Saturday, November 29, 2014

(Part 2) The Williams Route 66 Half Marathon--State #19, OK

Route 66 Race Day
Sunday, November 23, 2014
View from the starting corral.
I woke up early, slightly before Andrew and headed down to the hotel lobby to microwave the coffee I purchased the night before (neurotic planning). I like to get up a bit early so I can take my time going about my rituals including coffee, hygiene and dress, breakfast, and stretching while still leaving enough time to get to the starting line. Today went well, except that we didn’t really leave extra time to hit the porta potties prior  to getting in our corral. Oh well...I figured if I had to, I’d just find one along the route. Usually I never stop mid-race for a pit stop, but I really wanted to start on time, so I took the risk. 
Me wearing my wind-proof garbage bag at the start of the race.
The start of the Route 66 race was terrific! They shot off confetti canons which gave a special feeling of celebration to the race, and of course, my old friend Bart Yasso was at the start giving high fives along with other race officials. I made sure to hit his hand on my way out for good luck. The race started quickly and the running crowd wasn’t too dense thanks to the staggered corral starts. We snaked through the city and out in to the outlying residential areas rather quickly. I started at a good pace...somewhere in the 8 minute range, but I pretty much figured I wouldn’t maintain that for the entire route. 
Confetti flying at the starting line.
In my head I had decided that I would kick back and enjoy this race. I have been fighting off fatigue and injury lately, and as luck would have it, my period decided that this was the perfect morning to show up. Awesome. Also, for some reason, I had two really lousy nights of sleep at the hotel prior to this race. I took off at a decent pace and hoped for the best. The video below is courtesy of the Route 66 Marathon Facebook page. I run by the camera at about the :26 mark right after high-fiving Bart Yasso!

Post by Route 66 Marathon.

(Here's a video of the race start. You can see me run by at about 26 seconds, right after high-fiving Bart Yasso.)

As much as we noticed that the downtown areas of Tulsa were virtually deserted while we were there, the residential areas were gorgeous and well populated with spectators!  No wonder the area residents don't hang out downtown much. They have incredible neighborhoods to retreat to. If I lived there, I’d probably do the same. The houses were a combination of tudor style, bungalow, craftsman, some colonial and some fancier, maybe Georgian? The architecture was varied, and it was just lovely to run through. Some time later, the smaller homes morphed in to more grand estates. I guessed that these were likely a result of the oil industry in the area. It was beautiful to run through here as well. 

I felt fairly good through the first half of the race. The weather was warm, high 50’s at the start and warming through the race. I did well with my water stops, and the Rock Tape I bought at the expo was amazingly helpful on my (usually) aching hamstring. My only complaint was that my toes in my left shoe were numbing. This happens sometimes when I run, but my last few runs it has been more pronounced. I think it may be due to the new shoes I’m breaking in. I tried my best to wiggle my toes around and keep them awake. 

Once we came out of the residential area, we ran through a rather commercial strip somewhere in Tulsa. There were plenty of stores and restaurants here and spectators, too. The runners along the way were in good spirits. Surprisingly, there were many more hills than I expected on the course, but they were not killer hills like in Oregon. But as you can imagine, hills are tiring, so whenever one pops up, things slow down. I pushed on as best I could, but I could feel myself slowing down. Always my goal is to finish in under 2 hours, which I still knew was within reach. 

We came out to a road that ran along the river, and at this point I knew we were heading back in to the city toward the finish area. The river road was less picturesque than I expected, but it was exciting to be at this point in the race and to know that the end was approaching. We ran across half of a bridge and did a u-turn toward a Route 66 overpass.  Just beyond was the last big hill of the race, conveniently located near the medical center. 

We ran past our hotel (such a tease) and around a couple of more corners and in to the finish area. I could hear the announcers at the finish before I got there, and once the finish line was in sight, I gave my best kick to get there. I know it wasn’t pretty, but I sprinted the best I could. (I’m sure the professional race photographs from this stretch of the race will be the ugliest ever!) Case in point...see photo below that I found on the Route 66 Marathon Facebook page. Hey, at least I can say I was giving it my all!

Andrew and I after the race with our medals.

Just as I approached the finish line, I saw Bart Yasso again and gave him a victorious finger point. He acknowledged my effort, and I crossed the line with a great smile of relief. Another state in the books. My official time was under 2 hours, 1:58:34, enough to make me happy on this one. Andrew finished well before me and was at our designated meeting spot ready to greet me. We traded our race tales, took photos and stretched, then walked back to the hotel to shower and get ready to head to the airport.

The Tulsa Route 66 Marathon/Half Marathon was a terrific, well-organized race. I read later in the day on their Facebook page that the race directors and officials stay at the finish line until the very last person crosses the line to cheer them on. Now that’s class. Well done, Tulsa. My legs are ready for a rest for a few months after this hectic year of running. Oh yeah, and the medal for this race, it is the Cadillac of medals! Dedicated to William Wollenberg and Charles Labutis, our grandfathers.

