Race Essentials

Last weekend I ran a half-marathon (my fourth this year!) sponsored by my workplace.

The fact that it was a local event meant I didn’t need to do any significant travel, and at one point the course was less than a mile from our house. I briefly contemplated detouring right back home, since the humidity topped 90% at race time, but instead I kept plodding.

Even without travel, there’s still some prep work to do before a race. (I’ll post separately about packing for a destination race. I’ve got it down).

When racing there are two ways to go: minimalist or maximalist. I’d suggest the former.

Many times I see runners in elaborate costumes at races, but I’m not one of them. I need my energy focused on running, not adjusting a rainbow clown wig (an accessory I have noticed many, many times).

I also usually won’t debut any new clothing items, lest I discover unfortunate scratchy areas mid-race. Ditto new shoes.

What I bring with me:

  • GPS watch, on wrist
  • iPhone
  • Armband for phone, secured on upper arm
  • Sport earphones (currently these)
  • Lip balm, zipped in pocket of shirt or shorts
  • One nutrition gel (half-marathon or longer distance; I usually bring Gu since that’s what I’m used to from training), also in pocket

And finally, the most important item: a $20 bill folded into a tiny plastic zip-lock bag.

One like this:

small bag

Sometimes the pins that you’re supposed to use to secure your number to your shirt come in bags like these, which you will discover upon picking up the race materials ahead of time. That’s a huge score, as these small bags are perfect for holding a folded bill. I’ll also occasionally get them with new jewelry or extra buttons, and I always hoard them for just this purpose.

The plactic bag keeps the $20 dry, and in my experience, it’s critical to have a small amount of cash if, say, you’re suddenly craving donuts on the way home or you need an emergency cab ride back to your home or hotel. That $20 is a life saver.

For me, that’s usually all I bring to a race. If I have to drive, I’ll securely tie a car key to my shoe.

If you are more of a maximalist, other items that are not necessary but may be nice to bring:

  • Clean, dry shirt for after the race
  • Compression socks or sleeves
  • Flip flops
  • Small towel to dry off, or even a beach towel to place on a car seat for the ride home
  • Extra water or your favorite sports drink
  • Post-race snack
  • Brush or comb to fix hair, particularly if you are vain about post-race selfies
  • Band Aids
  • Face wipes, baby wipes or both
  • Hand sanitizer

Many races allow you to check a bag ahead of time, and all of the above can easily be stashed. I usually don’t bother since bag drops can be pretty crowded but occasionally I will take advantage of this service. Just don’t put anything of major value in the bag! Keep your car key tied to your shoe, or you still may need that $20 to get home after all.

 

 

 

 

Too Exhausted

Have you ever been too exhausted to sleep?

That may sound impossible, but trust me, it’s not.

Yesterday I ran another half-marathon, my third this year. However, unlike the two cushy races I did in warmer climes, this one was in Minnesota. In March. During one of the worst winters ever.

As I exited my car near the starting line, I felt like crawling right back inside. The temperature was about 20 degrees with steady winds. The course was rolling and more hilly than I anticipated. It was also a faster group of athletes than I am used to; I saw the eventual winner fly past me on the out-and-back course before I even made it to the turnaround.

Like everyone else there, I struggled against the wind but kept going because the alternative – walking – would prolong the misery of being outside, cold and wet.

When I finished, I hightailed it back to my car and to a hot shower.

I ran around doing different things for the rest of the day and evening, but when it came time to actually go to sleep, I couldn’t. Argh.

This used to happen to me often in residency. I’d work and work and work, and even though I was physically exhausted, when it was time to rest I couldn’t turn my brain off and sleep.

So it looks like today is going to be the kind of day that coffee was made for! At least I don’t have to run outside. I’ll give myself a pass on that one.

 

Because I Get To

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Check out the bling! 

This is the end result of the races I did this weekend.

Conditions were great for the 10k on Saturday. The course was quick, interesting, and I felt strong.

Sunday, well, Sunday was a slightly different story.

The humidity was almost 100%, temps were in the 70s at the start and this was the first time I’d done back-to-back races.

By Mile 2, I was dripping sweat.

By Mile 4 – about a third of the way done – I started bargaining with myself.

My hip was tight. I was wearing the wrong clothes. I had new shoes that were untested. I had run too fast yesterday. I started too fast today. I hadn’t trained enough in the last month.

Conversation in my head: Just go to one more water stop and then you can run and walk. Now this is something I’ve never done, but I was giving it serious consideration.

And then something else happened.

All I could think is this: I run because I get to.

I saw this phrase recently and it really resonated with me. Suddenly it also seemed to follow me everywhere.

At the Running Expo two days prior, I bought this shirt:

photo-26 photo-24

(It’s from Fellow Flowers, and if you aren’t feeling particularly authentic, perhaps you are filled with strength, gratitude, courage, hope, or just feeling worthy. Check them out).

I thought about my Dad, who inspired my love of running and would have loved to be there.

I run because I get to.

And then I ran past a group of spectators who were more than happy to give me high fives. My energy surged.

I run because I get to.

And then – get your tissues – I ran past a group of children in wheelchairs, cheering on the runners.

I run because I get to.

Suddenly, 13.1 miles didn’t seem so far.

I run because I get to.

My time was far, far from a personal best: 2:07:31.

I was #1207 out of 19,294 finishers.

But I did it, and it was awesome.

I run because I get to.

Running in the Happiest Place on Earth

Today and tomorrow, I’m running in the Glass Slipper Challenge, back-to-back races (10K on Saturday and half marathon – 13.1 miles – on Sunday) that are part of the 2014 Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend.

