Tuesday, April 1, 2014

RR: Great Urban Race Washington DC

Oh, my poorly neglected blog! Here I am again. But I promised Coach Kristie a race report, so a race report it will be!

My girlfriend is a huge fan of The Amazing Race. A few years ago I participated in The Great Urban Race (GUR) - Virginia Beach, and while fun, it was a cluster due to the poor public transit system in Hampton Roads. But, when I saw there was going to be an event in DC, I put it up as an option and she quickly accepted.

The race works like this - teams of two gather at a starting location, in this case Nick's Riverside Grill on K Street NW. Packets are handed out, and at noon teams are given the "Go" to open the clue sheet and the race is on! Twelve clues to solve, but you can skip one without incurring a penalty. Other wrong or unsolved clues incur a thirty minute penalty to the end of your final time. The course closes at 5 am.

So, at about 10am, the Lady and I boarded the metro, and made our way to Foggy Bottom & the 15 minute walk to Nick's. We actually got there a little early, and neither packet pickup nor the restaurant were open, so we hung about trying to stay out of the drizzling rain that dominated the day. Our team name - "Whirled Peas Thru Beer" after the H3 event where we first met. Our uniform - our hash kilts and the 2012 WPTB T-shirt, plus dual party hats (which were dubbed the Party Horns) and noise makers.

At 11 pickup opened, so we got our bibs, shirts, and went inside to prepare for the race by drinking beer and eating nachos. At about 10 til noon all participants were called outside for announcements & clue sheet distribution.  And we're off - or, in reality, back to the bar.

This is where I sadly admit that we lost our clue sheet after the event. So much in the backpack was soaked, and it didn't survive. So I'm going by memory!

The first clue was a doozy - four lines to be deciphered, and none in English! Two of the lines were at least in the Roman alphabet so hooray for Google Translate...but there was no way to decipher the other two, which were in Arabic & Cyrillic. So being a quick thinker - I took a photo & posted the clue to the PRS Fit Facebook page, and the team immediately jumped on it!

We took about 30-40 minutes to solve as many clues as we could - and quickly found that four of the locations were in the Dupont Circle area. We ran the 1.3 miles to get there, and The Christian Heurich Mansion was our first stop. Around into the gardens, we had to play some carpet square game, we got five total "jumps" to get from one side of the yard to the other, had to stay on carpet the whole time, and only had two squares of carpet that we had to toss & collect. But, we got it in one try! (Even though the Lady had to be sure to remind me I am quite a bit taller than she) First clue done!

Next, we went up Connecticut Ave to find ourselves at La Tomate. From here it was to the patio to stack four tomatoes and  have them balance for at least 5 seconds, taking video for proof. The hardest part? The other teams that kept banging the table when they failed. Took a couple times, but number two was done and farther up Connecticut we went!

Next stop Maddy's Tap Room. Task? Flip a beer cap off of a coaster, while your teammate catches it in a Styrofoam cup. After three catches, your done. We got through this one pretty quickly.

Forth and final stop in the Dupont area - The Mad Hatter's. The task here - each team member had to catch a tea bag on the lid of a baseball cap without using hands. A lot of head swinging motion here. The Lady got it done pretty quickly, but it took me more attempts than I would have liked.

After the hatter's we were done with Dupont Circle, and it was time to catch the metro to China Town!

So this was one of the clues that gave us trouble for a while. Four pictures, with one thing in common, at this China Town Location. A turkey. A thumb tack. A bowl. And a batter swinging away. For a long time we were stuck on Chinese restaurant, but finally inspiration came (and maybe a little eavesdropping) and we figured it out - Turkey, PIN, Bowl, STRIKE! So we got off the metro and went right to Lucky Strike bowling alley in Gallery Place. This task was pretty easy, blow a marble through a pool noodle & knock over a marker on the other side of the floor. The Lady got it in two tries.

At this point, I checked Facebook and found the the Team has solved the clue! And, even better, Zaytinya was just around the corner! So off we went, and after swinging a tea tray around my head three times, we were off and running.

Ok, so here's where street names are important. The next clue was at 625 H St NW. When the Lady mapped it, she had it as 625 H St. Which was way over by the US Capital. Thankfully, I did a double check of her map, and the H St NW location was just around the corner. So off to Vapiano we went. This task? Get six pasta tubes onto a piece of spaghetti without using your hands...so stick in mouth, very entertaining to watch, and the Lady beat me to it, six to my four. By this point, my party horns had deteriorated from the rain, so they went into the trash with the pasta.

