Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Foot Traffic Holiday Half Race Report


My final half marathon of the year was the annual Foot Traffic Holiday Half Marathon. I intended to run this race last year, but the event sold out before I was able to register. Needing one final half marathon of the year to complete my goal of running 12 half marathon's in 2014, I knew this was the race for me.

I personally had some issues with Foot Traffic at packet pickup and their treatment of event sponsors (Ragnar sponsored the event). I've gone back and forth wondering if I should include this in my event race report. Because it is the Christmas Season, I'll just say that when we (Ragnar) sponsored Run Like Hell - the Terrapin folks were AMAZING and treated the sponsors with the respect I think you should get when you provide a race THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS of dollars. I did not feel the same respect from Foot Traffic. Enough on that topic - I'll continue on with the actual race report now.

Stolen from Instagram because
 it's a GORGEOUS picture
Another beautiful image
pre-race from Instagram
I woke Sunday morning at 6:00 am, dressed in my snowflake-inspired costume and headed out the door. I needed to get onsite a little early as I was bringing a large box of Ragnar shirts for giveaways for our table in the sponsorship area. When I arrived at the event, everything was all blocked off from cars but a very nice security guard let me leave my loot with him while I found street parking so that I wouldn't have to carry the giant box through the streets of Portland.

Assembled Saturday night post holiday party
I helped my fellow Ragnar Ambassador with the booth before the race began. We were SLAMMED, it was so much fun.I love telling people about Ragnar and I felt even better versed in the world of Ragnar now that I have also run Ragnar Napa Valley - because lots of people had questions about that event in particular. Around 7:45, I left my fellow ambassador and headed down to the starting line right in front of the Adidas campus, I jumped into the Honeybucket line - lost the first of my decorative costume snowflakes, and then tried tracking down my friends Emily and Brady but unfortunately they had a very long wait getting on a shuttle bus at the recommended parking area and would be cutting the start close. As such, I just hung out at the start by myself trying to keep warm before the gun.

Starting line at Adidas

Cool image taken from above - Instagram

They released all runners at the same time - promptly at 8:00 a.m. I think this event would be wise to consider a staggered start for future races. Releasing 4,000 runners at once (and without pace recommendations) can be rather sticky.The first mile was really packed as we were running down narrow neighborhood streets. I couldn't have run faster if I had tried. It was just too many people for the start of the course - a staggered release would have made things a lot safer and more enjoyable for runners.


The first few miles of the course serpentined around the neighboring streets of the Adidas Campus. Because the runners were very thick here, I was not concerned in the least about getting lost. Eventually we merged back onto the street we started on and finally the crowds started finding their pace. I was happy to see a good number of spectators along the course for such a cold morning. The weather was certainly in our favor that day and there was no rain to be found. As we ticked off the miles we encountered some heavy fog - it made for some beautiful vistas as we ran. During this stretch I noticed at one point I was surrounded by a group of running snowman. I had considered dressing in the exact same costume the day before so this happenstance cracked me up. They were nice enough and ran on without me ...laughing all the way. Right after the snowman mobbing I spotted my friend Becky on the course. I knew this was her very first half marathon so I ran alongside her for a few minutes asking her how things were going. She was looking good and I waved her on ahead me. I had no desire to run this event fast in any way, especially considering I hadn't run more than 7 miles since the Run Like Hell Half in October. Nope - today was all about running by feel and I was not feeling speed today.


Around mile four I started feeling not so great so decided I would stop at the next course HoneyBucket which showed up at the mile 5 water station. The line was longer than I would have liked but I knew I wasn't running this event for a PR so I stepped off the course for a pitstop. When I emerged from the HoneyBucket I realized I had lost yet another snowflake from my costume. Grrr. But oh well - time to run!

