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Friday, June 13, 2014

Happy Father's Day/ A reason to run

A Father's Day post from Rachel.

I've mentioned it a few times here on the blog, but my father was the reason I began running.  Not because he loved running (he hates it), but because he inspired me to go after something I thought impossible. As we approach Father's Day I thought I'd write a bit more about that story. This Sunday I will spend Father's Day with him and probably go on a bike ride where I will let him ride ahead of me...because he will be beating me....

Family Photo, circa 2007
Back in 2007/2008 I did not run. I would occasionally get on the elliptical, but I did not run and I did not think I was capable of running. Sure, I was active between dance and pick-up volleyball, but nothing beyond that.

I envied those who could go for a run with no problem, I yearned for what it felt like to just throw on running shoes and go for a run. Every time I tried to run I just felt my lungs burn and just felt defeated.

Growing up my brother was by far the athletic one and I was the dance/theater one. We were an active family, hiking, playing volleyball, or body surfing in the ocean, but bike rides were for my father and brother. My father would take my brother along on his weekend bike rides. Every weekend without fail (well, no winter rides) he would go on a bike ride, sometimes 20 miles, sometimes longer. I never did this as biking even 3 miles was torture to me.

Arizona in 2012 with my sister-in-law and my father's travel hat.
My father was someone I constantly looked up to. A man who gave his all at his job and then could come home and give is all to his family. Whenever we traveled we always joked we needed a vacation after our vacations because of how many activities we would crammed into a small amount of time.

On March 8, 2008 he was T-Boned by a Ryder rental truck. The driver of the truck was texting. If you ever wanted to know why you should NEVER text and drive or why I always wait when the light turns green...this is why:

This was my tiny Honda Civic. My world stopped. Here was a man I had looked up to and saw as invincible, and now we were unsure of what the future held.

He spent 6 and 1/2  weeks in the hospital recovering...and miraculously 6 months later returned to work. The rescue crew, doctors and nurses were all amazed by his progress. If nothing, he is determined and when he sets his mind to something he accomplishes it. He wanted his life back and fought to get it back. He wasn't without scars or lasting health issues. Suddenly, he was winded climbing the stairs because his vocal chords were too closed off due to vocal cord stenosis, but he climbed stairs. He worked so he could get back to the gym and back on his bike.

I watched all of this and suddenly realized that if I wanted to run...then I should run. Why let something stop me? I watched as my father's will found a way.

So I started...slowly and cautiously, but soon I signed up and ran my first 5K. My parents drove up to watch it. They always went to my brother's triathlons, and here they were to watch my little 5K.

Captured by my father.
It took longer for the racing bug to really bite and for me to pursue my running passion, but this is where it started. All because of one man who showed me what it was to go after what he wanted and to not let anything get in the way.

They still travel to races. I even got them to come to Paris!
I now go on bike rides with him, but he smokes me EVERYTIME. One day I'll catch up to him, but I'm happy to follow his lead and in his footsteps.

Happy Father's Day, Dad! 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Historic Half-Marathon Race Recap

Rachel is really good at signing up for a bunch of races and not training.
If you are keeping track:
April 6- Marathon
April 27- Half-Marathon
May 18- Half-Marathon

May 18 was not in the schedule for 2014, but I wanted  help my friend Julie celebrate her birthday. Julie and I signed up for the Marine Corps Historic Half along with our friend Devin. They were going to run their first half-marathon and I was along for the ride...err, run. CrossFit brought us together and we even have a nickname four our friendship: 

Doesn't everyone have a shirt marking a great friendship?

Well in continuing with a theme of "Oh, I have a race?" I didn't train at all. I rowed a few longs distances...but nope no training runs. I also did deadlifts the Friday before the race resulting in sore hamstrings, well, we can't all make smart choices all of the time. The night before the race little sleep was had- I even performed in an improv show and then got in my car and drove down to Fredericksburg.

Spoiler- It was another good race even though I tried to sabotage myself.

 However, I should mention that I may be the worst person to be around pre-race. Antsy doesn't begin to describe my feelings. I like to arrive in enough time: pee, check any items, pee, stretch, pee, check out the corral, pee, pee, and stand in the corral (contemplating if I need to pee again).

For the Historic Half parking is a bit of a zoo as they close down roads and parking lots, we parked a good mile from the start line, the race started at 7:30- we were parking at 7:15. Cue PANIC .

