Race Recap: Rock n Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon 2017

Soooo…Virginia Beach. That was an interesting trip!

We cashed in all of our miles to book this birthday trip for Erik, which fell during Labor Day weekend and during the Great American Music Festival. To keep things affordable, we flew into Washington DC and decided to drive to Virginia Beach.

A road trip would be fun! We love road trips! However, this was a road trip like no other. A 3:30 drive quickly turned into a 5 hour trip, and it being on the heels of a red eye made it even harder on the driver (him). We napped at a rest stop along the way to make things a little easier.

Then, on top of that, our Airbnb was pretty awful, so we had to book a new hotel at the last minute. Our race weekend was off to a pretty rocky start.

We got to the expo though and did our usual rounds – photos and bib pickup. I even got to sign the wall this time, and got my race shirt personalized!

After securing a place to rest for the night that wasn’t terrible, we prepped our stuff and relaxed. The air was heavy, warm, and dewy. It felt like we were swimming where ever we walked. It was weird, almost like Nashville, except without the heat.

The next morning, we headed to the race start. Thanks to our hotel, it was a quick 15 minute walk. That was probably one of the closest hotels I’ve ever stayed at…with exception of the one at Rock n Roll Vegas in 2013 probably, when I stayed on the same block as the finish line. That was just dreamy. I seeded myself in the back corral, since my training in August was completely off. I think I completed a handful of runs, but definitely no triathlon training. I felt a bit unconditioned than usual, so I figured I’d hang out with the cool kids.

Most of the corrals were pretty low energy. It seemed like the even the emcee was having a hard time getting them pumped up, and she is always super enthusiastic and every single race! When it came time for us, at least we got into the rock ‘n roll spirit.

Apparently the slower folks save their energy for the party?

Anyhow, the race conditions were miserable, so I didn’t take any photos. The mugginess always bother me, that and headwind, so my phone didn’t make it out of my hydration pack. I’ve been sticking to my handheld water bottle lately, and the phone barely fits inside of it. Taking it out is more trouble than it’s worth, and the route wasn’t too scenic towards the end anyways.

The course itself was fairly flat. As I was finishing up my second mile or so, the winners of the race were finishing up. I saw the first, second, and third place men and women. Pretty cool. It reminded me of Liverpool! I kept going and the environment changed quite a bit, going from beachfront to a lush forest. We ran through a residential area, and then around an army base, back up a bridge, and then along the waterfront for a pier finish. The sun came out and I didn’t put on a lot of sunscreen in the morning, so I decided to gun it towards the end and run the last 2-3 miles continuously (as opposed to sticking with my run/walk intervals). I just wanted to get out of the sun so that I didn’t burn!

I ended up finishing my ninth race with three medals: the half marathon medal, the 9th challenge medal, and the Beach to Beach medal (San Diego and Virginia Beach medal). Sweet race bling!

After a disco nap, we headed back out for some pizza and the music festival on the beach.

And then, we were back off to Denver.

Since this was my 9th Rock n Roll race this year, this also means that I have 6 more to go: 10) Philadelphia 11) San Jose 12) Los Angeles 13) Denver 14) Savannah or San Antonio 15) Las Vegas.

Next stop…Disneyland Paris!

Race Recap: Run for Totality Half Marathon 2017

A month or so ago, I was researching some places to view the total solar eclipse that was passing through the country. One of my best friends mentioned a long time ago that he was interested in going to Jackson for a viewing party. When considering the map, I was pretty sure that everything west of Denver was going to be fairly impacted, so I began looking east. Additionally, since there quite a few open states on my map to fill up, I decided to look for races during that same weekend too so that I could multi-task.

Lo and behold, we found quite a race, one that was billed to be the most epic of them all – a race in Falls City, Nebraska, which terminates at the point of totality. Finishers would be able to view the totality from the finish line after the conclusion of the race. I was really excited for the race and invited my running friend from San Diego to join us for the weekend.

The three of us piled our camping equipment into the car and headed east of Denver into Kansas for the weekend. Our first stop was the geographic center of the United States. Erik had gone there on his driveabout earlier in the summer, and I was very envious. Since we were passing through anyways, we made a pit stop. It was really cool!

Along the way we passed by a few small towns sprinkled in between large farming communities. We got tired of the snacks we packed pretty quickly, so the stops served as good stretch breaks and snack breaks.

This is pretty much what it looked like until we got back to Denver. Really!

Anywho, we set up our campsite in Old Town, Kansas. It was sunset by the time we got there, so there aren’t any photos. I was setting up the tent in the wind as Erik was getting the fire going. No time for photos as we were busy swatting bugs and keeping our equipment from flying away. We eventually settled into dinner, drinks, smores, showers, and sleep. My hardy tent has now traveled to another state with me — CA, AZ, WA, WY, and now KS. I keep thinking that it’s time for a new tent, but whenever it unfurls and holds up for one more trip I put it off for just one more night.

Anyhow, we woke up the next morning to a beautiful sunrise, had our overnight oats for breakfast, and embarked on our one-hour journey to Falls City, Nebraska for our race.

The skies were looking pretty clear so we had a good feeling about the race. We got to their town square to grab our bibs and t-shirt. The field was fairly small, but everyone seemed really excited to be there. It seemed like the race volunteers were pretty new at putting on races before, which seemed normal since the city population was somewhere in the range of 4,300.

Before the race got started, we couldn’t even grab coffee in the town square. The bakery didn’t take credit cards and didn’t have a bathroom. We had to head over a few blocks to the grocery store instead.

