Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Happy National Chocolate Day!

Who knew such a thing existed?  I guess I should have known since it seems like there is a day for everything, but I can definitely get on board with a day for chocolate!  It's a good thing I love running to counteract my love of chocolate, which brings me to some some exciting news related to chocolate and running!  This year, I am a blog ambassador for the Hot Chocolate 15/5K and I couldn't be more excited because the race last year was definitely a highlight for me and I'm excited to spread the word about such a great race.

 When I first heard about the Hot Chocolate race series last year, I was immediately intrigued by the name, but the two things that sold me and led me to sign up were the post-race treats (hot chocolate and chocolate fondue? Yes, please!) and the awesome hoodie which served as the race swag last year.  The hoodie was my favorite running accessory last winter and it got me through many a cold race, including the Hot Chocolate race, which happened to fall on a bitterly cold St. Louis day.  I'm a sucker for thumb holes on my running tops/jackets, so this hoodie had me at the words "thumb holes."

December 2013 before the race with the amazing hoodie with thumb holes
December 2013: post-race chocolate deliciousness.  
I loved everything about the race last year, barring the frigid temperatures, but what can you expect in mid-December?  The expo was a lot of fun (there were chocolate samples!) and I loved that they had a fitting room for you to try on your hoodie to make sure you got the right fit.  Race day, as I mentioned, was brutally cold, but the race volunteers were amazing, race officials monitored the cold temperatures and the slightly slippery road conditions to keep all runners safe, and the post-race party was great!  All in all, it was a wonderful experience, which you can read more about here, and I am really excited to participate again this year when the Hot Chocolate Race returns to St. Louis on December 14th!

Last year, I did the 5K, but this year I am going to challenge myself to do the 15K, which I am looking forward to.  Not only will all participants receive another awesome hoodie this year, but new to 2014 races, all 15K participants will receive a sweet, city-specific medal in the shape of a candy bar.  I'm so glad they added a medal this year for the 15K runners; my friend, Mary, ran the race last year and it was her longest run to-date and I thought she really deserved a medal after that race, so I made her one online!

From the Hot Chocolate 15K & 5K Facebook page: a look at the sweet 15K finishers medals from the Denver race 
I'm also excited to share that as a blog ambassador, I will be giving away a free registration to a reader!  Stay tuned for information on the giveaway in the near future!  (The registration will be available for any Hot Chocolate Race within this season.) 

In the meantime, if you'd like to register for the Hot Chocolate 15/5K race, feel free to use the code "PLLhat1" to get a free hat with your registration!  I've recently become quite attached to wearing a hat while I run, so I'm excited to add another hat to my rotation.    

Fantastic race swag, including a hoodie and a hat with the above code.  
For more information about "America's Sweetest Race", the Hot Chocolate racing series, including the other cities hosting races, catch them on their webpage, on Facebook, and on Twitter.  

It's been a busy month for the Roeseler's and as much as I love October and Halloween, I am looking forward to a somewhat more quiet November and hopefully, more consistent blog posts and workouts! 

"Don't count the miles. Make the miles count." 

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Great GO! St. Louis Halloween Race Recap

I've had a great, relaxing week following my second half marathon!  Last week, we celebrated my mom's birthday on Tuesday evening, Wednesday evening was Parent/Teacher Conferences at Nick's school, and on Thursday evening my mom and I went to a fun event at a local movie theater for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  I've been hitting the hay fairly early each night and letting myself relax mentally and physically, which has been nice!

Last Sunday morning (race day) when I woke up, I felt significantly better than the morning of my last half.  I had some pretty intense nausea before my last half, so I was quite relieved to not have the same issues this past Sunday.  I ate a bit of oatmeal and a string cheese after I got dressed and then headed to pick up my mom.  The weather was great temperature wise, but it was definitely gloomy out.  I checked the weather religiously in the days leading up to the race and the reports called for varying chances of rain.  At one point early last week, there was a 60% chance of rain, but as the race date drew closer the percentage dropped down to 10%.  Naturally, it started to spit as we drove downtown, but mom and I hoped that the rain would pass.

We parked the car and started to head to the starting line and I was definitely feeling chilly.  I hadn't brought a jacket, because I didn't anticipate being cool and I didn't want to fuss with handing it off to my mom before the race started.  As we started walking, I warmed up and had my mom take a quick pre-race picture.

Feeling a bit nervous pre-race!
I headed to the starting line and said good-bye to my mom.  As I waited near the start line, I had a blast looking at all of the costumes.  I saw a unicorn, a guy dressed as bacon, two women dressed as Mario and Luigi complete with denim overalls (I really hope they had running gear on underneath. The thought of running 13.1 in denim gives me the willies), and two clever runners dressed as pacers.  I thought they were official race pacers (I should have noticed that they weren't wearing the Michelob Ultra singlet!) until I saw the signs that said "Pace:  BEER" and "Pace: WTF?"  I think the pacers were my favorite costumes!

The (rainy) starting line for the race
After the playing of the National Anthem, we were on our way!  In the days leading up to the race, I was incredibly nervous about the 3:15 time limit for the race, because I was convinced I ran my last half marathon in 3:30 and would thus have to shave 15 minutes off my time.  It always helps to look up your last race time before you work yourself into a panic.  It turns out that I ran my last half in 3:16:40, so I really should not have been worried about the 3:15 time limit!  I did not realize that, though, until well after the race.  Near the beginning of the race, though, I heard a woman tell her friend that they would not sweep people off the course at 3:15, especially if you were near the finish line, so from that point on, I did not worry about my finishing time.  I had been stressed out all week about it and there was no sense worrying about it throughout the entire race.

I had my Garmin set to time me for 4:1 run/walk intervals and I felt good as I set out.  My "better" goal for this race was to stick to said 4:1 intervals, however, let the record reflect that I am the worst plan follower ever.  My run/walk interval plan did not last long, but instead, I listened to my body and ran/walked when needed.  Sometimes I ran for more than 4 minutes and sometimes I walked for more than 1 minute and I felt really good.

At some point early on in the race, I noticed a woman in front of me wearing a super cute Sparkle Skirt and I excused myself (I'm fairly certain I was somewhat interrupting a conversation she was having with another runner) and asked if she liked her Sparkle Skirt since I have been going back and forth about getting one.  I truly don't know why I have been holding out, though, because everyone I've talked to has raved about them and this runner was no exception.  She assured me that the skirts were worth the price and did not chafe whatsoever.  She also spoke highly of the pocket on the shorts.  I thanked her and went on my way.

