Rock ‘N’ Roll Seattle Half Marathon Race Recap

When it comes to running a distance race, the most undertrained muscle in the body, in my opinion, is the brain. Sometimes you have to believe yourself all the way to finish line.

“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard…is what makes it great!”
-Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own

This year, the Rock N Roll Seattle people unveiled new half and full marathon courses. Looking at them on the website prior to the race, I wasn’t too concerned about the half. Really, I was mostly sad that it had less mileage along Lake Washington and more mileage in what looked like an industrial area. The full looked better than the old course, with more mileage along Lake Washington and around Seward Park. But I was running the half.

Actually, I wasn’t completely sure if I was running the half. I’d been training (with the exception of that three-week hiatus in May), but I hadn’t registered. The cost was astronomical, in my opinion, and I just couldn’t bring myself to pay it. The closer the date came to the race, the more convinced I was that I would not be running it. Plus, my longest run (with the exception of the 12-13 miles I did over three legs of the Rainier to Ruston one-day relay), was 10 miles.

About a week before the race, I found a bib. A friend of a friend couldn’t run. Bummer for her, but I was in.

The night before the race, me, Mel, Jill and Zoe spent the night at Chelsea’s house. I cannot stress how awesome that was – to not have to worry about traffic, etc. the next day. We had A LOT of laughs, a few adult beverages and some snacks thanks to our host before finally turning in around 11:30 or so.

Before I knew it, it was 5:15, and we were up and at ‘em. As expected, I didn’t sleep well – not because of nerves or anything, but because I just don’t sleep well in general and especially somewhere other than my own bed.

Why does time go by so fast in the morning? It wasn’t long before Chelsea was giving us a 10-minute-to-departure warning.

Side bar: How awesome is Chelsea? She let us stay at her house, THEN she drove us to the start and dropped us off right at bag check. Then THEN she cheered for us around Mile 6 and held on to all of our discarded sweaty arm warmers, and after the race, she had mimosas for us. Mimosas, people! And peanut butter M&Ms and oranges and stuff. I highly recommend getting a Chelsea for your next race. End side bar.

Okay, so where was I? Chelsea dropped us off at gear check and then we had to figure out where the Brooks VIP potties were even though we’d just gone, but you can never go too many times before a race. Plus, the VIP potties are awesome and hosted by fun Brooks employees wearing tuxedo shirts holding trays with mints, gums, GU (which I’d forgotten, so I was happy to get one – thank you!), etc.

Thank you Brooks!

The VIP potties are in trailers – there are real flushing potties, running water with actual soap, and lots of supplies you might need: sunscreen, hair ties, hair spray, lotion, etc. It was fun to see Brooks Guru Tiffany, who I met at the Brooks and OnlineShoes.com Girls Night Out on Friday, and Melody, who was in Mel’s van during Hood to Coast last year.

Me and Zoe from INSIDE the Brooks Running VIP Potties.

Next, we made our way to Corral 7 for a pre-race bloggy picture. So fun to know so many people at the start!

After that, a few of us moved back to Coral 11: me, Zoe, Kim R., Lauren and Jill, and more, but I can’t remember everyone that was in there now! In front of us in Corral 10 was Kim W. from Nuun in a blue Team Sparkle skirt.

I ate my PB&J sandwich with about 45 minutes before we crossed the start line (a little too early). You can see that I’m trying to hide it in most of my pictures! People like to make fun of my sandwich, but I believe in the PB&J.

Jill with me and my sandwich.

Kim R. and I had discussed running the race together, but agreed on just starting together in case one of us was feeling better than the other. Zoe was going to start with us, too, but I was worried about her knee, which has been giving her problems since our Rainier to Ruston relay a few weeks ago.

Me, Kim R. and Stacie pre-race.

My goals for this half were to have fun and to run a sub-2.

We moved slowly forward. I was not nervous AT ALL. This is highly unusual for me, but I think running without the timing chip took any pressure (that I put on myself) off.

Me and Jill pre-race.

It took us about 12 minutes to cross the start line. Why do I know this? Because, this morning, I looked at the time on my Garmin – 7:12:16 a.m. – which I pushed just before running over the start line. But note that the paces I listed below could very well be off – sometimes way off – since the tunnels and city streets were making my watch go crazy.

(Reminder: I did not wear a timing chip since I was wearing someone else’s bib – a full marathon bib to boot. Trust me, I considered doing the full for a second, but I know 26.2 miles is no joke and with 10 miles as my longest run, I didn’t want to die or worse, hurt myself. Also, let’s be honest, if I’m running a full marathon, I want a record of it online somewhere.)

Guess my shoe (hint: it's the one without a timing chip).

Me, Kim and Zoe ran across the start and then ran side by side by side down the wide city street in Seattle. I was doing rock-star poses for the cameras, and cheering on spectators and bands. I was having fun.

MILE 1
(8:59 avg pace)
I’ll tell you what I was not doing: keeping a good eye on the pace. Every once in a while someone would say we were running mid-8s, and I would pull back. We’d agreed to keep it around 9. But also our watches were acting weird for the first mile or so – perhaps the buildings weren’t allowing us to get a good signal. Sometimes, Kim’s watch would say we were hanging at an 8:45 pace and, at the same time, mine would say 9:15. Sort of hard to get a good idea of your pace that way.

But I felt good and I was having a lot of fun pointing out random people (dude with feather headdress on and sari with bangles?), so I wasn’t worried about the time so much. Besides, all I really wanted to do was have fun. Oh yeah, and getting a sub-2 would be nice, too, except I realized I hadn’t looked up what the bare-minimum sub-2 pace would be. Luckily, Kim R. knew we could run just under a 9:10 pace and be okay.

MILE 2
(8:35 avg pace)
Someone, who had driven the course, mentioned before the race that Mile 2 was slightly downhill for a while, so we used it to our advantage and banked a little time. I think this time is accurate, but not sure.

