TowneBank Shamrock 8k, Brooks Hyperion, and compression socks

The luck o’ the (honorary) Irish was with me last weekend for the TowneBank Shamrock 8k in Virginia Beach, VA. Not only was the travel smooth the entire way (in stark contrast to last year’s Carlsbad 5000), but the sun came out for my course preview/warm-up run.

Disbelief that there is no rain in this photo

The 8k course runs south parallel to the beach for 2 miles before turning around and heading north up the boardwalk for 2 1/2 miles. The last 1/2 mile finishes with a turnaround back southbound down the boardwalk into the finish chute. Though temperatures hovered in the mid-30s during my warm-up run Friday, I quickly shed layers. Words cannot describe the relief I felt to run with the sun on my face and an absence of water in my shoes.

Though I rolled into the hotel around 1 a.m. Friday morning (and couldn’t go right to sleep), I forced myself to get up and run by 8 a.m. Start time for the race on Saturday was 7:45 a.m., which would feel, to me, like 4:45. 3:45 if you count the fact that we moved the clocks forward a mere six days earlier. It was a Hail Mary attempt at acclimating to the time difference and it actually worked.

Dawn in Virginia the next day didn’t feel as awful as I thought it would.

TowneBank Shamrock 8k start

Yep, still a bit dark outside

The race itself went as well as it could have, given my rough patch in training lately. This winter I’ve alternately struggled to get back into shape after the holiday break and then possibly overtrained to prepare for this 8k. I tried to go out aggressively and hold on as long as I could. Though I held third place (overall female) for most of the race, I lost it turning into the last half mile stretch to the finish. I don’t love the time I ran (29:54, more than a minute slower than my last 8k last spring), but it was enough for 2nd place in the masters race, and since the masters winner is in an older age group, another national championship title for women 40-44.

TowneBank Shamrock 8k

Race photo courtesy of MarathonFoto and TowneBank Shamrock 8k

I also tested out some new gear during this race. How cool are these Brooks Hyperion shoes?

Brooks Hyperion

They are the most cushioned of any road racing flat I’ve worn, yet still maintain the lightness and flexibility you want in a racing shoe. Moreover, they make you look fast and isn’t that half the battle?

I also tried out compression socks for the second time in a race. While they were certainly comfortable, I’m still unconvinced that I felt a difference when running in them. I did, however, get right on a plane after the race, so perhaps there is something to them. My lower legs were not remotely sore in the days following the racing and traveling.

Though it wasn’t pretty, it was a solid race weekend. I can’t thank Mike, my coaches (Jim Lilly and Bethanee Randles), training partners, and friends for all of your support. It takes a village. Really.

Paris adventures in the offseason

This.

Paris cafe breakfast

And this.

Paris metro

And them.

It was exactly what I needed to kick off the offseason. Yes, it was a hectic few days to get there. But Paris. Whatever you need to do to get there will always be worth it.

We rented this VRBO in the 6th arrondissement, right in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. It was a one bedroom apartment on the first floor of a lovely building on the left bank.

Paris Saint-Germain-des-Pres

Interior courtyard of the building; below left: street view of building; storied Cafe de Flore just down the street

It wasn’t particularly big or fancy, but comfortably fit the four of us. And oh, the location. It could not have been more perfect. If you’re traveling in Paris with kids, I highly recommend renting an apartment over staying in a hotel. We had more space than a hotel room, and the kitchen enabled us to take advantage of the best neighborhood bakeries and food purveyors. Being in a neighborhood meant access to better pâtisseries, boulangeries, and restaurants than the more touristy areas around the hotels, and at $194/night, it was money-saving to boot.

Because of our central location, we walked just about everywhere. The Eiffel Tower and Rodin Museum.

The Louvre.

Rue Mouffetard.

Paris Rue Mouffetard

Mouffetard is one of my favorite streets in Paris. A cobblestone street lined with butchers, cheese shops, bakeries, restaurants, and a huge farmers market: it’s the holy grail of food.

Now this is where a normal person, with normal vacationing behavior would have more to say about another museum visited, a tour taken. Instead, we just ate.

From the traditionally French,

Paris Poilane bakery

to incredible ramen. Ippudo in the 6th arrondissement was an awesome find.

Veggie tamago ramen with housemade noodles

And then there were the pastries. You can’t leave Paris without a visit (or two) to Fauchon.

The kids had to sample the macarons everywhere we went. Luckily for them, you can’t go a block without finding one that was better than the last.

For me, it’s all about the bread. Unbelievably the cost of a baguette hasn’t changed much since I studied abroad there in 1995. 1.20€ (around $1.25) buys you a loaf of crusty perfection. Paired with a slab of rich European butter and a smear of homemade jam, I’m pretty sure nothing better exists in this world.