I had an uneventful, and really great, first half of the race. I kept the 3:00 pacer in my sight lines for the better part of 5 miles and I started to feel a bit too confident about my finish time.  It was still raining somewhat but it was more of a mist than a real rain shower and it felt rather good.  Around mile 4, I took a Salted Caramel GU (still my favorite flavor!) and shortly thereafter, we parted ways with the 10K runners.

At mile 6, I had somewhat of a brain fart (I should mention again that I am not good with math) because I saw my time and I started to get really excited thinking that since I was halfway through and my time was 1:20 that I could easily finish in 3 hours.  Duh, Laura.  Mile 6 is not the halfway point of a half marathon.  Mile 6.55 is halfway!  Oops!

Unfortunately, around said halfway point (or rather a bit before), my IT band decided to throw a temper tantrum.  I was really pleasantly surprised at how well my IT band had been in the first half of the race.  Although I was keeping the 3:00 pacer in my sight, I did not feel like I was overdoing it.  My pace was conservative and I felt good, so I hoped that my IT band would cooperate.

I kept up my run/walk intervals despite the IT band pain, but it was definitely becoming more walking and less running.  I managed to smile triumphantly for my pictures at the halfway point, which amused the race photographer.  I told him I was trying to get a good race photo for once and it worked!  I'm hoping to download the official race photos soon.

I took another GU near mile 7 and I tried the Peanut Butter flavor.  It was ok, but it had a gritty consistency and it wasn't nearly as good as Salted Caramel.  I'm anxious to try Chocolate Peanut Butter, though!  It had started raining quite a bit harder at this point and while I had been thanking the volunteers all throughout the race, I definitely made sure to profusely thank the volunteers at this point.  I am always impressed by race volunteers, especially when the weather is less than ideal, like the rainy race day I had!

Around mile 7.5, the course made a U-turn, so runners were running side by side and as I was coming back down the stretch of road I just ran down, I saw the girl in the Sparkle Skirt and told her "good job" as we ran by one another.  My IT band was really acting up at this point, but the enthusiastic volunteers at the water station near mile 8 helped keep my spirits high.  In this particular neighborhood, some of the residents were sitting out on their porch enjoying coffee and they asked me what mile I was on.  I told them I was at mile 7.94 and they said "Wow!  How far are you going?"  I told them 13.1 and they wished me good luck on the rest of my race.  It's always nice interacting with residents as we run through different neighborhoods.  I'm sure it is a bit of an inconvenience having road closures and the normal sounds of race day merriment, so I appreciate their support and encouragement!

By mile 8, my right IT band was screaming at me and I knew that I would be walking the rest of the race, but I was ok with that and tried to keep my pace brisk.  As I started mile 9, I heard someone approach me from behind (not an unusual occurrence, though) and a voice said "I've been trying to catch up to you!" and it was my friend in the Sparkle Skirt!

I learned that her name was Brigitte and this race was her 19th half marathon!  She completed a half the weekend before (the MO' Cowbell Race) and she was registered to run the Rock 'N Roll St. Louis Race the following weekend, which would be her 20th half.  She is also a Run Disney runner and is training to do the Dopey Challenge in January.  The Dopey Challenge includes a 5K, 10K, half marathon, and full marathon all in the same weekend!

It was great talking to Brigitte, but I felt like I was slowing her down.  I told her my IT band was agitating me and mentioned that if I was slowing her down to feel free to continue ahead.  She indicated that she was having some ankle issues and that she enjoyed getting to know new people at races.

I was really in pain at this point and it was so nice having someone to chat with to keep my mind off the pain.  I truly think the last few miles of this race would have been miserable were it not for my new running friend.  We talked about running, our families, and our careers and found out that we had so much in common.  We are both only children who've lost our dad's and we work blocks away from each other.  I really feel like Brigitte and I crossed paths for a reason.  Not only did she help me through the last difficult miles of the race, but she also talked to me about her dad's passing and let me talk about my own grief and losing my dad.  We talked and walked during the last 4 miles and as we approached the finish line, we jogged the last few steps across the finish line.  We've made plans to have lunch soon and meeting Brigitte reminded me how much I love the running community.  I am always blown away by the support and encouragement I receive from fellow runners and Brigitte was truly an angel on race day!  She said it best when she told me that running to her is never about the finish time, but rather, it's about meeting new people and supporting and encouraging one another across the finish line.  Amen!

I met up with my Mom after I crossed the finish line and it should be noted that she is the most amazing Mama ever!  She got up incredibly early on a dreary Sunday morning to come downtown with me, wait nearly 3 and a half hours in the rain for me to race, and cheered me and Brigitte on for the last few blocks!  Thank you, Mama!  I love you!

My official finish time was 3:25:22, which I am incredibly proud of.  My 5K time was 44:37 and my 10K time was 1:29:32.  While my finish time was nearly 10 minutes slower than my last half, given all of the IT band issues I was having, I couldn't have asked for a better time.  Even with the IT band pain, my walking pace towards the end was, on average, 15:40.  I started the race with an average pace of 14:22, so my IT band didn't slow me down too much.  I'm glad that my first half of the race was pretty solid, though, to help make up for the last, and slower, half.

Half Marathon 2 is in the books! 
After I got my medal and met up with my mom, I hobbled over to a bench to eat a few of the post-race snacks.  After my first half, I had a terrible dizzy spell (several really), but luckily, other than my IT band, I felt pretty darn good after this race.  When I stood up from the bench, though, I knew it was going to be a long walk to the car.  My mom offered to go get the car, but I figured it would do me some good to walk it out a bit.  It was a long walk back to the car, though, and I had to stop several times on the way.  It felt so good to sit down once we got back to the car! 

My mom and I went out for breakfast after the race and I had a big glass of chocolate milk and a stack of delicious pancakes and a side of bacon.  It hit the spot! 

I've never been a big chocolate milk fan, but lately, after long runs, it tastes so good!

One of my pancakes was Mickey shaped!  A lovely, unexpected surprise! 
After breakfast and a nice, hot shower (I could not get warm after the race between my wet running clothes and soggy shoes from the rain), I took a post-race nap, which was delightful.

