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Rock ‘n Roll USA Half Marathon…Part II!

March 20, 2012

Continued from Part I…here are some thoughts about my first half marathon.

Course

I’ve been in the DC area for almost six years…this time around. I’ve lived in the area a couple times before, and having grown up a military brat, DC is as much a home — maybe a little more — as just about any other place. So getting a quick (relatively speaking) foot tour of a large portion of my “hometown” was…awesome. I loved this course. With the exception of the streets immediately at the beginning and end of the race, I’d been on every part of the course over the years.

I pretty much zoned out on the ridiculous hill known as 18th Street NW/Connecticut Ave. NW. After the race, a friend that ran it said, “Sweet, now I know where Vapiano is!” I replied, “Oh, did someone tell you?” She countered, “No, we ran past it…” Right. I was just struggling up the hill…

There was a band at the end of Harvard Street NW, just after Mile 8, as you turned down onto 5th Street NW. Something about that band got me really fired up. I had a great time between Columbia Road and North Capitol. I’m guessing the folks partying hard on their well-decorated porches did, too. And, while I appreciated the offers, I politely declined their dixie cups of beer. Offers of post-race BBQs welcome, though.

By Mile 11, my feet were pretty sore, and by about Mile 12, the top of my right foot was cramping a bit. I walked some, and periodically stopped to stretch and massage my foot.

The end of the race? Wow…what a doozy. Coming down C Street, folks on the side of the course kept shouting that the finish was just around the corner. Then we turned the corner. And folks on the side of the course shouted that the finish was just around the corner. Whaaaaat?

It was. An uphill finish where you couldn’t see the finish line until you were almost on it. Tough 1/10 of a mile!

When you're not concerned with beating any particular time, it's easy to pull off for a second for photo ops.

Friends

As I mentioned in Part I, my friends are awesome. I started the race with a friend, had a few other friends running (like her and her), and saw friends between Miles 7 and 8 (surprise – I didn’t know they’d be out, or where they’d be – and they met me at the finish too!), just before Mile 10, just after Mile 11, and at the finish. They all told me I looked great, and seeing them made me ridiculously happy. Not-so-secret secret: I looked great when I ran past them because I knew they’d be there. Who wants to drag ass past your friends? Not this racy gal. Thanks for the boost, guys! The excitement of seeing my friends definitely added a spring to my step.

And an interesting perspective from some of these friends: what it’s like to watch a whole race. I’ll admit that I’ve never seen a whole race before. When I’ve gone out to see friends run, I’ve pretty much just gone to see them, and didn’t hang around the whole time. But some of my friends hung out on North Capitol with food and drink and watched the whole thing. They said it was pretty awesome to watch the fastest folks go past, and then to notice the changes in pace and the differences in pacing between the marathoners and half marathoners.

And they confirmed, mercifully, that I was not the slowest one out there. But even if I was, I’d be OK with that. I mean, hey, I was out there, right?

So, new goal: go watch a whole race, from the elite folks at the front of the pack all the way to the folks at the end who need cheers just as much as the front runners.

I think my friends took this because they wanted to make fun of my "fanny pack." That belt came in pretty handy for stashing more than the microscopic pocket on my capris can hold.

Progression of Feelings

I am nothing if not sentimental, so I’d be remiss to not acknowledge my feelings about this race.

As I mentioned in Part I, I had serious doubts about my ability to run this race as late as the day before. I’d trained, but had some difficulty throughout, and benched myself for a few weeks. But in the few weeks before the race, I’d felt pretty good. Then I started experiencing some strange hip/pelvic pain unlike anything I’d experienced before (and for which I’m going to a doctor in a few days). So I had major apprehension about this race. If I attempted it, what might happen? I had terrible visions of my hip giving out and me collapsing in Dupont Circle…if I made it that far.

But during the run, I physically felt fine. Some soreness in my feet toward the end…pretty sure that’s the price you sometimes pay for pounding the pavement for mile after mile. When the going got rough, I looked at the mile markers, judged that I probably only had 20 minutes to go, and reminded myself of my favorite coach‘s mantra: You can do anything for 20 minutes.

So I did. And damn if I didn’t feel awesome when I crossed that finish line.

I promise I will never do this again. Total cheeseball move.

Random observations

Anyone else notice the banana stand in downtown DC? So many banana peels on the ground…clearly this would be a ridiculously tragic way to go down in a race…taken out by your fuel. Same goes with the GU packets. That shit’s slick.

