Saturday, October 21, 2017

2017 Crystal City Twilighter 5k Race Recap!

I don't usually run races during the summer.  But when I do, it has to be a night race like the Crystal City Twilighter 5k.  I got a $5 off coupon through a Oiselle Volee teammate.  (I love a chance to meet up with my fellow birds, especially since it was right before Bird Camp, a running retreat for the Volee team.)

This race has a gun time of 8:30pm (hence "Twilighter") and at that point the sun is usually starting to set, but this year it was pretty dark because it rained off and on until just before gun time.

Before the race I grabbed my packet then some dinner at Sweetgreen (first time ever eating there and it was awesome!  Definitely recommend the harvest bowl, minus the wild rice.)  Then since I had more time I looked around and took pictures of the decorations--everything was lit up and looked great!

I loved how despite the gloomy rain everything was so colorful and bright.

There were also a few vendors that I said hello to and got to test some of their products.  I also took the opportunity to avoid the long line and get my glow in the dark bracelet that would allow me to get my free post-race beer!

Then it came time to meet up with my fellow birds for some pictures (as always) just before gun time.

As we walked towards the corral (self-seeded so you had to use your judgement as far as placement) the leader of our chapter of the Volee, Courtney, asked me "What do you want your PR to be?" I apprehensively said "A sub-30 5k?" and then she said "Okay, let's do it!" and from the moment the gun went off, she pushed me to that along with a couple other volee team members helping me keep the pace.  My splits were awesome--10:07, 9:52 and 10:26.  I really pushed hard despite the weather (it was super humid and slightly cool but not by much.)  And I had brought a handheld water bottle so we skipped the water stops.  Throughout the whole race Courtney pushed me to my limits.  Normally I do run/walk intervals and she wouldn't let me walk, but I just kept reminding myself "it'll be over soon" as Courtney reminded me that "5ks suck" and "You'll hate me now but a few minutes afterwards you'll like me again."  And you know what?

She was right.

I hated her for that whole 32:07.

Once I got a cold towel, more water and the nausea subsided, I didn't hate her anymore and really appreciated that she pushed me.  It totally caught me off guard, but it was still a PR for the course!  The first time I ran the race, I ran it in 35:25 with an average pace of 11:02.  This second time?  I finished in 32:07 with an average pace of 10:06.  I couldn't believe my watch when I saw it.  An average pace of 10:06?  It gave me hope that it's possible that one of these days I can actually be one of those people who sees a sub-10 minute mile for an average pace.

Besides that, I really liked the race.  It's nice and flat through Crystal City and the decorations Pacers puts up in the start and finish area are really fun.  Post-race, you get the usual fare--banana, a bag of pretzels, and you get a free beer.  They also had free pretzels from the Pretzel Bakery and it was basically perfect with my beer.  Race day packet pickup was also super easy since they had several volunteers working and they use a dynamic bib numbering system which means you get your bib number in order of pickup.  (So if you get your bib early, you get a smaller number.  Later pick up means a larger number.)  They also had plenty of premiums, which in this case was a technical tank top!

If you enjoy summer running, I definitely recommend this race!  However if you're not a fan of the heat, I'd recommend sitting this one out.  The race is lots of fun and the course is pretty flat, but the heat adds an extra element of difficulty.  Definitely not PR weather, but definitely a good training run!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

2017 BAA 10k Race Recap!

This past January I signed up for the BAA Distance Medley.  The races series consists of the BAA 5k during marathon weekend, a 10k in late June and a half marathon in October.

I ended up making a long weekend out of the race and went up with my husband and parents.  (One of the nice things about this being the second race in the series is that I scoped out a bunch of places and restaurants for us to visit while there for the first race.)  The day we arrived it was later in the day so we checked into our hotel and then checked out Boston Common since it was a similar setup to the 5k in April with the same starting area.  We enjoyed getting a sneak peek at the starting/finishing area and getting to see the Make Way for Ducklings statues.

Yup, definitely not my pace group.

And there was a ridiculously happy swan napping by one of the many ponds.  (It was kind of fascinating watching it curl up!  Its neck was flailing all over the place while it tried to get comfy.)

We then waited around for dinner in Little Italy.  In that time I chose my final race outfit and settled on my a flyout tank in snap (a bright orange) and shorts.

After dinner we walked past the Old North Church (the famous church that signaled for Paul Revere to go on his famous ride) and enjoyed the scenery.

It was a little dark at that point, but still beautiful!

