A Fall Slump

The post-race slump is real yo.

Plus it’s fall. Oh how I love seasons, especially fall! The sunny days have quite quickly turned to gray, sometimes rainy days. Sometimes that makes me want to run, sometimes that makes me want to hibernate – Netflix, books, sleep. Fall is awesome.

But, I’ve also been thinking ahead to spring and summer and race season.

First up, a travel run. Two things I love together = big love. Locale and race just about decided.

Next, an Orca Running race. The Iron Horse Half was such a great course and so well executed. I’m so excited to continue as a race ambassador for them for 2017 and run another one!

Registration for all of their 2017 races opened this week! I’m still trying to decide which one(s!) I’ll do because they all look like so much fun! Go check them out and use the code PRETTYACTIVE17 for 10% off your entry.

Advertisements

Iron Horse Half Marathon Recap

I ran my first trail half marathon, the Iron Horse Half on Sunday and it was just a glorious day for it – overcast and cool. I loved the course! It was point-to-point, beautiful, and basically all downhill.

Participants parked at the finish line (in North Bend) and bused to the start (at Olallie State Park). There were porta-pottys, friendly volunteers, and great support throughout the course. The race was so smooth, especially considering it was its first year!

I loved the wave starts. They really helped ease congestion throughout. I had to brave the porta-potty line and ended up being a few minutes late for my wave, but was able to just start on my own before the next one and catch up.

Because of the perfect day and fast course, I was slightly disappointed I hadn’t trained more with longer or faster runs. Unfortunately, I also walked a bit because there was a crying, throat closing, couldn’t breathe, wheezing thing that was happening. You know, things that happen when your ex runs the same race. Let me tell you, a trail half is not the ideal place for that to happen, but I’m all about feeling your feelings and what not. Eventually I felt better, enjoyed the course, enjoyed the day, and enjoyed moving my body. I finished pretty strong in 1:58:32.

The finishers’ festival had hot dogs and beer and yummy cold brew coffee, which is what I was really after at that point! I sat down in the grass with the sun that was starting to come out and relaxed a little bit before heading back to Seattle. It was definitely worth the drive out there!

As always happens post-race, mentally I’m somewhere in between who thought that was a good idea? and when’s the next one?!

Iron Horse offers free race photos! Always smile when you see the photog (and when you’re finished running 13.1 miles):

race_1741_photo_41302794

 

Side note: I wore the same shoes that felt a little worn after my RnR Half because I haven’t found anything I like better since then. Any recommendations? I think I’m going to check out REI’s Labor Day sale to start!

Orca has two fall half marathons coming up and a fun, Halloween-themed 8K, check them out and use PRETTYACTIVE16 to get 10% off your entry!

Pat’s Run 2014

Today was the 10th annual Pat’s Run – one of my can’t-miss races each year. Every year I worry about the weather since it lands at the end of April and it can be really warm, but after a warm week, clouds, wind and a little bit of rain rolled in to make it pretty perfect. In fact, since that was the forecast, I actually had dreams about snow at the race last night! I guess I’ll find a way to worry about the weather either way!

With travel, a new job and getting sick in between (apparently a nasty bug was going around, but I also think it has to do with stress of the job sitch leaving my body), I haven’t been running recently so I wasn’t sure what to expect for this 4.2 mile race. The hills were tough, but my goal of finishing in 42 minutes was in the back of my head so I just ran through my mean side cramp!

The race typically backs up at the entrance to the ASU stadium for the finish on the 42-yard line, so I started to push it, but the back-up never happened and I was just about dying but couldn’t very well stop! My classic competitive runner came out and I picked two more people to pass to finish in 41:56!

My mom ran the race again this year too and I missed her at the finish line again, but we found each other in the crowd just as it was getting pretty windy and cold, so we headed back to the light rail to go home (NY subway-style…packed in with all the other race-goers)!

When I got home, my new treadmill was being delivered!  Hooray! After my push at the end of the race, I was pretty spent, but I gave the treadmill a little mile test spin. It’s great! Then I was like, “why am I on a treadmill? The overcast weather outside is perfect for running!” But, I was tired anyway so I ran some errands and now am having a lazy Saturday after my first week of work!

Splash Mob 5K

Sign up for a race in July, she said. It will be fun, she said.

And it sure as heck was.

Splash2

Pre-race…still smiling, still dry!
(Rachel, the toucan to my left, was the one with the brilliant idea – to run and to run with floaties!)

