Monday, March 31, 2014

Or Am I Just Being Lazy?

This weekend, as you can see, my sister and I made some very health conscious, life changing decisions:

Yes, you're seeing that right.  My sister is drinking a Bloody Mary with a Chicago dog on it (among other things - other delicious, delicious things).

Hey, we're only human.  And at least it was AFTER running the Shamrock Shuffle (which I'll recap later this week).

While having lunch at Jimmy Green's, we had a great discussion about moderation in life.  Including moderation in eating and in working out.  Overall, our discussion was about when it's OK to do something "bad", and when it's not.  Obviously, we don't drink/eat junk like this every day.  So, indulging once on a special occasion is OK.

Similarly, we both try to be active.  But there might be that one day where you're body isn't feeling quite right - you're tired, you're sick, you're injured... whatever.  On those days, it's OK to self evaluate and say "you know, today isn't my day, I think I'm going to sit this one out."

However, the catch in this whole concept is that you have to be extremely honest with yourself.  You have to ask "how much other junk have I eaten this week - should I really be doing this?"  Or if you're skipping out on a workout, you have to ask "am I really not feeling right today, or am I just being lazy?"

If you can't be honest with yourself, the system breaks.  You overindulge in foods you don't need and don't exercise enough. 

So, be truly honest with yourself.

"Am I really not feeling right today, or am I just being lazy?"

Friday, March 28, 2014

Oh, SELF Magazine

Did you hear the latest one about SELF Magazine?

Ugh, it's actually kind of disgusting.

So, apparently SELF Magazine, which touts itself as "an American magazine for women that specializes in health, fitness, nutrition, beauty and happiness" recently published this blurb:

OK, OK.  Yeah, the tutu trend might be a tad overdone.  I'll admit I wore one two years ago, and now it is getting to the point where it's a bit tired (aside from when people wear them at races that are specifically known for being costumed events).  So you might look at the above and think - so what - right?

Here's where the problem comes in.  Yeah, these two ladies are wearing tutus at a non-themed race (the 2013 LA marathon).  But, before SELF started ripping these ladies a new one, they could have spent 5 seconds to look up their bib numbers and find out who the people were in the photo, or get their back story before hand.  They didn't.  And it bit them in the ass - HARD.

Want to know why the girls were wearing tutus?

One of them was doing her a marathon during her mid point of chemo for fighting brain cancer.


Before I can even touch on the cancer piece, I have to say I'm disgusted that SELF would take a photo of someone they know nothing about and just start ripping on them for being healthy, fit and happy (what their magazine stands for). 

Then, of all people out there, those who work in a fitness magazine should know WAAAAYYY better.  It's no secret that many times runners wearing tutus are tied to cancer specific charities.  For example, there are runs that are specifically set up as "tutus for tatas", and they benefit breast cancer.

Ugh.  I'm just annoyed.

I'm not going to spend more time discussing this other than to say one thing: although I think the tutu is overdone and there are many other ways to dress unique while running, I would never judge someone for running in a tutu.  As long as it makes them have a good time while working out, who cares?!  With the obesity rate we're facing in this country, anything that gets people excited about working out is good in my book.

Besides, who am I to judge?  I just taught my last aerobics class dressed like a skeleton and wearing a iridescent silver sparkly headband.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

No More Buzz - Update

Not quite a month ago, I wrote about my goal of giving up caffeine.

So... right about now I bet you're wondering if (A) I stuck to it and (B) I've killed someone yet.  After all, I'm the one at the office who is constantly pissed off when they go to fill their coffee cup and the communal pot has been left sitting empty...



Well, the good news is - no.  There have been no killings.  Not even when I switched down to decaf.

I mean, yeah, I had a few days of random mild headaches that would come and go.  And strangely, when I decided to jump down from decaf to nothing, I had another day of headaches.

But after that, I was in the clear. 

Great news, right?

Seems too good to be true?

Well... maybe.  It's a little soon to tell.  I say this because, I noticed after I gave up coffee entirely, I started having a wicked bad sweet tooth in the AM.  I'm not sure if that was just physiological because I missed coffee, or maybe because I used sweet cream in my coffee, or maybe because the coffee served as a mild appetite suppressant and now I don't have that anymore.  I don't know.

What I can say is that I really miss having some sort of hot liquid in the AM to help me perk up and prepare for my day.  Nothing quite does it like coffee with a bit of sweet cream in it.  And although I could look into herbal teas or something else, that doesn't really help me with my ultimate goal, which is to reduce my overall sugar intake (since I know I'd never be able to drink something hot that's unsweetened).

BTW, I am doing quite well on the less sugar goal.  I haven't caved to any Easter candy (my ultimate weakness) in over two weeks. 

If you've never been to a MN Ren Fair, you might not get this joke.

I'm also doing very well with my counter goal - drinking water in the morning in lieu of coffee to help me get a jump start on hydrating more through out the day.  Yes, yes.  Queue peeing machine.

Interestingly, this no caffeine thing has helped me totally kick my diet soda habit, too.  Not that I drank a ton of that, maybe 1-3 cups per week at most.  But that means I've pretty much eliminated my chemical sweetener use (read: calorie free, sugar substitute).

To be honest, I have broken the no caffeine rule a couple of times for race day events, but really ... I didn't have any setbacks because of that.  So, I think I'm good.  I've kicked the addiction.

