Mostly dead all day

This year, I teach six classes of about 165 seventh-graders. I say that not to scare you or impress you, but to help you understand why I haven’t written much since I went back to work. I’ve been mostly dead all day.

So in the immortal words of Inigo Montoya, “Let me ‘splain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.”

  • After last Thursday’s run, I had a weird pain in the ball of my foot, sort of under my second toe. I taped it for a day, then skipped Saturday’s long(ish) run and slept in.
  • Sunday I ran the three-mile neighborhood loop and my foot felt okay. but it was really hot and humid. Still better than whatever was going on at the house with the ambulance and police cars I passed at mile 2.5, though.
  • Monday school started. The first week, I spend so much time talking and walking around, trying to strike the right balance between welcoming and no-nonsense, funny and demanding, while teaching them all my little quirky procedures. Oh and learning their names. It’s no battle in the Fire Swamp,  but it’s a challenge, one that gets more difficult for me every year.
  • Tuesday I ran the neighborhood loop, this time with no weird foot pain. But my Garmin was acting up again–even though it hadn’t been on the charger in a while, it still showed 99% charged. Didn’t go up or down no matter what I did. But it worked okay for my three-miler. Afterward, however, I turned it on and started the timer, then set it on the table. I figured when the battery ran all the way down, perhaps it would reset whatever had gone wonky. It seems to have worked, at least for now.
  • Our Galveston beach race is just over a week away, and I am woefully unprepared. Barring intervention from the likes of Miracle Max, it’s gonna be pretty embarrassing.

But the good news is that It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. So tomorrow I will lace up the new shoes and try again. Anything less would be inconceivable!

Exhausted

All summer, I’ve had few obligations, a decent amount of free time, and a silent alarm clock.

That all changed on Tuesday when 5:45am came awfully early. We had two full days of training and meetings, and even before the end of the first day, I was frustrated and tired. Tuesday evening I went out for a stress-busting run of intervals–three miles running fast for a minute, walking for a minute. “Fast” is relative, but my pace was definitely fast for me on those series. Thank goodness for the walking breaks–it was hot and I’m three months removed from any kind of training regimen–because there was no way I could sustain that pace for more than a minute. But every other minute for three miles, I made it. My quads were screaming by the time I got home, though!

Today overslept, I guess due to the shock of going from 0-100mph this week. Then at work I moved heavy boxes and furniture, climbed on desks and tables, oh and I finally located the box with my coffee machine. Phew. This evening I went out for a straight-up three-mile run. It was hot–97–and I failed to carry water. What could possibly go wrong??

Well, either my Garmin’s GPS went wonky or I did–not sure which. I felt okay the first half, even running up the hilly section. But then the heat started getting to me. And then my legs started feeling sore, like I was running those intervals again. I was slow and tired and hot. I finally made it home and drank a whole liter of fizzy lime water while I downloaded my Garmin data.

And I was shocked at what I saw.

The first mile, according to Garmin, I ran at the fast interval pace from Tuesday. Wait, what? It didn’t feel that fast, and I certainly wasn’t trying to sprint. But there it was, on my screen. I am guessing it experienced some kind of glitch, unfortunately. It sure is nice to see though. As long as you ignore the snail-like speeds of miles 2-3, that is. And sadly, those are probably dead-on accurate.

When I got home, I declared it my slowest run ever. But as I looked over the data I had to revise that. It was faster than my very first two 5K races ever, presumably thanks to my GPS’s hiccup that speedy first mile.

Did I really run my whole first mile at that pace? If I did, well, it’s doesn’t take a genius to figure out why the second and third miles were slow and painful. But more likely it’s just my Garmin playing tricks on me, and I will find a way to exact my revenge. 😉

But first, sleep.

Summer recap

Yeah, technically summer continues for another month, according to the calendar. But I go back to work next week and college football starts the week after that, so for all intents and purposes, summer is winding down here.

When school got out back in June, I had a few modest goals. I wanted to finish the Runner’s World Run Streak, and I wanted to maintain a decent long run base of six miles so I wouldn’t have to start from scratch when training started in September. How’d I do? I completed the running streak–at least a mile every day from Memorial Day to Independence Day. And I ran six or more miles … erm, five times. Whoops. And judging from this morning’s slow five-miler, my coach is gonna have his work cut out for him when training starts September 10.

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Out with the old…

But all things considered, it was a productive summer. I ran 127.46 total miles and burned 16,754 calories. I ran streets and trails in four new cities and on some familiar Austin favorites. I ran with pirates and earned an Alice in Wonderland medal alongside my son. I ran with friends, my family, and alone. I volunteered at a packet pickup, a water station, and a water balloon brigade. I saw the Google Street View car and more sunrises and sunsets than I can count. I ran in the heat, in the rain, and in humidity so thick it felt like rain. And after a year of service, my two pairs of trusty Mizunos have been retired. They have served me well.

... in with the new.

… in with the new.

Hidden in my closet I had another pair of identical Mizuno Wave Rider 14s (thank you clearance sales), plus I bought a brand-new pair of Wave Rider 16s to alternate. As summer winds down and a new school year and new training season begin, I’ve got new shoes to kick off the festivities.