When my alarm went off at 6am for the 7am Splash Mob 5K, I was not a fan. I had stayed up until 3:30 the night before – just drinking water, so at least I was hydrated – and that’s my own stupid mistake. When I was running in humid 90 degree weather, I was not a fan. When I finished (35:45, note to self: you can stay up until 3:30 OR run a 5K in the morning – there is no BOTH option) and was still actively sweating for the next 20 minutes, I was not a fan.

Splash1

The post-race sweat that never ends.

The only way to survive a summer race in Arizona is lots of water. Honestly, there could have been a little bit more…more splashing (at splash stations along the course, kids with supersoakers and water balloons attempted to cool off the runners) and more water stations [insert organizer’s excuse about the water delivery truck here] AND they ran out of bottles for the end by the time the last in our group finished.

Ready to jump into that Waikiki Beach wave pool!

Ready to jump right into that Waikiki Beach wave pool!

But, after the race, the water park that played host to the event, Big Surf, opened its wave pool. Those floaties actually came in handy as we waded in – our running clothes already drenched with sweat, so who really cared? – and set up shop.

My friend looked at me and said, “Megan, you look like you’re actually on vacation.” “Um, I AM for the next half hour.”

And then…”Hey, guys? We’re the only people left in here without kids.” My 30-minute, young-at-heart vacation in the wave pool totally made up for all the not-a-fan things about the race and it made my overall impression of the race a favorable one! I keep my race calendar busy throughout the year and 5Ks in particular can get a little monotonous, so I love races that offer something unique!

Other pros: I really liked the course. It can be tricky to create a course when the location was picked based on a landmark, but it was half-loop and half-out-and-back and included a golf course and a (man-made) lake. Also, I knew it was going to be a tough race, so having it on my calendar was great motivation to stay on track through these torture months.

I actually got in a bonus outside run last weekend when the humidity finally gave us some good rain on Sunday and it cooled to 80ish in the middle of the afternoon! You have to be ready to roll on rare days like that!

Berry Winter

Not so much in Phoenix, but it still gives me hope! Do you prefer running outside in hot or cold weather?

I’m kind of a wuss on both ends…my ideal range is probably 60-75! Do you live somewhere where that’s the year round temperature? Need a new best friend?!

My Summer Workouts

So, I didn’t quit the gym. Well, I did, then I actually started going so I unquit. Funny how it was going to take them two months to process my cancellation, but I could walk in a few days before the deadline and undo it with no lapse in my membership! It’s super close to work and I’ve fit in a few lunchtime workouts or just hit it on the way home. Plus I’m just too in love with their yoga studio. So, all is right in the world again (perhaps not quite in my bank account, but that’s okay)!

I’ve been running a decent amount lately, mostly treadmill. At the gym. At lunch. Watching the original Beverly Hills 90210. That might have influenced my decision to unquit.

But, I’ve also done some nighttime runs. Usually I lose my motivation by the end of the day, but I’m not getting up early enough to do morning and waiting until the sun goes down is a must. It’s still warm, but I kind of like them, even though they don’t seem to like me back.

Javelina-Hunting

On one night run my house key flew off my shoe (I loop it on my shoelace). A lovely couple stopped their car and helped me find it thankfully (because Rigo hasn’t learned to unlock the door yet). Then a quarter-mile from home, I saw a momma javelina and some of her babies. I FTFO! She saw me but didn’t really care, but in my mind she was coming after me!

Last Friday I went out for four or five miles at about 8pm and ended up looping out too far and finishing seven miles before I got home! My body wasn’t quite ready for that and it was hot!

If there’s anything I’ve learned from living in Phoenix for give or take 20 summers, it’s “get the hell out as often as possible,” so when a friend asked if I wanted to go to Tahoe for a wedding/her pre-birthday weekend even though the plans started months ago when it was still lovely in Phoenix, it was a no-brainer. It was chilly, but fantastic. I even got a brief teaser of a winter run because I could NOT pass up the opportunity for five cool and hilly miles there! I’ve booked two more water trips for the next two months and have two more in the works, thank God!

I marked on my calendar to make some decisions about my fall race calendar today. Why? I don’t really know, but now race brain has taken over. My mind is mostly imploding over the fact that the Fiesta Bowl half was pushed back two weeks and is now the same day as the IronGirl 10-miler. I like the half course and it would be my second half in the fall/winter and one of my 30 before 30 goals is a sub-2:00 half and the more opportunities I get, the better, right? But the hills at the Fountain HILLS (duh) IronGirl last year kicked my ass and I kind of want to go back this year and kick its ass.

