Running


1. You get to run a 200+ mile race without having to run all 200 miles. You and eleven other people assign yourselves three legs and each runner covers around 9-20 miles. The race consists of 36 exchange points where you pass your 80’s style slap-bracelet onto the next runner.

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2. You’ll have eleven new best friends. I signed up for my first Ragnar after begging my parent’s neighbor to find a spot for me on her team. She came through and pretty soon I was part of a facebook group of strangers, planning out who was bringing diaper wipes and bananas for our Blaine to Langley trek. On Friday morning I met that group of strangers and we headed north. We were all friends by Bellingham.

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Van 1

Ragnar team

3. Running at different times a day. You get to run at…

…sunset…

Sunset

…sunrise…

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…middle of the night…

Night running

…and the blazing heat of mid-day.

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4. Your team is responsible for you, and you them. There are (practically) no water stations so each van is responsible for keeping their runner hydrated and happy. This meant stopping every few miles and waiting for your runner so you can offer…

…laughs…

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…hugs…

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…water…

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…and photography skills to take that picture at the top of the gnarly hill you just conquered.

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5. You need a diverse skill set. It’s not enough to just be a good runner. A successful Ragnar team must have the skills to…

    • Decorate the vans.

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    • Maneuver be-dazzled vans through crowded exchanges.

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    • Be able to fix car glitches while on the run. When our driver was running we somehow turned all the dome lights on. Despite scouring the owner’s manual we couldn’t get them off. When we met up with him in the middle of his run he barely broke his stride as he reached through the window and turned off the lights, yelling “This is the opposite of support!” as he continued on.
    • Read maps (and owner’s manuals) and give directions. U-turns are your friends.
    • Analyze and update data. You are constantly calculating pace and mileage to figure out where your van needs to be when.

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    •  Be a social media pro. Our data plans all felt a little shutter over the weekend. #RagnarPNW

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6. You do get to sleep!

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7. Side games: These include keeping track of kills (runners you pass) and tagging other cars with magnets featuring your team logo.

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8. Running bonding moments

Kira

9. After you finish as a team, all your medals fit together. Awww…

Ragnar medals

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“Maybe I can qualify for Boston.”

These six words ran though my head for the first time (okay, the first time I actually believed them) three miles into the Lake Sammamish Half Marathon last March. Guys, I ran FAST. Those first three miles were at 8:15 pace and I didn’t let up much. To qualify for Boston I’d have to run a marathon at 8:12 pace.

After the finish, I took the bus from Issaquah back to Redmond where the race had started. It was naturally filled with people who’d finished around the time I had, and I couldn’t help but notice these people were mostly men. Fast looking ones. My seat-mate amiably asked me if I had any races coming up. He was clearly hoping I’d ask the same question in return because when I did he tried to tuck away a proud smile as he mentioned that he was heading to Boston in April.

Maybe some April I’d be heading to Boston too.

Because here’s the thing: I hadn’t really been training for a fast race. I’d signed up for the half a few months before as a way to force my post-partum self into shape before my beach wedding. I’d vaguely hoped for a sub-two hour half. My training times were a bit on the slow side (which in retrospect were due to the 20-40 pounds of babies that I was schlepping in front of me), so I was mentally unprepared for how physically prepared I was for the race. I ran the first few miles figuring my GPS was off. The next few miles I connected the dots and started thinking about Boston, and the last few miles I just tried to hang on.

So clearly I need to qualify for Boston NOW, while my kiddos are still young enough to cram into a jogging stroller.

Babies in the stroller

Luckily, Runner’s World magazine read my mind. Their July 2015 issue featured a training plan that Alicia Shay (a Run SMART coach) concocted for Meghan G. Loftus’s (the author) Boston qualifier. As with all training plans, I can’t quite keep up. I’m on week three and have missed a workout every week. And I’m headed out of town with my family and without my jogging stroller tomorrow, so things probably won’t improve on the whole schedule-following-front.

Marathon schedule

But maybe I’ll still qualify for Boston. Or maybe not.

