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thoughts on stuff in my life

Let my Gluten/Wheat-Free life begin!

Or at least my Gluten/Wheat-Free life for a couple of weeks while I experiment with going GF/WF to see if perhaps that allergy test was right.

Ok, let me back up since I realize I never blogged about the whole start of this thing. Last August, when I was at the beach with my parents, I noticed I was a little wheezier than usual – something I attributed to the nasty air filter that hadn’t been changed in a while. I also noticed that my chin was burny and itchy a lot of the time, especially after eating, and that it was kind of broken out. I figured that might have been some weird sunscreen reaction and new face cleaner seemed to clear it right up. I didn’t really think anything else about it.

Until I got home, went for a run one morning, came home and made my peanut butter banana smoothie that I usually drank. Within about 15 minutes of drinking it, I noticed that I was getting wheezy and my chin was doing the burny-itchy thing again. The only common denominator in what I’d eaten then and at the beach that I hadn’t had between the beach and that moment was…PEANUT BUTTER. Googled allergic reactions to peanuts and bingo…it seemed to fit.

So I got an appointment with an allergist and immediately cut peanut products out of my diet. The allergy test didn’t show a reaction to peanuts, but my doctor said that they didn’t always pick up allergies, but given my reaction, avoidance was best. The tests DID show a wheat allergy. Which I didn’t buy into. I’ve eaten stuff with wheat in it my whole life and never had a problem. My doc said if I wasn’t having reactions, it could be a false positive so not to worry about it. (Other things that showed up were milk and eggs…ditto in that they haven’t shown any issues.) There of course was the possibility that I truly AM allergic, but the reactions have been so mild I’m just used to it as “part of life”.

Life was continuing on as normal. I’ve read stuff about GF diets, but most of them said that unless you’re celiac or allergic to wheat you probably wouldn’t get any benefits from it. Still, for some reason this weekend, I started wondering about doing a GF/WF experiment just to see. I decided to clean out the stuff I’ve got with wheat, and then replace it with GF/WF stuff just to see how I reacted. Starting yesterday.

Well, breakfast was a Luna protein bar before my run – that’s gluten free anyway, but I eat them because I like them. Breakfast was rounded out with grapefruit juice, water, and coffee. Totally GF/WF. Then lunch began the clean out: Trader Joe’s chicken drumettes (which are breaded), and Trader Joe’s Mac & Cheese (uh, DUH). Veggies and dressing also – all GF just by nature. Well…

Yep. Within 15-20 minutes I started getting wheezy. And guess what one of the wheat allergy symptoms is (when not celiac, which I’m not as I don’t have the intestinal issues)? Wheezing.

Thankfully Trader Joe’s has a great return policy. So this morning I loaded up the whole wheat pasta, the cereal, and the meatballs (with bread crumbs and therefore not GF) and took them back to return them and get GF foods. Mission accomplished. One thing I’m noticing is that I think this will help me eat better period as while it’s not impossible, it’s a lot harder to find GF/WF junk.

So the GF/WF experiment begins today. I’m going to be a lot more conscious of my wheezing and stuff to see if my theory (and the allergy test) is correct. Also note how I feel. Yay!


Pride and “Brave”

OK, so there isn’t a huge tie between the two – other than they both occurred for me in the same weekend. But maybe there’s more of a tie than you’d think.

For me, Pride 2012 kicked off with the Front Runners New York Pride Run on Saturday morning in Central Park. It was definitely hot and humid, but I felt like it was slightly better than last year temperature-wise. Apparently not. Oh well. I still managed to do slightly better than last year by a few seconds. Yay!

After, it was the after-party at Boxers. I definitely felt like last year’s was better – this year’s was just kind of “let’s hang out at the bar”. I stayed for a while, but not really long.

Then I went to see “Brave” – but more on that later.

I spent Saturday evening and early Sunday morning debating who to march with in the March. I could go with my church, who I’ve marched with the past few years or I could march with Front Runners, which would be a new experience. Both had their potentially positive aspects. And both had their negative aspects. Ultimately I decided to march with Front Runners…and as much as I love the friends I do have in Front Runners, as I’ve said before it’s hard fitting in. I’m slower, and I don’t sprint. So that meant I wasn’t participating in the staged “races” along the route. It’s a larger group to be marching with, and gets the crowd a bit more involved, but I still felt as if I was marching alone much of the time. I found myself wishing I’d gone with my church group. My Front Runners family is great…but it was almost too much for the weekend if that makes sense.

Of course there’s no guarantee how marching with church would have gone either – the people who participate can vary a bit from year to year and that affects the vibe of the whole experience. I definitely missed hanging out with people I knew were marching.

