Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Invest in our future

As a kid my parents tried to get my brother and I involved in as many physical activities as possible.  I'm sure it was to keep us out of trouble but also to help us learn teamwork, dedication and determination.  We tried every sport from swimming to soccer and always kept busy from season to season.  While I was part of both a swim and track team back in Mexico, it never occurred to me to combine them and branch into triathlons.  I don't know if maybe I had just never heard of them or it was never suggested to me but I really wish that I had given it a try.  

I was fortunate enough this past weekend to not only attend a kid's triathlon, but also be a part of the event by volunteering in the transition area.  This was really one of the best spots because we got to see the kids as they charged in from the water and then dodge off for their run after coming in from their bike ride.  The first group (ages 11-15) were lead by a young gentleman who was leagues ahead of his comrades.  He had the intensity of a seasoned triathlete and only broke his stride to unrack his bike.  We soon saw the masses of kids coming in from the water, some looking a little more bewildered then others.  They all made their way to their respective transition areas and geared up for the bike ride.  It didn't take long before the leader was back from his cycle portion and onto the foot race.  These kids were SERIOUSLY impressive.  I had to keep reminding myself that some of them in this group were as young as 11!!!

For the little ones (ages 6-10) they had to bring the buoys in as the swim course was shorter as well as the other 2 legs of the course.  As soon as that first swimmer came galloping in we all cheered as we were ecstatic to see a girl leading the pack!  This was truly a proud girl power moment and I got a little misty eyed.  Some of the really young ones needed an extra boost as they made their way into transition so we made sure to encourage them as much as possible to keep them motivated.  I had a lot of favorites in this crowd and wished I could carry them all home with me haha.  One particular little boy stopped just in front of Sam and I then tears started streaming down his face.  He didn't say anything, just stood there, silently crying.  We offered him some water and Sam helped him find his way to his bike.  A little girl came bustling in and headed straight for her custom pink bike equipped with a pony along the handlebars.  She was my absolute favorite!  Once all the kids had made it back from the bike course, we headed to the finish line to watch them earn their medals.

As we approached the finishers area I started to feel overcome with emotion.  All that excitement, joy and pride I felt after my first triathlon came rushing back and my heart sang as I watched one after another cross that finish line.  I had to fight back tears quite a few times as the rush of feelings overwhelmed me.  These kids gave it their all.  They left NOTHING out on that course but their fears and doubts.  I was so blown away by just how hard they worked and refused to let anything stop them or get in their way.  Perhaps the most beautiful part was watching a group of girls all wait by the finish line for their friends to arrive and immediately embracing them in a giant group hug.  It was so heartwarming to see this.  I was inspired and empowered to know that these girls would grow into strong women who would constantly support and build each other up.  I felt like I was staring into our future, and it looked bright. 

Finishers welcoming team
Once the finishers made it past their welcoming committee of friends their parents were next in line to congratulate them.  This is really where the waterworks kicked in.  One girl ran to her family as her mom collapsed onto her knees in tears of joy, so proud to see her daughter finish. They both stayed there for a few minutes, embraced in a hug that really only a mother and daughter could understand.  Not saying a word but knowing exactly what each was thinking, tears pouring down all the while.  Just typing this I feel myself getting a bit choked up. 

Beyond the camaraderie and athleticism of the event there was something else that really struck me watching these kids.  Almost all of the kids present where local to the neighborhood, and for the most part were all minorities.  As an adult triathlete I'm no stranger to the fact that statistically, minorities are not very prevalent in this sport.  At one of my first events during training last year I met a wonderful couple (Denise & Claire) whom I still keep in touch with now.  I remember how Denise came up to Jenny and I to tell us how excited she was to see other Latinas getting involved in triathlons because it's rare, especially at our age.  It's true, there aren't many Latinas or other minorities at these races.  Knowing that events like this kids race could potentially shift the dynamic of the sport for the future is so thrilling and gives me such hope about where triathlons are heading

This has BY FAR been one of the best experiences I've had as a race volunteer.  I left feeling hopeful, excited, motivated and most of all inspired.  If you could capture the essence of those kids heart and soul that day, it would be enough to fuel the entire universe.  Now my mission is to find a kid I can train to be my little protege...

