Sunday, June 21, 2015

Race Recap: WV RAGNAR Trail Race

I've only been home for less than a day, and my head is still spinning.  Jenn has informed me that I'm suffering from this:




For the past few weeks, I have been consumed with preparing for my first trail race, the Ragnar Trail Appalachians Relay in West Virginia.  I've been so excited because this is different from everything I've ever done as a runner.  Usually I am a road runner, so I had to buy a set of trail shoes and change my whole attitude about running to participate in this race.  Plus, it involved camping.

Erin picked me up on Thursday afternoon, and we drove to Bruceton Mills, WV.  It was supposed to take us 3.5 hours, but we had some slight deviations along the way.  First, every road trip I've ever been on has involved a Starbucks Frappucino, and since we had limited phone service, it was difficult to find a Starbucks on the way.  We perservered and found one, though.

Next, when we arrived at Big Bear Lake, we should have just followed the signs to Big Bear Lake Camping Ground, but instead we listened to Siri, who told us to turn onto a series of back roads that eventually became a single-track dirt road.  It was scary.  When the road seemed to lead deep into the forest, Erin had had enough, and she backtracked to the main road, turned right. . .where we saw (500 feet away) the entrance to Ragnar Village.  sigh.

We dropped off our gear at our Tent and then we had to shuttle back to the Village.  The line was huge, so the women next to us got the bright idea to hitchhike with incoming racers, so we got into the back of a nice woman's van, and she drove us back to the campsite.
Erin and I are in the back of a van.  Down by the river.
Our canopy set up in Tent City
We set up our tents and canopies together--two 8-person relay teams and one 4-person ultra team.  The sun came out for a tiny bit, so we took some pictures.

The only time the sun came out and it was in my eyes.
Erin and I pose with our team mascot: Sasquatch.  Our team was The Squatch Hunters.


That night a fierce storm rocked Tent City.  Tents and canopies were knocked down, smashed, and blown away.  Jenn and I braced the walls of our tent during the worst of it, and Steve and Mike actually stood outside in the storm, holding onto the METAL poles of the canopies.  Heroes.


The race started on Friday morning.  It was exciting to watch the teams start; Jenn was our first runner, and she ran the Green Loop--3.5 miles of trail.  When she got back, the next runner (Renee) did the Yellow Loop (4.6 miles), and when she got back, Mandy ran the Red Loop (6.7 miles).  The pattern continued through all eight runners of our team until we all ran each loop.  I was Runner 7, so I had a lot of down time at first.  My first run was on the Green Loop at 4:00 pm.  Of course, as soon as I started, the heavens opened up all over me, so I ran in a sloppy earth soup mixed with roots and rocks.

Unfortunately, I didn't take pictures of the trails, partly because of the rain and partly because my phone was blowing up every time I got a pocket of cell-phone reception, and I needed to conserve the battery.  I have awesome running friends, though, and they have graciously allowed me to use their pictures.


First round relays line up in the shoot.
Transition tent photo.  I am in orange, waiting for Brittney to pass the bib.
Trail among the ferns.  Gorgeous.  Flat and easy, right?

This is not a riverbed to admire.  This is the trail.  You run in the river.

Now add mud and running in the dark to the picture.  Can you tell what is just mud and what is an ankle-breaking rock?  Yeah, me neither.
My second run was the Red Loop, also known as Mother of Crack, and I ran it starting at 3:00 in the morning.  I was really excited to run this loop, as it is the most challenging, but I was very nervous, too, because I was going to run it in the pitch-dark.  I received lots of pep talks from runners who had gone before me, some from my team, some from Ragnar Village, and I was worried.  Not gonna lie, Peeps, this trail was not just challenging; it was downright dangerous when you factor in the torrential downpours we experienced.  The Red Loop was the most technical trail I have ever run; it was amazing and terrifying all in one.  I would like to run this trail on a dry day in the morning, but it was not meant to be.  Let's see what I can remember:

The first two miles were extremely scary and technical.  I remember climbing up and down boulders. Luckily some runners helped me through some of it (before they took off ahead of me).  I remember mud going up to my knees.  The middle miles were in The Swamp, and I liked those better.  I remember actual stretches of running, not just walking or climbing, and I remember winding around big, flowery bushes and running over bridges.  The last miles sucked hard.  There was a two mile stretch that was completely uphill.  I didn't think it was possible.  The mud made climbing difficult, and there were a few times that I thought I would lose a shoe.  It took me 2:40 to run those 6.7 miles, if run is the word you can use.

