Adventures In Running

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Sound of Music

This has nothing to do with running (shock!) but does have something to do with adventures.

Starting in September I joined a Stake Chorus to perform the Messiah. We practiced one night a week until the end and then switched to longer hours and twice a week. The director was my neighbor, Jonathan Lofgren and his wife was one of the two pianists. They are such a talented couple and I love having them as friends and neighbors.

We practiced and performed 5 of the choruses in addition to solos and the overture. We even had a professional soundman to make the sound great.

Our performance was last Sunday evening. I think we had twice the crowd that we expected and the atmosphere and spirit were great. The performance went well and was well received.

I had forgotten how much I loved having to sing in a well-trained chorus and challenging my voice to its full potential. Handel is very hard to sing – but by the end we nailed those High A's. I can't wait for next year to do this again. I'd even go to the sing-a-long Messiah with the Utah Symphony this weekend – but I have another small running adventure planned instead.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Saints and Sinners

One of my co-workers had put together a team for Ragnar Vegas so that they could get the Saints and Sinners medal. This is a medal you get for running Wasatch Back and Vegas in the same year. At the last minute they had someone drop out of their team and I agreed to fill-in since running 17 miles with no notice is not that big of a deal for me.

We left early Friday morning to drive down to Las Vegas. We were Van 2 – so had a while to get down there after Van 1 started. Once again – they had out team starting out fairly late in the day.

Ragnar Vegas is an okay race. The best thing about it was that the temperatures were nice so we didn't have to hydrate constantly or freeze at night.

I was runner 11, so the next to the last runner each time. Because Las Vegas is on the far eastern side of the Pacific Time Zone – it was dark shortly after 4 p.m. each day. This meant that most of our runs were in the dark.

Leg one – 5.4 miles. Three miles of wonderful downhill followed by two miles of uphill. I was able to cut off quite a bit of time on the downhill and didn't lose a lot of it on the uphill (other than the long breaks at stoplights). I could hear my team saying, "Hey! There goes Maurine!" as I ran into the transition area and I reached the transition before runner 12. Lots of concrete on this run, but a nice wide sidewalk with lots of lighting.

Leg two – 3.9 miles. Leg two started at a casino and ran across the parking lot and then across the freeway. I ended up doing at least one mile of this run in a creepy warehouse area with very poor lighting, so was glad to have it done. Once again – those stupid stoplights added to my time.

I was so thrilled to sleep for a couple of hours on a football field until after daylight. My legs were not happy after being bent all day from sitting in the car.

Leg three – 7.7 miles. This leg was in the heat of the day and near Lake Mead. It was also in daylight so I enjoyed that a lot. Probably the prettiest part of the run for our van. The maps did not give a good estimate on this leg because it was a lot more uphill than we had imagined. I pushed hard and cut off about 15-20 minutes from our estimated time. Between heat and pushing, I was still breathing hard a good 20 minutes later. I think this led to some stomach upset at the finish, but recovered once I got some antacid in me.

At the finish line we were handed a pack of medals for each van. Then we went up and got our Saints to Sinners medal. We were all starving and our dinner that night was so delicious!

In comparing Ragnar Wasatch Back with Ragnar Vegas – Wasatch Back wins hands down. Things I didn't like about the Vegas run:

  • Stoplights – I got stopped at so many stoplights and often they were 2 or more minutes before I was allowed to continue. While this gave me some quick recovery – it was frustrating to lose all that time and a good pace.
  • Back and Forth – In Vegas you are running out and backs and covering the same territory as previous legs or nearby. We got tired of the same area and having to loop around in the chutes instead of handing off the baton and running on.
  • Organization – much less organized in Vegas. At the start line everyone had to pick up their own shirt. There were no safety pins until just a couple of minutes before our first runner went out and we were only given two apiece. At the finish line, no real ceremony. You just crossed the line and they handed you the packs of medals – didn't even put them around your neck. And finding where to go at different exchanges in the dark was frustrating.
  • Directions – the directions in the RagMag were pretty bad. The van drivers pretty well had to rely on GPS to find the next location. Too often it said, "follow the runner". Yeah – that doesn't work when the runner has headed off on a trail. And some of the legs did not list that they were on unpaved trail which made it difficult for the runners.

All in all I was glad to experience a new race. However, I will not do this one again. The van team was fun to hang with, but I was disappointed in the overall race.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Detroit International Marathon

I had the opportunity to go to Detroit last month and run the Detroit Free Press International Marathon. My company was sponsoring employees to run this race and I was able to coordinate it with a business trip as well as a short vacation to Illinois for my niece's wedding. We ran the race in honor of Cathy Scoda – an employee who had been training for the half marathon and died unexpectedly of heart failure at the young age of 48.

The Thursday before the marathon (which was on Sunday), I went walking/running with my daughter and felt great. We then headed out to do some errands and after about 30 minutes I suddenly started to feel horrible. It quickly went downhill. I had a hard time breathing, my chest hurt and I was just plain miserable. Spent a few hours debating on trying to find an urgent care facility that day or see how I was the next morning. After laying down for a while – I realized I needed to try and find one that afternoon. I called my insurance to find the location of an approved facility in Illinois and they informed me I would need to drive to Muncie, Indiana. Yeah. Not going to happen. I finally found a place nearby that would only cost me $75 out of pocket and headed out. Place was closed because the doctor had an emergency. And it looked like a dive. I had passed a nice urgent care facility a few blocks back and went over there. It was $125 to be seen there – but beggars can't be choosers. A couple of hours later, I finally got to see a doctor. Bronchitis, asthma, sinus infection. Good things to have right before a marathon.

