My Very First DNS (Did Not Start) for a Race EVER

Even I’m surprised that although I have registered for somewhere around 60 races over the past 22 years I’ve never been unable to physically run a race, until now. However, there were a couple of races that I shouldn’t have run, like the half marathon in Ohio where I had terrible iliotibial band syndrome leading up to the race but I ran it anyway and paid the price afterwards and the half marathon in Oklahoma where I was severely anemic before the race and ran/walked that race for my slowest finish time ever.

When I was looking at local races this fall, none of them appealed to me until I came across the Pups & Pastries 5k. Cute dogs and pastries after a race? I’m in! When I found out the proceeds were going to a dog rescue center, it was icing on the cake. Two weeks before the race, I ran 6.2 miles on the course to get acquainted with what I would be looking forward to on race day. Yes, it was hilly but I was looking forward to the challenge. I had been running on hills the past several months so hills were nothing new to me.

Suddenly a little over a week before the race I started having pains in my right shin. Then one week before the race when I went for a 5 mile run I had a sharp, stabbing pain in my right shin when I was getting out of the car, before I even ran. During the course of the 5 miles I experienced even more of those sharp, stabbing pains in my shin a few times. It felt like someone was stabbing my shin with a knife. Not good.

This wasn’t my first time with shin splints. When I was in college I had shin splints so badly I practically crawled home from a run and was in tears when I finally got back to my apartment. I most likely had a stress fracture but didn’t go to the doctor to confirm it. That bout of shin splints/stress fracture was so painful I didn’t run for years afterwards.

So this time around, I knew what I was in for but I was confused about what might have caused them. My running shoes both had less than 300 miles on them, I had been running hills for quite some time, and I always stretched after running. I also knew that while my shin splints were relatively mild, if I continued to run they would inevitably turn into a stress fracture. Just to ease my mind, I went to get my leg x-rayed and the doctor said unless I had been having shin splints for 3-4 weeks they likely wouldn’t show up on an x-ray. Of course he said not to run for 2-3 weeks and if my leg still hurt in a month to get a bone scan done, which would show any fractures in my shin.

I was tempted to take the entire week off before the race and just do some easy walking and try to run on race day but then I knew that was a terrible idea. A local 5k certainly isn’t a good enough reason to potentially cause my shin splints to get worse. I didn’t want to be so injured so badly with a stress fracture that I would have to take months off from running.

Sure, I was disappointed when I accepted the fact that racing with shin splints was a terrible idea so I would DNS this race but then I decided to make lemonade out of lemons. I saw there was a volunteer option on the race website so I immediately emailed the race director to see if they still needed volunteers. He said yes, for many different positions and he thanked me and told me he was sorry to hear I was injured.

Race morning was overcast and cool but not cold- a perfect day for a race (if you’re running, that is)! After I told the person in charge of volunteers I was a runner and had experience with both running and volunteering at races, I was assigned to help out at the finish line. Even though the race was chip-timed, they wanted someone to write down the finishers numbers from their bibs as they crossed the finish line, as a back-up. This may sound like over-kill and in a perfect world it would be but we all know electronics don’t always work perfectly. A couple of times during the race the main timing person asked me to verify the order and/or numbers of a few racers. Another time a runner came up and said his GPS watch time was different from his chip time (as were some other runners that he knew there) and I gave my paper to the main timing person to clear that up.

This race had several options: there was a 5k or 10 mile option you could run with your dog, a fun run 5k option (no dogs), and a competitive 5k or 10 mile race with no dogs allowed. I believe there were about 40 people running with their dogs and it was adorable to see the wide range of dogs there. There were the expected labs and other active breeds but also a good amount of tiny breeds like chihuahuas plus several mixed breeds. I’m a huge dog-lover so I enjoyed just watching the dogs before the race.

Being at the finish line allowed me front-row access to check out all of the dogs as they crossed the finish. Seeing the sheer joy on many of those dog’s cute faces was priceless. The man who was the first to cross the line with his dog was running with a lab who looked like he/she could have kept running for another 10 miles. The dog’s tail was wagging like crazy when it was rewarded with dog treats just past the finish line. There was also water for the dogs and their owners.

Oh, and the pastries part of the race came in the form of what looked like homemade brownies, all of which were individually-wrapped. When I was leaving, I was given one and it was pretty tasty. I’ll have to keep this race in mind for next year when I will hopefully be healthy and can run it! In case you’re wondering, I do have a dog, a 10-year-old lab-mix but she’s not a runner and even when she was younger wasn’t a runner so I won’t be doing it with her.

Have you run a race with your dog? Would you run a 5k with your dog if there was a race that allowed dogs near you? Would you volunteer at a race like this just to see the cute dogs?

Happy running!

Donna

Catching Fireflies 5k- My First Night Race!