And, I can honestly say that overall, I'm glad I started this test.  Before I say I'm totally done with coffee, I'm going to give it one more full month of evaluation.  But maybe I'll dump the habit for good?

Have you ever given up coffee?  Something else?  Tell me about it below!!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Muscle Mass Beats BMI

I just read an article that makes me feel justified in hating the BMI scale.

Here are my favorite snippets:

The more muscle older adults have, the lower their risk of death, according to a new study.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 3,600 older adults who took part in the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 1988 and 1994. The participants included men 55 and older and women 65 and older.

As part of the survey, the participants underwent tests to determine their muscle mass index, which is the amount of muscle relative to height.

The investigators used a follow-up survey done in 2004 to determine how many of the participants had died of natural causes and how muscle mass was related to death risk. People with the highest levels of muscle mass were significantly less likely to have died than those with the lowest levels of muscle mass.

"In other words, the greater your muscle mass, the lower your risk of death.  Thus, rather than worrying about weight or body mass index, we should be trying to maximize and maintain muscle mass."

The findings add to growing evidence that overall body composition is a better predictor of all-cause death than body mass index (BMI), according to the researchers. BMI is an estimate of body fat based on weight and height.

"Our study indicates that clinicians need to be focusing on ways to improve body composition, rather than on BMI alone, when counseling older adults on preventative health behaviors."


My take away?  Stop obsessing about the number on the scale, and worry more about being an active, healthy adult.

Amazing new theory, eh?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Sing Along Time!

I need some help.

I've been listening to the same music for a looooong time now.  And although that's a good thing because I can sing all the words:

It's also a bad thing, because I'm not as motivated during my workouts anymore.

Anyone have any suggestions for some hot new tunes?!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Get Lucky 7K 2014 (Dude Where's My Beer)

Get Lucky Twin Cities 7K (4.25 miles)
Average Pace 12:29/mile

Ah, St. Paddy's Day.  Green Beer.  Corned Beef.  Getting up at 6 am to run a 7K race.

Wait, what?

Yeah, yeah.  You got that right.  Race season has officially started again for this girl, and despite my less than ideal first race of the year at Little Rock, I didn't let that stop me.  Besides, my sister and I had to outdo our performance from last year.  Or at least outdo our costumes, if nothing else.

What do you think - did we achieve our goal?

My dress, by the way, if you love it, came from my favorite Etsy seller Micksmakings.  My sister's outfit was made by her, but I'm sure she could hook you up with a version of it if you contact her via her own Etsy shop.

Anyway, back to the race recap!

Before I get too deep into the story, I want to say that this is the third time now that I've run Get Lucky Twin Cities (7K distance), and the second time I've run it with my sister.  And, the best part about running this race, not to mention the reason I've done it three years in a row, is the fact that it's supported by my gym.  Which means... PARTY BUS!!!!!

So, when my alarm went off at 6am, it wasn't because I so excited to race that wanted to get going ASAP to enjoy the pre-race festivities (for a run that's gun time was 9am).  It was because our chariot awaited us:

Yep.  We travel in style.

By 7:30am, our group had piled onto the bus and we were off!  Overall, the drive down was fairly uneventful, aside from a minor parking snafu - apparently the place where we've parked for the last two years wouldn't let us park there this year...???  WTF.  Fortunately, our bus driver managed to "Get Lucky" and found enough metered parking spots in a row to accommodate the bus.  With credit card in hand, our organizer spent some of her hard earned "blarney" on a few hours worth of parking meters, and we were "golden".

OK, I'll stop.

Once the bus was parked, most of us unloaded and headed over to the pre-race holding area.  Thankfully, Team Ortho learned a lesson or two from last year's frozen-ass run, and came up with a warming house option for 2014.  This worked out great!  And while I wanted to enjoy people watching in the Depot building for longer, I simply couldn't... Team Ortho pulled a switcheroo for anyone who did early packet pickup/delivery, and my sister and I were both impacted by that.  Which meant, we didn't have a valid post-race beer ticket. 

GRR!  That's the most important swag from the race!

Unfortunately, we spent the first 30 minutes roaming around the Depot looking for the info booth, then waiting in line for the info booth, and finally getting our free beer ticket from the info booth.  What a pain.  But also, kind of fun, since we got to march around in our costume and get lots of responses.  (FYI - It's amazing how many people immediately look at your costume when you're wearing a rainbow dress in a sea of green.  More on this in a bit).

With the eventual success of getting a beer ticket in hand, it was finally time to party!  Back into the crowds of the warming area we went...

There, we met up with a group of girls from our bus, and started enjoying the festivities.  Of course there was plenty of people watching, and just before 9am, they had someone sing the national anthem.  From what I can tell, the race was very prompt, as my the race results reported a gun time of 9:00.12.  Props to the race organizers for improving on race error number two of 2013 (an extremely delayed start).

By 9:05, us ladies were anxious to line up, and decided: cold weather be damned, it was time to go outside. 

Except... we couldn't get out of the Depot.

People were preforming my ultimate pet peeve: standing around like cattle blocking the walkways and exits because THEY'RE not ready to go anywhere yet.

Ugh, seriously.  If we had an emergency and NEEDED to get out:

In scenarios like this, it becomes blatantly apparent that Minnesota nice is a HUGE problem.  Most people are too polite to say/do anything when the crowd that was moving in front of you suddenly stops.

I, on the other hand, am much too obnoxious for that.  You can blame it on me being bossy or impatient if you want, I don't care.  But thanks to my years of business traveling in Hong Kong, I'm a master at navigating crowds.

