Race Decisions – When Are You Being Too Picky?

Decisions, decisions.

UGH.

Lawd help me…

I’ve been running races on and off since high school.  Which, considering that took place in another millennium, that adds up to a lot of racing.  ALOT.  Some were awesome (all the Disney races), some stunk, (I Care I Cure 5k), and some were someplace in between, (Race for Women’s Wellness Half Marathon).  Each one a learning experience in it’s own right.

As I start looking at the calendar to pick my races for this year – and I’d like there to be more than the 1 or 2 I did last year, because, ya know……..LIFE – I get this feeling I may have set my requirements for races just a tad high.  By all means, please weigh in here.

Now, I’m not talking I need to have Disney-level race insanity for every race – nice as that may be – but my wallet certainly couldn’t afford said insanity.  But a few racer-friendly perks are always a good thing in my opinion.  Here are my top requests in case any race directors happen to be paying attention:

Manned water stations and/or appropriately supplied:  I did a 10k on New Year’s Eve 2017 along the beach in Boca Raton.  The two minutes you could actually watch the sun rise over the ocean was lovely, but once you turned off into one of the local neighborhoods, the scene wasn’t so pretty.  The one water station around Mile 4ish had one poor guy and his young son ferverishly trying to get water poured and out to the few hundred saps slogging by.  A couple of miles through the neighborhood brought us back to the same water station, only to find it both unmanned and out of water.  I was pretty much running in the middle of the pack, so I can only imagine how much worse it got for the runners behind me in the typical south Florida humidity that never seems to go away.  Now I know how difficult it can be to find enough volunteers for events like this.  However, this race has been taking place every year for the past 39 years.  Yes, 39 YEARS.  You think just maybe they might have stuff like this figured out by now, especially in the tropics?

Kids get their own race:   Make no mistake, I am ALL about kids putting down their phones and getting outside to move.  But if you’re doing everything you can to keep from running them over because they’re fully engaged in the “let’s sprint for 50 yards then come to a dead stop in front of some poor, unsuspecting sap whose brakes don’t work as well” mode, then the kiddies need to have their own kid moment of glory, if for no other reason than this poor unsuspecting sap’s knees can’t take emergency braking every 50 yards.

If you’re doing swag, do it right:  One word. DriFit.  I’ll pay an extra few bucks on the reg fees.

Use your outside voice:  Let it rip at the start people.  Especially for those saps like me who prefer to start at the back of the pack and haven’t had any mochaccinos before the start.  We can’t hear you chatting it up with the serious speed queens in the front row when you suddenly drop a “oh, let’s get this race started shall we?”  And pack up those obnoxious bullhorns.  They don’t work either.  Good option – put that local cheerleading squad to work.  Megaphones aren’t just for football anymore.

Take that constructive criticism seriously:   I can only imagine some of the ridiculous requests race directors see when they get their post-race surveys back.  However, there may be one or two that are actually good ideas that don’t cost anything extra to incorporate into the race day planning.  Like perhaps noting on the race website that drivers in the area ARE CRAZY AND DON’T PAY ATTENTION TO WHERE THEY’RE GOING SO FOR GAWD’S SAKE, KEEP YOUR HEAD ON A SWIVEL.

No lady, I’m not sorry for scaring the crap out of you when I slammed a paw on the hood of your car as you looked right at me and hit the gas anyway.

All of the above noted requests, along with a few others (location, cost, registration fees, charity, etc) help me determine which races will hit my calendar in any given year.  My question for you is this.

Am I being too picky in what I want/need/expect from a race?

In my immediate area, 5k’s are rampant, 10k’s practically non-existent, half marathons are not too bad, and full marathons seem to be everywhere.  As I have yet to PR my half, I always have a few to choose from to maybe someday actually get it done.  My hesitation mainly stems from most of them, while geographically desirable, are not always the most convenient to actually get to, requiring one of those classic Disney 3am wake up alarms in order to have enough time to get ready, travel, park, get to the start, and warm up.  Plus, I know for logistical reasons, many in this area are held on Sundays.  Having a Monday-Friday desk job, a Sunday half doesn’t always equate to feeling so well the next day when you’re stuck in a chair and can’t really keep loose to fight off the DOMS.

It’s a conundrum.

Not this kind. Sadly.

As 2019 brings me to yet another year of debating which races will hit my schedule, I can only say this.  Every year I am eternally grateful that I have the ability and the resources to keep up with this crazy little hobby of mine.  Like anyone, I like to get the most bang for my buck and that is true for each race I consider.  Sometimes I wonder though.

