Friday, December 30, 2011

Sweatfest Parts 2 and 3

Earlier this month I had a complete sweatfest at the gym. And I just know you are dying to hear more about my sweat. Other bloggers dig sweat. Emily sweats once a day and Ali hearts sweat. Lots of other people must love sweat too because I tried to buy one of Ali's I Heart Sweat shirts and they were sold out! All of those people who bought a t-shirt would understand this post.

Last night after work I met up with Lisa for a 5 mile run. We did the same route we ran last week when I fell in a hole. Now that we knew where the hole was, we knew how to avoid it so all was good. When I was driving over to Lisa's, I noticed it was 46 degrees out. Woah. That's warmer than I thought. When I arrived, you would have thought neither of us had ever run before, let alone train in the winter. We were both unsure of what to wear and joked that we were probably overdressed. Understatement.

Sure enough, I was warm before we even finished our warm up walk. Then then about 100 feet into the run, I was sweating. At 1/2 mile, I was unzipping my coat. At 3/4 mile, my gloves came off. We both sweated our way through 5 miles. I think I was so overheated that I forgot how to operate my Garmin. It quit at about 2 miles but luckily Lisa's will still beeping along. We finished right around 1:04. Not too bad. Just shy of race pace but we had a couple crosswalks to navigate.

By the time we were done and I got home, I was literally a hot mess. My hair was soaked. The inside of my jacket was dripping! Ahhhhhh....sweatfest #1!

On to sweatfest #2. Tonight I hit the gym for a quick 4 miles on the evil treadmill. I am convinced that the gym had cranked up the heat when they saw me walk in the door. It felt like 80 when I walked in so you can imagine how it felt once I started running. Again, I did my warm up walk and then set that beast at 12:30. I'm going to nail this PR I tell you! I was sweating during the warm up walk so when I started to run, I was dripping.

To make it more gross, I forgot my own soft, fabric softener coated towel. The gym provides towels but they might as well be sheets of sandpaper. Ick. Sweating like a banshee though meant I had no choice, I needed a towel. I wiped the top layer of my skin off with the sandpaper in an attempt to keep sweat from dripping in my eyes.

I was sweating so much that I actually sweat right out of my bondi band. I have a large head. It's not an insecurity, it is a fact. My head is large. So the ONLY headbands that I have found that don't go flying off my head when I workout are the bondi bands. They are stretchy too so they don't squeeze my large head and give me a headache. During one of my sandpaper towel offs, I realized that my headband was no longer on my head. Son of a! I glanced back on the ground behind the treadmill and there it was. I have no idea when I lost it but unless my head is getting larger, I figure my head was just so sweaty that it slipped right off.

Four miles done in 51 minutes....exactly race pace. Watch out Disney World....this girl is going to PR and sweat all over your property. OK, that's gross....moving on.

This is one nasty post but being a sweat monster sure beats sitting on the couch turning into Cheeto-eating, Real Housewife-watching, bored out of my mind slug. Now if only my eyes would stop burning from all the sweat that has been dripping into them for the past 24 hours.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Eve 9

Despite the overwhelming desire to sleep in on Saturday morning (especially since The Pilot came home late Friday night), I dragged myself out of bed and got dressed to run. I made it out of the house about an hour later than planned but I told myself it was ok, it was a holiday!

As I was leaving the house, I told The Pilot I was planning to run somewhere between 9 and 12 miles. After rolling my ankle, I didn't want to push it too hard. Mentally, I wanted to get in another 12 miler. I tend to hit the wall at 10 miles and by pushing past that in training, it makes it easier to push past it during the race. It's technically taper time though so getting in fewer than 12 miles is not a big deal.

I got off to a rough start. After my usual warm up walk, it felt like I was learning to run all over again. My legs felt heavy! I was instantly regretting the lack of water and sleep the day before. Oh well, I kept pushing, knowing that by mile 3 or 4, I would start to feel better.

The thing is, I really struggled through the entire thing. When I got to mile 4, I was already dragging. I made the decision to turn around at 4.5 so I could finish up with a total of 9. No shame in a 9 mile run on a holiday, during what should be the taper period, right? Miles 4-6 weren't too bad but after that, my stomach started to feel a little hollow and I was dragging. By mile 7, I started a run/walk. My walk breaks were only about 30 seconds but with my energy levels dropping quickly, those 30 seconds were much needed. I know that on race day, I won't be feeling this way. I'll be properly hydrated and rested the day before and I'll properly fuel during the race. I don't mess around before/during a race when I have a specific goal in mind.

The last mile felt like it lasted an eternity, even though I was averaging race pace for that mile. I was ready to be done and go home and spend time with The Pilot.

Despite the entire 9 miles dragging on an on and feeling worse than last weekend's 12 miler, I still finished in 1:56. Just a few seconds off race pace. Again, very reassuring since I took several walk breaks.
For the rest of the day (and even into Christmas day), my legs felt heavy. They were fatigued, tight and sore. Boo! I didn't expect that. Let the taper madness begin! I did remind myself that it was nothing like what I was feeling last Christmas when I was chugging through my peak week and then taper madness right before the Goofy Challenge. Never.again.

Despite the set backs in the last couple weeks, I'm feeling pretty confident that I will nail this PR in 10 days. We also found out that The Pilot will be able to be my sherpa super spectator again. I have already informed him that I might cry either way- if I PR or if I don't. No guarantees either way. I like to keep him on his toes like that. It keeps our marriage interesting if you ask me. ;)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Tradition

For the past 20ish years, my family had gotten together with some longtime friends to watch the movie, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and eat what we affectionately refer to as the "Christmas pizza." The attendees of this annual Christmas tradition have varied over the years as some of us "kids" have moved around a little and have gotten married but this year, we were all in town, including The Pilot. If you're not familiar with the movie, you may want to stop reading now because the rest of this post will seem INSANE.