The trip back home was filled with delays and rerouting of flights, but as luck would have it, I ran in to a friend from home while waiting for my flight to take off from the Dallas Fort Worth airport. Thanks to Katy Santanella for keeping me company and for helping the time pass in a fun way! What a great way to end a the trip. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

(Part 1) The Williams Route 66 Half Marathon--State #19, OK

So planning these marathon trips is now starting to be rather routine. The hardest part (besides being away from my family) is remembering to pack all my necessities and/or making sure I can get them when I arrive in my destination. You may wonder what kind of things I require in my gear bag. Here goes: running shoes, running bra, tech shirt (short or long sleeve depending on weather), running skort and or tights, yoga pants, zip up long sleeve jacket, running hat, gloves, socks, gps watch, cell phone, belt for carrying cell phone, vanilla bean GU, chia seeds, packet of instant oatmeal, sunglasses, and then all the regular travel stuff like regular clothes, pajamas, toiletries, casual shoes, etc. All of my running essentials I keep in my gear backpack which I keep with me on the plane. My other travel items go in my suitcase which I check with the airline. My gear bag was especially heavy this trip because the weather in Tulsa could go either way this time of year, so I had to pack for both cold and temperate weather. And I brought a packet of hand warmers. Just in case. I guess I’d rather over pack than under pack though.

The flight out to Tulsa was fine. I met Andrew at the airport in Charlotte which was cool. We were on the same flight from there to Tulsa, but we sat in different areas of the plane. Near the end of the flight as I was reading my November issue of Runner’s World  Magazine, the man sitting across the aisle from me asked if I was running the marathon in Tulsa. We struck up a conversation, and I told him I was doing the half. He asked how I liked the issue of RW that I was reading, and I told him that Marc Parent (the Newbie Chronicles columnist) was my absolute favorite. He mentioned that he worked at Runner’s World and that he’d tell Marc that I enjoyed his work. I was excited to hear that he worked at RW so I asked if he was running the race. He said he wasn’t but that he was there to give some talks at the expo. It suddenly dawned on me that I was sitting next to Bart Yasso, the RW chief running officer and overall running legend! I was thrilled to meet him and have his ear for a few minutes. We chatted about the Route 66 race and that it seemed really well organized. I mentioned to him that I was working on halfs in all 50 states and that I just really loved the 13 mile distance. As we parted I expressed to him what a pleasure it was to meet him and to look for me at the 1:50 (or so) finish time. So cool! I only wish I’d asked him to take a photo with me. 

Our first day in Tulsa, we found a great little coffee shop for breakfast called Foolish Things Coffee Company. It was a fantastic little off the beaten path place with fresh wonderful food. We sat in the somewhat industrial space enjoying breakfast and coffee while watching the rain fall. It was raining pretty steadily, but the coffee was warm and the vibe in the restaurant was perfectly Saturday. A 70’s inspired soundtrack was playing  including songs like Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty and Funeral For a Friend by Elton John. I joked with Andrew that it was like watching one of those infomercials selling soft rock tunes of the 70’s--Saturday 70’s. It actually was pretty perfect. Before we took to the streets again, I asked a couple who were sitting nearby if there was a convenience store in the area were we could get an umbrella. They gave us directions to a place a few blocks away and we were off. On our walk, we passed the temporary quarters for the city library while the main location is under renovation. It is called the Librarium, and I think it is fabulous!

The rain was pretty steady at this point, and we were pretty wet by the time we got to the QuikTime convenience store. To our dismay, they didn’t sell umbrellas. So we just grabbed some Gatorade and got in line to check out. To my incredible disbelief, the woman from the coffee shop who had given us directions came walking in to the convenience store and asked me if we found umbrellas there. When I told her no, she handed me an umbrella that she had in her car. What an absolute angel! We couldn’t believe that she would do that for us. I commented to the clerk in the store that her kindness was such a mark of the Midwest. 
Here we are outside the convenience store with our lucky umbrella!
We were off again to walk through the downtown area. We saw some cool art deco architecture which Tulsa is known for and also found the general area where the starting line was to be located. They were still setting up the corrals. This was in the Bartlett Square area where we also saw this neato rotary circle in the street with a band of rainbow lights scrolling around it. We walked from there to the expo center where we picked up our numbers, t-shirts, and goodies and checked out the various vendors and exhibits.
Bartlett Square rotary with colorful chasing lights.
Starting line set up
Downtown architecture
I met a woman who I had previously met in Utah. She owns a company called Shoe Frosting, which is this cute charm jewelry that you can tie on your shoelaces. I bought a couple of the charms for my girls while out in Utah, so I stopped by to see if it was the same woman, and it was! We chatted about the Utah race (she is from Salt Lake), and had a great chat about our goals. She is running 40 halfs in this year before she turns 40. I told her about my 50 states before 50. We promised to keep in touch via facebook, and I picked up a couple more charms for the girls. 

The expo had all kinds of cool things there including many classic cars, an anti-gravity treadmill (what??!!), Route 66 selfie station and loads of products, services and gear. I loaded up on all the stuff I wanted or needed. I even spied Bart Yasso briefly again, but didn’t want to act like a stalker. 

By lunchtime I was getting hungry, and Andrew had already left, so I met him back at the hotel. We had a quick bite at the hotel and ventured back out to find the Center of the Universe in Tulsa. This is a spot in the city where when you stand right in the center of the circle a weird amplification of sound takes place. Andrew and I both tried it and it is so cool. To others around you, you sound like you are talking in a regular voice, but to your own ear it sounds like you are speaking in to a microphone. Super freaky but cool. 

Andrew & I at the Center of the Universe
Next we walked around the arts area nearby called the Brady Arts District. We discovered that this was the finish line area.

