October 31, 2010

I ran through Hell!

Today was my first 10k race! There is a town in Michigan that is named Hell... and they had a 5k/10k race today called "Run Through Hell on Halloween".  Renee and I signed up for the 10k, and my friends Evie, Kerri, and Jessica signed up for the 5k. The race was at 9:30 this morning and Hell was about an hour away. We met at Jessica's house and she drove us all in her minivan. I didn't want to go all-out and wear a costume, but I wanted to be a little festive, so last night Renee and I went to Target and bought some Halloween socks. I had a shirt that said "BOO" on it that I bought at Goodwill, so I wore that too.

It was FREEZING--31 degrees in Hell this morning!  Anyway, we got there, picked up our packets, used the porta-potties (eww!) and then lined up for the race. I was shivering so badly while we waited. I was bouncing up and down, trying to keep my toes from going completely numb.  Renee and I were toward the front, because I learned that lesson the hard way in the Detroit 5k. I didn't want to have to dodge people to get up to my pace. Renee was hoping to finish in under 50 minutes, so she was going to fly past me right away.

Finally, the race started. I started running at it felt like EVERYONE was passing me. I was afraid to turn around and look. There were 3,000 people running (all the 5k and 10k people started together, and then it split off after 3/4 of a mile). I just kept reminding myself that I don't have to rush, I could just do my "happy pace" and finish the damn thing.

There were so. many. hills.  Ugh! I even checked out the elevation online before we went, but it didn't prepare me for this. One hill after another, and the whole course was a dirt road.  We went 3.1 miles out, and then turned around and headed back to total the 6.2 miles. Once I made the turn-around, I saw that I wasn't even CLOSE to being last. After I passed mile 4, I saw people that were still before the mile 2 marker.

I felt pretty good the whole way. The hills were tough, but I had read that if you take small but quick strides on hills, it makes them a lot easier. And that helped a lot. You don't feel the incline nearly as much when you do it that way.  The last mile was almost all downhill, so I finished pretty strong.

My finish time was 56:25 (that's a 9:05/mile average).  I placed 23rd in my age group, which I don't think is very good, but I have no idea how many were in my age group.  Renee finished in 47-something. She placed 4th in her age group! I hope I'm that fast someday.

Anyway, here are a couple of pictures:

Evie, Kerrie, Renee, Jessica, me

The ugliest shirts EVER

Love this finish line pic of me

I wish this pic was bigger--love the determination :)

October 17, 2010

My first 5k!

Feeling ambitious, I included "Enter a 5k race and RUN it" as one of the goals on my 30x30 list. At that point, I had never run 3 miles in my entire life! I was probably about 220 pounds, and I literally could not even run 1/10th of a mile. I was in the "honeymoon phase" of weight loss, and felt very ambitious as I included it on the list, but I really did not believe it was possible.

I registered for that 5k and planned on working my way up to running 3.1 miles by October. In March, I decided to start training. I ran as far as I could, and it was not even 1/10th of a mile. It was discouraging, but I tried again a couple of days later. I went a little farther than last time. Each time after that, I tried to add a little more time to my runs.

In April, I ran my first 5k distance... and my pace was well over a 13 minute/mile. After that, I began running 5k three times per week, and worked on going a little faster each time. By the end of May, I was at a 10:42 pace. On July 2nd, I ran 5k in under 30 minutes, which was a HUGE goal for me! (a 9:25 pace). I STILL did not actually do a 5k race, because I was holding out for the one in October with Renee.

In the meantime, I began running longer distances as well. I did a couple of shorter runs and one long run per week. On August 11, I ran 15k (9.3 miles)!! It just blows my mind that I went from literally not running at ALL to running 15k in just 5 months.

I started adding in a couple of speed workouts here and there. On September 15, I did a "practice" 5k--basically just a 5k run, but I ran it as if I was racing, just to see what my time was. I finished in 26:41 (8:37/mi)!! I was SHOCKED. So I set a goal of finishing my October 5k race in under 26 minutes.

This morning (race day) I woke up at 4 AM. I had to be at Renee's house at 5:30 to head up to Detroit. Renee's husband drove, and our friend Jessica came along too. When we got there, we watched the marathoners start their race, which was exciting. After that, we went to our start line.