When I came back to hand off to Erin, Jenn was there, and she asked me if I was ok, which leads me to believe that I looked as traumatized as I felt.  Even better, when I went to spray off my legs with the hose, I saw that there was no water.  Anywhere.  None.  The village had run out of water.  I had started to shiver (either from shock or cold or both), so my only choice was to warm up at the bonfire, which of course hardened the mud on my legs.  sigh.

My last loop was the Yellow Loop, and I was scheduled for 3:00 pm, but there was a forecast of another terrible storm, so Ragnar allowed teams to double up their last loops to make the race end sooner, so the run happened at 11:00 am.  This was great news for me because it meant I got to run with Leigh, with whom I used to run until she moved to Maryland.  Leigh and I really enjoyed this run.  It had a little bit of everything: rocks, hills, water, and a gorgeous pine tree forest.  We had a great time running and chatting, and we finished it in 1:23.

Leigh and I warm up at the bonfire pre-Loop.  Look at the bearded dude behind us warming his bra!


The Squatch Hunters met us at the finish, and we collected our medals.  Renee had to leave early, so they took a picture with her while Leigh and I were running:
The Squatch Hunters are happy to be done.
I've had some time to process this experience, and I still don't know what to make of it.  The Squatch Hunters were laughing at what they thought they'd read in this post, and I'm not gonna lie; during the Red Loop and just after it, I had a very definite opinion about this race and the way it is organized, but time (and wine) mellows everything, and I do know that I tend to develop "race amnesia," so I've changed my opinions a little bit.  Here is the breakdown:

The Good:  There was a charging station at Ragnar Village, and that was a big help. The trails were gorgeous.  I loved seeing my friends.  I had  new experiences with trail racing.  I took some risks.  I learned how badass I can be.  Plus, I ate some delicious smores, with quality chocolate, supplied by Salomon.

The Bad:  I hated never feeling warm or dry.  Of course, nobody can control the weather, and the fact that I didn't pack enough (or any) hoodies is my fault entirely.  My overall mood probably would have been much different if I had just worn heavier clothing while waiting to run. Plus, I needed rainboots for the mud.

The catering company was definitely not a plus. Their primary duty was to keep us supplied with coffee, and they failed miserably.  It took me six attempts in two days to get coffee, and when I did get it, it was disgusting.  C'mon, people.  How hard is it to make coffee?

Many people didn't like the pasta dinner that came with the registration, but I didn't think it was so terrible.  Some people had stomach aches the next day, but who knows if any of that was because of the dinner?

The Ugly:  This is where I really had to reign in my temper and think about being fair.  The Ragnar events are expensive commercial races (My ticket cost 160 bucks), and because of this, I noticed that Ragnar attracts people who like themed races (think Warrior Dash, Color Run, etc.).  Many of the people I met and ran with were trail runners, and I enjoyed being around them.  It sounds cliche, but trail runners are good people. They are extremely considerate of the racing environment, trails, and people.  When there is no coffee or water, the trail runners shrug their shoulders and crawl into their sleeping bags to wait it out. They are true badasses.  I am not a trail runner, but I am trying to become one, or at least run like one.

Some of the people I met were NOT trail runners, and some were not runners at all.  These people were rude and inconsiderate.  They were the people who took showers after each loop or for more than half an hour.  They meticulously scrubbed every inch of their bodies and rinsed out their clothing while there was a long line to spray down at the hoses.  They took and consumed and used, and when there was no more, they complained.

I don't want to be one of those people; however, when the water ran out, I lost my temper.  The water tanks were in clear sight of the village, and I feel that organizers should have had a better idea of how much water they needed.  I'm not asking for much; I just want to spray off the trail-gunk before a nap.    I realize that the "Commercial Racers" abused the system with the water consumption, but a part of me thinks that race directors should be able to control this.

