Sunday, October 26, 2014

Wishing I Was Somewhere Else

I tell you, swearing off marathon running seemed like a great idea a few months ago. Then the Marine Corps Marathon came to town this weekend, along with all of the cool kids, and I kind of felt sorry for myself all day that I wasn't running it. So, um, hello March 13 (aka lottery sign-up day). I've got almost five months to build good karma or juju or grace from now until then so I can get in.

Here's what I did instead today:

  1. laundry
  2. grocery shopping with one of the teenagers
  3. a nap
  4. a plank
  5. more laundry
  6. talked on the phone to my sister
  7. had a pumpkin ale
  8. picked up some new capris
  9. made chicken divan soup, which everyone liked
  10. enjoyed a great cup of coffee with a lovely friend who was also not running the Marine Corps Marathon. And Sarah C. really is a cool person I don't get to see often enough, so that was quite excellent.
And then yesterday I had a terrific run with another friend I don't get to see often enough, Linda G. We did a fine 13 miler on the W&OD trail. It was a beautiful morning featuring lots of Halloween costumed runners, and there was even a Girl Scout bake sale (with two Golden Retrievers) at the end.

So even if I didn't get to run a race today that I didn't know I wanted to run, I can't complain at all about the weekend.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Blogging is Hard with Teenagers but Running is Easy with Friends

I've got two teenagers and I blame them for a lot: my gray hair, my crabby personality, the bags under my eyes. Also, they completely rule our family's lone computer, so I can add that I don't get to blog as much as I would like because they're watching X-Files or some such thing. So I'm pretty grateful to get a chance to steal the computer back and write about today's run.

And I'm also grateful for that run, because it was stellar. There is a very nice crew of people who get together each Saturday, gently prompted by Melanie P.'s weekly email. They mostly live out in the Ashburn/Leesburg VA area, where all the cool kids live, evidently, but sometimes (like today), they mix it up and head a little closer to Casa d'Anne so I was able to jump in with their training.

We had a nice crowd today! Check out these peeps:

There's Kevin taking the picture, along with Robert, Rich, Sean, Rebecca, and Melanie. They did eight miles on a beautiful morning. Leah and I aren't in the photo. We did six and change, then she headed home because she's got little cute kids and I went to Wegman's because I was ready for a coffee and a bagel.
This is a great bunch to catch up with. Melanie just did the Chicago Marathon, Rich and Rebecca are getting ready for the Marine Corps Marathon in a couple of weeks, and Robert is doing the Beach2Battlefield Half Ironman next weekend. Kevin is going to be doing the Rehoboth Half with me in December. These guys rule.

Another guy who rules is my friend Jeremy, who we saw running out on trail and seeing him made me feel very popular. Jeremy is all in for that Marine Corps Marathon, too.

After the run I went in to Wegman's to (use their nice clean bathroom and) procure the aforementioned coffee and bagel. The cashier at the coffee line was like, "Wow, you finished a marathon?" My first thought was, well, not today, but then I thought, either he's psychic or I look like a Real Marathoner. But no, it was because I had this hat on.

You can brag without saying a word. They're GIVING these bad boys out for the full and the half this year. Oh yeah, Richmond! Doing it right!
And then I got home before the teenagers even woke up. THAT is a win.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Lucky Me! Stuff I Get to Do

There are things you have to do (brush your teeth, put gas in the car, clean the cat box), and then there are the things you get to do.

If I was really Zen I could look at the have-to-do's listed above and turn them into get-to-do's. You know: I get to clean the cat box because I have two cats and not everyone has two cats to bring joy to their lives so I ought to clean that cat box with a smile on my face. But this is not that kind of blog post. Instead, I'm going to talk about the things I've gotten to do lately.

Ragnar, for one. I'm not going to rehash it here, but I will remind you that I really liked it. I could write more and more and more about it, but I will instead refer you to Debbie's excellent write ups of each leg. She had wonderful descriptions and even better photos. Meagan, who was a terrific runner on our team, writes Turkey Runner (she is a proud Virginia Tech Hokie alumna), which includes some great descriptions of the event. Finally, the write up in Cultural and Social Incongruities made me laugh out loud and it's got a lot of truths. Read that stuff and you'll want to be on a Ragnar team next year. Let's do it!

But even aside from the big get-to-do's like that, I'm really appreciating the excellent - albeit smaller - treats that running has brought. Today I was able to do a 10K trail race down in King George, Virginia, that a friend puts together. It was a smaller race, with under one hundred runners, and it was run by extremely dedicated and energetic volunteers. And there was chili and candy at the end! Best, I got to catch up with Marie -- a very sweet lady who totally kicked it on that course and came in first in her age group. The course was challenging but beautiful, running through the woods and along the Potomac River in Caledon State Park. I was able to chat with a couple of interesting people during the course of the race and guess what, I came in third in my age group.

