The best Medal Monday ever… or why you should #runlocal

I’m kind of a fan of bling. Really though, what running princess isn’t? But this weekend’s race tops them all.

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Running clubs across the country are in place to benefit so many local groups and they do great work. My local club‘s main beneficiary is the Tal Morrison Scholarship Fund. They award six scholarships (three boys and three girls) to area high school seniors that participated in their school running program.

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How I race when I’m not racing…

You don’t have the be the fastest on the team and you don’t have to commit to running in college, but you do have to be a great student. Tal, the founder of the club back in 1969, passed away last year and he has said that his greatest legacy was this scholarship fund.

 

Every April at our club race, I have gotten a little choked up by how awesome it is to give checks to these students. We can accomplish some pretty great things with our club and I’m proud to be a part of it all. But this year was special. My son was awarded one of these scholarships.

imageThree thousand dollars is half of his housing paid for. Three thousand is a huge chunk of the out of state tuition bill. I have seen that award become the reason a child went to school in the first place. These kids are fantastic. One of the girls will be attending MIT in the fall. One of the boys will go to Texas A&M and study math. Another girl plans to attend Duke. My son will be at LSU studying political science.

I know it’s fun to participate in the big national races, but for a moment, think about how much good you can do by running in one of your local club’s races. These small clubs all over the country do great things. They are changing lives one mile at a time. Real lives with real hopes and real dreams. I would say that the award received at this club race is better than any age group trophy or finishers medallion that could be won. It is an investment in the future. Alex and Daniel, well deserved boys. I’m proud of you both.

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Medal Monday: Big D Half Marathon

Big D Half Marathon - DONE!I think I might have lost my mind. I’m not sure what happened that I find myself looking at April with a little apprehension. I signed up with Marcy to run the Diva Half Marathon in Galveston on April 19th. This would be our goal race. But I am also going to Des Moines, Iowa for the National RRCA Convention the weekend of the 25th and there is a race. Knowing that it would be a week after my goal race, I smartly signed up for the 10K. Safe, right? But then my fellow board members of DRC talked me into upgrading to the half (It will be slow! We will have fun! – famous last words before I always seem to pull that trigger… hahaha). So imagine my surprise when I get asked to then also pace the Big D Half Marathon…the week before Galveston. I didn’t want to run. In fact, I had the perfect spot picked out to go cheer everyone on at! But here I am, running Big D.

Pretty cool that even my boy got to pace this morning!

Pretty cool that even my boy got to pace this morning!

The Big D Half and Full Marathon has been run for a number of years and this year they changed up the course, promising a flat course for your fastest half marathon finish. In Dallas, that’s usually code for “this is gonna suck, we’ve found every elevation change we could and shoved it all into this awesome course.” True to form, there was no elevation map included with the course map online. However, a quick perusal of the streets, I knew it wasn’t flat. I’ve run West Shore before. Seriously. After my calves nearly blew up on the Rock n Roll Dallas course, I started to dread the race. I know what my legs are capable of and no amount of training or running slower or faster or ingesting various forms of electrolytes or water is going to change that my legs and I have a love-hate relationship. My kidney’s decision to sometimes not function on all cylinders typically causes most of my angst. It’s certainly a delicate balancing act of water, salt and other electrolytes to keep from cramping up because of the toxin build-up inside my pesky kidney.

Best Pace Sister EVAHH!!Determined to make this a great race, Marcy and I grabbed our blue running skirts (Skirt Sports, of course!) and our orange flowers. The orange flower from FellowFlowers.com represents runners “fiercely united.” It’s one of my favorite flowers to wear when I am with my running friends. Marcy and I set out doing 2:1 intervals. We were pacing the 2:50 finish group and this interval made the most sense. Within a quarter of a mile, we had been asked by people running near us about the intervals and asked if they could join us. The answer is always “of course!” Pacing a race is hard because you HAVE to have a great race. You can’t be the one to fall apart because runners who paid to run are counting on you to help them reach their goals. But, pacing a race is also one of the most rewarding things I do. That pace stick breaks down barriers, pulls headphones out of ears, and lets you meet the most amazing athletes. Every walk of life can be found out on a course, all running for various reasons, all with great stories of obstacles overcome.

