Catholics and Cattle: Running With the Cows Race Recap (Praise Jesus, the Heartland 39.3 is Over!)

Let me come right out with it…the lovely rural Catholic school that put on this race schooled everyone.  They have a hotline to God and a knack for what they are doing, and they brought their A-game to this race.  It’s as if the hell of the Garmin half marathon (poor organization, no police presence to help get everyone to the starting line, driving rain and stinging hail) cleansed our running souls, and we finally got to see the bright shining light that is half marathon heaven.

It was beautiful (though not a PR for me…don’t want to mislead anyone!) 🙂

I’ve whined incessantly about hating the running limbo between the races, and the running purgatory gave me a serious case of nerves the day before the race, as I’d spent five weeks in a resting/taper mode before and after each half marathon.  That doesn’t exactly inspire confidence going into the third half marathon in five weeks.  My legs felt fatigued from the accumulation of racing yet strangely unprepared for another (how do the Dopey Challenge people do it?).

Image

 

source

I fixed one mistake from the last half marathon and did NOT eat Taco Bell the night before; however, I made another by playing 18 holes of golf with HH (God was not with me on the course, as I shot a 132 and therefore walked the entire course three times over looking for my ball in the rough on every dang hole.)  I couldn’t not play though…it was a gorgeous afternoon, and life is meant to be lived!

God giveth and he taketh away.  Um-hmm, that’s right.

So I woke up at 4:30 with sore legs and tight glutes.  Hell is a tight ass pre-race, because you know that means your butt cheeks will soon be pushing on your shoulder blades.

I hit the road early, determined to avoid any prerace traffic jams.  For any local readers, the sweet ladies at packet pickup told me to go past the first exit when coming south on 69 Hwy. and to exit instead at 247th Street.  This worked like a charm…there were police at the exit and at every turn directing traffic, and then there were many marvelous volunteers directing us into the field behind the church (if you parked at the first exit location, you had to bus in.)

I was parked and at the starting line in minutes.  Hooray to race organizers!

There were plenty of port-a-potties, and the church had opened up the cafeteria so that runners could get out of the cold and wait inside.  I almost died when I walked in…nice and warm, music playing (“She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy”–ha!), pastries and coffee already being served, and Queenie the Cow making the picture rounds.

Catholics do it better.

Lining up was easy.  I placed myself around the 1:55 pacer and talked to a few runners around me.  One guy had started Rock the Parkway shooting for a 1:50 and gotten sick from the heat (just like me!), walked the last 5-6 miles just so he could finish since he was doing the 39.3, but then slept through the Garmin marathon and missed it.  That’s a tough break.

The weather was beautiful (prayers were answered!  I’m telling you these people have an in), and we took off to the sounds of Van Halen…a clear sign that the man above was thinking of me, as I LOVE Van Halen (can’t remember now if they played “When Love Walks In” or “When It’s Love”).  The only thing better would have been if they’d played “Running With the Devil.”

Funny stuff.

We were off, and I felt surprisingly good for the first two miles, other than getting hemmed in right on the ass of the pacer with nowhere to move.  It took about three miles to get clear of the jostling group and make a break.  I ran ahead, talked with my old college roommate and her boyfriend for a bit, then pushed a little harder, as I was feeling very relaxed.

This was the perfect course…all country roads, completely closed off, plenty of room to run, and no huge elevation changes, just gentle rolling hills.  It was varied enough to keep it interesting, and I enjoyed the slight challenge of the hills and the respite of the downhill portions.  It would be a great course to try and set a PR…and might I add that the occasional smell of cow manure can prove mighty inspiring?  🙂

To the cows at Mile 6…I hope you feel better soon!  Eat some fiber!

Now as we all know, the devil is in the details (are you getting sick of the religious references yet?), and the race delivered.  Have I mentioned the aid stations?  They were everywhere, manned by different grades of the school with parent helpers.  They had signs indicating which side had Gatorade and which had water, and the kids also yelled out what they were holding.  They also had trays of orange slices and bananas…these people were saints!  I can’t count how many thanked me for running as I passed.

Are you serious?  Thank you for hosting!  For being organized!  For everything!  Hosanna in the highest (I remember my Catholic school days!)  These kids were amazing…I wanted to hug them all for being so sweet.

