Prowl the Sproul 10K

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A few friends (including Becca) decided to do the Prowl the Spoul 10K last weekend. We were trying to remember how we ended up doing this crazy race, and I think we figured out that it was actually my idea. Oops! Anyway, I was definitely in the mood to sign up for a ton of races after my half last fall, so I believe them when they tell me that I suggested/demanded that we try it.

This was my first ever trail race, and boy did I pick a doozy. It’s billed as the “toughest 10k in PA” and I don’t doubt that is the case. The race boasts a 1600 plus elevation gain and then a steep downhill to the finish.

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To say that I had no actual idea what that meant is somewhat of an understatement. We had done a few practice hikes on areas with similar elevation profiles, but our distance was always shorter. I was more nervous for this race than I was before my half marathon. I think there were two factors at play. The first was that I had not trained for this race the way that I did for my half marathon, and the second was that there were things beyond just being last to worry about.

We had been told of several hazards. Some of those were rattle snakes, bears, wasps and heat. I had experience with all of those to some degree. First was the heat. It was hot humid and I don’t think I ever sweated as much as I did during the uphill portion of this race.

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You can see the beads of sweat on my face and this was at the top after I had just stopped at the water station.

Next, were the wasps. It was fairly close to the starting line where we must have all run through a nesting area, because several people were stung. Having started way back so that I wouldn’t slow down the experienced climbers, most of the runners had already gone through. I heard some people talking about getting “bit” and then I felt a sharp pain in, of all places, my butt. Yep, the wasp stung me right through my shorts and it HURT. I was a little worried since I didn’t see just what had stung me and I had bad experiences with getting stung by yellow jackets in the past. My friend Loren did see it, however, and assured me it wasn’t a yellow jacket but she wasn’t sure what it was. I knew several people that were stung, and a few that had 3 or more stings. It still hurts but it’s certainly not something that would keep me away from the race a second time.

After a while, during the huge climb, I came upon a guy standing there shirtless, with a stick and his dog. He was telling people that there had been a rattle snake there, and that they chased it off the trail, and he was there to make sure that it didn’t come back. Some others thought he was joking, but I was fairly sure that given the specifics he was giving me, he was serious. Also, it’s well known that this race is prone to having snakes on the trail.

When I was near the top, right where the climb started to even out, I ran past a huge pile of bear poop. I was told by some friends that there are glad they aren’t me, because they didn’t know enough to know it was bear poop. But there it was, on the trail. No actual bear, but it did make my heart race even more for a bit.

Overall though, while this is one of those things where I know my description doesn’t SOUND fun it was a blast. Trail runners are awesome people. Not to bash those who run road races (because hey, that’s what I do and will continue to do), but I talked to more people in this small group (race registration was capped at 300, though I think there were a few more people than that) than I had at any road race. The whole feeling was more relaxed even though it was really hard. The swag was awesome – a pair of custom running socks and a nice tank top – and there was a fun after party with music, beer, pizza, and hot dogs. All this and the registration price was only $25. It was more than worth the cost of registration, and the joke among some of us was that we would register just for the socks. But I might register next year to get the socks AND try to beat my time.

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After the race, a little sweatier, dirtier and wasp stung but still smiling. 

Hikes, hikes, hikes

In the depths of my winter doldrums, I signed up for all the races. This included a trail 10K that I was warned was pretty hard, but I was having a moment of confidence and thought I could basically conquer anything. The Sproul 10K is on July 22, and let’s just say that my winter confidence was left back somewhere between the Pittsburgh Half and Ragnar.

In order to try to get into some sort of shape for this race, a few of us have been hiking on the weekends instead of our long runs. I have only been able to make it to 3 of these hikes. We have done Spruce Gap twice and Mount Nittany once in the past few weeks. I had gone up Mount Nittany a few times in the past, but not recently. Spruce Gap was totally new to me, but I was told that it was the most similar in elevation gain to the Sproul.
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I’m really glad that I was able to get out there twice because I think the shock of the elevation gain beat me down a little the first time up. The two hikes I was able to do there were about 2 miles up and then 2 down. The actual race will be 3 miles up and 3.7 down. There are also apparently rattlesnakes milling about. I will say, I grew up with brothers that had pet snakes and spent more of my fair share of time going to Clyde Peeling’s Reptile Land among other places that had snakes and reptiles that you could look at and handle. My crazy brothers used to CATCH rattlesnakes for FUN. I’m probably less afraid of all things slimy and slithery than the average person. But the idea of being on a single track trail with a rattlesnake on it and not being able to give it a wide berth? That scares me.

