Localeikki giveaway!

Ever wanted to find a new place to run, or you’re traveling and don’t know where to start? Use localeikki! It’s a database of publicly accessible, locally recommended places to run, walk, or ride.

I have been a localeikki ambassador for a few months and I’ve entered several locations both in Austin and when I’ve traveled. It’s a cool resource that will help you find a place to be active, tell you about the location, and let you know what kind of lighting, traffic, or restrooms to expect. Everything you need to know to find a new route and plan out a run!

The app normally costs $1.99 but I’m giving away a free one! Just click the link to follow my blog and/or like me on Facebook, then post a comment to say hi. I’ll randomly choose a winner on November 9th.

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Nonstop

One significant thing about the Army Ten Miler that perhaps I didn’t emphasize was the fact that I ran the whole thing–hills, bridges, overpasses–except for a couple of water stops, and I still had enough left at the end to speed up the last half-mile. This is a new development for me. Yes, I’ve run 5Ks without stopping, but I don’t think I’ve ever run more than five miles without a walk break or two.

So when I got to mile eight and hadn’t stopped running, I made it my goal to finish the race without walking. New milestone.

But I thought maybe it was a fluke due to the cooler weather, or the fact that G kept me going when I might have been tempted to slow down.

Then last Saturday I ran five miles with just one break. And last night, we ran a tough hill workout–1.25 miles to the bottom of the hill, a couple of trips up and down the hill (a half-mile each way), then 1.25 miles back. I ran a decent pace out and back, 10K pace up the hill, 5K pace coming down. I couldn’t quite maintain my 10K pace the whole way up, but I got as close as I could, took a breather for maybe 10 seconds, and headed back down. Each one felt like that last half-mile of the ATM–tough, but doable.

I know it doesn’t sound like much, that I ran the whole 1.25 miles back to Rogue. But after core class Monday, then a couple of miles of hill work, I normally would have been tempted to walk at least part of the way back. I didn’t. I ran that 10K pace the whole way, slowing only to cross two busy streets. I felt strong, like I could keep going. Nonstop.

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Water stop volunteer

The Run for the Water is not just a challenging 10-mile race through the hills of West Austin. It quite literally changes people’s lives–its founder, Gilbert Tuhabonye, was the sole survivor of a massacre in his village in Burundi, and he now uses the proceeds from the race to build water wells in his homeland. To date, the Gazelle Foundation has helped more than 20,000 people access clean, safe drinking water in Africa.

I ran this race last year and loved it–from Gilbert Tuhabonye singing the Burundi national anthem at the start, to the gorgeous view at the top of Scenic Drive, to Gilbert high-fiving every finisher at the end, it was a well-run, satisfying race. But this year, running two ten-mile races in consecutive weekends seemed like an invitation for injury. So when several of my National Junior Honor Society students expressed an interest in volunteering, I seized the opportunity to participate in the race while not overdoing the running part.

Thunderstorms rolled through Austin about two hours before the race start (I think these were the same storms that delayed last night’s Texas -TCU game for about three hours in Ft. Worth), but R4TW’s Facebook page declared that the show would go on, rain or shine.

My NJHSers are eighth-graders, so they were dependent upon their parents to get them to and from our assigned water stop at the end of Lake Austin Blvd. Did I mention we had to be there by 6am to start setting up?

Oh-dark-thirty in the morning

Oh-dark-thirty in the morning

I had about 15 student volunteers, plus two adults from my campus, my own personal child, and a couple of other people who joined us. We got four tables’ worth of water cups stacked and filled, and I taught the kids how to stand and hold cups to make them easy for runners to grab as they passed.

The race was supposed to start at 7:00 (and I remember it started on time last year) but a nearby police officer told us that the start had been delayed by 15 minutes. Not sure if that was due to weather or traffic or what. I’d told my students that we’d start to see the first runners about 15 minutes after the start (we were somewhere around mile 3.5) so they were all ready, waters in hand. With the delay, they wandered around and splashed each other–I felt like I was herding cats.

