Hurricane Harvey

Running in the rain is awesome.  Running in the rain when it’s 70-something is even more awesome. Running only five miles in the rain because my calf hurts is slightly less awesome. But five miles > zero miles, so I’ll take it.

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My house is the top pin of the group next to the A in Austin.

Last night when I checked the radar, I knew it would be a rainy run this morning, and I relished it. I hardly ran at all the last two or three weeks trying to rehab my calf, so getting out in cooler temps made me happy, especially after an exhausting first week of school. I figured I’d shoot for five miles, go a little longer if it was feeling good, and work my way back from there.

I decided at 2.5 to turn around. It’s not that it felt super painful–it wasn’t 100%, but it wasn’t enough to make me limp or change my gait, either–it’s just that I wanted to be smart and not cause a setback. I’m jealous of my BRFs who ran 14, but I know sticking with five miles was the right thing for me right now.

Especially since next week looks like more of the same, depending on what Harvey decides to do.

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Slightly atypical August weather

I know I’m lucky–I can write about running in the rain and loving it while complaining about a minor injury. But the reason for this rain–a Category 4 hurricane that hit the coast 200 miles away and caused devastating losses–is terrible and I am sending good wishes to everyone affected by this storm.

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Vern’s No-Frills 5K, race #100

Vern’s is ordinarily, well, no frills. No shirt, no chip timing. Just a well-organized, small, community race organized by my running coach and named in honor of a friend of the race.

Run the third Saturday of every month, Vern’s costs a dollar to enter (free for students and Georgetown Running Club members) and since they time it by hand, you save your bib and re-use it. The course–an out-and-back loop one direction, then an out-and-back the other way–runs three miles on the concrete sidewalk path through Berry Springs Park and Preserve, then the last .1 turns up a crushed granite trail to the finish line. Since it’s the same course every time, many people run it repeatedly to gauge their training and fitness levels from month to month. A couple of us ran it back in April, so when #100 rolled around, signing up was a no-brainer.

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Especially since early registrants could get a tech shirt (race + shirt = $15) although runners could still register same-day for $1. This one would be chip-timed, plus Coach Bill had secured a huge list of sponsors, arranged for vendors to set up at the finish, and drummed up dozens of post-race raffle prizes for the celebration.

Usually 150-250 people run this race on any given month. For #100, they ran out of bibs at 700 registrants!

I finished solidly in the middle of the pack, slower than last time but a couple of minutes faster than last weekend on the beach. Considering the race started at 8 A.M. (it was 80* at 6:30 when I was driving to the race) so the first two miles were in more or less direct sun, plus I didn’t run all week since my left calf still bothered me, I’m okay with my time.

After the race I wandered around the vendor area looking for the source of the popsicles I kept seeing in people’s hands. I failed at that, but then I ran into the Tri Doc and had him work on my calf for a while. Eventually I met up with the others and we headed over to the raffle area.

So. Many. Treasures! Gift certificates from a couple of local running stores, free shoes from Brooks and Skechers, an entry to the Austin Marathon and a couple other races, gift certificates for massages and chiropractic treatments and all kinds of other running-related goodies like foam rollers and Clif Bars. I think I saw a big ice chest stuffed with BBQ equipment, a bucket with car-detailing stuff, and an enormous box of Fuel Belts. So enormous it hardly made a dent in the supply when each of the people who ran without bib numbers (since the race ran out!) got to grab one from the box.

When the raffle started, Coach Bill rattled off bib numbers four or five at a time, and when those winners had picked a treasure (the free shoes and a couple of race entries went fast) the next five got to choose. It still took half an hour to give it all away, and at one point he just tossed a bunch of stuff–Fuel Belts, water bottles–into the crowd, up for grabs. I got a Fuel Belt as someone who registered early; S got a Rogue gift card, and another teammate picked out a Worm massage roller.

My teammates had run to the race from a friend’s house nearby, but because of my calf I didn’t want to add more mileage so I’d driven right to the park. After the raffle ended, it was nearly 10:00, and running back in the sun no longer appealed to them. So we all piled into my car and I drove them back. Then of course it was time for coffee.

