Vegas, Baby – 2017

Last month my dear friends J., B. and I ran the 2017 Rock n’Roll Half Marathon in Las Vegas.

This was my second year running in this series. The half marathon is really novel since the Las Vegas Strip gets shut down for the runners, and it’s run at night. We were planning to run two races over the course of the weekend, a 5k on Saturday and half marathon on Sunday.

We arrived Friday and checked into the Bellagio. The floral displays featured peacocks.

Housekeeping obliged by giving us extra amenities. There is something about the smell of these toiletries that I love. Ditto the floral displays, especially the fall-ish scent that must be pumped in.

Most of these tiny tubes came home in my suitcase.

Friday night featured a runners’ reception at Hyde, which is one of the clubs in the Bellagio. It’s eye level with the fountains and part of the club is open air, so the view is unbeatable. The top picture is one of the many displays that we saw. I never get sick of watching those fountains.

On Saturday morning, we hit up Giada for brunch. This was one of our favorite restaurants from prior trips, and it did not disappoint. I got my money’s worth of bottomless mimosas and we all went nuts for the fresh burrata, blue cheese and olives that we had as appetizers.

Saturday afternoon consisted of picking up our race packets at the expo, a bit of shopping and getting ready for Saturday night’s race, which is a 5k that takes place near the SLS Hotel. Security was tighter this year than last, but the race went smoothly. There was a Goo Goo Dolls concert afterwards that we could have stayed to watch, but none of us were really in the mood to stand around in the cold night air while sweaty.

Plus – we had 10 PM tickets to Absinthe, a funky circus-type show that combines feats of strength, burlesque, insult comedy, tap dancing and roller skating. We’d seen the show once before but decided it was worth a second trip since the first time was so wow-ing, and we also wanted to see if the political jokes sprinkled throughout by the MC were Trump-esque. Many were. The show did not disappoint the second time around, and we all agreed it was as good or better than ever.

The show finished so late that most restaurants were no longer serving dinner, which was a bummer since we were now all pretty hungry. We ended up in an Asian noodle bar in the Bellagio, which hit the spot.

One thing that was unusual for me on this trip was that I gambled. This was the first time I’d gambled in a few years, and once again I learned that while I love to spend money, I like to have something to show for it. Gambling doesn’t fit that bill. Nevertheless, I gave it a shot and put $20 into a National Lampoon’s Vacation slot machine. I promptly lost $1.10 and cashed out.

The next day, a Betty White machine caught my eye and I tried again. This time, success! I turned $20 into $22.65, so I called myself a winner and walked away.

Full disclosure: My friend B. and I stumbled upon the 10 cent voucher at the top, so I technically can’t count this as a money I won. Still, I made up for my $1.10 loss the day before and then some. I’m not quitting my day job yet, though.

Sunday’s brunch was at Bardot Brasserie, a restaurant in the Aria Resort. Given that the half marathon was scheduled for a few hours after brunch ended, I didn’t make the same mistake I did last year when I went whole hog at the Bellagio’s buffet.

We did, however, spend $5 to buy a small serving (large pat?) of what was described on the menu as “The World’s Best Butter.”

Carb loading at its finest.

Sunday’s race had a new starting line this year due to the recent mass shooting. I have to admit I was nervous at the start, when approximately 40,000 runners were corralled into a small area. The security was tight and police presence was everywhere. My predominant thought was that this was one of the first major events since the shooting and the need to get it right was strong, so I felt that every reasonable measure had (probably) been taken by the Las Vegas PD. I also knew that once the race started, everyone would be stretched out along the course so much that the crowd would no longer be concentrated.

Another thing about this race: I was totally, completely under-trained. This is embarrassing to admit, but I had some serious magical thinking leading up to the race and I couldn’t seem to do what I needed to do to prepare. The longest run that I had done in the two months before the race was about 7 miles, which is a far cry from 13.1.

As I stood at the starting line, I told myself that I would divide the race into thirds and run the first third, run/walk the second and walk the final third if needed. I wasn’t exactly happy that I needed to make this plan, but that’s where I found myself.

