Last Minute Racer

I’ve been debating for a while of running a half marathon this month to help in my Newport Marathon training. I had to miss the Jamestown stop of the UHC Triple Crown (of course, the one I was looking forward to the most!) and I’m trying to get my competitive running juices flowing.  I know, I don’t really have competitive juices. A girl can dream.

While I was looking through half marathons I was thinking about the last distance race I did- The Providence Half. I went into that fresh off an injury, a bow out from Boston and an overall question of why I bother running. I “ran” it just to finish it, and I affectionately refer to it as my “walking tour of Providence”. Before that was Boston training, and before that was the NYC Half Marathon. In 2011. It’s been 18months since I really raced a race. There has been tons of training, lots of long runs, even a few races; but nothing I actually went into wanting to race. This is an issue.

I’ve been running and training for Newport, and I’m going into this to race because of that little side bet I have going on. While I am confident I can race Newport, I don’t think I should go into it without having raced anything else first. I need to figure out how to really push myself and not take the safe route I’ve been comfortable in. After over training for Boston I’ve been hesitant to up my mileage very much. My longest run this training cycle has been 14 and I have zero intention of going above 18. The one part of training I’ve really improved on this cycle is listening to my body. If it hurts I rest it. If it doesn’t feel right I lay off. It seems to be working for keeping me healthy, but doing very little to help me get speedy. On a brighter note, my knee is feeling good thanks to a new trick I’ve taught myself. KT Tape plus an IT Band strap means no knee pain for this girl. And it’s pretty. That helps too.

My KT Tape matches my sneakers. We’ll pretend that’s an accident.

If I’m going to start racing that also means I need to start fueling and cross training better. Summer is always hard for me because there are lots of cookouts, lots of cocktails and lots of time on the boat.

Boat Life = The Good Life

None of this makes me sad. It does make me the slow kid on the track, though.  It’s hard to fit everything in, and Yoga has most certainly taken the biggest hit. Remember that New Years goal of 100 hot yoga classes? Not even close. Dinner last night? Salad. And fried brocilli cheese bites.

Heaven in a deep fried coating.

 

There is a lot I need to work on over the next 10 weeks leading up to Newport. I need to focus on pushing myself. I need to get outside of my comfort zone. I need to go back to Yoga so I can touch my toes without feeling the stretch anymore. I need to not eat everything in sight that is covered in cheese. I need to foam roll more. I’m also approaching the 8 week mark where I try to cut out drinking. Oh boy.

So- what do you think- is a half this month and next month a good idea? If so, what are you racing in the New England area this month? Any awesome races I need to check out?

The Color Run Recap

I’ll admit it, I’m a bit of a race snob. When your first ever road race is also one of the World Marathon Majors, you get a different sense of how races should be organized and executed. With more race experience has come a more realistic expectation of smaller races and the knowledge that some races just have bad days.

I think I expected more out of The Color Run because of its size. 22,000 runners over two days, and it’s a national race series. It’s not like this was their first rodeo. It was their first New England- yes, but I refuse to believe that’s the explanation.

Super Spectator Caitlin decided to get in on the 5K action for the first time and I couldn’t have been more excited to be running her first road race with her. She did this race for two reasons. First, she’s training for a triathlon right now and figured a road race might be good for her. Second, if any race would look appealing it would be the one where you get to be sprayed with fun colors. I wanted this race to be the best first 5K experience anyone could have. If only we knew what we were in for.

We got to the parking lot (which was 8 miles from the race start) two hours before the not well advertised race start time of 10am. We figured that gave us plenty of time to get ready, grab a bus and be one of the first waves out of the start. We parked the car and went to the bus lines. After standing around for a half hour we looked around and realized one very scary fact: There were 3 staff members trying to organize 5,000 people getting on buses. The lines were not official, and the line to the right of us kept merging rushing over to whatever bus pulled closest to them- their turn or not. Over an hour later, we finally squeezed ourselves onto a bus to head to the start.

We got to the start and if any part of the race went well, that was it. Fun DJ keeping the crowd energized, workers making sure the waves were clearly defined (even if it was with crime scene tape) and plenty of shade so at least we weren’t baking in the sun. The waves were about 1,000 per which left plenty of room to spread out once you hit the course. A lot of 5Ks mess this up, so I’ll give them points for crowd control on the actual course.