To spice it up a little this year, everyone was to either bring a prop from the movie or dress up as a character. We've talked about doing this for years and we finally went for it.

Having no shame, The Pilot and I dressed up and so did my brother and his family.

The Pilot and I were Todd and Margo, the Griswold's next door neighbors. We didn't go all out and purchase silver sweat suits to really be authentic but I did try to make my hair as large and as frizzy as possible.

Cousin Eddie, Catherine, Ruby Sue and Rocky
My brother's kids are probably wondering what the h- is going on....especially since my nephew's hair was gelled and their dad was wearing a women's bathrobe. These poor kids are going to need therapy for sure.

Some of the movie "props" included:

I'm not kidding you when I say that all of in everyone in attendance...has a Beanie Baby squirrel tucked into our Christmas trees. Doesn't everyone do this? I guess not because I had some explaining to do last Christmas when I was telling The Pilot about my family's Christmas traditions.

Unconventional? Maybe, but this is one of my favorite annual traditions. We always have fun watching the movie (and saying the lines along with the movie) but it's great to spend some time with wonderful friends...friends who appreciate your sense of humor.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Festivus

As The Pilot's birthday approached last year, I asked him what he wanted. His response was "Nothing, I don't need anything." I should have accepted the free pass but I'm a gift giver. I enjoy picking out gifts for other people. And I love birthdays. I think everyone should have a day to be celebrated! So I told him, that I was going to get him something. Realizing he wasn't going to win that battle, he made one request. He asked for a Festivus pole. I didn't exactly know what Festivus was at the time but I had heard of it and knew it was some kind of Seinfeld reference (I was one of the few people alive in the 90s that didn't like the show).

So The Pilot wanted a Festivus pole but he also had stipulations. While it was ok to spend money on the pole, it had to be purchased used. It couldn't be something purchased new in a store. I could find one, steal one or purchase a reused/recycled pole. What?? I was a little stumped but I did what any grown woman would do in a jam....I called my dad. I explained the parameters of the gift. He told me he'd call me back. Ten minutes later he called and said he had 2 options. Seriously? I stopped at my parents' house to see my options. That man had a aluminum fence post in his basement along with a steel rod from an old vaulted ceiling fan. Who has that stuff in their basement? My dad.

So for The Pilot's birthday last year, he received the Festivus Pole. I think the only day I've seen him happier was our wedding day...kidding. So I guess we are a Festivus celebrating family as this has now reappeared in the living room:
Yes, it's as tacky in real life as it is in bloggy pictures. It is tied to the basement stairs railing with some string.

I love me some Christmas though so it's a split household and the Christmas tree is also in the living room:
Still not sure if we will "celebrate" all of the Festivus activities such as the airing of grievances:
Frank Costanza: "And at the Festivus dinner, you gather your family around, and tell them all the ways they have disappointed you over the past year!"

Or the feats of strength where the head of the household selects one person and challenges that person to a wrestling match. The verdict is still out on who is actually the head of the household but considering there are only two of us, there's going to be a wrestling match somewhere in the living room between the Festivus pole and the Christmas tree. Once the head of the household (whomever that is!) is pinned to the ground, Festivus is officially over and we can move on to Christmas.

This is all totally normal, right?? Happy Festivus!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Is it Spring?

We are just days away from Christmas and it got to a high of 61 here in Central Ohio yesterday. Are you kidding me? It's hard to get into the Christmas spirit when it's that warm out (and you aren't used to it). But you know what that temperature does get you in the mood for? An outdoor run.

I emailed Lisa yesterday to see about a run tonight but she wasn't available so we opted to go last night. And the weather was great. It had been stormy off and on all day but it cleared up and we were able to run. It felt strange running without a coat, multiple other layers, gloves, etc.

Lisa has helped me a few times with some speed work but last night we opted to just go a little longer at a steady pace. When I run with someone, I can fairly easily pick up the pace a little so just by running a steady pace with Lisa, I was running faster than I do when I'm on my own.

The first 2.5 miles were nearly all uphill and into the wind and while I whined a little, I knew it meant it would be smooth sailing once we turned back around. Ha....that is until we were crossing a dark overpass. It was hard to see and with water on the sidewalk, I couldn't see that there was a hole in the sidewalk. Naturally I dropped my right foot into said hole and rolled my ankle...again. Ouch. It hurt pretty bad so we stopped to walk. We had less than a mile to go. Boo! I really wanted to see how fast we could get in all 5 miles though so my stubborn/competitive streak won out over the sore ankle and we started to run again. It actually felt better to run so we cruised on back to Lisa's house.

5 miles in 1:02....faster than my goal race pace! Even with the walk breaks and a rolled ankle. And only a few seconds slower than my last 5 miler....also known as the sweatfest.

I'm sort of glad to see that the crazy weather today was short lived. The high today is supposed to be 48 and the high on Friday is 38. Gotta love Central Ohio...but I do prefer it to be cold for Christmas. :)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

12 miles...

I'm totally catching up on my mileage posts. It was 11 miles two weekends ago and 12 miles this past weekend.

So after dropping 5 pounds in 4 days, I was FULL of energy for my planned 12 miler. Not so much. I had only been eating normal meals for less than 48 hours when I set out for 12. It was also my first run since rolling my ankle (can you say hot mess?). The Pilot was home and I promised him that I would take it easy and turn around for home if there was any pain in my ankle or otherwise had any trouble. Normally if The Pilot is home, he would tag along with me on his bike or roller blades but I gave the poor guy my cold so he wasn't feeling so great. We were both hoping that I didn't pass along my stomach bug as well.