Little did they know I’d need the well wishes for the day ahead!
Obligatory start line photo
A bunch of city hoodlums who got lost in the countryside
This was the start line of the race!

Erik and Arlene decided to run with me during this race. Maybe it was the smaller field, or the novelty of the event, or the fact that the race was going to be on a major highway for most of the way. I told them ahead of time that I was running 40 second walk/run intervals. I actually kept warning them over and over again. Erik did groan a bit after the first quarter mile but he let up afterwards. I insisted that they continue on without me but they stuck around, which ended up being a good thing because Erik got rid of his water bottle before the race and our water stations were very far away. The weather changed constantly during the race: it was cool one minute, heated up the next, with dashes of thunder and rain and sun and clouds the next. Then repeat that for the next 3 hours while having to run on and off the highway, on the road, on the shoulder, and in the adjacent trail, while dodging cars and semis. It was really quite the adventure!

Probably my best race picture ever

We finally got to the finish line, without the usual fanfare…just with a sense of accomplishment and a heaping sense of fatigue. And anticipation for the eclipse!

The eclipse itself was amazing. It lasted about 2 and a half minutes. Although most of it was obscured by clouds, we witnessed the sky falling dark, the cool air blowing through, and then dusk reappearing.

After the eclipse, we all piled into a volunteer’s van and headed the 13.1 miles back to the start line and headed home. When pulling our directions home, I looked at the Google Maps traffic for the areas in the path of the totality –

So fascinating. It was really a once-in-a-lifetime event!

Race Recap: Rock n Roll Chicago Half Marathon 2017

My eighth Rock n Roll race of the year was in Chicago. What an adventure that was! This was the quickest turnaround trip I think I’ve ever done for an out-of-state race. I had a class the morning before my trip that kept me on my toes. After my class was over.¬†It required a bit more preparation than usual to pull off…

1) My pasta dinner needed to be pre-cooked and pre-packed
2) I packed 24-hours worth of food and toiletries in a single carry-on (I love it!)
3) My signed race release was in my handheld hydration pack for the race
4) My flight clothes were packed in my school bag
5) My race clothes doubled as my pajamas

My class was out at 4pm, and my flight was set to leave by 6:10. Boarding was at 5:45pm, but after many many delays we ended up departing at 10pm!

I was so tired. I ate an extra round of airport linner (that’s what I call lunch and dinner). I enjoyed my pasta on the plane, and landed in Chicago at around 1:30am. I was exhausted and decided against picking up my rental car, especially since I slept so little the night before. After calling a Lyft, I finally made it to my Airbnb by 2:30. I prepped my race gear and was asleep by 2:45.

My alarm went off at 5:30am. I had only had a few moments to wake up, get dressed, and head out. Most of my journeys to the start line are fairly uneventful. However, this one truly takes the cake…

What I should’ve done was taken the train…it would’ve taken me pretty close to the start line without much fuss. What I ended up doing was calling a Lyft driver. Most of the time, Lyft drivers are pretty awesome and they take directions pretty well. This one completely refused to take directions from me, or from Google Maps. He insisted on using his in-dash Tom Tom, which doesn’t live update traffic conditions based on road closures. He kept talking down to me for the entire ride, even though I told him that I was in a rush, and that he should just take directions from Google Maps. He also kept ignoring road closures and the police had to intervene. It was a mess.

I was in a rush because I had only 20 minutes to get to the start, and to pick up my bib. Again, this was a start like no other because I was picking up my bib at the solutions tent. It’s unlike me to grab my bib the morning of the race. It’s certainly hectic, but I didn’t anticipate getting in so late, nor did I anticipate such a terrible driver. He kept driving farther and farther from the start line, and at the earliest opportunity I had, I got out of the car and began running to the start! I’ve never done that before, but I absolutely had to do what needed to be done to get my bib. It was about 1.5 miles to the start. I made it in the nick of time. Quite literally, I showed up as the first wave was taking off! By the time I got my bib, the first five waves had left. I was able to pin on my bib and hop into my corral. A few minutes later, I was at the start line.

Once we were off, the runners went winding through the streets of Chicago. I know I say this every time, but this was definitely one of the best courses on the race circuit! It was a completely flat, urban course. I loved being downtown and winding through the urban attractions. I’d been there once before, for Erik’s birthday a few years ago, so I recognized some of the buildings.

Some of my things I noticed about running through Chicago: lots of Dunkin Donuts, lots of theaters (like, plays…not cinemas), plentiful public transit, tons of event venues, and plenty of places to eat! If I had more time, I would love to take an eating tour of the city. ūüôā

I finished with a lackluster time, which was fine, given 2.5 hours of sleep…

I was tired, but not exhausted. I followed my :40/:40 intervals, kept well hydrated despite the humidity, and slowed down whenever I needed to. I earned my bean!

We ran right past Buckingham Fountain, so I went back for a quick photo before I left to shower and fly out of the city…thus concluding my less-than 12-hour journey in Chicago.

This was a difficult trip in many ways. Even though it all worked out, the logistics cut quite close on all accounts. I’m not sure what I could’ve done differently except…well, everything. This being race 8 of 15 was really stressful. I suppose it would be in good practice to have such a disaster of a weekend occur halfway through a 15-race challenge!

The rest of the year needs to be booked pretty tightly for me to get to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame goal of 15 races. I have Virginia Beach, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Jose, and Denver all logistically figured out. The only ones that are left to figure out are Savannah and Philadelphia.

Although I try not to think too far ahead, I’m thinking to my 2018 goals as well. What will be my triathlon goal for next year? I’m still twiddling my thumbs and considering my options, but I’ve already began merging my running training plan with a triathlon training plan.