I sipped my Nuun and ate 2-3 Honey Stingers before most aid stations, chasing it with water supplied by little angels.

My splits for the first seven miles:

9:05, 8:53, 8:41, 8:39, 8:40, 8:34, 8:33…consistent.  Not earth-shattering, but fun and comfortable.  I enjoyed every minute of them.

I started to feel fatigued around Mile 8, not too far after the turnaround point, and my splits started dropping a bit, just when I was hoping to have enough energy to start ramping them up.  I didn’t feel bad, just a bit tired, and I wondered if general race fatigue from the previous two races and little serious running in-between was catching up with me.  Still, I wasn’t dizzy or nauseous (yet), and I could still run, just not at quite the pace I would have liked.

I really drew inspiration in these miles from watching the slower runners still coming up the front half of the race.  I saw such spirit and determination in those people, and I tried to shout some encouragement to them as I passed.  I don’t know if it helped them, but seeing their struggle sure helped me.  I wasn’t setting a trailblazing pace, but I was cooking up a decent race, and I was thankful.

Best sign of the race?  The one that said “There will be a day when you cannot run.  Today is not that day!”

That sign sums up the whole reason why I run, and it gave me inspiration (it didn’t give me any more speed, unfortunately, but it gave me a smile and happy thoughts, which is worth a lot too!)

I thought I had built up about a 2-minute lead on the 1:55 pacer, and I felt fairly strong.  I passed the guy I’d talked to at the beginning of the race, just as he was stopping to stretch his quad.  I shouted some encouragement as I chicked him, but that may not have helped him, upon reflection.

I tried to run more by feel in Miles 8-10, as I was starting to fight some low energy and didn’t want to get hung up on pace.  I thought I was pushing hard and that I was still well ahead of the pacer…in fact, I was beginning to think that maybe I would end up under 1:54.  I was starting to feel a little nauseated though, and it was getting pretty warm, so I was hesitant to try and make a push.  Still, though, my discomfort wasn’t severe like Rock the Parkway.

I need to stop ignoring my Garmin, because every time I do, my natural inclination is apparently to go slower (my splits were 8:42, 8:48 and 8:48 for Miles 8-10).

Right at the Mile 11 mark and just before the last hill, I saw the 1:55 stick wiggle up next to me, and there she was like Satan on my shoulder…the pacer.  She had caught up with me, like past sins or too many pieces of birthday cake.

It was like my entire running ego was shoved into one big balloon, and she poked it with her damn pacer stick and left it all on the road.

It’s hard to process a full-on depression attack while still running.  I was just so instantly deflated for some reason, and whatever spirit those Catholic kids had given me evaporated faster than you can make the sign of the cross.

I tried to tell myself that though I was moving slower than I’d thought, I was still running an enjoyable solid race.  I put my eyes on that stick and chased it like it was the last bus to Heaven.  Just stay close, I told myself, but I was seriously adrift spiritually and physically, and I needed food in the worst way.

I’m not proud of my Mile 11-13 splits (8:57, 8:52, and 8:42), but I can’t really complain either.  I was still conscious, I didn’t have to stop to walk, which I was starting to see a lot of, and I didn’t lose track of the Satan pacer.

I crossed the finish line in 1:55:30 to the cheering of a great crowd, the ringing of numerous cowbells and the smell of home cooked food waiting in the church cafeteria.

I stopped to grab a bottle of water in the finish chute, and a volunteer thanked me (again!) for running.  I told her that I should be thanking her and that this was the best race I’d ever participated in.  She was thrilled and introduced me to the lady next to her, who was the organizer of the run…lucky me!  I had the chance to thank her in person and tell her how much it meant to me (and I’m sure the other runners as well!)

Hi Liz Meek, and thanks again!  Isn’t she nice?  She even put her arm around me, and I was a sweaty disgusting mess!

Image

Now here is where the race organizers (kudos, Liz!) came through yet again.  The spread inside that church was something to behold.  Here is a pic of just one table, and there were several…

Image

Pulled pork, hot dogs, hamburgers, McDonald’s and Panera, chicken salad, baked beans, Hostess cupcakes, fresh fruit, etc.–they had it all, not to mention numerous side tables with homemade cakes, pastries, etc., and samples from the Corner Bakery Cafe.  It was overwhelming.