That night I slept rather fitfully (as is usually the case the first night in a hotel) but was ready to go on race morning.  I threw on my clothes and headed down with my Dad to get our race shirts.  (We were staying close enough that we could get our shirts, drop them off back in the hotel and hang out for a little while before gun time.  There's definitely something to be said to be able to use a REAL bathroom before a race instead of portajohns.)

The second time we headed down we brought my Mom and husband with us so they could see us off.  The field was large once again, so it took me about 20 minutes to actually start the race.  (At least this time the elites didn't finish as I was starting!)  When I put my rap for running playlist on shuffle, the perfect song came up...

Yes, Ice Cube.  I CAN do it!

I also kept an eye out for the three lines I saw during the 5k in April.  Not totally surprising that they were a little harder to spot this time around.

The course itself was fairly similar to the 5k (just longer) so I had a fair idea of what to expect.  It was warm that morning, but not unbearable so I made a tentative plan to do my best given the circumstances.  It was a pretty flat race too which worked in my favor (somewhat.)  I didn't end up finishing in my best time ever (1:09:07 with an average pace of 11:01), but it was still pretty respectable for me.

(Seriously, that hill is barely even a blip.)

The finisher's area was pretty similar to the 5k with gatorade, water, protein bars and craisins.  Once I met up with my Dad, Mom and husband again, my husband broke it to me that Meb was giving out high fives at the finish line and I had just missed him by about ten minutes!

The medal once again was gorgeous!!

The shirt left a little something to be desired though--SO not a fan of yellow.  (But I do like how they put the BAA unicorn on everything!)  And the shirt was basically the same as the 5k shirt, just a different color.

Overall, I would recommend the race.  Once again it was well organized and the process for getting my bib was super easy (they mail it out about a month in advance) and my anxiety about getting the right size shirt was unjustified--they had more than enough to go around!  I really love running through a city as scenic as Boston, and I enjoyed getting to see a little bit more of the town as I'm starting to get well acquainted with it.  My only gripe is with the date--a race in late June can be almost too dicey in that it could really be super hot or just tolerable.  The course was pretty shaded so it was fairly easy to remain somewhat cooled off and it was easy to find a shady tree to sit beneath post-race while waiting for my Dad to finish.

Have you run this race?  What have been some of your favorite race-cation destination cities?  Comment below!!

Friday, August 4, 2017

A Comparison of Two Ragnars: Trail (Richmond) vs Road (Pennsylvania)

So, to catch you up I recently ran a trail Ragnar (in Richmond, VA) and a road Ragnar (in Pennsylvania.)  I knew they would be different, but just how different I had no idea.  Both races definitely have their merits.  When I started thinking about taking on both the races, I wondered what the differences were.  There are the obvious differences--one involves camping, the other is a long road trip.  But the differences are SO much more than that.

For both races, it's pretty much bring your own and buy meals along the way.  The trail race had food trucks on the night before the race and the night the race started they gave runners dinner tickets so you could pick a meal at a food truck.  They also provided some kind bars for snacks.

The road race, you were basically on your own.  The only food that was provided was a kind bar and at the end a piece of pizza per runner.  Part of the fun of road Ragnars is getting to visit Mom and Pop restaurants along the way.  However with PA Ragnar there really wasn't much around the exchanges.  There was a deli by one of the major exchanges, and a few restaurants at the finish but other than that...nothing.  We went out of the way to get to a Red Robin for burgers, and we totally lucked out with the timing.

For trail Ragnars, it's pretty obvious--you have a camp and that's your home base.  If you plan out your team well, somebody on your team has a tent available for everybody to use so no money spent there.  Then you just have to figure out how everybody will get there and who is bringing what supplies.  Most trail Ragnars happen at state or national parks and the bathroom accommodations can be dicey.  For the race in Richmond, you had real bathrooms with running water and everything.  They didn't even need to provide portajohns (although with so much use of the bathrooms there was some uh "technical difficulties"?  Occasionally toilets would randomly go out of commission and needed emergency repairs.)

For road Ragnars, you're living in a van for those 36ish hours. Technically part of that time during PA Ragnar we were by a river.  But mostly in the mountains.

This is also typically more expensive due to the van rental since the majority of runners prefer to rent the biggest passenger van they can maneuver.  This can get pretty expensive, pretty quick and you can expect to spend at least $65 plus gas money.  (Around $20 a person should work if you're in the mid-Atlantic.)  Then there's also the logistics of figuring out who's going to get the van, when everybody's going to load up the van and where everyone will park while you're away running.

For bathrooms, it's basically portajohns and indoor bathrooms when you can find them.  For PA Ragnar not all the exchange points had them.  (In fact, I lucked out that there was one at the exchange where my last leg began.)

