Saturday, June 28, 2008

Gay pride: way better than gay shame

Earlier this week I decided I wanted to race this weekend. So I googled for a Chicago race calendar, found some CARA thing, and found that the Proud to Run 5k/10k, as part of Chicago's Pride weekend festivities, was going on in Montrose Harbor. Apparently they get lots of straight dudes out for the run, too, and why not? The course used almost all the elements of Montrose Harbor I'd include in a 10k race, and I have really good taste in running routes so it was definitely going to be a great course. And there aren't nearly enough 10k races in Chicago.

I sort of thought the pre-race stuff might be really loud and cheesy, a little slice of Boys' Town nightlife at eight in the frickin' morning (which is totally cool on an abstract level, but not really my style), but it was really pretty much like any other Chicago race. Loudspeakers pumping in every song ever recorded with the word "run" in the title, like every other Chicago race (except that because of the spaciousness of Montrose Harbor they didn't seem so oppressively loud and omnipresent as at other races). A few runners wearing capes and one dude in a clown costume, like every other Chicago race (both the rate of costume wearing and the range of costumes fell very much within Chicago race norms... we have some pretty colorful races here).

I was not under any illusions that I was going to PR today. I think I'm calling my PR 35:18, but really it could be anything. I'm having a really great summer in terms of running long, seeing new places, and enjoying myself, but I'm not fast right now. And I'm OK with that; I worked hard and got fast last fall, maybe I'll do it again this fall. So I just wanted to run 36:30 and maybe win.

We got out to a 5:40 first mile, and around me were a few muscular guys, a dude that looked like a runner in a blue shirt, a young dude that looked like a runner in a red shirt, and an older tall bald guy in a black shirt who didn't look comfortable at the pace. I pegged the muscular guys for either 5k runners or 10k runners that would fade a lot. Yeah, I'm biased against muscular runners, but I really do think they go out too fast way more than runners with other body types. Red shirt guy didn't look as calm or smooth as blue shirt guy, black shirt guy looked like he might be able to tough-out the race despite uneven form. I sort of wonder how people would size me up in a race recap. Bony, long-haired guy in a dark blue shirt with really inconsistent cadence and stride length and some weird upper-body catches?

After the split (goodbye to muscular guys and red shirt dude) black shirt guy was out in front, blue shirt guy was 30 or 40 meters back from him, and I was about 20 meters in back of him. We held those positions without change for about three miles. We were all fading a bit, at about the same rate. I was surprised how long black shirt guy stayed up front. Blue shirt guy passed him early in the fifth mile and I did not too long afterward. Blue shirt guy wasn't really pulling away from me, though, so I got visions of victory, and early in the sixth mile I made a big move. It was ill-fated. I took the lead with probably a mile to go but then died hard and blue shirt guy passed me and pulled away in the last half-mile. Blue shirt guy 36:35 or so, Al 36:42.

I saw both of them after the race. Black shirt guy said he'd tried to go out with the muscular guys, thinking they were running the 10k, and that that was too fast. I was pretty impressed with how long he held on after that. Blue shirt guy probably ran a slightly smarter race than I did, going out a bit slower and not trying a ridiculous surge with a mile to go, but it wasn't strategy that won it. If I hadn't gone for it then I would have finished about the same distance behind him.

The awards ceremony was really long and I missed out on shade, so I got sunburned. Part of the long wait was attributed to the lack of chip timing in a race with over 1200 participants. In my experience races with chip timing don't get results much faster than this one did, and they tend to need big, fenced-in starting areas to make sure everyone crosses the start line. I liked the open, wide start of this race, as it didn't break up the beautiful view of the harbor. This race, despite its size, probably doesn't need as many age divisions as it has, or to even take awards all that seriously. Frankly, it could probably be done somewhat like the Elmhurst Turkey Trot: give a silly prize to the first male and female across the line, don't even keep results for anyone else. Or maybe add a masters division and a retirement-age division by using different-colored bibs. Most of the runners here, like at Trot, aren't running for times and places, and those that are are wearing their own watches.

I randomly chatted with an older couple of women wearing complementary jumpsuits and capes, and a younger woman with IT band problems who gave me info about a trail running series. Woot! There was a performance by the Righteously Outrageous Twirling Corps, several speakers on subjects of interest to various combinations of the queer and athletic communities, and a raffle. All Chicago races seem to have raffles; is that common elsewhere? In this one the prizes ranged from a year's supply of bagels to a goodie bag from a Boys' Town toy shop. Unfortunately the woman who received the latter didn't seem to have much use for some of the contents. Overall, a fun race, a race with some history whose long-time participants are very proud of. Lots of people there knew each other, so there was a lot of socialization and a sense of community, which is rare for a Chicago race.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Stupid, terrible week

Everything since my run Saturday has pretty much been down hill. My fish committed suicide this weekend (yes, he actually managed to jump out of his tank to his death), on Monday I finally figured out that the thing I spent all last week working on at work was too broken for me to ever get functioning, on Tuesday I tried to start something new at work, and that, too, was irreparably broken (again, not my fault, but I couldn't get my stuff done). I even agreed to go on a blind date, but, predictably, got stood up.

I've been trying to exercise to the point of exhaustion to feel better, but, unfortunately, it's not working. All it's doing is making me tired, but I'm not sleeping well, so it just sort of keeps compounding. I ran with a friend from DC Fit last night; we did a speed workout. At the end, she asked what was wrong, because I seemed to be taking something out on her with the pace I was setting. It was kind of funny.

Ugh. Stupid week. Get better. At least I'm running and biking a lot. And haven't gotten hurt yet.

Monday, June 23, 2008

It must be the arctic air...


By two whole seconds.


And I even took pictures while I ran.

Race report when I return this weekend, but for now you can read Lisa's version of events.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

And I was hoping that in the boonies I wouldn't have to flip anyone off...

I did my second Metra Ride today. Metra Ride is: take the bike on a train out to the sticks, get off, ride around for a while, finish at another Metra station, get on a train there, and ride back home. Today my plan was to ride from West Chicago down to Fermilab, through the lab, out to De Kalb, then back east to Aurora, for a total of 73.5 miles. Of course, the plan wasn't exactly followed, but really most of it was. Good enough. In fact, it wound up being just over 75. Longest ride since Santa Cruz Ride #1 (which was 80 instead of 70 because of getting lost); this ride was much faster, didn't include the several breaks I took on that ride, and was humid. But on the Santa Cruz ride I had to cross those damn mountains twice (peaking at 1800 feet on the way out and 2000 on the way back, with both endpoints at sea level), so that still makes today's ride look easy.

