Thursday, December 27, 2012

No Sleep, No Shower, No Problems

I was just notified that it is T minus 7 days until I leave for Miami to start the 199 mile race to Key West known as Ragnar Relay. 

To say I'm a little freaked out is an understatement, but it's all starting to come together and the excitement is also starting to kick in.

Since I'm sure you're all dying to know what the timing of everyone's legs are in each van, I have attached the following chart for your reference: 

I am officially runner #7 in Van #2. My total mileage is the most out of the van at 18.2 (however my teammate Glenn has 18 total so my bragging rights are only by .2 miles!) 

The Relay starts at noon on Friday with Van 1 and their 6 runners in Key Biscayne.

My first leg (leg 7)  is a nice 4.2 miles along "scenic" 127th Ave in Miami.

According to calculations I should be starting this leg around 3:00 PM on Friday afternoon.

Try not to be jealous of these amazing views along my route.

My second leg (leg 19) is my "fun" leg (remember - fun is a relative term!)

Not only is this leg the longest leg of van 2 and the second longest of the whole relay at 9.9 miles, it is also anticipated to begin at roughly 3 AM. 

Yep, 3 o'clock on Saturday morning.

This would be a typical daytime view of part of my route. I am looking forward to hopefully seeing this same water glistening under the moon and the stars instead.  

 My third and final leg (leg 31) is a nice 4.1 miles through Sugarloaf Key. 

I should be starting around 1:00 pm on Saturday afternoon.

Don't mind if I do!

Our down time for relaxing/sleeping/eating/taking a shower with baby wipes will be at Exchange 18 between approximately 9pm and 2:30 AM as well as at Exchange 30 between 9AM and 12:30 PM. 

Exchange 18 is located at Coral Shores High School and Exchange 30 at Sugarloaf Elementary, and rumor has it that they are both opening their gyms so people can catch some Z's on yoga mats or sleeping bags or whatever we decide is worthy for a bed.
 (This of course does not include any sleeping that may take place in the van itself!)

We should be wrapping up the relay in Key West around 4:00 on Saturday afternoon -- just in time for happy hour! 

Now the daunting task of a to-do list begins.
Reflective vest? Head lamp? Decorations for the van? First Aid Kit? Sleeping bag? New cute Lululemon running skirt? Food? Water?

So much to do and so little time! 

Also -- I've got the devil tail covered, but anyone got any ideas on how to put angel wings onto a van?! 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Fun is a Relative Term

To most, spending over 24 straight hours in a van with 6 other people who have just finished running 15-20 miles each and haven't showered or slept would be the definition of a nightmare.

To me, it's the definition of a really good time. 

Ragnar Relay is one of those races I knew I would never be able to step up to the plate and coordinate on my own. Trying to logistically put together the team members, who is running what leg, the van rentals, the van decorations, the hotels, and meanwhile trying to keep up with my own training would be like herding cats. 

Ragnar is kinda complex, so I'll try to give you a Cliff's notes version.
Teams of 12 split up into 2 vans. Van 1 holds Runners 1-6 and Van 2 holds Runners 6-12. Each runner is assigned 3 legs of different distances.
(Runner distances and maps of each leg can be found here, if you're curious)
Runner 1 starts the race, runs their leg, then passes off the baton (in this case bright orange slap bracelet) to Runner 2, and this process continues until all 12 runners have done their first leg. Immediately after Runner 12 finishes, they pass the bracelet back to Runner 1 to begin the second leg. The vans follow along the course and wait for each runner at the exchanges. 

My running coach sent out an SOS-type email of a team that needed an extra few runners for their team for Ragnar Key West. After begging Prateek to let me do it talking it over with Prateek (and convincing him that being a van driver for 6 smelly runners would be the best decision EVER) I went for it and registered. Luckily I didn't injure myself after the Chicago Marathon and kinda-sorta was back in shape, so the timing was perfect and gave me a good reason to train through the holiday season.

Wanna know what other timing was perfect? Rachel (Running Backwards in High Heels) was going to be in Miami that weekend anyway to watch her Tide roll over the Irish in the National Championship. 
After sending her the info to review, the choice was clear.
Cullman is going to be representin' along Highway 1, y'all.
I am SO EXCITED that she's running with us and can't wait to come up with THREE awesome race outfits.

There are tons of YouTube recaps of the race --here's a recap from Team "Shanghaid" from last year to give you a glimpse into kind of what we'll be doing.

Our team is called Sinners and Saints. It is yet to be determined if we will be in the "Sinners" van or the "Saints" van, but I'll be sure to pass that info along so we can get input on van decor and race attire.

We'll start in Miami, run all day, all night, and then most of the following day, and 196.9 miles (27-ish hours?) later, we'll end up in Key West at the finish line.  

