Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Running on Empty?

February 22, 2014
I was out of town over the weekend.  We had a Girls Trip to planned in Nashville, TN.  It was the trip that almost didn’t happen.  One friend has a very ill sibling and wasn’t 100% sure if she should go or be with family in California.  Then Thursday night, my husband checked our basement and discovered an inch of water.  All of the melting snow and then the rain became too much for the sump pump and it quit working.  What a mess and some things that we never got around to hanging up and were still leaning against the wall have been damaged.  However, he still wanted me to go and said he would take care of everything over the weekend.  God bless him.  But then on Friday about 30 minutes north of Louisville, Kentucky I got a text from my brother stating that he was at the hospital with my Mom.  I quickly gave him a call (actually I called the wrong brother first) but it was determined that I should just go on to Tennessee because it wasn’t “life threatening” and they would keep me posted.
Although I knew there would be foolishness happening and staying out way too late, I packed my running gear in hopes of at least squeezing in a short run at some point.
Even though we went to bed around 2:00AM and I was awake around 7:00AM I still decided to suck it up and get out there Saturday morning.  After breakfast, my friend and I went on a casual walk which was nice to have that time alone with her so that we could just talk.  Then we came back to the hotel and while everyone was trying to decided what to do, I got directions from a high school classmate that lives down there to a park close by where I could run.  He told me it was about 4 blocks away – it was actually 6 blocks.  It was a lovely walk past Vanderbilt University. 
However I got to the point where I need to turn either left or right and chose “left” which was incorrect so I was walking down a road where some of the fraternities and sororities were.  Many of the house were deck out for Mardi Gras parties and there were lots of empty beer bottles and Red Solo Cups scattered around on the ground!  I found some security guys and the told me I needed to go back north.  Oh well, it was a fun little diversion.
Finally I found Centennial Park.  I’ve actually been there before but didn’t realize that’s where I was going.  I had my Garmin on but I wasn’t sure where I was supposed to run in the park.  Was it along with the traffic?  Was there a running/walking path?  As I walked further in I saw some bathrooms so I thought since I was there I might as well stop.. CLOSED!  Hmmm…this could be problematic later.  So I kept walking and saw two porta-potties.  Not my favorite but now I really had to pee.  One was “regular” and one was handicap.  Just as I got closer to the regular one some guys runs up and in.  Should I just wait or use the handicap one?  Well, I opened the door to the handicap one and inside was someone’s “stuff” – suitcase, bags, etc.  This was certainly my clue NOT to go in there.  The guy didn’t take long so then it was my turn.  As you can imagine, it was not pretty in there; there was no lock and no toilet paper.  Luckily I had a Kleenex with me.  I was praying that this would be the last time I needed a bathroom.
So I walked around a little more and looked for other runners and walkers and once I discovered some, I found the path to run on.  And much to my surprise - not long into my run - I noticed an arrow and a marking that read 1/4 mile.  I made it just over 1 1/2 miles and was getting thirsty but didn’t see any water fountains anywhere.  And….I sorta had to pee again.  On the west side of the park near a playground area, I noticed another building that looked like it might be a restroom facility.  I ran over to check it out and SUCCESS!  It was a restroom.  It wasn’t the nicest but better than the porta-potty I was in earlier.  No doors on the stalls and they must have had a problem with the toilet paper being stolen in the past because this was the roll holder.  Fancy,huh?
029After washing my hands I decided that I would try some water from the sink and prepared myself for it to be awful tasting.  Amazingly, it was fine.  So back on the path to try and at least suck it up and complete 3 miles.  After I finished running, I went back into the restroom facility to get another drink.  Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed someone leaving but it looked like a guy.  Sure enough, it was!  I double checked the sign outside the door to make sure I wasn’t in the wrong one.  Nope but he sure was.
Although I had about a half mile walk back to the hotel as a nice cooldown, I walked toward the center of the park and took some pictures.

It was a great day to be out and the park had lots of people running, walking their dogs, pushing strollers and a group of young men were playing football.  And as I was leaving I saw a group of 4-5 ladies walking in to the park while hula hopping.  That was a first!
I’ll admit that it wasn’t a quality run and I only have myself to blame for that but as they say…any run is a good run.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Fly With The Eagles – Race Recap

March 15, 2014


This race was originally scheduled to take place on February 8th but because the Midwest experienced Round #783 of the Polar Vortex (that might be a slight exaggeration) it was postponed until the following weekend because of too much ice on the course that couldn’t be dealt with.

