Saturday, November 1, 2014

New England and Race 1 of 3.

A long time ago --like back in March/April, six whole months--someone asked me if I was up for back to back races, and I said "Sure".  Then I asked, 'Isn't that Columbus Day weekend? Can't we find a race to do on Monday, too?" Thus was born, "three races, three days".  

"What races", you ask? 

Hartford, CT 26.2
Newport, RI 13.1 
Boston, Mass Tufts 10K for Women 

Fast forward past the summer, and while I had more energy and did get more running in, I wasn't feeling I could do a full, half and a 10K. So I checked into getting the full downgraded to a half.  It had to happen at the expo, while you could defer to next year with an online application. 
[In 2012 I started to get fatigued when running and when living. I backed off a bit after my full in september of 2012 and in 2013 my doctor suggested I just stop running. Well, I tried that and it didn't work.  What did work was doing research, paying attention to my blood draws for the last couple years and realizing my salt and potassium levels were at the low to below normal area.  A racing friend suggested I increase my magnesium as well. I've since discovered it's one of the first minerals to be depleted when we're under stress and I'd been under a lot, first with dehydrating during a marathon, then mom's heart attack and stroke, and trying to be normal. I was having trouble holding positions in yoga that I'd mastered before. For me, increasing my salt, potassium and magnesium helped, and my running is starting to get back on track]

The other decision was to stay out for ten days, instead of just a weekend, to help a friend with her port surgery for chemo.  Prior plans had her hubby doing something else that weekend with one child, the other would have an overnight with a friend.  Friend found a large lump in her breast back in September. While things were progressing rapidly to see if it had spread, once it was determined the cancer had not, things slowed down a little bit. Which is how she came to port placement just about a month after finding the cancer.

Before leaving home, The Mike decided he needed food while I would be gone. I don't know why he couldn't survive off of the energy of the world, and the nurturing love of the cats, but he said he would need food. I've pretty much spoiled him with homecooked meals and all, so he didn't really want to eat fast food every day---I don't blame him for that!   I made up a couple chowders, including Paleo Cupboard's chicken chowder, and the one in the photo below, some mini lasagnas and a couple take-to-work containers of the "impossibly easy taco pie" recipe  
I used Beeler's pork sausage for the chowder. Obviously, no bread bowl.  If this was going to be served, instead of frozen, I'd make Chebe into bread bowls forming the dough over the outside of my small Longaberger mixing bowls and then baking upside down. 
The Felix cat wanted to come along with me. 

Dinner the night before I left: brined pork chops, asparagus and mashed potatoes.
I dissolved 1T salt with a cup of warm water, into a container large enough to hold the porkchops, added more water, covered, and refrigerated for several hours.  The mashed potatoes are Yukon Golds that were diced and tossed into boiling water, then mashed with a hand masher, and had butter, milk and sour cream added--topped with a small amount of cheese. The asparagus was put in a glass container, with water for cover, a pinch of salt and microwaved on the 'cook, vegetables, fresh' setting. 
Sadly, it's a sign of how long we've been married that while we were eating I realized "oh, carp, tomorrow's our anniversary.  Honey, I forgot to get you a card."  The Mike answered, "me, too".  Love you lots!  :-)
Seeing me off at the airport.
Why pay for parking when you dreamy one can take you to the flight?
Flying Delta, I was once again in Detroit airport for changing flights.  I was here just in June and had no recollection of seeing this service area, but it answered a question I had long had about those dogs who serve and fly. In case you're like me: here's your answer to the question you may never have known you were asking. 
Thursday night was an intriguing night. We had gotten take out for an easy dinner/easy night, but then the one kid in the house who shouldn't have done so, consumed his allergen. Off to the ER they go--freaking out-- and I'm at the house freaking out.  All was well and they were home by 3am. . .just in time for the other little ones to wake up at 7am. Yeah!  Thank goodness for caffeine!  

Multiple road trip stops and a beautiful road we came across (above), we finally got to Connecticut.  Since I was busy, apparently staring off into space, I missed the actual sign along the interstate. I made the driver do a U-turn at Rhode Island so I could get the CT picture.  Et, voila:    

The expo was actually much smaller than I had expected. We found parking in a ramp, and appeased the kids by "going way up" to the top level/sunshine.  The skywalk was open to the expo center.  I got my race changed from 26.2 to 13.1 quite easily, picked up the beautiful blue and soft/cozy race shirt, and then explored the shopping. 

Fun with the electric company booth.  They had a static electricity machine and were excited to see a red headed boy approach the booth. 
Fun fact: Red hair stands super fast compared to other color hair. They don't know why. 
We meandered around and found the race course map--always think it's fabulous when races have a large map on display. 