For road Ragnars, you don't really have a chance to really stretch out unless you find open space along the way.  For trail Ragnars though, you get enough space to lay flat.  We had enough space to have 2 tents to sleep in, a canopy to have food underneath and hang out under, and a small tent to change in between legs.

For both races, you're obviously going to be running out in the elements.  But as I learned, at least with the road Ragnar you get a break from the heat, cold, rain, etc.  With trail Ragnars...not so much.  When I did Richmond we had a freak heat wave where it was in the upper 80s, lower 90s in late April.  There was also a thunderstorm that first night.  And there was basically nowhere to go to get relief, even if you were in the shade.

Basically the same for both races.  You get a shirt, finisher's medal (more than just one if you've done more than one race and a connector piece for every 2 road Ragnars), a car decal and a snack from Kind bars.

Road decal on the left, trail decal on the right.

To be honest, I kinda think the trail medal is way cooler than the road medal.  Case in point:

Trail medal and shirt

A spork with all kinds of tools like a can opener, bottle opener, a flathead screwdriver and some hexagonal holes to put an allen wrench through for more torque.

And the road medal and shirt.

A bottle opener.  (It's up by the strap.)

See my point?  Although I will say the design on each of the road Ragnars changes according to the location...the one for the trail not so much.  The etching on that one changes slightly with the name of the event but otherwise it's the same.

This year both of the shirts have the race's tagline on the back.

Legs (or the race courses)
For trail Ragnar, everybody ran the same exact amount, the same routes, just different orders.  You could discuss what to expect on an upcoming leg or what you just experienced.  "Careful on that one, there's a water crossing about halfway through."  "You'll like that loop--it's lots of fun downhills!"  "Watch out for all the roots!"  You get the idea.

Race organizers also put more effort into decorating for trail Ragnars.  Case in point:  Fun signs!

And they even went as far as creating totem poles marking out the different colored trail loops!

And of course the lights that they projected onto the trees for the night run.  (Still my favorite part.)

For road Ragnar, not so much.  Everybody ends up running a different distance and I feel like there isn't a similar shared sense of struggle.  You can talk about what you experienced, but nobody else in the van gets to do what you just did.  You just run it and move on.  The signs are also more for function than fun and point you where to go and let you know when you have one mile left.

The App
Ragnar has a new version of their app out that is amazing.  For road races, it shows you exactly where you are on the map so you know if you've gone off course.  For trail races...not so much.  But to be honest, in the trail races they can put more signs out without the fear of them being moved by a disgruntled homeowner.  And the path is worn enough that it's kind of hard to go the wrong way.  (Don't worry, they put signs out for that possibility too.)

For both races it tells you everything you need to know about your upcoming leg and in the case of the trail race, it also tells you a general schedule of events.  (They showed movies at the Richmond race and had s'mores and coffee available during certain hours.)

Both races require volunteers to be recruited by the team.  For trail Ragnars, you need to only recruit one (and it can actually be a team member if you time it right.)

For road Ragnars, you need three if you live within 200 miles of the start.  This can either be really easy or super difficult.  For the PA Ragnar, we lived just close enough that we needed volunteers.  And since naturally nobody wanted to travel almost 200 miles for a volunteer job (and nobody knew anyone local), we paid $120 per volunteer.  Split 12 ways, it was an extra $30 per person.  For my DC race, we're a little less than two months out and we already have two of our three volunteers secured.

Those of you who have run both--did I leave anything out?  Which Ragnar is your favorite??

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Thrifty Thursday for August!

This month's edition of Thrifty Thursday might as well be called "The Organization Edition" since I totally lucked out!  Organizational products like plastic drawers and shelves for under the sink can get really expensive, really quick.  However if you're patient enough, you'll luck out and find exactly what you want/need to help keep everything organized!

Like a lot of people, I have all kinds of bottles cluttering underneath my sink.  This little shelf is amazing.  It's basically a drawer that's tall enough for bottles and then you can keep more bottles on top.  I wasn't able to find the exact item, but I found something pretty close that was $24.99 at the Container Store.  I paid $3. 

My office is undergoing some reorganization.  (The fun kind.)  We're purging a lot and reorganizing what we have so it's easier to find.  I found these little drawers and jumped on them since they're the perfect size for pens, highlighters and boxes of staples and paper clips. 
Sterilite 5-drawer mini organizer:  Originally $8.77, paid $2.

This one was perfect for pads of paper and some of the random large envelopes we have.  
Sterilite 3-drawer Organizer:  Originally $24.99, paid $4.

