Run Key West

As I alluded weeks ago, I went back down to Key West with the rest of Team Amazing Day to defend our title as lady olympic relay champs. Since I’m almost a month late to the party, I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by telling you that we did exactly that!

And the ever-impressive Amy even managed to take second in her age group, an arguably bigger feat, given how many people she had to beat.

For our part, we relayers only had to best 4 other teams–2 of which were the dreaded Team Drink and Tri…who actually turned out to be really nice once we talked to them.

But you want to hear about the run? Well, there’s a lot less to talk about there. While Beth went upstairs to shower, I waited in transition for Katie to come in from the bike. The wind was whipping (as I tried to warn her!), and everyone’s cyclist was posting slow-for-them times. But I’m pretty sure Katie was still the first female relay cyclist back into transition, so I grabbed her chip and headed out into that same headwind she’d just been battling.

I tried to run comfortably hard, my standard race starting pace, and I tried to keep an eye out for Wes on the bike. Amy passed and called out to me, and Wes came by not long behind her, looking pretty good for someone who’d only ridden 25 miles once before in his life. (I tried to warn him about the wind too, for the record.)

As I passed the first mile marker I was devastated to see an 8:36 on my watch. My effort level felt like a 7:36! But I still had 5 more of those awful miles to get through, so I tried not to worry about it. Or to spend too much time worrying that there would be an even-worse headwind on the way back. (That’s how Key West rolls.)

Luckily, I reached the turnaround to find that the wind disappeared. I didn’t feel a tail wind though, and now I could feel just how hot the sun was. At one point I told myself to pay attention to where I was running. The water and foliage were gorgeous, and I wanted to enjoy myself. But I had no idea where the competition was!

So I just kept going and going until I finally reached the beach. Yes, the last .2 were on the sand, which was a little cruel. Katie and Beth jumped in with me and immediately started to sprint ahead. “Come on!” they yelled as the caught up with the dude in front of me. “Urrrrggllleee,” I responded without speeding up. But finally we stepped onto some carpet, and I was able to chick the hell out of that guy. (Related: all day I wanted to apologize to everyone I passed, because I had it so much easier. At one point some lady did call after me to make sure I was a relay runner.)

That's how you win a relay, bitches!

Afterward we stuck around for the awards, got a little drunkenly salty when they held the relay results until after ALL the other results and then forgot to drink beers out of our victory glasses.

This year everyone got the memo about wearing their team shirt to the awards.

Then we all went out and had a drink with Chris McCormack.

Macca really sums up the organization and execution of this race here. At least it's in paradise and we win, amiright, Chris?

Blog Chocolate. Hot Blogcolate. Blog Chocoblog. I give up.‏

This blog post was written by my sister and Hot Chocolate 15k survivor, Katie. She promised other Katie that she wouldn’t complain too much, and I don’t think she did. Please enjoy this post while I work on my Key West race report, which won’t be anywhere near as entertaining as last year’s.

I firmly believe in not traveling for races; if I can’t bike, bus, or metro to your starting line, I’m happy to let someone with a car and a taste for race-parking blood take that spot. I live in one of the most active cities in the country, so I don’t have to go far to run almost any distance on any terrain. Plus I really, really like to sleep. I’m also a quite literal fairweather runner; if it’s too cold, too hot, too rainy, or too dark outside, I’ll pass, thanks. But when you put the words “hot chocolate” onto your December event’s name, you bet your ass I’m willing to be mildly inconvenienced. Hot chocolate is delicious. Throw in a ladies-cut jacket and my better judgment cedes all responsibility to my covetous id. Shit, for running, hot chocolate, and a jacket, I’ll wake up at 4:45 in the morning after working until 10:00 the night before, ride my bike across the city because the metro isn’t running yet, and mooch a ride off a friend’s friend to get to you. And that’s precisely what I did!

DC’s inaugural Hot Chocolate 5k/15k was held at the National Harbor, an oasis of hotels and conference sites in a suburban Maryland wasteland.* Despite being well off the metro, $45-65 to enter, and held in friggin’ December, some 18,000 runners schlepped to the starting lines from parking lots at Crystal City to Rosecroft Raceway. (I told you hot chocolate was delicious.) My friends and I parked at Rosecroft, grateful for the modest traffic we sat in when compared to the lines of unmoving drivers exiting at the Harbor. Conveniently, a half dozen shuttles arrived as we did, so despite being behind schedule, we made it to the start quickly. On the shuttle, I noticed someone checking the weather on their iPhone. It was 29 degrees outside, and I wished I’d worn more layers.