Race Recap: Rock n Roll Seattle Remix Challenge 2017

For the eighth city of the year I headed back to my favorite race city, Seattle! Seeing as though my office is based out of Seattle (well, sort of), I mixed work and fun. I flew in to the city and headed in to the office for some meetings, and then at the end of the day headed out to the expo to pick up my bibs for the weekend. After lots of consternation I picked up my half marathon bib, rather than a full marathon…even though I would continue to ruminate over it the entire weekend. Ugh.

The inaugural Rock n Roll Seattle 5K started and finished at the Museum of Flight. Running along Marginal Way, the views of the airplanes were fantastic. We even had impromptu corral waves that corresponded with airplane takeoffs! ¬†Since Alaska Airlines was the sponsor, they even had a small little plane arch. Look at the cute little plane! It’s so little!

Since Erik had a shakeout run before his marathon, he did the unthinkable…he jogged the 5K with me, side by side. It was really nice starting and finishing a race with him. I’ve always wanted to do that!

The 5K field was much smaller than I thought it would be, given the lead time and the popularity of running in the city of Seattle. Since we ran the first one, I suppose this sets us up to be legacy runners for this race. I suppose that’s something I’d be okay with.

The 5K run was a very flat course. It was north on Marginal Way from the Museum of Flight, 1.5 miles from the start, with a turnaround and back. We ran on both lanes of the street since they were completely shut down. There was definitely a band and a water station along this route…much better than Liverpool!

After the race, we ran a few errands before heading back to the Museum of Flight.

The finish line was celebratory as expected. Lots of families and charity runners finished alongside one another, and lots of folks headed in to the museum. I thought that it was a fantastic venue for the race. I really look forward to doing it again next year.

After a day of running around, we settled in to an evening of spaghetti dinner at our Airbnb and rested up for our big day.

On Sunday morning, I woke up and got ready for my half marathon. I woke up still fairly tired from the marathon — something that felt pretty familiar from the week, to be honest — and I was glad that many people talked me out of running the full marathon. We walked over to Husky Stadium, which was the start of the new race course. It was a really nice race morning, not too cool but definitely a bit more humid than I remembered for Seattle.

Seattle tends to be a fairly popular race, and since the half and full begin together, the corrals end up blending together. After they called a dozen or so, I finally got to begin my race!

This new course was really interesting. I thought I would like it more, to be honest. So many of the miles wind through my old race stomping grounds. The first 1/10th of a mile runs on the Montlake Bridge, which was an absolute pain. Having to run on the bridge meant that we had to run on the medal grading, which was really difficult and potentially hazardous if you run clumsily like I do.

From there, the course winds through neighborhoods that I’ve ridden through during my triathlon training days. As I dripped from the humidity, I notice that the course comes up along the Kurt Cobain bench:

As the race progresses along the Lake Washington waterfront, it’s difficult to miss the Seattle skyline. The clouds were hanging fairly low that morning, but I still find it beautiful nonetheless.

While running on the course, I kept running and catching up to the guy dressed up as an airplane. I wondered if he was someone who particularly loved Alaskan Airlines? Or maybe he worked for them and really loved the company?

The costume was awesome, but he looked pretty warm while running. He also looked tired because he was hauling the thing around the entire time. I would run into him again and again on the course though, so he kept a fairly good pace given the costume! I hope to be able to run with such an awesome costume someday. ūüôā

My legs were feeling particularly fatigued, especially by mile 9. The marathon in San Diego really did a number on me. Even now I still don’t feel like I’ve quite recovered yet. At this point we’re about a mile past the marathon/half marathon split. This sign was here to remind me that my bling was around the corner. Just a few more miles left to go.

We’re winding our way through Rainier Valley. It’s not a very nice part of Rainier Valley, but a few years ago I was part of a painting project that met in a secret warehouse to paint portraits over the weekend. I remembered some of the side streets. I thought a lot about those times of my life, these streets, and how far I had come. I never thought that I’d leave Seattle, let alone live in Denver, yet here I was. After a few miles, we turned the corner in the International District and I could see Century Link stadium.

The finish chute narrowed as the marathoners joined us back near the finish line. By the time I finished I was completely drenched and exhausted. It reminded me of how I felt after finishing Nashville, except it wasn’t hot.

After some stretching and changing, I went back for my other medals and then headed back to the finish line to enjoy the festivities.

I’m now on race 7 towards 15 to my Hall of Fame status this year. I really need to focus on taking care of my body, stretching, strength training, getting massages, and not overextending my training.

My next stop…24 hours, start to finish, in Chicago!

 

Race Recap: Rock n Roll San Francisco Half Marathon 2017

Stop #3: Sam Clams Disco!

I can’t believe I hadn’t done this race sooner. What took me so long to do a race in northern California? I’ve gone up the coast for plenty of work trips, but very rarely for fun trips.¬†Such a travesty…I’ve seen so much under the guise of work, but this was the one trip where it all came together nicely.

We escaped the blizzard (again) and caught up with some friends, old and new. After packet pickup, I met with a friend that I hadn’t seen in years. In fact, the last time I sat in the same room with him I had just started running and had registered for the Athens Classic Marathon. He was incredibly supportive of my running endeavors. (Yes, it’d been¬†that long!) We then met up with another very close friend who just relocated there from Seattle and enjoyed a day around the city before resting our legs for the big race.

We lucked out the morning of the race. We were staying with a friend who was also a runner, and he was kind enough to drive us to the start line. This particular race was much smaller than the other Rock n Roll races I’ve done in the past. It also started much earlier, at 6:15am, which I assume is because of the road closures and potential impact on the city.