To whoever made the chicken salad…I applaud you.  Your chicken salad made my day.  Please make it again next year.  Peace be with you.

I ate my food (eat all the food!), then wandered over to the outside coffee vendor (they had coffee inside and outside…these are my kind of people!)  He said that he’d had several people wander up and ask him why people would want coffee on such a warm morning, and we had a good laugh about it, because coffee drinkers don’t care if it’s 100 degrees outside, they want their coffee!

Amen to that.

After collecting my shiny medals (blingtastic!), I took another pic with Queenie the Cow and hit the road…

Image

I checked my numbers once I got home and was reasonably pleased to see that I finished in the top 9% of my age group (angelic shebeasts 40-44) and in the top 23% overall.

So my final numbers for the series were 1:54, 1:56, and 1:55.  Not what I had hoped for , but respectable.  Will I do the Heartland 39.3 series again?  I really don’t know.  The limbo in-between races was torture, yet the feeling of completing three in five weeks is a good one.

After experiencing Running With the Cows, though, I might just try to target it next spring as a solo race with the hope of chasing a PR.  Regardless, I will be back to run this incredible race again (with God as my copilot!) 😉

And would you believe I played nine more holes of golf on Saturday afternoon?  I was exhausted by Saturday evening.

Happy running, and I hope you had a happy Mother’s Day (mine was wonderful!)  Thanks for reading!

 

Advertisements

Outdoor Tech Adapt Review (and Final Half Marathon Prep)

My eagerly awaited shipment of wine Gap pants Penguin Drop Cap series hardcovers the Outdoor Tech Adapt came in the mail on Monday, readers, and I was thrilled to take it out for its first spin this morning.

But first, yesterday was our older son’s 15th birthday…which he spent sick, unfortunately.  Boo.  He rallied in time for evening birthday cake, but we spared him pictures since he was unshowered and wearing his Globogym Purple Cobras t-shirt.

I hate birthdays.  I spent half the day reflecting on mortality, motherhood and all that he has meant to me, and the other half just wishing time would freeze.  He’s fifteen now…only three more years until he marches off to college.  How that can be, I have no idea, but it’s what the numbers indicate, and numbers don’t lie.  Some of the most important years of his life are hurtling toward him, but those upcoming milestones occur without us, once he’s gone and out of the house.  I am excited for him and each new year, but I also want to hold him close and cherish each moment more than is possible.

Time is short.  He is hilarious and wonderful and unique, he and his brother truly the greatest source of joy and pride in my life.  I am ever thankful that God not only allowed me to be a mom, but his mom, the guardian of his precious soul.

Birthdays are the worst.  He is the best.

Moving on…

Here is my discount pink Outdoor Tech Adapt, modeled on my twig wrist with my Garmin 220 so you can see the size, because size matters, and I was worried that the boobalicious model in my pic from the last post might lead you to think that the Adapt was smaller than it actually is.  It’s the perfect size…small enough to fit anywhere easily, but big enough that the buttons are easy to push.

Image

Though my wrist be but small, my middle physique is looking a lot like that monkey man in the picture, and he has my lowrider El Camino ass.  Note to self before commencing marathon training: ease up on the white devils.  They are no substitute for love, and you are not running 40 miles per week yet.

Another pic with my Yurbuds Focus for Women earphones, which I am still crushing on…

Image

The clip is sturdy…I don’t think it will snap off easily.  Though I had read one review that complained about the device being difficult to pair, my iPhone made the magic happen in about two seconds.  Draw whatever comparison you like…just don’t make it about teenage boys, because I have one of those and have now decided that all males before the age of 30 are celibate, asexual or just not interested in ladies.

Don’t rain on my parade.

Anyhoo, I stashed my iPhone in my Spibelt, attached the Adapt to the headphones, clipped it to the belt and sauntered out for a 3-miler (I love that sassy word.)  

