Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Pictures from the Phoenix Rock and Roll Marathon

I was alerted to a picture taken along the course by the Rock and Roll Professional Photographers...feel free to check it out here.

I will try to link a small video of the finish tomorrow. As a sneak preview, I will admit I loitered a bit near the finish line and may have taken a picture (shocking, eh??)

Alternatively, you can see some of the highlights of my marathon in the pictures below.

Along the course there are super spectators! These folks had a cute set up with mimosa's, beer, bloody mary's and even shrimp!!!

You can see me here enjoying a tasty shrimp. It was so yummy!

I need to think about having Tristan go out and get me a shrimp cocktail during my next 100 miler because it was a very tasty treat!

Here I am with a parrot. I was very surprised when I saw a gentleman standing along the course with a parrot on his shoulder.

I was even more surprised when he offered to put his pet parrot on my arm. Of course being open to any new experience along the course I happily said yes.

I think he was a bit worried that my watch would be eaten/gnawed by the parrot so I took it off for the benefit of the parrot.
Here I am at the "Margaritaville" water station. There was a gentleman who was dressed even more festive than I was.

This aid station passed out beads however, I earned my beads well ahead of this aid station (most of my beads were earned about mile 4).

I do not necessarily recommend running 22 miles with lots of beads as the bruise on one's chest is kind of painful! Although this is good training for the Mardi Gras Marathon in which I hope to earn hundreds of beads!
My friends Cheryl and Jennifer stopped as they neared the finish for the requisite picture. I had walked the course backwards so I could run into them about mile 25 and walk/jog with them to the finish.

While waiting I grabbed a bagel sandwich from Chompies (one of my regular haunts in Pheonix)
Here I am just after I finished with my friend Tami.

Tami was volunteering at the medical tent ready to help any runner needing assistance.

I knew Tami from when she performed a research study at the Javalina Jundred 100 miler about hyponeutremia, water/salt intake and other various physical and metabolic responses over the course of an ultramarathon.

Tami is so perky, sweet and encouraging and is great fun!

Phoenix Rock and Roll Marathon: The 4.8 miles before the Marathon

Before the 50 km ultramarathon, participants could go to the Arizona Mineral & Mine Museum to stay warm.

In this building, they also had coffee and cytomax for the runners, which I partook in.

I was a little worried as I wandered around the museum glancing at exhibits that I was not supposed to carry my open beverages but no one stopped me or wrestled me to the ground.

Here you can see me with what I might call a dream weaver, a hand made item. I remember making these things when I was a child in Girl Scouts.
In the museum there were lots of minerals on exhibit. I believe this big rock was a piece of copper (it is green which I associate with copper...after it has rusted a bit).

Right behind me in the glass enclosed cabinet there was lots of gold in a variety of formats.

There were also a variety of gems and other items that are found in the Arizona area. I think my dad would have been happy that I spent a few moments appreciating the museum wandering around aimlessly reading placards (when I was a child it would take him hours to get through just one room in the New York City this day our family kind of busts on him for this trait--which by the way just as a warning if he does suggest a museum to you either bring a super long book or just say no!!!).

At the start line I am ready with a variety of items I might need.

Sunglasses if it got sunny (it did not)

A plastic bag if it was cold (it was until about mile 22!) In fact although the high was predicted to be 70 degree's I would be hard pressed to suggest it was warmer than the low 60's. On a positive note this was still about 30 degree's higher than the Disney Marathon a week prior

A visor if it got sunny (again the rumor was that it was going to be sunny for the entire marathon but realistically I did not see much sun at all which bummed me out!)

With my friends Jennifer and Cheryl from the New Orleans Marathon. We met and ran many miles in the New Orleans Marathon in 2009 and I knew that we were running the Rock and Roll Marathon.

We ended up starting our trip with a complete chance meeting on the airport shuttle as we both arrived about the same time.

Jennifer and Cheryl spotted me as I was running the first 4.8 miles in the ultramarathon and I headed over to get a picture with them. They were funny in that they kept saying I needed to get back to running....I was okay with not running.

Here is my bib from the ultramarathon. This is one of my most treasured bib's because it is signed by several famous runners:

It is signed by
Deena Kastor on the right,
Dean Karnases on the left
Ryan Hall who inscribed it with "Run Fast!" which is really cool particularly since I did end up running this ultra fast, with a new 50 km PR!

In fact my time for the marathon was one of my top 10 fastest marathons to date.


The Phoenix Rock and Roll Marathon started early for me and 150 other runners signed up for the inaugural 50 km race. When I signed up either the details of the 50 km escaped me or else they were not finalized.

The 50 km race was essentially a race of two parts with an intermission. The first 4.8 miles were to be run before the marathon then after a break we were to run the final 26.2 miles with the marathoners. Oddly enough all ultra runners were to go to corral #1 after finishing the 4.8 miles regardless of predicted finish time.

To arrive at the start line by 6:30, we had to catch an early bus. Luckily there was to be a meet and greet as well as coffee and cytomax at the mineral museum prior to the race. This was the same location elite competitors would later use which was kind of cool.