When the race started, it took us a few minutes to get to the starting line. It was REALLY congested with people--there were 2300 running the 5k. I spent the first half mile to mile dodging people and trying to get up to my faster pace. I really felt like I was going too slow. After about a mile, it cleared a little, so I was able to go faster. I screwed up when setting up my Garmin Forerunner, so I had no clue how I was doing. Renee stayed with me the whole time, even though her pace is normally much faster than mine. She wanted to finish with me, which I thought was awesome of her.

At one point, I tried to take a picture while I was running. The Detroit skyline actually looked pretty cool, but my picture was (obviously) very blurry:

I'm used to doing 5-7 mile runs, so the 3 miles went by really fast. My legs felt like rubber at the end, though, because I'm not used to doing that fast of a pace. We crossed the finish line and I had no idea what my finish time was.

We went and watched some of the marathoners and half-marathoners run, and we took a couple of pictures of ourselves.

On the way home, we looked up our results online. My results:

Finish time: 27:16 (8:46/mi)
I placed: 246 overall; 74th out of the females; 7th in my age group of 25-29.

All-in-all, I did pretty well. I was hoping for under 26, but I think that the congestion in the beginning of the race really slowed me down. I think it's a great time for a first 5k race, though!

A picture of Renee and I:

Renee, Jessica, and I under the starting line:

My running paraphernalia:

I thought it was hilarious that the D-TAG (for my shoe) said "ROUND IS GOOD" in caps. I spent the last 14 months trying NOT to be round :)

August 26, 2010

Ragnar Relay! (super long and tons of pics)

This is going to be a long entry, so let me start by apologizing for that! I'm really excited about finishing this race, so I want to remember all the details.

First, let me explain what the Ragnar Relay is. It's a 200-ish mile relay race, done by teams of 12. In my case, the course went from Winona, MN to Minneapolis, MN (cutting through Wisconsin in the process). The teams each have 12 people. The race is divided into 36 "legs"--from 3.1 miles up to 8.8 miles each. Each runner on the team is responsible for running 3 of the legs--in my case, I was runner #9: I had to run 3.2 miles, then 5.4 miles, then 4.2 miles. I had asked for the easier legs because it was my first time, and I'm not exactly a marathon runner!

Anyway, runners 1-6 are in Van #1, and runners 7-12 are in Van #2. Runner #1 starts the race at the starting line, runs the distance to the next station, and passes off a slap bracelet to Runner #2 (who got there by van). Then Runner #2 runs to the next station, and passes the bracelet to runner #3... and so on. Meanwhile, the people in Van #1 drive about halfway through the runner's leg and stop to give them water and cheer them on. Then the van drives to the exchange station to wait for the runner. The runner passes on the bracelet, then joins the team in the van while the new runner does their leg.

When all of the runners in Van #1 have completed their legs, then it's Van #2's turn to start where Van #1 left off. Van #1 then has about 5 hours to kill until it's their turn again--usually they will go find a place to sleep or eat. Once Van #2 is complete, then it goes back to Van #1. Each van takes 3 turns of running. Does this make sense so far? So someone from our 12-person team is constantly running, even though the distances vary. The team members in the van cheer you on and bring you water while you're running. So that's the explanation of what the Ragnar is. You can get more info at www.ragnarrelay.com.

I had no intention of doing this race until about 2 weeks ago. My brother (a pilot who lives in Minnesota) said that he had two team members drop out of the race and he needed to fill the spots, so he asked if I'd be interested. I said no. Over the next couple of days, I really thought about it, and decided to go for it. My biggest fear is flying, and I knew I'd have to fly to Minnesota to do the race, so that is what I was worried about the most. I called my friend Stacie to see if she would do it with me, and she agreed (sucker!!)


My brother listed us on a late flight Wednesday night (we were flying stand-by on my brother's buddy passes). I was SOOO nervous to fly. My mom took us to the airport, and we got there early. We decided to have a couple of drinks before getting on the plane (to calm my nerves!) We went to a restaurant/bar at the hotel and I ordered a glass of red wine and Stacie got a pina colada. A really good-looking man sat down next to me and ordered a beer and dinner. Stacie and I were talking, and I said something that made her laugh.

Her drink shot out her nose and all over the bar! It was hilarious. It even landed in the man's food, but he was really cool about it. He said, "That's the highlight of my trip!!" We started chatting, and I told the bartender I wanted to pay for the man's meal. (Side note: I have a list of 30 things I want to accomplish by the time I turn 30, and one of them is to pay for a stranger's meal at a restaurant. This was a great opportunity!) The man said absolutely not, but I insisted. He told me he'd buy me a drink on the plane, which was really nice of him!

