I asked for a challenge while I waited for my next half marathon, and Run the Year delivered! The October challenge was called Flippin’ Fitness. This challenge required flipping a coin to decide which exercises you completed. You had to flip the coin 7 different times a day and each flip had a choice like “10 burpees” or “30 seconds of planks”. The idea was to create some variety while creating consistency. I started off the challenge in the “beginner” bracket only because I can’t complete a regular pushup without my husband lifting me up off the floor. I have no upper body strength.
So here I was, rocking the first week of the challenge and enjoying myself when the inevitable happened.
Between teaching, taking care of my daughter and sheer lethargy, I really only lasted a week or so before I fizzled out in a sad sputter.
I would like to blame my failure on my surgery, but Lasiks has a one-day recovery and I didn’t even take a day off of work, so I really could only claim two missed days on my eyes recovering.
I’m going to hang up the towel on October and hope November is better both for running and strength training. My total running miles in October was less than 38 miles! I had a goal to reach 1,000 miles by the end of 2017 and now I’ll be happy to reach 800.
Today is November 1st and I’m sitting on 691.9 miles. I want to blame my work and being a mother, and yes, I have been extremely tired this month, but every time I go out on my treadmill and run I always feel better so what is stopping me?
I want to blame Cindy. She’s been injured and so we haven’t been meeting on Sundays to run. Then I was gone, then she was gone… but really it’s not Cindy’s fault I’m a lazy bones, I really have no one to blame but myself. I’d rather be watching Stranger Things.
So I’ve been looking at runs. I’ve shied away from doing a different state half marathon during the school year because of the long traveling has a severe impact on my work week. But I am in DIRE need of motivation. I have nothing to work towards and I’m obviously terrible with self-motivation. So I’ve looked up some local runs and I’m pretty happy with what I have found:
Turkey Trot 5k -Thanksgiving
Beat the Blerch Holiday Fun Run 10k -December 2nd
Jingle Bell Dash 10k -December 16th
Last Chance Half Marathon -December 31st (and my Whatcom County half!)
With this lineup, I’m going to HAVE TO start running so I’m not embarrassed as I waddle across the finish line. I’m hoping with this motivation that I the get miles I need to finish the Run the Year challenge with 800 miles. I know it’s not the goal I set for myself, but my team passed the 2,017 goal awhile ago and it’ll give me a more accessible goal for next year. I honestly marvel at the individuals that have completed the 2017 goal by themselves. For the math whizzes out there, these amazing athletes had to walk or run an average of a little over 5.5 miles A DAY in order to get to 2,017 miles this year. I don’t think that I will ever make it to completing RTY on my own, but I love a good challenge, so here’s to reaching 800!
So if anyone has a strength training program they love (preferably one that can be done at home) I am ALL ears! I’d also like to hear about any tips you use to get over the blerch blues.
PS- If you haven’t read The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances by The Oatmeal, you absolutely HAVE TO! It’s more or less my life.
There’s good news and bad news. The good news is that Cindy, my husband Shane and I competed in a relay. The bad news? My Oregon half marathon has been canceled.
Forest fires are not my friend.
I am devastated. Not only was I going to check off another state, but it was Italian themed. You got to eat pasta and drink beer at the finish line!! Sure, it would have been ten in the morning, but I would have partied hard! My Italian ancestors are crying in their graves.
But since the state of Oregon is/was ablaze, many races were canceled.
But let’s lighten things up by talking about some small races I’ve done since last I wrote.
First: The Lake Padden Relay.
Our relay was a sweet little 10 miler around Lake Padden in Bellingham. The relay consisted of four laps around the lake. People participated in groups and also as solo runners. We were a group of three, which meant someone had to run two laps.
Since Shane isn’t really a runner and Cindy was still dealing with her heel pain, I volunteered!
Each lap was a little over 2.5 miles. It was a glorious sunny day during Labor Day weekend. We decided that Shane would do the first lap, Cindy would do the third lap, and I would complete the second and fourth lap. This gave me a little time to cool down without my muscles getting cold.
What we thought was a simple, non-competitive race turned out to be a pretty serious event. There were college teams by the boatload, and when I looked up the record for the relay, it turned out the time to beat was 50 minutes.
50 minutes. For the 4 laps.
That’s less than a 5-minute mile.
Yeah okay, this is not likely something we could ever win/place in/finish?
But I digress. On to the race!
Shane started us off strong. I would like to point out (again) that Shane is NOT a runner and was kind of roped into this whole thing by my pleading. My husband is in excellent shape, but he doesn’t run distance. He sprints for sports and that’s about it. So while he finished his lap in 18 minutes, he was hurting a little when he was done.
Then it was MY turn! YAY!
And I left my phone in the stroller with my two-year-old.
So no tracker, no music, nothing but my whistling breath to listen to.
