Five more states off The Bucket List — 2018 Update Part 2

9 07 2019

2018 started with me having run a race in 37 of the 50 states (plus Washington DC) over a period of nine years.  When I first hatched the crazy idea that I was going to race in every state, I gave myself a time limit of “before I turn 65 years old” in December of 2020.

States at Beginning of Year

This has meant taking trips specifically to do a race as well as finding one in a state I happened to be traveling for another reason (like a work conference or family vacation), and over the last few years has included multiple states in the same visit to save time and money.

The first destination race of 2018 was a February 5k in Scottsdale AZ where I happened to be attending an education seminar related to my job.  The Stride for Sight was a nice run on a warm day when it was very cold at home, and I was happy to be out running in the sunshine instead.  As usual, I wasn’t very fast but I had a good time.

2018 Stride for Sight Scottsdale AZ

Next up was the 5k portion of the Rock-n-Roll Nashville marathon series in April.  I had originally planned to do a half-marathon but my Achilles tendonitis flared up and I ended up dropping down to the shorter segment instead.  The trip was a joyous one because I got a chance to meet a cousin I hadn’t known about until we were matched through the Ancestry DNA test.  We’re now pretty much BFFs who chat on Facebook every day and it was great to spend some time with her as well as run the streets of Nashville.

2018 Rock Roll Nashville 5k

Following that came another trip in June which was a two-races-in-two-states-in-one-weekend trip to the Washington DC area.  First came the Mechanicsville, Maryland, Spartan Sprint which I talked about in the previous post.  Even though I hated the mud, I mostly liked that race.  Like I said before, I’m a beast when it comes to carrying heavy stuff.  I’ve been a weight-lifter for decades and I have a disabled dog who weighs 70 pounds that I’ve lifted in and out of the SUV for years, so the heavy-lifting obstacles were not a big challenge for me.  I cannot pull up my body weight so I didn’t even try the rope climb or swinging from various rings and rods, and I skipped the spear throw because of my bad right shoulder.  But I rolled under the barbed wire, scrambled over a bunch of walls (a couple of times with help), slogged through endless mud pits, and scaled ladders plus cargo nets, along with running or walking between obstacles for a total of something over 4 miles.  I knocked out dozens of penalty Burpees but that was okay; everyone seemed pretty casual about form and count and nothing that day had to be perfect.   2:45 minutes after scrambling over the first wall at the starting gate, I finished.

Spartan Finish

Then I draped towels around the open car doors of my rental for cover and gave myself a water bath with a gallon of water bought from a 7-11 before changing clothes right there in the parking lot.  I threw away everything but my gloves (a nice way to get rid of old clothing) and headed off to the next location — Fairfax, Virginia — with every intention of checking into the hotel and having a well-earned burger and beer before hitting the shower and falling into bed.

Results

About halfway there however, I was cruising down a one lane country road in the middle of nowhere when a deer suddenly jumped across the road from the right and bounced off the hood of my car then landed somewhere to the left.  My first thought was “oh shit!” then looking at the windshield that was exactly what I saw:  deer hair and deer poop and a wrecked hood on the car that didn’t belong to me.

Deer WreckThere was no lane to pull over, a rear-view mirror check showed a line of cars all behind me so I couldn’t stop in the middle of the road, and a glance at my cell phone showed no bars in the upper left corner.  So I said a silent prayer and kept driving.  I shut off the air conditioning in case the radiator was damaged because I didn’t want to overheat the car, rolled down the window and drove on, listening for untoward sounds with each rotation of the wheels.  Fortunately, the damage seemed to be cosmetic rather than functional because nothing worse happened.  Eventually I made it to a town where I pulled into a gas station and called Hertz.  After a long conversation with the customer service rep, we decided that the car was still driveable and it would be okay for me to keep it another day rather than try to exchange it at Ronald Reagan airport right then.  What an adventure!  It’s one I’d rather not repeat.

The following morning, Father’s Day actually,  I drove the raggedy car to the Run with Dad 5k where I had originally planned to mostly-walk the race because I expected to be worn out from the Spartan.  But once I got going I ended up doing a lot more running because it was a cool and cloudy day in a woodsy venue which inspired my tired legs to move, so I finished at my usual snail’s pace rather than even slower and had a good time doing it.

