Sunday, December 8, 2013

Reinke Sports Group and the USRA: Garbage.

Yesterday I ran a the Ft Bliss 8K holiday run with Leah, her two daughters, and Nugget.  We finished in dead last, thanks to diaper changes, screaming children who alternately wanted to be picked up, put down, fed, watered, and entertained, a flat tire on the double stroller (nicknamed the Rolling Aid Station), and the chilly chilly air as well as Nugget who made some nuggets along the way herself.  I hadn't actually registered for the race (bandit runner, what what!) as I did not intend to run.  I wanted to meet up with Leah at the start and wish her well and hold onto her extra clothes etc.  But like any great friend and race wife, she talked (guilted?) me into accompanying the girls and she was right- the 5 of us just had a blast and there are no other chilly morning runs around post where I've ever had so much fun.  I am sure CPS had us on their hot target list, but hey, everyone defrosted well and Nugget is still tired this morning, and unlikely to trust me with a car trip again :)  I hate not registering but it was unintended.  Due to the icy weather several people offered me their bibs just to have an excuse to head home but I declined :)

Now, let me tell you an interesting story of how I failed to run my half marathon this morning.  It has much to do with the sketchy so-called USRA and Dean Reinke, things with which I was unfamiliar until late Saturday night.

How so?  The half-marathon is a part of the "USRA" half-marathon series.  When I registered for this Las Cruces race, I thought very little of it.  I was excited to be running near home, and the Las Cruces area has a great running club with some top runners, whom I've seen (from afar!) at some local races like the Desert Dash and El Paso Transmountain Challenge.  So far so good, I thought.  A half-mary to really challenge me.

After the 8K, I met up with a friend.  I adultnapped her and we traveled up the interstate to Las Cruces, (about an hour) because packet pick-up was advertised as Saturday only, from 2-5 pm.  A little strange, right?  Three hours?  No race-day registration or packet pick up?  Odd, but ok.  The only other time that's happened was in Salt Lake City and Auckland New Zealand, both large races with thousands of racers, where it's understandable both from a security and organizational perspective.

This Las Cruces "expo" consisted of a section of a hallway with two tables, maybe three.  With cotton t-shirts on one.  And bags and race numbers on the other.  My friend was not racing, so I breezed through in order to hurry on to more important things, like lunch!  I think we were the first people there at the pick-up in fact.  

Which is why when I returned home after some holiday shopping, and went through the packet, that I thought it my fault that I didn't get a timing chip, for a race where timing chips are included, per the website.  At about 6:30 pm I called the front desk of the hotel where the "expo" was held, to ask if any of the running folks were lingering.  I wanted to ask about the timing chip, thinking I had been first to the expo and thus overlooked, no big deal, I understand these things.  I had no local contact info for the race, so the hotel front desk was my only option.  The lady answering the phone at the lovely Hotel Encanto kindly stepped into the hall to check if any USRA members were around and of course they were not.

I then emailed the email address from the website.  "Did I somehow miss my timing chip- it's not integrated with the bib as I expected- and can I pick it up tomorrow at the race?"  No response until 1 am, when I received this email: there are no timing chips.  That was all.  Passive voice is so useful when refusing personal responsibility!

For $60 entry I get a cotton t-shirt, no swag, and a non-chip timed race?  The website sure indicated it was chip-timed!

Enter the gut feeling of "something's afoot."  

I remembered, then, that the registration website had a multitude of problems: the date of the race was incorrect.  The website inconsistently referred to the 8 Dec race as both the third and fourth annual.  The 2012 results file didn't populate.  And on the registration page, via "ngin," whatever that is, it thanked me for registering for my upcoming race in Greenville*, a place I am sure is quite lovely, but not at all where I intended to run.

I actually received 2 emails from USRA and the Reinke Sports Group this morning.  First, the aforementioned message that there's no chip-timing (c'mon now!) and then a second email that invited me to race-day registration and packet pick-up beginning at 6:45 for this morning's marathon and half.  What in the world?  First off, the website overemphasized no race-day pickup or registration.  Second, there's no full marathon.  It's a half, 5K and fun run event.  Why can't they get anything to match? I wondered, aloud, to D.

It's a hodge podge of charities mentioned, too: per the website, bring a toy for Toys for Tots?  Ok.  The shirt promotes Habit for Humanity?  These are both great causes, but I don't know that any of them are aware of their "involvement" in this race- there was no toy collection bin at registration, so I doubt the USRA's commitment to anything more than manipulative words.  I wonder if these fine organizations will see any donation, and for $60 in registration I would hope they receive more than a token contribution.  I have the same feeling about this USRA operation as Amway or Melaleuca or Herbalife or any of those fringe-of-legality business plans...and it doesn't sit well with me.