Maybe I’d be better off just closing my eyes and pointing a finger?  Seems to always work well in my wine cooler.

Who’s a happy girl?

 

Enjoy the ride.

 

What helps you determine what races you will participate in? What are your race pet peeves?  Have you ever responded to a race survey?

Come Sit By Me

As things were pretty non-existent for a while around these parts, I figured it would be a good time to catch up on life.  So pull up a pool chair, order a margarita, and let’s chat a bit.

Salut!

I WANNA DO-OVER

Let’s just say 2018 has been a total poop show.  It’s always tricky deciding how much we want to reveal of our personal details in the blogosphere, and it’s no exception here.  Let’s just say, the Black Dog staff had some MAJOR medical issues come up, but thankfully, all pulled through and the recovery process is moving along nicely.  Word to the wise: when you have a bellyache for a week, don’t give your significant other grief when the doc says to get your dupa to the hospital.  And once you’re there, thank your lucky stars said significant other is too stubborn to let you leave.  2018 could have ended a whole lot worse than it started, so we are happy to leave it in the dust.

THE WONDER MUTT STILL REIGNS SUPREME

This girl.

Beware the snoot……

Still just as silly, still a splash queen, still the BESTEST WONDER MUTT EVER, even if she has gotten a little more “sun exposure”.  She is the love of my life, my confidant, my fashion consultant, my workout buddy, bestie and running partner.  And yes, her Daddy gets it and makes sure to occasionally give me grief about it.  Maybe if he met me at the door at night wiggling his butt with a hedgehog in his muzzle, he’d rate right up there beside her too. 🙂

Do you like my hedgehog?

AGING SHOULD ONLY APPLY TO FINE WINE 

Have I ever told you I’m the youngest of five kids?  Yup, FIVE.  How the heck my parents did it is completely beyond my comprehension, especially since I have enough trouble with a husband a dog.  I hit another decade last year and fighting Mother Nature with everything I’ve got.  As much as I despise admitting it, all those articles about your metabolism slowing down each decade are absolutely true.  Mine however, has decided to just plain check out.  I swear I just LOOK at a mini peanut butter cup – LOOK – and POOF!  That’ll cost you another five pounds lady.  I know I did not do well when I was recovering from my two knee surgeries, but dammit Mother Nature, can you cut me a bit of a break here??  I turned half my garage into a gym, tuned up the bike, and kick my own dupa six days a week.  And still.

Nothing.

Nada.

I’m coming for your hips lady….

Hello Jabba the Black Dog.

There is nothing more frustrating than forcing your muscles to lift more, run faster (well try to anyway), pedal away the miles, eat enough veggies that you swear you’re turning green, and still nothing.  The hubs tells me I look great and there’s only so much I can do.  But this is ME.  Stubborn, concrete-headed, determined, refusing to give up, and just plain pissed off.

Ladies?  Ya see what I’m sayin’??

I understand everything is a balancing act.  I cannot obsess about calories in/out, but I do pay some attention to what I shove in my yap.  If only there weren’t so many amazing tastes out there!  Drink half my weight in water most days, but then…..WINE.  Sweat my dupa off in the Island Time Sweat Box then find that creating cocktails is kind of fun.  What’s a girl to do?  If any ladies out there suffering from a slowing metabolism and uncooperative genetics have any ideas, by all means – feel free to share.

Then we can down those margaritas. 😉

PRIORITIES MOVE LIKE THE TIDES

There’s nothing like a good old life scare to make you step back and re-evaluate what’s important.  For all my metabolism bitching, in the big picture it means nothing.  The love and health of family and friends, the health and happiness of your critters, slowing down life for a minute and enjoying a sunset with a special someone and a good glass of cabernet, traveling outside your comfort zone and embracing adventure, that’s what life should be all about.  Not making enough money?  Live within your means and be happy you have a job when so many others don’t.  Angry the man of the house keeps forgetting to put the toilet seat down?  At least he’s there to forget to do it.  Living with what seems to be a case of a permanent bad attitude?  Make the effort to do something nice for someone else and then try to fight that smile that’s tugging at the corners of your mouth.  Without question what was important to me 20 years ago is nowhere near what it is now.  We all have personal trials we go through and times in our lives when it seems like everything is a big pile of dog poop.  Then something happens to make you realize your poop amounts to nothing.  NOTHING.

