Sunday, June 29, 2014

Will Volunteer For Cupcakes

June 21, 2014

After having completed half marathons every Saturday for 5 weekends in a row, you would think that I would love to have the opportunity to sleep in…but no.  I found myself volunteering for the Indiana Women’s Trail Run Half and Quarter Marathon.

It was the inaugural year for it and a of mine (J.P.) was in charge of the event.  It was held at Eagle Creek Park, which is only about 30 minutes from my house.  Plus, I know how important volunteers are so this was my way of giving back.  I’ve volunteered at other events (5Ks, triathlons, etc.) but this would be my first trail run.

I needed to be at the hydration station by 7:30AM.  Although I’ve been to Eagle Creek Park numerous times, I’ve never really gone in further than the beach area where the triathlons are held.  So this was uncharted territory for me and I really wasn’t sure where I was supposed to go.  Luckily, I saw a volunteer setting up signs further in the park and he told me to keep going and that I wouldn’t miss it.  He was correct!  I got my T-shirt and then walked (maybe two-tenths of a mile) down to the water station.  I was a little late getting there (SHOCK!  But I had to get my coffee on the way) and they already had the Gatorade – technically Powerade – mixed up.  So we mostly sat around for a bit and talked.  I was there with one other girl and three guys.  Everyone was really nice.


They said that we could expect our first runner around 8:15AM so we started filling cups at about 8:00AM.  We were lucky that our area was in the shade.  The women would be running slightly uphill toward us in FULL SUN Sun and then would turn right heading into the trails.  The quarter marathon runners had light purple bibs and would make one loop.  The half marathoners had a darker purple bib and would make two loops.  I think all of these other volunteers were also trail runners so they knew several of the participants.

I saw my friend A.L. come through and she asked why I wasn’t DOING this event.  Truth be told, I was a little afraid to do it.  I’ve never done a trail run and with my goal of completing 31 half marathons this year I certainly didn’t want to take any chances of tripping, falling and breaking a necessary running bone!

It warmed up very quickly out there, although we were quite comfortable since it was shady in our area.  Some of the ladies really looked like they were struggling a bit by the time they got to us.  And we were just a little over 3 miles into the race.  One lady came running in to our area certain that there was a man that was moving flags along the course.  She described him to us and it was one of the folks that had been setting the course.  He stopped at our table earlier in the day before the race started.  It took quite a bit of convincing to reassure her that he was with the event and had actually been placing flags not picking them up. 

There was quit a bit of a lull before the half marathoners came around for the second time.  I turned on the music on my iPhone and it helped pass the time.  And thankfully they brought each of us a cupcake.  I meant to pack a snack for myself but had forgotten.  By the time 10:00AM  rolled around I was really getting hungry.


When the half marathoners came through for a second time, many people were stopping and taking multiple cups of water or Gatorade.  One lady came through and was in desperate need of a Band-Aid.  Luckily one of the male volunteers had a first aid kit in his truck which was next to our station.  Her socks were too short and the back of her heel was rubbed raw!  We had another lady come through that had crashed at some point during the first lap.  Her chin was had a “raspberry” on it, her knee and elbow were scraped up and she had blood running down her leg.  But she didn’t want any “assistance” at that time and said she felt fine.  I wonder how sore she was the next day. Sad smile

Some of the runners were all business out there but it was nice when those toward the back of the pack would stop and chat with us.  We tried to keep things very light and did what ever we could for them to make the day a little more pleasant. 

After the last runners came through we cleaned up and were dismissed.  Maybe it was because most people were actually stopping at this aid station so it was easier for them to throw their cups away in the trash cans but we didn’t have to pick up many discarded cups.

I decided to go to the start/finish line and tell J.P. that I had fun volunteering and congrats on what seemed to be a successful race.  I decided to stay and cheer those last runners in.  I made sure that each one of them got my best whistling and hollering!  Then I ended up staying even longer to help them clean up and pack the truck.  And – SCORE – they had lots of cupcakes leftovers so I got to bring two home.