Once I started, it took more than the first mile to settle in to a comfortable rhythm. That worried me. I thought I might not even be able to continuously run the first 4 miles, but once I completed miles 2 and 3, I started to get into the groove.

Mile 4 then passed and I told myself that I would go to mile 5 and then take a running gel for some energy. That milestone came pretty quickly and about that time I settled into a pack of runners for the next mile or so, and I decided that I would go to mile 6.5 so that I could say I ran halfway.

At mile 6.5, I felt really good so I kept going through miles 7, 8 and 9. Shortly after mile 10, I felt like I was not going to be able to run all the way to the end, so I took a walk break and picked up running again. I alternated running and walking for the last 3 miles and finished the course with one of my worst half marathon times, but an overall sense that I did waaaaaaay better than I thought I would.

Weirdly, it was motivating to see how well I’d done under sub-par circumstances and it inspired me to set a new goal and train appropriately for it. This was the best case scenario; if the race had been a disaster I think I would have been completely defeated.

By the time the three of us had finished the race and showered, it was already 10 PM and we were hungry. We had dinner at Yellowtail, which is a sushi restaurant in the Bellagio. B. called it an early night since she had a flight an the ungodly hour of 7 AM. J. and I finished dinner and then had a nightcap (or two).

Monday was our scheduled day of departure, but not before J. and I hit the Bellagio spa. For a hotel spa, it’s really good. My only quibbles would be that they tend to try to upcharge with service add-ons and there is a communal waiting area for men and women. While I’m a first order feminist and all about equality, there is something about seeing a hairy guy in a too-short robe that just does not jive with the Zen spa vibe. Give me a women’s only area any day.

The trip home was uneventful. Too boring to write much else about it.

Overall, this was a perfect getaway with friends. I can’t wait to go back next year and hopefully set a PR on the course.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brooks Running Apparel Review

I’ll be honest: I was really, really bummed a few weeks ago to have to miss my favorite running event of the year.

So much so that I backed off of my running, which is so not me.

Compounding that wave of sadness was seeing happy social media posts from countless friends who had recently completed races while I moped on the sofa.

I was feeling left out. Left over. Left behind.

And then I knew I needed to pick myself up, dust myself off and hit the road, one foot in front of the other.

Cute clothes never hurt that mission, either.

I’ve been wearing Brooks running shoes for several years, faithfully rotating out worn pairs for new ones, but inexplicably, I don’t think I’ve ever owned any other Brooks running gear.

I saw this outfit on another blog and was able to track it down on sale:

The shirt is called the “Streaker.” I’ve now seen it in both short and long sleeve versions, as well as tanks.

While I purchased the pink/cobalt combo above (and the colors are so gloriously bright in person; I love this shirt), it is also available in a red/orange pairing and a seafoam/turquiose one.

Here is the last one on sale at Sierra Trading Post:

This is a close up shot that shows the color gradient:

The shirt is moisture wicking and made of antimicrobial fabric, so here’s hoping that it wards off perma-stink for the entire summer and fall running seasons.

And let’s talk about those capris. The “Go-To Running Capri” comes in this awesome hot pink color (boringly called “641” on the Brooks website), as well as black and navy. The fabric is really smooth and these capris have two pockets in the waistband to hold money, keys, etc. I love this feature. The pockets are also trimmed with fluorescent yellow fabric, which is a cool contrast IMHO.

While I ordered the above directly from Brooks (the shirt was on sale but looks like it might be sold out now), I also found some screaming deals on Brooks gear at Sierra Trading Post, Amazon, 6PM.com, REI, and even Nordstrom.

At Sierra Trading post, I was able to get this cute pair of capris for over 50% off retail and also score this tank for less than $10.

Here is a screen shot of the capris, which are called “Greenlight SE.”

There is a cute ruching detail on the leg:

And here was a surprise: they are reversible! I like the striped side better, but the pink/navy is also nice.

Since they are reversible, the capris are also just the right amount of thickness. Not too bulky to be hot, but also not too thin to venture into transparency. Nobody wants that look.

The fabric is the same silky smooth knit as the first pair of capris. They  have a wide waistband that I appreciate and also come with a pocket for essentials.

