07 December 2012

Life Expectancy - Or Something Like It

Today I attended a Veteran's Memorial Service at the Veterans Memorial Cemetary of Western Colorado.  The service was for a Vietnam Vet, Ron "Doc" Ross, who passed away last week.  Doc Ross was very active in my little community and well-respected so his turn-out was huge.  It started with the traditional Honor Guard and Bagpiper escorting his remains to the internment site and included all the typical Veteran services.  At least, I think it included what is deemed "typical".  I'm really not sure.  This is the first Military service I've been to so I really had no idea what to expect.  And I certainly couldn't see anything - there were tons of people and the internment shelter was designed to hold, at the most, 20 or so folk. 

Doc's Patriot Guard Riders were there, along with those whom he served with, those he worked with, those he called friends, those he touched in some way (whether small or large) and fellow Vets who may have only known of him, never really meeting him.  It was a lovely day and seeing the Flags whipping briskly in the wind, the Color Guard's prestine uniforms, the bagpiper's kilts and the old Army truck really added to the somber tone of the Memorial.  And of course, when Doc's remains passed by, I cried.  Not because I knew the man well but because I saw how his loss was affecting his closest friends and because, well, because I just cry (I didn't used to be such a wuss, honest).  It sent me down memory lane and I found myself thinking of the first time I met him, how he intimidated me and how it took me almost 2 years to get a smile out of him.  Once I got that smile, tho, the scary Doc Ross was replaced with a warm and gruff ole' Marine who gave me a hug every time he saw me.  Doc was an incredible advocate for all Veterans - young and old - and his presence will be missed.  I know his legacy will continue on through his friends and his organizations but the man has left a hole that I don't think anyone will even try to fill.

While I was standing (oh-so-uncomfortably in my "church" clothes) and observing, my mind began to wander to my own end.  I looked at the people there, some dressed like me in their fancy duds but most dressed in jeans, and began to have a conversation with myself about whether or not this was the type of tribute Doc would've enjoyed for himself or if he would shrug it off as a bunch of mularkey and wonder why no one was out playing on such a beautiful afternoon.  Which then led me to think about how I would want to be memorialized at the end (possibly "the end" coming after crossing the finish line of one of my races - I always say there are those races that are gonna kill me).  I know that Memorials and Funerals are for the living - those left behind to carry on - so I don't feel right in dictating how it should be done.  If I had my peace, I'd just as soon be cremated and then discharged out of a starting line's gun but  doubt my daughter would feel quite so glib about the whole process (not to mention it might just freak people out...).  You always hear at funerals or memorials, "this is how so and so would want it" but you don't really know, do you?  So, as a guide to my end (and an ad-hoc addendum to my will), I offer these suggestions:
  1. For pete's sake - do not dress up.  Don't get me wrong, please wear clothes, but don't be uncomfortable.  God knows I would just as soon be in a pair of jeans and my Birks so why should you be any different?
  2. If you must have a "service", do it to a theme.  Like everyone dressing up as their superhero or something like that.  And please, leave the prayers to the individual, don't bring them in to my party.
  3. THERE WILL BE NO GUM CHEWING ALLOWED!  Nothing worse than lips smacking together in the pursuit of digesting that undigestable piece of flavored rubber.
  4. Somebody better take on the task of completing a half marathon in each state for me.  Blow up a picture of me, tape it to a popsicle stick and complete my mission in my name.  I'll even let the brave soul keep the bling.  I just want my bloomin' map colored in.
  5. Bagpipes.  I want bagpipes.  And a cute dude in nothing but a kilt playing said bagpipes.  I don't even care if he can play the bagpipes.  You might.  So I'd get to work on that.
There.  Those are my suggestions.  Take them or leave them, I really won't know, will I?  Just keep it stuffy and gum free and you'll be golden.

All of this was composed while attending Doc's beautiful memorial.  I don't think Doc would mind.  In fact, I think he would've helped me with my list.

Semper Fi, Doc.  You'll be missed.

01 December 2012

Route 66 in Pictures

I am behind on my race updates.  Not for lack of intention, mind you.  More due to the fact that so many things have begun their relentless end-of-year tug on my attention: the last few weeks of my program with a class I just don't get, work, a new dog, cupcakes and the list goes on and on.  But Tulsa calls me and I must give a little bit of my last race for 2012.  Details have begun to fade of the incredible weekend and I've decided that I must start carrying a notebook with me - to jot down impressions, feelings and quotes that just can't be resurrected weeks afterwards.  An early New Year's Resolution - carry a notebook.  Compensation for my lack of writer-ly skills will come in the form of pictures and snippets.  The plus side to this is that you'll be spared my long diatribes and inability to keep my tenses consistent.

Saturday started with Amanda and I running the 5k.  Ok, Amanda ran, I, um, walked.  2000 runners for a 5k - I was impressed.  And hills.  Hills like the Hospital Hill course in Kansas City.  Generally, I like hills in the first 2 miles - it allows me to stretch out my calves and I actually keep a consistent pace on hills - and this 5k was no exception.  It was an excellent way to spend an hour on a chilly but sunny Saturday morning.
As per my norm, I'm at the back of the back.  But I wasn't last.
After the 5k, Cheri, Amanda and I hung around for the Mascot Dash.  Our fellow Half Fanatic/Marathon Maniac, T-Rex Runner, was running in it - in a homemade T-Rex costume.  Her effort was AH-Mazing.  And so much fun to watch.  She's got a fun blog, too, and you should check it out.
And it's T-Rex Runner to the finish!
Afterward, we had to get our picture - isn't that costume great??  A fellow runner made it for her and I couldn't help thinking that my kids probably wished I was that creative and talented around Halloween.
Amanda and Cheri look great.  I, however, look waaay too startled.
We said good-bye to Danielle (aka T-Rex Runner) and headed to breakfast.  We indulged at the Blue Moon (or Full Moon - this is where the notebook would come in handy) for breakfast and then headed back to the hotel.  Cheri had homework to do and Amanda and I volunteered for a 4 hour shift at the Expo, handing out T-shirts.  I enjoyed volunteering but I think my co-volunteers were concerned for my sanity.  I couldn't help it, tho, the music they had going on at the Expo just made this white girl jiggle.  I'd like to say that I belong on "Dancing with the Stars" but I think it would be hotly argued that any dancing show was NOT for me.
Amanda and I at the start of our shift.  Before the sugar took effect...
Sunday morning and it's race time.  A beautiful day.  A beautiful course.  And a shitload of
I want to give proper credit for this photo but I don't know who to credit it to.  I pulled it off the Route 66 Facebook page
And here's the start line by Dr Chris Barnes:
Do you see all those people????  Wholy cow!!!  I just have to say that the police who kept us safe on the course were amazing.  Cheri and I went past the course cut-off time and we still had about 3 miles to go.  One of Tulsa's finest (police officer) pulled up to us and told us that the roads would be opening and we needed to move to the sidewalk to finish.  We asked if it would be ok if we walked single file along the side and moved up when traffic came.  He was so very nice to us - knowing that the sidewalk added distance to our course - and asked us to be careful and aware.  He then kept an eye on us until we got to the last half mile where the course was still closed.  He did NOT have to do that and just goes to prove that Tulsa embraces this race and every single person involved in it - runner, volunteer, course marshall, police - want each person to only have to concentrate on running the course that they could.  I wish Cheri and I would've had the presence of mind to get our picture with that amazing officer but by that time we were just concentrating on getting to the finish.  So I am going to ask The Route 66 Marathon Race Directors pass on our most sincere thanks.
Cheri and I finally crossed the finish line about 4 hours after we started and we wobbled through the racer exit and into the Marathon/Half Fanatic Finisher Tent where we collected our special medal, some food and some much-needed sit down time.  This wasn't a challenging course physically.  This course challenged both Cheri and I from the inside.  I am thankful that Cheri was with me - I'm not quite sure I would've finished without her. 
Maureen (who finished her 50th State + DC with this race) and I - showing off our bling.