Me and Kim having fun. Been working on that heel strike. Looks like it's not taking. Credit: MarathonFoto

MILES 3-4
(9:17 & 9:00 avg paces)
We were cruising along and here comes my Mt. Si Relay teammate Nicole, who was running the full! She was looking nice and relaxed even though her cruising pace is pretty quick. Other than that, I don’t remember these miles AT ALL. Runamnesia. So, this is where I will talk about the water stops.

Kim R. and I slowed at each one, but managed to run through the water stops up until the one during Mile 6, but I’ll talk about that one later. Someone, Mel?, taught me to squeeze the paper cup so that the water is funneled into your mouth better while running. Unfortunately, I forgot about that on the first one and I basically washed my face with it and it went up my nose. Hahaha! Hopefully, I gave some people a good laugh.

I usually run with my own water (enhanced with Nuun), so the water-stop thing is not a skill of mine. Also, I was scared to take Gatorade because I’ve heard about so many tummy issues. I haven’t had tummy issues DURING a race (*knocking on wood*), so I wasn’t sure if I wanted to start on Saturday.

The other water-stop tip I know: Crush up your cup before throwing it at the garbage can. I kept missing anyway, but it helps your chances of getting in there. Who told me this? Mel?

MILES 5 & 6
(9:09 & 10:14 avg paces)
I was so busy cheering bands and high-fiving cheer squads, I hadn’t really looked up in a while to see what was ahead of us.

But when I finally did, I saw a towering 2-part hill. I think I audibly groaned. But Kim powered up that thing like a pro and I did my best to follow her example. This is the first time of the day where I surprised myself with my hillabilities (more on that later). But then the downhill. The downhill!

The downhill might’ve been worse than the uphill. The road was so steep, and slick from early morning rain, that I was concerned about slipping. So was Kim. And I was pretty sure I was getting a blister on the bottom tip of my left big toe. Boo.

We got down and there was a big row of Honey Buckets, so Kim, who had been expressing concern about finding a lineless one, decided to make a quick stop. I told her that it was totally fine. I’d been whining about a nasty side ache just before the hill. Kim said I might be low on electrolytes. So I decided I would GU with Gatorade during her pit stop.

Kim was seriously fast and I barely had time to choke down a too-thick, too-sweet vanilla GU (I prefer PowerBar’s thinner gels) and some fluids before she was back!

We were running again along Lake Washington, and keeping our eyes peeled for Chelsea. My side ache went away quickly (must’ve been low on something). We saw Alma and screamed!

Next, we found Chelsea up ahead. I’d taken off my Moeben arm sleeves and rolled them into a ball. When I was close enough, I threw them to her – over the heads of runners! Don’t worry, I threw them way up. She caught them, and I heard later that we had some cheers. Hahaha!

Next was the Wear Blue to Remember section. The street is lined with soldiers’ photos and names, and the dates they were killed in action. Flags line the street, too. I looked over at my running buddy, and Kim was choking up.

MILE 7
(9:33 avg pace)
It’s a very moving section of the race, and I tried to look into the face of every photo and thank them for giving their lives for us to be free. I clapped the entire time – even up a hill – as a way to thank their families; many were standing along this section of the course.

Last year, I cried like a baby through this section. I was close this year, but I had prepared my mind for it and held it together since it’s difficult to run and cry, which is why I reached the top of the hill and didn’t see Kim anymore. I knew she’d been tearing up, so I pulled over to the side of the road and waited for her.

But once we were together again, I knew it was time to part. I could tell Kim was struggling, and I had that feeling like holding back and hanging with her would make her feel worse. Since, we’d only agreed to start together, I told her I was going to go ahead. She seemed okay with that, and so I left her.

Thank you, Cynthia, for this photo taken by the folks with Wear Blue Run to Remember.

After I left her, though, I felt bad about it, and I debated with myself about that decision for the rest of the race. I was feeling decent, though, and just let my legs carry me. There was a steep uphill to get up to I-90 that I knew was there, and so I was prepared for it. I ran up, passing people.

Side bar: I seriously surprised myself with my hillabilities on Saturday considering I don’t run hills, and I generally seek out flat routes for my runs. BUT I had 21 days of Jillian Michaels’s 30-Day Shred under my belt by Saturday, and I think that my glutes are stronger from it and this is why I could power up the hills. End side bar.

Then it was into the bridge tunnel.

MILE 8
(8:59 avg pace)
Last year, Zoe and I got so dizzy in the tunnel, we had to stop and walk. This year, I just wanted to get through it as fast as I could. I picked up the pace and picked off people (little did I know my Mt. Si teammate Lauren was trying to catch me – sorry Lauren!).

I’m not sure about what my actual pace was through here because my Garmin lost the signal and was doing weird things. I am pretty sure it was faster than an 8:59, though. It certainly felt faster. I was basically sprinting.

Ironically, “Lights” by Ellie Goulding came on my playlist when I was in the tunnel, which has very poor lighting. Now I will never be able to hear this song without thinking about sprinting through the I-90 tunnel. Just how when I hear “Magic” by B.O.B., I will always think about running that final section of the You Go Girl half along Dock Street in Tacoma – on my way to my 1:52 half PR (in 2011)!

MILE 9
(8:50 avg pace)
Once I was out of the tunnel, up high on I-90, there was a breeze and it felt so good! I could see Kim W. in her blue Nuun shirt and Team Sparkle skirt up ahead, and made it a goal to catch up and say “Hi,” which I did. But I was in a nice rhythm, and so after a quick greeting, I kept on going.

Heading down the off-ramp and back into the city, Lauren caught up to me. “I’ve been trying to catch you for two miles!” she laughed. We chatted for a few minutes, but then she told me to go ahead.

I think one of the reasons I had so much fun on Saturday was that there were so many friends around – running the first half with Kim R., seeing Nicole and Kim W. and Lauren, starting with Jill and Zoe, and seeing Alma and Chelsea along the way. It was awesome.