I am hoping this new gear gets me set and in the right frame of mind for fall marathon training. I ended up hitting the trails three times over the weekend, so I am feeling positive and off to a good start.

What is your favorite brand of running gear?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Declare It Day 2017

Declare It Day 2017 is in the books!

Knock on wood, my running’s been going well lately and I’ve been kicking around the idea of a fall marathon, most likely the Twin Cities Medtronic Marathon given that the course is  going to be (practically) in our new neighborhood and it’s a course I’ve run four times already.

This will also be my tenth marathon, which seems like a cool milestone.

Putting something out there for everyone to see has usually been an effective motivator for me in the past, so here’s my Declare It Day goal for 2017:

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And yes, I want to go for a PR!

 

On Injury

I recently had a very humbling experience.

Ok, this was really just one of many humbling experiences life seems to throw my way, but this one was specifically related to running.

[It is also moderately painful to admit I need to categorize, sub-classify and then create my own Dewey Decimal System for the myriad humbling/humiliating/mortifying events that surround me].

I was planning a fairly easy Friday night run a little over a month ago. Thirty minutes in to what should have been a comfortable six miler, I felt something pop or snap in the back of my right leg.

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Image via Active.com

The pain was immediate, and all I could think of what that something really, really bad had happened.

Initially I couldn’t even bear weight on the leg and worried how I’d get home.

After about 40 minutes of sitting down, I was able to take a few s-l-o-w steps at a time and made it to my car, where I called my friend D. – a genius physical therapist – for some emergency advice.

D. agreed to meet me at my house that night and put my knee/leg through a series of tests to determine the source. At the time, it fortunately did not seem to be a serious knee injury; rather it was more consistent with a hamstring pull.

She was even able to nail down the tender spot to one specific site and – great friend that she is, seriously D. is the best! – she came over four times over that weekend to manually dig into that spot and work on the strained area.

By Monday morning, with the help of D., ibuprofen and copious icing, I felt about 90% better.

But I knew that this was a warning sign.

Unfortunately, 25+ years of running has not necessarily made me a better runner. I have bad habits. 

  1. I rarely stretch or foam roll.
  2. I run to the detriment of everything else. When time is tight, which it always is, I choose running. If I have 45 minutes, I run for 45 minutes, not 30 with 15 minutes of conditioning, etc.
  3. I rarely strength train.
  4. I often take a weekend warrior approach and run taxing, big miles on the weekends and much shorter distances during the week.
  5. I don’t monitor my form.

The list could go on for a long time.

With my wake-up call, I did the following:

  • Went to PT. This has been extremely helpful. At my first appointment, the physical therapist politely asked if, perhaps, I thought I had weak glutes and a weak core? My resounding laughter affirmed his inquiry. He gave me a series of exercises, a strengthening band and I’ve been following up with him once a week for a total of five sessions.
  • Was treated with the Graston Technique. This was new to me, but it really seemed to help. Stainless steel instruments are used to comb the affected area and identify any muscle disruptions, which are then worked on with deep tissue release techniques. The person I was working with said that he could feel the torn area in my semimembranosus muscle.
  • Did a video taped running analysis. Actually, I did this twice. Once was at a sports performance assessment with a PhD Physical Therapist and running expert, and the second time was at a store when I bought new running shoes. I was warned before watching the video that the angles were not that flattering, but essentially I was filmed on a treadmill with four cameras watching me run. After painfully getting past the jiggling, I could see what they saw: I slouch, I pronate and I don’t engage my glutes well so my hips drop with every step. Over time, that adds up to injury.
  • Bought new shoes. My old ones were examined by a few different people and determined to still have life in them, but it was recommended to consider a pair with better foot guidance to avoid pronation. Ok. Check.
  • Watched a lot of YouTube videos on proper running form. Like this one.
  • Tried to clean up my diet and lose some weight, which is undeniably helpful on the joints. (Notice I say “tried” since I fell off the wagon this week).
  • Concentrated a lot on my form. When running, I worked on keeping my feet underneath my center of gravity to avoid overstriding, leaning forward from the ankles and engaging my core, and taking shorter, quicker steps to increase my overall cadence. It’s hard to remember to do all of this simultaneously, though.