But then the officer informed us that they’d started (true to the 15-minute delay) and soon, we saw the lights of the motorcycle escort ahead of the leaders. They didn’t even slow down through the water stop–they just grabbed cups and kept going. I saw my Rogue coach, one of the first 10 or 15 runners to pass us. These guys finished in the neighborhood of 49 minutes, by the way.

After the superhuman runners came through, we had an ever-increasing field of mere mortals pass by. I loved seeing my Rogue friends, a former student, and even a couple of young runners, maybe 10-12 years old. They were doing great!

Our water stop was at the end of the flat section of the course–after passing us, runners turned right and spent the next three or four miles winding up through the hills of West Austin before returning to the relative flats on the way back. But it was really humid, and the more I stood there, the happier I was to be helping out instead of running in that soup.

It's good to be the Crew

It’s good to be the Crew

The last participants came through, and we got everything cleaned up. The police opened the road back up, and our little crew headed to the adjacent coffee shop while they waited for their parents. One of the girls said, “That was a lot of fun!” and I had to agree.

I wasn’t lazy, I was recovering

After last Sunday’s awesome Army Ten-Miler, complete with a sprint to the finish to nail a PR and subsequent sore legs the rest of the day, I wore my compression socks on the flight home, to speed recovery a bit.

Monday at work I felt pretty good, but I skipped core class to give myself a little break. Tuesday at training we did some speedwork–run 800 meters, rest 90 seconds, repeat. I did four of those, plus the mile out and back. Wednesday I ran an easy 20 minutes around my neighborhood, and Thursday we went to Rogue’s family Halloween run–a bunch of Rogues live near each other, so we ran from house to house over the course of about 3.5 miles. There were treats, games, and lots and lots of strollers.

We had a great time–Rogue events are always a blast. And it fit perfectly into my recovery theme, in that we took it pretty easy, never running more than about 3/4 mile at a time before stopping at someone’s house for goodies. Really, the running barely offset the treats!

On Friday, I came home to an awesome surprise in my mailbox: my t-shirt quilt, made by my friend Jenn!

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As many of us do, I had tons of cotton race shirts I’d wear the day after an event then never again. They were taking up space in my closet, and this was a great way to recycle them. She’s super-talented and I could not be more excited about my new quilt!

This morning I slept in, skipping the scheduled ten miles. I figured since I’d increased my mileage kind of fast over the last few weeks, to prepare for the ATM, I could justify backing off this week. And last night I saw this morning’s route map online–one that I really really detest–and decided that I’d go out to Brushy Creek trail later in the day instead. So around 10am I headed out. I parked at the YMCA–it was more packed than usual–and soon I learned why. There was a race going on–the Frankenthon Monster Marathon. I just ran from the YMCA to the sports park and back–five miles–while these folks ran a whole marathon. Impressive.

I guess I’ve milked everything I can from my week of laziness recovery–the pink streak in my hair has faded and life has returned to normal, so tomorrow I’m back on schedule.

Army Ten-Miler: an epic race!

It’s true. The pink streak in my hair made me faster.

But let’s start at the beginning.

I didn’t sleep well last night, but I expected that. And I woke up about ten minutes before my alarm, also as I expected. I committed to the short-sleeved shirt even though a cold front had come through overnight. K had brought extra arm warmers and at the last minute I added those to my ensemble. J got six of us out the door quite efficiently, and it was a short drive to Pentagon City Mall where we found parking at the top level of the garage. Minor tactical error, parking at the top, but we didn’t consider it at the time.

The race started in six waves, and I think our group represented all of them. After a quick meetup at the Metro station, a picture in which we were photobombed by a random woman, and hugs and well-wishes, we went our separate ways. A couple of us hit the port-a-potty line, then K and her husband split off to their respective corrals. G and I were in the last wave, which put us at something of a disadvantage, timewise. This race has two time limit markers (one at five miles and one at about 7.5), both based on gun time. We started 25 minutes after the gun, but we still had to make it across the markers in time. While we weren’t REALLY worried about it–in theory we should have a reasonably big window–the markers were in the back of our heads all the same. I didn’t really have a goal time other than to beat the cutoff.