MILE 10
(8:45 avg pace)
Mile 10 was nice and flat. We wound through the city for a little bit and then headed for the Alaskan Way Viaduct (Highway 99) via the on-ramp.

I think this is where we ran past the Century Link parking garage. I paid $15 (FIFTEEEEEEEN) on Friday to park there for the expo. On Saturday, they’d changed the sign back to what it normally says: $6. FU, whoever made the decision to charge $15. FU. Next time maybe wait till all the people you gouged the day before are cleared out of the city before you change it back, K?

MILE 11
(9:30 avg pace)
There was a very long uphill to get up on 99. It felt never-ending. But I ran the whole way, willing myself not to stop and walk. Believing in that sub-2. My left ankle was starting to bug me, feeling tight – probably from leaning forward during the uphills. My feet hurt a little, which I’m sure is from 99’s broken concrete/cobblestone-type surface. I started daydreaming about my flip flops, which were waiting for me in my check bag.

The crisp scent of the breeze off of the Puget Sound was invigorating and a little wind felt nice. But I really wanted to walk. Well, I didn’t WANT to, but the little Kerrie on a Couch voice on my left shoulder wanted to. The Jillian voice on my right shoulder wouldn’t let me, though. Adding to the difficulty of the hill, I was doing math to figure out if I could beat 2 hours. Me doing math = never good. Me doing math on a hill during a race = impossible (and tiring!).

Once the highway flattened out at the top, and I had a nice view, I tried to get back into the rhythm I had during Mile 10, but the hill had killed my legs and they felt heavy and slow. I just had to believe that they would keep turning over.

MILE 12
(9:15 avg pace)
The course went through the Battery Street Tunnel. I loathe this tunnel. I didn’t like it during the full last year and I still don’t like it. It’s banked and grated. It’s dark and stinky. And you lose your Garmin signal in there, too. Oh, and it’s uphill.

Apparently, the harder I push myself, the more chins I get. Credit: MarathonFoto

MILE 13-13.23
(8:55 avg pace & 10:03 pace for the .23)
There was some downhill and some flat, so I was able to get my rhythm back for a bit…until…

…duhn…duhn…DUHN…

The Hill of Death.

No kidding. It was a steep hill for almost a quarter-mile. I like a challenge, but I feel ending a race on an uphill is a real downer. It’s just not exciting because everyone looks like they want to die instead of being happy they are about to finish a race. You want to end on a happy note. Know what I mean?

Anyway, I managed to run up it, but it was hard and it was my slowest hill. I wonder what the grade was on that thing?

So I was running up that stupid uphill, and all I could see on my watch was 1:59 because I have four windows open on it so it cuts off the seconds.

THANKS for the uphill finish, jerks! Credit: MarathonFoto

FINISH LINE
I pushed hard up the hill toward the finish line, but when I hit my watch it read 2:01. I won’t lie, I was teeny bit bummed, and wondered if I’d worn a chip what my time would have been since the city and the tunnels screwed with my watch.

But I DID have a lot of fun, especially for the first half of the race, and was excited to be done. Plus, right away after I finished, I found Mel and Tiffany, which was awesome! Then I had someone to complain to about the hill!

Reunited! With Tiffany and Mel in the finish chute. Credit: MarathonFoto

We stumbled to the REFUEL booth and found Kelly, who I’d just met on Friday at the expo. We had some refreshing chocolate milk and took a few photos. Seriously, chocolate milk is the BEST thing after finishing a race. I swear by it – it helped keep me from passing out after my first half back in ’09 (thanks to Amanda’s advice to get my hands on some ASAP after the finish line).

Kelly, Tiffany, Mel and me minutes after finishing.

The finish-line food was great – water (of course), Dole bananas, Jamba Juice non-dairy mini smoothies (tasted so refreshing!), bagels, Marathon bars, REFUEL chocolate milk! The only thing that seemed odd to me was fruit cups, like the kind you put in your kid’s lunch. They did not look appetizing to me at all for some reason.

Soon we reunited with Kim R. and her hubby and we walked and walked and walked and walked to the gear check area to pick up our stuff. Then, we claimed a spot on the sidewalk and cleaned ourselves off and changed clothes. Kim gave me a Shower Pill, and man, those are awesome! I felt like a new woman.

Me, Mel and Kim R. in our comfy post-race clothes!

Plus, I now had comfy roomy pants on and my flip flops that I’d been dreaming about at Mile 11.

POST-RACE
We made our way over to the grassy area near the stage.

Awesome host and race supporter, Chelsea! Cheers! (I even forgive her for those UW cups.)

Chelsea brought us so much yummy stuff and we listened to Gym Class Heroes, and chatted about the race as everyone trickled in.

I reflected on the race, and just felt the surge of pride for what I’d just done. It was not an easy course. It was challenging. And I’d felt undertrained. Yet I felt like I’d run hard, but still had more to give – almost like I could’ve kept running (sure, it would’ve been painful). For this race, that was a good feeling.

Wednesday night, several days after the race, I had a thought: I wonder if my Garmin start and stop clock time would give me a more accurate time for the race?

I don’t know why I thought this; it just popped into my head. I hadn’t been obsessing over my time or anything – I was happy with it, especially considering all the high-fiving and fun, and the hills, and the fact that I slowed to drink water or Gatorade through every single water stop all race except for the very last one.

So, this morning, I went to my computer and opened the file from 6/23/2012. Start time: 7:12:16 a.m. Finish time: 9:11:28. Hmmm. It was going to be close. I did the math on an Excel spreadsheet.

1:59:12

Hey, look at that. I believed I could and I DID!

I Just Love Running

I had a lovely Friday and Saturday filled with running-related fun, and with running friends from near and far. The finale was the Seattle Rock N Roll Half Marathon, which was a new course that was more hilly than I had anticipated. Around Mile 11, I just wanted to be done and in my flip flops, but once I finished and remembered that part of the race, I thought, Man. I just love to run. I just love running.

