Friday, April 22, 2011

Ragnar – Part 2, Van #1 Final Push

This is a looooooong post. I didn’t want to drag it into 3 parts. You’ve been warned.Winking smile

The tutu I wisely chose not to wear on that first Anaheim leg of death:

I think that would have pushed me over the edge into The Crazy if I were overheating and wearing a tutu in a less than desirable part of Anaheim.

Half-Way There

At times being 5 feet tall has some advantages. Like being able to curl up and lay down in less than half of a van seat. It was 3:30-4am and we were trying to get 30-40 minutes of sleep at the major exchange before the rock-star mama of the group finished up her 7 mi (amended from 4.3!) descent from upper Fallbrook. I say rock-star because she is 61 and runs a 1:47 half marathon. Seriously.

I got maybe 15 minutes of semi-awake sleep and then we walked over to meet Van 2 in the cold dust-hay bowl that was major exchange #3. We were lucky enough to have a team member living 10 minutes from the next major exchange (score!). So as soon as she handed off, we said “see you in 3 hours” to van 2 and took off, arriving at our crash pad around 4:45am. I claimed a spot on the floor with my sleeping bag, setting my phone alarm for 6:20am. As expected, I woke up before my alarm, netting a total of 1 hour of sleep. What I realized during this event is the faster your group, the less time you get to sleep because you’re definitely not sleeping during your own van’s legs.

We got the hand-off from van 2 in Carlsbad around 7:45am and it was clear it was going to be another hot one. This is the exchange where I realized (a) there were teams of Biggest Loser alumni running (black and blue), and (b) we caught up to them. It would turn out they started Friday 6am. We also learned of the dude in the very short red dress who apparently had copious butt-crack hair visible when running behind him. It became the goal to try to stay ahead of that team to spare runner 12 from seeing it on her last leg. I’m still not sure if we achieved that goal.

Everyone’s GI tracts were wonky that morning but luckily, a diet of bagels and bananas was bland enough to settle them down. I even had my morning coffee from Starbucks between legs 26 and 27! During the whole race we had been leapfrogging with an Air Force team (I think from Vandenburg AFB) and I remember in the middle of my Temecula leg, I passed him and then I remember talking to him at various exchanges.

Sidebar, here is my Temecula outfit – it’s dark, you can’t see all that much, but, clearly I have a lot of dorky running gear on. Which the Old Town drunk people must have loved.

I got the handoff for my final leg (6.1 miles) at 10:18am ahead of his team. Runner 3 coming down to the chute in Solana Beach:

But, be damned, those crosswalks! A quarter mile in I hit the Lomas Santa Fe intersection which I could not jaywalk across lest I felt the itch to be roadkill. I must have waited a full minute. A f***ing minute!!! That is an eternity. Guess who caught up. We even had time to chat, that’s how long I was stuck there. Once we took off again, he ran ahead and opened up a good 200 yards on by the time we got to Via de La Valle. I passed a few people from earlier start times and got to the turn to go up El Camino Real, but I couldn’t see him anymore. Blasted lights! I hit seven crosswalks where I had to stop in that leg.

At this point, it was 75-80 degrees but still a cakewalk compared to Anaheim. I knew that the hill I was facing would be hard – it was about a 400 foot climb up to Torrey Pines High School. My one and only goal was to not walk on that hill.

I start running on El Camino Real and this awesome runner starts sharing her water with me. How nice is that?! I wanted to stay with her because she helped me out – initially we were running a similar pace - but as we started ascending, she had to slow down. After breaking away from her I caught up with the Air Force dude (and another dude as well), and then passed him. Sweet!

A third of the way up the hill another saintly team was giving COLD water bottles to whoever needed them. She held it out to me and I literally said “For me? Really?” like she was handing me an 8-week old puppy and I was 7 years old. Best team ever.

I just kept chugging up that hill at a pace that I felt I could sustain for a while (hovering between 10:15 and 11:15) and I noticed that there were chalk messages written on the sidewalk… for me! My running buddy who said she’d com cheer for me on the hill wrote messages every 20-30 feet on that hill. How awesome is she?! I swear those messages got me up that hill without walking. Because, for damn sure, I wanted to walk. I got to the top before the turn up another hill to the school, and I hit another intersection! Luckily another runner had gotten there 15 seconds before me and had hit the button already. I look down the hill and guess who’s coming up maybe 100 yards away? The Air Force dude.

