“Come to Ohio,” she said. “The weather will be cool,” she said. 

And yet, in the days leading up to my trip to Medina (meDYna, which is not my default pronunciation) to run the half-marathon, the weather forecast looked more like Austin’s than Ohio’s. In fact, at one point it was warmer at K’s house than mine. But what can you do?

I arrived Thursday afternoon, and a little while later we picked up our friend J who had flown from Canada. It was the last day of school in Medina, so we went to the historic square district while the kids had a celebratory dance party, and then we ate dinner at one of the restaurants on the square. We had tentatively planned a post-travel shakeout run for that evening, but after burgers and fries, we scrapped that plan.

But Friday morning K and I ran a two-mile loop around her neighborhood. The sun and humidity made it feel like we were running in MY neighborhood, which needless to say was not a good sign for the race the next morning.

Around noon we headed to the rec center for the race expo. Packet pickup was super-efficient, and our bags (half marathoners got a reusable one) contained all kinds of goodies, including a candle–presumably because Medina was originally founded by a guy who made candles. Which explained the bee theme everywhere. Anyway, we wandered around the expo and collected freebies: microfiber hand towels, anti-stink laundry detergent, stuff like that. We also met some of K’s friends (The Turtles) who were all involved with the race in some way–racing, volunteering, or both.

Later we took K’s dog for a walk on the trail near her house. I am impressed with Medina’s trail system and its miles of tree-lined, paved paths. Perfect for a leisurely walk the night before a race.

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We took it easy the rest of the evening, hydrating and trying not to think about the next morning’s weather. Which was every bit as unpleasant as we expected.

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The race started at 6:45, and even though K lives maybe two miles from the start, we were out of the house by 6 to ensure time for parking and porta potty lines. J was running the 5K so she had some extra time to wait. My stomach complained, despite yesterday’s bland lunch/dinner and a dose of Imodium, and as we waited in already-too-warm temperatures at the start, I had kind of a bad feeling about the whole thing.

And then we were off.

The first mile was flat, even downhill at times. K and I ran with her friend C–it was her first half–and we ran it a bit faster than I had planned. But as we wound through some neighborhoods I felt pretty good. At least until about 1.75 when I tripped on some uneven pavement and fell hard, twisting my right foot in the process. I ended up on my butt (I’d stopped my Garmin, naturally) and felt like an idiot. The pacers behind us stopped to make sure I was okay and helped me up. A quick inventory told me I had no major damage, and after walking a few steps, I shook off whatever happened to my foot and ran normally.

But my stomach must have felt left out of the drama because by the next water stop I knew I couldn’t run ten more miles like this. I sent the other two ahead and stopped at a porta potty. I never stop during a race, but after the issues I had the last 2.5 miles of 3M back in January, I knew that only three miles in, I really had no choice. Besides, I wasn’t racing for a PR, so a couple of minutes didn’t really matter.

The next two miles, I sped up a little in an attempt to catch K and C again, and when the course turned into a parking lot, I met them as they waited for a pit stop themselves. K told me the next segment would be on an unpaved surface, so I decided to continue on slowly, and they could catch up.

I walked through the rocky, uneven parking lot and emerged at Lake Medina. A kayaker paddled around; behind him, I saw runners in the distance. Okay, so we had pretty far to go up here. But a nice breeze drifted off the lake, somewhat combating the increasing heat. Runners doubled back on the path below, so I knew at some point we’d turn away from the lake. But before I reached the turn, I met two spectators, one of whom held a sign asking, “Have you seen Melissa?” I told her I didn’t know her but my name was Melissa too, and I took a picture of her sign. K said later that she told them she had in fact seen Melissa, that I was a little ahead of them, by then on the lower path. Looking back, I remember hearing laughter and snippets of chatter from the path above that must have been from them.

Of course, the lake breeze did not reach the lower path, and by the 10K split I jettisoned any remaining time goals. Just finishing would be enough.

As I emerged from the park and turned onto a sunny road, a course marshal told me, “It’s always cooler on THIS side of town.” More lies. I ran-walked the next mile or so, sticking with a couple of women doing the same thing. The police were doing an admirable job of holding traffic for runners–I crossed half a dozen major intersections but never once was stopped (I’m looking at you, 3M) and I wanted to make it easy on them if I could.