There’s something about flying low over the ground. Gliding. Pushing. Digging.

And there’s something about a race — especially one you are sharing with lots of friends. Seeing them on the course. Hearing your name from a friend in the crowd. Encouraging. Sharing. Smiling. Cheering.

When I think about the TOUGH moments of the race on Saturday — the hills — and how I pushed through them, it makes my heart beat faster.

I JUST LOVE RUNNING.

Do you just love running? Do you also get that “all aflutter” feeling when you think about running? Share why you love running in the comments.

(Race recap to come…)

I’m Running a Half Marathon on Saturday

Here are a bunch of us last year. There's my signature white hat.

Rock N Roll Seattle is this Saturday. I’m running the half. I have a couple goals:

  • Finish sub 2.
  • Have fun.

So yeah. No pressure for this race. Even if I don’t finish sub 2, that’s fine by me. I just think I’m capable of finishing sub 2 if my lungs can keep up with my legs. The problem is that I don’t really hit my stride till 3-4 miles into a run, and because of my 3-week (basically) running hiatus, I still feel I haven’t got all of my lung endurance back. Also, I’m few pounds heavier than I was in early spring.

I started out preparing for this half rather aggressively — continuing speedwork (although a little less of it) after my 5K PR, and incorporating the bike and swimming, etc. Then I went on vacation. A lot. I didn’t run much at all. So, yeah, I sort of changed directions after that to: have fun. At the beginning of June, I started Jillian Michaels’s 30-Day Shred DVD with the hopes some strength will help make up for what I feel I am lacking in endurance right now. I’m on Day 21 and am definitely feeling stronger in the core, quads, glutes, and even in my arms. I’m not “ripped” or anything, but I can do some pushups, and I can tighten my core and feel that it is more firm than it used to be.

My longest run for this training cycle (not counting the Rainier to Ruston Relay from a few weeks ago, which I think equaled about 12-13 miles over the course of the day) was 10 miles. And it was sort of a rough run. So, we shall see.

THURSDAY NIGHT

I’m going to the Train Like a Mother House Party tonight. Are you going? Hope to see you there. I shall arrive with my entourage (KIDDING!) of Jill E., Tiffany (maybe), and Mel.

FRIDAY-EXPO-MEETUP

Mel hooked all us bloggers from near and far with a place to meet at the expo. Runner-author-speaker John Bingham will be there. Here are the deets:

Friday, 3:00-3:30PM

Rock N Roll Seattle Expo Clinic Area

Hosted by John Bingham and Tall Mom

Very informal, all are welcome, bring a camera!!

(You don’t have to have a blog — stop by and meet other local runners!)

I don’t know what’s happening after the short meet-up, but I’m sure we’ll all be mingling for a while around the expo.

SATURDAY-RACE DAY!

Now! For the important stuff! I will be wearing my new gunmetal Team Sparkle skirt, either a black tank or a gray tee, with black arm warmers, and my signature white Nike hat. I’m thinking of putting my hair in two small buns since it’s supposed to rain (here’s a great forecast from my Mt. Si relay teammate Marathon Lar) and I don’t want to be a tangled mess afterward. I think I will be starting in Corral 11. I get a little ADD before races, so if you see me, say HI!

After the half, we will congregate in B for Blogger, and then head out to the finish to cheer on the full marathoners! Can’t believe it’ll have been a year since my first full. SO happy to be running the half this year! 😉

Check Twitter (@momvsmarathon) for updates on race stuff, etc. Or tweet me for meetup info.

Are you racing on Saturday? Hope it’s awesome!

Rainier to Ruston 50-Mile Relay Recap: My Final Leg (Leg 10)

This is the third part of my Rainier to Ruston 50-mile relay recap. You can read the first part HERE and the second part HERE.

After my second leg, my calves and feet were starting to feel a bit crampy. I downed some Nuun and stretched as Tiffany kicked butt out on the course.

Me and Zoe demonstrating the proper stretching technique. Not.
Mel and Zoe flexing for the camera!

Tiffany was there in no time and then it was Zoe’s turn again. We sort of got lost on the way to the next exchange, but luckily Mel knows the area and was able to direct our awesome relay driver (Tiffany’s hubby, Will) to the correct location. Whew! Luckily Zoe’s leg was a bit longer!

Don't worry! He's a relay driver!

Mel was still not feeling 100%, but she had a smile on her face as she got ready for her FINAL leg! Boy, she was excited about that!

But you know what it means when Mel heads out to run? I’m next! Oh yeah, I sort of forgot and was rushing to get ready on the drive to the next exchange. On the way, Zoe confessed that she’d tweaked her knee on her first leg and it was really bothering her. I started to worry about her running her final leg, and wanted to volunteer to run it for her, but I was not sure how I’d do or if I’d hurt myself, too, since I hadn’t been running much in the three weeks leading up to this race. I decided I would see how my final leg went. It was only 3 miles after all.

We got to the exchange and Zoe stayed in the car to rest her knee. Me, Tiff and Will made our way to the exchange. I was a little more nervous this time because I actually had to follow directions. It read: “Cross the Meridian Street bridge on the eastern walkway. At the north end of the bridge, turn to the right and circle under the bridge. BE CAREFUL CROSSING THE ROAD under the bridge to the river side and enter the sandy trail around the blue gate.”

Yikes. It sounded confusing. I ripped the directions out and stuffed them in my iFitness belt, which I decided to wear this time for music. I’d realized in the car that I hadn’t stashed my headphones in my bag, but Zoe let me borrow hers. This would be HUGE on my run.

I was so worried about my first leg of this relay, that I didn’t read the directions for Leg 10 until I was ripping them out of the handbook. Down by the exchange, I chatted with a woman from another team. We worried about the phrase “sandy trail.” I assumed it meant that the section between the road and where the paved trail begins is sandy.