What little distance we traveled in the first 5 minutes of trying to exit was put to shame in less than 30 seconds when I shimmied to the front of our group.  With some very loud "excuse me" and my hands extended in front of me in a dive position, I got the 6 of us right to the doors.

My sister claims I was being embarrassing.  And supposedly we got a few dirty looks.

Whatever, I say we got out of there in 1 minute, tops.  Soooo, worth it!!

Once we were out the door, getting in line to race wasn't too hard to do.  We just jumped in the nearest corral and started slowly heading towards the start. 

Look at that sea of green!

Before the cool breeze could even catch up with us, we were off and running.  Whoop!

As we passed the start line, I noticed I had already lost all my friends in the group, but no matter.  I was running with my sister again, and had no idea what they were planning pace wise, so I didn't worry about it.  Sooner or later we'll all end up back on the bus, anyway.

And so the fun began. 

The first mile was mostly flat or downhill, and headed towards the iconic Stone Arch bridge.  Just as we rounded the corner to start across the bridge, there was an Irish folk band.  Since we had both opted to forgo headphone music this year, we actually really enjoyed the entertainment.

The second mile goes down a cobblestone road - not my favorite.  Since the roads were far less icy this year (almost ice free, actually), this portion was more tolerable, but still not good.  There are several cobblestones missing, and it seems like a guaranteed death trap for some poor runner.  Since we were both focused on not killing ourselves in this stretch, nothing else really stands out in my memory of what happened in this area.

By the third mile, we started hitting some hills, and people were starting to shake out in their pace.  This is where we either passed more people, or were passed by people ourselves.  The passing made the race become fun, because fellow racers finally started to appreciate our costumes.  We got lots of cheers and "nice costumes", and even a few "where's your leprechaun" comments.  It was good fun.

Also, huge props to my sister, who at this point, was able to keep a slow and steady pace up every hill.  That was something she struggled with last year, so I'm proud of her growth as a runner. 

Towards the end of mile three and into mile four, you climb the last hill (another bridge crossing the river) and head back towards the start line.  This stretch is always the least enjoyable for me during the Team Ortho runs.  The area is kind of boring, and you don't get a great view of the river or downtown due to the positioning (hills, trees, cement walls, etc).  Instead, I started up some conversations with my sister about random crap to pass the time, pointed out some weird dead frozen critter that was in the bushes (we saw stiff dead legs sticking out - possibly a fox?  So gross!!) and kept an eagle eye out for on course race photographers.

Speaking of, was it just me, or were there almost no on course photographers this year?  I guess we'll see when they post the photos in another week or so.

Finally, just after 4 miles, we were within sight of the finish line.  I decided to push my sister to the finish, and started to pick up the pace.  All along I had tried to pace her for a more aggressive finish time, without being too exhausting, but this was it.  I told her to leave nothing in the tank, and we went for it.

As we crossed the finish line, though, it was very strange.  There was just streams and streams of runners moving forward, moving forward, moving forward...

After what felt like forever, but was actually maybe only 1-2 blocks of walking, we came up to the medal station.  Finally it dawned on me as to why.  Props to Team Ortho for fixing issue #3 from 2013 (runners forced to walk the last 1/2 mile of the run due to congestion at the finish line).  By moving out the medal station, people were encouraged to keep walking for a much further distance, and that really seemed to help with congestion.

BTW, I forgot to mention swag, so I'll throw that in here.

I have to say, I wasn't a huge fan of the sweatshirt we got this year.  I mean, it's cute that the Celtic knot pattern that is printed on the medal (in white) is repeated inside the hood's liner, but other than that... I dunno.  I'm just not a fan of the forest green, I think.

Back on topic RE: the race.

After finishing, getting our medal, and coming into the post race area, I was a little ... meh.  There was what seemed to be ample food at least (improvement #4 over 2013), but I'm really annoyed with Team Ortho using jugs of water and Dixie cups at the finish line for all their events lately.  On course, this is technically fine, but I'm sorry... after I finish a run, I need to hydrate.  A three ounce splash of water isn't going to cut it.  And I find the empty plastic cups blowing all over the place to be a little disgusting.  I hope they change this moving forward, since it really irks me.

Regardless, after a great run and a much improved race experience (over 2013), we happily skedaddled back onto the bus for a post-race beer at Cooper Pub.


Plus a post race photo bomb, and a run club group photo.


After a few last sips of beer, we all boarded back on the bus a bit more exhausted and drunk than we were previously, and headed for home.  During which, of course, I won the costume contest for the third year in a row... but WITH my sister this year, which was a first!!

And that's the story of how race bib # 39 joined my collection.  Here's to another race soon!

Oh, and BTW, sorry I didn't do a map this time - I forgot my watch!!  :-( 


Regarding Team Ortho...  I touched on some of my concerns about Team Ortho my Monster Dash post, but I'll touch on some of my thoughts here again.

First of all, don't register for Team Ortho if you have your heart set on getting a PR, getting every bit of swag they promise you in your promotions, or even having a "great" race experience. 

You have to go into a Team Ortho event understanding it to be a fun run, and nothing more. 

Why do I say this?  Because, quite honestly, their way of "running an event" is an easy formula: get a ton of people to pay an exorbitant race fee, over promise on what you can deliver, and then way under deliver on race day. 

Yes, it does seem that they tried to improve on many of the issues they had in 2013, but I still saw many of the same recurrent themes that have been present in all their races that I've done since 2012. 

