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!

July 2017 Training Recap: 138.8 Total Miles, Zero Outdoor Riding

I used to be able to do week-by-week recaps for my events. Now I suppose monthly recaps will have to do!

Depending on the regularity at which you talk to me, visit my blog, or how much I decide to share with you at any given time, you may know that I’ve been toying with the idea of heading back into triathlons again. I loaded a few training plans into my calendar, enough to get me to the start line of Ironman Boulder. Although I’m still unsure if I want to do that specific event — Cozumel, Copenhagen, and Barcelona still call me — I’ve been essentially putting myself to the test, figuring out if I indeed want it or if it was just a nagging thought. From time to time I get those, especially with my bipolar disorder (which gets exacerbated with my ADHD), so I always find that it’s best to prove to myself that I indeed actually want to do something as taxing and onerous as this. (For instance, I had to prove to myself that I wanted to go to grad school the first time by reading *all* of the books on marketing at the library. Yeah…)

Anywho, my first month, as defined as July 4th to 31st:
-138.8 total miles
-56.7 miles running (13.1 of them being the RNR Chicago)
-71.5 miles cycling (all indoors)
-3.67 miles swimming
-6.93 miles rowing (for days I couldn’t make it to the pool)
-Missed two swims and cut one run a few miles short

All in all, not too bad I suppose. I got some new tubes on my bike last month but haven’t really taken my bikes outside. I’ve made excuses, like “well, the trail is pretty busy during rush hour” (well, it is, because of bike commuters!), and then mid-day it’s “well it’s really hot and I’ll get sunburned” or “well, there’s a thunderstorm advisory and I don’t want to die.” I was going to go on a quick morning ride this morning but I got sucked into a fruitless internet discussion about women in cycling. My energy would’ve been better spent…you guessed it…cycling. Oh well. My day is fairly open, and if I can coerce myself to get on my bike for a lunchtime ride when the trail is clear and the weather is nice, I can re-learn how to use my gears again. I’m tired of pumping my tires and then going nowhere!

One of my goals for the end of summer was to find a short, local triathlon. Alas, the summer is quickly coming to a close. I’ve looked for something that would work with my schedule it is proving to be a challenge. School starts in a few weeks. There’s a sprint tri this coming weekend in Vail, but I’ve done zero outdoor riding, so it’s practically out of the question. The next one I could do is the 26th but it’s sandwiched between two shows (Depeche Mode and TJ Miller), and I have friends coming into town. The week after that we’re heading out to Virginia Beach. The week after that, I do have something on the calendar mysteriously called ‘Desert’s Edge Sprint/Oly Tri’…Hmm…That’ll probably be only only choice if I want to do it this fall before my slew of fall half marathons begin in rapid succession.

What I should do is actually rewrite my end of summer goal as “ride my road bike outside.” That would most likely be more productive and then be conducive to registering for a sprint. Or maybe just taking my bike outside into the hallway. Or wearing my cycling kit around the house. Kaizen – small steps, right?

Overall, things are going okay. Things at work have been looking up considerably. I’ve been looking forward to getting back into the classroom. I wish I spent more time this summer reading, but I’ve been focusing a lot on my training, traveling, and work. At this point my only reading is done through Blinkist and through audiobooks/podcasts. I suppose that it’s still been a fairly productive summer, all things considered.

Lesson of the month:

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. 🙂

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.

Reviving Old Ambitions

There’s something to be said about chasing old ambitions that never quite died. After the Dopey Challenge, I’ve been searching for the next big thing and I haven’t quite found it yet. I’ve come full circle from time goals, distance goals, and now I think I’m back to triathlons again. At some point, I wonder if it’s just one of those nagging things I need to do once in my life before I can move on to the next thing. For some people it’s getting married, or moving abroad, or skydiving. (I suppose I’ve done all of those things…?)

I’ve given a lot of thought into what constitutes a worthy goal to me.
-Is it challenging enough?
-Does it scare me?
-Will it require a significant enough commitment that causes me pause?
-Will its potential for greatness outweigh its potential for harm?
-Is it flexible enough?

The last triathlon I completed was a sprint distance in Tacoma on 6/28/14 called the Five Mile Lake Triathlon. I was woefully underprepared for it —  mostly underprepared for the open water swim, but I did well enough. Well, it’s actually a bit difficult to compare them against one another since the swim and bike distances can get a bit inconsistent. I did well enough given the preparation I completed since I had come off of a fractured leg, an Ironman DNS, a major family event, and two catastrophic breakups. So, in all fairness, I was a human disaster trying to piece my life back together and I barely finished my sixth triathlon. All I wanted was to desperately feel like things were back to normal.