A man from another team was walking by and told us, oh no, the trail is sandy. “For how long?” I asked. He smirked at us, “For, oh, about 3 miles.”

My stomach sunk. Three miles in SAND? Ouch. I hoped my training on my gravel trail, and my one sandy run I did on vacation would save me.

Sand for three miles?

Once again, Mel came in giving all she had to give, and I was off, up through the weeds on the side of a median, across a busy bridge, then down and around and underneath, and then onto the sandy and WEEDY trail.

The trail ran alongside the Puyallup River and it was obvious it wasn’t used much. The trail would sometimes almost completely disappear in the weeds with just two sandy tracks about 6 inches wide to run in. In between the tracks was about two feet of waist high or higher grassy and ANNOYING weeds. On each side of me were…weeds taller than my head. I couldn’t even see the river most of the time. I did see horse poop, though, which leads me to believe this is mostly a horse trail and explains the two thin “tracks” as opposed to a real trail.

Yay! A clearing ahead!

Later, Mel told me this trail is called the Fisherman’s Trail. All I saw was some discarded furniture and blackberry bushes. I hoped I wouldn’t see any dead bodies (I am MORBID when I run).

The footing wasn’t too bad. Most of the time the sand was pretty well packed down, but switching from one tiny track to another to avoid getting thwacked with weeds was frustrating and I am sure it slowed me down.

About a mile or so into my run, my team surprised me on the one hill I would encounter on this leg.

Oh, hey, guys!

It was AWESOME.

Mel and Zoe waiting for me to appear out of the weeds.

I felt recharged after seeing them, and soon I was passing Olin from our favorite orange team “F My Third Leg.” I also passed some ultra runners. Total props to them, by the way. This course was TOUGH. Switching from rough trails to paved to sand – ugh.

See ya in a couple miles!

But I just trucked along. I felt steady through this section. Not fast, but steady.

As I ran, I got whipped from tall grasses in the legs, arms and FACE. Toward the end, the weeds began to disappear and we (me and an ultra runner) were running in what felt like an empty part of the riverbed or something. On the right of us was a cement levee covered in clumps of dried mud and leaves, and moss. In front of us was a giant, deep muddy pit. I was about 20 feet behind the ultra runner and watched as she picked her way up the steep levee wall. Imagine running 38 miles and then having your body at an almost 90-degree angle to your feet.

I copied what she did. I am sorry, but I didn’t feel like ruining a second pair of shoes.

Climbing the levee was not as easy, however, as the ultra runner made it look. Footing was iffy and there were a couple times I willed myself not to slide down and go rolling into the mud pit. I stepped carefully, trying to secure my feet with dried mud and moss, and hoping it didn’t give.

Can't. Run. In. Sand.

After getting back down and beginning to run again, we came across ANOTHER mud pit. I think I might’ve cursed at it. The ultra runner went up the levee this time all the way to the top by the road, but I saw a very thin shallow spot and I just ran through. I didn’t care anymore. I was almost there anyway.

Not much longer after that I could see the exchange and I tried to step up my pace a bit, but now it was REALLY sandy so I spun my wheels a little. Oh well. I tagged Tiff and I was DONE!

Done! Good luck, Tiff!

Leg 10: 3.2 in approx. 31 minutes (I don’t have access to my Garmin stats from where I am writing this) – 9:49 avg. pace

It felt good to be done. Itchy, but good. I made Mel check me for ticks.

I felt bad that Tiffany was going to have to run in the sand. Luckily, it turned out to be only for about a mile before she got onto roads.

In front of what inspired our team name. I just got done running and am tick-free. I have no idea what Mel and Zoe are doing. LOL!

When I saw Zoe, I noticed her knee was wrapped and she said she planned on running her final leg (and the last one of the relay). I knew she would. She promised to call Mel if she didn’t feel like she could run it.

The next exchange was at the Tacoma waterfront. On the way, we stopped to cheer Tiffany on a couple of times – this was a longer leg and it wound through an industrial part of the city. Boring, although Mel and Will swore they saw a man who appeared to be dead or passed out on the sidewalk – they weren’t sure. That’d put some pep in my step, for sure, if I ran by that. (Tiffany didn’t see him, thank goodness.)

At the exchange we hung out and enjoyed the beautiful view.

Mel, me and Zoe waiting for Tiffany at the exchange at the Port of Tacoma.

The sun had come out, but the marine breeze kept it cool. We were behind the Museum of Glass and there was a wedding there trying to get pictures. Oh boy. I wouldn’t have been too happy had I showed up to take pictures and there’s a bunch of sweaty runners in the background.

Tiffany (and basically every team) got lost for a few minutes on this leg, so we waited a little longer than normal, but soon she was speeding into the exchange and tagging Zoe her for final leg. On the way to the finish, we passed for Zoe and she was running up the all-too-familiar on-ramp hill that’s featured in Santa Runs Tacoma 5K and the You Go Girl races. She was POWERING up it – she looked strong!

Rock on, Zoe!

Our fearless relay driver parked us at the RAM since that’s where we decided to go eat afterward. We thought we were fairly close to the finish, but we started walking…and walking…and walking. I worried that Zoe wouldn’t be able to walk all the way back to the car with her knee and stuff, so me and Tiffany ran about a half-mile back to the car to move it closer to the finish. I ran in my Crocs. That was interesting.

The finish area was awesome. The “chute” was lined with small American flags and there was an arch to run under. We cheered on ultra runners and relayers. A relay team near the chute told us we could run with our runner when she arrived.

Did I mention I was in Crocs?

When Zoe came in she was just about to pass a 50-mile runner, we joined her in the chute and we all held back to let this amazing runner finish ahead of us! It was a pretty cool moment.

Respecting the ultra runner at the finish.

And then we were done! And they had medals, which was unexpected and totally awesome.