We were planning to leave for Indiana around noon to visit with his family so that meant I needed to get out the door and knock out the miles so we could get on the road. Because of the time constraints, I didn't meet up with the team at the normal trail and instead headed to the trail near our house.

I had to do a run walk combo for the first 3 miles. That was pretty discouraging. I just couldn't seem to find my groove. My ankle felt fine but my breathing was all out of whack and my shins were giving me trouble. But like usual, once I got past 3 miles, I finally found my rhythm and chugged along.

Proof that my stomach was still recovering from whatever I had, my Shot Blok at mile 5 didn't sit well. Blah. I considered turning around but with only 1 more mile until my turnaround, I kept going. I texted the Pilot at mile 6 to tell him that I was indeed going to do all 12 the 6 mile turnaround, I didn't have a choice.

A lot of people around here hate the Hilliard Rail Trail. Personally, I don't mind it unless it is 90 degrees and the sun is out. There is NO shade on this trail (it used to be a railroad track). It's straight, flat and kind of baron, especially once you get past the 3 mile marker. You don't see too many people once you get past mile 3. Usually the only people out there are the other marathoners and the occasional cyclist (or lots of cyclists in the summer). Most people would be bored out of their minds out there but for some reason, I enjoy the open space. The sky feels bigger out there and I really think it gives me the chance to clear out my head. No claustrophobia out there. For some reason, this song comes to mind.

As I took in the open space, I ate another Shot Blok at mile 7. This one didn't go over well either. Despite drinking lots of water with it, my stomach was angry. All I could think about was how many miles I was away from the World's Cleanest Port-a-potty. After about 1/2 a mile though, my stomach seemed to settle down. This is when it started to snow. It was a real fine, wet snow that wasn't sticking to the ground but it was pretty cold on the side of my face. It was a cold 4 miles to back to the car.

Normally I don't listen to music when I run/walk but 12 miles alone is a long time so I brought along the ipod. When on the trail though, I only put one ear bud in so I can still hear my surroundings. I have officially decided that I am in serious need of new music. It was the worst running playlist ever. I tried to throw some songs together that would keep me moving but it was pretty lame. And then I must not have read the playlist correctly because it should have been just long enough to last for 12 miles. At mile 10 though, the playlist ended. Fail. Mile 10 is my "bite-me mile." I mentally have trouble getting past that mile. This is the reason the 11 and 12 milers were so important to me. I needed some mental toughness so I don't stop running and walk the rest of the race. I dug the ipod out of my coat and flipped to another playlist, which was equally as lame. When I say lame, I mean that the 1997 Jock Jams was involved. If anyone has any suggestions for a new and improved playlist, I'm open! I need something with a beat that will keep me moving faster than 12:45 per mile!

I was hoping to avoid eating another Shot Blok because my stomach got so weird with each one but just before I got to mile 11, my stomach was growling something fierce. Since getting sick, I can't let my stomach get empty without starting to feel nauseous (and for the record, I am not prego!). I knew if I didn't put something in my stomach, I would get nauseous and dizzy. I ate one tiny bite off the last Shot Blok. It was just enough to settle my stomach from feeling hungry but within minutes, my stomach was all kinds of mad. I did a random mix of running and walking for the entire last mile. I was really disappointed but kept trying to remind myself that I was going to make it all 12 miles as planned. Not bad considering my health (or lack of) over the past couple weeks.

I came strolling back to my car in 2:35. Which, when I subtract the time I had to stop for cars to cross 2 streets, is right at the pace I need to PR at Disney in a couple weeks. In other words, I would still have 18 minutes to run in the last 1.1 miles. I could walk the last mile if needed. I'm feeling confident with my training and where I'm at right now. I think I will do one more 11 or 12 miler before tapering off to rest up for the race. Only 16 more days! Woah.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

11 miles...

It's the week of Christmas and I've already had 4 Christmas celebrations (5 if you count the luncheon at work) in addition to all of the sicknesses. That's my excuse for lack of blog posts and I'm sticking with it.

On December 10 I headed out for what I was hoping to be an 11 miler. I had somewhat low expectations because I was recovering from both the sinus infection that turned into a cold. I loaded up on antibiotics, Dayquil and headed out the door. This girl has a PR to smash.

I headed out early so I could get in some miles before meeting up with my teammates. With the wind chill it felt like 11 degrees. Chilly! I did my usual 3 minute warm up walk and then tried to run. The lungs and the legs both felt like they had never run before. Adding to the challenge was this:
Large portions of the trail were flooded and because it was so cold, it looked like a skating rink. After climbing through the bushes to get around some of the water/ice, I kept heading north until I saw this:
Crap. I went onto the mulch path that runs parallel to the paved trail (and further from the river) but I prefer the pavement. The mulch would normally act as a cushion which is good but the ground was frozen so it just made it difficult and unstable to run on. I felt like I was going to roll my ankle so after about nearly 2 miles, I turned around to head back to the team's meeting place. I also texted the other coaches and suggested the team head south on the trail and hoped there wasn't as much flooding in that direction.

I took a short break after close to 4 miles to meet up with the team briefly and then headed back out to finish up the remaining 7 miles. My normal run buddies weren't there but it was nice that the others were out there because as I was still heading out, the others started to turn around and pass me in the opposite direction. It's nice to have familiar faces to wave to and cheer for. Maybe that's just a TNT thing. We don't just say hi, we almost always exchange encouraging words. And I needed it. I was a snotfest. The lingering cold was really putting a damper on my run. I was sort of bummed out that I was still not 100% but at the same time, it felt great to be getting some fresh air and some time to clear my head.