As soon as the light turned yellow on the other side, I started crossing. Screw that, I’m not waiting for the “official” walk sign so he can get closer! I chugged up the next hill, got a much appreciated downhill to flat, every second hearing footsteps behind me. It became my life goal to stay ahead of that guy. I already had my acceptance speech planned for the Award for Not-Letting-Military-Dude-Pass-Me-On-My-Final-Leg.

I run past the lookout volunteer with the walkie-talkie who tells me it’s just one block more. He radios: “4…4…6”

The exchange is up another hill (are they trying to kill me?). I push with everything I have left which was like trying to get the last  bits of peanut butter out of a jar, so much effort for so little return.

I hand off and I was so happy to be done! But I was also so exhausted that I could hardly breathe – it felt like a weird asthma attack – my throat was partially closing up. It was freaky. After about 2-3 minutes of walking around it finally went away, but I can say I’ve never physically and mentally pushed that hard in a race in my life. I passed 6 or 7 people in that leg.

Our van had two more legs until we were done! In both of the harder legs I ran, runner 5 followed with short legs – 2.5 and 3.0. And he was 7:15 pace. So I always got tactfully rushed into the van by runner 6 so we didn’t miss her exchange. No more was this the case than this last leg. He had an all downhill leg to the beach (basically erasing the hill I just climbed) and we had to get to the parking lot at the bottom of the Torrey Pines hill. He seriously almost beat us with the number of vans trying to get in there and the general beach-surfer traffic. He said he felt bad that the rest of us had to run those longer mileages and big hills so he ended up running his leg in 20 minutes for 3.3 (according to garmin). I’m sure he had no idea we almost didn’t make it in time!

The last leg for our van went up the infamous Torrey Pines hill. And she powered up the thing like nobody’s business. I can only hope to still be running as well as she is in 28 years.

She hands off to the first runner of van 2 and we are done!

After that we unloaded the mess that was the van and headed home to shower before meeting van 2 at the finish. At that point we were about 60-70 minutes behind schedule. Van 2 would end up having two very hot and long legs for 31 and 32 (we all got our share of the heat in this race). The Husband and I headed down to Coronado around 4:30pm thinking we had maybe 90 minutes or so to wait, but it turned out to be more than 2 hours. Luckily there was beer!

We were in constant text contact with van 2 and I was telling them that we would wait before the finish line so we could run in as group, which was what all the other teams were doing. We get word that runner 12 is close, so we congregate, looking for her to come through the little tunnel under the road.

She comes through and is totally focused on finishing. I see her and jump into the path in front and she smiles at me, but clearly is not putting 2+2 together because she is exhausted. She keeps running! I am between her in front of me and the rest of the group in back. I yell for her to wait, and I look behind me and it was such a ridiculous sight, I will never forget. This herd of people running towards me looking somewhat confused, just a smidgen stricken, and our runner up ahead just GOING. She hits the sand and realizes, just in time, that she has to stop for us. We catch up a second later and run through the finish.

We finished in 28 hours, 39 minutes, and 59 seconds. About 1:40 off our predicted finish. Not too bad, and, in fact that is an average of 8:30 pace for the whole course. Results are still pending, but they had posted us as 28th overall and 2nd in the mixed-corporate division. I think that’s a pretty damn good showing.

And the last bit of fun I have is a little celebricizing.

The Biggest Loser vans finished around the same time we did (but they started at 6am). We were in the beer garden area and I see Tara, who on the show would regularly hand the dudes their asses in challenges. In my exhaustion,  shamelessness was at an all-time high and I asked for a photo with her.

What cracked me up was how I was telling her that she was one of my favorite contestants because she continually beat the dudes and she says to me: “And I do it again with Rulon on April 26th.” It was like I was suspended in a TV commercial. Anyway, so if you are a BL fan, watch it this Monday. Hopefully she kicks his ass.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ragnariffic – Part 1

As I write this I am about 90% recovered from the no-sleep weekend that was running, driving, cheering, sweating, and complaining. The latter being my specialty in life.

The first of the Ragnar teams took off at Friday 6am but we didn’t leave until Friday 2pm. At first I was bummed about this especially considering that our wave had maybe 10-12 teams and as we ran the first 12 legs we were rather lonely, hanging out with the same speedy teams at each exchange (watching about half of them pull away from us). It would turn out though that leaving that late minimized the length of time we would have to endure the heat in inland OC and Riverside County.