Team Honeybuckettes! Finished!

We took pictures and looked around, but mostly all I could think about was eating a hamburger…which we did. But not before we toasted to our success!

Cheers!

Speaking of success, it turned out that we WON our division: The 4-person Female Relay. We won golden spikes (the spikes represent the “rails to trails” description of the relay)! And, since we were wearing Team Sparkle skirts, we found out later, we won skirts, too! How awesome is that?

During this relay, I’d said I didn’t want to run it again. I’m not usually like that, so I’m not sure why I was feeling that way. But afterward, the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to run it again. In fact, I even want the same legs! Am I crazy?

Jillian Says it’s Okay

Jillian Michaels in Ladies' Home Journal
From LHJ.com

I admire Jillian Michaels. I know getting in shape for her was, once, difficult. It is extremely inspiring to see how she took her mission to be healthy and ran with it (no pun intended). Sometimes I wonder if I’m doing the right thing — taking an hour or two out of my day to exercise. I know it’s good for me. But is it good for my family? Is it okay to drop T Junior off at day care so I can go run? Will the 30 minutes I spend doing my workout DVD (Jillian Michaels’s 30-Day Shred, in fact) and not hanging with Mr. T affect my marriage in a negative way?

Someone randomly signed me up for Ladies’ Home Journal. Or they sent it to me for free. Not sure. Anyway, I finally opened one of the copies of the magazine today. Jillian Michaels is on the July 2012 cover, and inside is a Q&A about her new role as mommy to recently adopted 2-year-old daughter Lukensia from Haiti.

One of the questions the author asked the health guru was about her mother, who raised Jillian alone. “My mom has been a role model for me,” Jillian said. But it was what she said next that stuck out to me.

“…And she always did what she wanted. If she wanted to go to the gym, she’d leave me with the housekeeper. Instead of feeling neglected, I saw a woman who took care of herself and it was a good example for me.”

It’s okay. Thanks, Jillian.

Rainier to Ruston 50-Mile Relay Recap: My Second Leg (Leg 6)

This is the second part of my Rainier to Ruston Relay recap. Read the first part about my toughest run ever HERE.

After I was done cleaning myself off, we all hopped in the car to (hopefully) beat speedy Tiffany to the next exchange.

Ew.

When we got there, it was drizzling. Tiffany rocked her muddy trail (read her report HERE) and was at the exchange in no time, and tagging Zoe for her first run of the day.

Tiffany tags Zoe!
Me with speedster Tiffany.

Zoe sped off. Leg 4 also came with a warning to assign strong runners to this “tough and muddy leg.” We sped ahead to the next exchange that would now be on the Orting Trail — a paved trail we’ve all run. Mel’s husband, Muscle Man, and their two boys met us at the exchange so they could run for a bit with her on her second leg.

Mel with her fam waiting to hit the trail.

I couldn’t believe it was almost time for me to run again! Soon, Zoe was tagging Mel and sending her on her way!

See ya, Mel!
Zoe with some mud of her own!

I started getting ready for my second leg. I was not nervous at all since it was only 2.7 miles on paved trail. I was, however, feeling a little tight. I didn’t do enough stretching after my first leg. Pretty soon Mel was zooming into the exchange. Her sick body was giving her some trouble, but she is a rock star and powered through it.

Here I go...again.

It was hard to get my legs going. They felt rusty. But I soon realized I’d run this part of the trail before, and remembered that it is slightly downhill. I wanted to use that to my advantage.

Soon, I could see that orange shirt way up ahead (we’d been going back and forth with a military team named “F my 3rd leg”). Since the trail was straight sometimes, I could see the orange. He looked to be, at least, a half-mile ahead. Maybe more. I could also see the woman with the boxer puppy, Chloe, who I’d met at the last exchange, ahead of the orange shirt.

Quick sidebar: She was running 2.7 miles with her puppy. My guess is the puppy was about 4 months old. That is too young to run with a puppy. Please, please, please don’t run with your puppy over long periods of time like that. They are still growing. A little running around the yard, or a nice walk with a few slow jogging sections thrown in, is just fine. But long-distance running with a young puppy is not good for their developing bones. Most puppy’s growth plates are not done growing until 2 years. End sidebar.

The blessing and the curse of straightaways: you can see people you want to pass, but they seem sooooooo far away.

Soon, I passed the emu, that Mel and I have stopped to visit with before. He (or she) was out in the middle of his pasture, though. No visits today. And my team passed me in the car, too. It’s so energizing to hear your team out on the course!

Passing the emu pasture...

After they went by, I focused on passing the man in the orange shirt, who I now know is named Olin (check out his blog HERE), and the woman with Chloe. I used my cross country visualization skill — put a target on his back (sorry Olin) — and just focused and moved my legs as fast as they’d let me.

There was a little wind, but there was also occasionally some sun breaks. Every time the sun came out, I’d curse it. I was getting so hot. Also, and I think this is from taking 3 weeks off from “real” running, I was out of breath. Darn lungs couldn’t keep up with my legs.

I was gaining on Olin, but the course was only 2.7 miles! I needed more time! Now I knew exactly where I was on the trail and I knew where the exchange probably was. I knew time was running out! I just kept my target up and kept churning.

Leg 6 map

I passed him with maybe a quarter-mile (maybe less!) of the leg remaining. Whew! That was hard! I didn’t pass the boxer puppy, though, but I got close. I rang the bell. Now it was Tiffany’s turn again!

For a short, paved leg, I ran harder than I have in a month, so it was actually tougher than I’d thought it would be. But I had no idea what waited for me on Leg 10.

Leg 6: 2.74 miles – 22:38 – 8:15 avg pace

(To be continued)

Rainier to Ruston 50-Mile Relay Recap: My First Leg (Leg 2)

Turns out all I needed to reinject the running mojo that had gone missing after going three weeks with only four runs was a shot of the ultimate trail mix: mud, logs, rocks, stumps, creeks, cliffs, puddles, roots, and a little elevation.

