Dark Roads, Creepy Sounds & More Porta Potties

The Exchange: The runner coming in is super excited, while the runner heading out is dreading what lies ahead...

The Exchange: The runner coming in is super excited, while the runner heading out is dreading what lies ahead…

By the time we headed out on our second set of legs, I was tired of porta potties.   It seemed like I always had to wait in line and for what?  To pee in a nasty, smelly hole.  Then I had to run out and slather myself in hand sanitizer.  I try to avoid porta potties at races at all costs.  Not only can I run 26.2 miles without stopping at a porta potty, but it also appears that I can make it through 70.3 miles without using one.  However, I was unable to hold my pee for 30 hours.  The worst is when I am at the park with my girls and my middle child has to go to the bathroom really bad.  I would rather have her pee her pants on the speedy drive or walk back home.

Enough about those dang porta potties!  We were off on our next mission.  To run as fast as we could before the darkness rolled in.  Well, I already knew I was screwed because I was sixth in line.  It was going to be pitch black before I ran my leg.  I was kind of jealous of the person who ran at dusk and then at dawn.  But then again, that is when the wild animals like to roam free (well, I know it is a bad time to go swimming because sharks love to hunt at dusk and dawn).

However, I was definitely NOT jealous of the hills that my teammates had to run.  Switchbacks and pure elevation gain were the theme of the runs leading up to my leg.  Even driving on the road was insane because the van was up and down and all over the road.  I almost thought that the runner would catch up to us before we made it to the exchange because we were driving so slow.  I kept expecting my back to give out while riding in the van… not during a run.

Sure, it was pitch black at 11:00 PM when it was my turn to get out of the van.  However, it appeared that the terrain was being kind to me because I only had one mile of steep climbing followed by some mellow inclines.  My teammates pushed me out the van and told me to get on my merry way.  They said something like “you are okay, right?” and then they took off into the darkness.  I was left with my headlamp and flashing red light with not a soul in front of me nor behind me.  Where did all of those runners go??

I trudged ahead moving quickly because the adrenaline (caused by fear) started to kick in.  I heard sounds coming from all directions, but I refused to shine my light into the surrounding hills for fear that some beady eyes might be glaring back.  Next thing I know I hear music.  It was getting closer coming up from behind.  I looked back and saw a white light bobbing up and down.  It got closer and the music got louder.  It was some dude wearing tye-dye pants and a long sleeve tye-dye shirt with his classic rock music blaring.  I said “nice outfit” as he quickly passed me.  As he took off out of sight I thought about how smart it would have been to bring along some blaring music.  Darn it.  I was alone in the dark once again.

As I came up the steep hill I saw flashing red lights in front of me.  They got closer as I huffed and puffed up the hill.  Yep, it was two runners.  I passed them, but then wondered if I should slow my pace to stay near them.  Nope, that wasn’t an option for me.  I kept going and once again I was alone.  There is only one mile marker during these legs.  It is the one that tells you that there is only one more mile left.  I fell in love with those signs.  When I saw that sign on this leg I wanted to hug it, but I figured that might be a bit awkward.  I kept going and finally saw a very large group of people next to a bar.  There were so many people (I didn’t quite understand why) that I had trouble finding my teammate.  Finally I was spotted and I was very relieved to offer a high-five.

Now it was time for our van to rest while the other van took over.  I wondered if I would even be able to snooze because of the adrenaline pumping through my system.  We drove over to the high school and parked the van.  A few of us slept in the van, while a couple of runners slept inside the high school.  Let’s just say I was thankful to have claimed the back seat of the van.   But hey, I was the oldest person in our van so I should have some special benefits, right? However, I was lucky if I even got 2 hours of sleep, but at least it was something!

Let’s just end this post with some things NOT to say to a runner as you drive past them in your van (because if you do, then the runner may find you later and punch your lights out!):

“You are almost there!” (especially when you tell them this at mile 2.5 of a 6-mile leg)

“It’s all downhill from here!”  (as you are going down a hill only to find 2 more miles of uphill)

Too be continued…

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A Wintery Half Marathon

It is just nice knowing that you have friends out on the race course... it doesn't matter whether or not you eat their dust.

It is just nice knowing that you have friends out on the race course… it doesn’t matter whether or not you eat their dust.

I admit that I often complain about the weather.  It is either too hot, too cold, too windy, too rainy, too snowy or too humid.  It is never perfect.  In the days leading up to this half marathon I found myself complaining once again.  It had been so nice (almost perfect) all week long and it was suddenly going to drop in temperature, increase in winds and dump snow just in time for the start of the race.  I mean, really, I should have totally expected this a month ago when I signed up for the race!  It is not like I hadn’t been training in these conditions already.  Sometimes I can be such a baby!

Well, maybe it helps to be all whiny and complainy (I’m sure that’s not a word, but I like it).  I approached the starting line with thoughts about having fun and doing this as part of my triathlon training.  I didn’t expect to get anywhere near my Personal Record (PR) even though I had a goal of completing it in under 2 hours.  At least that was a reasonable goal because I have been running 10 to 12 miles every Saturday at a decent pace.