Here are some photos from the start/finish area that I took:


I’ll admit that I did have some “run envy” while being a volunteer…even though it looked like it was REALLY hard!  And the medal was super cute.  So I may just have to put this on the schedule for next real. 

I probably should find some 5K or 10K trail runs to do first and get some trail shoes….DETAILS, DETAILS, DETAILS.


And while leaving the park, I saw this professional trail runner:


Friday, June 27, 2014

Biggest Loser Half Marathon, Rockford, IL – Race Recap

June 14, 2014


Initially this race wasn’t even going to be on my radar but when my friend MYMW mentioned it and Rockford, IL didn’t seem THAT far away, I decided to register.  With taxes and fees, I paid $48.95 which isn’t too bad.  MYMW was putting together a team and even though it would have saved me $5 to join under the team name, I had already registered and that really was the only perk that having a team offered.  But MYMW’s efforts would bring together a group of people that prior to this never knew each other…so that would be fun.

FRIDAY, JUNE 13th:  I left my house mostly at the time that I wanted to and after a quick stop at the post office, my trusty travel companion and I were ready to hit the road.


MapQuest estimated that the drive would take 4 hours and 46 minutes.  I wondered how many times would I have to stop to pee!  And just like when I drove to Champaign-Urbana for the Christie Clinic Illinois Half Marathon, I stopped in at the Salt Kettle Rest Area (read about that HERE) located in between Danville and Oakwood, Illinois.  This time I parked on the “other side” so that I could get a picture of the kettle!


Back on the road and nothing really of note taking place, just driving and listening to the radio.  Then out of nowhere, BAM BAM BAM BAM!  It sounded like paintball gunshots.  I must have driven through a bug field because my windshield was a mess.  So I pulled over at the next exit to clean all of that off…and of course to pee. These pictures really don’t do the bug gut “damage” justice.


So back to driving and then….STOPPED TRAFFIC!  Just after the Sycamore, IL exit which meant that I only had 24 miles to go until the Rockford exit.  Isn’t it just always the BEST when people are given the heads up that a lane will end and they even give you countdown miles as it approaches but everyone waits until the last darn minute to get over?  I think it took me 30 minutes to go 5 miles.  And what was the hold up?  A very small section of the road was under bridge repair!   UGH.  Things didn’t get any easier from a construction standpoint once I took the Rockford exit.  THAT road was under construction in a couple of places.  Finally on the last road of my destinations (Wyman Street) and yep, you guessed it…torn up and under construction.  I was never so glad to finally get to Davis Park where packet pick up was being held.


I found a place to park less that two blocks from Davis Park.  Initially we were all going to try and meet up at packet pickup but with all the different schedules and construction delays, it just wasn't going to happen.  They were conducting an aerobics class when I arrived.



I got my packet and walked around to some of the vendor areas but wasn’t really interested in anything in particular.


But I did meet this cute little dog names Susie.


I was definitely tired from the long (and at times stressful) drive so I just headed back to my car so that I could get to the hotel, unload everything and rest before dinner.

But a few pictures around the area before departing:


I had made reservations at the Radisson which was the host hotel.  It was a little less than 6 miles from Davis Park, where packet pickup was and where the race will start and finish on Saturday.  This was a really nice room and with the event discount was only $104 before taxes.


I was a little worried when I discovered that there was going to be a wedding reception there later that night but hoped that my white noise app - and not getting a good night sleep the night before - would factor in to a restful night for me.

While unpacking and getting things situated, folks from our group kept messaging back and forth via Facebook.  And luckily someone posted something about the VIP pass.  Crap!  I totally forgot about that.  This would allow us to a reserved parking area, VIP area pre and post race with food and our own porta-potty.  Also “access” to the former Biggest Loser contestants.  It was $25.  Thankfully MYMW was willing to buy a wristband for me and then I would pay her back later.

MYMW had given us three restaurant options a couple of days before and we all decided on a place called Vito’s.  But no one had made reservations.  Luckily, just a few hours prior I was able to reserve a table for 7 at 7:30pm on a Friday night….or would this be a clue that this was NOT a good restaurant?