So my thinking right now is I’ll go with the church group…but who knows. So much can change between now and then. And I’m sure my mood (I’m in one of those “I feel blah and unhappy and can’t pinpoint why” troughs right now) isn’t helping my assessment of the weekend.

But “Brave” was definitely the highlight of the weekend!

I’d been anticipating this movie since I heard about it for a variety of reasons: set in Scotland, a Disney/Pixar movie, finally a totally kick-butt “I’m going to be my own person and not wait around for some guy to win my hand” Princess…plus the previews I’d seen looked great!

And I have to say, it didn’t disappoint me.

Was it predictable? Yes, a bit. But it’s a children’s movie – not an adult psychological thriller. The writing is appropriate for a children’s movie. (I honestly think sometimes reviewers forget the audience movies they are reviewing is geared for.) But it’s touching and a lot funnier than I anticipated it being. There are some scenes that are scary – it’s rated PG after all, not G.

But the message and the lessons learned are great. And I love the fact that for Merida, happily ever after doesn’t involve giving up everything about who she is (ahem: Ariel) or becoming dependent on a guy (or anyone…I’d be as “Stand up for yourself and your identity girl!” if a princess was a lesbian and gave up her identity/depended on her female partner. Please note: I am NOT saying anything about Merida’s sexuality. The only relationships depicted in the movie are familial ones with her mother, her father, and her triplet brothers; and the princes are simply there as part of the tradition that Merida is rebelling against. No reason other than she wants to be her own person is given.). In Merida we have a strong, independent, athletic, and yet still loving and family-centered princess. We need more like her in the princess universe!! Please!!!!!

This is definitely one that will be on my re-watch list. And my must own list.

So overall it was a good weekend. I wish some things had been different, but ultimately I think they were what they were for a reason, and I may not see it now, but I’m sure it’ll come clear at some point.

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100 Things About Running Entry #9

Running for charity!

If you remember back to my post about Boston, I had mentioned that I one day planned to participate in that race for one of the charities.

I still might, but not 2013. And probably not 2014. (And who knows how long they’ll keep those non-qualifying pace slots even available.)

Because a couple of weeks ago, I made a decision.

I am running the Bank of America Chicago Marathon for the American Brain Tumor Association’s Team Breakthrough!

Chicago had initially been on my list for 2013. My friend Rick and I had talked about it and that was the year we were going to run it. Then he decided to run it this year. I resisted and didn’t sign up. And it sold out. But as in most major marathons, there were charity slots available. I was set on Chicago being in 2013, and didn’t really look into the charity option.

(To explain the 2013 thing, I had planned to run NYC in 2012 since I had guaranteed entry through the NYRR 9+1 program in which as a NYRR member I ran 9 races and volunteered at one in the year 2011. But then they bumped up the price to where it would have been $227. My line in the sand for a non-destination (for me) race was $200. You might say “It’s only $27!” but I had to draw the line somewhere. And clearly with the number of people rejected through the lottery they aren’t hurting for money or people who want to run it. I’m just not one of them.)

And then I got an email from ABTA about the slots that they had available in Chicago. Read it, but didn’t act on it immediately. But I guess it stored itself in my head because a few days after receiving it, I had a series of dream about my childhood friend Philip.

Philip and I were pretty much inseparable from the time we moved to Tennessee when I was almost 3. The summer I was turning 5, we took swimming lessons together. We carpooled with either my mom driving us or his mom driving us. The day we jumped off the diving board, Philip got really sick right after jumping off. Lessons got called that day, and his mom took me home and took him to the doctor. They were sent to the hospital and he was admitted after tests showed a tumor in Philip’s brain. In the attempted treatment, he developed an aneurysm and he died. Since then, brain tumors have been a cause close to my heart.

Putting all three things together – Rick deciding to run Chicago a year early, me receiving the email from ABTA, and the dreams about Philip – it seemed like the universe was sending me a message.

And so I signed up.

Yes, I have to raise money, and I’m working on that. It’s not nearly as much as I’d have to raise were I running Boston or NYC for a charity, and it’s not so much that I was uncomfortable committing to it, but it’s still a challenge. I know probably the majority of the people reading this don’t know me, but if you’d like to support me, no amount is too little. My participant page can be found here if you want to see it and/or donate.

My training starts tomorrow (5/14), and while I’ll probably address some things on here, the majority of the training will be tracked on Running With Mickey, my running blog. Please feel free to follow along there!


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100 Things About Running Entry #8

“It will change your life forever.”