I plan to run Vern’s again, especially as training picks up this fall. I’m sure it will be back to its no-frills roots by then. And hopefully the weather will be cooler too.

Galveston Sand Crab 5K

To mark our fifth year running the Galveston Sand Crab, we added an element: Bo the New Dog.

We got kind of a late start on Saturday, which turned a three-hour drive into a five-hour frustration fest thanks to construction on two major highways in Houston, then a several-mile backup over the Galveston causeway. We've only had Bo for two weeks so we weren't sure of his road-trip skills, but he was great, just chilling in the back seat the whole way.

When we finally got onto the island, we headed for Olympia Grill, a dog-friendly restaurant on the harbor side. Our waiter even brought Bo a doggie water dish!

Unfortunately Run in Texas only held advance packet pickup on Friday afternoon, which meant we couldn't get our stuff until we arrived at the race. So we checked in to the hotel and goofed off for a few hours before heading out to East Beach waaaaay early, trying to score a parking space in the free lot before collecting our packets.

We used the time to introduce Bo to beach sand and the Gulf. He was kind of baffled by sand at first, trying to shake it off like water. But a couple of warmup/test runs showed he was ready to race.

He was the only dog participant (but the Galveston Humane Society is a race beneficiary so we figured he was allowed), and he got lots of attention. We developed a quick answer to "What kind of dog is he?" Since he looks like a dachshund mixed with a larger (but as yet unidentified) breed, we call him "Dachshund and Sneaky Neighbor Dog."

Have I mentioned that my knee/hamstring/calf has been bothering me again? Not like it hurt last winter, but enough to make me wonder how well it would handle a beach race. So I took some Aleve and crossed my fingers.

Finally at 8:30, after the kids' race completed, we were off.

The sand was in good condition this year–it must have rained recently because it was pretty well packed down, even away from the water. This was good news for my leg, and so far it was holding up.

The first half of the race ran into the wind, and I dodged the usual sand castle obstacles. My headlamp is just one of those that clips onto my visor–every year I say I need to get a better one, and every year I forget. The guys carried a flashlight, and Bo was wearing a couple of glow necklaces. That made them easy to spot when they passed me going the other direction–yellow glow necklaces a foot off the ground could really only belong to Bo.

On the way back, I let a family of three pace me. Dad wore a nuclear-glow headlamp, so I just tucked in behind him. My music was kind of loud but I could tell that the daughter was struggling. I couldn't hear her words, but I recognized her tone. Mom matter-of-factly urged her on. And to her credit, at least while I was behind them she kept running.

I could see the flashing lights of the turnoff to the finish probably .25 away, and I picked up my pace, leaving the family behind. But the semi-packed sand had been churned up a bit by earlier runners (and one dog) so it was a little more difficult. The beach makes for a slower pace than usual, but I ran my fastest pace at the end, and I finished pain-free, about fifteen seconds faster than last year.

This race still uses a foot pod timing chip, so I had to stop and let the guy repossess the chip. I wish he'd have given me 30 seconds to catch my breath and walk it off, but I can see why they want to grab people before they abscond with the chips.

The first two or three years we ran this race, our registration fee got us beer and a plate of BBQ. Last year they still gave away beer but you had to buy BBQ from a food truck. This year, only beer. And a Kona Ice stand. Sign of the times, I guess. Still, we had fun.

Last year B placed in his age group, but this year he was fifth. So without food, we didn't have much incentive to stick around. We packed up our dog and headed out.

Bo did really well on his first road trip with us–and his first 5K means an automatic PR. Not only that, he finished first in his age species group. Win-win!

Dog to 5K

Our house has been dog-empty since September 2014, when 17-year old Shadow crossed the Rainbow Bridge.

