DC Does it Right

Wow. Just wow.
I expect this will take several posts, I’ll do a full race recap sometime tomorrow time willing. I just want to leave you with some overall first impressions, and then I’ll get down to the details.

First, I should point out that I haven’t been to Washington, DC in a long time. It might as well been never since I didn’t remember anything about the city that I couldn’t recall from pictures. It’s been that long.
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I headed to DC this past weekend for the Inaugural Nike Women’s Half Marathon. Yes, Nike is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the half and full in San Francisco this year. I’m usually nervous to attend the first year if any event, and try to keep in mind that there’s a good chance for some snafus.

Nope.
Nothing life-altering anyway.

DC is a great place for a race. With a city so spread out, it’s easy to find 13.1 picturesque miles to run. I’m fairly certain that, if they do add the full in the coming years, they won’t have much trouble doubling those views.

But there are other aspects of DC that make it appealing.

Inexpensive public transportation. Once you get the hang of it, the metro is pretty easy to maneuver. And all the employees we met were friendly and helpful. You can take a cab, but you don’t need to. And don’t drive. It’s not worth it.

Lots of green. Parks and more parks. For a city, DC has a lot of green spaces. And they’re clean.
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Free activities. You don’t have to pay a lot to see the sights. Several museums were free, and you can find tours of the older, less popular buildings that don’t charge. My favorite tour of the city was done on foot…our impromptu shakeout run covered 4.5 miles of the National Mall, complete with stops for photos…and a workout? Sold. At no charge of course.
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Sure. You can pay plenty during a weekend in the nation’s capital. Shoot…the food alone can bankrupt you. But you don’t HAVE to spend money to have a good time.

Enough about the city…race report coming up!

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ORRRC Marathon Part Two: The Longest Half Marathon

Like I said in my earlier post, Xenia was scheduled to be my race to shine.

There’s that word again: scheduled. My plan for the spring was to drop back to the half marathon distance to focus on getting faster, without having to worry about longer mileage. Sounds smart. But it didn’t work. I was miserable. I wanted to run long forever. I’d finish the prescribed mileage and think “That’s it?”

Five weeks ago, I changed my tune. You can read about that here. That meant I had no nerves when I arrived in Xenia. None. Not one. I felt like I had forgotten something. After the race, I figured out what it was. I forgot to get nervous. What a great feeling!

I was happy to accept an invitation to carpool with a friend (Thanks Scott!), and we only had to turn back once…my phone is hard to find at 5:30am. The ride was relaxing, and I started thinking about Kate while drinking my coffee. She was running her first marathon at Xenia that day.

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And though I wasn’t nervous, I did have a plan:

I would run the first seven miles at an even pace with the group (Anne and I were running the half, and Kate would stay with Angie for the full) until the two courses split. Anne and I would finish the half, then we’d head back out to pick up Kate and Angie around mile 22, and run them to the finish. Knowing the last miles of the race would be the hardest for her, I was happy to volunteer for this task. That meant over 20 miles for Anne and I, which worked out fine with our 50k training.

Fast forward to the start. I still had that strange feeling…something is missing. I checked my supplies once more…time to go.

The neighborhood loop was nice. We did get to see Jamie, who was still recovering from injury and couldn’t run with us that day (She’s back to running as of last night!), and a few others who came to spectate. We talked with some local folks running the race, including Tylar, a guy I had met on Twitter the day prior, who was running his first half marathon. Congrats to you friend!
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Off to the bikeway…
Kate was in great spirits, and I stepped away from the group for a mile or so to think…or not think…let my mind wander. It was a great morning. It’s going to be hot. We can do this together. Back in the game.

The split came, and we said goodbye to Kate and Angie…See you at mile 22!
Anne and I took the turn, and my thoughts went to Andrea and Stuart. They couldn’t be that far behind us. I suggested that, since we didn’t care about time, when we saw them on this out-and-back section, that we turn again with them, and stay together. We did…and had a blast taking them back to downtown. No worries. No watch-glancing. Running, laughing, smiling. My kind of run.

