Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Year end dealy.

Here we are, cats and kittens, on the brink of a new year. I don't do much in the way of New Year's resolutions, since I'm always struggling with day to day resolutions, but I still have quite an affinity for this time of year. I like the feeling of a fresh start, even if it's only in my mind.
Cats and kittens, ready to party into the new year.
As you may or may not remember, 2015 was the "Year of the Ultra". And it really was. I had set out to run at least one ultra distance per month. At my last count, I think I only missed the mark a couple of months. I ran 5 official ultra races, from 50K to 100K, and DNFd a sixth one. I managed to bang out hours and hours on the treadmill, binge watching Agents of Shield Once Upon a Time, and Supernatural, repeatedly logging 30+ miles in a single go. I avoiding injury all the way up to September, when I somehow pulled a hip muscle at the Little Grand Canyon marathon. I healed up in time to injure myself of the course at the Javelina Jundred. An injury which has healed enough to allow me to run in the Across the Years 24 hour race over New Year's Eve.
Nuff said.
I was pleased to be able to finish off the 2015 racing season with a fantastic event called the Baker's Dozen. This incredibly fun race is put on by ultra runner extraordinaire, Cory Reese. The point of the Baker's Dozen is to eat as many treats/pastries/doughnuts as you possibly can. Oh, and there's some running involved too, I guess.
An accurate representation.
I've run this race twice now, each time signing up thinking of the warmer weather that Southern Utah is known for. Except that both years that I've run this race, the weather has not been so cooperative... Last year, it was cold and rainy, this year was cold and windy. And not a gentle breeze either. Serious wind. It was fitting that the race was held in a town named Hurricane.
Pretending that we're not cold, like at all. Also, that arch in the background wouldn't be up for long. Because wind.
As you can see, I recruited some crazies to join in the fun. Jamie, Desaray, and I were in for the half marathon, Scott was in for the 5K (this will be important to remember later). As we lined up to start the race, Weird Al's "Eat It" was playing. So appropriate.
It's also important to remember that this race isn't officially timed. That's a good thing, because it takes quite a while to stuff your face at the Sugar Shack every 3.whatever miles, a task some took much more seriously than others. The person who ate the most treats ate over 60. Scott ate 10. I ate a whopping 4 treats. Yeah, I'm hard core.
Sugar shack, baby sugar shack. Tin roof. Rusted.
Scott decided he was going to stick with me through his 5K loop. It's always nice to have someone to share the miles with. We knew to look for the photographer to get our race jump picture taken. There's a contest for the best jump, so everyone was giving it their all.
I'm getting hit in the face by my braids. Most epic.
As we were getting through that first loop, I mentioned to Scott that since it wasn't timed, he could always get a little more mileage in and run the second loop with me. He was game. He runs the 10K distance fairly regularly now, so no big deal, right?
They had dirty Dr. Pepper, too. DELICIOUS.
I had lots of time to stand around and drink that Dr. Pepper while Scott ate even more tasty treats. He was so hopped up on sugar, he thought he'd go ahead and run the third lap with me as well. Why not?! On that lap, he ran the farthest he had ever run before. Another stop at the Sugar Shack and he was chomping at the bit to go the last lap with me.

So, I don't know anyone who accidentally runs a half marathon. Well, I mean, now I do. But I didn't before... Since I don't run a blistering pace, it was easy enough for him to keep going along with me. The wind was relentless, adding another element of difficulty to his accidental half. But when you get swept up in the running mania, wind means nothing.

We came in to the finish, where a most epic medal awaited us. We were fortunate enough to talk with Cory afterwards and upgrade Scott to the half so that he could get a medal too. He ran the distance, he deserved the medal! Cory is the nicest guy, and let quite a few people pay the difference and collect the sweet, sweet swag.
Half marathon finishers are so hot. Just look at that attractive group.
There were actually a lot of people that I knew at this race. So many friendly faces added to the party atmosphere. We're planning on an even bigger group for next year (Jill, Wade, we're planning on you being there). With great swag like this, how could you resist?!
That's good stuff, right there.
I can't think of a better race to have had as my 75th half. I highly recommend this party, errrr, I mean, race to anyone who likes a good time. Which I figure is all of you reading this. I don't think that fun haters read this blog... However, if you are a fun hater, feel free to comment and let me know you're out there!

I really need to gather up all of the medals I've earned so far and take one epic swag shot. It would be interesting to find out if I can stay standing under the sheer weight of that many medals... It's amazing what you can accomplish in just over 4 years of running. I've made some fantastic friends, been to some incredible places, and survived things I never thought possible.

I'm going to wrap up this little blogging adventure with a comic from Zen Pencils. It's too epic to try and paraphrase so click that link and enjoy it's awesomeness. No matter what your passion is, take a little bit of time and actually pursue it. You won't be sorry.