Well, we were in luck.  This turned out to be a great place.  Vito himself came out and greeted us.  We had good food and fun conversation.  The Tiramisu never stood a chance of getting its picture taken! I had enough pasta to take back to the hotel and actually even half of my dessert.


Now E.S., D.V., W.S., S.J., MYMW, J.W. and I are all running friends.


But alas…it was time to part ways and head to our hotels.

SATURDAY, JUNE 14th:  Hooray!  I slept really well and didn’t hear a peep from the wedding reception people.  But when the alarm went off at 4:30AM, I still really want to continue sleeping.  Although the drive Friday night from Davis Park to the hotel took FOREVER (no construction just Friday after work traffic), I knew the drive to the start line would be quick & easy. 


We all planned on meeting around 6:00-6:15AM.  While the drive was uneventful, for the life of me I could NOT find the VIP parking area.  I was able to find parking very close to Davis Park but since I “paid” for a parking area it would have been nice to use it.  I think I might have been the first to arrive, then S.J., then MYMW and her husband and then E.S. and D.V.  Her GPS had W. S. going off in some far off direction and we never did catch up with her prior to the race.  Thus she is missing from our prerace group photo.  Sorry girl!


MYMW, her husband and I hung out I the VIP area for a little bit before getting ready to line up for the half.  He was running the 5K.  While there, I got to talk with Jackie Evans from Biggest Loser Season 5.  She and her son Dan were the Orange Team.  She was super nice and we talked about my running, how long I had been doing it and the fact that I was on half marathon #54.



S.J. got in the second wave corral with us and after the National Anthem we were off.  We never did see the Skydivers that were scheduled to jump just 2 minutes before the National Anthem.  Hmmm.


Everyone was on their own and no one was expected to stay with anyone.  And once again, I planned on keeping my phone in its “holder” and figured if I saw anything of interest that I would just drive back later and photograph it then.

Course Map

The first bit of this course has you run up a slight incline and then through a neighborhood and then back toward the downtown area.  The Morgan Street Bridge must be a big deal in town since it is also on the event shirts.  It was the only time I took my phone out.


Just after this bridge we came to an intersection and the police officer there was making US stop instead of the traffic.  I was not happy about this and the first opportunity I saw, I ran across.  This lead me to another slight uphill (Ugh) and then when we got to the corner to turn, I saw some people that had yellow Biggest Loser shirts on and a bunch of empty water bottles near them but they had NONE left.  I started to worry that this was the first hydration station and if it was already empty, what was the rest of the course going to be like?  Luckily, that turned out to be an unofficial water area because I happened upon the course supplied one near mile 2.  WHEH!  It was around this time that you saw the split for the 5K folks and also where S.J. caught up to me.

635388079537446159Me and S.J. (official photo) 

The course continued up N Main Street where the Burpee Museum of Natural History is located.  Of course I could only focus on the word “burpee” and it made me chuckle.  I thought why on earth would there be a museum dedicated to burpees!  Bwaahahaha.   Then on to Harlem Boulevard which was a very nice shady street to run on and was lined with some nice homes.  Toward the end of Harlem Blvd, the was a spectator holding a sign the read “LeBron James would have quit because of cramps by now.”  This will be a pop-culture reference that probably wont mean anything to me in years to come but during this year’s NBA (I think) Conference Finals LeBron James who is currently one of the NBA All-Stars left the game because of cramping.  It became a firestorm on social media to say the least.  Since I worked for an NBA team for nearly 11 years, it made me chuckle out loud.

We were running on a bridge over Rock River and after crossing it, ran downhill to run UNDER the bridge for the next section of the course.  There was an aid station just after mile 5 which was too soon for me to take my GU but luckily there was one at 6.5 as well so I felt like I was on track with my nutrition.  S.J. and I continued to mostly run at the same pace.  There were times when she would pull ahead of me and vice versa. 

This course ran through and/or past many parks.  To the east of us I could see a sign for Loves Park.


At mile 7, we saw Shorewood Park and mile 8 we ran through Martin Memorial Park – just after this point the course had a turnaround and we headed back into Rockford.  We ran past Rock River for most of mile 8-9.  It was very scenic.  I think between mile 9 and 10, S.J. and I split up.  She seemed to need some walking breaks and I was just trying to plug along.