Other things weren't sitting so well with me either.  I spent the night on the bathroom floor, which is just what I do when I can't decide which end needs the toilet more urgently.  Dan woke up and wondered "if it was that time of the month" and for his obtuseness I would've punched him a few feet north of the ankle had I the strength :). No, dear, it's not -- I guess he has not noticed that I don't go through this monthly, but his oblivion to such matters is quite gentlemanly and endearing.  The culprit in fact: grocery store pre-packaged sushi I ate a day earlier. 

So what I'm saying is that we had the time, me and my tile floor and my pink owl flannel PJs, to check out the USRA and Reinke Sports Group.  In hindsight, my concerns about the registration website and race organization should've brought me to investigate the USRA and Dean Reinke before registering.  But it never occurred to me that I'd need to do so!

Here's what I found, in sum, with some excellent and personal accounts (links at the end):

1.  This guy, Dean Reinke, is well known for organizing races, cancelling them due to lack of city permits, and continuing to accept registrations for a race that will never happen, which he then will never refund.  With the right lawyer it may not be a "scam," but it certainly falls under "shady business practices" in my book.
2.  The Reinke Sports Group is rated F by the BBB.
3.  USRA races are often not timed, with missing water stops and little or no post-race refreshments.
4.  Dean Reinke fails to pay his debts and often breaks contracts.
5.  He's been known not to pay for the police to close roads or direct traffic- this is not safe.
6.  He's skipped out on promised charitable contributions in the past
7.  Purdue University is suing him.
8. does not do business with him and his "USRA" - unusual for a "race series!"

This guy and his "group" are sleazy deal-breakers with a fancy (albeit inconsistent) website and I refuse to deal with them.  I lost $60.  I was under the weather, yes, but my desire to run and the joy I have in the camaraderie of racing was shattered this morning.

In fact, I met Dean Reinke at packet pick up yesterday.  I only realized this after I saw a photo on the internet last night.  At the expo, he was oddly interested in if I was staying overnight in Las Cruces (I laughed- I said I lived in El Paso, which he did not recognize as less than an hour away) and my watch. My watch is a fairly basic red/magenta Timex.  It was a nice present from D.  It is not GPS equipped.  It is a women's watch.  It has a timer.  I like it very much.  I don't know why it was a conversation item.  It was barely visible under my long sleeved shirt.  He said he'd had the same watch in white, what an odd thing to say.  I looked around for the used car lot that maybe I'd missed in the hotel lobby, but no, this guy was just organically creepy.  His interest in my accommodation, it turns out, is to calculate how many hotel rooms worth of revenue he brings to different cities, stats he uses inflates to sway local visitor's bureaus when seeking support (see links below).

An older guy from a Las Cruces running club busily name-dropped some of the local speedy girls that I'd raced against at Transmountain Challenge and Desert Dash, but I didn't recognize the names.  He seemed like a nice enough guy but I am sure he believes he is on Dean's payroll as some sort of local ambassador, but he's going to be sad when the check never arrives, as so many other people have found out.

Runners are some of the most understanding and welcoming people on the planet.  I'm sad that Dean Reinke includes himself and his sleazy operation among our ranks.  

I'm running the Ft. Bliss half on 11 January instead.  Dean, please keep my $60 since money is all you want from the running community.  You offer nothing in return.  I'd pay a great deal more than that to keep the likes of you from tarnishing future races, cities, charitable organizations, runners and our spirits.

To be fair, no, I didn't run the race, but even if it were the most transcendent and beautifully organized running event in the history of Las Cruces, I've decided I want nothing to do with USRA and the Reinke Group and I'd like you to be educated about this to make your own decision.  As runners, I believe our hard work, the reasons we run, and the causes we believe in are worth so much more than this shyster. 

At best, it's a bad value.  At worst, well, read these links:

I wish you all happy racing, far from this "sports group!"  Anyone else ever get involved with the USRA and have an experience (good or bad!) to share?

My experience with RSG is certainly not the worst, it's really just an eye-opener, and a good lesson.  I'm going to stick with local races from now on.

Finally, I'm curious about the race shirt:

Did any of these folks actually sponsor this guy or did RSG create all these "sponsors" without their consent, as he's done in the past?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Taos trip

Ah, Sunday night.

After what seems endless days of driving from San Antonio to El Paso, up to Taos and back, it's nice to be home.  Sundays are always a little unsatisfying, what with the start of the work week looming overhead, but today it just feels good to unpack and settle in and attend to this neglected little piece of the interwebs.

