Sunday, June 06, 2010
(Written on Saturday night...)
This morning I raced for my grandmother. I never met her, and I sorely wish that I had gotten the opportunity. Before I was born, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. According to her doctors, it was a form which many women survived…but in her case, it had been detected too late. She didn’t make it. She passed away before I was born. The only way I have gotten to know her is through my parents’ stories and photographs. She looked so much like me. I wonder what it would have been like to sit and talk to her, what we would talk about, what things we would have in common. I miss her so much, even without having gotten to know her. It saddens me that early detection might have allowed my grandmother to survive and WIN the battle against breast cancer. I hope that the work of healthcare providers and organizations like Susan G. Komen will allow more and more women to beat breast cancer. I hate to see people losing their grandmothers, mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, and friends to breast cancer. I pray that, one day, it will never happen again.
The Komen Madison Race for the Cure had been on my racing “wish list” for a while. I wasn’t sure if I’d make it this year, due to previous plans to meet friends out of town. I figured that, this year, I’d just send in a donation and put the race on my 2011 calendar. However, when my plans fell through at the last minute, I saw it as an opportunity to join over 10,000 other people in Madison’s 2010 Race for the Cure. On Friday night, I went through my typical pre-race routine of laying out my running clothes (not pink, just in case this particular Race for the Cure reserved pink for survivors), iPod, water bottle, and race essentials. I didn’t accomplish my other pre-race day task of going to bed early. A killer work week combined with some overwhelming emotions about Timmy’s condition kept me awake later than planned, and my head didn’t hit the pillow until nearly midnight.
Nonetheless, I was up with the alarm clock at five o’ clock and able to perk up after consuming a Bagel Thin and some fresh fruit. I got in the car and made the short trek to the Alliant Energy Center, home base for the event. I got there SUPER early, so parking was no problem and the race organizers were still in the process of setting up the tents! I eased into the morning and woke myself up with a leisurely stroll around the center. Eventually, I ambled over to the registration tent, where I paid my money and received a blue race bib, T-shirt, and timing chip. (Soooo cool, they actually had PINK timing chips! LOVED that!) I pinned the bib to my front and a sign indicating that I was racing in memory of my grandma to my back. Although the sign was for my grandma, the many women I knew that had been touched by breast cancer were also on my mind. My high school friend who lost her mother to breast cancer. Bruce’s Aunt Meg, who has been fighting a difficult battle with breast cancer. My running buddy’s mother, who passed away from breast cancer two years ago. One of my mother’s friends, who lost the battle several years ago. So many women…so many stories. I knew that my first Race for the Cure would make for an emotional morning.
I put my race T-shirt in the car and continued making circuits around the grounds. I visited some of the booths, grabbed some scones and snacks from the food tent, and sampled vitamin water. Racers were now starting to pour in as the start time neared. Survivors were dressed in pink race shirts and also wore pink racing bibs. There were women of all shapes, sizes, and ages. As I saw the number of women in pink survivor’s shirts posing for photos with their families and milling around the booths, I was emotionally floored. It’s overwhelming to think how many people are touched by breast cancer. And it’s not just the women who fight it, but their families and friends and the people who love them. And it was uplifting to see how many people had committed weeks or months to fundraising for this event, and who had come out early on a Saturday morning to support this cause. It’s hard to even describe the flood of emotions I felt as I weaved in and out of the crowd and observed what was going on around me. I don’t even know how to put this all into words, but when people say that the Race for the Cure is an emotional experience, that only BEGINS to describe it!
At eight o’ clock, one of the race committee members, also a breast cancer survivor, led us in an aerobic warm-up. It was very similar to a Walk Away the Pounds video, so I felt right at home. At the front of the crowd was a team of young men who called themselves “Save the Ta Ta’s” and were dressed in matching pink tank tops and denim shorts. Yeah, they were entertaining. Two of them were running in honor of their mothers. After the warm up, it was time to head over to the start line, under a huge arch of pink and white balloons, and get ready to run! It took a while to get over there since just about everyone was swarming over there too. The crowd was loosely organized into the categories of “Serious Runner,” which seemed to translate to chip timed runners with non-timed runners behind them, and then “Very Fast Walkers” and all the other walkers in the back. I lined up towards the back of the “Serious Runner” section. Me? A SERIOUS runner?! Really?? While I waited, I set up my iPod to play me the latest Jack Johnson CD, the perfect chill-out music for a summertime run! I realized that I forgot to bring my Garmin to keep time for me. Oh well…I figured I could just run when I felt like running and walk when I felt like walking. This race wasn’t so much about the time anyway. (Although the type A personality in me, the one who was slightly dismayed upon finding out that the Royal Family 5K was NOT chip timed, did pay the extra $5 to be chip timed so I could at least have an official time…)
I heard some announcements coming from the start line but it was kind of hard to understand what was being said over the background noise of the crowd. But I DID hear someone say “Five more minutes!” so knew that go time was well on its way. And when it got there, we counted down and took off to lots of clapping and cheering! And we were off. It was kind of odd to be close to the front of the pack, “serious runner” that I am, since I usually line myself up near the back. I felt energized and fresh as I jogged along smoothly with the crowd. Rain had been in the forecast, but thankfully it wasn’t raining. It was a little bit overcast, not too hot, not overly humid. It didn’t seem too long before we emerged out by Monona Bay. The course looked oddly familiar…because I had just run it last week. Hello Mile 11 of the Madison Half Marathon…minus the sprinklers and hose pipes, though! Spectators lined the streets and cheered us on. Young cheerleaders wearing lime green “I Am The Cure” T-shirts chanted for us. The course was fairly crowded, although not quite as congested as I had expected, and there were a LOT of kids running. While it was awesome to see so many young kids running the 5K, at the same time, it presented a challenge since kids often aren’t as savvy with race etiquette or aware of the other runners around them. For example, I nearly (accidentally, of course) plowed right into two young girls who stopped dead in the middle of the course to squat down and re-tie their shoes. Whew…thankfully I was paying attention and was able to shift gears in time to miss them! But anyway, it was kind of encouraging to see kids out running, rather than home playing video games or watching mindless TV.