My friends and I stood at the starting line in anticipation.  And then they all took off while I slowly meandered through the crowd.  Sure, I would’ve sprinted to keep up, but I know myself too well (one great thing about having a bit of half marathon experience).  If I started off too quickly then I would die before I even made it to the finish.  “Run at your own pace” is what I often tell myself during these races.  It usually works very well in my favor.  We strolled along the creek on a trail that I was quite familiar with.  I knew what to expect around mile 6:  the start of a gradual incline that would lead to a steeper switchback at around mile 7.  I wasn’t too worried, but I did do something that I NEVER do during a race.  I grabbed one of the gels that were being passed out.  One that I had NEVER tried before.  I put it in my pocket and continued on up the hill.

I just love when I pass someone and then they pass me a quarter of a mile later and then I pass them again another quarter of a mile later.  When someone is coming up behind me I glance sideways and take note of who it is: “Oh, it’s that dude in the gray pants suit again.  He was walking when I passed him and now he decided to start running again.  There he goes.  I bet I can pass him on the hill.”  Or: “It’s that guy again.  He is the one who elbowed me when he passed me before.  I better steer clear of him this time.”  Of course there is always: “Oh no, that chick might be in my age group.  I totally can’t let her pass me!”  This is the kind of stuff that keeps me entertained during a race.  Seriously, the miles just fly by!

It was real annoying when I had to be ultra conservative while running on the ice-covered patches.  As time ticked by, those patches became slushy and even more slippery.  I couldn’t risk slipping.  No way would it be worth hip replacement surgery at my age!  I let people pass me on those stretches and then I kicked it up an extra notch when I reached the dry pavement.  Do you ever watch how the person in front of you runs?  At one point I was marveling at a girl who totally runs just like me.  She had the whiparound legs that flapped out to the side as she ran.  I suddenly became very attuned to my running form and I reigned my own legs in.  During the long incline I was stuck behind a guy with very bright shoes who was running at my pace.  I stared at those shoes the entire time so that I wouldn’t know how much further it was before I finally reached the top.  Next thing you know, we were there!

That switchback hill was not fun.  Not fun at all.  But, it wasn’t as bad as it looked.  It took everything I had not to slow down.  I kept pushing for my pace to overcome it.  And that I did.  When I reached the top I just wanted to lay down in the snow, but I knew that wasn’t an option.  I still had 5 more miles to go.  What did I do instead?  I closed my eyes (well, maybe not completely, but they were partially closed).  I know it may sound funny, but I almost fell asleep.  I was at peace for that short moment.  And then I remembered where I was.  I looked around at the amazing view and I pumped my legs faster as I flew down the hill.  I had to play catch up for lost time on that uphill battle.  Yet, I couldn’t overdo it.

At that moment I realized that it was probably very dumb of me to push it so hard.  That seems to be a common scenario.  I kept thinking about how I needed to do my swim/bike workout the next day.  I couldn’t put that off just because I wanted to finish a fast half marathon.  My triathlon was more important than this race.  But then you just get in the racing mindset and there is nothing left to do but push as much as you would in any race.  My legs were tight, my hips were out of tune and my lower back was cringing, but it was nothing that warranted a slower pace so I continued on.

As I neared the bottom of the hill, I thought about that gel in my pocket.  I knew I was going to need more fuel than what I had, but I wondered if it was worth a possible gastric attack.  If I was going to continue at this pace, then I would need more fuel.  I opened it up and swallowed.  Hmm, not too bad.  I always wondered what those tasted like and they weren’t bad at all.  And it must have agreed with my stomach.

Another measly 5K and I would be there.  It wasn’t until I got to this point that I realized I would definitely finish in under 2 hours.  There was even the chance that I would be very close to my PR of 1:49:57.  There were a few times during the last 5K that I considered slowing down, but I forced myself to stay on pace.  Every little hill seemed harrowing, but I set my mind to passing people (a little competition always gets me motivated).

I made it a point to sprint to the finish even if it made my finishing picture look very bad (if it isn’t bad then you are obviously not working hard enough).  I finished in 1:50:05, just 8 seconds more than my PR from a very flat, very sea level race back in Jacksonville.  I really don’t know how it happened, but I do know this:  if someone says they are probably going to have a bad race day, are complaining about the environmental conditions or say that they haven’t really trained, then they will most likely kick some serious butt!  Don’t believe a word of it!

And the best part of it all:  I had fun!  The weather didn’t scare me, the trail conditions didn’t scare me, the competition didn’t scare me and I didn’t scare myself (well, not too bad).

Too much exercise

Yes, I did count the one hour of ice skating as a workout because I was holding our 4-year old just like this for the entire time!  I nearly passed out with exhaustion!

Yes, I did count the one hour of ice skating as a workout because I was holding our 4-year old just like this for the entire time! I nearly passed out with exhaustion!