So, here’s what happened: things seemed to get better within about three weeks. Both the physical therapist I have been seeing and I were wondering why I was even in PT. I wanted to test my leg out, and I was very, very nervous about getting behind on my training schedule for the January marathon I have on deck.

After a few gingerly-executed runs, I went out an did an 11 miler two Saturdays ago. I felt great! My form seemed better, it was a beautiful day, and I was optimistically thinking that I would come back better than before.

And then on Sunday, my right knee blew up like a balloon.

It did not look good.

Not only did it hurt, there was also a crunchy spot I could feel when I bent it.

Sigh.

I really started to fear a meniscal injury, since new pain was now present at what I thought might be the joint line.

I took five days off running and did three miles last Friday. The knee hurt more.

Last Saturday, I was supposed to run 12 miles. I did zero.

This week, things seem cautiously, slightly better. I ran twenty minutes on Thursday night with some walking intervals mixed in. I felt very deconditioned. That was humbling, but I made it through without aggravating the knee more and it doesn’t feel bad today.

Being sidelined as a runner doesn’t feel good, but overall I’m still trying to remember my mantra “I run because I get to,” and be grateful for any (healthy) steps I take.

This meme summed it up well:

runninginjury1

Fingers crossed for recovery!

Four Tips for Motivation

There were so many races happening last weekend.

Our city held its 20th annual marathon, plus the town where Spouse and I went to college held similar events.

Since he usually heads back there to run a half-marathon with his buddies, I already knew that the kids and I would be holding down the home fort.

Double whammy: I was also on call, which precluded a solid race plan even back at home.

Sitting on the sidelines, though, gave me an opportunity to plan for what’s next.

I also had time to catch up on back issues of Women’s Running magazine, which is typically a great inspiration for me.

These four motivational tips for reinvigorating your running struck a chord:

  • Sign up for a race
  • Buy new (cute) running clothes
  • Try a new route
  • Make a new running playlist

Any one of these would do the trick for me.

Especially this GapFit neon double pink tank or this one from Athleta:

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Love that hot pink!

First Outdoor Run of the Year

Last weekend the temps soared out of the single digits to the solid mid-double digit range.

Time for an outdoor run.

(And yes, I am a baby. I despise sub-zero temps and ice slippage with its resultant injuries, so I will mostly run indoors in the winter).

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Not Me.

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Also Not Me.

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Definitely not me.

I have actually run outdoors many times this year, just not in my hometown.

Because the weather here is generally terrible. 

Last Sunday, I set out to change that.

The first run of the year is always – every 25+ years into the process – a bit of a culture shock.

There’s no streaming Netflix to watch, no clean towel to wipe away sweat, no convenient water fountain and no climate controlled temperature like on the treadmill at the gym.

And there’s wind, traffic, uneven sidewalks, and other unexpected obstacles.

But there’s also sunshine, lung-piercing fresh air, and (often) solitude, which is just the way I like it.

I also find that I generally run a lot faster outdoors than in; I feel like I get to let my natural pace take over and it’s usually more varied but overall quicker than any workout I’d set on the treadmill.

Bring it on, Spring.

Big Adventure

Today we’re taking off to a big adventure: I’m running three races over the course of five days as part of the Disney Princess Half-Marathon series.

Accompanying me this year will be my sister (Spouse is busy with work and she was game to go!) and my kids. Today’s also Trixie’s sixth birthday, so that’s a bonus to celebrate.

Schedule for the weekend is to fly to Florida today and pick up my race stuff tomorrow, then run a 10k on Saturday and half-marathon on Sunday.

But that’s just part one: on Monday, the four of us are getting on the Disney Dream for a short (four night) cruise to the Bahamas.  The kids have spring break next week, so the timing is perfect.

While we’re on the boat, there’s a third race that I’m running, the Castaway Cay Challenge.

Billed as From Parks to Paradise, join the first-ever Disney Castaway Cay Challenge,” this is a 5k race on Disney’s private island in the Bahamas.

I can’t wait!