When I made it back to the starting point, I somehow still had 1/2 mile to go. Crap. Some of my fellow coaches and teammates were still standing around and started cheering for me when they saw me coming closer. I love them! I yelled out that I still had 1/2 mile to go and kept running on by. When the Garmin said I had traveled another .25, I turned around. When I got back to where everyone was waiting though, that darn thing said 10.99 miles. Pre-Garmin I would have said close enough (well, pre-Garmin I won't have known I had shorted the run by such a small amount) but I couldn't very well post a picture of my Garmin with a 10.99 reading and called this blog post 11 miles now could I? So I jogged around in circles until that Garmin showed this:

11 miles in 2:25. Not race pace but considering the trek through the bushes, slowing down for icy patches and the snotfest in general, I was ok with the average time. I was pleased just to get 11 miles done!

Through the afternoon, I felt pretty good. Not too much soreness from the run and my snotfest seemed to have finally ended. And then it went to hell again. Right around bed time I started to feel a little nauseous. And then a lot nauseous. I then spend the next 4 days not able to eat real food but I already whined about that. I'm not really catching a break during this PR smashing training season but I'm still plugging along. I like to think that I'll be mentally tough come race day because of all of the challenges!


Friday, December 16, 2011

Weekday Veg

I loved the encouraging words from my Turkey Free Turkey Day post. Jana, over at Running Vegetarian, recently made her own post about how even being a "mostly vegetarian" can be healthier and more environmentally and animal friendly. The video she posted really sparked my interest so I thought I would share.

It's pretty incredible to think how much environment damage can be prevented just be eating less meat. I won't even get started on the animals. What I like about this video is that it's not all or nothing.

I know The Pilot would admit that being a vegetarian isn't always convenient. Especially when he's often stuck in airports or hotels near the airport where there is an abundance of fast food restaurants. Can you say processed, factory farmed beef and chicken? The combination of his lifestyle and his job means that he has to take some extra steps to prepare his meals but he makes it work because it is important to him and now it's probably like tying his shoes, he just does it.

But for those just starting out, it's a challenge. Some may get discouraged and give up. While a full-on vegan or vegetarian might say that is a cop-out, I think it's the truth. The average American isn't going to go cold Turkey (no pun intended) and quit eating meat. They might have good intentions but it may prove too difficult or like with any elimination diet (Atkins or anything else that eliminates a certain type of food), they may just miss certain foods. The "weekday veg" seems like a great compromise for those not ready or wanting to become a full time vegetarian.

While I am falling into that "week day veg" category, I think my reasoning behind it is slightly different. The Pilot has really opened my eyes to where my food comes from, which has led to some of the changes I've made in my diet ( I don't think I've eaten ANY chicken nuggets since I found out exactly how the meat was processed). Also, I don't like to cook so when The Pilot is home, he cooks and is obviously making vegetarian meals. My challenge is eating out and in other social settings like potlucks or menu tastings. As an event planner, I sometimes have to go to menu tastings. I haven't figured out how to approach that if I do decide to become a full-time vegetarian. But, as a "week day veg," this isn't a problem.

So is that enough? Am I doing enough to reduce my footprint on the earth? Am I doing enough to show compassion for animals? Who really as the answers to those questions anyways...but it is some food for thought. Pun intended.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

More bad luck

So I blogged about brown fat on Saturday before my long run. I mentioned that I'd let you know if I was thinner when I was done. I'm actually 5 pounds lighter than I was on Saturday morning. Unfortunately, running in the cold was not the reason.

I came down with a nasty stomach bug on Saturday night and tonight-WEDNESDAY- was my first real meal since dinner on Saturday. I haven't had much other than saltines, soup, rice, Sprite and some other random nibbles. Bleh.

Like that wasn't enough, yesterday afternoon, I slipped in a parking lot and rolled my ankle. It hurt but I kept moving. It wasn't until about 5 hours later that the pain in my ankle/foot was radiating up my leg. I was convinced that I broke my foot but it was really late and there wasn't much I could do about it. Luckily when I got up this morning, I was able to wiggle my toes and it wasn't swollen. It's pretty sore and bruised but I'm telling myself it's just a sprain. It's not like I was up for running or any other workouts while I've been living off crackers for 4 days anyways. Sigh.

The good news? I made it 11 miles on Saturday morning (post about that adventure coming soon) and I'm finally over my sinus infection and cold.

It's been an terrible week all around. My mood and attitude are at a low and I'm just trying to regroup, focus on the fact that The Pilot will be home for the weekend, we get to spend lots of time with different family all weekend and with any luck, I'll be able to run 12 on Saturday.

I'm not holding my breath on that last one. If the ankle isn't feeling it, I'm not going to push it. I've gotten an 11 miler in, which is plenty of distance to get through a 1/2 marathon. I just really wanted a couple 10-12 milers before the race so I can teach my mind and body that I really can run past 10 miles. I just keep reminding myself that there are still a couple weeks left until race day and it's plenty of time to get back to 100% and have a great race.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Brown Fat

Ever heard of brown fat? Yeah, me neither. According to Bicycling magazine (via The Obesity Reviews), spending too much time in artificially heated environments can cause weight gain. Hello! I live in the Midwest. It gets darn cold here in the winter! The upside though is that spending time in the cold can help make you thinner. Brown fat (not regular fat) burns calories but is only activated by cold temperatures. Ummm...what? That sounds all sciency to me but this jumped out at me: Fully activated brown fast can raise resting metabolism by 20%. Yes, please! A jump-started metabolism is what this girl needs. My weight loss has plateaued again so maybe the cold weather training will kick my lazy metabolism into gear!

It's about 18 degrees (with the "feels like" temperature hovering at 11) this morning. I'll be burning all kinds of brown fat as I head out for my 10+ mile journey. I'll let you know if I'm thinner when I get done.

