Monday, December 12, 2011

Texas - State #18/23rd Half-Marathon

In December I finished off 2011's half-marathon schedule by running the "RunGirl 13.1" female half-marathon.  The race was a double loop through a State Park and the adjacent roads in a suburb of Houston.  The only time I've ever been in Texas was an ill-fated trip when I was fifteen with my family, which, you are correct to infer was torture.

I flew into Houston on Friday night, and made my way to my hotel.  Saturday I headed downtown Houston for my packet pick-up which was held at the store Tri-On The Run.  Packet pick-up went very smoothly and I picked up my fabric bag with logo, a long-sleeved gender-specific tech shirt, temporary "RunGirl 13.1" tattoos and sticker, and a RunGirl 13.1 knit hat.  Also got the usual Lip balm and some race adverts.

Sunday morning the weather was perfect for running, cloudy and in the 40s.  I broke tradition and did NOT wear one of my short sleeved "Half2run" shirts, but instead chose a long-sleeved Towpath Turtles shirt.

I love all-female events.  They are VASTLY different than regular races.  There is an absolute BUZZ of chatter prior to the race and non-stop chitty-chat from the mid to back of the pack until the latter miles.  Another difference was obvious at the first aid stop around mile 1.5.  Here a woman was holding two boxes of tissues saying, "Kleenex?  Kleenex?"  Only a woman would think that there would be few blowing "snot rockets" and on a 40 degree morning there would be copious sniffing!

The course bored me TO DEATH.  A double loop is NOT my favorite (although I prefer it to point to points), but this flat course wove through the park on a road closed to traffic with NOTHING to look at except trees and road for 75% of the way.  When we went around to the start/finish area, it was by a large lake that was beautiful but very windy.  Another spot that we actually passed three times was the most ugly area with ramshackle shacks and trailer parks.  A rather unsavory looking woman in pajama bottoms, a ratty robe and long, unbrushed blond hair did venture outside of her trailer to cheer.  She was quite a character to look at, but I gotta hand it to her - she stood out there cheering for all three pass-bys and was one of two crowds of "fans" who actually cheered on the sidelines.

I have been eating well and am 1/3 into a training plan over the past six weeks so my weight was down so I took this one a bit harder than the last couple.  I walked briefly through two aid stations in order to chew and swallow Sports Beans, but otherwise pushed on at a pace that I hadn't maintained for 13 miles in at least six months.  I ate at mile 5 and 9, and broke down and put my iPod on to combat my boredom at mile 7.

At about mile ten I was READY to be done.  But that is nothing new.   I ran a smart race and was moderately happy with my 2:32 finish.  The finish celebration was a mess; all of the family members got into line and helped themselves to all of the food/amenities for the runners.  Since  many of the runners had children and men in tow I was not too surprised, but I was disappointed since I never got to get my authentic Texas breakfast burrito!  I did take full advantage of the post-race mini-Bundt cake though...Actually I took TWO.  I had to be back at my hotel to shower and check-out so I didn't wait around for raffle prizes or get the massage.

Starting to plan out my race calendar for 2012.  I have seven more States to complete my "half2run" quest.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Provo Halloween Half-Marathon (State #17 half#22)

Well, I'm typing this up suffering with a cold that I picked up no doubt flying back across the country after the Provo Halloween Half-Marathon.

I went out there with 2 running friends and my sister, costume in tow for what I hoped would be a great race.  Not DO great in the race, but have fun.  Seems like I'm writing that a lot more often this year.  My weight is WAY up - went into this one at 195lbs. which is exactly 20 lbs heavier than I was last year.  All I do is talk about it, not do anything about it and my mood, habits and running have suffered greatly.

Back to the race report - I had hoped to do somewhere between a 2:45-2:55 but the first 5 miles of this race were all downhill and at mile 3 I pulled/strained my right soleus muscle.  I kept trying to slow down and relax before saying anything thinking that it would loosen up on its own.  It didn't.  At mile 5.5 we were held by the police for 2 minutes trying to cross a HIGHWAY (!) and immediately after I stopped at a port-a-potty (which I almost never do, but my body was out of whack) and waited TWELVE minutes in line!  About a half mile later I stopped to take a picture of a fly fisherman and our friends (who were walking it) caught up to us!  My sister and I decided that we'd walk with them for a while - that any time goal was probably shot.  Unfortunately walking was no better on my leg than running was, but it was a lot easier/more fun chatting and stopping for photo ops.

