Wednesday, October 5, 2011

And so October begins....

Well, we're 5 days into October, the busiest month of my year since I moved back to Michigan and the racing bug really bit. It's the best month all year for running - the colors are changing, the weather is cooler - which is probably why so many races fall in October.

Before this month ends, I'll have done almost 4 half marathons in 28 days. "Almost" because I decided to forego my usual Detroit half marathon for the relay. I'm only doing the first 2 legs which puts me 0.9 miles less than the half marathon. On top of that, I also have half marathons in Myrtle Beach and Chicago coming up.

To begin the month, I once again participated in the Wine & Dine Half Marathon at Disney World this past weekend. The weekend was great - it started out with the "Meet Up & Eat Up" on Friday morning. This is a special even that runDisney did for 25 special attendees ("special" meaning that we were the first 25 to email into the contest and be selected). Not only did I get in, but so did my friend Julie who was traveling down for her first Disney race with me. During the Meet Up & Eat Up, we were able to listen to the physics of running from Olympic coach Brooks Johnson and additional running tips from former Olympian Jeff Galloway plus race prep tips from last year's winners Anton Van Zyl (who later went on to win this year's race as well) and Melissa Wisner. Then we were able to participate in a 2 mile training run with Jeff and learn a great post-workout recipe from one of Disney chef Gary Jones who is a triathlete himself. Best of all - they let us into the Expo early so that we could get our pic of race merchandise and pick up our bibs before the waiting crowd outside. We felt like VIPs as we were personally escorted past the long line of runners that were anxious to pounce on the Expo as soon as the doors opened. Bob Hitchcock from runDisney joked as he walked us across the complex, "Just don't look them in the eye and they'll leave you alone!"

After the Meet & Eat, Julie & I decided to spend a few hours in Animal Kingdom before heading over to Magic Kingdom for Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. It was a hot, humid day and I was more than a little nervous about what the weather was going to be for race day.

Fortunately, the humidity and heat ceased for Saturday. I woke up to an actually cool day. I boarded the early bus (5am) to the 5k. Usually I don't grab the first bus because it means a lot of waiting around, but I realized in the hotel that they had forgotten to give me my bib when I picked everything else up. As expected, I was able to pick up my bib with no problem once we were dropped off at Animal Kingdom. Because it was so early, the line for the photo op with Mickey and Minnie was really short, so I took advantage of that before settling down on the bleachers to listen to the dj and wait for the corrals to open up.

The 5k was good - running thru Animal Kingdom and some backlot areas by the barns. The smell of the barns bothered some people, but anyone who knows me, knows that manure is not an unfamiliar smell to me, so it didn't bother me at all. It would have been great to run thru the Magic Kingdom on it's 40th anniversary, but I've done so many races that run thru the castle that it really didn't bother me too much. In fact, I enjoyed the fact that I didn't have to negotiate that nasty inverted hill twice (anyone who's done a race thru Magic Kingdom knows exactly what I'm talking about and on last year's 5k, we hit it twice).

We followed the 5k with breakfast at 1900 Park Fare which was a lot of fun and very filling. Then we did a relatively lazy day, including a 2 hour nap in preparation for the 10pm starting time of the half marathon.

The weather couldn't have been more perfect - cool and dry. At ~7:30pm we got on the bus to ESPN Wide World of Sports for the pre-race festivities. I was so glad that I had gotten my Minnie and Mickey pic in the morning because the lines were HUGE for them by the time we got to the field. We just hung out for about an hour and then wandered over to the corrals in eager anticipation of them opening. Julie and I were both in C and we knew that the first couple turns in the race were left turns, so we wanted to position ourselves as close to the front left corner of the corral as possible. As soon as they opened the corrals at about 9:15pm, we accomplished that mission. Usually I like to be at the actual barrier between the corrals, but there was a curb that ended about 6 feet before the front and I decided that I could give up 6 feet of leverage in order to have a better spot to sit while I waited for the race to start.

The race started with the typical fireworks and fanfare. I started out at a pretty good trot, but my knees had been bothering me all day (we definitely overdid it the day before at the Animal and Magic Kingdoms) and I knew that they weren't going to let me keep up the pace. When we hit the first character stop, the 3 fairy godmothers from Sleeping Beauty, I stopped for a few seconds to snap a quick picture and then decided that October was too full of a race month to push things, so I was going to enjoy the race and not worry about time. I didn't stop to pose with any characters during the race, but did stop a take pics here and there. I also made sure I got a picture of the wizard's hat in Hollywood Studios. This was the 4th race that I've done thru Hollywood Studios and despite the fact that every race has gone by that hat, I never remember I made sure I had a pic to prove I was there!

