Monday, 29 October 2012

W.R.A.C.E Hallowe'en Hoot 5K Walk

I had planned this as my last race of the season, and it being a Hallowe'en theme I would of course need to get a costume together....something appropriate to racewalking. Those who know me well know that I love cobbling costumes together from whatever I have lying around the house, so here's what I came up with:

I only had to buy some red gloves at the $ store. Luckily, my bathing suit bottom and Altra Intuition shoes are bright red! The cape I had made years ago out of satin for a school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream - it's nice to know that Lysander and I have the same taste in capes.
The finished costume also included my mp3 player with a tiny speaker so I could play the Superman theme as I toddled along.
After last weekend's half marathon in Cincinnati, I had a great massage during the week and so was ready for this 5K!

I had been watching the weather closely and race day dawned cold and windy - 40F when I got up, but that doesn't faze a superhero! I had set out everything the night before and was quickly ready to go. The race would take place at Malden Hill, a local park (formerly a landfill) that I train at every now and then. The course would not be on the hill, but on the paved path circling the park, an out-and-back route. There are still a couple of smallish hills to tackle, but nothing at all daunting.
I arrived and got a good parking place (they would be at a premium soon), turned on my theme music and headed for the start. W.R.A.C.E. had set up in a heated pavilion in the park with real bathrooms (no wait when I was there!!!! - if you want to know what superheroes have to go through to use a restroom, I have firsthand experience). Having the warmth and the restrooms was like being pampered. I can honestly say I was never over-chilled as I could just go in the building for a few minutes every now and then during my warmup.
 There was going to be a kids' dash first - they were absolutely adorable, chasing one of the runners from the club. Assorted dinosaurs, bumblebees and lions ran as fast as their little legs could take them. One of the most innovative costumes, I think, was a kid dressed as a bag of raked leaves - seriously, it was awesome and very creative. There were some other adults dressed up, thank goodness (not as many as I thought there would be, though). I am a big kid but don't like being the only one! A giant banana, skeletons, a baby, various zombies and mummies, pumpkins, witches, etc., started milling about, getting ready for our race.
As I was doing my warmup drills and sprints in the parking lot I got a lot of big grins from my theme music. Even though the theme inspired me I knew it could be overdone easily, so I turned it off after a while; no need to really annoy my fellow racers (my apologies to those who were ready to throttle me :).
Now, something I need to remember at 5Ks is that your time is a gun time start and chip finish. I think I seed myself too far back in the crowd because I'm a walker. Got to remedy that in the future. Not a big deal today as I wasn't out for a PR or anything, just to have fun. Anyhow, off we went. It turned out that the cold weather was perfect for racing, the wind a tad annoying at times but not a major obstacle, except if you were wearing a cape.....

The paved path is a perfect surface for racing and easily followed (there's no where else to go, LOL!). We did an out-and-back loop, the tenners two of those. I came in as second walker in, first female walker out of 31 walkers (35:32, with some pauses for personal technical issues; as I said, wind and capes don't mix well)!
In I went for some postrace grub (lots to choose from, including good coffee), then back out to cheer in other racers. Five costumed runners came in hand-in-hand, including the banana and a mummy...the mummy was very cool 'cause she came in shuffling like a mummy should! Wonder if she did the whole race that way? The banana had also had some costume technical difficulties better left to the imagination :)
At this point, one of the EMS bike patrol guys asked if he could have his pic taken with me - cool!
The awards were next, and being first female walker I won a great thermal bag chock full of goodies, including a BPA-free bottle, coupon for an hour-long massage, discounts at a couple of local places, several Camino chocolate bars, hot chocolate and some small-sized athlete-friendly toiletries.
Thank you W.R.A.C.E., and thanks also for a very well-organised and fun race, something I've come to expect from you good folks! I was getting quite hungry for my vegan lunch, so I didn't stick around for costume judging - maybe next year?

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Cincinnati Half Marathon

It had been a long time since we'd been to Cincinnati (since before the advent of digital cameras, if you can believe that!), so we were looking forward to this trip.

Probably the most famous Cincinnati marathon is the Flying Pig in the springtime, but I had just found out about this autumnal offering, a fairly recent addition compared to the Pig. It looked like a nice, small-to-mid-sized event (about 1200 runners and 73 walkers for the half) with a great course and the added bonus of a separate walking division...and it was only a half marathon and a 5K - no full. I registered many, many months before the race was to take place and began my training under the watchful and expert eye of my coach,  Sherry Watts - she's amazing! Things went very, very well until I had an unfortunate experience during one of my LSD workouts three weeks before the race, consisting of a hip cramp causing a knee problem. Although I had pinpointed the problem and took immediate action, I was justifiably worried about the race as I've never been injured like that before. I seemed to bounce back well, but the nagging worry continued.


We decided to head for Cincy on Friday October 19th (the race was to be on Saturday) and had a good drive until we hit horrendous traffic nearing the city. I had to get downtown to pick up my race packet, then we had a couple of other downtown stops to make. I did make it in plenty of time and headed down to the start/finish area at Sawyer Point in the pouring rain to get my bib, etc. Yes; pouring rain: correction: cold pouring rain. I received a really nice cloth bag with the 13.1 logo and "Cincinnati Half Marathon" on it, a sticker with the same, my bib, chip and a performance T that I had purchased separately (this was promoted as a "no-frills" race - you didn't get a T automatically with your registration), but it was only $10 and a really nice shirt.