Just a couple people in front of us.

We took a few minutes to take a “Before”

The Color Run advertises that you’re hit with one color every K. I hadn’t really thought about how the colors were thrown or what it would be like until the night before the race when Jim said “Isn’t not a good idea to inhale powder while you’re running?”. Good point Jim. The orange was first and the dust was a little thicker thank I would have expected for an event that you know people will be running through this stuff. Some colors were lighter than others and didn’t seem so bad. I knew the blue was going to be bad when the workers were wearing safety masks while throwing it. I got two feet into the blue section and thought I was going to choke on the blue dust. It was terrible. I stopped immediately after the dust cleared and gagged for at least a minute. Brutal.

The course itself was beautiful and stretched along a little seaside residential neighborhood. I’m curious how they worked this out with the neighborhood because there were no side streets and these people were literally stuck in their houses while the race went on. The one part of the race that really surprised me was a massive hill in the middle of it. Coming from a girl who ran Heartbreak Hill every Saturday this winter, I’m usually pretty good about hills. This hill was one of the most brutal I’ve ever run in my life. It was an incredibly steep incline with no decline once you finally got to the top. And what was right at the top? Another batch of color. Because when you’re trying to catch your breath after an intense hill run the first thing you want to do is inhale color dust.

The rest of the race went by pretty quickly, lots of color and people having fun. I got to the finish line and looked at my time, when I realized my distance was far more concerning. Since when is a 5K 2.7 miles? Really, Color Run? Few things irritate me more than when a race is not the advertised distance. This was my only complaint about the Providence Half Marathon this year, and that was longer than the 13.1 it was supposed to be. If I had to choose, I would rather it be a little longer than a little shorter. I just felt ripped off. Covered in a thick dust, and ripped off.

This is after.

Caitlin and I made a strict decision at the start that we were going straight to the busses after the race to try to avoid the crowds after the mess at the start. We finally found the bus pick up (because there were no signs to tell you where it was) and when we got there we were informed there had been a major accident on the highway and traffic was backed up for two hours. The later race waves were also delayed two hours and the busses were massively delayed because what should have been a 10 minute ride each way was now taking 40. There were two parking lots for the event, so we were split into two lines. Thankfully, the transport powers at be were on our side for at least that portion of the day because the busses that were coming were only picking up for our line for some reason. This obviously made the people in the other line less than pleased. Especially when a bus finally arrives for them and it’s a short bus. To rub salt in the wound, when the short bus opened its door, the glass from one of the panels shattered. That line wasn’t pleased.

We finally made it back and decided we needed to celebrate and decompress the only way we know how after races: burgers and beers. The Olympic coverage and locals offering their commentary were added bonuses.

We totally burned that off doing a < 5K

So that’s the Color Run. I would love to think that this is just a fluke occurrence and they are normally a well run event. I can still see the appeal and even think I’ll give it another shot next year if I hear good things from other cities. Every race deserves a second chance. They just have a LOT to make up for.

Have you ever done The Color Run? Did you do it this weekend? Was Sunday better than Saturday? Any good races I missed this weekend? Let’s hear it!

Race Recap: The Providence Half Marathon

This weekend I ran the United Healthcare Providence Half Marathon. Also known as that time I took a walking tour of Providence. But that’s ok. I went into this race with very few goals and expectations. Finish, don’t blow out my knee and try to have a good time despite what was sure to be a slow race. And you know what- that’s exactly what I did.

Saturday was Cinco de Mayo, and as sad as it was for us, Jim and I stayed in so I could sleep and not be margarita hungover (certainly one of the least desirable forms of hungover) for race day. We went to dinner early, were home by 10 and I was in bed by 10:05. In bed, yes, asleep, not so much. For whatever reason, I could not fall asleep to save my life. I’m guessing I finally passed out somewhere around midnight, but who really knows.

That made for a less than desirable 5am wake up call. I was a little nervous about getting to Providence and finding packet pick up in time, so I left with some buffer time. Thankfully, I didn’t need it and had my bib in hand by 6:45.

One of my favorite things about this race was how non-chaotic the start was. I really think splitting the full and half races a half hour apart made a HUGE difference. By the time the full started at 7:30 the half-ers took our spots and had plenty of space to stretch and warm up. It really was the best race start I’ve been to. Kudos, Cox Rhode Races.

I like calm start lines. They set a good vibe.