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MLK visitAfter the 5k and a hearty breakfast, I had some time before my flight so I drove back into Washington DC to pay my respects and visit the monument dedicated to the hero of my childhood — Martin Luther King Jr.  It was a beautiful day for a lovely walk, and  I have to say that when I rounded the corner to find him standing there, like a colossus of ancient times hewn from granite, my heart swelled and my eyes filled with tears.  How I loved him  –fiercely and secretly — when I was a mixed race child living with a white family during the Civil Rights Era!  He wasn’t popular with the people around me but he was the only one to tell me I was worthy back then, and it was the best lesson I could have had.  And I love him still.

The final running trip of 2018 took me to Boise, Idaho, for the Freakin’ Fast Half Marathon on July 21 which is another “run down a mountain” race like I’ve done once a year for the last few summers.  It was a fun event but the race wasn’t particularly freaky and I sure wasn’t fast.  But I did find it amusing to tell myself at one point “I guess it’s time to hit the dusty trail” when I saw that street sign.

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That was probably the last half marathon I’ll ever do that gets me bused up a mountain before daybreak and there is something so bittersweet about those, I know I’ll miss it.  The race always seems like a fine idea when I sign up, until waking at 3:00 am to drive to the pick up point finds me grumbling about why I’m doing it.  Milling around in the predawn chill, trying to stay warm, shoving food in my mouth that I’m not hungry for yet but know damn well I’d better eat — these are the vignettes that live in my memory as “least favorite.”  But there is something both humbling and breathtaking about watching the sun rise above the trees to enfold the earth and us, its animals, with the life-giving warmth we can’t live without.  Then to stampede down the mountain surrounded by a pack of kindred souls — its a rare form of blissful lunacy that your crazy fellow runners understand and your family shake their heads at.

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So that’s pretty much the summary of 2018.  Five more states off the bucket list brought me up to a total of 41 plus DC having been run and only nine left to go.  I’m pretty sure I’ve written about all of them here over the last 10 years.  After that, it will be time to branch out into the other continents but that’s another blog post for another day.

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Out of the Vortex and Back to the Blogosphere

5 07 2019

I guess I stopped blogging almost 2 years ago.  I started visiting various fitness websites and spent a lot of time checking in there, building relationships with people, getting in weight loss challenges and stuff like that, thus spending most of my online energy in other places.  However I started this blog in 2008 to chronicle my journey from that of non-runner to Couch-to-5k-trained slow-running racer to my first half-marathon.  Having completed that, I caught the running bug big time and decided to do a race in all 50 states so I kept the blog going to write about those.  Then I got distracted.  But I’m back, for real, starting now.

FIRST, THE UPDATE:

Since the beginning of the 2019, I haven’t done a whole lot really– just a 5k or two, a 10k, a 10-miler and a half-marathon.  But I did two fairly eventful things within the first six months of 2018, so I’ll write about them first.

Ages and ages ago when I was training for my first 10k, I worked with a nurse who was very athletic.  She’d done half and full marathons, plus triathlons and even a half Ironman once.  We were talking about those and I mentioned I could never do a triathlon because I don’t swim.  She said, “well you could do a duathlon.”  A duathlon?  I’d never heard of those.  “Instead of swim-bike-run, they have you do a run-bike-run.  There’s one coming up soon.  You should do it.”  So I said, “okay” and impulsively signed up.   I figured I’d just train for it and knock it out of the park (meaning: not come in dead last but maybe second to last).   But it wasn’t really as easy at that.  There was stuff like riding up hills and riding in the street and riding close alongside other people, things I’d never imagined doing.  I signed up for a group ride at a local park as part of my training, and I was so slow I got lost.  The night before the race, I chickened out and didn’t go.  The failure (because that’s how I saw it) clattered around in my mind for a few more years.  I ran a full marathon, got a little better on the bike, and started to feel like maybe I wasn’t as big a loser as I’d originally thought.  So I signed up for the same race again eight years later in 2018 and this time trained like it was my job, watching YouTube videos, going to seminars and even riding the course once before race day.

Then the day arrived.  It was rainy and cool, the course got shortened because of road construction, and the start of the race was held up by lightning a few times so it wasn’t the typical well-attended and vigorously competitive event.  But on June 9, 2018,  I completed my first duathlon.

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And I didn’t even come in last!  I came in 5th to last!  But the best thing about it was: there were only two of us in the Female 60-64 age group and since I came in second, I got an age group award too.  And that’s how I caught the duathlon bug which resulted in me signing up for another one this year.

Last 5 MedalsJust like the very first 5k I ever ran when I got a ribbon for coming in 7th in my age group (out of 10 of us), that serendipitously-acquired medal inspired me to decide I’m not as shitty of an athlete as I originally thought I was, so I might as well keep on training and try to do it again.