Once I was running again (and feeling much better) I noticed a flashing motorcycle policeman coming toward us and I realized the fastest of the runners were upon us for the return portion of the event. It's always fun watching the fast people sail past us on a race. More miles into the course and a few groups of Christmas carolers (nice touch by the race organizers), I began to wonder exactly where the return portion of the race would hit. I was nearing mile 7 and  all I could see was fog ahead. As I was nearing the turnaround I spotted Emily on the return, it was great to see her and seeing another familiar face gave me a charge of energy!

LOVED having carolers on the course!
(My friend Wendi in the red Santa
skirt on the right )

I ran around the little cones and headed back on the first real uphill of the course. I heard after the fact that people were challenged by the hills but they didn't bother me much at all, although the were slight they did go on for a while but overall I liked that it worked some different muscles in my legs. On this slight uphill return I spotted fellow Ragnar Ambassador Wendi and her daughter and Brady on the course. It always gives me a burst of energy to see familiar faces.


I was now on the hunt to catch up with Emily and as I kicked it into gear, I felt the snowflake I had pinned to my back fall off and hit my calf as I ran off. Another snowflake down. I was wondering if I would finish the course with any left at this point.


I finally caught up with Emily around mile 9 and learned she was on pace to set a PR. Awesome! I stayed with her for about a half mile and tried to get her to come with me and really kill that record but she opted to hang back. The second half of the course was physically harder for me because we were running straight into some serious sunshine. I didn't think to bring my sunglasses for a December race in Oregon and I was having a hard time looking ahead. Just as I was coming up to another water station I decided to hit one more HoneyBucket (and lost one more snowflake), I came across the group of Snowmen once again - I had caught up! This made me laugh because if there is one thing I am - it is an even racer. I pick a pace and pretty much stay right on target for the entirety of the event. I really should pace more.

The snowmen I saw throughout the course
The last 5K is usually pretty painful for me but on the Holiday Half it was pretty great. Because I had just been out running a nice even race, I wasn't in pain and I wasn't dying for it to be over. It might have been one of the nicest finishes for me yet on a half marathon. If the sun wouldn't have been blinding me, it could have been perfect. I crossed the finish line, grabbed my medal and went straight to the HoneyBuckets for one more visit. And yes, as hard as I tried to salvage my precious snowflakes - I lost one more on that visit too.


After my race I made my way back to the indoor sponsor area and helped out at the Ragnar booth a little more. I don't think I was nearly as helpful post race as I was pre-race but I did talk to some great people. The shirts were a hot commodity as we gave away every single shirt we brought! All in all it was a really nice day for my final half marathon of 2014. My final time was 2:10 - not a record by any stretch, but considering I had some stops in there (approx 3 minutes each time), I think this is a respectable showing for a race I was just out to run for the fun of it!

PS - Emily DID earn a PR on the course!

Me and Emily at the celebration area



Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Back to training


This year hasn't been my year for breaking PRs or running high mileage. My injury back in March really impacted the entire rest of my running year. I've been trying to be smart about running both in regards to duration and frequency. And although I'm still able to complete the half marathon distance, I'm not doing it with fast feet and I'm just living for the finish line instead of enjoying the 13.1 miles. Truth be told,  I've been ok with that realization, up until now. I think I'm ready to take my training back up to pre-injury levels and really start logging some long miles again.

Of course I decide my body is ready to get back into long distance shape right as winter is approaching. The dark, cold and wet of Oregon are certainly coming but I'm hopeful I won't let the outside weather deter me from my goals.
Sight of LA 
My mileage especially suffered the last two weeks while I prepared for and launched a new product for work. In the past two weeks, I was missing even my short runs, so once I arrived in LA for my event, I was eager to hit the pavement and release some pent up stress. I've been to LA a number of times but never really spent anytime downtown before. I really enjoyed, as I always do, getting to know the city by foot. I think the garment district with all it's colorful fabrics and spools of embellishments was my favorite to run through.