19 November 2012

Route 66 - Expo Kicks

When I participated in the Hospital Hill Marathon in June 2012, an event coming up caught my eye. It was the Williams Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa, Oklahoma. What caught my attention? The special perks granted to Marathon Maniacs and members of the 50 States Marathon Club – special medals, their own VIP tent, special bibs, a free group photo and their own port-a-potties. I thought it was fantastic and wondered why the Half Fanatics, a sister club to the Maniacs, was excluded from the bennies. I asked the workers at the Expo Booth and it was suggested that I write to the race director to see if perhaps the Fanatics could be included.

So I did. And I was answered with a challenge: Get 100 Half Fanatics to register for the race by June 30th and they would include us in “Maniac Corner”. And thus began my campaign. I wanted a special medal. I wanted a special bib. I wanted my own row of port-a-potties. I became a walking billboard for the Williams Route 66 Marathon. Registration numbers began to rise but we were still short of the goal. The race director told me that the deadline was extended. I campaigned harder. I’m not saying that I was solely responsible for getting 177 Half Fanatics to register for the race but I am saying that I was pretty vocal about it.

You can thank me now.

I’ll wait while you admire that beautiful, specially designed medal and wonder what you would’ve done without running Tulsa that beautiful weekend in November…

You’re welcome.

I arrived in Tulsa the Friday before the race. My friend Amanda (fellow Half Fanatic from Kansas, also a 50 States Half Marathon Club finisher) picked me up from the airport and we then proceeded to get lost getting to the hotel thanks to the ridiculous amount of road construction circling Tulsa. Seriously – it was a master of clusterfucks and by the time we pulled in to the DoubleTree’s parking garage, we were ready for a drink or two (or three but who’s counting…).

The DoubleTree staff was efficient and friendly and very accommodating – we were about 2 hours early for check-in but they let us check in any way. I asked the very pleasant young woman checking us in exactly where the Expo was being held. The DoubleTree was a race hotel so I figured the front desk staff would be the perfect ones to ask for directions. I couldn’t have been more wrong. After she realized I hadn’t sprouted a second head, she told us she wasn’t quite sure but thought it was about 4-5 miles away. I knew that was off because I was pretty sure it was, at most, a block or two away. So I thanked her, took our room key, hid my second head and up we went to our room. In the elevator I saw a woman with the typical race expo bag and I asked her where it was. She told us it was right across the street and Amanda and I just looked at each other. The lack of knowledge for a race hotel was surprising and we discussed the hope that it wasn’t indicative of how the race events will be run over the weekend.

After dropping our gear off in the room, we made our way the 4-5 miles, oops, I mean across the street, to the expo. Very large, well run and full of shiny things to look at, we decided to first check in for the 5k, Half Marathon and our Volunteer shift before losing track of time. We thought it would be good to check in, explore the vendor booths and then get some dinner while we waited for another Half Fanatic to join us, Cheri. Check-in was simple and quick and we were both initially disappointed with the race shirts. It seems race shirts are all going white lately and that’s discouraging. Tech fabric is light in the first place. Add in to the equation sweat, darker colored underclothes and clingy-ness of the material and you’ve got a shirt that won’t be worn by us self-conscious people.  (Just a quick spoiler - we ended up LOVING the shirts and were very glad we got two)

Also – since we were doing both the 5k and the Half Marathon, we got two of everything – 2 race bags, 2 white tech shirts, 2 bunches of hand-outs advertising things we’ll never use because we’re not local and 2 travel-sized containers of Dove Deodorant for Men. I was wondering what they were trying to do to me – give me a white shirt AND imply that I really should be using deodorant strong enough for a man but not made for a woman?? Hmmph. Let’s just say that massive consolidation occurred. We took out all the nonsense flyers, kept the full-packs of tissue and contemplated the meaning behind the male anti-stink stick before returning 2 extra race bags to the Volunteer desk (we got a race bag for each race along with a race bag as a Volunteer). Now we were ready to unleash all that is us on the Expo. (Insert evil laugh here)

I have completed 26 half marathons over the past 2 years and one thing I’ve learned is that all race expos are generally the same – clothing vendors, fuel vendors, knick-knack vendors, and race vendors advertising their upcoming races. Route 66 was no exception. Amanda and I walked by one vendor, a Juice Plus vendor (or something similar to that) and were immediately accosted by an older woman schlepping her miracle product:
Lady Pusher Person: “Have you heard of Juice Plus?”
Me: “Yes.”
 Lady Pusher Person: “WHERE!”
Me (a little sheepishly): “I’ve been to many race expos. This is a standard booth.”
Lady Pusher Person: “Really? How many marathons have YOU done?”
Me (getting a little scared now): “26. This will be my 17th state.”
 Lady Pusher Person: “Do YOU eat 8-12 servings of vegetables a day?”
 Me (trying to escape so I’m going to throw Amanda as a sacrifice): “She’s a vegetarian." (pointing to Amanda and stepping aside)
 Lady Pusher Person (really getting obnoxious): “Just because you are a vegetarian doesn’t mean you get enough vegetables.”
Amanda (looking at me with betrayal in her eyes): “I know.”
Lady Pusher Person (I’m no longer listening to her. Rather, I’m amazed that she’s accosting us in such a manner. Doesn’t she work on commission? Isn’t her goal to win us over???)
 Lady Pusher Person’s poor companion: (She’s trying to shrink away – she can’t believe this woman is being so bossy and treating potential customers like they are stupid ignoramuses)
Me: “Look, Amanda!!! Photobooth!”
Amanda and Me: (quick exit, trying to avoid being stabbed in the back by Lady Pusher Person’s steely gaze)

Fortunately, Lady Pusher Person was the exception at the expo rather than the rule. The majority of the vendors were friendly and the total opposite of pushy. Not that I would’ve bought anything from Juice Plus but that lady has kinda made me make it my mission to ensure everyone has heard the story. Besides – I don’t care how many fruits and veggies you dehydrate and then blend together and add vitamins and minerals and fiber that the dehydration/rehydration process removed – nothing is better than eating the real thing with all its fiber, natural vitamins and minerals and smell-of-the-earth goodness – you cannot go out and pick a Juice Plus off a tree or pull it out of the ground so therefore it is inferior to the real thing.

And thus ends my rant against the Lady Pusher Person of Juice Plus at the Route 66 Marathon Expo. Ok, not quite. We saw her the next day too during our Volunteer shift – she looked just as sour then as when we blew her off. I’m guessing her sales weren’t quite what she expected.

Route 66 had a free photo booth set up and Amanda and I monopolized the machine for 2 rounds of photos. The expo wasn’t real busy yet so we really didn’t keep anyone else from it – we just had a blast. This was a first for both of us – free pictures at a race – so we took advantage of it. I absolutely love the photos that came out of that booth. I’m sure it was quite funny to observe the curtain moving, feet turning and kicking and laughter blasting out occasionally and almost wish there was someone on the other side videoing our efforts. When we finally decided to look out from the curtain, we saw an amused man just standing there, patiently awaiting his turn. With giggles and apologies we collected our photos, apologized and went on the hunt for food. I almost volunteered us to join the guy in the booth but after throwing Amanda to the Lady Pusher Person, thought better of it. Tho can you imagine the photos if I had????

15 October 2012

Grechen's Flying Fund

When my dear Brownie died in May, I had my eye on a beautiful little puppy named Grechen.  She just wanted to be loved, to have a home and to be the Queen Pup.  Well, I couldn't get to Georgia (where she was) to get her so I got the Princess Pup (Jo-Dee) from my local shelter.

This past week I learned of a precarious situation Queen Pup was in - she was having a hard time with her humans.  They were flighty and fickle and blamed lack of paying attention to Queen Pup to give her the training she needed on the Queen Pup.  My dear friend, Allison (an amazing animal heart, our dear Allison - she would do anything for the pups) brought to my attention Grechen's need.  Grechen still called out to me so we started talking about getting her to me. 