Now that we've visited Taos twice, what strikes me most about the town is that it's not quite what it seems.  It's a ski town where the world-class skiing feels nicely accidental.  The ramshackle Taos appearance merely gilds a thicker, richer, creamier underbelly.  The best food is at the meekest of restaurants, the breathtaking mountain scenes surround shanty-lined roads, and the ski resort is gimmick-free as the snow speaks for itself.

For us, the snow and quick 6 hour trip to Taos Ski Valley bring us back each year.  I'd probably return to visit even if I wasn't a skier, as I really do like the whole place, the package deal: the mountains and river gorge, the Taoseno pottery and crafts, the incomparable food, the working farms, the history of Taos Pueblo, even the exorbitantly priced photography, snooty baristas, and shacks and trailers that belie the tourister's influx of money that keeps Taos afloat. 

I prefer the slower-paced, non-commercialized feel to Taos over the cutesy shopping towne appearance of Keystone or Breckenridge.  Yes, there is an adobe McDonald's to match the adobe Walmart, all hidden among garish t-shirt and souvenir shops, but the overwhelming feeling I have when visiting is that the soul of the city has little to do with the ski slopes, its most widely-known resource.  

Sunshine and snow...ahhhh!
 We ate Thanksgiving dinner at Doc Martin's restaurant of the Taos Inn.  We ate a quick lunch here last year, and thought we'd try out its special holiday menu.  Passable for the price, I'd say.  We each had the turkey dinner which was both as comforting and inspiring as a traditional family Thanksgiving meal, meaning very much so (comforting) and not at all (inspiring).  The green beans were cooked perfectly to my taste, but I barely remember the other parts of the entree (wild rice stuffing?, mashed potatoes?, cranberry sauce?, turkey?) so I assume they were decent but not spectacular.  Nugs enjoyed leftovers with wild abandon.

For the remainder of our meals we visited some old favorites and of course added new restaurants to our rotation.  Yes, we ate breakfast at Taos Diner (I) and bison burgers at 5 Star Burgers.  Caffeine as usual came from Elevation Coffee where we like to look at the photograph of the moon over the Chugach Range, even if the coffee is a little weak and the staff a little stuffy.  

Sometimes I think we ski just to cultivate an appetite, and luckily we did just this because we happened on El Taoseno Restaurant last night -- another part of Taos where nothing is what it seems.  You may just have the best meal of your life, here in the non-trendy part of town, in what looks to be an old bowling alley or community center with a pot-holed parking lot to match the decor and charm inside.  The dining room was packed with tourists and locals (far more of the latter) but it's a place for everyone as long as you like wonderful service (yes), reasonable prices (even better), and delicious home-style New Mexican cuisine (and how!).  D would pout, refuse to read this post and likely move far away if I failed to mention the chips and salsa (oh the salsa!), his tasty smothered burrito (with green chiles, though ask for "Christmas" if you like both green and red), and my perfectly cooked plate of fajitas.  Fajita assembly is an art and this was just the right assortment of accoutrements, in just the right amounts.  As a finishing touch, sopapillas arrive swiftly, still piping hot, with a squeeze bottle of honey.  Our drinks never ran dry, and the wait staff, though busy- no table was ever empty- could not have been more kindly.  I wish we'd eaten Thanksgiving dinner here, where the pilgrim hat decorations still cover the walls and await next year's meal and where Taos once again surprises with where its finest things lie. 

Twenty miles from town, the ski area itself has a small base village with just a few stores, cafes and a convenience mart to accompany the accommodations, but no one goes there just to shop or be seen.  I don't even know who stays there, since we stay closer to town and the people we've met always "have a place" in Taos, somewhere.

For an opening weekend, the snow and weather are the best we've skied in years, anywhere.  In my experience, the rigor of terrain in Taos is matched best by Alyeska, though with bright sunshine and temps in the high 20s and low 30s the similarity to Alaska goes no further.

D's picture of me, but it was too cold to wait and pose~
 If you've persevered to this point and are wondering why all this nonsense appears in a running-themed blog, I'm about to tell you.  I ran this morning at 7000+ feet elevation (how was that ever no big deal in my college days?!) straight from sea level a few days earlier.  I read somewhere it takes two weeks to acclimate but I reasoned that any "elevation training" at all would aid my 3500' elevation half marathon next weekend.  We'll see!  This morning was chilly and bright yet I felt so great for getting a few miles in that I won't even share my shabby pace with you.  My legs were a little tired from skiing, but the run was a shake-out and my quads were happy to be less abused than they were from the slopes.  My lungs felt great and I did some laps through residential areas, my course determined by the paths leading away from any unfamiliar, unfenced dogs.