My lucky green shirt? Probably being relegated to the yoga pile. I’d done a few runs in it with no issue, but I was Chafy Stacie during the half. Major red, painful blotch on my left arm. Really attractive at work this week when it’s been warm enough to wear short sleeves. I thought to Body Glide under the straps of my sports bra; guess I need to add inner upper arms to the Body Glide list. Or just relegate the shirt to the yoga pile.

I will never, ever run a race in a full bodysuit. I saw a few of those, and by Mile 7 or so, they appeared to be sweaty, sweltering masses of crazy runner. Anyone tried this before? Are there vents? Special wicking material?

So...add it to the necklace rotation? Maybe not?

So. That’s that. My first, slightly crappily-trained half marathon is in the books. I had an awesome day and it just reinforced the running bug I caught a little while back. My time was 2:32, and all things considered, I’m happy with that. It was a PDR and a PR, and I look forward to blowing that PR out of the electrolyte-enhanced water in future half marathons.

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Rock ‘n Roll USA Half Marathon…Part I!

March 18, 2012

Going to commit a big blogger sin here and write only half a post of thoughts on my first half marathon (Get it? Half a marathon, half of my thoughts? Yeah, that’s pretty bad…). After the race yesterday and for almost all of today, I’ve been going non-stop and haven’t sat down to put good words to my thoughts. So…here’s Part I! Forgive the incomplete post.

Yesterday was the Rock n’ Roll USA Half Marathon and, considering how my hip/pelvis was feeling earlier in the week, I rocked it! It wasn’t the race I thought it would be when I registered in November, but it was SO much better than the race I thought it would be on Friday.

All smiles at seeing some friends just after Mile 11.

More updates to come, but overall: great experience. Good weather, albeit a little hot. No crazy course mix-ups, straight-forward gear check, plenty of food and drink available at the finish. And, key for me: no hip or pelvis pain during the run. At. all. Any aches and pains seemed pretty standard; my feet were a little sore by Mile 11.

And I was only punched in the face once.

True story.

At about mile 12.5 or so, a very uncoordinated girl who was raised by wolves was probably not used to crowded courses stretched her hands out very quickly at 90 degree angles, sending her closed fist straight into my nose as I was passing her. She felt bad, but wanted to chat about it. No way, lady! I assured her it was fine, but sped up a little, checking for blood. No blood, no foul.

The best part of the run? (Outside of finishing it, of course!) I have amazing friends and family who support me. I had such a fun weekend with these tremendous folks.

They also make ridiculously awesome signs.

Esuper Esexy ESWEATY Estacie! It was hot out there!

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Three Things Thursday: Pre-Racy Thoughts

March 16, 2012

With less than 36 hours until the start of the Rock ‘n Roll USA Marathon and Half Marathon, it’s time for some pre-racy thoughts!

1. You can’t always get what you want. I already know that this race won’t be what I wanted it to be when I registered. I imagine I’ll probably learn soon enough that that’s not an uncommon feeling. And I don’t say that to sound defeatist, just realistic: I was out of commission for a few weeks of training, and in the last few days, I’ve developed some inflammation in my hip/pelvis area. I’m managing it (and in what will surely be a joyous occasion, I have a doctor’s appointment next week), and I’m going to try my best on Saturday, but I’m trying to take the long view and not push harder than I can. There are other halfs out there, and I intend on enjoying my first one, a little pain or not!

2. The weather is here, wish you were beautifulIt’s damn nice in DC these days. Hot, even. I went for a last, short run this afternoon and wanted to die. Then I Skyped my parents and learned that today’s record high of 84 at Dulles had nothing on Abu Dhabi’s 100. Fine, fine. But it’s truly quite nice. Wednesday afternoon was so nice that I wasn’t sure if my co-workers were calling out sick or “sick” (I work at an organization that tries to get people outside, so verdict is out on that one). But I wouldn’t be surprised if people are actually sick, too. My boys at CWG report high pollen counts Wednesday and today. So if you’re coming into town for the race and you’re from some place that isn’t a-bloomin’ yet, bring yer drugs.

Oh, sure, they're beautiful, but that shit'll invade your body. Hide ya lungs, hide ya sinuses, hide ya eyes.

3. When Irish eyes are smilin’, sure ’tis like the morn in spring.  With the race being on St. Patrick’s Day, I clearly need to rock a green shirt. But a friend got mad at me because she says I’ll be hard to find, what with my insanely bright red hair and incredibly slow pace what with probably lots of other folks participating in the wearin’ o’ the green. So I’m adding a little sparkly bling to my outfit, sort of a beacon of Irish spring for my admirers friends.

