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How to have a Ragnarly, dude! relay race September 5, 2014

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Today, we are a week out from Ragnar DC – squee!  I started re-reading posts this morning from Ragnar TN back in 2012, and it got me all excited for the fun that is to come.  But, I also started getting a little anxious about logistics and packing – after all, there are a LOT of moving parts when you’re talking about 12 people, 2 vans, 200 miles, and zero sleep.

There are oodles of blog posts about how to pack for Ragnar.  When I was prepping for Tennessee, the chronic overpacker in me got really frustrated – you want to have everything you could possibly need for 3 different “mini” races (and for lots of potential weather scenarios), but you also can’t take up so much room in the van that you don’t have any left for the really important stuff (otherwise known as your teammates and a cooler).

So, rather than put together yet another in-depth packing list, I’m going to talk about the things you probably DON’T need to bring to Ragnar…

Lounging/non-running clothes – Okay, so I’m not talking about clothes for partying after you finish the race, or PJs for in the hotel the night before the start.  I’m talking about clothes for DURING the race, after you have completed one of your legs and the waiting begins.  While I definitely recommend bringing three separate running outfits, there is no point in putting on “regular” clothes in between.  You probably won’t have time anyway.  Make sure you have flip flops or slippers or other comfortable non-running shoes, and call it a day.

Enough food for a small army – Yes, you will definitely eat a lot during Ragnar.  But, not everyone likes the same things, and even ONE person’s tastes will vary during a 30+hour period (for example, I liked pumpkin muffins at the beginning of Ragnar TN, but I had eaten so many of them by the end of my second leg that I never wanted to see another one as long as I lived).  Make sure you have plenty of hydration, and sure, pack some portable and chewable fuel, but remember that you can usually stop for food at least once or twice during the journey.  I distinctly recall both a Zaxby’s AND a Cracker Barrel stop during our van’s off time.  At the time, they were both the best meals I have ever had.

Full size pillows – They take up a LOT of room.  Chances are, not everyone will be sleeping at the same time, so you could always use folded up sleeping bags and/or blankets to rest your head.  If you have one of those airplane neck pillow things, all the better – it’s small, and it works for both sitting up sleep AND laying down sleep!

Your pet – I love my furbabies as much as the next person.  Probably more, come to think about it.  But as much as you don’t want to take Fifi to the kennel while you run around the countryside, do the humane thing and spare your dogs/cats/cockatoos the misery of being crammed into a van with a bunch of crazy, delirious humans.  Plus, you don’t want your best buddy breaking loose when one of your teammates, in a sleep deprived haze, opens the door to the van before you’ve actually put the leash on.

A bad attitude – Seriously, just don’t.  Ragnar is FUN!!!  If you come expecting to have a good time, meet some cool people, and enhance your existing friendships, you’ll be in great shape.  The opportunity to be tired and cranky will most certainly present itself, but don’t take the bait!

Anyone else have tips on what not to bring?


Running Up(s) and Down(s) September 4, 2014

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The downer is that I decided not to run the Marine Corps Marathon this year (booooo).  As thrilled as I was to win a spot in the lottery, the summer turned out to be way busier than I was anticipating, and training fell by the wayside.  There was no way I was prepared to run 26.2 miles, and I didn’t want to do it unless I could really do it well.  The good news is that MCM has a deferral program, so I paid a fee to guarantee my entry in the 2015 race.

So, what am I going to do to ensure that 2015 doesn’t go the way of 2014?  First things first, I had a consultation with a personal trainer last night – I think losing some weight and incorporating strength training into my fitness routine are both excellent ways to make progress towards next years race(s).  The workout was TOUGH, and I am still hurting today, but my miserable excuses for push-ups demonstrated that I need to get some expert help and not just focus on cardio.

Second, I am going to try to have a BLAST at Ragnar DC next weekend – hopefully, that will kick-start my get-back-in-shape campaign and renew my love of running and fitness.  Even reading some blog entries and recaps of last year’s DC Ragnar has started to get me in the spirit – so look for a post in the near future about things I am looking forward to (and hoping to do differently) during my second relay experience!