This 2pm wave we found ourselves in had the eventual winners, Pants Optional, a bunch of dudes running in just speedos and HR monitor straps with an average pace of 6:00. Yeah. Some other interesting ones were Bros-N-Hose, Hair Force, and Barely Running. Barely Running was a coed team wearing nude leotard type stuff with faux green foliage bushes over there na-na region. They were fast!

As Runner 4, my first leg took off from Angels Stadium down into the Santa Ana river trail and continued northeast for 4.3 miles. It was 3:30pm and holy frickle it was hot. 90+ degrees and no breeze in that nasty crevice of a trail. Like running in someone’s sweaty ass-crack while they blew a hair-dryer on you. Per my usual poor race planning, I took off like a bat out of hell clocking my first mile at 7:34. Dumb. Around 1.7 miles, I was fried and had to walk; from that point, I walked-ran the rest of the way. My lips were tingling/numb when I finished – overheating and dehydration much? The only consolation was that while I let the Bros-n-Hose team who was only 200 yards ahead of me at the start get further away (I hung with him for that first mile), I was never passed (and I kept peeking behind me at every stupid crosswalk I had to wait at). Which meant that the teams behind me were likely also in pain. At that point, I was pretty dejected about my performance. I probably added 5 minutes to our deficit.

We hit the major exchange 10-ish minutes behind schedule and started up again around 11pm in my old stomping ground of Lake Elsinore. It was 55 degrees and just perfect running weather. My second leg was 5.6 miles and went from south Murrieta to the end of Old Town Temecula. I got the handoff somewhere around 1am, I can’t remember exactly, but I cranked out my miles around 7:55 pace. Redemption! This leg was probably the most interesting one for me. Here I was, in a running skirt, orange and grey animal print knee high socks, a bright orange reflective vest, flashing red strobe on my back, and a headlamp entering Old Town Temecula at 1:30am. On a Friday night.

Can you say drunk people?

Yeah, hoards of drunk people leaving the bars since that’s usually “last call” time. I was barreling down the sidewalk and what do I see ahead but a dude vomiting into a bush with his buddy patting his back. Nice. I then run past a group of 20 people outside a bar and this stupid terd-chick is like “They’re still running?!” and they way she said it made me want to smack her. But I was on a mission to redeem my previous shitty leg in Anaheim. No time for bitch-slapping.

As I am hitting the tail-end of Old Town this guy starts running with me and asking me “Where are you going?” Really? Can’t you see I’m busting my ass running at 1:30am in a ridiculous outfit? I don’t time to chit-chat with you. “San Diego.” “How long will you be running?” Again with the stupid questions? I really had no idea so I just blurted out “24 hours” and then he asked me something else and I didn’t respond. I was done with him. He left me at that point. Maybe it’s because I ignored his question but I’d like to think that he just couldn’t keep up with my blazing speed. Ha! I was coming close to the end of my leg so I think I was probably in the 7:45 range at that point. Then I hit a damn light and had to wait at the cross walk because there were actually cars on the road. I like to think I could have broken 44:00 on that leg if I hadn’t hit that stupid light.

The team blazed through our last two legs, one nasty uphill leg and a then a long downhill leg to meet van 2 at the major exchange off the 76 in Fallbrook. It was around 3am I believe. By this point we had started catching up to teams that had started anywhere from 11am to 1pm. Which was a total confidence booster. It was time to get what sleep we could before our van started the final 12 legs of the relay…

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Diamond Valley Lake Half Marathon

Picture 002

I tried several new things for this race, which I know people say is a no-no, but it’s just a half so it didn’t seem that important. This is always what you say beforehand and then when the outcome is not good you wonder why the freak you tried said new things.

Anyway, so, first, I tried a slightly different lacing on my shoes – I put an additional lace through the little thingy that keeps the tongue in place. This was good – I’ve been having some issues with the Puma Ventis where the tongue would slide over to the outside and I’d get a lovely blister on my right ankle.

I also tried putting fun/funky knee socks over my CEP compression sleeves. This worked well, too, considering it was about 43 degrees as the start.

Picture 001 Picture 009 (the chick in lime & pink turned out be the first female)

What didn’t work so well?

I used a different sports bra (didn’t realize I’d never used it in a longer race) and ended up with chaffing along the bottom. I never chafe there, but, well, a $10 Target sports bra will do the trick if you’re into that masochistic business.

The real failure of new stuff tried was my attempt to go it without my fuel belt and rely on water stops. Bad race to try this out. And this is where I being to bitch about the race. Because I am really good at complaining. If you don’t want to hear it, navigate away!