Following the National Anthem (Gorgeously sung, and a moment of stillness). I went on my fast pee journey, as the race had started by this point. Seriously, the race began as we walked towards the start line. I left Devin and Julie and started on my journey. 

About a mile in I realized two things 1) my water bottle was leaking  2) my hamstrings were sore (hey deadlifts) and 3) My Clif shot gels and melted onto themselves. I just had to laugh at the situation.

The course was good, but let's talk about course elevation 

It seems that the first 9 miles of the race is all downhill....this is a LIE. Mixed in are a ton of small, but steep, neighborhood hills. There was barely a flat moment, and if you went downhill you were soon greeted by a hill. 

The course runs through a commercial area of Fredericksburg and it is a bit of a bore. However, Miles 3-9 are through neighborhoods and into Historic Downtown Fredericksburg.  Along the course there are Marines to cheer you on and encourage you to pick up the pace.  It provides for great inspiration and motivation to keep going.

The weather was perfect, but it definitely got warm on the course. One house has set up their sprinkler for runners to run through and I was quite grateful. I passed on the tequila and fireball shots.

Around Mile 9 I realized that I was pacing ahead of schedule and somehow on track to PR...again. WHAT? I should also note that the thought of "Oh man, the race is almost done" crossed my mind. I was having a fantastic run and really enjoying the race. 
"Proof" of a fun race.
I decided to not tackle the PR for a few reasons, 1) I wanted to still be able to train the coming week and 2) I still had yet to conquer Hospital Hill and wanted to save energy for that climb.

Hospital Hill is notorious along this course. Look back at the elevation map and see if you can spot it...yup 2 miles of uphill climbs from Miles 10-12. BRUTAL. 

As the ground short legs did as the best they could. To say the hill demolished my legs is a bit of an understatement and there was still another 1.1 to go. At this point I was out of water as my handheld had leaked and I skipped a water stop or two along the course. So I crested over the top sweaty, tired, but full of pride.  I should note that a tutu- clad man helped me conquer the last few feet. Thank you, tutu man, wherever you are.

Attempting to pick up the pace for the final mile was a laugh, as Hospital Hill tanked my legs. I just accepted the pace I was running at and started a dance part. Soon the finish line was in sight. There is such a rush coming around a corner and seeing the finish line. I dug in an picked up the pace...if only because it meant I could get water faster. My father was apparently shouting my name, but I did not hear him...I had one focus WATER.

He did snap this awesome shot as I neared the finish line and I forced him to take a selfie. 

When I finally crossed the finish line I looked down and discovered I was only 7 minutes off my current PR...what??? How did that happen? I blame you CrossFit. 

As I chugged my water and ate oranges slices (seriously the best) and waited for Julie and Devin, I reveled in the fun I had while racing.  

We all met up and took many photos, drank beer, and brunched. As mentioned in the previous race recap, brunch is a KEY component to a good race.

After 5 months of racing I'm officially on a hiatus until November. This first few months have tested me and seen me conquer more than I thought I could (TWO MARATHONS???). As hard as some of the races were (Dopey and Paris), I wouldn't change a thing. I'm thrilled that I finally got my groove back and look forward to getting back to racing in November and planning for a marathon in 2015.

So time to recharge my running battery and get ready to tackle Disney Wine and Dine, and the Avengers Half-Marathon in November!

Maybe I'll train for those, just maybe.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Race Recap - 2014 Rock & Roll USA Half Marathon

In keeping with my goal to run one organized race a month in 2014, I took a stab at two new (to me) distance events. Both were right here in DC, which was a new experience to me, having only run out of town events in the past. The first was March 15's Rock & Roll USA (Half Marathon).

Flat Sara was ready to run St. Patrick's Day weekend!
The second of the Rock & Roll series races I've taken on (first was Philly back in September), I signed up for the Rock & Roll USA last fall, when I decided against the Nike Women's due to the high registration fee. When the course maps were released for both events in December, I wondered if the challenging, hilly course I'd run in R&R was worth the cheaper sticker price.

Promising myself that I would add hills to my training plan, I went back to worrying about surviving January's Dopey Challenge. After my first marathon experience, however, I made the unwise decision that I had trained enough, and could basically coast from that marathon into running the R&R USA two months later. Needless to say, no hill reps for me. Not training? Big mistake.