Spruce Gap

The hikes that I have done have also given me some confidence in navigating the downhill portions. This may sound silly. But honestly there is some skill and some confidence that go into descending a trail. There are a lot of spots where your foot placement is important if you like staying vertical. While most people I go out with can smoke me on the uphill portions, I’m usually able to make up some of that time going down. The only bad thing is that given it is a single track trail, I may get stuck behind someone who is slower than I am. Apparently this is a time to say “passing when I’m able” which seems super rude, but I’m sure my frustration and the fact that I have trouble slowing down on the descent might get me to that point.

Other than this adventure, I ran the Firecracker 4K with my daughter and my mom was recently successful in teaching her to ride her bike, which has gotten me back on my bike for the first time in years. I’ve also been trying to stick to running 3 days a week, usually 3, 3, and 5 miles and getting back into the groove of strength training at BodyPump. I had several injuries that didn’t curb my running all that much, but that kept me out of strength training. I’m glad to be back to it, especially since I think it was the cause of some of the secondary injuries I picked up after I initially hurt my knee during a fall.

I’m going to keep on being in denial that I’m signed up for a half marathon in October, and hope to get back to getting a little more enjoyment out of my runs and put a little less pressure on myself to complete all these challenges.

 

Ragnar!

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I haven’t started this before because I honestly don’t even know where to start! I finished my Ragnar last weekend and I’ve spent the past week being completely exhausted. So much happened in such a short time, I can’t figure out what’s important and what’s not. Here are the basics of what we did ahead and what we packed.

  1. We ordered 2 vans for the race. We got two 15 passenger vans, but the seats were all the way to the back. Next time I’ll have them take out the back rows of seats, because organizing things with no “trunk” space was nearly impossible. But other than that, it was fairly easy.
  2. I reserved 3 rooms in Lancaster at the Days Inn through booking.com  and I will tell you that I will never stay at another Days Inn and I will never use booking.com again. When we got there, they did not have our reservations. We ended up sleeping in 3 rooms with King sized beds instead of the 2 queens in each that we had reserved. On top of that they then double charged my card for 6 rooms and neither Days Inn nor booking.com has been willing to help me. I’m in the process of disputing the charges for the second set of 3 rooms, but the whole thing is a logistical nightmare.
  3. We ordered Shirts and Magnets for tagging vans. We got the shirts from Customink.com and the magnets from printrunner.com Our awesome teammates designed the shirts and I stole the design for the magnets as well.

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  1. We couldn’t agree on the food situation. Nothing terrible but Van 1 gravitated toward sharing and Van 2 wanted a more bring your own approach. I bought a few things to share with van 1 -PB&J, chocolate milk, cold coffee drinks, Gatorade, water, pretzels, hummus and probably a few other things. Debbie in our van brought Nutella and banana bread which was pretty awesome. Other people brought other things and shared as well.
  2. Packing! I packed 3 running outfits in ziplock bags. Then I put PJs in a ziplock bag, safety and other gear in a small pack (I used the free one from the Pittsburgh Half Marathon) and “warm” clothes in an old plastic bag that I had to check gear from some race in the past. I stuck all of that in a duffel. That worked pretty well overall, and would have been even better if we had some trunk room.
  3. We had a cooler in the van, but we could have utilized it better. We had a little food and some drinks, but I think because of the aforementioned lack of trunk space we had some issues.
  4. We used chalk markers to mark up and decorate the van.
  5. We, of course, had Nick the T-Rex.
  6. We started a Whatsapp group message the day before. Actually we started several. A team one, and then each van had their own message going. We were pretty good about keeping everyone up to date on things.

