Friday, October 4, 2013

Did Nothing Fatal

Sorry this has taken a little while. Honestly, it feels as though it's been forever since Sawtooth, though Google Calendar tells me it's been exactly a month. It felt like forever ago when it was only a week out, too. This will probably make for a less detailed and possibly less accurate description than normal so we'll see how this goes.

As a runner I know once said - sometimes DNF stands for Did Nothing Fatal. I remember it being really quite humid out from the get go. And warm but at least it was cloudy for a while and that helped quite a bit. It wasn't HOT right away but definitely not cool.

It seemed crazy crowded at the beginning and it was really hard to know what kind of speed to go. I tried to aim for easy and comfortable and not pay attention to what others were doing (ie, don't worry about people going by) and to not stress if I was behind a conga line once we hit the single track. I seemed to go back and forth between being all by myself (how was that even possible?) and then catching a conga line and hanging with them a bit before going around them. I tried to balance going slow with not going so slow that I'd be digging a hole for myself later on. There was lots of talking around but I wasn't too chatty at the beginning, mostly because paces weren't set. I was mostly enjoying listening to other people talking, though.

The first aid station is crewless - there's just no good place for people to park and so you don't see your crew until about 20 miles in. It's a little out and back to get to that first aid station, which a lot of people hate because you go down a steep hill for maybe half a mile for the sole purpose of hitting the aid station and then have to turn around and go right back up. I actually really liked it - I love out and back sections because they give you a chance to see people. I was still close enough to see Marcus and Ron here, which was 10ish miles in. Possibly a sign that I was going too fast? I refilled my Nathan pack, emptied my garbage, and perused the food table. It was a goal to slow down enough to SEE what was on the table (something I'm terrible at) and make myself take something back out on the trail with me so I could snack at regular intervals in-between gels. Nothing looked too appetizing since it was typical short ultra fare that early on. I tried an orange. Mmmmmmmm. Delicious, if a bit full of seeds. I grabbed a couple more slices to take with and a couple cookies and headed back on my way.

Despite having crew, I opted for little drop Tupperwares at most of the available places. I figured this way I wouldn't have to worry about my crew getting lost on new (for them) roads and I also wouldn't have to worry about figuring out how many gels and s-caps to grab for the next section since it would all be portioned out already. I will definitely do some version of this again - it was super helpful to just have to grab what was in the Tupperware (including fresh baggies for snacks/trash/wet wipes) without having to think and it definitely reduced time spent digging around for gels/s-caps or forgetting to get a new baggie or what have you.

The Beaver Bay to Silver Bay section includes these horrid, awful wide open sections on rock cliff faces. Really quite pretty when it's not 90 degrees and 90% humidity (both stats I've heard thrown around and while I don't know if they're true, I'll believe them). So I was going through this section right in the heat of the day, making it rather like an oven with the heat radiating off the rocks. A humid oven. Oh, it was gross. Amusingly enough, it was in here that I decided my cheese stick sounded tasty. It was a rather warm cheese stick that was thinking about becoming melty and I knew it SHOULDN'T taste good but . . . yum. I actually made a point of eating it slowly, thinking my stomach might just rebel against it but it was delicious and I wish I had had another one. In here, I caught up to a small group of people and we chatted a bit. Alfredo is the only one I really remember because he has an awesome name. He also had trekking poles all folding up and stored on his Nathan which I thought was a little silly at first (when I had first seen them on him 20 miles ago) but throughout the day they seemed more and more appealing. Anyway, this group was going REALLY slow through here. Walking pretty much everything, including flats and some downhills. I hung with them for a while because it was nasty out and I knew I didn't want to go all that much faster anyway. After a while, though, I knew I had to move at least a little faster while my legs were still fresh and happy, so I went around them. I wasn't going too much faster, but I was running the downhills and the flats and I felt good about my decision.

I started the day in my Austin-Jarrow jersey and typical race shorts, knowing it was going to be hot and figuring I wouldn't change until night time. I am definitely done with my race shorts for ultra distances now - after chaffing from the seams at Voyageur and what they did at Sawtooth. I changed out of them in Silver Bay - where they were already soaked from the humidity and definitely rubbing me funny, despite the body glide. Andrea tells me that I may have alarmed one of my crew when I set him to the task of finding sunscreen for reapplication and then walked a few steps away from the crowd, turned my back, and changed my shorts.

Coming into the aid stations were generally pretty awesome. The early ones are full of people - volunteers, crew, spectators. You just feel like a rock star coming into this mass of people cheering for you. I came into Silver Bay rather hot but left feeling pretty awesome in general, ready to tackle the next section. I also discovered the fabulousness of having ice down your bra. How have I not done this before? An added plus is that it slowly drips down your shirt and helps keep your core cool. I also went back to my hat for this race. I've found that generally with my short hair, having my hair down and a hat on top actually makes me more hot so I've been avoiding it all summer. However, I wanted my head covered as sun protection so I tried some pigtails and that worked great. Having a hat also lets you have a hat full of ice going out of the aid station and that was also wonderful. I was super sad one all the of ice was gone from my hat and bra.

So I'm unsure as to exactly where the shit hit the fan. I think I've decided that heading up Mount Trudee must have set it off as I can't remember my breathing coming down after that and the timeline makes sense. So we'll say from about there on, I was hyper-ventilating more and more. As in sounding as though I was finishing a hard road 5K instead of barely running downhill. That phase lasted a while and wasn't terribly alarming and then I moved into to sounding like a donkey (picture the "hee-haw, hee-haw" type of noise). I knew I was in trouble when I made this realization and didn't find it funny at all - I realized that I should be at least amused by it and instead felt detached from it. In retrospect, I don't think I took it seriously enough when it started. I think I was breathing hard from heading up Trudee and just did my usual recovery method, which is to start running again and wait for the breathing to come back under control, only this time it never did and instead of realizing that and stopping for a few minutes, I just kept going. I didn't really feel like I had a tight chest or as though my throat was constricted - it just felt as though there wasn't any oxygen in the air to breathe. When it became obvious that it was just getting worse and worse I did back off and walk, only that didn't really slow my breathing down. I also tried stopping to sit on a rock, which didn't seem to effect anything at all since I wasn't willing to sit for all that long. When I tried sitting on a bench, it was way too late. My fingers went tingly and then the tip of my nose. I'm pretty sure I lost feeling in a couple fingers (I spent some time trying to determine if they had feeling or not and then got distracted by something) and the tingling moved into my palms. Once my cheeks started going, I had this thought in the back of my head that I better get into the aid station before the tingling moved any further. I don't think I was panicked in here. I don't recall panic or drama. Maybe a little frustrated that I couldn't run what was a nice, mostly downhill, runnable section but mostly I was just sort of removed from it.

I had lots of runners ask if I was okay as they passed by. I would usually managed to huff out something like "Fine but can't breathe." I did tell someone (Dale Humphries?) to tell Lisa I was coming, if she was still there, which I didn't think she would be. When I was just around the corner from the Drainpipe (less than a mile from the aid station), two runners FORCED me to sit down. I tried to tell them that I tried sitting earlier and it didn't help and what I needed was to just keep moving to get to the aid station but since I couldn't breathe, I couldn't really talk, and they interpreted that as panicking. One guy kept going so he could let people at the aid station know I was having issues and eventually I convinced the other guy to let me keep moving (it's not as though there was really an alternative, anyway . . .). He insisted on staying behind me and wouldn't let me run or even really walk fast. "Slow, slow" is what I kept hearing. Good advice, I'm sure, but I just wanted to be in to Tettegouche. I don't even know the guy's name to thank him for watching out for me.

Andrea and Ethan (who was volunteering) came out to meet me and got me settled in at the aid station where my crew had set up a chair and my gear. It took me a solid 45 minutes for my breathing to come down. I was urged to lay down at first (on some poor person's now gross and sweaty fleece blanket), but that definitely made it worse and made me start to feel panicky. My fabulous crew was wonderful, as was Ethan who took off my shoes and socks for me and took my pulse a few times. Everyone stuck the perfect balance of taking care of me and just letting things get down to normal and forcing some decisions on me when I wasn't making them (such as "okay, now I'm going to hand you soup and you're going to eat it"). I took a full hour at Tettegouche but was laughing by the time I left. A woman who had been sitting near by (waiting for her runner? volunteering? I'm not sure) told me she couldn't believe I was getting up to go and that I was amazing. I did a full clothing change, helped by my awesome crew and, with a baggie full of oranges, I was ready to head out. Andrea said she'd be ready to pace at Co Rd 6 and so I had something to look forward to with the next aid station.

Something else I will do for my next 100 - I taped a list of place to Body Glide at each aid station. Very helpful! I can only imagine this would get more helpful the longer I go.