LIFE IS WHAT YOU MAKE OF IT

Races. Travel. Laughter.  Great friends and great times.  Funny how the simplest things have the biggest impact on your life.  Some of the best times I’ve ever had included a glass of wine, music, friends, dogs, and a simple backyard fire at this great little tiki bar I know.  It’s easy to find things to be grateful for each and every day, if you just take the time to stop and notice.  A helpful coworker, a smile from a stranger, a funny joke made by a passing runner at a race – all good things.  So my advice to you as I bring this recap of sorts to a close, is to appreciate the life you’ve been given and everything that makes it awesome.  You only get out of life what you put into it, so make that little extra effort, especially this time of year, when so many feel so lonely.  It costs nothing to thank a veteran or first responder for their service (dispatchers too!), or to help a senior citizen load groceries in their car.  Little things go a long way and people always remember the little things.

My challenge to you this day is to do some little thing for someone else.  Pay for their coffee, hold a door open, give their dog a biscuit (after making sure it’s ok of course!), then come back here and share what you did.  I guarantee you will feel a bit better about yourself and life in general.  Perhaps if we all do a little something for someone else, this tide of animosity that seems to be overtaking our lives will turn back just a little bit.

And little bits can change the world.

 

Enjoy the ride.

What little thing makes you smile?

Friday Funny

FF weekend cats

Enjoy the ride.

Happy long weekend to those of you pulling the Monday through Friday thing!  What do you have on tap for this long weekend?  Perhaps racing in the Happiest Place on Earth?  Fighting gators during your weekend triathlon?  Whatever you have planned, may you enjoy every second of the next few days celebrating in a completely pointless life.  See ya summer!

Reset.

Sometimes that’s the only thing you can do.

resetbutton

Blogging around these parts for the past year has been sporadic at best, in case you hadn’t noticed.  Between school, my job from hell, and, oh yes, that little ditty called LIFE, my brain was being pulled in so many different directions, it felt like I was coming apart at the seams.  Every damn day was becoming a battle, so much so that the brain had nothing left to vomit.  In fact, I’m pretty sure it just suffered a major meltdown.

stressed

I hope I’m not jinxing myself,  but it seems like things have FINALLY somewhat calmed down, at least to a more respectable level of chaos.  I had to make some hard decisions to try and reduce the stress level, and they seem to be working for the moment.  I was over the whole going to the gym thing – not for any particular reason, just over it.  Without really putting much thought into it, the hubs and I started using that Amazon Prime membership to the extreme and began collecting random sets of free weights.  Then Pilates balls.  Then a weight rack for all those randomly selected weights.  Now a weight bench.  Lo and behold, before we even really noticed, we’ve now got ourselves a sweet little convenient garage gym, complete with live entertainment.

Wonder Mutt gym dog.jpg

“Let’s go lady, I ain’t got all day.”

In all honesty, it’s pretty damn awesome to just walk out the hall door and get a good sweat on, even if it is a million degrees and you’re sweating just breathing.  But when you look down and see this fuzzy face looking at you like you’re insane, it makes it all worth it.

Even if she does occasionally find it necessary to add a little more unnecessary resistance.

As I start really buckling down for November’s Wine and Dine Half, the cross-training aspect is going to play a major part of the training process this time around.  This will be my last Wine and Dine Half, at least for a while, (yes, I AM that whiny one who’s still pissed about all the changes to what was the best race EVER), and I need to be smart about finding the balance between what I hope to accomplish – a 2:00-2:15 half – and nursing the knees along for the first race post #brokeknee surgery x2 (recaps here, here, and here).  Every run so far has been somewhat of a mystery as I get used to a new reality of what strange crap I’m going to feel each time out.  I’ve been assured by my PT, chiro, and two orthos that I’m not doing any more damage to my knees, so I can do whatever I need to do at whatever pain level I can handle, if any.  As opposed to before the surgeries, the pain is now pretty constant, but at such a low level that I barely notice it anymore, unless I move funny and tweak something.  I take this as a win when before, the pain would peak and stay there, making any kind of speed next to impossible.

Pain tolerable was what I was shooting for post surgery, and pain tolerable is what I’ve got. #ftw!

pain tolerable

And it’s all good.

The balance will come into play big time this training cycle around with cross-training.  I need to build up the strength in the muscles surrounding my knees, slowly build up the mileage, and really just listen to what the good ol’ bod is saying.  Feeling too beat up today?  No problem!  Yoga it is.  Feeling that LSD run from a couple of days ago?  Off to the pool we go.  Need some extra muscle cuddle time?  Well, looky what we’ve got here!