One way might be to make all runners aware that there is a limited amount of water, and considering how many times I was told that this was a cupless race, I know there were plenty of opportunities to educate people about water consumption.  If Ragnar chose not to do this, they had to be prepared for the consequences by keeping a close eye on the tanks and refilling them promptly.  They didn't do this, and it caused a lot of trouble.

Another "Ugly" may be because of the circumstances.  I am not sure it was responsible of Ragnar to allow us to run the Red Loop in the dark.  I didn't hear of any serious injuries, thank God, but the whole time I was out there, I kept thinking "What if?"  There were many opportunities to seriously hurt myself, even though I was super careful, and I wonder about the people who were going into this situation without any knowledge of trail-running.

When I came home, I told my husband that I would never run another Ragnar event.  I probably won't, but a tiny part of me wishes I could run it again to "get it right."  This time I would take warm clothes and stock up on better food.  I still think that if the temperature had been at least ten degrees warmer, I would have loved it (even with the rain).

It was wonderful to try something different, and I liked seeing so many great trail runners.  They are inspirational badasses.  Oh, and the medal is pretty badass, too:

It can open cans!  It can open beer bottles!  It can turn bolts!  It can cut down small trees!
I want to thank Jenn Pierce for putting together this experience.  Her smiling face and cheerful attitude reminded us all that the best part about the race was being together.

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Sunday, June 14, 2015

Gonna Do a Ragnar Trail Race!

Yes, Peeps, it is true.  I, an avowed trail-hater, am going to do a Ragnar Trail Event.  Before I tell you about it, let me remind you of why I have said I don't like trails:  Click here to revisit that post.  Go ahead.  I'll wait.

Back so soon?  Ok, so months ago, Jenn, who is a trail runner, put a call out for a team of eight to run a Ragnar Trail relay in the Appalachians.  The only thing I knew about Ragnar is that usually it involves a bunch of people sleeping in a van, and I was curious about how that would work in the Appalachian Mountains, so I looked it up on this link.  Then I laughed myself silly, had a glass of wine, and forgot about it.

With the winter weather being so terrible, the road conditions were not really safe, so I started joining Jenn and Renee (and other trail runners) for Sunday long, slow runs.  These were slow.  Really slow.  But they kicked my ass all the same.  No, seriously, my glutes were getting a great workout from all the hills we had to climb.  Plus, the views were gorgeous; in my previous posts I've compared the Cuyahoga Valley National Park to Narnia.

The bridge to Narnia

We look darned happy in Narnia





















Most of these runs consisted of a lot of walking, which my previous posts have explained that I am NOT ok with, but I could tell that they were sharpening my focus and strengthening my legs and my core.  Jenn and Renee patiently and repeatedly explained to me that EVERYONE walks the hills, and that I should use that time to look at the scenery and enjoy it.

It has taken me four years, but I can now say that I've grown to like trail running.  I don't think it has anything to do with trails, either.  The change had to come from me.  Being ok with walking a hill on a trail actually meant that I had to be ok with myself, and that is a daily battle for me.  Trails allow me to be less. . . intense, less driven.  This may only be because I've never raced a trail before, and that may change, but for now I can admit that I can appreciate trail running.  But I'm still deathly afraid of ticks.

Back to the race.  Several weeks after Jenn initially posted about the Ragnar Trail Relay, she re-posted, saying a team member had dropped.  This time I thought about it and checked my calendar.  Then I held my breath, made the sign of the Cross, and told her I would do it.  THEN I had a glass of wine.

Look at this, Peeps.  This is what I will be doing!




We have two regular teams and one ultra team, and we will all be camping together from Thursday night to Sunday morning.  I haven't been camping for years, but I think this will be fun.  The two things that sealed the deal were all-you-can-eat-smores and access to showers.  I can do anything for three days if I know I can take a shower.  In anticipation of the race, I bought and baptized my first pair of trail shoes:

Love my Sauconies!
I don't really know what I'm doing, Peeps; this is all completely new to me.  The only thing I know is that I will be running three trail loops: the Green loop (easiest, 3.5 miles), the Yellow loop (a little more difficult, 4.6 miles), and the Red loop (most technical, 6.7 miles).  Based on Jenn's spreadsheet of times, I think I'll be doing the most difficult loop at one in the morning.  Gulp.