The first half of the race went by in a flash. I was so relaxed as I cruised along and people-watched. Of course, we all know that races are one of the best places to do some good people watching…as both the racers and spectators can provide some interesting entertainment! (Remember Speedo guy from the Madison Half Marathon? Or the dude relieving himself at the Shamrock Shuffle?) These racers were fairly family-friendly, thankfully. I loved seeing the survivors in their pink clothes and the people wearing signs that said “In celebration of” someone who had survived breast cancer. The volunteers in their blue shirts were all so sweet and encouraging, and many residents of the neighborhood had come out of their houses to share the experience with us. There was so much going on that I didn’t even notice the first mile marker! I didn’t stop to walk, except through the aid stations. I felt comfortable jogging along at what felt like an easy pace. Thanks to my forgetfulness on the Garmin, I had no idea what pace that was, though…but I was thinking I was moving along at a 10:30-11:00/mile pace…maybe. I did start to feel a bit winded around the time we approached the two mile marker, but I pressed on, keeping to my “easy” pace. Here, the narrow path and course congestion served me well because I simply didn’t have the room to push too hard on the pace. I was smooshed right in the middle of a group of runners that seemed to be moving at quite a relaxed pace, and I didn’t have quite enough steam to pass more than one or two of them. So I settled into a niche in the crowd and continued to cruise with the crowd as we snaked our way back towards the Alliant Energy Center. As I saw the top of the Center in the distance, I felt relieved that I’d be able to slow down and rest my legs…soon. Even though I was running at an “easy” pace, my body was starting to heat up a good bit and I was starting to feel a little tired. I repeated my race day mantra to myself a few times. One more step is another step closer! I reminded myself that I was doing this for my grandma, and for all other people who had battled breast cancer. Running a mere 3.1 miles was nothing compared to the challenges of fighting cancer.
And into the parking lot we jogged, and the crowd of spectators became denser as we approached home base. And there was a shout of “Keep going! You’re almost there!” And we WERE actually almost there, because then I spotted the three mile marker. And the home stretch! I spotted the race clock, the first one I had seen during the whole race, in the distance and it said 30:50something. I pushed through and eased through the finish line, as the race clock said about 31:30. My estimation was that it had taken 30-60 seconds to cross the start line, so my time would probably be around 31:00…a ten minute/mile pace! (My chip time ended up being 30:59, so apparently I am quite a good guesser…) As I crossed through the finish line, I couldn’t help but let out a little smile. I did this for my grandma.
I didn’t have a lot of time to soak in the post-race atmosphere, as I had to move on to fun Saturday morning tasks, like grocery shopping. But it was most definitely a worthwhile experience, and I was satisfied with my decision to get up early and join in. I fully expect to return and Race for the Cure again next year!
Sunday, May 30, 2010
It all started with a step. A hesitant step onto the "dreadmill" after experiencing the magic of the Disney Princess half marathon. The first step of a weeknight 5k program, accompanied by a dose of the Biggest Loser. And it all ended with a step, more like an exhausted stumble into the front door of Five Guys Burgers on State Street at around 11:15 this morning. In between the beginning and the end of my Madison Half Marathon journey were 234.39 miles of running, walking, training, cruising, pushing, and racing. There were hundreds of memories, good, bad, and disgusting, hours of television and music, and abundant personal growth. Today, race day, capped off my Madison Half Marathon experience. It was, without a doubt, the most challenging, grueling race I have ever run, but undoubtedly worth it. Even though I was pushed to my limits today, there were countless moments which entertained and inspired me.