Also, several museums are located in this area including a contemporary arts space, the Woody Guthrie Center, the Arts & Humanities Council Arts Center, and the Jazz Hall of Fame. We stopped in to the Arts & Humanities Council of Tulsa Hardesty Arts Center (AHHA for short) and discovered they had an exhibition of art based on Route 66 travels. Perfect! The main gallery space was filled with sculpture made from a variety of materials including glazed ceramic, various metals and found objects like toys and Elvis heads. 

Another section of the exhibit featured photographs taken along the route. This was my favorite part of the gallery. The photos were very intriguing and at times comical and or desolately beautiful. There were also some multi-media presentations like slides, audio selections and one video. It was an interesting and meaningful stop considering our Route 66 race. The second floor of AHHA featured an exhibit on African wax art on textile, similar to the batik method. 

The fabrics were intricate, colorful and beautiful. The woman working at the AHHA recommended a fabulous chocolatier (Glacier) to us which was right around the corner from the gallery, so of course, we bee-lined it there. I bought a few delicious sounding pieces of chocolate. Two that I enjoyed immediately (dark chocolate hawaiian salted caramel, chili apple salted caramel) and two to save for after the race (the Elvis (peanut butter, banana, bacon and chocolate) and a chardonnay salted milk chocolate). We also found an Italian restaurant and made a reservation for dinner. We walked back to the hotel to rest for a bit after that and to take a break before dinner. 

Dinner was at a lively Italian spot called Hey Mambo. The atmosphere in there was terrific with bold pop-art-esque paintings, Edison bulb style lighting, many diners carb-loading and a violinist playing table to table. It was a fantastic place. I also thought of my college pal, Terry Colosimo, as above the bar area, the movie Raising Arizona played on the television. Which with the advent of captioning made the movie funnier to watch. 

We ordered our dinners, and shortly thereafter, Jocelyn, the violinist came over and asked us if we had any requests. She had just finished playing Sweet Child of Mine by Guns & Roses for another table. Clearly she was up for just about anything. She played Enjoy the Silence by Depeche Mode and Ordinary World by Duran Duran for us. We loved it! She is also in a band called We The Ghost. I bet they are pretty great if her talent in the restaurant is any indication. According to their Facebook page, they recently won an award for Musical Group of the Year at the LA Music Awards. Not bad! We finished up our meals while we enjoyed her violin serenades throughout the restaurant. It is fun to hear songs that aren’t typically violin songs played on a violin. 

The rain began again as we left the restaurant, but luckily the hotel shuttle picked us up along with some other guests along the way. Back at the hotel, I gathered my creature comforts for the morning and prepared my clothes and carry-ons for early access. I had to run an unexpected errand and on the way to catch the van to the convenience store, I ran in to Bart Yasso again. I feel like we are old friends now. We chatted about the expo and the forecasted weather for the start of the race. He wished me a successful race and gave me a high five. Not a bad way to end our day before the race. It was back to the hotel to get our things ready for the race in the morning.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Exercising Freedom

Good morning 50x50 readers. I'm here to redeem myself and get rid of my award for being the biggest slacker blogger ever. Life has been very hectic here on the home front since the September race in Utah, and as such, my blogging has taken a back seat. My apologies for stepping away from the keyboard for so long. Here is the post I wanted to compose last Tuesday on Election Day.
I always look forward to my Election Day run. My polling location is conveniently situated on one of my regular running routes, so my tradition is to run to vote. Doing this always makes me feel so empowered; not only am I exercising my voice as a citizen, I am also freely exercising! I love that! The greatness of this really impacts me on Election Day, and I feel so energized post-vote and post-run. One of the wonderful things about running is allowing your brain to wander while you plug away at the miles. Many times as I run, I think about just how fortunate I am to be out there...enjoying the fresh air, sunshine, feeling physically strong, listening to my breathing, not having to worry about the many restrictions that citizens of other nations deal with everyday. I love looking up in to the bright blue sky, watching for seasonal changes to the scenery I pass, waving to the regular folks I see as I run around. It is all so good.
That brings me to another fun story to share. Last week I was working on a semi-long run (10 miler), and as I reached my turn around point, a garbage truck was just turning the corner, set to continue along in my direction. I caught the eye of the driver as I turned around, and looked at him as if to ask, "Wanna race?" I started to sprint briefly along side him, and we both shared a good laugh as he drove along up the street. Fast-forward a mile and a half later, he was coming down a side street as I passed along on the main road, and I gave him a victorious, "I beat you" arm punch in the air as I ran by him. It was really funny, and gave me a kick as I finished up my route. I happened to see the same driver in the garbage truck on Saturday as I ran, and he gave be a beep and a wave. I love seeing my "regulars" out on the streets. Distractions are good while distance running.
So all that said, my next half is right around the corner...less than two weeks until the Route 66 Half in Tulsa, OK. I have to confess, this being my 7th half this year was a bit ambitious for me, and I'm getting tired. I know I will certainly finish this race, but for the first time in my state race training, I didn't log a 12-13 mile run prior to the race. I did a 10 miler, which is fine, but I am nursing a tired right hamstring and glute, and I just didn't want to push it too much. My taper just started a little earlier than normal, that's all, and even then, I'm still good to throw a substantial 7 miler in to the mix before the actual race.
Route 66 will be a special one. My cousin Andrew is running with me, which I'm excited about. We haven't run together since June when we did the Covered Bridges Half in VT. He scored an amazing PR there, so I'm sure he's gunning to better that. I just want to finish OK in under two hours without any injury. That's my goal this time. Then I get to rest for December and January. No races on the calendar for me just yet in 2015, but I have lots of ideas swirling in my head.
Back to Route 66...the race, of course, takes place on the iconic stretch of road, and each year the race directors fashion the finisher's medal after a 50's inspired car hood ornament. This year's medal will honor the Cadillac. Not too shabby! I wrote Andrew after I read about the Cadillac medals to tell him. His grandfather, Bill, passed away a few years ago. He was a very special man to all of us in the family. He always drove a Cadillac. So I suggested to Andrew that we dedicate this race to him. He enthusiastically agreed. When I told my mom about this, she reminded me that my grandfather, Charles (her dad), also always drove a Cadillac. So of course, this race will honor both of our grandfathers! I love that! I will have them both in my thoughts as I make my way "on the road" in Tulsa. Can't wait!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Part 2:Revel Big Cottonwood Half Marathon, State #18. UT