LA

Maybe it was the combination of warm weather and sunshine, maybe it was a trip to the ocean to collect my thoughts (being born on the coast the ocean has always been a place of grounding for me) but that trip to LA was where I decided that I need to take my body back and get back to where I was last Christmas. I would rebuild my mileage base to my pre-injury days. I would kick off those extra pounds that joined my physique when I turned 40 earlier this year. It was time to get back to my happy place when my feet, my lungs and my heart were all in unison. I've missed my running cadence and it was time to reintroduce myself to my old habits.
Santa Monica

My beloved Pacific Ocean

After I returned to cold, dark, rainy Portland I was still committed to my new goals so I laced up for a long run on Sunday. My long run was only 7 miles but for me these days 7 miles is a long run. It was FULL of climbs and descents though, I have to think the effort put into these 7 miles of climbing are equivalent to 9 miles of flat terrain.
Favorite hill closed - I went anyway

It was awesome having the entire road to myself

For the duration of my Sunday mileage I thought about my new training schedule. For the remainder of this calendar year I am still going to continue my every other day running schedule. Running two days back to back went out the window last March with my injury and every single time I tried to bring it back since, my hip injury represented itself. I haven't ran back to back days since June (if you don't count overnight relays -which I don't - because it's one race). My goal through the rest of this year is to consistently run Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays with a dedicated weight and cross-training schedule added back into the mix. I am best with a set schedule and it's time I went back to it. Once 2015 hits I'm going to start bringing in some back-to-back days hoping I can handle the added stress, but I want my base to be as solid as it can before I attempt this update to my routine.
These hills were no joke!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Taking a gamble in Vegas: Rock & Roll "Strip at Night" Race Recap


I had such an amazing time last year and the year before at Rock & Roll's Las Vegas Half Marathon that I signed up immediately for the 2014 event. I never expected to have a work conflict the weekend of my favorite half marathon, but unfortunately, that is exactly what happened.

This particular race is an evening event and starts on Sunday at 4:00 pm and as it turned out, I needed to be in LA by 1:00 pm that same day. I already had my tickets (both race and plane) booked by the time the work conflict presented itself earlier this fall. As such, I did what any other race fanatic would do and I opted to try my luck at swapping my half marathon registration for the cheaper and earlier Saturday night 5K instead.

On Saturday morning my race buddies, Emily and Brady and I headed over to the convention center to attempt to swap out my registration even though all events were sold out. We were able to enter the event early because of Rock and Roll allows tour pass holders early access and for that I am super grateful!

The first thing we did was head to the resolution counter. Brady had attempted to register for both the half and the 5K with his tour pass but unfortunately the system registered him for the half marathon twice. The fine folks at the resolution desk took good care of us - they corrected Brady's mis-registration and they allowed me to transfer over to the shorter distance. I was losing money on the transfer but at least I would get to run a race so I was thrilled.

Fun giveaways at the Brooks booth
Next up we headed to the giant Brook's sponsor booth. I've seen these booths at past expos but they were always so full with long lines so I never got to take advantage of the expertise and prizes. Because of our early admission, we walked right up with no wait for a treadmill gait analysis. Of course I was wearing flip flops so I had to run barefoot but I was still able to have my gait analyzed and got a new shoe recommendation out of it from my favorite shoe brand. I'm glad we got a chance to do it (and didn't have to wait at all!)
In motion getting my gait analyzed
Selection of Brooks shoes
Up next the vendor booths - first booth I saw was my beloved Garmin and I decided to talk to them about my issue with my Vivofit and syncing data through the ANT stick (I'm on my third ANT stick and I just got my Vivofit on Mother's Day). The great guys at the Garmin booth showed me how to sync my step data through my phone - feeling stupid for not knowing this was even an option - and gave me a free band securer thing. I was pumped!

These dressing rooms cracked me up!

I also stopped in at the Knuckle Lights booth because I was having issues with the set I purchased in January. Come to find out my issue was a manufacturer issue on a small batch and they gave me a brand new set right there on the show floor! This was turning into the best race expo ever!

It's MEB!!!
But what I didn't realize is that the best was still to come. In the middle of the show floor we found a line to meet Meb Keflezigh - yes THAT Meb! Boston Marathon Meb!!  It was a real treat to meet him. He was humble and kind and posed with us and signed autographs. With a morning of great experiences, meeting Meb was the cherry on top of a great day!

