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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?

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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!  🙂

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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?

Ragnar Tennessee race report – part 3 December 10, 2012

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You wouldn’t think you could get decent sleep on the floor of a high school gym with 200 other people.  You would be wrong.  I completely zonked out and was disappointed, to say the least, when my alarm rudely awakened me to tell me it was time to get moving again.  The good news?  It was a BEAUTIFUL morning, and after two nighttime legs, I was downright giddy about running during daylight hours.  We gathered the Van 2 folks and headed to the last major exchange, stopping for breakfast on the way.

Van 2

Before we knew it, we were off and running again.  The last bunch of legs were tough – Shawn had yet another doozy full of hills, and Jeremy had his longest mileage yet – but the scenery was lovely, and it took us through some really ritzy areas of suburban Nashville.  I kept secretly hoping that a country music star would pop out of his or her house to cheer us on.  I mean, come on, Blake Shelton – is that too much to ask?!?!

Then, before I knew it, it was time for me to bring it on home.  That’s right, I was charged with running the final leg, the leg that would bring me into downtown Nashville and our whole team over the finish line.  The team planned to meet me a little bit before the finish, so we could all cross together, and I couldn’t wait to make it happen.  I started off feeling awesome, just happy that I wasn’t decked out with headlamps and blinky lights.  But it didn’t take long for me to realize that it was a LOT warmer than I had anticipated, and my body was just plain beat up.  I tried to power through, but the course was super confusing (read: demoralizing), there was construction everywhere (read: fumes), and I just couldn’t gear myself up the way I wanted.  I walked.  A lot.  I felt a little better when I saw a hydration station (yet again, I was running a no-van-support leg), so I could refill my long-since-empty bottle.  When I came through a lovely park near town, I started to hype myself up.  Your team is waiting.  DO IT.  I picked up the pace, and then WHAM.  Tourist-ville.  It was like a wall of big hair and cigarette smoke.  GAH.  I said a number of not-safe-for-country-radio words, but then I crossed the street and FINALLY saw my team.  Woo hoo!  We all ran across the finish line, in various stages of battered, bruised, broken-ness, and became Ragnarians.  We did it!  We ran from Chattanooga to Nashville and lived to tell the tale.  More importantly, we didn’t kill each other, and we emerged better friends than when we started the journey.

Finish

Bottom line: Ragnar was hard.  Like, REALLY hard.  There are definitely things I would do differently next time.  But there WILL be a next time.  I had a blast, and I would recommend the race to anyone.  I will always treasure the experience – and it is pretty badass to be able to drive home from Nashville to Chattanooga and think, “Yeah…I ran that.”  😉

Ragnar Tennessee race report – part 2 November 24, 2012

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After our first full cycle of both vans, our van decided to find something to eat and hit the local Wal-Mart before moving to the next major exchange for showers and possible naptime.  That turned out to be ill-advised, because a) the exchange didn’t open when we were ready, due to a high school football game, and b) Van 1 absolutely BLEW through their second legs, and they put us about 30 minutes ahead of schedule.  So, I was naked in a locker room (after simultaneously the best and worst shower of my life) when I got a text from Van 1 that basically said, “Get ready, here we come!”  After some squealing and running around and minor panicking, we got our shit together and headed to the handoff point.  Unfortunately, this is where pictures get kind of spotty – it is hard to capture nighttime Ragnar-ing!

The second legs seemed to go really well.  They were a lot quieter than the first round – I think that makes sense, since they were in the middle of the night AND they were each generally a bit shorter.  We tried to stay close to our runners as much as possible, which ended up being fortuitous for Raphael, who took a wrong turn at the beginning of his leg and would have wound up in Ohio had we not seen him and put him back on the right path.

By the time it was my turn to run again, everyone had one thing on their minds – SLEEP.  I was less anxious about this leg, since it was half the distance and I had already survived one overnight run, but I gotta tell ya – it still worked my nerves.  There were dogs barking EVERYWHERE in the distance, and I was sure I was going to have a run-in with one of them at some point.  Thankfully, I focused on my breathing and I got through the 3.6 miles with my sanity in tact.  After passing the bracelet to Van 1, I headed into the high school gym and settled into my sleeping bag.  Two hours of sleep would have to do…

Ragnar Tennessee race report – part 1 November 18, 2012

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As I mentioned previously, Ragnar kind of snuck up on us.  Even though we had a team meeting and generally knew what our plan was, I woke up the Thursday we were supposed to depart and I was VERY nervous.  Thankfully, I had taken the day off, so I had plenty of time to pack and prepare.  I baked some pumpkin muffins for the team, dropped the pupster off at doggie camp, and worked for far too many hours on the shockingly difficult process of packing for an overnight race.  Seriously, it is HARD to pack for two days in a van.  I ended up bringing a completely different outfit for each leg (awesome idea), and some extra clothes for lounging (totally unnecessary, as there was not as much time/opportunity to change as I thought), but overall I tried to bring as little as possible.  I am a chronic overpacker, so it was quite challenging!