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Not just a finish line, a new beginning

Final straight away, I was loving life 2013 RNR
If you've followed my blog since I started you probably already know how big of a deal the Rock N Roll Half Marathon was to me last year.  My very first post I described how I used to feel about running and how I didn't even think I could finish a half marathon.  My follow up to that was this story about how I stumbled upon a free race registration for the half marathon. 

Finishing that half marathon was really a game changer for me.  Previous to that race I had only run 5 miles.  Yes, you read that right, 5 miles (of which I actually only ran about 3 miles and walked the other 2).  Maybe I was crazy or maybe somehow deep down I knew I could do it, but whatever the case may be, I showed up that morning and finished all 13.1 of those miles.  It wasn't graceful and I struggled quite a bit but I made it.  I crossed that finish line, gathered my spoils and celebrated quietly with myself as I realized I had no one there that day to share this moment with.  I was so afraid of not finishing and being embarrassed that I didn't tell anyone what I was doing.  Knowing that I did it all by myself pushed me far beyond my comfort zone and was truly a brand new start for me.  That day, I realized that I could conquer anything.
A random stranger I cheered on last year

As you can imagine, I've been looking forward to my rematch with the Rock N Roll ever since then.  In the days leading up to the race I shared as much wisdom as I could with my friends who would be taking this on as their first half marathon.  I bubbled with excitement as my friends now shared the same passion and zeal for running that I have.  I've turned them into race junkies.  The day before the race I met up with Abby and Ashley at the expo to get our bibs then headed back to their place for a pre-race dinner.  We feasted and relaxed while watching a League of Their Own then went to bed early to get enough rest before the race.  The next morning we all checked and rechecked our gear on the way downtown.  As we approached the starting corrals I got message after message from various friends all trying to find each other to offer good luck wishes. 
Almost to the starting line

Sam found us as we were taking some pictures and downing our chia seed gels.  She made a last minute decision to do the half marathon instead of the 5k.  I assured her that I would stay with her every step of the way, no one gets left behind.  There was some nervous energy as we all made our way gradually to the starting line and once that countdown hit 0 Abby and Ashley were off.  As much as I would have liked to be with them for their first half, I knew Sam and I just couldn't keep that pace up for the whole race.  We glided through the first few miles with no problem.  Somewhere along the tunnels though my GPS got a bit wonky and started giving us some erroneous mileage reports.  We thought we had run our fastest 5k ever until we reached the 5k sign some ways later and realized it was a trick Nike+ was playing on us.  I wasn't able to get it calibrated back to our actual course so my results for the race, while really amazing, unfortunately aren't accurate. 
Photos courtesy of Zenaida

After about mile 7 or 8 I started to lose steam which is the norm for me.  I battle through those middle miles up to mile 10 and then get my second win to finish strong.  With Sam, I had no idea what her pace or energy levels would be like so I tried to keep it as even as possible and take walk breaks whenever necessary.  When we hit the turn from 31st onto Lake Shore going south I saw Zenaida who cheered me on and snapped a few pictures of me.  I needed that little boost as we were really starting to wane.  This was a tough spot for Sam, she thought from 31st we turned north to head back towards the finish line.  That loop down before coming back up to the 10 mile mark was a little rough.  It also doesn't help that before you get to that point you already hear the announcer saying "3 more miles" and then can still hear him a mile later when you approach 11.  It's like that 10th mile lasts forever.