I kept hearing that as I was training for my first marathon. Variations (however slight) on the theme of “When you cross that finish line, it will change your life forever.”

I heard it during pretty much every podcast of The Marathon Show.

I heard it every time I watched Spirit of the Marathon.

I read it in Marathoning for Mortals.

I heard and/or read it so many times, I think I had the finish line built up to be this mystical thing where as I crossed, the sky would open up and a bolt would come from on high, instantly making me a clearly different person.

So when I crossed the finish line at the 2012 Walt Disney World Marathon and the sky didn’t open up and there was no bolt from the blue, I tried to figure out what I’d done wrong.

Sure I had a feeling of accomplishment. I had gone 26.2 miles. I cried – that actually got me quicker attention when I went to medical for simply preventative ice for the knees – with the realization that I’d done it. But I didn’t really feel any different. I was still me.

And to be honest, as I reflected on it, I started to question if I’d done it “right”. I mean, my stomach was acting up for the whole first half until we got bananas, and I wasn’t able to run as much as I’d wanted to. Maybe the whole “life changing” thing only happened if you’d done it closer to how you’d trained.

Now, deep down, I did realize this was silly. Things always happen. Rarely if ever does anyone have a race go exactly as they’d planned. We’re all adjusting on the day of and even moment to moment during a race. But I wanted to have some kind of epiphany, something where I could clearly say “This is where I changed.”

When I talked about this on my running-centric blog, several friends reassured me that they hadn’t had the lightning bolt moment either but just a slow realization about things. So it was seeming more and more like the change was more like something that revealed itself over time. I have seen my training paces (generally) come down. And my endurance has been better – a six or eight mile weekend run is (relatively) easy-peasy now.

But I still didn’t really feel different.

I’m sure that my result at Broad Street last Sunday is also in part thanks to my marathon training and the muscles and endurance I built up doing that.

But still, I felt like my old self.

And then this week was my observation – where my assistant principal comes in and observes me teach a lesson. For a variety of reasons, these always make me nervous. I mean they make everyone nervous, but they make me especially nervous. Probably because they haven’t always gone great. I’ve typically gotten a “conditional satisfactory” whatever that’s meant or in a few cases even had to redo a lesson. Largely because I overcomplicated it and tried to do far more and higher work than I needed to. This time I kept it simple and stuck to the basics.

And a funny thing happened as I was doing final preparations. I realized that while I really wanted it to go well, I wasn’t the nervous wreck I typically am. I had a plan. I had contingencies in place for different things that could happen. I had boiled it down to the basics.

In short? I realized I’d taken what I’d learned from my training – have a plan, have plans for what happens when the plan doesn’t work, keep it simple stupid – and was applying it to my lesson preparation.

And most amazing, I actually heard myself say to someone at the store on Thursday night (I work parttime at the Disney Store):

“I ran 26.2 miles! I can do this observation thing!”

It may not be that bolt from the blue I had anticipated, but crossing that finish line has changed me.

I know I can do whatever I set my mind to – I just have to put in the work and trust my training/preparation. I love Kathrine Switzer’s quote at the end of Spirit of the Marathon: “You triumphed over the adversity. That’s what the marathon is all about. And therefore you know there isn’t anything in life that you can’t triumph over after that.” So true!

And if I forget, I can just look at my RoadID dogtag, the quote side. “There will be days I don’t know if I can run a marathon. There will be a lifetime knowing I have.”

Does the finish line change your life forever? Yes! It may be more subtle than you’ll ever expect, but once you cross it, you’ll never be the same person you were.

(Oh, and that observation yesterday? Satisfactory! Not even conditional!)

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100 Things About Running Entry #7

Broad Street Run!

So Sunday was finally it! The Blue Cross Broad Street Run was here!!! All of my training was about to come to a head.

Going in, my base goal was the same as for any race I run: finish and have fun. My “I can live with it” goal was to finish in 2:15. My “reach goal” was to break 2 hours – that was big as it would put me with an average pace of sub-12 minute miles, something I hadn’t yet done in a race longer than 4 miles.