I headed out of Tettegouche in my running dress and half tights, expecting the temperatures to start dropping as night hit. I also had a long sleeve shirt around my waist for the same reason. Not a block down the trail, I put the long sleeve on since I was chilled from sitting for so long. About a half mile out, I realized the chafing from my shorts was pretty horrible. My fix last time was to put a Buff around it, so I stopped and gave that a go. Turns out trying to do that under half tights just makes the Buff rub the chaff, as opposed to protecting it. I made it across the Baptism River before taking it back off. Happily, having the brief bout of extreme rubbing with the Buff made it feel not so bad without it. I ended up chaffing so bad that I pussed. Ow. Which is probably much more than you wanted to know, but there you have it! The long sleeve came off not long after that since it was actually still really hot and humid, despite the sun being on its way down.

All those people telling me it was going to cool off at night? Liars. Every one of them. The night brought no relief from either the heat or the humidity.

Tettegouche to County Road 6 was horrible. It took me 4ish hours to go 8ish miles. The hyperventilating came back as soon as I started going uphill after crossing Hwy 1. This time, I was mildly panicked about it. I knew what it could turn in to so I had to stop at the top of every hill or part way up, depending on how big it was, in order to let my breathing come back down. I couldn't run at all. I couldn't walk very fast or it would start up again. It became very obvious in not very long in that I was either not going to make the cutoff or I would be so close that I wouldn't have a chance to recover in the aid station before having to leave and start it again. I found a nice rock on top of a hill, overlooking a lake down below, with an inkling of light still in the distance and I sat down and had a short little DNF cry. At least as much of one as you can while attempting to bring your breathing down from heading uphill. I was okay after that and just kept moving along as it became even more obvious that there was no making it in before the cutoff unless I could magically suddenly run. I was breathing hard the whole way but at least the donkey didn't make an appearance again. I sat on rocks, I sat on stumps, I sat on stairs. I had no thoughts of feeling better than a dead weasel, no songs running through my head, nothing since somewhere before Tettegouche until I was done. Which, since I had mostly the same song in my head for the previous amount of the race, might have been a good thing.

This section was horribly long. It took forever to get in. I had several people pass me, most of which checked in with me but I didn't sound like death anymore. At one point, I was positive the sweeps had caught me (I actually have no idea when the sweeps start. They probably weren't even out there yet) as there was a group of chatting, laughing, singing men behind me who seemed to be giving me space to work. They eventually passed me, though, and were definitely not the sweeps. We had to be almost in, right? I mean, we were heading downhill. How much further down can it be? A lot further, as it turns out. Since you come out on a road and then run down the road some, you can't even see or hear the aid station to know you're getting close. You just keep going and going and going. Eventually, I saw Andrea coming up the trail for me. Time for a quick hug and more tears. On the way down she asked if I wanted to know about the time and I let her know I knew I was over the cutoff. I can't remember by how much, though. Cut off was 10:30. 10:37 is sticking in my head for some reason, but I feel as though that might have been when I found Andrea? We had a ways to go after that so I was well past the cutoff by the time I straggled in, struggling to breath even on the flat road. I don't know if I missed the cutoff by 15 minutes or half an hour.

County Road 6 was littered with dropped runners. We were everywhere. I heard later that as the volunteers had packed everything up and were about to leave, they found three runners laying on the ground on the edge of the little clearing who didn't have rides to get anywhere. Here I thought I was dead last coming in and there were still people dragging themselves in when we were leaving the aid station and we stuck around for a while so as bad as my slog fest was, theirs must have been worse. My crew was perfect. Upbeat without being annoying about it. Encouraging things to say without making you want to slap them.

My crew was Jan and Dick - Jan was my assistant cross country coach in middle and high school as well as the mother of a good friend of mine and Dick is her man. They are both runners and coaches and while they had never been around ultras before, they know runners and were a great help. Andrea was, of course, fabulous. She made me the awesomest pin to wear on my Nathan and was perfect moral and otherwise support.

I spent a little while at the aid station before leaving. Turned in my timing chip. Ate some soup and sausage. I was torn between wanting to head right out and crew Marcus for the rest of the rae and wanting to go to bed and stay in bed all day Saturday. I called Lisa and managed to hit her in an open window before she started pacing and where she still had coverage and let her know what had happened. Luckily, the house we had planned to crash at the end of the race wasn't too far away and we headed there for some sleep. After showering, of course. And scaring the crap out of poor Mary Jo, who was obviously not expected us until the next night. Happily, shower-wise, since it was so humid and I was so wet already, adding water to the chaffage didn't cause the extreme pain I was expecting. Trying to arrange my body in a way to be able to sleep was interesting, though . . .

We woke up around 7 or 8 the next morning (when it was STILL hot and humid. I recall swearing as I stepped out the door). I didn't feel as though I had slept at all. I called my dad to let him know not to come up, as he was planning on crewing the last few hours for me. Andrea and I ate some breakfast and then we headed back out on the race course to find and follow Marcus around for the rest of the day. After a brief debate with myself, I put on my long sleeve Sawtooth shirt for the day. Which I may or may not be basically living in since then:

I decided that since this is not a finisher shirt (that's what the hoodie is for), I am damn well allowed to wear it. Plus, it's the general shirt for all three events and I covered the distance of one of them, at least. In any case, I am in no way ashamed to wear it.

We met Marcus at Temperance, where I told him I had already finished and he better get his butt in gear. It was actually quite nice to have another runner to focus on and it was good to still be around the race and my friends and help the runners out. I had two friends tell me things that made me feel better (well, I had lots of friends trying to make me feel better but these two really resonated). One was from Maria, who took a minute out of her own awesome race to remind me that it took her three times to finish Sawtooth. Now, if you don't know her, Maria is fabulous and tough and an inspiration so it was nice to be reminded that Sawtooth slapped her down, too. The other was from Tony who told me that I would have more DNFs, maybe even a whole column of them to line up with my finishes. For some reason, that made me feel a lot better. Going to the finish line was hard, though. I actually couldn't really be at it and had to leave and head up the trail to wait for Marcus to come in since 100 mile finishers don't need a teary-eyed DNFer wandering forlornly around, barely able to cheer for finishers. I ran with Marcus and Andrea for the last half mile or so and then was able to focus again on taking care of "my" runner, though he didn't need much taking care of this year.

I spent most of Sunday moping around and then felt a lot better. Except for the part where it was gorgeous and cloudy and cool and windy. Really? We couldn't have had this perfect running weather two days earlier? It made me angry every time I looked outside. I think it was good to be able to just mope for a bit, though, and let it get out of my system. Since I already had taken Monday off of work, I kept it off and slept in super later and went for a run and a dip in some water and felt a lot better.

I haven't decided yet what's coming next this fall but I wish I didn't have to wait a whole year to take on Sawtooth again. Though, much as I was ready to take it on RIGHT NOW a week afterwards, right now I'm okay with having that year to get ready.

I posted a long thank you note on facebook that I'll copy here: I have some pretty awesome friends. Jan and Dick for crewing for me and being nothing but positive and willing and saying they'd do it again. Andrea for being a rock star crewing, coming up the trail to find me, and letting me cry on her shoulder about missing the cutoff - I'm glad you were able to go pace without me. Ethan helped take care of me when I drug my hyperventilating body into Tettegouche so I could get sent back out 45 minutes (an hour?) later in high spirits. The mystery runner who didn't know me but made me stop and sit and stayed with me until I insisted I needed to just get into the aid station and then insisted on staying behind me. - I'm so sorry I don't think I even thanked you. Rick and Wayne for waiting for me at Co Rd 6, giving me hugs, and being awesome to be around the next day. Maria for taking a minute in the middle of her own awesome race to remind me that she DNFd her first Sawtooth, too. Micah for driving me around from aid station to aid station on Saturday when I realized I couldn't drive the car (someone please teach me stick) and putting up with a worn out me. Lisa for giving me words of encouragement at the finish when she was tuckered herself from crewing/pacing. John Storkamp for putting on a fabulous race to test us all and giving me a hug at the finish line. And, of course, Mary Jo for letting me show up at her house at midnight, crushed and defeated and then taking care of us all post race.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Brief Sawtooth

Sorry for the delay - no coverage for my Nexus plus not wanting to post right when I got home this afternoon. The short: I DNFd - didn't make the cutoff at County Road 6 due to some severe hyperventilating coming into Tettegouche and less severe continuing of it. Clearly not what I wanted but my first DNF is over, now. More details to follow.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Here we go!

T - 10 hours! I have my drop bags packed and dropped off at packet pick up. I decided on small tupperwares to pack my gel, ginger, and s-caps in. That way, I won't have to worry too much about something going wrong with my crew and I won't have to try and calculate how much gel I should grab.