There were few bands on the early part of the course until almost the end. It didn’t get too interesting until after the Golden Gate bridge, which meant we were out of the residential areas. It made complete sense since the race started so early anyways. However, the course itself was very¬†scenic, so it made up for the lack of bands.¬†I also noticed that there were parts of the course at the beginning and the end where the course would split and merge, probably because I’m a back of packer and due to the race cutoff times.

My favorite part of the race was definitely the Golden Gate bridge, the weather, and the views of the coast. I enjoyed running into the city and all the sightseeing we did afterwards. It was a nice change of pace. My favorite part was posing with our finisher medals in front of the cable car turnaround!

Overall, it was great seeing my friends again, and seeing a familiar city in a new light. I’m really looking forward to our next race…Nashville!

Race Recap: 2017 Rock n Roll DC Half Marathon

This was my first new race destination in quite awhile! It was¬†nice escaping Denver for a long weekend in the nation’s capital. (Well, it was part exciting and part depressing all at the same time, given the political climate…)

Before heading out of town, I enjoyed some birthday cake and rang in my 33rd year with my friends, students, and co-workers. It was significantly more quiet than years past when I threw parties. Maybe I’ll get there again soon but 32 seemed to have hit me upside the head so quickly and 33 came screaming by that I had no clue that it was even around the corner until the week before.

My besties flew into town for the weekend before, which was great. As I packed for my trip to DC, I paired my newly gifted Sparkle Skirt with a bright idea: Why not (try to) run as Lady Liberty? I threw some pieces together, made a torch, and voila!

I took the Friday off of work and we flew in. It was fairly chilly, as the weather reports and folks on social media reported. I packed layers and layers and layers, and thankfully it was more than enough to keep me warm. However, we picked up some hand warmers and foot warmers just in case.

The race expo was just down the street from our AirBNB, and was a stone’s throw from the metro line. Such a great location!

The race itself was quite beautiful and scenic. The first few miles of the course ran around several monuments and I stopped for photos along the way. I was surprised that more people didn’t stop. Perhaps they were all locals. This was definitely not a race for time!

There was one giant hill somewhere around mile 5 or 6. It was dedicated to one of the charities of the race, and was dedicated to veterans. As touching as it was, the hill was certainly difficult! They even had sandwich boards of all the photos and names of the veterans they were honoring, along with volunteers or service men/women who were there honoring their peers. It was quite touching. Because I was so tired of the hill I didn’t snap any photos, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

This race was a bit more emotional for me than anticipated. I thought a lot about how long it took for me to come out to DC on my own, and what a shame it was that I had come out at such a tumultuous time. We skipped a race a month before due to a death in the family, and I thought a lot about that and what it meant to my husband. I thought a lot about my own family during this run too, since the last time I had been in DC was with my parents and my brother. I thought about the time I was in the USCG and wondered how all of my peers were faring. I thought about how life was drastically different compared to my middle school self, my high school graduate self, and my current self, and how all of those expectations were also completely different. I thought a lot about the privileges I’ve had (and lacked) in growing up in the places I have.

I used to think that I didn’t have to think about what was going on in Washington DC. I used to think that outsourcing those “big decisions” to others would be more than sufficient. It seems to be abundantly clear that if you expect something to be done right, that you actually have to keep your eye(s) on it and to consistently audit its progress. You’ll also have to make your voice heard in all the ways that you can. If you don’t think you have to care much about politics or if you don’t think it’ll have much of an effect on your everyday life, then you must be living a pretty privileged life.

As you can see, I did a lot of thinking overall over the course of 13.1 miles. It was probably because I stopped for so many photos…

It was definitely one of my favorite courses. I definitely plan on returning again to DC. Hopefully it’ll be a bit more joyous in the future and I’ll get a chance to do more sightseeing. We stayed a few days to enjoy the National Air and Space Museum. Next time I’d like to see some of the other museums and make more time to visit the monuments during the daytime, and perhaps have a more productive trip.

Finish line selfie!

Very special thanks to Jill Corral for her generous donation to my Planned Parenthood fundraiser!

Next stop: San Francisco!!

10 Races for Planned Parenthood! on Crowdrise

Race Recap: 2017 Rock n Roll Arizona Half Marathon

We flew into Phoenix¬†for our cool-down race, just a mere 3 days after returning from Orlando. By the time we got home, we didn’t bother unpacking at all – in fact, while packing up in Orlando, we decided to pack for Phoenix since we were doing laundry anyways. What has become of my life?

I’ve finally hit elite status for Frontier Airlines, which means that I’m flying like a normal human being, except I’m paying Frontier Airlines prices. It’s awesome. I’ve grown accustomed to packing light anyways, but with all of the race and work traveling I’ll be doing, it’s nice to be able to have a small gym bag with me.

The nice thing about racing in Phoenix was the flat course, and of course, In-N-Out. The last time I had it was in Dallas (only a few months ago), but I decided to load up on it since it would be a long while until I was able to have it again.

We didn’t plan on buying much at the expo, but alas, it turned out that we needed more than anticipated. I was going to the Women’s March the following week and would need some supplies, and Erik needed something for his knee. We picked up a few items and high-tailed it out of there before we could do too much damage to our wallets. I had ordered a Timex watch on Amazon to arrive via locker nearby so that I could run via Galloway intervals, just to see if I could keep up my momentum from the Disney World Marathon.

The race itself went smoothly, and the intervals worked quite well. Training at elevation has really worked to my advantage, and those intervals are really a secret weapon, aren’t they?