 I love this spooky  medal!

Back of the medal
Overall, I had a really great experience and this race is once again at the top of my list.  I love the spirit of the race and the Halloween theme, plus the people watching is prime with all of the costumes!  Technically, I did not meet my better or best goals and I only halfway met my good goal, which was to not get swept by finishing in 3:15.  I did not finish in 3:15, but I did not get swept and I finished, so I call that a win!  

I'd love to train hard for my next half and aim for a 2:45 - 3:00 half.  It will be a challenge, but I'd love to push myself to train (mentally and physically) for that goal.  

"Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up." 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

On the eve before my second half marathon

I have mixed emotions about my second half marathon tomorrow morning, due to feeling somewhat unprepared, but I am mainly excited, particularly since this race has been one of my favorite races to date. Tomorrow, I am running in the Great GO! St. Louis Halloween Race, which combines my love of running and Halloween.  What could be better?

I got a great pep talk from my friend, Mary, the other day, so I am trying to be as positive as possible.  I really loved this race last year (I did the 10K), so I hope the excitement of the race and seeing all of the great costumes keep me pumped, too.

Speaking of costumes, unlike last year, my Halloween costume this year is not runner friendly, so I did a bit of improvising and came up with a pretty cute outfit.  I love, love, love my Tough Girl Tutu, which I received as part of my swag as a member of the BAMRR team for Napa, so I knew I could create a fun costume using that.
A little Super Girl action with my badass Tough Girl Tutu
One of the best things I read before my first half in the spring was the idea of creating good, better, best goals for your race so that no matter what, you will have a good day.  With that in mind, my goals for tomorrow are:
  • GOOD:  To not get swept.  This is a legitimate concern of mine.  There is no full marathon in conjunction with this race, which usually gives the half marathoners a lot of breathing room in regards to finish times.  There is a very firm 3 hour and 15 minute time limit tomorrow and I'm a bit nervous because I did my spring half in 3:30, so I need to shave 15 minutes off my time.  It's not impossible, but I would feel a bit better if I was a bit more prepared running wise (and not having IT band issues, too).  It will be a good day if I finish the race in 3:15 and don't get swept.  This equates to an average pace per mile of 14:53, which seems absolutely doable as long as my IT band doesn't flare up.
  • BETTER:  To stick with my 4:1 run/walk intervals throughout the entire race.  I tried 6:1 intervals last week, but to keep my IT band at bay, I'm going to shorten my run intervals and see if that helps.  
  • BEST: To complete the race without any IT band pain.  I've been doing a lot of stretching and foam rolling this week in the hopes of avoiding any of the pain I experienced last weekend.  Fingers crossed! 
I'm also sending badass vibes to Sarah Bowen Shea tomorrow as she runs the Victoria Marathon aiming to achieve a Boston qualifying time for the 2016 race.  After watching her commitment to her training plan in Napa and watching her sheer determination in overcoming the obstacles that she faced on her legs, particularly her last Napa leg, I have no doubt that tomorrow is her day.  I've signed up for race text alerts so I can keep up with her race.  With the time difference, I will finish around the time her race starts, or shortly thereafter.  Go, Champy, Go!

Tomorrow as I cross the starting line, I'm going to remember my favorite quote:

"She believed she could, so she did." 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

My Napa Adventure Continues (Part 4)

Needless to say, I slept extremely well on Saturday evening once I made it to back to my hotel room!  I crashed and didn't wake up until my alarm went off the next morning.  The rest of the BAMRR team was headed back to San Francisco on Sunday morning to catch their flights home/to meet up with family and friends, but first we had to clean off our beautiful vans!  

Smitha and I were sad to clean off our dear Van 2
Jen Lewis and Dimity cleaning off Van 1 and me it would seem!
Dimity passing off the Ragnar glass (Captain's gift) to Erin, who had the most "badass" leg! 
Yeah we were!  (In the parking lot of our hotel in Vallejo)
We tried using Windex and some towels from our hotel room to clean the vans, but it involved a lot of elbow grease.  However, Lisa cleverly suggested we use our hotel room cards to gently scrape off the window paint and it worked perfectly!  

Soon enough, the vans were clean and it was time to say goodbye to my dear BAMRR girls.  I cried saying goodbye to these amazing women who I will forever be bonded with, but I know it is not the last time I will see them, as we are already planning a few reunion events for 2015!  

I met up with my mom in the parking lot of the hotel and we set off on our mother/daughter adventure!  Our first stop?  Food!  This girl needed some sustenance, so we found an IHOP and I feel like I ordered everything on the menu.  Belgian waffles with strawberries and whipped cream?  Check.  Bacon?  Check.  Sourdough toast?  Check, although I only managed to eat one piece and ended up taking the rest to go.  We also made a quick stop at Starbucks to get some caffeine and they were out of pumpkin spice syrup (oh the horror!  And I'm kind of serious.  I had a salted caramel latte and it wasn't quite the same as a PSL).

Mom had a great adventure of her own while I was doing Ragnar; she set out for some beach time and found a great book store, where the owner gave her a recommendation for a wonderful beach about 12 miles away.  I had fun seeing her pictures of the beach on Facebook during my rest times for Ragnar.  She found a neat light house, visited Half Moon Bay, and Sausalito. I'm really glad Mom came out with me and was able to have fun while I was running so that we could have some fun together after the trip! 

We headed out of Vallejo and made the drive to Napa.  In our rental car, mom and I had the four blankets that the owner of the Marina Motel had let us borrow.  When he gave us the blankets (which were retired linens from the hotel), he only asked for one thing in return; that we donate the blankets when we were finished.  The Marina Motel typically donates their retired linens to local homeless shelters or shelters for abused women, so his request was that we do the same and we were happy to oblige.  Mom and I had driven past a Goodwill store in Vallejo, but we decided to keep driving to see what we would find.

