Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Sometimes you just gotta walk

I went for a walk today on my lunch break.  A leisurely, stop-and-smell-the-roses kind of walk.  I honestly can't remember the last time I took a walk, with the exception of walks at work.  That's my new thing.  My one-on-one meetings are now conducted in sneakers around the building.  My staff really seems to like it and we have much more to talk about when we're out there swinging our arms and legs in the fresh air.  But today I walked instead of ran.  How leisurely was it?  Well... I even stopped and took a picture!

View from the West Hill Dam spillway
I walked partly because my legs were tired, but mostly because I've had a couple of back to back long runs, and track tomorrow night.  If last week's killer track session was any indication, I better have some fresh legs when I get there!  I'm not 100% sure if I'm getting any faster at track.  It seems that every week I'm just as depleted and sore afterwards as the week before, and I still always run at the back of the pack.  I guess the truth will come out if I finally bring myself to enter a 5K this fall.  The very cool thing about track is the great group of ladies I've gotten to run with.  Here we thought track was so intimidating and only for the fast guys, but us chicks have formed our own little pack.  We stick together and encourage each other, and last weekend we got together for a super fun long run!

This is my standard view on any run - road, track or trail!

Another reason I went for a walk today is because I'm forcing myself to get into the habit of cross training.  Although my "official" Disney marathon training plan doesn't start until September 10, I built in a few pre-plan base weeks to make sure I could get into the routine.  It calls for a cross-training day (which should be Monday) and should be walking, cycling, swimming, or any other type of aerobic sport.  I tried to convince myself that my firearms class at the range tonight would qualify as cross training, but even I couldn't make that leap.  Truthfully I probably should've done something a little more challenging than a walk, but it felt good to stretch my tight hip flexors.  Walking through the woods today reminded me of how monumental it was over the winter when I finally graduated to one crutch, and then to one ski pole, as I gained stability.  That seems like eons ago!

Today is my 10 month anniversary of the hip surgery, and honestly sometimes I forget I even had it!  It seemed like the end of the world at the time, but here I am running 25 miles a week and gearing up for a winter marathon.  I'm hoping to jump into a couple 5K's this fall, and then I'll be running the Newport half marathon on October 14.  I'd like to find a good race to run on October 28, which will be the one-year anniversary of my surgery.  After that it's train-train-train to Disney!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Old Port Half Marathon Race Report

2012 has been a year of recovery and fun runs, so when I saw an ad on Facebook about a fun half marathon in Portland, Maine, I was intrigued!  Jaimee, Kerri and I had been brainstorming about a fun destination race, and this seemed like a good fit.  Not too far, and conveniently located right near one of my favorite campgrounds.  With very little coercion convincing, they were on board!
I'll get to the details, but <spoiler alert> this ended up being one of the best weekends I've ever had.  The company, the location, the weather, the race, it was all around a phenomenal weekend!
On Friday, July 20 (sorry, I'm a little behind!) we headed up to Maine, camper in tow.  Kerri and I stopped at a rest stop in New Hampshire to pick up Jaimee, and continued the trek to Scarborough, Maine where we booked a site at Bayley's Campground.  It was a nice smooth ride up there, and in no time we had the camper set up and were all settled in.  What do you get when three female runners go camping together?
A very well organized, healthy fridge!
Once we were all settled in, we sat down for a much needed (and very healthy) lunch!
We spent the afternoon exploring the massive campground, and relaxed poolside.  (I took one of those uber-annoying pictures of my feet crossed with the pool in the background, but I was so annoyed by it that I had to delete it).  After the pool, we did a nice easy 4 mile run towards Old Orchard Beach.  The weather was great, 80's, sunny and low humidity.  We finished our run, showered, and treated ourselves to an outstanding lobstah dinnah!
Lobstah, steamers, homemade potato salad, corn, home grown zucchini (and French fries, busted!)