Somewhere after the next water stop and the squirt gun lady, K and C caught up to me. They were slowing down too, and we walked together for a while. We got ice from a lovely couple standing on a corner. They were wearing winter gloves covered with surgical-type gloves, scooping ice out of a giant cooler, and it was the best ice ever. K dumped some under her hat; I held mine in my washcloth, popping some of it into my mouth and dropping some down my shirt. By now it was hot even for the girl from Texas. I mean, this shit is why we race in January.


At some point around mile nine or ten, C ran ahead–she seemed to be feeling pretty good, and it was her first half-marathon so she deserved to finish in the best possible time she was capable of. K and I suffered along at a walk-run. Several residents had set up sprinklers or sprayed water on us–lifesavers, these people–and a couple of adorable kids boosted our spirits. A little boy wearing a Minion hat with a full Batman costume (“I’m Batminion!”) gave double high-fives, and a little girl ran up to us from two houses away for hugs and high-fives. At some point we saw one of K’s friends and pretended to run while she took our picture.

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The women with the Melissa sign had relocated here–or at least K said so. I didn’t recognize them easily because now one wore a full bunny costume and the other held a sign that said “There’s no I in poop” and I focused on that. Then I said to K, maybe there’s not an I in poop but there is an I in shit. Which tells you everything you need to know about my mental state.

At one of the the last water stops, we were greeted with icewater. It was so amazingly cold, it could have come from the Flint River and it still would have been the best icewater of my life.

Around mile eleven we passed directly in front of C’s house where her family and K’s awaited us. More K than me, really, but a welcome sight nonetheless. Christ, we still had two miles to go. K was at that almost-crying stage of misery, so I turned into the cheerleader, urging her on and promising we’d finish together. I knew she was feeling better a mile or so later when she yelled at a driver who passed us at a speed well above something reasonable for race day.

After we got through the last major intersection, we saw K’s family again, and her son ran alongside us. I tried to get a high-five from her daughter, but she snubbed me for her mom. Fair enough. 😉

I could see the finish line ahead–at the top of the hill, dear god why?–but my Garmin only said 12.75. I’d lost the ability to gauge distance, and I half-expected some additional detour before crossing the damn thing. But no, it was a straight shot. As K and I covered the final 25 yards or so, I finally smiled.

Out of my nine half-marathon races (not including three that were untimed) this finishing time was number five on the speed scale–and I use that term loosely. But by effort level, it’s right up there with my fastest. And the medal is pretty sweet too.

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Afterward, we sat on the grass, exhausted. J, who had beaten her 5K goal by more than a minute, had fetched my lime water from the car so I was happy to sit there with my friends and rehydrate for a while. K had gotten someone to make a 5K medal for J, since the 5K didn’t offer one. K’s son lost two of her Race Dots and we combed the grass looking for them–I found them by using the ones still stuck to my race bib.

The better part of an hour passed before we finally mustered the energy to drag ourselves off the grass and walk the block back to K’s car. Just then, the race director announced that the last finisher was approaching. She rallied nearby spectators to cheer for her, then celebrated her finish. I am sure she was ready to shut the thing down, but she made sure every finisher was recognized.

After the race, K and her husband hosted a huge cookout and pool party. Their kitchen overflowed with food and laughter. Her friends were welcoming and friendly, and one of them presented J and me with Medina Bee-themed wrap bracelets to commemorate our visit. Love!

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I have questionable social skills on a good day, but the race had drained my energy and at some point I fell asleep for an undetermined amount of time.

After my unplanned nap and a caffeinated beverage, I felt better. But then, as I stood at K’s sink, I turned to pick up something from the island. Most of my weight was on my right foot–the one I’d twisted when I fell roughly ten hours earlier–and suddenly a sharp pain radiated across the top of my foot. Talk about a delayed reaction! I iced it for a while, but it definitely still bothered me when we took the dog for a walk an hour or so later. The strap of my shoe pressed exactly on that tender spot.

It was no better–but no worse–walking through two airports on the way home Sunday, but Monday is a school holiday and core class is canceled so perhaps another day of rest will resolve it. Fortunately my klutziness didn’t prevent me from finishing the race. I had enough challenges as it was, and at least I was able to earn a medal at the end of it.

Yeah, the weather made for a miserable race, but I was in good company AND I got spend a couple of days with my friends. Totally worth it. 🙂

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Another attack

Nine women, several of them runners, have been attacked in the Austin area this year. And every time it happens, the news reports focus on reminding women to run with partners, skip the headphones, and generally be vigilant while out running. I wrote about this back in January, but it’s back in the news today because this week yet another woman was assaulted in a public place.