Coming out of the McCormick Tunnel
Once we hit the sponge station I was feeling ecstatic.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE the sponges and mister.  They are exactly what I need at that very moment.  Being a past participant this particular aid station was the one I kept going on and on about.  I could tell that Sam was fighting with all she had to try and get through those final miles so I tried to stay as positive and encouraging as possible.  After coming through the last tunnel at McCormick I was ready to take off and quickly realized I needed to transfer some of that energy to Sam who just wasn't feeling it anymore.  She told me to go ahead but I didn't care about my time, what I cared about was getting her to that finish line.  If you've run this race, you know how brutal that last ramp onto Columbus is.  We walked up the ramp and despite my best efforts couldn't get us back into our stride.  The closer we got to the finishers chute the more I pushed Sam to give it all she had.  Finally I turned to her and said, "Look, I'll give you to that street light to walk.  Once we pass it I need you to dig down to whatever you have left and kick it hard until we cross that finish line.  You're not allowed to stop."  (before the race I had also threatened to carry her if need be to get her across that line)  She agreed and said she would soak up as much of the walk as she could before hitting the gas.  We crossed under that light and took off.  I'm pretty sure she hated me, but once we got through it and the enormity of her accomplishment set in that hatred subsided. 
Me, Abby and Ashley

Johnny (Abby's husband) was there to congratulate us and also look for Ashley.  We regrouped after getting through the finishers chute and Abby told me how the race went for her.  Finally we found Ashley on the other side of the crowd trying to rehydrate after losing so many fluids the last few miles.  She had gotten really sick and couldn't keep anything down after mile 10.  They headed back to the car and I stuck around to get some more pictures and look for other friends.  I wanted to soak up as much of that moment as possible.

Happy Finisher Face!
The look of pure accomplishment...Congrats Sam!!!!
Looking back on it now I realize how crazy it is that just one year after finishing my first half marathon I was checking half marathon #7 off my list.  I still have another 2 on the books for this summer and then my first full marathon in October.  It may not seem like much, but considering less than 2 years ago I could barely finish a mile this is a huge accomplishment for me.  I may not look like it, but I'm an endurance athlete.  I'm a runner.  I'm a beast and I wear those titles proudly. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Christmas in July!

Freddie and I, pre-race
I haven't really run any races outside of a major city other than obstacle course races.  It isn't that I have something against them, I just don't have a car so getting out to the suburbs for a race can be tricky.  The Christmas in July races were held in Lisle, which luckily has a Metra station and the race organizers set up a shuttle to take runners to and from the station.  Throughout the weekend they have several different race options, a 5k, 10k, and then either a 6, 12 or 24 hour ultra.  Considering I knew I would be running a half marathon on Sunday, the Friday night 5k was my only viable option (the 10k was Saturday night).

Race Village Start/Finish
Friday was a bit hectic as I had to leave work a little early to make a stop at McCormick Place for the half marathon expo then shuttle over to Union Station to catch the train out to Lisle.  The expo took longer than I anticipated and I just barely made it to my train on time.  In the midst of all my errands I forgot to eat.  Big mistake.  Someone on the train was eating pizza and by the time Freddie picked me up that's all I wanted to eat.  We stopped at the race village to grab our packets for that night and still had time to kill so we ventured out in search of pizza.  Yeah, a giant slice of pepperoni pizza less than an hour before a race probably isn't the best idea but you couldn't tell my stomach that haha.

Kids Fun Run Winner...look at that stride!
We got back to the race starting line just in time to see the kids run get started.  I've never watched a kids fun run and now I wish I had because it was so entertaining to see kids of all ages giving it all they've got for that loop around the parking lot.  My favorite are the little ones who don't really understand what's going on and veer off course to go back to their parents.  They were so precious.  There were also a few who took a tumble and Santa stopped to pick them up and hold their hand as they crossed the finish line.  New goal is to find someone with a kid that I can adopt on weekends to take racing with me.

Awards...an army of nutcrackers
The closer we got to our starting time, Freddie and I realized that this would probably be the smallest race either of us had done.  I can't say for sure, but I would venture to say there were less than 100 people there.  Out of curiosity I checked the results and I came in 8th place for my age group.  That's never happened before, but now I feel even more motivated to come back next year and maybe even place top 3 (wishful thinking!).  The awards were pretty cool, they had nutcracker statues to go along with the Christmas theme.