The pre-race briefing has been attended. I have my number and ankle chip. My crew bag is ready to go. My extra clothes are sorted (bag for long sleeves, bag for short sleeves and shorts, bag for socks/hats/sleeves/etc). All that's left to do is sleep and then wake up and start this thing. I'm excited but mostly I'm feeling ready and not too nervous right now (though was crazy nervous earlier in the day). I will try to post to facebook and here sometime Saturday night, depending on coverage and such. Here we go! Rar!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Two posts in two days! Almost as though I don't have a ton to prepare right now . . . Anyway, I thought I would share with the world most of an email I sent to Andrea today: So I KNOW 10 day forecasts mean nothing. I know this. But I still check. Semi-obsessively. For Silver Bay, Finland, and Lutsen, because who checks just the start or just the finish of a race? Today proves that these long range forecasts mean nothing because this morning, the forecast was a high of 66 on Friday! Yay! Now it's a high of 82. What's 15 degrees or so? I truly know I'll be okay regardless of weather, though. This obsessive weather checking is a left over habit from when I would psych myself out about the weather. At this point, it's just fun to watch it change and see my reactions to various predictions before reminding myself that it'll be whatever the weather gods choose and we'll all have to deal accordingly. It's good to have somewhat of an idea of what's coming, though. And it serves as an outlet for some nervous energy :) If I wanted perfect weather, I wouldn't be running outside for over thirty hours and I definitely wouldn't live in Minnesota.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Sawtooth countdown!

Well, I ruined the beautiful symmetry of this post. I started it LAST weekend when it was three weeks after Voyageur and three weeks to Sawtooth. Now it's over a week later. Ooops . . . So at that time - three weeks previous it had been 50 degrees and raining most of the day. Last weekend's run, it was mid-80s and humidish and not a cloud in the bright, hot sky and it's been just gross and even more hot the last few days. What a difference in three weeks! I did a long trail run on the SHT around Duluth and my body was very unhappy with the heat. I'm definitely hoping it cools back down in the next two weeks. I have this horrible feeling that the weather gods are giving us this weather for acclimation purposes . . . No matter, though. If it's hot and humid come race days, I'll do similar to what I did my first Voyageur in humid 90s temperatures - slow down and keep the core temperature under control. Add to that the hope to make up some time when it becomes dark and cooler and making sure to have a complete change of clothes dry and ready for dark (though, that part is really in the plans anyway). I can handle whatever temperature comes our way if I'm smart about it. Less than two weeks, guys. 11 days! Yikes. I vacillate wildly between SuperStrongSamRar! and HolyShitWhatAmIDoing?IHadTroubleAtVoyageur! Already. I am going to be un-liveable in the next two weeks. The 10 day forecast is ready to obsess over very shortly. If you are around me and I've gone quiet and staring into space, that's a good indicator that I'm on the HolyShitWhatAmIDoing end of things. However, I've been feeling more and more excited and ready. Or maybe it's just a SuperStrongSamRar! day! So, yeah. Voyageur did not go the best. But! I finished and didn't injure anything or get sick afterwards so it can always be worse, right? I had a whole laundry list of issues but in the end, my legs just stopped wanting to work. My legs which were dressed in my race shorts (which are thin and short) and probably should have had half tights on. When I drug myself into the last aid station, Lisa put two more long sleeve layers on me (after already literally giving me the shirt off her back several hours ago). I protested that I would get too hot but, lo and behold, I reached a comfortable temperature a mile or so later and never got remotely too warm so I must have been very cold. This is possibly a good indication that I was dressed like a moron and hadn't prepared my drop bags for different weather than was forecast. This will most likely lead to me bringing every piece of comfortable running clothing I own to Sawtooth. However, I stumbled my way in to the finish with help from awesome Wayne, feeling mostly better than a dead weasel, and was laughing shorty after finishing. However, this served to severely freak me out about Sawtooth for a while. What was I doing planning to run a 100 mile when I just had such difficulty with half the distance? This actually started causing some panic while I was still out there and I had to push it away - no thinking about future races when you're in the middle of another race! It took me a bit (and reassurances from some awesome friends) to mentally get over Voyageur and I don't know that my legs have stopped feeling tired yet. I understand now why some people think six weeks is too close to your goal 100 to run a hard 50. However, I've been able to put this fabulous spin on my tired legs - just think of all the great "running long on tired legs" training that I'm getting! Also - I am very proud of never considering dropping. In fact, I was getting super worried coming in to the last aid station that they were going to pull me and I had no desire to stop before being done. Though there was plenty of desire to BE done, that's entirely different. So Voyageur was, if nothing else, a positive on the mental training it provided. I have this giant-ish spreadsheet that I've been working on for Sawtooth prep. Just writing things down that I think I'll need as I think of them, broken into categories like "food/consumables," "stays with crew," "things to do ahead of time." It's getting kind of big and I suppose it's time to start working on gathering things up in one place. Also lists - pace chart with cut-off times, list of things to do at an aid station, list of medical info for my crew just in case, instructions for my crew. Also, apparently there have been stinging insects in vast quantities found on the trail this weekend which reminds me that I need some Benedryl that isn't expired. Much of the next 10 days involves not getting sick and not getting hurt. Running enough to stay bouncy and loose and not grumpy but not so much that I don't get these tired legs rest up. Hopefully, that's leaving some extra time to get things organized!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Nuu-Muu Running Dress!

Remember that awesome running dress I saw in Boston that made me want to get a running dress? Well, do I have a review for you! As some of you know, I have some issues with running skirts/dresses. It's hard for me to embrace since it often seems to be looking girly purely for the sake of looking girly. I eventually tried a running skirt when it was on super sale at Target and all of sudden I realized - hey, running skirts are actually pretty comfortable! It's fun to run wearing a skirt sometimes. Maybe because it's different. Maybe because it's fun to have something swishing about. This gave me hope when I saw the dress at Boston. I also like a quote from the book of one of my heroes, Kathrine Switzer. When she started running, there weren't women's cut shorts and she ended up mostly racing in a tennis dress since men's shorts were not made for women's hips and thighs. Anyway, her thought was something along the line of 'here we are inventing our own sport, why should we have to conform to what the men wear?' Indeed. Why not have fun with what you wear?

First off, in the interest of full disclosure, you should know that I contacted the creators of Nuu-Muu about how excited I was to find them and they gave me a dress for reviewing. But I think you all know that if I hated it, I would be honest about that!

A little about the company first: Nuu-Muu is created by Christine Nienstedt when she wanted to make a fun dress that worked for running as well as every day. It had to be comfortable, functional, and something she wanted to wear after running. She teamed up with Ashley Fullenwider. They support non-profit organizations dedicated to the health and well-being of women and girls and I love their motto:
It's about being strong and pushing your body and having fun while doing it. What a great mission - what's not to love about that?

So I chose my dress style (the Ruu-Muu, which comes with a pocket in the back) and design (Fruit Punch, since that's the one that made me so happy before Boston). I diligently took my measurements for the dress size which put me in low Medium for bust, high Large for hip, and Large for waist. Hm. Well, I didn't want my dress to be tight across the hips and butt and uncomfortable to move in so I went with a Large. This ended up being a mistake as a Large was WAY too big - saggy in the armpits and several inches could be folded in back in order to make it fit. A bit frustrating since by the measurements they have I was solidly in Large except for the bust however, Nuu-Muu is good about returns. Their customer service is fantastic and it was a piece of cake to mail back my big Ruu and exchange it for the next size down.

My second package came and behold! A perfect fit! I was worried about a Medium being too small because of the measurements on the website but it's not tight or uncomfortable at all. No seams anywhere that rub funny. The armpits don't hang strange like a lot of things do on me (clothes companies just assume I have more up top than I do). The tag is sewn on the outside so nothing there to rub weird.

The first test was not actually a run but wearing it around on top of jeans. See - Ruus (and Nuus, too) don't have any built in undergarments. No annoying shelf bra (I have lots of hate for those) and no compression tights or liner underwear. This means you can wear whatever works for you underneath it and makes it easy to be a walking around tunic just as easy as a running/biking dress. You might notice the word tunic there . . . . That's because it's rather short for someone who's 5'11" and that's probably my only negative about it. I won't be going shortsless unless I'm by myself on a trail where I'm not likely to find other people or maybe with someone who would only be allowed to run in front of me. This makes me a little sad since, honestly, I was very excited about the ease of peeing in a dress while running trail!

So there it is in jeans and here's a shot of the back, showing you the pocket. You don't feel the pocket when it's empty. If something's in there, it does feel a little weird but just because a person isn't used to a hanging weight there. It doesn't interfere with anything or rub:

I got my dress in mid-May. This being Minnesota, I have since been able to run in it and wear it in all sorts of weather. Cold, hot, rain, sun, knee deep puddles. No snow, thankfully. My Ruu is great for most all weather so far. It doesn't get super heavy and weighed down in rain, which I was worried about. I've used it running with my dogs and while it doesn't hike up with with the leash around my waist, there is something on the leash that catches at it so the fabric pulled out a little. Happily, it's not noticeable but I'll have to figure out the sharp spot before I wear the dress with the dogs again.

My Ruu doesn't ride funny when wearing a pack - which I was worried about. The longest I've run in the Ruu in one go was about three hours. During that time, the straps lined up right and I didn't have to fuss about with adjusting every ten feet and it didn't bunch strange under the pack.