I have my next duathlon in just about one month and I don’t think there’s a single thing that can make me chicken out the night before like I did so many years ago as a fledgling runner.

Then the following weekend, I completed my first Spartan race.  It was a BurpeePalooza because they make you do 30 penalty Burpees for every missed obstacle, but I got it done.  I weigh too much and have too little grip strength to shinny up the ropes or swing from the rings or any of the acrobatic stuff that comprises probably 1/5th of the obstacles, but I’m a beast at carrying heavy objects and am not afraid to climb high walls or netting so I did okay.  I freakin’ HATED the mud though!  I said I’d never do another Spartan because of the mud.  But now they have mudless events in baseball stadiums, so I’m going to give it another go.

 

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My next Spartan is in November, so I have plenty of time to try and develop more skill with the pull-up type stuff I couldn’t do last year but I can’t promise I’ll be successful.   I’ve still got a big bucket-butt that weighs too much so I’ll hedge my bets and practice doing Burpees as well, just to be on the safe side.

Those were the two big events from the first half of 2018.  I expanded my athletic horizons and learned a few new things.  I feel like I can do more than just run now and that makes me really happy.  I like having goals to strive for and competing against nobody but myself as I seek to attain them.   Since I’m only competing with Me and my last performance, it doesn’t matter if I suck at it or do worse because I always learn something.  That means it’s always a Win.

NEXT TIME:
Five more states off the bucket list.

Oh and there really IS a Blogosphere!  There’s pictures of it on the internet.  Who knew?  And it even looks a little like outer space.  So I can picture myself floating around in the darkness and finally ending up back here where I belong.

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2019 New Year’s Resolution

12 01 2019

In this Runner’s World article, they present some recommended resolutions for runners like “set a PR” (done), “do your first triathlon” (done – sort of, a duathlon because I don’t swim), “get into yoga (um…being doing it since 1978).

https://www.runnersworld.com/training/g20840944/12-new-years-running-resolutions/

But there’s one not shown which I really need to enlist my best efforts to accomplish:

START WRITING YOUR DANG BLOG AGAIN!

So I will.  I know, I’ve made that promise before and then disappeared for months on end.  But I will do better.  I’ve been at this for more than 10 years now.  It’s time I did better.





Wrapping up 2017 – better late than never

25 07 2018

The second half of 2017 was a weird time.  I ran too many long slow endurance races and didn’t focus enough on speed.  Social and political unrest in the States made for a lot of unhappy complainers everywhere.  The weather was relentlessly hot, in fact the third-hottest year on record according to NOAA.  And all of those things were just a prelude to the worst flu season I’ve ever encountered in my 16 years of working in health care.  To say it simply, 2017 ended up pretty much sucking for a lot of different reasons.  My final half-marathon of the year was no exception.

I ran the Crazy Horse half marathon in Hill City SD on Crazy Horse temperaturea blustery cold day in a summer town that was closed for the winter.  The entirety of the experience was one of disappointment.  It started with my booking at the host hotel, The Lodge at Palmer Gulch, which is advertised as a tourist haven with barbecue and steak and beer and all sorts of entertainment for the whole family.  Silly me, I should have checked to see when they closed for the season!  After a summer of reading and planning and thinking about all the fun I was going to have and meals I was going to eat and ice cold pints of beer I was going to drink, I arrived to find the place deserted and barren.  Yes, it was the host hotel for the race but that is absolutely all it was.  No food.  No drinks. No fun.  They had closed down everything but the rooms the week before.  And if you look at the screenshot from my phone, you also see “No Service” — which means no GPS directions anywhere either.  Fortunately, they did have a breakfast buffet and there was a biker bar/grill nearby so I never starved to death (nor died of thirst since the attached convenience store sold water, beer and juice).  The herds of deer that took over the parking lot and playground at the lodge were actually quite beautiful as well.  So as much as I was let down, I was also sort of amused by the Twilight Zone-ish ambiance of the place.

Crazy Horse logoRace day was frigid and windy and my iPod died.  It played half of one song and then ground to a halt despite having a full charge.  Silly me again, I didn’t download music to my phone as a backup!  And with no signal, I was not able to do so.  Therefore, I ran the race (doing a lot more walking than usual) with no music to spur me on when I was tired but the never-ending conversation of the two chicks closely trailing me to keep me annoyed.

Crazy Horse monumentThe Crazy Horse Monument itself is beautiful.  Large and imposing, it represents a grandiose dream with its continuing fulfillment as well as being a symbol of recognition and respect for The People who were here before my people were here (both sides, the Africans and the Europeans).