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While I appreciate the concern, and while I think this kind of advice is a reasonable short-term response in the face of what appears to be a serial attacker, I think we have a much larger issue to deal with here. There are people who think it’s okay to assault women. Women minding their own business–running, walking, whatever–and there are people who dismiss (or worse, justify) these attacks, that these women somehow deserved it because of what they were wearing or because they chose to run alone or with headphones.

And it’s not just limited to women in real-life situations, although it’s true that when I’m running I’ve been catcalled more times than I can count. This week I read (and shared, and discussed) a Facebook post from a woman named Kasey Rose-Hodge, who called out those who think these ridiculous bathroom laws are somehow protecting women from male predators in public restrooms. The reality is that, as she says, these men don’t need to dress up as women in order to attack women in restrooms. They can–and do–attack women anywhere.

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You can read her full post here.

Well guess what happened next? People who didn’t like her message reported her to Facebook for nudity/explicit content, and evidently FB automatically removes those reported posts rather than having human eyes review them first. Rose-Hodge lost her posting and private message privileges for 24 hours as a result. Not only did people disagree with her–I have no issue with that–but those who disagreed with her exploited the “report explicit content” function as a tactic to censor her. For using a public platform to express an opinion on a current event, she was attacked and harassed, her voice silenced.

I don’t want to live in a society that treats women as second-class citizens, whose opinions are worth less than men’s and need to be suppressed.

I don’t want to be protected from violence.

I don’t want to worry whether my ponytail will be used against me on my run today.

I don’t want to carry a fucking canister of pepper spray or look over my shoulder when I stop for water.

I don’t want to think about whether I should cross the street when I see another runner coming toward me, and I don’t want my default reaction to be “Is this guy a rapist?”

My comment (before the FB post disappeared) sums up my feelings on the subject:

I just had [my 13-year old son] read it and I think he was surprised to realize that this kind of thing is normal for women. I mean, just last night when we were running, not once but TWICE people yelled out their car windows at us. [My running partner] wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt that it was someone we knew; I wanted to flip them off. We did neither, mostly because we’ve been taught that responding could put us in danger. But because we were simply out in public, we were fair game for verbal assault. I don’t want to be protected from these assholes. We need to teach people not to be assholes. I’m starting with my kid.

Or, as Rose-Hodge says, we instead “focus more on teaching our sons not to rape vs teaching our daughters how to avoid being raped.”

Quite frankly, as a society we must address this not because women and girls are our daughters/girlfriends/wives. We must do it because we are human beings.

I’m starting with my kid. Will you?

Before each night is done, their plan will be unfurled…

I planned to run ten miles this morning, but pretty early on we decided to drop down to eight. brain thinking

I just hadn’t adequately recovered from last Saturday. I mean, at mile 4.5 we stopped for water at the same corner that marked mile 11.5 last weekend, and I felt like I’d gone the longer distance. Plus it was about eleventy thousand percent humidity, so neither of us required a lot of persuasion to cut it short.

Afterward, as we enjoyed our post-run caffeinated beverages and bagels, S and I nailed down some summer training plans. We’re going to sign up for the same Wednesday summer strength class as last summer, plus a second one (at a different location) on Fridays. The second one is about two miles from my house, so we’re going to meet here and run to that class. Which means we’ll have no choice but to run back. We will see if that happens just that first time, or if it’s something we can manage week after week.

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I also decided that I need to spend the next two weeks focusing on lower-back exercises. My legs were (still) tired so my back had to work harder to keep me upright, and I had to remind myself every quarter-mile or so to stand up straight. Running a half-marathon (even if I’m not planning to race it hard) in that state sounds pretty miserable, so while I can’t completely solve the problem in two weeks, doing some stretching and strengthening can only help. I’m also going to cut back on intensity and distance of my running workouts. I mean, at this point I won’t gain much, fitness-wise, by running hard, but there’s something to be said for taking it easy and having fresh legs on race day.

I started implementing that plan this afternoon. B had some friends over for his birthday, but it was raining so they couldn’t play the elaborate Capture the Flag game they’d been cooking up all week. So we ate pizza and watched The Force Awakens. Again.

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But in the meantime, I want to take over the world just get a good night’s sleep. Narf!

Activity

I accumulated 28,000ish steps during my 14-miler on Saturday morning and 32,000 before lunch, yet I finished the day with 34,300 steps. That tells you everything you need to know about how I spent the rest of my day.


