Friday, August 30, 2013

Product Review: Nike+ SportWatch

Well, as you already saw in my last few race recaps - SURPRISE!  I recently purchased a GPS running watch.

For the last ... maybe year or so ... I've been debating purchasing a GPS watch for running.  Although I feel like a total dork admitting it, the last three years of my running hobby have been supported largely by the Nike+ foot pod and the app that came pre-loaded on my iPhone.

Don't get me wrong, I don't mean to downplay the Nike+ foot pod.  It's really a great way for a beginner runner to get going.  Not only is it easy to use and fairly inexpensive, it's a great way to provide motivation when you're struggling to hit your first mile, or even first three miles.  So - if you're a beginning runner, go buy one already!

Foot pod

Clip for pod

However, obviously, there's more to this story.

Somewhere along the line last year, I started to realize that the pod wasn't so great for longer distances.  Although, I have to admit, I did still love hearing the miles tick off over my headphones, and getting the occasional pre-recorded congratulations from Lance Armstrong.  (LOL - actually, I don't hear from him much anymore... I wonder if Nike updated the app to eliminate him after all his doping drama). 

Despite those good times with the pod, the downsides started to add up with advanced training - such as inaccuracy over longer distances, or the lack of way to quick read pace and ensure even training, etc. 

Now that I'm big time with half marathoning a few times a year, these little inconveniences become a much larger issue.  Who wants to constantly be pushing buttons on their iPhone to hear current stats when they're running 13+ miles, am I right?

Yeah, yeah.  Let me toot my own horn a little.  Sheesh!

Anyhow!  Back in early spring, when my husband was asking me to assemble my birthday wish list, I started asking my running friends what they used in terms of GPS running support.  I heard the standard Garmin, Garmin, Garmin response... with one surprise response of "I use an iPhone GPS app". 

Hmm... I was interested in the (cheap) app until I heard "Well... it doesn't really like it when I run in small circles."  Drat, I'm annoyed enough with my pod, I don't need something else to measure my distance wrong, too.

I decided I'd be a "good runner" and look into Garmin options. 

$200+?!  Get outta here!

I love that episode of The Simpsons.  And quick tip - the Miller Brewery in Milwaukee lets you mail out one free postcard anywhere in the world when you tour it.  Guess who got a postcard in the mail that was an exact replica of the above?  Moving on...

As you can tell, I'm worried about my wallet more than my mileage accuracy.  The net result after researching was: no GPS watch, stick with the pod.

Then, the heavens opened last month and the angels began to sing.  I discovered the new Nike+ SportWatch!

After reading a bunch of blogs online about the watch, I decided it was worth a shot.  Since several other people have already blogged about the functionality of this watch, I'm going to direct you to their sites to read more.  No point in reinventing the wheel on that one.  (Just click on those two links to see the reviews I read prior to purchasing.) 

What I will say is that there are two major things that appealed for me in this watch:

(1) Price, duh!  $150 without the foot pod.
(2) If I choose to run indoors, which I often do in rainy or absurdly cold MN weather, I can tell the watch to still track my run by relying on the pod only.

Before I decided to pull the trigger, I did go to two different running stores to ask questions. 

First, I stopped at TC Running Company (totally on accident, really - my friend was picking up shoes and I was just killing time while she paid).  The staff there was friendly as usual, and spoke highly of the watch.  I wasn't really sold on the idea of purchasing it yet, so I decided to mull it over a little.

When I finally hit the point where I knew I wanted it, I happened to be closer to Running Room.  So, I swung in there and asked for a second opinion.  The guy I talked to had a buddy who ran with it, and is the one who has sold me several pairs of shoes in the past, so I trusted his opinion.  While he did try to sway me with Garmin ... and he's right, they are a "better" watch ... I knew for an entry level watch at such a low price point that I wasn't going to budge. 

So, after reviewing the color options they had in stock, I decided to go for the black watch with blue accents (shown above).  I'm sure you're shocked that I didn't go for neon green or something but... this was a pretty big investment piece, and I wanted to make sure I didn't get sick of it over time.  I have a tendency to want to buy new stuff all the time to keep up with current color trends, and I definitely didn't want motivation to buy a new watch because my current one was an outdated color.  After picking the black/blue watch, the sales guy bagged up my purchase and off I went.

I've now run a few official races with the thing, as well as a some training runs.  You can read more about my race day experiences with my watch in those summaries: Webster Education 5K, Crosby Serpent 5K.   

If you've already read those race reports, you know I've been pretty happy overall with the watch.  Aside from it taking a tad longer to link up to satellites in Crosby, and the slightly over enthusiastic instant pace read out in the first 1/4 mile of any run, everything else works great.  (Really - those two minor issues aren't anything, anyway). 