I signed up way back on December 9th and it was only $25.  It would be about a 4 hour drive from my house so I booked a room at the Hampton Inn there in Marion, IL and I was able to convince my brother to do this with me.

Although we were within a 10-15 minute drive to the start area and the race didn’t start until 9:00AM, we decided to leave the hotel at 8:00AM since we still had to do packet pickup.  I set my alarm for 6:00AM.  In typical fashion, didn’t really sleep well the night before.  Some of that was due to the noisy neighbors we had.  UGH!   We left the hotel on time and I actually took a halfway decent selfie prior to leaving.


The packet pickup building was where we thought it might be from our drive around yesterday and there was plenty of parking but it was already crowded.  The line to get our bibs moved quickly and we went back to the car to get things ready and to stay warm. 


Unfortunately I forgot to take a snapshot of the weather page but the temperature was 17 degrees but luckily the sun was out and there was minimal wind.  The line for the porta-potties was way too long so for the first time ever before the start of a race, I went and peed in the woods.  So glad I did; I really had to go.

The start of the race was just behind the packet pickup building and it was definitely no-frills.  But I did see a guy dressed as an eagle so of course I had to have my picture taken with him.


And then took traditional prerace photo with my brother as well.


I looked at the map the night before and thought I knew which way we would be running but I was completely wrong.  This elevation chart looks daunting but the scale shows only at gain of 41 feet.


Course Map

As much as I can remember the race started on time (9:00AM Central) or at least pretty close to that.  My brother and I wished each other good luck and then he took off.  While the very beginning of the race started on asphalt we had to cut through a farm (corn?) field before then running on Wildlife Drive which I consider the main beginning of the race.  The trail/road through the cornfield was uneven, rutted, partially ice covered and a bit of a challenge but we were only on there for maybe one-tenth of a mile (if that). 


Once on Wildlife Drive, were running west so with the sun behind which made the temperature felt great.  There was a water stop at mile 1.5 after which we turned left and ran south for a bit.  We turned left again (heading west) and had another water stop at mile 2.5.  This time I was asked if I wanted water or Gatorade.  I guess I missed that option at the first stop.  But it didn’t matter; the Gatorade both times was fine.  Another turn at this water stop and we were again running south.  We ran across Crab Orchard Lake - much of which was frozen. 


Nice finger in the picture.  Am I my Mom? Thumbs down026

Just prior to crossing the lake, was the only time I saw a bathroom on the course.  It was one for the park  - so better than a port-pottie – and I assume it was open since I saw to girls run up there and they didn’t immediately come back.  This course was mostly closed or at least didn’t have much traffic but when we were crossing the lake a truck came from the south and as it approached I could see that the passenger was a very large dog.  Dog face  That made me smile.   Not long after we finished crossing the lake, we came to the next water stop.  This would be the last one for the next 4 miles.  We then turned right and proceeded to run through the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Preserve.  I would guess that they don’t allow aid stations in the park.  Perhaps they worry about random cups littering the park….but that’s just a guess.  Since this area was through the park, the course changed from pavement to gravel road.  However, with all the tree coverage the sun hadn't had a chance to work its melting magic and nearly all of the paths were still ice covered.  We had to run mostly on the “shoulder” which at times was also treacherous because it was uneven with many branches and other obstacles.


There were some clear patches from time to time but another hazard that we encountered were these “gumballs” from trees.  I think they were from Sycamore trees.  I was worried that I would either snap an ankle on 1) ice or 2) fallen branches or 3) those darn gumballs!


Another interesting thing was that the gravel was basically the same shade as the ice was so you often didn’t know what you were approaching until you got to it.

There was another very long stretch of ice just as we passed the 6 mile marker.  And the one time I almost bite the dust was when I tried to go stand in the middle of this to take a picture.


We were back on pavement after mile 7 and also what I thought was the most “challenging” part of the uphill.  I might have also thought it was more difficult because it was later in the race and we had just spent 3+ miles running mostly off-road.  We also got another good view of the outskirts of the park.  I saw a guy ice fishing off a pier.  He had caught a fish but released it.  Wish I’d been able to get a picture of that.


At the end of this stretch is where we also started repeating the aid stations.  Although I must admit at the time, I didn’t remember that the first one was a repeat.  I also took my only GU prior to this one which was approximately mile 8. 

I never felt really cold during this race.  I took my gloves off around mile 3 and never put them back on.  As the sun rose further in the sky, it actually was too warm on my back and yet when we approached the 10 mile marker and open fields were on both sides of us, it got a little chilly with the cross wind.  Then – as luck would have it – that  cornfield access road from the beginning of the race was no longer frozen at the end of the race and was now mostly a sloppy muddy mess.  So I tried to find the best path IN THE FIELD to run on since that area wasn’t as trampled on and still a little frozen.  Heck, I was even able to pass someone in this stretch.