Some scenery along the course
I paced with Freddie which was much quicker than my usual, but I wanted to push myself and also not get left behind.  Going through the woods along would've been a little scary.  I'm not used to running in a park like that and the bugs were ferocious.  I'm still itching mosquito bites as I type this.  There was one guy who kept sprinting to pass us and then stop to walk.  I'm not sure why but this bugged me WAY more than usual.  By the end of the second mile we were plotting our take over.  I had been pushing so much early on I wasn't sure I had what it would take to kick past him.  With about a half mile left Freddie turned back to me and all I had to do was wave to him to keep going and we both knew what had to be done.  He took off and left that guy in his dust.  I had to be a little more calculating in plotting my last sprint.

Me, Kim and Freddie (Chicago Runners)
Once we hit the last turn before the finish line it was on.  I gave it everything I had left and sprinted towards the finish line without looking back.  Once I got my medal I stopped to see that guy walking into the finishers area.  Guess my plan worked because he just didn't have anything left to pass me that last time.  It felt good and then when I checked my Nike+ app it felt even better to realize I hit a new 5k PR.  As we did some refueling, we ran into a fellow Chicago Runner, Kim who was gearing up for the 24 hour ultra.  This woman is an absolute beast!  Seriously.  She ran all 24 hours and came in second place overall for the women.  I can't even imagine what it takes emotionally, physically and mentally to push through that but she did and with grace.

Snowman watching over the race
This race was an absolute blast and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a run race with awesome swag.  The post race party featured a band similar to Trans Siberian Orchestra that put on a great show. 
The band putting on a good show

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Strike Out ALS 5k

Little known fact:  I love baseball. A lot.  In fact, I'm trying to visit all 30 major league ballparks before I turn 30.  ( I have 10 left!) So during the summer I try to plan any vacations around races AND baseball games so that I can keep checking them off my list.  Whenever there is a unique visit opportunity I of course have to take full advantage, so when I got an email about the Strike Out ALS 5k highlighting the course going through US Cellular field I added it to my list.  After reviewing my race budget I realized this one would have to wait until by a stroke of pure luck I got a free race entry and it was back on the list.

Midwest Vikings at the ROC Race

AH! Meeting Rashaad Santiago
I was pretty stoked out this race for a few reasons, but mostly because I was bummed that just a few days before I wasn't able to run another race at the same venue.  I had registered for the ROC 5k Race and with the rain delay I couldn't stick around on the hope that I would get to run eventually.  I had a prior commitment to volunteer at G-Fest (Godzilla Fest).  Through a fortuitous turn of events I got to meet a phenomenal makeup artist that I follow at the event so it confirmed that I made the right choice to leave the race with a DNS in the books.

Pre-race with Zenaida
Tuesday I headed straight to the ballpark after work so I could grab my packet and mill about for awhile.  Eventually I found a seat and kept an eye out for friends.  A little while later I met up with Jennifer and Eric.  They grabbed their packets and we discussed the course changes.  I had never run this race so I had no idea what I was in for.  They didn't seem too enthused about the updates, especially considering the race would no longer finish on the field.  I thought this race would be similar to the Soldier Field 10 Miler but sadly it didn't have nearly the same bravado.  We chatted under one of the tents to stay dry and about 15 minutes before the race start we made our way to bag check and then the starting line.

Post-race with Jennifer & Eric
Eric had a decent chance at reaching the podium so he wandered to the front of the pack as Jennifer and I hung out further back.  The race was a bit late getting started but once we got started I fell into a pretty good pace.  This course is entirely through the parking lots around the field which was a bit odd and made for some awkward turns.  It was tough getting into a good rhythm with virtually no straightaways.  After my first mile I realized there was no chance at hitting a PR that night so I pulled back and take it easy.  Approaching the stadium I saw Jennifer on her way out and gave her a quick smile and wave before heading through the tunnel and onto the field.