As an added bonus, in the first two races I ran with it on, I PR'd both times.  So obviously, it's helping me find my groove and hang in it. 

Also, I haven't noticed any issues so far with dropping satellites, and I used this on some fairly wooded training runs while I was up at the cabin on vacation the other week.  I can't say for sure if the satellites didn't drop, or if the foot pod just did its job by filling in whenever they did drop, but either way - I never noticed a pause in service on a 10 mile run down a 50-75% wooded trail.  So, that seems like a pretty good test to me. 

And maybe it works as a bear repellant, too?  I say this because I didn't see a single black bear on the trail during my 10 mile run, but did almost bump noses with one two days later while biking the same trail and NOT wearing the watch.  That was definitely an out of body experience...

Hmmm... now that I think about it, that is an interesting theory.  Well played, Nike+ SportWatch!

I guess my point of this post is... I really like this watch!  And if you're considering moving into the GPS world, for under $200 with a foot pod, this watch is a pretty good deal.

That's about all I have to say.  If you're interested, you can buy it at your local running store, or online here:

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Minneapolis Duathlon 2013 (WTF is a Wet Bulb)

Minneapolis Duathlon 
(3.15 miles run, 15 miles bike, 3.15 miles run)
Relay, Run Portions Only: 32:41 / 33:06
Average Pace - Let's Not Even Bother

Windy with a few clouds from time to time. Hot. Heat index near 105F. High 98F. Winds SSW at 20 to 30 mph. 

You know what I want to do on the hottest day of the year?  Why, get up at 4 am to do a team relay at the Minneapolis Duathlon of course!!

Ah the joy of registering for a race 6 months in advance... it always seems like a great idea at the time... and then when you look back on it, you're like - WHY DID I AGREE TO DO THIS?  I'm still not sure if it was a good thing I convinced my neighbor into being my partner for this relay.  But he did claim he had a good time, so I guess it's ok?????

And thing is, there were even various things leading up to this race that indicated the cosmos thought this race wasn't going to be a good idea, either.  Largely, my relay partner getting hit by a car on his bike and going to the hospital two weeks prior to race time... and then, his stitches coming out and bike BARELY being repaired in time for the race.  But do you think either one of us took those signs to heart?  No.  Of course not! 

In fact, I think the exact quote from my partner after he got hit by a car, and was drugged up in the ER, was "I'm trying to talk the doctor into just butterflying my knee shut so I can still be ready for this race."  Coming from a guy who, only a few days later, found the substantially sized missing chunk of meat from his knee in his bike gears.  Nasty. 

So, that's the premise for this race.  Heat, humidity, ER visits, blood & guts.  Oh, and pending glory.  No big thing, right?  Right!  Ok then...

Race day!  It's just post my 4am wake up call, and I'm realizing it is already just under 80F and about 75% humidity outside.  I am SUPER stoked to get going on this race.  Check it out:

Just kidding, here's the real pre race photo:

As you can see, I'm even already sweating IN MY AIR CONDITIONED HOUSE!  See that... uh...  "healthy glow" on my forehead?  You can also see, I'm wearing my customized bib number.  I love it when you register early and they put your name on your bib! 

Yes, I had already done packet pickup the day before, which I thought might also be a disaster, but came out surprisingly well.  My major concern was this: my partner and I registered back in March when Team Ortho was still claiming race participants would get a bike jersey.  But somewhere in May/June, they changed the swag take home to be a bike helmet.  (Editorial note: dumb!  Especially for the relay teams.  Why would a runner on a relay team want a bike helmet?!)  Although I was worried we might end up being screwed into a bike helmet, all went well.  I walked up to registration check in, was promptly handed my jerseys, and waltzed right out.  Way to keep good on your word, Team Ortho!

If you're curious, here's a photo of the helmet & jersey, and also the optional upgraded helmet you could pay an additional fee to get:

After a big cup of coffee, and a goodbye to my husband (who was literally laughing at me about the circumstances of this race), I packed up everything I need for race day and scooted across the street to meet my partner.  He was also "enjoying" the warm weather, and finishing racking our bikes to the back of his truck.  (I brought my bike along so that we could ride to the post race party, more on that later). 

It's somewhere as we're loading into the truck that I realize something.  It's 5am.  I'm in a truck with my neighbor, driving to downtown Minneapolis so that I can run two 5K race segments, approximately 45 minutes apart, in what is predicted to be about 100F weather.  I am officially insane.

Hey - that gives me a good costume idea for a future race!  Kidding, LOL!

Our goal was to be on the road by 5am, parked by 6am, and have my partner's bike in transition prior to the 6:30am cut off.  Then, we'd have to kill about an hour before our wave's gun time.  No problem, right?