It was almost 10:30am by the time I started running, and the day was cloudless and perfect. The sun shimmered on the lake, and I was luckily saved from melting by the tall trees around the lake. It was a lovely 2.6-mile loop that had a little foot traffic but was overall pleasant. There were a couple of hills, but the course was a nice mix of challenge and fun.
When I rounded the bend after my first lap, I couldn’t see Cindy anywhere. I needed to tag her hand in order let her run. I was nearing the start line and started to panic. I started shouting ” Cindy? CINDY CINDY CINDY!!” Until I finally spotted Cindy barreling towards me from the direction of the lake. She, Shane, and my two-year-old Greta had been chatting at the water’s edge and weren’t expecting me. Hm. I don’t know if I should proud or insulted. I was either faster than they thought possible, or they think I’m slower than I am. Something to think on later.
I slapped Cindy’s hand and darn near collapsed on the ground. I had a whopping 20-minute break before it was my turn again to run. This time I remembered my phone.
I ended the race strong, sprinting past another runner right at the end! (see photo).
So after it took them an hour (yes, an HOUR) to tally the times and placement, we ended up with third place in our age group! This is pretty awesome considering that everyone in the group had to go with the youngest member’s age (which is me). If we could go by my husband’s age group, we might have gotten 1st! (He’s an oldie haa!) All and all a good day and a good run. I’d definitely run that course again.
Then on a last minute whim, Cindy and I decided to do a local 5k at Washington Park.
The Fueling Education 5K.
It supported education (which we are all for), and while we knew that the giant hill on the course would kick our tushie, we were just crazy enough to do the day of registration.
Here’s a before shot:
Turns out, you run better when you practice. We were exhausted by the end of this little 5K. We were proud that we completed the 5k in a little under 33 minutes, but we were blown away by one of the other moms in our local running chapter that got 2nd place overall in women’s. She rocked it! I think she ran it in under 25 minutes! I was so motivated by here that I’m determined to finish the race stronger next year.
I write this the day after I should have finished my Oregon half marathon. I’m feeling a little discouraged because work has made it near impossible to keep up a running schedule and now I have nothing to keep me motivated. So I guess I’m going to need a side project to do while I wait for my next half marathon in *sob* December. Yes Ma’am, I found a holiday half in Portland which will give me two states accomplished for the year 2017. But while I wait…
I want to hear from you! Any weird health fads that I should try? Any workout challenges? Let me know. I need something to work towards during the months before my half. Please, give me something to do before I permanently become one with the couch. I’m willing to try just about anything to get and keep me moving.
It had been a month since my last race. I really didn’t have anything to write about. I’ve been eating the stash plan, running almost daily, and trying to find a strength training program that doesn’t involve joining a gym (no luck yet).
Cindy and I didn’t do our best training. Cindy has been struggling with heel pain, and I have had little motivation to go out and run 10 miles on my own. Child care is a huge obstacle and finding someone to watch my girl isn’t always easy. Before we knew it, race day was upon us. And without further ado, I shall tell the tale of the Art Dash Half Marathon!
Okay, let’s set up the scene: Saturday, August 5th. Fires in BC have created a hazy blanket that constantly threatened our clean air. While other cities like Seattle had declared the air unhealthy to run in, the cool breeze off of the ocean made my town fire hazy but running safe. The sun rose as a fiery neon orange ball. We arrived early to downtown Anacortes where artists and vendors were sleepily setting up their booths. I stopped to relieve myself in a honey bucket before we reached the starting point, but Cindy waited to go (which MAY or MAY NOT have played into our time, but we will get into that later). We arrived behind City Hall in our small town of Anacortes where around 200 people were preparing for the half marathon. The 5k/10k was going to start an hour later, but a few participants arrived early. I didn’t recognize very many people, and I was surprised to see a man warming up to run the half in his bare feet. BARE FEET?? Now I’ve seen it all.
We met up with another Anacortes runner, who is also the head of the Skagit Moms Run This Town chapter. If you don’t know about MRTT or Women Run This Town I highly recommend finding your local chapter (or starting one… you ambitious lady you!).
We didn’t arrive with a lot of time, so we snapped a before shot and lined up behind the starting line.
Let’s talk a little about the course.
Our hometown half marathon was a lollipop run, starting and ending on the Tommy Thompson trail with a circle around March’s Point. Cindy and I run the Tommy Thompson trail every Sunday, so we were excited to have that familiarity. The unknown laid in the circle around March’s Point. When we ran in the past we went to the end of the Tommy Thompson trail and turned around. The gal explaining the course mentioned something about an oil train that may or may not be blocking the track but that wasn’t really registering with me. I chose to simply ignore her diluted explanation in hopes that Cindy was listening (usually a good plan, but not something I should make a habit).
7am and the race begins!
Have I ever mentioned that I love early starting times? Whoever chose this time is a hero and a saint and I love them.
Another thing I loved about this run was the community feeling. A women running just behind me thanked every volunteer we passed. This small act of gratitude made my heart glow.