Friday, December 9, 2011

My Brush with Greatness

I'm a child of the 80's and if you are too then you probably remember this awesomeness:

And then of course there was this masterpiece:

Ahhhh, the great works of Matthew Broderick. Who is Ferris married to? Carrie:

The Pilot and I were in the DCA airport on Sunday waiting for our flight home. While we were talking about getting our boarding passes (we were non-reving), the Pilot had his back to the walkway in the center of the airport. I noticed a woman behind him with giant sunglasses. I thought to myself that it kind of looked like Sarah Jessica Parker but didn't say anything, assuming I was mistaken. But the RIGHT behind The Pilot was Matthew Broderick. I lost my ability to speak for a moment and started hitting The Pilot's arm. SJP and Ferris walked on by while I was still trying to spit out their names as The Pilot probably wondered what the h was wrong with me.

I never see anyone famous...or if I do, I don't know that I do. I saw Seal in an airport once but that's about it. So that was my brush with greatness. I live an exciting life.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Devil Cats

When we were away last weekend, my parents fed our cats for us. Now these cats love to eat. They NEVER leave any food in their bowls after a meal. But when we got home from our trip, both cats had food in their bowls. I double checked with my parents that they didn't overfeed them. They didn't. That's when The Pilot and I got nervous. We thought they had gotten into something they shouldn't and were sick. The Pilot went to the basement to um....check the litter boxes...but found another problem.

The bathroom door in the basement was open. We were sure we had closed it before we left. We are limited on storage and had just purchased a giant bag of cat food. The larger the bag, the cheaper it is. We hadn't dumped the food into the plastic bin in the kitchen yet so we were keeping the bag in the bathroom in the basement (we don't use it much) to keep the cats out of it. So when The Pilot found the bathroom door open, he looked inside and found this:
Those little punk cats had eaten a hole in the bag and been helping themselves to an all-you-can-eat buffet while we were gone.

Devil cats.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Hot Chocolate 5K: EPIC FAIL

I won't hold you in suspense, I personally did not have an epic fail at this 5K on Saturday. The race company, RAM Racing, had the epic fail. I've been involved in some not so great races (and have boycotted one racing company for years) but this was by far the worst race ever. I did the race with my BFF, Julie, who is getting ready to move out of the country for the next 9 months so spending time with her is never a fail. We did joke that in 20 years from now, we can have a great story to tell about the worst race ever!
Julie emailed me awhile ago and asked if I wanted to come to DC for a visit and run the Hot Chocolate 5K with her. Sure! My last attempt to visit her in the spring didn't work out (The Pilot and I were trying to non-rev and never made it). I also wanted to meet her baby, who is now almost 10 months old. When planning out the logistics the week before the race, Julie mentioned she sort of regretted suggesting the race because it was in a bad location and getting to the race and parking was going to be a problem. Boy did she ever call it! I was reading an email from RAM Racing that 22,000+ people were registered (split between the 5k and the 15k). That's HUGE! The last 5K I did probably had fewer than 500 people racing.

All was looking great, The Pilot and I successfully made it to DC, did some site-seeing before meeting up with Julie and heading to the expo. We picked up our race bibs without a problem but when I went to pick up my jacket (their advertised goodie bag consisted of a jacket and a coupon for Ghiradelli chocolate, gee thanks.). I was told that they didn't have the size I ordered (well in advance). After the volunteer weirdly flirted with me with The Pilot standing next to me, he gave me the "men's jacket in the equivalent size." It was giant and obviously made for a man. They did have a jacket swap area so I went over there to see about a smaller men's size. The women were all over there trading in jackets. As with most running apparel, the women's sizes were way off with the size small small enough to fit a 1st grader. Whatever. It was a cheap jacket anyways so I will probably end up using it as a throw away jacket at another race. We left the expo and spent the evening hanging out and catching up.

The 5k was scheduled to start at 7:30 am and in emails leading up to the race, RAM Racing made it clear to arrive early because of limited parking. So limited in fact that there were 3 separate parking options, one was an additional $10 and was supposedly at the National Harbor where the race started (I later read on other blogs that this parking lot ended up being close to 2 miles from the start line and the only way to get to the start line was to actually walk on the course.). One parking option didn't make as much sense based on where Julie lives. So we opted to park at Rosecroft Raceway. You had to have at least two race participants in each car, sign up in advance and have a parking permit (which we picked up at the expo). We left Julie's house at 5:00 am for a 7:30 start. Ugh. It was EARLY! But I will say that getting to the start was one of the few things that went right for the rest of the experience. After a brief moment of getting temporarily misplaced, we arrived at the parking lot (where no one verified if we carpooled or if we had a parking permit) and got right onto a school bus that dropped us off near the start. It was a short walk in the dark and we just followed the crowd and hoped we were going the right way. I will point out that we had to walk on what ended up being the 15k course....this is important to know for later.

One of the other things that the race did right was the quantity of port-a-potties. They had plenty of them everywhere and we walked right into brand new potties...we even had to unwrap the toilet paper! We hit up the bathrooms and tried to find a place to keep warm. It was about 30 degrees when we arrived to the start area around 6 am. We bundled up and had on an extra layer which we planned to give to our race sherpa The Pilot right before the race started but it was still dang cold. Julie and I were both wearing tights and probably would have paid for some sweatpants in that hour. We ended up huddling with hundreds of other racers in the merchandise tent. I don't think anyone purchased anything...