Actually, no problem at all.  We beat that goal by miles, having the bike in transition right around 6am.  Which was great timing, because hardly anyone was there yet, and we totally beat the rush.  And that also meant... time for PEOPLE WATCHING!!!!!!! 

We spent maybe the next 15-20 minutes checking out our competition, oogling bikes, and ... "judging costumes".  This is where we developed two questions:

     (1) What is the total value of all bikes in transition on race day? 
          Answer - even if you estimate the average bike value to be $1,000 and
          guess there are 2,000 competitors... that would be $2 million!!

     (2) Do people even look in the mirror when they get dressed?
          Answer - no. 
          Side comment, please dress for the body you have, not the body you want.
          And even then, be conservative.  I don't want to see your crack because your booty
          shorts are sagging down your @ss due to the humidity. (*Yes, seen on course)

While people watching is entertaining, unfortunately our morning coffees have kicked in, so my partner/neighbor and I head to the porta-potties.  When we catch each other afterwards, be both have a funny smirk on our faces.  I say "Well, that was interesting" and he follows with a "Yeah, I've never used a porta-potty in the dark before".  LOL!  Every day is an adventure with me.  Welcome to the party! 

At this point, I run into my brother and his fiancĂ©, who is doing the race by herself.  The four of us chat and kill time pre-gun.  Somewhere in the mix, local celebrity/news personality Ken Barlow offers to take our relay team picture for us... odd, but ok!  What a nice guy!

Eventually my brother's fiancĂ©e takes off to queue up for the race, and I head to the porta-potties for one last stop before I join her.  And, the national anthem plays as I "occupy".  Another first.

Since the elites have taken off, and the runners are all lining up, I bid my partner goodbye and hope to see him in about 30 minutes.  The gun fires for my group and off I run into the great humid yonder.

The course is your standard Team Ortho run.  Out and back along the river, with a couple of bridge crossings to start you off first (one being the stone arch bridge, always a scenic view).  If you're curious at all for my first 5K, you can take a peek, just don't judge the awful time:


As a side note, there were two mean tricks played on the first run.  First, you had to run up an incline/service ramp to get back into the transition area.  Second, the relay team was at the very back of transition.  My first run was actually almost 3.5 miles long including the transition point.  Blech!

On the up side, having a tall partner works out great in transition.  I could see him waving from almost a quarter of a mile away!  LOL!  I'm sure my pink zebra outfit helped him in spotting me, too.

At this point, we hit the fun part - the "rip and pass" of the timing chip.  It is SUPER nasty to have to give someone a sweaty as hell foam ankle strap.  (But, not to worry, he returned the favor later.) 

Without thinking about it, he strapped on the chip, and off my partner went for the bike portion.  I killed the time by talking to someone I surprisingly knew in transition.  Well, that and drinking copious amounts of water.  (Sorry for the lack of info on the bike portion... obviously, I can't comment if I didn't do it.  I can say that my partner thought it was a nice course, and that it wasn't too bad, but it definitely wasn't a fast and flat route.  If you want to do this race in the future, make sure you are able to do some minimal climbs.) 

Before I knew it, my partner was back on his bike, with a very respectable time of 53:34.  So, off I go again!

All I could think at this point is... OMG, so hot!  Just run... just run... you're almost done, it's only 3 more miles.  Well, that and... ew, gross - I'm sweating like a pig.

And then, tragedy!  As I hit about the 1 mile mark on my second run, I am near enough to transition to hear the following announcement:  "Attention racers!  The wet bulb temperature has registered 84.  Team Ortho is now calling the race.  Anyone who has not yet completed the bike portion will end their race in transition.  All racers may claim their medals.  The post race party will begin early at Brit's Pub..."

WTF is a wet bulb, you ask?  Don't worry, I had the same question. 

Here are some fancy graphs to help you figure it out:

Essentially, it's a weird combo of air temperature and humidity that results in a different number that is somehow lower than the current temperature.  But, it's an indicator used in athletic events to help gauge the impact on the human body.

If I were to guess at 8 am, I would say we were at a humidity of 60% and an air temp of 90F/32C.  That's a wet bulb on the black & white chart of 100, or the yellow zone of the other map which is rated "great discomfort, avoid exertion".  My estimates are obviously a little high, since Team Ortho's announcement was holding us at 84.  And, strangely, Team Ortho's policy was to cut off at a wet bulb of 79 ... for some reason they held out until 84?  Either way, that tells you what kind of weather day we were having.

Back to the race recap...

Upon hearing this announcement, I started to check out.  I REALLY wished I could have worn headphones for this race (thus not hearing that announcement).  All I could think was: you mean to tell me, I could have had all the glory of "completing" this race without the second run portion... if only we had been just 10-15 minutes slower as a team!?

I guess you can also look at the flip side and say, at least we were athletic enough as a team to beat the system, and finish the entire race.  Hats off to us.