The new calendar year is a typical time for resolutions, but the start of a new school year encourages me to think about goals and challenges and improvements. What does the future hold? We’ll run a beach 5K and a road 5K, both family races in September. Then, while juggling a full-time teaching job, a fifth-grader, and Texas football (I have had season tickets since 1996 and have never missed a home game), I’ll be preparing for my two goal races–the Army Ten-Miler in October (just made my plane reservations, yay!) and then 3M in January. Stay tuned!

Jelly legs

Monday evening I went to core class at Rogue. But don’t misunderstand–this is not simply an ab class. On Monday we worked with medicine balls which included throwing them, using them to make push-ups and planks even more heinous challenging. and cracking adolescent ball jokes.

Tuesday, M and I ran the hike and bike trail. It was 102* when we started, so we ran just the three-mile loop from Austin High, across the pedestrian bridge, over Barton Creek, and back across the lake to our starting point. M had run Monday night, so our collective quads were feeling pretty sore by the time we finished. We took it pretty easy, including a couple of photo stops along the way.

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Can you see Pac Man on the train bridge?

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I hardly recognize the Austin skyline anymore.

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Lamar Bridge

This morning I had an appointment with my sports chiro. Even though my hip flexor hasn’t given me any trouble, I’m still having him work on it–I start training again in September and want to do whatever I can to prevent any kind of relapse on these injuries. But wow, by the time he was done, I could barely lift my legs. The muscles were shaking, just complete jelly from three straight days of exertion.

I think this warrants a relaxing day on the couch with my book, don’t you?

Volunteer weekend part two

For the second day in a row, I saw the sunrise as I drove to an event.

Transition area at sunrise

Transition area at sunrise

We arrived at Brushy Creek sports park at 7am for the Hotter Than Doo Duathlon, and the parking lot was full. Athletes had arrived early to check in their bikes and get organized in the transition area. We changed into our volunteer shirts and hopped on a cart that would take us down the trail to our water stop on the running course.

I learned a lot about the duathlon this morning. Thanks to my friend at You Signed Up for What?! I had a basic understanding of the event, but I also performed a fair amount of Googling on my phone during lulls in the action. I learned that today’s race offered two distances: the Sprint distance consisted of a two-mile run, 10-mile bike, two-mile run. The Olympic distance was a 5K run, 30K bike, and 5K run. Our water stop was at Mile One, which was also the turnaround point for the sprint distance; the Olympic distance runners continued on for another .55 miles to the YMCA before turning back.

We set up our Sprint Turnaround Here sign, filled water cups, and waited for our first runners. It didn’t take long–only a few minutes after the 7:30 start, some superfast elite racers came thundering down the trail. They grabbed water without slowing down or breaking stride–it was impressive.

The first out-and-back leg, quite a few runners declined water. It was still early and not brutally hot, although we’d gotten a brief thunderstorm last night and the humidity was high. After everyone came through the first time, we reorganized, moving our table and coolers to a shadier spot on the other side of the trail. Unfortunately we could not escape the gnats. Holy crap they were relentless little biters! At one point I looked down and counted ten of them clustered on the back of my knee. They buzzed around my ears, and twice those suckers flew up my nose. There was no escape.

As the morning got hotter, we gave water to a couple of recreational runners as well. I don’t know about y’all, but I’m not gonna turn away someone running in the August heat just because they’re not wearing a race number. And there were a fair number of regular this-is-my-Sunday-long-run folks out here–duathlon racers had to dodge other runners, walkers, cyclists, and dogs as they followed Brushy Creek trail. Several passers-by asked about the event and we shared our newly-Googled knowledge.

It WAS hotter than doo, yes.

It WAS hotter than doo, yes.

Pretty soon, those on their third legs of the race started appearing–first, a handful of super-fast sprint racers, and then the leading Olympic-distance runners. The guy who was in second place lamented about the runner he was chasing, “Was that guy even breathing hard? Please tell me he was breathing hard.” He was indeed breathing hard–it was hotter than doo out there.

Few declined water, and some took two–one to drink, one to dump on their heads. Three or four guys asked us to throw water right in their faces! And honestly, this was the most polite bunch of racers I’ve ever encountered–they not only thanked us when we handed them water, they thanked us for volunteering. Most of them tossed their cups in or near the garbage can, although I didn’t mind picking up the few cups that ended up on the ground either, ’cause I know how that goes at a race.

Finally, the last runner came through with one of the race organizers as a bicycle escort. She said that she’d signed up for this knowing it was going to be a huge test–her only goal was to finish–and she stuck it out the whole way. After we handed her a couple cups of icewater on her last return trip, the cart came to get us and our equipment; we got back to the start/finish line in time to watch her come in. She’d been walking a lot of that last leg, but as she made the final turn, a couple of young girls ran out to meet her, and they all ran in together. She was one tough cookie, and I’m glad I got to see her finish. She even got an award–shaped like a turtle–for being the final finisher.