Here's Justyn Cox, the race director. He stood at the finished and shook every finisher's hand. A very nice touch.

Marie and me. And no, I don't think that's the port-a-potty in the back.
Even smaller, but still awesome, I got to do a shorty run in the neighborhood yesterday morning and catch the fog lifting off the local lake. No great shakes, I know, but wow, was it nice. As I was taking a minute to stand there looking at it I thought, how cool that I get to start my day like this.

Okay, I know, maybe 40 extra minutes of sleep would have been a splendid way to start the day, but those damn sweet cats make sure I'm up early to feed them, and they've gotten accustomed to a morning run schedule. So those extra 40 winks weren't going to happen.

After a crazy busy couple of weeks at work, a fair bit of drama among some friends in the running communities I know, and the too-early death of a kind neighbor, being able to run (away) has been a real gift this past week. I hope it never becomes a have-to-do (or if it does, that I recognize it's time to do something else).


Monday, September 15, 2014

DC Ragnar Race Report

I was fortunate enough to do the DC Ragnar this past weekend, and now I am finding it hard to pare down the experience enough to write a reasonable blog post. So much incredibleness packed into two days!

The starting line is a good place for selfies. When you're nervous. And wondering what you were possibly thinking signing up for this.
In a nutshell, a Ragnar Relay is a team of 12 people (some superheroes have smaller teams) that runs a 36-leg relay race from point A to point B that's about 200 miles away. Everyone on the team runs three legs. While one runner is doing his or her leg, a team van goes to meet them at the other end and drop off the next runner.

I first heard about this phenomenon from my fast-running friend Robert, way back when I was training for my first half marathon. He was getting a team together. I couldn't believe how crazy it sounded. The organization alone blew me away. All those runners? In two big vans? Matching t-shirts? And it involves elements of camping and not sleeping, neither of which I like.

But everyone I know who had done a Ragnar LOVED IT. They raved about it and told me they were jealous I was doing it and some people even had tattoos of the little "r" Ragnar symbol.

Then, this spring, I met Debbie C., who blogs at DebRuns.com, at a trail race. We got talking while we were in line for the porta potties before the race, and she mentioned that she was forming team for the DC Ragnar. One thing led to another: I signed up with Crusers Rockin' the Relay and now - BOOM! - we're Ragnarians.

It was even better than I'd imagined it could have been.

Oh, we got up stupid early on Friday. We ogled the sunrise over western Maryland as we drove along. I tried to take some pictures from the van but they didn't do justice to the scenery.

VAN 1, ready to race
Once we got to Rocky Gap State Park, we were checked off on our night running equipment (reflective vests, headlamps, blinky lights for our backs), collected more necessary gear (safety flags) and our swag (shirts), and had a quick safety briefing. There was no coffee at the start.

I was the first runner to go, and my leg was a trail-y 5.2 around Lake Habeeb. It was scenic and challenging and I managed to pass a couple of people (in Ragnar-ese, you call those "kills" and you mark them off on the side of your van. When I told people at work that today, they made horrified faces).

Each team is split into two vans. My team in Van 1 was one fast bunch of runners. For the next several hours, I was blown away at how strong these people are. Patrick had the second leg, followed by Linda with the third, then Sathy, Ravi, and Murali. Each of these people had righteous hills in their runs but they all ROCKED them and surpassed their expected paces. I felt like it was time for me to step it up.

But first it was time to find food. After everyone in our van ran their first leg, Van 2 took over the next six legs and we drove straight on to the twelfth exchange -- a small town in Maryland where my next leg would start. Fortunately, it wasn't so small that it didn't have a Chipotle.

Every sixth exchange is a big deal because both team vans come together. The twelfth exchange is at a high school, where the cross country team makes money by opening up the locker rooms and serving a spaghetti dinner. We passed on the pasta but took advantage of the showers and then sacked out in our sleeping bags to try and rest. It was too noisy for sleep but it felt good off our feet before our second round of legs.

I started my second leg at 9:00 pm, geared up in my yellow vest, headlamp, and blinky red light. You get kind of used to seeing people walking around like that all night, it's the weirdest thing.

I took off through the dark, hustling out of town (shooing li'l country boy skateboarders out of the way) and off into the highway. I have no idea what the scenery looked like -- it was CRAZY DARK. Instead, I focused on the string of other runners' lights stretched out down the road. It was not a quiet night; off in the distance you could hear what sounded like drag races going on out on the country roads. You could smell a bonfire from someplace and a skunk from someplace else.