So, seven clues down, four to go. One of the remaining clues was a gimme - GUR supports St Jude's, and the clue was go to a given address, and take a picture of our team by the sign & send out a tweet.

Next, we were off to Bobby's Burger Palace. Here, it was a matter of playing burger themed Charades. I quickly solved Ketchup & Mustard after the Lady made a couple squeezing gestures, and with about two seconds of air guitar she guessed my pantomime of Cheeseburger in Paradise. We were told that we had the quickest solve of the day.

Now we were off to the final location before heading back, Sprinkle's Cupcakes. There was also a final clue to finish - a tic-tac-toe board of nine clues, which we had to get three in a row. Well, we had found a misspelled sign a while back...and while making our way to the cupcake store we accosted a few strangers to offer them short piggy back rides. The first couple, a lady and her daughter were totally freaked and declined, but the second, a young lady who said "what the hell, I've done these races before" was down for it, and after a few seconds of awkward video, we were headed off to Sprinkles.

I'm a little ashamed of what happened here. We had to play a quick version of the Newly Wed Game, and couldn't move on until we had five answers right between us. I totally blew it, but in my defense - she's never told me her lucky number, doesn't really like to watch movies, and I said the event we met at, not the location. Why couldn't there have been a question of her favorite color! I know that one (It's orange).

And now, the final dash to the finish. Oh yeah, first we had to do a video of House of Cards quotes to finish the tic tac toe. The rain started picking up, I put on a fresh pair of Party Horns for the finish photo, and back to Nick's we went. Crossed the finish line 3:29 into the race. Went to the judging table to validate our clues, show the pictures, and turn in the items we collected.

So, remember that piggy back ride video I mentioned? Turns out it was supposed to be a photo. Yeah, thirty minute penalty. Rookie mistake. This dropped us from 39th to 56th place. But hey, we were still well into the top 50%.

Redeemed out beer tickets to rehydrate, relaxed a bit, and then trekked back to the metro for a nap. and then the most awkward Mexican Restaurant dinner ever. But that's another story!

Overall a fun time. Granted, would have been nicer without the rain, but luckily it wasn't too cold. We ran somewhere in the range of 4-6 miles. Accomplished many challenges, And beer was consumed. I'd call that a success.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Of Socks and Blisters

Seriously made another rookie mistake the other day.

So a week ago, I packed my bag for a lunch run. And in my rush that morning, I forgot to pack my Balegas. (Seriously I love those socks, been running with the brand for years). So I decided to run in the cotton socks I had with me that day. An hour later, I had a tiny little hot spot under the ball of my right foot, just at the start of the arch.

Two runs later, and that tiny little hot spot become a rather large blister. Seriously more than an inch wide, and tight with fluid.

So after taking care of it, and adding bandages, it's making life interesting. Today's run was less than spectacular, and the rest of my body (legs especially) was paying for the alterations to my form avoiding that hotspot required.

So yeah, I'm double checking my bag for socks now.

Monday, August 26, 2013

This is where I am

So one thing I have come to accept in the last few months of training is my ability now versus my ability two years ago. Well, just over two years ago at this point. It's so easy to get caught up in what I could do before, but then getting so focused on what's behind me means I fail to look forward.

I will summarize. In March of 2011 I set my marathon PR at the Shamrock Marathon, with a time of 4:08:12. This broke my previous PR by over forty minutes. At a race expo, Bart Yasso told me that kind of performance in March meant I was most likely going to break four hours in a Fall race. But how things changed...

I can make excuses, but I know what ultimately happened. I let stress get to me, I burned out a bit, and failed to train over the summer following Big Sur. My eating habits took a nose dive. My metabolism held up until late July, and then the weight started coming on quickly. By Marine Corps Marathon that October I had easily put on near twenty-thirty pounds. In just a few months! So I had a poor performance there, and then two weeks later at Philadelphia, I tore my hamstring at mile 6. The next year wasn't much better for training, I got into Crossfit for a while, which was fun but not really for me...suffered a shoulder injury that put me in PT all summer, and then once again MCM came around, and another painful marathon under my belt. And then Disney World happened - while I finished the Goofy Challenge for the third time, it hurt. It hurt like hell.

Ok, see what I did there, I just looked back again.

