Sunday, June 2, 2013

OC Half Marathon

As I was training for the Ragnar Relay, the questions (from myself and others) would arise about what was going to happen after.  What kind of running would I keep doing?  I haven't really had an answer, but I did become aware that the OC Marathon/Half Marathon was happening on May 5, only two weeks after the Relay.

Since my total mileage over the Ragnar weekend was 12.8, that got me pretty close to a half marathon even though it wasn't all at the same time.  I started to realize that I might actually be able to do it.  I have never - ever - had a desire to do a full or a half.  But it was starting to feeling like my training might feel a little wasted if I didn't at least try the half marathon.  Who knew if I would ever be physically in a place to do it again.

So I did it.

It was an early morning to get to the OC Fair grounds to catch the shuttle that would take me to Fashion Island for the start line.  There were A LOT of people (learned later there were about 10,000 in the half).  

The marathon started at 5:30 and the half started at 6:15am.  There were a lot of port-a-potties at the start line, and the line was still huge.  AND they were already out of toilet paper.  Lovely.

I was in corral 4 and they released each corral about 5 minutes apart. 

I had read a lot of tips leading up to the race, one being to run the first half slower than your normal pace.  So I relaxed and took it easy from the beginning.  I haven't run many races yet, so one thing that was hard for me was weaving around other people.  I was a little surprised (and annoyed) that there didn't seem to be a common etiquette for walkers to move off to the side so that runners could easily pass.  

The route took us through beautiful areas of Balboa and Newport Beach...lots of big ritzy homes.  It didn't go along the water as much as I would have liked, but it was still nice.  

I expected to run about 5 miles per hour and my goal was to finish in 2 hours 45 minutes.  I hit the first 5 miles right on track, but had to take a potty break, so that ate up about 2 minutes of my time.  At mile 7, I hit a bit of a wall - there was a big hill, I was getting tired and feeling the struggle of only being a little more than half way done.  Somehow my iPod knew because Janet Jackson came on singing about her Nasty Boys and that was all I needed.  Then Justin Timberlake brought his Sexy Back and I was good to go. It also helped that the big hill was followed by some beautiful bluffs.

One thing that was really cool was the people that cheer you on.  Many had fun signs ("Worst Parade Ever"), kids waiving from their house windows, and one group independently handing out pretzels, peach cups and water.

Mile 10 I hit still on pace.   From there it was just a matter of running a 5K, right?  I've done that problem!  Ha! 

Passing the Mile 11 marker I was really slowing down and hurting.  My left arch had been bothering me since pretty early on and it seemed to be started to affect the rest of my leg.  I had to walk a lot more.  I started calculating that "if all I do is walk from here (or here or here)" I would still finish by such-and-such a time.  That turned into if I at least walk one minute and run one minute, that would be faster than only walking.  In other words, the last 2 miles were tough and I just had to keep moving somehow to make it through.

But...I made it!

Hallelujah!  That finish line looked so sweet!

My total clocked time was 2:51, but my watch said 2:49 because I stopped it for my 2-minute potty break.  Only four minutes over my goal is pretty darn good I think.

Immediately after, I was hurting.  I wanted to saw my left leg off.  Any incline was a mountain to me.

I stuck around for a while to watch a friend of mine in the marathon.  My mom met me at home and gave me a good rub down which I think was my saving grace.

All in all, I'm actually quite proud of myself for accomplishing it.  It took me a couple of days, but I did eventually start thinking I might like to do another half marathon.  It's amazing how good the feeling is to finish.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Ragnar Relay Reflections

After a few group shots with our Ragnar medals, it was time to get my stuff from the van and head to our hotel near the Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego.  I told Jim he was in charge of getting dinner while I showered.  He wasn't to ask me what I wanted, just get something.  Unfortunately, I was so exhausted that I couldn't really eat much of what he got for us.  I was in bed by 8:45 and sleeping has never felt so good!  It was very restful.  I woke at 6:30 to go the bathroom and stumbled against the wall and accidentally turned on the light waking Jim.  So now we were awake.  We made our way to getting some breakfast and was back in bed from 9:00 to 11:00.  Then we could finally start our day.

We walked to the Seaport Village which was a little less than a mile away.  It was tough to walk, but I knew it was probably necessary.  Every incline was a challenge and if I took too long of a stride my right leg would give out.  My right leg hurt the worst and I later learned from my chiropractor that my ankle was out of alignment.