A friend of Allison's rescued her from the shelter and Allison is fostering her until we can get her to me on Delta.  The Queen Pup (aka Grechen) needs a carrier, food/water dishes, a collar and a leash along with an airline ticket.  This is where you come in.  We're collecting donations to get Grechen to her new home in Colorado.  She's got the fur - she needs the cold climate!  I'm anxious to meet The Queen Pup, the Princess Pup needs her Royal and Allison needs to regain some of her sanity that tends to be lost when caring for your own dogs and a foster.

Here's the link: Grechen's Flying Fund

And here's Grechen as she was being sprung from Animal Control in Atlanta, Georgia. 
Imagine a little crown on her head and you've got the Queen Pup - she can't wait to come to Colorado!

Thank you all for your help!

11 September 2012

Leading Ladies Half Marathon, August 19, 2012

Just look at the snippet of the course – how could you not enjoy yourself on such beauty? The entire course for the Leading Ladies Half Marathon looked like this – through canyons and rich forest trees (ignore the beetle-killed ones) – and on an entirely downhill course? You betcha, I had a blast!

One of the many reasons I like being a part of the Half Fanatics is the incredible people I meet at my races. I am a walker – and a slow’ish walker at that – and I have yet to come across a Half Fanatic or a Marathon Maniac that makes me feel less for my time. At the Leading Ladies race, I got to meet and room with the incredible Maureen Bowen (HF #555) who is on track to finish a half marathon in all 50 states (plus DC) come November. We met up Saturday evening after she came in from one of the plains states (Nebraska? North Dakota? Can’t remember) and had dinner at the Pizza Ranch (yes, that’s an actual restaurant) and got our after-race cupcake at Dolce Vino Lounge (“Beer and Tapas, Wine and Cupcakes”). Race morning would come early so we got our stuff together and called it a night.

The Cupcake Place

We had to be on the bus for the start at 0445 and it was a tad chilly. I don’t know what I expected with South Dakota but it certainly wasn’t chilly. I think the temperature when we headed out to the bus was about 40 degrees and I’ve been used to warm, even hot, morning starts so it was a bit of a shocker to come out to the cool morning air. We pile on to the warm bus and meet Sandy – another Half Fanatic who also did Saturday’s race with Maureen – and the energy on the bus was quite fantastic. This is a women-only run and we talked with many people who had never done a half before. Soon we were at the drop off point and after milking the warmth of the bus we hopped off and walked to the start line. I was very thankful that someone decided to abandon their nice warm blanket on the bus – it kept me from freezing!

Bethany (#837), Sandy, and Maureen (#555)

This race was one of the smaller races I’ve done over the past year. There were approximately 320 finishers of the half marathon (not sure how many nuts did the full) and you could tell that the event was held close to the heart of the race director – she was there to see us all off and she was at the finish line sharing in our victory. The course’s volunteers were amazing and encouraging and the water stops were perfectly placed about every mile and a half. The stops even had wonderful things like pretzels, oranges and M & Ms – just the right amount of fuel to keep you going. The course was entirely downhill so I thought I would try the Galloway method full tilt. I was going in for shoulder surgery 4 days later and I didn’t see the sense in holding anything back. So when we were told to go, I went. Not as fast as everyone else but faster than I’ve ever gone before. I turned on my iPod, switched to my cadence playlist and shuffled along. I was so enthralled with the scenery and the crisp morning air that I actually lost track of time. Before I knew it, I approached the 10k mark and I looked down at my time – I shaved 10 minutes off of my best 10k and I was thrilled. I thought for sure I was on track to make a PR.  I don’t know where my mind took over but it eventually did, as it always does and I found myself walking more than wogging (what I fondly call my form of jogging). But I was still enjoying the course, enjoyed the encouragement I received from the volunteers and absolutely loved cheering on the marathoners as they passed me by. At about the 5k left mark, Michelle “Mom O’ Six” Walker (an incredible Marathon Maniac) came up on me and she gave me a great big hug before she blew on by me.

Michelle "Mom O' Six" Walker

As I was turning in to the last mile of the course, I was blown away with the sheer rugged beauty of the course and the stunning grace of the little park we meandered (ok, I meandered, everyone else raced) through. The park was lovely with a little creek babbling serenely and birds chirping. Just a little bit in front of me was a woman who I had been playing leap frog with and I was determined to close the gap and pass her before the finish line. She passed me around mile 8 when I took a longer-than-needed break and I had lost sight of her. Now I was coming up on her and I noticed she was having difficulty – she was walking as if her feet were on fire and limping a little, favoring one knee. I slowed down to talk with her. Her name was Katy and this was her first half marathon and she said she would never do another one again. I told her that I said the very same thing after my first half marathon 20 half marathons ago and she cracked a smile. And then she started to cry a little. I recognized the cry. I’ve done it myself on many occasions. It is the cry from way down deep inside that says you’re never going to finish, that you’re not good enough and that you’re going to fail. So I walked with her, talked with her, made her laugh and together we crossed the finish line.

   The last mile.1

Leading Ladies Half Marathon in Spearfish, South Dakota is an amazing course. With its beautiful scenery, wonderful volunteers and a truly downhill course, I will add this to my “would do again and again and again” list. This was my 14th state and 21st half marathon since beginning my obsession in October 2010.

27 August 2012

Walking is for Sissies

I don’t know how often I hear that or some form of that statement, throughout a day/month/year but it’s a lot. And it is seldom said to me by my friends or fellow “sissies”. It’s always said by a “runner” – you know, someone who runs 8 -10 minute miles, ignores my statements of encouragement as they go rushing by me, enjoys plenty of the post-race food and drink, taking home sometimes cases of water and is seldom at the finish line when I come waddling through, triumphant at finishing, disappointed that there’s only lukewarm water left but thrilled that I can color another state in. Walking may be for Sissies but I still get the job done.

To date, I have completed 21 half marathons in 14 states and 1 other country (Ireland) and 1 thirty mile bike ride, 1 Muddy Buddy and 3 Sprint Triathlons since I started in October 2010. My times haven’t been stellar – my longest time in a half was 4 hours and 49 minutes in Wyoming and my quickest time in a half was 3 hours and 36 minutes in Oregon – but they’ve all included one thing – I finished. I do have a couple of “DNS”s (did not start) and a couple of DNFs (did not finish) but I don’t count those in my tally. Those I wipe clean and try again until I do finish – even if it’s a DFL (dead fucking last). I have quite a few DFLs to my credit.

I celebrate everyone’s success at the half (or full) marathon. I have friends that can finish a full marathon before I even hit the half-way mark on my half marathon. I have friends that started out like me, walking, and have gradually added running to their training so that they are run-walk-running their events. I have friends who are like me, slow but determined, and excited for everyone out there – fast, slow, short, tall, thin or fluffy. The point is that while the event may be the same distance, it is not the same event for everyone. We all have our battles that we fight in order to cross that finish line and wear proudly that medal. Speed, or lack thereof, does not make it better or worse for someone. Crossing that finish line, rising triumphant over mental and physical demons is the proof of the warrior. If it takes you 2 hours and 30 minutes to cut your barriers down, Bravo! It takes me a little longer.

And sometimes I fail. And sometimes I just can’t shut down the negative nonsense my inner-self is slinging at me. And sometimes my inner-self rides the bandwagon of the other nonsense out there. My brain is already good at knocking me down – it doesn’t need the encouragement of other naysayers to pump it on.

I submit that any distance finished is an accomplishment and if I must walk the whole 13.1 to silence my inner self-doubter, I will. No one knows the individual battles that wage during an event. So before you say, “I failed – I had to walk”, remember someone else is saying, “I did it! I WALKED!”