It's Meb's autograph!

Following the expo our group did a little shopping with my college roommate and then grabbed a late lunch and started preps for our evening 5K.

To be honest, after a day of shopping and expo going I wasn't feeling all that up for a run - even if it was only 3 miles. But I was excited to run at night so changed and began to worry that I should have packed a sleeved top instead of just a tank as the weather in Vegas was surprisingly chilly.
Most packed monorail ever
We jumped on the monorail and pushed our way into the most jam-packed car I've ever been sandwiched into. We were smooshed together tighter than sardines and I was hoping it would be better on the way back (when we were all smelly and stinky).

Starting line
The starting line was busy and festive with music thumping and lights strobing. I was getting excited to run finally and that was good because I was indeed cold standing in the night air. We couldn't get into our starting corral because of the massive amounts of people so we stood off to the side while the first several groups were released. Soon enough we were able to make it up front but the corral was narrow and it was obvious this would be a slow starting event.

Pre-race photo

5K tradition with Brady - shot of Jager to kick things off
Starting line selfie
The first part of the run was indeed slow but it was really cool as we ran through an funky light tunnel of sorts before peeling out of the parking lot and onto the streets of Las Vegas. As is typical with me lately, I didn't have a good understanding of the course. I knew with a race of this size, the course would be well marked and there would be many runners to follow.


As I was hitting a 1/4 mile we were in view of the runners released earlier hitting their 1 mile marker. I saw DOZENS of people walking at this point and that annoyed the heck out of me. If people are walking at the one mile mark then they started in a corral not intended for them. This is my biggest annoyance in a race - start where you are supposed to so that you don't get in the way of other runners.

The rest of my race was dodging these walkers and slow runners than obviously started too early in the line up. Unlike the half marathon course that closes down an entire side of the road, we were limited to the shoulder of the street. Any runners or walkers 2-3 people deep made it nearly impossible to pass on the course. Many times I found myself jumping to the left of the course cones in order to pass other runners and that was not a safe option. We were running WITH the street traffic so every time I took this passing gamble I was terrified some crazy driver would hit me. It wasn't safe with so many people on the course. I don't blame the race organizers for all the people starting early - there is really no way they can enforce it but it would be really nice if they reviewed race etiquette at the start of the event for those first time runners to encourage them to stay to the right if running slowly or walking. Also I'd love it if they could ask people to not walk side by side on the narrow course.

The 3.1 miles were over quickly and as always I had a lot of fun running at night. I was sad that I wouldn't be around for the half marathon the following night but I was super thankful I was still able to race one event. I departed early Sunday afternoon for LA and wished my running friends luck! I'll be back next year Las Vegas - I already bought my ticket (this time with the added $10 refund/transfer option!).




Thursday, November 6, 2014

Peanut Allergy Update



We haven't been back to the allergist since the week before school started to increase dosage or evaluate how her treatment has been progressing. Instead we have been holding steady with two peanut M&Ms every morning and two peanut M&Ms every evening. 

I did speak to the allergy team last week though as we were preparing to send my girl to Outdoor School for three days. We were advised to do something all together different - refrain from eating any peanuts during her camp out. I was somewhat confused by this direction but was told all would be well. Our instructions were to give her her regular dosage the morning she left and then give her a half dosage upon return on the third day, which we did without incident. We resumed our regular dosage on Saturday and haven't had any complications. 

I have to just pause and comment on the fact that I allowed my kid to attend Outdoor School. This would have never ever happened before this program. I wouldn't' have felt confident about the food options at camp for her. It's the entire reason I volunteered to join her at Girl Scout Camp this past spring. I assure you - hanging out with a cabin of adolescent preteens was not my preferred way to spend a weekend. I am thankful I did though because even though the Girl Scout Camp assured me all the food was safe -I identified the chocolate for the Smores was indeed not safe (it did not contain nuts but did have a 'may contain' label - no no in my house) and the pancake mix on the final morning of camp also had a 'may contain' - if I wasn't onsite checking in with the Chef at every meal, she would have certainly consumed these foods.  BUT - for Outdoor School I confirmed with the staff and chef that all food was safe and I felt confident that even if a 'may contain' snuck in that Issy would be ok. I can not express how big of a deal this is for us. Life changing.