The experience of the Ragnar Relay was incredible.  It's impossible to describe it adequately.  I was lucky to join a completely random team and end up with such a wonderful group of people.  They were genuinely kind and supportive.  They were much better and more experienced runners than me, but there was no arrogance about it.  I never felt bad for being slow.  But I am proud that I was so close to my time estimates for each of my legs.

I don't know why I was surprised, but I was surprised to hear our van talking about next year.  I guess I just wasn't even ready to think about it yet.  But it might be fun to try again and become a better runner in the mean time.  Collectively we learned that we need to be more intentional about sleep and food.  We must have thought it would fall into place better than it did.  Otherwise we managed it all pretty well.

Unfortunately there was one member of our team who made things a little difficult.  I won't go into detail, but it was a matter of attitude more than anything else that just caused friction.  It was tough, but I think still pretty lucky for that to have really been our only problem.

The lack of sleep was the hardest part for me.  In the middle of the night during the race I was so tired that I was nauseous.  I was really having a hard time and for a little while my mind was stuck in how much this sucked.  And my last leg was so thrown off timing-wise that I didn't eat at the right time and I was having a hard time finding my happy place for that final run.  My foot was hurting, it was getting hot, I was becoming increasingly hungry and agitated and needed to find a way to get through.  But even through all of that, the fun far outweighed any of the challenges.

Of all the runners, I had the lowest mileage in our van and the third lowest mileage overall.  At this point I can't imagine tackling a higher amount of mileage, but a lot can change in a year.

And through it all... my pedicure survived. =D

Thursday, May 2, 2013

My Ragnar Experience - Round Three

Round 3 started at 4:00 am on Saturday, April 20 in Carlsbad.  Our first runner got a rude awakening as we were given only 40 minutes notice of the runner arriving and Louis was sound asleep.  He was not happy about this at all.  And we missed the hand-off.  We were walking to the chute and heard our runner was already there.  Oops!  With the start of round 3 we were now 2.5 hours behind the estimated schedule.

Round 3 is when Ragnar becomes Ragnar.  Your body is feeling it.  Everything hurts and your mind is trying to hold on.  Here are the distances:

1. Louis - 5.5
2. Sam - 7.0
3. Eva - 8.6
4. Aaron - 6.6
5. Shawn - 4.5
6. Birgitt - 4.2

Our exchange between runners 3 and 4 was right on the coast.  It was a nice time of day and sort of refreshing to be there.  Since Louis and Sam were officially done, they enjoyed dipping their toes in the ocean.


The parking lot was just a sea of Ragnar vans.  Most teams rent their vans so it feels like clones everywhere.  Our team was lucky enough to have vehicles that had the necessary capacity.


You can see a little more of the tagging on our van.  There was a lot of love being sent out for Boston by everyone at Ragnar since the bombing at the marathon had happened only four days prior to our race.

You can see our "kill" tracking

We put nicknames on the windows for everyone in our van.  I, of course, was "Shawnie"

After 24-plus hours living in a van ("DOWN BY THE RIVER!" -- sorry), you do what you can to freshen up. 

 Aaron and I were brushing our teeth

My 3rd run began at 10:50 (almost 4 hours late) in Del Mar.  I'm not used to running this late in the morning, but thankfully we were close to the ocean, so the heat wasn't a problem.  This leg was up and down hills that were pretty tough.  I walked a lot more than I would have liked.  There was an extremely steep downhill towards the end with sand that I had to be very cautious.  I estimated this would take me an hour and I was 3 minutes over and I think only due to traffic lights.  AND, one mile in, my iPod died!  I had accidentally left it on after my first run and the battery finally decided to die.  Thankfully it wasn't as torturous to run without music as I had feared.  I had a buddy (in a super hero cape) for a little bit of the leg so that was a nice distraction.

I don't consider myself much of a beach person, but when I was done, that water had never looked better.  I was ready to jump right in.

 2 vans together

The final runner for our van finished at 12:36 in Torrey Pines and we were so glad to be done. Everyone was tired and hungry and sore.  

So...what do you do...??? 


It was a true feeling of celebration.  We were laughing a lot and just enjoying our accomplishment (and even talking about next year...shhhh).