Last Saturday, I ran Leg 2 (and 6 and 10), of the Rainier to Ruston 50-Mile Relay (R2R) with running buddies Tiffany, Mel and Zoe. Tiffany’s awesome hubby was our relay driver and team photog! Mel is the one who got us all to do this relay, registered us and came up with an awesome team name (Honeybuckettes – the port-o-potty company even sent us a ton of swag).

I went on vacation May 4-20 during which I ran twice – both short and easy runs. I came home and ran twice, then left again for a big dog show in Spokane for four days during which I didn’t run at all. But I ate like I was running. Does that count? So I basically ran four times in a month. Ouch.

Before my running hiatus, I decided I wanted to run Leg 2 (and 6 and 10) of R2R, a race that begins in the beautiful Mount Rainier area and ends on the waterfront in Tacoma. I chose Leg 2 because of its description: “5.7 miles on rough, secluded trail. 0.6 miles on paved road. 200 foot loss.” Before my hiatus, I was running strong, steady, and felt extremely confident about Leg 2, which also included these phrases on the leg description in the R2R manual: “This is a very rough and muddy trail” and “Team captains: Assign strong walkers and runners to this rough, muddy and isolated leg.”

After my running hiatus, I was thinking about finding someone to replace me in the relay. But the relay was in a week, so I didn’t think that would be very nice.

Saturday came, and I picked up Zoe at her house. We made our way to Tiffany’s since she lives near the finish line. Then we drove to Mel’s, since she was closer to the start line. At Mel’s, we decorated Tiffany’s van. We came up with the Team Honeybuckettes slogan: We’re #1…or #2. That sort of set the mood of the day.

L-R: Tiffany, Zoe, me and Mel. Zoe drew the logo!

Relays are fun because there are so many bad jokes and goofball moments. I’d tell you some of them, but I’d probably offend people. Plus, they’re sort of inside jokes and you probably wouldn’t think they’re that funny.

We got up to the start line, used the Honey Buckets (of course) and then got Mel set to start. She’s been really, really sick for two weeks and had not run at all. Turns out, she almost needed a replacement for the relay, too. But she didn’t want to miss all the fun that is a relay, so she was a trooper and stuck it out.

Up near the start. It was about 50 and drizzling.
L-R: me, TIffany, Mel and Tiff's hubby -- our awesome relay driver!

At the start, we realized the organizer put us during the “fasties” start. Oh well. We decided we could probably hang in there. It was drizzling as the runners set off on the 50-mile journey.

Mel getting ready to go -- she's in the red Team Sparkle skirt, of course.

Leg 1 looked gorgeous. We drove past Mel to the first exchange and gushed over the mountain scenery: a roaring river, moss-draped evergreens, ferns, vines. When I opened the window, the fresh, cool air washed over my face. It felt good.

Mel looking happy and strong on the first leg!

I felt ready to run “tough and muddy” Leg 2. I got this.

At the exchange, I pulled on my CEPs, my “tall socks” as T Junior calls them, and double-knotted my shoes. Then I slipped my red glittery Team Sparkle skirt over my compression shorts. I clipped on my iFitness belt, which held my phone and one blackberry GU Chomp (I ate the other two I had as I got ready), and then went to use the Honey Buckets again.

Somehow, my body just knows to empty itself before I run. Or it could be that I drank a coffee and a 20-ounce bottle of water that morning.

We all walked over to the exchange area. R2R has a really great exchange idea. The runners go underneath this tall wooden triangle, which displays the name of the exchange and had a large bell on the top. A rope hangs down and as you finish your leg, you ring the bell and tag your next runner. I should note that our team had two bibs with timing chips embedded in them. The start and finish “bell towers” had timing mats.

The first exchange behind me. Notice how clean I am!

We waited for Mel at the exchange. Before anyone had come in to tag the next runner (that I saw anyway), I started to get nervous about where my leg actually went. There was a beautiful bridge and some people that looked like volunteers stood on the other side of it. I decided to warm up a little bit and run over the bridge to see what I could see. Since I didn’t want to look like a complete noob, I didn’t look around much, and never did see the entrance to any trail or anything. (That was a good thing, by the way, because if I’d seen the entrance to the trail, I might’ve been very nervous.)

Warming up.

People were coming in now, ringing the bell and high-fiving their second runners. It was very exciting. I started to get a little nervous, as I always do before a race, so I kept warm (and calm) by jumping in place. The area had cleared out a bit since these (mostly) guys were running like 6-7-minute paces. Pretty soon, Mel, who is herself pretty darn speedy, was running in to the exchange, then ringing the bell, then slapping my hand! It was my turn!

My turn!

I pushed “start” on my Garmin and headed in the direction everyone had gone: over the bridge. But just on the other side of it, the volunteers pointed for me to turn right. I began to, but then hit the brakes. “Have fun,” a man said in that evil I-know-something-you-don’t-know way. Oh boy.

The entrance to the trail was a short, steep muddy hill with slide marks all over it. I stepped on it…whee! Down I slid, but I didn’t fall, and then I was on the trail, which wasn’t so bad. It was technical. This isn’t so bad. This is fun. I ran and grinned and leaped over rocks, side-stepped roots and even climbed over a huge fallen tree. To my left was the rushing Carbon River. The soothing white noise of the water heightened my awareness of the high-pitched bird songs and raindrops drumming on the flat-leaved trees mixed in between the umbrella-like evergreen branches above me.

The Carbon River.

It was heaven. Until about 1.5 miles.

I’d jumped around a few mud pits and puddles so far, but between 1.5 and 2 miles, this changed from an occasional obstacle to the norm.