4:15 am arrived quickly, and I was up going through my pre-race routine to ensure I caught the 5:00 am bus to the starting line provided by the hotel. My early morning routine usually consists of a quick wash up followed by getting dressed in the clothes I set out the night before. I heat up a venti bold coffee from Starbucks in the hotel microwave and prepare a packet of instant oatmeal with chia seeds & fresh blueberries mixed in. I drink a small amount of G2 lemon-lime flavored and a bottled water. Before walking out the door, I pin on my number and make sure I have all the gear I need to get me through the race (sunglasses, running hat, sports watch, GU, phone, ID, medical card and $20). This morning followed the same routine. Not too neurotic or anything, right? 
I took the elevator down to the lobby which where it was already loaded with runners waiting in line for the bus. I chatted with some nice folks from Texas who were full marathoners. They told me about their many travels for marathons and we swapped some recommendations on good races. When I got to the front of the line, a woman checked for my name on her clipboard, and upon finding it, I was released to climb on to the bus. The busses were really nice coach-style busses with reclining seats and foot rests! Not too shabby for this marathoner! (And seriously, I've never seen this kind of luxury at any other race. Another great perk!)
The ride up to the canyon was dark (the sun was not yet up) and the road was twisty and turny most of the way. Unbelievably, I sat with a man on the bus who was from Trumbull, CT! This really was a destination race for so many racers. His name was Bill, and we had fun chatting about our races. He was an accomplished marathoner and ultra-marathoner. We had fun discussing races in CT and our kids and other common topics. 
The bus ride took a good 40 minutes or so, and I started in on my breakfast near the end of the ride. I didn't want to eat too early so that I was starving by the 7:00 am race start time. As we neared the drop off point for the half marathon, I knew I needed to find the dreaded porta-potties ASAP! I hopped off the bus at the Spruces Camp Ground which was the staging area for the half marathon start, and located the porta-potty bank way in the back of the furthest reaches of the campground parking lot. Not to worry, I made it in time just fine, but trying to use one of those things in the pitch black of pre-dawn is damn hard! 
After that, I just kind of hung out in the general area. It wasn't that crowded back by the porta-potties (amazingly), and they created a barrier against the wind and cold. It was about 10-15 degrees colder up in the canyon than it was back in town at the hotel. When we left, I think the temperature was around 50 degrees. As we waited, I asked some women next to me to snap a pre-race photo. 
Literally glowing with excitement in the pre-race pre-dawn!
As the time crept closer to 7:00 am and start time, I made my way to the forward staging area so I could hear announcements and be in closer proximity to the starting corral. Even though I didn't have high hopes for a PR in this race (as I had been nursing a sore hamstring and glute the last two months since my Oregon run), I was hoping to at least keep the pacing groups in sight. Unfortunately, there wasn't a 1:45 pacing group (my current PR). There was only a 1:50 or 1:40, but as it turned out, the race ended up being delayed for about 30 minutes and I didn't get up to where any of the pacing groups were lined up. C'est la vie. 
View of runners just prior to the start of the race.
Finally it was time to line up and get started. I took off my long-sleeved zip-up, tossed it in my gear bag and passed my gear bag off to one of the guys loading them in to trucks. I kept the complimentary gloves and mylar blanket on as I walked to the starting area. Once the go signal was sounded and we started to run, I tossed the blanket but still kept the gloves. They were a godsend. 
The sun was coming up, but the canyon hills blocked much of the sun for most of the run. I didn't mind, as it kept me cooler. The run was absolutely majestic from step one. The surrounding canyon rocks were red and brown and gold as the tops received the light of the sun. Aspen trees and cedar pines were plentiful along the way. In fact, the smell of cedar surrounded us. What a switch from breathing in nauseating car exhaust back home! A rushing stream ran along the left side of the road at the start of the race and for the first miles. Mile markers were clearly visible, and I have to say, the downhill nature of this race made me feel like I was ticking off the mile markers more quickly than usual. Aid stations were also well stocked and plentiful along the way. Runners were jovial along the way, and I think we were all glad to have gravity on our side.
I am not a big hill runner, either up or down. In the spring and beginning of the summer, I started running hill repeats on the Powder Hollow Hill where I live, but after Oregon I cut that from my routine to give my injury a chance to heal. Aside from my run in Oregon which was half uphill and hence, half downhill, I hadn't run any hills for two months. I was worried that my quads and toes and knees would take a beating in this race, but after the first few miles, I was still feeling fine. I also caught up to the 2:00 pacing group and passed them, followed thereafter by the 1:50 group. Hot dog! I was moving! 
I took my gloves off somewhere between miles 5 and 6 and tucked them in my belt. About a mile later, one fell out, so I ended tossing the other one off at the 7 mile marker. Oh well. They were great while they lasted. My fingers were warm now, so I didn't really need them anymore anyway. I continued on my great downhill feeling speedy through mile 9. After that, we were out of the canyon hill and heading in to the town of Cottonwood Heights. The road flattened out at this point, and it suddenly felt like lead weights had been added to my legs. Wow, what a difference gravity makes for sure! At least there were spectators along this part of the race. That really helps pull you along when you need it. By mile 10 1/2, a slight downhill returned, so I tried my best to take advantage. The remainder of the race was a slight downhill in to the finish line area. The finish chute was jammed with spectators and was very festive. It was a great way to end. My finish time on the clock as I passed through the gate was 1:47. I knew I was close to a PR, but still wasn't sure what my net time would be and if it would be enough to break 1:45. Needless to say, I was psyched, and I still felt pretty good. No toe or knee issues, but I knew my quads would be sore the next day. For now, not so bad. 
I went in to the finisher's area to stretch out and grab some food. I texted my husband and found out that he won two blue ribbons for tallest and best head on a sunflower at our local Four Town Fair! Awesome! I found out moments later that my net finishing time was 1:43:34! A new PR for me! I couldn't believe it, but gravity really was my friend in this glorious downhill race. 
Finish line selfie. The medals were huge and awesome!
The finish line area was getting more crowded now, so I got in line to get my official time printed on a card, then I made my way over to the bag check. I picked up my things, changed and went to wait for the cushy bus to bring me back to the hotel. One benefit of being a half marathoner is that you get back to the hotel before many of the other runners, so in that respect, I was already showered and my laundry was done in time to head out and grab lunch. As I was leaving the hotel, many runners were just arriving back. 
Snapped just before I got on the bus to head back to the hotel. View of finishing area.
I walked around the neighborhood in the downtown area where I was and found a brewpub called Squatters. Bill, who I sat with on the bus ride in the morning, told me he and his party ate there and really liked it, so I went in for a post-race celebratory beer and lunch. It was a great local spot with all the beers brewed on site. I ordered a beer and a Nicoise salad and sat back to enjoy the local atmosphere. The restaurant was fun and featured a terrific 80's soundtrack that day. Bowie, The The, Depeche Mode, so many of my old favorites were featured, and a few songs I literally hadn't heard in over 20 years. It was a great place to hang out for a bit. 
Beer taps at Squatters.
After lunch, I decided to take the train up to the University of Utah to take a look at the Olympic Torch from when the 2002 Olympics were held in Salt Lake City. The university is up on a hill overlooking the city with great views all around. The football stadium was impressive and the torch was located there. As I approached it, the torch was actually much smaller than I would have thought. I took a few pictures and then walked up the hill toward campus. It was a very warm day at this point, and I was hoping I could buy a bottled water in the campus bookstore. 
U of U stadium and Olympic torch.