For example, this year, AFTER I did early packet pickup in January, they changed their beer rule (I touched on this briefly in my recap above).  Their only way of communicating this change was via a very non-chalant note on their website, which thankfully I saw a few days pre-race... but many did not:

Why they couldn't communicate this change in one of their 5 billion social media blasts, I don't know.  But basically, anyone who picked up their packet at early events, or had it mailed to them, got screwed out of a beer. 

I know many people are likely reading this thinking BFD, so a few people got shorted a beer.  After all, it's a $3.00 +/- beer.  But that's not the point.

When a runner pays $60-80+ for a race that's not even a half marathon, and they're promised a free beer at a local pub post race, they're going to expect to get some pretty decent race swag ... AND A FREE BEER AT A LOCAL PUB.

But the missing beer, for me, is not the problem, really.  The true problem is that every race I've done with Team Ortho since 2012 has been like this. 

I've done Get Lucky three times, Monster Dash twice, and the Minneapolis Du.  Every time, without fail, something has gone wrong due to poor management on Team Ortho's end.  Problems run the gamut from extremely late starts, to lack of goodies at the finish line, to bait and switch offerings (like this promise for a free beer, and then not having it organized so that early packet pickup folks can actually get their beer coupon)...  I can't think of a single Team Ortho race I did where there weren't a handful of issues during or post race.

And when I compare that to the fact that I did 15 races in 2013 alone, and none of the other races have any similar pitfalls or execution problems, it begins to make me wonder what the issue is.

Yes, I will admit that Team Ortho has a lot of great volunteers, and they can't be blamed.  But think about it for a minute... Just using simple math, assuming the average Get Lucky racer paid $70 for registration, and there is an estimated 11,500 people running:

$70 * 11,500 = $784,000

Yes, you're reading that correctly.  THREE QUARTERS OF A MILLION DOLLARS.

I don't care how much it costs for swag, permits and post-race snacks.  There is no way Team Ortho isn't making enough money to cover the cost of hiring a handful of GOOD, PERMANENT, PAID people to organize and execute their races ...

I mean, if my 300 person $15 race in small town Wisconsin is run better than Team Ortho, and they're only making like $4,500... what does that say about Team Ortho's miss-management? 

To answer my own question: not a lot.

So where does this leave me?

While I am likely doing the Minneapolis Du again in August (since I told some people I'd be on their team), I don't forsee myself doing any other Team Ortho events for awhile... if ever again.  With races like Mankato and TC, I'd far prefer to spend my money on events ran by people who know how to organize a good race... not a sub par one.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Fight Obesity

I wrote this post almost a year ago when I first set up this blog, and I've held on to it ever since.  Why?  Because it's depressing. 
In the last few months, I've read it and re-read it, wondering if I should post it.  Or at least rework it before I posted it.
Finally, I just said - screw it.  Sometimes the truth hurts.  But when sh!t gets scary, that is the best time to finally wake up and realize it's time for a change.
So, perhaps this post will motivate others to make their change...?

In the last few years, as I continue to educate myself in living a healthy lifestyle, I have learned more and more about the Obesity Epidemic in the United States.  I've come to realize it is seriously scary. 

For example: did you know that from 1985 to 2010, Americans went from an average obesity rate of under 10% to an average obesity rate of almost 30%?  Take a look:

Even more frightening?  This is not just something that's been gradually increasing over the last 15 years.  Yes, there have been small steps from the late 80's and into the early 90's.  But... check out the HUGE jump from 2002 to 2009:

What's worse is, the above is only for OBESE people.  Add over weight people to the above matrix, and... well, we are NOT in good shape as a nation.

What does this mean?  Well, obviously this generation is getting dangerously fat, and fast.  But not only that - my generation and the children after me may actually be facing a shorter life expectancy than our parents.  We may even risk dying before our parents... simply from being too fat.

Interestingly sad facts:

- In 2010, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.

- People who are obese have average annual medical expenses more than $1,400 higher than for normal-weight people, and obesity is expected to cost the U.S. $344 billion a year in related health costs by 2018.

- The average casket size pre 1990 was 28" wide.  As of 2010, purchases for options measuring 36" or 44" wide have doubled in volume (and also require two plots to accommodate burial).

The even sadder piece of this puzzle?  Although the Americans are clearly pioneers in this field, the rest of the world may eventually catch up to us some day:

I am really scared by this.  Really scared.  The impact on our health system is already massive and is just going to continue to grow.  High blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, cancer, joint pain/mobility issues, skin infections/ulcers, and gallstones are only a few of the side effects of from living with obesity.

I could go on, but I won't.  If you're curious about obesity trends and how they impact people in real life scenarios, I recommend watching this series of TV shows from the UK.  Quite interesting!

Supersize vs. Superskinny

If you want to start from season 1 episode, check out this user's page:

Otherwise, Season 6 Episode 3 is particularly interesting:

Anyhow - back to the topic.  What can you do to reverse this trend?!

Interestingly sad facts that you can change:

- For an individual, obesity is usually the result of an imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended.

- Only about 25% of U.S. adults eat the recommended five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day. 

- More than 50% of American adults do not get the recommended amount of physical activity to provide health benefits.

I guess we should revisit my mantra... FRUITS AND VEGGIES, FRUITS AND VEGGIES... AND GET UP OFF YOUR BUTT!!