Overall, most of the stuff was good – there was chip timing, the course was quite nice and rolling-hilly, nothing horrible. Very scenic. Everyone was nice/friendly. It started like 10 minutes late, though, as we all stood there shivering waiting for the speeches from 3 different people to complete (where they all basically said the same thing). The bad? There were only four water stops. Really, there were only two that you hit twice since it’s an out-and-back. The website said there would be one every 2.5 miles. That would be five stops and would have made all the difference for me. The first came around at mile 2. This is somewhat early for me to drink, and thinking there would be 4 more, I skipped it. The next one was around mile 4.7. I grabbed a cup, had a block and kept on trucking. I was in the low 8:00 pace at this point.

I got to the turn-around at 6.5-ish expecting a water stop and there was nothing. I realized I might be screwed at this point. There was almost 4 miles in between water stops. For someone used to drinking water every 2-ish miles, this was a problem. By the time mile 8.5 rolled around and I hit the water stop I knew I was toast. I grabbed two cups but the damage was done. That’s where I mentally gave up. My body was cramping – I haven’t gotten a side-stitch in years, but I did in this race. Dehydration much? The last two miles were the slowest two consecutive race miles I have run in more than a year. Like 9:30-ish. I crossed 1:52:03. I was pissed at the end. I was pissed at myself for not bringing my belt, and also pissed at the race directors.

Hemet can get damn hot – like desert hot. Just last weekend it was 90+ degrees out there. This race started at 9am. Can you imagine if we had the previous weekend’s weather on race weekend and they only had 4 stops with a 4 mile break  in between two of them? They would have been carting people off the course (which was narrow dirt roads that would fit one car) from dehydration! They were SO LUCKY that the weather complied. Colossally irresponsible.

Of all the things to screw up, water stops should not be one of them.

The other thing that I was not impressed with was that even the marathoners didn’t get medals. What is that about? I can see forgoing medals for a half-marathon, but a marathon? There should be medals for the marathon finishers. The fees were high enough (I paid $65 for the half on race day. I believe the full was $75) where I think runners expected it. They also never mentioned on the website that you had to pay $5 for parking! I was lucky we had cash. This was not cool either.

This was the 7th running of this race so I was surprised that it wasn’t a little better run. The signage to find the start was terrible (you had to go up and over a hill so you couldn’t see where it was when you first entered the reservoir area). We drove around for like 5 minutes trying to figure out where we were supposed to go. Overall, if I had my fuel belt, I think I would have done better and had a more pleasant experience. But I think I would have rather run the following day in the Run Through Redlands Half Marathon. I think that it was probably better run, cheaper, and had more than 4 ill-placed water stops.

Friday 2pm we start the Ragnar Relay (we are in the last wave as our projected pace is kind of speedy comparative to other teams – 7:57). I hope it isn’t too flippin’ hot as my first leg is around 3:30-4pm in Orange. It’s going to be an interesting weekend!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Restless Dollars

I checked our savings today as end of the month is when we get our interest credited and noticed that, yet again, our APY has dropped. Now it is 0.75%. That is seriously pathetic. I’ve had this discussion with coworkers about how it really is costing me more to keep that money versus inflation, and I really should just pay down debt and put more into our stock purchase plan (which I’ve done).

So, in that vein, we took our sizeable tax refund and paid off the VW. Now what? My car is at 1.9% – sure it’s more than 0.75% but, it’s low. The VW loan was 5.9% so, that made sense. With the Husband still not really working full-time we are still below the income threshold of being able to claim student loan interest as a tax deduction, so, I hesitate to pay that off as well (it’s like 6K or so left @ 6.375% – I consolidated in 2001 so bad timing on rates). I really feel like I could be earning more with my money than just having it sit there and make less than 1%. But I am so risk averse!!!

I have been itching about it the last couple weeks. I finally feel like, while we are not super-comfortable like we were pre-2009, we’ve got some breathing room.  I don’t feel like we are on the edge anymore. I can’t help but wonder if maybe it’s time to consider investing in property. I know, the bubble, risky, hard to qualify, vacancies, blah blah. But here in San Diego, we are back on the up and the rental market is strong. Prices are not rock bottom anymore, yet they are still low where rent more than covers mortgage and expenses. You can make money on it every month.

But… to part with well over half of my security blanket… man, I don’t know. If only we lived in an area where houses were like 100-150K. It would be an easier call to make. Then again, maybe the rental market wouldn’t be as strong as it is here.

Wouldn’t it be great to not have to take risks to make more money? But then we’d all be rich, right?