I need to stack up my excuses now so that in September when I run a non-qualifying 3:40 I can look back and point to the reasons why, because maybe I won’t qualify this September. Babies and family and school and writing might throw too many workouts off track, and that’s just fine because I love all those things even more than running. But some day, I’ll qualify for Boston.

Jogging StrollerYesterday, being Mother’s Day, was a day in which moms point out all the things that they do for which they receive no recognition or monetary compensation. So in the spirit of being fair, today I want to give a little shout out to my seven-month old, who also does a lot of work around here. One of her daily tasks is to turn me into a better runner. Her methods are quite sneaky, yet she prevails. Being a mother HAS made me a better runner. Here’s how:

 

Faster:

Last week I needed to get in a five mile run. I had slacked off the previous two days and it was critical that I complete the five miles THAT DAY. However I got stuck at work later than anticipated and by the time I started the run I realized that I would need to pick my daughter up from the nanny’s in 45 minutes. Cutting the run short (again) was not an option, and neither was picking up the baby late. So I had no choice but to pick up the pace. If I was childless I would have jogged at an easy 11 minute pace, what my high school coach used to call “junk miles.” But instead I ran the five miles at a (slightly) more respectable 9 minute mile pace.

Thanks kid!

Likewise, if I have Aubrey with me in her jogging stroller and she starts fussing a mile away from home, that last mile is going to be a very speedy one because I want to get home before the whining turns into a full on scream.

If you do NOT have a baby, here are some other suggestions to help you run faster:

  • Tear a hole in your running pants in your crotch area. This hole will get increasingly larger as you run and you’ll want to get home as quickly as possible to minimize time spent in public.  I discovered this trick at the oh-so-crowded New Orleans Half Marathon.
  • Zombie fitness app: I heard this NPR story about “Zombies, RUN!”  It’s a downloadable fitness app wherein you are tasked with accomplishing different necessary jobs in a post-apocalyptic world before the zombies get you.

Stronger:

Being a single mom you have less time to do things. It becomes necessary so combine chores. So last week on my run downtown I had to stop at Tattered Cover to pick up a couple magazines, Office Depot to get a box of golf pencils, and a grocery store to collect a thing of baby formula. With each stop my load got increasingly heavier. These purchases served as running weights for my last two miles. I DO realize that those specific items really don’t weigh that much, so on my next run I’ll need to pick up a gallon of milk and a box of diapers to increase my running-with-weights time. This reminds me of a cross country task wherein we were placed in teams to run to Safeway and buy a watermelon. The winning team was deduced based on some complicated calculations that rewarded you for completing the run quickly and having the heaviest watermelon.

Also: The baby isn’t that heavy yet, but her car seat, stroller, and other paraphernalia are. Lugging her stuff around on a daily basis is good for the biceps and triceps.

Cross-Training:

  • Hiking: Now done with a 20 lb. backpack.
Aubrey's first hike at Red Rocks

Aubrey’s first hike at Red Rocks

  • Squats: If Aubrey is fussy, nothing will calm her down faster than when I pick her up and do a quick set of squats. She’s even been known to start crying again when the squats are completed, thus encouraging me to do another set. She particularly likes the move wherein you squat, hold for a few seconds, and then get back up. Perhaps she has a career as a future Body Pump instructor.
  • Sit-ups. Nothing is more hilarious to Aubrey than witnessing me do a set of sit-ups. After each sit up she laughs and expectantly waits for me to do another one. It’s like the abs version of peek-a-boo.
  • Gym class productivity: I have to admit I used to cheat a little bit at Group Exercise classes at my neighborhood 24hour fitness. I would “stretch” during the planks and roll my eyes apathetically as the instructor chirped that we should triple our warm up weight for the next exercise. I am now proud to say that I cheat no longer. Because an hour long class represents an hour away from Aubrey, I need to make it worth my while. No more skipping reps or skimping on the weight.

Healthy Eating:

Baby FoodSince I’m chopping, steaming, pureeing organic vegetables for Aubrey, I figure that I might as well eat some too. Turns out I like squash. Who knew?!? Not only am I eating more vegetables as side dishes, but I am also throwing her veggie purees in my pasta sauces making them healthier.