Thankfully, as I reached the water stop, I discovered one of the volunteers had tapped into a fire hydrant and was aiming a lawn sprinkler at passing runners.  I decided to take my only walk break from either run, and enjoy the entire water stop.  Which meant getting sufficiently wet from the sprinkler and enjoying a cup of water. 

Considering the time I wasted at the water stop, my second run didn't end up too shabby:

Soon after the water stop, the end was in sight.  Thank goodness this time, though, I got to skip the final uphill ramp to transition!  And, to make things even better, as I was about to clear the last 0.15 mile, I heard my partner cheering and trying for a photo... I'm just so fast he could barely catch me:

I proceeded to the finish line in a hot, sweaty mess.  My partner found me, and as we moseyed to transition to pick up his bike and my finisher medal, he tells me about the heat cut off.  Apparently tons of people were pissed at the announcement, but I can't understand why.  I mean, on my second run, I saw one lady crouching on the side of the road holding onto a wall... supposedly taking a "break".  I also got disgustingly sweat sprayed by a runner in front of me who was enthusiastically waving to someone in the crowd - that shows you how much we were all sweating if I can get a shower from a person's wave.  My partner said he even saw bikers on course struggling... and some of them were relay folks who were only doing the bike portion (yikes).  It was stinking hot, folks.  Calm down and admit it!

Somewhat delirious from dehydration at this point, I thought I saw the medal pickup area in transition, and then lost sight of it when I rounded a corner.  But then, as if my mind was playing tricks on me, I found it again a second later.  Upon getting the medal in my hand, I wasn't quite sure that I wanted to wear it and risk salt staining the lanyard in my sweaty state.  For a few brief seconds I debated wearing it, but then figured screw it and threw it around my neck, basking in my glory.  It's a pretty cool medal, after all!

**Not shown, but comes attached to a black lanyard with white/orange printing.

After we grabbed everything from transition, we quick stopped back at the truck to grab my bike, and headed off to the best part of the race:

 AKA - free beer!

Oh, and let's not forget I ate the most delicious chicken pot pie I've had in ages!!

No, I'm not one of those foodie nerds. 
Thank goodness for Google images, ya'll.

Kudos to the staff at Brit's, by the way.  I don't know how in the world they could manage being around a bar full of sweaty, stinky athletes.  I could smell myself from a mile away as it was!  Although... maybe we smelled better than the 1am bar crowd...?  And, on the plus side, we were all too exhausted to get truly drunk and boisterous, so I'm sure they appreciated that!

After we enjoyed our refreshments (my partner had a sandwich & "chips" - Brit's is English, so don't call them fries), we hung around a tad longer... just to find out we didn't win the raffle for some miscellaneous Team Ortho gear.  Oh well!  No worse for the wear, we hopped back on our bikes and headed to the truck... and eventually, for home. 

At which point, I have to say, being home included the best shower & nap I've had in ages.  Whoo!

And that's the story of how race bib # 33 joined my collection.  Here's to another race soon... actually, next weekend again!  Let's hope the "wet bulb" is a little dryer this time!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Oh Lululemon...

Here's an interesting one for ya!

Boy, oh boy.

About a week or so ago, I saw a headline talking about Lululemon discriminating against plus sized women.  At first, I brushed it off thinking... well, who is out there wanting to shell out $100+ per piece on skanky workout clothes if they're overweight anyway?  Because, let's face it, most of the stuff at Lulu is made for sweating in workouts that don't exactly happen in the gym, if you know what I'm sayin'...

*Actual workout gear from Lululemon.  No, not a swimsuit... or a streetwalker costume.

So I strolled on my merry way, and stopped thinking any more about the subject. 

But, something in the back of my head just kept itching.  And of course, when you have an itch, at some point you have to scratch.

That's when the googling began. 

Oh lord.

Let's start with the history.  On July 31st the Huffington Post published an article titled "Shunning Plus Sized Shoppers is Key to Lululemon's Strategy, Insiders Say".  The article was backed by two former Lulu employees, one named Elizabeth Licorish, and the other remaining anonymous.  Essentially, the article touches on how Lulu doesn't carry anything over a size 12, and how most sizes over 8 are somewhat of a sore spot *supposedly* for stores, with them tending to be hidden in back instead of put out on the floor with all other product.  In a nut shell, the store encouraged discriminating based on size. 

So far, I'm not too shocked.  The fitness industry isn't exactly geared towards the overweight crowd.

After the article went up July 31st, I guess sh!t hit the fan for Lulu's PR group.  All sorts of people started getting up in arms about Lulu fat shaming, etc., etc.  This is where I started rolling my eyes, because while I agree that something is fishy with Lululemon, I don't think any clothing company should be forced to accommodate all sizes... that's why they are a private business, they make their own choices and sell what they want.