OORAH! March 22, 2014

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I entered the Marine Corps Marathon registration lottery (since I didn’t do the Rock & Roll full, I wanted to add one to my race schedule sometime in 2014), and guess what?  I GOT IN!

Marine Corps Marathon

I won’t start really training until June or July, but I am pretty stoked – it is supposed to be a GREAT race!

Who else will be running with the Marines?  Any thoughts on training plans or coaches?

Rock & Roll Half Marathon race report March 18, 2014

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Way back when, before the winter that knows no end, and before the hellish work travel of death, I thought it would be a great idea to run another full marathon.  I ran one in 2010 and 2012, so it made perfect sense to challenge myself to 26.2 again in 2014.

Well…best of intentions and all that.  Long story short, training was lackluster and it would not have been prudent to attempt the marathon.  So, we decided to drop down to the half marathon, and the race was this past Saturday.  It wasn’t my worst half, and it certainly wasn’t my best, but overall I enjoyed myself and emerged from the experience with my head held high.

It was a BEAUTIFUL day for running – 40s at the start and 60s by the end, with a mostly overcast sky.  I love the Rock & Roll races because the bands keep it interesting every couple of miles (gives me something to focus on besides the clomping of my feet), and this was no exception – the water stop volunteers were super nice as well.  It was awesome to see the whole DC running community out in full force!  It makes me think I will do more to get involved with non-TNT running groups from here on out.

The course was different from when we ran this half in 2012, and for the most part I loved the changes.  The exception?  The MASSIVE hill coming out of Rock Creek Park into Adams Morgan.  Holy.  Crap.  It was practically straight up!  I was huffing and puffing just trying to walk, let alone run.  The payoff was a nice downhill once we got to North Capitol Street, and then a nice jaunt through our neighborhood (NoMa/H Street/Capitol Hill)!  I also appreciated that the finish was not SO far away from Metro (unlike the Army Ten-Miler).

Bottom line, I’m glad we followed through with the race, and I look forward to warmer weather and hopefully getting into the lottery for the Marine Corps Marathon!  🙂


Failure to launch January 21, 2014

Posted by bettyjoan in Fundraising, Races, Running.
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You may have noticed that the Nike Women’s Half Marathon is no longer on my “Upcoming Races” list.  I originally signed up with Team In Training to do both the Rock & Roll USA Marathon and Nike as fundraising events.  But since Jason and I have had a lot more trouble raising the funds for RNR than we anticipated, I concluded that it just isn’t realistic to raise the additional funds that would allow me to do Nike.  Even though I definitely think it’s the right decision, I am bummed, especially since the lottery period has ended so I don’t have another way to sign up for the race.

We have never had this much trouble fundraising before.  We have done TONS of events with TNT, raising thousands and thousands of dollars for a cause that is very important to us.  I haven’t quite put my finger on what has been different this time around, but I have some theories, and I suspect it’s a combination of a couple of factors.

We will certainly be adjusting our approach going forward, but for now, we are still looking forward to RNR.  Our training hasn’t been perfect, but we are hoping to still be ready for the full marathon.  If things don’t work out, we’ll definitely still do the half.

Since Nike is off the table, does anyone have suggestions for good half marathons in the April-May timeframe?  Also, has anyone planned to do a marathon but switched to the half at the last minute?  If so, why?  Were you disappointed?

Running out of time December 30, 2013

Posted by bettyjoan in Cycling, Races, Running.
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When I sat down and began reflecting upon 2013 in terms of training and racing, I couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed.  Sure, I ran a half-marathon, a ten-miler, and a 10K, but they were some of my slowest races to date.  AND I backed out of the triathlon I was planning on doing in April.  I gained weight.  I didn’t incorporate exercise into my daily routine in as meaningful a way as I had in the past.  Overall, I felt like the year was…I don’t know…wasted?

Then again, this past year, I moved my career and my family and my LIFE to Washington, DC.  That kind of change is bound to take the wind out of your sails for a while, right?

