Been a while. Let’s see if I remember how to do this!
Yesterday, I participated in my first race in almost two years. The race is part of a series called Beat the Blerch based on a comic by The Oatmeal, a/k/a Matthew Inman. Even if you don’t enjoy running, the comic is really funny and you should read it.
I wouldn’t have even known about the race if my friend K hadn’t asked our other race-loving friend R and me if we wanted to run it with her. It was selling out fast so I said yes, thinking that a race was as good a reason as any to spend time in Seattle with my friends, and that I could absolutely train for a flat-course 10K in four months.
While it was fantastic to spend the day before tooling around Seattle with K and R, I was not in racing form by the time Sunday rolled around. That ended up being fine because my racing partners were also dealing with their own health challenges, plus the race was very walker-friendly. Also, personal worsts are encouraged in a Beat the Blerch race because they ply runners with cake and Nutella along the way. So once we picked up our bibs and shirts, the three of us relaxed, chatted with other runners, and hammed it up in photos with a Blerch.
[caption id=“attachment_97187” align=“alignnone” width=“2889”] A Blerch and me.[/caption]
R and K tried Burritoughnuts (yes, tortilla-wrapped doughnuts).
[caption id=“attachment_97268” align=“alignnone” width=“960”] R actually ate hers![/caption]
Soon after this monstrosity was consumed, we had one last bio-break and then joined the other runners at the starting line, where a Blerch tossed tortillas and marshmallows at us, and then showered us with Doritos as we got on our way.
[caption id=“attachment_97185” align=“alignnone” width=“3264”] Lining up for the 10K.[/caption]
The mood was high as we made our way through the woods, peeping costumes and chatting and snapping the occasional pic. Mile 3 brought the hydration (and cake and couch) station! I knew the cake wouldn’t be gluten-free, but I hadn’t realized that all of the Nutella would be in sandwiches, so I didn’t get any mid-race Nutella break as planned. That was okay, though, because the day before I had loaded up on post-race treats from Flying Apron Café.
Despite my plan to take it easy, I got caught up in the excitement, and I told K and R I wanted to run for a bit. I ended up running about a mile in two separate segments. Although the running bursts felt good, I had trouble staying within my target heart rate, so I slowed down to a walk. There was also a long stretch of gravel that proved challenging; all of my other races have been on pavement, and I wasn’t keen on injuring myself so soon after recovering from the sneaky sciatica of last month.
[caption id=“attachment_97186” align=“alignnone” width=“2874”] Through the woods.[/caption]
Even though I was surrounded by people, I was lonely for my friends, so before the mile 6 marker, I stopped for some water and waited for them. The three of us ran the last wee bit to the finish, collected our medals, and got chocolate milk! (And then a proper meal in Redmond.)
All in all, the strengths of this race were the feeling of camaraderie with the other participants, the rampant silliness, the costumes, and the high-quality tech shirt with thumbholes that I’m going to love wearing while running in the cooler months. The challenge was the course: despite how scenic it was, that large-rock gravel was not fun for less experienced runners, and sharing a narrower course with both 10K and half-marathon runners meant that there were lots of “clumps” to navigate.
10K is a great distance for me, training-wise, and I’ve already signed up for another 10K race in about a month, my first in Portland proper. Going to the gym will be a lot more fun with this goal in mind. But I already miss my racing buddies!
[caption id=“attachment_97263” align=“alignnone” width=“1280”] Racing is better with friends.[/caption]
I was promised bagpipes. And there were bagpipes.
Everything else was icing.
Speaking of icing, when I set out for Holyrood Park this morning at my usual brisk warm-up walking pace, I slipped and fell. It wasn’t a bad fall, although a passer-by stopped long enough to tell me that I should be walking in the road (thanks, I think). While taking eensy baby steps the rest of the way to the starting line, I wondered if running a race was the best thing to be doing at -1°C (30.2°F). Although I was prepared mentally and had plenty of layers on, I worried a little about the state of the course.
When I arrived to my wave’s place in the starting line-up, the race organisers announced that there was nothing to fear. Plenty of grit had been placed on the course, three times over, and so I took my place and we were soon off!
Even though the first third of this particular course is all uphill, I was immediately glad to be running it. It was misty and cold but not wet. I got to see the swans in their pond one last time. I tried to peek down into Duddingston but it was so misty that I could barely make it out.