Walking isn’t for Sissies. Quitting is for Sissies.
My medal display rack. From Allied Medals

11 July 2012

Run Wild Missoula

The 6th annual Missoula Marathon, orchestrated by a local running club, Run Wild Missoula, took place Friday, July 6th through Sunday, July 8th. Runners from all 50 states plus 5 countries converged on the gorgeous community of Missoula with a population of 110,000+ to partake in the celebration of a true racing event – the Missoula Marathon. I was one such participant and now that I’ve got the dry basics of reporting done, I can get on with the juice. I arrived early Friday evening and was greeted by 2 Marathon Maniacs (Dave and Patti) and 1 Half Fanatic (Amanda). I met up with another Maniac (Michelle, aka Mom O’ 6) while waiting for our flight out of Salt Lake City to Missoula and the 5 of us loaded up in Dave’s rented car and headed to our hotel. It’s not often that I head out to a race alone and end up in a group and I was thoroughly enjoying this new experience.

After checking in to my room, I met up with the group to head out to the Beer Run event – an excuse to gather with other participants over a cold frosty one at Tamarack Brewery. I had intended to take the 3 mile excursion through downtown Missoula but decided to park my hindquarters at the bar and pretend. Dave, Michelle and Patti decided to join me too but Amanda, being the odd duck, actually went out on the run. The brewery was hopping – with Maniacs, Fanatics and others meeting old friends and greeting new ones. At Tamarack we picked up our race packets for the morning’s 5k and ate some dinner. I met the “Biking Viking” – a Swede on a mission, some Maniacs and Jeff Galloway.

After the “beer run” the 5 of us headed out to the carousel and ice cream. We picked our horses, got out our cameras and prepared for our photo op. We couldn’t understand why the workers were so adamant about us buckling up but once it got started, we understood why – that sucker went fast. And it lasted forever. Lots of laughing, a little dizziness and some hit and miss photos and we were pretty glad we hadn’t partaken in too much of the Tamarack brew. From the carousel we headed to the Big Dipper for ice cream and stood in line. It always seems I’m standing in line for food. In Portland it was at VooDoo Doughnuts. In New Orleans it was for beignets. In Kansas City it was at Oklahoma Joe’s for BBQ. And in Missoula, it was for ice cream. It was good ice cream, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not sure it was line-worthy. Although residents tell me that the line is always present so I’m probably in the minority.

I must add that we drove to everything. The brewery was about a mile away from the hotel, the carousel was across the street from the brewery and the ice cream was .3 miles from the carousel. A group of 5 people, who will be running/walking a total of 94.1 miles over the next 2 days (not including the walking about), drove about 2 miles to their adventures. Is that irony? I never really was able to grasp the concept of it.

In any case, the next morning, Amanda and I met in the lobby to head out for the 5k. It was a beautiful day in Missoula and the sun was shining – hotly. We met up with Dave, Patti, Michelle and Santa and headed to the start line. Over 400 runners toed the start and when the gun went off, we were off: some (everyone but me) much faster than others (me). The course meandered along the Clark Fork River and was nicely shaded. I took in the scenery, talked to other walkers, and enjoyed the walk. When I finally came to the finish line, I was greeted by Amanda and the cutest little kids around. Amanda got a little stalker’ish with the photos but the kids were adorable. They handed me my medal (a medal for a 5k? Score!) and a paper flower and told me, in the best little kid voice, “good job!” My first 3.1 miles of my 16.2 mile weekend was in the books and while I did not PR (Michelle came in 3rd and Patti came in 4th), I had a blast.

After the 5k, Amanda and I walked through the expo and got our packets for the half marathon on Sunday. Sunday’s half marathon would mark Amanda’s 50th state (plus DC) in the 50 States Half Marathon Club – 45 months of training and racing finally culminating in the accomplishment of her goal. This is an amazing feat and I was tickled that I got to mark her final state off with her. The Biking Viking signed Amanda up for a 4 hour volunteer shift at the expo so we wrapped up our expo gawking and headed back to the hotel. I puttered around the room for a bit, enjoyed the air conditioning and then headed back in to the expo area to see what I could see. I got some of the best fried donuts, a diet coke and shopped at the Fanatic booth. I then found my way to MacKenzie River Pizza Company and ordered some lunch. It wasn’t the best lunch and the service kind of stank but it did the trick of filling the void in my tummy and getting me out of the heat. I stopped at Amanda’s station, asked her if she needed anything and then headed back to the hotel to take a nap. And nap I did. For a good 3 hours. It was wonderful. The room was dark and cool, I was content and I had no homework to procrastinate. I don’t think I’ve ever had a more relaxing nap.

That night, after my nap, I got up and got ready for the Maniac/Fanatic dinner. The last dinner I went to was in Phoenix for the RnR in 2011. I wasn’t a Fanatic then (I still had one more qualifying half marathon to do) so I felt a little awkward crashing the dinner – even if my ride, a double agent (Maniac and Fanatic), assured me that I would be welcome. For this dinner, I was a bona fide Half Fanatic and I was looking forward to it. I rode with Amanda and Allen and the Biking Viking and we got to the restaurant a little before everyone else. As people started to arrive, the volume in the room we were in grew by decibels – lots of laughing, hugging and joking going on. We had two servers to the 40+ of us and they did an excellent job keeping our drinks filled and the bread coming. I sat next to a natural comedian who kept me rolling with laughter. I wish I could remember his name but I can’t so I’ll just call him Mohawk Dude. Mohawk Dude took it upon himself to take Michelle’s sparkly heart headband out of her purse and wear it on his head. And it took Michelle a few beats to realize what he had done. I hope I run into Mohawk Dude again – he and his wife are funny. As we gathered out front of the restaurant to take a group picture, a rainbow appeared – glowing brightly from the clouds to the mountains. I took it as a sign for a good race in the morning.

The race was scheduled to start at 6 am so we said good night to our friends and headed back to the hotel. That is, after we dropped the Swede off at his bike, Marc (he arrived Saturday afternoon, went to his hotel and ran to the restaurant – really making me feel inadequate for driving those 2 miles the night before) off at his hotel and then Allen off at his hotel. We also had to stop at a gas station for Diet Dr. Pepper. There was nary a Diet Dr. Pepper to be found and I was going into serious withdrawals. We finally pull into our hotel around 8 or so and Amanda and I made plans to meet in the morning and then we said good night.

Back in my room, I got everything ready for the morning, puttered around on Facebook and then hit the sack. For the first time before a race in my memory, I slept – and I slept soundly. But that stupid alarm, going off at 3:30 in the morning, was not welcome. Groggily I arose, hopped into the shower and began my pre-race ritual. I had to braid my hair to keep it out of my face. That required a shower so it would be wet. After braiding comes the taping. I tape up the soles of my feet in an attempt to avoid blisters. Then comes the Glide and finally the running skirt, socks, shoes and shirt. I loaded up my running pack with fuel, attached my hydration bottles (also known as “snacks” and “drinks”) and headed out to meet Amanda. The time was 4:40 am.

Amanda and I head in the direction we think the busses are and start talking to another lady headed the same way. Eventually we discover that she is none other than Mrs. Jeff Galloway. I never did learn her first name and I don’t think she ever offered it. She introduced herself as “my husband is Jeff Galloway”. We figure she probably knows where she’s going so we walk with her and talk the whole way. What an amazing woman. She does full marathons and believes in the Galloway method of run-walk-run. In fact, the whole town is Galloway converts so I thought maybe, just maybe, I would give the method a try on my walk. We get to the busses, wish Mrs. Galloway a good run and find the line for the bus that would take us to the half marathon start. The busses are run efficiently and quickly – we weren’t in line more than 10 minutes – and we soon found ourselves at the start line. Amanda and I find the bag drop, write our stats on our calves, take the required pre-race photos, visit the porto-pots and soon it’s time to line up. I wish Amanda the best 50th state run she could have and we part ways – she to the runner section and me to the walker section.