I approached the day with some trepidation, mainly knowing that the predicted high for today was a blistering 87 degrees. I questioned every decision I made, from what to wear to how much fuel and water to carry. Last night, I laid out my outfit, a blue tech shirt and black running skirt, and all of my gear, which included my iPod in a lightweight armband, Garmin, and new hydration belt, and all the necessities, like sunscreen, sunglasses, Gu's, and cash. While the experts say never to try anything new on race day, my gut told me that I'd need to carry water with me. And since I absolutely abhor my old hydration belt, I figured there was no way I could possibly be worse off with the new one! And with that, I went to bed by ten o' clock and set my alarm for the ungodly hour of 3:45. (I so often forget that there are two three o' clocks in a day!)
Thankfully, and due in part to the modern miracle called air conditioning, I slept soundly and comfortably and got right out of bed when the alarm buzzed. I dressed, ate a light breakfast, and drank 16 ounces of Nuun. (And just what is Nuun, you ask? Check it out here...) I struggled a bit with my timing chip. It was a chip that attached to a hospital bracelet like band. I initially wrapped the band around my ankle but it was way too tight...so I cut it off but then I couldn't really re-use it. I ended up tying the thing to my road ID with some string. It was ugly, but functional. Eh, oh well. At least it wasn't going anywhere. Didn't want it to since they were not disposable chips, and a lost chip would cost me $40! At four forty, I was out the door. The drive to downtown and the parking was uneventful. Capitol Square was virtually a ghost town, except for police officers, a few early bird racers, and race staff setting up. I walked laps around the square for a while, and with each lap I walked, more and more racers arrived and the square began to get pretty busy. It was already starting to feel warm, although not yet hot outside. I hit the portapotties a couple of times, just to make sure I was good and...um...empty before I started running. Didn't want to waste time waiting in the potty line on the race course if I could help it!
Once we got to about seven o' clock, I found my place in the start corrals. We weren't formally assigned to corrals, but were able to choose our position based on our time goals. I decided to hang between the 2:20 and 2:30 pace groups. While initially I had hoped to PR this race, I slowly let go of that dream once I saw the weather forecast. While I waited for the 7:20 start time, I fired up the iPod, checked the Garmin, cinched up the hydration belt, and tried my best to relax. My nerves were getting to me a little, but I tried to remind myself that I had trained hard for this and that all I needed to do now was relax and enjoy the ride (er...run).
A couple of minutes after seven, the marathoners started passing by us as they embarked on their 26.2 mile journey. First, we cheered on the four in the wheelchair division. Then we saw the pace groups shuffle by, one at a time, starting with the ambitious 3:10 group and ending up with the lively 5:00 group. It was inspiring and exciting to see all 2000+ of them, looking fresh, fit, and ready to take on such an amazing challenge! I have to admit that I didn't envy them, headed out on such a long run on such a hot day, though. 13.1 was enough of a challenge for me today, thank you very much! (Ask me again in a couple of years though...)
And then...it was time for us to go! I somehow missed the gun/siren/airhorn/starting signal, but heard the emcee make an announcement as each pace group crossed the start line. It was about a five minute wait to get to the front since I was in one of the last pace groups, but it did beat the hour of standing around in a cold corral at the Disney half! Brrrr! My playlist was already trucking and when I felt my foot on the start mat, I set the Garmin in motion. Half marathon number two was officially underway! The sun was already beating down, but thankfully I had sunglasses and had slathered SPF 50 all over a bit earlier. Everyone around me seemed to be in good spirits and we all settled into a comfortable rhythm for the first couple of miles.
As we cruised down West Washington Avenue towards Regent Street, I took the opportunity to people watch a bit. One thing to add to the "crazy things I've seen at races" file was this: two guys running alongside each other. One of them was in normal running garb, as in shirts and some kind of tech shirt. The other one? Not so much. His getup consisted of a bright blue Speedo and a sign around his neck saying "My friend doesn't have the balls to wear a Speedo." HA! They got a lot of hoots and hollers from both the spectators and the other racers.
Miles one and two passed pretty uneventfully. I could tell that the heat was slowing my pace a bit, but not by much...yet. I stuck to 2:30 run / 0:30 walk intervals for a while. It felt about right. I was feeling pretty relaxed as the procession of runners cruised by Camp Randall Stadium. A few more twists and turns, and we were making our way onto Observatory Drive and into the fourth mile. The sun was really beating down and I felt my first wave of fatigue. Would I really be able to make it ten more miles? I tried to shoo away the self-doubt and negative thoughts, but I was already dripping with sweat and feeling kind of overwhelmed...especially when I realized that we were about to contend with a BIG hill, the same monster that got me during the Shamrock Shuffle and Crazylegs Classic. It was a bit of a surprise this time...even after studying the course map, I wasn't expecting it for some reason. UGH. Note to self: do hill training for next half marathon! This time I decided it was wise to cut my losses and walk the whole thing, since I still had 9+ miles to run after it. I kept the pace as brisk as possible, but knew this would slow me down some. I had been sticking pretty close to the 2:20 pace leader, but with each minute that passed, saw her sign drifting further and further out onto the horizon. Oh well. I had let go of my hopes of PRing pretty much at the start line, maybe even before. Now, I'd just be happy to finish before the time limit...or even finish before my playlist ran out of music. (According to iTunes, it amounted to 3.1 hours of music.) At least the hill gave me a solid walk break, and as we trooped up and up, one of the wheelchair division marathoners passed us. We gave him a big cheer.