Walking from the shuttle stop, I overhead a volunteer announce that the start was delayed 20 minutes for each race and relayed the information to my friends. It seemed somewhat reasonable, given the traffic we’d observed.

Then we waited.

And waited.

The 5k started about 30 minutes late and the announcements stopped. Nobody told us that they’d mistakenly sent the runners in the wrong direction, and the 15k would run right into them if it was released. We just stood in the cold for another half hour as people got cranky. They chanted pro-start slogans. I suggested storming the hot chocolate tents at the finish festival. (Instead I ate some of the shot blocks I had packed, an uncharacteristic act of foresight on my part.) My friends devised a “Cinco de Mile” race that involves tequila shots, and you are rightly jealous. Finally, at 9am, they released the 15k, funneling the unseeded, slower runners into the seeded start. This was probably extremely frustrating for some faster competitors, but it pushed me to a comfortable 9:30 first mile.

As you’ve likely read on other race reports, the course was too narrow, and the first five miles abutted freeway traffic on one side. There were also cones and barrels all over the course. It was pretty unsafe, and I wasn’t able to crack another sub-10-minute mile until runners finally gave up and spilled across the entire roadway. We came off the freeway, crested a hill, and just beyond the five-mile marker enjoyed a long downhill past the announcer and cheering spectators. My spirits lifted as I picked off dozens of runners apparently unfamiliar with the strategy of friggin’ flying when the course is easy. Right around here, the course became scenic as well; instead of a four-lane highway, we ran on slightly rolling hills past hotels and green space. Had I been running alone, not with 12,000 others, it would have been a really pleasant and moderately challenging route. We snuck into the harbor’s downtown and, in the span of a mile, passed about four MarathonFoto photographers. We also seem to have passed the Awakening, if the photos are to be believed, but I don’t recall seeing it. The course veered onto a bike path and gravel stretch beside the harbor that, again, would have been pleasant were I a visiting businessman out for a jog and not one of 12,000 racers.

Somehow, I heaved my heft across the finish line in 1:28.18, pretty much exactly as fast as I’d hoped to finish. This seems miraculous given the crowds, but I am not going to question my awesomeness. My legs burned, and the spectators were crowding the finish line, but I managed to snag a bottle of water and stagger up to the finish festival. I drank a hot chocolate before they ran out of marshmallows. I wished they had spared us a few more pretzel rods or maybe a whole banana for our fondue dishes. I wondered if it was me that smelled so bad or the combined stinks of everyone present.

If my assessment of this race seems fairly neutral, it’s because I had a perfectly good race time, enjoyed but did not gorge myself on chocolate, and at least fit into my jacket even if the sleeves are a little short. I’m used to that. It comes with being long-limbed. So, no, I’m not calling for anyone’s heads or trying to run RAM racing out of DC for good. If you want to enjoy those comments, check out their facebook page. But next time my better judgment is questioning 1) driving to a race 2) in the winter and 3) when I’m working all weekend, I will probably take her advice: I’ll sleep in and make my own Swiss Miss when I wake up around 10:00 in my nice, warm bed.

Here's a pic of me and Katie at an infinitely better organized run--the one where we ran around town with a xeroxed piece of paper collecting shamrocks.

*It’s probably lovely; I don’t know. I only saw the freeway. (Ed. note–It is indeed a wasteland. I’ve been.)

Greetings from Paradise

Thanks to some wonky plane ticket pricing and stressful situations at work, I jumped at the chance to head down to Key West before the rest of my girls.

Best. decision. ever.

My 200th Post Is About Me

So, remember when I said that I wanted to write my 200th post about how awesome my T2 runners were? Well, I’ve got a lot going on right now, including my A race last weekend, and I figured I can’t just keep my blog in limbo forever while I wait to find the time to write those folks the post they deserve. Are they inspiring? Hell yes. Let’s just leave it at that for now.

And talk about me.

Saturday I headed down South to Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy, where hoop skirts still abound (just kidding. I WISH hoop skirts still abounded). Amy and I skipped work on Friday (which is why I’m still here at 7:30 p.m.) and made the drive through typical I-95S hell with prodigal CAR Kay. We got there just in time to hit the expo, where I needed to buy a new pair of sneakers for the race. Yes, you heard me right. I’ve done it before, and I’ll do it again. New shoes are my JAM, and I will wear them in a race up to and including 13.1 miles until I die! If Brooks doesn’t want me to do it, then they should start making sneakers that last longer than 200 miles.