The race start was heralded by fireworks – a good 10 minute display – expressing all the excitement and energy that the crowd was feeling. I set my cardio-tracker, adjusted my visor and headed out. Within the first half mile, the tape on my feet started to rub. And it didn’t rub in the usual places, this rubbing took place on the arch of my right foot. I tried to ignore it, thinking it would work itself out, but it didn’t. It just got worse and became an all-consuming irritation. By mile 1, I knew I had a problem and if I didn’t fix it, I wouldn’t finish. By mile 2, it took over every thought, every breath, and took on every fear that the little voice in my head tells me – “you’re not good enough”, “why are you out here”, “you’ll never finish this race” and on and on and on. I couldn’t have another DNF to my credit so I stopped, took my shoe and sock off and looked for the offending bubble of tape causing me to doubt myself. I couldn’t find it so I just pulled the tape off and lo and behold, I see a nice little blister in the arch of my foot. I don’t know what was causing it – there was no bubble in the tape, no rock in my shoe, no real reason for the offending skin to be causing such an issue. I put my sock and shoe back on and told myself that I would stop at the next aid station for a Band-Aid and began walking again.

Now I was at the very rear of the pack and all earlier thoughts of doing the Galloway method went flying out the window – all I could think about was not being last; for one race in my life, I didn’t want to be last.

So I sucked it up and picked up my pace and looked around. I looked at the sun cresting over the mountains, at the green fields surrounded by the early morning haze and at the river, peacefully meandering toward the ocean. And soon my foot was no longer bothering me. I set my sights on a couple in front of me – and passed them. I set my sights on another group – and passed them. And soon I found my groove, walking easy, enjoying the sights and relishing in each breath. I did a modified Galloway method in that instead of run-walk-run I did walk fast-walk-walk fast. I did this through mile 10 and it worked for me. I would walk a little bit with a couple of people, talk with them and then move on. I slowed down and chatted with a lady from Canada who was walking with a lady from Atlanta – they met about 2 miles earlier – and we discussed our races, where we are from, what our goals are. The lady from Atlanta invited me to stay with her if I ever found my way there and the lady from Canada asked my advice on blisters on the balls of her feet. The lady from Atlanta got a cramp in her hip so I gave her my Cliff Blocks and then it was time for me to move on.

All throughout the course, community members came out to offer their encouragement. Some set up sprinklers to help battle the heat, some offered popsicles and some offered high fives. I asked one family if this was the worst parade they’ve ever seen and they told me it was the best parade in the world. A gentleman had pulled his baby grand piano into his yard and was playing for us – in a tux. And all the while I felt I was really making good time and might even be on track to get a PR. I would talk with fellow walkers, set my sights on a group ahead of me and move on. Up to about mile 6, I didn’t listen to my iPod but I realized I needed a little more motivation so I broke it out and plugged my ears in. Soon the music, the blue sky, the community and the sheer gorgeousness of the mountains was driving me on. I kept wondering what I would do when I hit my wall – generally about mile 9 – but when I passed the marker and I was still going strong, I thought maybe I finally beat it.

I munched on my fuel, drank my hydration and plugged along. And then mile 10 hit me. Usually mile 10 gets me past my wall, this time it made me stumble. Usually I think, “Only 5k to go!” This time I thought, “Only 5k to go – it takes me almost an hour to do a 5k when I’m fresh.” And the mind battle began again. This time my left foot started to bother me (I took the tape off it at about mile 4) and then my knee started to ache. I slowed down dramatically and I was beating myself up for the slowing down. It’s a vicious cycle, this self-doubt, it finds a little wiggle room and soon it’s a full-blown confidence buster – self-depreciating insults bouncing around inside an already fragile ego. If this had happened any earlier in the race, say around mile 4 or 5, I can’t say I would’ve finished but fortunately it happened at mile 10 – when I only had a 5k to go.

And this is how the battle would go – Nasty ego: “You’re never going to finish.” Self-confidence: “Oh yes I am, 5ks are nothing.” Nasty ego: “You have no right to be out here.” Self-confidence: “I have every right to be out here – I paid.” (ok, so self-confidence thinks she’s funny) Nasty ego: “You’re too fat.” Self-confidence: “That may be true but here I am.” Nasty ego: “You look ridiculous.” Self-confidence: “I look ridiculously fabulous what with the sweat dripping off everything.” Nasty ego: “Just give up.” Self-confidence: “No.”

Back and forth the voices in my head would go until I came to mile 12. That’s when I knew I was going to make it. It won’t be a PR but it will be a finish and with that knowledge came a little more (not much) pep. As I’m walking into the last .1 mile, 2 ladies catch up to me. They tell me they’ve been trying to catch up with me since about mile 3 and that they were glad they finally did. Well, that brought the competitiveness out in me and I look at both of them and tell them that I was glad I was able to encourage them along but the only way they were going to catch up with me was if they ran. And I ran. My calves started to cramp but I kept running, all the way through the finish chute. And I hear my name announced (incorrectly), “and it’s Brittany Hall from Grand Junction!” I finished a whole 3 minutes in front of those two ladies. I found them after and thanked them for that last little push and they thanked me for keeping them going throughout the course. We were all just so full of thankfulness it was getting a little mushy.

I collected my medal, got my picture taken and looked for the promised chocolate milk. Let me explain, all over the course there were signs meant to encourage the runners. One of the signs said, “All of this for chocolate milk?” I was so excited to see that sign. I thought for sure it meant there would be chocolate milk – my most favorite recovery drink in the world – waiting for me at the end. There was no chocolate milk: just water and Poweraid. I was highly disappointed. I text Amanda, tell her I was done (she finished at 2:39 or something amazing like that) and we met and walked to the beer tent. I got a Michelobe Ultra and found a place in the shade to sit. She found Marc and the Swede and we both went about our recovery in our own fashion. I am not a people person. Or rather, I’m not a crowd of people at once person. It takes a lot for me to engage and be charming and share in conversation and after the race I was at my limit for people. So I finished my beer and told Amanda I was going back to the hotel. She asked me to stay and I told her that I was done with people and she told me good job. I congratulated her on finishing her awesome goal of 50 States plus DC and wandered off to the hotel to relax in the cool silence of my room.

So I didn’t PR but I also didn’t PW. I finished the race and get to color in Montana on my map. I now have 12 states completed.

Run Wild Missoula – I’ll be back. You were a beautiful course with incredible support and wonderful scenery.

29 May 2012

Medicine Bow Half Marathon, Wyoming

I do not know what I was thinking when I signed up for the Medicine Bow Half in Laramie, Wyoming this weekend. First of all, it was a bit of a drive – nothing like just hopping over to Denver. Second of all, I should’ve known by the elevation map for the course that I was way out of my league. But what I was focused on was the fact that I had a “free” weekend (I was originally scheduled to work but had it picked up) and I needed to color Wyoming in on my map. You see, Wyoming doesn’t have many half marathons. At least, not many that I’ve found. So when I found this race and heard of two other Half Fanatics coming in for it, I thought “what the hell” and registered. It met my two criteria: a finisher’s medal and a generous time limit. And the website stated that “all finishers are winners” - my kind of race.

I should’ve paid more attention to the elevation map. I really should’ve. It shows the race starting at 8700+ feet and then descending. I saw the little rises and falls in the map but didn’t put two and two together. I never imagined Wyoming to be mountainous. I know that part of the Grand Tetons fall in Wyoming. I know they’re part of the Rocky Mountain chain but I never actually put together that the state would be “hilly”. When I think of Wyoming, I think of prairies and flatness – and I’ve been to Wyoming before so I can’t even begin to explain where this assumption comes from. I have it firmly imbedded in my head now that Wyoming is full of elevation and gorgeous vistas. Like my own state, it has prairies and valleys and mountains and is actually quite pretty. However, I don’t understand the motto that greeted me when I entered Wyoming. The sign said, “Welcome to Wyoming. Forever West.” I’m wondering – has there been a rash of western states moving east? I don’t get it.