We met at our captain’s house around 6:30 PM, as not everyone had the luxury of not working.  We distributed some gear and goodies, and we were on our way.  By the time we arrived in Chattanooga, it was pretty late and everyone just wanted to get to sleep, so we decided to decorate the van the following morning.  Unfortunately, I slept TERRIBLY – I don’t know if it was excitement or terror or what, but I just did not get any quality rest.  Boo.  Soon enough, it was race morning – time to head to the start line and see Van 1 off!  Well, after a team picture, of course…

As soon as we sent Van 1 on its way, we headed to the Cracker Barrel for a good solid breakfast.  As soon as we ordered, I got a text from one of our Van 1 compatriots – turns out that Runner #1 decided to attempt a “running moon” and, well, it did not turn out so great.  Thankfully, no one was seriously hurt (well, I still maintain that we were all mentally scarred), but it definitely set the tone for the crazy journey ahead of us.  I mean, really – 30 minutes in and we were already talking about someone’s naked ass?  Oy…

With full tummies, we headed to exchange 6 for our Van 2 safety briefing.  Before we knew it, it was time for the handoff and for our van to take over.  Shawn was our first runner up, and after we passed him coming out of the park, we realized he was in for a MONSTER challenge.  As we drove his leg, our jaws just dropped farther and farther open – it was a really steep incline, and it just never seemed to end.  We got to the exchange and waited, and we were all so proud and impressed when Shawn crested the hill and passed the bracelet on.  Whew!  The next few legs were easy to moderate – Jason, Jeremy, Raphael, and Stephanie all did great, and we enjoyed cheering them on as we passed them on the road AND met them at the exchange points.  We also enjoyed a lot of funny looks AND mad respect for our injured comrades – Raph was running in his sling (dislocated shoulder), and Jaclyn was driving us around in her boot (stress fracture)!

Finally, after what seemed like a lifetime, it was time for my first leg.  It was already full-on dark.  I was full-on panicking.  I got geared up in my reflective vest, two blinky rear lights, and head lamp.  Stephanie ended up running the previous leg faster than we anticipated, so I had to bust ass to go get the bracelet from her – it totally wasn’t her fault, but it just added extra anxiety to an already nerve-wracking situation.  My heart rate was all over the place.  The first little bit was uphill, but then there was a serious and steady decline, and it. Was. HORRIFYING.  I mean, I am not trying to be melodramatic, but it may have been the scariest thing I have ever done.  Think about it – as a woman, you are always told, don’t run in the dark, don’t run by yourself, don’t run in areas you don’t know.  Well, I was knocking out all three of those no-no’s all at once.  Every noise made me worry that I was going to be attacked by wild animals.  Every curve or bump in the road made me terrified that I was going to fall and break my ankle (again).  INTENSE.  Thankfully, a lovely young lady from another team paced with me for a couple of miles, and it really helped.  After the long downhill, the leg become more challenging – a lot more climbing than I had anticipated.  Between the darkness, the terrain, and the solitude, I really think those 7.9 miles may have been harder, at least mentally, than either of the two marathons I’ve completed.

When I saw the “one mile to go” sign, I was super duper happy.  When I saw the lights and heard the cheers from the exchange point, I was even MORE super duper happy!  I passed the bracelet to Runner #1, and the rotation started all over again.  After hugs all around, it was time to find a shower…

 

Summer running, happened so fast (or not) July 19, 2012

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Well, judging by the record-high temperatures, summer is definitely here – and shockingly, I’ve actually done some racing!

Back in mid-June, I ran the ATC Braves Country Fathers Day 4-Miler.  I didn’t have any specific goals for the event, having never raced that particular distance before.  The course was challenging, with lots of ups and downs, but the weather was great and the finish – right on the warning track, inside Turner Field – made all of the elevation changes worthwhile.  I saw a few friends and felt very strong overall, and I finished in 39:57.  A sub-40 minute 4-miler (just barely, but still)?  Yep, I’ll take that.