Even though the race officially bans headphones and iPods, lots of runners had them anyway. I’d brought both, but I decided to leave my headphones off and looped them around my spi belt, to be used only if G and I got separated and I needed some musical motivation. I wanted to experience all this race had to offer–sights, sounds, all of it.

It was cold but not unpleasant as we watched the sun rise over the Pentagon and Air Force Memorial. The arm warmers were a good choice!

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Then the sound of the cannon sent us on our way.

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We ran along, the Potomac on our right and Arlington National Cemetery on our left. The first mile seemed to pass quickly, and soon we were looping around, heading up the Arlington Memorial Bridge. The cobblestones made it a little tricky, but seeing a guy with a carbon fiber leg negotiating them reminded me that my problems were minor.

This bridge leads from Arlington directly across to the Lincoln Memorial, with the Washington Monument a little further off to the right. I said to G that I wanted to fix this image in my mind: a sea of runners, a majestic view. I have always said that every American should stand at the foot of Lincoln at least once in their lives. It’s without a doubt my favorite structure in this city, and seeing it on this morning was incredibly powerful.

We made the right turn onto Constitution Avenue, then left on Virginia Avenue. This section had a bit of an incline, and my hip flexor twinged somewhat. We passed the Watergate (fun fact: the break-in happened on my second birthday) and made the turn toward the Kennedy Center. My Garmin lost its satellite link where the building hangs over the road a bit, so when it reconnected, it told me I was running a seven-minute mile while it caught up to my actual location. Ha.

Around 4.5 miles, G needed a pit stop. So far, I’d only slowed through a couple of water stops and was making good time, so she told me to keep going and she’d catch up. There was a bit of a line, and it took her almost a mile to join me again. But we’d made the first time limit easily. Goal one, achieved. I remember telling G that I have looked forward to this race for so long, I almost didn’t want it to end. Blue sky, bright sun, a sea of humanity, wounded warriors, incredible scenery. I wanted to freeze time for a while.

We passed the WWII Memorial, then the Washington Monument with its scaffolding and funky plastic condom covering. As we ran along Independence Avenue, runners ahead of us were coming back down the other side of the street. Some stuck their hands out for high fives. Lots of people cheered. A high school band played. Service members handed out water. It was loud and raucous and fun.

We made the loop and headed back down Independence–lots of spectators lined the street here, with signs and cowbells and even a vuvuzela. I spotted a woman holding a box of Dunkin Donuts Munchkins, and I shouted to G, “Knock her down and steal her donuts!” Fortunately the woman had a sense of humor and laughed. I wasn’t REALLY gonna mug her for her Munchkins. Probably.

We made the left turn and approached the 14th Street Bridge, Jefferson on our right. G discovered her Garmin had frozen up who knows how long ago. Mine seemed to be right, more or less, with the posted mile markers. As we ascended the bridge, we cheered because we knew now we had made the second time goal. Even so, this part was tough. Lots of incline on what was rapidly becoming sore hip flexors. I told G this is where I got cranky. She reminded me, “We just passed a guy with one leg.” Point taken.

As we approached the end of what felt like the world’s longest bridge, we could see the Pentagon off to our right. A street sign teased us with “Pentagon, 1/4 mile.” We could hear the finish line announcers and music. So close, yet so far away. We took a right toward the Pentagon, one mile to go. Up the overpass, down the ramp, around and under a bridge. Spectators lined the route again. Right turn into the Pentagon parking lot, passing the now-empty corrals from the start. I checked my watch–we had run 9.5 miles, and I realized I was under my 10-mile personal best time. I told G, we can make it. She thought I meant the finish, but I said no, with a half-mile left, we could break my 10-mile PR. We accelerated.