Being the crazy cat lady that I am, I got really excited when I saw this big, white plastic thing.  I had looked at it online recently and knew what it was right away.  It's a cat toy!!!  It's basically a way to encourage cats to work to get treats.  And I totally looked like a crazy cat lady when I tried to explain what it is to the cashier.  It took a little bit of motivation for the fish bowls on the far right, but I hardly had to train him how to use any parts of this since he uses his paws a lot.  (He's a lefty!)
Trixie 5 in 1 Activity Center:  Originally $24.99, paid $3

In the late 90s/early 2000s, Disney made a lot of sequels to movies that didn't really need them and let's be honest...they were generally terrible.  Case in point:  The Little Mermaid 2, Return of Jafar, 101 Dalmatians 2, Pocahontas 2, Atlantis 2, etc.  The only ones that I found worth watching and owning were the Lion King sequels (2 and 1.5 which focused on Timon and Pumbaa's backstories) and Lilo and Stitch 2.  Okay.  And this one.  Beauty and the Beast:  The Enchanted Christmas.  It's so gloriously cheesy that I absolutely love it.  For 99 cents, I could not pass this up!!!  Tim Curry plays the villain of this movie who was the castle's composer named Forte who was turned into a pipe organ and is trying to ruin the Christmas celebration that Belle is organizing.  (And Paul Reubens plays a character that is tricked by Forte into doing some bad things with the promise of getting a solo in Forte's next composition.)  
Originally $22.99, paid 99 cents

I know it doesn't look like it, but I'm super picky about running clothes that I get when I go out thrifting.  If it's a long sleeved top, it must have thumbholes and a pocket.  Doesn't sound like much, but you would be surprised!  I came across this and jumped on it, especially since it has a turtleneck and venting at the mouth.  
UA Qualifier Turtle Neck:  Originally $64.00, paid $7.
Like I said.  Picky.  I found these Athleta pants in my exact size (which is hard since I usually wear one of their specialty sizes thanks to the shorter inseam.)  And once I found out they were from my favorite line of pants (Bettona) I was super excited.  Stretchy, almost sweatpant like pants that I can wear to work and still look a little dressy?  YES, PLEASE!!
Athleta Bettona Classic Pants:  Originally $79, paid $5.

Anybody have any good finds while thrift shopping recently?  Or training for fall races?  (I'm SO ready for the cooler weather!)

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A Tale of Two Ragnars (Part 2): Pennsylvania Ragnar

So.  Between the Richmond Ragnar and Pennsylvania Ragnar one big thing changed that threw a huge wrench into my training:  I got a job.  Don't get me wrong, I love it.  But since I started it a couple days after Richmond, I spent entirely too much time getting into the routine of just getting up and going to work.  Then slowly I worked in getting to my boot camp classes first thing in the morning.  (Seriously.  The latest class I could get to was at 6:15 which is a big deal when you're not really a morning person.)  Then getting back to the routine of running.  Taking that into account, my training for this Ragnar went out the window almost immediately.  I was so dreading the 17 miles in total I would have to run.  I knew I could do it, but how fast would that happen through the Poconos Mountains?

So the night before the race, the majority of the team of 12 got together to decorate our 2 vans.  We also took the time to divvy up the food, water, and other supplies that we had all brought.  I brought washable tempera paint and put Ragnar logos on both the vans and they turned out awesome!

Soon afterwards, it was time to head home and get ready for bed.  One of my vanmates was going to stay over (rather, for a couple hours) until we had to head back out to meet up with the van at 2:15am.  Needless to say, I only got a couple hours of sleep that night.  And I looked it.

We headed up to Pennsylvania for our 5am gun time at about 2:30, leaving plenty of time for a bathroom stop and checking in.  It was pretty chilly and I was glad I had my Ragnar jacket, but naturally wished for something heavier.  I also had my first experience with a selfie stick.

"Am I doing it?  Did I take the picture?"

And we were off!  We took off in our van for the next exchange point.  I was the fourth runner so I still had some time, but naturally the pre-race jitters started settling in.  I had to trust in what little training I had done that I would be able to finish.  I didn't really have much of a choice--I had to finish it.

My first leg was pretty hilly and I got first hand experience with the absolutely fearless Amish.  They shot out into traffic, and down hills on their scooters and bicycles and many of them were the most quiet spectators I have ever run past, probably because they were wondering why we would willingly run through their town.

Then there were the trucks.

Equally fearless, if not moreso and instilling even more fear than a little Amish boy coming right at me on his scooter.

There were times I had to jump out of the way of both during that first leg.  Yes, it was terrifying.

But anyways.