Then, before I knew it, it was July 4 – and in Atlanta, that means the Peachtree Road Race!  I love Peachtree – it is such an amazing tradition that is unique to my city, and it gets me excited every year.  Though, to be fair, I’m not sure what I get more jazzed about – actually running the race, or watching the coverage on TV after I get home!

Setting goals for Peachtree is tricky – after all, you are running with 60,000 of your closest friends, and it is usually crazy stinkin’ hot.  Combine those factors with a very challenging course, and you have less-than-ideal conditions for a PR.  However, after a marathon in April and a pretty good streak of faster running (for me, anyway), I was hoping that I could get my Peachtree time down closer to an hour (for reference, I completed the 2011 event in 1:10 and change).

The morning of the race, we took MARTA to the start and then went immediately to our corrals (F for me and G for hubby).  We timed it pretty darn well – we didn’t have to stand around for long before we were off and running.  I took off pretty quickly and darted around the many, many, MANY people who had no  business being that far up in the corrals (start placement is based on qualifying times, so theoretically you should be running with people of similar abilities).  The first few miles were awesome – I was running a really solid pace, but I didn’t feel like I was overexerting myself.  I took water at each opportunity, and I smiled at all of the folks who had gathered to watch the madness (they say there are usually 150,000 spectators).

I was really feeling good going into “Cardiac Hill,” and I moved over to the right side of the road so I could see my favorite part of the race – the Shepherd Center patients.  Well, that turned out to be the WRONG idea if I wanted a faster time – my emotions got the better of me, and I started crying when I saw all of the men and women with spinal injuries out on the sidewalk cheering on all of the runners.  It was incredibly motivating, of course, but crying and running don’t mix – my heart rate was all over the place, and I had to really slow down and then walk for a bit to get things back in working order.  Finally, I pulled myself together and had a strong final mile, and I was thrilled to cross the finish line a little faster than the previous year (1:07:23).

The post-Peachtree weeks have been pretty lame as far as running.  Actually, they have been lame in terms of exercise in general – I have been in a bit of a slump, and I have entered the time of year where I travel a lot for work.  I am starting to feel heavy and bloated and out of shape after my most recent business trip (wrapped up just this afternoon, in fact), so I’m hoping I can muster up the gumption to start a better workout streak.

Next up, unless we schedule something else – Bike MS and Ragnar Tennessee!

Rock & Roll Madrid Marathon race report (parte dos) June 18, 2012

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Race day in Madrid was so exciting – obviously, Jason was amped up about his first marathon, and I was pretty pumped that it wasn’t just me getting up at the buttcrack of dawn (the whole couples training thing was really nice – instant company).  We got dressed, grabbed all of our gear, and headed over to meet the team at their hotel.  There was lots of nervous energy, but everyone seemed to be in good spirits, taking photos and chatting about what was to come.  We rode Metro together to the start, which was actually a pretty fun experience – at 6 AM, the only other folks on public transportation were finishing up their epic adventures from the previous night (Spaniards are definitely a fun-loving, hard-partying bunch).

After we dropped our gear, the waiting game began.  Finally, it was time to line up in the corral (it was just one big start line – no real waves to speak of).  Jason and I had decided that we would each run our own races, so I kissed him good luck and partnered up with one of my mentees who wanted a pacer.  Before we knew it, we were off!  It was a lovely, cool morning, so I tried to settle into a comfortable rhythm – I was still able to chat, but I wasn’t just lollygagging along.  We were able to watch some of the 10K-ers make the turn at their halfway point (which prompted some folks to wish they’d opted for the shorter distance), and then we split from them entirely.  We went through some cute residential areas of Madrid, and other than a quick pit stop behind some trees, my mentee and I were chugging right along.  We saw our Coach and our TNT staff rep, and they reported that the whole team was doing great.  We also went through the awesome downtown parts of Madrid, which was super fun – such a gorgeous city.

When we reached the half marathon point, I was really excited – I was maintaining between a 10:00 and 10:30 pace, and I wasn’t having any pain.  Woo hoo!  At about mile 15 or 16, we headed into Casa de Campo, which is an enormous park.  Unfortunately, I started to hit the wall.  I was slowing down, and we had run into a few of our teammates, so I told my mentee to go ahead with them and I’d catch up if possible.  Well…not possible.  The park had NO crowd support, there were cyclists zipping by everywhere, and the scenery was just boring after a mile or two.  So, even though my body was fine, my mind lost its edge and I really dropped my pace.   I was frustrated and discouraged, but I knew that I would be raring to go again once I got back on city streets.