Knowing I was no longer on pace for a PR I wanted to truly enjoy the on-field experience so I stopped to walk the whole warning track and take pictures.  It was a pretty cool feeling seeing things from the players perspective.  After remembering I was still being timed I scooted out of there and kicked in the after burners to make it to the finish line.  I found Eric and Jennifer after grabbing my bag as they were waiting to see if Eric really did come in 3rd for his division.  After checking again to confirm, he wandered around to figure out where to get his prize.

Entering the field
We finally found someone who looked pretty official (he had a walkie talkie and a name badge).  He told us the awards ceremony wouldn't be for another hour.  I told Eric I didn't mind waiting around if he would buy me dinner and the old man thought it was pretty amusing, so much so that he felt inclined to tell Eric that I must be "high maintenance".  No sir, I'm a runner who's hungry, please don't mess with me.  He offered to buy me dinner instead under the conditions that it not be anything with an "F" (fish, fungi, etc..) he also prefers Stella to PBR amongst a list of pee-requisites for his taste buds.  None of us really wanted to hang around much longer so we all headed to the train to make our way home.

note:  I'm perfectly happy with a burger and beer...the "high maintenance" comment was not appreciated

All in all the race was fun but not one that I feel the need to repeat unless they change the course.  Also, there was NOTHING at the finish line.  Not even a dixie cup with water.  I still have 2 more races this week to finish out my July race schedule.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Hit & Run 5k

Ready to rock the course
Pre-race with the ladies
This race was sort of a mixed bag for me.  They had a really heavy online presence to pub this race so there was a lot of anticipation built up.  When their registration campaign opened they offered $20 registrations which most of my teammates and I snapped up right away.  Because, ya know, who can pass up a cheap race entry?  The videos showed a "Wipeout" style race with obstacles, water and tons of fun.  With all the hype we got a good number of registrants on our team and ended up winning largest team.  The perks for that were free sunglasses for all team members, gift cards that will be coming in the mail and a VIP race start.  What is a VIP race start you may ask?  Basically our whole team got our own wave time and a shout out from the DJ to send us on our way.  I have to admit, it felt pretty bad ass to all head to front of the starting line together as a team with our horn blowing and the flag waving in the wind.

Midwest Vikings, pre-race
The race was at Toyota Park in the parking lot so our course started off winding around the outside of the field and we hit our first obstacle, "Slippery Slopes".  Think of this as a foamy balance beam to cross with hanging barriers to throw you off balance.  Supposedly there would be dodge ball canons according to the website but we didn't see any. 

Next up was the "Wobble Walk".  Apparently we were supposed to walk on top of the posts to make our way across.  None of the volunteers made this clear and we all ended up just walking between them before climbing out of the pit.  On my way out of this obstacle I had a less than graceful slide down the tarp and ended up with some gnarly bouncy house burn as I like to call it.

The course winded through some gravel roads and around the parking lot for quite some time before reaching the next obstacle.  There weren't any mile markers so I'm not really sure where anything was according to distance on the course.  It was also a little tricky following the path when the whole parking lot had cones everywhere and we didn't have anyone in front of us to follow.  I saw a few people just skipping the course altogether and jumping from obstacle to obstacle.

Once we were back into the parking lot after the course detour through the gravel path we hit the next obstacle, "The Bouncy Bridge".  You climb up a ramp and at the top it has a sign saying "jump here" and truth be told I wasn't sure if I would actually make it from that spot to the first giant bouncy ball because it was so far.  It seemed like the ramp was a separate inflatable piece than the balls and I wonder if I would have stepped on the crack if I would have fallen through, thankfully I never found out.  I took in a deep breathe, took a flying leap and prayed for survival.  I'm not even sure what happened next.  I know I hit the bouncy ball and what seemed an alarming rate, flew back into the sky, did some sort of flip (that's what my teammates tell me, I have no recollection of said flip) and landed against the side of the bouncy house.  Once I regained my composure I swiftly made my exit from the bouncy balls or terror.