After the monster hill, we skirted the edge of downtown again and cruised into a residential neighborhood, complete with lots of big, shady trees lining the streets. What a relief! In the sixth and seventh miles (ish) I noticed a lot of entertaining signs. Seriously, this race wins the prize for the most creative and funniest signage I've ever seen...like:
* Goo Luc: Since you're running a half marathon, you only get half a sign!
* Free nipple massages at finish line (held by a college-aged guy...ok...that was ew...but I laughed anyway...)
* 26.2 because 26.3 would just be crazy (on a part of the course shared by the marathoners)
* That's not sweat. It's your fat cells crying!
* Don't worry...your legs will forgive you eventually!
* Free french fries at finish line!
* Not a sign...but there was a house that had a "beer station" set up exactly like a water station with the table and cups...except beer instead of water. I didn't touch it, but saw several runners stop there.
And others that I'm sure I'm forgetting! Somewhere during mile seven-ish, my Garmin decided to freak out. The display suddenly got all these lines in it and it started flashing and beeping angrily at me, before dying a slow painful death. Once again, I was midway through a half marathon without any kind of timing device...and didn't even have the convenience of race clocks (or even a simple wrist watch) to keep me aware of my time. So my nice, neat Galloway intervals were out the window. I was initially pretty annoyed, but perhaps it's one of the best things that could have happened. In such intense heat, it was probably better for me to focus on my health and safety more than my time or pace. So that's what I did...since the PR was long forgotten by now, I decided to shift gears, cruise comfortably, walk as much as needed, and enjoy the event. There were quite a few spectators and it was kind of a fun, party-like atmosphere in spite of the increasingly scorching heat. Of course, I'm still not sure if the Garmin is fried for good or if it's some less complicated issue, like a dead battery. Stay tuned...
So my structured half marathon slowly morphed into a leisurely, entertaining tempo run/walk. Several homeowners stood on their front lawns spraying runners with hose pipes or had their sprinklers set up on the street. I'm sure for many of us, they were the neighborhood heroes! I ran into every sprinkler or hose I saw. It was kind of like being a little kid again, and I needed the refreshment! By mile seven or eight my clothes were almost as wet as if I had jumped in the lake, but I was beyond caring. Whatever I had to do to stay cool, right? The middle portion of the race seemed to drag on and on and on, mainly due to the overwhelming heat, and I kept chanting to myself "Every step I take is one step closer..." It kind of became my mantra, and I clung to this thoughtd as I visualized myself crossing the finish line.
I also was extremely thankful that I had the hydration belt packed with water and Gu. There were water stations along the way, but not quite enough to give me the water I felt I needed to stay properly hydrated. And I didn't see one station with Gu's or food of any kind even though I thought there was going to be. And I'm happy to report that the new hydration belt, an Amphipod model, was not in the least annoying. Mile six seemed to go on forever, but then I saw the eight mile marker, and I was like, "Oh, duh, I guess I didn't seen the seven mile marker...or maybe there wasn't one?!" At about 8.5 miles, we were racing back towards downtown and through Monona Terrace, which was cool because there were a lot of spectators hanging out there and cheering us on. A couple of people even called out my name, and, in my late-in-the-race stupor, I thought, "Huh?! How do they know my name?" and then remembered that it was printed on my race bib. D'OH!
And down John Nolan Drive we trudged, back in the full sun, laboring towards the ten mile marker. There was a part of me that was eager for the race to just be over already, another part that didn't want it to end, that wanted to keep savoring the experience, exhausting as it was. We crossed the street and soon were sprinting (um...shuffling, rather) around Monona Bay. We were on another residential street which meant lots of spectators, signs, and sprinklers (YAY!) I was, once again, swimmingly soaked. A lady near the end of the street shouted to us that we were almost there, about a mile and a half to go! Around that time, the police motorcycle leading the marathon came up behind us, and I heard him announce that the marathon leader was right behind us! Insane! The half marathon and marathon shared the same last 1-2 miles, so this guy had already run 24-25 miles in just a little more time than it took me to do 11ish?! WOW! We all gave him a big cheer as he raced on behind the motorcycle.