The nitty gritty of the race: this was hilly! OK, not San Francisco-hilly, but for imageDallas, there were some inclines! Training with Dallas Running Club, we run those hills every weekend. If I was running by myself, I would likely skip those streets and only run on flat land. But that wouldn’t make me a better, faster or stronger runner, so I could do the hills, but I certainly felt inclined to complain a little under my breath as we approached each one. The day was exceptionally humid. In the end, this was the deciding factor for a whole lot of runners Sunday morning. The higher than expected temperature with 85% humidity was like running through pea soup. The water stops were spaced really weird. We would go almost three miles with no water then hit two stops in less than one mile. Stuff like that is why I ALWAYS carry my own water. That and the pesky kidney. Every water stop, I grabbed water, took a sip or two and then dumped the rest of it on my neck to try to keep cool. I really struggled with cooling myself off during the race and looking back at my Garmin, my heart rate was really high too… curiouser and curiouser.

imageAs Marcy and I approached mile 7, we got a text from my hubby who was pacing a much faster group. The humidity caught up with him and he had gotten sick on the course. He was unable to keep going at his pace (that’s why we have two pacers for each time – anything can happen on race morning). Marcy and I told him to just walk and we would catch up with him. He could finish with us. Ironically, he has never finished a half with me (he’s speedy, even if he is having an “off” race). We picked him up about mile 9. Marcy and I were really happy that everyone who wanted to run with the group was still with us and doing really well. We tried to pass the time with some jokes and I called out the miles with elapsed time as we got there.

We had just passed mile 12 when a girl collapsed to her knees right in front of us. She had been in front of us the whole race and she looked really strong, so the three of us immediately ran over to help. Her leg was cramping up and she was crying. It had locked up and she couldn’t move her foot and the cramping was so bad it was beginning to radiate to her hamstring and quad. I knew exactly what the cramping was like and hoped I could help her get it to subside, but it would take a minute. We agreed that Marcy would get the stick and the others across the finish line at the goal time and Sean and I would stay back with the injured runner. Thank goodness, the final water stop of the course was just ahead. We worked the cramp back a little and I ran ahead to get her water and Gatorade. She said she didn’t have any more energy gels left. Quick thinking prevailed. As a pacer, I always carry extra pretzels and jelly beans in a pouch for anyone that needs them. I knew she needed salt, so I offered her the pretzels, which she thankfully took. They quickly helped and she wanted to try to run it in. Sean and I assured her we would not leave her side until she crossed the finish line to her family.

Marcy, Sean and I with Elizabeth. She is truly an inspiration!

Marcy, Sean and I with Elizabeth. She is truly an inspiration!

We learned that her name was Elizabeth and this was her first half in five years. Sean told every story he could think of to take her mind off of any pain she might have been experiencing and gave her tips on running form and we invited her to come run with us at DRC. The best part was seeing the kick she had left in her as she saw that finish line. I could almost not keep up. As we crossed the mat, I grabbed a medal from a volunteer and put it on her neck. Elizabeth hugged me tight and just started to cry. She whispered that she hadn’t run a half in five years because she was looking for a kidney in that time and had just had a kidney transplant. Everything began to make sense and I told her I understood more than she knew. I was so proud of her and what she had accomplished. Marcy met the three of us at the finish line for pictures and we got to meet Elizabeth’s husband. The orange flower made so much sense at that moment. My orange flower was my declaration that we were there for all the runners out there that needed a boost, a little laugh, a few pretzels, or someone to just help you across the finish line. I was reminded that every day I get to run is a good day. Everything happens for a reason and I am now certain that I was meant to pace and be there to meet Elizabeth.

Seriously, the blog is called The Cupcake Mile. How does one not add the cupcake-after-the-race pic? ;)

Seriously, the blog is called The Cupcake Mile. How does one not add the cupcake-after-the-race pic? 😉

Well played, Mother Nature. Well played.