Moving on.  Apparently, somewhere between August 1st and August 7th, enough of a stink was made that Lulu made a statement:

"Our product and design strategy is built around creating products for our target guest in our size range of 2-12.  While we know that doesn't work for everyone and recognize fitness and health come in all shapes and sizes, we've built our business, brand and relationship with our guests on this formula. So it’s important for us to maintain our focus as we innovate our products and expand our business internationally in the years ahead.”

Hmmm... something in this statement this felt off to me.  I kept googling and found another article.

"In an interview with the Calgary Herald in 2005, Lululemon founder and former chief executive officer Chip Wilson said it takes 30% more fabric to create plus-size clothes, meaning he would have to charge a higher price for them. Wilson wouldn't do that, he said, because plus-size people are sensitive, and he didn't want his company to bear the fallout of such a move."


OK, wait.  I know retail.  I worked in product development for stores like Target and Best Buy for over 5 years before I switched into the industry I'm in now.  Don't lose me here but... even if you need 30% more fabric, when a retailer takes over 60% markup on their products, that extra bit of fabric is less than 5% of the final sale price of an apparel item.  (Product cost isn't just fabric, btw - there is labor, packaging, duty rates, etc. and none of those change based on size).  If you introduce less than 10% of your product line in these larger sizes, and wash out the extra cost across the board of all sizes... well, in a nut shell, offering a few more sizes up really doesn't have a huge impact on cost. 

I'm oversimplifying here, but it's true - adding a couple more sizes up in limited availability wouldn't really hit Lulu's pocketbook much, if at all. 

Or, if it was really that big of an issue, Lulu could offer a plus sized pricing strategy.  If they don't realize this option exists, they are either extremely stupid as a company or obviously not very aware of the standard retail market.

I say this because most people are used to seeing the 1X/2X+ realm of products sold under a different pricing structure.  Just look at how retailers like JCP or Target sell online and you'll see what I mean.  The same item, same design/fabric, will be sold under two different web links - one for XS-XL, one for plus sizes.  And typically, the price varies.

Ok, ok.  I'm starting to derail my conversation. 

Let's reflect for a second on what I've been able to discover: 

1 - Lululemon store employees claim they are being encouraged to hide the "larger" sizes (sorry for the quotation marks - size 10/12 is not "large").

2 - Lululemon's PR group says they want to keep their focus on the size 2-12 range.

3 - Lululemon's founder made up lame excuses 5 years ago as to why he won't offer bigger sizes.

This is all starting to sound very reminiscent of Abercrombie and their ongoing behaviors re-enforcing what an ass-hat brand they are.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, google a bit about their sizing strategies and their top exec.  For example, did you know he profiles people by appearance all the way down to who he'll let be his steward on an airplane and who can clean his house?  Insane.

I'm starting to see a lot of parallels between Abercrombie and Lululemon.  Think about it.  Have you ever seen a "normal" girl working in a Lulu store?  Much like walking into an Abercrombie, you will not see a "normal" guy.  And if either store is profiling people based on looks at that basic of a level, what do you think they're doing to you when you walk in the door?

As if this isn't enough, I kept googling on and found this article, which was a follow up to the Huffington Post article on July 31st, and was written by one of the sources - Elizabeth.  I definitely recommend you read it... she is very well spoken, and if you've ever worked in a company that felt cultish or pressured you to fit in with the clique, you'll have an immediate connection with her story.

Also highlighted in Elizabeth's article is the fact that a Lululemon employee a few years back killed her coworker.  I know you can't put an individual's actions on a company, but if that doesn't hint at some of the stress culture Lulu is creating based on appearance profiling, I don't know what is.

So, a brand that focuses on waist size rather than fitness... who says they encourage healthy lifestyles for everyone but only employ the skinniest of women in their stores... and the proceeds to hide their larger pant sizes in the back...

What kind of store is this?

Are you sure you want to shop there?


After posting this blog, a friend directed me to this interesting collection of news blurbs connected to Lululemon.  Feel free to read to find out even more about the company...

Friday, August 23, 2013

Serpent Run 5K 2013 (Kung Fu Kick)

Serpent Run 5K (3.15 miles)
27:29 PR!
Average Pace 8:43/mile

Holy crap.  Prior to writing this recap, I decided to take a look at the mileage I've completed in the last month or so. 

For those of you who don't follow my every post, I'm in the end stages of half marathon training for the Chicago Half on September 8th.  In review, I have ran...

     45 miles in July
     33 miles in August (to date)

That means I've run a measly 78 miles in the last 7 weeks.  No sweat, right?  LOL!

I guess my point to all this is, I am definitely in peak shape right now for 5K racing.  I've never run this much, this consistently, ever in my life.