Some things I learned:

  1. Never ever use booking.com again
  2. Liz is always right! She took a look at our original pace calculator and saw that people were not putting in accurate 10K paces. Ragnar makes adjustments for you, so use what your 10K pace actually is, not what you think that you will be running because of the elevation. I put an accurate pace in and mine was pretty close to spot on. Liz did some Strava stalking and asked me about paces so she could adjust ours to be more accurate and we still finished HOURS ahead of what was projected. Trust the pace calculator and put in an accurate pace.
  3. Bring a tent– I was on the fence and decided not to bring a tent because I thought the set up take down wouldn’t be worth it. I do think since I have a simple tent to set up, that it would have be nice to sleep in at night. It was too cold and buggy or too hot and buggy to sleep outside and I had bruises for a week after sleeping on the seat belts.
  4. Van 1 Forever! – I liked starting early and being done early. I think I would have been stir crazy in Van 2
  5. There is no such thing as too many lights at night. It’s could be really dark on your night leg. Someone told me they saw me from a mile away and that’s exactly what I wanted. I had brought extra to share, and did share, but I had a headlamp, flashlight, and 3 blinky lights in addition to my reflective vest.
  6. Plan food after your van is done. We all got hangry and needed caffeine and had trouble finding a suitable place.
  7. Know yourself – I was so sure I was going to be upset that I didn’t get to sleep over in Lancaster, but honestly I wanted to get home to my family and my bed so I was happy to leave a few hours after we finished. This was especially true since we were at the finish line for quite a while before the last runner came in.

That’s all for now, I might do a recap of the actual race, but I think I’m overwhelmed by the enormity of it all!

The Chronicles of Nick the Dinosaur’s First Ragnar

One thing I promised myself going into Ragnar this past weekend was that I was going to embrace some cheesiness. I always miss out on stuff like that and then regret it in the end. My particular fun (for me) thing for this race was that I brought a mascot. He didn’t have a name before, but somehow by the end he was called Nick. Our team was Runnersaurus Rex (how about that) and so it was an appropriate mascot to have. As a side note, I didn’t purposely name the team after my blog, I’m just not that creative.

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Here is Nick watching the sunrise while we were waiting for Debbie half way through her last leg

Nick was a resident of whichever van had active runners and then was passed on to the next van after that. We tried, for the most part to get a picture with Nick either before or after each leg and he was passed on to the incoming runner. We didn’t run WITH him since that would have been insane, but he definitely had some adventures.

We had a few people ask if they could take pictures with Nick and also he found a few other dinosaur friends along the way.

Towards the end, we were all going off the rails a little. Nick’s eating and drinking went down hill too:

 

He was there, of course when our last runner, Becca, came in at the finish.

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Not sure who is more excited to be done

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Van 1 and Nick!

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All of the medals together and Nick protecting them

After the finish he also decided to partake in some libations and to roll out his tired muscles.

I had a blast passing Nick back and forth and most of the other teammates got into the spirit if not right away then at least by the end. It was also fun to take home the pictures and show my kids, who then decided Nick should tell his friends about the adventures he had.

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Back home in his natural habitat

I think if (when) I ever do another Ragnar, I want to do something like this again. In all seriousness I think it helped bring the two vans together a little bit. It gave us something fun to take pictures of, led to me talking to a few people who were not on me team and was just overall fun. And really, that’s what this whole thing was about for me. It was a challenge for sure, but I really just wanted to have a good time.

I’ll post more about non Nick related Ragnar things when I can get my act together and try to remember everything that happened. Right now I’m still fighting a cold and some sleep deprivation, but I hope to get around to doing a few more Ragnar related posts.

May Challenge

Ragnar is THIS WEEKEND!

But first things first. My May challenge was to eat one meal a week from the deep freezer and it didn’t feel like much of a challenge. I definitely met my goal, but I think that I need to also add that I can’t ADD anything to the freezer also. It was pretty boring and it’s done and now I’m hoping to bring back the challenge I was supposed to do in January, which is Meatless Mondays!

I’m all packed and ready to leave for Ragnar this afternoon. We have vans, hotels, food, running clothes and that’s the best we can do. As long as we have shoes and money we should be good! I’ll try to take lots of pictures and updated. After this, nothing until Sproul next month and then I think my calendar is pretty open!

 

It’s actually not so hard drinking green

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It took me a loooong time to get on the green smoothie bandwagon, but I think I’m officially there.

