Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Run'ucopia = Puke'ucopia (or Our Thanksgiving Weekend)

The Smith family had great intentions to take on the 2nd annual Run'ucopia on Thanksgiving morning. I got an early start, logging 12 miles, before meeting Mac and the kids at Riverfront Park. Megan was pumped up for her second shot at the 5k distance after last year’s Turkey Stuffer, but as the 1k start approached, Liam was increasingly obstinate and fussy about not wanting to run. 

Mac let me know he had done some dry heaving earlier in the morning. Hmmm - maybe better to sit this one out! So Liam and I headed off to the car, planning to drive to McDonalds which was on the course for the 5k. Just as he was getting into my car, Liam asked if I had a bucket he could hold. Uh oh. Fortunately, there was no mess in my car, but I cannot say the same for the parking lot! So we just sat in the car, because there was no way McDonald’s could help the situation in anyway.

When we saw Megan and Mac coming back through the park, she was running strong. I told Liam we had to get out and cheer. He didn’t like that idea, but he agreed to go on piggy back. “Liam, there is just one rule,” I told him,”No puking on Mommy!”

“Quick, put me down!” was his response before I deftly maneuvered him into a position where he could discretely fertilize the rhodies. I cheered for Megan while Liam huddled on the damp pavement in a lifeless ball. I then picked him up and we high-tailed it to the finish to see Megan finish in 33:42, even sprinting at the end to pass a boy that she knows from school. That’s 15 minutes faster than last year and Mac says she ran almost the whole thing. So proud of Megan! 

Megan finishing strong, while Mac checks out the competition

However, race organization pleased me somewhere about as much as all of Liam’s puking. Actually, he actually puked every time he said he would, so he did a much better job at sticking to his word! The race just could not manage the number of finishers and people had to wait in line for a very long time to turn in popscicle sticks. Plus, the race said every finisher gets a cup and hot beverage to fill it. At the end they had about 100 paper cups of hot chocolate, which were quickly consumed by the 400 or so people there (and not by us!).
No silly kids 1k for these three tough ladies! They rocked the 5k!
As we headed home, Megan quickly deteriorated. She was fine for 30 or so minutes after the race, so I don’t think it was run related, just that little bug finally catching up to her. Both kids crashed as soon as we got home (but not before one more round of throw-up). We cancelled our Thanksgiving plans and just ate stuffing and pumpkin pie together in our pajamas that evening (the two things we were supposed to contribute to dinner). While maybe not the best way to spend Thanksgiving, it served a good purpose. Huddling together under blankets on the couch certainly made me thankful that my kids are happy and healthy most of the time. And it was kind of nice just to be together as a family. As an added bonus, our good friends delayed their Thanksgiving celebration by a day for us, so we still got to stuff ourselves silly on Friday!

Sick and tired kiddos. :(

I spent a lot of the rest of the weekend sorting through the house. Not only did I not make a single purchase on black Friday, local Saturday, or cyber Monday, but I actually ended the weekend with fewer possessions than I started with! Mac makes fun of me because we have cupboards in our house that are completely empty, but in my dream world, all of the cupboards would be empty. Well, except the ones that hold running gear and food! Don’t worry, we won’t be free of our worldly possessions anytime soon, especially if that means cleaning out the garage!
Pile of junk off to Goodwill!
And Saturday, I got in one last long run. Yes, I have one more race on my calendar for 2012: Desert Solstice 24 hour run. You could say this is my punishment for doing so poorly at Western States this year - ha! Actually, I feel like I have never really “nailed” a hundred miler and in fact, the better shape I have been in, the worse I have done. So I am going to try to teach myself a few lessons about running past 100k in a very controlled environment. Just me versus the distance. I’ll let you know how bad an idea this was in three weeks. Until then, I am tapering and trying not to eat to many holiday cookies!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Camp Eagle

One of the benefits of blogs is the availability of personal insight with a rapid turnaround. But the window of opportunity of a salient blog post closes as time passes, kind of like if CNN were to report on the election news now. I have been wanting to write something about my Veteran's Day weekend at Camp Eagle with Team Red, White and Blue, but my life doesn’t always lend itself to timely reporting. I was on call the week after getting back (about 12 extra hours of work for me) and needed to get in some make-up quality time with the kids. Plus, I got to spend some of my free time getting my hand x-rayed. So 10 days later, I am getting around to this post. 