The set-up…
In a “crazy runner” effort to save money, I made the decision to pay the $20 fee for day-of pick-up and take MegaBus down early Sunday morning. Well, the one early morning option was scheduled to leave NYC at 1:15am and get to Philly at 3:15am. Not exactly ideal, but by doing that and skipping an overnight stay, I essentially gave myself at least one race registration fee. So I did it. The bus was a little late leaving, so it was a little closer to 4am when we got to Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station. I went in and got changed into my running gear – pink SkirtSports running skirt and my Team Breakthrough tech shirt, socks and shoes – then wandered to find a table to sit and read for a little. My plan was to start walking towards the subway’s Broad Street Line so that I’d get there at 5 or a little after. (I’d been given a card to show for free admission to the line since I wouldn’t have my bib yet.) Packet pick-up was to start at 6, and I wanted to be there early given how chaotic some other things had seemed through the whole preparation process. Well, I managed to hit one of the express trains, so I was there WAY early. One other woman was with me, so we hung out until pick-up opened. I ate my Luna bar and drank my Starbucks double shot while we waited. Got my bib and got it all situated, then got my bag ready to check. Took it to a school bus where I was given 2 wristbands – one for me and one for the bag. The bag was then put on a school bus in a seat based on its number. Then I headed to the Pink corral, which was way in the back. I think I’d read somewhere that there was going to be a certain time to enter the corrals, but people seemed to be going in anyway. I didn’t see anyone really checking bibs going in, but then again, being in the last corral it’s not like we were in a corral too fast for us. (Well, unless you shouldn’t have been in the race with a 15 minute mile pace requirement anyway.) I chatted with a few different people – funny how a runDisney mylar blanket makes a good conversation starter! – and nibbled on a ginger chew. My friend Johnny from FRNY called me and I went over and chatted with him and his partner for a few minutes before they headed to their corral. It was almost time!!

The race…
The race was scheduled to start at 8:30, and I can only assume it did. There were no speakers in the back corrals, so I have no clue what all happened before the race. The green corral – which was kind of in the middle – had been staged on a side street, and once they moved out and up we in the back three (gray, yellow and pink) finally started moving forward. And a little after 9 we finally got started. This was by far the largest race I’ve been in – around 40,000 people were registered – but I never really felt crowded in. Sure there were some places that got narrower than others, but even there I never felt pressure to go faster or slow down. Crowd support was great, even for us in the back. People were out on their porches or sidewalks cheering us – even church congregations were on their church steps! It’s a net downhill course, but there are still some ups, some of which are pretty long and gradual. Still, I kept plugging on with my 4/1 run/walk interval. On the longest uphill, I did walk a little more just to try and conserve some energy. The fluid stops weren’t as bad as I feared on spotting the first few tables at the first one. As long as you went towards the back tables you were fine. Those who stopped at the front tables were having to stop and wait for water to be poured. As I got to the Mile 9 marker, I looked at my garmin to see where I was with time, and after some quick mental calculations I realized that I could make my A goal, even if it was just barely. I’d have to push, and I didn’t have a lot left as I’d pushed hard through the rest of the race as well. I’d done what I could to stay cool (it wasn’t hot hot, but it wasn’t cool either once we got going) – dumping water on my arms, head and back – but there was still a toll taken there as well. So Mile 9…time to buckle down. And the biggest fights my brain and heart had with my legs. Every time I’d drop to a walk, my brain was screaming “Come on! Move!!” The people cheering us in definitely helped…but it was hard. When I saw the 1/2 mile mark, I checked the garmin again and knew I’d have to run it in if I wanted to break 2 hours. And run it in pretty hard. I just kept moving forward, pushing hard so I’d know that I’d done everything I possibly could. I got across the finish and beeped through the unused segments to end the workout. As I was walking towards the medals, I got up the courage to look at the history and find my time, knowing that there would be some difference as the beeping through took a little longer than usual.

1:59:43 on the garmin!!!!!

I knew at that point – especially having been on the front row of the Pink corral and having started the garmin a split second after crossing the mat – that I’d done it. I’d broken 2 hours!! I was totally spent, but thrilled.

I got my t-shirt and my food bag, then got my bag from the bus and headed to the line for the shuttle bus to the subway. That was kinda crazy, made moreso with Philadelphia having a team in playoffs with a game yesterday afternoon. Still, I managed to get back to the 30th St Station and get changed into clean, dry clothes. Then I went across the street to Slainte for cheese fries and a black velvet. I should have probably gone with the burger or something with a little more protein as later on while I was wandering around being tired and just feeling off after deciding I’d try to walk to Independence Hall…which was further than I’d thought from the map. I got tired and the little distance back to the station just kept growing. I finally got back and got some diet coke…and a donut to get some sugar (the protein thing hadn’t occurred to me yet). Then headed out for the line for the bus back.

I had a great time! I would like to do the race again…but we’ll see what they end up doing with registration next year. I do think I’d probably splurge on a hotel room the next time. It was rough being on so little sleep…moreso afterwards than before or during. But I had a great time!!

And official times are in…

1:59:21!!!! 11:56/mile average pace!!! My best in a race over 4 miles EVER!!!!