First I have to give a little background info. Even though I’ve run somewhere around 60 races in the past 22 years, the Catching Fireflies 5k was only my fourth 5k, and two of those were with my daughter so this was only the second 5k I ran by myself. Of those two 5ks that I ran by myself, they were 22 years apart and this race in 2022 was 2 minutes faster than my first 5k. Granted, the first 5k was the first race I ever ran as an adult but still, I was happy that I haven’t slowed down, despite the fact that I’m now in a much older age group than when I ran that first race. Anyway, on to the race report!

The Catching Fireflies 5k in Raleigh, North Carolina caught my eye when I saw it advertised a few months ago. Start time was slated for 8:25 pm on Friday, May 20. The charity for the race was the Cancer Shucks group, https://www.cancershucksfoundation.org/. Luminaries could be purchased in honor of a loved one who was effected by cancer and their name would be written on the luminary. The race course was lined with what must have been hundreds of luminaries.

Photo from the race Facebook page

Packet pickup was from 5 to 8 pm at Wakefield High School in Raleigh on race day (no option to pick up earlier). We got cotton t-shirts, our bibs, and glow sticks to wear while we were running. It was great to have real bathrooms to use before the race and not have to walk far to get to the race start since we all parked in the school parking lot. My 16-year-old daughter was also running the race so we hung out for a little while inside the school since it was so hot out. The high for the day was a record high for the year- 99 degrees!!!

Fortunately when the sun started to set it began to feel noticeably cooler, but it was still pretty humid. By the time the race started it was around 86 degrees, still hot but at least it wasn’t in the 90’s any longer. We all kept saying how it was just too hot too soon but there was nothing to do about it. Surprisingly, there were around 650 runners and walkers that night, according to the announcer.

Everyone started lining up around 8:10 and the race started promptly at 8:25 after the national anthem was sung. The beginning of the race was a terrible mess with walkers at the front, mixed in with people with strollers and small children scattered everywhere. I expected that might be the case and planned on staying toward the edge but even that wasn’t enough so as soon as I could I jumped onto a sidewalk until I could get around a big group of people.

Also from the race Facebook page

Fairly quickly, the course thinned out and I was finally free of the mob of people. The race was entirely though a neighborhood, Wakefield Plantation, one of those super-nice neighborhoods with a country club and golf course and enormous houses. As I said earlier, the course was lined throughout with luminaries. I wasn’t sure how dark it would get so I brought a clip-on light but didn’t really need it except for one tiny little stretch where there no street lights for a bit.

This neighborhood is also hilly, which I had been told ahead of time. The course began downhill, so of course I knew that meant we would be running uphill on the way back. I tried to take advantage of that fact by running the first mile a bit faster than I normally would, but still being a bit conservative since I wasn’t sure how the heat and humidity would effect me. My first mile was at an 8:20 mile pace.

When I was about halfway through the race, I felt like I should slow down or I wouldn’t have enough left to get me up the hills at the end. My second mile was at an 8:44 mile pace, which is around what I thought I would run the entire race at, prior to the race. There weren’t many spectators on the course and I didn’t see anyone cheering on runners from their front yards or anything like that. Water was on the course but there weren’t any porta johns, at least not that I saw.

I really didn’t have any finish time goal in mind before the race, other than trying to finish in the top three in my age group, whatever that meant. With only a mile to go, I had to really push myself mentally to not walk up the final hills. I saw people walking all around me and it was tempting to walk along with them but I didn’t and told myself even if I was running slow I was still going faster than if I walked. My final mile was at an 8:42 mile pace, with the final sprint to the finish (the 0.1 mile) at a 7:57 mile pace. My finish time was 26:53.

Immediately after the race- I was so hot and sweaty!

There were children handing out medals at the finish and a big container full of warm bottles of water (WARM water after a HOT 5k is just wrong!). Bananas, pretzels, and cereal bars were further down on a table. I did find a table with cups of cold water being dispensed from those big orange Gatorade containers you see at races and cross country meets and I greedily gulped some down.

The awards ceremony was supposed to be at 9:10 but the announcer kept talking about the music being played and other random things. Finally around 9:25 they began the awards ceremony. I thought my daughter might have a chance of cracking the top three in her age group but she was fourth. I was first in my age group and collected a gift card to a restaurant near the race. The day after the race I checked the official finish times and saw that I was only three seconds behind the third place overall masters female. But then I looked again and actually I was three seconds ahead of her. There was a mistake. I should have won third place overall masters. This had never happened to me, finishing in the top three overall masters.

I sent an email to the race director and he replied back within a couple of hours, which surprised me since it was a Sunday. He said they go by gun time for overall awards and chip time for age group awards. I had always thought chip time would be more accurate so awards would always be based on that, but I guess you live and learn.

I’ll admit, I was a little bitter; after all it was only three seconds. I could have easily moved up closer to the front at the start, had I been able to somehow predict this and have known then what I know now. Or if the race director would have put that information in the awards section on the race website. But then it just gave me a bit of fuel for my fire for my next 5k (no, I haven’t signed up for any at the moment). Knowing how little training I did (basically no speed work) before this race, it gave me hope of what I’m capable of if I truly train for a 5k.