Bare shoulders are great for cooling and it's easy to throw a t-shirt or long sleeve over the top of the Ruu to work with layers. I'm not a huge fan of running in it in gross heat/humidity, though - the fabric is just a bit heavier than I would like for hot weather and I prefer running in just a sport bra on top when it's hot. However, the Ruu is great in terms of sweating or being wet - it doesn't show sweat at all which, as someone who sweats like a pig, I appreciate. This is also good for rain storms and nixes the whole "my sport bra is wet and now just that area of my shirt is wet" problem. This is also a fabulous thing if it's being worn as a swimsuit coverup post swim. I love my Ruu for water. It's good for wearing over a swimsuit if you're, say, floating down the Yellowstone River:

Ruus are also great for biking. I actually like it better than a shirt, depending on how/where I'm riding, because it won't ride up on me on fast downhills (of course, take "fast" with a grain of salt, there, remembering that I'm a runner and not a road biker).

So! I've worn it on it's own, with normal underwear, tri-shorts, my old DRC racing shorts (my favorite so far), a swimsuit, and jeans. I've worn it running, biking, driving, floating down a river, running through a sprinkler, and just walking around. Perhaps the best indication of how much I like it - I'm in process of figuring out which pattern will be my second Ruu. Three cheers to Nuu-Muu for creating a comfortable and fun running dress that even I like and aren't embarrassed to wear.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Boston Part Two!

See, here's the problem with splitting one entry into two is that there were things I forgot to put in the first part. I'll just backtrack a little bit to cover the official pictures I own now that I didn't have before.

So back in the Athlete's Village, they have tons of official photographers wandering around and one was stationed with an official backdrop. Since you're never sure how many actual pictures you'll get out on the course, I decided, why the heck not pose with the official background:

This one I didn't go looking for but had one of those wandering photographers stop me:

Remember the START sign outside the Athlete's Village? Well, they had an official guy standing there on my way out. So again, why the heck not? He took this one:

and then told me, "Wait, let's do another one. Stand on the other side and point at the sign." It felt incredibly weird, awkward, and faked but actually turned out okay.

Finally, the sign in Hopkinton. Some day, I will get my picture taken next to the sign. Perhaps the third times the charm, now that I've decided I'll have to do Boston again (but not in the near future).

So where was I at the end of part one? Oh, yes! Standing in the starting corral. This is the official picture from the start of Wave One. Tonya and I were standing just on the other side of the white building on the right.

Starting in corral 7 was quite different from being in corral 1 where I could start running and be at my pace pretty much instantly. It took us 4 minutes to get to the starting line once the gun went off. Then it was go time! I took my zip-up hoodie off pretty much right away and tossed it in an already started pile from other people. The road felt much more congested than I remembered it being before but nothing horrible, just a little weaving as things got sorted out, which caused a pace a little slower than desired for that first mile. This is a cool picture of the start of what I assume is Wave One but Wave Two looked much the same.

So we're finally to the race part of my race report!

27,000 runners is a lot of people. So each wave is probably about 9,000 but you're surrounded by people doing about the same pace so it doesn't get strung out. The start is very downhill. I forgot how sharp it was. I stretched out a little bit but spent much of the first several miles trying to hold back and not go faster than 8 minute miles, since I knew I wouldn't be able to hold a faster pace for too terribly long. I kept my ears open during the early stages, hearing what kind of goal time the people around me were talking about or what kind of a pace they reported as they crossed mile markers. My A goal was a 3:30, even though I knew it was probably a stretch so the thought was to go out, see what was comfortable, and hang on while I could. B goal was going under 3:50 (a number chosen solely on the fact that the girl with the same number the year before had run a 3:50 and, by golly, I could beat that easy). I saw lots of cool people/shirts in the beginning. I passed a woman who was due with her first baby in July which makes me sad, now, because I'm sure she wasn't able to finish. Ahead of me I saw an Afton 50K shirt and made my way up to the guy so we could chat a bit. I never saw him pass me again but if he stayed on pace than he would have. The race is so big that you are ALWAYS passing people and ALWAYS being passed at the same time which makes for never a dull or lonely moment.

I tried to strike a balance between enjoying the race and not wasting energy. If I found myself on the edge of the road, I would high five the kids there, but I didn't go out of my way to get to them. Don't get me wrong, though, I still greatly enjoyed myself and tried to take it all in. Lots of fabulous, cheering crowds. Several bands including one accordion band, a circle of Native American drummers, and one not very good Elvis, but who am I to judge? This is a random little news video but it gives you a good idea of the crowds out in the towns on the way (make it past the few second intro and ignore the "Wellesley Scream Tunnel" title since that's not what it is. )Look at how deep with people the sidewalks are!

After a while, I was hearing lots of cheers along the lines of "love your mask!" This was happening super often and seemed to be getting closer to me so that I started getting excited for the person to catch up so I could see what everyone was cheering about, since I generally refuse to look behind me. She finally got up next to me and it turned out to be a girl in this orange/red masquerade feathered mask. I feel as though I spent a lot of time running near her and we did a lot of back and forth so I was super excited to find that she was in one of my pictures. Not only so I could show people who I was talking about but it also means that I was able to look up her bib number and the ability to look her up and make sure she finished.

I did actually look behind me somewhere in the middle miles. I was gaining on this group of three people in maybe their 20s running together - a girl and two guys. One of the guys was holding up a sign attached to a stout stick he had clearly nabbed out of the woods in the beginning. I remember wondering why he chose such a heavy looking branch rather than something lighter . . . The girl was laughing frequently as people cheered for them and I was dying to see what the sign said but the guy never spun it around - it was always facing forward. So I had no choice but to pass them and look back to see. Sadly, nothing too exciting, just a "Go Jen!" on a white sign. Still, it was super impressive for the guy to lug it the whole way and to stick by her during it. I wonder if she was able to finish - I never saw them go by me again.

I was able to see Team Hoyt for the first time, too, in the later miles. I ran by them and gave the son a thumbs up which was probably rather obnoxiously right in his face, but I hope not. Anyway, it was very neat to finally see them and say hi/good job. I found out later that this was to be their last Boston and last marathon but since they were among those not allowed to finish, they are going back next year.

Now, when the race started, it was a nice temperature. It got warm fairly quickly, though, and soon I was getting rather concerned. Logically I knew it couldn't be terribly hot (high 50s maybe?) but when you're coming from 30s, it sure feels hotter than it is, especially with the sun out. I started dumping water on myself at water stations and getting concerned about being overheated (just when I was thinking I was going to have some problems, though, we got a breeze and things cooled off). Thus some of the pictures where I look rather like a drowned rat . . .

My other favorite thing about that picture is how I'm all by myself. There isn't even a shadow of someone near me. Just me and the tree shadow. I can't tell you where this is on the course - for once I don't remember it at all. It had to be in that first half, though, since I'm looking rather wet.

If I could pick something about the race that wasn't how I remember it, it would be the Wellesley girls. I remember hearing them from a half mile out last time. This year, I didn't hear them at all until we got right there. Maybe it was a wind direction thing, though, since I could hear them behind me for ages once we went by. Before the race, I had decided to be calm through here. Last time, I got too excited and ran too fast and then you really feel that burst of speed a few minutes later as it drains on you. However, once you get there, you can't help but go to the side and high five every single one of them with a big grin. They love to see happy runners and I got told so many times that I was awesome or gorgeous or fabulous and how can you not love that? Here's a video of a guy running through it. A minute and a half of screaming girls. This must be a speedier guy, though, since there doesn't seem to be many people around him and there aren't many people high fiveing the girls.

You can see a timing mat in that video - we ran over several of them and each time, I would name off (in my head, that is) as many people as I could think of that I knew were tracking me online. Thanks for the support, everyone!

Around half way, I made the conscious decision to slow down. I could tell that I wasn't going to run a 3:30 - my pace was starting to fall off if I didn't concentrate on it and I figured I could either push hard until I blew up somewhere around mile 17 and then drag myself in or I could settle into a slightly slower and more comfortable pace and have more fun. I went with the latter. My splits for the first ten miles were lovely: 8:10 (all that weaving), 8:02, 8:03, 7:53 (oops), 8:04, 8:00, 7:58, 8:03, 7:54, 8:06. The next two were 8:18 and 8:14.

So in 2009, my knee was giving out at the start of the hills (miles 16-22) and I still had a long way to go. I don't think I ran a single step of Heartbreak Hill part from my knee hurting and part from freaking out that my knee hurt so much. This year I didn't walk a single step. I ran the entire way up, which I'm actually quite proud of and it felt pretty awesome to be doing it. On my way up, I got one of my favorite specifically for me cheers of the day, too. People along the way had been cheering for Northwoods or Minnesota back and forth, depending what caught their eye from my jersey. Well, somewhere up Heartbreak, there was this girl about my age by the side of the road who suddenly busts out with a very loud, very enthusiastic and, now that I think on it, probably drunk, "MINNESOTA IS AWESOME!" She yelled it with such happy and enthusiastic force that I was rather taken aback and couldn't do much more than wave at her.