Quads = D-E-D.  Serious time.
So overall I'm at a C+ for my half-marathon training.  I'll take it; that's a fair price for a memorable weekend with D, in the snow and sun, with the enigma of Taos to entertain and satiate us, and keep us keen to return soon.

A blessed belated Thanksgiving to all, I hope your weekend was wonderful and filled with good memories and maybe even a few miles.

For some reason I think "action photo" means "pretend to tie a ski boot."  No, there aren't any laces.  Not since the 19th century I believe.  Sigh.
P.S. The chickens did fine while we were gone :)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Race report: Boerne Turkey Trot 10K

Turkey Trot success!  Let me tell you some tales of this chilly and fantastic event.
Imagine first a grassy, pre-dawn town square, with a costumed turkey and a group of runners doing YMCA instructor-led aerobics to warm up before a race, unfettered by the mist and wind and cold.  It was silly and fun and reminds me that the YMCA has a wonderful approach to community health.  

stepping it wide
 Is this what Japanese company workers feel like every morning?  If so, they are a lucky bunch!  Army PT could take a lesson! 

A gazebo shelters the coffee service, the race registration table and swag bags.  Actual restrooms (and port-a-potties) sit at the far end of the square, right by the start/finish line (how convenient!).  The course immediately turns out of the city and right into neighborhoods and the "Greenway No. 9" paths. 

it just looks cold
I love a small autumn race in a tight-knit Texas town where JROTC presents the colors, local students sing the National Anthem, high school cross-country runners show up with their non-running parents to sweep the 5K, and begins with a heartfelt prayer by the aforementioned aerobics instructor.

Fall racing reminds me of my high school cross-country meets in northeastern Ohio--early Saturday mornings, icicles in my hair, and all extremities freezing in those wee shorts and jerseys.  And the fallen damp leaves on the muddy grass and paths.  I definitely miss these signals of fall!

I miss them so much that I've forgotten how to dress for running in cold, wet weather.
Friday night I bought running tights- so far so good.  Since moving from Alaska, I've lived in Georgia, various place in the Middle East, Miami, San Antonio and El Paso.  These are not places where you ever need running tights nor do you see them very often, so I was glad to find any pair at all on such short notice.  I am not a fan of tight pants or skinny jeans but for the sake of my core temperature, I wore the tights in their full thigh-highlighting glory.

ugh tights.  no reason to smile.
 Combined with 3 x long-sleeve shirts and an earwarmer/headband (which nicely tamed the Seagulls as well), I was ok.  Not comfortable.  Not cozy warm, even by the end of the race, but good enough to survive.  And pretty good for someone who's been living out of a suitcase since July!

Y'all I was disheartened!
I couldn't hold an 8:00 pace yesterday.
This does not bode well for my 1:45 half marathon goal in TWO WEEKS!!
Yes, I intentionally dressed as much like a snowman as possible.  And I forgot to eat my morning snack or have my morning coffee.

And I'd stood shivering in the misty, blustery 36F for an hour before running
But it took me 4 miles to feel at all warm, and to even get a sub-8:00 pace going.  
Now I know how it feels to be that turtle in a peanut butter pond.

I can see myself shivering in this pic!
 Yes, I did see one guy in shorts and short sleeves at the race start.  I think he won the 10K, and I think it's because he was running as quickly as possible to get back to warm clothes.

I was on my own at the race, imagine that, I couldn't convince anyone to stand around the cold with me at 0600.  I had to leave my warmups in the car and then I took the YMCA-provided shuttle to the race start.  If anything, I would re-do this process.  I was shivering for about 45 minutes until the race started.  I don't like that.  Next time I'll park at the City Square instead, so I can leave my warm clothes on longer as well as retrieve them right away.

Lies!!  There was no "45F" on Saturday!  The race ended with 36F!
 I think the sudden cold front is a Turkey Trot tradition in Boerne.  Some participants commented that last year, the inaugural TT, was sunny but 29F at the start.  Sheesh, Hill Country, I almost miss your 106F, 70% humidity summers!

I hate to be the sort of person I was at the awards presentation yesterday.
Usually, if able, I like to stick around for the awards, especially if I know I'm getting one.  In my mind it's bad form to be too cool to pick up your age-group medal.  C'mon now, it's only a few minutes extra at the end of a small race and it's nice to applaud everyone as well as be appreciative of any recognition.  This might be someone's first award and it's nice to support their hard work, even if you scoff at their pace.  It's just that, it's their pace.  I'm 100% not a scoffer, but I digress...