Friday, March 14, 2014

90s Hip-Hop Night

As you have seen here and here - I love me a good themed workout class!!

It seems that my students do, too.  Not even did I make it one week past my first 80's night aerobics class and I already had special requests rolling in.  And so, 90's Hip-Hop Night was born.

*Queue singing angels.*

Of course, the core of all my themed workouts is a GREAT playlist.  So here it is!

Main Playlist:
Baby Got Back - Sir Mix-a-lot
Warm It Up - Kriss Kross
Ice Ice Baby - Vanilla Ice
Too Legit to Quit - MC Hammer
Push It - Salt-n-Pepa
Mary, Mary - Run DMC
Poison - Bel Biv DeVoe
Cupid Shuffle - Cupid
1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin' New) - Coolio
I Wish - Skee-lo
Root Down - Beastie Boys
Mama Said Knock You Out - LL Cool J
Good Vibrations - Marky Mark & the Funky Bunch
Boom!  Shake the Room - DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
Jump - Kris Kross
Da' Dip - Freak Nasty
Fantastic Voyage - Coolio
Jump On It - Sir Mix-a-lot
Cool Down:
It's So Hard to Say Goodbye - Boyz II Men
Dear Mama - 2Pac
Post Workout / Clean-up:
Tennessee - Arrested Development
Still Not a Player - Big Punisher
And what would a themed workout class be without a costume?!

Yes, those are gold foil Hammer Pants.  If you like them, you can get them at Poppin'Rags on Etsy.  She is super friendly and made my custom request pants in a snap.

To answer your question before I go - yes, we did Hammer shuffles.  Can't touch this!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Monday, March 10, 2014

Post Marathon - Thoughts

As you've noticed in the last week, there's been a lot of Marathon talk.

If you're behind the 8 ball on this one, check out my posts here, here and here.

Anyhow!  Now that I've had some time to let the debacle settle, I wanted to go back and recap my experience.  What did I learn?  What would I do differently?  Will I run another marathon?  Here are my thoughts... in no particular order.

My love of running versus marathon training - prior to taking the plunge to marathon training, I could almost 100% of the time tell you I loved running.  Even when I ran halves, I have a great time training and racing.  For marathoning, I lost that love a little.  Switching from a training program that takes 2 hours max on the longest days (half training) to a training program that easily takes 3-4 hours on the longer days (marathon training) was ROUGH.  There were plenty of times that my weekend drug out because I was not looking forward to a 15, 18 or 20 mile training run.

Working out became a chore - as you know, I'm a huge advocate for making workouts fun.  If I don't see someone smiling while they're working out with me, I take that as a challenge and try to make them enjoy what they are doing.  However, with so much running to do, and always feeling tired when it came time to do my "other" workouts, I started to lose my joy in working out.

Training for a first anything in the winter - long story short, this is not a good idea.  Any endurance sport takes a lot of time and effort.  That time and effort is even harder to commit to when you're unable to do the sport in it's natural environment (IE outside).  With a record cold and snowy winter in Minnesota this year, I ended up doing almost all of my training indoors on a track or treadmill.  Spending 3 hours or more looking at the same cement wall is NOT a good time.  Trying to motivate yourself to be excited and do it is even more NOT a good time.

Completing something you've trained months for is an awesome feeling - one that I haven't really had the glory of experiencing in the marathon field ... yet.   I have a hunch that once I finally get to cross that finish line for a true 26.2 miles (versus just 17), I may have a different perspective on all this.  When you are given a medal for a partial performance, it's just not the same.

And finally, picking a race just for it's finishers medal (and not for it's course difficulty or time of year that it is scheduled for) is dumb - and just so dumb, that I'll probably end up doing it all over again.  But that's what makes my life fun, so why stop now?

Friday, March 7, 2014

Little Rock Marathon 2014 (EPIC!!)


Little Rock Marathon (26.2 miles)
0:00:00 DNF!
(My first ever DNF - hooray!!)
Average Pace 00:00/mile

Well, I finally did it.  I did the one thing that I've said for years I didn't know if I'd ever do.  I went for a marathon.

If you want to read more about why I picked this race (which will become more obvious as this recap goes on), or if you want to read my training plan, click here

If you want to read more about what business and activities I frequented while in Little Rock and NOT running, click here.

If you're here for the "other" option, to read the race recap, stick with me.  Because this is going to be one heck of a story.

Here we go!


For the last few years, I've been hearing about a "little" race.  And by little, I mean - a marathon with a frickin' huge finisher's medal in Little Rock, Arkansas.

When it seemed like I could not be any more in love with the finisher's medal from 2012:

Yes, that's a spinning disco ball in the center

They released this beauty in 2013:

Check out those giant rhinestones in the horseshoe!!

I think I always knew this would be my first marathon.  But, the second I saw the 2013 medal, that was it.  As soon as registration opened for 2014, I was in.

Little did I know at the time that the theme of this race would be ... "Epic".  When it was announced some time in fall of 2013, it seemed fitting for my first Marathon.  If I only knew then how EPIC the race would really turn out to be...


As most of you know by now, my husband is not a runner.  But he IS a hobbyist pilot.  So when I told him I wanted to do this race, he was down... simply for the fact that he could fly his plane somewhere new.

Great!  Seems like a match made in heaven.  A husband who likes to fly, a wife who wants to marathon in some odd location that would be normally a 12-13 hour drive, and an airplane named Bubba who can change that journey into a 4 hour jaunt.  No problem!!