Today we went back to the doctor and my little one had her dose doubled again - four peanut M&Ms. Oh the girl hated it! But her body tolerated the increased dosage just fine. We now get to change the game a little. Her allergist has recommended we move to four peanut M&Ms once a day. (I am personally super excited about moving to a once a day dosage schedule). If all goes well, after a month we will move to an every other day dosing schedule. I'm not going to get too excited about that just yet but knowing we could reduce the number of times she has to ingest these nuts is really really encouraging. 

Yeah for modern medicine! 


Friday, October 31, 2014

Run Like Hell Half Marathon Race Report

I wouldn't say I Ran Like Hell exactly. It was more like I ran at a slow and manageable pace while hacking my lungs out. My 4th Run Like Hell Half Marathon didn't exactly live up to last year's 2:00 (even!) finish line victory. Instead,  by the time I finished (7 minutes slower than my slowest RLH on record), I just stopped running (maybe it was officially jogging at that point). No celebration, no arms in the air - heck, I didn't even check my watch to see what my final time was. I was just happy I was done.

The morning started like most other half marathon races - early. I woke around 6:00, drank some coffee and got dressed in my costume. I had actually woken before my alarm because the rain was pounding so heavily on the roof. The day before, Portland had been battered by a wicked fall storm. Thousands were without power and there were downed trees all over the city. I was hoping the storm would have passed in the night but it sounded pretty nasty from what I could hear in the quiet of those morning hours.

I re-purposed my Halloween running outfit from my last race

I was on my way to downtown Portland by 7:00 and I felt horrible. I was on day eight of my wicked fall cold and not happy. I knew this was going to be a challenging run when I needed a nap after picking up my race bib the day before.

The half marathon was to start at 7:45 but I wasn't looking forward to standing in the rain waiting for the gun, potentially getting even more ill. I had lots of friends planning to show up later to run the 10K and 5K but I knew they wouldn't be around so early. Instead I got in line at the busy Starbucks by the starting line and ate a bagel as I realized I never ate breakfast with my coffee at home.

I walked over to the finish line as Ragnar was hosting a table and I wanted to say hello to my fellow ambassador but all I found was an empty Ragnar table under a big white tent. I walked back in the rain to get in the outrageously long gear check line. As I took my place at the end of the line in the rain I saw the VIP tent and remembered that my registration was supposed to include admission into this special tent hosted by Molly's Fund. I met the fine folks at Molly's Fund after running the Bridge to Brews a few years back and have done some volunteer work with them since them. They provide support to those living with Lupus, just like my best friend. So the cause and the organization are important to me.
Empty Ragnar table in the dark
Luckily for me I was on the VIP list and that enabled me to come under a tent with heaters and our own personal gear check line. Oh it was wonderful. I removed my sweatshirt and jacket and stood under a heater. It was the PERFECT place to be before a wet starting line.
Pre-race smiles under a heater in the VIP area
Love supporting Molly's Fund
Finally about 5 minutes before the gun, I made my way over to the starting line and tried syncing my Garmin. Unfortunately, my Garmin wasn't ready to play nice and the gun started before my Garmin was able to track my location. I guess the crazy storm had something to do with issue. My Garmin finally found my location at almost exactly .25 of a mile into the race. I figured this was manageable to me, even if it was slightly annoying.

The race organizers changed the course this year after the debacle of getting stopped by the train last year at mile 11 (for over an hour!!). This time we went straight up Broadway and immediately headed for the massive 500' climb up Terwilliger, then down the back and onto Barbur Blvd.  This is the same hill the Shamrock Run hits and I liked it a lot better the first time I ran this event as we ran it in the opposite direction starting on Barbur then climbing up the steep portion and down the longer, slightly less steep side of the hill. On the Shamrock, we first run around the city before hitting the hill so by the time we hit the decline we are almost done with the course. Unfortunately on this new course, the hill was first and that meant we still had 2/3rds of the race to go after coming off the hard climb.