Also, I have less time to make cookies.

 

So there you have it, having a baby will totally make you a faster, stronger, healthier runner. I’m fairly confident that Runner’s World Magazine will immediately contact me to write a feature article on this very scientific and well researched training method.

 Happy running people!

Hundreds of races were run this weekend.

When something bad happens, I hope that each of you have ways to make yourself feel better. I heard a radio station playing a Mr. Rogers clip, in which he posthumously advises people to “look for the helpers.” And of course the helpers were numerous on April 15th. My own advice is to think of all the times when things went right.

After Newtown, I thought about all those good days I’ve had in the classroom. I remember Lupe taking a deep breath and saying “okay, I’m ready to write.” I remember Davontae’s grin when he got his first “A” of the year. I remember Marisa finding a coach roach inside her map of Italy (it was funny, I swear!), and I think about how proud I feel when my students flawlessly execute speeches about African colonialism and the benefits of insourcing.

So all last week, instead of grading papers, I read about upcoming races.  I had a lot of reading material. Every Saturday and Sunday there are races in almost every corner of every state in America. Some were tiny affairs, where the mile signs blew down and even I would have had a chance of winning because there were only ten participants. Some were huge events with Kenyans and extra police and live global coverage.

I’m guess that the runners themselves were an even more diverse set. I’m willing to bet that hundreds of people completed their first 5K this weekend, something they never thought they would do last year when they were 100 pounds heavier, or smoking a pack a day, or recovering from heart surgery. I just KNOW that somewhere, there was a cocky guy in tight shorts, loudly proclaiming that this marathon was just an “easy training day,” since he’s preparing for a 500 mile race in Antarctica or something. Runners ran this weekend to raise money for cancer or lupus or their local elementary school. Runners ran this weekend to stay in shape, to have fun, to train for something bigger, to try for a new PR, or because a friend or spouse roped them into it. Runners ran this weekend to remember Boston. Runners ran this weekend because that’s just what we do.

There were some pretty successful races this weekend.

Yesterday in Tumwater, Washington, participants ran one mile BACKWARDS (9:15 was the winning time) and were treated with a cupcake feast after the “race.”

The oh-so-popular Color Run was held in Baton Rouge on Saturday. Participants are instructed to wear white and they get a “color pack” to throw at the finish. Everyone looks like a two year old that’s just found out about finger painting by the time this “happiest 5K on the planet” is over with.

Salt Lake City Marathoners began their 26.2 miles yesterday by singing Sweet Caroline. At the finish line a group of runners who’d run BOTH the Boston and SLC Marathon posed for a finishers photo in front of a “Remembering Boston” banner that had been signed by thousands.

The “Run 5K 4 CK” race was held in Tallahassee, FL yesterday. “CK” is Camp Kesem, and money was raised so kids that have a parent with cancer can go to summer camp. Runners were doused with water along the route, as race directors supplied water balloons and squirt guns to runners and fans.

Just five days after the Boston Marathon and just 20 miles north of the city, nearly 250 people ran the Colleen Kelly 5K, raising money to fund a Melrose High School scholarship in her name.

Earlier today, 35,000 London Marathoners paused for 30 reflective seconds before fearlessly running their 26.2 miles. The finish line was a happy and safe place. The London Marathon is donating £2 per finisher to a fund set up for victims of the Boston Marathon explosions.

And as I write, my friend Taryn is running up and down valleys and mountains in Eastern Washington, working on the Yakima Skyline Rim 25K today as part of her preparation for the Wasatch 100. Hopefully it’s going well for her!

Happy running everyone. May there be many, MANY more successful Boston Marathons and other races in our futures.

 

First race with babyI can finally run again!!! My daughter turned six months today, which means I can officially run with her in a jogging stroller without worrying about giving her shaken baby syndrome. Likewise, I can resume going to the gym as childcare is available for those exactly half a year old (and not a day sooner, as I discovered when I tried to sign her up yesterday).