Miles 10-11 had us running on the east side of Rock Rive and past Sinnissippi Park.  There were some very interesting things here that I could have taken pictures of but I felt like I was slowing down and didn’t want to take the time to do so.  Also (no offense to her) but S.J. was still behind me somewhere and the “slightly competitive” person in me wanted to stay in front. The following pictures are from Google Images:

(Below are: The Rock Men, The Nicholas Conservatory, and The Official Rockford Sculpture)

While all of this was lovely to look at I started feeling a little dehydrated.  It seemed too long (not the normal 1.5 mile difference) between hydration stations so when I saw some other people running up to a bathroom area that also had a water fountain, I did the same.  Naturally as we got back on the course and turned the slight corner, you could see the designated water station just ahead of us.

It was then just 2.1 miles to the finish line.  It seriously felt like they took forever. I crossed the finish line, grabbed some water and a plum.  Those were a nice surprise; I had never seen plums at a finish line before.  As I was walking back to the finish line area, anticipating S.J. at any moment, I saw MYMW’s husband and we chatted for a bit.  He had a PR on the 5K!  Sure enough about 5 minutes later we saw S.J. come in. Later on Facebook she would thank me for pacing her.  Glad I didn’t know I was doing it at the time – I might have failed miserably!  Personally I was glad that she was beside me most of the race providing some friendly (yet unknown) competition.

Next we saw D.V cross and at first I was worried because he was supposed to be with E.S. the whole time but I guess they made a deal that he could go ahead.  She finished just one minute later.  I could see her coming down toward the finish line and was able to have the announcer mention that it was her first half marathon  YAY!

Next we waited for MYMW.  I went back to the bridge that was just before the finish line and saw her coming so I got to run with her a for little bit and cheer her on.

After regrouping MYMW, her husband and I went into the VIP section to grab some lunch.  I must admit that they had a pretty good spread.  Not $25 dollars worth but it was nice to have some real food.


My plate.  Cookies…YES!!! 

I also got to see Jackie Evans again and have my photo taken with her.

068078081Then we headed back to the finish line and got there just in time to see W. S. finish.  Thankfully she found another participant and stayed with her most of the race.  It was nice to hear that what started as a rough morning for her ended on a positive note.


I saw this girl out on the course early on.  I’m all about having fun and dressing up but sometimes (I’ll admit) I’ll look at someone’s “outfit” and think that its just too much or too silly and surely I should be able to finish before said person.  I’m happy to report that I did finish before her.  I think if she’d not worn the leg warmer things, this outfit would have been a little less ridiculous & actually cute - again, in my opinion.


I also later saw her (orange girl above) trying to take a picture with Dan Evans so I walked over and helped them out.  This was my first time talking to Dan and he was very nice.  I didn’t really care for him on the show.  The other Biggest Loser contestant that was there was Bobby from Season 15.  He totally annoyed me on the show so I didn’t have any interest in meeting him.  Sounds like he is a really nice guy from those who did meet him but I just wasn’t interested.

While the Radisson had extended my check out time, I wanted to get back and get on the road as soon as possible.  It would be almost 5 hours in the car, I would “lose an hour” once I got back in to Indiana and I was potentially going to a birthday party later in the evening. 

Oddly OnStar wanted to route me a different way from how it brought me up here and I was worried that it would involved some toll road and I didn’t have any change for that.  So I had to shut off the directions until I got back down by Davis Park.  However, while initially going this “other way” I finally found the welcome sign!


I only stopped twice on the drive home to use the bathroom and to get some food and I didn’t get as stiff and sore as I thought I would.  But I was tired and once I was home, I was home for good and didn’t make it to the party.

This was a fairly good race and I would recommend it to someone that lived in or near the area but too far for me to do again.  However, seeing how much gas it took – and the cost! - to get up here for this race had me rethinking going to Minnesota for a half and I have since signed up to do Biggest Loser in Chicago with MYMW and W.S. on August 3rd.  I’m anxious to see how they compare.  I will NOT buy the VIP pass for the Chicago race.