I loved that there were volunteers at every road making sure we had safe passage, and that different businesses in the community were running the water tables (the most enthusiastic being the cross fit people, but who can blame them? They probably just finished a workout and are high on endorphins).
Cindy and I enjoyed running on our usual path and regardless of injuries, we were setting a pace to meet our goal. Our first half ended with a time of 2:17:57 (or there abouts). And we had a goal of getting under 2:15:00. Shaving 3 minutes off your time didn’t seem that hard and a realistic goal for us.
Well, Cindy had to pee. Now, it could have easily had been me, and honestly we were only 3 miles in and I could already use the break (yeesh, what a wuss). So besides the minute delay, we were still making good time. We crossed the trestle with our eyes towards the sun.
We were only four miles in when we were past the Tommy Thompson and on to the unknown. It didn’t take long before we hit the train track and the hill.
Oh, did I say hill? I meant freaking tiny mountain!
I should have seen it coming, what with a name like North Texas Hill Road, but go figure.
The oil train sat on the edge of the crossroad, itching to block our path. I finally understood what the gal was saying. The oil train was due to leave the refinery any time. This means that if the train is on the roadway that runners would have to use an alternative route.
We passed the tracks and headed up the never ending hill. Only shortly into the climb did we hear the train’s whistle and the clanging of the crossing signals.
I looked behind me and saw a gaggle of runners that were stopped by the train. I thanked my lucky stars that I was just fast enough because I didn’t pay attention to what way we were supposed to go if held up. (Spoiler alert: you just complete the lollipop clockwise instead of counter clockwise).
Well, we had to walk the hill.
Neither one of us had trained for hills and this one was a doozy.
It was a bit surreal with the red sun, the stumbling walking runners, and the barbed wire fence. I felt like I was in the walking dead. I resisted the urge to grab a large stick and carry it for protection.
I kept thinking about my time, but I held the hope that what goes up must come down, and that we could make up time on the decline.
At the top of the hill I ran into family that were volunteering to hand out water. What a lovely surprise! I wanted to chat, but I had time to make up, so off down the hill we went.
The course turned north and looped around the point, displaying beautiful picturesque views of ocean and islands. Cindy and I chose to look to our right since turning to our left gave us the grey view of the refinery.
We started to see people running toward us. This was a bit jarring and confusing. This may be my first lollipop course, but I was pretty sure there wasn’t a turn around. A women nearby started to voice her concern. Another runner pointed out the obvious: these were the runners that were stopped by the train. They were going to go around the point and then go over the hill. Sometimes I marvel at my lack of common sense while running.
I blame it on the blood having to go everywhere else but my brain.
It was about 8 miles in that I started to feel chaffing.
Under my right arm.
Just the right one.
So then I had to run with my left arm swinging normal and my right arm flapping awkwardly like a chicken with a broken wing.
Cindy got a kick out of it.
I hadn’t run past 8 miles in a tank top.
Lesson learned half marathon. Well played.
The Tommy Thompson trail back was a bit of a blur. Here are a few things I remember:
A girl with an amazing tattoo that Cindy and I “ooh” and “ahh”ed over.
Said girl was running with another young girl who continued to run, only to pause to vomit alongside the path (yeesh).
10k walkers continuing their journey to the finish line.
Volunteers continuing to cheer us on while simultaneously checking their watches to see if they were done.
Signs for another 5k that took place an hour and a half later on the same trail (not the best coordination, but I hoped for the best turn out).
Then I reached the 12 mile mark and my running app told me my time. This was going to be close. We didn’t quite end the race where we started and I tapped into my last reserves for the final point one.
Man I ran fast. I knew that if I bumped into anything I’d go flying, but I pushed myself. We had one minute and .1 to go.
I came to the finish line and looked at the clock: 2:15:59
But when I looked at my running app, it said that I had run 13.2 miles.
Cindy’s said the same.
So in all actuality I could take a minute off of my time (since I average .1 miles a minute) and claim that I finished in 2:14:49
This I can accept. At least until next year when the Art Dash has chipped time.
I actually had to correct the timer for my time. He mixed my time card with someone else’s and was trying to put my time at 3 minutes after Cindy’s. Um no sir, we crossed the finish line together thank you very much!
But a finish is a finish, and I have another half marathon in the books.
Then it was off to get a coffee and shower.
In the end it shows that I have a long way to go to reach my sub 2 hour goal. It may not ever be possible, but I’ll continue to set micro goals to reach my bigger ones. I plan to finish my next half under 2:12:00. That’s less than a month away, I better get out there and run!
Until next time,
Run hard and be kind.
Endnote: there was more chafing. Very very bad chafing. I will not be using that bra for distance again.
Another end note: I shouldn’t expect to pr when I haven’t been training. That’s some wishful thinking!
I was so excited for school to be done. I was stressed by of the end of the year events and I was about 100 miles behind on my Run the Year goal (I wanted to be at 500 miles by the end of June).