Would you pick an enjoyable race or a challenging one? I think based on that I know what I should pick, but I’m leaning toward Fiesta.

Girls on the Run Spring 5K

Girls on the Run holds a special place in my heart, so after being away from them for a year and a half, I was so excited for the 5K this last weekend. I signed up as a running buddy (my mom did too again), but unfortunately the girls we were matched with didn’t show up! By the time we went back to the matching table to see if there was need at any other school, all the girls were out of the meeting corral and doing warmups so it would have been impossible to connect with any of them.

Either way, it was cool to be at the race and the energy was great. My mom and I jumped into the public 5K, which took off a few minutes before the girls’ race – each running our own race again.

Thinking I was going to be running with and encouraging a girl running her first 5K, I left my phone in the car, which meant running without music and my Nike app to tell me how I was doing! Ack! I felt good. I realized I breathe pretty heavily when running. The course around Kiwanis Park in Tempe was pretty cool – there are a lot of races there, but I’ve never done any.

I got GOTRed by two girls and their running buddies who started a little after me, and that is so awesome! I came into the finish line strong and my official time was 27:19…a one-second PR! Haha, I’ll take it!

I loved watching the rest of the runners come in the finish shoot. I got chills, I got a little verklempt. Some girls were finishing strong, some had given it their all the whole way through and were steady into the finish, a few were in tears, but they were still going. So, even though the day didn’t turn out like I expected, it was a really great experience.

Next time, though! Running buddy or bust!

Pat’s Run 2013

Pats BannerI look forward to Pat’s Run every year and my third race yesterday was another great experience! My mom and I lightrailed in with a few hundred of our closest friends and got to the start with just enough time to find and get in our corrals – Mom was excited to do this race again, but made me promise to run my own race this year and meet up with her at the end.

It’s always a solemn, but fun, memorial run and this year, just five days after the bombing at the Boston Marathon, it was an even more moving experience – the huge crowd of over 20,000 runners was so amazingly quiet during a moment of silence for Boston and a spectacular rendition of the national anthem.

I love the people that come out for this race and how they challenge themselves for 4.2 miles – army troops and patriots and firefighters, oh my!

Pat's

Feeling a little undertrained and knowing that in a crowded race, it’s sometimes hard to get space to do well, I just wanted to have fun. It wasn’t until I started that I decided my A and B goals were 36 minutes and 40 minutes. My Nike app kicked in at each mile with times that I loved to hear and I felt good. I loved the familiar course, the hills that I’ve hit during other recent races didn’t kill me like they have in past years and it was warm, but not as hot as I remembered it being.

At mile three, I decided to punch it, remembering that the course narrows and the runners jam up at mile four heading into ASU Stadium to finish on the 42 yard line and if I wanted a good time, I’d have to make up for that in the last full mile.

I was running pretty strong and as the course narrowed I found a few other runners determined to finish hard and got behind them as they puddle jumped, so I never really even slowed. Macklemore was my music of choice for the whole race and as I was heading into the finish line, this song kicked in…I highly recommend finishing any race to this athletic-themed crescendo, there’s actually cheering!

My official finish time was 38:12, perfectly in between my goals…woohoo!

My mom’s corral had to wait a while to start, so I walked around the expo for a bit before posting up near the stadium entrance to catch her. And of course I missed her! We discussed later that she was just behind a group of people running for Boston who were hauling a cooler speaker blaring Irish music, so I was a little distracted!

She finished in 54:11, beating last year’s time and said her race felt good! Great job, Mom!

Pats2

We lightrailed back to my car and had a fantastic brunch (hello, almond-crusted french toast, where have you been all my life?!) at Biscuits in Chandler and then pampered ourselves with mani/pedis. I can get behind this post-race tradition!

Going Rogue

My race calendar was pretty much set for the remainder of spring until a few weeks ago, Ashley from She Runs Strong did a giveaway for the inaugural Rogue Runner on her blog and I won! Even better, she was giving away two entries and my blog friend turned real-life friend and Ragnar teammate, Stacey, won the other, so I’d have a partner in crime for the race!

The race was on Saturday at McDowell Mountain Park, so it was actually an awesome and challenging 6.2 mile trail run in addition to being an obstacle course.