Ahh, back in the warmth of my car!!
Yesterday the 10K awards were at the very end-- even after the 5K.  Now that I'm in the 30-39 age group, I was announced near the end, but even so I just waited for my name, accepted the medal, and I ran.  

Yes, I ran away.  Didn't wait for the last few age categories.  Didn't wait for the shuttle.  I had to keep moving to prevent the now air-chilled sweat on my skin cooling me further with every slight breeze.  

In my defense, most people had re-obtained their warm clothes at this point, but I was still an unwarmed sweaty mess, so I ran the extra mile or two to my car and I'm glad I did, for more than just avoiding hypothermia.   I saw more of the absolute adorable-ness that is Boerne.  I ran past families brunching in tiny cafes.  I ran past dogs and their mindful owners, enjoying the cool air.  I ran over the Guadalupe River and saw some funny-looking mutt swans (or geese?) oblivious to the freezing temperatures as they paddled under the bridge on Main.  

There are parks and restaurants and antique shops and a Sotheby's Realty and lots of Lexi and Porsches, so you know what sort of people are moving into the area.   A Walmart and a strip mall and some fast-food places (and yes, of course, a YMCA hosting Turkey Trots too) all are part of Main Street now.  I would love for such a picturesque town to maintain its baby-sized quaintness, but there's no future in that, how many antiques and slices of pie can a city sell among its own residents?  So as in many places, the very survival of the town is also what's destroying some of its charm.  I just hope the happy balance continues in Boerne. 

4.9 miles until I meet my goal of 100 miles in November!

Today, I'm going to the gym.  To run in shorts.  My thighs refused two days of tights in a row.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Half Marathon Training: break 1:45?

I'm almost embarrassed to re-announce my goal to break 1:45 in my half-marathon since I don't have a wide margin of comfort that I'll make it.  And nothing is more embarrassing than failed anonymous internet middling-pace running goals...oh wait...

I've been training according to this:

Runner's World 1:45 Half Marathon Plan.

 which I found by googling, for free, although it seems Runner's World wants to charge me $24.99 from other googlings?  IDK...I didn't obtain this illegally, it's just a pdf in my search results...maybe the joke's on me and this is a 2:00 plan...ackk!  I haven't read any reviews of the plan, so I guess I'll critique it myself after the race in 2 weeks.

I've been sticking to it at an overall B+ level.  I took a few days off last week when I was ill and BFFs with the toilet but I hopped back on the training train right after.  

My overall impression of the RW plan?  It seems like it's LESS running than I normally do, but with more speedwork and slower, longer runs than I would normally tolerate.  So, fewer garbage miles traded for some higher-quality workouts?  I hope so.  I incorporated some of my races into the training schedule, and I hope that won't degrade my 13.1 performance.

I've run much of this on a treadmill, and does that compare to running outside?  Yes, it feels easier.  So I add 1% incline and I run 0.2 to 0.3 mph faster than the prescribed pace.  I don't know if that's an adequate adjustment.  Someone commented previously that the mental rigor that running for an hour+ on a treadmill requires is all part of the game.  A really boring game at times, but necessary for achieving one's goals (I hope!) all the same.

The weather and my late start on the training are working against me, but I've been close to a 1:45 in half marathons before so I feel like I can gut it out in Las Cruces with enough internal fortitude.  The altitude is tricky as well, but I'll spend a few days running at 7000' elevation in Taos the week beforehand, maybe that'll help as long as I don't end up with pulmonary edema.  In general, I am never fully prepared for races.  I take a lot of strange pride in knocking out fairly decent times without the most rigorous preparation.  I'm working on changing that just so I can see what some "focused" training will do.  The hardest part has been relegating my pace to the 9:12 prescribed in the long runs.  9:12?  Why in the world would I do that, when I spent so much time digging my pace out of the 8s and 9s and edging slowly towards the 7s?  I cheat and use 8:49 to 8:41.  For pride's sake.  Which I may come to regret 1:45 after I start my halfsie and have yet to finish...

In other news, San Antonio has taken a turn towards winter.  My 10K tomorrow morning is sure to be character-building...I didn't bring my winter running clothes with me (uh, when I got here in July, because I am a normal person and did not plan on being here after Labor Day).  Yesterday, 82F all day.  Today and for the rest of the week?  Wind, rain, highs in the 40s, yeah, these are the whines of a Texas winter.  I went to survival school in Washington state in February one year, and that is the yardstick by which I measure my tolerance for miserable weather and tomorrow could come close.  D says "people love to read about self-induced misery!" and he eagerly anticipates my cyanotic and goose-bumpy race report tomorrow.  As I hope you do too.