Even better my hotel was less than a quarter mile from the shuttle bus pick up (which I knew from last year). This meant I had an easy walk to get to the pick up point.

Unfortunately the shuttle bus I hopped on for the ride to the start seemed to have a non-local driver who ended up getting a bit lost. Luckily there were several locals on the bus who were able to get us close to the start line while avoiding road closures. For a bit during the ride I was worried I would not make it even having given myself ample travel time by getting on the bus 1.5 hours prior to the 50 km race start.

After finally getting to the starting area, I headed to the mineral museum. There were many runners congregating there. I did a rough head count and speculated that there were close to 100 runners in the building. I was a bit bummed because initially the 50 km was limited to 50 runners. But considering my bib number was 162, I ultimately figured that there were more likely about 200 registered runners.

As I waiting in the warm building I tried to make my dad proud by walking around and looking at the displays. In fact I even got a picture of myself in front of a huge piece of copper. There were other minerals including lots of gold nuggets as well as pretty and colorful rocks.

At some point my two diet mountain dews were processed by my stomach so I needed a ladies room. While waiting in line apparently those of us with drop bags were escorted to bag check. This was the first of several announcements that I completely missed. After my potty break I was pleasantly surprised to see lotions and sunscreen placed out. I asked another runner if it was for us and we decided it was. I then applied some sunscreen in anticipation of some sunny weather during the race. Sadly it was not really sunny much during the race which at least disappointed me.

Upon getting out of the bathroom I realized there were only about 30 individuals left in the building. I asked about the mass exodus and realized I needed to put some pep in my step to check my bag. This became kind of a fiasco because I was not sure what layering system to use and I also was not sure exactly about the logistics of what we would do during the break between mile 4.8 and the start of the marathon. Alas I decided to keep one layer and my two trash bags.

Heading to the start line I heard the pre race briefing. But it was a bit confusing. There was one long lap (.8 miles), then a bunch (6 or 7) shorter laps of .4 miles. We were responsible for keeping track of our laps and somehow the phrase “honor system” was used. I was completely baffled about the whole process and hoped that I could figure things out during the 4.8 miles. A few runners commented that it would be nice to have these directions written out, which I agreed. I was only half awake and just hoping I would not get lost.

I did notice that I was the only runner in my group that had a headlamp. Oddly enough in one of the brochures, it was suggested that we should have a headlamp, but this was in the midst of the information not well placed. Since I had fallen before the Disney Marathon, I wanted to keep my track record for falls before marathons/ultras to a minimum so did carry (and ultimately wear) my headlamp. In fact in the later part of the .8 mile loop and the halfway point of the .4 mile loop, there was a dark area in which I became very popular because of my headlamp.

Pretty soon we were moved in front of the start line for a group picture. Then we were sent back over the start line so the race could start. Pretty soon it was 6:30 and the first portion of the 50 km race began.

I wanted to ensure I ran the mandatory 10 minute miles for the first 4.8 miles. But I did not want to go out to quickly. I had worn my Garmin to keep me on pace and was a bit distressed to see there was only about 5 or 6 runners hanging back maintaining a not so leisurely 10 min/mile pace.

We started chatting and most of the runners were running their first ultra. Initially I was very excited when another runner mentioned he had run a 100, but upon further questioning it was a 100 km race. Several of the runners were using the 50 km race as a gateway to a 50 miler and two of the young ladies in this pack were from the DC area. They talked about the JFK50 miler which I said was a great race and lots of fun (and very different than the Rock and Roll 50 km).

I tried to pay attention to the turns because I did not want this event to become a real ultra as defined by 1) you fall and 2) you get lost (seriously it’s not an ultra unless these two things occur!). Paying attention to the turns I realize we are heading back to the start line. 0.8 miles down, 29.2 to go!

Because I knew I wanted to stay super hydrated, I pulled off to grab a cup of cytomax and drank it down. I am not sure I like cytomax. All the while I worried that I would be puking it back up after my little pukefest on Friday night. But alas I tried to think positive thoughts (and in a bizarre turn of events for me I did not eat anything pre-race, not pre race snowballs, suzie-q’s or even a muffin—it was kind of sad).

It took me nearly half the small lap before I caught up with my pack. I noticed there were only 2 runners behind us which caused me a little worry. I figured that we needed a buffer of about 5-10 runners to be safe from the sweep. So I picked up the pace a bit.

My friends from DC and the 100 km-er stuck with me for a bit particularly when I indicated we were pretty close to last. Also several of us had Garmin’s and different watches were reading different paces but they all were around 9:30 or 10 minute miles. I knew I wanted a bit of a buffer in case I needed more beverage or decided a walk break was critical.

The next lap passed very quickly. 0.6 miles is very short. And because the small loop was shaped like a “P” with the out and back at the start/finish line we were able to see runners who were ahead of us for about 25% of each lap. At this point we also were passed by the leaders. In the top 3, there was a gentleman dressed up like batman. I thought it was cool and hummed/sung the batman theme. A few laps later as they passed us again I confirmed he was on his last lap and suggested he needed to go pick up the batmobile and to pick me up.