I never thought I’d be saying it but I’m actually looking forward to training hard for a 5k now and seeing what I can do. Now I just have to find a race! That’s going to be difficult since we’re also heating up quickly here so races always thin out this time of year.

Would I recommend this race? Yes. It truly is a unique race, in that it’s at night and has luminaries lining the course. It was much hotter than it normally is the end of May so I would hope the weather was just a fluke and next year would be back to normal temperatures. The hills aren’t going to go away, but they really weren’t as bad as I thought they’d be. I would have rather had something other than a cotton t-shirt, like socks or a hat but it was a cute shirt and I’ll wear it to the gym. The medals were cute too. And like I said earlier, best of all, it’s for a great cause.

https://fsseries.com/event/catching-fireflies-5k/

Have you ever run a night race? If so, care to share your experience?

Happy running!

Donna

Race Medals and What to Do With Them

Race medals didn’t use to be a thing when I started running races, way back in 2000 and I ran my first 5k. In fact, I didn’t even get a medal for running my first, second, third, or even fourth half marathon. My first race medal was at the Philadelphia Distance Run in 2004 and since then I received medals at most of the races after that, although there was the occasional race that didn’t include medals in the early 2000’s.

Now it seems like everyone who finishes everything from a 5k to a marathon and every distance in-between gets a medal. Until more recently medals were only given to marathon and sometimes half marathon finishers, but now it’s not uncommon to receive a medal after a 5k, especially if it’s a large event. Small, local 5k’s may or may not give medals to all finishers. Sometimes a medal will be given to age-group winners only at small races.

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My largest medal- it’s bigger than my palm spread out!

I’ve seen all kinds and sizes of medals over the years. I even have a medal that seems to be made of some type of foam material that I got at the Color Vibe 5k, a “fun run” that I ran more for the experience than anything because it was my first run of this type. The most interesting medal I have is the one from Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach, Virginia. It’s a functioning bottle-opener so it’s not only cute but it’s useful too (well it would be if I actually used it).

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My “Bright & Bold” medal from the Color Vibe 5k

Although I’ve only run on average 3-4 races a year, I have been running races since 2000 as I mentioned before (with a lapse between 2001 and 2004), so I have a decent accumulation of race medals by now. I know many runners run more like 7 or 8 races a year (or more), which means they accumulate a whole lot more medals in a year than I ever did. In just a few years’ time, this could mean dozens of race medals. I only have 45 race medals so it’s not an issue of what to do with them but I could see it being a real issue for other people who may have hundreds of medals.

Some people have display racks. My daughter started running when she was in grade school and has accumulated quite a stack of medals by now (she’ll be starting high school this fall), and she has a display rack that’s already over-filled with her medals from races. You can buy these at local art supply stores or easily make your own.

Others give their medals away. Medals 4 Mettle accepts medals earned by runners and triathletes and gives them to “children and adults for the mettle and courage they demonstrate battling cancer, chronic illness, trauma and other life challenges.” All you have to do is remove the ribbon from your race medal and mail it to them and they will take care of the rest. According to their website, over 55,000 medals have been awarded since 2005.

I’ve heard of other people repurposing their medals into coasters, Christmas ornaments, and magnets. All of these things would be pretty easy to do, especially to make magnets and ornaments. This way your medals actually have a use other than sitting in a drawer or on a shelf.

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I have to admit, all of my medals are on a bookshelf in my office at home. I have a collection of books that I was saving for my daughter to read someday and/or re-read them myself, and the medals are on this bookshelf. I also have some other race-related things on the bookshelf, like the trophies I’ve won at races and the printed photo I got at the Missoula Half Marathon in Montana. They’re a nice reminder of all of the races I’ve run over the years.

What about you all? What have you done with all of the medals you’ve received over the years?

Happy running!

Donna

 

Book Review- Run For Your Life: How to Run, Walk, and Move Without Pain or Injury and Achieve a Sense of Well-Being and Joy by Mark Cucuzzella, M.D. with Broughton Coburn

I first heard of Dr. Mark Cucuzzella on the Marathon Training Academy podcast, which I believe he’s been a guest on at least a couple of times. When I learned Dr. Cucuzzella had a book out, I knew I had to read it. In true form (at least based on what I heard of him on the podcast), Dr. Cucuzzella’s book is extremely thorough.

Run for Your Life is divided into three parts:  Before the Starting Line, The Body in Motion, and Running is for Everyone. Within each part are five to nine chapters. Including the Appendices, Acknowledgments, Notes, and Index, this book is 349 pages so it’s not a quick read. As you might guess, the first part of the book gives some background information behind running in general and the history of humans and running with a multitude of information about walking and the foot. The second part of the book, the real meat of the book, covers everything from nutrition, which Dr. Cucuzzella is a huge proponent of nutrition as medicine, to the importance of recovery in running, and the prevention of injuries. The third part of the book covers what an important place movement and exercise has for people of all ages and walks of life.