C'mon, admit it - this is really why we do the races!

We then headed over to Newport, Kentucky (literally 5 minutes away) to Bob Roncker's Running Spot so I could try on a pair or two of Altra Intuitions. I had been researching these shoes for several weeks and really wanted to try them as the concept is exactly what I would have come up with if I had designed racewalking shoes; they aren't yet prevalent in Canada, of course. I had emailed them the day before that I was coming and they were extremely efficient and accommodating (thank you store manager Matthew Frondorf!) and made sure they set aside the sizes I needed. He knew about racewalking as the stores not only offer running clinics, but also walking clinics and training programs, and he agreed that these shoes would be excellent for that. The Running Spot stores have been named #1 specialty running store in the USA and I believe it: unfortunately for many of us, they are only in the Cincinnati area. I walked out of there a little poorer in cash but richer in shoes and a good experience. [I will blog about the shoes at a later time]. On to a brew at Rockbottom in downtown Cincy and dinner (Tree Hugger pizza with vegan cheese) at Mac's up in Clifton. Quality Inn in Norwood was our last stop for some zzzzzs. We were both worried about the weather.


We had set the alarm for 6:45 but I was up earlier than that as is typical for me on a race day; I had also had little sleep which is also usual for Race Day Eve. I did my breakfast/dressing routine and we were off by 7:15. The rain had stopped overnight but it was quite chilly. We parked downtown and headed to the start by 7:30. [As usual, my incredible "support staff" and spouse, Mike, got me there safe, sound and on time]. I had to wait quite a bit for the port-a-potties, but had time for all of my warmups, drills, etc. I had really thought a lot about my strategy for this race to prevent injury. I was hoping to be in the top ten of walkers, but was okay with it if I wasn't. I knew that there would be many fast walkers in this race from the local (very active) clubs. I went out on the pace I had planned and hit every single mark enroute (thanks to Races2Remember for their excellent pace bands - they really work!). The route was quite nice (after the initial industrial stuff by the river) and we looped through downtown, past Fountain Square (where Mike was waiting to snap some pics),

-that's me in orange
past some lovely collonaded parks and then out along the river where we looped back to finish on a bicycle path through a very nice park. The views were quite lovely out along the autumnal hills (for those of you who have never been to Cincy, it has some great rolling hills - but unlike the Pig, this race avoided almost all of them - it still had a few good ones!). Throughout the race I had played tag with a couple of small groups of walk/runners, but eventually left them behind. They were good-natured about it and one guy said I was like a pacer bunny. I actually wanted to hang around that group for a bit because they were discussing a really interesting program on the Discovery Channel, but my Mom always told me that eavesdropping was rude, LOL! I started passing more runners as the race wore on and by about the 9 mile mark was pretty consistent in targeting and ever-so-slowly overtaking them (I ended up faster than 205 runners and 69 walkers). This was also about the time that I realised that I might actually make my secret, never-to-be-divulged dream finish time.
It started spitting at around the 12-mile mark but had stopped again by the time I came in....and when did I come in? 2:35:36 - a personal best by 3 minutes, 4th in the walkers and first for my division!!!! Mike was waiting at the finish line for me and got this picture of a very happy me.

Mike also gave me one of his jackets (it was cold!) and we waited around for the award ceremony while I did a lot of stretching and loosening up and got some food (bananas, bagels and some kind of snacky-chippy-thingy). It then started to rain again, so we huddled under one of the smallish event tents. The awards were given out and I got a nice little round marble plaque with an engraved plate on it. I think I had a grin on my face for the next two hours and thirty-five minutes! Back to Beorn for some coconut water and then on with the day!

Post-race we went back to Rockbottom for lunch. I had packed clothes and other necessaries in a tote bag and promptly went to the restroom to change back to my alter-ego. Then of course, we had to have the celebratory pint (it was an amazing cask ale):

"These are a few of my favourite things....."

Now it was time for some sightseeing, so we went up the Carew Tower to get a great view of the whole city:

Next, on to the Art Institute. What a great place!!! They've done an amazing job ensuring that a huge percentage of the collection can be accessed.


Back to the hotel for a quick rest, stretching, massaging with the Tiger Tail and working out trigger points, then on to Loving Hut for dinner. This place is a shangri-la for vegans...everything on the menu is vegan!!! I can't tell you how amazing it is to have that much choice at a restaurant!
 We both had one of the daily specials - me the Lucky Kelp raw dish (absolutely incredible recovery food!) and Mike a quinoa burger. We also shared some vegan Mac n' Cheese and a "drumstick" (fake meat thingy).
Later, to bed. Needless to say, I slept really well!
One of my favourite post-race recovery rituals is to do a slow walk outdoors on dirt trails, so we headed out the next morning to wind our way back home, stopping at Taylorsville Metro Park near Dayton. It was one of those amazingly crisp, clear, bright October Ohio days, with a slight breeze causing leaves to drift down whisperingly around us. We walked for about 3.5 miles and it felt wonderful!

We drove home through Bowling Green, one of our favourite Ohio haunts. Home by about six. All was well.

It was a great trip, and I would actually consider doing that race again! It was very, very walker-friendly and of a size that one wouldn't get completely lost in the crowd, but always had other racers around you. The people were very supportive and I had a great time.
Highly recommended! See you in Cincy next year?