We boarded the plane, and I was scared to death, but feeling better after the wine. True to his word, the man from the restaurant bought me a drink in flight. The flight was uneventful, which was a good thing! We arrived at MSP at around 11, and Brian (my brother) picked us up. We went to his house, sat in the hot tub, and had some more wine until about 2 AM.


The next day, Stacie and I decided to go to the Mall of America for the sole purpose of riding a roller coaster there. It was really fun!

Then we got a frozen yogurt and went back to Brian's. We all went grocery shopping for the Ragnar, and I bought some healthy food: crackers, peanut butter, yogurt, carrots, nuts, peaches, bananas.

For dinner, we met up with the rest of our Ragnar team. Our team name was Max Continuous Thrust (with the exception of Stacie and I, the team was made up of pilots). I ordered the "Low Calorie Chicken Pizza" without the chicken. It was AMAZING--whole wheat crust with a tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil, roasted garlic, feta and parmesan cheeses, caramelized onions, bruschetta topping... YUM! We went to the hotel to get some sleep for the race.

On Friday morning, I woke up at about 6. We had some coffee, got dressed, and went to the start line about 10 minutes away. We had a 10 AM start. Our first runner was Tonya. She took off when the horn blew.

The course map:

When we first pulled up to the race, we heard a siren and someone talking through a megaphone. I laughed my ass off when I saw this team pull up!!  This is team "Ragnar 911"... they were SO funny!! They stayed in character the entire time, writing bogus tickets and everything. Their van was decorated like a police car.

Our team at the starting line (we were missing 2 people). I'm on the left:

The starting line and awesome scenery:

Since it was Van #1's turn to run, we (Van #2) got to go back to the hotel and relax a little, eat breakfast, drink some more coffee. Then we had to go to Checkpoint #6 to be ready for the hand-off to our van.

Van #2 of Max Continuous Thrust (from left: Crystal, me, Brian, Jerry (not my hubby!), Stacie, and Marty):

On the way there, there was a car in front of us that was swerving all over the road, speeding up, slowing down--basically either really drunk or really old (I think he was just old).  He came REALLY close to hitting a couple of runners and a few cars. So we called 911 and we followed him for about 8 miles waiting for the police to come. I felt like my heart was going to pound out of my chest--it was SO nerve wracking watching him drive alongside the runners. Finally, we went to the checkpoint.

Crystal was our first runner, and she had a REALLY difficult leg. The elevation went up about 2,000 feet in a matter of 5 or 6 miles. We met her halfway up the hill to give her water and cheer her on, then we went to Checkpoint #7.

Jerry waving Crystal up the hill (it's much steeper than it looks). Can you tell he's a pilot? :)

Giving Crystal water--she was EXHAUSTED, but only halfway up to the top!

Crystal handed off to Brian.  We drove halfway through his run to give him water and cheers.

After Brian, it was my turn to run. Brian handed off to me, and I started running. It was just before sunset, and it was really pretty! I ran my 3.2 miles, then handed off to Marty.

My brother handing off to me, for my first leg:

Running my first leg:

Handing off to Marty:

I was relieved to be done with my first run. I changed my clothes in a really nasty bathroom. I was trying to find not-so-dirty spots to set my stuff down while I changed--and I set my cell phone on this little half-wall. Later discovered I left it there!  Before we left, there were these girls (a team called The Diva's) that were REALLY into my brother. They had seen him running and stopped to give him water. They were super excited that he had his shirt off, so they started calling him "The No-Shirt Guy". We kept running into them along the course, and they got all excited to see Brian, and told him to "Take off your shirt!"  Hahaha.

As we were driving to the next checkpoint, Brian got a call on his cell phone from some girl saying that she found my cell phone. She said she'd meet us at Checkpoint #12. Brian said, "Okay, we're in a van called Max Continuous Thrust" and the girl said, "Ohmygod, are you the No-Shirt Guy?!"  Brian said yes, and you could hear all the girls scream :)  So it was The Diva's that found my phone.  Later, I would discover that they were texting my brother from my phone for the next few checkpoints--they even sent a boob picture! LOL

While Marty was running, we took the time to revamp our van decorations. They were really lame! lol

All those dots you see are little magnetic lights all over the van, so our runners knew which van was ours. Clever!

After Marty ran it was Stacie's turn. It was dark by this time, and she had to wear the required reflective vest and head light.