Going back to part one, Dr. Cucuzzella spends a huge amount of time covering sitting, walking, shoes, and the foot, which makes sense because modern humans spend so much time sitting and wearing shoes. I don’t think it’s news to most people that sitting for hours on end is bad for our health in general but many people may not realize there are other options out there. Dr. Cucuzzella gives several options to sitting for long periods such as working at a standing desk to the simplest but often over-looked idea of taking standing or walking breaks every thirty minutes. He also describes how he suffers from hallux valgus, a deformation of the big toe caused by repeatedly wearing shoes with a pointed toe box, and he describes in detail how he was able to correct this condition. No surprise that he’s a big proponent of minimalist shoes. There are also drills in the book specifically for strengthening your feet.

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Part two of the book begins with proper running form and includes drills for developing efficient running form. As I mentioned earlier, there is a large section devoted to nutrition including some recommended lab tests including basic ones and second-level tests for higher risk groups. In the section on recovery, Dr. Cucuzzella talks about how exercise can effect our hearts in a negative way if we don’t allow enough time for rest and mentions a couple of apps to measure heart rate variability (HRV), which is something not really talked about much.

There are some basic tips and general information in part two about running a marathon and racing in adverse conditions. One tip that many people may not realize is when you’re running in the heat, it’s a good idea to use sunscreen sparingly because it beads the sweat, which rolls off without evaporation but it’s the act of sweat being evaporated from your body that cools you. Dr. Cucuzzella also recommends some specific gear for running in the rain and/or cold weather. Another important section of part two is about the therapeutic mental benefits of running, something often over-looked by people especially those that aren’t runners. Part two ends with a discussion on some common running injuries and how to prevent them.

Part three begins with information specific for women and includes the full spectrum from running while pregnant to the benefits of running for menopausal women. Specific information related to children and running follows, then information about older people running. Dr. Cucuzzella dispels the myth (do people really still believe this?) that running is bad for your knees and joints with his notation of Paul Williams’ study at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory that found no increase in osteoarthritis or hip replacement even for runners who participate in multiple marathons a year. In fact, there are a multitude of references to the medical literature on the subject of running and exercise throughout this book if you’re the kind of person that “needs” to have scientific references for you to be properly informed.

In addition to a slew of scientific references, this book is filled with drills and exercises, either for warm-ups, for strengthening, or recovery. There is a website runforyourlifebook.com that includes a wealth of information. Under the resources tab, you can find videos on mobility and stability exercises as well as other things like kid-specific information and links to the Freedom’s Run Race in West Virginia that Dr. Cucuzzella is a co-director for. Finally, there are training plans for the 5k, half marathon, and marathon that seem pretty straight-forward for beginners or newish runners.

So, after all of that, what did I personally think of this book? Well, I think it’s an excellent tool for any newbie runner because of the wealth of knowledge included. A more seasoned runner can also benefit from reading this book, but they likely wouldn’t find much of the information new but perhaps good reminders of things they’ve heard before but had forgotten. I personally enjoyed this book and the way the information is presented.

Have you read Dr. Cucuzzella’s book? If so, what did you think? Do you think you would be interested in reading it if you haven’t read it?

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

 

 

 

Random Runner Trivia and Tidbits

When I was running outside yesterday a bug flew into my mouth. This certainly wasn’t the first time that has happened and I began to wonder just how many bugs I’ve swallowed while running. Later that evening, I googled “how many bugs do runners eat while running” and similar things like that but the only thing I could find is how many insects the average person eats. Here’s a story from Reader’s Digest:  Yuck! Here’s How Many Insects You’re Eating Every Year. Coupled with this bit of information, it seems like runners must consume even more insects than the average person but who knows just how many that is.

Then I started wondering about other strange or interesting things about runners, running, and races. When I ran the Famous Potato Half Marathon in Boise Idaho in May 2018 there was a guy trying to get into the Guinness Book of World Records by running the race while balancing a pool cue on one finger. I looked up the record for longest duration balancing a pool cue on one finger (not while running) and interestingly enough, it is held by David Rush from Boise, Idaho, for 4 hours, 20 minutes at Boise High School track in 2017. While I don’t know for sure if it was the same guy that ran the half marathon when I did, the coincidences are too great for it to not be him.

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Balancing a pool cue on one finger while running the Famous Potato Half Marathon in Boise, Idaho

I started looking up all kinds of other random running- and race-related information. Here’s some of what I found:

Oldest road race in the world– Guinness Book of World Records says that title goes to Red Hose 5 Mile Race in Carnwath, South Lanarkshire, UK in 1508 but Chicago Athlete Magazine says the first race in history was the Palio del Drappo Verde 10K in April 1208 held in Verona, Italy.

Oldest road race in the United States– YMCA Turkey Trot 8k in Buffalo, New York began in 1896 with just six runners. It’s still going strong.

Most money raised by a marathon runner– Steve Chalke from London raised £2,330,159.38 ($3,795,581.14) for Oasis UK by completing the Virgin London Marathon, London, UK, on April 17, 2011.

Most runners in an ultramarathon– 14,343 runners completed Comrades Marathon, which is an event organised by the Comrades Marathon Association (South Africa), and was run on a route from Pietermaritzburg to Durban, South Africa, on May 30, 2010. The distance of the ultramarathon was 89.28 km.