Results

Crazy Horse finish pic

The snow that fell for much of the race eventually turned to rain as the temperature climbed to about 44 degrees, and well over three hours later I finished a soggy, tired and disheartened mess.  I headed back to the lodge and cleaned myself up enough to take the obligatory “happy medal photo” that is every runner’s post race tradition.  Then I headed back toward home after a ride past Mount Rushmore to see the famous faces carved upon it (because you have to pay to get any closer than the highway or the parking lot).  Dare I say that was a little disappointing too, or is this theme becoming too redundant?

The rest of the year proceeded in similar fashion, both in life and athletics.  Flu season started early and lasted long.  Work shifts were torture fests of stress and overwork for six months.  We were short-staffed, too busy and it was awful.

Forte 5k Me Running

FORTE 5k, Channahon IL

Running was equally off-kilter.  My usual “fast 5k,” the Forte 5k, was not fast this year for some odd reason, and my debut year of running the Canal Connection 10k with my running club was a cold rainy slog through too much mud on the I&M Canal.   But honestly, a major highlight of that race was finding a porta potty with my name on it!  That was a first.

Canal Connection 10k I ran the 4 mile Poultry and Pie Predictor with my club (not my fastest performance either) and then got gloriously drunk with family and friends afterwards on Thanksgiving day after eating at a restaurant.  It was actually quite a fun day and the end of my 2017 fall running season.

Poulty Pie Predictor

Soon enough, it was 2018 and the season of lackluster running was over.  The new year ushered in big changes with new events, a better frame of mind and different goals.  Unlike the four faces on Mount Rushmore, nothing in life is set in stone.  One crappy race or even an entire season of uninspiring performance does not predict anything about the future, except that better things are sure to follow if you learn the lessons your disappointments offer.

Crazy Horse rushmore

NEXT UP:
Winter-into-Spring 2018

 





Lost in the Neutral Zone?

9 04 2018

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Nope.  Just not really enthused enough to write anything.

Last year’s running season ended on a blah note.  My last half-marathon of the year was disappointing.  The weather got cold.  I got injured.  Winter took away my outdoor sports, and the worst flu season I can remember took away most of my free time because I had to work a lot more.

But six months have passed and spring is technically here although it actually snowed this morning.  However, I’ve recovered from both injuries and am looking forward to getting back outdoors more frequently to live the life I enjoy.

I’ll catch up on my races and get back to writing.

Next post will finish out 2017:
the Crazy Horse Half Marathon, a few local races, and my winter challenge of 6.2 miles once a week for 6.2 weeks to celebrate turning 62 last December.

Cheers!IMG_3356

 





Race Reports: Fetch & Pounce 5k NJ and Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon

1 10 2017

On September 16 and 17, I ran my 19th half-marathon and completed states number 36 and 37 in the quest to race (any distance) in all 50.  Overall, the experience was okay.  It wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad either.  The races would have been more fun if the temperature was cooler, and the experience would have been more enjoyable if travel back and forth had been easier as well as parking in Philly cheaper.  But I’m glad I did it, and will always remember the weekend.

I flew into Philadelphia and went straight to packet pickup on Friday, got my stuff and then headed towards North New Brunswick NJ after eating an absolutely excellent grass-fed burger at the BurgerFi across from the convention center.  The 60 mile drive in the dark that followed was an adventure in construction, poor signage, unyielding fellow drivers and wrong turns, but eventually I picked up my 5k packet and then found the hotel.

Opening my packets, I found the 5k goody bag to be among the best I have ever received because it contained mostly dog and cat products.  The Fetch & Pounce race is held to benefit the Karma Cat and Zen Dog Rescue Society, and since all of my animals are rescues I was definitely happy to support them.  The race started near a dog park and circled a lovely local nature preserve a couple of times before finishing near the field house.  I had told myself I was going to walk, but then once I got started and it was so hot and sunny out I went ahead and jogged it.  I didn’t want to run all out because I hoped to be preserving my energy for the half marathon the following day.  So my stats are unimpressive but my dogs and cats were happy to see me when I got home with gifts.

Fetch Pounce

Back in Philly, I wanted to get a cheese steak and go to see the Liberty Bell after checking in to that hotel but parking was expensive everywhere downtown and when I decided to go ahead and walk, it started raining.  So I ended up eating Chinese dim sum by the hotel instead and got to bed early.