We were lucky for a very long time–she was laid-back, gentle, and could be trusted in the house by herself while we were at work all day. Yeah, she ate an entire tube of toothpaste and a Crayola 64 (all but the sharpener) that were left out by a certain small person, and she was a runner if she got out, but overall we had it easy. You have the perfect dog for that long, it’s really hard to think about starting over.

So we hadn’t.

And it got easier to NOT have a dog. We didn’t have to rush home from work to let her out. We didn’t have to find boarding or pay someone to care for her when we took a trip. No yard cleanup, no flea treatments, no accidents in the house. Yeah, we still had two cats, but they’re much more independent, and since they’re inside-only cats, no one has to worry about letting them out on a schedule.

But The Boy desperately wanted a dog. And for almost three years he did not pass up an opportunity to remind us of that. However, we always had some reason not to–can’t do it during school, we’re going on a long trip for part of the summer, blah blah blah. They were valid excuses, to be sure, but also convenient. We just weren’t ready.

Until this week.

On Monday, I poked around on the website for one of the local shelters. So many sweet and earnest faces! I found a few potential candidates that met our criteria (<2 years old but not a baby, 20-50 lbs, good with cats and kids) and saved their info as a reference, but I couldn’t accurately gauge their sizes until I saw them in person. So we drove to the shelter with the understanding that we had to be patient–when you’re choosing a lifelong committment, you might not find the right match the first time out. I don’t know if I said that to reinforce it to the kid or to myself.

Anyway, we got out there and began looking around. The big dogs were housed in larger runs, and we walked through their area pretty quickly–the ones I’d identified earlier were just too big for our needs, but we still hoped to spot a medium-sized dog in their midst. Nothing doing there. Then I looked through the door to the small-dog room–I almost turned away, but something made me go inside anyway. And the bottom three cages held medium-sized dogs.

We read their profiles–the one on the right was a candidate I’d spotted on their website, but I was unfamiliar with the other two. B was kind of drawn to the middle one–a little brown 1.5-year-old dog named Bo. He seemed the right size and he was friendly to B through the cage, so we asked to take him out and play with him. B ran around the yard area with him while I asked some questions. I learned that he was classified as a “green dot” dog, meaning the best, easiest kind at the shelter. He’d been surrendered by an owner who didn’t want to fix their fence to keep him from escaping. She didn’t know how he’d behave with cats, but she offered to “cat test” him by walking him around the feral cat colony that lived behind the building. I didn’t know cat-testing was a thing, but it made perfect sense. So we walked him back there and he passed with flying colors.

He met all of our criteria. And because he’d already been neutered, we could take him home that day if we wanted to. Not only that, through the end of July the shelter was charging a discounted fee for dogs over a year old–he was only $10 to adopt.

So we did.

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Not sure whose grin is bigger!

True to the cat test, he’s fine with them. They are wary and annoyed, but when they challenge him, he backs down. He’s ignored lots of chewing opportunities (shoes, mostly) lying around the house, he’s housetrained, and it turns out he’s also crate-trained. He’s slept in the crate willingly and quietly his first two nights here.

We’ve run into our first dog-care conundrum though. Next weekend we have a plans to run a 5K some distance from home–what do we do with a new dog? He ended up at the shelter to begin with because he escaped someone’s yard–leaving him in our fenced yard is not an option. So he’s coming with us. B, of course, volunteered to have Bo run with him. But he’s little, with short legs (the dog, not B) and I didn’t want to just drop him into a 5K with no preparation at all.

Which leads us to Dog to 5K training.

He’s been on a dozen walks already–he’s only 1.5, so he’s energetic. I told B to start him out with an easy-paced half-mile run the first time out. Ha–they were so “easy-paced” I couldn’t keep up with them running my 5K PR pace! But he had no problem with it, so the second day we did the same thing. They’ll add a half-mile at a time to get to three miles by next weekend. But B doesn’t really care about his finishing time, so if Bo’s energy flags they can run-walk or whatever as needed.

I don’t anticipate taking him running with me on a regular basis–my distances are generally longer than three miles–but this will be laid-back and fun.

He’s already made himself at home here. And I somehow I think Shadow would approve.