My first leg started at about 8:30 and was 5.9 miles. I finished it in 1:09:36 (a pace of 11:48) which is not terrible considering how it was a fairly steady uphill with a total elevation gain of about 350 feet.  It was slightly cool when I started, but quickly heated up as I ran and there was some shade, but not much since a lot of the leg went along farmland.

At some point in the morning we stopped at an Amish market for a teammate to get fresh picked strawberries and she got us all apple fritters.  (It was National Donut Day, after all!)  They were amazing.

Once our 6th runner was out running we went to the first major exchange to meet up with the rest of our team, check out the race merchandise and most importantly--do our first major runner exchange between vans.

Once we retrieved our runner, we went off to the next major exchange to wait a few hours for the next exchange of runners between vans.  We grabbed some sandwiches at a nearby deli and were among the first to arrive and claim a little patch of grass under some sun where we could eat our food and get in a nap.  I inflated the lounger I used during the Richmond Ragnar and settled in for a nap.

...Until the leg cramps started.  First in one calf.  Then the other.  Then one foot and then the other.  I tried my best not to wake my teammates despite being in so much pain.  Once the pain subsided, I started drinking as much water and nuun as I could and went back to the van to grab a banana.

So my second leg.  I remember starting around 7:30 on the edge of a park, and joking with another runner who said I looked pretty fast.  (I assured them I wasn't.  Case in point, I started before them and they definitely passed me after running with me for a few strides.)  I remember the first half was a beautiful, flat, gravelly path with trees lining the sides of the path.  Once we got out of those trees though, you almost immediately came face to face with the first major incline.  Then the rest of the leg was a blur of hills through a neighborhood, ending at a church that offered coffee and donuts to runners.  I gratefully accepted the offer of the donut because I was starving and a donut sounded perfect.

At that point we were starting to wonder when we would get our next meal since we hadn't really had much of a meal since we started the race.  (None of us were really impressed with the deli.)  In the meantime, we heard from the Captain that we were going to need to double up on legs.  In the past, race organizers have allowed runners from both vans to run at the same time.  This time we had to double up runners within the same van.  In our van, we doubled up our first and second runners so I was still on the hook for my last leg and had to run it by myself.

Once we picked up our runner and saw van 2's runner off, we started to figure out where to get a decent meal.  We ended up deciding on stopping at a Red Robin and getting some burgers.  That was just what we needed...however once our stomachs were full we needed some sleep.  We went ahead and drove to the next major exchange point and settled in.  I decided to stay in the van and got comfy (despite a seatbelt in my side) and promptly passed out.  A couple times I woke up to let a teammate retrieve something from the van, and another ended up coming in to sleep as well since it was just too cold out.  (Which was totally a weird feeling considering how warm it felt during the day!)  I ended up getting about 2 or 3 hours of sleep, but like the Ragnar Trail, I felt strangely refreshed although a little crabby.

Around 4 in the morning we ended up starting up again, and the rain began just before my final leg a little after 6am.  (It also didn't help that there was one portajohn at the exchange, and our runner arrived just as I exited the portajohn so I basically had to grab all of my stuff and run off.)  I was so disoriented that I ran in the wrong direction to the actual exchange point.  Once I realized I was going in the wrong direction, I stepped right into a puddle.  That did not help my mood at all.  I really did not want to run, and the rain just made me even more frustrated.

During my final leg, I stopped caring about my time.  I stopped to take pictures.  I was going to try my best to enjoy my very last leg, dang it!

With scenery like that, why shouldn't I stop to take pictures?  Especially since I had to slow down anyways.  The path for at least a mile (possibly 2) was dirt (er...mud) with very large rocks.  I had to be super careful to not trip or roll an ankle.  The route was also interesting because it went right through a farm, and I definitely got some odd looks from the cows and horses as I passed through.

This last leg had an elevation gain of 781 feet, and it took me 1:43:00 to run eight miles (with an average pace of 12:52.)  The hills really did not help, and this one ended on an incline (like all my other legs did.)  Despite the beauty of the scenery, I was still ready to be done.  This was not my usual pace, although like the Ragnar Trail there were several factors working against me, the biggest one being lack of sleep, and the rain was definitely a hindrance because I had to be super careful.  I tried not to let it get me down and reveled in the fact that I was done.  I could relax.  Nap.  Have the peanut butter and banana clif bar I thought about during my run.  And have some coffee that I brought with me.  (Seriously--I bought two cans of this stuff.  It was awesome and it was perfect to have on hand.)

(I also had the dark chocolate mocha.  Both were awesome.)

