Thursday, September 11, 2014

4 Steps to Planning a Race in Another State and Why I Should Follow Them Next Time

I've completed half marathons in 35 states.  I've had great success, with flights (a few delays here and there, but never stranded overnight in a city, knock on wood), hotels and travel buddies.  I haven't been forced to not start a race I've paid for, due to injury or a kid conflict or for any other reason.

The process is quite strategic.

1. I book the hotel.  Close to the start line.  They are always refundable.
2. I find a friend/spouse/relative to attend the race with me.  Many races I was invited to tag along (or, ahem, invited myself).  Tagging along with a friend's big race is a great way to knock off a state.  A guaranteed way to have a buddy to hang out and share expenses with.
3.  I pay the race entry fee as early as possible.  This saves $$$.  They are non-refundable, but sometimes transferrable.
4.  I book the flight.  I read online somewhere that booking 54 days out is when you get the cheapest airfare.  This was not the case for my return flight from St. Louis for next month, but I will continue to test the theory.  I try to fly on Southwest.  B and L have noted that you can cancel your flight at anytime and the money will be credited for a future flight.  Note: Southwest does not fly all over the country, which can be inconvenient (I'm looking at you, western midwest).

As you can see, the Talladega Half Marathon is this weekend.  It was going to be my state #36.  I am not going.

The problem is, I didn't follow my process.  I got a bit cocky back in February 2014.  I had just come off a surprisingly fast ish half in Arizona.  I had lost some weight.  My kid was supposed to be with her father.  I was sure I could get a running friend (local or long distant) to come with me.  If not, I would do this one on my own.  I felt that awesome about it (I sometimes fly by myself, but I always meet someone at the airport, so this would be my first time solo).

I booked the hotel and paid for the race on 2/9/14.  Yeah, I did steps 1 and 3, skipping right past step 2.

I paid for the airfare on 5/5/14.  Just for myself.  I got a steal on a round trip to and from Atlanta, and couldn't pass it up.

I still hadn't gotten anyone to commit to running with me.  But, I put a plan together to train through the summer and attempt a PR in Alabama.

Then summer happened.  The heat.  The food.  The alcohol.  The vacations and fun times with family and friends.  The lack of order.  The lack of blogging.  The lack of accountability.  My pants got tighter.

My PR plans fell away, but this summer was lots of fun.
My local friends decided to run a new local race on my Alabama weekend (The Bridge of the Goddess Half, check it out!)  So, none of them would decide to tag along.

My Atlanta friend is going to a wedding this weekend, with her new amazing boyfriend.  My Tennessee friend would have came along.  I don't think she really wanted to, since she's finished all 50 states.  But, she got injured at the end of August and I knew she wouldn't want to/be able to run a half so soon after her injury.

I talked to S about going, rearranging things.  The airfare 30 days out for him to go was expensive, and he didn't really want to.  I no longer felt awesome about doing Alabama on my own.  My kid is with me this weekend, school just started, and I didn't really want to leave her (with or without S).

So, I had no good reason to run Alabama on 9/14/14.

1.  I cancelled the hotel.
2.  No one had a firm nonrefundable commitment to join me.  I let LJ know she was off the hook for meeting me in Talladega with her injured leg.
3. I am out the race entry fee ($78).  And, I am stuck receiving the race info emails this week.  Telling me where packet pick up is, and asking my friends and family to volunteer at the last minute.
4.  I cancelled the flight on Southwest.  I've since used the funds for my return flight from St. Louis next month (where I'll be running with 3 other buddies, after inviting myself along on Pam's trip).  Yeah, if you wait around too long, a round trip to Atlanta = a one way from St. Louis.

I'll be home with the husband.  I'll be here with the kid.  I'll pace a bunch of local runner chicks for their 9 mile training run on Saturday morning.  Sometimes a DNS is the right choice.  I never thought I'd hear myself say that.

I'll figure out when to run Alabama another day.  And I won't skip step #2.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Planning to Plan to Get Back on a Plan

Check out this shirt A wanted (and I, of course, bought for her):

Thug Life Shirts
She ordered it in a tank top, all ready to wear to basketball practice for her senior year in a few months. Can't be worn during practice, Mom, because we have to wear our reversibles, duh!  A has a way with words, I tell ya.

I'm having a hard time renewing my spring time stringent workout schedule.  S and I have taken to walking a few mornings per week.  Which is awesome, I love spending extra time with him, but I haven't found a groove to add my weights back in.  I think I'm going to have to lift weights in the afternoon.  Typically, if I don't work out in the morning, it's not going to happen, so I need to find my new groove.