All too soon our time was up. It was our first international trip with the kids and Paris proved itself an easy and amazing family vacation destination. À bientôt Paris!

Paris Eiffel Tower

Camaraderie in Racing? Yes, at a national championship.

Is it possible to have camaraderie in racing? Or does it need to be a battle? If racing in 2016 taught me anything, it’s that I believe in the former. And here’s why.

Misery loves company

I spent last weekend at USATF National Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee, FL. I have to admit to a significant lack of excitement about this race. It’s a tough time of year, both from a running perspective (burnout from training since mid-July), and from a scheduling perspective. Everything seems to want to happen on the first weekend in December. As a mom, it’s a tough time to get away. I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to fly to Florida.

And then there was the weather. The benefit to dragging oneself to the other corner of the country – the southern corner – is warm weather. And yet I found myself angry packing a suitcase full of things that hardly resembled those of my dream beach vacation. Full tights, gloves, hats, and long sleeves instead of my simple race kit. The polar vortex that brought an unusual snow day to Bainbridge reached all the way down to the Sunshine State. It was 34°F at race time in Tallahassee.

But flying into Panama City, FL, I hooked up with my friend and new teammate Camille Shiflett, who gamely agreed to join Club Northwest at the last minute. And I remembered why Club Nationals is the best race of the year. It’s all about the team: the men, the women, the open and the masters. We’re all leaving important things behind to come together to compete in the sport that we love. We’re all going to hurt. But we’re doing it together.

2016 Club Northwest team in Tallahassee, minus Camille and I who were already en route back to the airport

Trying to BEAT someone sets you up for negative thinking

I realize this may sound like some hippie-dippie yoga-speak, but for me, my intention makes a difference. Standing on the starting line trying to beat someone else sets you up with a negative mind set. Now the race is out of your hands because it depends on what the other person does. I’ve done this. Gone out way too fast being a jerk, thinking I needed to stay with someone in order to beat them. Things got ugly real fast, and though I didn’t actually die, I really wanted to.

This is supposed to be fun. It’s more fun to work WITH someone than against them.

The race started at 8:00 a.m. east coast time. This meant temperatures in the 30s and 5 a.m. biological west coast time (see aforementioned “misery”). When the gun went off and I looked over, I was so happy to see this amazing gal by my side.

Photo by Michael Scott

I think it’s well documented at this point that Sonja Friend-Uhl is an incredible runner. But in the last year she has become a good friend and I love that we can race together and work for faster times together.

Camaraderie in racing

Photo by Clay Shaw

Yes, there will still be a winner

USATF National Club XC Championships 2016

Photo by Michael Scott

And no, it wasn’t me. Though we ran through 4000 meters side-by-side, I had fallen off the pace by 5000m, and finished the 6k 22 seconds back in a time of 22:37. It was my slowest time of the cross country season, in conditions much more favorable to a fast race than any of my other races this fall. Is this evidence against camaraderie in racing? I still think not. I had a fun morning running with friends, and my gals Camille and Deborah Fletcher helped clinch the team title for a second year in a row.

With Camille Shiflett and Deborah Fletcher, 2016 national champions, 40s team

In the end I’ll take a runner-up national champion place and camaraderie in racing over contentious win any day. Perhaps that makes me a weaker competitor, but life’s short. You gotta do what makes you happy.

USATF Masters 5k Road Champion

I can’t help but feel like lightning struck twice.

Nothing beats a welcome home poster after a long flight

I spent the weekend in Syracuse, NY, for the USATF Masters 5k Road Championships, a race within a race hosted by the Syracuse Festival of Races 5k. This is a fantastic event, in its 24th year, led by race director extraordinaire Dave Oja. I cannot say enough about how well organized and supported the whole weekend felt. And I didn’t even take advantage of the host hotel amenities. Started in 1993 as an offshoot of an earlier race, the Syracuse Festival of Races 5k has cultivated record-breaking performances for the last 24 years.

This year was no exception. There were four American records broken, one of which also set a world masters record (Kathy Martin, age 65, with a time of 19:57). And 80-year-old Libby James broke the women’s 80-84 American record, running the 5k in a time of 25:14. Imagine that, running a 5k at 8:07/mile pace as an 80-year-old. Incredible! See the full story on Runner’s World here.

Syracuse also ended up being the perfect location for a travel race. It’s a big enough city to have an airport, yet a small enough town that even downtown hotels had airport shuttle service. So I flew in easily and didn’t need a rental car. And therefore chose to stay at the Sheraton Syracuse University Hotel (instead of the race’s host hotel) to be closer to the course. It’s pretty much right on campus.

Syracuse University

Thanks to my Starwood Preferred Guest status, I even made the Club Lounge level. This meant breakfast in the morning and snacks in the evening. But the best thing about it? Unlimited espresso. I could not have been happier to see that machine.

espresso

Bring it on, jet lag. Bring it on.