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I have written a race recap for the BCS Marathon three times and not been satisfied with any of them. The fact of the matter is that my race was awful. It was too hot for me to maintain race pace. I got dehydrated and my wheels completely fell off. I cried a lot, sat on a curb and felt sorry for myself. Did so much walking I felt like I was on a death march. But I’ve had a day to reflect on the race and I have changed my outlook on it.

Was it hot? Sure!
Was it humid? Yep, 100%.
Did the sun beat down? Check.
Did my once perfect race nutrition turn into an epic fail? Unfortunately, yes.
Did I get so dehydrated that I quit sweating? Sure did.
Did I PR? Nope.
Did I finish? YES.

I allowed conditions outside of my control to control me. I was trained and ready and was feeling sorry for myself.

The reality is the marathon isn’t just the final 26.2 miles. I am more fit than I was in July. I had an entire training season with no injuries. I made some lifelong friends and enjoyed the entire journey. I ran when others were unable and completed 26.2 miles!!! We raised good money for the race charities.

I am alive and there is no CAN’T in my vocabulary!! I am choosing to not measure this season’s success using my finish time this year. I have so many reasons to be happy!

Happy Race Week!!

These are more ramblings than any sort of cohesive post. I’m in taper, so cut me some slack… hahah

tiggerSix more sleeps til I battle the 26.2 mile course again. I can’t believe it’s been 22 weeks since I started the fall training season. I began with a few close friends in the group in July and through monsoons, insane heat and humidity and temperatures in the 20s, while managing work, training runs, volunteer work and our love of cupcakes, I can honestly say I am ending this season with far more close friends than I had in July. The group went out for breakfast like we have after every long run and this time we celebrated our pace leader’s birthday. It was a big one!!! The smiles were huge this week because my friends are so ready for the marathon! We laughed about all the silly things we have done all season and how far each of us have come. These are friendships that are woven together, each run making us stronger runners but also better friends.

I began thinking I would be targeting a certain goal time, but am ending this season with a slightly modified goal time. I’m not sad though. I am at peace with the decision. It will still be a PR. I feel confident that I can attain it because this Saturday’s final long run felt REALLY EASY. OK, maybe I’m a little nervous. I’m a little sad that everyone will be running Dallas together and I will be running BCS by myself, but I know that we are all running together in spirit. I begin an hour earlier, so I will get to enjoy the after-race and then jump onto facebook to cheer them all across the finish line. Last night I began my packing list and have been stalking Accuweather in a very “boil the bunny” unhealthy way. Tonight we will finish the laundry of all of the race-day wear for the family and I will begin to set my playlist for the Shuffle. I have my nutrition all planned out and oh, did I tell you… there are SIX MORE SLEEPS TIL THE MARATHON?!?!?

DRC Half Weekend Finally!

This year as Volunteer Coordinator for the Dallas Running Club, one of my jobs was to coordinate the volunteers for our biggest annual event – the DRC Half. It’s 39 years old. No, seriously. 39 and no intention of holding. However, this is one race that manages to only get better with age. There are two amazing Race Directors, Steve and Linda, an equally amazing Communications Director, Rachel, and a gaggle of team leads, including me. What makes this race a little different from most? We are all volunteers. Yep, all the money we make goes back into the club and out to deserving high school cross country runners through the Tal Morrison Scholarship program, our local trail groups and a few other running non-profits. We all have full-time jobs, so you would think we would all just slap this baby together and hope for the best. However, this is one of the better half marathons you can run each year in Dallas. This year, we even added an Expo and none of this could be pulled off without a few hundred amazing volunteers giving up their time and love to the club.

For the sake of no one caring about boring meetings and logistics of porto locations and the correct length of barricades needed or the never-ending loop of “you can’t get a Special Use Permit without the Food Permit but you can’t get your Food Permit without the Special Use Permit,” I’m going to jump to race weekend. What a crazy time it was! All day Saturday, forty volunteers set up tables and chairs, hung signage, marked the course, blocked off parking, sorted shirts, loaded post-race food, unwrapped medals and loaded water. We tested sound equipment and even fought off fire ants in November! As the sun went down and everyone was heading out for the evening to (hopefully) get a good night’s sleep before the 3:30am wake-up call, I looked around at the race site. It was hard not to get a little teary-eyed at what a small group of people could physically put together. It was really a beautful site and I was so proud that we did it together. I couldn’t wait for a few thousand of my friends to see what we did for them.