Just trying to be a nice piece of lass.

Best of (Irish) luck to all the folks running on Saturday! Rock on and race hard!

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Weekend Update: Those Who Can’t Run…Cross! Edition

January 29, 2012

Here’s my weekly wrap-up for January 23 – January 29. My last run was January 16th, and I tried to run on the treadmill yesterday…no dice. The pain in my heel has gone down, and it doesn’t hurt to walk around and I only feel a slight tingle when I go down stairs, but I think more running rest is needed. So…those who can’t run…cross train!

Training Mode: Hiatus. This should have concluded Week 5 of half marathon training.

Days until the race: 47

You can run and tell that: 0 miles. 😦

Busted more moves: One non-challenging session on the elliptical; three sessions on the arc trainer followed by the recumbent bike (one not very challenging, two pretty challenging); two sessions of strength training; one trip to the pool for a swim.

Busted body: Left heel.

Ear candy o’ the week: The weather was so nice the last few days, making me a little sad about being confined to the gym (although check out this, um, interesting piece of equipment). I just wanted to break free and run outside…thanks, Queen…

Let me out, let me out!

The takeaway: Channeling my inner mermaid was fun. I’d, frankly, forgotten how to breathe efficiently while swimming…and some of the finer points of technique…funny how that happens when you don’t swim much over the years! Thankfully a former swim coach friend helped me out. And I got a new accessory. Win!

Goggles!

FASHIONISTA!

Things to work on: finding a doctor, developing a strength training plan.


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Cell by Cell, Row by Row…

January 18, 2012

…gonna make this body grow (strong).  [Warning: long post ahead! But the second half is just a re-posting of something I wrote in May 2010. You’ll get the gist of the post in the first half.]

Nerd alert: I log my workouts on a spreadsheet. You, too? Welcome, nerds of the exercise world! I don’t think it’s actually all that nerdy; it’s a good way to track where you’ve been and how far you’ve come. And I don’t think that keeping an exercise spreadsheet is unique or special, but I wanted to share how my friends and I do it: with a shared Google doc.

I benefit from living in an area where people are pretty dedicated to fitness. But I didn’t always live here, and sometimes I felt pretty alone in trying to keep up an exercise regimen. Enter the beauty of the shared document. My friends on the shared doc are primarily in NYC and DC, although we’ve got someone logging in from Dubai, too. The idea is simple (see below): you log your activity, duration, and any comments about it. And then your friends chime in. If you haven’t logged in for some time, you may get some heckles. If you are on a roll, they get really excited for you. Have a question about a new workout or piece of equipment? Someone will usually chime in with an experience they’ve had.

It’s virtual accountability, and it’s a wonderful thing. I imagine if you don’t have a lot of workout fanatics in your close circle, this could be really helpful as a motivator. I, for one, begin to think of what I’ll say on my workout log during that point in my runs where I really just want to stop. It’s fun to think of what may make my friends snort their coffee. And I’m sure the other runners on the trail get a kick out of a non-headphoned person bursting into laughter. That doesn’t look crazy, right?

Here’s the sheet (just realized there’s only one example of commentating, but, rest assured, there’s a lot of it on other parts of the sheet):

And here’s what I wrote about the spreadsheet almost a year and a half ago. I think this demonstrates the staying power of good friends and encouragement, no matter the distance or chosen activity.

Cell by Cell, Row by Row…

May 20, 2010 by Stacie | Edit

Or: How a spreadsheet is saving my ass. Literally.

It’s not any big secret or revelation that I am, shall we say, a substantial woman. That is to say, the term “waif” will never be used in conjunction with my name. I’ve accepted that I’m never going to be a size 2, and frankly, I like having some meat on my bones. Ancestrally, my people were potato farmers, and I look like I could probably haul a few bushels myself. If I had the energy…

Which brings me to how a spreadsheet (well, sheets – I went a little overboard) is saving my ass, because, really, I’m too young to feel this old.

I can’t seem to stick with anything when it comes to exercising. I don’t see exercise as something to do for a short period of time, in an effort to lose weight for an event/season/whatever; this mirrors my attitude towards eating better (thanks, end of my first year of grad school, for making eating well very difficult…yeesh…). So even though I see exercise as a lifetime practice, I don’t actually practice it much. Until I was introduced to the spreadsheet.

My friend shared a Google docs spreadsheet with me that allowed me to log my push-ups. Not very exciting in and of itself, but since the document was shared, you could see who else was doing push-ups, how many, and what other people had to say about their progress. There were encouraging words as well as shame if you didn’t keep up. It was fun to log things and the accountability was nice. Another friend wrote about this spreadsheet system here.