I definitely performed better than expected. Being in Phoenix again reminded me a lot of my last race there. The last time I traveled there, I had learned of my friend’s passing and I PR’d because I was so upset at what had happened. I had also come off of a month of HIIT training. I guess it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what changed. Nonetheless, here is my change between my last formal (aka timed) half marathon:

10 minutes and 27¬†seconds. I’ll take it. It’s too bad that I can’t just double it for my marathon time, huh? Mile 13-26 is nothing like mile 0-13.

Nonetheless, it was a scenic route and I was really happy about my performance. I thought a lot about the races I had ahead of me and was excited about the upcoming year. I¬†was fairly optimistic at what the year¬†would bring. The last few weeks have definitely been difficult, and it’s taken a bit of effort for me to come around to even writing this recap entry. It almost seems silly, since this seems so unimportant compared to all of the other things that are going on. I do recognize that there must be some things that must remain constant in my life, though.

15 races around the US (and with one abroad) is no joke I suppose, so that is something worth looking forward to. It’s a privilege really, something that not everyone is in a position to afford or complete. I remember hearing about this challenge just a few years ago when I first moved to Seattle and thinking that it was crazy and so far out of reach…and now, here I am, doing it alongside Erik.

Despite our recent hardships with our families, we still have it pretty good. It’s been difficult getting myself out of the house to do the smallest tasks, but I know there’s a lot of people who depend on me, so nevertheless I do what every other woman before me has done…I get up and I do the things I’m supposed to do to the best of my ability, even if I don’t necessarily feel like it that day. And then¬†I go to sleep hoping that the next day things are a little better.

Race Recap: Disney World Dopey Challenge 2017

Ahhhh — For once, I’ve finally arrived at my A-race intact! Not only that, I’ve also followed my entire training plan. This entire training season has been quite the ride, and it would turn out that race weekend would still have a few tricks up its sleeve…Only in Florida.

Packing and preparation

Preparation for a 4-day race was no easy feat. It turned out that this was almost more complicated than packing for an out-of-state triathlon. 4 sets of running clothes, contingency cold and hot weather running gear, race nutrition, toiletries, first aid kits, recovery items, theme park gear…you name it, we packed it. However, since I was flying Frontier Airlines, all I got was one carry on bag. I had to make it count. I also only packed one mini-costume, which was just a tutu (see below). If I actually had legit costumes, I wouldn’t have been able to pull this off at all.

It starts off with lots of quart-sized plastic baggies, and rolling clothes into them. And then rolling those bags until all the air is out of them. And then you repeat over and over until everything fits.

And that’s how you get a week’s worth of running gear into a single rolling carry-on suitcase!

Race expo

Not too much to see here – I picked up a bunch of swag since this was my A-race, and stood in a bunch of lines. This was an excellent primer for what I had in store for the rest of my week. (Just more lines.)

Race corrals and fireworks galore!

So, the thing with Disney races is that you have to get up insanely early. The races begin at 5am or so. The resort shuttles begin at 2:30am, and the last one you can hop to make it on time is 3:30am (or so). Sometimes, you’ll also stand around and wait for races longer than the actual running time too. For instance, I stood around about 2 hours for the 5K (from the time I got off the bus until I began running), even though the 5K took me about 40-something minutes. Ridiculous, yes, but I still did it.

Anywho, the pre-race festivities are somewhat mandatory – they lock you out of the corrals if you don’t show up by a certain time anyways, so it’s in your best interest to show up to drink the kool aid. There’s plenty of entertainment (DJs, announcers, characters) and other runners to keep you company, so it’s not exactly boring. It can get chilly though. This year I noticed that they actually had coffee/food tents, something that I’ve neglected to notice at other runDisney events. Maybe I was always too nervous at past events to pay attention. Downing coffee and/or hot cocoa meant a lot of porta-potty stops for the longer distances but it was worth the sacrifice.

What they also had were character photo stops. The lines were really long for them (probably 150-200 runners for each character?) so Erik and I tried to selfie one with Dopey. Luckily he was playing along…

Also, the start of each race begins with lots of fireworks. I wonder what it’s like to work as a pyrotechnic for Disney. It must be really fun to design these shows. The¬†runners don’t all begin at once – since there are so many of them, we run in waves. I’m slower, so I’m one of the last waves. For the 5K, Erik actually finished¬†right before I began my run. For the 10K I think he finished right when I started too. Anyways, here’s some of my footage of the fanfare.

The 5K (3.1 miles)

I used the 5K as a warmup. Technically this was a fun run since it was untimed for everyone else. For Dopey runners, we were still held to our time limit. It was great seeing everyone out there running through the parks — people of all ages, shapes, and sizes, all having a great time.

After I collected my bling, I got washed up and headed out to Hollywood Studios. I had a full day out at the park to shake out my legs!

The 10K (6.2 miles)

This morning was incredibly humid. It was significantly warmer and wetter than the day before. I regretted wearing my base layer about a mile into my run. Here, I was maybe three miles in and the sun began gleaming down on me.

I make my way to the Epcot parking lot again, where it smells like overturned porta-potties and rotten eggs. However, based on the smiles of these¬†dudes on stilts, they probably don’t smell it, so I stop to take a quick picture with them before scuttling on my way.

I keep running and somehow I end up in a fake Chinatown. Huh?

Golden hour is still upon us. But, flame-y fire torch-y thing!

Mile marker with childhood heroine who loved reading books? Yes please!

Photos of the boardwalk. It’s so hot that I wish I could just swim to the other side. However, this is a duathlon or a triathlon so swimming doesn’t count and is probably frowned upon. I continue running.