Sure enough, when I exited the park, I got renewed energy and determination.  Seriously, the benefit of doing a race in a country where women don’t run (the field was 15% women, up from 8% the previous year) is that the crowd is SO PUMPED to see a chick, they cheer extra loud for you.  I dug deep and kept going, and finally I was at the last turn.  I saw our Head Coach, and he mentioned that someone on the team had been picked up by the sweeper van.  I got a little nervous that it was Jason, but I decided that was hogwash and I needed to haul ass to the finish line to see him cross.  I ran through the chute with my coach, and I was rewarded with a time of 5:18:24!!!  It was under 5:30, and a huge improvement over marathon #1 in Chicago, so I was incredibly satisfied.

After getting my medal and hobbling over to the TNT tent (which was fantastically located right next to the finish line), I positioned myself to watch Jason finish his first marathon.  Five minutes went by, then ten, then fifteen…and I started to get very worried.  Surely he was coming soon, right?  Surely he wasn’t the one who got picked up by the sweeper, right???  The race had a strict 6-hour time limit, and as the clock ticked on and the officials looked like they were going to disassemble the finish area, I started freaking out.  Then, I saw our coaches running with someone down the chute – it was Jason!  He looked exhausted, but his arms were raised up high and he crossed that finish line with a smile on his face, and just under the 6-hour mark.  I started bawling – I have never been so proud in my life.

After some EPIC celebrating at the hotel bar (for those of you who don’t know me, I have a Madrid-themed tattoo, and it resulted in a LOT of free-flowing gin), we continued with the best vacation EVER.  We finished our time in Madrid by visiting the Prado, El Escorial, Valle de los Caidos, and even a fun Spanish brewpub.  From there, we moved on to Granada, where we ate some delicious food and marveled at the beauty of the Alhambra.  Finally, we took a VERY turbulent plane ride to Barcelona, where we explored all parts of what was previously my least favorite city in Spain (I was violently mugged in Barcelona when I was studying abroad) – the food, the shopping, and the architecture definitely changed my opinion of the place!

All in all, I would highly recommend the international marathon experience – in face, we are thinking about planning our next 26.2 for London in 2014.  It’s a wonderful way to see a new city and really EARN that vacation.  🙂

Rock & Roll Madrid Marathon race report (parte uno) June 13, 2012

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Wow, I really left the ol’ blog hangin’ for a while – I can’t believe that I haven’t posted a race report from the Madrid marathon!  It will be very difficult to summarize the experience in one post, but I’ll give it a shot.  After all, one day, when I am old and grey and my memory is toast, I’ll want to read about the good old days when I was running marathons.

The whole Madrid team (minus one or two who had decided to fly earlier in the week) gathered at the airport on the Thursday evening before the race.  We celebrated our voyage in the Delta Sky Lounge – nice!  THAT is how you travel, for sure.  I was so glad we opted for the non-stop overnight flight – basically, as soon as we got settled on the plane, I popped a sleeping pill and went nighty night.  Jason swears I woke up to eat dinner, but I have absolutely no recollection of that.  Gotta love Ambien.

Eight hours later, we arrived in Madrid and it was Friday morning.  We cabbed it to our hotel and were allowed to check in early – it pays to be a loyal Intercontinental customer!  We decided to go ahead and get the Expo over with – I really hate Expos, and this one was no exception.  Not only was it a haul and a half from Metro, but it was a total snooze-fest.  Plus, the womens’ shirts, while cool to look at (they were sleeveless and kind of soccer jersey-ish), were sized SO small that I will never be able to wear mine for actual running.  I guess we giant American women need to miniaturize ourselves if we want to run European races.

On Friday night, we carbo-loaded as a team at a fun Italian restaurant near the hotel where everyone else was staying.  On Saturday, we just took it easy and then joined up with the team for a strategy meeting and the Inspiration Dinner.  It was a really emotional evening, for so many reasons, but it made me even more determined to ENJOY the 26.2 miles and really soak in the experience.  I don’t know if it was the crying or the delayed jet lag, but that night I had the best pre-marathon sleep of my life.

Stay tuned for what happened on RACE DAY!!!