Anywho – I settled in to my hotel Saturday night in Laramie. I didn’t get into town in time to make the drive to Cheyenne for the pasta dinner so I just hunkered down at the hotel – had a nice dinner and got all my stuff ready for the next day. The weather was supposed to be chilly – 39 degrees with a 31 degree wind chill – so I was picking out my gear that would keep me warm until the sun came up. I’ve done cold starts before and knew that if I just kept from freezing, I’d be all right. This was the first race I’ve done where water bottles were required and the hydration stations would be further apart than I was used to so I made sure I had enough hydration and fuel. I don’t know why more races, especially the big races, don’t go cupless. It is nothing to attach a water clip to your belt to carry a bottle and it just makes sense. It sure was nice to not see the ground littered with bottles and trash.

Race morning arrives and I get all set and ready to go. The race start is about 10 miles east so I leave fairly early to make sure I have time to check in, attach my bib and do the last minute pre-race stuff like bathroom, nerves and stretching. When I walked out to my car to head out, it didn’t feel very cold. In fact, I was worried I was over-dressed. I even thought about running back upstairs to change into a lighter outfit. I argued with myself for about 5 minutes before I just stuck with what I was wearing and headed out. And boy was I glad I did. When I got to the start, the temperature had dropped and the wind had picked up. Of course, I didn’t think to consider the fact that I changed altitude from Laramie to the start so of course it would be a little cooler. But I was definitely not counting on the wind. Strong and cold, it was relentless in its race through the mountains.

Finally we all gather for the last minute instructions before the start. The race director said a nice prayer and asked us all to remember the service men and women and then we were off. I began my walk and kept to the side so I wouldn’t be in the way of the speed demons and found myself walking with a 71 year old man and his daughter. They were from Florida and are members of the 50 States Marathon club. They’ve done something like 21 states together and walk them all. With them, I kept a fairly decent pace. Granted, we were going downhill, but it was nice to have someone to talk to. The wind was too much that had I put in my iPod, I wouldn’t have heard it anyway so the conversation was perfect.

The first 4.5 miles were downhill. I was comfortable with the pace and wasn’t too concerned yet about how I’d do the rest of the course.

The next 2+ miles were uphill. Sometimes it was a gradual uphill with a small bit down and sometimes it was a dramatic uphill with no hope of ever seeing the end. It was here that I began to fall behind my walking companions from Florida. They continued on and I got slower and slower. A big mistake for me was assuming that because I live in a mountainous state and live at 5000 feet, I’d have no problem with an altitude increase. Well, I was having a problem with it and I had never done hills like the ones this course was on. Sure I’ve done a hill but it’s always had a crescent – something you can see relief from. These hills, well, there was no relief. They kept going up and up and up and up and up and up and, well, you get the picture. During the never-ending hill, my body was doing fine. My legs felt good, my feet felt good and I hadn’t experienced the swelling in my hands yet. The wind was pure torture and it felt like I was walking in to it the entire time but my body was doing fine. What wasn’t doing fine was my mind and my breathing. My mind would tell me that I was going to hurl or collapse or something dramatic and my breathing would get shallow and hard to draw. It was mental effort to not let my brain run away with my body because I was feeling fine, it was just a long-ass hill. So my brain and I are playing a mental game and my body finally brings me to the turn around. Yea! Relief. 2+ miles downhill. Woot Woot!

I don’t know when it hit me that I still had a long way to go and despite the fact that I was walking downhill now, I eventually had that uphill to conquer to get to the finish, but when I did I was just beside myself. I had no idea how I was going to finish. The wind was conspiring against me and the sun was in my face. Add to that all the little pebbles from the dirt trail were finding their way in to my shoes and I felt defeated. My body still felt fine, I was walking just fine with no aches and pains in my hips or ankles and my feet weren’t hurting but every little thing bothered me. The rocks in my shoes, the wind, the person at the aid station that said the last 4 miles were the hardest uphill she’s ever done, what-have-you. It all bothered me. It got to the point where I would take 10-15 steps and stop. 10-15 steps and stop. One foot after another, up the hill I went. Marathoners were passing me. Ultra-marathoners were passing me headed out on their second lap. And here I was, struggling to make the last 5k up a hill that would not end.

But the hill did eventually end and I did eventually finish. There was a small group of 3-5 people waiting for me, ringing their cowbells, clapping and telling me I did good – I finished! One person took my tear-tab off my bib to record my time, another handed me my medal and another patted me on the back. I heaved my way to the step of the RV that was serving as race HQ and sat for a few minutes. I was done. I finished. I must admit that I don’t think I finished because of my determination. I finished because there was no SAG wagon to pick up my lazy butt when I wanted to quit at mile 8. I was tempted to ask one of them to give me a ride in their ATV back to my car – ‘cause of course the path to my car was uphill – but I refrained. With dignity I hauled myself up and slowly, ever so slowly, made it to my car. I drove to the rest area. I was done with walking for the day.

This race course is challenging. Finishing a course with a 4 mile uphill requires training. Or it requires sheer idiocy. I fall into the second category. There were no porta-pots on the course and I think that worked against me as I probably did not drink enough of my hydration (I was worried about having to answer the call of nature IN nature). There was decent course support with aid stations every 4.5 miles or so (for the full, just the one at mile 4.5 for the half marathoners) and the scenery was absolutely beautiful. I will tell you; this race taught me that I better pay more attention to the elevation map! It also taught me that my inner battle still rages and it is amazing the control it has over me. I colored Wyoming in on my map – black – because it tried to kill me. State #10 down, only 40 to go!

24 May 2012


In 2000, I moved my kids and me from our home in Woodbridge, Virginia to my home town of Grand Junction, CO. I quit a good paying job at the American Red Cross Tissue Services in Washington, DC to move to a small town to go to school. I wanted more for my life; more for my kids and home just seemed like the place to be. It was a hard move for the kids – everything they knew at that point was in Virginia – friends, school, and normality – and I ripped them from it, knowing they would find new friends, a new school and a new normal. Ali and Josh, on the other hand, were not quite so sure. My daughter insisted that I was ruining her life and my son was convinced that nothing would be home like Virginia. The transition, to say the least, was rocky.

In September of 2000, I decided it was time we had a dog. I told myself that it was for The Boy (as I affectionately call Josh) because there’s just something about a Boy and his Dog that makes everything right but little did I know the dog that would choose us came because we all needed her. We all needed the unconditional, forgiving love that only a dog could give. So while the kids were in school one September afternoon, I went to Roice-Hurst Humane Society to find this dog. Originally I wanted to see if I could find a poodle. I had the best poodle ever while growing up (Louis, or Louie) and I was convinced that if I, a self-proclaimed non-dog person, were to get a dog, only a poodle would do. They had no poodles at the Humane Society. They had medium-sized dogs, and huge-ass dogs and little yippy dogs (I affectionately call “fake dogs”) but no poodles. I was just about to turn around to leave when, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a medium-sized dog sitting quietly in her kennel. I could tell she was observant and intelligent but she wasn’t in-your-face giddy to be introduced to anyone. She stayed in the kennel, watching, taking it all in, but not getting her hopes up. I asked a volunteer if they could tell me anything about her and I learned that she was a Border Collie mix, had been physically abused and then abandoned and her name was Brownie. I asked if I could walk her and was given a leash and a direction to walk. So we went on a walk, this shy dog and I, and from that point on she became a part of my life.

I took Brownie home and introduced her to the kids when they got off of school. I told them that Brownie was a member of our family but had been through so much in her short 2 years of life that it might take some time for her to get used to us, to recognize us as her pack and to know that we wouldn’t abuse her or leave her. I told them that technically Brownie was Josh’s dog but we all had a responsibility to her – to love her, play with her and want her. They would take her to the park and fight over who got to hold her leash. They would fight over who got to feed her, who got to put water in her dish and who got to name her (I decided we would keep the name given to her at the shelter). The one thing they never fought about, though, was playing with her, loving her and being happy to see her. It took some time but eventually Brownie began to trust us. One day we heard her barking when we were leaving the house – she hadn’t barked at all up to that point – I thought her barker was broken. And then one day, about 2 years later, she wagged her tail at us. And from that point on, her tail was always wagging.