It’s incredible how many different Guinness World Records there are that relate to people dressed on costume while running a race; here are just a couple of examples. There’s the fastest marathon dressed as a leprechaun (male)- Adam Jones who ran the Virgin Money London Marathon in London, UK, on April 26, 2015 in 2:59:30. The fastest marathon dressed as a book character (female) is 3 hr 08 min 34 sec and was achieved by Naomi Flanagan, dressed as Tinkerbell, at the 2016 Virgin Money London Marathon, in London, UK, on  April 24, 2016.

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There were a lot of runners in costume when I ran the Superhero Half Marathon in New Jersey

Highest elevation in a US race– Pikes Peak Ascent starts at 6,300 feet and takes you climbing for the next 13.32 miles to reach the apex of Pikes Peak at 14,115 feet. Most people finish in around the time it would take them to run a marathon plus another 30 minutes.

The majority of runners of US road races continued to be women in 2017, according to Running USA. Around 59 percent of participants in a given road race are female, while 41 percent are male.

The most popular race distance in the United States is the 5k, followed by the half marathon. 49% of all race finishers in the nation run the 5k, while the half-marathon has approximately 11% of the finishers.

Paula Radcliff still holds the women’s marathon record of 2:15:23 from the 2003 London Marathon. Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge set a new world record for men of 2:01:39 on September 16, 2018, at the 2018 Berlin Marathon. Kipchoge also ran the fastest ever marathon with a 2:00:25 clocking at the Nike Breaking2 race in Monza, Italy on May 6, 2017, but the IAAF says “times achieved in the race may not be eligible for official world record ratification should an application be made.”

45 degrees F is the optimal race day temperature based on scientific testing of how the body reacts to different temps.

Do you all like reading interesting running and racing information like I do? Do any of these surprise you? I was surprised to see that the oldest road race in the US is an 8k in Buffalo, New York and it goes all the way back to 1896! Do you have a running or racing trivia tidbit you like to throw around?

Happy running!

Book Review- Let Your Mind Run by Deena Kastor and Michelle Hamilton

Even though most runners have probably heard of Deena Kastor, I’ll give a bit of background here to begin with. Deena Kastor is one of the best-known American long-distance runners in the world. She has won numerous marathons and other distance road races, she was the national cross-country champion eight times, and won the bronze medal in the women’s marathon at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. She has been running races since she was eleven years old and had immense potential at a young age, mostly winning the events she entered.

In Let Your Mind Run, Kastor describes how she was offered and accepted a scholarship at University of Arkansas where she went on to become 4 time SEC Champion and 8 time All American. However, it wasn’t until she was running professionally that the mental aspect of running began to click with her. After college she moved to Colorado to train with the infamous Coach Vigil (or simply “Coach”), where she trained with the men Coach was currently training.

Even though Coach constantly emphasized having a good attitude and finding the positive in everything, things didn’t begin to come together with Kastor until she began diving deep into the subject of philosophy, not just in relation to running but to life in general. She borrowed and read Coach’s book Road to the Top, and was told it would give her a better understanding of his training methodology. From there, she began paying more attention to attitude and how it related to training and recovery.

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Deena and Andrew Kastor at the Mammoth Track & Field facility. Photo Credit: Joel St Marie

All of the books Kastor read on the study of the mind eventually enabled her to shift her thoughts consciously from negative ones to more positive ones. For example, instead of thinking how tired her body felt before that jolt of caffeine first thing in the morning, she began to replace thoughts of fatigue with ones of getting outside with her dog. She noticed her energy shifted and she was indeed more alert. When her legs began to feel tired during practice, she shifted her negative thoughts to those of realizing her legs were getting stronger and this was a good thing.

Kastor began to notice that her workouts improved thanks to her positive attitude and in fact her whole day was more productive and enjoyable. All throughout the book, she shows clearly how her life evolved and how her running was effected as a result of having a positive attitude. She does this in a natural way and I didn’t feel like she was forcing anything or being too “preachy.”

She tells the story how she met her now-husband Andrew Kastor and how their relationship came to be. From the start, he was one of Deena Kastor’s biggest supporters and eventually he went on to be a massage therapist and running coach. Finally, toward the end of the book, she writes about her pregnancy and birth of her daughter, Piper. Shortly after the birth of Piper her coach Terrence Mahon decided to move to the UK; it was then that Deena and Andrew Kastor took over the Mammoth Track Club and jumped into coaching full-time.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and how it was written. Even if you’re not a runner, you might enjoy reading about Ms. Kastor’s story and all of the trials and triumphs she went through. I believe everyone could benefit from having a positive attitude in life, so for that alone, the book is worth reading.

Check out this book from your local library or here’s a link on Amazon.

Have any of you read this book? If so, what did you think?

Also, I have a discount code for Nuun hydration. Use code hydratefriends25 for 25% off your online order. Shop at nuunlife.com/shop or nuuncanada.com/shop. Valid through March 6, 2019.

Happy running!