I am signed up for two major events now. Marine Corps Marathon in October, and the the Dopey Challenge in January. Pretty much a repeat of last seasons races (with two short bonus runs added in January). Determined not to be in pain and agony through the races again, I've taken the step to hire a coach. But I am a coach!, why did I hire one myself? The biggest thing I needed was the accountability, and someone to point me the right direction. Doing it on my own just wasn't working anymore. So he has set down the schedule, which I get updated weekly, and holds my feet to the fire when I slack off, which luckily I haven't done too much of.

But one thing in my training thus far has been a lot of slow running, by design. Zone 2 for you heart rate enthusiasts out there. I'm averaging 11 to sometimes 13 minutes per mile depending on the workout. In the beginning it was painful, knowing what my ability had been. So, this is why I've started accepting the now, and looking towards the future. Each run, each mile, each step is one more foot forward to losing the weight, to gaining the endurance, to getting that speed back. When I did my first run under my coach in June, I struggled during the end push of a 50 minute run. Sunday I ran for 1:45 and a push every 20 minutes, plus one more at the end...and while fatigued by the end I felt like I still had a bit more in me. I'm also doing almost as much strength training as I am running. So yes, I'm slow now. But I'm getting stronger every day. Small victories - I was able to fit into a pair of jeans the other day that I hadn't worn in over a year.

I've also accepted that I'm a hap hazard blogger. I write this for me, and don't expect a lot of feedback, put part of me hopes that it will come eventually.

So - here's to the now, and look towards the future. The past was great but it's done and gone. Time to go even further.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Race Report - Yorktown Independence Day Run

For the past few years I've tried to run the Yorktown race on the 4th of July. The first time I did, it was still the Yorktown Freedom Run 5k, and was done on Colonial Parkway & along the Yorktown Beach. Eventually the parks decided to not allow athletic events at the waterfront, so the Freedom run moved to Memorial Day & Grafton High School, and the 8k was born, a loop of the tour roads going around Surrender Field.

And really, outside of Philadelphia, can you think of a better place to run a race?

I showed up early with a couple of friends to do race day registration. Yes I know, I should have signed up earlier and saved money, but that's how it goes sometimes. After walking back and forth in front of York High School three or four times, took a bio break and then made our way to the starting line. Got there early so had some time to kill, my roommate spent it amusing us with inappropriate stories that I won't post here...

Finally 8am the race started. My plan was to run the first three miles easy, at a 10-1030 pace, and then pick it up at the end to try to finish under 50 minutes. Didn't quite work out that way. The one downfall to this race is the Virginia humidity. So the first mile, a long gradual downhill, I got caught up in the flow of the pack and ended up running in about 9:20. Whoops! Too fast out of the gate. Mile two and was pretty much on pace, three a bit slower than I wanted...the last two were just slow. By the time I got to where I wanted to pick up the pace, I had nothing left. I'd already removed my shirt, cap, and heart rate monitor, stuffed them all into the pockets of my kilt, and made a change of goal to just keep running the entire way. That I managed to do.

I finished the run in just over 52 minutes. So off of my goal, but not by too much. I think the kilt may have been part of my issue. For the sake of race day modesty, I don't wear it "traditional" when I'm running - I think for future races I will get a pair of shorter-shorts to get rid of the insulation effect I had.

So now I'm waiting for my coach's approval on the next two races I hope to schedule - Bay Days 8k, and Mulberry Island Half Marathon. Feels good to be getting back into it!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Who's that big guy in the kilt up there?

So here we are, once again at the start of a marathon training summer. As you might have guessed from the decor, I will be running another Disney race soon. This time, I will be running the inaugural "Dopey Challenge" as a part of Team TSA - the National Tourette Syndrome Association. More on that later.

I am also running my 7th Marine Corps Marathon this year as well. Partially as a training run for the Dopey, and partly to get some confidence back under my belt after a couple of disappointing years.

This blog is primarily for self motivation, but it is also to reach out to other people, hopefully make new friends, as well as to occasionally educate people on Tourette's.

So who am I? My name is Christopher, although I occasionally go by "Irish" or "Irish Runner" on some message boards. I've completed seventeen marathons since 2007, including six MCMs and three Goofy Challenges. I also have Tourette's, having been diagnosed when I was nine years old.

I am also fundraising for Team TSA as part of my training. You can reach my fundraising page here.

Thanks for stopping by, and happy running!