I had a rosy outlook: I was going to be home all summer and could jumpstart the healthy new me. I planned on trying out The Stash Plan which is a healthy, make in advance meal itinerary that would help me eat right while I ran every day (again, I had high hopes).
But life is messy and grossly unfair, and right as I started my plans to be the healthiest me (and lose those extra pounds), I hit some major speed bumps:
I had ridiculously bad allergies that then went into my lungs and turned into a cold. This meant I couldn’t run. Heck, I couldn’t sleep without hacking up phlegm.
My fridge broke.
You might be wondering what a broken fridge has to do with me being healthy, but let me remind you what my diet was called:
The stash plan
The STASH Plan.
Stash as in you make 3 days worth of food and keep it in your fridge.
So after I finished school and bought hundreds of dollars worth of food, I cooked up the first stash (which is delicious btw) and was about to start the second one. Here I was on the brink of a new me. A me that drank 64oz of water every day. A me that ate super healthy. A me that was going to start running after this darn cold passed…
And I came home late one night with a sleepy baby to find my fridge was dead.
I figured something was wrong when I went to get ice cubes and the trays only held puddles.
And while we waited 2 weeks for our new fridge to come, we survived with a mini fridge.
So we ate a lot of takeout food and I basically gave up on my diet/running/health for the entire second half of June. I really just gave up.
So then the fourth of July was coming up and I spontaneously decided to sign up for the 10k that’s held every year on Lopez Island. Sure, I had run ONCE in two weeks (during which I coughed and spasmed after two miles) but I figured that my cough was weakening and I would be ready in time.
The truth of the matter was that I was sick of being sick. I was looking at July with barely 400 miles completed for my RTY challenge, and as I have mentioned before, I have to make it a competition to motivate me.
So July 3rd I packed my toddler and we rode the ferry to Lopez; a beautiful island in the San Juan Islands, that my parents live on. I was going to compete in a 10k that had kicked my ass only four years earlier.
Let’s do a quick flashback, shall we?
July 4th, 2013
Me: Younger, stupid, and thinking I can run any form of distance without any training.
My friend Alice: A runner who had just completed a Tough Mudder and was into Crossfit.
Result: She waited patiently for me as I hobbled 6.2 miles in the heat. I had to strain to not be beaten by a walking adolescent wearing pajamas.
I was hoping that my running endurance hadn’t been destroyed in the 2.5 weeks that I had been stationary.
So on to the story!
The race started at 8:30 am. It was 8:15 before we left the house and rushed to be on time. My dad was going to drop me off and pick me up an hour later. In the car, I realized that I had forgotten my sunglasses (not a big deal), and I hadn’t taken my allergy medicine (potentially a HUGE deal). I have really bad hay fever, and if there was even ONE field that hadn’t been chopped down, the paramedics would probably find me passed out under a tree lying in a puddle of my own snot. It’s a gross but accurate image. So I told my dad about my forgetfulness and since we passed part of the course on our way into town, we made a plan for my dad to meet me with my medicine at the 3-mile mark in 40 minutes. My dad is pretty awesome.
So I got there, grabbed my bib, and barely pinned it on before runners lined up. As I put in my headphones I realized that there isn’t any data on the island. I barely had reception. This meant that I wouldn’t be able to log my run in my app and I wouldn’t know my pace. This was kind of a bummer, I really like to know my pace while I’m running. Before I could make a plan, the race started.
My shoe came untied in the first 3 minutes (seriously, what is wrong with my shoes?) and as I paused to tie it, I already welcomed the break. I felt sluggish and out of practice.
One thing I have learned about myself in this journey is that I’m a slow starter: the first one or two miles are the hardest for me. I finally realize why people jog around before the race, they are warming up!
But even this was worse than normal. My lungs wheezed, my muscles groaned, and the giant hill next to the library looked daunting.
But it wasn’t that bad.
My body loosened up and my breathing slowed. I started passing people (which is always a confidence boost, don’t try to deny it) and I began to chug up the hill. Think, The Little Engine That Could: “I think I can, I THINK I can…”
Hey, I taught kindergarten last year, it’s fresh in my memory.
I had gotten into a rhythm before the first mile. I saw the Mile 1 sign and suddenly had an idea: I could just start a stop watch on my phone to pace myself! I was aiming for 10-minute miles which made the math SUPER easy. So I started the timer, and kept on trucking!
I was rounding to mile 3 and I saw my dad alongside the road. I ran over to the side and he handed me my medicine, water (nice bonus), and my sunglasses (awww)!
As I handed the water bottle back to him, I thanked him and told him that he can be my support team for any race. Like I said, I have a pretty awesome dad.
So as per usual, I continued to run. But my music randomly stopped playing. This gal that I had been playing the passing game with totally took off because I had slowed to a sluggish jog while I tried to make my music work. Alas, I had to give it up and listen to the drone of my breathing and my feet slapping the road.
It was nice knowing the course. I had lived on this island and I had remembered the route from last time. I never had to worry about when it would be over because I knew exactly how many hills and turns were left.