We walked the rest of the race and really had a great time.  In all, the race was a dissapointment (logistics), and people of Utah are NOT like anyone that I would normally associate with, but the scenery was absolutely unbelievable.  The trip was very expensive, but unfortunately I'm at that stage of my half2run quest as I've ticked off all of the surrounding states already.

Monday, June 13, 2011

"No feudin' just runnin" State 16/25 race report

As part of my “half2run” quest my sister and I headed south to the 12th running of the Hatfield & McCoy Half-Marathon.

As we made the five hour drive to the Tug River valley my apprehension mounted by the mile as we drove through the beautiful landscape.  Although it was absolutely beautiful, with tree covered lush dark green mountains, I could only wonder if the 1270 foot climb at mile six would look like one of them. 

My sister and I had made a detailed race strategy for this race.  After seeing the elevation chart we knew that this would not be a race to worry about our finishing time.  So, we decided that we would run it together and do everything possible to enjoy it and be entertained.  I decided that if I were hot and miserable, I’d need something to make me laugh so I came up with a nickname that she was to use throughout, “Brandine Po” and she would be called “Big Possum”.  All runners in this race are put into teams, you are either a Hatfield, or a McCoy and then the times are sorted to see which family “wins” the feud.  So, I was Brandine Po McCoy, and she was “Big Possum” Hatfield.

Although this is a very small race (500 runners total), Running Times had done a write-up about it, and I had also read a raving review by a blogger that I follow. 

The marathon is a loop course, and the half is a point-to-point.  The races are held in conjunction with the Hatfield & McCoy annual festival, and there are musicians, activities and a post-race pig roast to enjoy.  The elevation chart sums up the level of difficulty; the June 11th race date adds to the challenge with plenty of heat and humidity.

The race director is David Hatfield, a descendent of “Devil Anse” Hatfield, patriarch of the Hatfield family.  He is a wonderful character and a runner after my own heart, a 5-hour marathoner with a genuine love for runners and the sport.  He presided over the free pasta party the night before the race at a local high school.  We were entertained by a skit with local actors who portrayed “Devil Anse” Hatfield and Randolph “Rand’l” McCoy describing their historic feud.  David Hatfield couldn’t have been more welcoming and enthusiastic and assured us “as long as you finish before dark, when the shooting starts, you’ll be fine.”  Runners came from 40 of the 50 States, and although a quick look around the crowd showed a handful of serious (read, fast) runners, the majority of those present looked like they were there to enjoy running and time together.  David made special mention to those who had returned to run this race more than once.  Then he closed out the night by giving out lots of door prizes (interrupted by rambling, corny stories).

Race day temperatures were humid, but temperatures this year were moderate at the start.  The race started right on time and we headed into the hills of Kentucky.  There is a water stop at every mile or so, and we met the most friendly, wonderful people out on the course, and at the aid stations.  We stopped for a minute at just about every aid station to chat with the volunteers, some of who had worked hard on a theme.  Mile 10 took the cake with their “still” with overall clad volunteers, little buildings with “critters”, banjo music and a big jug of moonshine.

The course follows the path of historical feud sites and we took a minute at each to learn more about the history of feud between these two famous families. 

As we climbed to the peak of the 1270 foot mountain we were touched to see that race organizers had erected “thank you” signs every few feet with the names and addresses of all of the runners who had returned to run this race again.  We were behind a man who exclaimed “Hey!  This is me!”  These signs were a very nice touch appreciated by those who were being thanked as well as by the rest of us.  At the summit it started to POUR.  So we carefully trotted down to the base and made our way to the finish.

Finishers receive a big, heavy medal, a cold wet hand towel, and a moonshine jar with a plaque inside with their finisher’s position.  Age-category winners get a special lid for their jar.