Suddenly, I could only run for a few yards at a time before I had to walk/wade/step through thick mud pits. Sometimes, I would think I could run through what looked like shallow mud, but my feet would sink. And sometimes, I would think it didn’t look too muddy – the surface looked stable – but then I would slip like a contestant on a Japanese game show, arms flailing, body twisting just to keep myself upright.

Sometimes there were hills covered in mud. I was thankful when they were also rocky so I would have something to step on. One of the hills I came to had slip lines down it – like it was wearing a vertical-striped sweater made of…mud.

I laughed out loud, then began to gingerly climb, grasping at a few whispy tree roots that stuck out of the ground on the way up and just picturing myself finishing the leg with mud all down the front of me.

But I made it without falling. Yay me!

The next couple of miles continued this way. I’d been so proud of my 9:25 pace during the first 1.5 miles, but now I was just trying to keep it in the low 11’s, running when I could and walking, slipping, almost biting it through the long muddy shoe-eating sections. After the mud pits, I would stomp-run to try to get the sticky stuff out of my treads – it was just making the slippery sections all the more dangerous. I actually was happy to run through a few small creek sections just to rinse the bottoms of my shoes. Obviously, the insides of my shoes were sloshy already; a little extra water wasn’t going to make my feet feel heavier than they already did.

It wasn’t that I cared what my time was necessarily, it’s just that I had guessed a 10-minute pace for my leg and I didn’t want my team wondering where I was.

And I was hungry! Oh, so hungry and I still had 3 or 4 miles, at least, to go! Yes, I had the Chomp, but I remembered you’re supposed to take them with water and I did not want to have tummy issues on the trail, which was just getting more and more narrow. At one point, I thought What am I DOING out here?

Some parts of the trail balanced on the edge of a cliff – I was now high above the river – and I had to consciously go to the right of the mud and rocks so that if I did fall, it wasn’t down, down, down into the ravine. I didn’t want the rescue worker, complete with helmet and full-body safety suit, I saw at Mile 3 to have to pull my body off the boulders when I didn’t show up at the exchange.

Around Mile 4 (I think), I finally came to a clear section of trail. On the bridge high above me I could hear my teammates cheering.

My awesome team waited for me to go under the bridge.

I heard Zoe yell something about a boxer watching me. I knew what she meant and I grinned — she was telling me it was good luck. (My boxer, AJ, passed away suddenly a few weeks before my first half marathon, and now I see a boxer at almost every race.)

Chloe - my good luck charm.

I felt completely energized after hearing them and wanted to look up, but I didn’t dare for fear of slipping in the mud in front of spectators!

Tiffany's hubs took this from the bridge.
Heading back into isolation...

Just before the bridge, a fast woman passed me. She was so speedy. How in the hell? Then a female runner in purple Tempos passed me. Then we all passed a male runner in orange. This man turned out to be part of Team “F My 3rd Leg,” a military team with whom we would compete against all day (even though they ended up not being our division), and with whom we’ve connected on DailyMile. Read his recap HERE. It was really interesting to read his recap of that part of the race. I’m the one in the “flashy red skirt” – hahaha!

The girl in purple’s pace was faster, but closer to mine, and I dug in and tried to keep her in my sight. Yes, the trail was marked with orange ribbons here and there, but it’s still sort of comforting to know you are going in the same, hopefully correct, direction as someone else.

I watched her run – she just ran right through the mud and puddles, which had become less extreme now at about 4.5 miles or so. My pace got faster and I started not caring if I fell. I just ran right through the puddles, too. I felt surprisingly energized now the terrain was a little more solid and sure, and I watched my overall pace come down gradually. The trail was quite a bit wider and we were also now closer to a road. I couldn’t see it, but I could hear an occasional car. This must be a more well-traveled section of the trail.

I couldn’t see my purple friend anymore since the trail was quite curvy, but I knew she probably wasn’t too far up ahead.

Finally, my watch was showing that I was approaching 6 miles. But shouldn’t I be on the pavement already? I knew that .6 miles was on the road, and that the leg was only 6.3. But I kept seeing the orange ribbons tied to tree branches, so I figured I was going the right way. I could now see the road, however, and I kept worrying I’d missed a turn. Soon, I saw the woman with the purple shorts. She was stopped.

“I’m so confused,” she called back to me. “Me too,” I answered. She started running again before I caught up to her. But I’d closed the gap enough to keep her close. This was a race, after all. Like 30 seconds after that little conversation, we came to Y in the trail. The left part was roped off. We went right. This definitely fit the description. We were going the right way! My watch had passed 6.3 miles, by the way.

As I exited the trail onto a gravelly dirt shoulder, my right ankle gave and I rolled it. I couldn’t believe it! I’d run nearly 6.5 miles of extremely technical trail and hadn’t gotten hurt, but I set foot back on normal terrain and I injure myself! I continued running with a slight limp now on the asphalt, which felt extremely difficult to run on after the softness of the mud for over an hour. My legs felt like some of the logs I’d run over. Luckily, the ankle loosened up during that quarter-mile run into the exchange, and I’m fine.

It was so exciting when I could see my teammates up ahead – just passed the group of emergency vehicles sitting…waiting for someone to get bitten by the trail.

I see humans! Hooray!

I ran through the exchange, rang that freakin’ bell and gave Tiff a high five.

Tiff's turn!

I was exhausted, muddy and so proud of myself…especially when I saw that I’d gotten my time down to a 10:25 overall pace. I’ve run easier trails much slower than that, so I was extremely happy with that time.

Exhausted and happy. And muddy.

Back at the car, I think I used 4 or 5 of Mel’s Nathan wipes to clean my legs up, and it probably took me 5 minutes alone just peel off my socks. My orthotics were surprisingly clean, but not dry and I knew they’d probably still be wet for my next leg, but I wasn’t worried about it since it was a measly 2.7 miles on paved trail. Whatevs. I’d just finished the hardest run of my life. I could do anything. But I probably should’ve checked the manual about my final leg ahead of time…

(To Be Continued)