At one point there was a side road detour with a turnaround. An out and back if you will, and I passed this 40ish-year-old woman that was running with her hair down. Let me say that again: she was running six miles WITH HER HAIR DOWN! This woman was stunning. Her long hair swished behind her like a freaking unicorn in slow motion. I couldn’t help myself, I shouted out to her “YOUR HAIR IS MAJESTIC!” Which of course made her laugh. That was mostly my goal, but seriously, anyone that can run with their hair down and look that refreshed at mile 5 must have fairy blood. But I love to say little comments to pick up runners, it gives me a lift too.
As I closed in on the finish line, I heard someone else’s feet behind me. With only a half mile or so left, a young girl passed me. I responded with “Oh man, I thought no one else was going to pass me.” But she had college running shorts on, which made me feel better about it. She looked a little concerned and asked me if we were near the finish line. I told her yes, that the starting line and finish line were the same. I pointed to the blue arch in the distance that was our beacon.
“Oh, good,” she replied, “I didn’t see the mile 5 mark and was starting to worry a little bit.”
I told her I missed the marker too and not to worry. Then she upped her pace and left me in a figurative cloud of dust.
But miracle of miracles! I finished with a time that almost exactly tied my last 10k! I finished just under 1:02:00!
Whatever, I’ll take it!
So I finished with a really good time, this made me feel strong and confident in my training.
I waited 40 minutes (!!!) for the awards for the age groups. I love the Lions Club, but they need to figure out a better way to get the results, and maybe someone younger to read the names (He loved my name because it was so simple). Half of the runners left by the time they started giving out awards. I only stayed because of my pride, and because first place winners got to bring home homemade jam!
Turns out, I got second in my age group. The winner was the girl that passed me at the end! I was a little kerfluffed, but considering where I came from, I should be happy I finished!
So I was derailed, and I came back strong. I still have a long way to go, but I’m glad to know I can bounce back. Okay, enough with the cliches, let’s talk about what’s coming up in August!
Anacortes Art Dash Half Marathon
Tones for Crohn’s 5k
Cancer walk 10-miler
Whew! If I can’t catch up on my miles with all these events, I don’t think I ever will!
I came off my half marathon with a massive high. What am I going to do next? 13.1 miles is amazing but exhausting, not to mention expensive. So what better training alternative than 10ks?
Bayview Women’s Run
The next run I signed up for was the Bayview Women’s Run; a sweet little Run that has been going strong for 35 years. The price was great and it was close to home. Cindy and I signed up eagerly. The one catch was the 10am starting time. This turned out to be a slight problem.
Another obstacle arose with Cindy being unable to find childcare. But like the Amazonian Warrior she is, Cindy decided to push her 4 1/2-year-old in a stroller during the race.
The course was a simple out and back that stayed on the road until you hit the Padilla Bay Shore Trail. This trail follows the bay and it’s a real shame that the 5kers and 1 milers miss out on most of this path. The view and wildlife is wonderful on this trail. The race started off crowded and downhill. You spend the initial 10 minutes feeling your way through the masses until you find your pace pocket, then you finally have the space to run at your speed without worrying about elbowing a child or getting clipped by that 70 year old man who can easily outrun you and what is up with that anyway?
But something was missing from this run. It took us until about mile 3 to really put our finger on it. While other runners were perfectly cordial, they were just that: perfectly polite. Where’s that crazy runner spirit? Was I spoiled with my first half and the enthusiasm that comes with a race? As the faster 10kers were coming back down the trail, my “woohoo’s” and “yeah, you go girl!” were met with silence. I felt like an extremely extroverted theatre major at an introvert’s book club. Cindy confirmed that I was not crazy and that the last race had more spirit. What made this run different?
While it could have been many things, I’m willing to blame it on the heat.
Oh, good golly the sun is hot. Why in the world would people designing a race have it start at 10am in the summer is beyond me. I’ve talked before about my struggle with the heat, and this race put my endurance to the test. Let’s just say that I felt like a melted candle.
And then there’s Cindy next to me, pushing a good 60 pounds of metal, plastic, rubber, and child. I have no right to complain. Cindy is a beast, that’s all I have to say.
It was a beautiful day, the race only needed to start two hours earlier. On the way back, we were stopped from crossing the road by a parade of motorcycles. It was literally a parade. The lead guy asked the police officer that was our crossing guard if they can go with the preface of “we’ve got about 50 of us”. I’d like to think that this affected our time, but let’s be honest, I needed the break. I relished the idea of resting through the roaring passage of leather and beards.
The end was back up a long gradual hill. Did we start off going down hill? I was worried about Cindy, she wasn’t looking so good. I was more than willing to walk but she kept going.
We finished strong! It was faster than we had ever finished at an hour and five minutes! While we didn’t place in our age groups, we were glad we finished alive.
And so ended my first 10k after my half marathon. But I felt the need for more, and I found the challenge in the next race.
Guemes Island: Dog Island 10k
The lone Run.