A few minutes after 7, we walked down a hill to the staging area and tried to make some sense of the corral signs. They were going every direction and some were for the 15k and it was hard to make sense of any of them. It looked like they had the 13:00 min/mile and slower paces lined up in front of the faster runners. Once we figured out the slower pace groups were in a true staging area and we would be allowed to proceed forward once the faster group crossed the start line, we settled into place and waited. And waited. We couldn't see the start line and couldn't hear much either. We could see a line of traffic in the distance, coming over the bridge that crosses the Potomac over to the National Harbor where the race was. Finally they made an announcement to "pull our sleeves over our wrists to keep warmer and to cover our watches." What?? There were rumblings about a delay and then 7:30 rolled on by. NOTHING from the announcer for what seemed like an eternity. Remember, it was still in the low 30s at this time. Luckily The Pilot was able to stick close to us so we could keep our extra layer on. There was finally an announcement that the race would start at 7:45. Then that rolled on by. People started chanting, "start the race, start the race." I was sure there was going to be a riot. You could still see the line of traffic off in the distance. We were all freezing at this point. My fingers and toes were in pain. But, I was spending time with one of my dearest friends so I tried to remain patient.

Finally, at 8:20, the race started. By this time though, there was mass confusion in the staging area. We were lined up right in front of the 13:00 min/mile sign for the 5k, which would have been accurate. Until I looked behind us and there was NO ONE. All of the 13+ runners/walkers disappeared. Frozen and sick of waiting, we assumed they jumped into the back of the 9:00 min/mile pace group, which was lined up to our left. So doing something I would never ever do under normal circumstances, we crossed over to the corral next to us, which was still at a very slow walk trying to get to the actual start line. Julie was standing up on a curb and I was on the pavement when she made a comment about a bottleneck at the start line. This is not uncommon at a race but when I stepped up on the curb and saw what was going on, I about flipped my lid. The start line was narrower than a one lane road. For a race with 22,000 people registered. Inexcusable. We were already irritated by this point but that really started to send me over the edge.

We started a very slow run/shuffle as we crossed the start line. Even in a large race with a wide enough start line, there is almost always a bottleneck near the start and it can take a little while to find your position in the crowd and get up to your intended pace. Now something I have NEVER experienced in a race is a dead stop after a 1/2 mile. Yup. We made our way down a road only to have to funnel onto a path. For my local readers, it was the same width as the Olentangy Trail or the Hilliard Rail Train. 22,000 on a trail that fits no more than 4 across. So yes, we came to a dead stop. To make matters worse, one of the poorly thought out parking options meant that those who were stuck in traffic and trying to make their way to the start of the 15k (or even the 5k still), were walking in the opposite direction on the same trail. You had racers going one direction and pedestrians going in the other....on a trail that fits no more than 4 across. Guess what else was making this fustercluck worse?! Off to one side of the trail was a drop off into the Potomac River. It was a miracle no one fell in (at least that I am aware of).

Drop off
Stopped at barely 1/2 mile into the race (source).
The trail went from pavement to crushed shells and then to brick and then back onto a road for the remainder of the race. The crowd thinned out a little by the halfway point but there was a monster hill to climb. Ugh. I hate hills. I only made it about 1/2 way up before needing a walk break. As we came into the last mile, we went passed a water station that was yet another fustercluck. The water was mixed in with the Gatorade, water was in Gatorade cups, some of the tables didn't have any volunteers. Luckily I was carrying my own water (which I always slow pokes need to be prepared for races to run out of water) but Julie tried to play dodge 'em to get to the water. I kept shuffling along, knowing she could catch up. She did and she had a cup of water so I guess it went ok! After reading comments from the 15k participants, I guess a lot of the water stops had NO volunteers and participants had to pour their own water. Fail!
The finish line actually went back up through the starting area. Which meant there was a huge hill to climb in the last 1/4 mile. Boo. It was steep and it was rough! I walked up part of it but didn't want to walk through the finish so despite my legs and lungs burning, I managed to run to the finish. The 5k course did seem to be accurate as my Garmin chirped right at the sign for mile 3 which is better than the 15k course which I heard was pretty short. So I went into this race really hoping to have a strong run. I really wanted under 40 minutes. As we got closer to the race and I was sick and I saw how many people were registered, I slowly let go of that goal. And luckily I did. My official finish time was 42:41. Ugh. I honestly could have walked it at about that pace. I guess when I factor in the complete STOP at the beginning and then having to wait nearly a mile and a half for the course to clear out some in order to get up to pace and then having two nasty hill climbs, it could have been worse.

After crossing the finish line, we had to make our way back to the hot chocolate, chocolate fondu and our designated meeting place to find The Pilot. It was a bit of a hike to get back and it was up a hill. Boo. Other bloggers have complained more about the long walk to all of the goodies but it didn't seem that bad compared to all of the other failures of the morning. We managed to walk up to the fondu tent and walked right in to pick up our tray of goodies. It was pretty good except that it was so cold that my chocolate fondu completely hardened before I could dip my last item, a banana. Crap.

Yeay for chocolate fondu! I was so hungry though I could have eaten several trays. By the time we finished, it had been 6 hours since breakfast.
Boo to it being so cold I couldn't finish my froze before I could dip my banana!
Next we hit up the hot chocolate. I was pretty surprised to be honest. We walked right up (no line) and the hot chocolate was scalding! I actually had to put my gloves back on just to hold the cup. It wasn't the best hot chocolate I've ever had but damn it, I paid $45 for that hot chocolate and I was going to drink the entire cup.
We started to make our way back to where the bus dropped us off in the morning. Remember when I mentioned earlier that we had to walk on the race course to get to the race starting area? The 15k started after the 5k so when it came time to try to get to the bus, we were met with the 15k racers coming into the finish chute. There was no other way to get there other than to walk ON the course or in the narrow patch of grass on the side of the road. 5k people were trying to figure out how to get to the buses without darting in front of the lead packs of 15k people. It was a mess. We managed to get to the bus (by walking through a driveway where the buses were trying to leave from) without getting run over by a runner or a bus so I guess that is success.