#TBT: Three years ago, I raced a sprint triathlon after having recovered from a slew of emotional and physical injuries. I was so undertrained that a few minutes into my swim, I clung onto a safety kayak and was ready to get pulled out of the water. The kayaker told me to hang on for a bit and catch my breath. It took awhile, but I finally did and continued around the array of buoys and went on to finish the race. // Honestly, I still feel like I’m catching my breath. Never let these social media highlight reels, LinkedIn profiles, or portfolios fool you. Sure, I work hard most of the time. Some days suck, some days are awesome, but most days I’m just lucky to be where I am and so are you. Really. ? #triathlon #running #roadtoironman

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Racing felt normal. I feel at home in the start corrals of a running race, or wading the waters before my swim wave is called. I feel at home when I’m called upon to start. I love to execute the plan of action I’ve rehearsed day in, day out, morning, day, and night, for weeks on end. Of all the uncontrollable things in my life — the world around me, work drama, text messages left unanswered, family aggressions left unresolved, promotions left unfulfilled, to-do lists left incomplete — this was the one thing I still had some control over.

* * * * * * *

I’ve fielded a lot of questions from close friends about when I’d try my hand at the full-length triathlon again (2.4 mile swim + 112 mile bike + 26.2 mile run). Ironman Louisville never came to be, and I went for the HITS 70.3 instead in 2013. I’ve checked out my training plans again in TrainingPeaks and when looking between my run training on runCoach, Ironman base training, and between the 13- and 16- week full distance training plans it doesn’t seem that insurmountable. It will wholly depend on the race I settle on and the time of year on which it falls. Ironman Boulder has especially bad timing because all of the peak training weeks fall around particularly busy weeks for my students, which means it’ll be busy grading and advising weeks for me, depending on how I schedule my classes or manage my time (which is negotiable and totally up to me, to be honest). There’s Ironman 70.3 Boulder which falls much later in the summer too, which would be more manageable. The downside of a full 140.6 is losing weekends to long training runs and rides, which cuts into quite a bit of travel. Granted, we haven’t planned our travel yet, and could preemptively look at that I suppose before we hammer the nail into the coffin.

I’ve also contemplated other races outside of North America, like Ironman Australia, Ironman Cozumel, Ironman Austria, Ironman Copenhagen, or Ironman Barcelona. After all, why not treat my first Ironman the same way like I did my first marathon…go big, and then go home?

First things first: I’ll need to focus on my weakest sport, cycling. I’ve finally cleaned off my bike, but now I need to replace the trainer I gave away when I moved to Denver. It’d be great to get some summer riding in too. All of my riding, aside from riding to and from work, has been indoors. I’ll also need to figure out how to gently re-lay out the living room, especially now that I live with someone! Maybe I can make a home for myself on the balcony without getting struck by lightning? I haven’t been out in open water for three years now, so getting out there with a group or making some swimming friends will be key. I’ve been hitting the lap pool at the gym again. My upper body is pretty weak since I do zero strength training. Maybe some rowing on dry days?

It’ll be a fun journey. I’m already plotting the work I’ve got ahead…

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. 🙂

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 Diego Remix Challenge 2017

While in Liverpool, I peeked at the race calendar for the Rock n Roll series. I knew that there was a marathon in San Diego the weekend we returned from our trip, and that it was the only 7-hour finish cutoff until the end of the year (others being Savannah or San Antonio). I was pretty bummed that I couldn’t get a finishers jacket from San Antonio since I planned on being at the Cal International Marathon for my husband’s big BQ effort that weekend, so this was a neat opportunity. That, and on our trip we met a nice gal that also lived in San Diego who was also running it, and she was a 2-time Hall of Fame’r! How amazing is that?

I flew in to Denver from Liverpool in the evening on Thursday and was back out again to San Diego on Friday. I enjoyed sleeping in my bed for a few hours before hopping back out on the plane. Sun-drenched San Diego greeted me with open arms and I hurried over to the expo, mainly so that I could quickly get back to a coffee shop somewhere to get some work done. Armed with two race bibs, the weekend was off to a good start.

My plan for the 5K was just to have fun and to warm up. I had not ran for a week — since the race in Liverpool — so this was really meant to just shake things out. Overall things were pretty humid, but not hot, which was a really nice change from all of the weather issues I’ve been encountering.