The finish line is at the Epcot parking lot. That’s why I keep checking in to a parking lot on Facebook. However, I see Spaceship Earth. It’s so close! When do you think it’ll take off for outer space?

I whipped out my phone for this picture. I also took it while running so that I wouldn’t knock anyone down. Stopping at the finish line abruptly is rude and unsafe (and you’ll find out why here pretty soon).

Ta-da! New shiny bling for 6.2 more miles!

The Half Marathon (13.1 miles)

This was the dramatic morning that struck the entire running community. The dreaded cancelled race. Thunderstorms rolled in through the night and the morning so Disney did the right thing and pulled the plug. They even gave refunds, race transfers, and some other optional concessions, which I thought was awfully generous. I didn’t mind the cancellation — I mean, I would’ve preferred to run the race. I paid for it. However, I did not pay to risk getting struck by lightning while running. According to the route and timing of the storms, it would’ve happened¬†just around the time my corral hit mile 8 or 9 anyways. So, in the face of the cancellation, most of the Dopeys in the Facebook group did what any other runners would’ve done when faced with news they didn’t want to hear…

They channeled their inner Jyn Erso and rebelled!

Some even went as far as to call it the Inaugural Grumpy Challenge. Hilarious! (5K + 10K + 26.2)

Some people opted for outside runs (still) around different resorts. While that sounded tempting, I opted for an indoor treadmill run. Not sexy, and definitely not as fun. I spent six months training for Dopey on a treadmill. I didn’t foresee having to do any part of my Dopey Challenge on a treadmill, but here we were. At least I got a good pre-finish line (????) picture at my hotel.

This is technically my finish line photo. Notice my slump. This is what 13.1 miles on a treadmill does to your posture and morale.

What’s not pictured here is the luscious hot tub soak I enjoyed after my run. ūüôā

The Marathon (26.2 miles)

The marathon was a beast. I was still shaking off the disappointment of my training marathon a few weeks prior. However, the conditions this particular morning were different, and for the better. Rather than being too warm, it was too cold. For some reason, Orlando finally decided to participate in winter, and this was day 2 (the day before was day 1). It was in the high 30s, and I had thankfully packed enough cold weather gear to make it bearable. I had enough rest and sleep for this race, unlike my training marathon when I was stacked with work/training and very little sleep.

As I lined up in my corral I noticed a Galloway run/walk pacer group and settled in nearby. I knew that I wasn’t supposed to try anything new on race day.¬†Was following a pacer going to count as something new? Traditionally I never really have a strategy for races. I tend to trot along until I get tired. I then walk a bit to recover, and then I begin trotting again. I continue until I’m a mile or two out from the finish. I then “empty the tank” (as my coach used to tell me). I’ll take in some Gu/Clif gels, about one an hour, generally caffeinated ones. If there is Gatorade or Powerade, I’ll stop for it at the aid stations. However, I’ll always carry a Camelbak of water with me.

After some quick (sometimes extemporaneous) cost/benefit analyses, I went ahead with some of these new things on race day.

So, what were some of the things I did that were completely new on race day?
-Well, I wore that new Mickey beanie for the first time that day. (The trade off was cold ears, and honestly, the risk was minimal.)
-I joined the run/walk/run group and did :15/:30 intervals for the first time in my life. (Turns out it was awesome and I’m a convert!)
-I ate two whole bananas on the race course. (Not in succession, but I also never eat solid food on a race. It turns out that I can run after eat a banana, so long that I don’t run at an all-out speed and if I keep the :15/:30 pace.)
-I ran with my tutu for the first time. (I didn’t order it in time to practice with it.)
-I ran with my hat for the first time. (Same deal as above)
-I ran with my purple shirt for the first time. (Same…I know! I know!! Bad!!! Seriously…and on a 26.2 too! I really wanted to wear Dopey colors for the marathon and just ran out of time.)

Those ended up being the only two photos I snapped during the marathon. I was so exhausted. Somewhere after Animal Kingdom and before ESPN Wide World of Sports, there was a hairpin turn and cutoff point where the course turned on itself. I could see the sweeper buses and the fabled balloon ladies. I saw race security and buses close in on some people behind the balloon ladies and bikers. Those racers looked devastated. It must’ve been 5-7 miles in to the marathon already. Some of them were crying. I would be too, to see my race cut short. It definitely wasn’t for lack of trying. Everyone’s got a different story as to why they get swept. I’m not one to judge. I’ve finished dead last at a race before. I’ve never been swept but I know what it’s like to be last, and what it’s like to be tailed by security. Obvious news flash: It sucks.

Also, remember earlier how I  mentioned that stopping abruptly at the finish line could be dangerous? I almost railroaded this guy who jumped in front of me and then struck a pose for his photo finish:

I think I’ve made a pact with myself that when and if someone ever gets in my way again I’m going to make awesome faces and gestures at the camera. That way, it’s just as much my photo as it is theirs.

Anyways, back to my marathon. After 2 bathroom stops, 2 eaten bananas, and dozens¬†of Gatorade stops, I finally reached the finish line. Do you know what it takes to run a marathon with me? Apparently it takes running it 15 seconds at a time, over and over again, until you have to stop for the bathroom. And then you start again, running it 15 seconds at a time, until you get to the finish line. What happened when I ran my marathon 15 seconds at a time was that I cut off an hour and 15 minutes from my previous marathon time. I mean, really???? My feet weren’t burning like they were in Dallas, I wasn’t demoralized, my legs didn’t feel like lead, and my time was better. This was something new I could get behind.