The element of fear helped me pick up the pace on this leg. I was passed by one runner, passed six other people, and got a time that I was happy with. Then it was back in the van to catch up with Patrick, and on into the night. We six finished our legs and drove to the spot for the next switch, where we were slowed down a bit by the extraordinarily poor service at IHOP.

We got to sleep about 3:30 that morning. This exchange was in a large county park full of rolling fields. Two of our teammates sacked out in the van, and the rest of us joined the multitude of runners stretched out in the grass. I slept very comfortably under the stars (a first for me!) -- it was like a very large, very quiet, outdoor slumber party. Fortunately the rain held off until it was almost 6:00 and we were able to fuel up at a nearby Starbucks.

My final leg started a little after 7:00 am. I wasn't sure how it was going to go on only a few hours of sleep after running kind of hard - twice - the day before, but adrenaline kicked in and I was able to run the 4.2 miles in just over 38 minutes. I guess everyone else on the course was tired, too, because I passed eight of those folks.

What I did right there? That's "Bragnar."

The rest of our van, and the rest of our team, were amazing on the last leg. We ended up finishing a full hour earlier than our estimated time.

Van 1 moved on to the finish line at National Harbor and had a snack (beer) and commemorated the event (bought stuff with the Ragnar symbol on it) and ate some more, until we got the news that our final runner, Bill, was starting his last leg. Van 2 got to the finish and we all ran over the line with Bill. Actually, a little after Bill because that dude runs very fast.



And here we are in our triumph!



The day before the race, I was fairly sure this would be a one-and-done thing for me. Now I'm absolutely positive I will find another Ragnar to do ASAP. Hey, Robert, Stefanie H., Therese B., Mary R., Dusti M., Jim B., Ann Marie F., Derek and Danielle T., Will is Will -- all you encouraging people who told me to stop worrying and that I'd like it -- you guys were SO RIGHT!

The organization and positivity of the Ragnar staff and volunteers was beyond compare. They had a ton of people running the event, and they made it a party from start to finish. I could write more and more and more about it, but I could never get everything in, and you'd get tired of me trying.

I am extraordinarily grateful to Debbie C., who invited me to join up with the team, and to the whole wonderful Cruisers Rockin' the Relay team! Particularly Van 1. What a fantastic group of people! I would run with those folks anytime.

And while I did not get as Ragnar-ready as Jerri, who kept my pace going on my last leg . . .


I did run out on Sunday and commemorate the run.


It was THAT fun.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Bring It On, September

Wow, it's fall and you'd hardly know it! The last two days, I have savored the end of my end-of-the-summer vacation and have slept in. Unfortunately, that naughty behavior is rewarded with hot and sweaty conditions outside. No lie, it was so hot this morning a couple of golden retrievers on their morning walk made it up a neighborhood hill faster than I did.

But last week, ah, last week we were visiting Jim's parents on Cape Cod, so as usual, I enjoyed a lovely run in cooler temperatures and I took a mess of pictures. Here you go . . .

This is my inlaws' neighbors' mailbox, all landscaped and looking F-A-N-C-Y.


And here is one of my favorite running routes, East Bay Road.



That road takes you to (wait for it . . .) East Bay and Dowses Beach.

It was low tide. A little smelly. Still pretty.



I was the only person at the beach that morning. The only one! Usually there's at least a fisherman on the pier but I had it all to myself.


This swaggy house gets to look at that view every day. Plus that heron.

That's Phinneys Bay right there, if you want to be precise about your Cape Cod bay facts.

On my way back to the house I took a stop at West Bay (Osterville is known as the town on five bays and they don't lie).



And made it back to enjoy some coffee with Jim and his dad, Jim.


It's the All-James-Reynolds table!
September is a big deal because finally, the fall racing season is getting going and it's time to see if all those summer runs in the heat are going to pay off. First up, DC Ragnar in two weeks! (gulp!)


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Leesburg 20K Race Report


My face is not included in this selfie because it was (a) salty, (b) red from the heat of the day, and (c) covered with Gu from an exploding Gu-packet incident I'd rather not talk about.
On kind of a whim, I decided to do the Potomac River Running Leesburg 20K race today. I'd never done it before because for the past couple of years I'd been either caught up in fall marathon training (or injured while trying to do fall marathon training), and was too uptight to work a race into the mix. Since I'm not training for a fall marathon this year, I can now be all loose and pop into a race. Besides, I know that PRR puts on great events and that there would be a lot of fun people out there.