Except for when it's foul weather.

For a few days building up to marathon weekend, the weather was starting to look spotty not only here at home, but also down south for the marathon.  After days and days of checking, watching, fidgeting and hoping, one thing became clear.

We were going to have to leave Bubba home alone and drive this baby.


Since I was NOT looking forward to doing an entire day of driving, I convinced my husband to leave Minneapolis Thursday evening and get as far south as possible before calling it a night at a cheap hotel.

Whoo - hubba hubba.

Actually, more like chugga-chugga.

In using the all powerful, all knowing Google maps search, I had found a little hotel in Osceola, Iowa that was only $59 a night.  It didn't look too fancy, but reviews said it was clean and had new pillow top mattresses, so I thought it would be worth a shot.  What I neglected to weigh properly in my decision making was the fact that the hotel was just across the street from an active rail line ... that ran all - night - long.


Oh well.  By the time we could be upset about it, it was time to check out anyway.  We enjoyed our free "continental breakfast" (which in a cheap hotel in southern Iowa near a train track means instant oatmeal, hot water, bagels, coffee and juice), and were on our way.

Thankfully, the rest of the drive from Iowa through Missouri was fairly uneventful.  But once we hit Arkansas, that's when things got interesting.

First off, what does it say about a state when one of the first billboards you see when you cross the border is advertising the wait time at the local ER?

I'm not kidding.  You know those Powerball billboards with the giant LED numbers on it that can change based on the current jackpot?  The billboard in Arkansas, right by the border, was advertising the current wait time in minutes for ER service.

Which, at the time, was 15 minutes.

With nothing else to do while driving but debate why this sign was helpful, my husband came up with a scenario.

"What if some gangsta thug was like, driving down the highway with his buddy who had a bullet wound to the gut, and they saw the wait time was 60 minutes?  The guy who was shot might be like 'Naw, it's good - lets go get some Arby's first.  We got time.'"


I only sigh because I could definitely see that happening in this day and age.


I started to wonder - is this what I signed up for on this trip? 

I mean, I had ideas:

But I didn't have these kinds of ideas:

Well, no turning back now.  We kept on goin'.

In what seemed like no time at all, we had arrived to our hotel.  And while the staff member that checked me in was friendly and professional, he didn't "get" the marathon.  At all.  He actually looked at me and said "Minnesota?!  What the heck is it about this marathon, anyway???"

I explained to him the finishers medal, and he was like: "Are you serious?  Like Flava-flav style?"

Yeah, boooiii.

Word up.

Since we had made such great time, and had already settled into the hotel, we unexpectantly had plenty of time to swing by the expo on Friday night to pick up my race packet.  The expo was pretty much what you'd expect - various booths, some clearance running gear, etc.  After perusing a few of the race specific shirts (of which I bought none), and buying a few spare GUs, we headed out.

Before I left, I decided I better double check that my bag had everything I expected.  It did.  But something about seeing my name on the bib at that second made reality sink in... I was about to run my first marathon.

*Deep breath - I can do this*


The next morning, with nothing else really better to do, my husband and I ended up wandering around by the kids run (accidentally).  We got a kick out of watching the kids finish with such determined looks on their faces.  Even funnier was the fact that some of the kids had adult pacers - who  were just as obnoxious and chipper as they are for adult runs.  I told my husband to imagine listening to them when you're on mile 22 of a marathon course and trying NOT to kick them in the nuts.  He just shook his head and shuttered to himself. 

As I watched the kids run to the finish line, the first wave of marathon nerves hit.  Thank goodness I had on big sunglasses and could hide it some. 

*Clears throat* Hey, is it lunch time yet?

While we wandered looking for a lunch spot, we came across the official start line.  Of course, I couldn't waste an opportunity.


After lunch, we spent the afternoon touring the local brewery, hanging out in our hotel room, and eating an early dinner.  When I came home that evening, another wave of nerves hit as I was setting things out in the bathroom.

*Deep breath - I can do this*



And mantra was born.


After an evening of somewhat restless sleep, I rolled over to see it was almost time for me to wake up.  Rather than trying to milk the clock for a few more minutes of sleep, I just decided it's time and got out of bed.

As I ate my standard pre-race banana and tried to enjoy a granola bar, my husband made me some coffee.  (Yes, I decided to have standard, caffeinated joe for race weekend, since I hear it helps with endurance... and other things pre-race *wink*.)

Knowing the situation wasn't going to be good, I checked the weather one last time.  To my surprise, it was predicted to look a little better than I had expected, in that it wasn't going to be pouring rain the ENTIRE race.  But it was now going to be 30 degrees and 15-20 mph winds.  Super.

Having my usual "what do I wear" struggle, I decided on a pair of winter weight tights, a t-shirt underneath my wonder woman dress, a wind breaker ... and for the first time ever, a hat.  That was hot pink and went with nothing else I was wearing.  SEX-AAAYYY!

Also, worried about the rain, I ensured I had PLENTY of anti-chafe protection in place.  I even did the backs of my knees and ankles in case the water made my tights bunch up and chafe in an odd spot.

By 6:30 I was fully suited up and stuck in a bubble, nothing seemed real.  Until I pinned on my bib.  Then, I finally freaked out.

I can't do this.  I can't.

My husband, the slow and steady balance to my wild and crazy, simply said "you've worked hard for this, you will be just fine". 

And that was it.  I knew I would be.

