Tuesday, February 15, 2011

2010 in review - Part V The Half Mary

Post-race photo in the Marshall University Stadium
Since the Dirty Dog race the May prior, Jay and I were hooked on stretch goals.  This new addiction got us signed up for our first Triathlon, and we had now registered for the Marshall University Half Marathon in Huntington, WV.  The race was November 17, and it was a nice flat course around campus and along the river in the city of Huntington.  Perfect timing and a perfect course for our first half.

We trained using Runner's Magazine 10-week beginner's training plan.  This plan required that we run every other day, and do aerobic intervals during our runs.  The intervals were designed to make your normal pace feel "comfortable" so that you can keep it up over the 13.1 miles.  Long runs were scheduled for the weekends, and mileage was stepped up each week.  This training plan worked well for us.  We plotted our runs and workouts on the calendar each week and purposely set aside the time to get it done.  We ran every other day, so one of us was pretty much running every evening.  One time we had Grandmom and Poppy watch the kids so we could do our 10 mile training run together.  We felt ready for our first half marathon.

Race day weather was the exact opposite of the 10-10-10 10K.  It was extremely cold.  The Weather Channel had been calling for this freezing weather for about a week and a half, so I had time to research our clothing options for the cold morning.  Unfortunately, we have very few outdoor retailers in our area, so most of my research had to be done online.  This was a challenge, since clothes can't be tried on and can't be felt for weight or thickness.  I finally decided to go with what I knew: my favorite fleece of all time, the Patagonia R series.  This is not technically a running fleece, but is made for strenuous outdoor cold weather activities, such as skiing, hiking, or snowshoeing.  My mom purchased me a Patagonia R jacket in Montana about 8 years ago, and I still wear it on a regular basis.  The deciding factor was the grid fleece technology that Patagonia uses to allow heat to escape, but keeps just enough heated air on the body to keep you feeling warm.  Hence the R, "regulator."  It really is magical.  So I ordered us some fleeces from MooseJaw, and they arrived just in time for a test run a few days from the race.  We also purchased Under Armour gloves and wicking fleece headbands for the race.  We were geared up at last.

On the evening prior to the race, our family of four attended the spaghetti dinner and picked up our race packets.  We received a really nice technical long-sleeved tee and our shoe chips.  Before leaving Huntington, we drove the course so that we knew what we'd be in for the next day.  As promised, the route was completely flat, save for a few underpasses.  Easy peasy compared to the route we had been running.

Finally, race day had arrived.  I set my phone to wake me up at 4:30am.  We had laid out our clothing the night before, so we quickly dressed and set about getting our race day breakfast: coffee, Kashi cereal, and a Clif bar and Red Bull to eat on the way.  I wore a technical tee-shirt, my Patagonia R1 fleece, a pair of Mizuno knee tights, Wigwam marathon socks, and my trusty Asics Gel-Nimbus 12s.  Accessories were my UA fleece headband, Nike running visor, Ray bans technical sunglasses, and my Nathan gel pack, filled with chapstick, Gu, and a snot rag.  Jay's run kit consisted of a pair of UA tights, Nike shorts, a wicking running tee, and his R1 fleece.  I think his accessories were identical, although Jay also likes to carry his cell phone, a $20 bill, and his ID with him.  He also is in charge of the vehicle key.  I cannot be trusted with such things.

Grandmom and Poppy showed up to watch the kiddos at promptly 6:00 am while we loaded up and headed for the race location.  They were to get the kids up later and make their way to the course to cheer for us as we ran by.

The only mishap of this event preparation was Jay's unfortunate placement of his nipple tape.  Yes nipple.  Tape.  He had experienced chafed nipples in the past, and wanted to avoid the "nipples of fire" problem of distance running.  We had heard horror stories of those with two rivulets of blood running down their shirts as they crossed the finish line.  I think the tape he purchased adhered with Super Glue.  He decided against the tape as we were getting our shoes on in the car in the parking lot of the event.  Unfortunately, this tape removal had the same effect of waxing the nipple hair.  Yes nipple.  Hair.  He squirmed and cussed as he pulled off the tape.  I, on the other hand, laughed hysterically, causing many fellow runners to stop and look at our vehicle to see what was going on.  This sight played back to me in my mind several times during our race and was met with more laughter from me.  He didn't think it was funny.  Personally, I think men should just suck it up and wear a sports bra.  Problem solved.

Gu'd up and geared up, we made our way to the starting line (after several pit stops, of course).  It was a beautiful foggy and cold morning.  Our car temperature gauge said 12 degrees when we left the house, but it had warmed up to a balmy 19 degrees by race time.  Walking through the parking lot, many folks were going through their preparation routines.  Some were sprinting around, some stretching, and some had a full-blown tailgate party going on, complete with loud music and party atmosphere.  I was getting caught up in the excitement, and I loved it.  Why race?  This is why.  Getting pumped for something is an addictive natural adrenaline high.  Lindsey and her dad, Marshall, were also in our midst, with Marshall running the full marathon, and Lindsey running the half.  They had been training together for this race.  Of course, they would beat the pants off of us, and had probably spent about 5% of the time we did in their gear preparations.  Clad in shorts and a sweatshirt, Lindsey would tough out the cold temperatures and smoke us all.  Vance was on the bike, running support for us, ready to take anything we needed to discard along the way.  Our team was set.