By the time we got our codes to enter, the earliest wave available was 11:30 and the high on Saturday was supposed to be 90, so I was a little concerned it would be too hot – that was a huge problem with the only other obstacle race I’ve done, the Lozilu, which took place even later into the hot Arizona spring/summer. Rogue before

The first half of the race was pretty warm and unfortunately the water stations were out of water! The obstacles offered a slight break because we had to wait in a line to go through them…we got to one and people were walking away saying they had been there for an hour already, so we skipped it as well.

Despite the heat, lack of water, my lack of recent training and Stacey’s hamstring injury, it was a great running day and we kept up a decent pace in between obstacles, not letting our Ragnar spirit die and chicked plenty of men along the way.

Finally, we made it to the mid-way point with its glorious stocked water station, port-a-potties and a water obstacle. Essentially it was a dumpster filled with water and you had to swim under three barriers. Kinda gross? Yes, but we were sweaty and dirty already and getting drenched to start out on the next three miles was actually quite welcome!

Then there was a slip and slide, which was super fun, some more military-style obstacles and more trail running, of course. There were a good amount of obstacles for the distance and they were spread out pretty well. Only once we ran for almost a mile between them, but the view was awesome and the trail made it more interesting. Then before we knew it (a little less than two hours after starting), we finished and got our sweet medals!

Rogue after

Lozilu was TOUGH, so I was worried about doing a longer course, but I guess with my yoga and swimming, I’m more strength-trained than I give myself credit for. I was sore for a few days, but it was a fun kind of sore.

This race did not feel like a first for Rogue Runner. It was well-marketed and brought in lots of participants and except for the water issue, it ran very smoothly. (I ran the first Neon Race the week before and it was fun because I was with friends, but logistical it was a complete disaster.)

The Rogue Runner course was legit – not just another copy-cat gimmicky run with more talk than walk – though it’s definitely an obstacle run, not fully a “mud” run. It definitely gave me the confidence boost I needed to get me thinking I can handle a Tough Mudder! I’m so happy I added this race to my schedule at the last minute, I had a blast!

R4L (Ragnar For Life)

As I’ve said, my attitude going into Ragnar was not optimal, BUT I switched from “just doing it for the experience” to R4L so damn fast. As a van, we started making mental notes of what to do next time to make it even better. Here are my tips based on what we did that worked, what we saw other teams doing or what we think would work better for next time:

1. Pack less. I used less than half of what I packed. I gave into being dirty and comfy very quickly. You don’t really need many “in-between” clothes because your running clothes for your next leg are fine. Also, blankets are perfectly acceptable attire. Even if they are stinky. Our van was overflowing with STUFF and we could have made do with a lot less.

2. Have a dedicated van driver. Nicole’s husband Lance was invaluable. He drove the entire time, allowing us to just focus on running, sleeping if we could and laughing until we cried at stuff that probably was not all that funny. He knew exactly where we were and where we were going, calculated our paces and found us food. We talked about how things could have gone south very quickly if we had to worry about driving.

3. Pack a towel. Okay, I didn’t totally give into being dirty and I did donate $3 to shower at our halfway point. However, I didn’t have a towel and the Anthem Community Center is no Lifetime Fitness. I used my pillow case. Don’tjudgeme.

4. Tag other vans – with magnets, a decided upon logo, other vans’ decorations. It’s a thing.

5. Bring a camera. I charged my camera battery for the occasion and then left it still charging in my kitchen. I had my phone and was able to take a lot of pics and get them on social media quickly, but I would have loved to document with more and a real camera.

6. Keep a body count. Ragnar is fun, but being somewhat competitive and trying to pass other runners is fun too. I can get behind a race that encourages keeping a running tally.

Body Count

7. Text your mom after your legs so she knows you didn’t get eaten by coyotes and then she’ll make you cookies for the end.

8. As much as our team loves sweets, we didn’t eat many on the road. I think I had one Oreo the whole time. Stomachs are sensitive with the little amount of sleep you get, so sticking to real race fuel is probably the best option.

8. Train. Duh. I could have handled my legs a little bit better if I had worked in some hills and a few more two-a-days.

9. Plan to stick around at the finisher’s festival. You earned it. But after that, don’t plan on doing anything for two days after the race. Your brain and body won’t work.