The finish line brought tons of cheering from our group! And cookies!

A quick glance as the race clock meant Anne and I had about 40 minutes to kill before heading back out to 22. The club updated us on their finishes, and the status of those still running. Before we knew it. it was time to run…again.

With a promise to keep the crew updated, we headed for the bikeway. There was a steady stream of runners headed towards us, most of which told US we were doing a great job! Um…we’re headed the wrong way, but I’ll take it. We joked with a few, saying we couldn’t get enough, and, since the course was still open, we’d do another lap. I thought it was funny. They probably thought we were crazy.

By the time we reached mile 22, we had seen most of our friends…and it was hot! Over 70* now, which normally wouldn’t be a problem, but it was the first day with those kind of temps, and we weren’t ready for summer quite yet. What happened to spring?

The volunteer working the aid station at 22 was fantastic. He chatted us up, and was very encouraging. It helped to pass the waiting time. Anne and I had logged 18.5 miles at this point, and my stomach was starting to protest all this waiting around.

And then we saw them.

Still happy. Still running. After a quick refuel, we started the last four miles. This is the toughest point for a first-timer, and Kate was a trooper. Despite her apologies that we refused to accept, we pushed on, and she kept giving her best. With just over a mile to go, we picked up Goat and Mel, and then we neared the finish.

Four blocks…uphill. You’ve got this.
We dropped back and let Kate take the lead…and she kicked! Nice!

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Tears. Hugs. Mushy stuff.
It was a fantastic day topped off with soup and cookies, and a celebratory beer.

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Congrats to all…You did it!

And I had the best race experience to date.

And none of it was about me.

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ORRRC Marathon Part One: The Facts

I realize I owe you a few race reports. I’m going to start with the most recent (and the biggest), because it’s still fresh in my mind. And it was an amazing experience. But first…the race..

Facts:
The Ohio River Road Runners Club (ORRRC) Marathon (46th year) & Half Marathon (24th year) took place on Sunday April 7, 2013 in Xenia, Ohio.

images-2 The course, for the half anyway, is pleasant enough: start at the YMCA, a quick loop through the quaint town, and off to the bikeway for an out-and-back race. The marathon follows the same course, but spends a much longer time on the bike path, with a road loop to double you back. There are a few easy hills in the town, and there are a few rollers as the bike path approaches cross streets. It was a nice change to not think about cars and traffic. Even at the road crossings, friendly volunteers and police are there to keep you safe.

I ran the half, so I can’t speak to the second part of the course. I’ve heard it’s fairly non-descript, but, if the weather is right, it lends itself to a PR.

Too bad for us, it wasn’t. Although the morning started with great temps in the 50s, it quickly reached 70 by the second hour. Normally that would be tolerable, but I think we still had snow last week…no acclimation period for that kind of heat. Not to mention a strong headwind….tree-lined bike paths make excellent wind tunnels. Sounds great if the wind is at your back I guess. Rough when it’s in your face…for miles. That’s where the full marathoners had the toughest time. The wind can rob you of energy quickly.

The volunteers were great…even the police officers cheered runners along with positive words. There’s real food at the finish…fruit, two kinds of soup, chili, and cookies. Good cookies. Yum.

The price is right too. If you register early, it’s only $25 for either distance, and that gets you a shirt and a medal. Can’t be beat there. It’s a short drive from Columbus, just over an hour, and most of our club made the trip that morning, save a few dedicated souls who stayed overnight in a local hotel.

Our club, RunDMC (dailymile Columbus) brought at least 35 members to the race this year…even more to cheer…and it was nice to see so many familiar faces.

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This was the race where I planned, up until 5 weeks ago, to PR my half marathon.

Xenia.
It was to be my finest (two) hour(s).

As it turns out, it became the most meaningful race I’ve done in a long time…and it had nothing to do with me. But we’ll have to save that for Part 2.