Over on my blog I made a comment recently about wanting to bike to Champaign, and Danielle warned that I might hit dirt roads. I said there are paved roads all over rural Illinois. Well, I hit dirt roads three times on this ride. The first time was at the Town Road entrance to Fermilab. Not only did the road turn to dirt, but there was a big gate forbidding entry. Why even bother drawing it on maps if it's a dirt road that nobody can use? So I backed out to Fabyan Parkway instead. That's when the rain came. There was a bike path running along Fabyan, so I ditched the road for that. After a couple miles I was thinking about just turning around, but then I saw the sky ahead (to the west) was blue and the storm was blowing east. By that point I'd deviated from my backup route because the bike path didn't cross the Fox River, but I was able to randomly pick my way back to the course. Didn't have to backtrack once. Illinois road navigation is cake; maps are for cheaters.

After that it was just fighting the gentle upwards slope, occasional rollers, and moderate western winds to De Kalb. Campton Hills Road was a beautiful ride with rolling hills, as was Beith Road, until it turned to dirt. So I found a way around it. De Kalb is a bit like Champaign but probably a little smaller. Some pretty parts, some mundane parts. I have a co-worker that lives in De Kalb (drives to Elburn then takes the train downtown from there every day), so I asked him if there are any cool things in De Kalb I should ride past. He mentioned the Ellwood House, once occupied by barbed-wire baron Isaac Ellwood, upon whom the character Elwood in Blues Brothers was based. There were lots of trees on the property so I didn't get a great view of the house. Also I was watching traffic. Sort of. Googling the Ellwood house yields, as for many Googlable things, reviews. The first one is quite a winner: This is the place where you should get married all the time (assuming that u will get married more than once in your lifetime :D). I'll keep that in mind, though I had a spot near Galeena picked out (my spot is probably on private land, so it would have to be a real bootleg wedding... I'd invite only runners and when the owner came out with a shotgun we'd scatter over a very, very wide radius).

The ride back through the country to Aurora was pretty uneventful. Lots of straight roads that were actually in really good condition, practically no car traffic but lots of motorcycles, no shade, but one great advantage: wind. The wind I fought into De Kalb was firmly at my back now, and I was flying. I would have considered easing it in from the 60 mile mark, but I figured I'd have to finish strong to make the 2:20, or else wait two hours for the next train. When I hit a dirt road for the third time (Seavy Road) I just rode it. My recollection of the map was that the roads were sort of sparse and winding in that area, and because of the time constraints I was in no move to improvise.

Shortly after crossing the East-West Tollway it was back into subdivision country. This provided my first unfortunate need to flip someone off, a Bimmer-driving moron that pulled out to pass me with an oncoming car way too close, then swerved back in front and honked at me (my theory is that most of the resentment of cyclists from Chicago-area motorists is really frustration at their own bad driving decisions, bad decisions ranging from stuff like this to driving Halsted through Lincoln Park during rush hour, that they refuse to internalize; this incident certainly fits the pattern). Then on Indian Trail Road in Aurora I actually had to exercise Old Middly twice, once for someone that passed me way too close and once for someone that yelled at me to get on the sidewalk. The first of those was really bad. A car going 35 should never come that close. If I had a sprint in my legs after 70 miles and any extra time on the clock I might have tried chasing her down the street she later turned onto for an explanation of proper road manners. Instead, I just took my lane the rest of the way (on four-lane roads it's often the safest option and only when a road is operating close enough to its throughput capacity to be extremely dangerous to ride anyway does it actually affect traffic flow). Anyway, I got to Aurora's train station, after some confusion due to un-labeled streets, in time to make the 2:20 by just about two minutes. The crowd went wild.

Physiology note... I keep reading that biking hard you can burn up to 1000 calories in an hour, and I rode close to 4-and-a-half today. But I only ate one Clif bar (240 calories) and had an unfortunate bottle of that new low-calorie Gatorade for a measly 110 during the ride (I could only find fat 32-oz bottles of the real carbolicious stuff at the last minute, and they don't fit in bike shirt pockets), then another Clif bar on the train, and felt fine. I had a small breakfast beforehand, and ate a pretty normal meal when I got home. Obviously I'm not sustaining a 1000kcal/hr rate, but it seems like I should be much hungrier than I am. Also less willing to use my bike for transportation later tonight. Maybe my body is telling me that it craves the true pain of a century ride. Well, if I do it, y'all will be the first to know. Final note: the following would be just slightly more than an Ironman-distance triathlon (although probably not as hard as doing it in Hawaii): swimming around Navy Pier and then south to the Adler Planetarium; biking from the Planetarium to Mahomet, IL (just west of Champaign; by driving directions it's 30 miles too long, though there might be a slightly shorter route if you don't go through Champaign), running the loop at Mahomet 5 times and then running most of the length of the bike path through the park. I think that would be a really awesome course. But I'm probably the only one.

DC Fit update

Today was our 10 mile run in DC Fit. I kind of think of double digits as a big deal in training. It's almost more-so with the group because some folks have never run this far before. It was fun to see people run farther than they've ever run. Once you hit that point, it's kind of an nice personal achievement where every week you run farther than you've ever gone in your entire life. For me, that'll be when we hit the 14 mile mark, as my longest individual run is a half marathon.

I felt good today. I ran out with the fast kids again, which was a bit of a mistake. We hit the turn at 5 miles at 44:50, and I let them go to run my own pace on the way back. I did the second half in 47:35, which is pretty good, as that is what I had been hoping to pace myself at for the entire run. After one slow mile right at the turn to slow my breathing down, I was able to just sit back into it and truck along. I really am going to just not bother to run at all with the fast kids next week, and see if I can run a comfortable 12 miler, maybe even negative split, if I go out slower rather than faster (yes, I know this is how you're supposed to do it, but we get talking as we warm up, and then we take off, and before I know it, we're 5 miles in and I am feeling like a dumbass, again). For those interested in how my time obsession is progressing, I looked at my watch every 2 miles or so today. It felt good to not worry about it. As long as I remind myself not to obsess, I'll be good.