I ate every last bit of my lobster and part of Kerri's too!
We headed up to the entertainment complex, listened to a band play, and ate ice cream.  Then we headed over to our friend Joanna's campsite.  Coincidentally she was camping there all week!  (Although try as we did, we couldn't convince her to run the race with us).  We enjoyed a couple beers and a nice fire with her family, then eventually headed back to our site.  
On Saturday we were up early for a day at the beach!  We took the campground trolley to Old Orchard Beach.  It was a beautiful beach day, and I easily could have stayed there for a good ten hours.  But, we wanted to avoid getting sunburned or dehydrated, so we only stayed for three hours.  We even went in the cold Maine water (which wasn't actually that cold) and had a blast flopping around in some big waves!

We came back from the beach, showered, and headed to Portland to check out the city and pick up our bibs at Maine Running Company.
Personalized bib!  I feel famous!
We took advantage of being in the city to drive around and try to figure out where the start and finish were located.  We knew from the map and the course description that there was about a mile between the start and finish, and we wanted to have a good idea of where to go so that we weren't scrambling around at 6am trying to figure out where to go.  Despite the detours and road closures due to construction, we found the start line and approximate finish line.  The start line was located at Fort Sumner Park, which ended up being so pretty that we pulled over to take pictures.
We walked around for a little while, taking in the gorgeous views, before heading back to the campground.  By mid-afternoon it was time to relax and conserve energy, so I sat in a recliner reading a book while Kerri and Jaimee played cards.  For dinner we opted for traditional pasta.  I took mine with olive oil instead of red sauce, and added some leftover zucchini.  It was delicious, but I wonder now if the very garlicky zucchini had anything to do with the stomach cramps I would experience on race day.
I swear, I did not eat this whole plate!
At 5am Sunday morning, we woke to the sound of the coffee maker alarm signaling the coffee was ready (ah, the joys of "roughing it"!).  We rose, did all our pre-race rituals, drank our coffee, and attempted to choke down some form of pre-race nutrition.  I made myself a half of a peanut butter sandwich, and managed to eat about half of that while driving to Portland.  We arrived to the city at 6:30 or so, leaving plenty of time to find a trolley and make our way to the start (7:30am start).
Beautiful finish at the Maine State Pier
We caught the next available trolley and headed to the start line.  The race was started in gender waves: Women at 7:30 and Men at 7:48.  I thought it was a little strange to split up the field in this way, since the fast men would end up having to navigate through a large field of slower women.  However, I was thankful for such an early start.  You would think that a 7:30am start in Maine would be cool, but it wasn't as cool as I expected.  It was well into the 70's by the time the race started, and I instantly regretted leaving my hat behind.  My number one goal was to have fun at the race, and not worry about the time.  It was, after all, my first half marathon since my surgery.  I was just thankful to be there and finish.  But if pressured, I'd tell you I was aiming to make 2 hours or less.  I felt good, strong, and I had been doing really well at track.  
The course was a little strange, and for most of the race I couldn't decide if I liked it or not.  It took me a bit of reflection to decide that I actually really liked it.  It was a bit narrow and difficult to pass people (however, that turned out to not be a huge factor since I ended up not being in a position to pass many people!).  About a mile into the race, we were running alongside a highway, which was a little unsettling since there wasn't any barrier or even cones.  About the time I was feeling vulnerable, a State Trooper came driving by us, shouting through his microphone that we were not supposed to be on this road.  All around me, people were confused but kept plodding along.  The trooper pulled over, directing drivers around us, and I overheard him saying into his phone that a race went the wrong direction and there were runners all over the road.  It was unsettling for those of us that heard it, and I was nervous that we were going to get to the next intersection and would be told we were off course.  That ended up not being the case though, and we just keep going on.  The course had nearly no shade, and the sun really heated things up fast.  By 4 or so miles into the race I was getting hot.  About 5 miles in, we ran around a field (in the field!) which was part of a sanctuary.  This was my first time off-roading during a half marathon.  Within this field was a porta-john.  I didn't stop at it.  This is significant.