During the middle laps we had a discussion about how many small laps we needed. I actually considered calling up my husband or friend Jamie (a math teacher) to see if anyone could figure out how many 0.8 and 0.6 mile laps you needed to get to 4.8 miles the algebraic formula would be: 0.8 + 0.6x where x is the number of laps we needed to complete. Unfortunately I don’t think there is a closed form solution for this equation that yields an integer value or else the lap distances were wild guesses.

Running along I was surprised to hear my name being called out. It was my friends Jennifer and Cheryl whom I had run into on the shuttle bus from the airport. What a great surprise. I ran over and got a picture with them. All the while they were yelling at me to get back into the race. But alas I was having fun and thought I had a small buffer.

Ultimately I think we were supposed to do 6 smaller laps. But I had no idea. And recall this was based on the honor system. At some point my drink breaks and concern about time separated me from my friends. I was all alone and confused about where I was along the course. My second to last lap finished with me noticing the cones along the out and back were being taken down. But my garmin indicated I had only gone 4.4 miles. I still had a lap to go!

I ran through the turn around and headed back onto the course. I was the only person on the course. Now either I finished the proper number of laps and about 15 folks behind me were short or I was an overachiever. I am still unsure.

As I headed out I passed the police cruiser picking up the cones. I picked up the pace and was running a 7:30 mile. I was getting a little winded but I wanted to finish fair and square. The cheerleaders were gone and the volunteers were taking down the fencing. But so far no one asked me to leave the course. I continued sprinting this last lap and passed another volunteer. I asked if there was anyone behind me but he said that no one was on the course except for me.


I turned again and could see the starting line. I was moving quickly. Finally I made it over the start line. A nice volunteer told me I could stop running and should go to the left. This did not exactly register (well except the “you can stop running”). I slowed down and then wandered a bit aimlessly trying to catch my breath. Finally I realized that the volunteer was sending me to the ultra warming tent. I went in but there was not much there. I did grab a cytomax and started drinking.

I was getting hot so decided I needed to go back to gear check to get rid of my long sleeve shirt. It was nice to be able to do this, although realistically I did not get warm enough to take off any more layers (garbage bags!) until mile 19 and 23 for my bottom and top, respectively.

After dropping off my shirt I headed into the porta potty line. There was no porta potty by the ultra finish which bummed me out a bit. So I got to the back of the line and after about 15 minutes of waiting finally arrived at the porta potty. In fact after about 5 minutes, the star spangled banner played, about 2 minutes later, the race started and finally, nearly 10 minutes after the official start I was finally back on the course ready to run the marathon.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Phoenix Rock and Roll Marathon: Before the race

With my friends Cheryl and Jennifer from the Mardi Gras Marathon. They were running their 14th marathon at the Rock and Roll Marathon. I knew they were running this event but was completely shocked when we ended up on the same bus leaving the airport terminal.

It was great to see Cheryl and Jennifer both during the short bus ride as well as several times during the marathon. They are so cheerful and nice.

Cheryl and Jennifer are sisters who are running marathons together in various states. It is really neat to see them running the full 26.2 miles together. I remember fondly running the Disney Marathon with my sister in 2008 and running the 2009 Disney Marathon with is fun to run races with others.
Ryan Hall was an invited speaker as well as a guest of the Rock and Roll Marathon.

Ryan is very nice and such an inspiration. He is super fast but so encouraging. He wrote on my bib to "Run Fast" and apparently it worked.

I had a new 50 km PR and even ran one of my top 10 fastest marathon times.

Olympian Deanna Kastor was an additional guest speaker at the Rock and Roll Marathon.

She is very nice and of course super fast. I wish I had thought to bring my "spirit of the marathon" DVD for her to sign because her role in that movie is so impressive.

She was very encouraging during her speech and the question answer session.

I definitely recommend that any runner who attends an EXPO makes a point to see some (or all) of the presenters. It is interesting to see so many different views and really cool to be in the presence of such fast runners. Maybe it even rubs off...

With my friend and "ultramarathon man" Dean Karnazes.

Dean is really nice and is very encouraging to all runners.

His book ultramarathon man is a great book that makes one believe in oneself. It also provides some insight about what it takes to complete an ultramarathon.

I have been fortunate to meet and run with Dean at a variety of events. During these interactions I have asked him lots of questions (particularly early on in my ultra career).

Now I am so lucky that I have so many friends who are fellow ultramarathoners who I can also use to pick their brains. I think in ultra's it really is great to have a bunch of different opinions and observations because through these different perspectives you can try out a variety of suggestions and see what works for you.

Volunteering at events is always fun for me. It is great fun to see new runners who are running their first marathon.

I recall my enthusiasm and nervousness during my first event and I try very hard as a volunteer to reassure runners both newbies and seasoned veterans.

This year I was in a better position as a volunteer (last year I volunteered as well-but had no idea of the course or other logistics). This year I could provide information about the start, what the course was like and general race logistics.

And of course I got to meet lots of runners and wonderful volunteers.