Though rain was forecast throughout the weekend, it seemed that the bulk of it fell overnight on Saturday. So race day arrived with muggy but dry and warm conditions.

Syracuse Festival of Races 5k Prerace

Heading to the course, aka, why I don’t take more selfies

Having experienced the alternative, I really appreciated the amount of race support provided at this event. It sounds simple but even a tent for gear storage seemed like a luxury.

USATF masters 5k road championships

The masters championship races always bring out a stellar field of runners.

Syracuse Festival of Races 5k

Photo by Bob Brock

The flat, fast course starts and ends at the Lampe Athletics Complex on the Syracuse University campus. Though I took the lead at the halfway turnaround point, these women are tough racers who aren’t going to give anything up easily. It took all I had to keep anyone from passing me in the last 400 meters.

syracusecloseupfinish

Photo by Bob Brock

In the end I managed to hang on for the win on Sunday. But on any given day it could have been any of us. Which is the thing that makes these races so special. The camaraderie of the other runners is phenomenal. It’s not the winning or the records (easy for me to say, I don’t have any of those!), but the fact that we’re all out there training and pushing and hoping to get to race day prepared and injury-free. Congratulations to everyone on a terrific 5k race weekend.

postrace

A race, a break, and a knock-out racing flat, part 1

We’ve just returned from a long weekend on the East Coast, visiting family and partaking of the sodden debauchery that is the Princeton University reunion. Of course, this being the 20th reunion, the “sodden” part (for us) came from the incredibly humid 92 degree weather, while the kids debauched on the bribes that flowed freely to ensure their continued cooperation. After this last stretch of training and racing, it also made for a nice 5 day break from any sort of working out.

We started at the Jersey shore…

A break on the Jersey shore

…visiting the best aunt in the world. Really. She is. I am an aunt, so you know I’m not handing out that title lightly.

AuntMaureen

We then made our way inland to Mike’s alma mater.

Let the indoctrination begin.

Let the indoctrination begin.

Colin curiously chose his West Point t-shirt for P-rade day.

Princeton P-rade

I wonder what he’s trying to say here?

And if you’ve spent any time on the Princeton campus, you’ll know this was the most important stop of the trip.

Princeton Hoagie Haven

Breakfast of champions

Because who doesn’t want to eat a 18″ cheesesteak for breakfast?

Then it was on to the City of Brotherly Love.

Philadelphia City Hall

And an awesome couple of days with our cousins.

Independence Hall

Independence Hall

I didn’t exactly win the family lottery, so fun trips like this one with the family I married into mean a lot to me. I don’t enjoy running while on vacation, especially not when traveling into the grips of an east coast heat wave. I use the time to take a break from the normal routine and take advantage of what the local culture has to offer.

Bagel break

Jersey bagels, baby!

And then, just like that, it’s back to the hamster wheel. This morning dawned with a nine mile shake-out run, kids to shuttle to school, and dogs to pick up. It was a great break after a great race, which will be covered in another post…

On the podium at Carlsbad 5000

Given how Carlsbad 5000 weekend started, this is definitely not how I thought it would end.

Carlsbad 5000 2016 Masters results

This is how it started. Watching my plane as it pushed back from the gate.

Virginplane

I was supposed to fly down first thing on Saturday to make sure I had time to pick up my packet, check out the course, and chill out a little before the early start Sunday morning. It was a solid plan that had worked for Club Nationals in December. Because of spring break and the dearth of non-crazy-expensive flight options getting to Carlsbad, I would fly into LAX, rent a car, and drive the 90 miles to Carlsbad. I got up at 4:20 a.m. on Saturday to make sure I’d make it through security for my 7 a.m. flight.

But it’s spring break, yo. Despite my early arrival at the gate, no seat assignment = no seat. I was bumped.

After much gnashing of teeth and negotiating, I was re-routed from my nonstop Virgin America flight that should have landed in L.A. at 9 a.m. to a Delta flight that stopped in San Francisco and arrived in L.A. around 6:30 p.m.

I rolled into my hotel room at 9 p.m. Saturday night, no race packet, no course preview, no pre-race warm-up run. I’d have to leave the hotel at 6:30 Sunday morning to make my way to the course. Dinner was a chicken wrap gobbled in the car, chased by a large bagful of trail mix (only later did I ponder the downstream repercussions of all of that dried fruit and nut fiber). I was exhausted and dehydrated. Things did not look good.

After a fitful night of (little) sleep, it was game time.

Brooks racing flats

Trusty Brooks racing flats – holla!

One more wrinkle? No gear check for the 5k race.

Deep breath. One more hurdle. I could use the car to stow my gear, but was left with a giant rental car ring of keys. None of the individual keys could be removed, and the giant plastic #1 attached to the Hertz key chain was looking more and more like a big middle finger. I’d have to run the race holding the keys. There was no way around it.