Sunday I went for a bike ride–nothing too strenuous, but sufficient to loosen up my tired quads. I also did some lower-back Pilates exercises to address the weakness I felt starting around mile seven or eight.

It was perhaps a tactical error to run 14 miles right before STAAR testing Monday–I was required to “actively monitor” a group of testing adolescents for the better part of five hours, rarely getting to sit down.

But that did not stop me from going to to core class for the first time in a couple of weeks. Lots of squats? Check. Push-ups until my arms gave out? Check. Abs that hurt when I sneezed? Check. Three-mile run afterward? Um, sort of. I cut it short and ended up with 2.5 miles.

Tuesday brought more “active monitoring,” then our evening training run was supposed to be a tempo workout of some kind, but I knew from the first mile I wasn’t recovered enough for that. I ran five miles, the last two dragging big-time. I made it, but it hurt. Too much too soon, clearly.

Therefore Wednesday’s workout focused solely on the upper body. And foam rolling. Lots of foam rolling.

Today was the final day of testing–my kids were done on Tuesday, but eighth-graders had two more exams on Wednesday and Thursday, so the other grades weren’t allowed to go to class. So we babysat (read: watched movies) all morning. All told, we lost four full days of classes. It sounds innocuous, but the reality of watching kids take tests, then sitting around (while trying to keep them quiet so they don’t disturb those who are still testing) is tedious at best. Throw in the fact that I don’t know 2/3 of the kids in my classroom at any given moment, plus I don’t get so much as a restroom break during these four- and five-hour blocks, and I’m kind of grumpy about the whole enterprise.

This afternoon I’m hoping to get out for four-ish miles, both to get back on track with my training and to burn off the bullshit of this week. My race with K is three Saturdays from now, so I’ll drop down to ten miles this weekend. I hope it will feel easy compared to fourteen, since that was the point of going so far, really.

Let’s hope my quads are up for it.

Fourteen, redux

I dreaded this run alllll week.

Because I haven’t run more than ten miles since the 3M half marathon in January and I’m running a half with K at the end of May, I thought it would be smart to schedule a 14-mile long run this Saturday. I’ve only run that far one time–it was 40ish and drizzling most of the way, which was bad enough, but when I had about 3.5 miles to go, the skies opened up. Thunder, lightning, torrential rain. More than one car stopped to ask if I wanted a ride back. I hated that run with ever fiber of my being.

Well guess what? Today’s route was that same one.

So I already had a negative association with this route, plus I hate that it includes a roughly three-mile stretch of nothing. Straight ahead. Yeah, it’s flat, but being able to see my next turn three miles away does nothing for my mental game. It reminded me of what they say about living in West Texas–it’s so flat you can watch your dog run away for three days. So once I knew my fate route a few days in advance, I made a halfhearted effort to focus on the positive (I wouldn’t be alone this time, and it wasn’t likely to be cold) but mostly I just dreaded it.

S and I knew we’d take forever and that temperatures would warm up pretty fast, so we decided to start a little earlier. So as we headed out, the sun had just begun to appear over the treetops and we felt a cool breeze.

Our plan was to focus on one segment at a time–water stop to water stop. First one’s easy–just one mile out. To get to the second, we had to go up and down the Park Street hills. As we enjoyed the lemon-lime Gatorade, we met some (fast) folks on their way back, and mentally it was difficult to continue on, knowing we weren’t even halfway to halfway yet. But… water stop to water stop. We forged ahead.

We got a little break waiting for three different traffic lights at the 1431 interchange, then had to sidestep some construction a half-mile later. And then we hit New Hope Road (a misnomer if I ever heard one), which I hate almost as much as I despise the bridge at the end of the Army Ten-Miler. To illustrate: I have a playlist called “ATM bridge, you asshole” just for that 2.5-mile stretch. We could see the traffic light–a mile away–where we knew we’d find the next water cooler.

I already felt tired–we’d only run five miles, but my hips and quads were sore, and my lower back had begun to ache as a result. Just over halfway to halfway is waaaay too early for this. We filled up our water bottles–the next stop was quite a bit further than our turnaround point, so this had to last us until we got back here–and pressed on.

We crossed the railroad tracks, then had to wait for two traffic lights. This did not make me sad. I wanted some Foods and Energy from the corner store, but alas S would not allow me to detour.

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Another traffic light (oh darn) and then the magical seventh-mile intersection. We turned the corner and ran to the next block–I’d decided to go just a little further than the last time I ran this in order to make Garmin assign me a new “Longest Run” PR.