Then, we took a shortcut across a bit of grass, and we were back on Washington Avenue once again, on the final stretch towards Capitol Square, and the finish line. I was walking more and more, quickly running out of steam. I didn't worry about it so much...now solidly just in the business of finishing without puking or collapsing. We had already seen two or three ambulances on the course, and I did not want an ambulance ride to be part of my race day experience! At about 12.5 miles, I saw the 2:30 pace leader pass me, and I had a fleeting moment of "Oh crap, I want to finish in less than 2:30!" I jogged after her a bit half-heartedly but my legs felt about as solid as Jello and my tank was bouncing on empty. So I half-grudgingly slowed back to a comfortable walking pace, and told myself I'd start running as soon as I spotted the Capitol building.
Well...that moment came and went, and we were moving uphill, so I decided "forget it, I'm going to keep walking for a bit..." And then we were really nearing the finish line. There was no 13 mile marker, but the crowd of spectators was getting denser and the entrance to Capitol Square was upon us. I mustered up every last bit of strength I could and picked it up to a jog. I really didn't want to walk across the finish line if I could help it! I wanted to run...maybe not full steam...but running all the same. And I managed it. I kept the slow run going down Carroll Street and around the corner, where the photographer was poised to take our photos. (UGH, I'm sure in mine, I looked about ready to hurl...since that's about how I felt!) And I rounded the corner onto Main Street, where I spotted the finish line up ahead and saw a grandstand of spectators on the right. I was running solo now, and felt a bit self conscious that I was the only one on this stretch of the road in front of so many people. Ah, the pressure! One foot in front of the other, I shuffled along and glanced at the race clock above, since that was the best I could do to keep time. The emcee had just announced the arrival of the 2:30 pace team leader, so she didn't get too far ahead of me, after all! The race clock said 2:37 something, but I assumed that my chip time would probably be somewhere between 2-5 minutes less than that since I didn't cross the start line right away. I did it. Whew. The only emotion I really felt in the moment was exhausted, if that counts as an emotion. Oh, and an overwhelming craving for a good, juicy hamburger.
To my left, I spotted a runner being carted off on a stretcher. I was relieved that it wasn't me, and just hoped that the runner on the stretcher would be OK. I moved along to the water station, where I gratefully accepted a bottle of water, and then to a volunteer who hung a shiny, square finisher's medal around my neck. I rounded the corner to the food station, where I picked up a chocolate milk, half a bagel, and two string cheeses, then found a curb to sit and savor my snack. I was decidedly overheated and still as soaking wet as if I had gone for a swim. One word for that: YUCK. Maybe it's just as well that they weren't taking finisher's photos, since mine would have looked about as soggy as the parking stub I had stashed in my fuel belt!
I figured I wouldn't be able to get out of the downtown area anytime soon (at least very quickly...) so I decided to stick around for a bit, spectate at the finish line, and then maybe grab that hamburger I had been craving. I found a spot next to the grandstand, and had a great time watching runners and walkers trickle in. The marathon winner had made it ages ago, as had any of the half marathon winners and near-winners, but I did see the female marathon leader sprint in, followed by lots of other marathoners and half marathoners. (I actually found out later that the half marathon walk leader had finished in around 2:10:00, over twenty minutes before I did...that is some crazy fast walking! That's like a 10 minute mile!) I just loved seeing all the marathoners come in and felt incredibly proud of every one of them. There were people of all shapes and sizes, men and women, varying ages, all accomplishing something major. Watching them come in was an inspiration to me, and it sealed the deal that I do want to run a full marathon in the next couple of years, once I've had the opportunity to build up some more running experience and train properly.
Another thing that blew my mind was the pace group leaders. Each one carried a sign representing a pace/time goal, and each one that I saw came within a minute of whatever his or her sign said. They were almost scary accurate! I wonder how they do it?! It seems like it takes talent to maintain such a steady pace over such a long distance. The last pace group leader I saw was the 4:00 one (for the full marathon). At that point, the temperature was escalating and escalating, and the emcee announced "red flag conditions," meaning that, although the course would remain opening for those who wished to finish, the race officials would stop timing the race. (I'm assuming that this was so people wouldn't push themselves through dangerous conditions? Not sure?) Sure enough, right at 3:59:59, the race clock came to a screeching halt, and that was that. Runners continued to trickle in, amid lots of clapping and cheering from the spectators.
It was around eleven o' clock at that point, and I was starting to feel hungry yet again. I slipped out of the crowd and strolled down State Street in pursuit of that hamburger. When I walked up to the Five Guys burger restaurant, I could almost hear the angels singing! I gratefully stumbled through the door and into the refreshing air conditioning. As I ordered my hamburger, my Madison Half Marathon journey officially came to an end. I wore my shiny finisher's medal proudly, and even though this hadn't been my "best" race and my 2:32:23 time was far from being a PR, the experience was 110% worth it. Along the way, I learned many important lessons, such as not depending on race organizers for fuel and hydration, enjoyed a lot of entertaining TV and music, interacted with interesting people, and proved that I can step up to a major challenge and accomplish great things. Every step I took, from that first shuffle on the treadmill, to my foot touching the finishing mat, was something to celebrate. I'm thrilled to add the Madison Half Marathon to my running career, and look forward to the next chapter.