8am came pretty quickly and we were off. We were told up front the course split at mile 2, and I had heard from a few friends who ran in 2009 that the course wasn’t very clearly marked so I made sure to keep an eye out for the split. Turns out, it was as clear as day, and the whole course was marked very clearly (though not correctly- we’ll get to that) throughout the whole race.

While I was stretching and waiting I came up with a game plan. My doctor tells me when my asthma flares up to walk a quarter of a mile each time I hit a new mile mark. This was I never put myself in too much danger and always have a set break to catch my breath. I figured this was the best plan since I haven’t really run- never mind raced- in 6 weeks. The doctor also told me to walk the uphills for Boston so I wouldn’t tear my knee up anymore than it already was. I figured this was also sound advice but wasn’t aware of one key thing- Providence was MOSTLY uphill. I really don’t know how they designed a course with such little downhill compared to the amount of uphill.

So as I approached the 2 mile mark, I didn’t have to worry about blowing past the marker signs because I had been walking for the half mile of serious uphill that precedes the two mile mark. While looking for the course signs I found a much cuter one.

A penguin race sign? Amazing.

And that’s how it went for mile 6 too. 7 through 9, those were also a crazy amount of uphill. Mile 10 had a super sharp decline that was as close as you could come to just jumping down 40 yards onto the flat pavement below. I’ve honestly never seen such a steep decline on a course in my life. If one person tripped half of the field would have been taken out by the tumbling person behind them. Thankfully, this didn’t happen. Though there were certain moments I was fairly convinced it was going to.

The full and half courses converged for what I assumed was the last 1.1 miles of the course. Right after I passed the 12 mile sign, the super speedy marathoners came around the corner. As those crazy runners blew straight past me, I was in awe of how comfortable they all looked despite the 25 miles of pavement they just covered. Every runner I saw was cruising along like they had just ran a 5K. While I was staring in awe, I also noticed that we were passing the Mile 25 sign about a half mile after the Mile 12 sign. Ok- maybe we have different finish lines? That’s strange, I thought it was the same one?

It was the same one. This became more confusing when a mile later we passed the Mile 26 sign, but had yet to pass the Mile 13 marker. Really, did they not think anyone would notice that mile 12 was way further than a mile? We’re runners. We’re known to carry GPS enabled devices any time our feet are in something that may resemble a running shoe. I know it was more than a mile. My Nike+ told me so. A lot of the half-ers were more than slightly irritated by this because they had paced for the last mile thinking it would actually be a mile. Silly runners, why would you think a course would be accurately marked?

Once the race was finally over, I was greeted with one of the best finish lines I’ve ever had the pleasure of crossing. I expect to be greeted with a medal. The water is never expected, but also never surprising and certainly always appreciated. One thing I have never been greeted with was pizza.

A medal and pizza? You rock my world Providence.

That was not expected and appreciated doesn’t begin to describe my feelings. I can’t think of many things that would have made me happier in that moment. Temporary forgiveness for the Mile 12 issue, for sure.

Friday I set some goals for this race. To recap…

–       Finish. Check. It wasn’t fast and it wasn’t pretty, but it got done.

–       Enjoy Racing. Check. I didn’t get the rush I normally do from attempting a PR, but I did genuine enjoy being out on the course. Even when my hands got that swelly thing they sometimes get.

I swear, I normally do not have sausage fingers. I promise.

–       Meet the other Rhode Scholars. Sadly, no check here. Attention Rhode Scholars- For Jamestown let’s plan a meeting spot at the finish in advance. Or the start. You guys pick. But let’s find each other!

So that was Providence. I came. I saw. I ran. I walked. I didn’t quite conquer but I finished. And right now that’s good enough for me.

What Not Running the Boston Marathon Taught Me

It’s been a really rough few days. I pictured Marathon Monday going a lot of ways, but not starting was never a consideration. Then again, open deferment had never been a consideration for the BAA either. I guess it’s been a weekend of circumstance for everyone.

Not running on Monday was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. For 5 months, my life was training for Boston. Everything I did was planned around training runs. I barely went out, I spent an abnormal amount of time with my foam roller, and when people asked what my weekend plans were the response was always how long my long run was that week. Giving up the culmination of all of that hard work crushed me. I cried. A lot. I was angry. Really angry. Dad took me out to lunch, tried to reaffirm that it was going to be OK with sesame chicken and egg rolls, and my fortune even tried tobrighten my day.