On balance, while I may not have made as much progress in my training as I would have hoped in 2013, I think I made some important strides.  I joined Team In Training in DC and started working to build a new legacy of fundraising and racing for an amazing cause.  I started cycling to/from the office, when the weather permitted.  I definitely led a more active lifestyle in general, since we rarely drove and did a lot of wonderful walking with our pupster.

And, when I did run, I got views like this:

Wash Mon

And this:

photo 2

And, of course, this:

photo 1

So, I guess I’ll take it.  I won’t write 2013 completely off, but I will definitely strive to improve in 2014.  I would love to run the Rock & Roll USA Marathon in March in under five hours.  I’d love to run a sub-two hour half marathon at the Nike Women’s Half in April.  I’d love to join some other area running groups and build my training AND social circles.  I’d love to up my cycling game, not only by biking more, but also by moving from my bikeshare bike to my road bike for everyday commuting.

What are YOUR training goals for 2014?

New challenges November 8, 2013

Posted by bettyjoan in Fundraising, Races, Running.
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You may have noticed that there are some new races in my “Upcoming Races” widget.  Not only am I running the Veterans Day 10K this weekend (on a whim, a girlfriend suggested the race and I decided to jump on board), but I am also signed up for both the Rock & Roll USA Marathon – yes, the full – and the Nike Women’s Half Marathon.

As much as hubby and I wanted London to be our 2014 marathon (I figure I’m up for one full every two years), his work situation has made international travel pretty unlikely for the next year or two.  Also, we were really missing being involved with Team In Training, so we decided to register for whatever local race they were planning for Spring ’14.  Bing, bang, boom – that’s how we wound up committing to the RnR race.  I decided to tack on the Nike half as an extra challenge (to avoid the usual post-marathon exercise slump).

Obviously, since we are training with TNT, we are also fundraising!  I need to raise $3,200 for my two races, so here is my fundraising page:


Please stay tuned for training updates, fundraising events, and other super-fun marathon goodness.  🙂

What is everyone else’s race calendar looking like?

Army Ten-Miler race report October 22, 2013

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“Way back when,” when a colleague told me he couldn’t use his Army Ten-Miler bib, I bought it from him (gotta love races that allow folks to legally transfer numbers).  And “way back when,” I said that I was going to actually train for the race.  Well, “way back when” turned into “the race is this weekend,” and you can probably guess that training fell by the wayside, in favor of work and life and all of the usual excuses.

All of that said, I was still really excited about the Army Ten-Miler.  You see, I wasn’t a runner (or an athlete of any kind) when I lived in DC back in 2005-2008.  I was more of what you might call a drinker and a smoker (but not a midnight toker).  So, I have only recenly started seeing the District through a runner’s eyes, and I love what I see.  I couldn’t wait to run my first race in my new home, even if it was at a slow pace.

I went to the Expo on Saturday morning, and I zipped right through.  It was a large Expo, but it was still very well organized and easy to navigate.  Once I had my bib and shirt, I headed back home to relax and stay off my feet (by watching college football all day).  I made sure I had proper nutrition and hydration, and I went to bed early.  Since I didn’t have lofty expectations for myself, I wasn’t nervous at all and got a great night of sleep.

On race morning, I got up and geared up.  Even though it was pretty chilly, I opted for shorts and a tank, along with compression socks and arm warmers (which ended up being a great decision, since the sun warmed things up nicely).  After a quick bite to eat and a 5-Hour Energy, I jumped on Metro and made it to the start area really quickly.  I even had time for one more potty break before trying to find my orange corral.

The start area was kind of a CF.  There was “extra security,” which amounted to people being herded into one HUGE line, and then having to walk in front of law enforcement with arms up.  No scans, no wands, just hands up and a quick once-over.  There were colored balloon arches to tell you where to go for each wave, but there was no information and there were no signs indicating how to get there (and there were barricades everywhere, with no real sense of purpose or pattern).  Finally, though, the crowds parted enough that I could move toward where I was supposed to be.  I’m not sure what time we got started, but it was certainly after the planned 8:20 AM start for my wave.