Getting "whacked" by the wall
By now our interest was starting to wane.  We did short sprints to race each other on our way to the next obstacle.  Finally we reached the "Whacking Wall".  I watched as those ahead of me got pummeled with dodge balls as they tried to make their way across the narrow path in front of a wall that randomly opens in various sections to knock you off.  I made it almost to the end before finally getting hit.  Afterwards I took part in tossing a couple balls at my teammates before heading onto the final obstacle.

spring through the freezing water
"Duck or Dive", that was the last obstacle that separated us from the finish line.  Think of this like a big kiddie pool with an array of wrecking balls above it circling to knock you down as you try to cross over a wobbly balance beam above the water.  I didn't make it very far before splashing into the cold water and making my exit.  Unfortunately this particular obstacle wasn't inflated at the bottom so one of my teammates busted open her knee after falling into the water.
Exiting the obstacle

The finish line was pretty anticlimactic.  No one there but our own spectators and some kiddie pools filled with water bottles.  Sort of a let down after a 5k with only 5 obstacles.  This race should have either been much shorter or included more obstacles.  Some kind of post-race party would have also been nice.  It wasn't the worst race ever, but they certainly have much room for improvement if they continue to put this race on.

My running buddies for the race
This weekend I'll be running the ROC (ridiculous obstacle course) Race.  Let's hope it's better than this one...
post-race (notice beer is missing)
As many Midwest Vikings we could find at the end

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Christmas in July! ((GIVEAWAY))

The Christmas in July Wellness Festival will take place in Lisle Community Park on July 18-19. Activities include Santa Claus Fun Runs, races of various distances and times, live music and a Wellness Expo.

    • Fun run (kids races) are FREE and all participants will receive an AWESOME medal, a t-shirt, a bib. 2 runs - Friday night and Saturday night 30 minutes before 5K/10K.
    • Evening races on both Friday and Saturday nights: 5K - Friday at 8:00, 10K - Saturday at 7:30 PM. Race swag - cotton/poly tech shirt, hat and medal!
    • Ultra timed events, All start on Friday night kicking off with 24 Hour from 10 PM - 10 PM Saturday; 12 Hour 11:00 PM - 11:00 AM, and 6 hour 12 AM - 6 AM
    • Ultras - no DNF - run as much or as little as you like! All participants get an award plus get cotton/poly wicking shirt AND hoodie!
    • Fully stocked aid station with meals served for ultras. Water, electrolyte drink, and snacks at the 5k/10k aid station.
    • Wellness festival

      I'm giving away one free entry to your choice of the 5K or 10K, or you can opt for $65 toward any one of the ultras. (See pricing on their web site.)

      Just leave a comment below with what your favorite race distance is if you're interested!  I'll pick a winner on Tuesday, July 8. ((Please note: Online registration closes on 7/13 so please register by then if claiming free entry))

      Want to register today?  10% OFF ANY RACE (UNLIMITED USES): RACENEVERENDS10
      For more information, visit christmasinjuly24hour.com, Like Runners4Wellness on Facebook or follow them on Twitter (@Runners4Wellness)

      Give Back

      Stuck in a rut?  Lately I've been losing that loving feeling for races and running in general.  Sometimes it just sucks the life out of me.  I've had a few rough patches with some of my longer distance runs and it's been tough to stay motivated.  It isn't always easy being a runner.  We have bad days.  There are times when we have to push past the tears and just get the job done because at the end of the day we know that we have to.  It isn't just a hobby or passing interest, it's a part of us.  Even though it causes us pain, costs us a ridiculous amount of money sometimes and training schedules often make it difficult to spend time with our loved ones, we still keep doing it.  It can be frustrating when you dedicate so much of yourself and are still met with defeat when you can't reach that elusive PR.  Running sucks.  Sometimes everything from the burning in your legs to the blisters on your feet scream out for you to just give up.  And yet, we persevere.  We conquer.  We refuse to admit defeat.  We push harder, stronger, faster, longer.  Whatever it takes to get out of the funk.  That's all a part of it.  You hate it and love it.  It drives you crazy but also brings you peace.  At its best and at its worse it can bring you to tears.  Yeah, I've thought about quitting, but I'm too stubborn to do that.