Donna

Running Highs and Lows of 2018

For the past several years, I’ve run three half marathons a year, in my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Because I make a racecation out of every race, and spend at least a few days checking out the area with my family after the race, I simply can’t afford to do more than 4 a year (which I used to do), nor do I have the vacation time, and since I’ve run all of the southern states with races during the winter, I usually run races in the spring, summer, and fall now (with a couple of exceptions like Utah in February 2017).

I began 2018 by running the Famous Idaho Potato Half Marathon in Boise in May. Idaho was state number 42 for me and this race was a highlight. The race began in a canyon, which was beautiful, and the course was nicely chosen as it ran along greenways and had water views of the Boise River several times. I managed to finish just under 2 hours, which I hadn’t done in quite a while. Because of the excellent course, volunteer stations, post-race goodies including a potato bar, and overall vibe of the race, it’s high on my list of favorite half marathons.

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Famous Idaho Potato Half Marathon

The following weekend after the race in Boise, I had to start training for race number two of the year in Alaska, which I’ll get to shortly. First, though, a word on running through the heat and humidity during the summer, which I did a post on here. I’ll be honest, running through the North Carolina summer is tough. I’m just not that much of a morning person to get up at 5:30 to run before work, so I ended up running after work, when the temperature was often around 90 degrees, sometimes in the upper 90’s with high humidity on top of it. Yeah, it’s every bit as brutal as it sounds, but I did it, with very little running on the treadmill.

Finally in August, I ran the Skinny Raven Half Marathon in Anchorage, Alaska, state number 43. I was very much looking forward to spending some time in Alaska and running the race in Anchorage. Although the race wasn’t one of my favorites, I wouldn’t say it was a low point of running. The race shirt and medal are my absolute favorites ever from any race, I got to go to a pasta lunch with speakers Bart Yasso and Jeff Galloway, and the race was well-organized, so it does have all of that going for it. Some people would probably enjoy running along the greenways that the race was on, but I just found it a bit disappointing since I run on greenways all the time at home and was hoping for something more unique to the area.

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Packet pickup for the Anchorage RunFest with my favorite race shirt ever

In September, I ran my first 5k in almost 20 years, not counting the one I ran with my daughter at her pace a few years ago. So this was the first 5k I ran at my pace since the very first race I ran as an adult, and funny side-note, they were both in mall parking lots. I ran the Color Vibe 5k in Raleigh, North Carolina. Color Vibe is a huge conglomeration with races in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. plus several other countries.

When I signed up for the race, I didn’t realize that it was untimed. Still, I thought, it would be something new and fun. Originally, the plan was for my daughter to run it with me, but the morning of the race she decided she wanted to run at her own pace. There was a local Zumba instructor leading the crowd before the race start and everyone seemed to be in good spirits. However, it was hot (80 degrees at the start) and not a single bit of shade along the course. I found it hard to be motivated to really try my hardest since it wasn’t timed. Ultimately I discovered I’m more competitive than I may have thought, and fun runs just aren’t for me. As expected, we were covered from head to toe in colored powder by the end of the race and my watch had me finishing in 23:33. I should have been happy because it was a definite PR for me, but since it was unofficial, I felt like it didn’t even count. What should have been a high for me turned out to not really be, although I wouldn’t count it as a low either. My race review is here.

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Post-race Color Vibe 5k

Sometime in September, I began experiencing some boredom in my running routes. First I thought about changing my route for my long runs, Changing My Long Running Route- Maybe, then I began finding new running routes for my runs during the week, Exploring While Running and Fighting Boredom. I discovered entire neighborhoods I never even knew existed even though I drove within a few miles of them to and from work every day. More importantly, I began to realize there was absolutely no reason to run the same route four days a week during the week. There are greenways all over the place where I live and even where there aren’t greenways, there are nice, safe neighborhoods where I can run. This helped with my boredom and seemed like it was going to get me through the training plan for my final race of the year.

Then it all came crashing down. I had noticed I was getting more and more out of breath on runs. This went on for months, honestly, but I kept thinking it was the heat and humidity. When it finally cooled off and the humidity dropped and I was still out of breath when I would try to run, I knew for sure something was wrong. I suspected it was low iron, and I have a history of this, so I know exactly what it feels like. Sure enough, when my blood work came back, my hemoglobin level was 6. The normal range for women my age is 12-15. This was bad, very bad. Even worse, I had a half marathon coming up in less than three weeks.

I started taking a high dose of iron prescribed by my doctor and continued to run, no matter how slowly. I figured running slowly was better than not running at all. It was hard and frustrating though. Running up a small hill felt like I was climbing a mountain. During one of my long runs, after every mile I had to pause my watch, stop and catch my breath before I could go on. I did that for 12 miles and yes, it was some of the longest miles I’ve ever run.

Still, I could feel the iron was slowly building back up in my body and while I wouldn’t say I was feeling completely better when it was time for my next half marathon (not even close, really), I knew I could at least finish it even if it meant walking, a lot. The White River Half Marathon was in November in Cotter, Arkansas, state number 44, and in hindsight after running the race, it was the absolute best race for me at the moment.