My big challenge for tomorrow's race...restraining my new haircut, or as I like to call it, the Flock of Seagulls.  Serves me right for going to Great Clips.  Cheep, cheep, did my hens have chicks this winter or is that just me?  I don't like hair in my face when I run.  I don't like it swinging against my neck and shoulders.  Love a ponytail, when it's not too long, because I am a sweaty sweaty girl and my hair becomes a mop of head sweat, sprinkling to and fro as I run, a censer of perspiration.  That particular avenue of simplicity is now gone, thanks to my [new] complicated bangs arrangement.  Seriously, Teri from Great Clips, I've had the same haircut since I was 5.  I know what I like and what I don't like is having to think about how I'll configure the Seagulls tomorrow.  I'll otherwise be mistaken for Mike Score!

Who can tell me, how do you accommodate for treadmill vs outdoor running?  What sort of conversion factor do you use?  I base mine on perceived exertion...not sciency indeed.

11.1 miles to go before I reach 100 miles in November.  Not as difficult as I thought!  I'll try for 125 in December.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Mizuno Wave Ascend 7 trail shoes and why I love them

I am normally a devotee of the Mizuno Wave Rider, but I saw these on sale from Running Warehouse, and with an upcoming trail race (Desert Dash 10K) I thought a trail shoe would be a nice addition to my collection.

Fresh out of the box!

I was right-- these trail shoes saved my cankles from certain destruction during the rocky race.

These have a fit true to the rest of the Mizuno family.  The fit, of course, being the reason I buy them.

Sure, they are a little heavier than the Wave Riders, but that's to be expected.

I wore them for the very first time, no break-in, during my 10K and I had no problems with them.  No blisters, no hotspots, and I couldn't even identify any areas where the shoe was causing any irritation to my feet whatsoever.  To me, that's the start of a meaningful shoe relationship! 

And now, with a light dusting of "trail" on 'em
 On my trail run I felt like I had a good stable grip on the trail without the feeling of lugging gravel and mud with me.

These were also sturdy enough that my nail-less index toe felt protected from rocks and roots and gullies, which is not as true for my Wave Rider 16s what with their meshie-mesh construction.

My favorite feature?

The lack of dog-doo-doo crevice in the sole:

No free rides here!

In my Wave Riders, I seem to attract dog poop to hide out in there.  Gravitationally.  Yuck.

That's gravel, not a tooth, I promise!
 It's nice to have a diverse pair of shoes for trail runs.  Yes, the stability and larger base makes a difference.  I was never really a believer until I tried this trail-specific shoe.

Color scheme?  Very much to my liking.  Better, in fact, than the color choices available for the Wave Rider 16.  But that's just me, and I eschew light colors whenever possible.

In other news, I have been sick the past few days. I blame a bad salad I ate (even though it was delicious!).  I am so frustrated at not being able to run, nay, do anything of value other than vomit, but I'll try my legs out today.  

My personal generalized rule for sickness and running?  If it's above the neck, running = ok.  Anywhere below the neck, nah...better to take a day or three off.

Even so, today I'm sticking with a treadmill run, for safety's sake.  Also, it was 36 degrees outside last I checked, so yeah...indoors it is.

On Sunday I plan to watch the San Antonio RNR marathon.  I didn't register, but I'm going to cheer from the sidelines and support a classmate with cerebral palsy who is running the half!  I've never watched a race before and I can't wait to see how it is for the RNR series.  I have mixed feelings about a for-profit race organization but this may give me a glimpse into the hype, all the better to make my own judgment!

Who wears trail shoes and who doesn't?  It's taken me a good 10 years, but I'm sold on the idea, thanks to the Chihuahuan Desert and the Wave Ascend 7!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Desert Dash 10K: tasty coffee, a race wife and the difficulty of other people's children

I flew home for the weekend on Friday night and since D had to work Saturday, I decided to run a 10K Saturday morning.  A great idea to pass the time.  The alarm alarmed at 6, and for some reason, my first thought of the morning was a thought that should have occurred when I registered for the race a few weeks in the world to get there?!  My car, I should have remembered, sits in an airport parking lot in another city.  Luckily D rushed his morning for me and drove an hour out of his way, to drop me off before heading to work.  I was on my own for a ride home though...