Check my post next week.  Will a bear eat me?  Will I freak out during a thunderstorm?  Will there be enough beer and smores?  Send me some love and luck, Peeps.  I will need it.

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Sunday, June 7, 2015

Run Fail

Today I had a ten mile trail run planned.  It was going to be so perfect: I had posted in our Ragnar group that I wanted ten miles, but I don't know how the trails in Peninsula connect, and I was afraid I wouldn't make it out without having to eat a limb.  Steve picked up the bait and offered to lead the group.  At 8 AM I was fueled, rested, and ready to run.

This may or may not be one of the views of the run.  I was too busy avoiding roots and rocks to look up.


The group started from Pine Hollow, running and chatting, and about half a mile into the run I realized that I. Just. Couldn't. Go. On.  My heart was racing, and I started to see spots, so I knew I had to stop.  I sent everyone on without me, and I put my head between my knees and tried to regulate my breathing.  I then started walking.  I had to walk for the next mile before I was able to start running again.  Then, all of a sudden, the feeling was gone and I felt great.  I increased my speed a bit and only walked the steep hills.

Luckily for me, the group had left trail markers (including a smiley face), so I followed those until I found Jen and Mandy, who had stopped just before the end of the loop to show me the way out.  We ran together to the parking lot to find the group waiting for the second loop.  I felt terrible that I had held people back, but they were super-cool about all of it, and we did another trail.  This time I had no problems whatsoever keeping up with the group, and we all finished with seven and a half miles.  Given that I had wasted a lot of our time with my issues, I was happy to stop there.

This is EXACTLY how I look when running trails.  Except I'm not a dude.  And I was actually bent over gasping, head between my knees.  So, other than that.


When I got home, I suddenly felt sick to my stomach, and the dizziness returned.  I won't go into detail here, but what happened next leads me to believe that I have the flu. My husband informed me that I DON'T have the flu; I am just over-tired and hungry.  One peanut butter-and-strawberry-preserves-sandwich and a nap later, and I do feel better, but my stomach is still fluttering.

Flu?  Heat?  Exertion? Just weirdness?

I dunno.  I do know that I have been under a tremendous amount of stress lately, and running has kept me out of trouble (see what I did there?).  One thing I know about myself is that when my stress suddenly lifts (as it did yesterday), my body turns on me.  "Screw you," it says to me, "I kept you going through the end of the school year, endless meetings, two half marathons, and a house guest.  I deserve to act up a bit."  Yes, Body, you deserve some attention.

I plan to spend the rest of the day napping between laundry breaks.  I've taken care of everyone else for a long time; it's time to take care of myself.

Coming up next week:  I'll tell you why I've taken to running trails when I've devoted many posts to hating them.  Until then, run happy, Peeps!

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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Race Review: Medina Half Marathon

Or "How I Didn't Run Like a Dumbass this Time"

And there you go.  Thanks for reading--see you next week!

Ok, I know that wasn't enough.  You probably remember my recap of the Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon two weeks ago.  In a nutshell, I ran like a. . .well, a nut.  I didn't take the humidity into consideration, I didn't have goals, yadda yadda yadda.  As a result, I crashed and burned after the first 10k.  I was determined to rectify these errors for the Medina Half Marathon, especially since the weather was worse than it was in Cleveland.  88% humidity and high temps, anyone?  No takers?

Knowing that my biggest problems are the Voices in my head (sorry, Voices, you know I still love you), I came up with some strategies to run safely in this race.

1.  DO NOT even think about a PR.  Just don't.

2.  Set goals.  My secret goal was 2:05.  The goal I told everyone was 2:10 or less.  The time I would take without complaining too much was 2:11, as long as it wasn't because I was a zombie at the end.