After Stacie was Jerry, and then our van was done for a while, and Van #1 started again.

At this point, it was pretty late (11?) We drove to Checkpoint #18 (where we would have to meet up with Van #1 after they finished their legs). Halfway there, we got pulled over by the cops. Real ones, not the Ragnar 911 team :)  They made us take all the lights off of our van! 

Checkpoint #18 was at a high school. The school was offering showers for $3, spaghetti dinner for $7, and sleeping in the gym for $3. I chose to sleep! There were about 100 people in the gym sleeping on sleeping bags. I spread out my bag (right in-between two other people--awkward!) and actually fell asleep pretty quickly. But I only slept for about an hour before I woke up and couldn't fall back asleep. I went back to the van at 2:45 and ate some yogurt and nuts. At around 3:30 AM, Van #1 showed up for the hand-off. They then got to sleep/eat/shower while we (Van #2) ran our legs.

My second leg started before sunrise, and finished after sunrise. I was SO tired and my pace reflected that. But I finished my 5.4 miles and actually felt much better afterward.

Just before my second leg... it was about 4 AM, and REALLY foggy! The specks you see are actually fog droplets.

We were required to wear these vests and a headlamp while running in the dark. This was just after my second leg (5.4 miles):

Stacie's second leg was difficult for her. She had a hill.  Here is the hand-off from Marty to Stacie:

And Stacie finishing up her second leg:

Jerry finishing up Van #2's second legs. He was really goofy and SO much fun! (Did I mention that already?):

After the 6 of us finished our legs, we went to Checkpoint #30 to wait for Van #1. Everyone decided to try and sleep--on the grass, in the van, wherever. Stacie and I walked across the street to a Borders to look around and kill some time. I had eaten some junk food (trail mix and chips) after my previous leg, and it caught up with me at this point. I got diarrhea. Yup, and the only place to go to the bathroom were port-a-potties and public restrooms. My stomach was killing me. Anyway, we ate lunch at the van, rested a bit, and then it was time for our LAST legs of the race.

Stacie and I were in fresh clothes and ready for our third legs:

People sleeping wherever they could!

Giving Brian water during his third leg:

My last leg was at about 2 PM. It was still a little overcast when I started, which was nice. Not too hot, and my leg was right along the Mississippi River.

The hand-off from my brother to me:

My third leg. My brother was giving me water. I wasn't nearly AS miserable as I look here! But my stomach was still killing me. Junk food will do that to you, I guess! :)

Finishing my last leg:

DONE!! My brother and me.

At the end of my 4.2 mile leg, it was REALLY hot. I was THRILLED to be done though! I could just relax in the van and cheer on my team. Our last runner was Crystal. She had to run 6 miles and it was SO HOT.

We drove to the finish line and waited for the announcer to say that she was on her way. When she was about 200 yards away, the whole team went to her and we all ran across the finish line together. Crystal kept saying she was going to throw up, and she called a cab to leave right away. I felt so bad for her! There was free pizza and $2 beers at the finish. I ate 1 piece of pizza and had a beer. I bought a couple of shirts, too--a hooded sweatshirt that says "Run. Drive. Sleep? Repeat." with the Ragnar logo on it. And I got a t-shirt that says, "200(ish) miles, 36 legs, 12 friends".

My medal (it's SUPER heavy! And the top part under the ribbon is also a bottle opener, lol)

We crossed the finish line at about 5, and our flight was at 9 (we had to be there at 8). After our pizza and beer, we went back to Brian's, took a super quick shower, and then headed to the airport. I got stopped for a while at security--they confiscated a can of pumpkin from my bag! LOL I had bought it at the grocery store in MN because we have NO canned pumpkin in MI--and I was so excited to find some that I bought a can to bring home. But security took it from me. They patted me down, went through my bag, rescanned a bunch of stuff, used some sort of wipe to see if there was any residue inside my bag, etc.

Stacie suggested getting milkshakes from the airport, and I was excited about that. Then I thought to myself, "I'm SO not hungry. In the past, I would have gotten the milk shake anyway, just because I've already eating lots of junk today. But do I really really want it? NO. I'm not hungry!"  So I chose not to get one, and I just took a sip of Stacie's instead. That's big progress for me!

We ended up getting first class on the way home, which was cool. Of course I couldn't pass up free drinks! I just had a glass of red wine. And a Reese Cup, because that was free too... not the best choice, but I was so exhausted I didn't care. We arrived at DTW at midnight, and Stacie's mom drove us home. I got home at 1, went to bed at 2. Slept until 10:15 on Sunday morning--I NEVER sleep that late!