This past weekend I flew to Phoenix to run the Arizona Rock and Roll Marathon. Recently a 50 km option became available and I immediately signed up to get an extra long training run in preparation for Rocky Raccoon 50 miler in February and subsequently Umstead 100 in March.

The 50 km option was co-hosted by Dean Karnazes whom I have been fortunate to meet and run with several times (I did the Delaware Marathon during the Endurance 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days as well as several fun runs in the MD area).

My trip to AZ had a bit of fits and starts which ultimately worked to my benefit. First my flight was overbooked, but taking the voluntary bump earned me an extra night at home with my critters and husband as well as a future trip of my choice. It is like winning the lottery, all I need is a dollar (or a ticket) and a dream!

Friday morning I did fly to Arizona on the next nonstop flight. After arriving at Phoenix I headed directly to the Marathon EXPO. On the bus to light rail I was surprised to see my friends Jennifer and Cheryl from the New Orleans Marathon. I knew they were going to be at the marathon but was shocked that we happened to be on the same bus. This was a start of super nice and fun surprises during this trip.

Arriving at the EXPO I picked up my packet, then did a bit of shopping. Since I am going to run the San Diego Marathon with my friend Imelda and I had just run the Las Vegas Rock and Roll Marathon, I bought a few items which were on a super sale because the Rock and Roll apparel sponsor is changing from Sugoi to Brooks. I also bought a cute Rock and Roll Arizona hot pink tank. I then headed over to the Rock and Roll Marathon Booth so I could sign up for the San Diego Marathon.

On my way to the Rock and Roll Race Booth, I passed by the Nissan Booth in which Ryan Hall was sitting quietly. I was very startled that the line was just one person. I headed over. But sadly I was so discombobulated and frazzled by the lack of line I did not have my camera out nor something to sign. Finally I realized I wanted my bib signed. I asked Ryan to write something inspirational and he wrote "Run Fast". In my mind I said to myself that this is more of a recommendation than a directive because I don't do fast:-) But he was really nice and polite. I then asked if I could get a picture. I was so thrilled to be in the presence of such a great runner and such a nice person. He was very kind and it was really cool. By the time I walked away the line was about 15-20 people long.

I then went to the Rock and Roll Race Booth to sign up for San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon. My friend Imelda was signed up and I needed to sign up. After completing this task, I wandered around the EXPO. Because this was my 82nd endurance event and about 60th marathon I felt comfortable munching on all the treats and taking all the samples. Some were good and some were terrible.

Having completed my very limited shopping, I went to the presentation area to see Dean Karnazes, Ryan Hall and Deanna Kastor speak. They provided advice and suggestions to runners in preparation for the race. After the presentation, I got a picture with both Deanna as well as Dean. Dean mentioned his parents were lurking around so I kept my eyes peeled for them.

Ultimately I ended up running into Dean's parents and spoke for a while. They clearly are so proud of Dean. And they were so nice to me. They knew my mom from when she volunteered at the Delaware E50 marathon and I was saddened to tell them about her passing in May. But they were so kind and gave me one of the best hugs. It still is really tough to run races without my mom around. She was my biggest cheerleader and I knew this while she was alive and greatly appreciated it. Now I have to get strength from all of my GREAT friends along the course. Dean's dad also spoke about his recent health issues. I am so happy that he seems to be fully recovered and looks really good!

As I was wandering the EXPO aimlessly I realized I had not packed any pajama's. This was the second race in two weeks that I arrived jammie free (actually this was the second race I ended up packing with a list and clearly I need to revert to my old packing strategy in which I check off items as I pack them). I ended up accepting a freebie T-shirt to use as a night shirt. I really do not need any more t-shirts!

After I finished my EXPOing, I headed to my hotel. It was an easy ride on the light rail and a short walk to the America's Best Value Inn. Sadly, my stomach was starting to bother me. I attributed this to a head cold I had been fighting since Monday. In fact Wednesday I had taken a sick day and on Thursday I was still quite congested. Friday I spent alot of time sniffling which I thought might have been a contributing factor.

Because of being bumped my one duffle bag arrived well ahead of me (in fact it arrived on Thursday night). I needed to get to the airport to get it out of hock but did not have enough time before my dinner date with the researcher from Javelina Jundred 100: Tami and her husband Bill. In confirming our dinner plans, I e-mailed and asked if we could head to the airport on our way to or from dinner, which they were agreeable.

Dinner with Tami and Bill was GREAT Fun! We chatted about running, ultra's, their experiences in South Africa, Tami's research in the physiology at ASU, my love of Chompies and Yogurtini at Phoenix and so much more. Time just flew by. Tami was volunteering with the medical staff at the finish at the marathon, so we decided we would meet up after her shift was over and my race was done. Of course because I am food motivated we decided Yogurtini was a good place.

After a very nice dinner, we headed to the airport for my bag. It was kind of sad, my bag was locked away in this glass enclosed cabinet. We could see my luggage but it was locked away like it was being interogated for bad behavior. We also noted that my bag was pretty much the only bright bag with personality. My bag reminded me of the Ikea commercial a few years ago when there was a lamp that was put into the trash and you see the weather change and the lamp neck droop lower and lower. Then the commentator mentions that you are crazy for animorphing and thinking the lamp had feeling. But I know my bag missed me, felt it didn't fit in and was sad.