As we were on the highway approaching Napa, I saw on the left side of the road, a large white house (it looked like a mansion) and I asked mom if we could pull over, because I was quite certain that it was one of the wineries that I saw the day before while we were running.  We pulled over and found out that it was not a winery, but in fact, it was a local VA facility.  Mom and I knew this was the perfect place to donate the blankets, because my Dad was an Air Force Veteran and my Grandpa was a Marine Veteran.  There were a lot of buildings on this VA campus and we finally found a building that seemed to have some activity (it was a Sunday afternoon, after all), which turned out to be the VA Hospital  I hopped out of the car and went inside to find someone and I found a really nice gentleman who listened to my story and told me they would gladly take the blankets.  I got a little teary eyed when I walked back to the car to get the blankets.  I really felt my Dad's presence that afternoon and I don't think it was a coincidence that I felt the need so strongly to pull off the highway and go to this particular building.  Dad was definitely with me that day and it was nice to have him be a part of this wonderful trip. 

Donating our wonderful Ragnar blankets to the VA Hospital.  
Grateful to have found a good home for the blankets
Mom and I had a wonderful day visiting wineries in Napa.  We stopped at Robert Mondavi and shared a flight of wine, which had the most delicious Moscato!  We couldn't get over how beautiful the scenery was in Napa, too!
Our first glasses of wine in Napa
Next we stopped at V. Sattui Winery and had a lovely picnic with more Moscato, a baguette, and some fabulous dill flavored goat cheese!  So good!  We also hit up Sutter Home (free wine tastings, fyi!) and one of my personal favorites, Castello di Amorosa, which is an authentically styled Tuscan castle.  By this point, I had consumed a fair share of wine, so there were shenanigans aplenty, but I always enjoy being a little inebriated with my mom.  My motto has always been, if you can't get drunk with your mom (after you turn 21, of course), who can you get drunk with?  
Enjoying our Moscato outside at V. Sattui Winery
The beautiful Castello di Amorosa
The courtyard at Castello di Amorosa

My sweet Mama 


Winery #selfie with my Mama 

The view driving down the driveway at Castello di Amorosa.  #Beautiful
After our winery stops on Sunday, we headed back to Calistoga (where my Napa race ended) and checked into a really cute hotel (Golden Haven Hot Springs Spa and Resort) for the night.  After we checked in, we went to downtown Calistoga for dinner and to do a little shopping.  We ran into Melissa from my team and her friend; they, too, were staying in Calistoga to visit some of the wineries.  It was so nice to see Melissa one more time, as I was having withdrawal and missing my girls!  Mom and I had a great dinner at Checker's in Calistoga and I had the most amazing shrimp pasta with tomatoes.  Yum!  We also stopped for ice cream at a local shop, which hit the spot.  We noticed as we window shopped along the main street in Calistoga that several shops had "Welcome Ragnar" signs in the store fronts, which I thought was really nice.  Some stores were even offering discounts to Ragnar runners.
My delicious shrimp and pasta dish from Checkers!
A warm welcome for Ragnar Runners from the local businesses in Calistoga
 Mom and I had a good night's sleep on Sunday and when we woke up on Monday, we headed back into Calistoga for breakfast and to do more shopping.  The main street in Calistoga had some darling shops!  I also loved how biker friendly Calistoga was.  Our hotel, and several others that we saw, had complimentary bicycles for guests to take into town, which I thought was really neat.
The backyard of our hotel in Calistoga
After we finished breakfast and sightseeing in Calistoga, Mom and I headed to another winery, which Sarah had pointed out to us as we were driving to the finish line on Saturday.  Sterling Vineyards sits atop a hill and you actually take a tram to the winery for the tour and tastings.  It was a beautiful day and the tram ride to the top was awesome!  The winery was also participating in an art project called "Before I Die..." and they had a chalkboard outside the entrance with spaces for people to write their goals.  I thought this was such a neat concept!  It was also grape stomping day at Sterling Vineyards, but Mom and I just watched a couple who happened to be stomping when we walked over that way.  We also got to watch some of the vineyard employees emptying crushed grapes out of one of the wine vats, which was pretty cool (and fragrant!).

Gorgeous drive into Sterling Vineyards

The "Before I Die..." board

That is my "before I die" sentiment!
Mom writing on the wall.  Her sentiment:  to live on the beach! 
Our tram 

In the tram ready for #MoreWine

The view from the tram on the way to the top

So much wine! 
Me and my Mama at Sterling Vineyards
 Mom and I decided to head back to San Francisco on Monday night since our flight was at 1 p.m. on Tuesday.  We figured it would be good to be somewhat nearby the airport and we wanted to go down to Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39 in the morning before our flight.  We came back to San Francisco via Santa Rosa, because I had a little to-do item on my agenda: to get another tattoo.  I've wanted to get a tattoo for some time now, one that would honor Jack.  I have a tattoo for Nick (and one for myself), but I don't have one for Jack.  I also wanted to get a half marathon tattoo, but I thought I should get Jack's first.  However, I don't know exactly what I want to get for Jack and rather than rush into it, I decided to wait on his tattoo and get my half marathon tattoo since I knew exactly what I wanted.  The fun part is that my Mom got a tattoo also!  I double, no, triple checked to make sure she really wanted one and in such a visible place (her wrist), and she did.  She got a blue star for Nick and she handled it like a pro!  My Mom and I have bonded over a lot of things in life, but I never thought we'd bond over ink!  She surprised me!  Mom, I'm glad we got to get inked together! :)
Mom and Brent, our tattoo artist in CA

Mom's finished tattoo for her grandson, Nick
One of my favorite quotes is "She believed she could, so she did" and I contemplated getting this tattooed on my foot for my half marathon tattoo, but that seemed rather lengthy.  Then I considered just getting a small 13.1, but I wanted something more.  As I was googling half marathon tattoos a few weeks ago, I came across the perfect tattoo for me.  (This is partly why I waited so long to run post-Napa.  I didn't want to wear socks while my tattoo healed.  Probably silly, but I wanted it to heal properly before I put socks on it!)

On the top of my right foot.  The word "believe" to remind me of my favorite quote, with the "b" represented by a 13. and the "l" represented by 1.
As we were driving around trying to find a tattoo parlor in Santa Rosa, I saw street names that looked familiar and I put two and two together and realized where I was.  Santa Rosa being the place where I ran my second, and favorite, leg of Ragnar.  I thought it was pretty fitting that Santa Rosa then ended up being the place where we got our tattoos!  