Is it really possible to exercise too much?  Yes, I think so.  I answer this question based on my own experiences during the month of January.  You see, my number one goal for the month should have been to focus on my triathlon training.  Instead, I was sidetracked by a little competition.  I tried to do both, but my need to compete always seemed to overpower logical reasoning.

The competition involved tracking your total number of workouts for the month of January.  Of course these had to be real workouts that lasted for a minimum of 30 minutes.  I only considered real workouts those that involved an elevated heart rate.  As mentioned in my last post, I couldn’t even succeed at a simple walk.  Luckily for me, my triathlon training involves running, swimming, cycling and weight training.  So, I focused on those 4 types of workouts for this competition.

Typically, my training does involve more than one workout per day.  For example, on Mondays I always follow-up an interval swim with a bike ride.  On Wednesdays I need to do a ride followed by a run.  On days that I go to the gym, I always do at least 2 workouts because I have 2 hours (thanks to childcare) so I typically do a swim or run followed by weight training.  However, there are days that I will do my long ride or my long run and may  not include another workout.  Additionally, I am SUPPOSED to take one rest day.

Well, there were times during this competition when I only did one workout in one day.  That was not sufficient for my competitiveness so I was forced to do three workouts on other days.  Usually I would add-on a weight training session on these days.  During the entire month of January I NEVER took a day off.  I didn’t want to have to play catch up on another day.  And, all of a sudden, my goal changed to beating the number of workouts  of last year’s winner: 60!  I wanted at least 61.  But 61 didn’t seem like a lucky number so I opted to aim for 62 if I could.

So, I did it.  I got my 62.  Not sure what that means.  Some people think it means I am a bit of an overachiever or maybe just slightly crazy.  It sure as heck doesn’t mean I am hardcore.  If anything, maybe less smart than usual.  I did sign up to complete a 1/2 Ironman in May and I nearly overtrained myself.  Worse case scenario, I could have injured myself.  Stupid competitive nature.  Why can’t I be a soccer mom and find solace in bringing the best snacks to the games or driving the most fabulous minivan?  Okay, I know you are laughing now.  I would never own a minivan.

Oh, and I have no idea whether I even made the top 5.  I know I don’t really win anything, but bragging rights would actually make this all worth it.  Okay, there is always March Madness.  Yeah, I better not even mention that right now.

You know what pisses me off the most about all of this?  I didn’t even lose more than half a pound!  Seriously people.  I must have consumed whatever calories I burned.  And that’s a lot of freakin’ calories.

Bikes, pools & weights oh my!

It is not as fun as it looks... but it can be made more fun with episodes of 24 or a good magazine.

It is not as fun as it looks… but it can be made more fun with episodes of 24 or a good magazine.

I was a bit disoriented when my alarm went off.  Now why was I getting up at 6:30 AM when I didn’t have to take any kids to school or be at work until 1:00 PM?  The confusion lasted a minute before I realized that I had agreed to meet my friend at the pool at 8:00 AM.  Well, it sure as heck doesn’t take an hour and a half to drive to the YMCA. Oh, that’s right.  I had made a plan to ride on my bike trainer for 30 minutes before going to the pool.  I laid there for a minute and realized that I should either drag my butt out of bed or just set the alarm for an hour later.  Sleep seemed like the logical choice, but I don’t always listen to logic.

It is that damn competition.  I don’t even know why I am bothering because there are people who are supposedly doing 4 workouts per day.  How can I compete with that?  I have 3 kids and a job!  Okay, I suppose I could do 4 workouts a day at a half an hour each because that adds up to 2 hours.  I already spend 2 hours working out per day.  However, I am focused on my 1/2 Ironman training.  That means I need to focus on cycling, swimming and running (well, weight training is also a necessity).  I just named 4 possible workouts, but the thing is that I need to have quality workouts.  A 1/2 hour on the treadmill is not quality.  I am just going to have to pass over quantity for the more desired quality.

Well, that doesn’t stop me from being competitive.  I will still give it my best shot.  That is why I got up early to go for a ride on the bike.  Even though it wasn’t a quality workout, I figured it was better than laying in bed doing nothing.  At least I indulged in some quality time with Runner’s World.  So after my half an hour was up I hopped off the bike, changed into my swimsuit and headed out the door.  Then it was an hour in the pool.  That was my long swim for the week so there was definitely some quality involved.  I debated whether or not to go home, but then decided that I should just stick with my plan to weight train.  Once again (after a quick shower) I had to change my clothes.  Jeez, the laundry pile in my house is ridiculous.  It would make sense to lift weights before swimming so that I don’t have to take 2 showers, but I would probably drown because I wouldn’t be able to move my arms and legs.  I spent some quality time with the weights (a nice 45 minute workout).  I even tried to save some body parts for tomorrow so I can do another workout in addition to my long run.  Okay, maybe this is going to be more painful than I need it to be.  Stupid competition.  I can’t wait for March Madness because that competition is based on the amount of time that you spend working out.  Maybe then I will have a chance.