I got to the campus just as the bookstore was closing, so I walked toward the student union. I figured there had to be a fast food something there that sold water. The campus was completely empty except for a few students walking to and from the library. I entered the student union, and all the fast food counters were closed, but a little further down, it seemed something was open. I found a few students hanging out at the billiard room and bowling alley. Yes, BOWLING ALLEY! How cool is that?! They had snacks and drinks for sale, so I grabbed a water there. I wished the students well and got directions back to the train. 
I headed back to the hotel after that, as all the walking around the U of U was hot and tiring after 13.1 miles in the morning. I rested for the remainder of the late afternoon and started to pack my things. I decided to try a bistro in the city that night for dinner called Bistro 222. Again, it seemed like there were very few people in the city, and at the restaurant there were a few of us, but not many. Most folks were sitting outside, but I opted to sit in. My waiter was a young guy named Alan who was very nice. We ended up talking about running, and he told me he was a runner but had never done any races. I told him about my journey, and he seemed really enthusiastic about it. He told me he mostly runs trails up in the hills behind the city and can eke out about 7 miles at this point. I told him for sure he could work up to a half marathon if he wanted to and that the Big Cottonwood half was all downhill. 
When dinner was done, I declined dessert, but told him how lovely the gelato selection looked. (I spied it on my way to the ladies room earlier.) Just before the check came, the owner of the restaurant came by with a small scoop of pistachio gelato for me "the runner" he said. So sweet. I left feeling special. It had been a wonderful day and a wonderful race. 
The trip home the next day was uneventful, and as always, I was overjoyed to be back with my family. We celebrated all of our weekend successes over a sushi dinner at home. The Revel race series is hard to beat! I might be checking out Revel Denver some year...
One of the free race photos offered at the race. Look at the amazing scenery!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Part 1:Revel Big Cottonwood Half Marathon, State #18. UT