3.  Take all water stops.  One cup down the throat and one over the head.

4.  HOLD BACK.  I was determined to keep my pace consistently between 9:30 and 9:45.

5.  Enjoy the moment.  Touch the power station signs.  High-five little kids.  Thank the volunteers.  Wave to friends in the crowd.

The Medina Half is a special race for me because I teach at Medina High School.  I love to look at the crowds and see students, former students, and colleagues cheering on the runners.  This year was even more special because two of my friends chose Medina for their first half marathon.  You always remember your first!

TORN represents!




Shannon is running her first half!
Heather, Lauren, and I all run for wine!
One of the many things I like about the Medina Half Marathon is that the race is capped at 1,000 half marathon runners.  This means that there is plenty of free parking and bathrooms, two factors I always consider in races as they make me very nervous.  This also means that I didn't have to get there super early.  As Joy and I lined up in the corral, I tried to get my mind in the right place.

Joy and I are ready to go!  
When we started, I was very tempted to try to catch Joy (who is a freaking rabbit), but my mantra was "Run smart.  Don't run like a dumbass," so I deliberately dialed it back in the first few miles.  I didn't dial it back as much as I should have (9:30-9:45), but I did manage to keep it at 9:20-ish for the first three miles or so.  As I am not a good negative split runner, I'm not convinced that running even more slowly at the start would have given me a better time at the end.  My legs felt fine this time (not like in Cleveland); it was just the heat and humidity that were killing me.

The course has changed again this year, and I really liked it.  I'm not the best person to ask because I'm not always aware of my surroundings, but I feel like most of the hills were gone from the back part of the race, which I really appreciated.  The biggest hill didn't change; that was on route 18, where I saw the TORN Superfans and they took pictures of us suffering the hill.

Yes!  This hill is my bitch!
It felt like there were fewer spectators this year, but I didn't mind because the tradeoff was that there were fewer dangerous drivers ignoring course marshals and weaving around runners.  This was my biggest complaint in previous years and my main concern this year: too many dangerous and inconsiderate drivers and not enough police to keep them under control.  I am happy to say that the Race Directors took this seriously.  My colleagues who live in the areas of the course had told me that there had been lots of notice, even a door-to-door campaign to make the residents aware of what would be happening that morning.  I noticed many more police at intersections, and I am grateful because this is the first year I felt safe on the course.  Thank you, Medina police and volunteers, for giving your time for us.  Thank you, Race Directors, for being committed to our safety.

Also, I didn't mind fewer spectators because the road-chalk messages more than made up for the lack of people.  I LOVED all the messages spread out on the course!  Thank you to all the people who put them there!

The heat and humidity definitely took their toll on runners; I saw a runner being loaded into an ambulance around mile 10, and I saw another runner buckle just before the finish line.  Two runners picked her up under the elbows and brought her across.  Again, I repeated my mantra and adjusted my expectations.  I thought I might hit my secret goal, but I definitely got slower after mile 10, and the 2:10 pacers passed me around mile 11, so I realized I had to kick it in gear.  Unfortunately, I was running on bricks for about half of mile 12, and I was worried about falling or twisting a foot, so that slowed me down considerably.  When I got off the bricks, I could see and hear the crowd at the finish, so I was able to pick up the pace, even though I was running uphill a bit.  I could hear my friends in the crowd calling my name, and I was able to sprint to the finish, something I couldn't do in Cleveland.
This was just before my final kick.  No, I was not sprinting here.
The food for this race was awesome: Subway sandwiches, fruit, rice chips, chocolate milk, water.  The race entry included a ticket to the after party hosted by Stand up for Downs, where we drank REAL beer (IPA!) and ate Romeo's Pizza.  I had intended to meet my peeps elsewhere for a post-race lunch, but it was really nice to sit at the after party, so we stayed there for a while.
TORN Peeps drink beer.  Look at Erin after her first half marathon!
All in all, despite the weather, I really enjoyed the Medina Half Marathon this year.  Thank you to the Race Directors for taking runners' comments into consideration and planning a quality event for a great price.  In fact, I bought my race entry for next year at the expo because I had faith that this year would be a good one.  I believe in Medina, and I believe in this event, so I think it will continue to improve every year.