I made peace with the situation and made my way to the starting line. And then… things started looking up.

Renee Tolan, whom I met at the Masters 5k XC National Championship race last fall in Saratoga Springs, NY, found me on the line. It was so great to see a familiar face amongst the crowd of strangers. And then she did something amazing. She took my keys. And handed them off to her friend. And suddenly, everything was okay.

Carlsbad 5000 masters women start

All race photos courtesy of Competitor Running. Photos taken by Justin Britton.

C5k-3

C5k-4

Carlsbad 5000 masters women leaders

I finished 2nd behind Julie Ertel, a two-time Olympian (in two different sports!) with a silver medal in water polo, with Renee right behind me in third. It was so great to share the podium with these ladies and spend the rest of my morning there with Renee.

The very best part of this whole experience didn’t end up being my time on the podium or the 1 second PR I managed to eke out. It wasn’t the pride of showing up to a big event and running well. It was the camaraderie of a fellow runner and a new friendship that really made my day.

Racefriends

Up next: Bloomsday in May. See you in Spokane.

Warm weather training, Florida style

I have just recently become acquainted with the concept of warm weather training. All the elites are doing it; Tina Muir writes about it here.

When I first heard the term, I had to give a double-take. I mean, isn’t the point of training at a competitive, dare I say, “elite” level to maximize your suffering? To be better at it than everyone else? I know that when I’m running on these cold, dark and soaking wet mornings in the Pacific Northwest I’m suffering. And more than a little part of me has been hoping that’s making me a little tougher. What’s with this namby-pamby warm-weather stuff?

But who am I to question the pros? Turns out, I was about to be on the forefront of a newfangled training philosophy. We took advantage of a short school break last weekend to visit my father-in-law who is spending a couple months this winter on the Atlantic coast of Florida. The overnight flight to save a school/work/conference day seemed like a much better idea in theory than it felt in practice.

But the lack of sleep quickly paid off. I would have flown anywhere to get this picture.

Canaveral National Seashore, Florida

How else would the kids know what to do when they encounter wild animals?

Believe it or not, there are actual wild armadillos just hanging out by the side of the road at Canaveral National Seashore.

And then there were these wild animals, who despite the rain on our first day, frolicked on the beach.

New Smyrna Beach, Florida

I love this shot I got of three generations searching for shells.

Canaveral National Seashore, Florida

From a running perspective it was great to get out on a bright, sunny morning in a t-shirt and shorts. Haven’t done that since last fall. I had to replace a 5 x 800m track workout with a 5 x 3:00 tempo run and the straight, flat road that ran along the beach made the swap a piece of cake.

Yes, the sun was nice and I can see how the warm weather would make the drudgery of winter running more palatable. But I’m not sure that those of use stuck in northern climes are missing all that much. We’re suffering more! Surely that’s giving us some sort of leg up, no?

Florida beaches

Of course, this is nice too.

After a sunny day on the beach we headed south to Kennedy Space Center.

Kennedy Space Center, Florida

What a cool place. The exhibits were so well done and even though we only had a few hours to spend there, it was well worth the trip. It hadn’t occurred to me how little the kids know about the space shuttle program. The Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit was a fantastic presentation that used a movie, a full-scale replica of the shuttle stack, and even a launch simulator to tell the story. Even the uninterested 8-year-old had no choice but to come around on this one.

Finally we wrapped up the trip with a day at Universal Orlando and Islands of Adventure, primarily to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Mike and I are not huge amusement park fans, but they really did a bang-up job with the Harry Potter stuff.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Orlando, Florida

It was just like being in the books or movies, down to the smallest detail. Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade were meticulously recreated, with all things Potter available for purchase: wands from Ollivander’s, chocolate frogs from Honeyduke’s, food from the Leaky Cauldron. High on my list of things to try: the butterbeer. Go for the blended frozen option, it’s really good.

Butterbeer, Universal Orlando, Florida

The rides were cool too, they just made me feel old. I don’t know when my inner ear crapped out on me, but it doesn’t take much these days to put me over the edge. And it will forever remain a mystery to me, in the vein of socks in the dryer, why my forever carsick kid can spend an entire day riding the giant crazy rides without once complaining about nausea. I’m starting to think I’m being played.

And then it was Monday and time to get back to reality. As I sit here back home listening to the rain falling outside and getting my headlamp and reflector vest ready for tomorrow’s run, I can’t help but wish for the sun and beach. But without the suffering can you really appreciate the coming of spring? That first run when you can bare your arms and legs and feel the sun on your face? (For us in Seattle that’s like, what, May?) It’s just not as victorious when you’ve had it all along all winter. I’ll keep the dark and rain, and keep pretending that there’s strength in the suffering.