Both events are at Walt Disney World and are part of the Run Disney race series. These two races will be my seventh and eighth Run Disney events, respectively. Since I already ran the Tinkerbell Half Marathon in January, I’ll also (hopefully) get a special Coast-to-Coast medal for running races in California (Disneyland) and Florida (Walt Disney World) in the same calendar year. (Why do I do this? Well, I am a huge, shameless sucker for bling and love a challenge).

The first race I ever participated in was the 2006 Walt Disney World Marathon. I’d always wanted to run a marathon, but never had the time or confidence to train.

In June 2005 I finished my OBGYN residency and moved from Colorado to Texas to start my fellowship. Before leaving Denver, I’d been running a lot with my friend W, who first invited me to run a half marathon with her.

Even though I’d been a runner since my high school cross country days, the longest distance I’d ever completed was eight miles. But W and I started running together several times a week, and the miles would fly by. Soon we were able to churn out nine miles, then ten, then twelve. We ended up finishing two half marathons before I moved.

Fast forward to Texas, July 2005: I was awed when a new acquaintance casually mentioned that she’d done the Disney Marathon four times. She highly recommended it for a newbie, as there is a lot of support along the course and plenty of novelty to keep your (fatigued) spirits up.

I signed up the next day. 

The Disney Marathon takes place every January, usually on the second Sunday. It winds through four of the WDW theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. Disney characters line the course and many runners stop for a photo op with Mickey, Goofy or a favorite Princess or Villain.

My goals for my first marathon were fairly straightforward:

  1. Finish the race
  2. Finish the race without humiliating myself in some way
  3. Just keep running

And I did it! I was so happy. I finished in 4:24:24, which isn’t setting any world records but was plenty fine with me.

Since then I’ve done the Disney Marathon two more times, plus four other marathons and about 15 half marathons. I like to always be training for something, because I really need that tangible goal to look forward to. And did I mention how much I love the bling?

Friends, please keep me in your thoughts and mentally send best wishes for fresh legs, fast feet and good races this weekend!

Lean and Mean for 2014

Hmm, what should I eat?

On Sunday night, I got home late from a weekend trip to run in this race (more below), and I found myself staring into the refrigerator and silently asking that exact question.

But notice: “What should I eat?” is very different from “What do I want to eat?”

Want: M&Ms. Tortilla chips. Pizza delivered to my doorstep.

Should: Well, really just about anything else than what’s listed above.

I know this. I do. But like most people, I wax and wane on how stringent I am in applying this template.

I really admire my friend Amy, who is a dietitian and fitness/wellness coach. She is very inspirational and always walks the talk. When it comes to clean eating and healthy living for her whole family, she’s got it going on. Thankfully she includes me in a wellness group and often sends poignant quotes, ideas or recipes (even for feeble me!) my way. Thanks, Amy! I really strive to apply her 80/20 principle, which is to eat well 80% of the time and leave 20% for (responsible) indulgences. The main problem is that if I am honest with myself, I’ve spent more time in 20/80 mode than 80/20.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve also been able to catch up on some magazine reading during my two cross country flights. A few blurbs got my attention. One was from the back page of this month’s Self (or was it Fitness? Sorry). I’m paraphrasing here, but the gist was that a friend of a celebrity asked said celebrity – known for her famously fit body – how she did it. Answer? She exercised for health and well-being, but what really made a difference is that when it came to diet, she didn’t cheat. Ever. Celebrity: “You know how you are doing really well and then you go on vacation or to a special restaurant and you go all out? I don’t. Ever.”

A second essay that spoke to me basically said this: Yeah, we all know it and don’t want to admit it, but 90% of how you look is what you eat. My good friend D. and I were talking about this point last week. D. recently completed a fitness evaluation and was – on the eve of a milestone birthday – deemed supremely fit for his age and was significantly leaner than when he previously did the eval five years ago. His numbers were enviable. How did he do it? Exercise was a key component, but he also changed the way he eats, particularly portion size and not stuffing himself to the point of discomfort. (Me: Guilty, Your Honor).

So where does this leave me? As I mentioned above, I ran the Tinkerbell half marathon at Disneyland (part of a series of races sponsored by Disney, which I will extensively post about in the near future) on January 19th. Conditions were perfect, the race went well, I felt strong and the miles quickly flew by. I was #1055 out of 11,490 runners.

But – I was six minutes slower than last year. Granted, last year I was slightly younger and in better shape, but I also weighed about 10 pounds less. Reportedly, every pound lost can yield 2 seconds faster per mile, so 10 lbs x 2 seconds x 13.1 miles = Nearly the whole time deficit. Ugh. To top it off, every pound lost also results in 4 pounds less stress on the knees, and mine have recently started complaining after more than 25 years of running. Double ugh.

So it’s time to do something about it. Here’s my plan:

  • Weigh myself every day. Numbers don’t lie!
  • Drink at least 64 oz of water every day (if you recall, one of my New Year’s Resolutions).
  • Almost entirely avoid alcohol (I already started doing this back in November for other reasons, and I feel great. I used to love a big ol’ glass of wine at night, and at first, I missed it – a lot – but now, not at all. And I sleep a lot better).
  • Continue to run, add new types of exercise, including stretching and some basic body weight exercises (think lunges and push ups) every day.
  • Here’s the hardest one for me: Be accountable for portions. Document calories. Budget them. Spend and save where appropriate.

Not really sexy, but it’s sensible. Now please excuse me while I fill up my water bottle.