Around the corner, up another damned bridge. Could we do it, or would this bridge torpedo us? Down the other side, where’s the finish line? My hip flexors screamed. G channeled her inner drill sergeant–go go go! WHERE IS THE FINISH?? And then we rounded a curve and spotted the holy grail black and gold balloon arch. Go go go, she shouted.

We crossed the timing mat and I stopped my Garmin. Looked at the time. G shouted, “Did we do it?”

Yes!

Not by much. A minute, tops. But a PR is a PR, and I was elated. I never expected a PR, never planned for it, never even had a time goal for this race. Yet I ran the whole distance–10.16 miles, thankyouverymuch–except for five water stops, and I still had enough left to speed up at the end! I absolutely could not have done it without G pushing me and telling hilarious stories along the way. We wrapped our arms around each other and caught our breath, walking slowly through the chute while the moment sank in. Grabbed water, collected our finisher’s coins, took a couple of pictures.

It took a few minutes to text the others (service was spotty) and figure out where to meet them. Hugs, high fives, more pictures. We had all rocked this race, in our own ways, and the endorphin rush had us bouncing around–as much as our sore legs could bounce, anyway.

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As we headed out, a guy came up behind me and asked if I was from Austin–I was wearing my Rogue shirt, and he’d recognized it. Go Rogue!

Getting out of the Pentagon complex involved climbing over a couple of those concrete barricades that line the road (and keep cars from crashing, presumably) which was not easy for the short girl with sore hip flexors. But we managed, only to get to the Pentagon City Mall parking garage and realize our earlier tactical error of parking on the top level: stairs. Ugh.

We piled in the car–it felt so good to sit down, even if I did have to climb into the way-back–and inched into the line snaking out of the garage. J lives just a few miles away, so it wasn’t long before we queued up for showers. Three of us wore our ATM shirts. Then the piece de resistance: lunch at Brennan’s Irish pub in Arlington. Burgers, fries, coffee, wine, beer, and the post-race glow of achievement. I didn’t want it to end.

But K and R had to drive back to North Carolina, Cynthia had to work, J had to get a kid to swim team, and I had a flight home. As I write this, I’m looking at a gorgeous sunset out the airplane window, a fitting finale to an amazing weekend of good friends and a race I will never forget.

AUS –> DCA

My flight was uneventful, other than the kid behind me who whacked my seat periodically. But I had four magazines, a book, a book on my iPad, and earbuds to block out all the annoying sounds that come with being trapped in a metal tube with a bunch of people.

We went straight from the airport to the expo, held at the D.C. Armory. A couple of our friends were there too, and after we picked up our bibs and shirts, I bought a couple of shirts. I spent far too much money, but honestly, how could I not buy this for my kid?

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We wandered around the expo a bit, but J and I were so hungry (six airplane peanuts was insufficient sustenance for me, and she’d been in a meeting all day) we didn’t stay too long. Collected our free stuff and headed back out.

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The sun dropped behind the Capitol and I took a few pictures from the car. I always forget how beautiful this city is!

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The race day weather forecast looks excellent–no rain, sunny, and 50s. Bring it!

Leavin’ on a jet plane

Yep, tomorrow I’m off to Washington D.C. for the Army Ten-Miler and a weekend with some friends. I’ve been looking forward to this pretty much since the Cleveland Half-Marathon back in May, and now it’s finally here!

Super Pink--a hair color AND a good name for a band!

Super Pink–a hair color AND a good name for a band!

Because J says pink makes you faster, I added a pink streak to my hair last night. And my bathroom sink, and my right ear, and the beige towel. But that’s another story.

The weather cooled down a bit this week, and I took a pleasant, short run around my neighborhood after work this evening. The top of my foot is still a bit tender, but as long as my band-aid stays in place I think it will be fine for the race. If the band-aid slips and my sock rubs on it for ten miles, well, let’s just hope that doesn’t happen!

I’m packed, everything’s ready for my substitute to take my classes tomorrow, and I scored an A boarding group on Southwest. Nothing left to do but sleep.

Good night, y’all. See you on the flip side!