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Rogue-iversary

I joined my first Rogue training group after I decided to train for the San Antonio Rock and Roll Half Marathon, but I missed the group’s first Tuesday night workout and Saturday long run because I was traveling with my family. Instead, I kept up with the training schedule by running the little cruise ship track (seven laps to the mile!) over and over. So technically my first “date” with Rogue was July 17, 2012.

Five years ago.

So let’s take a little walk down memory lane, shall we?

On September 8, 2012 I ran ten miles–double digits–for the first time.

On October 20, 2012 I ran my first 13.1 mile training run. A week later, I ran my first 10-mile race–Run for the Water.

And on November 11, 2012, I completed my first half-marathon.

What happened next–even moreso than finishing that race–changed the trajectory of my running life. I originally planned to run one half-marathon as a bucket-list thing, then return to shorter distances. But while I achieved my original goal, I felt like I had more left to prove. And to my surprise, I realized I enjoyed what I was doing! So when several people from my San Antonio group jumped over to the 3M/Austin half group to continue training, I joined them.

At this point, I fell in-step (literally) with a group of similarly-paced women. Little did I know they would become more than my long-run company. They took on the roles of shenanigan partners, sign-up-for-that-race enablers, race carpoolers, and biggest cheerleaders.

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Did I mention shenanigans?

Mile after mile, through bad weather and illnesses, chatter, laughter, and silence, we dealt with disappointments and celebrated firsts, PRs, new shoes, and life moments. Sometimes we only started together, then caught up when we each finished. And we started the all-important post-run coffee date tradition.

My son ran his first half-marathon accompanied by Rogue friends. He didn’t always run my pace, but several Rogues tag-teamed along the way to make sure he followed the course and was hanging in there with the distance.

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He completed his first half-marathon at age 10

I can’t count the number of people who have pushed me to run better, stronger, faster. Friends who pace me during a race, jump back in to a race they’ve completed to help me finish strong, even fly in from halfway across the country to help me PR a goal race. Friends who could kick back and drop their own mileage, but they stick to my training schedule to help me prepare for a big race. Then there are the coaches who devise torture speedwork to help me improve my endurance or pace or both. And don’t forget Rogues who come out in droves to cheer (often racing from location to location; funny signs are optional, but appreciated) as spectators when they aren’t racing.

One time, four of us formed a team to run a relay race. Yeah, we were the slowest team out there, but I’m proud of the fact that after three of us ran our individual segments, we joined our fourth partner (who was recovering from a serious illness) for her final leg so that she wouldn’t be out there alone. Another time they had to wait for me because I was sick post-race. Technically they were stuck because no one else could drive my stick-shift car, but I still love them for sitting with me in the medical tent area until I felt better. And I’ll never forget trying to run 3M undertrained, injured, and miserable, buoyed by a series of friends running with me, then handing me off to a small group waiting at the finish line.

Many runners find success training on their own, and I occasionally enjoy a solo run too. But I couldn’t have done the work to finish my first half-marathon, let alone run 14 more, if it weren’t for these folks.

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And many more!

Although one specific person inspired me to start running and I put in the work to stick with it long-term, I found it easier to show up week after week thanks to my training partners. Those days when the weather was bad, I thought, “well, Rogues run in the rain” and I showed up. When I got home from work, exhausted from cumulative lack of sleep and wanted to skip a workout, I knew someone was waiting to run with me, and I showed up. When a long-distance BRF texted me every day to ask how my run went, I showed up so I could give her an answer, not an excuse. When one of my coaches called me “tough” or praised my efforts after a difficult workout, I knew I had to live up to their opinions of me, and I kept showing up.

Change is inevitable–I’ve worked with six or eight different Rogue coaches, and runners move in and out of training groups depending on their goals. In the last year we’ve also had to adapt to a new training location, which meant new routes. Some friends have taken a training break (I miss you!) and new friends have joined us. Recently my workouts moved from Tuesdays to Thursdays, and we spend every other week at the track. I won’t lie–juggling the changes has not always been easy, and I’ve worried about Rogue CP as an entity–I still do, sometimes. But I have no doubt that the reason I’m still running half-marathons five years after my first training run is the camaraderie–and accountability–of Rogue, my friends, and the running community.