Couple that with a race that has been my PR for the last two years in a row, and there's bound to be some sort of success story.  And so begins my race recap for the Serpent Run 5K in Crosby, MN.

As I said, I've run this race three years in a row now.  And the reason I keep going back is largely due to the vicinity of the race to my sister's house, and the fact that they offer a family friendly registration discount.  So, not only is it a PR course for me, it's cheap for my sister's family to participate in.  Which means a win for us all!

And, of course, what's a race with me without a costume of some sort?  I think by now most of you have seen this photo, which is actually from the Serpent race in 2012:

Not to be out done by our previous performance, I asked my nephew months ago what we should do for 2013.  His answer came quite easily, actually, as he quickly answered "Ninja Turtles".

And so, without any further adieu, ladies and gentlemen, I give you, the Ninja Turtles:


Of course we had to do a few kung-fu kicks, we were ninjas after all!!

If you look carefully, you'll notice we each have a proper ninja turtle colored headband, and my niece is dressed as April O'Neil.  We're the entire crew, yo!

Speaking of, have any of you seen what they did to April now that they brought the turtles back?  I mean, I'm OK with the less boobage... but the outfit changed?  WTH!  If anything, they could have at least made her have a more normal looking body shape.  What is up with those new twig arms and tiny knees?!


I guess they'll never give girls a break on body image.  *Sigh*


So, my sister's family and I, dressed as ninja turtles, hustle to the start line of the race.  There's not much to discuss in terms of race organization or participants this year, because the race has really shrunk since the first time we ran in 2011.  In fact, I think there were less than 40 folks on course, and a good half of them were from the cross country team that run the race.  Sad!  Hopefully the race still happens in 2014... I guess we'll see.

While we wait at the start line, it becomes apparent my nephew (who's 5 and starting kindergarten this fall) is unsure who he wants to hang with on course.  He begins asking us all how fast we are going to go to see if he can keep up.  My sister says she's going to run, so he either has to run with her the whole way or walk with dad and the stroller.  Big debate, right?

Decision time!!  What's a cool kid to do? 

DUH!  Consider running with me, of course!

I can tell he's already thinking about walking with dad, and try to encourage him to go that direction a bit by explaining I'm going to run even faster than his mom. 

He asks how fast, and I say "So fast that smoke will be coming off... (long pause to think of something kid friendly to say)... my shoes." 

He smirks and decides to jog/walk along with dad.

Now that our paces are settled, all we have to do is wait for the gun... well, that and I wait for my watch to pick up satellites, which took a bit longer than I would have liked.  But that's really my own fault, because I didn't sync my watch when I moved from Siren, WI to Crosby, MN.  So of course the 200+ mile location change threw my watch for a bit of a loop.  Thank goodness the satellites linked in about 1 minute prior to the race... I thought for sure I was going to have to go back to using my Nike+ app on my iPhone! 

Literally seconds after my watch is ready, the gun goes off and I take off.  I feel like a gazelle sprinting down the road, everything is moving so smoothly.  My watch's instance pace monitor tells me I'm doing something crazy like 6:54 in the first 1/4 mile, which I want to believe is true... but after I read my splits I guess it's not entirely accurate:

And you can see why I like this course, check out the elevation for the first two miles - a constant downhill slope!

However, I have to admit, beyond this being a flat/fast course, there isn't much more interesting going for it.  You basically run from the grocery store of the small town, down along the back side of the city, and out onto the local paved trail.  Then, shortly after crossing a highway, you hit a turn around and head back.  Not exactly thrilling.

Typically, I don't really like out and back races, and often try to avoid them if I can.  I think it's because seeing the fast racers coming back past me when I'm barely clear of the 1.25 mile mark is a little demotivating - especially for someone who's competitive like me.  However, in this race I actually like it, because it means I get to wave goodbye to my nephew at the start, then again somewhere after I pass the turn around (since he's always a bit behind me), and then one final time when he comes into the finish line.  Cheap thrills, what can I say?

I found out later that sometime after I passed them mid course, apparently my nephew decided to ditch dad and run along with mom for a bit.  I think he must have seen her at the turn around and decided running back sounded fun?  I'm not sure. 

But, what I do know is, as they're jogging along ... all the sudden my nephew strikes up a conversation with my sister.  It goes something like this:

Nephew: Mom, do you smell that?
Sister: (Confused) What?
Nephew: I said, do you smell that?
Sister: (Sniffs and thinks) Um, I don't smell anything buddy.  What do you smell?
Nephew: (Grinning) It's the smoke from Auntie Natalie's shoes!!!

LOL!  Maybe I need to start running in these guys?

While my nephew is cracking jokes back on trail, I pull into the finish line and hear the timer call out 27:29.  I can't believe it!  Not only did I crush my PR from April last week by almost 1 minute, I've crushed that PR buy almost another full minute not even a week later.  I'm pretty stoked!