I DID IT!
Saturday, May 08, 2010
Just a drive by posting to wish all the moms on SparkPeople a HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY! I hope all of you have a wonderful day and have a chance to relax and pamper yourself!
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Before I begin, I just want to offer a heartfelt THANK YOU to those of you who have stopped by to offer your words of support and encouragement! It is wonderful to have so many running buddies who care enough to show me so much LOVE! While I haven't had the chance to respond to all of you individually, just know that your comments have all meant a LOT to me...THANK YOU!!!
I feel like I should subtitle this race report "The race that almost wasn't." I became somewhat anxious about the fate of this year's Crazylegs Classic 8K when, earlier in the week, the Weather Channel started forecasting rain and thunderstorms for this morning. Even as late as yesterday evening, the Weather Channel's hour by hour forecast was showing a 50% chance of thunderstorms and 53 temperature for ten o' clock, the race's start time. Several friends who had planned to run with me were talking of dropping out due to the sketchy weather reports, and it just wasn't looking too good!
Feeling slightly discouraged, I still set my alarm clock for six o' clock, lay out my running gear, and got to bed early...just so I'd be prepared. Just in case, by some miracle, the thunderstorm held off. So far, all the races I had run were in picture-perfect weather. One of my friends even joked that I must be a "lucky charm" to have never run a race in bad weather. Well, as it seemed, my luck was about to run out. I didn't sleep all that well last night, but it was more because Timmy didn't sleep well, which involved him getting up and crying for me at three o' clock, than race-day jitters. Anyway, I did manage to wake up at around 6:09, after just one snooze, and through bleary eyes, saw that the forecasted thunderstorms had now been downgraded to "just" a chance of showers. Showers I could handle. They wouldn't be pleasant, but at least I had the foresight to pick up an inexpensive rain poncho to keep me dry!
I ate my breakfast, two plain waffles. After the Gilda's Run stomach troubles, which I seem to mention in just about every race report (HA!), I knew better than to eat anything but the blandest, most boring food in the hours leading up to a long race. I got dressed. Even though I'm very loyal to my USF Bulls (wooohoooo!) today I made myself an honorary UW Badger, since the Crazylegs Classic is in support of UW Athletics. I picked gear in the UW colors, so dressed in black pants and a red tech T-shirt. I covered up with a lightweight black jacket. And as I woke up and felt a little more energized, I gathered up my things and a caffeinated beverage and tumbled into the car for the drive to campus.
Thankfully, I had made the smart decision of arriving as soon as the packet pickup opened, so it wasn't that busy on campus yet. And since I got lost once on the way to the parking garage (d'oh!) it was a good thing I didn't have to fight traffic or dodge too many pedestrians. To navigate my way around campus, I had a lame little hand-drawn map I had sketched on the back of a shopping list. In the days of Garmins, Tom-Toms, and fancy iPhone apps, I guess I'm still stuck in the Stone Age, huh? But my primitive navigational aid did get the job done! After my one accidental detour, I managed to find the garage, plonked down my $5 for parking, and put the car in the first level. Then I began the chilly walk to the Kohl Center to pick up my race bib and T-shirt. I don't think I had been on a college campus since I graduated from USF in 2006, so it was kind of wild being there at UW, walking past the engineering building and geology building and classrooms to get to the Kohl Center. I almost felt like a student again...almost. I felt grateful that I'm not a student anymore, actually. After all the time I spent in school, enough is enough! Thankfully there was no rain yet, only a little bit of mist, so I didn't need the poncho.
The packet pickup was SUPER well organized, and I was in and out within about five minutes. From the Kohl Center, there were shuttles (actually school buses) lined up to transport us downtown to the start line. Since the race start was over two hours away, I decided to hold off on the bus ride for a while. I wasn't sure if there would be any place to sit indoors once I got to the start line, so I found a cozy corner of the Kohl Center, sat down, and read a couple of chapters in the book Better, which I had toted along with me. (I knew the race had a gear check, a "Sweat Truck" which would transport our bags of gear from the square to the finish line, so I'd be able to let my book and race packet take a truck ride instead of being stuck with it!) Better is a fascinating book if you're interested in the health care industry and the many challenges it faces. For example, one chapter I read today was about the involvement of health care workers in the death penalty. Whether you're for or against capital punishment, it was an intriguing look at the moral questions surrounding it.