I spared you all the super mushy stuff for this year's wrap up. But know it was a good one, one I am incredibly grateful to have had. Here's to a new year of adventuring. Until next year, happy running!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Making bloggity blog efforts left and right.

All of the sudden there are people other than my mom and boyfriend reading this blog. Welcome, guy and gals! I'm happy to see all the wonderful comments and support. Iztok, come back to Daily Mile, man. We miss you.

Any who, it's been requested that I blog a little more often. That's probably not a bad idea, since I run enough races to do so.
Don't worry, people. I'm already signed up for a zillion races for next year.
I've got three more exciting race tales to tell in this blog, so buckle up. I gave myself three whole weeks to heal up from Javelina before jumping back into the race scene. I decided to ease back into it with a 5K. No biggie, right? Oh, I suppose I should mention that the 5K was the day before my next half marathon. But I'm jumping ahead.

My running friend, Geof, had talked me into running the Route 66 races in Tulsa, OK this year. Then he bailed on me. (For totally valid reasons and there's no hard feelings, I swear. For real, Geof. Stop making that face. You know the face I mean.) So anyway, I find myself in an annoying rental car, navigating my way around the vast, flat state of Oklahoma. I make my way to packet pick up without incident, only to be confronted with the longest line of people I have ever seen. I was starting to wonder if there was going to be sweet roller coaster or Star Wars movie premier at the end of the line.
Totally worth the wait. If it would have been there. But noooooooo.
No such luck on the roller coaster/Star Wars front, however. BUT I did finally get my race numbers. Hooray! You can't run without those babies. I was happy to see that I only had to wait behind one other person to pick up the shirt and jacket that were included with my race registration.

By the time I made it back to my hotel, I was completely knackered and promised myself that I would go nowhere else until race morning. Thank goodness there's such a thing as pizza delivery.
Hello, Heather. I am your pizza angel, here to save you from further commuting and/or starving to death alone in the Super 8.
I ordered myself the most giantest pizza they had, since there was a fridge in the hotel. This saved me from having to venture out and spend money on eating alone for most of the weekend. (Geof, seriously, it's fine. Stop with the face already!)
Artist's rendition of Geof reading this blog. I am not the artist... Thank you, random internet drawer for your image. If I find out who you are, you get all the kudos and credit. Because you totally nailed it.
I survive the night, which seemed to be a miracle to me, since the wind shook my hotel door the ENTIRE night, sounding like someone was trying to break in.
My thoughts, ALL night.
I was much relieved to see that I hadn't been murdered in the night and was looking forward to getting to run. I made sure to dress warm, since the temperatures were basically arctic. I had this silly notion that I would get too warm in my jacket after about a half a mile in, like normally happens. NOPE. Big ol' cup of nope.
You're reading this in a British accent.
I did get asked if I was running my first 5K while I was walking to the start line. I was surprised that I could hear the woman over the howl of the gale force winds, I just told her that I was also running the half the next day as well and left it at that. I figured she didn't need to hear about what I had survived three weeks earlier.

I had learned my lesson from last year that I shouldn't start in the back. I put myself in the first third of the crowd. This was ideal placement, meaning I didn't have to spend ages trying to pass the walkers. I could have finished faster than last year because of this smarty pants move, except that the wind was trying to push us all over.
At least we were badass rockstars as we got blown all over the roads.
I made it to the finish line and was hoping to stick around and watch the last finishers. I was able to make it about 10 minutes before I was shaking so hard I could barely stand. I shambled my way back to the rental car, cranked up the seat heater, Googled the nearest Starbucks, drove to the nearest Starbucks, and ordered the biggest cup of peppermint hot chocolate that they had. Once I was able to warm up a bit, I made my way back to the hotel for some sweet, sweet angel pizza.
I have to say, the swag was pretty worth the frigid temperatures. 

I spent most of the day in the hotel room, working on a crafty project that will be a Christmas gift. (You guys had no idea I did anything other than run races all the time. Your whole perception of me has been blown out of the water! But really, I mostly just run races...)

I was able to go out that evening and meet some internet running friends in real life, Chuck and Kim. It was nice to have dinner with some friendly faces after my nearly two days of isolation and hermitude. (Geof, the face again. Like I don't know you're making it.)  Then it was off to bed to rest up for what would be half marathon number 73.