The Revel series Big Cottonwood Half Marathon in Salt Lake City was quite an experience. I hardly know where to begin with this race post. I chose this race based on the description from race organizers that it was an entire downhill race on a beautiful canyon in Utah. The race description also mentioned that runners would receive free gloves & mylar blanket at the starting line as well as free race photos and video post race. Sounds pretty great, right? Well indeed it was!
The week leading up to the race was crazy as we were getting back in to the routine of school and after school activities, and my husband was away all week traveling for work. I felt like a scatterbrained crazy person and waited until the last minute to pack, check my itinerary and get up to speed with all the race details. One thing that was just amazing was that the hotel I stayed at (Doubletree in downtown Salt Lake) sent me an e mail prior to the race to check and see if I would need transportation from the hotel to the starting line and then back to the hotel from the finish line. This absolutely flabbergasted me. I have never had a hotel reach out to me like that. The race organizers had obviously done a spectacular job coordinating with the sponsor hotels. To top it off, the hotel also offered a free shuttle to and from the airport, so no need to spend money on a car rental. Love that.
I arrived at the Salt Lake airport on Thursday evening, and immediately I could feel the dryness in the air. I swear my skin started to dry out the second I stepped off of the plane. My lips were chapped from the instant I got there. I didn’t get to the airport until around 9:00 pm (which was really 11:00 pm east coast time), so basically I got settled and went straight to bed. 
The next day was number pick up which was a train ride away. I took the local public transportation to the South Towne Expo Center which was about a 30 minute ride from downtown. Along the way I found some other women from my hotel heading out there so we chatted a bit. The expo was well organized and I picked up my number, goody bag and t-shirt. There were several vendors there, but as I didn’t really need anything, I moved along quickly and headed back to the downtown area. 
Posing for a photo at the expo.
On the train ride back, I met a woman who was working on full marathons in all 50 states, so we traded some race information. A man who was on the train overheard our conversation and became interested in the race, as he was a former runner. So we chatted with him along the way back. He and his wife were volunteers at a genealogical library in the downtown area, so he suggested it might be a nice place to visit. Being a librarian, this of course interested me, and I had already read about the library in the guide book I had with me from the hotel. It was on my radar, but I just didn’t know yet where the day would take me.
Mormon Temple
I spent the rest of the day in the downtown area, visiting Temple Square where the Mormon Temple and other religious buildings were incredibly beautiful. I also walked around an open air shopping mall, indulging myself in a little me-time shopping. I don’t often get to go to a clothing store alone with the luxury of trying clothes on in the dressing room by myself. I didn’t buy anything, but it was fun to just look. 
Salt Lake City was very nice, with some beautiful buildings, but what struck me as I walked around was how unbelievably clean the city was. I didn’t see one piece of litter anywhere in the downtown area. The city had a strange feel to me though. It was eerily uncrowded for a major city. I’m not sure where everyone was, but there were no crowds anywhere. There was also a real sense of religiousness permeating the area. Religious officials could be seen walking about in the Temple Square area, or at least I assumed they were religious based on their outfits. 
I wrapped up my afternoon of walking about by stopping at the Harmons grocery store for my pre-race necessities. Without hesitation, this grocery store was the nicest one I’ve ever stepped foot in. I loaded up on fruit, water and gatorade and walked back to the hotel.
For dinner that night, I walked to a nearby Italian restaurant called Buca di Beppo, which was a fun, casual spot that offered a great plate of spaghetti and meatballs. The staff seated me at a booth, and a few minutes later, they seated another single woman at the booth next to mine. When she sat down, I recognized her as one of the women from the hotel who had been on the train out to the expo center for number pick up. I invited her to sit with me, as it would have been pretty awkward for us to sit facing each other but not actually with each other. We had a nice chat about our racing. She was from Louisiana and worked on an off-shore oil rig as an engineer. All of her training for this race was done on a treadmill, as she was on the oil base and couldn’t really run outside. We had a nice time and walked back to the hotel together afterward. It would be an early night. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Fun runs are FUN!