My initial reaction?  Not good.  For the first minute or two, the connection kept breaking up, so there would be tiny blips in the music (the signal being lost for just a second or so each time.)  Totally annoying, BUT the one good thing I could say was that at least when the sound came back, the music hadn’t stopped (obviously), so it was like the beat kept going, just with intermittent gaps.  It just wasn’t what I was hoping for, and I wondered, ignorant non-techie that I am, how Bluetooth works and what was happening. 

Oddly enough, it soon stopped, and then I just ran on for the three miles, able to adjust volume and skip tracks with the easy-to-use buttons.  Once I stopped running, though, the interruptions in sound started again.

Strange coincidence?  I have no idea, but even if the problem continues, I will use the device.  The Focus earbuds are the perfect headphones for me,  but I also really want the mic and easy-access controls.  I will keep you posted with any new observations on future runs, but I give the Tech Adapt a B- for now and plan on using it for Saturday’s half marathon, Running With the Cows.

I can’t describe how much I am looking forward to ending this Heartland 39.3 Challenge.  Though I will be super proud (that’s a technical term) to collect my medal for three half marathons in five weeks, right now I would wager that I will never do this series again, simply because I have hated the weeks in between each race.  Since running the disastrous Rock the Parkway half marathon on April 12, it has been four straight weeks of running limbo…recovering from a half marathon and taking it easy while trying to keep enough energy to run another race.  Four weeks of easy 3-4 mile runs every other day, along with taking 2-3 days off after each race, has left me feeling like I’m not running at all.  Couple that with reduced mileage long runs on the weekend (I only ran 5 on Saturday because I had Oscar with me and he about overheated and died), and I feel like a sloth.  It’s like living in a holding pattern, and I’m running out of patience.

Breakfast conversations with HH have included many a complaint from me: “I feel like I’m hardly running!” (complete with major whine).  “Um, didn’t you just run a half marathon last week?” “Yes, but other than that, I’m hardly running!”

“I just keep treading water…I’m not running hard.  How will I be ready to run another race?” “Um, didn’t you just run hard for 13 miles just over a week ago?” “Yes, but other than that–you know what I mean!”

I feel unprepared for this last half, yet running more isn’t the answer, as I know my legs are not 100%.  My 3-miler on Monday was a slugfest.  My ankles both ached in the front, like where the shin curves into the top of the foot, and the entire run hurt like the devil.  It felt like my tendons were leaking lactic acid, and every step was a challenge.  I knew I wasn’t injured, since the feeling was identical in both feet (a surefire sign that I was dealing with fatigue or overuse/training rather than an acute injury).  It just hurt with every step, much like a new runner might feel while adjusting to the impact of running.  Though I’d set out for 4 miles, I downgraded to 3 and walked the rest of the way home in disgust.

Today, the pain was better, but I still felt a bit tired at the end of 3 miles, which shakes my confidence.  I just want to get the race over with, at whatever the pace, so I can get back to real running without holding back.  I’ve got the NYC marathon in my sights, and I really want to start some significant cross-training plus go all Ace of Base on my mileage before launching into the actual training program.

Happy running!

 

Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad*–Garmin Half Marathon Recap

Image

(I can’t find the source for this…don’t hate me!)

*Alternate Title:  The Race Where I (Did NOT) Set Fire to the Rain

*Alternate Title:  The Race Where It Fucking Hailed On Me

Half Marathon 2 of 3 in the Heartland 39.3 Series is in the books, readers, and it was one of the strangest races I’ve ever run.  As strange as fighting vomit for 7 miles and losing feeling in my fingers?  No, but strange in a different sort of way, and looking back, “There ain’t no way I’m ever gonna love you,” Garmin Half Marathon 2014!

Pre-Race

I’m giving myself a C for race prep in the few days prior to the race.  Maybe because I wasn’t expecting a PR after the previous debacle and given that my legs didn’t quite feel funky fresh, I threw caution to the wind a bit.  On the advice of PirateBobcat, I had wine.  We were out late Thursday night at a fundraiser…

I cleaned up!  HH was stunned…

Image

To make matters worse, we had Taco Bell for dinner Friday night (bad circumstances.)  I just knew that was going to come back to bite me in the ass…perhaps literally.