We have a great walking trail near our house.  
Monday morning the runner chicks and I met at Starbucks for 4 miles (as per usual).

I wish it was this light at 6am still.
And last Saturday Abbi had her GBBQ (Girlfriends BBQ).  What a great way to end the summer!

I brought my favorite rainbow fruit skewers (thanks Pinterest).
Abbi is so classy, we were given GBBQ party favors to take home.

Looking forward to GBBQ 2015!!  No boys allowed!
I'm feeling unfocused with my workouts.  So much so, that I even checked out The New Metabolic Effect Diet book at the library again.  I feel like I have flunked out of all that I learned last winter.  I haven't been on a scale all summer, and I know I've put some of the weight I lost back on.

I need to weigh once a week, start writing my food down and blogging about my training plan for the week.  These things all helped me stay on track before.

Plan for this Week
Monday: 4 miles run
Tuesday: 3 mile walk/Weights
Wednesday: Yoga
Thursday: Weights
Friday: 4 mile walk/yoga
Saturday: 9 miles run - pace the Runner Chicks
Sunday: Weights/Yoga (and walk?)

I don't have another race until RNR St. Louis in October, and I failed at training for Talladega this weekend (which I will DNS, more on that tomorrow). 

I hope you all are having more success with your plans these days! 

Friday, September 5, 2014

August in Review

Miles Planned/Ran: 73/73.  My plans ebbed and flowed, but I am stunned that I had the most monthly miles in August for the summer.  Cascade Lakes Relay and a half sure helped.  

Highest Mileage Week: 19. Half Marathon week.

Long Runs Planned/Ran: 4/4.  Two legs of Cascade Lakes, a half and a pace group run.  I can't imagine running long without purpose these days.

Yoga Workouts Planned/Completed: 6/2.  #yogafail

Non Workout Days Planned/Taken: 11/13.  Wow, almost half the days of the month were rest days.  

Swim Yards Planned/Swum: 0/0.  Do I keep tracking this?  Maybe I'll swim again in the fall?

Half Marathons Planned/Completed: 1/1.  The Madison Mini Half in state #35, Wisconsin!

Awesome medal!
Awesome running buddies!
Weights: 7/5.  Oh, how I want to get back to lifting 3x/week. 

Current Ache/Pain:  Nothing really.  Maybe if I ran more?

Current Book(s):  Wild by Strayed.  Can't wait for the movie!

Current Drink: So many fun drinks, on Kari's boat and tailgating at the first Ducks game.  Now it's time for water.

Current Song: Shake It Off - Taylor Swift

Current Gratitude: I'm thankful for a fun month with friends and family IRL.  Maybe that's why I didn't blog much?  Too much travel (including a surprise trip to San Diego with S for Dunkin Donuts), my mom's birthday get together with my sister and nieces and a family trip to Sunriver.  Summer is fun!

The Portland Airport suggest carpet photos.  #pdxcarpet
Chocolate creme filled donut, great coffee and palm trees.  What a great surprise.
Current Dislike:  Losing my running and workout mojo.  I'm even planning to read The New Metabolic Effect Diet book again to see if I can get inspired.

Current Goal:  To get inspired.  To get back into my spring workout routine.  Weights 3x/week, yoga 3x/week, running 3x/week.  Eating better (disregard the donut photo above).

Current Treat:  Regard donut photo above.  My mom bought me Dunkin Donuts coffee for my Keurig, and I found Dunkin Creamer at the grocery store too.  The closest Dunkin to Oregon is in Torrance, CA.  How can that be?

Current Excitement:  My next half isn't until RNR St. Louis (Missouri, State #36!) in October.  Can't wait to see some other bloggy buddies, Pam and Tiina.  
This month's excitement is tagging along with A when she visits two different college campuses!  I may be more delighted than she is!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Madison Mini Marathon, Wisconsin Race Recap

Madison, Wisconsin
Half Marathon State #35
Start Time: 7am
Temperature: 65 degrees
Bib: 3442
Overall:  2410/3771
Division Place: 127/256
Gender Place: 1125/2098
Finish Time: 2:16:08

Pre race in front of the capitol with MCM Mama.
I knew the Madison Mini would be my half for Wisconsin over a year ago.  Erika had promised a place to stay (with her parents) and a chauffeur (her father, who ran the race with us) way back when she and I ran the Flying Pirate Half in North Carolina together in 2013.  The catch was, it had to be in August when she and her boys were visiting for two weeks.