The race was SO AMAZING, and I met some really great people. I'm really thinking about doing it again next year--maybe in Chicago or Boston.  Anyone interested in meeting up there for the race??  It was a great time, and I'm so glad that I got suckered into doing it :)

June 25, 2010

The Warrior Dash

Please don't ask me questions about where/when this race is, because I've been bombarded with those questions on facebook. All info can be found at www.warriordash.com.

That said, I'll summarize the weekend and post some photos. My friends Mercedes, Sarah (from Arizona), my husband Jerry, and I all were going to drive to Joliet, IL together on Friday and meet up with my friend Renee and her husband Dave. Renee booked the hotel months ago, and I noticed on Friday morning when I printed out the itinerary that she only put 2 people down for our room. Which is bad when you need 2 beds!  I called the hotel and they said they were fully booked and our room had a king bed. I was NOT happy when I heard this, because there were 4 of us (my husband and 3 girls) so could it be any more awkward?  Mercedes ended up bringing her queen-size air mattress.  Anyway, Renee wound up with 2 double beds, and it was just her and her husband in the room, so we traded with her.  Everything was good then with the sleeping arrangements.

Friday was kind of boring. We got there at around 2 pm, and we went to a liquor store to buy beer for the hotel, and then we went to dinner at Red Lobster. I got tilapia, and it was SOOO good... and my dinner was only 6 points. We went back to the hotel and played some silly games while we had a few beers.

The next morning (the morning of the Dash) we got up at 6 and discovered a note under the door. Apparently a pipe had burst and we had no water in our room. Frickin awesome, right? So the hotel "upgrades" us to the jacuzzi suite... which only has a king bed and a jacuzzi. LOL, so we ended up setting up the air mattress anyway.

The Warrior Dash.... SO not what I expected. It was MUCH harder than I thought, but also much more relaxed, if that makes sense. Nobody took it seriously. However, I got really emotional during the race, and it was awful.  Everyone else had so much fun, and I felt like a total Debbie Downer, but it was not fun for me. Let me start at the beginning. We left the hotel early, which was good because it took us forever to find out where we'd be parking. Finally parked and got on the shuttle (school bus) that took us to the race. Sarah wasn't doing the race, so she was just along for the ride and to watch. When we got there, we were stunned at all the mud. The mud wasn't just a part of the race--it was EVERYWHERE, and it was ankle-deep. Sarah was bummed that she ruined her shoes, but she still enjoyed herself.  We picked up our packets and waited for our race time (11:30).

When the race started, Mercedes took off. Jerry was right next to her, and once he realized I was behind, he fell back with me. The entire course was ankle-deep mud, and I just couldn't RUN through that. We jogged for about the first mile, but after that, Jerry and I walked the whole way. The obstacles totally wore me out. It was really difficult. There was this one REALLY steep valley with muddy water below (and mud covering the sides, of course) that I almost made it up to the top and then slipped and fell all the way back down into the water. That sucked! But it was actually a little fun :)  Here is a pic from that:

Now, imagine trying to run after getting all that mud on your legs and shoes! I felt SO HEAVY. Which made me feel how I did when I was 253 pounds. And that is what caused all the emotion. I was getting really teary and panicky because of that sluggish, heavy feeling and basically being super FAT again. It makes no sense now, but it was difficult mentally for me.

I was bummed that Mercedes had left us, and it seemed like everyone else was passing us too. I'd just lost almost 100 pounds, and I was STILL being passed up?!   My heart wasn't in the race for the second half of it (it was 3.5 miles total).

Then at the end, I got to the fire. There is a line of fire that you jump over, then another fire to jump over, and then you crawl through mud under barbed wire to the finish. I'd completed all the obstacles up until this point, but the fire scared me to death. It was HUGE. And you have to get a running start through MUD with heavy shoes and try to jump over it. I freaked out and just went around the fire. I "couldn't" do it. I crawled through the mud and finished.
Me and Jerry before the race

Everyone ditches their shoes, because they are pretty much ruined

The guy in the loin cloth ran the race like that--with nothing underneath! ;)

Jerry and me--you can see how fake my smile is here

Jerry and I after getting rinsed off with the hose

Renee, Dave, Jerry, and me

Feeling like a total failure after skipping the fire

Jerry jumping over the fire

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