Aubrey and I celebrated her half birthday by participating in the Hippity Hop Easter Trot 5k. As you can probably guess from the name of the race, this was a family friendly event. There were tons of kids running around on a search for Easter eggs prior to the race. The race itself featured a small army of oversized jogging strollers.

It wasn’t the most competitive run I’ve ever participated in. I spend the first mile cautiously jogging along, worrying simultaneously that my kid was too hot and that I’d accidently run into someone’s heel. Luckily Aubrey babbled happily for the 3.1 miles and I was fully enjoying my runners high by the end of the race, despite an embarrassing finish time that I’m not going to admit to on this blog.

The race was well organized. To me this means that there was a loudspeaker with music at the start/finish, ample parking (on the street), mile markers were obvious, results (via timing chip) were posted immediately, and there was good food at the finish. Yay breakfast burritos! It was not the most gorgeous run I’ve done in my life, but Denver’s Central Park was a nice enough venue.

Central Park, Denver

Central Park is in Stapleton, the area of Denver with a lot of new fancy sub-division houses (oh, that area). It is northeast of downtown, off of Martin Luther King Blvd and Central Park Blvd. Take the Quebec exit south off of I-70 and head east on MLK for a couple of miles. The park has a huge play area for kids including a big climbing rock that my brother would have loved when he was five. There are lots of good sledding hills too.

Subdivision heaven

Playground

Upon returning home I went on a shopping spree. My website of choice was my beloved www.runningintheusa.com. I am excited for the next few months!

April 6th: Jackalope 5K race in Laramie, WY. I emailed the race director who quickly responded in the affirmative that I could indeed run with a jogging stroller. Get ready Aubrey!

April 20th: 4-H Fun Run in Holdredge, NE. This is still a maybe, dependent on their stroller rules because I doubt I can convince anyone to travel to Holdredge with me. My affection for small town races is n0t shared by many.

May 27th: BoulderBOULDER 10K in Boulder, CO. I need to find a babysitter for this one because the huge race (50,000 participants, 90+ waves) doesn’t allow strollers. Family members: this would be an excellent weekend to visit.

June 17th: San Francisco Half Marathon. A fabulous coincidence: Aubrey’s Las Vegas dwelling father is originally from Oakland, and he’s anxious for her to meet his family that still lives there. He is a HUGE Oakland A’s fan, whereas I live and die for the Mariners. Naturally we made sure that Aubrey’s first trip to The Bay would be when the M’s are in town. (Bonus: this is also father’s day weekend) Last week I discovered that the SF Marathon would be held that same weekend. YAY!!! My best friend Denise is coming up for the weekend to and we’re doing the first half of the marathon. (She’d be in shape for the full…but I will most definitely NOT be).

June 29th: Ellsworth Wisconsin Cheese Curd run (10K? 8M?) This is another happy coincidence. My family will be celebrating my grandma’s 90th birthday the EXACT SAME weekend as the cheese curd festival. And man, do I love my cheese curds.

Fresh cheese curds

Sometime in August or September: A FULL MARATHON. I’m not sure where I’ll be living/working so I can’t commit to a specific one yet. Stay tuned

Baby clothes and running shoes do NOT go well together

Lately I’ve been feeling like I did during my freshman track season. It is not a good feeling. On the assurance that I would NOT actually have to run (“you can be a thrower!”), I joined the track team as an out-of-shape ninth grader with the hopes of scoring a cool track sweatshirt.

I did have to run. Three miserable laps around the track as a “warm up.” I couldn’t even make it once around with slowing to a walk. And I was a terrible thrower. I lived in daily fear of track practice. I couldn’t keep up with the slowest of the slow. It took me a good couple months before I could complete those three laps around the track. (Yes, I know. It’s not even a mile).

That summer something clicked, I could suddenly make it through three and then five mile runs. I joined the cross country team and have been a runner ever since. I’d taken pride in the fact that I could always, in an emergency, drop everything and run three or eight or thirteen miles if I had to.