Another random picture time. Somewhere in Boston proper, I believe.

As you enter into Boston, the crowds just get larger and louder. Running by Boston College is quite similar to running through Wellesley, except dominated by rather drunk college kids. I was in the middle of the road at this point, having determined that my knee was getting angry with me for running on the right hand side of the road the whole way (my left leg is just enough longer than my right to get pissy at things like this). The hollering crowds were making me crazy happy, though. I was feeling good still and loving being able to take notice of things this time. Part way through the Boston College gauntlet, I said (in fact, I'm pretty sure this was out loud) "Oh, screw it" and bee-lined straight over the fence line and started high-fiveing every hand I could find. They especially love a happy runner at this point in the race so it was a great time and felt awesome. Then, not thirty second after I finished going through Boston College, I beelined it on over to the other side of the road (where there were less runners and less spectators) and eventually threw up the gel I had eaten ten minutes ago, much to the alarm of the cop standing nearby. I guess suddenly spiking my heart rate was not such a grand idea . . . I waited until I was sure I was done, giving a thumbs up to the cop asking if I was okay. Sadly, I had already tucked my gel bag/carrier/thingy into my back pocket which left me with nothing to wipe my mouth with. So I did what any normal person would do . . . I tried a pine cone sitting by the train tracks. Yeah, that doesn't work so well. So I ambled on my way, after decided that picking up the discarded sponge from the elite runner was a bad idea. Actually, first I shot out of there and on my way before realizing I better slow it up for a bit and make sure it nothing else wanted to come up, which made for a couple of way-slower-than-I-wanted miles since this happened almost at the end of a mile mark. I'm going to go ahead and blame my two minutes on this section here (I really would have preferred to be under 3:50) but you know what? It was completely worth it because it's pretty great to feel awesome at at point and enjoy some excited high fives.

We follow along some trail track for quite a ways - it makes for one lonely side of the road and one side PACKED with spectators . I found myself racing a (slow moving) train at one point, which was fun. I won, by the way.

One missing picture this year is my Citgo sign picture. It's perhaps one of the stranger things about Boston - a giant Citgo sign that you run by and that marks one mile left. You can see it for about a mile beforehand since it's quite large and they have a photographer stationed right after it to get your picture with the sign in the background. Sadly, this was a photographer I actually saw (I had a tendency to not even notice them) but I was blocked by two guys at just the wrong angles in front of me. I took a picture of it myself on the walk back afterward because I'm a dork.

I remembered from 2009 that when we pass under a bridge, it's about half a mile left so I went with that. I was passing loads of people at this point, determined to finish super strong. There was a girl who went by me with a shirt that said "Never Give Up" on the back. It must have said the same on the front because I could hear people cheering for her that way. Well, we turned that right turn on Hereford and headed up the hill
and she looked as though she was too far ahead of me to catch back up but by golly, I was going to try.

That left turn onto Bolyston is something amazing. It makes me so sad and angry to know that that turn was stolen from over 5600 runners. I found the energy to blow by Never Give Up girl and just kept right on a truckin. I felt like I was flying down that last two blocks.

Coming across the finish line, my arms went up. I didn't plan it or think about how to cross the line, I was just so happy to feel good and to have really enjoyed the majority of my time out there. Final time: 3:52:04.

So once I finished, I got about twenty feet to walk at a normal pace - which was good because the sudden sprint at the end demanded some walking and not a sudden stop and stand. Unfortunately, that's what you get after about twenty feet. Shoulder to shoulder shuffling for what feels like forever before you get a bottle of water. And then forever more before you get your blanket. Another long shuffle to your medal.

I sat down on a large photographer hard case after my picture was taken before rejoining the stream of people and slowly making my way to the food/gatorade tents. I sat down again next to the gatorade tent for a bit again before rejoining the fray. What feels like forever later, the crowd starts thinning as you turn various ways for the exit or to some of the clothes buses. I sat down again on a wheelchair. Now, some of you have seen me immediately after a hard longer race and what I do is shake, sometimes pretty hard. I've found that the best thing to do is just submit to the crazy shaking and let my body shake itself out. Usually it's just my legs and I forget it is perhaps alarming looking to people who aren't me. I sat in the wheelchair for a minute until the person holding it decided she needed to start pushing me to the med tent. I was having none of that so I got up and shook my way to the bus to get my clothes. So there I was, standing in the short line, waiting to get my bag from the bus when some random runner pulled me to the start of the line, got my clothes, and asked if I needed help putting them on. No, no, I assured him I was fine and brought the bag to the back of the bus in front of our bus. I set the bag on the ground and looked at it for a minute. Dug out my pants, hitched a pant leg up to put it on, and then stood there and looked at it for another minute. At which point, another guy interrupted my shaking and helped me get my pants on - thanks random guy! I then decided it was a good idea to sit down against the bus tire.

I was just over two blocks straight down the chute from the finish line at this point. I was quickly joined by a couple other runners, so it was lucky that I got the best spot, leaning against the bus tire.

Lots of people were walking by. I had no desire to start moving yet so I texted my friends waiting that I was done and would be out in a bit and then took a couple artsy shots of people walking by and a sad lost glove. Keep in mind that these are the thinned out crowds - no longer nearly as crowded as half a block earlier.

It seemed like as good a time as any to make a phone call - not too loud and sitting was fairly comfortable, so I called Lisa to report on the race. Toward the end of our conversation, I heard a loud bang coming from the finish area. While I was definitely alarmed and stood up to see what was going on, my first thought went to "cannon," as it sounded just like a cannon to me. As I was processing that cannons and Patriot's Day made sense, there was a second bang that was louder than the first (since the second blast was actually a block further away, I'm guessing this is because it was quieter around me and I was listening/paying attention instead of talking). When I saw smoke rising over the Finish Line banner, I told Lisa I needed to go and find my friends.

People around me weren't panicked. We were confused. You could see people jumping to the worst conclusion even as the theories I was hearing said aloud were along the lines of "gas explosion" and "transformer burst" now that we had figured out (slowly, in our post-marathon addled brains) that it didn't make sense to have cannons at the finish line after 4 hours. At some point, a guy in a yellow jacket went HOLLERING down the sidewalk towards the finish. Something was kind of creepy about it and we all just watched him go by but nothing was really reaching us two blocks down so we kind of communally shrugged him off.

I decided it was time to find my friends, so I picked up my bag and called my parents as I wandered out of the official finish area. My dad picked up (I had forgotten that my mom was working) and I told him about my race and mentioned that he might want to turn the tv on, though I didn't think there would be anything on the Minnesota news about it.

As I hung up, the first emergency vehicles were starting to shoot down the block I was heading for. In fact, they Family Meeting Area I was heading to was on the road the volunteers were aggressively clearing. I decided to head that way anyway, since that's where I was supposed to meet my friends (turns out they had also been told to move and decided once they got out of the street and on the sidewalk that they were staying put until physically moved). There were crying runners around, but that's pretty normal. I stopped at an AT&T booth and gave my mom a quick call at work. Once I hung up, I saw my friends about twenty feet away. By this point, there had been several emergency vehicles and the family meeting area was destroyed/useless since they kept clearing us out of the roads. I remember being still fairly confused at this point, though the volunteers were stressed and panicky and my friends very much wanted to get out of there. I can't remember if my friends had an idea of what was going on or if I found out once I was on the phone with Kyle. I know he first told me that people had lost limbs and I suddenly remembered that Tonya had never passed me and I didn't know if she was okay and I made Kyle look her up to make sure she had finished before I would hang up. Happily she had finished - I think I would have tried to make my way to the finish area had she not.

My friends managed to make me leave, though I didn't want to go at all. I wanted to stay with my runners and make sure things were okay. I remember stopping at least once to help some poor mother who was freaking out because her phone was dying and her daughter hadn't finished and she didn't know what to do. We had decided to not take the subway, which was fine since the subway was shut down. Commence the 5ish mile walk back to my friend's house in Cambridge.

I have never received so many texts in my life. It was constant. I would answer one and three more would come in and it wasn't as though I could just ignore one and move on to the next. I didn't get many actual calls and was super confused when I got my voicemail tone without the phone ringing first. Turns out most calls couldn't go through. I sat down to answer a call from work when one of my friends realized she hadn't taken a post-run picture and demanded a smile:

Happily, the subway was open once got a little ways away. We walked a bit more and then hopped on, so we only had to walk 2, 2.5ish miles.