And the pipers! There were pipers at the 1k, 2k, 3k, and 4k markers. Some runners stopped to take selfies with the pipers. I asked the piper at the 3k marker if I could take his picture and he obliged. (I loved running in the slowest wave. Most of us were just trying to finish, not get any PRs, so lots of us stopped for pictures and chatted as we jogged.)
Shocking no one, I listened to the original Broadway cast recording of “Hamilton” as I ran. This was one of the best ideas I have ever had and it resulted in the following tweet:
The last bit of the course is all blessedly downhill so I got one last soar down Arthur’s Seat to the finish line. And then:
I hope I never fall out of love with this musical.
It was a slow 5k, even by my standards. I don’t even have accurate statistics because Runmeter quit at the start (due to a RAM issue that I now know how to fix) and I had inexplicably left my Garmin at home even though I remembered to bring my lip balm but it is pumpkin spice lip balm so before you question my priorities remember I’m a white girl and this is pumpkin spice lip balm we’re talking about here people.
As this is a special post doing double-duty as a race report, you get a second photo today. It’s a super-creepy selfie I took on the walk home. What is going on with my eyeballs in this shot? I’m not even looking in the right place and I’m the one taking the photo! It’s all the pumpkin spice.
When I got home, I took a very hot shower and discovered just how cold I had gotten because it was all going so well and I was warming up and then everything itched all at once like I was one giant chicken-pock. (Yep, that’s the singular of “pox”.) It was still a great shower, and a great race. No matter where I live, Arthur’s Seat will always be my favourite extinct volcano.
And thank you, anonymous person, for donating to the Joshua Nolan Foundation. Your generosity will help someone here get the mental health counselling they need.
The 2013 Edinburgh Marathon Festival 10K last Saturday was not only my first 10K race but my first time racing with a friend. It turned out to be just as fun as I hoped it would be, and I am so grateful for the experience.
The day before, I rested, hydrated, and ate well. Gingiber (my race partner) and Seth came by for a cuppa and we chatted about the next day. Despite the time difference, I got to Skype for a few moments with FunkyPlaid before I went to sleep. Unfortunately, I did not sleep well. I woke up later than intended and had my usual banana and porridge later than intended, too. This would come back to bite me later.
Just before 08:00, I met Gingiber at her flat to hand off the cookies I made the night before so that Seth could bring them to us at the finish line. (If you like cookies like I like cookies, make a point to do this.) We walked down to Holyrood Park in an easy pace. The weather was gorgeous, warm and cloudless.
In the forty minutes that passed like a blink, Holyrood Park filled with runners and spectators. We had one last pit-stop and then I drank half a bottle of water, which was unwise. Gingiber found her friend Carmen, who was also running. There wasn’t any warmup, so once we found our pace group and did some stretching, there was nothing left to do but start the race.
Due to the sheer number of participants, the awkward jog/walk to the actual start line was a bit clogged. Carmen soon disappeared into a throng of faster runners. The clog of runners didn’t even out until we passed the first km marker, when the ascent up Arthur’s Seat went from “annoying” to “painful”.
Yet again, after those first 3 km, it was entirely worth it for the views.
Most of the race went by very quickly. My late breakfast and that half a bottle of water combined into a powerful side stitch, which wasn’t fun, but aside from that I felt great. I was shocked when we passed the halfway point, because up until recently that was the longest I had ever run in one go. The reality of running my first 10K race was finally sinking in, and I got very excited. Gingiber was consistently encouraging and positive throughout, which added to the enjoyment. The endorphins didn’t hurt, either.
The water station came up at the 6 km marker. Even though I was dealing with a side stitch, I was extremely thirsty, and so Gingiber and I split a small bottle, just a few sips each. I dumped the rest over my head and back so I could cool down a little. That’s something I didn’t expect: overheating in a race in Scotland.
Running into Duddingston was really fun. There were lots of spectators cheering us on. I loved how Gingiber thanked every single person who gave us a “good job” or “keep going” along the way. And there were many!
The Innocent Railway path was the hardest part of the course for me. My intrepid running partner did not walk once during the race, but I had to walk a few times, particularly during this section. We were already 8 km in, and I was feeling fatigued. The grade, albeit slight, was not helping.