After the race, we caught up with my bestie for brunch, and headed to the expo to grab some last minute supplies.

For the rest of the day, I ate and relaxed and got my race gear ready for the big 26.2. It would be my fifth!

My plan was to do my best, but mostly to finish the marathon under the 7-hour cutoff. It was a major concern because my longest training run was on April 15th or so, which was almost 6 weeks prior. I had learned too late that Seattle had a 6-hour cutoff, so I quit training for the full distance and began focusing on the half distance. Now is the time I would put the adage to the test…is it truly better to show up at the race slightly undertrained? Between being slightly undertrained, at having my sleep cycles on and off because of the time change, I had a pretty hefty base so perhaps I would be okay. I would do my best, sticking to my race intervals that I learned from the WDW marathon. Instead of 30-second run-walk intervals, I increased it to 45-second run-walk intervals. My plan also included running through the intervals on the downhills as safely as possible, trotting the uphills if my intervals called for it, and keeping my intervals on flats no matter what.

Thanks to the jetlag and a big bowl of pasta, I was asleep pretty early and got an amazing nights sleep. I awoke at 4am feeling pretty good and headed over to the race start.

I was super excited — this being my very first Rock n Roll full marathon, I was excited to see how different it would be. The big box races seem to bring their own flare to the marathon distance. The bands were placed towards the harder points of the race after the half distance. The motivational banners and posters more helpful. The cheer stations a bit more enthusiastic where needed. I did see some of the water stations being packed up, which is slightly demotivating, but I kept going.

The first portion of the race is always a party, because that’s where the bulk of the racers are I suppose. The photo stops are great.

Some people wonder if you can still run a race for time if you stop for pictures? I personally don’t see why not. It’s your race after all. What was cute was that I even saw a TARDIS, which was like a throwback to my last racecation!

I eventually came up on the half/full split. I’ve seen this in other races where I’ve split off to the half marathon route, and I’ve always wanted to be on the marathon end. This was finally my year. At the 8 mile mark, I still felt good, so I went with it.

After making my way on the marathon route, the party got noticeably more quiet. However, I started noticing that restaurants and coffee shops were opening. People were inside, rubbing the sleep out of their eyes. The scent of cinnamon buns were filling the air. It was very unfair.

I made my way down to the freeway. I’ve always wanted to take a selfie pic next to the freeway without getting mistaken for a hoodlum! Now I get to take a selfie and THEN run on the freeway. A cyclist tried to come down the freeway with us and a cop stopped them. I suppose it seemed like a faster way to get around that day so I don’t blame them.

So, running on the freeway seems like it would be a faster way to get around during a race. NOT SO. Freeways are graded so that cars can zip up and down those curves quickly, but not humans. So when humans like myself try to slowly run up and down those curves, we do it slowly and at an angle. My ankles went crunch, crunch, crunch, of which my massage therapist and my chiro (later today) will be working out.

I ran through neighborhoods, both real and imagined. Okay, well, “imagined.”

Apparently insurance companies can also set up drinking bars along marathon routes, which is interesting. In most cases they would probably deter things like that.

At the halfway mark I took a screenshot of Runkeeper to save my time – I wanted to have this as a benchmark from my past half marathons to see my pacing and how I was doing. It would be nice if Runkeeper had a lap timer button, or a view that allowed me to see “if she kept going at this pace she will finish a 26.2 in XXXXXX or a 50K in XXXXXX.” Maybe I can put in a feature request?

After this mark I pretty much put my phone away and went to work. It’s where the race began getting difficult. If I were to get truly honest, the race really got difficult somewhere between 18 and 21…sometime around Sea World and getting back on the freeway. I was hurting but not as bad as I thought I would be. I didn’t think I could’ve pushed any harder, but maybe in hindsight I had a little more in me? Probably not. My toes, neck, and back are still recovering and it’s been a few days.

I can rarely muster a smile at mile 25, so I decided to give it a try. It worked, sort of. I kept going. Notice the lack of parallel lines everywhere! My ankles are super angry at me.

I ran through mile 25-26.2. As I whizzed past the 26th mile marker I snapped this because I couldn’t bother stopping for it. I had a PR I was gunning for!

After the finish, I was elated. My finish time was 6:17:02.

I had beat my 6-year old marathon PR by 6 minutes 23 seconds.

I beat my last marathon time (WDW in January, 6 months old) by 18 minutes 10 seconds.