Brownie never really got over her past. She bolted through doors like we were going to slam the door on her. She would hide when voices were raised in argument (when the kids were younger, she was hiding a lot as they fought. A lot.). She was never easy around men and she never learned how to play fetch or catch or any of the other games Border Collies loved to do. But she would herd my children when they were at the park, keeping them in a well-defined, Brownie determined safe area and she loved to spend any and all time with us. If we were in one part of the house, Brownie was too. If we moved to another part of the house, Brownie did too. Eventually she grew to accept my Dad as an extension of her pack and she was always excited to “go to Grandpa and Grandma’s” to see them and their dogs. Every time we came home, she greeted us enthusiastically. She listened to my ramblings. She listened to the kids. And she never judged, never withheld any of her love for us. She loved the feline members of our family and took great pleasure in the game, “Get the Cat!” but she never snapped at them, never growled, never responded to their butt in her face with anything stronger than a look to me that said, “Mom – could you please get this cat butt out of my face?” Brownie was a perfect fit for our family.

This past weekend I had to put Brownie down. Age had run its course with her and tumors were invading her body. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do and I was an emotional wreck for the rest of the weekend. In fact, I’m still a wreck but each day is getting a little easier. The void she left is amazingly large.

Things I Learned From Brownie

1. Trust is hard but rewarding.
2. Wag your tail when you’re happy – you get petted.
3. Simple things are best – a warm bed, a treat, a walk.
4. Never forget who your pack is.
5. Second chances are imperative. Everyone deserves a second chance.

And I am sure there are more that I will add to this list. I just can’t right now. I loved that stupid dog.

When it comes time to get your life-long friend, please check out your local humane society.  Everyone deserves a second chance.  Roice-Hurst Humane Society in Grand Junction can be found at 362 28 Road, Grand Junction, CO.  They are a no-kill facility and would appreciate your time, money and adoption!

15 May 2012

Grand Valley Half Marathon - May 12, 2012

I absolutely adore Saturday races. Maybe it’s because races feel like they should be on a Saturday or maybe it’s because I still have some weekend left to celebrate the race and recover. Whatever the reason, I feel like I am more relaxed and have more fun with them.

I have done this race once before and enjoyed it. Mammoth Marathons does a good job putting on an event. There is always plenty of race support, plenty of food (even for me, the back-of-the-packer), a nice medal and shirt and a decent entry fee. With my Half Marathon Club discount and an early entry, my race cost me $35.00. Having spent $125 on a Rock-n-Roll race, $35.00 was a steal. Small races are nice, too. You never have to worry about parking, getting stepped on, spending hours looking for your corral or hoping there is still hydration left at an aid station. You can arrive 15 minutes before the race, park, stretch, get a cup of coffee or water and wander to the start line with plenty of time to spare. The Grand Valley Marathon was no exception. This event included 5K, 10K, Half Marathon and Marathon distances with staggered starts for the individual events – enough time for the crowd of the previous event to be out of the way of the next event – a concept that is physically impossible for an event with 20,000+ participants.

My friend, Tami, signed up to do the 10k event and I was signed up for the Half. Because it was a small race and because it had a 6 hour time limit, I began to develop a plan to have Tami do her first half. When we picked up our packets Friday evening, I changed her registration to the Half. I figured I could just ask her to walk with me a “little bit more” until it was too late for her to turn around. I was so excited about my evil plot that I had a hard time keeping the secret.
We got to the start area at about 0615 on Saturday morning. The full was to start at 0630, the half at 0700 and the 10k at 0730 (5k at 0745). Knowing that I was going to “encourage” Tami to do her first half, I suggested we start early to “beat the heat”. Even though her event was to start 30 minutes after mine, we decided she would start with me and walk with me to the 10k turn-around (all events shared the same course). So after the marathoners headed out on the course, we set our trackers and began our race.

This out and back course begins in the heart of Palisade and heads out of town, following the Colorado river for a bit before turning onto Highway 6’s Scenic By-Way through the heart of the Grand Valley’s Fruit Orchards and Vineyards. It is not an easy course. It ascends and descends gradually throughout the course and at Mile 4 you get a rude awakening – “Throw Up Hill”. At mile 4 you find yourself staring up at the hill wondering why in the world you even bothered to get up that morning. The hill at mile 4 ascends 195 feet and it is not gradual. Tami and I drove the course the night prior because I wanted to see if the hill was as bad as I remembered it being. It was. And Tami even said to me, “There is no way I’m doing that hill with you tomorrow.” It was like she read my mind. But I just said to myself, “Hmm. We’ll see.” In any case, I digress.

We started off at a gentle pace heading out of town. I knew I was going to be asking a great deal of Tami so I didn’t want to have her feeling exhausted before she even hit the 10k turn around. So we worked on a 19 minute mile pace and chatted while enjoying the scenery. Before we knew it, the 10k turn around was upon us. I then asked her to keep walking with me, just a little bit, she could turn around any time she wanted. She said she wasn’t doing that hill. I said ok, let’s wait and see. She said there was no sense in doing the hill if she wasn’t going to get the medal for it. I then told her that she was, in fact, registered for the half and she might as well do it ‘cause we had 6 hours any way. Before we knew it, we were at the base of the hill. The hill is a killer. I kept rambling on, trying to get her mind off of it, and she was not happy with me as we climbed up. We reached the top and I turned around and looked down. The view was amazing.
We walked to the aid station, filled up our water bottles, used the port-a-john, got a banana and continued on our way. It was at the aid station we learned that the local high school cross country track team calls the hill “Throw Up Hill”. Now we came into the really pretty part of the course. US Highway 6 goes through local vineyards and fruit orchards and the view is amazing. We hit this part of the course probably about 0900 – and the sun was just playing with the lush green fields, sparkling off the dew on the leaves, highlighting the sandstone in the mountains and generally just making you feel glad to be alive.
We kept an average 19 minute mile pace, slowing down a little bit going up the hill and then the long gradual incline back over the hill and back into town. By mile 9 I had hit my wall and I was really ready to be done. My hips hurt, my feet hurt, my knee began to hurt and it was starting to get hot. Tami mentioned that she hit her wall a couple of times – at the 10k mark and then again at the 9 mile marker. By the time we hit the gradual climb that seemed to go on and on and on leading up to the hill, it was warm and the sun was no longer playing on the vineyards or teasing us through the mountains. Now it was an evil fiend, sucking the life out of me. But this course had no SAG wagon. The person I usually call when I get to that point in a race was suffering right along with me and there was so little traffic, I doubt we could’ve hitched our way back in to town. So we kept plodding along - one upping one another in aches and pains and talking about food. For some reason I was really hungry during this event. Maybe because I had more time to think about food or maybe because I actually ate breakfast (a first for me). Whatever the case, I was fixated on food. And it got me through.

Finally we come up on the “1 More Mile” marker and I get excited. We’re going to finish and we’re going to eat! I picked up our pace a little and before we knew it, we were crossing the finish line, getting our medals and searching for some place to sit in the shade and just revel in Tami’s accomplishment. Tami crossed that finish line and completed her first half marathon. She told me then that there was no way she was going to do the Slacker Half Marathon in Georgetown, CO with me – she was done. But that was Saturday. Today we made plans for the Slacker Half and she even mentioned it without me asking…

Mammoth Marathons does a good job. With the exception of being handed the medal still in the little baggie and no photographer on the course (well, there was one, but he stuck with the fast people), I have no suggestions for improvement on this course. If it continues to grow, they might actually have to block off the road for a while (the hill had no shoulder on which to walk which meant we were in the road and there were quite a few blind spots going around corners) and that would mean a more strict time limit but for now it is a small-town race with small-town charm. And it was Tami’s very first half marathon.

Is it a coincidence that Tami’s time for her first half was the same as my time for my first half? We walked across the finish line 4 hours and 25 minutes after we started.

26 March 2012

The Cupcake Run - March 24, 2012

Or - Who Really Needs Skin on Their Feet?