      So how do I push past all the crap and get back to my happy place?  I take a break and I give back.  Running has given me so much without asking for a single thing in return.  Sure, sometimes it may take some blood, sweat and tears but I don't mind a little sacrifice here and there.  I've made so many friends and learned so much about myself and others from my running community that I feel the need to give something back to it.  Whenever I need a boost I volunteer.  You'd be amazed at just how inspiring handing out cups of water or body marking triathletes can be.

      This past weekend I volunteered at Chicago's inaugural ITU Triathlon and it was exactly what I needed.  Lately I've been unfocused in my training and truly dreading this olympic triathlon I have coming up next month.  I've been feeling defeated and afraid that I won't make it through.  Maybe it was too soon to try out the longer distance.  Silly I know, but these are the things that run through my mind when I have a less than favorable swim, bike or run.

      I volunteered at the swim start to help with the staging area for swimmers and also do some body marking.  As each group of triathletes passed through a few would stop and chat with me for a bit to quell there nerves before jumping in the water.  One of these was a man from Canada who just finished a half ironman recently.  I applauded him and congratulated his behemoth of an accomplishment.  I'm always in awe of what people are able to do.  We exchanged race stories and he couldn't believe that in the short time I've been running I've already completed 6 half marathons.  It didn't seem like that big of a deal to me but I realized it kind of is.  I went from not being able to run a mile to finishing 6 half marathons in about a year and half.  He thought THAT was more impressive than his half ironman.  Funny how that works.  I'm sure he didn't realize it, but what he gave me was a pep talk.  He was that little voice that whispered, you can do this.  I've been missing that and here this stranger found it for me.  I wish there was a way to thank him, hopefully my positive energy and good vibes I'm sending towards him make their way to Canada :)

      Wednesday, July 2, 2014

      Dirty Girl Mud Run

      I'm a pretty big fan of mud runs.  I love the obstacles and getting dirty makes me feel like a kid again.  Unfortunately, the Dirty Girl Mud Run made me feel like I was running a kid's course.  I originally passed on this race because it just didn't look that particularly appealing to me but a friend of mine had a free entry so I couldn't pass up the chance to do it for free.  A whole group of us signed up to run as a team for Amber's 21st birthday.  In true mud run fashion, we made our own team shirts and coordinated all of our plans to run together that morning. 

      After getting through the check in process (and yes, it was a process...each step required a different table from handing in waivers, to bibs, to shirts, to safety pins...you get the idea).  Once inside the race village we wandered through the tents to make it to gear check.  After dropping off our bags we made our way to the starting line and were a few feet into the race when a guy emerged from the sidelines and told us we had to wait as another group of women passed with no objections.  Begrudgingly we traced back our steps and waited at the starting line.  Turns out that guy was the DJ/announcer but his lack of enthusiasm didn't do much to get us pumped up for the race.  Once a sizable group of women were lined up he got back on the mic and made some safety announcements before sending us on our way. 

      This race had a LOT of inflatable obstacles.  We breezed through them and sludged through a few mud pits before reaching an obstacle with a tremendously long line.  At first we thought that maybe it was something really difficult but as we got closer realized that the obstacle simply wasn't big enough to accommodate multiple runners.  We waited for about 30 mins to climb over something that looked like Snoopy's house and crawl through a little mud.  The parts I love most about mud runs, camaraderie and teamwork, were completely devoid in this race.  It felt like we were just going through the motions.  At the cargo net climb there were parts of the structure jutting out that didn't seem very safe and a few of us hit on our way down the backside.  Once we reached the bottom we were disappointed to see the photographer texting away on her phone so many of us didn't get any images from that particular obstacle. 