The starting line was crowded.  It was our biggest race to date and we were very excited.  As in every starting line, lots of nervous jokes were being made, and people were jumping up and down to keep warm.  The gun went off and we were off, jostling about in the crowd, being swept into a 7:15 mile pace (fast for us) for the first mile.  After that, the crowd thinned out, and we settled into a steady 9:30-10:00 mile pace and went about clicking away the miles.  The race rules banned ipods (not everyone adhered to that one!) so Jay and I ran music free.  Running without music is refreshing, especially during a race where lots of crowd noise and conversations surround you.  It somehow makes the miles go by faster.  For a solo run, however, I always run with an ipod to keep me motivated.

Lindsey zooms past the cheering section & team photog
Some of the things that surprised me about the race crowd: many many people took bathroom breaks.  Pretty much anywhere.  I personally was relieved that I didn't have to relieve myself during the race.  Also, lots of people walked, and two women ran-walked, alternating running with walking every 100 yards or so.  It was irritating to pass them, then they would pass us, then we would pass them, etc. etc..  We finally just stepped up the pace and sped past, putting them safely behind us.  Also, lots of people met each other while running.  Someone would run up beside someone else, and they'd introduce themselves and talk about their running career.  This banter was very interesting to eavesdrop on.  Jay and I were convinced that one man and woman were going to hook up for a date after the race.  We felt like we were listening in on two people drinking at a bar, not running a marathon!  But, I'm pretty sure I would definitely rather meet someone while running than drinking any day...you get a much better look at the raw product.

Aside from some very cold body parts that will remain unnamed (ask Jay for details), Jay and I felt pretty good in our race day outfits.  The visor kept the sun out of our eyes, and the rest of us were perfectly regulated...not too hot, not too cold.  It was so cold out that we had frost on our shoulders from the releasing heat.  A little over the halfway point, we saw Marshall heading towards us on the full marathon route.  The halfers and fullers ran the same route for the first 7 miles or so, and then the fullers turned back and ran a portion of the route in the opposite direction to connect to a longer loop.  He looked strong, fast, and in good spirits.  We were impressed.

Waving to our biggest fans
Soon after the Marshall sighting, we went through and underpass and on our ascent, I caught a glimpse of a pink-clad toddler tooling around, looking much like Ralphie on A Christmas Story.  Sure enough, it was our cheering section, with 19 month old Caitlin out front, waving.  Six year old Alex and Grandmom and Poppy cheered and took pictures as we ran by, waving back.  Apparently Lindsey had zoomed by (much) earlier and they got some shots of her dust.

Handing back our footballs
The longest-seeming part of the race came next miles 9 through 11, with a pass back through our starting route.  We took a turn and headed through campus, where a volunteer was handing out flowers for the runners to carry through campus and place at the Memorial Fountain, which memorializes the 1970 plane crash which claimed the lives of most of the Marshall Football team and its staff.  Soon after our jaunt through campus, we came to the last leg, past the stadium parking lot, where we saw our cheering section again, and into the stadium itself.  It was an exciting finish to the race, and runners were handed a football to carry as they ran down the field and crossed the finish line.  As you can imagine, lots of Heisman poses were struck along the way.  Race officials asked us not to spike the balls, taking some of the fun out of it.
The approach to the finish line

We crossed the finish line and felt great, and relieved, to be finished with the furthest run of our lives, the Half Marathon.  We were half marathoners!  And the best part was that we did it together.  We met up with Lindsey, who won her age group with a time of 1:40 and ran a blistering 7:39 pace, and Vance and Grandmom.  Unfortunately our finish line photos weren't great, since we crossed at the same time as another odd-looking couple, but we did get a great shot of the four of us post-race.  Our time was 2:12 and a 10:08 pace.  Jay graciously slowed at the finish, allowing me to cross first by a few seconds.  

Yay! Our first half complete!
Vance and Lindsey headed out to cheer on Marshall, and we took the kids and headed home for an afternoon of rest.  My recovery/reward meal was a hot chocolate from McDonald's and a sausage McGriddle.  Yum!  

Sunday, February 13, 2011

2010 in review - Part IV 10-10-10 10K

Our next race challenge was to be a half marathon.  We registered for the Marshall University Half Marathon in Huntington and began training and doing more long runs.  Jay and I signed up for the "Run of a Lifetime" 10K on 10-10-10.  This race fell perfectly on our training schedule for our upcoming half.  Vance and Lindsey offered to watch the kidlets while we ran this race, which also happened to be right down the road from our house, and along our regular running route.  We had been running 7, 8, 9 miles on a regular basis leading up to the run.  However, our only 10K experience was at the end of the Scenic Mountain Triathlon.  So, needless to say, we took this race pretty lightly.  It even started at 2pm on a Sunday, so piece of cake right?  Well, not really.