Do you want to get in on this, Peeps?  I bought my entry for 30 bucks at the expo, but if you missed that chance, you can buy yours online for only 35 bucks until midnight tonight (May 31) and for only 45 bucks until November 1.  Not bad, eh?

Look at this sweet medal!

Nice tech tee, too!


Thanks to the TORN Superfans for lifting my spirits in this oppressive humidity.  Thanks to the Dargan clan for cheering for me, and thanks to Jess Toocheck who was at the hill before the finish.  You are all amazing!  Medina, I will see you next year!

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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Running with Friends

In my going-on-four-years of Running away from Trouble, I've learned that running friends can not only help you run away from trouble, but they also can keep you out of trouble in the first place.

I started my running journey with the Towpath Turtles, a group dedicated to preparing new runners to run the Akron Half Marathon.  From them, I learned how to pace myself so I could run farther than two miles at a time.  With their gentle encouragement, and with the sometimes not-so-gentle-encouragement of our coach, Sheila, I ran my first half marathon in September 2012.  Read about my time as a Turtle here.

The Towpath Turtles at the Lyndhurst Perfect 10-Miler in 2012
I graduated from running with the Turtles to running any time and distance I liked with fellow members of The Ohio Runner's Network.  Through the years, I have come to depend on these Peeps for my Sunday long, slow distance runs and for camaraderie in races.  These are just a few of the many memory shots I have with my TORN Peeps:

Shelby, Me, and Jen, looking into the sunlight

TORN runners at the 2014 Tryptophan Run 

Towpath Turtles at the 2013 Mother's Day 5k


Heather and I run the 2015 Shamrock.
Renee and I are trail running!

Joy and I are warming up before the 2015 Canton Gold Jacket 5k.
Shelby and I set a goal for the half marathon.


TORN at 2014 Lyndhurst Perfect 10-Miler



























TORN at 2014 Medina Half Marathon
Bay Days 2014


I'll tell you a little secret, and you may find it shocking: I don't really like people much.  Wait, why are you laughing?

I think it's because I spent sixteen years in the food service industry, which I was really good at, but it REALLY made me hate people.  Oddly enough, I love my job, which is teaching teenagers.  Teens are awesome; at any moment your average sixteen year old is feeling more hormonal than I am on my worst day.  I'm not being ironic when I say I really enjoy working with teenagers, their drama, their sincerity, their craziness; however, because of the amount of energy I spend at work, it takes a conscious effort for me to make sure I don't have Resting Bitch Face when I am around people.  I decided a long time ago that I didn't need new friends; I'm just fine with the friends who have decided to stick with me.

Until now.

As a Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon Ambassador, I was able to connect with other bloggers/runners who were so different from me (and from each other) and yet so familiar.  I have been following their blogs for almost a year now (some longer than that), and we all got to know each other through our writing and later in person.  What I found was an additional support group, something I didn't know I needed or wanted.

Each Ambassador has an interesting story to share, and I enjoyed meeting them in person after reading all about them.  When my performance in the half marathon was disappointing at best, especially when I compared my results to their fabulous PR's, the group seemed to know what to say and what to post to make me feel less angry and sulky.  I think the funniest post in our Facebook group was from Andrew (@andrewrunsalot), who posted a race pic of himself in genuine agony and invited us to caption it.



At our first meet-up
Start of the race


VIP reception


 It turns out that I can still meet new friends, and these friends have so much to teach me.  I look forward to following them in their pursuit of their goals, and I look forward to future races and meet-ups together.  Thank you, Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, for giving me this opportunity!

To my "old" friends: Thank you for sticking by me, even when I insist on running alone.  To my "new" friends:  Thank you for being so positive and such great role models for me.  This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship!

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Race Review: Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon


I made some stupid mistakes on Sunday, May 17, at the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon.  Wanna hear about them?  Maybe you can avoid my mistakes in your own races. First, let me start with a review, and then you can laugh at my mistakes later.