Overall, epic fail Ram Racing!
The supposed owner of RAM Racing sent an email to all of the registered participants on Sunday afternoon. I'm not really buying any of it...all I see are excuses for things that really would have been in RAM's control should they have exercised a little common sense and race directing 101. I am not a race director but I've been racing since 2004 and have a lot of races under my belt. I'm also an event planner and I could have planned out some of the logistics of this race myself with just a little basic research. Here's the poor excuse of an apology, copied (with my commentary in red):

In trying to formulate what to say in regards to yesterday's events, I realized that what I said over and over to the folks I helped get on returning shuttle buses was exactly what should be said to all. While it became repetitive, it was no less from the heart in any one time from the other:

I am the owner of RAM Racing. Please allow me to tell you how deeply sorry I am for the way yesterday's race went. I am terribly sorry that the race did not go off anywhere close to as planned, and I feel terrible that your day and experience was not a good one because of that.

We have been putting on races for 10 years now, producing over 100 races. In fact just a month ago we put on the Hot Chocolate race for 40,000 people in Chicago without a hitch. I was reading that there were a lot of complaints about this race also.

With that being said, yesterday was a nightmare for us, to say the least. Whether it was auto accidents on the highway causing insane traffic or a terrible choice of venues that couldn't support this race, there are no excuses, in the end, I am responsible. Again, I am terribly sorry.

I want to share just a portion of the manner and the extent to which we planned for this event and the series of incidents that ensued, in an effort to be transparent, not to offer excuses. Over the past year:

-We worked extensively with, and paid a great deal to, the county and state police to handle traffic. While that is always the case when putting on races, the efforts here, and the involvement and control required by the county and state police was significant. There is an element of trust inherent in this process.

- We were assured that the National Harbor could handle parking 5,000 cars in a short period of time Nope, not anywhere close to that. Why you'd allow 22,000 participants register for a race in a location that can only handle 5,000 cars is beyond me.

- We devised a comprehensive parking plan, again at a great expense, including additional parking lots and shuttle buses

- The course mandated by the municipality, in the end, while narrower than desired was to be handled with an equally narrow starting line. Something we have had to do many times before and that works well if executed properly, something that we have had great success with. I can see how this might work in theory but only if you have proper barricades and staff/volunteers to direct people and to manage the corrals.

What went wrong:

- Two pre-race reported traffic accidents stopped all traffic on the inbound highways The local news station did have ANY reports of a
ccidents in the area that morning. Ummm...those local news stations didn't report anything because there weren't any accidents reported in the area that morning. See the Washingtonian's article.

- The parking company hired by the National Harbor to park cars in their lots was not even close to sufficient to handle the job, adding to the traffic issues as cars backed up on the highway waiting for access.
Not our problem, RAM Racing owner. It's your responsibility to properly vet all of your vendors.

- This in turn left the 75 shuttle buses we hired, stranded in traffic as well, delaying the delivery of waiting runners

- In an attempt to wait to allow the bulk of the runners to make the race start, we delayed the start. We considered starting the race after only a brief delay, but the continuous stream of late arriving runners would have crossed the course and that was an unacceptable safety concern.
So instead of those people missing the race, RAM Racing had the majority of the participants standing around in freezing weather. It's been said that up to 20% of the registered attendees never made it to the start.

-Finally, we start the race! What happened next defies belief, absolutely inconceivable!!! After planning with the police for months, the lead biker for the 5K was misdirected by a police officer at the first turn of the 5K, literally not allowing him to follow the course as planned and as approved by the local authorities!
Again, not our problem, RAM Racing owner.

- This action directed the 5K in the opposite direction from the way it was supposed to flow, insuring that the runners would run into themselves. Horrifying! This also caused the race participants and those trying to get to the start from the shuttle drop off area and National Harbor Parking garages to collide on a path that only fits 4 people across.

- Our race director quickly came up with a contingency plan, real time, on the spot, in the horror of what could have been a disaster.

-We had to open up the start line much faster than we would have liked, in order to avoid returning runners from running into outbound runners, which would not have been a problem if the lead runner was allowed to follow the planned course. What??

-This worked and while the 5K course was too crowded, everyone was able to run the entire course and no one was injured! Pure luck, RAM Racing.

- From there it was a matter of putting out fires that all developed due to the initial course reroute, as the 15K had to flow through the same area as the 5K race near the end of the 15K course. Poor planning.

- To finish it all off, after the race, there was another traffic accident on the beltway delaying returning buses, as well as we believe the buss company appeared to significantly under-deliver the number of buses we contracted for. We had to find buses immediately and get all the people returning to Crystal City and Old Town on their way. Again, there were no reports of an actual accident.

The above are not excuses, merely an explanation. Sounds like excuses to me. We are experienced race organizers. We didn't come close to showing you the terrific race event that should result from the tremendous talent and work ethic of our staff. DC did not get to experience the great race event RAM Racing is known for. I understand, and again, I am deeply apologetic. I am sorry from the bottom of my heart!

As for my staff, I have never been so proud of a group of people in my life. No business, and no race organizer, should ever have to experience the unfolding events of Saturday. Yet, these talented professionals adapted on the fly, kept their cool, and never took their eye off of trying to give our racers the best experience possible under the circumstances. I am deeply in debt to you all and have the utmost respect for your efforts. I will say that the volunteers (staff??) we encountered were all very friendly and should be given credit for dealing with crappy circumstances out of their control. From some of the posts on the Epic Fail: Hot Chocolate 5k Facebook page, it sounds like the volunteers had no direction from RAM Racing staff from the beginning.

I would like to thank the vast majority of our racers who, while justifiably upset with the way the race experience unfolded, took it in stride, completed the race, enjoyed the post-race party, participated in the Expo, and persevered to get the most out of the day as possible, your example is inspiring. For those of you that have publicly or privately shared your frustration and anger, we appreciate your honesty.