Some call it a slumber party without sleep, pillows or deodorant. We call it Ragnar.

 Run -- Drive -- Sleep? -- Repeat 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Playing Dress-Up

Anything that includes costumes has always thrown my brain into overdrive on how I can come up with something festive. Last year for Halloween I began to create my costume 6 months prior and through some blood, sweat, and a few tears, finally Deadmau5 came to life.

This year for Halloween I waited until the last minute, but luckily with the help of two dear friends and some sparkly fabric we created another original masterpiece. 

American Gladiators 2012

 Buck, Tini, Dixie and Taj -- making their debut

It was a blast making these costumes.

The boys wore wrestling singlets, and Christine and I invested in some shiny shorts. I made the belts with some shiny fabric. We found Prateek's wrestling helmet and matching gloves at goodwill, along with the wigs and shoes. I pinned on an American Gladiator logo to the front.

 The gladiator sticks were the most fun to make. We got old curtain rods and taped a pillow to each end, wrapped it in a white towel, and held it all together with colored duct tape. 

ready for action

Usually after Halloween I get sad, because dressing up is over for a while.

But not this year!!!

Not long after Halloween we had the Tap N Run 4K.
This is not your everyday race, y'all. 

Everyone dresses up either individually or in teams. At every kilometer, there is a beer chug station (instead of water station). At the end there are costume contests, and yes....more beer.

Instead of the gladiators, we decided to do something a little less politically correct.

Meet our team: Cowboys and Indian.

We were the cowboys, and Prateek was the Indian.

 A 4 K is a little over 2 1/2 miles, which we walked. 

I made sure not to wear a timing chip. I don't want a 12 minute mile on record!

P and I on the course 

Don't let the picture fool you. We ran jogged for about 10 yards at the end to get the photo op. Also, Brian was in a different photo so I added him in here :)

Some people didn't understand our costume until we explained it, and then we were a huge hit. We decided we HAD to enter the costume contest for "Most Original Team Concept". 

Out of 20+ teams in that category, we ended up winning.

We are ridiculous.

But it doesn't stop there.

I got the opportunity to dress up a THIRD time! 

EDC was in Orlando again this year. You know how I love letting out my inner rave child with feathers and neon while fist pumping into the night. 

Crop Tops, feathers, and leg fuzzies -- oh my!

This may be my favorite photo ever taken at a festival - front and center at Afrojack, loving the confetti (and life in general).

Unfortunately the end-of-the-year dressing up is over, with the exception of any ugly sweater parties or Santa pub crawls I may attend. 

Come to think of it though, when I was younger, I dressed like a Pilgrim on Thanksgiving.....hmmmm....I already have my Indian......

Monday, November 5, 2012

Own Chicago - Part 2

Continued from Own Chicago - Part 1

.....and then I was off! 

I had decided previously that I wasn't going to turn on my music until around 3 or 4 miles in...partly because I figured with 100K people in the immediate area the network would be awful, and partly because I wanted to hear the crowds Chicago is known for.

Course Map

Those crowds did not disappoint! There wasn't actually any point in the race where there wasn't someone standing on the side of the road cheering on the runners.

I saw Prateek and the whole gang at mile 4, then again at mile 13.

Mile 4

Mile 13, feeling violently happy

There were cute little kids scattered about the course with their arms stretched out wide, just waiting for a runner to give them a high five. They were so excited when someone did that I couldn't resist - plus it gave me a little pep in my step and made me remember to enjoy this course and have fun with it.

I went through the gay district I think around the 10th mile -- there were drag queens dressed to the nines with feather boas and big headpieces and red high heels. 
They were fabulous.
(Just so you know, it's hard to laugh and run at the same time!)

One thing I found really interesting annoying were the spectators that decided to play frogger with the runners and cross through the race to the other side of the course.
I swear I almost took out 2 or 3 people. But I had no shame to my game - if the choice was to either almost run over a spectator or to stop suddenly and twist my ankle or hyperextend my knee, you already know my choice. 
I never broke stride. 

It was about mile 15 when I realized that I was on pace for a 3:47 finish time.

I had to do a double take. I didn't feel tired, my legs weren't hurting and for the first time over the course of the last 4 months, I knew what my subconscious goal really was: get into the 3:40's. The thought made me giddy.

Mile 20 I was still on pace for a 3:48.

Unfortunately a little after that, disaster struck.

My pain in the butt piriformis muscle started to ache. I kept going. Then it started to REALLY ache. Still kept going.
I finally had to slow down and try to shake it out. It helped for about 30 seconds, then it hurt again.

I watched my 3:48 finish time disappear before my very eyes.
The last thing I needed at the 23rd mile was disappointment, and yet there it was.