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100 Things About Running Entry #6

or Why I’m NOT Running the NYC Marathon

I know. It’s a big one. Possibly on more bucket lists than even Boston. It seems like everyone wants to run it (at least judging by all the angst on FB and various running forums today as it’s supposed to be announcement day for those who got in via the lottery – though apparently emails may not go out until tomorrow it’s looking like now). And if you live in NYC and run but show no interest in it, you’re sort of looked at as some kind of alien from another planet.

I know this because I’m not running it this year. Or probably ever.

I could have. I’m a NYRR member and last year I ran my 9 races and volunteered at one. Heck, I even ran at least one “extra” race because I got qualifying credit for one I wasn’t able to run – due to the Christmas blizzard, they gave credit to anyone who’d registered for the Emerald Nuts Midnight Run…and I was stuck in Orlando, so there was no way. By virtue of those two facts (membership AND 9+1) I had a guaranteed entry for 2012.

But the bottom line is they flat-out out-priced me. You have to draw a line and stick to it. My line was $200. Had I registered, I would have shelled out $227.

Granted, $27 isn’t a huge amount in the great scheme of things. But you have to draw the line somewhere, and for me $200 was it.

Would I have run NYC in 2012 if the cost had been under my bar? Yes. Part of me would have liked to have run it for a few reasons. First, I do think it would be a neat way to see the city. Second, the peer pressure in my running club is enormous, and you can sort of feel like an outsider if you’re not running it or haven’t run it. Third, I do love New York and living here. But as I said, I had my line, and I’m sticking to it.

Will I spend more going to Disney? Yes. Unless I somehow rack up enough airline miles to fly for free and stay with my sister or a friend, I will be spending more. BUT I get a vacation out of it. Ditto if I run San Francisco or Big Sur one of these years (I’ll talk about those in other posts). Or any other race that will require travel. I’ll be able to have a little vacation. (Chicago will be happening in 2013…and that’ll be another one that will just be airfare and race registration as I’ve got enough friends there I can definitely crash somewhere.) There are other marathons I’m looking at (such as the Donna) that are cheaper and in the case of the Donna actually does good without having to pledge a certain amount to a charity. ALL the money collected for it goes to help fund breast cancer research!

New York is somewhere I can literally run almost the entire course. My running club does a “Blue Line Run” which covers the last 20 miles of the marathon. About the only section I couldn’t do on my own is the bridge that opens the race. And while I’m sure it’s amazing if you’re on the top deck, with my lack of speed and my luck I’d be stuck on the lower level where…let’s just say if urban legend holds true you WANT to be in the center (not good for a run/walker like myself) to avoid getting wet with stuff that’s NOT water.

I am 100% content with my decision to not run it. I know there are people – many of whom applied through the lottery and didn’t get in – who don’t understand how someone could have guaranteed entry and not use it. But I have to be true to myself. And while I love the city, I just don’t feel a burning need to pay over $200 just to run it. I’m not a freak or an alien…I just have different priorities than some people. I don’t criticize them, and I’d hope that they wouldn’t criticize me. (And believe me, I know there are a lot of people who don’t get the draw of running Disney. That’s ok. As an old professor of mine used to say, “That’s why god made chocolate and vanilla!” Hee!)

It’s all about choices and priorities. And ultimately, it’s about running…and isn’t that what binds us runners together? The love of running? Regardless of where we run. 🙂

To those who are running it, good luck! And hopefully I’ll see you at Mile 24 (where my running club is in charge of the fluid station…and also has a cheer section)!


100 Things About Running Entry #5


The marathon that is.

The Boston Marathon takes place on Patriots Day – the third Monday in April every year. I’m not really one for the whole “Bucket List” thing, but this is one of those races I want to do. Which…well…

To get in on your own, you have to meet very fast qualifying standards. Standards that I’ll likely never meet. (Put it this way…my time at the WDW Marathon wouldn’t even get an 85 year old woman in on her own.) So the other option will be to get in through a charity team, meaning I’ll have to raise a ton of money. I’ve already promised my friends and family I’m not going to do any charity things until I do Boston, so they’ll be able to donate and help me out. 🙂 My initial plan had been 2013, but there’s generally a 6 hour time limit, and so like San Francisco (another post), I want to make sure I CAN do a marathon in under 6 hours (another post) before I sign up. And by the Disney marathon 2013 it’ll be too late to get into a charity team. So 2014 maybe?