I forgot what it’s like to desperately try to keep pace with someone. I forgot what it was like to attempt to keep your hard breathing under wraps so the person you are running with wouldn’t know how much you’re struggling. I forgot how embarrassing it is to have to stop and slow down…one mile into a run. I forgot how hard running can be.

When I got pregnant six months ago, I confidently assumed that I’d run all through my pregnancy. People do it all the time! Doctors say as long as you were already a runner, you were good to continue. I’d already planned on running a half marathon at five months pregnant and maybe even Grandma’s full marathon in Wisconsin the month after that.

That sooooo did not happen.

Running sucks when you are pregnant. I wasn’t even a month along when a friend and I went on a fast four mile run. I spend the next day curled up in bed with cramps, convinced that I had killed the baby. On the repeated assurance of my doctor and ten different pregnancy books I kept trying. I slogged through slow runs, wishing I could hold my boobs and belly while running (wouldn’t that have looked cool?) I managed a slow three miles a couple times a week, but I dreaded those runs like I used to dread track practice my freshman year. Last week I laced up my running shoes and headed out with the lofty goal of running two miles. I made it about five steps and decided that I was done running. I have officially given up.

I can still log miles on the elliptical. I can swim laps. I can lift weights at BodyPump, and I can walk, but those things just don’t have the same ring or allure. “Lifting Weights Through this World” is just not a cool title for a blog. So hopefully you lovely readers will forgive me for carrying on with a misleading title for the next three or four months. While you are all out running, I’ll be taking a nap.

I became a fan of The Kevin Whirlwind Horse Memorial Run and Walk the moment I noticed that it didn’t start until 10:30. Most races have this annoying habit of starting at 8am on Saturday mornings. I promptly signed up for this race that would allow me to sleep in.

Except Spearfish is six hours away from Denver and I couldn’t get out of work/the house until six Friday night. Not wanting to drive through unfamiliar mountain roads (okay, they are hills, not mountains, but still) at night I ended up staying the night Lusk, Wyoming. This required me to get up at 6am anyways in order to make it to the race. So much for sleeping in.

I’m glad I did the drive in the morning though because highways 85 and14A from Lusk to Spearfish cut through the coolest part of South Dakota – the Black Hills. It being April, the plains leading up to the hills (which can be rather ugly in the winter) were several shades of green. If I didn’t have a race to get to I could have stopped and stared at deer for awhile as they were out in full force. Once the road crosses into South Dakota the hills proved to be also more green than black, covered with Evergreen trees that reminded me of home (where I grew up in Seattle, not my Las Vegas home. Obviously.) It was also gray and rainy so maybe that contributed to the homey feeling. The Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway was also so gorgeous and remote that I had that startled/blinking-in-confusion feeling when I emerged from the canyon and hit I-90, new housing developments, and the manicured golf courses of Spearfish.

I drove aimlessly around Black Hills State University until I found the telltale sign of a race about to start: A bunch of skinny, unusually dressed people stretching their calves near a cluster of porta-potties. For future reference, this is near W Quincy St and N 3rd St, just east of Black Hills State University’s Ida Henton Park.

I paid my $15, got my T-shirt, pinned on my number, and took off with the small crowd of runners. It was a pretty good out-and-back run. The course mostly followed a paved trail alongside a creek (an offshoot of the Belle Fourche River, I believe), winding through city parks and neighborhoods. 10K and 5K participants start and run the first mile and a half together, which I always like.

After the race I skipped the awards ceremony and the Lakota Omniciye powwow in favor of getting back into my car which had heat. Plus I had more of the Black Hills to explore. I headed east out of Spearfish, looking forward to taking the long way back to Denver.

The Kevin Whirlwind Horse Memorial Run is an annual event sponsored by the Black Hills State University. The following excerpt is from BHSU’s website:

 The Kevin Whirlwind Horse Memorial Run/Walk is sponsored each year on the Saturday of the Lakota Omniciye spring powwow in memory of this young man, a former BHSU student who was killed in a car accident in 1984. Marla Herman, a fellow student and member of Lakota Omniciye, organized the first memorial run in the spring of 1985 and it has been held every year since.

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