About that same time, I passed two guys in bright yellow shirts that said "guide" on them. They were attached to another runner on both sides with a rope.
I realized what it was after I passed them- - the runner was blind. 

I snapped out of my pity party and dug deep. 

Another half mile in I passed a guy in full camo with a giant backpack full of combat gear. He was running for the troops. 

I thought of my brother and dug even deeper.

About the 24th mile my music stopped playing -- I figured it was a network issue, as I was getting closer and closer to the finish line and more and more people began to gather.

At first I was mad. This is the time I need those power songs dangit! But then I listened to the music of the crowd, if you will. I took in my surroundings. Watched the joy and  pride on people's faces as their loved ones passed them. Listened to the cowbells and the yelling and screaming and whistles and other noisemakers. 
Where is that stupid finish line?!

Ready for my photo finish

Official Results: 
Finish time: 3:53:30 (New PR)
Division Place: 571 /  3663
Gender Place: 2,379 / 16,794
Overall Place: 9,526 / 37,478

I may not have gotten my 3:48, but I did PR. And on a gimp hip. 
Who can complain about that?! 

And here comes the part where I share my really awkward marathon photos taken along the course.

Taking off your gloves clearly requires some serious focus
A marathon seemed like a good idea 6 months ago

Adjusting my armband was way more important than being photogenic
The definition of Elated

I weaved my way through the finisher's chute and caught up with everyone at the post-race area for a massage, some ice, and warm dry clothes.

The rest of our time in Chicago we did some sightseeing, shopping, and of course more eating.


  I've taken about a month off since the marathon to rest my legs give myself a break. But don't let that fool you -- I'm already plotting my next one...
Marine Corps? Twin Cities? Portland?

The possibilities are endless!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Own Chicago - Part 1

We finally made it.

Marathon weekend in Chicago. 

My friend Christine and I decided to do our 2 mile "get the nerves out and shake it off" run around on that Saturday morning about the same time as the gun time - 7:30 AM - to see how cold it would actually be the next morning.

We both lugged about four different outfit options to Chicago with us in preparation of what was to come.
If it gets below 60 degrees, us Florida girls just don't know how to dress ourselves.
Turns out he temp that morning was 38.

I ventured out onto Michigan Ave in shorts, compression socks (used as leg warmers, basically), a tank top, pullover, ear warmers and gloves. In the beginning my nose and lungs burned with cold and my legs turned bright red with numbness. I thought for sure I was going to be in trouble.

By the end of the two miles, I was sweating and ready to take off layers. I was relieved to be warmed up so quickly, because I had spent countless hours trying to find the perfect marathon outfit which just so happened to consist of shorts and a sleeveless tank.

Outfit = saved!

I even painted my nails to match my shorts and shoes. How cute am I.

After fueling up with pancakes at The Bongo Room, we headed to the Expo at McCormick Place.

If you've never been, McCormick Place probably holds as many people as my hometown of Cullman. It is a giant structure and navigating around trying to find where to go was not easy. 
Once we found it though, it was like walking into a runner's paradise. We were there for almost 3 hours and didn't even see half of what they had to offer!
My cheerleaders made signs!
Cool booth at Nike

Nike+ motivation

We had a delicious pasta dinner that night at Rosebud with friends and family. 

It was Christine's first marathon so I had to pass down some running wisdom to her via Marathon Survival Kit, consisting of running necessities for race day.
It wasn't until I got back to the hotel that the nerves really started to get to me and the doubts began to settle in.

Will I cramp up? Do I really think my hip is going to last all 26 miles? What if the dry air makes my contact pop out? How am I supposed to run half blind?

Somehow after all that I managed to get a decent night's sleep.

I woke up race morning feeling fairly confident. I figured whatever happened I would just go with it. Sure, I'd love to get my time into the 3:40's, but that's not what's most important. I just needed to finish.

Race morning!

Christine and I hid in her hotel lobby until we absolutely had to leave the heat and face the cold moring. Luckily we had our "throw away" clothes to keep us warm outside. 

It was mass chaos at the start, and we later found out we barely made it into our corrals before they closed them off-- oops!
Not in any particular hurry

The corrals were definitely not like any other race I had experienced. I had qualified for a better corral placement, so I was with some legitimate runners.

Some of which had no shame to pee right there on the side of the street.
Yea, I'm talking to you, tall bald guy in Corral D with a British accent. 

Once the Star Spangled Banner was finished, there was a massive shower of sweaters, jackets, blankets and fleece pants flying to the edges of the street. It was actually quite comical. I've never seen anything like it. I really wish I had taken photos.

The city ends up donating all of those clothes back to the charities in the area, so if you're in need of a good jacket, there are about 40,000 additional ones right now in the Chicago thrift stores!

It took 8 minutes to get to the starting line after the gun went off. once I crossed that line, it was go time.