In general I'm sad and I'm angry. I'm not too freaked out anymore (though I was for a bit, it's SO EASY for me to loose 20 minutes in a road marathon and then I'm in front of the blasts or one of the 5,600 people robbed of a finish with no phone and no way to contact the panicked friends and family waiting to hear from me). I know it's hard for some of my trail friends to understand but Boston is something sacred. It's something I knew I was going to do since I heard about it, since when 13 miles was a long way, let alone 26. It was a dream of mine to be able to run through Wellesley, to run past the Citgo sign, to run down Bolyston, to earn my unicorn. The first time I walked into packet pickup in 2009, I got teary. Boston is sacred. I hurt for those runners who had their finishes stolen, who had their crowds silenced and kept running confusedly until running into a backlog of stopped runners. Worse are the spectators, the ones who were injured, who had their lives stolen, their limbs stolen, they were MY spectators. They were cheering for ME. They were there for ME. That's what's special about Boston - every person there is screaming their heads off for you.

Boston was going to be my last road marathon for a while and this was going to be my last Boston in the foreseeable future. Instead, I found myself trying to figure out how I could get to Boston in 2014. I can't do it without giving up on my main goal for the year, so it's not going to happen but I know now I have to go back some time.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Boston Part One!

In an effort to get this up, I bring you the first part of my Boston report, which doesn't actually include any of the race - that's part Two! The spacing on some of this seems to be weird, but I'm not going to worry about that right now.

Warning - this is a picture heavy Boston report! I flew into Boston Friday night and so Saturday was Expo time! Step one is to get your race packet. Well, actually step one is to show your packet-pick up card and photo ID and THEN get your packet.

Once you're eagerly clutching your precious packet in your happy hands, you make your way over to the shirt table where you get your bag and selected shirt size. Part of the awesome thing about Boston? You first are handed the shirt size you think will fit. Then you head wherever you find space, try it on, and exchange it for a different size if you want.

Then you get herded into the actual Expo - beginning with a large section of official Boston gear. First thing's first, though. Picture time with my bib number! The smiley face on the bag is how they know you picked up your shirt. Too bad I don't look excited at all . . . It's so fun to be surrounded by lots and lots of runners. It's one of my favorite things about any race weekend but with 27,000 people in one race, plus their generally active family/friends/spectators, that's a whole lot of runners.

So, same as last time, the Expo is really the same as any expo except so very crazy crowded. And then there's the part where you get to meet Kathrine Switzer. She was super awesome again - spending so much time with each person that she started getting in trouble from whoever was keeping an eye on her line because it was getting too long. Luckily, I was towards the front :) She gives everyone a hug, asks your name and how you are and truly wants to know how you are. She finds a connection with each person.

I had her sign my book a second time, which seemed to amuse her (different page, though!), and I also had her sign my race number.

I don't think she necessarily signed it upside down on purpose but we giggled about it when she was done and decided that meant I could look down at it for inspiration while I was running, if need be. After that it was lots of general expo wandering. I had some gift certificate money to spend, so I had a blast picking out Boston gear. I even managed to hold back and save some, which allowed me to buy a running pack for Cedar on sale later (not at the expo - in a store that gave you 20% for showing them your bib number). I wandered around for a while looking for a companion to my bright pink Boston shorts from last time or maybe a Boston skirt but no luck. I settled for a black pair of Boston shorts with blue/yellow trim, since I did actually need another pair.

Over the weekend, I stayed with my friend from high school and I had two other high school friends who live near-ish by come over to watch the race and hang out. It was great to be with them for a couple days - thanks so much for coming, guys! Sunday, we headed back into Boston (my friend lives in Cambridge, about 5 miles from the race finish). There were several pictures that I didn't even think to take my first time and I needed to make sure they happened. Pictures like me at the finish banner:

Or of me me kneeling (on my bad knee, silly girl) on the Finish Line.

Close up of the part of the finish line the the person taking the previous picture would have been standing on.

Okay, enough of that! Time to get ready to run which means obsessively laying everything out the night before. No, I didn't run in Vibrams, those were for afterward. Not that I remembered to change into them . . .

So, Boston starts in three waves. I was in Wave Two, starting at 10:20. However, this meant I had to catch the buses between 6:30-7. Everyone gathers in Boston Commons and ques in giant lines waiting for the massive numbers of buses. Enough buses to bring 27,000 people from Boston to Hopkinton. I feel as though this picture doesn't quite do it justice in terms of the crazy number of people waiting for buses. There is a line 4-5 people wide going as far down as the picture goes and winding around.

The key was to move to the middle lines rather than getting off the subway and immediately joining the first line right there. Step one here, though, is to hit the port-a-potty line because the bus ride is 45 minutes to over an hour and you don't want to be stuck on there and really needing a bathroom. As I was waiting in line, the volunteer in my line was waving to the loaded buses driving by.

This made me really happy so I had to take a picture of him. I waved at him as our bus drove away, too. Since I got on a bus more toward the front of the line, this meant I was able to choose my seat and also get the window. My seat partner was a great guy here with a training group from Illinois who were seated in front and also kitty corner from us. He said I look a ton like his daughter, which is why he sat next to me.

We actually spent a lot of the ride talking about skiing - he's a super speedy age grouper. We took pictures of each other with our bags (I blacked out his name here so if you want to freakishly stalk him, you have to work at it at least a little) so we would remember names post-race. I looked him up when I got back to internet and made sure he finished when he wanted and was safe. He did and was.

After driving for a while (this is why you get on an early bus, those horror stories out there about 1.5+ hour bus rides with traffic jams and runners jumping out the back to pee are always from people who get on a late bus) and then driving slowly through part of Hopkinton, we're dropped off at the school and a parking lot full of the buses that came before us. Get off the bus and follow everyone into the Athlete's Village.

This is not actually the start line, mind you, just the entrance to the Village. There you sit for a couple hours. Well, first I hightailed it to the bathrooms after the bus ride (shockingly short lines at first) and THEN I sat down. This is why people recommend that you bring a garbage bag - so you can sit/lay on the ground without getting a wet butt. Or an inflatable air mattress, like some people do. I settled for a garbage bag, though. I spread mine out and settled down for a bit. The group next to me was from Iceland and one of the guys had a crazy low number in the 100-somethings. Yikes. After laying down for a bit, and eating a half peanut butter and jelly sandwich, it didn't take too long for me to get a little antsy. So then it was time to jump in the ever growing bathroom line again.

Towards the front of the line, I watched DUFF MAN (he put a nice red cape on, as well) and a hotdog getting dressed.

Both with lower numbers in the 4,000s so these were definitely not charity runners. It was fun to see.

I decided to head to the starting area a little early. So - change from my keeper warmup gear (to be worn at the finish) to my throw warm-up gear (to be worn to the start line and then tossed), exit the Athlete's Village, find the bus to put my bag in (which included my camera since I didn't want to carry it or stop for pictures so only official pictures from here until the finish), and start the .7 mile walk to the start line. It was a constant crowd of people heading down and some of the houses had people out just watching the show. Fence lined the whole way with collection bags for your discarded gear at regular intervals - they gather everything you toss off and donate it. Last time, I had two friends to walk to the start with so it was a little strange walking there on my own since I'm also used to being at big races with at least one other person. I knew I'd run into Tonya in the corral but I didn't expect to see her before then. When we finally got to the starting area, Wave One was lined up and they were doing some announcements so it was back to a bathroom line for me. Which took maybe a little longer than normal since I let a couple Wave One guys who were in line behind me go in front of me.

Oh! While waiting for Wave One to go (NO jet fly over! I was so bummed! That's half the reason I headed over early), I saw a woman wearing this running dress. It was so cute. I loved it! And now I kind of want one - she said it's super comfy and it would eliminate the rubbing raw that I always get on my lower back from shorts. Anyway. Sidetrack finished . . .

Wave One was off and it was time to boogie into my corral (7!) for Wave Two. I took off my toss pants before heading over but decided to keep the zip up hoodie on until I started running. As I entered the corral and headed to the front, I was looking around for Tonya and just maybe was talking out loud along the lines of, "Tonya should be around here somewhere" when she said hi! It was nice to wait for the start next to a friend.

Up next - the actual RACE part of my race report!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

5 days!

Okay, I'm good and exited now. I'm checking the weather sites as though they actually mean anything (currently 55 with a high chance of rain and a headwind) and packing one of everything just in case. Or rather, planning on packing one of everything since I haven't actually started packing yet . . . At least I don't have to worry about single digits, snow, mud, and river crossings like some of my friends this weekend. Not that I don't also wish I was able to head to Zumbro, too . . .

I don't have too much of a plan for the race itself. I don't even know what a reasonable goal really is right now. I feel as though I'm in good shape but I don't know about good road marathon shape. And I had those 10 days of sick in March. So . . . under normalish weather conditions (no raging heat, no brutal head wind the entire way) anything under 3:50 sounds good with a preference to rock it out and see something 20 minutes faster than that. If we get not normalish weather, then it will probably become time to just have fun and enjoy.