All in all, I had a great time. I’m happy I could help, and I enjoyed seeing people of all ages and ability levels out there kicking ass under a blazing August sun. The event was well-organized and everyone was super-friendly. But next time? Bring bug spray.

Volunteer weekend part one

When I decide to do something, I tend to kinda go overboard. So when I found two races with volunteer potential on the same weekend, well, naturally I signed up to do both of them.

Saturday morning was the Splash Dash 5K at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock. The confirmation email instructed us to bring a grocery bag full of water balloons and arrive by 6am. We’d spent an hour on Friday afternoon filling water balloons–it turns out a grocery bag is not the best transport option, so they ended up in a small ice chest in the trunk of my car. My thumb is still sore from tying off 50+ water balloons!

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Nice morning for a hot air balloon trip!

I’m not a morning person, and the race wasn’t scheduled to start until 8:30, so I figured getting there around 7am would be sufficient. We’d already filled up the water balloons, so I didn’t see the need to arrive 2.5 hours early. We still had to get up at the crack of dawn since Old Settlers Park is more than 30 minutes away, but at least at that hour there’s not much traffic!

When we arrived, only a few cars dotted the parking lot, and even fewer volunteers had checked in. I thought perhaps additional volunteers had ignored the 6am request and were on the way, but by 7:45, only 8-10 people had shown up to work the drinking water stops and water balloon brigades. Yikes.

B and I collected our t-shirts and followed the volunteer coordinator to our station. One other person joined us, and that was it. Our “brigade” consisted of the three of us, my cooler of water balloons, seven buckets of refill water, and an arsenal of water guns and water cannons. What we lacked in personnel, we made up with enthusiasm, however. We loaded up our weapons and waited for our first runners.

We could see the start/finish line across the little lake, and they sent the first wave right at 8:30. I guess there were a bunch of water obstacles at the beginning of the course slowing people down–our little brigade was near the end and we didn’t see our first runners for another 20 minutes or so.

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Good thing I wore my swimsuit under this white shirt.

For the next hour, we gleefully aimed our water arsenal at Splash-Dashers, although every once in a while we inadvertently doused each other as well!. Most runners appreciated the water stop–it was already hot at 9am. A few people shied away from us or acted irritated that we aimed streams of water at their shirts. Which begs the question: what did you think you were going to get when you signed up for the Splash Dash 5K, a race that advertises itself as The Wettest Race in America?

By the time the last group of runners crossed our path, we were just about out of water. We picked up all the water toys, stacked the empty buckets, and left everything neatly organized for the race folks to pick up again. Our co-volunteer took off for the finish line to partake in whatever festivities were happening over there, and B and I headed to my car.

When I got home, the WEIRDEST thing happened. Earlier in the week I’d left a voice mail with one of the organizers about volunteering at the Hotter Than Du duathlon at Brushy Creek sports park tomorrow, and while we’d exchanged texts, we hadn’t touched base about specifics. So while I was thinking about it, I sent a quick text confirming time and place, and as the “send” bar moved halfway from left to right, my phone rang. It was the same number I was simultaneously texting. Wooooooo. Spooky. But I’m all set for tomorrow’s volunteer stint!

Volunteering

I’ve only been running a couple of years, but I learned early on that volunteers can make or break a race. From packet pickup to water stops, from ice-cold washcloth stations to the folks handling out medals, volunteers hold the key to a positive race-day experience.

Now that B has some solid races under his belt, I want to get him more involved as well. We tried this back in the fall, but his age was a bit of a stumbling block due to restrictions at the venue itself. However, B had a lightbulb moment this afternoon, and I decided it was time to try again. When he asked why volunteers were so critical to a race. I asked him, “What would happen if you got to a water station and no one was there?” He said he’d just grab a water and go. I asked, “What water? No one was there to set up tables, unpack cups, and pour water.” Oh. Right.

I admit I haven’t volunteered at enough races, but the events sure don’t make it easy, either. I searched Texas Running Post‘s events calendar and found a few local possibilities, but when I clicked on the events themselves, none of the organizers had any information about volunteering. I’d had this same problem back in the spring–I ended up working at the Iron Girl triathlon packet pickup in part because they were the only event to link up volunteers on their event website. I had a great experience with Iron Girl, but the overall process of finding volunteer opportunities has really frustrated me. How hard would it be to add a Here’s How to Volunteer! link to their home page? Don’t they need the help? It baffles me.

Anyway, eventually I settled on two possible events: the Splash Dash 5K in Round Rock and the Hotter than Du duathlon at Brushy Creek Park, both next weekend. The duathlon people didn’t have much info available online, but it looks like a pretty small event and I’m sure there’s something we can do to help. I will contact them next week. The Splash Dash looks like one of those theme races you can find in a bunch of major cities. I tend to avoid running in these races–the thought of having powdered color sprayed at my head skeeves me out, for one. But hallelujah–their website had a Click Here to Volunteer! link, so I signed us up to work the water balloon station. It’s BYOWB, and we get to sling water balloons at participants. What could go wrong?