The Desert Dash 10K starts at the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park, just a few miles outside Las Cruces, New Mexico.  It's near the Bataan Memorial March is held, if you've ever been out that-a-ways.  The scenery's a little greener than El Paso but with the same rugged hills and today, nothing but cloudless blue skies with chilly fall sunshine.  We could not have asked for better weather!
This is the course!

 And even more fortuitous, Leah and her two little daughters were at the race! 

I like a break on the way to the starting line, too
 The course path is the winding and hilly jeep and mountain bike trails of the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park.  The race supports the Asombro Institute for Science Education, which hosts school  programs within this unique desert environment.  I think it's a great cause as I grew up going to science programs in nature parks and that's why I enjoy the outdoors still.  I would hope that all kids get to see their world through such a place and that's what this Institute hopes too. 

I felt like a little tank of lactic acid from the very start of the race.  I put in a few more miles last week than planned, too.  The trails are sandy, and rocky, with gullies and shrubbery and so trail shoes are a must.   I run at my utmost the entire course and though it wasn't a fast time, I could not have done better.  I felt the sting of the altitude, too.  At over 3000 feet in elevation, my sea-level acclimated body was gasping for air early on.  I finished in 50:55 putting me 5th female, 2nd in my age group, 19th overall.  I'll take it!  The race is mostly uphill, be forewarned!!

10K starts at the white gate.  THIS white gate.
I am so glad I decided to wear my brand new Mizuno Wave Ascend 7s for the race.  My ankles would be toast if I'd worn the less substantial Wave Riders, my go-to.  More on those new shoes later!

The prize for second and third place finishers?  Whole bean coffee from local roasters Picacho Coffee.  I love that their entire operation is solar-powered.  D and I ground up some of my winnings this morning and enjoyed a lovely cup of their Full City San Francisco Roast.  

Solar power is tasty, thank you for my morning boost, Rancho San Francisco
 First place finishers received lovely flowerpots with a desert plant growing in them.  I wish I knew more about that, and I sure wish I'd run a little faster :)  Maybe next time?

The 10K started at 0900, the 5K 15 minutes after, and a Kid's 1K at 0930.  All races are mostly out-and-backs.  Same day registration available, with shirts, goodie bags, raffle prizes.  I even won a "registration prize" of a free pontoon boat rental at Elephant Butte.  So crazy!

Leah walked the 1K with her kids. I am so proud they made it the whole way, actually, I was pretty confident Leah could make it, but her littlest one is new to this walking thing.  Her 2-and-a-half year old won a prize, a collection of cute animal stickers and fun kid activities.  I thought it was really nice for the kids to get a finisher's medal.  

Leah's husband is deployed right now and I guess because I know her kiddos so well that when we go places as a quartet, people sometime assume *we* are the parents (not that there's anything wrong with that!); a constant source of amusement for me.  I can't just say, "oh, no, no, please, these are NOT my kids," because to divest yourself of your friend's children is a hurtful thing to do, and I of course love those little gals as if they were my own.  My not-a-parent-much-less-married-to-a-woman status is evident as I am clueless about some unspoken set of child rearing rules that I violate continually.  I am never sure that kiddos shouldn't play with bird poop or eat hard candy or drink coffee or whatever.  I know running into roads is bad, but that's unwise for all people and animals.  I really had no idea that it's bad form to let a 1 year old feed herself yogurt without a spoon while she blissfully navigates a rocky dirt path all on her own on shaky baby legs.  Of course no yogurt ended up anywhere except on her person, the other indication that I'm no parent, uh, hey, I think YOUR kid needs YOU to clean 'em up :).  I catch myself attempting to reason with 2-year olds as well, and that's nothing if not a dead giveaway of childlessness.

Yogurt junkie
 Anyway, my race wife Leah rescued me from the desert and took me home since my husband was at work.  It's a bit confusing at first but we've figured it all out now :)

Fall racing is here, with cooler temps reviving me.  I signed up for a halfsie in December and am training to break 1:45 if I can crack the altitude...what's your next big race or goal?  I already have this Desert Dash 10K on my "to do every year until forever" calendar, but up next is my first Turkey Trot of the season!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Notes on real life

Today: 4 miles/some number of minutes

Speed training!  I forgot what running hard (for me, laugh at my pace if you will) is all about.

Good thing I chose to do this at the gym on the treadmill under the watchful eyes of the passively pressuring treadmill hawks.  I eat your aggression, treadwalkers, it keeps me going during a tough run!

I decided entirely randomly that this was a good workout for me today:
1 mi warm up
4 x (.5 mi at 6:50 or faster, .25 mi at 8:49)

And then the plan was for a 1 mile cool down but I had to run to the potty instead - what a speedy 0.05 mile!  For sure, the swampy sweat-humid gym treadmill’s most redeeming quality is potty proximity.