Running in the midwest in August can be rough.  And hot.  And not fun.  I had few expectations for this race.  I had hoped to run with Erika and take it easy.  I didn't preview the course, I didn't know where packet pick up was.  I wasn't in charge this weekend.  I was the tag along and it was awesome.

My flight was delayed Friday evening, so we zoomed from the airport to packet pick up, which was on the University of Wisconsin campus.  What a neat place!  Students had just returned for classes and the town was busy with activity.  Packet pick up was easy, and we ran into Run with Jess too!

I knew so little about Madison, and Wisconsin.  First time visitor and all.  I didn't realize that Madison was the capital (okay, maybe if quizzed I would have remembered, but I sure wouldn't have known that the University is right across the street from the capitol building).  Who knew that the football stadium is Camp Randall Stadium because the Wisconsin army had a Union army camp there during the Civil War? (Wisconsin was in the Civil War?  Really?)  How great was it that the half marathon course ran under the Camp Randall Arch, remaining from when it was an army camp?

Camp Randall Arch (courtesy UW website)
After giving Bucky Badger a high five during the first 100 meters, Erika and I ran the first 6 miles together.  Her father took off and finished way ahead of us (nice race, Mr. W).

You can read Erika's race recap HERE.  I could tell she was having a tough time.  Staying together would have been fun if we were both enjoying the race, but she wasn't.  At mile 6, she decided to walk a hill.  Jess had just come up from behind us, so I opted to take off with her and let Erika wrestle with her own race demons issues.  I know I'd rather run alone when I am struggling like she was.  It turned out to be the right choice.

Jess had convinced me to purchase a Salted Watermelon Gu at the expo, so I took it at the half way point.  Delicious! (Salted Caramel Gu, you have some seriously tasty competition here!)  I didn't carry my own water, so I was drinking water and/or Gatorade at the plentiful aid stations.  I really liked that the Gatorade was ALWAYS first and the water second at each aid station.  Way to coordinate that and not confuse me, race director!

I had picked up my pace, and was feeling pretty good until I walked the hill at mile 9.

See everyone walking in front of me?  Hill pictures never tell the true steepness story.
Around mile 11 we ran back onto campus.

Stopped at mile 11 for a photo for the blog.

There were signs all over the course, my new favorite will be copied in the future when I spectate again.
We ran by Lake Mendota during mile 12.  Gorgeous!  The temps had risen, and volunteers were yelling at the aid stations, "stay hydrated"!

Stopped again, for a photo of the pretty lake.
As I finished, a volunteer handed my my medal (love a medal with the capitol building on it), bottled water and my choice of cheese or regular popcorn.  When in Wisconsin…cheese, please!

Post race bounty.
I found Erika's dad right away, and he and I waited inside the corral for her and Jess.

Sweaty, tired and finished with state #35!
We left the finish line and walked through the greek system and student apartments to get to our car. Students were everywhere.  My favorite was the guy passed out, fully dressed, on the grass in front of his apartment building.  Ah, college days...

The race was on a Saturday, so I had an extra day in Madison.  Sunday was a fun day to be a tourist and fly home.

I'm not sure what I liked better, visiting the National Mustard Museum on my way to the airport…

So many mustard samples in the shop upstairs!
…or the charming husband that dressed up and met me at the airport in Portland…

Love a guy in a suit and tie!
Final thoughts:  The Madison Mini is a well organized half marathon that allows you to see so much of Madison, the surrounding area and the campus of the University of Wisconsin.  Sturdy medal, terrific volunteers and a tech shirt.

I can't thank Erika and her family enough for hosting me.  Go Badgers!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Three Things Thursday

1.  Last Saturday night, I zoomed up to Vancouver, WA, with my local runner chicks.  We all ran instant 7k PRs at the Cosmo 7k.

PRs (and cosmos) for everyone!
The course was flat, but it was 82 degrees at 6pm for the start.  I was able to keep my pace just under 9:00 miles in the heat.  Compared to the weekend before in eastern Oregon, I was quite thrilled.  The hill at the end of the course was a bummer.  But, the after party, with 3 different Cosmo stations, sponsored by Three Olives Vodka was a blast.

Age group: 9/165
Overall: 49/836

The ladies finished the evening at Joe's Crab Shack for a late dinner.  A 100% classy good time.  Our service was slow, so the manager gave us each $10 off our check!

2.  This week, we are on a family vacation in Sunriver, Oregon.  I have limited internet access, as our friend of a friend's condo is stuck in 1986.  The landline phone rang yesterday, and no one knew what the sound was.  Alarm?  No, just a wrong number.

