weekend in March, and as a bonus, I get to visit with my aunt and uncle who live down there. I haven't been down to visit them yet, so I'm really looking forward to it. We haven't seen each other since Christmas. It will be another terrific trip that combines running and family. Can't wait!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Next race, coming up soon!

Only a few short weeks until my next state half marathon. This time it is South Carolina! I am registered to run the Myrtle Beach Half Marathon on March 4, and I'm really looking forward to this trip. My Aunt Linda and Uncle Pete live there, so of course I had to choose a race so I could work in a visit. They are such wonderful people, and I know we will have a fun weekend. They are excited for the race, as they've never been to one before. Should I tell them that it isn't always the most exciting spectator sport? As inspiring as the marathon/half-marathon can be to onlookers, it isn't exactly the Patriots coming from a 25-point deficit to win it in overtime in the Super Bowl. I hope they have a terrific first experience. I'm just excited to have some fans in the finish line crowd for this trip.
Aunt Linda and Uncle Pete
I am scheduled to have a long run (12 miles) this weekend, but as we are having a large snowstorm today (8-12 inches), it looks like that long run will be on the treadmill. That isn't my first choice, but it will get the job done. I am proud of my mileage so far this year. I hit 125 miles in January, which is a huge improvement over my illness-riddled January of last year which brought me a measly 39 miles. So, I'm feeling pretty awesome with this year's number. In fact, looking back at my last several months, I've posted more than 100 miles a month since September of 2016. I had to chuckle about that because in September the kids went back to school, and I was no longer working full time...I see a direct correlation. 😊 Working part-time this year gives me the best of both worlds: income and time for running.
It is so crazy to look outside as I am writing this post to see the snow falling briskly. We are in for a big storm today, so much so that school was cancelled last night for today. That never happens. What is even crazier is that it was almost 60 degrees F yesterday! I reveled in a 5.4 outdoor mile run in the sun yesterday. It was delicious. As much as winter isn't my favorite season, it has been bearable this year due to these sporadic warm days that make an outdoor run a possibility. It surely breaks up the monotony of the treadmill. But the gym isn't all that bad. I am very grateful to have my Planet Fitness membership, and I love being part of the super early morning crowd. It feels like an elite athlete club in some ways because we are all so dedicated to get our fitness in (and so bright and early in the morning!). I look forward to seeing my morning gym peeps! In fact, Miss Doreen, a new friend I've made at the gym, beeped at me from her car recently as I was outside running. Thanks for being a part of my fan club, Doreen!
My last item of note is that I'd like to recognize my friend Hazel for running her first Half Marathon! Hazel is one of my earliest childhood friends, and she lives in Texas. I ran the 3M Half Marathon last January in her neck of the woods, and we were able to spend some lovely and very precious time together after not seeing each other in close to 20 years! She was so inspired by my goal of running in all 50 states that she immediately signed up to run the 3M in 2017. Well, mission accomplished for her. She ran the race a couple of weeks ago and finished strong. Hooray, Hazel! I'm so proud of you for setting this goal and achieving it! Keep it up, and we will absolutely run together in the future. And to any other aspiring runners out there...go for it! Set a goal and attain it!
Hazel and I last January. XO!