At about 6 miles into the race, I started getting really overheated.  Luckily there were water stops almost every mile, and even a pool of ice and sponges to cool us down in a couple spots.  At mile 6.5 I had severe stomach cramps.  I don't know if it was from the garlicky zucchini, the morning coffee, the Chomps, the heat, but I looked high and low for a porta-john.  I slowed my pace way down, and several times I had to walk.  At mile 7.5 we moved onto a gravel path, where we stayed for the next 4.5 miles.  It was well packed and smooth, but still different than pavement and it was a first for me on a half marathon.  It was just enough extra effort that I didn't have, and again I walked several times.  I kept my eyes peeled for a porta-john, and finally at mile 10 I spotted one in a parking lot.  I made a beeline to it, and after a short wait I hopped in.
<Cue elevator hold music>... 
And we're back!  Phew, what a relief!  I picked up a strong stride after the pit stop, but looking at my watch it became clear that I wasn't making 2 hours.  I might not even make 2:05.  At that realization, I just settled into a comfortable pace, took my time at the remaining water stops, and tried to enjoy the last few miles.  I was feeling comfortable at about mile 12, when I saw a familiar shape ahead of me, and realized it was Kerri.  She was walking.  It was so unfathomable to me that she would be walking, that I thought she had already finished the race and was just walking around.  I tapped her on the shoulder and when I saw her face it was clear that she wasn't done, and wasn't happy.  She waved at me to keep going so I did.  Up ahead I saw Jaimee on the corner cheering like crazy, and it was awesome to see a familiar face.  I told her Kerri was behind me and having trouble, so she said she was going to find her.  I made the final turn to the finish line and came in strong, briefly catching the time on the clock (2:11:38, oops!).  
After crossing the finish line (and I mean, literally I had one foot over the finish line) a completely awesome hero-volunteer shoved a freezing cold bottle of ice water into my hands, and another handed me a finisher medal.  I guzzled the ice water and stumbled around trying to get my bearings.  I wandered over to a cool misting station, and spotted some pools where people were sitting or dunking their feet.  At that point the water didn't seem icy enough so I just stuck with the misting station.  Kerri and Jaimee caught back up with us and we sat down to try to cool off.  Finding shade was a problem, but Jaimee was our hero.  She had finished in an outstanding 1:50, so she had all kinds of extra time to scope things out. She wandered off and came back with sopping wet ice cold towels (heaven!) and a cup full of sweet and salty snacks.  Once I cooled down enough, Jaimee and I headed to the Shipyard Ale beer garden, while Kerri rested on the pier.  I grabbed a slice of pizza, and we headed in for our two free beers!
The payoff!
I was hoping to be able to bring the unopened beers home with me, but unfortunately we had to open and drink it in the beer garden.  
Jaimee chillin' with her Shipyard Ale! (This was her second one!)
As much as I want to brag that I downed 2 beers at 9:30 in the morning, the truth is I could barely drink half of one.  Regrettably I had to dump the beer, but it sure was tasty!  (I later bought a six pack of Shipyard Ale, my little way of paying back the company that sponsored such an awesome race!).  I even had a tiny cup of ice cream before heading out.  Once we were all recovered, we headed out of the pier and back to the car, where we laughed about having beer, pizza, and ice cream all by 10:00am.  We also realized once we got to the car that it was already 85 degrees out!  We knew it was hot!
On the way back to Scarborough, Jaimee sat in the backseat snacking and chatting about the race.  At one point she exclaimed, "Did that even feel like 13 miles to you?  I feel like I just ran a 5K!" at which point Kerri said to me, "Make her stop".  I turned and said, "You realize we both want to punch you in the face right now" and we all laughed.  

The bottom line:
Here's what I loved about this race: 
  • The early (7:30am) start time
  • The low entry fee
  • The location (Portland Maine, beautiful!)
  • The free beer!
  • The free pizza!
  • The free ice cream!
  • The free snacks!
  • The ice cold water in the reusable water bottle
  • The sopping wet ice cold towels at the finish
  • The phenomenal volunteers
  • The very generous water stops
  • The sponging stations
  • The misting station at the end
Here's what I didn't love about the race:
  • The very limited porta-johns on the course
  • The narrow course, with awkward starting waves
  • The lack of shade (race director, plant some trees! Just kidding)
  • Running past a waste water treatment plant - ew!
  • The race results online were screwy.  (It was corrected within a day)
As for the actual course, I'm still not sure which column to put that in, but I'm getting closer and closer to saying that I really liked the course.  

So the bottom line, this was an awesome weekend with great friends and was capped off with a very well organized race.  I absolutely want to make this an annual event!