After our tattoos, Mom and I drove into San Francisco and stopped to walk for a bit on the Golden Gate Bridge and then we settled in a hotel for the night.  We ordered pizza and watched tv and I crashed yet again! 
Mama and I on the GG bridge at night
On Tuesday morning, Mom and I woke up and headed down to Fisherman's Wharf.  We went to Boudin Bakery again, because I wanted to show Mom all of the sourdough deliciousness and then we went to see the Sea Lions at Pier 39.  I remembered that on Pier 39, I saw a produce stand with the biggest fruit I had ever seen.  The girls and I saw the stand on Thursday when we were at the Pier and I wanted to show the fruit to Mom.  

I don't think I have ever seen a plum that big! 

Sea Lions at Pier 39 
Mom and I also drove down the crookedest mile (a portion of Lombard Street), which I remember doing when I visited San Francisco years earlier with my parents.  It wasn't nearly as crowded as I remembered, but I guess it was a weekday.  I loved all of the beautiful flowers that were planted in front of the homes on the crookedest mile.  The hydrangea's were stunning! 

Looking up at the crookedest mile from about halfway down the street
 Mom and I headed back to the airport to return our rental car and catch our flight home.  We flew to Denver and had a little layover there, which gave us time to have a nice dinner at one of the restaurants in the terminal before catching our flight home.

Farewell San Francisco.  Thanks for the wonderful memories! 
I had a wonderful, amazing trip and it still seems like somewhat of a dream since it went by so fast!  I'm looking forward to sharing what I learned from my Ragnar adventure on my next post!  It was an awesome journey that I would absolutely do all over again! 

"'What if I fall?' Oh but my darling, what if you fly?"  

Monday, October 6, 2014

Part 3 of my Napa Adventure

When we last left off in my Napa adventure, we were making our way over to the exchange zone as Dimity was set to come in at any minute to pass off to Melissa, thus beginning our second legs of the race.  We briefly saw our Van 1 teammates at the exchange and said a groggy "hi" and the next thing we knew, Dim was coming in.  She passed off to Melissa and we said goodbye to Van 1 so we could start to head to the exchange.  Mel had 6.6 miles on tap, but we wanted to be sure to get to the exchange zone in time to avoid missing her like we did the first time!

I realized as I listened to the Napa podcast yesterday that it is no longer a secret who was navigating when we got lost on the way to Exchange 7.  As Sarah mentioned, we never let JMart have the navigator spot again (sorry, JMart!  We love you, though, girl!) and I took over navigator duties with the help of Smitha.  I would give directions from the Rag Mag (which I got to keep as a souvenir for being the navigator.  So many memories from that book!) and Smitha would help double check the directions with the use of her smart phone.  The Rag Mag was ok, but some of the streets weren't identified properly in the Rag Mag.  For instance, as we were driving to the next exchange to meet Melissa, we were looking for Mendocino Avenue, however, Mendocino Avenue was actually called Broadway, I think, in the particular area where we were.  It turned into Mendocino Avenue a few blocks away.  Thank goodness for smart phones!

We drove through Santa Rosa and made it to the exchange point.  Parking was a little tricky at this exchange, so we ended up parking the van on the side of the road along with several other Ragnar vans.  I was loaded up with all of my nighttime running gear; pink reflective vest, red blinking light on the back of my shirt, headlight on (thanks, JMart, for letting me borrow yours!), and glow sticks aplenty on my wrists.  I was bouncing up and down at the exchange trying to pump myself up, but in reality, I was crazy nervous.  From the time I found out I would be running the race, the night leg had always been my biggest source of anxiety. I was worried about getting lost, although I was less concerned about this after running my first leg due to the fact that I was always around people and the course was fairly well marked, I was worried about mountain lions (irrational, yes, but still I was worried), and I was worried about being able to see, although I knew I would be running with a headlamp.  I am very much a night owl, so I wasn't as concerned about running at 1 or 2 a.m., other than the fact that I'd never run at that time before.

Don't let this face fool you; I was nervous as all get out at this point. 
My second leg was 5.5 hard miles with probably the most interesting elevation changes of all of my legs.  When we were picking our top 3 choices for the race to send to Sarah and Dimity, runner 8's legs intrigued me the most because of the elevation changes.  I knew this leg involved a huge uphill, but was blissfully followed by nearly 3.5 miles of downhill.

A few minutes after we arrived, Melissa was coming up the hill and we cheered her on as she handed the slap bracelet off to me.  This exchange was smack in the middle of the hill, so I started my leg going uphill.  It wasn't awful and shortly thereafter, I headed downhill for a bit.  I started to think that the hill hadn't been too bad and then just as soon as I thought that, we started heading up hill again.  Up the mountain, really.

This may be the only photo of me running as I head out for my second leg (thanks, JMart!)
This was another instance where I didn't feel guilty when I started to walk as nearly every single other runner was walking at this point, too.  There were probably a handful of people who ran past me and I gave them a very hearty "good job" because that hill was a beast!  In the course of a mile, our elevation changed nearly 400 feet!  We all commiserated with one another and I reminded my fellow runners that our next, and last, leg was 2, flat miles, which elicited a few sighs of relief.  

When I started out on my second leg, it was misting slightly, but it felt really good.  It was also quite foggy, but it kind of added to the ambiance.  There was only one brief moment during the entire leg, maybe about 30 seconds, where I couldn't see a red blinking light from a fellow runner in front of me, nor could I see a headlamp behind me, but I didn't worry too much.  

I remembered seeing on the map for this leg, that I would be running through a town called Sleepy Hollow and I was equal parts excited and creeped out.  It figures that my nighttime leg would go through a town with that name.  I had hope to find a sign with the town name on it, but I didn't see one, nor was I really looking as I didn't remember to look until after my leg was done.  It turns out that as I look at the map now, the Sleepy Hollow referred to on the map was actually a street name that my leg ran perpendicular to.  It's a miracle that I was Van 2's navigator with my less than stellar map reading capabilities!  

A little funny story from this leg involves the AMR podcast I was listening to, as I finally was in an area where my cell service wasn't spotty.  Sarah thought it was hilarious that I was listening to AMR podcasts during the race and asked me if it was like listening to them in stereo.  What can I say?  I'm a creature of habit and it was actually really nice listening to the podcast, particularly on my night run, because it felt like they were running with me.  In fact, it was so realistic, that when Dimity was talking about her upcoming (at the time, as I was catching up on older podcasts) Pike's Peak ascent and describing how the race course snakes up the mountain, I thought she was saying "snakes" and I nearly jumped out of my skin.  I am not normally afraid of snakes, but as I mentioned, the night leg had a bit of a spooky ambiance with the fog and the mist and there were a ton of leaves that looked like snakes on the ground.  I thought they were cypress tree seed pods, but when I googled those types of trees, they weren't the ones I saw.  In any case, I happened to be running through a bunch of whatever pods they were and so when Dimity said the words "snakes" on the podcast, I thought she was running with me and telling me that those leaves were snakes, so I jumped a bit until I remembered that I was just listening to a podcast. 