So another winter half marathon is in the books and I have to say that I was mostly pleased with my finishing time considering the course was not clear. 


I finally found my brother and we went inside the building to get some post race snack.  For a smaller race, they had quite a bit to choose from; donut bites, other pastries, fresh fruit, pretzels and crackers.  Also hot chocolate, coffee and of course water.  But the best thing was homemade chicken and noodle soup.  It was so good.


After consuming some chow and looking over the most recent posted results, we headed back to the hotel to shower.  Luckily I had asked for and was granted a later checkout time.  We were cutting it close even with that.  After checking out, we drove around and took a few more picture and then headed back to Indiana.  Needless to say our drive time home was going to be less since we didn’t have any adverse weather in our way.


Only one stop on the way home at this rest area in Salem, IL. Not sure who made the snowman (maybe the people that work there?) but I found it amusing.  I’d like to think the snowman had spilled coffee on himself but I’m pretty sure he’d had some encounters with several dogs!


After dropping my brother off at his house, I still had a little over an hour to drive to mine.  I think I finally walked in the door around 7:45PM.

Doubt that I would ever do this race again unless I needed it to reach a “number” goal.  The medal isn’t that impressive but you do get a great hoodie instead of a tech shirt.  Again all of which was just $25, not counting gas and hotel.


Monday, February 17, 2014

Let’s try this again

February 14, 2014

For the first time in 20 years, I would be spending Valentine’s away from my husband.  But since the half marathon that I was supposed to do LAST weekend got postponed to this weekend…it was unavoidable.

I left my house around 11:00AM since I had to stop at my Mom’s first before picking up my brother at his house.  I guess I had only paid half attention to the local weather forecast because I was completely caught off-guard by the blizzard-like conditions that I was all of the sudden driving in.  I could barely see in front of me and the traffic coming from the west on I-70 must have been even more surprised because there were multiple accidents and slide offs.  I said a little prayer and hoped for safe travels the rest of the way.  Normally the drive to my Mom’s would take about an hour and 15 minutes but this time it took almost 2 hours.  Needless to say I didn’t stay at her house for very long and headed to my brothers so we could load things up and get under way.

We loaded all of his stuff up, then made a quick trip to Taco Bell so he could get some lunch (I ate mine on the way to his house) and we were back on the interstate around 2:45PM.  I wasn’t really worried about getting anywhere by a particular time because the race didn’t have packet pickup until in the morning.

Oh my travel conditions did NOT get any better as we were driving east.  We never even went fast enough to hit the speed limit until we were about 30 minutes outside of our destination; Marion, Illinois. I had to pull over once on an random on/off ramp to clean the windshield and the wipers.  Wish I had taken a picture of the window. The only area that wasn’t covered in ice was the area that the wipers were “trying” to keep clean.  We were back on the interstate after just a few minutes.  We made another stop in Ina, IL – mostly to use the bathroom – and cleaned the car again.  This time I remembered to take a picture.  You can see how iced over the front is.  It was tough getting it off the lights!


Since Illinois is on Central Time, we gained an hour so once we drove past where our hotel was, we drove to where we thought the race start would be.  The address was unclear but we had a pretty good idea within a mile or so and headed back and checked in at the Hampton Inn.  After unpacking and getting settled in, we tried to decide what to do for dinner.  I’m a traditionalist so of course I wanted pasta from somewhere but because of my brother’s Crohn’s Disease he’s a little most limited with choices.  The other problem was that it was Valentine’s evening so most places were probably going to be packed!  We both agreed that a take-out option from anywhere was probably the best option.   Initially we were going to get food from Logan’s Steakhouse but I didn’t see a pasta option on their online menu.  My brother said that Applebee’s would work for him so (YAY!) I was able to order my usual Three Cheese Penne Pasta with Chicken.  #RespectTheStreak.  As we headed down to the lobby to start the car and let it warm up to go get our food, I discovered that we were right next door to it!   AND…I found a gift card that still had $13.00 on it so my meal was just under $7.  NICE!!  Thumbs up


We just hung out in the room and watched the Olympics until it was time for bed.  We didn’t have to shut things down too early because the race wasn’t scheduled to start at 9:00AM and I got a reply on Facebook about the start line/packet pickup area so we felt confident were we needed to go in the morning.  We decided we’d leave the room at 8:00AM so I set the alarm for 6:00AM.