We then moved on to the finish line at the Embarcadaro in San Diego and we arrived around 3:00pm.  Jim had taken the train and bus down to meet us.  At that point our group split up for about an hour just to kinda get a break, do some shopping and reset.  We joined back up at 4:00 and just hung out on the grass listening to music.

The final runner would come up alongside this waterway and at the end the rest of the team would join to cross the finish line together.


Finally, our whole team together!

Van 1: Louis, Eva, Sam, Shane, Shawn, Birgitt, Aaron

Van 2: Jim, Victoria, Jessica, CJ, Sonia, Carlos

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

My Ragnar Experience - Round Two

In the continuing story of the Ragnar Relay, here is what happened in our second round of running this crazy 200 mile race from Huntington Beach to San Diego.

The final runner from Van 2 arrived in Lake Elsinore at 4:15 pm and our Van 1 crew was off again.

Round 2 distances:

1. Louis - 5.9
2. Sam - 8.6
3. Eva - 8.1
4. Aaron - 6.7
5. Shawn - 5.8
6. Birgitt - 7.5

It was a pretty hot day and runners were slowing down a bit as a result.  Our start time for leg 13 was about 45 minutes behind our estimates.  Due to the heat, we would stop about every two miles to offer water to our runner.  Turned out we offered water to any runner that went by.  Many were equipped, but some were very grateful for the treat.  Our team was surprised that none of us encountered another team handing out water to other teams.  Ragnar has some water stations, but not as many as we expected.

This first video is Louis through Lake Elsinore.  Aaron is handing him a bottle of water and Sam chases after to get the bottle back.  We came across "Master Chef" a few times and he seemed like a nice guy and took some water from us.

One of the fun aspects of Ragnar is that many people dress in costumes.  There were lots of tutus, many super-heroes or capes, some discoers and other random things.

Here is Louis coming in to hand-off to Sam.

A water and nutrient break for Sam.

Just horsing around waiting to give water to Eva.

During this round, we had to grab dinner as we could.  Runners were getting hungry so after they ran we would stop for something.  This a bit of a pain, but necessary especially as the night gets later and you don't know what you will come across that's open.

Here is the exchange between runners 3 and 4 in Temecula.  

My turn came at 10:14 pm and was 2 hours behind estimates.  Obviously it was dark and one of the Ragnar rules is that during the time defined as night - in this case 6:30pm - 6:30am - runners are required to wear a reflective vest, a headlight and a LED flashing tail light (Shane is attaching my tail light in the photo).  Other members of the team must wear a reflective vest anytime they are out of the van.

Sorry about the blinding light.  Wasn't expecting a photo.

This leg was all downhill for the first 4 miles and then flat.  I tell ya, the grade of this downhill was like floating on a cloud.  It was wonderful!  I typically run by time, for example I'll run 10 minutes and then walk one.  This downhill made it easy to run 15 minutes before taking a short walk break.  The funny thing was that I was so spoiled by the downhill that flat now seemed hard.  I estimated I would get this leg done in 1:15 and I finished just over an hour.  Woo-Hoo!  My leg was along Old Hwy 395 in Fallbrook and was kind of a lonely run.  I could look in front of or behind me and always see at least one other runner, but it's still weird to be in unknown territory, that dark with few cars passing.

Our van finished round two around 12:30.  Van 2 had a nice spot at the exchange in Escondido for us to take a nap, and Louis took advantage for the half hour he could in the grass.  But it was pretty cold and wet by the time we got there so we moved on once the exchange was made.  I guess I fell asleep for a little bit (maybe 20 minutes) on our drive to the next major exchange because it was only supposed to be about a 30 minute drive and when I awoke someone said we had been driving for an hour.  When I woke up we were in a drive thru and I quickly gave Shane my order to make sure I didn't miss out.  Groggily eating a hamburger at 1:30 in the morning is not something I recommend though.

At the exchange in Carlsbad where we waited for van 2, there again were not really any sleeping spots.  A couple of our runners got some sleep, unfortunately I was not one of them.  Things started to turn a little sour at this point as exhaustion was setting in and people were getting testy.  I was so tired that I was feeling nauseous.  I was able to relax in the front passenger seat for a little bit while two others slept in the two back rows of the van.

As I was preparing this post I noticed I didn't have many photos.  Darkness and punchiness aren't very photogenic.