But then there was the awful climb out of there and we were nearly done! Somewhere during that last km, a guy running near us was egging his friend on and thought it’d be similarly motivating to Gingiber and me if he tossed some cold water on us. So he did that. I didn’t like it at all, and muttered something about how if I could catch him, I’d kick his ass. But honestly, if you’re encouraging someone you know, and they don’t mind you throwing water on them, that’s fine and your business. But don’t throw water on me. I don’t know you, and it doesn’t make me want to run faster.
This simple moment made me ponder the nature of motivation and why I enjoy racing. I like it so much because I’m accomplishing a difficult goal alongside lots of other people doing the same thing, all for different reasons. All of those different reasons have different motivations. It is a lovely impulse to want to help motivate someone to do their best, but we should be mindful of how we do it.
But back to the race! Although my gear was dampened, my spirits were not. We were nearing the finish line … except we couldn’t see it. Obviously there was a spectating mass up ahead, but the actual line wasn’t in sight. Though at this point I was turning into my usual soppy self, so maybe I just had something in my eye. Then, suddenly, we turned a sharp left and the finish line was right there. Gingiber said something about running for it and we took off at a sprint. It was a glorious way to cross that sneaky line.
We collected our medals and goody-bags and went off to collapse on the sunny lawn by Our Dynamic Earth. Seth brought us cookies, Carmen found us, and I rode the endorphin high the rest of the day.
So what’s next? When I signed up for my first 5K, I decided that I wanted to run a 5K, a 10K, a half-marathon, and a marathon. I will be running another 10K in July, and on Monday I began training for a half-marathon that I hope to complete before the end of 2013. I just have to find the right race.
As always, I am deeply indebted to my friends and family for encouraging me to do whatever crazy thing makes me happy. This makes me happy. And knowing you believe in me makes me even happier.
I would like to give special thanks to the generous folks who helped me fundraise £160 for Macmillan Cancer Support.
Tonight's slippery 6K run ended my third week of 10K training. It wasn't a fast run, and it certainly wasn't comfortable, with those giant, wet snowflakes sliding down my collar and up my sleeves, but it did the job.
So now I am one-quarter of the way to being ready for my first 10K race, which happens this May during the Edinburgh Marathon Festival weekend. I had wanted to run a 10K for my birthday, but the training timing didn't quite work out, and I am okay with that. Better to run confidently and happily instead. I'll also be running with friends, which will add to the fun!
To train, I am adhering strictly to a twelve-week regimen that starts out with three runs per week, bumping up gradually to five runs per week. Honestly, I cannot wait until that point. My running days are so much better than my non-running days that I hope soon I can regularly run at least five days out of every seven.
Subjectively, it feels like I have become a stronger, faster runner. I wanted to see the numbers to back that feeling up. Advanced metrics are only available with "pro" subscriptions on the sites I use, so I just took my most basic stats and compared them against the last twelve months. I was pleased with the results: my average distance is the highest it has ever been, and my average pace is the fastest. When I started running, I could barely run half a minute, and now I feel good running 45 minutes straight.
Despite all of these positives, it hasn't been easy. The negative self-talk is a constant running companion. Whenever a faster runner passes me, I feel a little self-conscious. I understand now why some trainers urge beginning runners to ignore pace, because it is such a bummer when I glimpse at my watch and judge my whole run based on how fast I'm running. The endorphins take longer to hit my system now, too, so I have to ignore the adolescent whining of my muscles for a mile or two before that all falls away.
Around the start of mile three tonight, I experienced something weird and wonderful. The whole way I had been fretting over how slippery the pavement was, convinced I was going to end up completely wiping out, perhaps even hurting myself enough that I wouldn't be able to run for a while. But my legs kept telling me, "Just go faster. We want to go faster!" My brain struggled with this for a few steps before I just said to myself, "Screw it, I'll aim for the grass if I feel myself start to slide." And I let my legs go faster. Suddenly I was surer on my feet than I've ever been, and the last portion of the run flew by in what felt like seconds.
Okay, metaphor for my life. I got it.
For the 10K this May, I am fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support. Please consider donating to this worthy cause.
Today I ran my second 5K race! I didn’t think it was possible, but I am even more excited about running now than I was last time.
Last night, I wasn’t worried about the race because I knew mostly what to expect. I was a bit concerned about my health; my stomach and head have been a mess for the past week as the result of a post-commencement, post-vacation immune-system crash and reboot. So I took it easy all day, hydrated, and ate well. I prepared my race gear, then set out some freshly-washed clothes so I wouldn’t have to think about anything post-race but refuelling, showering, and resting. Then I went to bed on time.