The Expo:

I went to the Expo at the Cleveland Convention Center on Friday after school.  I parked in a deck directly across the street, and I heard that many people found free street parking, so that didn't seem to be a problem.  The Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon Expo nailed it again this year.  So. Much. Fun!  Some people like meeting up in groups at the expo, but I love to navigate it myself so I can do whatever I want.  And I did!

American Greetings took my picture:

It took like 10 tries because I broke the camera.  I'm not kidding.

I got my nails done FOR FREE!!!

These are press-ons!  They were so fun!
I bought a 13.1 tattoo, but then I put it on upside down, so I had to scrape it off.  Mistake #1?

After picking up my shirt, I headed to a reception, sponsored by Tito's Handmade Vodka, in the old Arcade, where I hooked up with my fellow #runCLE Ambassadors.

We clean up good, don't you think?

Saturday the Ambassadors roamed the Expo, but for me it was cleaning day, so I stayed home and then I tried to go to bed early, but not before I applied another pre-race tattoo:

This is from Ulysses.  #litgeek


Two of my biggest worries about races are parking and bathrooms, and neither were a worry at this race.  I easily got into a parking deck at 5:55, and I didn't notice any terrible traffic jams as I walked to the starting line.  There were tons of porta potties lining the starting corrals, and there were bathrooms at the Q.  The ONLY problem I had was that there was no sanitizer anywhere to be found.  I ended up begging sanitizer off Jamie's mom (Jamie is a fellow Ambassador) because I knew I wouldn't be able to function without attempting to clean my hands after a visit to the porta potty.

Some of the Ambassadors met at the start for a picture:
We are ready to rock this run!

I also had a nice surprise: I spotted Christina, who is a former student and was about to run her first half marathon!

You always remember your first!
As we waited in the starting corrals, the skies opened up and drenched everyone, which wasn't too bad considering the temps were a steamy 68 degrees with humidity around 100%.  I thought this was a good sign because I was starting cool, and I knew I would need to keep cool during 13.1 miles.

The corrals were neatly organized; I lined up with the 4:00 pacers, and there was lots of room to navigate.  Actually, I had very little need to dodge runners because we all were on pace.  That is very refreshing, as dodging and stutter steps tend to sap my energy, and I can't keep myself from doing it if people are too close to me.  Speaking of the pacers, one of them was calling out information about the city as we passed the landmarks.  He was amazing.

The course is soooo fabulous, Peeps.  Some of it was a blur, but I loved running around Tremont, Ohio City, and Edgewater.  The crowd support was nice, although I didn't see as many funny signs as I saw last year.  I saw my friend Ed (who is a super-speedy runner) twice around Ohio City, and that gave me a nice boost for a while.

So, let me fill you in on how I handled the heat and humidity in this race.  I'll give you a hint:  not well.  I did a lot of stupid things during these 13.1 miles, and most of them were during the first 10k.  First of all, I didn't have any true time goals and I should have.  Normally I have a secret goal that I would be ecstatic if  I hit, a challenging goal that I'm pretty sure I can hit, and the "acceptable" goal that I won't beat myself up about if I at least hit it.  I didn't have any of that.  I just said, "Let's see how I feel," and that was stupid because I am never truly aware of how I feel in the moment.

I tried my trick from the 2014 Akron Half Marathon, when I focused only on how I felt during that mile, and so each mile when I asked myself if I felt good, the answer was yes.  Then I hit the 10k mark, and when I asked myself how I felt, the answer was AWFUL.  I realized that even though I was hot and sweaty, I was shivering and wanting to vomit, and that means possible sunstroke, Peeps.  Not good.  After I crossed the 10k mat, I deliberately slowed down and then walked through every water stop available on the course, drinking one cup and dumping another on my head.  Normally I might hit three stops on the course, but I knew the weather was a major game-changer, and I needed to take care of myself.  Kudos to the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon organizers for having so many water stops; I needed every darned one of them.

Kudos, too, to the volunteers who cheerfully handed us water, Powerade, and Carb Boom! Gels.  I am especially grateful to the lady who sprayed me with her garden hose (I think I love you), and I think the person who placed a sprinkler on the highway around mile 11 is a genius.