I also spoke with one of the coaches this past week about how to screw up the schedule to fit it for Chicago, which is 2 weeks before Marine Corps Marathon, which the schedule is based on. My longest run is now going to be 20 miles, as opposed to 22 which everyone else will do, but I'll actually do 20 twice, and Eric (the coach) thinks that for a course like Chicago, being as flat as it is, the span of long runs he came up with (18, 20, 18, 20, then 3 weeks slowly tapering, then race) should get me in fighting shape for it.

Also, on a teammate side note, I got a 2 line email from Lisa this morning. She and Danielle arrived in Tromso last night, "and are seriously time-screwed-up, on account of there is no night. Race starts in 10 hours, woot!" They should be starting around 4 pm EDT, so about 15 minutes after I am posting this. Send them some good vibes!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Kurt Wagner

For the music lovers out there Kurt Wagner is the lead singer of one of my favourite bands, Lambchop, although to the comic book geeks amongst us this is also the alter-ego of sometime X-Man Nightcrawler, which also happens to be the name of 5 mile race I just ran here in Toronto:

This is the first "serious" race I have ran since the same race 2 years ago and I naturally approached it with a certain sense of uncertainty, not least because of the ankle problem I was experiencing during the Madison-Chicago relay 10 or so days ago. I'm being very cautious with my warming up due to this and the current damage report is very favourable: I'm not experiencing pain when I'm running, and it isn't swollen or anything, so hopefully it isn't too much to worry about. Not sure what plan to adopt for the race I went for a 2 minute negative split: 18 minutes for the first 2.5 miles, and 16 minutes for the second - the route follows the shore of Lake Ontario to a bridge and back so the half-way point is well defined. I felt, given that I haven't raced in such a long time, that this plan was challenging enough whilst theoretically being well within reach, either way I'd see how the first mile went and race accordingly. As it turned out, the first mile was fairly quick at 6:35 and, being satisfied with that, I started to relax and enjoy the run. I felt strong throughout and ended up running a very even pace for the middle 3/5s of the race with splits of 6:50, 6:49 and 6:49, saving some of the best for last... Having been chasing down a group of runners from the turn around point, I upped the tempo to start picking them off individually as the finishing line approached, including a very satisfactory sprint finish (for which I favour the Michael Johnson style) to see off one runner that a lot of people seemed to be cheering for and telling to run faster because I was going to overtake her, which just made me want to get past even more (when will these people learn?). I timed the last mile at 6:35 to finish in 33:40, which I'm happy enough with given that it brought me home within the time I had forecast, even though the negative split didn't quite work out as planned.

And if that wasn't enough, I scored a Asics thermal coffee mug (!?! - at least it wasn't an Asics desk calculator?!?!?!) from the stuff they were throwing into the crowd during the post-race prize giving.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Time keeps on ticking...

For the last two years or so, I almost never wore a watch while running (I haven't worn one in regular life in about 10 years). I got into the habit of not wearing a watch so much that I actually forgot to bring it to Phoenix when Danielle and I ran the Phoenix Half Marathon in January.

When I started in DC Fit, they said they require everyone to wear a watch, so I broke the watch back out and started wearing it again. The problem is, almost everyone I have met there so far is totally obsessed with times. Times for everything. It's not really a matter of if you feel good during the run or not, it's a matter of how fast you ran.

I started to get caught up in it, too. For the last couple of weeks, I've been obsessing over the times for every run I do. This weekend, I was talking with Meg and realized that I am really starting to obsess over this, to an unhealthy degree. So I'm going to start to ignore my watch again. I'll wear it because they make us, but I am not going to check it every 3-4 minutes to see if my pace has fallen off 5 seconds per mile or any stupid stuff like that. I can appreciate the ability to know what my pace is is and if i'm holding steady, but I think that, especially on the long runs, checking once every mile or two will give you a good idea of that, and, frankly, I should be able to tell from how I'm feeling, as my body pretty much tells me what's up.

I had a lot more fun running when I wasn't stressing about time all the time. That's what I need to get back to. All this constant measuring makes it feel way more like work than play, and I want to make sure that running is fun, because Chicago is a long way away, and it better be an enjoyable road to get there, dammit!

I'm Audi 5000

(Reality Bites was on TV this weekend. I miss the 90s!)

Or should I say "I'm Volvo!"

Okay, so Volvos are Swedish, not Norwegian, but it's all the same right? At least all the Swedes and Norwegians seem to move to Minnesota to be featured on a Prairie Home Companion, so I think of them all as Lutherans who eat weird food and cross-country ski.

So yeah. I'm going here:
To the freakin' Arctic Circle!

To run a half-marathon!

In the Midnight Sun!

At 10:30 at night!

I'm totally just doing this for the t-shirt.

Oh, and to hang out with Lisa, who I haven't seen since we ran a half marathon together back in 2006, when we had to hitchhike to the start since all the buses were full.

But I am pretty much expecting between the red eye flight, the jet lag, the constant sunlight, and running a half-marathon at the time I am usually asleep, that my body is going to be very very confused.

Especially after I make it pull an all-nighter tonight to get everything done before I leave. Seriously, my to do list before 3pm tomorrow includes:

- Write individualized task plans for each of the students who works on my project
- Figure out how to get to the airport, as my usual route is flooded
- Look at data from one instrument and get it ready to be deployed for two weeks tomorrow
- Open up another instrument, put in the batteries, take test data, and check it out before deploying it for two weeks tomorrow as well
- Send an e-mail to someone here so I can start scheming about my post-Iowa life in New Zealand
- Spend all day at the lake tomorrow deploying above instruments
- Uh, pack?

And here I am blogging... I gots the mad procrastinating skillz!

Saturday, June 14, 2008


That would be how much they are charging me for side swiping the post in the rental van in the parking garage. How much does that suck? Don't they realize I am a broke ass grad student? For real, the thing needs a small buff job and a paint touch up. Argh!

That's it.

I am totally not driving at the Wild West Relay.