This is a race for runners who enjoy traveling to races for the experience of seeing new places and meeting new people.  This “home town” race is now one of my favorites out of all the half-marathons I’ve done and I highly recommended it to runners of all abilities.

Kentucky: State 16/25

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Giveaways Galore!  Amanda is at it again!  She has some great swag without a lot of hoop-jumping to get it!  Check it out.

The Newbie Chronicles at Runner's

The Newbie Chronicles at Runner's

The Ohio Runner's Network - Club News

All of the groundwork has been layed and we have the new club up and "running".  Unfortunately there is quite a bit of capital involved in getting a new club up, most of which has come from me or from Roger (thank you again!).  As our membership grows we will be able to recoup these start-up costs and begin to build a budget to offer great events to the local running community!
Thanks to Angie Kovacs for designing and DONATING our new logo!  Membership forms available by emailing  $20 for single, $30 for household/family, or $100 for club memberships. 

Kirstie has scored some travel-related discounts for our members to assist with your out of town races, and is working on more offers.  Membership offers access to club-only events, networking and social opportunities, volunteer opportunities (for those who need it to get into VR races), and discounts at local running stores with your membership card:

Fleet Feet Northfield: 15% off
Ritchie's Sporting Goods: 15% off
Second Sole: 15% off
Vertical Runner: 10% off

The bare bones Board of Directors for 2011-2013 are:

Sheila Avsec, President
Roger Durbin, Treasurer
Kirstie Ratzer-Farley, Secretary/Marketing

(Shelby Young and Daniel Bellinger are our Members at Large)

We're planning our first club-only event for June so stay tuned on Facebook: "The Ohio Runner's Network"!

Out of sight but not out of mind

This post is not about running, or weight loss/maintenance, exactly.  And, most likely, these words will never reach the eyes of the person that inspired me to write today since he is not among my few followers, but hopefully my heartfelt thoughts of well-wishes and pure love will somehow drift out to him.

In this culture we're obsessed with winners, (or in the weight game "losers").  People rise to attention due to some action or affiliation and it seems that the whole United States cannot think of anything or anyone else.   All too soon for most of them we move on to the next "hot ticket".

In the blogisphere and on message boards, characters emerge and gain popularity and followers.  On the Weight Watchers boards, (and in the many blogs that emerged out of them) those who have lost weight become super stars.  Some of these people are REALLY inspiring.  They are amazing individuals who continually battle with (the term that one of my online favorites calls) "the fat mind".  They keep all of the sysboombah in perspective and don't become judgemental and preachy (as so, so many of the "losers" do).  They inspire others to keep at it, do what they do, and follow all of their sage wisdom so that the follower will "NEVER EVER go back to the way (I) was before."

Sadly, most readers don't meet their weight loss goals, or when they do they in fact go RIGHT back to the same lifestyle that they had before and gain every pound back and then some.  But it's the advisers that really really take the greatest fall if they "fail".  I am one of those people to a certain degree.  I lost all of my weight, became completely obsessed with sharing the Kool-Aid, and then a major life change was followed by an injury that curtailed my weekly running mileage.  I became depressed and gained much of my weight back...Not sure if that was in that order or somehow mixed and matched a bit.

One of the online "Super Stars" that I came across in my travels is this guy who by all means was fit as all get out, but was also depressed and obsessive.  He used to use food to deal with life's challenges, but after losing weight and becoming a runner I would have to say he then used religion and ultra-running to "cope".  He looked amazing, truly like a different person - but at the core I believe he was a wounded, sad man.  Maybe that's one reason so many of his followers were female.  In 2009 he went through a shocking personal blow and started to re-gain his weight.  Just a little, he was after all running 50+ miles per week.  His work situation was awful, his personal life was a mess and he started to eat.  The donuts, the Slim Jims, the "on the way home from the gas station" food that he had always joked about during his lean years on top...