Seriously - check out the elevation changes around Mile 6. Are you kidding me?!
The expo was great. After feeling like I hadn't fully experienced the Disney expo in January (in favor of getting off our feet as soon as possible to rest up for those 48.6 miles), my mom and I took it easy through the DC Armory, stopping to look for freebies and deals at every booth after I picked up my packet. in addition to my bib and official race tee (tangent - I really love the Brooks tees that the R&R Series gives out - the designs have been great for both Philly and USA, and they're quite comfy for every day wear and running) I came away with info on a bunch of local races over the next year, a pair of new Sparkly Soul headbands (in rainbow and Redskin colors), and a pint glass with the R&R USA logo on it for my celebratory beer. Mom and I grabbed dinner before she dropped me off at home to lay out my gear and hit the sack.
Crack of dawn pre-race selfie with my best friend.
Early Saturday morning, I jumped in the car with my best friend, Allie, who was surprisingly excited to be up at the crack of dawn to see me off at the start line, and cheer me on along the way. We found a parking space downtown, and made sure to make our way past the start line before finding bag check, port-o-potties, some touristy photo ops on the National Mall, and (eventually) my starting corral.

Great excuse for tourist-y photos in my hometown!
The race started, and off we went. I maintained a fairly easy pace, with the goal to stay energized for the duration. One of the biggest issues I had with running this race in the city where I train, was that I knew the territory. I found myself dreading the big hill at Mile 6 for the entire first half of the race - I just couldn't shake what I knew was coming!

Fortunately, the biggest upside of running a local race was the fact that my friends could come out and cheer me on. Allie left me at the start to hustle to the other side of the startline to wave and film my first steps. She then met me for hugs and encouragement at Miles 4 and 7 (before getting horribly lost with all of the road closures so she missed me at the finish). I gotta say, hearing her scream at me was amazing - especially when it was a milemarker I didn't expect her at!

At Mile 4, just about to head into Rock Creek Park. I think I nearly knocked her over with this hug :)
Rachel was also cheering loudly, cowbell in hand, around Mile 4, and at the tippity top of that dreadful Mile 6 hill stood Andrew and our friend Bedlam. I was so tuckered out at the top of that hill, but coming up over the crest and seeing them standing there made me kick it into gear and sprint the last few meters to get a big hug.

Spotted by Allie around Mile 7, with my buddy Sherill in pink in the background!
With The Hill behind me, I kept on trucking through the DC neighborhoods I know and love. I had a blast running past the adorable, colorful row houses, as well as through some neighborhoods I only know for their night life. There were people hanging out on their porches, offering up free beverages of choice (I saw signs for Guinness, margaritas, Natty Lite, and sangria - it was a drunk runner's dream!). Being St. Patrick's Day weekend, folks were all definitely out for a good time.

My feet are BOTH off the ground! Running past some of my favorite row houses in Columbia Heights, having a blast.
By the time I got to Columbia Heights (sometime between 7 and 8), I was really feeling fatigued in my untrained legs. Fortunately for me, I spotted my friend Ric on the sidelines, and ran over to say hello. Ric, it turned out, had other plans in mind, and had come to run with me for a few miles! I couldn't have been happier to have a buddy - and to be honest, he's definitely the one who kept me running for the next few miles. I would have been walking much more than I wanted to without his company. We jogged along as he encouraged me to make it to the next stop sign or landmark, chatting about the buildings and streets we passed by. As we made the turn down North Cap, with the Capitol Building in sight, Ric turned off to run home, and I was alone again to finish what I had started.

Running solo and determined, finish line in sight.
At this point, it was just a mental game, telling myself that I was so close to the end. I ran down H Street, alongside the Trolley car tracks and past more of Andrew's and my favorite late night spots. Then finally, we turned toward RFK Stadium, where the finish line, my parents, and Andrew were waiting for me. Down the finishers shoot I went for the last few meters, picking up the pace and finishing strong. Sure enough, I crossed the finish line and spotted Andrew waiting with my parents, bouquet in hand for me! After hugs, we parted ways as Andrew and I made our way to his football game, where I basked in the sun, had the most delicious beer I've ever drunk, and cheered on his team.

Finishing like a rockstar!
Overall, I enjoyed this race. The on-course support from the Rock & Roll Series was, as always, excellent. The medal was spectacular - one of my favorites, with the Washington Monument and some Cherry Blossoms. The course itself was interesting, but definitely a challenge with so many hills - the dreaded Mile 6 hill, but also some smaller ones along the way. I'd certainly be up for running it again, but with way more hill repeats in my training plan. The weather was perfect - March in DC can mean anything from a foot of snow on the ground to 70 and sunny, so I was pleasantly surprised to find it perfect shorts and t-shirt running weather.