In other news, I ran a 10k this morning. I actually hate this race because it is a double loop and there is a huge ass hill you have to do twice and it is a small fast field, but I got free entry from Kori so I did it anyway.

The weather was gorgeous, so it actually wasn't that bad. I was trotting along with Kori at the start when all of a sudden someone grabs my shirt from behind and pulls me back and runs past me. After being mildly stunned, I realized it was George, who is a hilarious 50 something accountant who is the ringleader of our running group. After body checking him, we ended up running the rest of the race together (we let Kori drop us after we hit the first mile in 9 minutes, which is way too fast for a 10k for me). George cracks me. He told me he went to the Runner's World website and took the online course on how to be the course asshole. He would say ridiculously funny things to the volunteers that they totally wouldn't get because they mostly weren't runners (as we bring in the back of the pack "How deep do they pay on this race?") So at least I was entertained.

After the second trudge up the hill, he slowed down a little because he was planning on doing the 5k too afterwards and another girl I have run with (Erin) who had been 10 yards behind us the whole race caught up a little when I stopped to get water at the top of the hill (yeah... I was thirsty... I didn't need a walk break or anything). I don't know how fast Erin and I ran the last half mile to the end, but I was trying to stay ahead of her and she was trying to catch me and we were just both booking it. Two corners before the end she caught me and then as we turned into the chute, she had a tiny kick left and I had nothing and I came in about 10 feet behind her and we both wanted to throw up. It was a good way to end the race, even if I wasn't the victor.

I came in at 1:01:43, which is 26 seconds off my PR, but five minutes faster than last year. (Last year was crazy hot and humid) That time was good enough to get me fifth from last. Seriously. In what kind of race can you run sub-10s and be fifth from last?

I thought about jogging the 5k with Kori and her sister (it was her sister's first race and she was going to run/walk 12 minute miles), but then I realized "Dang! I have a half-marathon next weekend!"

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Kind of appropriate that I read this book on my way home from Chicago on Sunday, because yesterday, Danielle put out the official Call For Runners (or CFR, in a technical conference reference that makes me smile for some stupid reason) for Wild West Relay yesterday. As I live around 50 feet above sea level, and it's pretty flat, so training for a race in Colorado is a challenge.

I decided to do a hill day today (and by "I decided," I mean "DC Fit had a hill day on the schedule"), so I'd know how bad off I was and what I needed to do these next two months to get ready. Before heading out, I went out on my balcony to see what the weather is like. You know things have been screwy when you go outside and it's 88 degrees out and your first thought is, "Wow, it's really nice today, not too hot or anything." Here is an elevation chart of today's run:

They aren't huge climbs, but by the end of cresting the 3rd hill, I was pretty spent, so I just cruised home the long way. I felt better than I had expected, though, which was encouraging. These 3 hills are 3 of the 4 near my apartment, so when I am ready to find something bigger to work on, I am going to need to go hunting a bit. I have some ideas of places to check out, though, but I'm not quite ready for them yet.

Looking forward on the DC Fit schedule, it looks like there is a hill day about once a week, so I'll have some quality focus on this part of my training. Woohoo.

MC200 - Legs 25-36 (on our last legs... hardy har har, I'm so punny)

Update: Our GRR teammate Audrey crashed her bike and broke her jaw in three places. Go send her some comment love!

After sending Ames Megan off for her last leg, we managed to crash in a nice air-conditioned church, that was almost too cold. But seriously, by the end of the day, I'd be glad that I started out chilled. We made our way up to Exchange 30 and waited for Van 1 and chatted some more with Team 26 (their actual name was "High Performance. Delivered." which I am totally going to make fun of as a team name because it is the Accenture slogan).

All of a sudden we see Tim coming and I got ready to roll. In a valiant effort, he tried to chase down the guy ahead of him and almost succeeded but cramped up. The dude had no clue what hit him and collapsed on the grass after handing off to his teammate. I think this showdown is nicely summarized by the photo below:
I set off for my last leg of 4.9 miles. My leg was entirely along a dirt path again, but there was no shade whatsoever. It was brutal. I just kept trudging along. We were all running on the left side (like the Brits!) to try and desperately get what little shade occasionally covered the trail on that side. It was rough. I trudged along without any worries about how fast I was going - just needed to get it done. Then out of nowhere, the end emerged! Oh what a sweet sight! I ran towards the transition and Mark evilly forced me to do a running handoff where I had to catch him. I believe I called him a bastard and slapped that slap bracelet on him hard enough to leave a mark. Do you see his mocking smile?!
Mark then had what I would say was the worst leg of the entire trip. It was a sweltering 8 miles, mostly in the sun thought a sketchy town and an industrial park. He said he was pretty sure he saw a drug deal go down. Add to that his Achilles tendon acting up and it was a long time to be out there.

Megan and Caroline did their runs with minimal incident (besides suffering through the heat). Shaun set out, we met him half way with water, then went to Exchange 35. We were all waiting at the exchange, expecting him any minute. After about ten minutes past his expected time, we started to get worried. Ten minutes prior, Shaun had called everyone on the team and the only two people who had answered were Chris and Lauren in Van 1, who were both on their way to other places post-race. My phone wasn't in my pocket after answering a call from Ames Megan and apparently everyone else's phone was in the car still as well (except for Joe's, which he had on him, but didn't hear while he was stretching and getting ready). We finally got a hold of him and Chicago Megan and her sister navigated us to find him to get him directions back (thank goodness we had some Evanston peeps on board!). He was looking pretty dead when we found him, but he managed to make it to transition... two minutes after the race was held because of storms. On the plus side, that meant that Joe didn't get stuck out in the storms on the path along Lake Michigan where there was pretty much no shelter.

So then we waited.

And waited some more.

And about 5:50 they gave us the go ahead to finish the race. We were a little concerned they were going to hold to the 7pm finishing deadline, but as someone said "What would they do with all the leftover medals anyways?" So Joes set off for his 7.5 mile leg. At least it was overcast so the heat wasn't as brutal! But I am sure the wind and the torrential downpours sucked. Ames Megan and I got hailed on while we waited for Joe to finish.

Finally, a little after 7pm, we saw Joe roll in and those remaining team members all ran in with him (I couldn't keep up in my bare feet though- I had been wearing flip flops). Our final finishing time was 30:30, although I am not sure if they subtracted our first stop or not.