I got up on time, fueled and geared up, then hit the road.  The Garmin half marathon runs at the same time as the full.  This was my marathon last year (my first marathon, so special memories galore.)  The race was scheduled to start at 7:00.  I reached the highway exit at 6:12…and twenty minutes later still hadn’t made it off the exit ramp and onto the highway overpass.  Traffic was trés hideous, and there were no police officers ANYWHERE.  I hate to be negative, but that was ridiculous.  This is a big event, and a showcase race for the city of Olathe, yet no one was around to help direct traffic, and there were a million of us sitting around with worried looks, all lined up in our cars with our cheesy running stickers on the back.

I finally got over the overpass at 6:35, just as I saw one officer passing on a motorcycle to head to the ramp.  Way too late.  Then as i approached the Garmin complex, I saw that there still was no one directing traffic into the complex (which was a steady stream of red lights), so I had no way of knowing if the lots were full or at capacity.  I ended up parking behind a tire and lube shop with a bunch of other runners.  We all flew out of our cars (after I dumped a salt packet under my tongue and grabbed my brand-new handheld water bottle filled with Nuun) and tried to do an energy-conserving 10-minute hustle across the complex to the starting area.

Lots of port a potties…and lots of lines thirty deep to gain access.  I could hear the announcer telling everyone not to worry and reminding us that it was chip time, not gun time that mattered.  Um, yeah right.  I knew what I was in for, and I was right.

Pre-Race Grade: C-.  Eating Taco Bell as preface fuel?  Not being ready at the starting line when the gun goes off?  Boo.

Race Time!

I held on to the side of a port a potty, swung my legs a few times and hit the starting line with the 5-hour + marathoners and the 3:00 + half marathoners.  I’ve never started a race so far back.  It was like bizarro world to see the thousands of runners in front of me (many of whom never got to go to the bathroom one last time!), and it was a truly novel situation to be back with that kind of runner.

Here I go bitching, mostly for laughs, but with one caveat.  These people were awesome.  They were chasing down a half marathon dream, and they were lined up appropriately.  They were doing nothing wrong, and their spirit was incredible.  I wanted to yell encouragement to every single one of them!

But it was a ginormous wave of tutus, matching running group t-shirts with cute sayings (“no maps! no coaches! where’s breakfast?”), groups running five abreast, run-walkers (3 minutes jog, 1 minute walk, and always right as I ended up behind them!) and wide lumbering runners, and I had to work to get past every single one of them in order to be able to run my pace that I was striving for…which took time and energy.

Remember my list of the Ten Types of People Who Annoy Me During Races?  Meet #11 and #12…the person who wears an unnecessary layer and gets so hot, so fast, that she has to strip it off in the first three minutes of a race when everyone is still bottlenecked and her big swinging elbows are a danger to everyone around her AND the person who runs REALLYYYYYYY slow but hugs the left side of the street right along the curb so you can’t get by her.

I tried to minimize the weaving but get to my pace as fast as I could.  It was just a lot of work, but I just hoped that I would soon break through the logjam.

Splits for the first two miles = 8:55 and 8:50.  Not what I wanted, but my legs felt fine and I passed a ton of people.

By Miles 3-5, the marathoners broke off and I needed to make up some time.  Yet, looking back, I see that I didn’t, and I don’t know why, really.  I could tell that I got lulled into a slower pace a few times because of the other runners.  I was trying to run more on feel and less on watch-checking, and I found myself a couple of times running pretty comfortably with a group of reasonably fit runners, then suddenly realizing that I wasn’t really pushing very hard.  It felt good, I was high-fiving kids and saying thank you to supporters and volunteers, but I wasn’t really going for it.  I was a little scared from my last half, I think, and I was soaking up how nice it was to be feeling normal again.

Splits for Miles 3-7 = 8:38, 8:40, 9:03 (major hill), 8:52, 8:55.  Unimpressive looking back, but like I said, I really wasn’t paying attention.  I should have.  These are not difficult paces.  I didn’t push it real good.