Like all Rock ‘n’ Roll events, the Philadelphia half marathon was crowded as well as star-studded.  Galen Rupp was running and I happened to see him streak past me as I was shuffling to the start line in my corral.  Of course, I didn’t get my phone out of my sports bra in time to take a picture but at least I laid eyes on someone who is about to be very famous in the world of running.  And, like when I did the same race once as Deena Kastor, I can tell people forever “I ran with Galen Rupp once.”

Philly Runners Take Off

In researching everything I could about this race as we often do when we’re excitedly getting ready to run, I found the words “fast and flat” on the event’s website in no less than five different places.  So in my mind’s eye, I was envisioning myself streaking along towards the horizon leaving my past finishing times in the dust.  Um, it wasn’t really flat though.  Some of it was definitely uphill and some pitched definitely downward but a lot of the time as I was slogging along in the 82 degree heat hoping to find something easier about my journey, I kept finding the road rising ahead of me instead of seeming level.  After the race, I looked up the actual course elevation:

Philly course map

I’m aware the elevation change was not much in terms of feet, but it wasn’t exactly flat either.  Anyway, that’s really my only gripe about the race itself.  It was hot out (but thankfully overcast) and my hope of flatness was continuously dashed step after step after sweaty plodding step.  Course entertainment was great, as always. The course was pleasantly scenic as we wound through various neighborhoods, past the infamously haunted Eastern State Penitentiary and along the Schuylkill River in Fairmount Park.  And the motivational signs were inspiring.

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Eventually I crossed the finish line in front of the Rocky Steps, not with the PR from a “fast and flat” course I’d been hoping for, but happy to be done nonetheless.

Philly Finish

So I grabbed a medal, had water and some snacks, then began my walk back to the hotel just as as Big Head Todd and the Monsters were finishing their show as headliners for this race.

This was my third “5k then a half on consecutive days” weekend, and I’m still not sure how I feel about it.  The first time, the 5k was at night and I got to bed late.  The second time was this past summer at high altitude, and I know that slowed me down.  And this time there was the heat.  I guess I’ll keep trying until I get it right because it’s certainly an efficient way to race in two states and only pay for one trip.

Here are the not-so-great numbers that illustrate how I slowed down as I went:

Philly Stats

Philly medal

But that’s the usual story of life at the back of the pack anyway.  I’m always slow, sometimes not-so slow and some times slower than others.  One of these days I’ll surprise everyone and come in under 3 hours in a race that’s not completely downhill.  One of these days for sure.





Fall Season Training Weeks 6 and 7: the penultimate taper

18 09 2017

IMG_2773.JPGI can’t say I did much the past couple of weeks prior to this weekend. Labor Day came and went, and the weather turned chilly.  The first red leaves began to show on the trees as the realization slowly dawned that summer is fairly well over.  I rarely welcome this time of year because it signals the end of everything I love: blue skies and greenery, a garden full of vegetables, and endless roads stretching into the distance beckoning me to come and run them.  Here in Northern Illinois the cold months can be quite brutal so at the first hint of winter’s return, a bit of heaviness descends on my mood and I need to make a mental adjustment.

Fall Weeks 6 and 7That’s pretty much what happened the last two weeks.  I kept up with running, stretching and cardio but had to do more yoga to keep myself peaceful, and thus neglected the weight training I should have done.  My right shoulder is still in healing mode anyway, although it is about 95% better now, so it was probably the right thing to do.

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Not quite able to get the heart rate up that day.  Still bummed and too tired.

The week of September 10 was also taper time for my first fall half, which I will fully report about next time, the Rock’n’Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon.  I’m waiting for all the stats and pictures to show up since it just happened yesterday, and they’re not available yet.

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Foggy morning last Wednesday!

My mood is getting better because I’ve begun meditating in the morning with the Headspace app, and I have also started preparing for my winter training project.  Last year, I did a 5 month muscle building program from November to April and got really strong.  This year, I went a little crazy and signed up for a Spartan Sprint in March which I will be training for starting in November.  It is going to require a lot of work because I have never done about half the stuff they will expect of me, so I’m really in over my head again.  But that’s okay.  Planning something new, exciting and slightly scary will help chase away the winter blues by giving me a new goal to strive for instead of moping around and eating while we’re all snowbound for months up here.

And that’s about the latest from these parts at this moment.  I’ll come back with race reports for the Fetch & Pounce 5k in New Jersey on Saturday as well as the Rock’n’Roll Philadelphia half-marathon on Sunday of this past weekend after all the photos are available.

In the meantime, Live Long and Prosper.Untitled