You'd have thought I'd have paid attention to the up and down graph at the bottom.
Nope. Completely didn't pay attention to this! 
Pretty much the motto for the weekend.  Fearless. #261.  Kathrine Switzer.
Female running hero.
After the expo, we got lunch at a deli.  I shouldn't have asked for the receipt. . . originally was charged $2.61 instead of $12.61 and he caught it when he gave me the receipt. Drat!  I'm always honest though, so I'd have said something.

We then needed to run off the energy of the little ones and found this 'awesome' park on google for Hartford.  We *finally* found it (it was touted as a huge playground with ADA items).  We even passed by a playground in order to search for this one. 

We found. . . this: 
As we sat in the parking lot in disbelief, we brought up google again and found that the playground was closed in July 2014.  It was completely stripped. Probably for safety, but it was disappointing.   Thus, we headed back to the park we had passed by before. It had this wicked monstrous oak tree.  
Can you spy the little humans? 
I decided to climb on the ground touching limb, but was afraid to climb too high the day before a race! 

The park had handicap accessible equipment, and we all loved the merry-go-round

Afterwards, we stopped at a shopping center with a Walgreens and Whole Foods, both needed. First to the drug store and then to WF, where I stocked up on their Tanka bar supply---realizing I didn't pack enough of these great protein stick snacks for ten days. 
That night, we split dinner among the group. I made Annie's mac and cheese, others had Sonic take-out.  Up and at 'em race morning --- a sad moment when I woke up and heard 'drip drip drip' outside the lodging.  It was even sadder when I realized my phone hadn't charged overnight (the outlet I chose didn't work apparently).  No morning pics, no race pics,no course pics and no stopping to take pics along the way, no MP3 player either. I decided I'd use my Motoactv watch for the music instead of a timing piece.   

Gear:  I was wearing an Athleta relay skort, my "cancer fighting" tank (purple for Pancreatic Cancer awareness), and my semi technical fabric shirt from the Detroit race last year. I figured it'd be fine to 'throwaway' this "in training" shirt.  I also had my visor on to help keep the rain off the face. (Shout out to Carla for that knowledge) 
Prerace, pre-'hair contained' photo. 
What did I do instead?  I enjoyed the race! Well, enjoyed it once I got running.   Parking was where we had parked the day before, and the XL center/Veteran's center was open on the outside area so people could use the restrooms (so nice!).  It was a damp morning, not really cold but just a light constant sprinkle (45 degrees).  After the pit stop, I followed everyone else to the Bushnell Park area, walked beside the "Gate"/Arch, and then saw all the tents for the finish area---but where was the start area?  A need to look at the area and try to figure it out was necessary. While there were plenty of runners around we were everywhere, so it was hard to tell where the start area was, which meant more walking trying to find a start line, or starting area.  Walking around I found the finish line area and saw a huge tanker vehicle displaying signage of "drinking water" which piqued my curiosity. I hadn't seen something like that since the 1993 midwest flood, when I was in the hospital in Des Moines and the Nat'l Guard vehicles were outside ensuring water for patients like myself.  a little further up the road, on a sidewalk, was a NYPD van set up on leveling equipment. This was also near the finish line area, and piqued my curiosity---something that was answered when I finished the race.  Up the road a little further and 'ah, there are the pacers'.  They were sheltering under the Bushnell Memorial Theater overhang, so I figured to stay near them and I'd be in the starting area shortly. I had been talking with a handful of women in the dry area, including one who was running for her friend, who has MS, another who was running a half in each state, and another who was running her first half marathon.  After about half an hour of chatting with people, we moved to the line and I edged up to the 2:30 area. I was aiming for this, and it'd be my fastest half since 2012.
Getting up to the start of my first East coast race is invigorating, so much energy and enthusiasm, even for a wet race start. Thanks to one of the ladies I'd talked to, I was now worried about slipping on the wet pavement, but I had no butterflies to worry about.  A police officer, with a baritone voice, sang the Anthem. I found a flag high above the nearby capitol building. At first, it was hanging straight down, wet with rain and no wind. As the officer sang the song, the flag seemed to lift up and was soon flapping in the wind, almost straight out. It was so magical and I took it as a good omen.  