At around eight thirty, I felt the urge to get downtown and warm up, so I lined up for the next school bus, and within minutes was traveling downtown. Riding in a school bus was quite a throwback to elementary school! I forgot how much you bounce around in those seats, especially since they don't have seat belts! (That was always a mystery to me...when a school bus has so many safety features and gizwitchies, why no seat belts? But I digress...) When we arrived, there were already thousands of people milling around and exploring the capitol building and Saturday morning farmer's market. I joined the crowds and kept moving to keep warm. After I spotted the pastries and snacks many of the farmer's market vendors had for sale, I decided to find myself another bite to eat. How funny that, even after noticing all those awesome homemade goods, I ended up in a Starbucks. Perhaps the fact that Starbucks was indoors won me over? I found a seat in the crowded coffee shop and munched on a scone while I sipped on a chai latte, a beverage which I so rarely treat myself to anymore. At around nine-fifteen, I left Starbucks and found the gear check "Sweat Truck." I had an internal debate about what to do with the poncho, but since it hadn't really rained at all and didn't seem like it was going to, I took the risk of checking it. Then, not quite sure what to do with myself, I walked a couple of laps around the capitol building. I noticed a lot of people going in and out of the building, and realized that in the two years I've lived in Madison, I've never been inside. So I went in and took a few laps around, oohing and aahing at the decorative dome and rich interior. Finally, it was around nine-forty or so, and I decided that I should probably figure out where to line up for the start! I heard one of the MCs announcing that over 20,000 people had registered for Crazylegs. I had NO idea that this race was going to be this big!! I was thinking maybe 4,000-5,000 tops? Shows how much I knew! This race would be bigger than even the Princess Half. Once the runners were all lined up, they snaked halfway around the Capitol square!
My corral was JJ, near the back of the pack, although not quite the nosebleed section. The race had a wave start, one corral at a time, so corrals A-Z and AA-II would start before us. We'd have a looooooong time to wait! We didn't even hear the annoucement of the race start or a gun or anything. The only reason we knew the race was starting is that it was past ten o' clock, and we realized that the corrals were slowly starting to shuffle forward towards the starting line. It felt sort of like one of the less fun parts of being at Disney World, waiting in line for a popular ride, being in a densely packed crowd, shuffling forward a bit then stopping, shuffling then stopping, not quite being sure when you'd get to the end of the line! We filed past the Brocach Irish Pub, where a bagpiper stood and played music for us. (I was told by another JJ member that Brocach means "badger den" in Gaelic. And, quite randomly, that the name Brogan means "sturdy work boot"?) Around the corner we snaked, until finally we heard music being played by the UW band. We were getting closer! And then HH got their airhorn start, and then II. Then we were ushered up to the finish line, and on the way in, got to high-five the UW football players. And we counted down, got our airhorn and were OFF!
I wasn't looking forward to the first 1-1.5 miles so much because I knew I'd have to tackle...DUN DUN DUUUUUUUUUUN...Bascom Hill! As you might recall, I had to run up and down this Mother of a hill twice during last month's Shamrock Shuffle, and it wasn't such a pleasant experience! Nerd that I am, I had done some reading up on how to adjust your running form for going up hills and tried to put it to work this time. The hill was soooo freaking long and steep (at least to ME) that I ended up doing some walking towards the top, buuuuuut I managed to run a good bit of it without sacrificing too much of my good pace. And I managed to get through mile 1 in about 9:30...and mile 2 by about 19:00ish. We ran past this fraternity house where a bunch of guys were standing out there shirtless, one of them just in a Speedo (um...OK), cheering us on. They got a lot of hoots and hollers from the female runners, that's for sure! And there was a sorority house where the members were shouting out some silly-ish but encouraging cheers like "You all are so athletic!" and "You're really great at running!"
I felt a little winded towards the halfway point of the race, and realized that we hadn't yet seen a water station. And then I couldn't think about anything other than getting some water to drinkn. It became borderline obsessive. We came to this part of the course where we ran around this big loop and doubled back along the same road a bit, and across the loop I saw the lone water station, but then did a big D'OH when I realized we still had a good four or five minutes of running before we even got to it! And in fact, we passed the three mile mark, which was at around 29:15 for me, I think, before we even got to the water station. There was a bit of a skirmish right around there as all the runners clamored to the sides of the road to get their water. Apparently some of the other runners were just as thirsty as me!
I could have drunk four or five cups right there, but the one I got was enough to refresh me a bit and keep me going. I had been doing 2:30 run, 0:30 walk intervals up to this point, except for the hill where I changed them up a bit, and I was a little tired but doing just fine. (Although admittedly in my thirst during mile 3, I had a "how the h$!! did I ever run 13.1 miles?!" moment or two...) As we neared the end of the course, there were a lot of spectators, and it was motivating to have people cheering and clapping for us! We got to the fourth mile marker, and I was at just under forty minutes. I had set a 55:00 time goal for myself and was thrilled to realize that, barring any catastrophe during the final mile, I'd beat my goal, maybe even by five minutes!