Team 26 managed to get off before they stopped the race, so they crossed the finish line waaay before us. This e-mail was sent to the MC200 Yahoo Group yesterday and I presume it was from them:

"After such an accomplishment though, it would have been nice to have a
more grand celebration (or any for that matter) at the end to share
success amongst teammmates and other teams for that matter ("the
Scientists" as we called them!). There were many "rivalries" formed
and nothing is more enjoyable than trading barbs over a cold frosty
while talking about the trials of 200 miles of pure enjoyment."

Unless there were other scientist teams afoot!

So far I would say that the Wild West Relay has still been my favorite (We're currently recruiting for that one! August 1-2!), followed by this one, then the Great River Relay. Of course the WWR might be my favorite as it was the only race we didn't get lost in and the only race we actually ran as a full team :-) That and the race director reads our blog (Hi Paul!). Last year at the GRR we didn't really have any rivalries either, so that made it a little less fun I think!

Okay, time to work or something. The water was out in the building where my office is today (seriously there were signs on the door telling us to go across the street to use the bathroom because a construction crew broke the main for the second time) so I stayed home and then the storms that rolled through this morning cut our power. Last night I kiddingly told someone that after scoring two major research victories last night that I was pretty sure a tornado would hit our house. No tornado, but some electricity would be nice!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

MC200 Part II - Legs 13-24 (or dang it's dark out)

Update: Megan has posted the relay in pictures over on her blog (photos courtesy of Shaun - I never take pictures).

After we left Van 1, we grabbed a bad dinner, got stuck in horrendous traffic trying to get to Milwaukee ("F$%& you old lady!"), and then tried to catch a few zzzs in a high school gym. I got ready for Van 1 to come in and got decked out in blinky lights and my head lamp. Tim came cruising in at about midnight and off I went.

This was my longest leg, 6.3 miles. My van was supposed to stop for me half way, but kindly sent me a text message that said they couldn't figure out where to park and I was completely on my own (thanks guys!). The first half of my run was on a windy road through the trees that followed a river. To say it was dark would be an understatement. There was no one ahead of me and no one behind me. I saw approximately three vehicles drive down the road the entire time. But it was peaceful (I was mostly concerned about the fact that the area was really secluded).

Actually during this time, Team 26, the Accenture team, caught up to me. Their van was shadowing their runner and they were supernice and would wait for me too and give me words of encouragement as well (as well as confirm that I wasn't getting lost). I almost asked to join their team instead ;-p

The second half was on some pretty uninteresting larger roads where I was heckled. Seriously people. At least running through the pitch black woods was quiet.

I came in at pretty much exactly 10 minute miles and I decided I was okay with that. Then I handed off to Mark who had a pretty long leg to finish. We bumped into Team 26 in an abandoned parking lot (it's time to rumble!) waiting for their runner Mark who was running the same leg.

So the night runs are totally the best! As team captain, I reserve the right to choose my position and I totally pick a position with the longest leg in the middle of the night (hey, if you have a problem with it, you stress out about finding 11 other runners :-)). Joe finished up our van at day break (thwarted once again from his night time run - who knew the sun came up at 4am in Wisconsin?!!!). We met up with Van 1 at the church Al mentioned below and Megan was off again. At this time we also found out that Team 26's first runner had been Megan's nemesis the whole time. What fun is a race without a nemesis? Plus they were nice nemeses (I totally had to look up the plural form).

After a ten hour day in the field, I'm beat, so the end later...

*Note: Reading the comments on Joe's post regarding his 7 pound weight loss in response to me wondering how much weight he lost... He was referring to the fact that he hadn't eaten at all for three days because of his stomach; he wasn't actually trying to lose weight... Dude is skinny enough as it is :-)

Monday, June 09, 2008

What happened in Van One?

Well, I'll tell ya.

We got off for our first set of legs at 11 after watching the 9-o'clock starters leave and then get poured on. It was really hot and humid, but we had a big wind that was mostly at our backs out of the west. That was nice. The first few legs for Megan, Lauren, and Chris were around Madison and its suburbs. The parts we ran through included some lakefront scenery, and on Megan's leg, some campus neighborhoods that smelled like marijuana. Just before the parking for Chris' leg we saw a man (not running in the race) slumped against his van in a neighborhood, as if he'd maybe had a heart attack or taken a bad fall. A team from the Air Force had come through just before us, and ran out to help him. I think they called an ambulance for him. After Chris' leg I was out on the Glacial Drumlin trail, which the next several legs would follow. The picture Danielle has of the trail in her entry is pretty representative of the ten miles I put on it in my first leg; there wasn't really much variation on the trail or even many turns, but it was comfortable and there weren't many street crossings either.

After handing off in Lake Mills we went for an early dinner at the Blue Moon Café in town. It wasn't open at first, so we just rested in a gazebo in a town park for a while. Then it was off to Waukesha for the next set. We had a bit of a hard time finding the exchange in Waukesha. Then we had a hard time finding our way to pretty much every one of the exchanges in this set. Either Waukeshan drivers don't like clear, legible road signs, or Waukeshan teenagers like to steal them. Our van was operating in panic mode as we struggled to navigate our way into the next exchange before our active runner. Megan, Lauren, and Chris' legs were largely on the Glacial Drumlin and New Berlin trails; my double-leg then spilled out onto Greenfield Avenue, went east to the Milwaukee Mile (an auto-racing track, which we took a lap around), and then right back to a park near where I started. I was not very happy after my leg, and disparaged the high curbs, traffic, and numbered streets of the area, but mostly I was frustrated because I bonked on a half mile-long hill leading to a highway overpass. Which is to say, all that hill training I got in California is gone now. I'm a real flatlander again. Tim's leg, finishing at Martin Luther High School in a Milwaukee suburb, started the southbound portion of the relay in earnest. And then the baton was back with Van 2, as we went to a church in Racine to sleep.