10. Don’t have too many cooks in the kitchen. We had one amazing captain who planned everything. Nicole got us all organized and kept us informed of everything that was going on. Other people helped with shirts and vans and Ragnar Eve plans, but knowing we were in great hands, I stepped back and let everything be taken care of.

My Ragnar Confession

I have a confession to make. I was excited about Ragnar when we started making the plans (somewhere back in October?), but as it crept up, my excitement started to wane and I actually got a little anxious about the whole thing.

Priorities shifted, I ran more races than I have in past years, and this is about the point in running season where I feel a little burnt out anyway, an injury popped up and derailed my training further.

I was assigned to be runner #6 and my legs were all about 5 miles, which felt totally manageable, so I was never concerned about being able to complete them and do decently well. I was, however, a little concerned about some of the legs in terms of safety (Ragnar has had a few deaths, including an Arizona high schooler a few years ago).

I think my nerves mostly came up out of fear of the unknown.

You can read the race bible, you can read blog recaps, but you don’t know what Ragnar is until you do it. Before you do it,  you can only imagine the running, the lack of sleep, the cramped quarters might actually be awful.

It’s not. Well, okay, it probably still could be (in fact, my van talked about all the ways things could have gone horribly wrong), but my experience was not the awful I was worried about and now I think it’s funny how apprehensive I was about it.

In the week before, we lost three runners due to illness or injury, but it worked out for the best. We threw in last-minute replacements and our team was fantastic just the way it ended up being.

Part of my anxiety came from just being a socially anxious person in general. I like my alone time and I’m shy around new people and the thought of relying on mostly strangers, having them rely on me and being stuck in a van with them did not sound like a good time.

I kept telling myself (and any non-runners who could not comprehend the race in general) that I was just doing it for the experience, to see what it’s like and to bucket list it.

That changed so fast.

Ragnar is like Burning Man meets a marathon meets one of those Disneyland turnaround trips you do when you’re in high school. So, in a word, awesome.

The running part, as I said, was never a huge concern anyway. I got my legs done and everyone on the team just wanted to do their best and have their teammates do the same. It is a little strange to be the one running because in that moment, you think you’re the sole reason everyone’s out in the desert anyway. You’re not.

Everyone’s having a great time cheering you on or sleeping or laughing until they cry. Yeah, there’s running, but it’s not so serious. At least on our team, it wasn’t, and maybe that’s why we worked. To the boys high school team who kicked our butt and won the whole thing, yeah, maybe they were a little more hardcore about it.

My routes were all straight shots, so I didn’t have to worry about getting lost (there seemed to be an awful lot of info about that at the meetings). The routes felt safer than I was imagining and for the most part, you’re in sight of your van or another team’s and someone is looking out for you. Once I posted my runner’s view picture to Facebook, my mom, who was maybe more nervous than I was, said she felt better about the whole thing. The vans were hyperaware and the non-vans were probably hyperaware once they saw all the vans and runners. Safety gear does wonders too.

Runner with and without safety gear from 150 feet.

Runner with and without safety gear from 150 feet.

I LOVE sleep and I hate being tired. On a normal night, by 8:30 my eyes are HEAVY and I’m done. That was not going to fly during Ragnar, but it was okay. I slept four hours on Thursday night before we left, a few cat naps in the van and a little bit at the longer exchanges, but I wasn’t as tired as I thought I’d be. The group energy keeps you going. In the grand scheme, 40ish hours isn’t all that bad to be mostly awake.

Yes, it was cramped. We had a mini van and seven people in it, so unless someone was out running, that’s one seat per butt. And then our stuff! It was everywhere, it got stepped on and dug through by people who a day ago were practically strangers, it started to smell. It was all okay.

As for my stranger danger apprehension, I got over it. We had the best group in our van and this is really what made the race. We may not have all known everyone’s names (haha), but that was irrelevant. We talked, we laughed, we cheered. I was able to be myself and it was FUN.

That would be snow on our spring training fields two days before Ragnar.

That would be snow on our spring training fields two days before Ragnar.

If there had to be a WORST part of the experience, I guess I’d say it was the cold. Phoenix got SNOW two days before the race and it had started warming up, but was still chilly and windy at a lot of the overnight and early morning exchanges. I hate being cold, but really it was only for a few minutes while switching runners and my legs were not all that cold, so it’s really the best worst there could be.

Making an effort to just curb my anxieties and expectations and just experience it probably helped immensely. After last weekend, it’s not just a once-in-a-lifetime experience, it’s something I plan to do again and again!