This past Monday this year’s Boston Marathon took place. In record or near-record heat. The BAA offered qualifying runners a chance of deferral…and reportedly somewhere in the 350-437 range of runners are eligible for that deferral. A few thousand others just didn’t start. Now, some of those may not have been due to the heat but injuries or other reasons why they wouldn’t have started anyway, but my guess is a number of those were due to the heat. They were especially encouraging “unfit” runners to not start – ironic as they would be charity runners and thus not eligible for deferral. And they encouraged people to let their time goals go and be safe on the course, using their heads in making decisions. They also extended the finish time from 6 hours to 7 hours.

A friend of mine who ran it said that last year over 10,000 people requalified for this year in the race itself. This year it was around 2700. That (and the fact that the winning time was around 10 minutes slower than last year) really tells the story of the toll the heat took on everyone.

One of my running club friends ran it and made it to 16.5 miles in before she had to stop due to medical reasons. She got an IV and was at least able to joke that the only bling she was bringing back was her patient’s belongings bag. I’m still so proud of her and so in awe of her abilities as a runner. She ran smart and listened to her body and stopped on her own. And she’s awesome!!

So yeah…it’s a race I’d love to do someday. I just have to get my time down and my funds up! 🙂

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100 Things About Running Entry #4

Or… My Experience With (and Thoughts on) Competitor Group

I’m just going to say up front that these are my own opinions based on my personal experiences and those of some of my friends (I will indicate which is which) as well as what I’ve gleaned from interviews with them, specifically on The Marathon Show. Your experiences and opinions may vary, and that’s fine. This is my blog, and I’m stating my opinion.

Competitor Group is the group that puts on the Rock’n’Roll (RnR) race series that does marathons and half marathons all over the country. And a 10K in New York City.

The New York 10K is my experience with them. NYRR (New York Road Runners) seemingly has a lock on Central Park, and so RnR did a 10K to come into the market. In wanting to support something to provide choice, I figured I’d do it, so I signed up. It was expensive for a 10K – I want to say $60 or $70 – but it did have bling, and it was inaugural.

My first clue that they really hadn’t thought this thing out was seeing that they were expecting 6000+ runners. The NYRR and Prospect Park Track Club (PPTC) races held in Prospect Park are capped at a max of about 4000. And if they lap the cap is even smaller. The road around the park is just over 3 miles, so clearly there would be lapping going on. Red flag number 1. Then the location for number pick up was announced. I didn’t expect an expo since it was only a 10K. But they picked possibly the smallest running store in the city to hold the number pick-up. It was crazy. Then they randomly put all of us who registered early – before there was an “estimated finish time” on the registration form – into the last corral with a ridiculously slow estimated finish time. So a lot of us were having to change our corral. I’d brought proof of time and was put in Corral 7. By them simply putting a little round sticker on the bib and writing the new corral with a sharpie on the dot. I found out my friend who I was planning to run with was given the choice of 7 or 6 because our estimated finish time overlapped. It was not a problem to change my number when I got home. And as it turns out no one bothered to check the numbers anyway. But back to pick up…they were running out of bags and shirts so that people were having to get them the next morning. Fast forward to then. Less than an hour before the race, only the porta potties where registration was going on (yes, they were still registering people…total cash cow) were unlocked. None further up the course, which many of us had to pass based on the subway stop we got off at. We got into the corrals, and then it was announced that they were delaying the start by 15 minutes because people were STILL registering. Once we got underway, the race itself was fine. No big problems, though there was much lapping going on. After, when it was time to collect my baggage, it was horrible. We’d put them on rental trucks based on our numbers. Now…if we were going from Prospect Park to somewhere else in Brooklyn, this would have made sense. However, there was less than half a mile between the finish village and the registration village. There was no need to move the bags PERIOD. But they did. Now at NYRR races (the regular ones…not the NYC Half or NYC Marathon), yes, you go in on your own and get your bag, but your bib is checked against that tag on your way out. Here, we found that bags were being and had been tossed out of the trucks at random, thrown between trucks, and essentially were not being watched at all nor was anyone bothering to match up bibs with tags. Thankfully as far as I heard no one’s bag was stolen, but that’s sheer luck really. Basically it was a big cluster and I’m not doing it again. Especially when I can run laps of Prospect Park any day I choose for free.

This past December, Competitor put on RnR Las Vegas. Which was by al accounts one huge cluster fuck in pretty much every way it could be. I have some friends who ran it and they said they have never been so happy to simply get out of a race experience alive as they were. The horror stories that were all over the internet were truly shocking. People having medical issues afterwards – being curled up/collapsed on the floor for hours before any EMTs could get to them because of the crowds, running out of water as well as people who have run many races getting violently ill all around the same time, no one maintaining any order for who got into what corral (that one didn’t surprise me at all), and massive overcrowding on the course. Just do a google search and you’ll find PLENTY. Oh yes, they ran out of medals. And there were plenty of reports of people who were shuttled closer to the finish and crossing the line being given them (this is a stated policy on the RnR website…yet the person interviewed on The Marathon Show (it’s coming up) said he’d never heard of that happening) as well as some people reporting that some volunteers weren’t checking bibs or anything before handing one over.