Okay, it took me till almost my 30th birthday to run a race by myself, and hot dog am I hooked!
I mean sure, I’ll run with Cindy until the end of time, but talk about a journey!
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
June 3rd, 2017.
Me: freaked out that a 10k starts at 10:30 in the morning. But I wake to find a dreary overcast day. Hurrah!!
My loving husband drops me off at the ferry. Did I mention that I had to take a ferry? Sure, it’s like an 8-minute ride, but it was my first time on Guemes Island and I knew NO ONE that was going to be at this race. But the day stayed cloudy and I couldn’t have been happier.
The shuttle never made it to the island, so volunteers arrived in their own vehicles to carpool runners to the start of the race. I jumped in a car with two walkers that came to do the walk portion. It was a father and daughter and (small world!) she was kinda my neighbor! We chatted in the car but once we got to the park where the race would start we went our separate ways.
I felt so awkward. To most people, I seem pretty outgoing and comfortable around crowds but I felt entirely out of my element. Some of it had to be that there weren’t a lot of loners here. Most of the people either lived on Guemes or they knew 2-3 other people at the race.
So I wandered around awkwardly until an older couple took pity on me and started talking to me. The husband was an avid runner who started running when he was 30, and the wife just seemed like a genuine cheerleader for her husband. They lived in my town, had two raised daughters, and were very supportive of my goals. I would have clung to their jackets for the rest of the day, but I felt a strong urge to prep myself for the run. Part of the prepping was to convince the volunteers to let me eat a banana before the race started.
I had made another crucial mistake: I forgot my granola bar. I was already starving and I had 6 miles to run! Luckily I am just the right combination of awkward and adorable that people tend to take pity on me.
Before long, it was time to line up for the race. For the first time, I put my headphones in my ears and prepped myself for the longest solo run of my life. My new mentor prepped me before we started:
“Just remember, it’s all downhill the first mile, mile and a half. Then there are some serious hills, this is a pretty hilly run, try to pace yourself.”
It was a small number of us running, about 50-75 runners, but we were enthusiastic! The time started and I shot off like a cartoon character: dust cloud and all.
Ahhh downhill. What is it about running down a gentle slope that makes you feel like an elegant gazelle? I looked at my run tracker and marveled at my speed: 8 minute mile? I’m the fastest person alive! I’m flying! This is the ultimate high!!!
The road turned and flattened out on the shore. To my right was a goregeous view of the ocean, islands, and beaches. The day stayed cloudy, I wasn’t hot at all. I felt amazing, I was breaking records that I didn’t know I could ever do! Just as I was calculating how quickly I would jet past the finish line, I hit a hill. A steep hill. A LONG hill.
My shoe untied. Oh, blessed excuse to pause and tie it. A man passed me and exclaimed “wardrobe malfunction!” I laughed and continued running. I can handle this hill! The road would flatten eventually. It did, but then there would be another hill. And another. And another! I finally had to walk. It was killing me that I kept seeing and a man running in jeans with his dog and a 70 year old power running goddess just out of my reach. My feelings and grandiose glory shattered, and my only goal was to finish this Godforsaken course.
I was discouraged, but not defeated. My tracker kept giving me the hope that IF I didn’t slow down I could finish the 10k in under an hour.
UNDER AN HOUR? DONT MESS WITH MY DREAMS RUNKEEPER APP!!!
So I ran. And ran. And ran. As an hour came looming into view, so did the finish line. I put on my last reserves, but try as I did, I finished with a time of 1:01:45. Just a little under two minutes from beating my ultimate goal! I know some of you run 10ks in like 45 minutes, but for a chunky hobbit like me, this would have rocked my world. I was proud of what I did, even if I was shy of my goal.
But the joy doesn’t stop there! While waiting for the results I ate the greatest Cuban sandwich of my life #randomactsoffood
But I also placed FIRST in my age group! I mean sure, I think the other two girls between 25-30 were walking the run, but who freakin’ cares cause I’m a champ y’all!!
Let’s take a moment to reflect on what I learned on these two very different runs:
Well, I don’t do well in the sun. This was already established, but my theory was confirmed.
Cindy is a rockstar.
I am waaaaaaay faster when I run alone and save my air for running instead of talking.
It is not as fun running alone.
I am not as hobbit-like as I initially thought.
It is possible for me to run a 10k under an hour. It’s my new short term goal.
So that’s it ya’ll. I’ve been plagued by allergies, but I have more tales to tell. Until next time.
This entire running journey wouldn’t be complete without talking about my partner in crime (so cliche, I know), my friend Cindy.
When I started running with Cindy, she told me very firmly that she does NOT run more than a 5k.
Oh, how things have changed.
*insert evil villain laugh here*
We started running together when I discovered Run the Year 2017. I initially thought “there is no mother-loving way I can run 2,017 miles in one year (the idea behind the challenge), but maybe… MAYBE I could do half of it with a partner.”