Fully caffeinated, I felt like a new person.  And still ready to be done.  Once we passed through the last major exchange, we headed off to the end point at Split Rock Resort at Lake Harmony.  But first:  FOOD!!  On the way to Split Rock the tire light came on.  I was dozing in and out and at one point I woke up to see that we were stopped at a rest area with a couple bikers next to us who were so gracious to help my teammates figure out the air pump and which tire needed inflating.  Afterwards we scouted out places on yelp and settled on Piggy's since they seemed to be a good spot since it had lots of options.  I had banana nut pancakes and they even brought over samples of their famous French toasts (seriously--try the one encrusted with granola.  It's amazing.)  With full tummies, it was time to attempt to check in to the hotel.

Thankfully one of the rooms was ready, and my teammates were fine with those of us not staying hopping into the shower to get cleaned up.  I showered super fast, but it still felt amazing.  After each of us downing a beer and showered up, we headed down to the runner's village to check out merch one last time and so I could grab my first medal of the day!

The mudslinger!!! Like the caption says, I got it for finishing the PA Ragnar and running the Ragnar Trail in Richmond in April.  Once I finish the DC Ragnar I'll get a little piece to put in there.  I was so excited for my first medal, and ready to get my second one.  But we had to wait just a little while longer for our final runner to arrive so we could finish together and get the little package containing all of our medals.  It's also tradition to run across the finish line with your last runner.

Never before have I collectively laughed and cringed so much.  All of us were saying "OMG IT HURTS!" "Am I going fast?" "Am I moving?" "Are we almost there?" And you guys--it was maybe a couple hundred yards.  It was hysterical that after how much we all ran that we were all complaining about that final couple hundred yards.  But it was all worth it for the medal and the shoefie.

The Road Ragnar and Trail Ragnar were both super different, but both had their merits.  It made me so excited to captain my own team for DC Ragnar!  I would totally do a Ragnar again, but I don't know if I would do PA Ragnar again.  There weren't anywhere near the amount of amenities that the trail race offered.  They provided one meal.  And it was literally 1 pizza for 12 people.  Each runner got one slice that was about a 4 inch square and even that is a little generous.  For what we paid, I would've expected a little bit more.  But I'll save the comparisons for my next entry!

The front of the shirt and my medals

The back of the race shirt

Did you run PA Ragnar?  What did you think??  What's your favorite Ragnar??

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Thrifty Thursday for July!!

I hate thrift shopping in the summer.  Pickings are usually slim for various reasons, so this month's Thrifty Thursday is going to be a little shorter than usual. But, here are my finds for the month!

 I really like to have sporty shirts that are also dressy.  I took a look at this one and jumped on it.  It felt so luxurious and I was in a hurry so I grabbed it.  Then while sitting in traffic I took one look at the tag.  

No wonder it felt so nice.
Good thing I have a small pile of clothes that need to be dry cleaned!  (I usually use Dryel to clean dry clean only clothes, except for leather for obvious reasons.)  Nonetheless, it's still a super cute top that I can't wait to start wearing once it begins to cool off outside.
Nike Pinnacle Tie Dye Silk Top:  Originally $120, paid $10.

 I love finding old race shirts from races that I've done in the past.  This one is from the Shamrock 5k that Charm City Run puts on in Baltimore every March to kick off their race season.  (If you've never run it, I highly recommend it--it's a lovely downhill for the first half then flat to the finish.)
My understanding is this shirt in particular was a premium they used for a race upgrade that also got you a pint glass with this little guy on it.
Brooks Equilibrium II Short Sleeve:  Originally $40, paid $4.

Lately I've been on the lookout for some clothes for a friend of mine that moved out of the area and is losing some weight.  I offered to help her find some inexpensive clothes and grabbed this for her.
Nike Dri-Fit Element Half Zip:  Originally $65, paid $17 

My final find this week, it's more Lulu!!  (For somebody who has never set foot in a Lululemon, I sure do have quite a bit!)  I love finding track or studio pants since I can get away with wearing them to work!  These are super comfy but need some hemming before I feel comfortable wearing them outside of the house.  
Lululemon Dance Studio Pant II:  Originally $108, paid $5!

Anybody have any good thrifting finds lately?  Anybody racing?  I have a 5k coming up in a couple weeks!  I'm so excited since it's been awhile since I've run a 5k and it'll be with my Oiselle Volee teammates.  

Monday, July 3, 2017

A Tale of Two Ragnars (Part 1): Richmond Trail

Back in April I ran my first Ragnar Relay EVER!  It was the Ragnar Trail Relay in Richmond, VA.  I was so excited and nervous because it was also my first time camping.  Like in a tent.  I had done the cabin camping where you have an actual bed but bring everything you need, but a tent.  THAT was new.  And as an added bonus for camping at the race, there would be no going to the bathroom in the woods.