Nothing worked. So I did what any girl in my situation would do- I asked my boyfriend to sit on the couch with me while I got drunk and cried. And he did. A couple times. And for that, I love him. High-five love. He also took me to Saquish Monday night so I could be as far away from the city as possible.

That view in April doesn’t stink.

Perfect morning view. Well, as perfect as it was going to feel.

But when I woke up Tuesday morning, my raging hangover reminded me of a thing or two…

The people in my life who matter love me not because I run marathons, most of the time, in spite of the fact that I run marathons. Dealing with a marathon runner is not an easy feat. They talk a lot about themselves, their training and their splits. Things that, unless you are a runner, you don’t care about. But my amazing friends and family have listened for the past 5 months, and I know how lucky I am to have those people.

I love training, and I love running. I also love being alive. When the BAA emails you “Speed Can Kill” and reminds you this is not a race, but an experience, you start to realize the danger of what you’re getting into. I can’t run another race if I drop dead of a heat stroke or asthma attack during this one. Let’s try to mitigate the possibility of that.

The people who judge my decision to defer are going to judge and there is nothing I can do to stop them. I read a lot of angry comment that said “Anyone who defers doesn’t deserve a Boston bib!” and things of similar tones. I deferred. I am proud that I listened to the warnings of my coaches and doctor and didn’t end up in the ER. Am I still terribly disappointed that my 5 months of training ended without a race? Absolutely. But I made the decision that was best for my health, and I’m okay with that.

The sheer animosity towards charity runners is sad. Not everyone can claim a Boston Qualifier. Yes, some people use the charity program as a way to buy their way into Boston. However, there are exponentially more people who could care less about running Boston, but are genuinely out there to support a cause they are incredibly passionate about. There was a woman on my team who reminded me of this every week. With two children under 6 at home, she still made time to make it to training runs every Saturday. She was admittedly looking at a 6-hour finish at Boston, but she didn’t care. She was there to honor who son, who was born at 1lb and spent months fighting for his life in the Children’s Hospital NICU. If he could get through that, she could get through a marathon. There was not a day that went by at practice that I viewed this woman as anything less than an inspiration for all of us who were running.

I thought of her even more when I started reading the comments about how it was so unfair that charity runners were being allowed to defer to next year and were taking spots away from “real runners”. This woman is more passionate and embodies the spirit of a “real runner” more than anyone I’ve ever met. So for anyone who says that charity runners should be kicked out of Boston, I ask you to take a look at the stories of many people running for charity and then see if you’re still so cold hearted about it.

Listening to your body is the most important thing you can do. My body has been freaking out of my for the past 4 weeks. My IT band that had not bothered me all season seized up and threw a wrench in my training. I started being clumsy and walking into things, and most notably down a flight of stairs. Accidents happen, but it was becoming a little too often to overlook. I was exhausted all the time. I tried to power through workouts despite all of these feelings.  After my cortisone shot, I was told to not work out for 3 days. Then Saturday happened and I found out I would not be running Boston. Today marks 8 days since my last workout. While part of me is dying to get out the door, most of me has felt more refreshed and clear headed in the past 3 days than I have in a while. My body and mind needed a break, and Saturday forced me to take one.

For those of you who are curious, I still went to spectate. For all the support the team has provided to me during the past 5 months, I wanted to make sure I made it to Wellesley to show my support for them. I even wore my planned marathon outfit. And yes, I cried a little when I got dressed that morning.

I was so excited to see this I teared up.

Going to Wellesley to see the families come out to cheer was the best thing I could have done with my day. It reminded me why I wanted to run this marathon to begin with, and how happy my 5 months of effort made so many families.

I loved my outfit. Green compression socks are awesome. Kayla is great too.

What happened happened. I can’t change it. I can’t go back and decide it’s a good idea to run. But I can look forward to Boston 2013 and know that 18 months of training for one race is going to make it an even more fulfilling experience. So for now, I’ll look forward to the Providence half on May 6 and getting back to a training schedule.

To everyone who had kind things to say over the past few days, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. And for those of you who had not so nice things to say, sorry you feel that way.

See you in 2013 Boston! Did you run Monday? Was it everything you dreamed it would be? Did you defer? Let’s hear your Boston stories!