It would be poetic to blame fate, karma, psychological discomfort, or the good old wrath of God for my inability, as an avowed atheist, to sleep in the sanctuary (!) of that church. But really it was just a barbershop quartet of snorers. I was pretty irritable in the morning. Right. Megan took the baton from Joe during sunrise, and as she finished along the shore of Lake Michigan the fog rolled in of the lake and covered her up completely. I think it was Tim that said it was like something out of a Steven King novel. The fog delayed the heat of the day for a while, but soon enough the sun burned through it and we were back to the heat and humidity of the previous day. Lauren had some tricky (or maybe just non-existent) course markings on her leg, and I actually had a small directional mishap as well. Van navigation was a bit easier this time around; with the sun up, Lake Michigan firmly on the left, and lots of numbered streets, we got around pretty easily even when the given directions mixed up streets and avenues. I don't think anyone had an easy time physically running their last legs. I really struggled to the finish of mine; Coach Newton always calls it rigor mortis when lactic acid seizes your muscles and you lurch along like a zombie. That's what I had. Someone's team van was honking repeatedly at every runner it passed, and I totally started yelling at it, "HEY! SHUT UP THE HORN!" Sorry, guys (although honestly, I hate all non-emergency horn-honking with a burning passion, I usually have the presence of mind not to yell at offenders). There were lots of teams just ahead of me at the end (including the red-jerseyed Team 26 from Accenture), so I convinced myself to lurch my way into a final surge.

There was some down time after we finished; Van 2 had some long, grueling legs ahead through the sun and wind; we met with Lauren's parents (north-suburban residents) at exchange 31, then drove downtown to get Tim and Chris to Union Station and on trains bound for Columbus and Naperville, respectively. We had plenty of time to get up to Montrose, so we took Upper Wacker around the river to Lake Shore Drive to check out all the beautiful architecture. Lauren left to go shower for her wedding, leaving Megan and I at the finish line when the storms blew in. Eventually, with a restart uncertain and Megan's phone dying, I thought it would make sense to just drive up the road to the last exchange. I severely overestimated my knowledge of roads in Rogers Park and Evanston, and for some reason underestimated the distance to Northwestern, but Lauren's nav system came to the rescue and we made it to the exchange just as the race was restarted. So we turned right around and headed back to Montrose.

With all the humidity and heat, even though there weren't many hills, this was really a tough race. I didn't run much more mileage than I did last year, and my legs were in much more pain at the end (though I wasn't cramping as much, probably because I did a better job of keeping electrolytes in my system). Well, I also probably took it out a little faster in the first two legs than I did last year. With all the van navigation difficulties, and the general fact that we were in more heavily populated areas throughout the race (meaning the difference between car speed and runner speed wasn't as great), we didn't have as much down time between legs. This race was distinctive in the small footprint it had on the surrounding communities. I think all the exchanges were in normal parking lots, they didn't close off any streets, the start was a low-key send-off in a Sheraton parking lot, and the finish a tiny fenced-off area in a corner of Montrose Harbor. Most of the people along the route probably didn't even notice it was going on. A little more presence would have been nice, but for a race with only just more than 100 teams that would have been hard to maintain. Some work on the van directions and a couple of extra signs would have helped too.

Before my final leg and also after the race I ran into Serena, a River to River teammate from a few years back. Since her introduction to relay running down in Little Egypt she's latched onto various teams, is running different relays every year, and happened to be running leg 4 for this one. I think she was on the Great Feets team, which finished 4th. And so the relay running bug spreads. Tell all your friends!

(Disclaimer: when you tell all your friends, most of them will say things like, "You're crazy," and, "I'm not crazy like you," and, "You know, Al, if you don't stop it with this cannibalism stuff people are going to start believing you." Well, anyway, if relay running is crazy then commit me!)

MC200 Part II - Legs 1-12 (or getting blown away in Wisconsin)

So we sent Ames Megan on her way, then Van 2 (me, Mark, Chicago Megan, Caroline, Shaun, and Joe) went back to the hotel to pack up and hit the grocery store. As we were wandering around, I was thinking about Chicago Megan's line in her About Me on her blog: "And yes, I will judge you based on the items in your grocery cart." It was not the healthiest of choices (we followed Ali's rule number 2 of relay running pretty well).

Except for Mark.

Who bought tinned herring.

Seriously, the British are weird :-)

After a quick stop at Subway, we headed to Exchange 6 were we were promptly blown around by huge gusting winds. Seriously, we watched one of the portapotties get blown over. Worst nightmare ever! I actually had left my phone in that particular portapotty by accident (I had taken it out of my pocket because I was afraid of this happening - it has happened to me in a regular toilet and that was traumatizing enough). Good thing I got it out before the winds picked up!

Anyway, fortunately it was a tail wind. How often does that happen? We waited around for Tim to come in and before he came in they paused the race because of weather. There was actually much amusement in watching the runners come in, hand off to their teammate, the teammate not going anywhere and the runner utterly confused. Mark said his favorite moment at that exchange was when a runner passed off the slap bracelet, slapped his teammate on the ass, gave some words of encouragement and then the teammate didn't go anywhere. Slapping another runner on the ass is only not awkward when they are actually going to run somewhere.

So anyway, we got stopped for about 20 minutes. Then they started letting runners go out in small groups. So I still had to live my nightmare of starting in a pack and being last. I was sent off with four other people at 3:30 and, although I knew I was going to regret it, I ended up passing them all. I wasn't breathing too heavy and my leg was only 3.1 miles so I figured I might as well go all out. But the motivation to not be *that* girl who starts too fast and then gets passed by everyone was very strong. I pulled out a 9 minute first mile. Then the trail headed southeast and that supergusty wind became a crosswind and my pace started dropping. I did get passed by two of the women who I had passed earlier, but at least I kept the other two behind me, so I arrived in the dead middle of that pack. And the women who passed me were completely in sight when I finished (actually my Garmin was off and the finish came up suddenly so I didn't have enough time to kick and try and catch them). I managed to pull out a 28:30 5k, which I'll totally take considering it was hot. I still am annoyed that I didn't catch the second girl that passed me. Her team drove me crazy. They were so antsy while the race was being held that they made me jittery and anxious. I wanted to smack them all upside the head and yell "Chill out! They'll start the race soon enough!"