*Deep breath - I can do this.  I can and I will.*


The race was scheduled to start at 8am, with rules stating we were to be in corals by 7:30, so we headed over around 7am.

With a little time to kill, my husband helped take a few photos.

Finally, I bit the bullet, said my goodbyes, and got in my coral.

*I can and I will.*

While there, I made friends with a local lady who got a real kick out of me being from Minnesota.  Apparently the Arkansas folks like us northerners?  Anyway, we made small talk and took in the crowds, evaluating everyone's gear based on the weather predictions.  Rain ponchos, garbage bags, wind breakers ... wait, a guy in a straw cowboy hat and denim overalls? WTH!

My new friend turns to me and says "Did you see that, hun?  A guy in overalls.  You can go home and tell all your friends that we run like that down here."  *Scarcastic grin.*

As we stood around waiting, and waiting, and waiting... my friend and I both noticed there was a barefoot runner next to us.  I've seen this quite a few times now, so it's nothing new to me.  But my friend was pretty amused. 

"Look at that" she said.  "You should take a picture with her and go home to tell all your friends we run barefoot down here, too!!"

At least she had a good sense of humor about the reputation of her home state.  And we both got a few good snickers out of it.

As we continued to wait in the coral, and inch forward at a painfully slow pace, our luck ran out.  The skies opened up for the first heavy downpour.  I was only grateful at that point to be surrounded by so many other people to help absorb some of the water, since my feet managed to stay pretty dry.

Finally, finally, 40 some minutes after the first gun, my husband took one last snap shot and we were off.


The first few miles went by in a blur.  I remember seeing my husband unexpectantly in the first mile or so, because the course snaked back in on itself at that point and came within a block or so from the start.  He had decided to wait and watch for me to pass, and managed to get a decent shot.

Then, around mile 6 or 7, the course passed our hotel.  We knew there was a chance to get one last good photo in, so my husband waited to catch me again.

After that, I was on my own.  I was a little nervous knowing that.

*I can and I will.*


Since the course was going to take me around 5 hours to complete, I tried not to focus too much on any one thing, or to think too much about how far I had left to go.  In doing so, unfortunately, a lot of the miles during this race blurred together for me.

I did, in fact, see a banjo player with a harmonica around his neck somewhere in the first 8 or 9 miles, and remember passing a bunch of churches around what I think was miles 10 through 12.  There were some course splits as well, since the 10K and half marathoners needed a stop point.  Each time I passed one of those turn offs, I secretly wished I could get out of the rainy, misty weather and just go home.  But that's also what separates the boys from the men.

*I can and I will*


Right around the 13 mile mark, or maybe it was 14, the cold weather started to catch up with me.  I had felt like I needed to pee ever since the rain drenched me at the start coral, but there was no holding it any more.  Unfortunately, it was also right where the course passed the governor's mansion.  I'm ashamed to say, I gave up shaking the governor's hand for a pee break (and also, didn't want to shake his hand afterwards, given there were no washing stations - yuck). 

I think this is the first ever time I've stopped on course to use a bathroom.  I don't recall ever doing it before.  But then again, I've never ran this far on a course before.

The break was fine, technically.  I suppose I shouldn't keep talking about it.  But I do want to add that the stop was not quick.  You try taking less than 5 minutes when everything you are wearing is wet and plastered to your skin.  Like putting on a wet swimsuit - things get stuck in very odd places.


Finally, around mile 14 or 15, I started my "survive this thing" strategy.  I felt ok, aside from being VERY tight in the legs due to the cold, so it wasn't that I was feeling bad.  But, I had always planned that at the base of the hill that went from about mile 15 to 17, I was going to take a walk break.  I figured that I would save my energy, rather than burning it on a 2-3 mile incline, and then do the best I could on the last 8-9 miles of the course.

I now regret that plan.  (You'll see why on the map further below).

As I hit around mile 15, I was feeling good.  In fact, I hardly needed my mantra. 

And then it all fell apart.

Suddenly, a police car drove by with lights flashing and bull horn out.  "Wah-wah-wah, wah-wah, wah-wah-wah, cancelled".

There were a dozen or so people ahead of me, and a handful behind me as well.  We all looked around at each other, dazed.  It was a very Charlie Brown moment.

I yelled up to the people ahead of me and asked what happened.  They didn't hear me.

I yelled again. They still didn't hear me.

Finally, losing patience, I figured... when in Arkansas...


Yeah, I went there.  But whatever, it worked!!  All three of the people ahead of me snapped their heads back and responded that the course had been closed due to some worse weather coming, and that we had to leave.


I am somewhere on mile 15 or 16.  It is freezing cold.  I'm drenched to my underwear.  It's the farthest possible point from the finish line.  What.  The.  Hell.

A bunch of us start to clump up at this point, talking about what happened, and trying to decide what to do.  Several people want to continue on anyway, and some wonder how we're to get back.

A bunch more police and course workers on bikes go by, and each one of them tell us the same story.  The race has been cancelled.  If we continue on, we do so at our own risk.  Otherwise, we may cut off the course and head to the local Wal-Mart to await a shuttle.

I ask a spectator that I pass how far I am from the Wal-Mart.  He tells me it's another 3-4 miles.

Are you f-ing kidding me?!  If they aren't going to let us finish, then come get us here on the course.  Don't make us get to mile 20 of the marathon and THEN force us off.

A few spectators on course take pity on us, and start handing out cans of beer.  I always seem to be a bit early or late, and miss all these chances - BOO!