Saturday I drove back to Michigan (I'm trying to forget the brilliant moment when I locked my keys in the trunk of the rental car) and went to the race expo. They do a good job of forcing you to walk by every booth twice as they wind you to the back of the conference center to pick up your packet and then leave. I only gave in once and bought a new medal holder. At this marathon you have to show a passport in order to pick up your packet because the race crosses over into Canada. Kind of different.

Sunday morning I drove into Detroit. Things went smoothly until I sat on the freeway for more than 20 minutes without moving trying to park at a casino. Wasn't happening. Everyone else had the same idea. Took my chances and raced up to the next exit and drove wildly trying to find a different casino and hoping I wasn't driving into areas of Detroit I should avoid. Luckily, a coworker and his father came back to that casino to escort me to the race because I was totally lost.

It was another good morning. No wind and cool – but not too cold. I had a throwaway shirt (thanks St. George for the ugliest race shirt I never wanted) and disposable gloves to keep me warm and that was sufficient. The company had designed Team Cathy shirts for us to wear and it turned out to be a great shirt and didn't cause any chafing. (I know – never wear something for the first time to a race). There were quite a few MCUL employees running the 5K, a handful or two running the half marathon(s) and one crazy employee doing the full marathon. (Who could that be?)

I was in the last corral because when I originally registered – I was in the walking marathon. It took us about 30 minutes after the start of the race until we crossed the start line. This was my first big city marathon and quite an experience. So many people and the marathon and half marathon were on the same course for the first 12.9 miles. Basically – I spent most of the first 10 miles dodging between people and trying to move forward because, as usual, lots of slow runners went into earlier corrals. After 2 or so miles we approached the entrance to the bridge. Lots of customs officials yelling at us to show our bibs and looking for shady characters or people wanting to immigrate illegally into Canada. Phew – I guess I didn't look too shady because I wasn't stopped. We crossed the Ambassador Bridge between the US and Canada. This is a mile long bridge and was a lot of fun (except for the people dodging). Everyone around me was complaining about the uphill and I was trying to figure out what they were talking about. It was a bridge – very little uphill. Heck – I ran all the uphills in this race – something I can never do in Utah.

Once in Canada we ran along the waterfront in Windsor, Ontario for several miles before once again running the gauntlet of customs agents. This time they weren't as noisy – guess they figure no one wants to enter the US. On the way back we ran in a mile long underwater tunnel. Nice and hot and muggy. And no GPS reception. One mile later we were back in the good old US of A and running through Detroit.

In the first half of the race there were people everywhere cheering you on. Rarely did you go an entire block without a cheering section. They also had lots of bands and entertainment along the way. About mile 12 I was passed by a couple of Team Cathy runners and talked with them for a few minutes. At the half marathon turn-off, Doug Scoda (Cathy's husband) cheered me on. Suddenly – the crowds were gone. There were obviously lots more runners doing half marathons than full marathons. Right after the turn-off, we also saw the starting line of the US Only Half Marathon. It had started an hour or so earlier and I was hoping I could pass some of them before the finish.

I did carefully watch the time to make sure I used my inhaler every four hours. I could tell by mile 10 that I had no energy from being sick, so I just continued with my run 2.5 minutes/walk 2.5 minutes schedule and hoped I could maintain that. If nothing else, I would walk it in. I was not trying to push because I figured that would be foolish when I could hardly stand up without wanting to pass out a couple of days earlier.

In the second half of the marathon we started running through different "towns" in Detroit. Greek Town, Polish Town, etc. There were a few miles where we ran by some gorgeous old mansions. The people in this area were great. Lots of them set up little tables in front of their houses with Dixie cups full of M&M's and Gummy Bears and such. I loved my M&M's and treasured them over a couple of miles.

At mile 16, I had been leap frogging another woman for a mile or two. I could tell she was flagging and she would hear my GymBoss beeping. She finally asked me what I was running and told her my 2.5/2.5 plan. I invited her to run with me and she happily joined me at that point in time. Her name was Stephanie and she was starting to flag. It was her first marathon (you could tell because newbies had green bibs) and she had never run longer than 20 miles. I told her that I would be happy to stay with her the rest of the race and keep her going and she was really excited to no longer be alone. We had a good time getting to know each other the next 10.2 miles. Around mile 18 we ran out on a mile long causeway to an island. I could see some half marathoners on the way back out on the causeway and knew I was maintaining a good pace. We ran a couple of miles along the lakeshore on this pretty little island and then headed back. We were kind of happy to see how many runners were still crossing the causeway because we knew we were far ahead of a cutoff. We also felt bad because we knew they must be really struggling and had a long way to go.

After leaving the island, we spent a lot of the rest of the race running along the lakeshore heading towards downtown. Not a lot of cheerleaders anymore and Stephanie was flagging – but holding on. I told her to enjoy the emotions of the first finish – because nothing is the same. As we headed up the final hill she gave out an excited cry because her son was waiting for her. He joined us as we turned the corner to the finish line. Stephanie did not want to run anymore, so I told her we would get to the last stoplight before the finish and then run it in. We started the final run hand in hand and her son was disappointed because someone forced him off the course. We crossed the finish line and Stephanie turned to me and hugged me. She was so excited to be a marathoner and I was so happy to help her get there.