After getting my bag, we headed to my hotel. Sadly my stomach was feeling badly again. Luckily Tami and Bill had driven round the corner before I pulled a cracker barrel/AMC hut (ie puked!) I ended up feeling kind of badly for a bit but was able to fall asleep after a while.

When I woke up I felt good enough to participate in my volunteer shift at the EXPO. The night before I was wondering if I would be up for it, but luckily I seemed to be able to "puke and rally". I was looking forward to my shift because I like to help out and of course to meet other runners. I was assigned bib/packet pick up. I wanted to ensure I was volunteering for the marathon since I was more likely to know participants. I ended up seeing a few friends including Steve Yee one of the co-founders of the Marathon Maniacs.

My shift was very busy and thus flew by. I was working with a very nice volunteer from the Phoenix area: Sue Iverson. She was a fellow marathoner and triathlete and I think we ended up having a very efficient process in checking ID's, for signed waivers and giving bibs. We also were very good about reminding runners of important things including making sure to secure the D-tag (the tape is really flimsy so an extra safety pin is good) while treating it gently (the D-tag is very flimsy as exhibited by my lack of finish at the Baltimore Marathon in 2008).

After my shift was finished I headed back to Tempe, where my hotel was. I picked up a dinner at Chompie's (a "mile high" turkey sandwich on a bagel). I took my bagel to the Mountain just above Sun Devil Stadium for picnic dinner.

Since I was still not feeling 100% I decided heading to bed about 7 p.m. was a good idea. I had to get up about 4 a.m. for the extra early 50 km race start and was still on eastern time so this was not as pathetic as it sounds (I hope!).

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Inspiration from the Disney Marathon

I had many friends running the Disney Marathon. I knew of some friends such as Larry, Peter, Lauri, Tony, Anton and many others. While several friends I was surprised and delighted to meet along the course.

My friend Chito from the MCM was one of the folks I was excited to meet after the finish. He is an amazing runner, an inspiration and just a really neat person. He really captured the essence of the Disney Marathon in his video montage.

Feel free to check this out. I will give you a heads up that I am in this video towards the end...I may or may not be running:-)


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The 2010 Disney Goofy Marathon: Highlights

At the finish of the half with Goofy striking a runners pose.

The characters are very nice and will do all sorts of poses and this one I think captures the essence of this event. In fact I was very surprised as I was running in at the marathon (you can see the 2:12 gun time just behind us), I was the only runner who stopped by goofy. And there is a 400 meter section here in which you can observe runners just ahead and yet everyone else did not have a moment for a picture.

I was excited to finish but knowing I had just a few steps to go I was willing to sacrifice a few extra seconds in the rain.

During the half marathon I ended up staying pretty dry because I had my good goretex pants and jacket on, but unfortunately my feet got very wet about mile 9. The remainder of the race I could not really feel my toes. This also contributed to my relatively speedy pace.
Here I am with the "reason I run" yummy treats. I purchased this chocolate and sprinkle/M&M/chocolate topped marshmallow treat during the marathon.

I ended up eating about half this treat then I had to stop so I could resume picture taking. But not before I shared a bit with another runner who was looking at it longingly.

The marshmallow treats at Disney World are so YUMMY and I like to think are the treats of champions.
Close to the finish of the marathon, Tristan and I posed for a picture near Spaceship earth. From this picture you can see that it was still very cold at the finish (I had my hat on and had just taken off my gloves and Tristan had his hat on).

Other than being very cold and a bit windy it was sunny and a pretty day. Luckily the weather forecasters (and even the Disney staff) kept alerting us to the cold so most runners were bundled up for the race.

I had 5 layers on top (my lucky tank, turtleneck, long sleeve thermal, zip thermal and my rain jacket). During the race I removed only one layer on top. On my legs I had my marathongirl skirt as well as thermal pants with a pair of wind/goretex pants as my outer layer.
Here I am with Mickey and Tristan striking the runners pose at the finish of the marathon.

Even with a completely different group of finishers (~7 hours), these runners also seemed not to be intent on savoring their time on the course.

Tristan and I were pretty sure it took several minutes to cross the start line so were ensured that we would make the 7 hour time limit for the marathon.

I like the finish because there is just so much energy and lots of cheering particularly at the Disney events so it is kind of cool to soak it all in.

This past weekend I ran my 5th Disney Goofy Marathon. The "goofy" marathon includes running the half marathon on Saturday and the full marathon on Sunday. It is great fun. But this year it was COLD.

Saturday's half marathon started in a temperature just above freezing. But alas that did not stop it from sleeting and snowing along the course. Later in the race this turned to rain. Because of my aversion to cold and wet weather I ended up PR-ing for a half marathon race (and the Disney Half Marathon) with a time of just under 2:10.

Sunday the weather was no better. It was cold and windy. The temperature at the start was about 26 degrees and the wind was ~10 mph. I still have not thawed out!