The rain started in the ninth mile.  A sprinkle or two fell, which was fine.  Then the sprinkles turned into a shower, which then turned into DRIVING POURING SHEETS OF STINGING SIDEWAYS RAIN AND MY GOD I COULDN’T SEE.  I kept trying to wipe my eyes, but my hands were so wet.  Nothing helped.  Everyone went silent, except for someone yelling behind me, “I’m melting!”, which went great with the Wizard of Oz theme.  The drops were huge, and they kind of hurt.

It was a quiet group of determined runners who quickly got more determined once we started seeing the lightning.  Picture if you will (and I think you will) me plowing along, mouth open gasping at times because I was getting so cold and soaked.  Throw in a few worried faces and a lot of splashes, and you’ve got Miles 8-10.  It was difficult to run through, even sprinkled with the motivation that was lightning, and I knew I was running slow, though it felt like close to max effort.  I didn’t look at my watch.  I couldn’t see it anyway.

Splits for Miles 8-10 = 8:43, 8:41, 9:04.  Sigh.

The streets flooded quickly, and we all ended up running through rivers pouring down the streets.  I saw one guy in front of me stop to ask a police officer a question, which I assumed was, “Are they calling it?” or “Are we safe?”, but I couldn’t hear what the policeman said.  My thoughts were only of my car three miles ahead and the fact that I don’t love racing enough to die for it.  Unfortunately, this was the point where I started to feel fatigued, like the previous half marathon two weeks prior was catching up with me.  I was fine and running hard, I just knew that I wasn’t running very fast.

Then the hail hit…extra unfortunate.  Misery, thy name is marble-sized hail falling on my head.

A chorus of “ow”s and a few curse words (those might have come from my mouth), but otherwise silence, except for one tremendous reverberating burp let out by a delicate-looking gal in a tunnel.  I’ll give her credit for great timing.

I thought my pants were going to fall down.  My feet were soaked.  I knew my time wasn’t anything outstanding.  Yet I wasn’t experiencing the physical pain of two weeks prior, where my brain consciously uncoupled from my body in pain.  I was running, I was present, and I was about to wrap up my second half marathon in two weeks.  I had nothing to hang my head about, even if I was capable of better.  There are many joys in racing, and they don’t always come with a PR attached.  My legs weren’t giving me my best, but it was okay, as long as I didn’t die and it ended eventually.

I splashed on.  Looking back, I’m surprised at how slow my 13th mile was–8:48.  In comparison, two weeks ago when I was just trying to get to the medical tent, I put up an 8:27.  My last 1/10 on Saturday?  An 8:58 in comparison with a 7:52 two weeks ago during my out-of-body experience.  So weird.  It was the best I could give at that moment, I guess, so I need to live with that.  It’s not like I wasn’t aching to finish–I just was spent!

I rode the wave of water in and finished in 1:56:23, a shockingly bad number.  I was so wet that I didn’t care, and given that I’d started so far back, I had no sense of how good it would be in comparison with other runners.  I ran into two friends (also running the Heartland 39.3 and very strong runners) who told me their legs were also a bit fatigued, which made me feel better.  I shivered my way home and walked in the door to the laughs of HH and the boys.  I could not stop shaking.  I had the best hot shower of my life.

Race Grade: B -.  The Taco Bell stayed put, I was conscious for all of the race and ran reasonably hard in terms of effort, but the hail and rain was godawful, the course was incredibly boring for much of the last three miles winding constantly through residential streets (run one block, turn, run another, turn) and my paces were dismal.

Final numbers?  14/184 in my Shebeasts 40-44 smoking hot division (top 7%), 183/1317 for women (top 14%), and 550/2199 overall (top 25%).

I took some solace in the numbers and spent the rest of the day doing my best Lili Von Shtupp around the house (“I’m tired!  Tired of playing the game!  Ain’t it a crying shame!  I’m so tired.  God dammit I’m exhausted!”)

Let’s face it…everything below the waist is kaput!

Now I rest and regroup one more time for the third half marathon, Running With the Cows!  I share this video because it makes me want to run, right now, and that’s pretty amazing given the state of my legs.  If you watch this, look for the dancing and clapping priest.  He makes my day (but the older lady terrifies me.)

The word on the street is that the postrace food here is fantastic…lots of Catholic ladies make homemade food!  I can’t wait to finish the trifecta, and I will be keeping my fingers crossed for no freaking hailstorms!