This was the street sign where we stopped for a water break.

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I pretty much thought of cheese the whole way back. Thanks, street sign.

Even though we were only halfway, we got a bit of a mental boost knowing we were on the way back.

Looong road. Two traffic lights and railroad tracks. Water break, side stitch, bonus water break. Sidewalk and construction. Traffic lights. Still the side stitch. Up the beastly hill–running, not walking, go us–then water and Gatorade. Downhill, then another water break before we tackled the last big hill. Some guys in a golf cart sped past us, and we both wished we could get a ride instead of running the last mile and a half.

We made it up the hill at a run, then had to got to wait for the traffic light here too. As we approached the last water cooler–the one that’s always at the one-mile-to-go driveway, we could see one of the coaches beginning to load it up in the back of a pickup truck. Noooooo! That water stop is important both physically and emotionally–I need it to get myself together for the last mile, plus it was pretty warm by now. Fortunately he spotted us and not only delayed packing it up but brought out one of the Gatorade coolers for us too.

The last mile is both the easiest and the most difficult. One mile to go–I can do anything for a mile, right? But with 13 already under my belt, one more mile seemed like ten. But it’s downhill, then flat, so that helps. What did NOT help was some woman blowing the stop sign as we were halfway across the crosswalk, though.

I’m sure at this point my form was terrible and I looked 104 years old. But I made it back, 14.1 miles and a new Garmin “Longest Run” PR. Why yes, I will accept that record, good sir.

We spent a long time stretching, foam rolling, and frankly just lying on our mats in a somewhat catatonic state. But hunger won the day, and we shuffled off to the Starbucks a few doors down. No one will be surprised that I got the Gouda and bacon sandwich.

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We occupied this space for so long that I got a little sun on my arms. But sitting on the patio with coffee and my friend felt so pleasant, I never wanted to get up.

Alas all good things must come to an end, and when I finally pushed myself out of the chair, my legs were much less sore than I expected. Still, after 14.1 miles and more than 33,000 steps, I’m calling it DONE.

 

Noble Run 5K

I hadn’t run a 5K in a while, so when we saw the flyer for this race at one of our favorite sandwich shops a few weeks ago, I figured why not? It was inexpensive, and it started five minutes from our house. The only drawback was the May 1st date–it’s been warm and humid here, less than optimal conditions even for a short race.

But this morning it was in the low 60s, cloudy, and windy. This, I can work with.

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As usual, M planned to drag B to a 30-minute finish time. S and I knew we couldn’t hang with them, so we stuck together–a successful formula the last three races.

We started out by looping 3/4 of the way around the high school track, exited through a grassy area to the parking lot, then out onto the road. I skipped the first water stop, and then my Garmin announced the first mile. 10:28. Oh shit. S said, “Well that can’t last.”

At the halfway point, I was pushing hard but hanging on. When I slowed for water at the two-mile point, S got ahead of me. I kept her in my sights but didn’t try to run her down. Mile two was a little slower but still well within PR range. I tried to distract myself, to not think about how much longer I had to hold this pace.

We made the turn onto Anderson Mill–the same road from the homestretch of January’s Rogue 10K–and I felt … not dead. Still a half-mile to go, though.

We turned into the parking lot, then back toward the stadium. Over the grassy spot again–I admit to walking 20 or so steps here, partly because it was uneven and partly to catch my breath for the final kick around the track–and then I picked it up. I told myself, it’s just  like a straights and curves track workout, one lap, no big deal. Later, S said she told herself the same thing about straights and curves.

Mile three clocked in the 10s again. I could see S not too far ahead, just at the other end of the straightaway. Then, as I came around the last curve toward the finish (which was halfway down the stretch) I couldn’t find the race clock. But… straights and curves. Just sprint the straight, and you’re done. 

I didn’t see a race photographer, just a guy with his iphone, but I smiled anyway. Then before even getting water, I walked over to the infield of the track and flopped down flat on my back, trying to catch my breath.

By Garmin time, I’d PR’d by 29 seconds. On the one hand, it felt like it should be more than that. But on the other, it was the difference between an average pace in the low 11s to one in the high 10s. There’s something pretty damn satisfying about dropping that number, you know?

I checked the official results later and gained a second back–an even 30-second PR. Turns out I was 11th in my division, too. Must not have been too many women my age out racing this morning, but still, I’ll take it.

J and I won’t be running that fast tomorrow. 😉