No pics of me running but here is my awesome kiddo racing

I'm sure a lot of runners like getting the big challenge over with when their legs are fresh but I do not. I really like the hill at the end of a race. See even when I'm sick, I can handle a good hard climb. I'm not the fastest climber in the world, but I can hang with the quicker runners on the inclines as opposed to the flats. It's gotta be my big butt - I wonder if Kim Kardashian runs and if she is a good hill climber?  So anyhow, I did pretty well on the first three miles but as soon as the course flattened out, I was passed by what felt like every other runner in the race. When I hit mile 4 and realized this was where most races finished (the location on the course) yet I still had 9 miles to go, I acknowledged this wasn't going to be my race. But on the plus side, the rain had stopped falling.

After a quiet run on Naito Parkway, we started a portion of the race where we merged in with the 5K and 10K runners. It was nice because there were suddenly a lot of new people to watch and that helped distract me from my coughing fits, but it did make for a congested running space and a somewhat confusing course as the half marathoners came across the turnaround areas for the other races. There were also dozens of places where the half marathoners could cut some serious corners and double back on the course.

My girl did awesome in her race!

At mile 8 we were supposed to encounter the "Musical Mile" where musicians were supposed to regale us with tunes all along the mile. Unfortunately there were just a few solo or duo musicians every now and then. And some of them weren't playing music that was motivating me to run - some slow selections.

By mile nine I was over the race. I didn't care about my pace and I was just ready to be finished. My hips were aching in a way they have never ached from running before. I was also getting a strange pain in my right calf that I didn't like at all. For the final three miles of this race, I shifted into slow and decided that my goal was simply to finish. And as soon as I made that decision, the rain started to fall again.

Love the medals this year

The volunteer handed me my medal in a sealed plastic sleeve. It was hard with my pruned cold fingers to remove the plastic so that I could wear my new medal. I really liked the medals this year, it was a fun design and played off the "Under the See" theme of the race. I then made my way over to the Ragnar booth which was now staffed with some familiar faces.

With my fellow Ragnar Ambassador 
Eventually I made my way back to the VIP tent and I was sooo grateful for admission. I passed an even longer bag check line in the square and realized that all those random numbers I saw on the ground for 13 miles were people's gear check claim numbers falling off their bibs due to the rain negating the stickiness. Apparently it made for a really rough gear check pick up.

Back in the covered, heated VIP we had a full breakfast with bacon, eggs, potatoes and MIMOSAS! There was beer and coffee too, but I stuck with the MIMOSAS! Yummmm! VIP folks also walked away with a lovely warm and cozy Run Like Hell sweatshirt, a Molly's Fund "Lupus Sucks" tshirt, a commemorative Run Like Hell pint glass and some assorted sponsor odds and ends. There was also a massage area in the VIP lounge but by the time I finished they were super busy.

Truth be told, I only ate the bacon...and the mimosas

I spent some time warming up and drying out under one of the space heaters and talked to some really cool people about Lupus, about Ragnar and about my recent Disney race. I just love talking to runners. I'm sure there are some jerks out there but for the most part they are in general, really cool people!

Awesome volunteers from Molly's Fund
I'm glad I finished yesterday but I'm still feeling bad today. My body hurts in ways it doesn't usually hurt after 13 miles. I'm proud that even when I'm not well I can get out there and push through to a finish line but I'm starting to realize that maybe sometimes it just isn't worth it.

Proud of my girl

My current 2014 race count now stands at eight completed half marathons, and four additional 13+ mile races. If I include the additional few 5Ks I ran this year - my total raced (runnig only) miles for 2014 is 202.2 miles. Not bad, I can live with that accomplishment even if this last half wasn't under 2 hours.