Wednesday, February 6, 2013

THIS is why I run.

Yesterday I got up bright and early for my Tuesday "run". That gets parenthesis because my "runs" still include a lot of walking as I rebuild my endurance and get back into the habit of a 5K being a "regular" run and not just a distance for race day. However, since running is involved I give the entire session the term "run" and yesterday was a great run. Not much faster than what I've been doing, but I blame the dog. Seriously, 4 poop stops, FOUR!! That has a way of taking the wind from your sails and slowing down the clock. Especially when you don't stop the clock while you stand and wait for the squat to end. Memo to self, change Runtastic settings to auto pause. Four *shaking head in wonder that such a small dog can produce so much waste*. Oh well, I'm not here to discuss poop. I'm here to discuss running.

I've had my running ups and downs and while I wouldn't call it a down, per se, I have been in the longest running funk of my running career. Tight hips, tight back, tight shins, and plain old laziness have eaten away at my number of truly great runs since, oh, about October of last year. I haven't had any of those truly awesome days where you KNOW you are going to run again because it was SO totally wonderful. If you've never had one of those runs that transcends the action and becomes an event I am SO, SO sorry and I hope that one of these days soon you go for a run and everything melts away as you and the run become best of friends.

Running and I have not been best of friends and I've been missing it. I determined that this would be the year that I just do it. I just go out and run and do what I'm supposed to do even if it feels like torture to do so. Baring injury and a justified reason to miss a run I would do my best to hit every scheduled run. I found out that virtual races help me stay motivated and that has been a huge help, especially when it comes to running the entire scheduled distance and not cutting it short just because I wasn't "feeling it", or it was cold, or the dog was being a kook, or whatever other reason I could imagine. The simple act of staying out there has gotten me back on track. My times are painfully slow, but inching back down to their normal slow pace instead of turtle slow pace. What was still missing was THAT feeling. The feeling that your feet and the asphalt were the only two things of any import in the entire world, at least for the next 45 minutes. The feeling that the road belongs to you. The feeling that nothing could stop you at this moment because you are floating, not running. The feeling that running is not a chore. The feeling that it is not something you have to do, but something you want to do. Too many runs, for too long, have been a chore. Me going through the motions of the action and not finding the joy.

On Saturday I went to the Electric Run bound and determined to just have fun, even if I walked the entire thing. I didn't walk the entire thing. I walked a lot. I walked the first half or so then told myself "when I get to that point there I'm running". I did. I kept the deal and for awhile it was like it has been. Just a run, nothing special, nothing transcendent. I ran, I walked and I ran some more off and on for a bit. Then, like magic, it came. Out of the blue. My pace settled into a good and happy pace. My legs felt strong. My body felt "right" . My run felt good. It felt magical and fun and like I could do it forever. Which, of course, I couldn't, because I've let my stamina fall to pitiful levels, but while I ran it was good and it was good for longer than I thought it would be. When I stopped and walked and then started running again the magic was still there. Ahhhhh, it felt so wonderful to LOVE running again.

Yesterday, in the early, pre-dawn hours, I wasn't finding the magic, but it was okay. I was still running high from the race on Saturday. My legs did feel great, not sore or as tight as they have been. My back wasn't too tight at the start, but I could feel a little twinge down in the lower back that was throwing me off. An irritant like a little fly. On doggie break number four he was taking forever (really, I'm not being hyperbolic here, not even a little-lol) and I was a bit peeved, I mean really, four times! Four times is kind of common for him though so I really should have expected it. Anyhow, waiting for the dog gave me time to stretch out that lower back a bit and watch a drop of moisture drip from my bangs. Didn't realize our normally arid conditions would be humid. I should have grabbed a bondi band. When dog finally finished we walked for a bit and then I ran and the feeling was back. The magic returned with the sunrise. The same feeling from the race was back. My pace was right, still not as fast as I'd like, but "right". It felt normal. The tightness in my back disappeared and my footfalls were soft. My legs were strong. My hips loose. Even though earlier I was having problems with a sock rubbing my foot wrong, that problem had evaporated. For an entire kilometer I held my pace. Even my breathing fell into an old familiar pattern that I knew would carry me further, longer. Not panting and desperate, but soft and quick. Wanting to finish my run actually running I took a half a kilometer walk break and as the last half k cued through my headphones I started up the small grade that signals the end of my route. I powered up the small hill that I've been walking for many weeks now instead of running. I had to tack on a tiny bit of a loop to finish the distance, but my legs were strong until the end. Yesterday's run was one of the runs that make me a happy runner.