Let's go lady

“Move it woman.  These weights ain’t gonna lift themselves.”

She’s a bit of a taskmaster.

The training runs so far have been slow and an exercise in patience, but now I look forward to each one – as opposed to before when I was dreading what would happen around Mile 6.  I’ve made some adjustments to my equipment, (hello compression knee sleeves!), and no longer have to wear the dreaded Monster Brace From Hell.

So the name of the game this time around will be “let’see what’s going on today.”  Not exactly the model of half marathon training plans, but hey, it works for me.  I look forward to every run now, I’m loving life in the land of garage workouts, and I have a new chiro who doesn’t waste her breath telling me I shouldn’t run.  Hopefully, the tropic steaminess will start to back off a little, caution and patience will pay off, the knees will cooperate, and the encouragement I’m getting from the hubby and running friends alike will continue.  I’ll check in along the way and hopefully have more than a few humorous training escapades to report. Until then my running buddies, may your runs be pain-free, the swampass minimal, and the run-ins with Zika skeeters non-existent.

skeeters

Bastards.

 

Enjoy the ride.

Are you currently training for a fall race?  Does your training plan include cross-training?  Are you angry with the changes to the Wine and Dine Half Marathon weekend?

 

 

 

Yes, it’s really a race recap! Sort of…

I know this probably doesn’t sound like any big thing, but keep in mind I haven’t been much of a race girl while getting #brokeknees 1 and 2 fixed.

ice knee1

Don’t miss this nonsense!

Even though I’m not completely pain-free – and knew going into surgery that I may never be again – I have been able to accommodate my somewhat finicky joints.  In other words, keep the pain level to a minimum.  I can run.  Like the whole turtle though peanut butter kind of runs at the moment, but I’m okay with that.  I just keep telling myself the speed will come.  Maybe.  Hopefully.  It’s okay if it doesn’t because I really love peanut butter.

peanut butter turtles

After the fiasco that was the announcement of the new – and big steaming pile of dogpoop of a decision regarding Wine and Dine 2016 – I knew I had to get myself a proof of time to submit by August.  I knew I wouldn’t have enough time to properly train for a half after surgery #2, my old times were just that – too old – so a 10k it would have to be.  And if you live in south Florida, you’re basically screwed.

“Welcome to the Land of All Things 5k.  Because our attention span won’t last long enough for anything longer.”

serious grumpy cat

You suck south Florida…

Thanks to the utter lack of 10k opportunities, I bit the bullet and went with the Down2Earth cross-country series that goes all summer long, with this particular race being held at John U. Lloyd State Park.  Added benefit: they also run a 5k at the same time, so the hubby agreed to suffer right along with me.  What concerned me?  The whole CROSS COUNTRY part.  I haven’t run cross-country since high school.  The hubs has NEVER done cross country jaunts.  This should prove to be interesting, if not entirely life-threatening.

scaredy cat

Not you again…..

If you’re supremely bored and happen to go to the race website, you’ll see our race was held at a lovely sounding location known to locals as Dania Beach.  BEACH.  As in SAND.  LOTS OF FRIGGIN’ SAND.

sand1

Bobcat paw prints included at no additional cost.

Being the wise old runner that I am, (you can stop choking now), I figured it would probably be a good move to at least go down to the park before race day and figure out what the course would be.  You see, there’s only beach, access road, and parking lot.  That’s it.  Intracoastal waterway on one side, and the Atlantic on the other.  So on a balmy Sunday morning, the hubs and I drag our dupas out of bed, loaded up the cooler, and headed on down the road.  We managed to stop one of the park rangers to see if he knew where the course would be.  After all, he IS the park ranger.  If anyone would know, he would.  Right?  Yeahhhhhhh, not so much.  He gave us his best guess and we just flew with it.  Right onto the paw print marked sand as you see here.  I can honestly say I have never cursed so much at one race location in my entire life.  I think the bobcats have permanently vacated the area after hearing what was coming out of this girl’s yap.

It was a good thing we took the morning to do this though, as a couple of weeks later, we were as ready as we could be for more than a few miles in the sand.  The race field was very small, no more than 30-40 runners for both distances combined.  Race directions were simple:  run along the beach access road until you see the yellow tape, run around the tape, then run back to the start.  5k runners go once, 10k runners go twice.  All right, we can handle that.  It’s hot as hell, no breeze, typical south Florida summer humidity, nothing we’re not used to.  We all line up at the start, laugh about how many of us are going to die, gun goes off, and off we go. Into the wild sandy yonder.