I was feeling sick 2 weeks ago and I knew I had the Pittsburgh half coming up and was looking for something to make me feel better. I went to go get chicken noodle soup at the HUB and they didn’t have any that day. I wandered around for a bit because I didn’t have a plan B. I was not feeling like eating much of anything, and then remembered there was a Jamba Juice and that would probably feel better than any of the junk food that was available. While I was in line, I saw there was a “ginger and greens” smoothie and decided I would dive in. Ginger seemed like it would help to clear out my sinuses and I figured that it must not taste too terrible if it was on the menu, right?

Anyway, I got it and it was amazing. Of course I’m not going to spend whatever ridiculous amount of money that costs on a daily basis, so I figured I’d try on my own. I went out and bought kale, frozen mango, frozen peaches, lemon juice and fresh ginger. I’ve been making that or adding home made yogurt to it almost every day that I’ve been home since.

I will say that I could not believe it was ever possible that a green smoothie would be edible, let alone taste good, no matter how many people told me I was wrong. It’s helped me to get more greens, and also it’s been pretty filling, especially if I add a little yogurt. I did decide to order ginger juice so that I can get more of a kick and also spend less time cutting up fresh ginger in the morning. I’m hoping that it works out well since I haven’t been able to reproduce the spiciness of the Jamba Juice version even when I add a lot of fresh whole ginger.

I’m hoping to make this a habit as one of the steps to eat healthier in the future.

 

 

Pittsburgh Half Marathon and Relay

This past weekend I finally got to run the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. I was so excited. I used to live in Pittsburgh and it was the first half marathon I had any contact with. The Hubs did it in 2013 as his first. At the time, of course, I thought he was insane. I did the 5k last year with friends while he did the half a second time, and this year we were bot able to run it.

First things first, I’m totally biased. Pittsburgh is basically my favorite place in the world. I know, weird. But I think it’s a combination of nostalgia and the fact that I know my way around that just makes it a really fun place for me.

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We got into the city fairly late on Friday and went out to get a late dinner. We ate at Eleven which was fairly close to our hotel. The food was really good and the service was excellent.

Speaking of hotels, I need to give a huge shout out to the place that we’ve stayed now all 3 times we’ve been in town for race weekend. The Hampton Inn on Smallman Street in Pittsburgh has always been an amazing place to stay. It’s close enough to walk to the start and from the finish. It’s very close to the expo so if you are like me and like to go at least twice, that is pretty convenient. It’s close to a riverside trail and walking distance to the Strip District which itself is an awesome place. We always make a stop at Penn Mac for spices, nuts, italian stuff and sometimes cheese. We also LOVE Pittsburgh Popcorn Company.  We did all of this on Saturday and ate lunch at Rolands and got dinner at Emporio which served pasta and meatballs. After that we got a drink at The Sharp Edge while we watched the Kentucky Derby and then went back for an early bedtime.

As for the race itself. I often tell people that The Pittsburgh Marathon has the expo that ruined all other expos for me. Since it was the first one I ever went to, I thought that all expos were just that big and awesome.

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I wasn’t able to get an angle that showed how amazing it is. But it is row after row of vendors. Dick’s Sporting Goods sponsors the race and has a huge store inside. There is also a Fleet Feet, and there was a Brooks store set up with a treadmill doing gait analysis. There was also a Sierra Nevada Beer tasting, Bubbly wine tasting and Wigle Whiskey (local to Pittsburgh) tasting as well. There are a ton of really fun custom T-Shirts that are great for nerds like me that like Pittsburgh as much as I do. (You can see some at Steel City Cotton and Fresh Factory). There are a too many more places to name, but trust me when I say it’s worth saving some time to walk around.

The morning of the race I wasn’t in a huge rush to get out of the door. The weather reports had been mixed for a few days, but pretty much all of them involved some sort of rain. I knew that since I was starting in the last corral, I’d be waiting for a long time before I got to the starting line. The Hubs and I walked over and met Becca, who graciously offered to run the Half with me, even knowing how I get on long runs, and Debbie who was doing the full Marathon but was able to start with us until the course split. To add to the confusion of this race, I was a member of a relay team. The wife of one of my high school friends reached out to me to see if I’d be on her relay team. I was already signed up for the half, but it turns out that you are able to do both, as long as you do the first leg (or 2). Another friend of mine was going to pick up leg 2, but ended up injured. Since it didn’t lead to any more miles for me, I offered to just pick up leg 2.