Team Red, White and Blue is an organization that strives to integrate returning combat soldiers into the community. They emphasize physical fitness as a way for vets to improve their life. This weekend was the largest event the organization has hosted, with the focus on trail running. I haven’t had the opportunity to work with Team RWB before this, but I got contacted because they needed more female group leaders. Lucky for me! When Liza Howard sent out a massive outline about all the things we were supposed to teach, I originally panicked, “Oh my god, I don’t know how to teach people to run on trails!” But as I thought about it I realized I did have a lot of tips to share and hopefully I gave Group C some good pointers. But information flows both ways, and at many times I played the role of the student. Here are some of the things I learned at Camp:

Nothing broken!
1) I need a new head light. The first night out we went for a night run. I have a fairly standard headlight that seemed comparable to those around me, until all of the sudden the trail became bright as day and there behind me was a human spotlight. It was made for adventure racing. Now that I have seen the light (ha,ha), I am not satisfied with my lights. Just as I was about to hear some adventure racing stories, I learned another lesson: Running should not be a contact sport! A dramatic collision ended my run early (but no broken bones!).

2) I need more carbs and more calories in the morning. Yeah, I love to hear I get to eat more. I was so fortunate to have Sunny Blende as my roommate. Not only does she have a disposition to match her name, but she is a wealth of sports nutrition information. It was better than having my own sports nutrition consultation. While I learned a lot about metabolic efficiency and new hydration guidelines over the weekend, what really hit home was the need to eat more immediately before and after a workout.

Me and My Awesome roomie, Sunny Blende
3) Liza Howard is on speed. Ok, I made that up.  But Liza is always on the go with lots of animation and gesticulations to compliment all of her positive energy. The first night she was so involved with all the camp business that she didn’t sleep at all, but the next morning she was still the perkiest and most upbeat person there.  There’s a reason she is one of the fastest 100 milers in the country: she’s organized, has a great attitude, and has an unending supply of energy. She used all of her talents to create an amazing weekend with the help of Joe and Joyce Prusaitis and Jason and Alison Bryant. Nevertheless, if I ever race her again, I am going to insist on drug testing. That level of perkiness is usually only obtained with a strong dose of uppers!

4) My Ab routine is for sissies. On Saturday evening Alison and Jason Bryant led a core workout that makes Abs of Steel look like a joke.  More like Abs of Titanium at their workout! It was not only a great challenge for my core but fun to learn exercises I had never seen before.

Jason and Alison show us how to be "hard-core" 

5) Porcupines are funny looking. We were doing some downhill drills on Saturday when a porcupine lumbered across the trail and up a tree. So cool! I don’ t think I’d ever seen a real live one before.

6) I need to sign up for an obstacle run. Sunday evening the "campers" ran a 5k obstacle course that just looked like so much fun. We didn't get to run the course, but we had a great time playing around and a lot of fun watching everyone else do it. I think it'd be a hoot to climb ladders, run through mud, swing on rings, and crawl though tunnels all in the middle of a run.

"The Old Mine"(it was fake) - part of the obstacle course

7) Last, and most importantly, I learned just how amazing our Veterans and active duty military personnel are. On a basic level I already knew this, but interacting on a personal level with so many of them really bolstered my appreciation. The stories were jaw dropping: a dad missing the birth of his child, a woman being hit on the head with a hatch and being in a coma for three months, a man who lost his leg in an explosion, a woman in my group who had schrapnel removed from her leg, a guy with a "ticking" chest after major heart surgery from being attacked. The stories made it "real" how much of a sacrifice these men and women gave to defend our country and the bravery they exhibited. And seeing them now out running trails was so inspirational, knowing how strong they had to be in both mind and body. It was truly an honor to be out there running with theses heroes. A huge Thank You to all of our service men and women!
Leading the group (and showing my authority by giving my best super hero pose)

Group C!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Off To Camp

I am honored and excited to get the opportunity to help out at Team Red, White and Blue's biggest event ever this weekend at Camp Eagle, TX. I am not excited to get up at 2:30 tomorrow morning to catch my plane. Team RWB aims to re-integrate combat veterans into civilian life, using physical fitness as a way to help them connect with civilians and stay healthy. How awesome is that?

I am going as one of the trail running "experts" to teach about off road running. Topics for discussion include downhill techniques, uphill techniques, and technical trail techniques. I envision myself amongst a bunch of studly vets, modeling wildly out of control arm flailing while saying things like, "the best advice for running downhill is 'Don't fall.'"

Seriously though, I am excited to spend a whole weekend talking about what I love and sharing that with people new to the sport. If TransRockies is 'summer camp for adults' then this feels like Fall Camp. Er, um, let's call that Autumn Camp. ;)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Suck-It Sandy Marathon and Half

My good friends Gloria (of toenail surgical fame) and Terra were well trained and full of excitement for the New York Marathon.  They were crushed when it was cancelled. So yesterday morning we threw our own little event to celebrate their training and fitness: The Suck-It Sandy Marathon and Half.

"We feel for the victims of Sandy and know that canceling the NY city marathon was the right thing to do. But we want to honor the hard work Gloria and Terra put in to train for the last several months. Hurricane Sandy (or Superstorm Sandy) may have caused devastation and cancellation of one of the biggest marathons, but it can't crush our spirit and it can't stop us from running!