Starting the marathon, my goal was to complete the marathon faster than last year (a time I contest but is listed as 7:00:55). In fact I even was so bold as to suggest I wanted to break 7 hours. I was an overachiever because I finished the race in 6:58:29. I had 1 minute and 30 seconds to spare!

During the half marathon I was moving quickly and only took 25 pictures along the course. I had only 2 character pictures and only a few of me along the course. It was miserable conditions and I just wanted to finish!

The Disney marathon started off fast as well. I ran it with my husband Tristan. We ran the first 10 miles in 2 hours, the next 10 miles in 3 hours and the final 6 miles in 2 hours. In our defense, the first 10 miles we actually were trying to get warm and other than one bathroom break and about 5 character pictures we were hauling.

The next 10 miles we started our theme parking with many more character pictures, a ride on the Expedition Everest Ride, and some window shopping. Our final 6 miles had many stops for food, beverages, characters and to enjoy the theme parks of Hollywood Studios and EPCOT.

At Hollywood Studios we stopped at the Candy Cauldron for chocolate covered marshmallows (for me). At mile 25 in EPCOT, we split up to go various places for more treats with me going to France (for mousse-for Tristan who would eat it later), Norway (for waffles with jam). Tristan headed to Morocco for Baclava, Italy for Espresso, Germany for some bratwurst and beer, followed by some hot wine also from Germany. I almost missed our meet up time because I took a ride on the boat at Mexico.

After rejoining at the fountain at the front of EPCOT we headed to the finish and crossed the finish line together. Of course this was after a brief break to get pictures with the finishers characters of Minnie and Mickey who were at the finish line.

I will write more later but I had such a GREAT time that I have already signed up for the "Goofy Marathon" in 2011!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Continuing my Quest for Fitness Jan 2nd: Hiking White Oak Canyon

In my quest to successfully run Umstead 100 miler in a faster time than 2009, I figure additional hill training should help. While I ran several repetitions of Sugarloaf Mountain on New Years Day, Saturday I focussed on hiking larger local mountains. This enabled me to spend some quality time with my dog, Gilligan and my husband (who is training for an ice climbing course in the White Mountains of NH in Feb and a Cascade Volcano mountaineering expedition in June).

Saturday we drove to Shenandoah National Park to hike White Oak Canyon. This is one of our favorite hikes although after seeing several rattlers in mid-May several years ago, I will only hike it from Oct to April. I really do not want to get bitten by a rattler. Well as it is bitterly cold here in the Mid-Atlantic I am sure we will not run into a rattler so it's time for a hike. Alas I am not joking about the bitterly cold. The temperature is not predicted to make it higher than 30 for the next 5-6 days and the wind chill this weekend was in the single digits with gusts well over 40 mph. But it is sunny and with enough layers it is not too bad.

After bundling up with multiple socks, long johns, thermal pants, thermal shirts and a thick winter jacket we are ready for our hike. In a moment of stupidity I decide to bring my Nathan hydration pack which freezes within about 30 minutes. But it does have accessible pockets. And after realizing it was freezing, I was able to put it one layer down and unfreeze it. Of course because it has snowed and rained in MD/VA, Tristan and I also put on our yaktraks. Neck gaiters, hats, multiple gloves fill out our outfits. We are ready for the bitterly cold conditions.

Hiking is very nice. It is chilly, but manageable. Occasionally the gusts are pretty bad and nearly knock me down. But Gilligan and Tristan appear unfazed.

On our way to the waterfall, we have one stream crossing. The water is a bit high and I am not confident I can cross. Even worse Gilligan crossed half heartedly using the rocks. He steps in the water then on the rocks making them look slick. I am worried because I really do not want to fall in to water. I am pretty sure the water is about 32 degrees and the outside temperature really is no warmer. We can see the lower falls and it looks very pretty. It has ice all along the side but is still flowing.

Tristan asks if he can go to the next waterfall and I say okay. But I am a little disappointed. I know all of the other falls along white oak canyon would be very pretty. I need to toughen up in 2010. So I wander around and see a pile of fallen logs. Tristan crosses here and I decide after a few minutes I can do this if I am careful. I take off my yaktrak (putting them in my mouth...ewww!) and slowly make my way across.

After I get across I feel really proud. I did not let this obstacle stop me. But I know I will have to get across on the way back. On a positive note, I know the stream level will not rise over the day as it is very cold.

As we hike up by the first falls I take a few pictures, then continue on. We pass by some beautiful icicles formation on rocks. There are hundreds of meters of icicles some of which are easily 5 or 10 feet tall. Again I take more pictures but move swiftly as there is remnant of icicle on the trail.

The next fall is very impressive. I am not sure how much elevation gain we made but there is definitely a bit more ice along the side of the waterfall. Tristan goes down a bit closer to the fall, but I stay on the trail. Gilligan decides he needs a breather and lies down and enjoys the view. After a few minutes I realize I need to get going to stay warm. I continue climbing up. The trail is covered with snow and ice at some points and pretty clear at other times. I think the variation is somewhat due to some sections being in shadow and somewhat a function of how deep the snow might have been.