When it comes to all things geek, Cindy is my long lost twin. We bonded over many things and I felt certain that I could convince her to be my running buddy. Cindy liked the challenge, thinking that she could take down the daily mileage 3 miles at a time. But when it came to longer runs, she was hesitant. Cindy came from the swamps of Florida, where all running ceases after 8 am. The idea of running more than 30 minutes in that hell hole of humidity is quite possibly a death sentence.
So last fall when I approached her with the (then likely) possibility of a marathon, I’m pretty sure she laughed in my face.
What does this ridiculously long tangent have to do with my run? Well, Cindy was my running partner during my very first half marathon: The Snohomish Women’s Run.
Why did I choose this run? I’m glad you asked!
The first thing that caught my eye was the design on the sweatshirt. How materialistic of me! But seriously, check this out!
Then I read the description of the course: “flat as a pancake”.
Pancake? Drool dribbled slowly down my chin. But in all seriousness, they self-proclaimed the course “flat as a pancake.”
Flat. As. A. Pancake.
I could lie and say that I chose it because it was a women’s run. You know, feminism, girl power, etc. Or I could lie and say that I chose it because I wanted to start with a small race (1,000 people max) that had a hometown feel. But honestly, it was the fact that there were no hills. Cindy read the fine print (like she always does, what a gal!), and it claimed to have something like less than 120 feet of total elevation gain.
This I could do.
So it was on a slightly overcast Sunday morning in early May that Cindy and I drove down to Everett, Washington to then be loaded onto a bus and run 13.1 miles.
We stopped for donuts on the way down (hey, I’m running 13.1 MILES, don’t you judge me sir!) and I slowly popped a dozen donuts holes into my mouth on the hour-long drive.
I made a terrible mistake in the last race I ran. When we did the 15k, I ate only a banana before the race. This resulted in me hitting a wall around 5 miles in. I went from frolicking with excitement to running completely out of steam. I didn’t want to make this mistake again, but I also didn’t want to get a side cramp from over eating and have to have paramedics drag me off the road before I was trampled by runners.
So bananas, granola bar, donuts, coffee and water… lots and lots of water for me!
We arrived at the local high school and squished onto a bus with 50 other women and a few good men (bah-dum-bum). The starting area was at Lowell Rotary park where music was pumping and girl power comradery was abundant. I ran to a porta potty the minute we got there since there weren’t lines. Let me remind you that this was a WOMENS run. Women and their reputation for small bladders were NOT going to ruin my race. We registered and stretched out as we waited an hour for the race to begin.
About 15 minutes before the race, Cindy needed to pee. Being a diabetic, Cindy is very aware of her body and takes exceptional care to prepared for all circumstances. I also had to use the restroom again (curse you tiny bladder!) so we turned to enter the majestic ring of honey buckets. *
*the term “honey buckets” is being used not in its trademark terms, but in a loose terminology style (think of Kleenex)*
Ack! The line was 200 women long! We found some park bathrooms that had a line of only about 10 people ahead of us. We liked the chances. As time slowly ticked down to the start of the race, everyone using our bathroom must have been having a crisis, needing to use the restroom to make phone calls, or God knows what else.
I started to get anxious. What were we going to do? Now what was once a timid request to pee had morphed into a bulging bladder intent on making me wet myself. I began to hop anxiously from one foot to the other. The race started in 4 minutes! Did our line just get longer? I took a peek at the race entrance to see how the line of 200 was faring.
It was gone.
Where did the long line of women go? Did they all ditch the last minute effort to pee in order to be ready to run the race? Did they all just walk away? Did the toilets come alive and eat them?
I didn’t care, I grabbed Cindy, leaving the rest of our line in the time warp and ran to the now empty ring of porter potties.
Ahh…. Now I’m ready.
We were at the back of the herd. We were okay with that, but it made slow going to cross the start line and begin running.
We dodged chatty old ladies walking the 10k, women pushing strollers, and all matter of slow traffic as we started to build momentum.
What a wonderful route! We passed gently rolling pastures filled with happy cows, amtrak trains zooming quietly along, and an overall enthusiastic attitude from all of the runners.
Before we knew it, we were at the 10k turnaround! Already? Gosh, this Half Marathon is going to be easy!
Then… something happened.
Or more accurately, nothing happened.
When did we get to turn around? Why are we still running AWAY from the finish line? Oh look, there are some people running BACK toward us. Their pacer’s sign says finish time 1:20:00…. WHAT??? HOW FAST ARE THESE PEOPLE THAT ARE ONLY NOW STARTING TO HEAD BACK?? Why is this taking forever?
When we finally spotted the turnaround, we heard the people rejoice.
But wait, something was wrong. I tried (and failed) to do calculations in my head.
Me: Uh, Cindy? This is the “turnaround”, but we are only like five and a half miles into the course.
Me: So… that’s not the half way point.
Cindy: (very patiently) No, Grace.
We met up with the 2:20:00 pacer and recognized her as the pacer we followed from the Hot Chocolate Run in Seattle (small running world!), and chatted with her every time we would pass and regress.