The date is November 27, 2011. I’m in Seattle, Washington to participate in the Seattle Half Marathon. Everything so far has gone excellently – I got in on Friday, picked up my packet on Saturday and even explored the town taking in a city lights tour, exploring the aquarium, eating good food. Sunday morning arrives and I wake up, get my race gear on and K-Tape up. I’m done quickly so I lay back down, “just for a minute” . . . and wake up 3 hours later. I missed the race.

You know when you do something stupid or regretful and you get that feeling in the pit of your stomach? Feels like it makes your blood turn hot and you slap yourself on the head with your invisible hand every time you think of it? That was Seattle for me. Every time I thought of Seattle I did a mental headslap and knew it wouldn’t go away until I could “color it in on my map”.

Fast forward to March, 2012. I’m scanning the chatter on the Half Fanatic Facebook page and a picture catches my eye – it’s of a medal, in the shape of a star, with a cupcake in it. It was going to be the finisher prize for the Cupcake Run in Arlington, Washington and I immediately wanted it. The race was also a fundraiser for a friend of a Half Fanatic who had some extreme medical costs and I was sold – a cupcake at the end of the race, a cupcake medal, a fundraiser for a good cause AND I’d finally be able to color Washington in? Score! I got out my little debit card and before you could say “Bob’s my uncle”, I was registered, had a flight booked, and my hotel and rental car reserved.

I flew in to Seattle early Friday morning. I had to pick up the rental car and drive about an hour to get to Arlington so I was glad I was getting in early. But of course, I didn’t consider the time it would take to get said rental car – I think it was newbie day at the rental counter – everything was so painfully slow. Friendly, but slow. 12:30 pm and I am finally dragging my suitcase to the Kia Soul I had rented. I got in at 9:45 am. I wasn’t exaggerating about the pace - it was slower than me in a half marathon. But I still have most of the day so I decide that I am going to make the most of it. There’s no packet pick up today so I can explore. And I brought my passport. It’s been neglected lately and had been crying at me to take it out and use it so I plugged in “Surrey, British Columbia” into the GPS and pointed the Kia out of the parking garage and on to my adventure.

Once the GPS was clear of the parking garage, it synched up its satellite and began to spout out driving directions – in Portuguese. Traffic was heavier than I am used to and the GPS yelling at me in a foreign language did nothing for my state of mind. Because I was unfamiliar with the land (the three times previous I had been in Seattle, I walked everywhere) and the traffic was heavy, I just headed north and hoped for a place to pull over so I could either disembowel my Portuguese navigator or switch him to a language I could understand. Fortunately for my bank account, I did not have to rip his electronics out and we found a language that was mutually beneficial and off I went to Canada – happily listening to my audiobook (“Bloodsucking Fiends”) and growing excited to get out of the country – even if it was just to Canada.

The area is absolutely beautiful and I thoroughly enjoyed driving along and looking at the sites. Traffic threw me, though, as it never really seemed to let up. The border crossing was long and quite disappointing – no stamp in my passport. But I did enjoy the second look I got from both sides when I told them the reason for my trip was to participate in a half marathon. The Canadian guard couldn’t believe I was going in to Canada just for a few hours and the American guard was quite snotty in his response. Rating guards, however, I would have to say the American was more of a pain in the ass than the Canadian guard. I had to roll down all the windows of the car and answer in depth questions to the American guard. The Canadian just wanted to know why I was going to Canada if my race was in Washington. He was amused, tho, when I told him my passport was yelling at me to be used. The American, not so much.

The US-Canada Border: Heading back into the US

After my foray into Canada, I began the drive back to Arlington to get ready for the race. At the hotel, I got all my race stuff together, prepared my bottles of Cytomax and hit the rack. I was determined that I was not going to sleep through this one so I set 2 alarms, prepared the GPS for the start of the race and crawled into bed.

I love Saturday races. They never seem as rushed as a Sunday race and knowing that I have time to recover is comforting. This race was advertised as a “fat” race. A fat race is one in which there is very little course support, not one that is advertised to my fluffy people. Hence the reason to bring my own Cytomax and snacks. This race actually had more support than what I expected – there was water on the course along with a finish line supplied with cupcakes, and other assorted munchies. It was a small race, no more than 100 and most of the runners were within driving distance of the start. I like small races – you get time to talk to fellow runners and it seems much less chaotic than a Rock-n-Roll style race with 25,000+ runners. And it’s so much less serious – walkers are just as welcome as runners and everyone is there to have fun. I’m not disparaging on the larger events because I have just as much fun there, but the smaller races are more laid-back and not nearly as nerve-wracking as the larger events. In any case, I digress.

The race started at 8:01 am and I found my place at the back of the pack. I turned on my tracker and set my iPod and went on my way. I decided before the start of the race that I would enjoy the course and not focus on time. I wanted to work on my form and I wanted to work on maintaining an even pace from start to finish. Most of my races I start out strong, peter out around miles 8 to 10 and then pick up steam for the last 5k. This time I wanted to work on keeping one pace for the entire 13.1 miles – sounded like a pretty good plan and I was ready to give it a go.

The course was a trail and had a gradual incline for the first 7 miles – sort of reminded me of the course in Ireland, without the severe incline and wind of the Mooathon. At about mile 2 or so (no mile markers so I’m not real sure – but my calf stopped hurting so I figured it had to be after mile 2), I stopped to take a picture of the lane and it was at this time that I met my walking buddy for the rest of the course – Jeanne. Jeanne and I started a short dialogue and she was thrilled when she passed me – cause it meant she was not last! In any case, we got to talking and we walked the whole course together. I think I encouraged her for the first 8 miles or so and then she encouraged me the rest of the way as I began to have a severe malfunction with my feet. More on the feet later. Jeanne has challenged herself to walk 10 miles every day in March and that just total blew me away – what an incredible goal! I forgot how many miles she had already logged but it was impressive. We talked about our kids, the races we’ve done and our goals. Jeanne has also done a couple full marathons and so I listened to how she prepared for them and thought maybe, one day, I would be able to do a full marathon as well. Maybe. One day. When I have lost the last few bits of my sanity.

Jeanne passing me.

We were beginning to wonder where the turn-around was when we encountered a runner on her way back in. She told us that the course wasn’t quite measured right and to pay attention to our GPS if we had them. We walk on and after a few minutes I look at my phone and we had reached 6.7 miles. Not wanting to walk further than we had to, we turned around and headed back in. It’s at this point my feet start to bother me.

I have always had trouble with my feet. Whether it’s blisters, cramping or pounding of the toes against the shoe, my feet are never comfortable, never easy to deal with, never without pain. I’ve tried different shoes, different socks, different bandaids. I thought I finally got it down with the Rock-n-Roll New Orleans as I had no issue with my feet other than the toe pounding. But this time I had a new pair of shoes, that while I had worn previously on light workouts, were new to the whole continual walking thing. I kept having to loosen the laces and each time I loosened, my feet seemed ok for a few minutes and then would start hurting. And the hurting was different – instead of the blister feeling on the balls or toes of my feet, I felt pressure and burning on the tops. It began to consume me, this new pain, and I slowed and I am afraid I held Jeanne back. Finally the finish line came in to view and she and I crossed together. We were given our medals, got our cupcake and soon the pain was replaced with the endorphins that I have come to thoroughly enjoy. Jeanne and I exchanged emails and I look forward to seeing her on a course again some time.

After a few minutes of milling about and chatting, I head back to the car so I can get to the hotel, get un-stinky and check out. I had been given a late check-out and I was pushing it. I said good-bye to Jeanne and fellow Half Fanatics and hurried back to the hotel to shower, pack and head back in to Seattle.

As I was peeling clothing off for the shower, I discovered why my feet were hurting so much. The shoes had managed to rub the skin off the tops of my feet. My new beautiful, bright pink shoes rubbed my feet raw. A totally new phenomenon for me – who ever has heard of the shoes rubbing the skin raw? And seriously, who really needs skin on the top of their feet when you get a medal and cupcake?