My entire leg was on the Glacial Drumlin Trail was actually quite nice. I would have liked a little more shade, but it was a pleasant crushed gravel trail. The wind had actually taken down a few trees on the trail, so a little off-roading was required. Our entire van ran on this trail for the first leg. During Megan's leg, we managed to close the keys into the lip where the van back door closes. Panic ensued, but finally Joe figured out how to pop the back without the key (our hero!)We rolled into Exchange 12 and met up with our other van, cheered Ames Megan on as she headed out for her second leg, complete with blinky lights and headlamp even though it was light out still (silly rules).

After not responding to e-mails for four days, I need to go get caught up, so the report will continue tomorrow most likely :-)

Still trouble pacing myself

I decided that since I "rested" Sunday after the relay, that was enough down time and I should get back on my DC Fit training schedule. Today was supposed to be a 45 minute easy pace jog. The heat index is down to 103 now, having peaked today somewhere near 110 (with actual temp tickling 100, but right now it's a balmy 92, with the humidity is down to 56%. w00t!!!!!!!11).

Unfortunately, I am still having problems pacing myself. I did just over 2 1/2 miles on the front half (23 min). Not quite "easy" when you're really shooting for a 9:30 min/mi race pace. D'oh.

So, yeah, running today was a bit of a challenge. Oh well. I talked to my new running buddy and we're doing two weekday runs this week, and then our Saturday long run (9 mi) as well. Something to look forward to!

Oh, and for Danielle, who asked me to figure out and let her know, the MC200 weekend weight loss was 7 lbs.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Madison to Chicago 200 - Part I, the pre-game

So unlike Joe's report and Chicago Megan's report, I am too lazy right now to actually recount the race all in one big piece. And my camera was broken (I believe I complained about this in January during the Phoenix Half-Marathon and have I fixed it? No.) so no photos yet, but I will blatantly steal those of other people later.

So last week was pretty much defined by Danielle freaking out. What else is there to do when one of your team members drops out on MONDAY?!!! Being one person short already, this was not good. I scratched my brain and bothered everyone I could think of and begged and begged and finally my friend Caroline (who covered our asses at the Wild West Relay by being a last minute volunteer for us) agreed to do it. Caroline is relatively new to running so this relay was a big stretch for her mileage-wise, but she totally saved our asses again. To add to the freak out, the screener messed up our t-shirts so I had to go down to Des Moines to have him fix them all at the last minute - we ended up getting them for free at the end, so I guess I can't complain too much!

On Thursday afternoon, Chris, Ames Megan and I left Ames waaay late due to my craptastic day at work with everything breaking. We hauled ass to Madison in four hours and met the team for some carb loading downtown. After eating, all I wanted to do was find a nice patio in downtown Madison and have a cold beer, but my team was totally lame and wanted to do stuff like sleep :-p I didn't have that option since I had to go pick our teammate Tim up at the train station, but I went back to the hotel with the rest of them. But not before Ms. I-didn't-know-the-turning-radius-on-this-rental-van-was-so-wide (that would be me) totally sideswiped a cement pole in the parking garage. I have never hit anything in my entire life and I had to go and do it in a rental van? Tomorrow, returning the van will be good times... Mental note: I am so not cut out to be a soccer mom in a minivan... After driving out to the train station to pick up Tim, we crashed and got ready for the next day.

Our original start time was supposed to be noon, but switching Caroline in for Brian reduced our average pace by 20 seconds or so and we weren't going to make all the exchanges before they closed, so first thing we had to do was get moved up. But the start time was late, compared to our early ass start at the WWR and our 9-something start at the GRR so we actually got to sleep in and eat a leisurely breakfast at the hotel. For free, unlike the suckers who stayed at the relay hotel next door where the race started and had to pay for breakfast. I hope they had been planning for swarms of runners as one woman walked off with the entire basket full of bananas. When we were going to steal bananas, we at least were going to be a little more subtle about it and only steal two at a time :-)

I checked our team in and we got Van 1 (Ames Megan, Lauren, Chris, Al, and Tim) all ready to roll. While we were waiting, a torrential downpour swept through. To say the weather during the relay was unstable would sort of be an understatement... Fortunately the weather held off while we were milling around the start (nothing like starting a two day adventure already soaked). We got Ames Megan already to go, lined her up with a fairly large group, and she was off at 11am.

I have to confess that one of the things I like about organizing is that I get to choose which legs I run. And running the first position is somewhat petrifying to me. Because you run with other people! Then it is like a race! I don't think I could handle the pressure. What if I was last?! I totally could be! Anyway... the first set of legs coming up next. Right now it is waaaay past my bed time.

Joe's MC200 Trip Report

We ran the MC 200 this weekend, running 203 miles from Madison to Chicago, via Milwaukee. For some reason, at 2 a.m., hearing a guy on one of the ultra teams say, "Yeah, Madison to Chicago, but via Milwaukee?" just really cracked me up. Anyway, here's what I think of the trip...

I actually got to Chicago last Friday evening (May 30th), because I had a wedding in Madison on Saturday. So I drove up to Madison Friday night, spent Saturday and Sunday morning with friends from college at the wedding, and on Sunday afternoon, drove back to Chicago to spend the week with team member Lauren and her husband, who I've been friends with for years now. We had a fun week hanging out, and on Thursday at 1 pm, Lauren and I ended up at the rental car place to meet Chicago Megan, Al, and Caroline. We get the car and head to the airport to pick up Shaun. I tried calling him when we were on our way over to see if he had landed yet, and his voicemail message starts off, "Hello?...[pregnant 2 second pause]" then goes on to say leave a message. So of course the first time I get the voicemail, I say, "Hey Shaun," then realize my mistake. And then I do it the second time 10 minutes later. So when I try again maybe 15 minutes later and he answers, I say "Hey Shaun," and Lauren, who is driving, literally says, "If you're screwing with me, so help me, I'll hit you." We pick up Shaun and we're on the way up to Madison.

We had dinner Thursday night with Mark and the Ames van (Danielle, Ames Megan, and Chris). Tim arrived late Thurs night, so he missed team dinner. Dinner was fun, and we headed back to the hotel to hang out and crash.

Friday morning we woke up, ate breakfast, watched it pour like it was the end of the world, then clear up, and finally Van 1 (Ames Megan, Lauren, Chris, Al, and Tim) took off at 11 a.m. We in Van 2 went grocery shopping, ate lunch, and headed off to the first van exchange.