What doesn't kill us will make us stronger, and we intend to learn from this experience and use it to make the next race better and hopefully more insulated from these kinds of circumstances.

When we make it back to the east coast, I would pray that you give us a second chance. We have an amazing team that puts their heart and soul into their work. They are unquestionably among the best in the business. It is terribly unfortunate that you couldn't see that yesterday, as they are amazing! Nope, I don't think I'll be giving this company a second chance.

Again, I cannot apologize enough for the way yesterday's race went and I hope the rest of your weekend is much more enjoyable. It was thank you very much.

Keep running and racing!

Thank you.
That's it. The owner didn't even include his name. How's that for ownership?

And one last thing that fired me up. The Chief Marketing Officer of RAM Racing made this comment in response to all of the backlash:

"And at the end of the day, it's not about the chocolate, it's not about running your best time, it's about people getting to the start line, getting to the event and getting home safely." I agree that yes, I expect to get home safely from every race I participate in but isn't racing about going out and trying your best?? I realize racing against your best time isn't always the goal but for the majoirty of people who race, getting a good time is the whole point of forking over $45+ to do the race. I know I'm never going to win a race but that doesn't mean I'm not out there to race against myself.

"I think most runners know that races involve a number of logistics. If you look back to the 2007 Chicago Marathon, they had to shut it down. At mile 17, they said, 'Sorry, it's too hot, people are dying,' and no one was issued a refund. That is something that runners know. It's unfortunate that we failed the D.C. running community, but with the fixed costs of this event, it doesn't allow for a refund," Wallace said. Did this a$$clown really just compare the Hot Chocolate race to the 2007 Chicago Marathon (for non marathoners, the temperatures climbed to over 88 degrees and the shut down the race after 3.5 hours)?? What went down in Chicago was out of the race promoter's control and they did the right thing by cancelling the race. EVERYTHING that happened at the Hot Chocolate race could have been prevented.

The only saving thing about this race was that I got to run with Julie. We enjoyed spending time together and even got to have 3.1 miles of "girl talk" (in between cursing the race and dodging people). I felt really bad for The Pilot thought. Julie and I at least got to run to warm up but he spent the entire race being his usual "super spectator." I told him I owed him one and he agreed. It looks like I will have to try out an Indian buffet in the near future. I'll let you know how that goes. ;)


Monday, December 5, 2011


It was a sweatfest at the gym tonight. It felt warmer than usual when I first hopped on the treadmill and the sweating just keep increasing up until the last minute.

I did my usual 3 minute warm up and then set that sucker at race pace, 12:45. I ran a mile and took a 3 minute walk break. The shins were giving me a fit again. I can't seem to find any rhyme or reason it the shin pain. Sometimes it hurts, sometimes it doesn't. Oh well. The walk break seemed to help so I inched up the pace to 12:30 and then 12:15 and hung out for at least two miles. I was feeling pretty good throughout as I made my way toward 5 miles.

I was trucking along when the darn treadmill started to time out on me. The treadmills at the gym do an automatic cool down once you get to 55 minutes. I didn't realize this though because I keep a towel over the display of the treadmill (or else I will agonize over how long it feels like I'm on the devil's machine) and missed the cool down message and all of the sudden the treadmill went from 12:45 to 15:00. I nearly did a face plant into the display. It started a 5 minute countdown and then I knew it would shutdown and I'd need to restart the machine. I figured if I just sped up, then I might make it to the 5 mile goal within one hour. I increased the pace to 11:45...and then 10:45. My lungs were on fire as the clock counted down. With only .15 to go, the treadmill shut off. Boo! I nearly fell again but quickly restarted so I could get in that last .15. I was a woman on a mission. I needed 5 miles and by gawd I was going to get to 5 miles.

So I wrapped up that 5 mile sweatfest in 1:01:45. Boom! That's well under race pace...but my towel usage was over the top. I literally had sweat dripping in my eyes for the last mile and it hurt so good. I ended up having a very appropriate shirt on as well....

Post sweatfest
"As long as you're sweating, you're still alive." Thank you, Nike, for being oh so philosophical.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Garlic 5K

My second sinus infection in 6 weeks (or as the doctor called it, an unlucky coincidence) has derailed my training for the past week and a half. I was able to enjoy the holiday but the weekend was not so fun. I spent Monday napping, going to the doctor and cuddling (and coughing on) this little monster. Don't be fooled by her cuteness. She's the devil but she does love to cuddle.
The Pilot was instructed to not show my snot face.

Despite random coughing fits (quite unfortunate during meetings and in the middle of the night), I made myself go to the gym last night. I haven't run since my 9 miler almost 2 weeks ago. I was still coughing throughout the day but with a 5K scheduled for Saturday, I really wanted to get in at least one run before the race. I headed to the gym with the game plan of: run if you can, but it you start coughing, walk. If you start hacking up a lung, make a run for the exit.

I did a 3 minute warm up and then set the treadmill at my goal race pace: 12:45. I held on for nearly 3 miles at that pace without coughing up a lung! My shins didn't give me much trouble. My left hip got a little cranky by 2.5 but I ignored it and continued. In honor of the 5k on Saturday, I stopped at 3.1 miles in a total of 40:11. My average pace was brought down by my warm up and cool down but the actually running time was spent at race pace, so I was pleased. And also surprised that it didn't feel horrible after being off for several days.

So why am I calling it the Garlic 5k? I got home from work a little later than normal so I was hungry when I got home so I opted to eat dinner before the workout. The Pilot is home and had dinner ready for me: pasta, salad and garlic bread. Have I mentioned that I love that man? Anyways, despite allowing time to digest, I spent 3.1 miles tasting garlic. Ick. I'm sure my treadmill neighbors really appreciated me....such a classy runner I am.