Time was, the word spreadsheet gave me the shakes. But now I keep my own spreadsheets tracking my progress towards my 10 mile race in October. I don’t share them, but the very simple act of logging my runs is…I can’t even come up with the right words. It’s all of these things, cheesy as they may sound: helpful, motivational, inspiring, pride-generating, nerdy, wonderful. I get twitchy if I don’t have things to log; I’m happy to say despite a hectic schedule of late, I’ve kept completely on my training schedule, and have even added to my workouts via my new bike. Letting my inner computer nerd shine is doing wonders for my ass, saving it one column by one row at a time.

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Weekend Update: XT FTW

January 15, 2012

Here’s my weekly wrap-up for January 9 – January 15, where I actually did all of my cross trains…plus one! XT for the win!

Training Mode: In it, and close to back on track with hitting all of my training days and cross trains. Week 3 complete.

Days until the race: 61

You can run and tell that: 10 miles (scheduled: 12)

Busted more moves: a one-hour yoga class, a one-hour Body Attack (crazy cardio/plyometrics) class, two sessions on an elliptical followed by strength training

Busted body: hip doesn’t seem to hurt as much, fingers crossed that the pain was temporary!

Ear candy o’ the week: A little number crunching tells me that, if I keep up running past my half marathon training, it won’t take much effort to run (at least) 500 miles this year. How appropriate that my running mix includes this fine number:

The takeaway: I scheduled brunch with a friend for right after my long weekend training run. That was great motivation to get my butt out the door and get the run in. I would have done it, but probably would have lounged around a little longer. It was a good accountability measure, too, to tell my friend how far I was planning to run. He was, fortunately, very gracious about dining with a sweaty mess.

Things to work on: strength training, hitting all of my training miles

Words of wisdom: I was chatting with my old roommate Erin (heyyyyy, Erin!) about working out versus not working out, the excuses we give to not work out, and how, in the end, we’re happier when we do. I mentioned that I recently came to the realization that I truly was not very active, ever. It’s not like I was ever in shape, got out of shape, and now I’m trying to get back. I’m pretty sure I was just never in shape. Erin’s words of wisdom to this: “It’s so easy to do nothing and to not realize how much nothing one can do.”

Truth.

 

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Three Things Thursday: Gratitude

January 6, 2012

The adage to have an “attitude of gratitude” simultaneously inspires me and grates on my nerves, probably because it has become trite. I know I need to be better at practicing gratitude, though, and was all the more inspired to do so when I read this seemingly harmless advice column in the NYT about food and dining. I hope that FloFab is joking when she suggests, in the third response, that the writer bring her own dishes and silverware.

But, really, it just pisses me off to read the question from the third writer. If you’re appalled that someone would use disposable dishes and silverware at a holiday and question whether or not you would spend time with family if it means facing such “treatment” again, well, madam, you’ve missed the point entirely. I wish FloFab had simply said: Be grateful for time spent with family, precious as it may be, for we know not when we may be so unfortunate as to have neither family nor feast.

Which brings me to being more grateful…

With my mom and sister. We are normally not as fancy as the tree implies, but it's fun to pretend, right?

1. The obvious: good family and friends. I was grateful to spend the waning days of 2011 with family and friends that are like family. I have no poetic words for what they mean to me, but friends and family are always on my mind and in my heart, and I marvel – probably not often enough – at how absolutely rich I am in this department.

2. Good health. Sure, I’ve got a nagging hip and occasional knee pain, but I’m reminded every few days about a friend, family member, friend of friend, etc. with serious health challenges. And having felt chronically sick for most of my youth, I don’t take it for granted that, these days, I am rarely sick. (Related aside: I attribute much of my current good health to moving to an apartment with hardwood floors, running regularly, and eating more fruits and vegetables. I’m a poster child for what “they” always tell you.)

3. The times when I didn’t feel very grateful. Looking back, they seem ridiculous, and that helps me dig out of the muck when I’m prone to self-pity or when I otherwise lose perspective.

 

And, finally for today, apropos of nothing except that I just read it and I think it’s awesome: please direct your attention to this great post over at orangespicedrop on her “Couch to Backpacking” program. I like couches. And programs that get you off of them. And, kudos to her for reminding me that I need to go backpacking again this year…which requires more feelings of gratitude to get over my lingering feelings of anger toward Southwest… gratitude means I won’t post a picture of the Great Southwest Debacle…today, anyway.