Now, my old shoes were getting rather flat feeling and once I checked my shiny mileage spreadsheet I saw that they did, in fact, have probably a good 350 miles on them (I got them before I started using the spreadsheet, so I'm not positive on the exact mileage), so I decided on getting new shoes this last weekend. Since they're the same brand/model as usual, I'm not too concerned about switched to new shoes so close to a race. I've been on a couple of test runs and the problem area from my previous pair don't seem to exist on the new ones, so I'll probably wear them Monday. Granted, the runs were nothing too long but what I was worried about was a tight and sharp part of the heel that needed a couple weeks to bend back/soften up on the old pair and made itself apparent from the first three mile run that rubbed my heel off. I might wear my old shoes to walk around in this weekend and that way I have them with me if I change my mind. Though really, I'm checking a bag that will be probably mostly empty (since all race clothing will be on my carry on) so I could always just pack them, too.

If you don't know, I'm an over-packer for short trips. Especially for races. I want to have everything with me that I might possibly want. Now, come a longer trip and I'll probably have the exact same amount of stuff, so I'm not a heavy packer for those! It's New England in the spring - we don't really know what the weather will be like. So my racing jersey, t-shirt, and long sleeve. My roll down sleeves. Shorts, half tights, skirt. Boston has a .7 mile walk from where you drop your bag to the starting line so not only do you want clothes to put on when you finish, you ALSO want clothes to wear to the start that you can just toss (they have loads of collection points and donate everything that gets dumped to charity). Last time I found a zip up hoodie at Savers and it was great because I could keep in on for the first mile but still have my number showing and then toss it when I warmed up, so I'm planning on doing the same thing again. If it's even chilly enough to not toss it right at the start. Is it going to be 70? 50 with rain? Who knows! I've seen both predictions today!

Alright, I work a half day Friday. Then I take the Skyline Shuttle to the Cities (yay for not stressing about driving in gross weather or making a friend or sister worry about emergency snow parking with my car), fly out Friday night, arrive crazy late in Boston. I plan to sleep in late Saturday, spend too much time at the expo, and then hang out with friends until Monday. I may or may not update again before then, depending on how fast I pack tomorrow (ha! I'm a slow packer!) and what kind of time I have over the weekend.

If you want to track me, you can get texts or emails by going here. My bib number is 15438. Looks like it sends out at 10K, half marathon, 30k, and finish.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Human Race 8K

I ran the Human Race last weekend (the 24th, not the 31st). Though, it's not the Human Race now, as it's been renamed to Irish Run, complete with a bright green race shirt but hey, more shirts for being visible on a bike is always good, right? This was a short little 8K down in the Cities. I'm on the Austin-Jarrow racing team and we do the USATF team circuit - most of the races of which are in the Cities. The bad part is it's a long way to drive for short races but the good part is there's always lots of teammates running with you and they're generally a fun time.

The Irish Run changed it's start/finish this year to be right behind Macalester. It was also fun to have a race covering roads I ran in college - I knew exactly where I was at all times and knew what the road crossings meant in terms of distance to the finish, which really helps. We do about a mile down Summit and then turn around and head back up, past the start and just over a mile the other direction before turning around Billy Mitchell Law School and finishing where we started. I didn't think I would like the change but I really did. You end with a nice three block downhill, which is always a good finish.

It took a long time for my Short Race head to get in the game so perhaps two miles of warmup was not enough. Around two miles in the race, I felt a tap on my shoulder and saw my friend Rudy going by me. An awesome guy but he should not be passing me! Crap. My second mile split was no good either, but I generally try to not freak out about mile splits one way or the other and just use them as a guide. About a half mile later, I passed Rudy back and finally got some groove going and was running the 7 minute miles I should have been doing for mile 2. I wish the race had been at least a 10K and I could have done so much better! It was great fun to pass so many people on the way back, though, since it felt like the entire race was passing me in the beginning.

I came across the finish in what I thought was a few seconds slower than last year and was a bit bummed about it. But then I was rather hyper and ready for more running! On the way back to Duluth, I remembered that it took me a few seconds to cross the starting line and low and behold, I actually ran two seconds faster than last year! Granted, I wanted to run about thirty seconds faster than last year since last year was grossly hot but since I really haven't been doing any sort of speed training (so much for marathon specific track workouts . . .) I'm happy with it. Stupid second mile time. Good thing there were footsteps right behind me on the last stretch to help push out those two seconds! I didn't realize she was so close, though, until I saw the pictures! I did manage to drop her in the last block :) I like to think I'm a hard person to beat coming into the finish. Unless your name is Marcus . . .

So, here I am now, 13 days to Boston! Soon I can start stalking the weather predictions. Of course, I'll be bringing every possible racing gear anyway, so I don't know why I bother. I have my seat booked on a shuttle down to the Cities and back (it'll be nice to not have to drive, even if it gets me back to Duluth a little later Tuesday than I would like), my tickets are bought, my friend is going to host me. All that's left is obsessive list making to make sure I don't forget anything. And trying to figure out if airport security will let me fly with a sealed bottle of Boost . . .

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Boston number details!

Ooof. Take over a full week off due to sickness and concern about it lingering on forever and ever if I didn't rest and you come up with some pretty dismal March mileage so far . . . Let's talk about silly happy things. Like how I have my number and wave/corral assignment for Boston!

I am number 15438. Wave 2, corral 7.

Numbers are assigned by speed, so I have something like the 15,438 fastest qualifying time. I think. The elite runners all get their names on their bibs and I'm guessing they don't start the bibs with number 1 and I'm not sure where they start numbering at.

For the 2009 Boston, my qualifying time was two minutes slower and my number was 14800 - wave 2 corral 1 (pretty cool to start at the front of the race). So the race has definitely gotten speedier. From last year to this year, the website told me that the cut-off between Wave 1 and Wave 2 is 37 seconds faster and the cut-off between 2 and 3 is 23 seconds faster. My original goal for running Boston again was to get into Wave 1, but I since decided that probably wasn't going to happen and started to worry about being in Wave 3 so Wave 2 is just fine.

Less than 4 weeks away now! Have I mentioned how it's really strange to be excited but not have it be my big focus for the year? Basically since I started running in 6th grade and heard about this Boston Marathon thing, it was a goal to someday make it there. I was worried that I was maybe over-hyping it in my head but that ended up not being the case at all. Despite it being a horrible race for me, it was still an amazing experience and I left determined to go back and show the race what's-what. So, I'm heading back, now. I'm in good shape, for sure, though I'm not sure what kind of speedy-road-marathon-shape I'm in since I haven't really been focused on super marathon training. Guess I'll find out, huh?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


So after all of that whining about wanting to run when I was sick - what do I do on Saturday?

Well, I plan a long run. A loop course that involves the ability to shortcut home early in multiple places in case my post-sick body isn't interested in too long of a run. I planned with a friend for the afternoon so I could sleep in and also do some skiing in the morning with my husband. When I woke up at 6 to let dogs outside (okay, the husband let the dogs out and I woke up and checked out the window) and saw it was sleeting, not snowing, and sadly figured there wouldn't be any skiing in the morning. Back to bed only to wake up later to snow! Yay!

So I'm eating breakfast when my friend calls to say that she's okay with ditching the run. She's not training for anything yet and doesn't feel motivated to run long through gross roads. We decided to make a decision after my ski and husband and I headed for the Spirit Mountain ski trails, which I've never skied before. I actually enjoyed the weather, kind of foggy so you felt all by yourself, snowing in small (and sometimes sharp) flakes. The trails seemed great (though too hilly for my husband's liking) however, the conditions weren't stellar for skiing and the course wasn't well groomed. The poor husband had two inches of snow stuck to the bottom of his skis at all times and had a miserable, slow time of it. For what it's worth, though, my awesome shiny brand new skis did great!

*Sidetrack* I don't think I related that story here but basically, I've been skiing on skis that are too short for me pretty much since I've been skiing (because I wanted skis the same length as my skate skis so I could control them better). I finally got sick of pushing downhill and bought my first ever pair of brand new skis on a nice sale from a spectacular ski store (Itasca Trail Sports) in Grand Rapids. These skis have already been worth buying! It's so great to actually glide! *end sidetrack*

Now, driving to Spirit Mountain gave me a good preview of the road because we took sideroads there instead of the highway as my Jeep was about to hit 100,000 miles and I needed to make sure I was somewhere I could pull over a take a picture! Where there has been traffic, it was wet and slippery. Where there hadn't been much traffic, it was several inches of cold wet slush. The top of the hill (where the vast majority of my loop run was planned) was split pea soup fog. You couldn't even see half a block up by Spirit. Between that and the fact that I had to stop and hack the insides of my lungs out a few times while skiing, I decided that trying to run long just wasn't a good plan. So after Spirit, I dropped the husband off and headed up to Piedmont to do a quick loop there before lunch.

At Piedmont it was more raining than snowing and the tracks leaned more towards icy instead of the sticky I just came from but I managed to do both black diamond mini loops without any real threat of falling. I had fun doing a lap and got absolutely soaked in the process. Luckily, it was quite warm out so it didn't really matter. I almost headed out for another loop but was rather hungry.