I was fairly elated at the finish line given my new finish time. This was now my 2nd best marathon time, which doesn’t say much given that this is my 4th marathon and two of them ended¬†catastrophically with me in tears. However, this one was a joyous occasion, and in the few times I was almost brought to tears on the course, it was for happy reasons only. No sadness allowed!

The aftermath

Every mile is indeed magic here, and they never let you forget it. Erik met with me after the finish line. We struck a quick pose before carrying our stiff legs aboard our bus back to the resort.

From there, we snapped some quick photos next to the giant floppy disk by the pool of our snazzy medals. So many medals!

I laid in the tub for awhile. I brought along some suds and salts and enjoyed a hot bath for what felt like an hour. I also ate my tortilla chips and cheese thing in the tub and I didn’t care about anything because I was too tired to care. I’m pretty sure I heard Erik snoring all the way from the tub. By the time the evening rolled around, we boarded a shuttle to Disney Springs for dinner. First, we stopped by Starbucks for a quick refreshment, and I treated myself to my usual long run treat: a venti (in this case, a trenta) Very Berry Hibiscus! (Along with a sammich, since I was ravenous.)

Now what?

Well, with Dopey under my belt, I’m pretty happy with my progress. I’d say I’ve bounced back from my injuries in 2014 pretty well. It seemed like 2015 was rehabilitative and 2016 was reconditioning. Hopefully I can get in some really good training in 2017!

A few days after Dopey, I emailed my Disney travel agent and asked her when registration was going to open up for 2018. It looks like we’ll be going back next year! We have a small Dopey in our home as a reminder.

Until Dopey 2018, I’ll be working on getting into the Rock n Roll Marathon Series Hall of Fame.

That means I need to run a mix of 15 half or full marathons during the 2017 calendar year.¬†I’ll be using them as training runs for Dopey but I’m really still trying to figure out what kind of goals to set for 2017 outside of just finishing the races.

The Dopey Challenge was really special to me — it took a lot for me to accomplish it, despite all of the difficulties and setbacks I had. I look back on my journey¬†and all of the other major A-races I’ve trained for — Athens, Louisville (that eventually became Palm Springs), and now Dopey — and I would say that this completely dismantles Athens. This may even dismantle Palm Springs. It would take something by orders of magnitude to exceed this¬†experience. I’m really looking forward to Dopey next year.

On to the next challenge (whenever I figure out what that is)!

2016 Retrospective: The Best Thing I Ever Did Was Believe In Myself

2016 was an interesting year, one full of ups and downs. It was filled with lots of love and accomplishments. There were a few low points, but they certainly don’t overshadow all of the high points. I’m grateful to have been able to share my happy moments with my husband, my friends, my parents (when things were still going well), and my students!

Running-related victories:

  • Ran 9 races (2 10Ks, 6 half marathons, 1 full marathon)
  • Ran my highest-elevation half marathon
  • Ran my first Disney Coast-to-Coast challenge
  • Registered for my most challenging race to date
  • Stuck with a 26-week training plan (I’ve always fizzled out early)
  • Completed every long run in my training plan (I’ve always skipped a few here and there)
  • Ran 567.1¬†miles (122.1 miles in 2015, 234.5 in 2014, 454.9 in 2013, 495.4 in 2012, 962.6 in 2011)

Life-related victories:

  • I fulfilled a lifelong dream of teaching
  • I fulfilled a lifelong dream of finishing grad school
  • I got married
  • The Star Wars Force Band launched
  • Amazon Go launched
  • I found myself back at Amazon
  • I established boundaries in my personal and professional life
  • Taught my best friend how to ski down the bunny hill

Some low points:

  • My resignation from¬†Sphero
  • The passing of my uncle
  • A (hopefully) temporary fissure in my relationship with my parents

In the midst of the good and the bad, I’m hopeful for the new year. I have a lot of opportunities ahead to get involved in bigger-picture initiatives at the university and in the community. I look forward to applying my skill sets across teams at work. I’m excited to get my friends out here to Colorado to visit me (and my students, when they’re in school). I’m excited for our Rock n Roll Marathon Series tour next year (15 stops!). It’s going to be a good one.

My 2017 running resolutions:

  1. Get a running coach
  2. Run in least two race costumes
  3. Run three marathons
  4. Snap four photos per race (one being a selfie!)
  5. Run the year I’m in – focus on what I can do better in 2017 by building from my Disney World races, rather than my previous years’ races
  6. Get into the Rock n Roll Marathon Series hall of fame! (by finishing at least 15 races)

I found four athletes most inspirational this year:

#4: Joseph Schooling, the Singaporean swimmer who beat Michael Phelps, his childhood idol. Amazing.

#3. Almaz Ayana, the woman who broke the world record for a <30 minute 10K. Breathtaking.

#2. Morolake Akinosun, the woman who stopped at nothing to achieve her dream. Stunning.

#1. Erik Hulslander, my husband. He overcame his demons, survived a stroke, pulled a 4.0 GPA, and still managed to train for the Dopey Challenge. The love of my life.

So,¬†on that note, let’s give 2017 a run for its money —

Race Recap/Week 25 Dopey Challenge: Whine Not A Marathon 2016

Week 26 was an absolute doozy!

It was a finals week for my students, along with a Dopey simulation week. It also happened to be the week of my wedding anniversary. Timelines were squashed on top of one another, so I had to squeeze in my training in some funky ways.

We were planning to travel to Dallas for our training races. I carefully watched the weekend weather reports to see how our simulation race would go. I had a half marathon planned for Saturday and a full marathon planned for Sunday. With the revelation that I would have to run in below-freezing temps, I decided to slide up all of my events by one day. It required losing some sleep but I made it happen.