I only had minor nerves about mountain lions on this leg, mainly because it seemed pretty mountainous, particularly the uphill, but as I look at the Google map now, it was actually quite a residential area.  As I mentioned, too, I was almost always by other people, so there was really nothing to worry about.  

When I came to the crest of the hill, I was so excited to see that beautiful downhill!  I coasted down the hill for probably some of my best splits of the race.  Which brings me to another Ragnar tradition of sorts; kills.  A kill is when you pass someone else during your leg.  There were many vans tracking kills on their windows in addition to marking off each leg as it was completed.  We talked about this as a team and agreed it wasn't the best sportsmanship and that took away from the camaraderie of the race and running.  

At some point early on in the race as we were getting to know one another, JMart was telling us stories about she and her girlfriends when they get together.  It came up at one point that they used the term "throat punching" which we all thought was hilarious, so I jokingly asked if we could track "throat punches" instead of kills.  We didn't track kills or throat punches in our van and I was glad, because I do think it's a bit unsportsmanlike, but I admit, a teeny part of me wanted just to have one "kill."  Is it too much to ask to pass one runner?  Of course, the other part of me, said "who cares if you pass another runner?  Run your own race!"  In any case, I did pass two people on the downhill portion of the second leg (although does it count if they pass you, then you pass them?) and I quietly mentioned to JMart when I came into the exchange that I got two throat punches.  

Although, I was particularly irked when Melissa was telling us about one of her legs when another van pulled up along side the runner behind her and asked their teammate how she was doing (this part of the leg was uphill, if I remember correctly).  She replied that she was fine and when her teammates in the van asked how many kills she had, she said "just 8."  Her teammates told her "9's right there" clearly referring to Melissa, who could hear everything being said.  I was appalled because that is completely against what I feel like the running community should be.  Melissa shook it off and continued to be the badass that she is, but darned if that didn't piss me off.  Goodness knows I was "killed/throat punched" numerous times throughout the race and it didn't bother me in the slightest.  I said "good job" to everyone who passed me and I appreciated the runners who passed me and said "good job" or "you're almost there" or any other words of encouragement, too.  That, to me, is what running and racing is all about.  We are all runners, we all run our own paces, and we are all out here doing what we love, so why not support each other and encourage one another?  Ok, I'll get off my soap box now!

After my jubilant downhill stretch at the end of my second leg, I handed off to Jodi and we headed to meet her at the next exchange.  I think my leg began somewhere around 1 a.m. or 1:30 a.m. and I must say, it was by far my favorite leg.  It's absolutely true what everyone told me before the race; there is nothing like running outside in the middle of the night with nothing but you, the stars, and the moon, or in my case, me, the fog, and the mist.  It was completely outside my element, but I loved it.  It was challenging at first with the steep incline, but the downhill was amazing and I enjoyed the relative solitude of the night.  

Runner's high post-second leg
Smitha and I went with Sarah to meet Jodi at the exchange while Mel and JMart parked the van and as we were waiting, Sarah did her lunge matrix per Coach Bri's directions.  At this exchange, as at most exchanges, teams were cheering on their runners, but given that it was in the wee hours of the morning and this exchange was right across the street from an apartment complex, the race volunteers asked all of us to keep it down.  Most of us were happy to oblige, but some others either didn't hear the message or chose to ignore it.  A local police officer came out to offer another warning and it seemed to help.  I think it is really important to remember in races like Ragnar that you are running through many communities and causing a little bit of chaos given road closures or just general masses of extra people, so it is really important to be considerate and a good representative of the running community.

Sarah doing her lunge matrix before the start of her second leg
#PrincessJodi handing off to Sarah 
Sarah had a great second leg; we noticed what we thought was a pretty significant hill as we drove by the runners on the way to the exchange, but when she came into the exchange, she noted that it wasn't that bad at all.  At this exchange, we found our favorite race volunteer, Stephanie.  What I quickly learned early on in the race, is that it is super helpful to have a volunteer at the exchange chute calling the bib numbers as the runners come in so that you can be ready for the hand off from your teammate.  Unfortunately, this was not always the case and we didn't have the best volunteer experiences up until this point.  Stephanie was directing traffic like a boss (this exchange had a tricky parking situation) and directing runners, too.  She was firmly correcting runners who were in the way of oncoming traffic or incoming runners and she efficiently and clearly called out bib numbers as they came in the chute.  We decided that she need some love so, after Sarah passed the bracelet onto JMart, we hopped in the van and as we pulled out of the exchange, I rolled down the window and gave her some of our Larabar stash as we all thanked her for being such an awesome volunteer.  I hope that others thanked her, too, but I'm glad we showed her our appreciation.  She was truly a bright spot in the race! 

Early morning shenanigans at the exchange point as we waited for Sarah to hand off to JMart.  (JMart, Mel, and I)
At the next exchange, as we waited for JMart to come in and pass off to Smitha, Sarah and I decided to scope out the Honeybucket situation.  Just when it looked like we were going to have to pop a squat again, we found the port-a-potty's.  While waiting in line and on the walk back to the van, Sarah and I had a really lovely bonding moment and I thanked her again for the opportunity to be a part of the team.  We talked about my Dad passing and how this year had been so difficult.  I've felt a little lost when it comes to most everything and this has affected my eating habits and my running.  I told Sarah, though, that being a part of this Ragnar team had re-ignited my love of running, as it reminded me of the challenges of running, but also of the exhilaration of pushing past your boundaries, physically and mentally.  It was really nice spending some quality time one-on-one with Sarah!  