Now, at Spirit the parking lot was packed to the brim and overflowing and yet, we only saw three people while we were out there (and two were skiing together). At Piedmont the parking lot was full but not overflowing and I didn't see a single other person out there. Goes to remind me to not be turned away if it looks as though the trails are going to be busy. There's a lot of room out there.

I came in for lunch and watched the rain get heavier and wetter and more gross and tried to rouse the motivation to go ski more in it. I figured if I were skipping my long run, then I definitely had to get out and do one more ski. Happily, as I was finally changing back into ski clothes, the rain changed back to snow.

This time I headed to Snowflake - they had free skiing on Saturday and I wanted to take advantage of it since I haven't skied out there since 7th or 8th grade and hardly remembered it. I brought along both pairs of skis and boots, just in case. When I got there, I strapped on my classic skis, skied up the main hill and didn't see any obvious classic tracks. I decided that meant I was fated to skate ski and so I turned around, skied back down the hill, and switched my boots and skis. Of course, once I got going on the trail proper, there were classic tracks but that's just fine. It was great to skate again.

Now, I haven't been skate skiing in . . . well, not at all last year and I don't think the year before either. So it's been a while. The problem with skate skiing is that there's not really a 'rest' mode of it. In classic, you can just go slow if you get tired. In skate skiing, I think slower might actually be harder. The 5K loop was exhausting! I was skiing a block and then stopping to break and marvel over the different muscles being used admire how beautiful the trails were and what a nice day out it was and then continuing on. I did get better as the ski went on and my muscles remembered how to ignore their own complaining. I skied past someone I know and when she asked how I was, I responded "Exhausted!" and explained I hadn't skated in ages. I then promptly skied back to the car after finishing the loop and switched back to my classic skis again since apparently I wasn't all that exhausted in the end.

By this point, it was REALLY SNOWING. As in, boulders falling down from the sky. It was absolutely gorgeous and I wish I had a camera. Without a hat, I was quickly becoming the Abominable Snow Sam. Of course, when each snowflake is literally a couple inches across, it doesn't take long for that to build up and I was quickly feeling as though I was back country skiing, even though I was in the tracks. When I started slipping out of the tracks because there was so much snow in them, I decided it was time to turn around and head back.

The point of all this being - I seemed to have skipped my long run for a day of skiing. And it was quite an enjoyable trade!

***Coming soon (tomorrow? Thursday?) to a blog near you: Sam gets her Boston race number and gets excited. ****

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Sicky sickling

So there's not too much to blog about right now seeing as how I haven't run since last Thursday and last Thursday's run I made it just over 2 miles. I've been sick with the variety of sick that you don't run with - namely a deep (and painful!) lung cough and some dizzy/heaviness/weak fatigued muscles. For a couple of days, I did little but sleep (14 hours on Monday) and sit around watching Netflixed episodes of Sherlock and Doctor Who. But! The cough is practically gone, I've been able to be at work since Wednesday, and there is no more dizzy so I will be running tomorrow! Yay! My running log has been sad and empty in March.

The Boston website tells me 36 days to race day. My plane tickets are bought (though I might move some times around since there's no fee for doing so) and I have a friend to stay with and two more friends coming to hang out. Of course, I haven't completely decided on my goal for the race, yet. I would like to at least beat my last Boston time by an hour . . . Beyond that, I'm not too sure. Perhaps it's time to lay out a hard road long run and see what kind of speed my legs are interested in. Or, I'll just show up and start out and see how long I can hang on. I'll keep you all posted on that!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Star fish and palm trees!

A coworker of mine mocked my excitement for heading "south" for a trip in the winter. Apparently Kentucky doesn't constitute far enough south - "Yeah, watch out for those starfish and palm trees" she said. Rather sarcastically said, in my opinion :) So Starfish and Palm Trees became my rallying cry for the weekend! And we saw both! Granted, the star fish were on a billboard and the palm trees were the light up kind outside of a bar we drove by but the details aren't important . . .

It's about a twelve hour drive from Duluth to Louisville so we left late afternoon Thursday and after a nasty drive through some gross snow, time for sleep! Step 1: Freeze for about an hour under super thin blankets. Step 2: Get up and rummage through various drawers for an extra blanket that MUST be stowed somewhere. Step 3: Eye up Andrea's bed to see if she beat me to the extra blanket. Nope. Step 4: Determine the heat is off. Turn on heat in room. Step 5: An hour later, roast for the rest of the night since there is no temperature control aside from "heat on." On the bright side, I had a delicious hotel Belgian waffle for breakfast! Then on to the rest of the drive down to Louisville. Good company makes long rides go fast and I'd go for a long trip with the same group of people any day.

Louisville was warm when we arrived. Sort of. We didn't need jackets, anyway. We sent the other Minnesota van to pick up all the race packets and met them at the free pasta feed. Hardly anyone was there (okay, we were the ONLY people there for a while) so it was super low key and also delicious. After some threats from the other van to withhold our packets, it was back to the hotel to start obsessing about what to wear in the morning. The weather called for 29ish at the start, potentially warming up to 50. Come morning, I decided on my Northwoods T, running sleeves, and half tights. However, since I'm indecisive about dressing myself, I also stuffed a long sleeve and a tank top in my drop bag and brought a bag with of other clothes, just in case. This ended up to be good because after seeing the other Minnesota runners clad in shorts, I was convinced I'd be too hot in half tights and changed to . . . my running skirt! First race in my skirt!

We got to the start rather early, but that ended up being okay - allowing me to wander from van to building, trying to decide on what to wear. It also gave me the chance to exchange my shirt! I hate, hate, hate choosing a size for a race shirt ahead of time (I think I've mentioned this before). Since I actually love to wear my race shirts around and want them to fit me, it matters to me. My general rule of thumb is, if it's gender specific, then I want a medium, if it's uni-sex, then a small. The website seemed to indicate uni-sex so a small I ordered. Not so. My shirt was TINY! Crisis averted, though, I was able to change my shirt for a men's medium, which not only meant a good fit but also loose sleeves instead of tight sleeves so, happy.

So here is the Minnesota crew is at the start. All in shorts. Notice everyone else in hoodies, pants, hats, etc . . . Granted, my hands were frozen for the first couple of miles and I really should have worn my mittens for the first section. After that, though, I was quite comfortable. I kept my arm warmers on until mile.... ummmmmm...20ish? I actually have no idea. I could look it up, but I like that I didn't really know where I was mileage wise most of the time, so I'm not going to look.

The course was three different loops. First a 6ish mile loop, back to the start, then over to another loop, and then a long stem with a lollipop at the end. I knew where 2 miles to go was and I knew the tiny loop at the end of the stem was 3 miles (so they say, anyway. I don't actually believe them) before heading back along the stem and into the finish.

I'm happy with how I did here. It was a long course (33 miles) and a tough course and I finished in 5th woman and 6:57. I was in 3rd for women for the longest time but I let that 3 mile loop slow me down way too much. I felt strong at the end, though, and could hear runners coming up behind me during the last 3 or 4 miles and was determined to not let them get me. They didn't. My stomach mostly behaved for the race. It did start feeling a little oozy several times but I took an s-cap each time and it calmed back down. During that 3 mile loop section, I did start getting certifiably nauseous but started sucking on a ginger chew and it went away. I LOVE my ginger chews! I even had to eat a gel around one since it was past food time and I didn't want to quick chew what was left of the ginger but still really needed to eat. My knee was also fine during the race, though it was a bit pissed the following week from the sudden jump in long run mileage.

The course was very runnable, which was nice. Mostly single track but not technical so that you could blast downhills - lots of fun! The trail was canted quite a bit in places and, of course, mostly in the direction that does not agree with my minor leg length descrepencies but that ended up not being a problem. There was also a long section in that second loop that was ATV trail width with even footing and nothing too steep so that there was a lot of sustained running at a decent pace. I'm happy that it both felt good and didn't seem to make my wheels come off later.

I decided during this race some of what I already discovered at Wild Duluth last year. The reason my ultra times are so much slower then they ought to be (compared to my road times/who I keep up with on roads) is my muscles. I'm actually incredibly weak in a lot of places and I think the combination of distance and trails really brings that out. So my renewed big goal for the year is to focus on this. I have a routine that I do after every run and a longer one that I mostly do on days I don't run. I'll keep adding to these as I get stronger and as I find exercise that I like and that work. I am determined to go into September knowing that I did everything possible to have a super strong body. If you have a favorite move, feel free to share it with me be it core work, upper body, legs, whatever.

Here I am immediately post race:

I hardly even look tired. To me this indicates a couple of things. First off, I definitely could have gone harder and maybe should have but I'm okay with going conservative in Feburary. Second, I'm already getting stronger. Now, ignore the mud on the hand holding my finisher heart. I certainly did not take a nose dive less than a minute from the finish on the only stuck up tiny corner of rock to be found.

For a February race, I am pleased. I do have a lot more detail I could share about the race but it's been over a week and I refuse to let a race blog entry hold back other entries again!