By mile 7, which was before we got into Hollywood Studios, I started to notice the bicycle sweepers. Oh the stress - I must have spent too much time just enjoying the course! I asked how long before they were going to start picking people up and they said that we were 5 minutes ahead of pace. Ok, as long as I don't lose more than ~1 min per mile, I should be free and clear. When I hit mile 8, they said we were 6 minutes ahead of pace. Score! That gives me even more time (I later found out that they did their last pick up around 8.5, so I really wasn't in any danger of being picked up at that point, but I'm glad I didn't find that out until AFTER the race otherwise I may have really started lagging). The bicycle sweepers were really quite nice and encouraging. Once they closed down a mile marker, they'd ride up to the next and all we had to do was look at them to find out how long before they were shutting the next one down. That was much different than the sweepers in January at the marathon who were really quite nasty.

Just before mile 11 in Hollywood Studios, the bikes were passing me and I took the opportunity to ask when the last pick up was going to be. I knew they couldn't pick us up in the parks because they can't get buses in, but in January they had buses waiting at the Hollywood Studios parking lot. The sweeper gave me a very vague answer along the lines of "....well it depends how far back people are." I knew at that point that we were free and clear, but with just over 2 miles to go, I wanted to push it so I could enjoy the after party as much as possible.

The boardwalk area really is one of my favorite parts of this race and of the marathon in January. Not just because it's near the end, but because the scenery is different from the rest of the race (even in the dark). There are also 2 rather steep hills, especially for that late in a race. One is a bridge entering the yacht club and the other is a hill in Epcot (near last year's finish line). Call me crazy, but I LOVE hills! Plus, I know that once I hit those hills, I'm in the home stretch, so adrenaline is taking over. Crossing the bridge just made me smile and boosted my spirits for the rest of the race.

Fast forward to the 13 mile mark. At this point in the race, Mickey and Minnie had moved from the finish line and positioned themselves in a photo op area just feet from the finish line. I've never seen this in any of the other races. I'm torn as to which I prefer. I do like have them at the finish line, but it's a cool idea to get a pic of them as well. I know I was within spitting distance of finishing, but I stopped to take a picture of some random person with them. I didn't take the time to have my picture taken, but did come to a complete stop when snapping the picture. I then sprinted across (and past) the finish line. To the point that a volunteer actually told me I had to stop.

The finish line party was so much better than last year! I had a slight upset stomach crossing the finish line, but no where near as bad as last year. After consuming the nice, cold refreshing carbonated carbs (beer) at the finish line and the banana from my goodie bag, my queasy stomach calmed down. I rested for a few minutes with a couple on a bench while we did some people watching before heading back to the World Showcase in Epcot to meet up with Julie (who I later learned had PR'ed). After a few more pictures and chatting with some folks along the way, I finally found Julie. Even though it was late, we were able to get food. We chose the Caribbean for food because it had the shortest line, but compared to last year, ALL of the food stations had short lines.

All in all, Wine & Dine was another great race even though it wasn't one of my best. The improvements over last year were terrific and although I was planning on skipping next year, I'm starting to rethink that. This was the second Wine & Dine and I've done both. If you've done all of the Goofy Challenges, they call you Perfectly Goofy. If you've done all of the Princess Half Marathons, they call you Perfectly Princess. Hmmmm, in a few years, I wonder what they'll call us that have done all the Wine & Dines.....Perfectly Drunk?

Now a week to rest up before Detroit.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Kristi Yamaguchi I am not...

So I thought I'd take up ice skating. It sounded like fun and my friend Lauren had started taking lessons a couple years ago and absolutely loved them. I'd been debating for a while and then my friend Nicole asked me to join her in tennis lessons. I guess that opened the flood gates - if I could take the plunge into tennis lessons, I can take ice skating lessons too! (Look for a tennis blog in about 6 weeks after our first lesson.)

The first thing I did was contact the rink and make sure that they had adult classes. I really didn't want to be the only adult in a class of 6 yr olds. They assured me that the classes were separated by age groups: 3-5, 6-18, and adult. Whew! Massive embarrassment averted.

I was very excited....until the day of. Then I got VERY nervous. I drove to the rink and the first person I see in the parking lot was my neighbor who I forgot drove the zamboni. Great! That means someone I know will watch me fall on my rumph (and yes, I purposely added the "h").