I worked for it, and I’m thankful for that little raspberry watch on my right wrist that helped get me there.

I’m also very thankful for the support of my husband, Erik, and my new friend Arlene, who both peer pressured me into taking on the race and the 7-hour time limit, even though I thought I’d be cutting it a bit too close. For once, peer pressure for good!

All in all, a happy ending. I know that knocking off this much time off of consecutive races is really hard. My goal time for Rock n Roll Arizona is 5:40, which is pretty much another 40 minutes off my now best time. It’ll be a lot of work, but let’s see if I can’t do it again. I have 6 months to focus on nutrition, sleep, and to be more mindful of my speed training, so we shall see!

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. 🙂

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 —

Week 16+17 Dopey Challenge: Push A Little Harder

Week 16 was a tough one: 45 minute + 45 minute + 7 mile + 17 mile training runs. This was also the week where I began incorporating some strength training into my routine. I tried to keep it not interruptive as possible to my running routine. I toyed around with a few ideas — maybe I could go to some classes at 24 (I have a lifetime membership), use one of the million apps that I subscribe to, or look up some workouts. I took the latter approach and found an app to simply log my reps.

App: Simple Lift Log. I chose it because it syncs easily with RunKeeper.

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sll-pngSo it’s pretty simple: you put in the name of your exercise. If it matches with something in its database, it’ll even give you a figure and highlight what part of the body you’re working out. You add the weight and reps and sets. Rinse and repeat. Post to RunKeeper. And you’re done! You can easily create new workouts and copy old ones for new days. Easy peasy.

(Not a screenshot from my actual workout!)

So far, I’ve made it three workouts deep in the last two weeks. Three is more than zero, so I count it as a win! This seems to be the least overwhelming for me given all of the options I’ve looked at and have subscribed to. I’ve paid for FitStar and for Runtivity. For some reason they both feel like they require such a high level of commitment from me. I’m already maxed out on my commitment to the Dopey Challenge and to teaching and to sleeping. I don’t know if I can spare any more.

Anywho, based on just the few sessions that I had, I already felt much more stronger during my long run (aka the Rock n Roll Denver Half Marathon) on Sunday October 16th. Yeah, I only had two sessions but it reminded me of a time when I strength trained with my last coached and shaved something like 15 minutes off of my half marathon time. I didn’t even do any extra running. Just strength training. Soooooooo, fingers crossed that I can replicate some sort of wild success like that again in the future.

Running training only, no strength training – RNR Las Vegas 2012
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No change in running training + added strength training – RNR Arizona 2013

Anyways, I digress. Back to week 16 and 17.

Week 16 went well. In addition to strength training, the runs went pretty smoothly. My 7 mile run was outdoors…yay! Erik was running a 10k that day, so I took that opportunity to run outside during his race. It was a nice morning in Broomfield. On my route I encountered only one or two creepers I think, but otherwise it was a pleasant morning. I didn’t put enough sunscreen on, and it reminded me that I should wear my running hats more often. At the end of my run I giggled a bit since I accidentally drew an E. Or maybe I subconsciously did it. Who knows?

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Afterwards, we headed to packet pickup! Rock n Roll races are always fun. I’ve missed running them. I look forward to a lot more of them in the near future. We got to walk around the expo a bit before we realized that this was our first legitimate home race in Colorado…no traveling, no packing. Just leisure!

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The start line was just a few blocks from my apartment. We didn’t have to wake up insanely early. It was quite literally going to be a normal training run for us. I kept with my usual routine of prepping all of my stuff the night before. Really, the worst thing is having to scramble around in the morning. As a homage to my RNR roots I decided to wear the shirt from my first ever RNR race, which was subsequently my half marathon PR time that I’ve never quite hit ever again.

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The walk over to the start line was quite short. The corrals were easy to pop in and out of. It was a bit chilly but I knew that it would warm up not too long after the race started. The fall colors have already been changing, so the scenery was quite nice. The course winded through the downtown corridor for a significant chunk of the beginning, which I found to be quite nice, despite a lot of the uneven terrain and rail tracks.

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The course was tough, most likely because running at elevation is still quite hard for me. There were mini-hills — or what I considered mini-hills. Temperatures fluctuated a bit, depending where you were on the course. The last portion of the race ran through City Park, which was absolutely gorgeous. The course was notably festive, and it looked like everyone was having a great time. Somewhere around mile 10 or 11 I decide to book it and not look back, and it seems as though my splits reflected that.