So, my week went something like this:

Work – teach – go to bed on Monday night – work – administer my final exam – go to bed on Tuesday night – squeeze in a morning run – have my anniversary brunch – work – teach – go to bed on Wednesday night – work – watch Rogue One – run 5 miles after the movie – sleep for a few hours on Thursday night – run a half marathon – hop on a work call – work – head to the airport – carb feast – bank as much sleep as I can on Friday night – run a full marathon – get a massage – sleep it off on Saturday night – wake up to crew Erik’s race – get stuck at DFW for 5 hours – alternatively succumb to 5 hours of catch-up grading – fly back to Denver – get stuck on the runway for another hour – get home at 4am Monday – go to bed.

So, how did the marathon go?

Well, it was a full 26.2 mile marathon, so it went. Did it go well? Not really. Did it go poorly? Not as much as it could’ve, I suppose.

  • I didn’t really make the 7-hour Disney World Marathon cutoff (I was using this as a trial run, so to speak), but a few things were stacked against me. There’s a lot for me to consider for race weekend.
  • If the weather is as wonky in Orlando as it was for me all weekend between Denver and Dallas, then I should be somewhat prepared. Weather increased by 10 degrees and then dropped 13 degrees during the course of my marathon. Winds were fairly gusty. Humidity was at 90% all day.
  • I should definitely take it significantly easier on the first three days so that I can do well enough during the marathon to not get swept.
  • Carrying water is a good idea, regardless of conditions, since I’ll be out there longer.
  • External battery packs are my lifeblood.
  • My shoes worked out great but I still have a second pair that I need to break in. I’ll be spending all of next week doing that.
  • I’m still not sure why my feet feel like they are on fire after 15 or so miles.

So, all in all I finished the full distance (which was a goal), but I didn’t quite finish as strong as I had wanted. Physically, I was fine. Mentally, I could’ve been better. The marathon was 8 loops around Bachman Lake, and by lap 7 I saw that I was nearing the 7 hour mark. At that point I figured that I could pretty much just stop since Disney had a 7-hour time limit anyways – why not save my legs for the actual race week? I then thought to myself that I came all that way to do a marathon, and that it was only a couple more miles around the lake…so I continued on. Plus, Erik was already there at the timing mat and he would be there again when I finished up my victory lap.

That last lap around was the hardest for me – I thought a lot about my training season. I had been pretty diligent about sticking to my training, watching what I eat, getting enough sleep, trying to keep my stress to a minimum, and so forth. There was a possibility that I had come all this way, train for this long, and still not make the cut-off. It reminded me of when I was training for the Ironman. The 140.6 miles seemed daunting then. The 48.6 miles seem pretty daunting now. I’ve never really cried during a training run but during that last lap, I managed to shed a a significant amount of tears of disappointment. I wracked my brain, thinking about all the decisions I’ve made during this training season. I feel like I’ve done all that I could’ve done. I’d like to think my best will be good enough but who knows? By the time I came around my final lap, what should’ve been a fairly joyous occasion (I mean, YAY, my third marathon…!) was fairly downtrodden.

After the race, I picked up my medal, got a few nibbles, and headed back to the car. I felt physically fine but was mostly disappointed in my performance. I spent about 20 minutes in the car crying until I finally calmed down. During the rest of the weekend I thought a lot about that disappointment, and all of the reasons why I’ve ran. One of the reasons why I run is because I am not really good at it. Like, at all. Putting yourself out there is difficult. Willfully pushing ourselves beyond our limits every now and then is one of the only true ways to level the playing field, in my opinion. It’s humbling. In this case, I can try really hard at something in which I have no natural talent and still miss the mark. Does it mean I should quit? No, not really. Should I find some way to get better so I don’t feel so disappointed in the future? Probably. Does it help to talk to myself in such a self-defeating way between miles 23-26.2? Absolutely not. I think these occasional grave disappointments keep me grounded and level-headed. Not everything can be amazingly peachy all of the time. Some parts of your life just have to be in the shitter. For me, this happens to be it. But, I keep showing up and I keep trying.

I learn a lot about myself during a marathon…I learned a lot during Athens, in LA, and now in Dallas. At the end of my marathon in Athens, I was disappointed that I had no one with whom to share my finish line victory. I was half a world away from everyone I knew. No one had stayed up to follow my progress or to wait for my call. I had crossed the finish line alone, but even in that personal victory, I felt that twinge of disappointment. It felt like a healthy dose of adult life, I suppose. Then came the LA Marathon. That too came with some heavy handed lessons about being underprepared for changing conditions, and putting too much hope into coasting by on previous experience. (That’s where I really learned what “respect the distance” means.) And now…here we are.

I think it might be time to look into a coach again. I’ve gone coach-less for some time now. I’ve been browsing around for quite some time but I’m thinking that I will go with an e-coaching arrangement with Jeff Galloway. The cost seems pretty reasonable. His turn-key plan for Dopey worked fairly well for me. I can only imagine what it would be like if he actually looked at my training history, got an idea of my goals, and then put something together for me. I can really use the help in getting over my double-digit mileage training hump. I still find that to be one of the more challenging parts of any training plan. I have lots of races planned this coming year but it seems like a mostly disorganized effort. I am going for volume over quality? I’m not sure yet. Maybe I should just focus on getting Dopey checked off my list first.

Thankfully, week 27 and 28 promise low, low mileage. After that we will be off to Orlando…

We’re near the end of the season. The race is upon us!