The plan was to go down on Thursday around lunchtime, then get our campsite settled and later that night I would volunteer for our team.  (Ragnar Relays require one volunteer for trail races, three for road races if you live within a certain distance of the race.)  That morning I rushed around getting everything together and ate a quick lunch and before I knew it, one of my friends and I were headed to Richmond from central Maryland.  Thankfully it was a rare moment for I-95 and traffic was a breeze.  (We actually had to wait around because we arrived EARLY!!)  My teammate and I quickly unpacked the car and while she parked the car and took the shuttle back I dragged everything down to our new home.  Since we are apart of the Moms/She Run(s) This Town running group and we had so many teams registered Ragnar graciously blocked off spaces for all of the MRTT/SRTT teams.  I threw bags in 4 different squares for the other teams in our chapters and kept bringing more luggage.

Once my friend returned, we began arranging and putting up our two large tents.  (Thankfully it was quick because apparently I'm a natural!)  Soon 5 of our teammates and our support crew (a couple of ladies brought their husbands) began to arrive and get settled in.  (Our eighth runner was arriving the next morning.)  I also took the opportunity to inflate my Lamzac lounger and it was super easy!

 I ran off to grab a quick dinner and to volunteer.  They had me on t-shirt duty.  Essentially runners handed me a ticket then I gave them a shirt.  Easy peasy.  When I got back to the camp at 10pm I was ready to spend time getting to know my teammates.  After chatting for a little while (and of course hydrating, because there was supposed to be a heat wave starting the next day) it was time to get to sleep.  Before heading in though I wanted to check the radar just to be sure it wouldn't rain in the night.  Sure enough, there was a thunderstorm headed our way for the dead of the night.  I took the opportunity to tell my teammates that the storm was coming and we brought our shoes inside the tent.  Sure enough, at about 1:30 am we started to hear booming.  And I was so terrified.  I hate thunderstorms, but to be in a tent during a thunderstorm is even more terrifying.  I started checking the radar repetitively hoping that it would be over soon.  And then to break up the radar checking, I texted my husband who was back home with a solid roof over his head and in a comfy bed.  Meanwhile I was trying to sleep in a tent in my slowly deflating lounger.

The next morning we found that we made out pretty well.  The only things that were ruined by the rain were a couple of signs we had made for our campsite.  Soon after waking up our support crew started making us eggs and bacon.  We also had some shelf stable items like oatmeal so I ended up having a nice big breakfast of bacon, eggs and oatmeal.  Soon the pre-race anxiety started to kick in.  We weren't scheduled to start until 1pm and it was starting to get hot FAST.  I was estimated to start around 3:00, right at the heat of the day so I started hydrating almost immediately.  It was really hard to stay hydrated with as much as I was sweating even despite drinking a lot of nuun as well.  I also wasn't hungry after breakfast at all.  I managed to convince myself to eat some sweet potato chips but not much else.  (This is weird for me since my stomach is basically on an alarm clock and always lets me know when it's even close to time to eat.)

Soon it was time for my first loop.  My legs went from hardest to easiest.  (All the runners on each team will end up running all three loops, just in a different order.)  I had no idea what to expect since I was the first runner to do the red (or hard) loop.

And it was hard.  Like ridiculously hard.  There were so many twists and turns that it really started to mess with my head.  All the loops started in the same area, but the red loop was actually inside most of the green loop so you could never tell if somebody was actually ahead or behind you until you saw them on the same path.

Afterwards I still wasn't hungry and to be honest I was feeling a little frustrated since my pace was terrible.  (I finished 5.4 miles in 1:23:04 with a pace of 15:25.)  Then I quickly reminded myself--it's trail so you're naturally going to be slower.  It was HOT with barely any breeze through the trees and despite being in the shade for the majority of the race, it didn't help very much.  And I also made the rookie (but unavoidable) mistakes of being dehydrated (first day of the year in the 90s) and not really eating much of anything.  I also ended up grabbing my meal ticket and meeting up with some friends to get dinner.  There were so many different food trucks that it was hard to choose!  I decided on getting a lamb gyro and fries along with a big cookie.  Once I sat down and started eating my stomach basically went "Oh!  Food!  I remember this!  Let's have more of this!"  And soon my plate was empty and I headed back to camp until my second leg.

I passed the time chatting with teammates and visiting with friends on other teams, and before I knew it the sun had set and it began to cool off (ever so slightly.)