Back on Track…literally

It’s been two weeks since Goofy.

It’s time to make some decisions, and focus on what’s next. I’m feeling 100% after taking two “easier” weeks…so much so, that I thought a half marathon on a treadmill was a good idea yesterday.

What was I thinking?

I was thinking I had signed up for a virtual half organized on by Moms Run This Town: the Winter Runnerland 5K/10K/Half.
This was a great idea before I looked at my schedule. I already had one of each of those planned in January, plus a marathon. What’s one more race? I had others tell me to just use my time from the WDW Half Marathon to cover this race, but I don’t work that way. So yesterday was my only choice.
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A handful of ENERGYbits, a banana, and 2 bottles of water later…done.

The nice thing about the TM is that your banana is still intact at mile 8!
So now I’m back on track to hit my 125mi this month…and to start training for the Xenia Half Marathon on April 7th. I’m shooting for an ambitious PR at this event. I haven’t “raced” a half since 2009, as I use most of them for training runs or pacing opportunities.
I still have a potential 50k on February 17th, but I’m debating on attempting that distance. I know I can do as little as 10K at that event, and I’ll have to see how the old body is holding up around that time.
And now…the track. It’s time to start adding speed work. And for me that means Yasso 800s. Although I’ve heard people use that phrase with disdain, I actually like them. Maybe it has something to do with the namesake.

Anyway…this week I have 4×800. Woot! Can’t wait.

How’s your training going? Any track workouts planned?

Tomorrow’s news: Rain, rain, go AWAY!

The Disney Race Experience

I’ve been asked one question dozens of times in the last week since finishing the Goofy Challenge. And it’s a question I had the answer to at Mile 20 of 39.3…just 7 miles into the marathon.

“Would you do it again?”

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I wish I could say there was even a question in my mind, so I’ve been trying to weigh the pros and cons all week. Here it goes.

Pros:

  • Disney knows how to handle the crowds, and that starts with parking. We didn’t stay on property, so that meant driving to Epcot both mornings…something you might dread with this many people. No issues! We planned ahead, we arrived early, and we parked within minutes of entering the park.
  • Volunteers make dreams come true. Never have I seen a volunteer race crew be so thoughtful and gracious. I typically thank people along any course for helping at aid stations, directing runners, or even cheering. And so many times I heard the response “No. Thank you for running!” It’s giving me chills just writing that.
  • Bananas, sponges, and chocolate? Oh my. Every race should have chocolate at mile 21. Take note race directors!
  • Perfect weather. OK…it was warm steamy ridiculously hot compared to Ohio in January. And thank God for that! I’ll take sweating in the corral before sunrise any day over the 17 degree-winchill we had this morning.
  • The best atmosphere ever. Have you seen my pictures? Check out my Day 1 and Day 2 posts for more on this. The parks are beautiful, clean, and full of characters, flashing lights and music. I especially liked seeing Cinderella’s castle covered in thousands of lights during the half, and then at sunrise during the marathon.  And the a cappella choir near the finish on both days? Perfect. Coming around the corner at Epcot and hearing those voices really pushed me to the finish.
  • There is no pressure to race. You have to start knowing there’s going to be a lot of weaving. If you’re not in Corral A or maybe B, your BQ finish is probably in jeopardy. So just enjoy it. And get used to beeping timers. At least half the field is using run/walk intervals…music to my ears!
  • Smiling. Lots and lots of smiling. Honestly, if you don’t like smiling, go run Death Valley. This won’t be the place for you.
  • Three shirts, three medals, a lifetime of pride. Need I say more?

Cons:

  • Do I have to come up with cons? OK…just one. The cost. It’s DisneyWorld people. It’s pricey.

So, do you still need my answer? Haven’t you figured it out by now?

YES! YES! YES!

2015 is the anniversary of the Goofy Challenge. That means a special Goofy medal.

Sounds like all the motivation I need!