Monday, April 29, 2013

My Ragnar Experience - Round One

After six months of training, the Ragnar Relay is now in the past.  It was such a great experience and I am so glad I committed to doing it.  I want to share about it in detail, partly because I think the details are fun, but also for my own memory's sake.  I'm going to do a post for each of the 3 cycles of the Ragnar plus one that is just some reflection.  So stay tuned...

The night before the race, Thursday, I was in bed before 9:00 pm because my alarm was set for 2:30 am.  Ugh!  That is just too early for any imaginable reason!  I was out the door at 3:00 am to arrive at Samantha's (our team captain) house by 3:20am.  There I met Aaron and Sam's boyfriend Shane who was our driver.  From there we picked up Louis and Eva.  The final runner for our van, Birgitt (pronounced BEER-get - she's German) met us at the starting line in Huntington Beach.  Our team name was Sweatin' with Strangers since it was quite a mish-mash of people; some knew each other, but many did not.

We were running a little late so it was a bit of a mad dash to get checked in, go through the safety training and at the start line in time for our 5:15 gun.  The relay starts in waves of 20-30 teams every 15 minutes.

Here are our runners and their distances for the first cycle:

1. Louis - 4.9
2. Sam - 5.0
3. Eva - 5.7
4. Aaron - 4.7
5. Shawn - 2.5
6. Birgitt - 3.8

Shane, Aaron, Louis, Sam, Birgitt

When our runner takes off we all jump in the van and head towards what is called the "exchange" to pass the baton to the next runner.  The baton is a "slap bracelet" which is really nice so you don't have to actually hold anything in your hand.  It's a little icky though because it's covered in sweat when you receive it.  That was a surprise.

Poor Louis didn't know the bracelet was the baton

If there is time, we would make whatever stops might be necessary.  Our van was not decorated so during Louis' first run we stopped at Walmart to get shoe polish for the windows.  While Eva ran we gassed up the van and started decorating.

One thing I learned through this was that everyone tags everyone else's vans.  So what you see written in color was from other teams.  There are also are some magnets which I think were pretty cool.  And I learned about "kills": when you pass a runner you make a hash-mark on your van.  And no, you do not subtract if you get passed by a different runner (lucky for me).

An early morning thrill was discovering that I did not have my running shoes.

 I didn't have my shoes!!!  

I felt like an idiot.  There are no running stores open at 6:30 in the morning.  Walmart for some cheapies for the first leg???  The person on my team closest to my shoe size was Birgitt, but she runs right after me.  I frantically talked to Jim and my mom to try to figure out what to do.  My Super-Mom came to the exchange between Eva (3) and Aaron (4) to bring me my shoes.

Aah, I can breathe again.  Who forgets their shoes to a running race?  I blame it on 2:30 am.  I had everything packed but didn't even think of my shoes.  I'm not used to wearing sandals before running and just didn't think enough about that.

When we arrived at the exchange for my first leg I had a nice cheering section.  Jim was there with Josh, my Dad and my father-in-law.  My friend Liz also came with her one-year-old in tow.

This stretch goes up Nohl Ranch Road which is a very steep hill - up and then down.  I had practiced it twice and it is a killer.  I was hoping to complete it in 35 minutes, knowing I would be walking quite a bit of the uphill.  I clocked in at just under 40 minutes and I'm very confident that the 5 minute difference was waiting at lights to cross the street.  There are several long lights in the first third of the mile and Ragnar does not shut down any traffic for this race.

Jim and the boys stopped at several places along the route to cheer me on and were at the exchange when I finished.  It was really great.  Everything is just so rushed that there wasn't really time to visit.

After my leg we went to Yorba Linda Regional Park to await our last runner and pass the work to our second van.  We met the rest of our team there, brief as it was.  They did a much better job decorating their van.

What happens next?


After a nice, leisurely, filling brunch, we made the drive to Lake Elsinore to rest up and await the Van 2 group.  I was quite disappointed at the lack of shade, so there really wasn't any place to sleep.  I tried a couple spots, but never lucked out.

 The view looks nice here, but I'm in a median in the parking lot.  Uhm, but then the ants came and I left.

At least I relaxed a little in the van.

Van 2 arrived at about 3:30 and I think this was the most time we got to visit with them at about half an hour.

Then it was time for Round Two!