Anyway, my local running store had already upgraded to the 2012 models, which are fug. And I’m not crazy enough to run a race in new updated shoes. So even though Amy offered to pick some up for me at her LRS, I said no thanks, I’ll just get some fo’ cheap at the expo. (This is foreshadowing, people.)

On the way to expo, we started talking about how we were feeling. Amy was nervous, but I said I felt really zen. I didn’t feel anything–I was just going to go out and run. Well, when we get to the expo to find ONLY Sauconys and discounted Adrenalines in every size except women’s 10, I could feel that zen slipping away into sheer terror. Yes, I had brought old sneakers, but I didn’t even bring my most recent pair. I just grabbed some old ones, because I figured there was no way in hell they wouldn’t have my sneakers at the expo.

Luckily, Amy, as a member of the 21st century, was able to look up the nearest running specialty store on her smartphone, while I just held my phone in my hand and pretended to study its ultra-cool keyboard, which is useless for doing anything besides communicating directly with a human being. We made a quick run to the store, which closed in–oh look at that–1o minutes. But they had the 2011 version of my shoes, and I grabbed them and headed back out to the CAR team dinner.

That was really the scariest part of the weekend for me, so forgive me for spending so much time on it. I did run a race the next day though, and my feelings about it can best be summed up as ambivalent though mostly positive. And I figured out why I was feeling so zen before the race–I had nothing to lose. Unlike my last big 13.1, I wasn’t planning to lay it out on the line. I’ve been uber-stressed lately, and while I very much viewed this as a return to my racing form, as the race I needed to prove to me that I made the right decision about my hip and my training over the last year, I still spent most of my time training for this race by standing still while other people ran around me. And the times I did run, well, I averaged about 15-minutes per mile with my runners. It was far from ideal, but it’s the training that I was able to do and still live the life that I wanted to live. A year ago I gave myself over to the marathon, and it burned me badly. If I’m going to come back, it’s going to be on my terms.

And so I went into the race with a max long run of 10 miles. I figured I could hold an 8-minute pace thanks to targeted strength training and interval work. And that’s exactly what I did. I’ll cut to the good part–I finished in 1:44:29, a time that is only 10 seconds slower than my PR and a world away from that race. Going into the Philly RnR last year, I was a basket case. I felt like I had sacrificed my life, and I didn’t feel like I was any faster for it. I felt all kinds of pressure to perform, and while I gutted it out at the half distance, I crumpled a month later in the full. My goal was to make that pace feel easy, because I knew I was a baby when it came to the marathon distance. If I don’t have the raw speed, well, I’m not going to find it out on that course.

So Saturday I started out at 7:54 and decided to pull it back a bit. My next miles were 7:57 and 8:01, just where I wanted to be. I continued on in that fashion, with outliers at 5 and 8, like everyone else it appears, and talked myself into running 13.1 miles that day. I began to slip at mile 10, mostly because I thought I was still in mile 9. I spent a lot of the time willing away small aches and convincing myself that if I stayed comfortable, I could finish the race, that my time didn’t matter. It wasn’t until I got to mile 11 that I really believed it, and then I began to speed back up. I hit mile 12 and then began gunning for the fast last mile that Kay had promised. I saw Coach George right before I turned to the downhill finish, and he yelled at me to pick it up. So I did. In that last 3/4 of a mile, I used up everything that I had been holding onto and busted out a 7:08 final mile to finish my second-fastest half marathon ever with a huge smile on my face.

I would describe my feelings after the race as “pleasantly surprised.” Am I sorry I didn’t try harder? A little. But mostly I’m just happy to be in a place that allows me to run well without pain and too much suffering. Plus I have another half marathon in a few weeks, and I plan to really prove myself there anyway.

Random Friday Facts

1. This is my 199th post. I had to throw something up here so I can recap my T2 runners running MCM as my 200th. It’s a big deal!

2. I thought A LOT about making my 200th post the one in which I officially retire from blogging. But then Katie introduced me to Get Off My Internets, and I realized I’m not alone in all the things I hate about the blog world.

3. And don’t get me wrong, of course there are many blogs I love and friends I’ve made through this one that keep it worthwhile. But I think a lot of healthy-living bloggers have eating disorders. And if I listened to my body as much as they seem to, I would probably just sit on the couch about 20 hours a day.