Now, I had come across him as I was starting my slide.  I had re-gained about 15 (of the 105 lbs) and was panicking.  I had come to the notion that my fat was NOT the reason that I was unsuccessful and/or single and facing the alternatives were very, very, (VERY) painful.  I reached out to him and told him that no matter what I did, I had "lost it" - lost the drum-banging passion, lost the zest, lost IT.  He (as expected) told me to hunker down and that I'd get it back....I've been a life-long dieter - I knew that I was going to need another gimmick to re-energize me because once the "bloom is off the rose" for me, it's GONE.  And I gained...and I posted/read for inspiration...yet, I gained...

Then it happened.  He started to post less.  I sent him a few personal messages that he responded to with gratitude.   He started to gain more, and post less.  Now he has taken his blog down.  I don't need to read his blog for ME;  I am firmly 30 lbs over my goal weight and I still don't have "it".  Reading inspirational stories of success is not helping to keep me from non-stop thoughts of food and eating.  I struggle to keep it at 30 lbs. instead of re-gaining it all back.

I just want to somehow let HIM know that, fat or thin I care about him.  If this sounds crazy to you, my reader, think of it this way:  Spiritual people talk of faith.  I am neither spiritual or religious but I am loyal to people I believe in.  I believe my blogger/runner is wonderful, so in my mind is shall be so.  Celebrities musicians, and actors are loved by adoring fans who don't know the "real" person.  So it is so with anyone that we the public "create" to fill our needs.  So, surely bloggers are no exception?  Is it so crazy then to care about this person even if I don't know more than what he has chosen to put out there for mass (no pun intended) consumption?

The real truth is, I think of him as much now as when his feed showed up on my daily Yahoo home page.  I wish he knew how much compassion I have for him at whatever shape he is in now.  Inspirational super star in the losing/running world, or not.  Life is short, but it is also long.  What I've learned so far in my 47 years is that you can re-invent yourself, again, and again, and again.  Just keep getting up every day and stay open to possible crossroads as you come up on them.

I care very much about you my virtual friend.  You and your "fat mind" and/or currently fat body.   I hope you got up today and come upon a crossroads soon.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Well, my efforts to snag some blogger give-aways have not be wasted!  I have won a Sony MP3 player from Fifty K!

Can't wait to try this bad boy out!  And now as a result of this, my desire to keep checking in, "liking" sites on FB, and doing other hoop-jumping has been rekindled.

On the running front, I'm signed up for the "Jelly Bean 10k" another virtual race (Go to "Run with Jess'" site for more info) - I  spent a bit of effort to win a prize in the "Cupcake Marathon" last month, but without any luck.  Sort of felt like it was a waste of time, but if nothing else these virtual races get me out the door...  Try it readers, you may win something as well!

Next order of business?  I need to figure out how to set up an area on this site for give-away info...this layout is a template and other than adding gadgets, I'm not sure how to do that...stay tuned for modifications here on Maintenance Mania.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Update on State 14/25 Washington, DC

Despite living in the DC area when I started my Half2run quest, I never did the Suntrust National Half-Marathon because it was said to be a train wreck, logistically.  I am VERY GRUMPY about poorly executed races.  I can always offer constructive criticism for every race I do, but if the cons outweigh the pros I refuse to shell over that much money to be annoyed.

Another thing I had going on was that I had signed up for the "Cupcake Marathon" a virtual race that could be done over the course of two weeks.  My race day was the final day of that time period and at the completion of the half I would have completed 33 miles.  I certainly do not NEED gormet cupcakes, but the idea of winning a prize from a virtual race seemed like fun.

The Suntrust half-marathon/marathon was a great experience for me.  I didn't accomplish all of the training goals I had set (weight loss) but had been experimenting with higher mileage instead of more lower miles at pace as I usually do.  I took my long runs up to 15 miles and did several 13 and 14 mile runs as well as back-to-back long runs.  The latter is something I've learned over the past year, i.e. that I benefit quite a bit by running on tired legs.

But, all of that said, one can only lug an overweight body but so fast.  The biggest hit to my finish time was my weight.

The second biggest hit was something that I caution against to those I coach and was surprised to succumb to after what was my 19th half-marathon.  Peer Pressure.