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Tomorrow’s news: Rock and Roots Trail Series Race #1 Recap

The Goofy Challenge Day 1

The Goofy Challenge takes a special kind of crazy to attempt. Most people are content with either the half or the full marathon. But both on consecutive days? Nuts.

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The preparation alone typically requires layering a half and full training plan. I used a plan adapted from Jeff Galloway that I found on the RunDisney website. That meant double long runs every other weekend. The key was to take it slow and avoid injury at all costs. And keep your fingers crossed.

I’m not sure what first possessed me to register for such an event. I wanted a trip with friends, especially after I heard about the great time several of them had the previous year on a “run-cation.”

I had heard of the Goofy Challenge from a few friends that had run the event in previous years. They assured me that as long as I treated it as a fun event, I’d be fine. But it wasn’t going to be easy. It was hard work. And recovery time. It’s not something you do on a whim.

My friends will probably try to blame me for suggesting we go. Before the weekend, I tried to deflect blame. But now that we’re on the other side, necks weighted down with bling, I’ll take that responsibility. Except for the 2am wake up call. That was not my idea.

You didn’t read that wrong. 2am.

We stayed at a rental condo off Disney property,  which meant we needed to drive to Epcot both mornings along with thousands of others. Earlier was better. I’d rather drive, park, and wait, then risk getting stuck in traffic and feel rushed.

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Thanks to Jeff Galloway, I secured access to the Galloway Training Programs area for our group. A place to sit before the race, drink coffee and get some inspiration from the man himself. This was a lifesaver. We sat and watched droves of participants walked to the corrals. With 67,000 people running during the weekend between the 5k, half marathon, and marathon, I’d take all the quiet time I could get.

The wheelchair start was scheduled for 5:30am, and Disney starts on time. Like clockwork. Too bad we weren’t anywhere near the corral when the fireworks signaling the release of Corral A fired. The good news is half the field wasn’t either. No worries…we were ready to go by our 6:03am start. Donald Duck counted us down…and we were off.

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The key here is to go slow enough that you don’t burn out your legs on the first day…you’re going to need them for the marathon. There were plenty of points where I knew I should slow down, but smiles pushed me faster. I was lucky enough to have a friend running with me to hold me back. Thanks Laurie! My plan was to run the 13.1mi in over 2:30.

The first hour or so was prior to sunrise, but there was no problem finding our way. The half marathon course took us from Epcot, through the Magic Kingdom and back to Epcot. With about 35.000 half marathon participants, there was no question where the route was, and before we knew it, we were entering the Magic Kingdom. It’s been a long time since I’d been to Disney World…at least 15 years. Even if I remembered what the parks looked like then, they’ve changed so much, I wouldn’t recognize them. Not to mention we were viewing them in an entirely different way.

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Characters around every turn. Smiles abound. Cheering spectators. Thousands of volunteers ready to help you with any need or just thank you for running. Where else are you going to get that except the place where dreams come true?

As I’ve said before, I’m not a “Disney person.” I was just as happy to take candid shots of characters as we passed, but plenty of people stopped and waited in line, sometimes for a while, to get their picture taken with every character. Not my style.

The experience was magical. Wearing my 2012 Columbus Marathon shirt meant Ohioans kept asking me if I was from Columbus. And there were plenty of participants in costumes. Around mile 8, we ran with Elvis, in a full leisure suit. A foursome dressed as Aladdin, Abu, Jafar, and the Genie. And lots of Minnies and princesses. Entertaining to say the least. Laurie and I finished at 2:35. And I felt great, especially after 2 bottles of water.

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Time to rest up for the marathon…2am is going to come quickly.

Tomorrow’s news: The Goofy Challenge Day 2

The Donald

I am not a “Disney person.” But this was the most fun I’ve had at a half marathon…hands down.

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New things to see at every turn, lots of spectators, and some great weather!

The full recap of the Goofy Challenge will come on Monday, but I wanted to leave you with a few photos today…and more to come from the marathon tomorrow. But here’s a quick shot of our crew with a little bling!

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Tomorrow’s news: The Mickey