I woke up around 07:00 – still quite dark in wintery Edinburgh – and my stomach was absolutely roiling. Race time wasn’t until 10:35, so I didn’t want to eat breakfast yet, but I wanted to test just how bad off I was. I had a banana and felt not-awful, then a cuppa, and tootled around online until breakfast-time, when I had oatmeal with a splash of maple syrup. I kept drinking water, too.
After waking FunkyPlaid up, I finished getting ready, and soon it was time for us to leave. It was wonderful walking down to Holyrood Park together. I wasn’t nervous at all, only excited, chattering away at FunkyPlaid about the upcoming race.
We got there on time, so I had to queue up for the toilets immediately. (This queue was quite organised, unlike the one at the last race!) Then we found the starting line, where I kissed FunkyPlaid goodbye and joined my starting group.
I was far enough back in the starting group that I couldn’t see any of the warm-up exercises, so I did my best to watch the others around me and fake it. I was so eager to just run already when my starting group lurched forward. FunkyPlaid got one last photo of me before we headed off.
The elevation profile for the first half of the course had me a bit concerned. Again, I hadn’t really trained on hills, so I knew if I was going to make it to the 3K marker without significant pain I was going to have to take it really, really slow. The race announcer confirmed this as we approached the starting line, saying, “I’m not going to lie; the first half of this course is a killer.” Great.
Most everyone else around me took off as soon as we crossed the starting line. The very first portion before the incline was fairly flat, but I saved my energy. Boy howdy, was I glad I did that! As soon as the incline really kicked in, I was able to keep plodding along. Right before the first mile finished, still on that incline, I started to feel that weird, vertigo-like sensation, so I slowed to a walk for about 30 seconds until it passed.
At this point, it was tough not to notice what was going on around me. Some who were stepping off the road and into the wet, slippery grass on shaky legs in order to pass slower runners were also wiping out. No major spills occurred that I could see, but enough to knock people off their feet and scrape some knees. Also, a few people lost their breakfasts. Many people were walking up the incline, and a few were stopping. I felt less awful about having to walk.
Soon after starting, I realised that Runmeter, the iPhone app I use for training, had punked out. I was very glad to have the Garmin as backup, although when I glimpsed my pace I started obsessing about it … until I saw the view out over the city. If my iPhone hadn’t been so tough to get out of my running belt, I would have taken some photos.
I loved how many people were running with partners or in groups in this race. When two people run together, there is usually one person who is a little faster than the other. Time and time again, I observed the faster person turning around to smile or touch the other person’s shoulder to give them a boost. Just witnessing that boosted me a little too. I realised that as much as I love running alone, I would love to run a race with someone someday.
Once the endorphins kicked in, I didn’t feel so awful, but this race was much more of a slog than the last one. I was grateful for my hat. My hat is a souvenir from my favourite museum, the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. I’m not really a baseball-cap-wearing person, but I had been looking for a hat with a brim for rainy-day runs. After a great day at the museum with my friend Kate last December, I wanted a reminder of that visit and the spectacular vacation that surrounded it. Fond vacation memories played in my head as I ran today, thanks to my hat.
As soon as we started going downhill, I knew the race was over half-done and I was a bit sad. I started taking longer strides and it felt like I was flying! When I started the final km of the race, I was keenly aware that I was behind my first race time by less than a minute, but as soon as I started pushing myself to go faster, I felt nauseated. So I opted to forget the time and finish happily. And that I did.
Success felt even sweeter with FunkyPlaid there to share it with me! He was energised by spectating at the finish line. There were so many people there today, at all levels of ability, united by intention and dedication. We both love that about races. Maybe we will run one together someday.
We stopped briefly on the way to lunch so I could put my medal on.
Then I ate so much food at Café Truva and had a boozy coffee too. On the way home, a passing stranger asked me how the run was. I was pretty exhausted at this point, but I think I mumbled something about it being great. She touched my arm and said, “Well done, you!” It made me smile a lot.
After showering and resting up, I made an indulgent post-race dinner of cinnamon-thyme chicken on a bed of sweet potato “linguine” with brown butter and sage.
My race pack arrived today. Every time I think about the race, my stomach goes a little crazy, so I am trying not to think about it too much. Eight days to go!
gratitude: generous friends exceeding my race fundraising goal · fruited teacakes slathered with Marmite · cuddling up with a writing deadline for the rest of the day