Enjoying my victory, I grab some water and cool down, waiting for my sister to pull in.  Eventually I get impatient and start to walk backwards on course.  And, of course, I drill sergeant her to the finish line just to get her time as fast as possible, too.

She informs me at the finish that my nephew abandoned ship and hopped back in with dad, so we wait for them to roll in.  And, a few minutes later they show up, stroller in tow.

After a few post race snacks, we feel refreshed, and decide it's time to go.  We all pile in the car, and I review the last few stats before getting back home and jumping in the shower:

And that's the story of how race bib # ... well, nothing joined my collection!  This race didn't have bibs!

Here's to another race soon... technically, this weekend via a team event.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Webster Education Foundation 5K 2013 (Chasin' ZZ Top)

Webster Education Foundation 5K (3.15 miles)
28:28 PR!
Average Pace 9:02/mile

Do you ever have a gut feeling of pending disaster?  That's how this race started out.

Sheesh.  My last few race recaps just keep sounding horrific.  But honestly, I'm doing it to myself.  You'd think I'd have learned at the Gandy Dancer race a few weeks back not to experiment with eating crap the night before a 5K race. 

Yes, I know - just punch me in the face now.  In a pinch on Friday night, and in a car by myself with my dog in the back seat, I was fairly limited in my dinner choices.  Driving 100+ miles through rural MN/WI and hungry, what's a girl to do?

Ah, the dinner of champions - a Wendy's basic cheeseburger meal with fries.  So gross and yet so good.  I try to justify it by saying: Wendy's is a least fresh and includes a larger than average serving of lettuce, tomato and onion on the burger.  (I know a few people who are cringing right now... and I'm sure I'm about to "enjoy" a lecture on the health benefits of kale the next time I see them).

Needless to say, I HAVE to stop eating crap the night before a race.  My stomach of steel is starting to revolt by telling me grease does not do a body good. 

Moving on... and yes, I'll try to avoid the pre-race diet recaps in the future.

As I mentioned prior to my departure last week, I just took a week long vacation.  And I have to say, doing this race, I definitely started my cabin vacation off right!  How can you go wrong with doing a 5K?  Well, aside from the fact that my poor husband ended up sitting around for over a hour on my birthday to spectate... poor guy!  He's such a sport, escorting me to check in, commenting on the t-shirt we got, taking my pre-race photo:

Oh, see that little something blue on my left wrist?  More on that in a future post.  It will make my race recap today extra interesting, though.

Anyway, I don't have a lot to say about check in.  I got my bib number (#2... how did they know my stomach would appreciate that joke??), my t-shirt, and my instructions on how to pin the bib.  Like I mentioned in the Gandy race report, they were using the photo finish system again at this race.  So, I had to have my bib in a specific location to ensure a proper finish log.  Ok, easy enough.

Notice that I pinned the bib on the wrong side in my pre-race photo?  Yeah, I'm just that smart.  At least I figured it out and fixed it prior to gun time.

Having two strikes against me with the stomach and the bib issues, I decide things can't get much worse and proceed to line up at the start to await the gun time.  And for the first time ever, I turn on my new GPS watch and waited for the satellites to link in.  In less than a minute, my watch told me I was ready to run.  Sweet!

Just a few minutes after my watch was ready, the gun went off.  So, I clicked the "go" button on my watch and took off, excited to take my new gadget for a spin (literally).

As is typical for 5K racing, it took about 1/2 mile for runners to start to shake out.  Seems like it never fails: everyone throttles out of the gate like a bat out of hell when the gun fires.  But, by the first 1/2 mile, all the sudden people realize they went out too fast, and they start to burn out.  That, in my eyes, is when the real race begins.  And, that is also when I start to pick out my competition.  Which may be a 6 year old, a granny... or in this case, a man with a kick ass ZZ Top style beard.  I saw him and couldn't resist.  I just looked at that beard and said: Let's rock this!

I chased him for the first mile, and I have to admit, he really motivated me to move!  I forced myself to keep pace with him, even though I wasn't sure if it would be a mistake later in the race... going out too hard can definitely catch up with you in the 3rd mile. 

First mile in, my watch tells me I ran under a 9 minute mile.  Not too shabby!

I continued to chase ZZ Top until somewhere past the first mile or maybe the half way point.  Then, I don't know what happened, but he lost his spark and fell back a little (although he didn't quit running).  I have to admit, I was pretty bummed.  It was kind of fun to take bets with myself to see if I could beat a middle aged man with a beard like that.