As you might guess from the name, the race is along the White River, which means it’s flat. More importantly, the first mile is downhill and you don’t have to run back up the hill at the end either. Although I can’t say for sure because I was so completely wiped out at the finish that I forgot to hit save on my Garmin and I ran more by feel so I didn’t check my watch hardly at all, I’m pretty sure my first two miles were my fastest and I seemed to be consistent after that. I finished in 1:57, which was 4th in my age group. I was of course thrilled, especially given my health. This was a great way to end my racing for the year and give my body plenty of time to get back to normal. You can read my full report on the White River Half Marathon here.

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The home stretch of the White River Half Marathon

How about you all- any running highs or lows you’d like to share?

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

 

 

White River Half Marathon, Cotter, Arkansas-44th state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Arkansas was my 44th state.

If you want to run a marathon, half marathon, or 5k on a blazing fast course, run one of the the White River races in Cotter, Arkansas. Seriously, this group of races is well-organized, has great volunteers, has technical long sleeve shirts for all runners, huge medals for all runners, and medals for age group winners in addition to the fast courses.

When I ran this race in 2018, packet pickup was quick and easy the evening before the race at Cotter Schools, and there was also the option of packet pickup the morning of the race. I got my shirt, bib, and chip shoe tags (I hadn’t seen those in quite a few years) and was out in less than 10 minutes. Shirts and some other things were being sold there but honestly I just wanted to get to dinner so I didn’t spend any time looking around. There was a pre-race pasta dinner but I wanted to try some local barbecue instead.

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Race morning, November 17, was even chillier than I was hoping, at 31 degrees. Someone mentioned how it was 70 degrees at the start of last year’s race, so I was thankful it wasn’t that warm (but I think 70 at the start is unusual). Runners for the 5k, half marathon, and marathon all started together at 7 am but fortunately the course never felt crowded, even at the beginning.

Here’s part of why this course is so fast. The first mile was downhill, and the course leveled out after that. We turned around at about mile 7.5 so we didn’t have to go back up the hill from the first mile. The course was along quiet, country roads and while the course was open to traffic, the handful of drivers we did see were courteous and gave runners a wide berth when passing. We got a couple of glimpses of the White River but mostly we saw fields and rural homes. There was a field with a couple of horses watching us at one point too.

Tailwind, water, and Gu gels were offered on the course. The volunteers at the aid stations were friendly and did a good job but there was almost no crowd support on the course, as would be expected for a small race in a rural area.

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The medals for the 5k, half marathon, and marathon were all personalized to each distance

If you follow my blog, you may recall that I recently found out I’m anemic. Just a couple of weeks before this race, my hemoglobin was 6 (normal for women my age is 12-15). Despite that, I still managed to finish in 1:57:31, 4th in my age group, 61 overall out of 287. I haven’t run a half marathon this fast since 2015. Needless to say, given my poor health, I was thrilled with my result. Unfortunately I forgot to hit save on my Garmin at the finish so I have no idea what my split times were. I also made a point of not checking my watch during this race because I just wanted to run more by feel.

As I mentioned earlier, the race medals at the finish were huge and pretty cool-looking. There were also space blankets, which was a nice touch given how cool it was that morning. There was chocolate milk, water, donuts, bagels, bananas at the finish line, and then there was even more food at Cotter School.

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The finish!

My daughter ran the 5k and came in 2nd in her age group, so my husband and daughter went to get her age group medal at the school, where the awards ceremonies were. There were sausage biscuits, bananas, lemonade, Gatorade, coffee, hot chocolate, chili, and a variety of soups when they went at 9:00 for the 5k awards. I showered and changed after the half and went to the school around 10:00 and then they had pizza instead of sausage biscuits but everything else was the same.

To be a small race, this is one of the best I’ve been to. While the course wasn’t one of the most scenic I’ve ever run on, it wasn’t bad and it was definitely one of the fastest courses I’ve raced on. The volunteers were great and the food afterwards was good and plenty of it. There was also a shoe recycling area and it looked like quite a few old running shoes were collected. If you’re looking to cross Arkansas off your list, I highly recommend this race!

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Just a portion of the shoes collected at the race

www.whiterivermarathon.com

Do any of you have plans to run a race in Arkansas or have you already? If so, which one do you want to run or have you run? Do you like races in small towns along back country roads or do you prefer racing in bigger cities with big productions like the Rock n’ Roll series for example?

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

Color Vibe 5k

It seems fitting that the Color Vibe 5k was in a mall parking lot since the only other 5k I ran (not counting the one I ran with my young daughter a few years ago at her pace) was in a mall parking lot. Hmmmm. Two 5ks in a mall parking lot? There go the points for a scenic race. Somehow I missed that when I signed up for this race. I also missed the fact that it was a fun run and therefore not timed. Therefore no age group placings and no age group awards.