So I go to the registration table (surrounded by 54 million little kids) and told the woman there that I was there for the adult beginner class. "Oh Janice, we're glad you're here!" Wait? How do you know my name? Then the light bulb went off and I asked, "If you know my name, does that mean....?" Before I could finish, she finished the sentence for me "Yes, you're the only adult". Guess it's become a private lesson.

Private lessons may sound cool at first, but let me point out that my class shares the ice with 4-5 other classes of sub-10 yr olds. Cute little 5 yr old boys that want to play hockey and Michelle Kwan wannabes that had moms following them around with competition outfits. Wonderful! Well, TECHNICALLY my class is only for just occurs 0.5 inches away from the other classes.

Next they told me that my class didn't really start at 6:15. It started at 6:45 with a half hour of practice time first. Practice? Practice what? The last time I had skates on my feet was about 25 years ago. But practice I did. I skated at about 0.05 miles per hour, inching my way around the edge of the rink. I felt like a pedophile skating back and forth, holding the wall, as all these little kids skated around, jumped, did flips, pyramids (ok, maybe I'm exaggerating a little) around me. I wonder if I could sneak out without anyone noticing? Dang, my neighbor already knew I was here and was watching me. No anonymous sneaking out.

After 30 minutes of absolute agony, it was time to meet my instructor. She's actually really nice and very patient. The first thing she taught me was how to fall (pretty sure I had that one mastered already) and then told me how during the last session, she couldn't demonstrate the falling lesson because she was pregnant at the time. Wait, you did this while you were pregnant? Are you crazy? And after you answer that, tell me why I'm here exactly.

The lesson was less than exciting - basically just drills back and forth across the ice as the Michelle Kwans did flips and turns around me. Surprisingly, after 30 minutes I was much more comfortable on the ice. I can now skate forwards and backwards (not fast or pretty, but I can go backwards). I can make big loops with my legs back and forth (I forget the technical name), and I know how to stop. Not bad for 30 minutes in 25 years!

Kristi Yamaguchi I am not, but it was indeed fun and I'm looking forward to next week!

Monday, September 19, 2011

A tough race can only mean the next one will be better, right?

Ouch! I haven't said that about a half marathon in a while, but yesterday's Capital City River Run really only has one word that adequately describes it. OUCH!

I was feeling great starting out. It was a great morning - sunny, but cool. Perfect weather for a race. I ran the first 0.15 miles at a pretty good pace - it was so comfortable that I continued to run longer than I typically do before starting my walk sequence. When I started to walk, it still felt good....until about 1/2 mile in and then BAM! Massive pain in my right calf that wrapped around the back of my leg and ended at the back of my ankle. I started going slower and slower and did little better than hobbled for the next 4 miles. By the time I hit mile 1, I was already the last person....not only last, but I could see the second to last person no closer than 1/4 mile ahead of me (and had she not had a bright pink shirt on, I probably wouldn't have seen her at all). Usually I enjoy joking around or thanking the volunteers as they cheer. However, with such pain in my leg, their cheers of "looking good" and "keep it up" seemed so patronizing. Each time I passed one of the kids from DeWitt's cross country team that were making sure no one drove out of a street or parking lot along Michigan avenue (and there were a lot of those kids), I had an urge to punch them in the face.

I thought about my Mom's well wishes the night before - "Have happy dancing feet tomorrow" and I wanted to cry. I also remembered the person from Ingham Regional Medical who wished everyone luck from the podium before the race started. She said that as sponsors of the race, they had a medical tent at the finish line if they needed it. I could count on one hand the number of times I've stopped at a med tent on a course (and with one exception, it's always just for Vaseline or Tylenol), but I was praying for one now.....but did her comment about having a med tent at the finish line mean there was nothing on the course? I tried to think back to the other times I've done this race and couldn't remember if there had been med tents or not. Ugh!

I stumbled thru Mile 2 and looked at my Garmin to determine how much longer until I had 2 full miles behind me.....only to notice that somewhere around Mile 1, I must have bumped my watch and turned off the GPS. Crap! So I turned it back on and once I got to Mile 2, glanced and noticed that my watch was now reading 1.49, so it had been off for about a 1/2 mile. Now I'll have to mentally remember to add a 1/2 mile each time to determine how far I've gone. Sounds simple, but it does play with your brain, although much better than the alternative (I've done too many races when my GPS reads farther than it should and I think I should have been done a half mile before).