And when things can't get any worse, the mist clears and it starts to rain again.  Hard.  With the wind picking up.  And thunder.

A switch flips in my head.  I check out.  It's no longer "I can and I will." It's just - I want to go home.  My hands are so cold that I can't feel them anymore.  My fingers are locking up and I cannot bend or unbend them.  I try to stay warm by tucking my hands under my armpits and keep trudging forward.  My pace in the last two miles shows the switch, too.  I went from an average of 10-11 minutes per mile to 15 and 20 minutes per mile.  Ugh.

Behind me, the police are picking up the cones and letting traffic go through.  Ahead of me, since they have steered me off course and down a side street, there is nothing.  I am walking on a road that is open to traffic, with nothing to protect me except the sag wagon on my butt and a handful of runners around me.

But of course, the sag wagon doesn't offer to DRIVE any of us to the pick up point.

A bunch of us runners start to have a hate spiral.  We can't understand why we're being treated like this, and why there isn't a better rescue plan given the extreme weather rolling in.

More and more runners disappear as good Samaritans offer people rides back to the finish line.

Finally, I am one of four runners in a clump working their way down the hill.  A cop takes pity on us, and offers us a ride to the finish line.  I end up in the back seat of an unmarked squad car with two women, lights flashing.  Finally, the last runner relents and gets in with us. 

This is the best part: he was dressed like Wolverine.  Full on foam padded muscles, razor paws, and drinking what must be his third beer - a 24 ounce can of Coors Light.  He simply hops in the front seat of the squad car and says "I'll do you a favor and get off course, but I'm not giving up my beer.  I won't tell if you won't tell."

True story.


The cop car eventually makes it to about 1/2 block away from the finish line.  While the ladies in back try to talk the officer into taking a photo with them, I am D-O-N-E done.  I thank the officer for the ride, hop out, join in the stream of runners who are actually FINISHING their marathon, and waddle to the finish.  My cold muscles had locked up during the car ride, and I could barely manage a walking pace.

To add insult to injury, Bart Yasso decides to pick me of all people to single out and recognize.  He reads my name on my bib and says "Natalie, congratulations on YOUR marathon finish."  All I can do is shake my head, and hang it in shame.

Whatever, at this point, I figure I did my best.  I take a space blanket, a finishers medal, grab all the snacks I can handle, and head for the hotel... snickering to myself  as I go, since my time will show something like a 3:30 marathon finish if it picked up my chip when I crossed the mat.


Back at the hotel, I decide it's safe to finally take my phone out of it's zip loc bag, and I see I've got a back log of texts. 

Turns out, I missed out on the best remote location support team I could ever have:

That perks me up a little.  Well, that and the fact that I did end up getting my medal, even though it was only for a partial finish.

After drowning my misery in the free ho-hos I got at the finish, taking a hot shower, and mulling over the situation with my husband, my mood starts to lift.  And, I suppose seeing the massive lightning strikes out my hotel window helped a little, too. 


Later that night, we head to the post-race dinner.  It was ok, but I think it may have been a little more awesome to me if the food wasn't so ... blah.  It was basically some sort of BBQ meat, green beans, white rice and rolls.  That's it.  No mac & cheese, no black eyed peas, no mashed potatoes... nothing you would have expected at a real down south home style meal.  I did manage to find the side stand serving up hot dogs, and a TINY chocolate fondue fountain with marshmallows, so that helped a little. That, and watching a 50+ year old woman twerk in the middle of the dance floor, by herself, while the rest of us ate dinner.  Did I mention there was an open bar?  LOL!

Best water stop ever.

Aside from eating and music, there were a few other fun things to do.  I decided to take advantage those things, since I wasn't in a drinking mood.

Sorry to say, my husband wasn't really "feeling" the post race party, so we didn't say long.  Eventually, we headed back to our hotel.  Once there, I decided maybe I was in a drinking mood, and chose to drown my final sorrow. 

Ah.  Ice cream and booze.  Much better.


The whole ride home, the next day, all I could do was fret over my near miss.  Although I didn't think it would be such a big deal to become a "marathoner", I realized I was pretty bummed out.  I was so close to grabbing that brass ring, and it slipped right out of my finger tips.

And, my husband even said, he was watching me via the GPS in my phone, and he was upset for me.  He said I was keeping perfect pace for my 5 hour goal based on what he could see.  Then, he showed me where he last tracked me on the marathon map - I had made it through the most difficult parts of the course, and was about to roll down the hill to the final out and back to finish.

When I looked at where I was compared to my GPS watch, I realized he was right.

And given the confusion and my much slowed pace post mile 15, I kept a pretty dang good time.


Ugh.  So close, yet so far away.  Had I kept running instead of walking the hills around mile 14/15, I would have avoided the entire police escort situation by hitting the out & back portion of the course (the final 6-7 miles of the race) prior to them being able to find me.  That means I would have finished.  Instead, I did not.


In the end, I can't say that I'm sorry I gave this a try.  I also can't say it was a bad day.  I knew it was going to be a challenging event, and I knew the weather was a risk.  I'm not sorry gave it a shot, or that I came away with an awesome stinking medal.

Besides, it made me feel a little like this:


Now that I've been thwarted on this course, I'm torn... maybe I need to give it a go again next year?!  Stay tuned...


And that's the story of how race bib # 38 joined my collection.  Here's to another race soon... and I bet it will be a marathon make-up in the next few months!!