I don't sign up for very many local small races these days, as I'm so focused on my half marathon goals. As such, it is easy to forget about how fun a local 5K or fun run can be. But when your kid's school has a fundraiser run, you really should get involved, and I'm so glad our family did. My oldest daughter's school held its inaugural 5K last year, but unfortunately I was away running another race and couldn't make it. I was so happy when the race date was announced this year and I was available. 
Thanks in large part to my cousin Robbie who expressed interest last year in doing the run in the future, I was spurred on to invite family and friends to join the race. I'm thrilled to say that my mother's side of the family came out in large numbers to support the school and get some morning fitness done. It was a hot day, but we had lots of fun together and many successes amongst our group. 
Team Frost ready to roll!
My husband and I volunteered to help out with set up, and my girls signed up for the kids' race, while I signed up for the mile race. The race changed from a 5K to a one mile race this year. I thought this was an interesting move, as I read a neat article in Runner's World this past year about the growing popularity of one mile races. Apparently lots of old time track runners who are now in their 40's and 50's and beyond are challenging themselves to see how fast they can run a mile these days and to see how close they can get to their old records. Fun, right? I'm not much of a sprinter or miler myself, but a one mile fundraising race is completely doable for nearly anyone. No question we would do it.
Kids' race line up...Runners on your mark...GO!
The morning started off with a kids quarter mile race. Our girls lined up along with our cousin Liam and a bunch of other kids. The Central Connecticut State University softball team members were in attendance to volunteer with the race. Those girls were awesome! They ran with the kids to keep them safe and cheered them on to the finish. Our cousin, Liam, finished first for the boys and our daughter Lily finished third for the girls. Ella received a ribbon for being a participant, while the other two received place ribbons for their categories. So exciting! It was great to watch them finish and cheer them on. One note about this race that is fantastic...the finish is all downhill. 
Ella finishes with the CCSU softball girls.
When the kids were done, the adult race lined up and took off up the hill. Two short laps around the neighborhood later, and we were already shooting down the downhill finish. I went in to this race knowing that I wasn't going to sprint. I'm so not a sprinter. But I am a competitor, so of course, I just wanted to do my best and run with as much strength as I could. 
Much to my surprise, as I made the final turn for the downhill finish, I was the leading female runner! This was so cool to me on many levels. First, I've never been in this position in a race before. (Perks of running a small, local race, for sure!). Second, it was completely outrageous to experience what the elite women feel, albeit on a microscopic scale...knowing that no one is in front of you...worrying who might be on your heels...enjoying the cheers of those clapping for you as the leading lady. So fantastic! Third, waiting around for the awards and hearing your name announced as first place female. Awesome! I ran a 7:09 mile, which is terrific for me. I might not win in a large race, but it was enough for this one, and for that I'm thrilled. 
Like daughter, like mother.
To round out the family success, my mom won top honors and a medal in her age group. Like daughter, like mother! We had some good laughs, got some great exercise and then came home to enjoy pizza and cannoli from Russo's for my husband's birthday which is today. Many thanks to my family for supporting our school. Many thanks to all the volunteers who came out to make the day so great, too. I met some fantastic people today (Including Scott Ryder who organizes the Hazardville Memorial School 5k) and had stellar fun. It was a great day all around! Way to go, SBS!
A morning of family fitness & fun. And happy birthday to Craig!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

P90X3 & changing it up

Ever since the race in Oregon in July, I've been taking it easy with the running to nurse my sore hamstring and glute on my right side. My husband has been a P90/P90X guy for several years now, and he recently rejuvenated his fitness routine by getting on the P90X3 bandwagon. For several months he has been urging me to give it a try, as it incorporates lots of strength training exercises which could ultimately help my running.
When we returned from our vacation in July, I decided that was the time to give it a try. I was sore and injured and about a zillion pounds heavier from completely killing my diet while away, but I knew I needed to get back to business. I wanted to ease up on the running for a little while to try and rest my hamstring & glute, so I gave in to P90X3. I just finished up my first three weeks on the "classic" track, and it has been pretty good.
I definitely feel stronger in some areas, like my upper body which has always been notoriously weak. I can actually handle doing a fair number of push-ups now as well as pull-ups and chin-ups with an assist band. That is progress for me for sure. My hamstring and glute are getting better, but they still aren't 100%. I like several of the workouts in P90X3, most especially Dynamix which helps stretch and prepare the body for more intense exercise. It is the kind of workout that a runner should do whenever possible before running or maybe even after running. It feels great.
I also really like the Yoga workout and CVX workout which is basically cardio with weights. The first week I did these dvd workouts, my arms were so sore I couldn't wash my back in the shower or unhook my bra! Now I'm fine and still trying my hardest to push during these workouts. For the most part they are fun, but there is definitely a lot of action packed in to each 30 minute workout. That is the real beauty of this suite of exercises...each one is only 30 minutes. I can suffer through a bunch of pull-ups and push-ups for 30 minutes; more than that and I might not make it, but 30 minutes isn't bad. 
I haven't noticed any enormous changes in my fitness level, but I think the muscle I'm building will help me run better. In the short runs I've been doing along with P90X3, I have found that the running feels pretty easy, mind you, that is at a non-race pace, but I'll take it. The bottom line is that I haven't wanted to overdo it during this end of summer stretch, as I have my next half in early September and I want to be strong enough to do it and do it well. 
Time will tell for sure on P90X3 and its effects on me, but so far it is a nice cross-training alternative. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Olympia Lakefair Half Marathon, State #17, WA

My Washington state race piggybacked on the FBFW half in Oregon. We planned our family’s summer vacation around the races, starting our week in Oregon for the first half marathon in Dundee, then traveling to Seattle for the next part of the week. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law live in Seattle, so it is a favorite destination of ours. We like to visit them as often as we can to spend precious time with them and to make sure our girls know them and love them as we do. 

I was hoping to run the Art Dash half marathon in Anacortes while we were out there, but unfortunately the date of this year’s race didn’t synch up with the previous weekend’s race in Oregon. Instead, I researched and found a half marathon in Olympia, the capital city of Washington. According to my sister-in-law, Olympia was about 60 miles from Seattle. A reasonable amount of travel and within the dates of our trip, so I registered.

The Lakefair Half Marathon in Olympia was held on Saturday, July 20th, less than a week after the FBFW Half the weekend before in Oregon. In my planning, I wasn’t worried about this, as usually I don’t need much (if any) recovery time from running in a half marathon, but this time around it was a little different. I was nursing a very sore hamstring from FBFW, I was out of my normal element in terms of diet/exercise/sleep, and, not to be too graphic here, but all the eating out was wreaking havoc on my insides, as I was pretty constipated all week before the Olympia race. Lovely.