Thankfully, the night was not as windy as the previous and I was able to sleep soundly. I managed to find a parking space in the crowded streets of downtown Tulsa and headed for the corrals. There were so many people. I was in corral C, the second to last corral. I have to say, corrals are a nice system, Again, I didn't have to spend much time trying to pass people, because we were all going about the same pace.
Waiting for the starting gun!
When the countdown hit zero, two giant confetti cannons went off, which is pretty fun, in case you've never had the pleasure. I started off feeling pretty good. I was bundled up in my jacket and gloves, even though the day was warmer than the previous. I started to worry again that I was going to get to warm, but then a gust of chilly wind would remind me that I wanted very much to keep those things on.
We run past this lovely art museum. They made me feel pretty.
I really enjoy being in a race this big. When there are 15,000 other runners, you're never by yourself. That's a big deal to a gal who finds herself alone for the majority of smaller races. Also, with that many people, even having a bad race means I won't finish last. Yay!

So I was cruising along with all my fellow corral C-ers, doing my best to avoid the cracks that are ever present on the Tulsa roads. That's really my only complaint about this race. The roads need some serious repair. I took my eyes off the ground for a moment around mile 6 and was rewarded with an ankle tweak. Of course it was the ankle that I injured during Javelina. I managed to tweak it again just after mile 7. That when things really started to be unpleasant. My pace slowed quite a bit as I could feel my ankle starting to swell. I was on track for a decent finish time until then.
I was walking a lot at this point, so I might as well take a picture of this cool sign. Plus, there was a wizard.
I struggled my way along to the finish, stopping once more to take a picture of my favorite Tulsa thing: the penguin statue. There are quite a few penguin statues scattered throughout the city. Make sure to look for them when you go.
Isn't it neat?!
I finished in barely over three hours; I had wanted a sub three, but considering the ankle, I was okay with it. I made my way through the finish area to Maniac Corner. Let me tell y'all about Maniac Corner. It's a magical place where members of the Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics can go to hang out, post race. They give you a special finisher's medal, delicious food, and a front row seat to the finish line. I picked up that special medal, and a delightful pulled pork sandwich, and made my way over to the fence to watch the finishers. I ended up spending nearly two hours watching runners come in. I bawled like a baby off and on while watching the finishers. I had my sunglasses on, so I don't think anyone noticed.

There is something so amazing about watching people finish a race. You'll see some people that are struggling, every step is agony. Some people have the biggest grins on their faces. You see all shapes and sizes. Old and young. People helping each other along. sometimes being the only thing keeping each other standing up and moving forward. They are all accomplishing something incredible. Running is not an easy thing, and running for hours upon hours is certainly no small feat. So I cry. I dare you not to cry when you witness this for yourself.
Me, at the finish line. NOT an exaggeration. 
I was thankful that the weather was much nicer, the sun was out, the wind had died down. I wouldn't have missed watching those finishers for anything. I'm telling you, hang out at finish lines once in a while. Your faith in humanity will grow three sizes.
Not a bad haul, if I do say so myself.
I made it home safely, obviously, since I'm writing this... And it's a good thing, because I had another race to run on Thanksgiving day. It was an especially exciting race because Scott, the boyfriend, would be running the 5K!

So, you know how I said that it was cold in Tulsa? It was MUCH colder here. Whee! Race morning greeted us with subzero temperatures (if we're using Celcius, and we should because subzero sounds way better than sub 32 degrees).
We're trying not to look like we're freezing to death. 
We had matching sweaters, thanks to a mix up in shipping from the lovely folks at Ink n' Burn. I didn't mind, the sweaters are pretty amazing. Too bad it was so cold that we had to wear jackets over the sweaters for the entirety of our races.
Scott, rocking the 5K, freezing his booty off.
It turns out that Scott is actually one hell of a runner and took 4th place in his age group (out of 47 people!) and finished with his best time for the distance, ever. Not bad for a first race. I was only about 5 miles into the half when I received a text with the good news. I was so sad that I wasn't at the finish to see him, but half number 74 wasn't going to run itself...
Hey, look! I'm smiling while running. I guess that means I still like it.
My ankle did start to protest somewhat at mile 10, but that's not too bad, considering it had only been three full days between Route 66 and the Thankful 13. The swelling went down very quickly after the race and my training runs since have been pretty uneventful, so it seems like it won't be too much of a problem in the future.
The shirt has thumb holes. Best shirt ever.
With half marathon 74 successfully completed, I just have a couple more races to finish out the year. I'll be running half number 75 this weekend at the Baker's Dozen. It promises to be most epic. I'll finish off the year with my third timed event, the Across the Years 24 hour race. Which I feel woefully unprepared for, just so you know. Seriously. Since Javelina, there have been no runs longer than half marathon distance. At least with timed events, there's not too much pressure. I do have a mileage goal of 75 miles. We'll see how long it takes for me to throw that goal right out the window... And hey, it's only 9 weeks until my 48 hour race at the Jackpot Ultrarunning Festival. Like that won't kill me with how little I've been training these days. Yeah. Okay.

I'll leave you with that for now, and until next time, happy running!