4. Though I totes listened to my body this morning and slept through my tempo workout. (I’m lazy.)

5. In case you hadn’t noticed, my facts aren’t random. They can’t be! I’m not a computer.

6. I just looked something up in the AP Stylebook so I could comment about it on another blog.

7. I know how hard it is to keep posts completely error-free and that typos happen to everyone. But goddammit, how hard is it to use the right word?

8. I’m kind of sad that I’m not running a marathon on Sunday. But I’m glad that I can skip workouts when I want! (See #4.)

9. Though I’m signed up for a lot of races in 2012. That’s what 6 months free of injury will do to a girl.

10. Has anyone else noticed that That Thing You Do! is on the radio in stores all the time now? No? Just me?

11. I almost bought a house last month. Then I had a lot of panic attacks about it and let it go.

12. I just took a break from typing this to register for another spring race.

13. I went rock climbing last night! It wasn’t as fun as I remember it being.

14. I’m going to be Katniss Everdeen for Halloween. I’ve been waiting to be her for a year! It’s the one reason I’m glad I’m not doing a marathon on Sunday.

15. Good luck to everyone racing this weekend! I’ll be out at mile 11 and 16 of MCM and cheering loudly for you!

Random Friday Facts

1. I don’t have to work today!

2. I had 144 page views on Monday. That’s a lot for me (up from like 8). I have no idea why.

3. To steal a fact shamelessly from Emily, I used to–and still sometimes do–bite my nails. It’s anxiety based, and putting nasty-tasting stuff on my nails just made me chew harder and wonder what was on my nails. (And when I was in Portland last year this woman at a bar kept coming up to me and telling me how nasty and disgusting I was being biting my nails. Lady, making me uncomfortable is NOT the best way to get me to stop.)

4. I’ll tell you guys the Ben Folds story sometime, but rest assured I have seen Ben himself play many many times. Except I think his newest music blows. I have a lot of strong feelings on the subject.

5. I’m going to see Darren Jessee, the BF5 drummer, on Sunday night, if anyone wants to join me. The music is great, and last time he held he door for me!

6. I have no formal training whatsoever as an editor. I had no idea my job even existed until I landed it. But I love it–reading for 40 hours a week is a sweet gig.

7. I don’t know why I never went to law school though.

8. When I was a kid, I aspired to be a yuppie. True story. I’m pretty sure I’ve made it, law school or not.

9. I can’t sit through movies.

10. I can, however, sit through hours and hours of TV on DVD. I just need the breaks between episodes.

11. I’ve known how to crochet since I was a kid, and I’m learning how to knit (and won’t stop talking about it), but I think things made of yarn are ugly.

12. My cousin, who is five months younger than me, just had her third kid this morning. That blows my mind.

13. My sister and I never got along as kids. Now we’re besties.

14. If I could be any kitchen utensil, I would be a Ninja. Because I would be a ninja, plus I could make smoothies!

15. As I told Liz last week, I’ve never been a bridesmaid. I was a flower girl twice, but that was a looooooooong time ago. Never a bridesmaid, never a bride.

16. This is my 198th post. What should I do for my 200th?

Three Things Thursday

1. I came into work today to find an email from our CEO closing the office tomorrow! It’s a Labor Day miracle! Wes has already agreed to take the day off with me. This year I pushed my vacation back to September (well, and November and December, and maybe another small one in January), and I’m feeling BURNT OUT in a big way. But this long weekend will be just the thing I need to power through to the the end of the month, when I will get a week’s worth of rest.

2. My good hip is bothering me. I know, right? I’m going to blame it on my intense ramp-up in mileage (0-20) and back down a bit and go from there. The good news is that I’m running as fast as ever, and I’m still 10 weeks from my race!

3. I tried to sign up for drum lessons this week, but then I found out they were in Chantilly. Chantilly is far, son. But if anyone knows any drummers who give lessons in the close-in DC area (ok, Maryland is out too), let me know. And in other music news, almost all my favorite bands are releasing CDs in the next few weeks. That includes Ben Folds Five! I cried when I found out about that. Ben Folds Five is my absolute, A#1 favorite band of all time. They are the reason I love music, and I think you could argue the reason that my life partner is a musician. My biggest regret is never getting to see them play live (I was too young–and as the oldest child my mom wouldn’t let me have any fun), so I’m hoping that they decide to play out a few more times now. And now, before this post gets too weird and I tell you how I chased Ben down the streets of NYC, I’ll stop.

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