They went on The Marathon Show shortly after the event and basically blamed the whole collapse of the corrals at the start of the half on “new and inexperienced runners” who “got antsy and jumped the gun, just pressing forward”. The reason they ran out of water/cups at later aid stations? The volunteers were cold and abandoned their stations. The medals? Oh, they knew going in that they were short (did I mention they were still registering people at the expo, already knowing they were short on medals?) but did and said nothing. The water? “It was hydrant water, but it’s tested.” They took very little responsibility for anything.

They were back on the most recent episode of The Marathon Show talking about the changes they’re making to ensure that things don’t happen again. My jaw did drop when the guy actually said that the corral collapse at the start was their fault – that they had to move people through faster. So at least he wasn’t blaming “new” and “nervous” runners on that anymore. It does sound like they have made changes that should help. The people getting sick? Well, the Las Vegas health department (or someone that’s local out there) determined that it wasn’t the water but that they must have picked up some virus. That all hit them at the same time? I would have felt better about those findings if someone neutral in the situation – as in not Las Vegas or even Nevada based – had conducted the testing. Because clearly they’re going to have a vested interest in saying their water is 100% safe. But still…the testing was done and the report shall stand. He didn’t mention the medal issue. But he said they are keeping the cap at 45000 runners between the full and the half. So theoretically if they order 45000 medals they should be safe.

So it will be interesting to see how this year goes for them. There are a lot of people who think that Competitor can do no wrong and will do any and every one of their races. there are others who have had bad experiences at various races they’ve done. It seems to be it and miss as to which cities they do well in and which they make a mess of.

Las Vegas was never on any plan I’d had regardless of who’s doing it. I’m probably one of three people in the world (me, my mom and my dad) who have no desire to ever set a toe in Las Vegas. So it held no interest for me at all.

They are expanding to international races now – this weekend they did one in Edinburgh, Scotland. I’ll be interested to see how it went. They had one scheduled for Dublin, Ireland in August, but it’s been pushed back to next year. I love Dublin and have been considering it. The airfare was ridiculous for 2012…probably because it was scheduled DURING THE OLYMPICS and Dublin’s close enough I could see it being a point of “fly in here and then catch a cheap hopper over” kind of place. Competitor’s story on the postponement is “Competitor Group, organizer of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series, has decided to postpone the 2012 Rock ‘n’ Roll Dublin Half Marathon until 2013. We realized with great regret a need for more time to create an entirely new event to meet the high standards established by the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series and expected by our local community partners.” And they claim there was “tremendous support”…but I suspect that the ridiculously high airfares and the fact that it was scheduled during the London Olympics has a lot to do with it. (It would just make them look stupid to say that had anything to do with it because those dates have been set for years. But that’s my opinion.) I do love Dublin and may still consider doing it. But I’m going to look closely for reports from non-RnR junkies about their international races to see how they go.

In the meantime, I for one will pretty much avoid the Competitor Group races just on my experience and that of my friends. Yes, they may put on some good races, but that only shows that they know how to do it, so there’s really no excuse for why others consistently have problems – often the SAME problems year after year.

For those who love them, great. But I think the voice of those of us who haven’t had good experiences with them needs to be heard as well.

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100 Things About Running Entry #3

or Lessons Learned in a Hot(ish) Small Race

I’m currently training for the Broad Street Run 10 Mile race on May 6. My training plan called for a 10K this weekend, and this one fit right in. It also let me start to explore some non-NYRR races.

It was a definite change – there were 148 people who participated in the 10K. Not sure how many in the 5K or the 1 mile walk. So teeny! Our timing chips were these foam things with a metal reader in them that had been put in numbered ziplock baggies. We were instructed to pin them on our shirts or shorts/skirts. Interesting.

We all headed to the boardwalk at Rockaway Beach where the start and finish were. There was a loop that made up the 5K, so those of us doing the 10K did that twice. Luckily I always carry my Nathan handheld (because the pouch is just right for my inhaler) because there were no water stations anywhere along the course.