I am glad I have yaktraks although on occasion I take them off because some segments are several hundred meters long with no snow. I find it hard to walk in yaktraks and do not feel as stable while wearing yaktraks.

Pretty soon we arrive at the sign that warns of the half way point from Skyland. It warns that there is no shuttle from the location that we have parked our car to Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. This means we are getting close to the upper falls. Here the trail turns into a concrete path complete with rocks. It is kind of a weird surface. Luckily it is not ice or snow covered so I keep my yaktrax off.

Just one more zig zag and we arrive at the view of the upper falls. Tristan and I discuss the rattlesnake we saw here. We will not be seeing one today!

We take a few pictures of the falls. Gilligan takes this opportunity to lie down in a snow pile. The falls are flowing and have lots of ice along the sides. While we are hiking up the canyon it is mostly sunny which makes the waterfalls very pretty.

We decide we will go to the bridge just above the falls then turn around. We get to the bridge, take a few pictures then start our walk back down to the car. We have just about 2 hours until sunset. We will need to put some pep in our step but should have plenty of time. I eat my lunch, a bagel. While I usually like tasty sandwiches and other treats during the winter I just want something that is quick, portable and easy to eat.

We start walking back down to the car. We walk quickly, mostly to stay warm. We move quickly along the sections that have the fallen icicles and just briefly stop at the waterfalls on way down. Pretty soon we arrive at the lower falls. I now have to get my courage up to cross the stream. Unfortunately crossing back is not as easy as crossing over. Aargh!! But I know I have to get back and rock hopping is not an option. I get halfway sort of turn around but realize that is a mistake. I unturn around and start working my way slowly across forward again. Finally I grab the rock on the other side.

From here to the car it is an easy walk. The majority of the trail is very wide and fairly flat. We make very good time and are back at the car well before the sun sets. We had a great day with lots of fun. This year is starting out really great.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Exercising my way into 2010: A 5 km race and Hill Training at Sugarloaf Mountain

Only 2 days into the New Years and I have done several decent training events for my upcoming races.

New Years started with the Montgomery County Road Runners New Years 5 km race. This was not my initial plan however due to excessive icing because of the New Years eve "storm" I bagged the Redeye 50 km sponsored by the Virginia Happy Trails Running club. After finishing the 5 km race in ~26:15, my penance was 4 trips up Sugarloaf Mountain for some hillwork. On a positive note I only headed down Sugarloaf 3 times since Tristan drove up to pick me up.

But alas I digress. The 5 km race was great fun and was only a short drive from our house. I would have run to the start except for the previously mentioned icing that prevented me from the 50 km race in Prince William Forest Park. At the start I saw my friends Larry and Karen from Fleet Feet Fun Runs as well as heard a rumor that my friend Sara (from Fleet Feet as well as the dog park) was at the race. Unfortunately since Tristan at the last second decided to join in running this race we arrived at the race with 2 minutes to spare. Had I headed to the race when I was ready I would have had about 20 minutes and thus had the chance to scope out the competition (or really to see who of my friends were running).

As we were just minutes from missing the start there was no time to do much other than put on our bibs and tie up our "rented" chip for the year. Then we were off.

I had not goals for the race although I did want to run a bit hard since I have really slacked off since the Death Valley Marathon (I did not exactly run the Las Vegas Marathon the next day so my last exertion was Dec 6th). Tristan ran with me for a bit but pretty soon I inadvertantly lost him. I was a bit surprised by this because typically he drops me at the start of nearly every race. As I moved along I caught up to my friends Larry and Karen. They were in good spirits and were running strong. I kept moving to get to a little bit of space. Because of all the recent snow and rain the road was covered with water and I was dodging puddles and little streams. Others might not have cared as much but I did not want wet feet.

As I moved along trying to find a little bit of real estate I was shocked to see the front runners heading back. Clearly I really need to look at course maps and perhaps even read the directions. I was quite surprised that they were facing us within the first 5 minutes. These runners were on world record pace!!! Pretty soon I saw my friend Doug and not too far after him another Fleet Feet Runner, Ken. Then I saw Sara heading back. By this time I figured the turn around was not at 1.55 miles but somewhere earlier. But as we headed around the bend we saw a sign with "2" on it. I was back to confused. We had just run 2 miles in about 7 minutes!!! Now I was on world record pace.

Alas as we continued on doubling back along the course I saw Tristan and some other friends. Heading along the road in this industrial park, there was a clock as well as a mile marker sign. I was quite surprised when it was reading 8:40 as I approached it. I do not run sub-10 minute miles! (I say this to myself alot and am always shocked whenever my time is anything less than double digits)

We made a quick right turn and started heading down another road. Again the leaders of the race were heading back towards us. This course was completely confusing me. Finally I asked another runner what the deal was. They said we were going to do two "sort of" loops repeating bits going out and back along two different segments. Now it made sense...