After waiting in the corral for what seemed like forever, we were off and headed down Liberty Ave. It was SO crowded. It was hard to move at all. We also ended up behind a walk run pace group. While I think that whoever wants to do the race should, and I fully support the interval folks who come out to do the race (some of which finish faster than I do) it can be frustrating to be bunched in with them. A lot of them follow the appropriate etiquette when stopped (hand up when they are walking) some of them did not. I almost ran full force into a few as I was looking around trying to enjoy the sights.

We turned down Penn and Over the 16th Street Bridge and I was feeling great. This year the course changed so that you were directed around PNC Park and Heinz Field which made the time go a little faster. Around mile 6 1/2 you head over to Southside and this is where things got hard. At mile 7 I finally decided to give into my bladder and stop to pee. I thought this was basically destroying any hope I had at beating my time from October’s race. But I had to stop, it was actually painful and I knew that I still had a long way to go. I also worried that when I had to stop at the relay point, my bladder would just give up on me. I will say this was a strategic error. I did feel SO much better and I needed to pee, but had I known that once I got to the relay stop there would be rows and rows of porta-potties I would have waited.

The relay stop also took longer than I thought. Pittsburgh is a really well run race. Everything I read about doing both the relay and the half it said volunteers would help get off my bib and shoe tag. This is one place that I felt they dropped the ball. No one helped me at the exchange. Well, no volunteers. Becca came to the rescue and helped me so we could get moving again. But those two stops, so close together didn’t do me any favors. By the time I hit mile 11, I was pretty out of it. I think that my fueling wasn’t great. I only ate a banana and Gu before I started and then I had one more on the way. I did have another on the dreaded Birmingham bridge because I was so out of it I didn’t know where I was. I thought it was the final last hill and not just out of wishful thinking.

When we turned off the bridge there was a little downhill and one last big uphill. I just couldn’t make it all the way up and had to walk a little bit more. At that point I thought there was no way I was going to PR, but Becca came to tell me that if we really pushed the last 1-1.5 miles we might do it.  I thought she was crazy, but I decided that that was all I had left, so I really started to run. I’m normally a 12:30 ish pace or slower on long runs, but mile 12-13 was 10:49 and the last .3 was a 9:46 pace which is unheard of for me. I was really proud that I pushed myself and was able to get a PR even with a bathroom and relay stop. I really didn’t think it would happen. It wasn’t a huge PR, but it was a mental victory given all the things I dealt with during the race.

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After the race we went back to the hotel. I was SORE. It was more my back than anything, so I spent some time with my feet up on the wall. 20170507_113851

After that we went with friends to Bakersfield to get some tacos and beer. We walked around a LOT that night and got home fairly late. All that walking led to me somehow injuring my ankle which is worrying me right now since I have Ragnar in less than a month. I haven’t had a chance to get it looked at, but for now I have a restrictive brace and compression socks on in hopes that it will help until I can get somewhere.

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Oh, I did forget one more thing. When I lived in Pittsburgh I LOVED Prantls. We used to get little things there, but a few times we had their burnt almond tort which is now famous since it was named “Greatest Cake America Has Ever Made” by the Huffington Post. I will say that it’s probably #2 in my book (Wegmans Chocolate Cake has them beat) but still I told myself that if I got a PR I would buy one so…..

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Overall I think I will someday do this race again, but probably not next year. It’s a little sad for me since I love this trip whenever I make it, but this course beat me a little and I think I need some time to recover. I won’t ever do the relay and the half again. It really was nice to help out a team, but the time I lost was a morale killer, especially after my bathroom break.  Also, going to a city I like and know as much as Pittsburgh has it’s downside. I eat and drink more than I likely would anywhere else and so it’s not an ideal race/recover spot. I did bounce back today with a green smoothie for breakfast and a day full of raw almonds, grilled chicken, tea, and carrots. So maybe I can look at this as a last hurrah until next time we get to the city. Or maybe, much like me saying I’d never even do a second half marathon, I’ll change my mind when the time comes.