The weather was supposed to be in the 50s at the start time and climbing through the 60s, but I’m pretty sure we were well into the 60s by start time and it just climbed. It was hot and no shade (shades of the out and back at WDW for sure). Also, my allergies have been acting up, so the inhaler ended up being used a couple of times. Still, I felt like I was starting out well. I might have taken off a little fast, but I thought I could hold that run pace. Well, with the heat and the wheeziness, I wasn’t able to fully hang on. So insert some more fast walking – I really try to keep my pace up walking when I have to drop to it in a run interval.

I knew approaching the turn to go around the course again that I was pretty far back in the crowd, but I wasn’t sure exactly where. I felt a little better when I passed one guy and saw a few people coming back towards me. I just kept reminding myself that DFL (Dead F-ing Last) is greater than DNF (Did Not Finish) and that is greater than DNS (Did Not Start) any day and kept on going.

What I am most proud of is that as I went around the dog leg and could see the turn around at the end of the boardwalk, I could also see that the volunteers who had been there the first time around weren’t there. I knew there was no timing mat to check. I did know that there was at least one person behind me, but I wasn’t sure how far. I admit, I did consider turning around when I knew that no one was coming towards me with a chip pinned onto them. But only for a moment. Because I knew that I’d feel completely down on myself if I did that – like a total fraud. So I committed to do it, no matter what my time was. So I went to the end of that boardwalk and did the whole course!

My official time was 1:16:06 – which is slower than my PR (which was set on hills) – and I finished 138 out of 148, but I’ll take it. I completed the whole course. I also learned that smaller races, while it’s nice not to have the hassle of the corrals and stuff, smaller races are tougher if you’re a back of the packer. I was running on my own much of the time, and it was harder to find someone to “chase”. As the morning went on, I also had to do a bit of weaving among people just out on the boardwalk for whatever. But all in all, I’m happy with the race and my results.

Oh yeah…after it was over, we went back to the bar where number and shirt pickup had been. We each got a drink “coupon” in our bags, and I’d been hoping they’d have their taps going as they have Magners on tap, but they didn’t. So I had probably the best tasting Heineken I’ve ever had. Funny how being a dirty, SWEATY, smelly princess – and add thirsty to that – makes even beer taste good. LOL. Also wonderful Irish “Soda Bread” Scones. YUMMY!

3 weeks and a day to Broad Street!

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100 Things About Running Entry #2

My First Race

This one actually turned out to be not the one I thought it was going to be. Initially I thought it would be the Race for the Cure (I know…I know better now and will be finding other ways to help fund breast cancer research, but we didn’t know SJK would turn out to be so anti-women then.) – I’ve known a lot of people with breast cancer, and my pseudo-older sister had died from it, so it seemed like a good fit.

But then I heard about the World Trade Center Run to Remember, which was the week before Race.

While I didn’t (to my knowledge) know anyone in the towers or planes or ground who was killed on 9/11, the WTC was a part of the two trips to NYC I made in high school, one in particular one of the only times I really felt accepted. And that day is indelibly a part of me – of all of us. This run distributed the funds among several organizations. And it had one big advantage over the Race. This one is held on Governor’s Island. Which is flat.

So I chose to sign up.

It was really a nice first race. Not too big, but not too small.

It was the Sunday of Labor Day weekend 2010. I got up and dressed in whatever I chose to run in that day, then headed into lower Manhattan to get on the ferry over to Governor’s Island. It was cool – they’d chartered the ferry just for those of us running and those coming with to spectate or volunteer. Once we got there, I had a while to wander through the tents of the organization, tie and re-tie my shoes, hit the porta-potties…numerous times.

There were no real corrals for this race. Those of us running lined up in the front – following the advice in Marathoning for Mortals I lined up towards the back knowing I would be slow – and the walkers behind us. I think the walkers may have even started after we did.

I had my iPod with me with a special playlist for the race. Because I am so musically inclined, I fall into pace with the beat of whatever music I’m listening to, which isn’t always a good thing, but I wanted to use it to my advantage so I wouldn’t go out too fast. I purposely put slower (not SLOW but slower) songs first and built up, and I had “Die Vampire, Die!” towards the end when I figured I’d be needing it, finishing with “I Run For Life”.

Overall it went well, especially for a first race. The only little glitch was that I’d probably overhydrated and had to take a pit stop during the race, thus losing a couple of minutes. Pitstops are (for me and someone at my pace) to be expected in full and possibly even half marathons…but for a 5K? That was a mistake I intended not to make again. But the rest went well. I did a run/walk plan, but I didn’t have a regular schedule for it, which I do now. I ran until I needed to walk, and found (as everyone who uses the “run until I need to walk” method finds) that starting back running was hard. I did it, but it was hard.

I finished in around 41 minutes, and I was so proud of myself.

I’d run my first race. And been well and truly bitten by the running bug.

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