Arriving at 5 am Sunday, the site was already starting to hop with people all doing a job. It was the final hour before everyone would be there to run. I admit now to being stubborn about running this race. Seriously, what was I thinking? I actually had one of my worst races ever. But, as I made the final turn back to the race site, I saw it and it was beautiful. People lined the finish area. The beer garden was packed. Smiles were on everyone’s faces. It was a party and a darn good one at that. Norbuck Park was beautiful! I couldn’t be more proud of what two hundred volunteers made happen on the first weekend in November. I would say that I felt like a proud parent, but that distinction really goes to the Race Directors for working for an entire year on this event. So, I will gratefully accept the role of “proud Auntie” instead. To know I played a role in pulling off one of the best Half Marathons in Dallas? Yep, I’ll take it!

December PRs are made today

I won’t lie. I don’t run more than three times a week.  I sit in awe of those in my training program that can slog out mile after mile, day after day.  I just can’t do it.  I tried last season and my body revolted in the form of a torn calf muscle and a tibial stress fracture that reminded me that I’m not as young as I like to think I am.  And my past sins of being significantly overweight and sedentary will always be a factor in my training.  Bottom line is I am a slower finisher at the marathon distance.

But I’m totally going to PR this December! 😉

But just because I don’t run every day doesn’t mean that I don’t get my hiney up and moving every single day.  My plan is to be a bit more well rounded this season and see if it makes a significant difference in my finish time.  I run three days a week, do yoga once a week, elliptical, spin bike and strength training.  I would like to think that it’s helping because my run last night actually felt easier than usual.  Last night, however, was an anomaly.  The easy base-pace run started off

We were drenched!  Nothing like the solid "ker-thunk" of dripping wet clothes hitting the tile floor after a run through a monsoon!

We were drenched! Nothing like the solid “ker-thunk” of dripping wet clothes hitting the tile floor after a run through a monsoon!

as usual with temps in the high 90s and humidity at a solid 120% (just kidding, but man, it was humid!).  A mile in to the run, we felt the blessed raindrop.  Then another.  It was just enough to make the steam visibly rise off of the pavement.  Kind of cool to watch, not very fun to be in.  I *may* have looked up at the sky and challenged Mother Nature with a “that all you got?? bring it!”  Hindsight, it was maybe not a smart move to taunt her.  The sky opened up and it didn’t so much rain, but pour enormous buckets of water down.  Not even a visor or hat kept you from needing little windshield wipers on your eyeballs.  We were a solid 40 minutes from the clubhouse when the lightning struck and we were stuck at the lake with nowhere to take cover.  We bounced around a bit, took a short cut, did a hill or two and generally decided that a tempo run was what was on our impromptu plan.  There were many a phone that gave it a good fight but likely lost in the end.  Thank goodness the phone 6 will be out soon, huh??  But I was really impressed that I was able to run at race pace so early in the season and not be sucking wind.  I’m not sore this morning and I generally feel great about it.  Maybe there is something to this well-rounded plan of mine.

Now we are back into the temperatures and humidity levels that we are used to seeing and I know so many people that just don’t want to train in imperfect weather.  Yes, it’s hot. But slaying the summer will allow us to rule the fall.  If we can run in the heat, we will be so much faster when the temperature finally starts to back off.  Our December PRs will only be made with the consistent training in every kind of weather.  It makes sense – we are supposed to practice with our fuel to train our bodies to accept little foil packets of gel for countless hours and we are supposed to wear the same clothes to know where to apply the body glide in the future… 😉 And running in the rain is just part of it.  If you wait for the perfect moment to run, you will likely never train and it won’t prepare you for whatever Mother Nature chooses to throw at you on race day.  Many a marathon has been run in less than ideal conditions, so you might as well suck it up today and get out there.  Besides, how else will you recognize a perfect day?