The hubs knew I was running for time so he wished me luck and off I went.  Knowing that pacing was going to be a big factor, I did my best to keep the jitters under control and not go out too fast which I excel at doing.  Mistake #1, thinking there would be a water station at the turnaround 1.5 miles out.  Let me just stay this:  every race I have EVER done had a water station around the 1-2 mile mark.  EVERY ONE.  This one?  Not so much.  I got up to the turnaround, saw nothing but stupid yellow tape, and proceeded to say things that made the local snakes drop dead in mid slither.

WHO THE HELL DOESN’T GIVE YOU A WATER STATION AT THE TURNAROUND POINT ON A BEACH RUN???  Oh, wait…..

stooge

This stooge, that’s who.

Now, I put this one all on me.  I should’ve known better when my previous contact with the race director asking if there was going to be a water stop was met with complete silence. Definitely on me.  Lesson learned.  Moving on.

I passed the hubs on the way back and told him of the unfortunate circumstance and warned him that I think I had inadvertently killed a snake with my vocal venom.

“There’s no water at the turnaround.”

“You’re kidding me.”

“I’m a monkey’s friggin’ uncle.”

(We have a special relationship.)

Thankfully, after the final half mile back to the start in the softest sand you could imagine – and mind you this was just at the end of the first loop – they at least had water set up at the start line.  After stopping long enough to gulp down a couple of cups and throw a couple more over my head, off I went for Hell in the Sand part 2.  Which was pretty uneventful and much like Hell in the Sand part 1.  Pretty views of the ocean, lizards looking at us humans like we were nuts – guess they call it like they see it – and for the most part, completely by myself.  Race support?  Non-existent.  (Good thing no one dropped of heatstroke out there, they’d have been screwed).  So I just kept my head down, stopped freaking out over the ugly times I kept seeing on the trusty watch, and thanked the runner gods that the hubs had enough functioning brain cells to fill a bottle he had with water and toss it to me as I passed him for the second time on my way back out.

flashdance-9201.large

Yes, it felt THAT good.  Don’t judge me.

I managed to trudge back out to the turnaround, back through what beautiful little shade there actually was on the access road, out the to hellacious sugar sand along the beach, and finally made the final turn for the promised land.  About 300 yards from the finish, the hubs was standing on the side so I tossed him my iPod, turned on the after burners and hit the line still in an upright position.  I was hoping for a 60 minute finish time, but considering the terrain, I would have been happy to finish in 75.

Imagine my surprise, and somewhat sweaty delight, when I was told I had actually finished in 64 minutes, and good enough for 2nd place female! (Which sadly, once the results were posted on the website I was bumped down to 3rd place, but hell, I’LL TAKE IT!)

June 18 race1.jpg

(Smiling thinking about the post-race margarita.)

So here’s my takeaway from the Down2Earth 5 and 10k Cross-Country Run:

  1.   Ability to see the course online prior to race day – zip
  2.   Questioned answered by race director prior to race day – dog poop
  3.   On course race support – nada
  4.   Would I do it again? – perhaps

Here’s why that last one isn’t a flat out no.  I found out afterwards this was the first time this race was held at this location.  Normally they’re put on at Oleta State Park in Miami.  I’ve taken my bike there a few times and the park trails are CONSIDERABLY more runner friendly than at John U. Lloyd.  I got the impression when the race director was telling us about the races at Oleta, and proceeded to wave his hand at the sand and say “there’s no running in this kind of crap at Oleta”, that he wasn’t happy about the conditions either.  The only hangup for us?  Lloyd Park is only about a half hour away from our humble abode.  Oleta is a little more than an hour.  And in Miami.  MIAMI.  Trust me, not NEARLY as glamorous and these guys made it look.

The ending of the story?  I got my proof of time for Disney.  I got to run a race again, with the hubs.  I haven’t been able to do that in years.  Neither of us died.  I got a medal.  I know now that I have the verbal ability to scare away bobcats and shock snakes to death with my vocal venom.  ALL GOOD THINGS.

June 18 medal1

The aches and pains we felt over the next few days in places that neither of us knew we could be achy and painy from running in the sand?  Well.  That’s a story for another day.

Enjoy the ride.

 

Have you ever been disappointed with support at a race?  Have you ever done an entire race in the sand?  What are the worst conditions you’ve ever tun in?