JMart came into the exchange not too long after we got back from the port-a-potty's and Smitha was off for her second leg.  I was again the navigator and I admit, I led us astray.  It's a bit of a sleepy haze as to what happened, but I think it was another instance of the streets in real time not matching the street names in the Rag Mag, but I'll take full responsibility for getting us off course.  We found some runners and when in doubt, we followed them, so soon enough, we found an exchange.  I remember someone in the van commenting on how small this seemed for one of the major exchanges, but we really didn't think anything of it.  Parking was a little tricky at this exchange, but Sarah did a badass parallel parking job with the van, which we were all quite impressed by.  At some point, Mel got a call from Dimity, I think, asking where we were.  We said we were at the exchange point and asked if they could see us, which they couldn't, since it became clear by now that we were at exchange 25, not 24.  Melissa came over to the van and told us we were in the wrong place, so we hightailed it out of the exchange and back-tracked to exchange 24.  We hoped that we wouldn't miss Smitha, but we got a phone call from van 1 saying that she had already come into the exchange and passed off to Jen Lewis.  We were going to try to play it off like we just weren't there yet and we told Dimity to tell Smitha that we would be there soon, but word got out that we had gone to the wrong exchange.  By this point, this was becoming second hat to us, though, so we shook it off and headed to the next big exchange to get some rest.  

We hit some traffic as we made it to the next exchange and I guess we determined it was construction traffic due to the earthquake damage.  We were so excited to see the sign for Napa on the highway and we had another sing-a-long to "Good Day" by the Nappy Roots.  It's a great song that I got hooked onto from one of the AMR podcasts and it was fun to sing along with the gals in the van.  There is a video of our sing-a-long floating around somewhere so I'll have to track it down!  

We made it to wine country! 
We found the next exchange and settled down into the van to take a little rest.  Sarah was out like a light in no time.  I thought I could sleep at the drop of a hat, but SBS has me beat for sure!  I think Sarah and I must have been the only ones able to sleep, though, because I woke up about an hour later and the van was empty.  Jodi, Mel, JMart, and Smitha had set out to picnic on the field where the exchange was and had a great time from what I hear.  I missed the "fat M&M's" story happen in real-time, but I heard about it when I woke up and I will forever think of peanut M&M's as fat M&M's. As I type the words, I can hear Smitha saying the words and laughing at herself because she had never seen a peanut M&M before.  

JMart snapped this shot of me sleeping in the van at exchange 30.  I think I fell asleep looking at my phone.  
When we knew Dimity was getting close to the exchange, we made our way over to the exchange area and caught up with our Van 1 friends.  It was always so nice seeing them at the major exchanges and hearing about their adventures and sharing our own!  At this exchange, I learned Sarah's lunge matrix, too!

Melissa getting ready for her third, and final, leg
Soon enough, Dimity came into the exchange zone and we grabbed a quick picture so she could post it on Strava before she handed the slap bracelet to Melissa.

Dimity handing off to Melissa for the last time
Melissa finished her last leg like a boss; she sprinted into the exchange zone like it was no one's business and before I knew it, I was off on my last leg.  It was bittersweet for sure, but I was looking forward to the quick and flat 2 mile leg ahead of me.

Melissa sprinting to the end of her last leg like the badass she is!
Ready to rock and roll for my last leg
My last leg began in a commercial area of Napa and then continued into wine country and some beautiful vineyards.  I ran for a bit with a gentleman who told me about getting lost on his last Ragnar experience in Southern California (Martha, I thought he might be one of your teammates, but I asked and he wasn't).  He and several other runners weren't sure if they were following the course but kept running for awhile before they figured out that they were, in fact, going in the wrong direction.  I can only imagine how that must have felt!  We ran together for awhile, which was nice, but then he went ahead, as I stopped to take some requisite selfies in the vineyards.

Vineyard selfie

I ran past the most exquisite strawberry stand about halfway through my run.  It was set back a bit from the road I was on, but I could smell the strawberries from the road and if I had brought cash with me on my run, I probably would have stopped to get one.  It was getting quite hot by this point and those strawberries smelled amazing!  I finished up my last leg by putting my new favorite jam ("Rather Be" by Clean Bandit featuring Jess Glynne) on repeat and I tried to savor every minute because I knew my race was coming to an end.  It was bittersweet handing off the slap bracelet to Jodi, but I was excited to get into the air conditioned van.  I gave Jodi a hug and told her "you got this" because I knew she had 9.4 miles for her last leg and she was a little nervous about it. 
Post-run picture in the vineyards of Napa
We were low on water and ice in the van and given that it was so hot and both Sarah and Jodi had epic final legs, we stopped at a local grocery store to get some more water and ice.  I decided it was a perfect time for an ice-cold Pepsi (it seems that much of the West Coast is Coke territory, so I was having Pepsi withdrawal) and a Popsicle.  The Popsicle rocked my world, for the record.  I was a sweaty mess but the Popsicle and Pepsi hit the spot.

This Popsicle was a delight after my last leg
We drove to the next exchange and saw Jodi at one point, so we honked and cheered as we went past.  We ended up at the exchange but we didn't see Jodi.  At some point, the runners split off from the way the vans were going, so this didn't concern us too much.  We found a restroom in Yountville and walked around for a bit.  It's a darling town and I made a note to come back with Mom when we did wine country after the race.

Hanging out in Yountville while Jodi ran her last leg
As the heat kept rising, we were getting concerned about Jodi, as there was no van support on this leg or the next.  In fact, there were several notes in the Rag Mag that said police officers would be out ticketing vans that pulled off the road.  We considered driving back along the route to see if we could find Jodi, but we were afraid we might miss her come into the exchange if we did that, so we stayed put.  Melissa and I walked down from the exchange point a few blocks to look for  Jodi and cheer on other runners.  Every runner that passed us looked so drained, emotionally and physically.  It was brutally hot and they had a gnarly leg.  I gave everyone that ran by a huge high five and congratulated them on finishing the beastly leg.  In fact, several times I referred to it as a "bitch of a leg" because it was.  One guy that ran by me thanked me for the high five and when I told him he was almost to the exchange point, he told me that he was an ultra runner and still had another leg after he was done with this one.  I was in awe, because the next leg was 11.4 miles on top of the 9.4 he had just finished!  Kudos to him!  