In any case, we were off!  I tried to stay nice and steady in the first mile or so, since I have a tendency to let the adrenaline get the best of me and start off too fast.  The view over the Memorial Bridge was amazing, and running up Virginia Avenue was just enough of an incline to give me some good stretching.  We ran by the Potomac River for a while, and then we wound our way past a bunch of the monuments/memorials and through the Smithsonian area.  The last couple of miles, where we were on the 14th Street Bridge and the highway, were less scenic and not so interesting.  But the finisher’s chute at the Pentagon was definitely a welcome sight!  Overall, I really enjoyed the course.

Early in the going, I decided to do intervals (run 8 minutes/walk 2 minutes), which ended up being a great choice – I had almost NO PAIN for the entire ten miles.  I was able to finish strong and meet my goal of finishing in under two hours (official time was 1:58:14)!  The best part was that I still had a little bit in the tank, so if the race were a half marathon, I still could have completed it.  Win!

I didn’t stick around for the post-race festivities, opting instead to head home and eat all the food.  Bottom line, I would definitely do the Army Ten-Miler again.  I am really excited that it renewed my love of running – for reasons I’ll get into in a future post, I’m going to be running a lot more in the coming months!

Napa to Sonoma Half Marathon – the sequel July 26, 2013

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It has been a long time since I trained in earnest (thus, the lack of posting), so to say I had low expectations for the Napa to Sonoma Half Marathon would be the understatement of the decade.  That turned out to be good news, as I was able to put aside my usual competitive and time-centric thoughts and focus on the beauty and fun of the race.  What an idea, eh?

I would still recommend this race to anyone – it is a fantastic course, you get awesome swag (this year’s medal doubles as a coaster!), and there is lots of wine-drinking, including around mile 10 when you run right past the Gundlach Bundschu winery (definitely worth a visit while you’re in town).  The expo was in a better location this year, but it is still very small, so make sure you bring all of your own Gu/sport beans/special electrolyte powder/whatever.  I forgot my race belt, and luckily I was able to buy a replacement.

The weather was ideal for running – cool at the start, dry throughout, and only got warm/sunny at the very end (and if you finished more quickly, you probably didn’t have to deal with any heat/sun at all).  The whole trip, which was just under a week, was absolute climate perfection, especially after leaving a heat index of 110 degrees in DC.

Now that my first “race” (I use the quotation marks because…well, you can see my time on the right toolbar) since Ragnar is in the books, the question becomes: what next?  I am signed up for the Army Ten Miler in October, but I feel like something in between might be smart, since N2S was a wake-up call in terms of my need to stay on top of my fitness.

Maybe a 5K/10K?  Someone suggested the Parks Half Marathon – any thoughts?

Weather or Not to Train February 18, 2013

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You may have noticed that posting here has been kind of light.  Part of that is due to some personal/professional flux – more on that in a future entry.  But really, more than anything else, the reason for my lack of navel gazing is my lack of training…and my lack of training is due to HOLY CRAP, DID YOU KNOW THAT IT IS WINTER OUT THERE?!?!?!

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know that I live in Georgia, and winters down here are practically like summers in places like Buffalo and Vancouver and Nome.  But dammit, my blood is all thin and stuff, and I don’t live in Buffalo or Vancouver or Nome (why would anyone, for that matter?).  I live in Georgia, where it is supposed to be warm all the time and we aren’t supposed to have to worry about things like wind chills and full-face warmers.  It is really hard to get my happy ass on a bike when I know I am going to be frozen from head to toe within 5 minutes of starting to ride – especially when cycling isn’t a great joy for me anyway.

The kicker is, our next event is St. Anthony’s, an Olympic distance triathlon in St. Petersburg, Florida, on April 28.  That makes motivation even harder, since I know that the weather in St. Pete in late April is not exactly going to be wintry.  I know, anything can happen, but let’s be real – it’s going to be lovely and fabulous and everything you wish for when you sign up to do a race in Florida.

The good news is, I have at least been keeping up with the swimming component of training (the only part that is climate controlled), so at least I (probably) won’t die a watery death.

How does everyone else stay motivated when the weather’s got you down?