Despite all of these wonderful people, I feel like I just couldn't get my act together after the 10k.  At one point my Garmin shorted out, so I didn't see until I checked my data later that I ran an 11 minute mile.  Dammit.  I just fell apart.  I saw Ed three times on the course, and the last time was on the highway for mile 12.  I was a mess, but I was grateful to see him as I shuffled by like a zombie. When I got close to the chute, Laura and Erin called my name, and I told them I was toast, but they continued to encourage me.  I didn't really have anything left to kick it in the end.

What I should have done was pick a pace that I knew I could consistently maintain in that heat, and I still would have done better than I did by pretending to be Speedy Gonzales in the first six miles and then breaking down in the second half.  It was a dumbass move, and I don't intend to repeat it for the Medina Half Marathon in two weeks.

After crossing the finish line, getting my medal, and chugging some chocolate milk, I found my peeps from The Ohio Runner's Network, and we had some Great Lakes Brewing Company beer together.  This was a welcome change from the crappy "ultra" beer we get at other races, and I really enjoyed mine. . .until I spilled it.

This is really long already, so I'm going to cut it short and leave you with two more positive things I got from the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon:

1.  I made a new bunch of friends, and I'm going to write about them and their support in my next post.

2.  This:

I earned this shirt and medal!
Until next week, run happy, Peeps!

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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Trust the Taper

This is taper time.  I'd like to say that I'm really embracing it, but the truth is that my week hasn't really been different than other weeks.  I ran two four-milers on Wednesday and Friday, and today I did a long run of ten miles.  I also ran in place for about fifteen minutes before lifting on Thursday, so I count that as a mile.  The only real change I made was to skip my Saturday run and/or walk, which usually was between four and six miles.  Maybe I'm not doing it correctly, but the 2015 Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon will be my seventh half marathon, and I've done it this way almost every time.

It's funny (maybe not funny haha) that I post each week about training when the reality probably is that I don't know what the hell I'm doing.  Am I running long enough during the week?  Is my speed run REALLY a speed run?  Are the weights heavy enough when I lift?  Should I be doing those sequences?  Who knows?  I see my esteemed fellow bloggers, and they all seem to have a plan.  My plan is always the same, and it is the mantra I recite while I fist bump whoever starts the race with me (if you are standing next to me in the corral, it might be you!):  No falling, no puking, no dying.  I used to say No Crying, but I think crying is now ok if it's because you are emotionally involved in getting to the finish line.

I do know, however, that I need to hold back this week, even if I feel like I want to run more.  Science says that tapering works, even though every runner I know secretly believes that it will weaken him/her and lead to a more difficult race.  Not true, Peeps.  My coach says the taper should make you feel like a horse, nervous to break out of the corral.  It does.  Oh, it does.

Today I gave myself a treat, and I ran my favorite ten mile loop.  It follows the fading blue line from the old Akron Marathon course through Sand Run Park, around the golf course, up to Highland Square, down Merriman past Stan Hywet Hall, and down, down, down hill back to Sand Run Parkway again.  The first four miles are pretty much uphill, so it is a challenge, but finding this on the path at Mile 1.5 lifted my spirits:

How cool is it to come upon a painting in a metropark?
I stopped long enough to take this picture and then scan the QR code to see what this is all about.  The code led me to Akron Art Museum's Inside/Out Tour.  If you follow the tour, you can find paintings like this all over Akron.  Here is the link to this particular painting.

It has been a long while since I've run this loop, and it gave me plenty to think about: lesson plans, this blog, my family, my career goals, and of course the race coming up this Sunday.  I also thought about how far I have come in strength and pace and overall physical fitness.  I even flashed back to my first blog post, which I composed while running this very loop.  As I ran downhill for the last mile, I felt like I was flying, and as I finished, the rain started.  Perfect timing!


This is EXACTLY how I look after running 10 miles in terrible humidity.  Oh wait. . .
THIS is EXACTLY how I look after running 10 miles in terrible humidity.
UPDATE:  We have a winner for the Gold Jacket 5k free entry!  Congratulations, Lyndsey H!  Check your email.

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