Soon the race started with the elites, and then the rest of us. One thing I had never thought to worry about was all the garbage sacks on the ground/race course. You know, the ones runners had been using to stay warm and apparently they had no concerns about others in the race slipping on them.  After high stepping for the first two blocks to get past the trash on the course, I was settling into the run. I knew we were all going out too fast--couldn't verify that since I wasn't using my watch for speed/time--- and I tried to pace myself back from all the speedsters. I had 13.1 miles to enjoy.  We turned a corner and went up a longer hill and then down a bit and somewhere in here, in the first mile or so, we split from the marathoners. I was surprised it was so early on in the race. Then I just concentrated on the run, the weather, the pavement and my stride. After a couple miles, my lungs and legs had warmed up and I was opening up my run and feeling much better about the day. I was walking some of the tops of hills along the beginning of the course, and a few throughout the rest of the race.  I had thought I'd shed the Detroit shirt, but it was doing a fabulous job of keeping my skin warm, and not chilled; plus, it was fun to hear spectators yell "go Detroit".  Even with driving the city before, I didn't really pay attention to the landscape. There was plenty of constant "rollers", the up/down movement. At first I didn't like it, but there came a section of the race where it was better to be constantly engaging the whole body with that movement, rather than the flat areas.   As with any race, I am continuously surprised by the runners who just stop running where they're at and start walking. "Walkers to the edge" please, especially the ones who 'fly' past and then just stop right in front of me.  I don't understand how they do that.   Soon we were running some of the area we had driven around the previous day and it was fun to take a slower paced view at some of the green parks, big trees, gorgeous homes. We ran past a small old/colonial home with a graveyard in the front yard. I stopped to run over and see what that was about. It was a Quaker meeting house, era 17th/18th century.  We ran past the Harriet Beecher Stowe house and  the Mark Twain house about mile 12, up a long hill. 

As I got to the last four miles or so of the course, I was thinking more about the spectators, the sheer number of them on the course, all over the course, and the number of people in Hartford Marathon jackets.  So many had the cowbells.  My understanding is the race people gave the cowbells to the citizens along the course to get them out there cheering and excited for the racers who would disrupt their weekend mornings.  I saw several people with a couple in their hands and about mile 11 I asked someone for one of hers. She tossed it to me. It's beat up and well used for the race, and a great souvenir for a runner.  I was feeling good, and thought I'd be close to 2:35 for my finish time. Once we runners got to the top of that hill it seemed like it was a downhill, around a corner, through an area we'd already run at the start, then up the hill, through the Bushnell Sailors and Soldiers Memorial Gate, and up slightly to the finish line!  Woo!  I was a few minutes slower than I thought I'd be, but it was okay. It was slightly slower than my last half in September, but I felt so fabulous about THIS course. It was rolly, not flat, it was raining, but great cool weather for running. I was Happy with my run!   

That drinking water vehicle? It was connected to a long PVC pipe lined with water faucet "bubbler"  heads for runners post race as we came through the finish line.  The NYPD vehicle on the corner sidewalk? The top popped up to be an eye in the sky.   Runners went to the end of the block, still within the finish chute area, and then we turned to the left, and got finisher water bottles prefilled, and our medals. We were ushered into Bushnell Park and I was reunited with my friend. We had some fun with a couple of tents, but bypassed the food tent for the really long line and figuring there was no gluten free food in there. 
(A few days later I found that if I had just had the time to read the magazine book before the race, I'd have known there was GF food in the tent, though I don't know what kind, maybe just fruit?)

Post race
Thankfully I was able to get out of the wet clothes pretty quickly.  I fixed up my Tera's Whey protein powder for a quick fix, and then we headed out, first turning up the heat to the highest temp and the mid-high vent speed, plus turning on seat warmers (who was the genius who thought of those?), and we were road tripping over to Rhode Island. 

The pretty medal, 13.1 style. 
We were heading down the road and stopped at Dunkin' Donuts to get a hot chocolate for me.  Then I set to work using the Find Me Gluten Free app and found a pizza place coming up in Colchester,CT:  The Plum Tomato.  We walked into a cozy place with exposed wood, were seated by a friendly waitress and-first things first-we ordered hot tea to warm up our hands and our insides, as by this time my teeth were chattering, and an order of the gluten free breadsticks. 
Oh, wait, I need to take a picture of these! 
I got a red sauce GF pizza with pepperoni, riccota cheese, spinach and black olives. 
The tablemate's gluten free sandwich
Our bodies fueled and again warm, we got on the road and headed east. I found that there are no straight roads anywhere in the east. They zig this way, then zag that way, have a four or five way intersection with roads not quite meeting at the intersection. No shoulders on most roads, though those that are more 'main drags' have a shoulder of a foot or so. It reminded me of when people said, 'You're going to do races in multiple states' and I replied, "They're east coast states. You know, three of them would fit inside the outline of my state. It's not like the places are going to be five, six hours apart.'   While the places might only have been ninety minutes apart, the drive on meandering roads seemed to take much longer than that. 
Into Rhode Island
Race 2, Post 2 to follow. 

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