I've been chatting up this marathon runner/coach on Facebook for a while.  She inspires the crap out of me and she is on a streak of running a marathon every month.  I found out she was DC bound, and although I thought it would be great fun to meet her, knew it would be unlikily that would actually happen.  We stayed in touch the day before and as I walked into CORRAL 9 (!) to wait for the start she bounded up to me! There were 13 thousand runners in that race, so I have to give her props for making such an effort.  It was great to chat with her before the start.  I'm not sure she had planned to, but she decided to run with me for the first few miles.  I felt great at the start, the weather was perfect for me (33 and sunny), but I KNEW I was going too fast.  My Garmin pace cycles (annoyingly) but it was reading in the 9:xx's FAR too frequently when I looked down.  Yet, did I slow?  No.  I kept running with her.  She looked like she was warming up with an easy trot, and something inside of me just kept saying, "keep this up for a while, you'll be fine".

I have a crazy sleep schedule.  Usual bedtime is 3:00am and I wake about 10:30-11:00am.  Since I had gone to DC a few days early to work I had not slept more than 6 hours in 5 days before the race.  The night before the race I slept 5 hours.  This is NOT GOOD.  Between the quick start and the lack of sleep I started to TANK at about mile 4.75.  I had a strategy for this race based on the course: Take the first 5 miles fast, (10:15 pace), then slow down and calm down on the hills (10:45-11:00) then pick it up as much as possible the last mile.  Based on my weight I knew I could do a 2:25, but was hoping to get as close to 2:20 as possible.

9:xx min miles were NO WHERE in that plan...

So, I get to the mile 5 waterstop (after slowing considerably) and my running buddy bids me farewell.  I loved running with her, but I knew I had to slow down or I was doomed to walk (which I had NO intention of doing).  Luckily the mile 5 stop was staffed with the DC Front Runners, the local gay and lesbian club and I knew I'd perk up when I saw them.  But, unluckily that's when the hills start.  Right north of Dupont Circle is one of the longest uphills that takes you into Adams Morgan/Columbia Heights.  I KNEW I had to get centered, or I'd feel like crap.  Again, another stroke of luck in that they were LOUD as hell, blasting music and cheering.  I got my shit together and although I wasn't running fast (still in the 11:00s) I started really enjoying myself and clapped and smiled all through that section.  By Howard University I "YMCA'd" with the best of them (Thank you HU for Rick James and The Village People)!

The course is great - perfect mix of flat and hills through many of the neighborhoods I love in the city.  Race day was the first day of the Cherry Blossom Festival, and the trees were gorgeous.

I finished in a dissapointing, but not devastating 2:24, but had a great race and recommend everyone give it a go.

Big, heavy medal!

State Charm for my 14th State

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

New Running Club

For the past three months I've given serious thought (and discussion with trusted friends) to starting a new running club.

I have certain aspirations in the running world, both for my own running as well as to promote the sport (especially to new runners).  I haven't found a place within this area that satisfies what I'm looking for in a running club;  I tried to create what I desired/needed within an established club, but realized that it was a waste of time.  So, after giving it a very sincere go, I realized that I need to create an outlet for my time/ideas.  Luckily I have some very dedicated, experienced people by my side who are as interested in this as I am.

There are numerous running groups (similar to the Towpath Turtles) who are members of local clubs but rarely attend club events.  The RRCA provides thorough, in-depth guidance on starting a new club; it is also VERY daunting.  So, what those of us who are going to give this thing a go have decided to do is take it one step at a time.  We will aspire to be a "big tent" to the many groups in the area (Towpath Turtles, Towpath Trotters, Trinity Trotters, Phillips Phyllers, etc.) The goal of the first year is to sign-up 100 new members.  And roll-out annual expansion goals one year at a time.  We will have a very small board and will not incorporate the first year.

This new club does not overlap with anything found in this area;  In this club we seek to provide:

Networking - A place to meet/run with other runners who represent a wide variety of skill/experience/paces.  Also a way to meet runners from beyond one's circle of acquaintances. 