We walked a little, but not for long or very often. We finally spotted the 8-mile mark.
Mile 8! Woohoo! Now we only have…. FIVE MORE MILES TO GO???
So we ran. My conversations became shorter as my energy was conserved to will my body to keep going. My hips had suddenly turned into two old bickering spinsters. When did I start having hip problems? Are those MY hips squeaking like a rusted gate?
Then we reached the turn off where we started… and passed it.
The course curved around and went to a T: 10k runners to the right, half marathoners to the left.
We turned left *sigh*, where we were now running on a winding trail that followed the water. It was another out and back, so we had to play another fun episode of the “will the turn around ever come?”. The sun broke through the cloud coverage for about five minutes. It took approximately 10 seconds for my body to start to tingle and overheat from the sunshine.
Did I ever mention that I run hot?
Like, I run in shorts in February hot. So the sun was not my friend.
Luckily the sun made its brief appearance before slipping back behind the clouds. I wiped the tears of relief from my face and continued on.
Okay, where is the turnaround? It has to be now. Okay, around this corner. Now? NOW??? WHERE IS THE GOD-FORSAKEN TURNING POINT? IS THIS WHOLE RACE JUST A CRUEL TRICK TO DISCOURAGE PEOPLE LIKE ME WHO STRUGGLE TO RUN-
Oh. There it is.
The last two miles were kind of a blur. I remember another Run the Year member commented on my shirt, to which I replied, “glurg-hah?” and she high fived my hand that was clutching a packet of GU (more on GU another time).
Then I could hear it. I could hear the announcer calling names, I could hear the cheering, I could hear the music thumping. My pace quickened. I saw the inflated finish sign and by golly was I flying!
Our goal time was 2:30:00
We finished in 2:17:56!
My favorite part was the announcer at the end. The chip in our bib told the announcer our names and where we were from. So after crossing the line, we walked over to receive our medal and I could hear very clearly, “And from Anacortes, Washington: Grace Castle!”
What a simple way to make me feel special.
We ended the trip eating at a geek-tastic restaurant called AFK Tavern in Everett before heading back to our families.
I’m totally hooked on half marathons, and I’m pretty sure Cindy is too.
It was shortly after my birthday last August that I was contemplating what would define my next birthday: the big 30. Instead of a bash, I wanted to accomplish something. Something big. Already I feel like I’ve accomplished so much, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I do know that I’m kind of competitive with myself: I set a goal and I fight to make it happen. That was how I ended up walking 500 miles across Spain one September after reading a memoir that mentioned a Catholic pilgrimage. I am not Catholic, I was just inspired.
So I settled on a goal: I was going to run a marathon for my birthday. It seemed reasonable as I had a year to train. Who cares that I’m not a runner, I can change my habits. Overweight? I can get over it. Have no time? By golly, I only have a one-year-old and a full-time teaching job, I can sleep when I’m dead. Bad knees? Well… that may be a problem, but I’ll deal with it later if it comes up.
I joined Run the Year 2017 (2017in2017.com) and the Hogwarts Running Club for support and inspiration. It was only when I started to get into running that I realized what an enormous feat I have created for myself. I had finished 5ks and 10ks in the past thinking hey, 6 miles isn’t that difficult. Then this last March I completed my first 15k with a decent amount of success.
Ooh… I’m flying!
I thought: 5k, 10k, 15k… it’s not much of a jump to a half! But there’s where I stalled. 13.1 miles seemed achievable, but there wasn’t anything to bridge the half marathon to the whole. To a non-runner that is a HUGE jump.
So I started to rethink things.
I like the idea of half marathons. I think it is enough of a challenge to engage me without the high possibility of it killing me.
But then, being the overly competitive person that I am, I had to ramp it up. Why stop at just one half marathon? Why not… fifty? Oh, even better, why not 50 half marathons by the time I turn 50? A 50 by 50 kind of thing.
Then I went insane, or I found my genius. I prefer the latter, but I’m afraid that my husband believes it’s the former… I decided, why stop at 50 half marathons by the age of 50? What about 50 halfs, by age 50, in…. 50 STATES!
So yes, I’m attempting what might be the most expensive goal of my life: the infamous 50x50in50!
My goal: to complete a minimum of 50 marathons, at least one in each state, by the time I turn 50.
So there you go world, there’s my goal. I know I’m not attempting anything extraordinary (there are a handful of people in my facebook running group that are already on their journey to run in each state). This really is a goal to help me get in shape, see new sights, and hopefully beat my dad to every state (I’ve told you, I’m insanely competitive).
So I guess I have the internet now to hold me accountable.
I plan to write a blog for each of the halfs, as well as update blogs on training, obstacles, and other races I run.
I hope to entertain you along the way.
PS-I ran my WASHINGTON race on May 7th, I’m just working on my recap and hope to have it up by next week.
What, did you think I’m actually on top of it? I’m new to this people!