After a few minutes of greeting runners and giving out high fives, several of the runners told us our girl was coming up soon.  We were so relieved to hear that!  Melissa and I had brought a fresh bottle of cold water for her; rules be damned!  We were going to give that girl some fresh water no matter what.  Melissa had gone back to the van to check her phone to see if Jodi had called and I waited for Jodi to come in.  When I saw her tutu in the distance, I headed her way to give her the cold water.  I told her the exchange was just up the street and to the right and she was relieved to hear that.  She was such a trooper!  It was a beast of a leg and the heat did not help at all.  I stuck around for a few minutes after Jodi left to continue to encourage the other runners that went by and I really enjoyed that.  It was nice to be there to support them after such a hard leg.  We were in a residential area and there were two locals sitting outside in their backyard and I thanked them for letting us run through their community.  They said they really enjoyed watching the runners go by, which I thought was nice.  

I missed Jodi passing off to Sarah, but as we left the exchange, we were all worried about Sarah given the extraordinary heat and her long leg of 11.4 miles.  Sarah's leg was also no van support, but it did provide 3 water stations, so she didn't take her own water.  Melissa kicked into Mama Bear mode and said that we should go pick up more water and ice to help the runners on the course.  We all agreed and decided to help our fellow runners.  Melissa stopped at a market in Yountville and got some ice, baggies, bottled water, and Popsicles.  We started to travel the roads towards the next exchange and found one of the water stations from Jodi's leg.  Jodi had mentioned that race officials had told runners to ration the water at that station since they were running out of water.  She also told us the water was warm, yuck!  Two women were approaching the water station and I hopped out of our van to offer them bottled water and baggies of ice.  As I approached the women, I could tell they were trying to get water out of the coolers.  I offered them some of our bottled water and some ice packs.  They were really appreciative and it was nice helping out fellow runners.  I told them they were doing a great job and that the exchange point was just a little ways away.  

As we drove towards the next exchange, we saw Sarah on the course and we honked and cheered for her as she waved us on.  We drove a little ways ahead and pulled off the road to wait for her to offer her some ice and water.  When we saw her come up to the van, we knew that it was a difficult run and that this leg was not going as planned.  I will never forget the look on her face as she approached the van.  She look defeated and she had tears in her eyes.  I think we all did, too.  We offered her water and ice, which she took, and then we offered to drive her to the next exchange.  She told us she had considered it but she wanted to keep going.  Jodi sent her off with a hug and it is a moment that I will always remember.   I know that Jodi and Sarah had incredibly challenging legs and I can only imagine what it was like to push through such difficulty.  I'm not sure that I can articulate how much they inspired me that day, but whenever I have a difficult run, I will remember that day and I will remember how they pushed through with fierce determination and sheer badassery like I've never seen before.  

This is what the AMR community is about; support, love, and encouragement.  Jodi hugging Sarah after her last leg. 
At the exchange while waiting for Sarah, we heard that race officials had, due to the heat, given teams the option of skipping leg 35 and allowing runners 11 and 12 to run the last leg, leg 36 together.  We quickly decided to go with that plan, as it was hot and it was getting late and we were all tired.  

We cheered Champy on when we saw her come down the road and we set off to drive through to the last exchange.  A few teams decided to continue on and have runner 11 run leg 35 as planned.  I admire that, but I was glad we chose to have JMart and Smitha run the last leg together.  These two should have their own reality show and I mean that in the best possible way.  Dimity referred to their personalities on the podcast and they play so well off of each other.  They are hilarious!   

JMart and Smitha take on the world and the last leg of our Ragnar adventure
The BAMRR warriors are on their way
As we drove to the finish line, I was in awe of our surroundings.  I felt like I was in the movie "A Walk in the Clouds" (great movie if you haven't seen it) and I was making more mental notes of places Mom and I should visit the next day.  

Jodi crossing off her legs.  She shall henceforth be known as #BadassPrincessJodi

Crossed off my legs.  We put war paint on our faces, but it ended up looking like cat whiskers.  :)
Sarah Badass Shea crossing off her legs
We met up with Van 1 at the finish line and waited for Smitha and JMart so we could cross the finish line together.  When we saw them come down the road, we started cheering and quickly fell in line with them.  It was so awesome crossing the finish line! 

We made it!  200 miles in 38 hours!  
I admit that the finish line is a bit of a blur as pure exhaustion had set in by this point.  We had heard earlier in the day that due to a glitch in production, we would not be receiving our medals at the finish line.  We were all a bit bummed, but were told that they would be shipped to us sometime this month, so I guess it will just spread out the Ragnar adventure!  They had a few consolation gifts for teams in the form of ginormous belt buckles, but they had run out of those, too, by the time we finished.  We did get an extra Domino's pizza (I think each team got 1 at the finish line), which we demolished as we waited to get our pictures taken.  We also got extra beer tickets in addition to the ticket we had on the bottom of our race bib.  We were all so tired, though, and we had about an hour drive to our hotel for the night, so we ended up forgoing the post-race beer.  

We did a quick pass through the Ragnar store and then headed to the hotel.  Sarah had headed to the hotel earlier with some of the team who didn't want to shop and Dimity stayed with those of us who did want to shop.  It ended up being that all of Van 1 went with Sarah since they had been at the finish line for awhile waiting for us and all of Van 2 decided to shop.  It worked out really nicely, though, because we got some quality time with Dimity on the drive back to the hotel and Van 1 got some quality time with Sarah.  

We drove down to Vallejo to our hotel for the evening and Jodi and I got settled in our room.  She wasn't feeling too well, so she went to bed, which I think is just what she needed.  I felt like a shower was a necessity, even though I was crazy tired.  I took a much needed hot shower and when I got out, I had a text from Smitha saying they had food and beer next door if I wanted to come over.  Both sounded good, as did some giggles with the girls, so I went to JMart and Mel's room to hang out with them, Smitha, and Lisa.  It was really nice visiting with Lisa since I hadn't had the chance to visit with her much before the race or during it!  

Before too long, I had fallen asleep on one of the beds in JMart and Melissa's room, so we decided it was time to call it a night since it was after midnight at this point.  

Holding up Dimity triumphantly at the finish line
Given that it is after 1 a.m. now, I should probably do the same!  More Napa adventures to come, including saying goodbye to the team (boo!) and wine country adventures with my Mama (yay!).  

Hope everyone had a great weekend!

This quote falls in line with what I mentioned about Ragnar reminding me about why I love running.  Here's to saying "Yes, I can!"

"It will always be easier to say no, I can't until you decide to face your fears and say hell yes, I can."