Workouts - A place to do regular (weekly) workouts (track/hills/long runs) with other runners of different abilities/paces.

Races/Runs - We have come up with 2-3 annual races to establish in the first two years.  This would not be the club's focus - the focus is on RUNNING and we cannot do that if we are a race services organization.  2-3 large fun runs would be feasible though.

Travel - A way to travel to races with other runners that we run with/who are from this area and who regularly travel to races.  Why are there 10 cars driving to Columbus, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati when there could be one large (party) van full of chatting excited runners?

Coaching and mentoring and training - The community is chock full of knowledge, experience and education - I did not find a way to tap into this in the slightest in the past 4 years.  We would encourage (and in limited cases, fund) runners to attend conventions, seminars and other training. 

Pacers - Why not show off our talent?  ANYONE (even I) is capable of pacing someone else to their next PR. 

Clubhouse/IDs - Having a designated running club "clubhouse" is a great idea that I heard at the 2010 RRCA Convention that went nowhere.  Runners could meet there before/after runs to socialize with other runners.  We could host yoga/pilates/other workouts there as well as have meetings and other gatherings.  It would be a tangible presence in the community that has potential to bring in other runners who do not normally join clubs.  Along the same line we would offer new members ID cards and a branded club shirt.

Social non-running events - Group outings to see running movies, community shows/events/parties, etc. 

Volunteering/Charity - Opportunities to volunteer/donate to organizations in the running community (and beyond).

Discounts - We could support/promote the local running stores and other relevant businesses (Main Street Cupcakes comes to mind) if they would offer our members discounts.

We have batted around numerous names for the club.  So far finding a name has been the most difficult part of getting on with this.  We agreed that the most important factor was to avoid choosing a regional name nor any that is partially used (or overused) in an established club/race/non-running organization.  This made most of our "catchy titles" moot.

As of now, we have decided to call it simply "The Running Club" (pronounced "Thee Running Club" vs. Tha Running Club).  I don't want to continue to hash this over to death - but your feedback is welcome. 

All of these goals will be achieved, but not all at the same time/the onset.  Obviously we'll need funding and sponsors for some of these items (such as the clubhouse/shirts/ID cards).  However, we plan to roll The Running Club out with a booth at the "Summit Up" expo at the J.S Knight Center on May 7th (application pending).

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Catching up with Half2Run quest updates for 2011

Since I got the energy to get in here today, I figured I'd fire off updates in my Half2Run Quest since I posted my plans for the year (last December).

In January three of us from the Towpath Turtles headed South for the Naples Half-Marathon.

My Sister and I planned to run it together as a conditioning tool, not for any specific time.  However, less than one mile in I told her, "'re gonna PR today."  Despite being so early, I run with her enough to know her running almost as well as I do my own.  It was mild, the course was beautiful and flat, and she looked STRONG with a pace as steady as a metronome.  So, I encouraged her to go ahead and run her own race.  Really glad she did because she finished it under 2:20 which was a HUGE PR for her.  She deserved it after all the work she put in last Fall and was robbed of in the "Stomp the Grapes half-marathon" (AWFUL RACE for all of us).

The highlight of MY race?  At mile 8, just when I'm always cranky and miserable we passed this Catholic Church.  There was a priest outside sprinkling all of us with holy water.  You can take the God out of the girl, but not the Catholic.  LOVED it and it is now one of my top five half-memories.  (Didn't really make the end of the race any easier, but I just love weird, unexpected stuff like that).

I finished Naples, my 13th/25th State, in 2:25:31 gun (2:23:22 chip/Garmin).

Enticed by freebies, I post...

Haven't been motivated to blog this year.  However, after a recent conversation about how so many people get "sponsors" for the giveaways on their blogs, I got a little adrenaline spike.  The concept of winning free stuff always does that to me.

I'm a bit out of the loop about how the whole thing works, and haven't put a lot of effort into researching it, but learning more about free blog giveaways (to win/to give out) has now jumped a few levels up my priority list.

Step one: Start blogging again (check)
Step two: Find more running-related/weight maintenance related blogs to follow (TBC)