 

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So cheers to my five-year Rogue-iversary, and to all the friends I’ve made along the way.

Run from Hell: South-of-the-River edition

Rogue has a long tradition of torture via a route called Run from Hell that pretty much hits the worst hills in Northwest Austin. And occasionally we run at River Place, which is more of the same.

Well today, J was in town for work, staying in a super-hilly area. She had an early morning meeting, so we got an even earlier start–at 5:30 we ran up and down (and up and down) the neighborhood roads for four miles.

I took a picture of the route from the top of one of the hills, but it really doesn’t do the thing justice. How about the elevation map instead?

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Pretty much tells you everything you need to know about that.

She was a beast and ran 95% of it. I ran… more than I walked. And we finished strong, mostly because the last .25 was downhill, but whatever. My quads were SO tired!

The hotel had left out small towels and an ice bucket of water bottles for returning runners–clearly we did not have an original idea–which was a nice way to end the run. That, and sitting down. 😉

Armadillo by morning

Every once in a while, we take a field trip for our Saturday long run. This week, it was to Georgetown’s San Gabriel Park. Which required significantly more driving than my usual six-minute Saturday morning trip. Instead of waking up at 5 A.M., I had to get up at 4:30 and drive about 25ish miles (about 30 minutes on the toll road with a 75 MPH speed limit…) to get to the park for our 5:30 start.

The route began in the park, on a slightly uneven gravel trail–even with a headlamp I was kind of worried about twisting an ankle in the dark–but maybe a half-mile in, it switched to a paved sidewalk. Although streetlamp-type lights lit up the trail periodically, at times it was really dark. And after the first water stop, my friends got ahead of me–it was so creepy I might as well have spotted monsters under the bed. I had a light and my headphones were turned off, but every little noise made me jumpy. And me without my monster spray.

The trail forked in a couple of places, and some of the turns made me question my map-reading skills. It was still dark, but every once in a while, through the trees I could see a neon-colored shirt up ahead, so I was able to stay on-track.

Somewhere around three miles–it was still dark out–an animal surprised me on the trail ahead. As I got closer, I could tell it was an armadillo who clearly hadn’t seen me yet. Once it detected my presence, it shot off across the grass. I had no idea armadillos could move that fast!

Just past the armadillo crossing was the second water stop–followed by a giant hill leading into a neighborhood. And at the top? More incline. It was like half a mile of steady rise. I was already tired and this did not help. But I figured as long as I could see the others ahead, I wouldn’t get (too) lost. Because the map wasn’t helping me at all. Turn after turn through the neighborhood I followed the neon shirts, and I couldn’t figure out how they knew to make those turns–my map didn’t have those directions.

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I reached a dead-end and could not tell which way I was supposed to go–no neon shirts either way. But then a returning runner appeared from the left and answered that question. Finally at the five-mile point, I arrived at the third water stop and some friendly faces. I drank some water and Gatorade, then took out my map to figure out how the hell I was supposed to remember the route back. Turns out, I had to, you know, turn the page over. Brilliant.

On the way back, I ran through stood under someone’s sprinkler, and I walked a bit while I tried to figure out why my podcast wouldn’t play. Of course this was the moment my coach and a bunch of other gazelle-like runners came up behind me. Damn.

I gave up on fixing the first podcast and selected a different one, then picked up my pace. In fact, the rest of the way back I pushed myself, and it turns out my last three miles were my fastest. Even though my legs were tired, it was hot and humid, and I hadn’t run this far since my half-marathon in June. It was barely a respectable pace, but it was faster than the first seven miles.

Back at the park, a cheering squad (i.e. my friends) greeted me, which was exciting. Eventually I cooled off, changed into a clean shirt, and we all went to breakfast. Tacos and coffee for the win!

And no more armadillos.