As I got thru the 5k mark (3.1 miles), I knew we were about to enter the "River Run" portion of the race and there would definitely not be a chance to turn around. At least going down Michigan, there was a cop on his bike following me (btw - if you want to be humbled, be the last person in a race with the police on motorcycle, bicycle, or car behind you - I've been there many times and it's not a fun experience). As soon as I hit the River Walk, there would be no such person to help me out if I decide to throw in the towel. Then I remembered hearing about a guy who broke his foot around mile 4 of the Disneyland Half Marathon a couple weeks ago. He finished the remaining 9 miles. If he could do that, I can do this with some calf pain, right? Onto the River Walk I went.

As I rounded the cloverleaf from campus to the start of the River Walk, a volunteer was cheering me on saying "you've passed 4 and you're doing great". Wow! I didn't want to punch him in the face! Wow! I just realized my pain was nearly gone, so I hollered back to him (as I started jogging) "More important than Mile 4, I've passed my shin splints too!"

Now my favorite part of the run started. The water stations along the River Walk are fun. My favorite is always the group that turns their assigned stretch into a luau. I don't know what school it is, but you can hear them from a good 100 yds away. As soon as they get a hint that someone is coming close (remember, the second to last person was WAY in front of me), they start banging on drums and hooting and hollering. It was just the pick-me-up that I needed.

I'm not going to bore you with in depth details of the rest of the race, but there were definitely some highlights. The last 2/3 of the race was much better than the first 1/3.
  • A water stop around the half way mark had bananas which I eagerly snatched up (my lack of eating bananas the week prior to the race is part of my excuse for the leg pain). I don't know who the kid in the red hoodie was that gave me the banana or what school he was from, but he's my new hero!
  • Entering Hawk Island, there's a small part that I call a "Lollipop" where there's two-way traffic (the stick) before and after you hit the loop around the park - it was in that two way traffic that I saw someone wearing this year's Cowtown race shirt. Seeing someone in Michigan wearing a race shirt from one of my favorite Texas races was pretty cool, so I shouted out some encouragement to her as we passed each other.
  • By the time we'd left Hawk Island, I had passed several people - usually on hills (I love running hills!)
  • By mile 12, I had passed the 14 min/mile pacer, although in her defense, I think she was purposely going slow to show encouragement to the person she was walking with that looked like they were having a rough time.
  • The end of the race was different than previous years. Usually there's a steep hill and some meandering around downtown before ending up in the park. This time we came from the opposite direction, over a bridge and into the park. No steep hill, no meandering (the first year I did this race, I got lost in the meandering and actually crossed the finish line going in the opposite direction!) I LOVE the new finish. So much better.
  • By the end, my spirits were definitely back to where they typically are. I could hear the finish line across the river, so I looked at a volunteer, pointed, and said "Is that the finish?" He confirmed that it was, but told me that I can't swim there. I joked back that I was being really bad about my tri training lately and kept going straight toward the bridge.
  • When I finally crossed - it was at exactly 3 hours 40 minutes. Much slower than I had hoped, but several miles of 18 minute miles will do that to you. I'm just glad I was able to make up time, averaging a16:48 mile. I lost count of how many people I had passed after I passed the 14 minute pacer (she was #10), but according to the online results, 15 people crossed after me. Much better than I thought it was going to be the way things started out.
  • I treated myself to the Lion King 3D after the race which was AWE-SOME!
So today - 1 day post race? My lower back and right side of my ribs are a bit tight. I think I was compensating for my bum leg early on in the race. My legs are a bit tender (I don't feel guilty using the elevator at work today). Other than that, I feel pretty good.

I'm anxious for my next race in 2 weeks - a night race at Walt Disney World. The only race to combine 3 of my favorite things - Run Disney's Wine and Dine Half Marathon! I was using this race as a practice for Wine & Dine. I knew that no matter how slow/fast I was at the Capital City River Run, I will be faster at Wine & Dine because I'm faster at big races than small races (it's hard to be motivated when you can't see the person in front of you). With a 3 1/2 hour time limit at Wine & Dine, I know that I'll have no problems (assuming no unexpected pain/injury).

Now if only I could find a race that also includes livestock! :)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Not so sure about blogging....

Well, I don't have much free time and don't think that my life is all that interesting, but I've set up this account. It may or may not get any future posts, but thanks for visiting in the meantime.