Race Recap – Volunteer Edition…

course markingI am the Volunteer Coordinator for my local running club and this weekend, I was asked by a runner how we put on such an awesome race for, essentially, nothing.  Honestly?  Volunteers!!  We charge $10 for non-members to run a race and the rest is made up through the annual membership fees we pay.  Might I add, we are a bargain at $30 a year!  Our biggest volunteers are our race directors.  They are busy every week either pulling permits or booking portos or U-Haul trucks, fire and police, etc.  But the heart of the club is all of the volunteers that give their time every month to execute the plan that the race directors put together.  So, to give you a glimpse into our most recent race…

reg tableMy job started a month prior to the race by putting out a call for volunteers.  The number needed largely depends on the distance of the race, as we have to staff water stops in addition to all of the other jobs.  The August race I got lucky by only needing to staff one water stop.  It was a cross-country style relay race, two miles long for three legs.  We chose to give it a superhero theme this year.

The Wednesday before the race, my life always gets crazy amid a sea of RSVP lists and spreadsheets.  Juggling who can work pre-race, special accommodations due to injuries, people not running, who will have their kiddos with them… it’s more an art than a science.  Once the positions are filled on my spreadsheet, emails are sent out.  As always happens, I had a couple of people email me to say their plans had changed and they would not be able to volunteer after all.  So, the dance began all over again with moving a few people around and putting out a request for more volunteers.  Thank goodness we have such an amazing club, because there are always a few more that will step up.load in

The night before the race, a host of volunteers gathered at our clubhouse to load-in all of the items we will need for our race the next morning.  It’s a sweaty job in August in Dallas!

baton labelingBecause it’s a relay, we needed batons for each team to pass off, so we used Frisbees left over from the annual picnic.  Lots of volunteers came to help put timing chips on the batons and make the medals for our overall winners.  What superhero doesn’t get keys to the city?

Race morning begins in the dark out at the race site. Cones are set out to mark the course and all hands are on deck quickly because we only have thirty minutes until race day registration opens and we have to be ready.  It takes us nearly thirty people just to get the start/finish line set up and all of the registration in place and water stops stocked and ready to go.

Once the runners are off, the party really gets going and the next countdown begins with setting out bananas and post-race food and preparing for the kids’ race.  Part of what I really love about the club is the familykids race atmosphere.  If we can instill a love of being active into kids as young as two, we have done our job to continue the sport.  This particular Saturday morning, we may have forgotten to save enough cones to set out a short course for the kiddos.  No worries!  I used my superhero volunteer skills to gather people who were milling about to be our “human cones.”  Those that helped out came back with huge smiles after having given out high fives to all the kids as they passed by each human cone.  Add one more item of craziness, I forgot to pick up the bibs when I changed out the bucket this month.  My quick thinking Martha Stewart skills ran straight to registration and asked for all the leftover Frisbees that didn’t get assigned to a team that morning – the kids ended up loving that they got a Frisbee to run with just like mom or dad – SCORE!

photo boothEven the photographs at the club race are free!  We had two people graciously give up running the race to give to everyone and it was some of the most fun!  Since the race was super hero themed, the photographers and I thought it might be fun to make a photo booth. Seriously, what I lack in running speed I make up for in my mad-Martha skills.  I immediately went to work making the little “Bam” and “Pow” signs, using old boxes and black and yellow construction paper to make buildings and even threw together some superhero capes.

Finally, when the race is done and the award are handed out, it’s time to clean up.  Nobody really likes to clean up their toys, but it’s necessary and can take as little as an hour start to finish if we have enough hands on deck.  If you’re lucky, you could count all this work as a cross-fit workout… 😉start line setup

I know it’s fun to race, but I can tell you I have gotten more out of volunteering at these races this year than I ever dreamed.  I have made some amazing friends and learned that you don’t have to cross the finish line to be a part of your local running community.

 

*photos graciously provided by David Arvelo and Ian Pierce