This month I had scheduled to gradually bump my weekend runs from 5k to 10k and had been having doubts about that choice. I feel more confident now that I can certainly start adding the miles back in. Even if they are slow and I am walking a portion my relationship with running is on the mend and we have races to prepare for! I run for the feeling it gives you. I run because it changes the relationship you have with yourself. I run to feel the rain on my face, the breeze on my cheeks and to see the sun coming over the mountains. I run for strength of body and strength of mind. I run for the sweat. I run so that my bangs will drip with sweat and fog. I run because while sometimes it is a chore, the wonderful runs more than make up for the bad ones.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Electric Run Race Review

First, I want to start off with sorry I haven't done my product review. Turns out I want to put more into it than just slapping it together. It is coming though, promise! Now, onto the highlight of this past weekend, the Electric Run.

This was a race I'd been looking forward to for awhile and it looked like SO MUCH FUN. Check out the website While I do the majority of my running in the dark of the very early hours of the morning, this would be my first night race.

Day before the race, Friday, my mother, we'll just call her Mom, and I took a quick trip down to San Diego for packet pick-up. The location of pick up was Road Runner Sports and scheduled to last from noon until seven that evening. We decided early was better than later and actually ended up arriving 10 minutes before noon. Good thing we were early, even though the store's parking lot was sizable it was already filling up FAST. Interestingly, the parking lot wrapped all the way around the building, which was good because as we drove looking for any spot to put the car into we started wondering if the 5k part was walking back to the store for pick-up! In the end we snagged a prime spot on the opposite side of the set-up simply by driving all the way around the building-lol.

Bib pick-up was easy and fast and facilitated by the numbers being assigned randomly as runners picked them up. No digging through piles of numbers looking for your specific digits. After bib pick-up it was over to another table for goody bag pick-up. A simple white plastic bag with an awesome flashing bracelet, a set of glow-stick glasses (ended up being totally useless so you won't see any pics coming up) and a mystery card for Sport Chalet (go in and see what it is worth from $5 to $100-I haven't gone over there yet). T-shirt pick-up was inside the back of the Road Runner Sports store. The shirt was a disappointment. The woman's XL was a large at best. Much too small for any proper usage. To be fair, it wasn't just me, as we left I saw a young, fit girl, trying hers on and having to peel it off when it was too small for her too. Seriously, these things run REALLY small and no warning was given to order up a size.

At the end of the t-shirt table was a selection of light-up gizmos designed to make the night race more electric. Mom and I both came away with a light up jelly ring and a light up foam stick.

Seems they took a page from Disney's play book and after picking up all the race stuff they directed you through Road Runner Sports, where of course there were many, many sparkly running related items and many employees to make sure you received a 10% off coupon. Yes, we did end up with a few items we hadn't intended on leaving with. Paid for, of course!

As we finally made our way out the door it was hard to miss the fact that there was a line of cars going down the street and around the building all wanting to get to packet pick-up. Good thing we got there early!