My second leg (the yellow, moderately difficult leg) began around 1am.  This one was almost as hard as my first leg thanks to the darkness.  Since this race is completely contained within a state park, the race organizers weren't as strict about night gear as the road races.  But that didn't stop me from wearing a headlamp, shoe lights and noxgear vest.  (I hadn't gotten a chance to try out any of it since I bought it.)

The beginning of this loop was so cool.  They essentially had lit up the trees towards the beginning of all the loops (but far enough out that others wouldn't have seen it) using laser lights.  So all the trees around you looked something like this...

Such a pretty (and magic looking) start to the race!

The shoe lights died at about the halfway point, which was a little irritating since this leg was only posted as 5.7 miles (but my Garmin read it as 6.)  I essentially used them to see obstacles, so once those lights went out I went a little slower.  This route had a lot more roots and rocks compared to my first loop so I was super nervous about falling.  There were a few nice downhills too which was nice because the first loop didn't have very many.  Fortunately this one didn't have very many twists and turns like the first one.  I finished this one in 1:32:09 with a pace of 15:20 so slightly better than my first loop's pace.

After this loop I stayed up a little while longer, had a quick snack and then headed to bed.  Thankfully I got a few hours of sleep and woke up feeling refreshed.  (For the most part, since again the lounger deflated a little bit despite reinflating.)

The next morning we had one last breakfast and this time the guys made scrapple, eggs and bacon.  I passed on the scrapple and had bacon, eggs and stirred some peanut butter into some cinnamon spice oatmeal.  (I highly recommend doing this because it was delicious!)  I was ready to be done.  I was so tired of being hot and sweaty and still dehydrated despite drinking water and nuun almost constantly.  While waiting in line for the bathroom I heard the announcer call our team number and after using the bathroom I tracked down our team captain and told her that they called our name.  This could only mean one thing:  They were going to let us double up so we could finish sooner.  Sure enough, the race organizers told us to double up on our last legs so I would have a friend on the last leg.

I was so happy when my last leg started just before 11am.  I was ready to be done with running.  (And being out in the heat, of course.)  The green leg was naturally the easiest.  And since I was done caring about my time, I took the time to take a few more pictures.  This leg started out similar to the red leg so the beginning looked very familiar.

Obligatory selfie with one of Ragnar's Totem poles.

And of course I had to take a selfie with the one mile left sign (although admittedly it was a bit awkward since it was so low to the ground.)

The last loop was certainly the easiest--lots of downhills, and some roots and rocks but nowhere near as many as other loops.  There were also some flat parts as well (yay!)  It was really interesting seeing the red loop runners as I went, but knowing in advance that I was going the easier route around all of them really helped.  The difficulty was also reflected in my finishing time--this loop was about 4.25 miles and I finished it in 1:04:04 with a pace of 15:05.  

Afterwards I was so happy and ready to eat all the things.  I ended up settling on a lemongrass chicken banh mi sandwich and a spring roll from the Hungry Turtle food truck.  

I love Vietnamese food, and this was amazing.  So refreshing and just filling enough that I didn't feel gross.  And I got super excited when one of my teammates offered up her extra beer ticket.  Because I definitely took advantage and got myself a beer.  And it also tasted amazing.  (There are actually studies saying beer after a race can help with recovery.)  It also didn't hurt that it was the first cold drink I had in my system since we arrived at the park.

At this point all I had to worry about was to pack up everything and for our final teammates to finish.  Once they let us know they were close, we waited a few yards from the finish line so we could all cross together.  Shortly thereafter the captain got our medals which in past years have been known to not be TSA friendly because of a saw blade on one side.  This year they released a TSA friendly version that was based around a spork.

We also had to do a shoefie with our medals showing how all of us did this amazing thing together.

One of the reasons to do the shoefie is that when all the medals are connected they say something on the back.

It was a little bittersweet because it was basically like the end of camp.  We had so much fun together, most of us came to the team as strangers but we left as friends.  And it would be difficult for all of us to get together again since we were from all over Maryland and one of the teammates was from New York.

By the time we crossed the finish line together, everything was packed up and ready to be put into our cars so we could head home.   We were out of the park by 4:30 and back home about three hours later.  I was so ready for a shower, dinner and then fall asleep.

Overall, I really enjoyed doing the trail Ragnar.  Basically the very next day I was trying to figure out how soon I could do my next one.  I loved that we all had a common shared space where we could spread out, and we could discuss each loop after we did them and let other teammates know if there was anything weird about it.  (Like how the red loop had a lot of twists and turns and messed with my head.)  I also liked that Ragnar brought in a variety of food trucks and provided a meal that first night of the race.  (They didn't provide food Thursday night.)  I would definitely recommend this race and am already considering running it again next year.