As I continued on I saw Doug, then Ken. Soon enough I spotted Sara. She was not about 200 meters ahead of me. As I approached the cul de sac I now was pretty sure I had figured out what the course was. The course was a bit hillier than I expected (or wanted) but definitely was manageable. Now that we were heading back to the initial out and back I knew where I was going. Along this section I passed Sara. She was looking really strong. We wished each other a Happy New Year then I was off. Again she was in a pack and the course in addition to being a bit hilly also had alot of puddles and small streams to avoid. I was dodging these items but was wasting lots of energy moving all over the course to do so.

As I approached the right turn I saw Tristan. He was easy to spot with a bright red shirt on. We wished each other luck, but I was a little worried. He was quite far behind me so I was worried that he was having knee pain. Luckily he said his goal for the race was to run smart and make sure he did not have any pain. He succeeded which is good.

Turning onto the first out and back I knew what to expect and I was moving pretty well. I was occasionally passing runners and I was not being passed. My impression is that I was keeping a constant pace while others were slowing down. As I headed up one of the small hills I weaved around like a drunk which earned me comment from a fellow runner. I chuckled but then explained I was avoiding puddles not hungover and unable to run a straight line.

Heading down the hill to the water station/turn around I realized that I was likely at mile 2. That mystery was now explained. Only 1 mile to go. Unforunately this mile started on a massive hill. I decided to walk the hill. People passed me here. But I covered up my hill walking sissiness by taking off my shirt. As I crested the hill I saw Tristan. He mocked me for my hill walking but I didn't care because I was ahead of him!

As I continued on the course I repassed the folks who passed me on the hill. Maybe one day I should stop walking hills. But I really hate hills. And I really really hate steep hills. As I continued on I approached the timing clock. It said 20 minutes. The volunteer suggested we were at mile 2. Now I was confused again. I found a runner who had a Garmin and looked like he knew what he was doing. I asked if we had just passed mile 2 or if it was back at the base of the hill. He suggested that we were about 2.5 miles in. This sounded right to me.

As we were heading for the last out and back section we saw many runners heading our way. Doug, Ken and a few other runners I recognized by face but not by name passed going to the finish. As I continued running I realized I was breathing a bit hard. I was a little startled by this so slowed my pace a little. I think this was because it was kind of chilly (at least that is my excuse) but I slowed down just in case I was going too fast as I sure did not want to start 2010 with an injury. Approaching the cul de sac I was happy to be running the home stretch.

Here a few runners passed me but I was running within myself. Also my impression of several of these runners were that they were sprinting to the finish. My biggest problem with this is that I don't sprint. But my second issue was that I had no idea where the finish line was even if I did sprint!

Finally we were turning right into a parking lot. There was the finish line maybe a hundred meters ahead. The time had just clicked over from 25 minutes and 59 seconds. I was very pleased, as I run the last segment I took a picture, then hopped around a bit to keep my feet dry which earned a few comments from the spectators. I guess I might have been one of the first runners to actively avoid the puddles and running water. And I accomplished my goal of not having wet feet at the finish.

A 5km in 26:15 is pretty good for me. I was very happy with my time, enjoyed seeing so many friends and thought the course was very cute. I liked all of the out and backs along the course which enabled a good view of the other runners many of whom were my friends. And knowing what was coming up along the course was nice (particularly since I had no idea what the course was!).

After finishing I waited for Tristan to finish. In fact I finished and then walked the course backwards for about 100 meters before I finally saw him down the road a bit. I cheered him in including taking a picture as well as a small film of his finish. He looked to be in good spirits and was keeping a consistent pace.

After Tristan finished we headed inside for some treats and to see some friends. My friends Mayra and Paula were volunteering at the post race treats table. I chatted briefly with both. Then I saw and chatted with Ken, Doug and a few others. After a brief treat break I headed back outside to cheer on runners.

Although I did not see her along the course, Tristan suggested one of my friends from work: Janice was running the race. As we headed outside and cheered on runners after a few minutes I thought I recognized Janice. She was finishing and looking really strong. Tristan and I cheered her on. For a few more minutes we walked the course and stretched out our legs. Finally, the course marshalls came walking back. I assumed the last runners were finished. So Tristan and I headed home.

After we finished the race, Tristan and I headed home. After getting home we had a long drawn out debate about what we were going to do in the afternoon. Tristan initially was going to head to Old Rag for a hike but then decided he would go to Sugarloaf Mountain. I decided to join him for some hillwork.

At Sugarloaf I ran up and down the mountain to get some hill training in. Knowing that Umstead 100 miler has some hills and VT100 miler has LOTS of hills, it is never to early to start training. Because I wanted to minimize the pounding on my knee's I asked Tristan if he could pick me up after a few reps. I suggested if we met after 2 hours I could do 3 ups and 2 downs. For some reason I was either going super fast (or the previous time which was Christmas Eve day was really slow--which it was because it was with 10+ inches of snow and lots of ice) so my predicted number of summits was off. I ended up going up the mountain 4 times and headed down 3 times. I was really excited about this because I was going faster than I expected and because this was even after I had run pretty hard earlier in the day at the 5km. This was a good start for the new year as well as the new decade!