It was really strange having the entire day ahead of me on Saturday. I got many errands completed and even snuck in a small nap so I wouldn't be too tired staying out until ten o'clock all hours. We headed out about 3:45 in order to arrive about 5:30 for a race that started at 7:00. The volunteers had stressed over and over to arrive early and car pool. We made pretty good time and were on schedule to arrive just past our target time, until.....da-da-dum...the freeway stopped dead just a bit more than a mile from our exit. Cars in the exit lane inched painfully forward while cars in the other lanes continued to flow on by. It took us embarrassingly long to figure out that race goers were causing the log jam. Hate to admit it, but we pulled a masterful piece of line jumping. We moved out of our lane with every intention of going an exit past the one we needed and doubling back, but at the last minute doubts of our plan's success won out and we slid back in 3/4 of a mile closer than we had been. Traffic control for this event was a major flop. Once inside the fairgrounds they did a fine job directing us to open spots and getting everyone settled, but at the freeway and through the town it was miserable. City assistance would have been nice as 10,000 people descended like so many locusts on a wheat field. Yes, 10,000 runners at this event.

Finally parked it was time to find a potty and get ready to run with only slightly under an hour left. Thankfully REAL RESTROOMS with flushing toilets were available. NICE! That sort of made up for the traffic disaster.

Into the chutes, the man in the leprechaun hat and his wife were very nice people and we chatted for a bit before everyone shifted and we got separated. The volunteers were throwing glow sticks into the crowd and when one landed on the ground right between us he picked it up, but didn't want it so it came to me :).

As we stood waiting for the race to begin it began to drizzle, just a little. If you look closely, you can see little sparkles in the light beams, those are rain drops. The effect in person was downright magical as small diamonds fell from the sky.


 Me-That vest ended up being too warm. The clouds kept the night from being cold.

Finally, we were off. We were actually the second wave to be released and the going at the start was still very slow, not a lot of running in this wave as many walked more slowly or stopped to take a bunch of pictures.  I managed to take quite a few of my own pics. A sample...

The lights were magical, the music fun, though at times a bit too loud. Over all a WONDERFUL event and I had a terrific time.

The negatives? A very dark and very early stretch of the event was on dirt. Not a lot of people ran through here since there was not enough light and you could not see what was coming. There was a very real fear of tripping on or over something. A bit more light in some areas would have been nice.Two other sections were covered with weird plastic tile things. I assume they were there to protect runners from very uneven ground. Unfortunately, the tiny bit of rain and the plastic surface mixed to make a very slippery area. Adhesive ducks holding umbrellas would have been a nice touch as I saw at a young girl go down on hands and knees on the slippery surface. We went through several service tunnels and the effects were spectacular, but the music much too loud as it reverberated in the small space. It was headache inducing. I wish I was still young enough to enjoy a good busted ear drum, but alas, age has removed all desire to completely destroy my eardrums. I think I had some of my fastest times through the tunnels. Finally, I was strangely disappointed that Neon Trees was not the music of choice as we ran past a stand of palm trees where each trunk was lit in a different bright tone.

Some of the awesome? The water stop was well organized. Runners not staying left and charging through were a problem, but the volunteers made a great effort to inform everyone well before hand that water was to the right so not really their fault. The effects were varied and some of the best effects came up unexpectedly. The organizers seemed to make a concentrated effort to provide safe areas for people to stop and take pics. I didn't keep close track, but it seemed that every area where there were really spectacular lights there was some place nearby to step out of the way and take all the pics you wanted before reentering the fray. The train that ran past as we were jogging down the road was all sorts of awesome. Being night you could see the people inside the train watching us as they zoomed past. I think they might have been amused at the sight of a bunch of glowing people running down a stretch of dirt road. The race itself was VERY super organized, well done and FUN. I would definitely do this race again, though I might take some light ear plugs next time, not enough to block sound, just tone it down a bit. I left slightly damp, some of it rain, some of it sweat. I left slightly sore from the hills going down into and back out of the tunnels and with pockets full of the coconut water and granola bars that were being handed to us as we came across the finish. Literally, the volunteers did not want to let you past without handing you something. I didn't have enough hands for everything. I've always said that the volunteers make the race and I think that held true here. The lights were pretty cool too.