About 45 minutes before Tim (runner 6) arrived at the exchange to hand off to Danielle (runner 7), they called a weather delay because of thunderstorms somewhere in Wisconsin (apparently it was within 12 miles of one of the exchanges behind or in front of us, but we never saw any rain or thunder/lightening, just lots of wind). Danielle only had to wait about 20 minutes, after the hand off, though, and they lifted the hold and she was off and running.

The first 5 in our van ran well, and eventually it was my turn, bringing up the rear.

Leg 12
Time of day: Approx 7 p.m.
Distance: 6.35 miles
Time of run: 61 minutes

In the first 5 minutes of this run, I was passed by 4 people. The first guy was going about 8 min/mi, the second guy running 7 min/mi, the third guy doing about 8 min/mi, and the fourth guy going about 8:15 min/mi. So of course, while I was hoping to set a 9:30 pace and just get through my first leg, I was a dumbass and chased the last guy, so I did the first half of the leg averaging around 8:30 min/mi pace. The team met me about halfway with water. About half a mile after I left them, I promptly got sick, threw the water up, walked for a few minutes, then slowed down a little with the run and finished alright. At this point, I disclosed to Danielle that I hadn't been able to really keep food down since Thursday morning. I didn't really want to worry anyone, so I didn't say anything about not feeling well.

We went to dinner, then to the next van transfer point, a high school somewhere in Wisconsin, where we tried to sleep for about 90 minutes in a gym that was approximately 1000 degrees. Unfortunately, since it was like 10:30 pm when we arrived, I was in no way tired enough to sleep, so I laid there until it was time to head out on the next set of legs. Shortly after midnight, Danielle set off on her second leg, and our van was on course again.

Leg 24
Time of day: 4:40 a.m.
Distance: 4 mi
Time: 35:30

The sun started to rise around 4:15 a.m., which kind of weirded me out, and Danielle and I lamented that I was once again unable to run a dead-of-night run, which I commented on wanting to do way back in '06 during the WWR. I was feeling a bit weak b/c I still couldn't eat, but the weather was really nice and the sunrise was very pretty, so I was off to the races. I finished a pretty uneventful leg around 5:15 a.m., changed into some dry clothes, and immediately fell asleep in the lobby of a church, getting a pretty solid 2 hrs 15 min of sleep. At 8 a.m. we got up, and around 8:30, we hit the road heading to the last van transfer.

While at the final van transfer, we had a nice long chat with our "nemesis" team from the race, team 26 (I never actually looked at their team name). We saw and talked to them at every exchange. They were really cool, and it's always fun to be "race buddies" with another team. Thankfully, this time they were the same age as us, as opposed to WWR two years ago, where our nemesis team were the Sunflower Striders, a team whose average age was 52, and were all awesome runners (8 of the 12 of them ran the Pikes Peak marathon the week after WWR that year).

Our last set of legs was in the middle of the day, and it was ridiculously hot. Like crazy, hell on earth, what the fuck is this all about it's been a really cool spring and summer wasn't here 3 days ago god must hate us hot. Everyone in our van were total bad-asses, running in this stupid sick weather. Eventually, around 3:40 p.m., we rolled into the exchange where I'd be starting my last leg. The runner before me got a little lost, and rolled into the exchange about 2 minutes after they halted the race because of weather. There were thunderstorm warnings, tornado watches, tornado warnings, thunderstorms, hail, and apparently even tornadoes (though luckily none near us). When the first waves of thunderstorms and torrential rain rolled through, I was counting myself lucky because if I had started before the halt, I would have been in the middle of this crap. The weather delay lasted so long that we assumed they were going to cancel the race, because they said there was a hard finish of 7 p.m. that they couldn't get the city to let them use the finishing point any longer than. At 5:45, they say that they're going to let us run, and at 5:50, there is a mass start of 50 runners trying to make it to the end in 70 minutes.

Leg 36
Time of day: 5:50 p.m.
Distance: 7.47 mi
Time: 83 min

We started out under the "threat" that we had to finish in 70 minutes, though I think everyone knew they weren't going to close the finish and say, "Sorry, we know we didn't let you run b/c of the weather, but you missed it, better luck next time," so the goal was just to make it to the end. I fell into a run-2-minutes-walk-1-minute routine, as I was still feeling pretty queasy. About 50 minutes in, it started pouring, and I ran in basically a monsoon for a little over half an hour. There was a ton of lightening south of me, but none above me, thankfully, so I just kept grinding. I made it to the finish, and six of my team members were there to greet me, though since they were all in dry clothes, I knew they were hiding in the van until I arrived.

I crossed the finish line, and we headed to the vans and took off to go eat and sleep. I went back to Lauren's place, ate some soup that her husband was kind enough to pick up for me before I got there, did a load of laundry, and fell asleep with their dogs on the couch.

I slept from about 10 p.m. until 8:30 a.m. this morning, when I got up to get ready to head to the airport to come home. My flight was delayed a few hours today, but eventually I got home. I am slowly starting to feel better; I ate the soup last night, had a plain bagel at the airport this morning, and my stomach was feeling ok, so hopefully I'm on th emend.

The race was a lot of fun. I really enjoy these relays. It feels like a special kind of stupid to want to do this to yourself, running 3 times in 24 hours, not sleeping, eating crap if anything at all, being outside, but I'm ready for the next one.

Pictures will follow soon. Thanks to everyone here on the blog for the support, and to all the teammates for the fun weekend.

Edited 2 hours after posting: I meant to mention that this weekend taught me two lessons that I had previously sort of academically understood, but never really grasped fully in the way that experiencing them drives home:
  1. On game day, you run rain or shine, whether it's 10 degrees out or 100 degrees out.
  2. After all that training, even if you're sick, it's what you spent all that time preparing for, so you just go out and do your best. Finishing under those circumstances is its own reward, even if you barely crawl across the finish line.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Wish us luck

With a last minute flurry of rescheduling and panic attacks on Danielle's part, BoM,IaS! departs from Ames and Chicago (and wherever Mark is coming from) to converge on Madison, WI, tomorrow. We had a last minute drop-out due to a job interview, but picked up a replacement who agreed to help out on no notice, so we're still good (and eternally grateful to Caroline).

Next time you hear from us, we'll have run from Madison to Chicago...which sounds kind of weird when you say it like that...