During the last mile there were a lot of people to high five, including someone on stilts in an Uncle Sam costume. (Or was he during the fourth mile? It's all a blur now!) I entered a running interval at around forty-six minutes, and did my two and a half minutes, and then I realized we were running around a corner and about to go into the stadium. So, instead of taking my scheduled walk break, I kept on running, hoping for a nice strong finish!! Then we saw a sign telling us to follow the fire lane into the stadium, and then crossed over a mat, and then we were running onto the football field and right up to the finish line at the fifty yard line! I felt like a superstar! I tried to keep my head up and smile in case someone was taking my picture, but fumbled for my Garmin's stop button right as I felt my foot on the finish line's mat (so what was the mat at the stadium entrance for???) There was a water station (thank goodness!!) right there, and I grabbed my water and kept moving, as the police officers were instructing us to do. Guess they didn't want a traffic jam leading up to the finish, what with 20,000 runners and all! Once I was safely through the finisher's chute, I peeked down at my Garmin and saw that I had actually broken my time goal by over five minutes and just squeaked in faster than a 10:00/mile. Seems like, even with challenges like Bascom Hill, I'm slowly but surely getting faster!
The emcee was on the jumbotron about to start the awards ceremony, I think, as the winners had probably already been there for almost an hour. I didn't stick around long, as I wanted to get back to Bruce and Timmy, but did take the time to get a free cup of Pesto pasta, courtesy of Noodles & Company (awesome!!) and pick up my bag of gear from the "Sweat Truck." Luckily, even with all the people, it wasn't that difficult to get my car out of the garage and off campus. It was nice to get home and rest my feet and, of course, wait for the official race results! My Garmin time was pretty close to accurate, as my chip time was 49:13, which put me in 8614th place. Well...that ranking didn't win me a new road bike (DARN) but it was far from a dead last finish! The leading female finished in around 27 minutes...just a bit more than half the time I took. The mere thought of running at that speed makes my head spin!
So overall Crazylegs was a positive experience. The weather wasn't quite ideal, but I'm so glad that the rain and thunder held off. Maybe I don't have to relinquish my good luck charm status just yet. I really liked the race shirt, too, as it was very much my style. The only complaint I really have about it was that a single water station for a five mile race didn't seem like quite enough. I would have thought that having two or three stations would have been more sensible. Otherwise it couldn't have been better!
And since today counted as a Half Marathon training run, I rewarded my playlist with Big Daddy Weave's "What Life Would Be Like."
Saturday, April 24, 2010
** Written on Thursday night **
Because I shuffled my running schedule all around due to Crazylegs (which may or may not happen due to forecasted thunderstorms for Saturday morning), I did my seven mile LSD this evening at the gym. I got there pretty late because Timmy had therapy and we got held up with dinner. But it ended up being good timing because the Project Runway finale was coming on! I actually hadn't watched any of the season, but I always love watching the finalists show their collections at Bryant Park.
It was a very relaxing way to pass the time. I really loved (LOVED LOVED) Seth Aaron's collection. He truly did know how to put on a show! Mila's collection was nice, and I like how she broke out of her "retro" box some. And while I wasn't as crazy about Emilio's collection, I love that he had the fabric with his name on it and the big dramatic dress at the end of his show. Anyway, I was quite happy with who they chose as the winner! Very well deserving, or so it seemed, and seeing the winner's reaction was so touching to me.
Because of the length of my run, I had to split it into two treadmill programs, a 60:00 and a 20:00. I'm thankful that I'm at a gym where you don't have to wait for cardio equipment or give it up after thirty minutes. At the place I went to in Florida, I had to deal with both of those things, so training on the 'mill would have been challenging at best. Between the two programs and cooldown bits, I ran 7.55 miles in 80:00, using 2 minute run / 30 second walk, and walked an additional 0.43 miles in 9:00. Since this run was of a length that needed refueling (or at least was kind of on the border), I brought an Orange Gu with me. I wasn't feeling overly enthusiastic about trying it, especially since I've become such a huge fan of the chocolate, but it actually turned out to be amazingly good. Or was it just the phenomenon of anything tasting good after running a whole lot of miles? Who knows!?
Overall it felt like an easy run. The only challenge I really faced was that I ran in a brand new running skirt and it felt a little loose in the waist, even though it was the same size and style as my black minidot Running Skirt one. Go figure. I remember that the black one felt a bit the same before I washed it, so maybe once this new one is washed it will feel a bit better? But anyway, that was annoying. I felt like I had to keep pulling the skirt up to keep the rest of Gold's Gym from seeing my butt crack. OY.
Tonight, I rewarded myself with TobyMac's "City On Our Knees." The playlist is growing and growing! I'm keeping my fingers crossed for Saturday, although I'm starting to feel very pessimistic about the weather. Gosh, and I REALLY have been looking forward to Crazylegs, too! I will be super bummed if it's called off. If it's off, I'm run on the 'mill for five miles, but it's just not the SAME!
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