      The finish was just as anticlimactic as we expected it to be and all we wanted to do at that point was eat and get cleaned up.  We decided to hit the rinse station first before grabbing our stuff from gear check.  One of our teammates was on a tight timeline so we checked the time as we got in line for the hoses.  1pm.  As time ticked away groups of women in front of us left, refusing to wait in line any longer and preferring to just ride home dirty.  It wasn't until almost 2pm that we finally reached the hoses to rinse off.  By this time we're pretty tired, hot, hungry and cranky.  I really wanted to enjoy this race but it just didn't have ANY redeeming qualities.  We tried to make our own fun, but it made me miss the cuts and bruises I earned at previous OCRs.  This one definitely won't be making an appearance on the race schedule for next year. 

      Pride 5k

      Exploring the lily pond before the race
      Last summer I swore off night time races.  I had a few bad experiences and told myself I wouldn't do it again.  But then the Pride 5k came up and I reconsidered.  A friend of mine told me he'd been wanting to start running again and needed a race to train for.  We picked the Pride 5k and registered as a team.  As many of my friends can tell you, I'm always trying to recruit new race junkies.  I love having friends who run because that means I don't have to run a race alone.  Even if we have a different pace, it's nice to have someone there when you start and waiting for you when you finish. 

      Waterfall near the lily pond

      This was the inaugural race for the Pride 5k and they still have a few kinks to work out, but overall I had a good time.  Typically, a few days before packet pickup there's an email reminder with directions (time, place, etc).  I didn't get receive anything and ended up missing it completely.  Thankfully they also offered packet pickup at the race so I was still able to grab my swag which was pretty nice!  We received a drawstring bag, tshirt, and various other goodies including a pedometer in the bag. 

      Eric and I pre-race (sweet shirts right!?)
      The course was one that I don't run often, the lakefront path near Fullerton.  It was a nice change of scenery and I was able to visit some of the nature areas before the race to do some relaxing and reflecting.  This race was pretty small (around 300 runners I would guess) so there weren't any overcrowding issues or long wait at the starting line. 

      Eric and I started together towards the front and shortly after he broke away with the front of the pack and I hung back a little to keep an easy pace.  The air was dense with fog and I found myself slowing considerably to focus on my breathing.  For the first time in about a year I started to feel a bit of cramping in my side.  Things weren't looking good for me after the first mile but I just kept chugging along. 

      crazy dense fog along the lake, it was like breathing soup
      Per usual, as soon as I hit the turnaround I got my second wind.  I saw that many of the runners had stopped to walk so it was time to make my move.  Whenever I need some motivation I pick people out to race and keep track of how many I'm able to pass.  There were a few stubborn ones out there who noticed my agenda and kept trying to pass me once I was ahead of them.  There was one particular couple who trailed me in the last mile and kept sprinting ahead in an effort to beat me.  What they didn't know was that I was still holding onto my final reserves.  Once the finish line was in sight I really kicked in the afterburners and was untouchable.  As I charged ahead through that last tenth of a mile I heard a guy yell out to me "Yeah!!! Way to finish strong!", thank you sir :)  When all was said and done I had passed 15 runners in that last mile and half. 

      Eric was there waiting for me and we exchanged stories about our run as we searched for a table to claim.  We enjoyed a post-race beverage and watched the crowd as it transformed into a sort of rave-club-feel atmosphere.  This race wasn't timed and much more about the party and fun than speedy finishes.  Even so, according to my Nike+ app I clocked a new PR so I'm still reeling from that accomplishment.  If you're looking for a run, no pressure race this is a great one with some really fun swag.

      post-race celebratory beverages

      cool landscape we stumbled upon walking back to the car