When he pulled back, I powered ahead and picked the next person ahead of me that I was going to "race".  Yes, I do this all the time.  It's a race, and my goal is to beat whoever is ahead of me.  So, even though I'm not going to win, I am going to BEAT SOMEONE DANG IT!!  This is about where I have to admit... keeping pace with a 60 something woman taught me the humility of judging a book by its cover, again.  I started wondering almost immediately if I would be able to hold her pace to the finish line.  I realized I couldn't and started to pull back somewhere just after the 2nd mile, which my watch said I cleared just past the 18 minute mark.

About this time is when I start to realize that my watch is coming in handy!  Doing math in my head I discover that even if I ran my typical slow pace from long distance runs (about 10 min/mile), I might finally do it!  I might meet my goal of getting an official 28 minute finish time!!  Despite my legs feeling like lead, I refuse to let myself go any slower.  Which is hard to do, because we've now transitioned onto the last 1/2ish mile of the race and we're back on a trail again.  Running on gravel really sucks. 

I guess I can add a note here about the course, and use a fun feature of my new toy (a custom map, ya'll!!).  As you can see below, we started at the green dot, which was the parking lot of the Webster High School.  As indicated by the green/yellow line, I ran like a mad woman through the city streets until I started to fade a bit at the 1/2 mile mark (note how the line starts to turn orange).  A bit before the 1 mile mark, we turned right onto a gravel trail, which we promptly exited again at Oak Street... just to hop on again after clearing the 2 mile mark.  Gah!  Even flat trail running suxxxx!!!

Here's the map:

The race course was actually kind of an ingenious design, because it allowed the water stop to be stationed right in the center of all the trail running... meaning you could have a double stop to get water if needed.  Kudos to the person who figured that one out!

The last bit of the race was a transition off the trail onto the grassy field of the high school leading up to the track.  That's where this happened:

ARG!  Seriously, you guys.  This guy just came out of nowhere and passed me!  WTH!  So pissed!  Here's my after face when I realized what happened:


But, that didn't last long, because as I frantically looked for the finish clock, I realized I was on track for the ever elusive 28.  So I canned the pissy mood and pushed for my final sprint.

You should have to be nekkid to streak that fast, amirite?  I look like a pro!

And as my husband took the above photo, he then scrambled to capture this (albeit a few seconds too late):

Not going to lie.  I did a little fist pump at the finish line before handing in my bib's tear off tag... profusely sweating all over myself in the process.

Since I had high hopes that I beat most of the other 30 something women to the finish line, I decided I wanted to hang around at the finish for the awards ceremony.  I heard there were medals for the top three in every age category, and I figured even if it was 3rd, I wanted that metal dag-nabbit!

My husband and I passed the time by watching other runners come in.  Before I could even get my heart rate back in line, ZZ Top came through the finish with a very respectable 30ish minute finish. 

People kept rolling in, and at the 40 minute mark the cutest little boy realized he was almost to the finish and broke into a HIGHLY focused sprint.  I mean, it was the kind of sprint where he looked like he was shooting death rays out of his eyes and his legs were spinning so fast he put the road runner to shame.  It was so stinkin' cute the entire audience cheered him into the finish:

At this point, a few more walkers straggled in and the time keepers started tallying for the winner's circle. 

I killed time by looking at my watch and marveling in it's technology.  Here's a sample of some of the reports I was able to generate post race:

Finally, the moment came to announce the top threes.  Why is it so hard to be patient when you really want something bad? 

Top females 12 & under... top males 20s...

Ok, here it comes: top females, 30-39!!

Nope, not 3rd place...

Hmmm, not second place either?  Well, shoot.  I may as well get up and start walking back to the car. 

And then I hear it.  "First place, Natalie Cobb."  I am so shocked that all I can do is let out a yelp of "Oh my god!"

It took me a few seconds to realize I need to hustle up to the announcers and claim my prize... the whole time I'm in a daze, not able to believe I just took first place. 

And then, reality sinks in as I start to walk back to my husband.  For all the years where I thought I'd never weigh less than 200 pounds ever again, never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd EVER take first place in any kind of athletic event.  Even as a kid, I was always the chubby one on the side lines, dreading PE class and hoping to make it through any mandatory athletic event without making too much of a fool of myself.  And here I am, holding a medal for first place.  I proceeded to lose it when I've cleared the crowd, full on bawling on the way to the car.  Not out of pain or anger, but out of sheer pride. 

It's times like this that I can't believe who I've become.  Not only a PR, but first place.  Who is this person?!  I don't know, but I'll keep her!

In celebration of a race well done, we head to the local coffee shop.  Of course, I can't resist a second to bathe in my glory and pose for a Facebook ready gloat photo:

Little did I know, if I had held in there for another 10 minutes, I could have been featured on the race's website as a champion.  UGH!  Oh well, next year.  Regardless, look at that amazing group that I was a part of:

And that's the story of how race bib # 32 joined my collection.  Here's to another race soon... which already happened, actually, so watch for my next recap on Friday!