In my mind, I had planned to do a couple of shake-out short runs in Seattle during the week along with some hiking we planned as a family. In reality, I did a small amount of foam rolling, booked the first massage I could find, hobbled from here to there around the city and stretched as best I could. We managed to eke out a short hike at Mt. Rainier, which I pretended was my hardcore training (altitude walking, at least). Truth be told, as Saturday approached, I was nervous that I might either injure myself more, not finish or poop myself during the race--none of which excited me. 
View from Mt. Rainier.

Hiking on Mt. Rainier.
Playing in the snow on Mt. Rainier. 
At least I can say I definitely tapered during this vacation week! My family and I enjoyed great fun with our relatives. Not only were we spending time with Uncle Eric & Aunt Lisa, but Grandma Dianne & Grandpa Steve planned their vacation to coincide with part of ours, too. It was a nice family reunion of sorts. We shared lots of great meals and nights on Eric & Lisa’s deck watching the gorgeous sunsets over the Puget Sound and Olympic mountain range. We went on the Great Wheel in the Seattle harbor and saw superb views of the cityscape. We walked around the downtown area and popped in to the incredible Seattle Public Library (my favorite place). We looked for sea glass and sea life at the Golden Gates beach. We shared some terrific meals at local eateries, almost always having dessert. 
After riding the Great Wheel in Seattle.
After much discussion about driving distance/time to Olympia, it was decided I’d go it alone on this one. I didn’t want my husband and kids to have to get up at the ungodly hour of 4:15 am to get ready and hit the road. They needed their rest with all the activity we’d been doing all week, and rather than have cranky kids at the end of the day, we decided it best for them to sleep in. I wanted to leave early to make sure I had time in case I got lost, hit traffic or got stuck in some kind of line(s) for number pick up. 

I arrived in Olympia at about 6:20 am after one very welcome pit-stop along the way. (Let’s just say my pre-race nerves got things moving along in the GI tract.) Whew! Bullet dodged on that one! Number pick up also went well. Downtown Olympia was pretty small. The main street is lined with cute shops and restaurants and has a bit of a beachy feel to it. It didn’t feel like a large city/state capital. There was a small harbor nearby and a carnival set up where the number pick up was. Number pick up was staffed with young volunteers who were efficient, but it seemed like they didn’t know much about other race details such as where the various races started. All I was able to figure out was that the half marathon start was somewhere a few blocks up the street. I made my way up there to check it out.
Pre-race number selfie.

I found a group of people waiting near a smallish sign that that said “START”, but no one in the group was sure if this was the start for the half marathon or one of the other races that were taking place that day. The sign was generic and didn’t specify. I decided to make one last trip to the porta-potties before the race. I chatted with a very friendly woman in line who was a repeat Lakefair Half Marathon runner and she confirmed that where I was before was in fact the starting line. She also told me of a group called Half Fanatics that offers a 50 states club and discounts on races for members. Something to look in to while back at home.

The race started at 7 am without much fanfare, and we meandered through the downtown area on a mostly flat course until we reached a bike path type trail and entered the woods. This whole first part of the race was on the paved bike path flanked by woods on both sides. It was serene, but very quiet. There really weren’t any spectators or sights to see. There weren’t even that many runners around me. That was fine with me though. I just worked on my breathing and form...trying to keep my hamstring from feeling too sore. I didn’t try to work toward a PR in this race. I just wanted to finish in under 2 hours and intact. The first 7 miles or so went on in this way. 

The next part of the race went through a bit of an industrial area. We went over some bridges and behind the parking lot of a shopping center. Then we continued on the bike path. This part of the path was less wooded and a little more open. Eventually we came to a road crossing that led us in to a neighborhood where we just ran along the side of the road. Miles 8 to 9 1/2 were the hilliest, but the hills were rolling and were nothing compared to Oregon the week before. Once I hit the crest of the hill, the rest of the race was downhill. 

At the end of the neighborhood road, we entered on to another wooded path. This one was beautiful, but short-lived, as it gave way to a divided highway road that paralleled the harbor area and led back to the downtown area. I was tired at this point but knew the finish was right around the corner. My hamstring was sore but hanging in there. The final mile, although flat, felt dreadfully long and slow. I pushed on and crossed the finish line. The race medal was made of wood, which was pretty cool and very representative of the “Evergreen State.” I grabbed a couple of snacks and some water and headed off to find a place to stretch out. 
Finisher's medal.

I found a park around the corner from where I’d parked, perfect for stretching. I watched as people set up chairs for some sort of event that presumably was happening later in the day. I also noticed several camp chairs lining the street across the park, as if waiting for a parade. There was probably one of those happening later on, too. I wasn’t sticking around for the carnival or parade or other events, as I had family back in Seattle waiting for me. I finished stretching and made my way back to the car. The drive back to Seattle was uneventful, thankfully, without any traffic to slow me down. I was back to our hotel in Ballard by noon. I met my husband and girls in the room as they had just finished a swim in the pool. I showered and changed, and we walked to a local pizza shop for lunch. 
Getting silly at the pizza shop after lunch.

My lovely and silly supporters.

I recalled the race for them as we enjoyed our lunch. I love my family support team! They are just the best...and the silliest, too. I was glad that this race was flat and easy and pretty unexciting. It was just the kind of run I needed after the Oregon race 6 days earlier. We made our way over to Uncle Dude and Aunt Lisa’s place where we relaxed and enjoyed each other’s company for the rest of the afternoon and evening. It was a nice way to end the busy day. Thanks, Washington, for a nice race. It was a pleasure to run in Olympia.