I’d forgotten what it was like to breathe hard and really exert during a running workout.  I hate it and yet I’m hooked.  I ordinarily roll along (yes, merrily) at my comfy pace with the occasional minor pick-up and I want to break myself of this nonsense habit.  Running around a happy carefree bunny is a good hobby for stress release and aerobic fitness maintenance but I want 2014 to bring some needed speed gains even if I spend the year-or most of it-in other parts of the world

Lately I’ve been feeling bum-da-bum-bum-bummed that I just can’t ever plan out future long races.  One of my current pastimes includes registering for races and then not being able to show up.  Yeah, I can gut out an ok-for-me 10K with a week’s notice but my schedule precludes me from registering early- and thus training properly-for longer races.  It’s part of the whole job thing, which I chose and love.  I worked hard to get here so ja of course I knew that the schedule was going to be crazy/full of surprises/uncertain.  So I blame me.  But still, whine I will.   

One year, I would just like to pick some races for the year, not pay exxxtreme late-reg prices, and train wisely.  I suppose that’s what retirement is for.  But as I get older the likelihood that my RUN ALL THE TIME WITHOUT ANY REAL THOUGHT philosophy will enable me to run fast and injury-free is increasingly remote.

My “speedwork” (would you like a snack with that hyperbole?) today is my first stab.  If only I had a coach and no job and sat at home all day hyperfocused on workouts, salad calories and feelings....oh wait no, then I’d be easily confused with the one million other small-time runningchroniclesbloggers…except they’re all a lot faster than I am :)

The uncertainty of 2014 sat on the far horizon for so long and now, well, whatever the encroaching future brings I want to be running faster in it.

I race this coming weekend in Las Cruces, NM.  Then 2 x Turkey Trots back in TX- races to commemorate that my months away from home draw to a close. 
Whaddya say about some weekend races with little training and new shoes?!  Why not??

***76 MIN to go.***

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Sun exposure

90 miles to go, 10% of the way to my 100 miles-in-November goal.

Today was the most beautiful Texas fall day yet.  It pains me to be indoors writing papers, and I hated that a ran on the treadmill today.  But I choose the treadmill often for a lot of reasons.

Usually, I run very early in the morning.  It's not yet light out, even by the time I finish.  And I don't want to risk getting hit by a car or running into an unsavory character.  I'm not that fast!

I'm very wary of sun exposure after my time in our hospital's dermatology clinic.  One poor soul required 10 shave biopsies in a sitting.  And due to his previous occupation as a truck driver, the preponderance of the suspicious skin was on his left arm and left side of his face.  

We are getting far more sun than we think!

Among other factors, it's our life-time cumulative sun exposure (UVA and UVB) that contributes to our risk for melanoma, the most lethal type of skin cancer.   I've lived in Colorado, Miami, Georgia, and all over Texas.  I've spent lots of time in the Middle East.  These are some sunny places and I've had some sunburns. 

Thanksgiving month begins...!

No one doesn't like Thanksgiving.

Smiling after a thankful breakfast at Taos Diner
In addition to this being a wonderful holiday on its own merits, I assume that I must've been conceived (ick!) around now, so it's really almost my embryonic birthday!

First baby picture
We just have so darn much to be thankful for this year, even as we look to the challenges ahead.

Last year I held my first grown-up Thanksgiving, no more nachos-are-just-as-symbolic-as-turkey and yes, I made more food than 10 guests could ever consume, so we checked the block of celebrating in the proper American tradition. We definitely don't own 10 chairs so I assume like any horrible hostess that I asked the guests to BYOC, or maybe we had a couch-and-coffee table affair?

Either way, I'm still recovering from the Thanksgiving 2012 cooking fest. I loved it. I loved it so much, but I don't have the time this year as I won't be back home until the day beforehand. This is a letdown for D but also an excuse for us to go out for Thanksgiving this year. I will possibly be even more thankful that I don't have the mountain of dishwashing homework :).

I hope to spend the holiday with at least some of the same friends as last year. I am so thankful that many of the people who have blessed my life are close enough for us to have dinner together this year and even far more often than once a year. And together we can toast to those who are far away or no longer here at all.

I'm compensating for gluttony with 2 pre-Thanksgiving 10K Turkey Trots and we hope to hit the slopes in NM for a day or two. Now, what to do about the delicious food in Taos and D's favorite, breakfast at Taos Diner?

What will you do?  Here's a poll... 

My goal is to run 100 miles in November, please join me!  97 more to go...