Scenic Mountain Triathlon co-competitor Tom Samples and friend Bryan Watts joined us for the run.  In Bryan's case, it was the farthest he had ever run!

This race fell on an unusually hot day for October.  We had been running in consistently 60 degree weather, so we were not prepared for the 88 degree day that race day turned out to be!  Not only was it super hot, but very dry.  The route also turned out to be much tougher than we expected.  We were met with no shade and hill upon hill upon hill.  The route took us into several extremely hilly neighborhoods.  It was demoralizing.

However, we finished the race in the middle of the pack; it seemed as if everyone had underestimated the challenge of this race.  Our times were comparable to our Scenic Mountain Triathlon times, and that was the third leg of a triathlon!!  Oh well, at least our performance left the door open for future PRs!

The crowd was fun, the t-shirt was cool, and the kids had a great time at the city park fair that was going on at the same time.  Would we do it again?  Absolutely!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

2010 in Review Part III The Triathlon Relay

The swim start in beautiful Stonewall Jackson lake
The triathlon bug had bitten, and bit hard.  We signed up for our next triathlon, the Stonewall Jackson Triathlon at beautiful Stonewall Jackson resort in Lewis County, West Virginia.  Vance recovered from his strained diaphragm just in time to tear his calf muscle.  Frustrated but unwilling to give up, we entered the race as a relay team, "Team Lima Green."  Relaying a triathlon proved to be extremely fun, and I don't think any of us regretted the decision.  Vance was to swim 1000m, Jay bike 26 miles, and I was to run 4 miles as anchor.

We made it a getaway weekend, and camped at Summersville Lake on Friday night before the race.  We knew the cool waters of the lake would be a great post-race relaxation spot.  Grandmom and Poppy prepared a lasagna dinner for us in their camper oven and we carbo loaded around the picnic table under the stars.

Team Lima Green prepares to race
After a predawn scurry and preparation, we were on the road to Stonewall Jackson.  This place should have been easy to find.  Several of us had been there before.  But, somehow, the logistics coordinator (me) printed the bike route directions rather than the resort directions and we ended up driving about 20 miles out of our way to get there.  I am an early bird.  I like to get somewhere in plenty of time to case the joint, use the bathroom, and scope everything out, with time to iron out any wrinkles that may arise.  Well, this arrival was not so well planned.  We were pretty much lost, and without cell signal, we were at the mercy of the clock to get there in time for the team check-in deadline.  Our GPSs just laughed at us.  My nerves were shot, and if I would have had a heart rate monitor on, it would have been smoking.  But, miraculously, we found the resort and pulled into the foggy parking lot.  The good news was, we got a last-minute tour of the bike route!  We made it within minutes of the registration shutting down.  Shew!

Vance gets ready to swim
The next step was to figure out how to do our chip transitions, and to get Vance down to the water's edge for the start.  We had several mishaps along the way, Vance wore the wrong swim cap, Jay wore the runner's number (not intended for bikers), and we went through several pairs of broken sunglasses.  Luckily, the race start was delayed by several minutes due to fog on the water of the lake, obstructing the view of race officials and swimmers.

Jay returns from the bike leg
Finally, the race was on!  Vance completed a strong swim, and had to sprint up a hill to the transition area to where Jay was waiting to take off on the bike.  After seeing the route, I was not disappointed to only be running in this triathlon.  His bike route was an extremely hilly 26 miles, with constant ups and downs.  Whereas the Scenic Mountain triathlon was one long uphill, this was up and down the whole way.  He definitely had the most difficult relay leg, which took about an hour and a half before he returned to the transition area.  I spent the hour and a half trying not to jump out of my skin, and going to the bathroom way too many times.  I had a minor panic attack when I thought we had lost the runner's number, but I remembered that Jay had pinned it to his shirt.  Since before dawn, my body and mind were winding tighter and tighter, ready to run.  As anchor, I was terrified of losing a position on the run and couldn't wait to get going!  Finally I saw Jay returning on his bike.  He rode in, and I pinned the number on while he attached the chip to my ankle.

T2 Jay to Shannon
I ran out of there like a scared rabbit.  And, of course, in my panic, I forgot to sync my Garmin so I had no idea how fast I was going.   I also had no idea what to expect on the route.  Oh well, as long as I wasn't passed by someone with an "R" by their number I'd be okay.  (R for relay).  Problem was, I couldn't see who had Rs on their numbers and who didn't, unless they were ahead of me.  Hm.  So I ran scared, hoping to not hear footsteps behind me.  The route was all downhill on the first 2 miles, which meant it was going to be uphill all the way back.  Nice.  Amazingly, I passed a few folks, and no one passed me.  But later I saw in the results that a relay runner was only seconds behind me, and I didn't even know it.  Shew!

The big finish
Team Lima Green finish line photo
Team Lima Green came in fourth overall in the relays that day.  We had a great time, and spent a well-deserved lazy afternoon on the boat at Summersville afterwards.

Summersville Lake