The view just steps from our condo.
At the turnaround on Monday morning's run.  
We've had thunder and lightning most of the week, while at home (west of the mountains) was over 100 degrees on Monday.  What a weird summer.

3.  I end my vacation week flying out to Madison, Wisconsin, tomorrow!  State #35 has officially snuck up on me.  Erika mentioned that the first mile of the Madison Mini Marathon is all uphill.  Great.  Hopefully my altitude training the last two weeks has prepared my for this half!

I've never been to Wisconsin before, so it should be lots of fun.  With a high of 82 on Saturday, I think we'll be taking this one easy.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Three Things Thursday - For Your Feet

1. Swiftwick sent me a pair of socks to try out awhile ago.

Pretty in Pink
I realized it was time to tell you how much I like the Aspire Zero.  I wore them on an easy 3 mile run a few weeks back, and they performed great.  No chafing, or bunching.  Since then, I had zero (get it?) problems in the heat for my first leg of CLR.  And, again, success at the track yesterday for 8x400s with my buddy Sonya.

I'm leery to try out new styles of socks, so when I find one that works on the run, I stick with it. Swiftwick is definitely one for you to check out.

2.  In Sunriver, after the relay was finally over, the girls and I sat outside on the patio.  I was wearing my 2014 summer sandals, that I can't get enough of.  Everyone wanted to try them on.  I don't have a picture (my toenails are a mess after last weekend) but here is a photo I found online of someone else's feet.

Not your average flip flops.

These Sanuk sandals are made from recycled yoga mats.  They are so comfortable!  I've worn them all over this summer, and my toes don't hurt like when I wear cheapo flip flops.  I wish Sanuk had sent me a pair to try for free, but so far I've purchased mine and a pair for A.  They have free shipping online, but you can find some of the styles at Road Runner and other shoe stores.  I like the Yoga Sling 2, which are pictured above.

3.  My expensive shoe purchase of last summer were these Tieks.

The best slip on shoe ever (once again, not my feet).
I had wanted a pair of shoes that were easy to slip on and off, especially at the airport.  It seems like all my slip on shoes would chafe my heels and cause blisters.  I couldn't believe it when these didn't. I wore them to North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Montana last year.  I'll be wearing them to Wisconsin next week.

I was stopped in line at the airport in Nashville last month, the woman behind me asked where I had gotten my chocolate brown Tieks.  They ran a 20% off sale last Christmas.  I definitely want another pair from Santa this year, I hope they run the sale again, so many colors to choose from!

Do you have a favorite travel shoe or running sock to share?  

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

July in Review

Miles Planned/Ran: 70/65.  Not bad for July?

Highest Mileage Week: 19. 

Long Runs Planned/Ran: 3/3.

Yoga Workouts Planned/Completed: 12/8.  I don't yoga when I travel, in spite of good intentions.

Non Workout Days Planned/Taken: 3/7. I rest when I travel.

Swim Yards Planned/Swum: 0/0.  Do I keep tracking this?  Maybe I'll swim again in the fall?

Half Marathons Planned/Completed: 0. But I did have a great time with Kerrie at the See Jane Run 5k in Seattle.

Weights: 11/6. Fewer weights workouts = increase in weight on the scale.  Bummer.

Current Ache/Pain:  Overall fatigue from Cascade Lakes Relay.  How many days does it take to recover from a relay anyway?

Current Book(s):  This One is Mine by Maria Semple.  She is the author of one of my new favorite books (read last month) Where'd You Go, Bernadette. 

Current Drink: Water and iced tea.

Current Song: Anything on my Spotify channel, 80s Pop Stars.

Current Gratitude: I'm thankful that A had a successful summer basketball season.  Extra grateful for the dad of her teammate that is willing to make a highlight video for us to share with a few college coaches that have shown interest in her.

Current Dislike:  Running.  To be fair, it's not running's fault.  I've put on a few pounds and definitely pushed myself to the limit last weekend at the relay.  I'll get my mojo back soon, I hope.

Current Goal:  Today, I feel like a half PR is way out of reach for this fall.  My goal is simpler, to get back to writing down what I eat every day in my journal.  I've fallen away from this and it shows.

Current Treat:  All the food in the van during CLR.  I feel like I am now on a cleanse, trying to rid my body of licorice, Mike n Ikes, oatmeal cookies, peanut butter filled pretzels and chocolate covered almonds.

Current Excitement:  State #35, Wisconsin!  I'm ready to stay with Erika and her family and hopefully catch up with Jess as well, after the Madison Mini Marathon on August 16th.