The gun goes off at 5am and we will do a 13 mile loop at whatever pace Gloria deems right for a fake marathon. A second wave of starters will be there at 7am to finish out the run with Gloria. Partial distance runners welcome, too.

Due to the late notice we weren't able to get any T-shirts printed or secure any sponsors; However, there will be scones for all at the "finish line!" Hope to see you there."

The Nerf dart gun quietly sounded a little after 5am for all the participants: 11 in all. Not too shabby for a Tuesday morning! Due to work constraints, most people opted for a 10k or 15k version, Dan and I did the half, Steph used a little medical leave time to get in 18 or so, and Gloria was the "winner" of the "marathon" division, with a rumored 22 miles. Now if we could only get that many people out every Tuesday morning! Hope all other Non-New York runners got a way to burn off all that nervous energy of a well tapered body!

Chocolate is good for the heart; cherries are anti-inflammatory; and carbs are good for recovery. So these are practically health food items, right?

No marathon is complete without prizes!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

How to Run An Ultra in Costume

Many October races encourage participants to run in costume. And while most of the mid-autumn 5k's  and 10k’s are packed with freakishly dressed loonies displaying their Halloween spirit, the Autumn Leaves ultramarathons have had a dreadfully disappointing costume turnout the last three years, despite impressive prize basket incentives put together by Gail.

As I see it, there are three main reasons people don’t don the crazy clothes and wacky wigs at a race.

#1) People who don’t ever like costumes. You know the people who won’t even get dressed up for a costume party, people who show up in sweats and then make up a lame story instead of wearing a costume (“I’m Lady Gaga on her day off.”).  I think a lot of perfectionist types may fall into this category, too afraid to let loose and make a fool of themselves. Ok, people, sure it is nice to have an alphabetized spice rack, but not everything has to be so serious! Lots of costumes don’t require you to be all out zany (cowboy, doctor, fireman, etc.). So let loose for one day and have a little fun. The world won’t end if you put the Cinnamon in the Cumin spot!

Do you need to let loose a little bit??
#2) People who don’t mind the costume, but don’t like the effort of putting a costume together. My husband fits in this category. He’s not super creative and so the idea of getting a costume together stresses him out. But he has no problem wearing a costume if I put it together for him. Oh, who are we kidding? Mac’s favorite movie is Mulan Rouge! Mac might actually prefer costumes to regular clothes…as long as I pick it out for him. So if you fall into this category, get a friend or your significant other to help you out. Or just go buy a prepackaged costume at a party shop – no creative effort required!

Even Mac likes a good long as someone else puts it together
#3) People who will rock a costume for a party, but who don’t want to run in one. This can go one of two ways: either you are worried that you can't run fast in a costume or you are worried it will be too annoying to run in. Adam Campbell ran a marathon in a suit in 2:35; Mike Wardian finished a marathon in full Spiderman gear in 2:34; and Ian Sharman has a 2:40 marathon dressed as Elvis. So yeah, plenty of fast running can be done in a costume! The annoyance factor can be minimized by picking the right costume. Helpful hints:

- Find something that isn't restrictive. I find skirts (even denim once as Annie Oakley) to be very easy to run in. Spandex or other tight pants work well, too.
- Go for a test run. I usually do this on the treadmill in the privacy of my own home. Because running a race in costume is good for a lot of laughs. Running by yourself in costume is good for a lot bizarre stares. You can also test a piece at a time or wear a jacket over (if cold weather) to camouflage your costume on a regular day.
- Use a lot of lube. Most costumes really aren't that irritating, but they weren't made for running either. A little extra Vaseline will save you some unnecessary pain.
- Forget that whole "Cotton is Rotten" Mantra. Yeah, cotton is no good in extreme conditions, but on your typical day, it does just fine. I started running in 1989 and didn't own my first tech shirt (excluding polyester racing singlets) till 2008. Yes, really. So as long as you aren't running through the mountains or in the snow, don't be afraid to wear cotton for a day.
- Avoid "bouncy" objects. I have run with plastic snakes in my hair and on my clothes, in fairy wings, with a belt and (fake) holsters, and in a pillow case. I find things don't really bother me as long as I make sure they don't bounce around. Safety pins of a few quick stitches with a needle and thread can be helpful here.
- Work it! The best part of running in a costume is having fun with the people around you. And other runners are always looking for a distraction.

You've got almost a whole year to plan next Halloween's running costume. If you act quickly, you could probably still find some great discounts on this year's costumes. Autumn Leaves is right after the 100k Worlds next year, and there is a good chance I won't be running it, so the costume contest (with its massive prize basket) could be wide open!

So who's run a big race in a costume? And who still thinks racing in costume is the stupidest thing ever (actually, my husband is in this category, too)?