"Pop" is not necessarily an accurate word, because Leesburg is almost an hour away. I ended up getting to the porta-potty lines later than I would have liked and thus, this was the first race I've done where I dashed up to the start well after the pack had left. I was not alone in my tardiness, and the announcers were like, "20K runners, just go ahead, get on in there over that starting line," not making a big deal of it at all. And it's kind of fun chasing the pack ("Wait for me, guys!").

The race starts in the old town part of Leesburg (and it's old, y'all -- established in 1722!). It's been awhile since I had been out there, and I was really impressed with how pretty it is and how very easy it was to get around and find parking. I parked a short walk from the start line, made my way to the porta- potties, had a nice chat with the woman in line in front of me, hustled to the start (as you know), and we were off.

After a quick loop around a local school, the course quickly turned on to the Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail, a former train right-of-way that was taken over and made into a really great resource for walkers, runners, and bikers (usually all at the same time). I have spent much time on the trail, but not out Leesburg way, so this was yet another reason to give this race a go.

And it was beautiful! The course was fairly flat, the scenery was bucolic and most of the race was shady. This was a good thing, because the unseasonably cool temperatures we'd been enjoying around here were a thing of the past and it was about 80 degrees at the end of the race.

There were bikers who rode along the road you see here and cheer for the runners. I have never seen bikers and runners be as friendly toward each other as they were at this race today.

The water stops were well-manned by local high school cross-country runners who were delightful and energetic. It was so warm, though, I was glad I brought my water belt and only supplemented at the water stops.

Much of the course was out and back, which I liked because you could look at the oncoming runners to try to spot your friends and also cheer at the fast folks who were in the lead. The only negative was that the trail got a little narrow at a few points, with runners going each way and with a few bikes thrown into the mix. But there were few enough runners that navigating was, by and large, very manageable.

Pretty sweet scenery, no?
The last little bit of the race was out in the sun, and I greatly appreciated the guy who sat up on the porch of his townhouse blaring Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" and cheering and waving. Hats off to you, sir.

After the race, I ran into Debbie, Bill, Murali, and Ravi, who make up 1/3 of the Ragnar team I will be running with next month! I had not known they would be there, so it was a great treat to see them. I am very pumped to run 200 miles with these folks:

LOOK OUT DC RAGNAR!!!
There was plenty of food (fruit, bagels, Gatorade, water, juices, and sodas) after the run, compliments of Harris Teeter. And it was an easy drive home. I was able to put the top down on my car to cool off and had so many endorphins going that I rolled into my neighborhood singing along to A Taste of Honey's classic, "Boogie Oogie Oogie," at the top of my lungs, likely leading passers by to wonder why that poor lady was wailing. 

Come on, you know you want to sing along: 




Friday, August 1, 2014

Quitter

Every Thursday, my highly motivated friend Melanie P. sends out an email to get a group of us fired up for Saturday's long run. This lady is training for the Chicago Marathon in early October, so her mileage is starting to creep up there. That pack is looking at 16 miles this week.

And I'm going to be running with them, but regarding that 16-er, nope. I decided last week that I was done with that distance and done with marathons.

It was a question that had been lurking for awhile. Part of it was when my podiatrist asked what I was trying to accomplish by running long distances (after yet another flare up of plantar faciitis) and not-so-gently prodded me to consider more spin classes instead. Or maybe it was yet another article about how repeated long distance training can lead to arterial nonsense (here's an example). Or that getting up at dark o'clock so I can do my run before the kids and Jim are rolling has been making me super tired at work.

It's really all of that, I believe. But it boils down to time. Someone posted one of those arterial news pieces up on Facebook, and one commenter pointed out that if she was going to die running, at least she'd die doing something that she loved to do. And I realized, hey, I don't love marathons. At least not after about mile 15. If I was going to see those pearly gates open up, I don't want it to happen when I'm in pain and feel like I need to poop.

All these things had been rattling around in my mind, and I was getting ready for my long run last Saturday, planning to think them all out while I was out there. But then I realized that I didn't need a long run to sort myself out and I got online and switched my November marathon to the half and then I went back to bed. Four marathons is enough.

I'm a little bummed about it. At one time, I thought it sure would be neat to get into Boston (I'd need a 3:55 for that one!) or even beat Oprah's marathon time. (I'm only 2 minutes away from Oprah -- who knows, maybe I'll yet do another long race so I can get it.) But on the other hand, I've got one teenager who is going to college next year, and one who's starting high school. I'm biased, but they are GREAT kids. I don't want to miss out on any of their stuff while I'm recovering from a 3 hour training run, even though I recognize the irony that at this age, they don't want to hang out with me that much.

So I'm jumping off the hamster wheel, sticking to halfs, and leaving the big races to the big dogs. I'd rather do it when I want to than when I have to.