My flakiness aside, let’s get to the race details. The Color Vibe 5k is in every state in the United States plus Washington, D.C. and several countries outside the US. According to their website, there have been over a million participants. I know many of you have probably run a color race of some sort before and they certainly aren’t novel. There are many different variations on color runs, where they throw colored powder at you as you run along the course.

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I ran the Color Vibe 5k in Raleigh, North Carolina on September 8, and packet pickup was on September 7 (although I believe you could pick up on race morning). It was quick, easy, and efficient. I went to the tables set up in the mall parking lot and picked up my bib along with my daughter’s, my race t-shirt (white cotton and yes I actually wore it during the race even though never in a million years would I ever wear cotton to run in unless I had absolutely nothing else to run in), two color packets, 4 temporary tattoos, and 2 pair of Color Vibe sunglasses.

On race morning, there was a local Zumba instructor leading some dance moves and getting the crowd motivated. The music was good and everyone was in good spirits. About 10 minutes before the race began, the announcer had everyone throw their colored powder that we picked up at packet pickup and it was a haze of colors everywhere. The kids in the crowd obviously loved it and the stage was set for everyone to have a great time.

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Thankfully not all of the color along the course was blown by a leaf blower as shown here!

The race began at 8 am and it was already 80 degrees out, with the sun beating down. The course wound along the shopping mall parking lot and was about as uneventful as it sounds, as far as scenery. There also wasn’t a single place along the course where there was any shade. Volunteers threw colored powder at several places throughout the course, so there was no getting away from not being absolutely covered in color by the end. There was also a water station along the course.

Thankfully, the race was over and my watch showed me finishing in 23:33. Since the race was an untimed fun run, I won’t get credit for it on any of the places that keep your race times. I was surprised at how much my competitive spirit came out during the race. Because of the hot, humid conditions, I kept thinking, what incentive do I have to push harder? There aren’t any age group recognitions or awards. What real incentive do I have to go faster? Ultimately I did push harder than if I was just out on a training run, but probably not as much as if it would have been timed.

We received bottled water and a medal at the finish. There was also an after-race party where prizes were to be given out. I was so drained from the heat and also had another 3 miles to run to get my long run in for the day that I didn’t stick around for the post-race party.

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Would I do another color run again? Probably not, especially if it’s not timed. I’ve determined “fun runs” are not for me. I do enough “fun runs” on my own, which I prefer to call “training runs.” However, I should say I ran this with the idea that my daughter would also run it and I thought we’d be running together. She wasn’t feeling it that day and ended up running a bit behind me at her own pace. My daughter, who is even more competitive than I am said she had a great time and asked if we could do it again (I told her I would not be doing it again).

What about you guys? Have you run a color run? An untimed “fun run”? What do you think of fun runs?

Happy running!

Donna

Book Review “Running Science: optimizing training and performance” by John Brewer

Sports scientist and Running Fitness columnist, John Brewer is the consultant editor for this book which is written by Brewer along with ten other contributors, mostly professors, scientists, and lecturers. Brewer has reviewed hundreds of scientific studies so there are many references to scientific journal articles throughout the book. Brewer and his co-contributors attempt to demonstrate how science and running are intertwined. As a scientist and runner, I was intrigued by this book.

Although this book is touted for beginner runners as well as the seasoned runner, I feel that it is definitely for the beginner runner. I also felt like there was only a minimal amount of knowledge I gained from this book but perhaps part of that is because I’m not only a seasoned runner but an experienced scientist as well. Perhaps if a seasoned runner that wasn’t a scientist read this book, they would gain more from it than I did.

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The book is laid out in a simplistic way that reminded me of a picture book, which in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. There are 192 pages divided into eight chapters. For example, the first chapter, “The runner’s body,” explains VOmax, anaerobic and aerobic respiration, lactic acid, the aging runner, and the physical benefits of running. Other chapters in the book cover running form, carb loading and nutrition, running psychology, training and racing, equipment covering everything from shoes to sunglasses, stretching and core strength, and general questions like physical limits for the marathon and women’s record running times versus men’s.

There was very little in this book that I hadn’t read somewhere else before. However, I do think it’s important to get different perspectives  on running-related information since so much of the information on running is subjective, so I didn’t feel like it was a waste of my time to read this book.

A couple of things from the book stood out to me:  1) the author points out that ice baths are best saved for periods of intense competition and not during training. I know ice baths are a bit controversial, but some people swear by them. I’m not going to get into the science explained about ice baths here, but suffice to say this isn’t the first time I’ve read that ice baths aren’t necessarily a good thing for runners and 2) the authors show evidence that ultramarathon runners have much higher pain tolerance than non-ultramarathon runners. This makes sense given how much more intense training ultramarathon runners have but I had never read any scientific articles about this before.

In summary, if you’re just getting started with running, this would be a great book to read. If you’ve been running for many years and haven’t read much about the science related to running, it would be a good book to read. However, if you’ve been running for a while and have read scientific articles about running, this may not be the book for you. Then again, borrow it from your library and see what you think. You might learn a thing or two.

Amazon link here

Have any of you read this book? If so, what did you think?

Happy running!

Donna

 

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