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My goal was to break 3 hours, which was something I struggled with immensely at the Jackson Hole Half Marathon. I’m happy to say that I was able to do that here!

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It was the best time I’ve had on record since the Rock ‘n Roll Portland race in May 2013. That time was 2:36:58. Sure, quite a ways off from 2:59:29, but after PDX I had to deal with things like wisdom teeth surgery and potentially popping sutures in my mouth, breaking my leg, breaking my foot, tendinitis, and probably something else that I forgot.

A few decent finish line photos:

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All I can remember is how tired I was.

Week 17 was the start of non-short short weeks, meaning that my weekend run would no longer be 3 miles but would be double or more. So, my short week now looked something like 45 minute + 45 minute + 5 miles. It didn’t break the bank but I went beyond it by a little bit. The two days on my own were pretty easily.

With work being pretty flexible, I headed out to visit my folks in CA for the weekend. My parents are pretty active now, so we hit the gym together a few days. On my first day with them I ran my 5 mile without much of an issue.

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(Now imagine if I could keep up that pace, I could run a 2:41:47 half marathon!)

The next day I decided to go a bit longer with strength training, something that I had not quite done before. I used my run as a warmup so I stuck to 30 minutes, which I ran at an easy pace. I then proceeded to complete a 1 hour strength training set.

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All in all, two solid weeks of training! I’m quite happy with how things are going. Now to get a good night’s sleep so that I can set the stage to slog out another good week or two…

And with that, my mantra for the upcoming week(s):

push-harder

Happy training!

Race Recap: 2016 Breckenridge Road (Half) Marathon

Running at 10,000 feet is no joke. This race bills itself as America’s highest road race and it did not disappoint. I was winded for most of the race. I don’t know how anyone lives and trains and bikes out in Breckenridge without dying. Seriously.

This was also a somewhat disappointing race. It had nothing to do with my times. Instead, it had everything to do with the race course. It was partially my fault and partially a well-intentioned volunteer. My race was accidentally cut short when I was directed to turn around at the marathon/half-marathon split, instead of continuing on the marathon course. (I was told to turn around at the T-intersection below, rather than continue north on the road and then loop back around on the western road.)

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I lost 1.34 miles. It seems like a lot less when I type it out, and I “made up” for my distance by running extra during my training session on Monday. But still, I feel a bit bad for still accepting my finisher’s medal knowing (after the fact) that I had accidentally cut the course. It was my first time ever and I felt so so soooo guilty!

Here are the stats for the race:

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15-minute miles. Yikes! I could’ve power-walked. Trying to run at that elevation completely winded me. It was a gorgeous fall race though. I’m not sure if I would do it again without a significant amount of elevation training or hiking.

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Getting ready for race morning wasn’t too bad. We stayed at an Airbnb right next to the start line! However, we had to drive down to Main Street in order to take the shuttle back up since it was a point-to-point course. I’d been really good with both of my ankles so they were in tip-top shape for the race. Woo!

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The race start line was right up against some running and hiking trails. I was immediately jealous of everyone who lived in Breckenridge. Maybe in my golden years I can return and live the amazing life. I too can spend my time enjoying the great outdoors.

Right around this time I think to myself that if I ever adopt a dog bigger than corgi I would name it Walden. We’d go hiking and running and swimming. And maybe biking if I can get a little trailer or sidecar.

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The first few miles of the route were a bit treacherous, seeing as though it was directly on the road. The road wasn’t closed off to automobiles, and being at the back of the pack I did not have the luxury of running with a group. I stayed as far right as possible and whenever I could, I ran on the shoulder. I also tried not to take photos in really vulnerable spots. Getting run over is no fun.

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Running into town was also nice. It was strange to see Breck without all of the snow. I’ve only seen it in the wintertime for skiing. You can make out all of the ski runs on the left. The downtown area is at the base of the hill.

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The fall colors were just starting to peek through. For now there’s only golds. I hope to be able to catch the few days of reds and oranges before it’s too late!

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The medals at the finish were handmade and hand-pressed. They weren’t made on the spot or anything. I thought it was very nice and very Colorado. 🙂 It was a great first race in my state. I’m still debating whether or not to count this race towards my half marathon count but my husband is trying to help me not feel so guilty about it. I guess since I made up for my miles the next day I’ll take it. (I’m still contemplating making up with another half marathon this weekend though.)

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All in all a tough race. Beautiful, but tough. (Reminds me of my mom!)