Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hey Sole Sisters... Ain't That Mister Mister...?

The race: Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage
The characters:  #1 Kris, #2 Marie,  #3 Jess, #4 Kristen, #5 Lizzie, #6 Diana, #7 Ginger, #8 Sherri, #9 Andria, #10 Lindsay, #11 Jeanene, #12 Maryanne. 
The Road Crew: John and Tony

The location: Washington State, from Blaine to Langley.
The date: July 22 and 23, 2011.
The distance: Almost 190 miles / 300 Kms
The goal: To have the best experience of our lives while clocking 28hrs 05 min, for a 9:01 min/mile.
The results: Sub-Masters Second Place with 27hrs 24min 57sec for an 8:47 min/mile pace (bettered the goal by 40 minutes).

Since I learned about Hood to Coast, H2C, six years ago, I had in mind doing a road race relay. In January 2011, the dream was possible when a girl named Jessica posted in Narrows Bridge Running Club: 3 women needed for Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage

I was in. 

After putting my racing calendar in place for 2011, this race would become a huge and important milestone in my racing journal. Ragnar was scheduled to be my race #100. 

The race consisted in 187 miles ran uninterrupted by 12 runners, with only one runner hitting the road at a time. “The rest of your teammates are on support duty in your race vehicles. Teams require 2 vehicles, with runners 1-6 in van 1 and 7 -12 in van 2. Van 1's runners will cover the first six legs. It's a relay, so as the each runner begins, the crew in the vehicle can drive ahead, cheer their runner on, and meet them at the exchange point to pick them up and drop off the next runner. After the first 6 legs, van 2 picks up the slack and starts putting in the miles.” And so on, until leg 36 is complete.

The distance to cover was not big deal for most of the runners, who would average 15+miles total; the BIG deal was the system: Run, Eat, Sleep? Repeat. But... easier said than done.

After leaving the comfort of our homes the day prior to the race, and carbo-loading at Olive Garden in Bellingham, the team was ready for the adventure. 

Mix and matches from Van 1 and Van 2 shared hotel’s room to get to better know each other. I (Van 1) shared with Ginger and Lindsay (Van 2). No much partying; after all, we needed to hit the sac to have a good night of sleep. Van 1 had to leave the hotel at 6:20 am as our start was at 8:00 am. Van 2 could sleep in a little bit more as they were expected to start at 1:45pm.

Race day was a chilly and beautiful one. John drove his 6 girls, including his beautiful wife Kris, Runner #1, to Blaine, border with Canada, to start the mission. Once at race stage, Jess, our amazing Captain and Runner #3, without whom the terrific team organization and logistics would have not been possible, checked the team, and received our bib numbers “34” and baton. 

We perused around prior to the start and enjoyed watching some of the wonderful costumes some teams had. Our favorite was The Lord Of The Ragnars. 12 runners dressed as the characters of Lord of the rings, with tree included. Other vans that called our attention were the Trail Rex, F. That Hill, A tiger on top of a mattress, Six Sick Sisters, to name a few.

The race began and all the wheels and pulleys started to work in an astounding harmonized way. So harmonized that there were no snags

This is how the wheels and pulleys moved:

Kris, Runner #1 took off, and Van 1 drove to next stage; time was calculated for the runner to arrive according to predicted pace and course length and difficulty; when time came, next runner was ready at the exchange; baton was passed; next runner took off; runner that just finished was helped with water, food, and an incredible cheerful comment: You smoked it!. 

Left the exchange area, cheered the current runner, said goodbye and drove to the next stage. Two, three, four, five, six times. In the mean time, life in the van was quite interesting. The runner that just finished "baby-wiped" her body and "dressed-up" for her next leg, we indeed felt clean. We ate, and ate, and ate. Clif bars, peanut butter, and bagels sustained us, to the point that we may not eat them ever again. We drank tons of water, talked and laughed a lot, and never slept.

At exchange #6, the baton was passed to Ginger, Runner #7 from Van 2, and now was Tony’s turn to take his girls, and did what John has done. Six times. The strategy for the first leg was to run it slower than race pace with the purpose of conserving energy for legs 2 & 3.

Van 1 drove to major exchange #12 to eat and sleep. Grabbed a sandwich at Subway, extended the sleeping bags and blankets on soft grass and the resting time started. John captured a sweet conversation of two runners that kissed the same boy in High School. John confessed that he was forbidden from inviting friends to Facebook for 48 hours, who knows why. With all those stories, who can sleep? I barely dozed a little.

We got up, cleaned up, and got ready for Maryanne, Runner #12 (Van 2), to arrive and pass the baton to Kris, Runner #1. Time to repeat.

Second leg promised to be a hot one; mid 70’s, hot for Seattleites and running. Kris #1 went off, followed by Marie #2, and Jess #3. One by one, each runner took upon her second leg. Kristen #4, was the first to wear lamp and reflective vest. Though she was not still running on official night hours (8:30 pm to 5:30 am), she was supposed to arrive at the verge of it: 8:30pm. I, #5, took off after Kristen, at sunset, for a short run, 3.4 miles and when I finished there still was some daylight. Though my legs (limbs) were heavy, I ran my second leg almost at my 5K pace, what made me really happy. Runners #6 to #12, Diana, and all Van 2 runners, Ginger, Sherri, Andria, Lindsay, Jeanene, and Maryanne completed their second leg in total darkness.

After Diana, our Van 1 anchored runner, passed the baton to Ginger at exchange 18, at about 9 pm, John took us to a comfortable Inn in Oak Harbor, close to the start of third leg. Noteworthy to mention that this was a gift from John and his wife Kris. They paid for the lodging so all 12 runners could sleep 2-3 hours on a nice bed and enjoy of this pleasant luxury. 

With the words “My third leg is 2.9 miles. I am golden” our superb Captain Jess informed us that she would stay up so she could receive the updates from Tony on how Van 2 runners were doing, and when was the time for us to leave. At some point in the middle of the night, 1 am or so, when I am profoundly asleep, Jess knocked the door and said the words we wanted and at the same time didn’t want to hear: Leaving in half hour. You can stay in bed and be in the parking lot in 30 minutes or take a shower. I did, and feel great". Marie and I followed her second advice: A nice shower shook the sleep away, and we departed for our final run.

Van 1 met Van 2 at exchange 24. We gave them the hotel keys for them to go there and sleep, and we took the baton.  Our third leg started about 2 am and had a slight variation on the methodology followed during the first two legs. Van 1 supported first runner Kris practically all the way because of the darkness and the loneliness of the course. She was really running in the absolute wilderness and had a very hard 7.8-mile course. Truly, it was a scary leg to run. As Marie, Jess and Kristen had shorter, easy and fast legs (3ish miler), the support was not necessary. Team would have not had time to support the runner and get to the next exchange on time for the next runner to move on. Though my third leg was a longer one, 6.4 miles, it started at sunrise, so the Van support was also not needed, in addition of being a “No Van Support” leg.

This final third leg of mine was defined as “hard”. It was hilly as Whidbey Island is, but the beauty of the crack of dawn and the freshness of the early morning made it a delightful leg to run. When I crossed exchanged 29, and passed the baton to Diana, I broke and I couldn’t control it. A fast clip of my life ran through my mind: my husband, my kids, and me as a survivor: Having the opportunity to love them everyday and having the chance that each of my organs, muscles, nerves and sinews work for me to do what makes me so passionate about: running races.

John drove us to exchange 30, where Diana passed the baton to Ginger. Van 1 team members were done. All successfully completed the three legs with glory and without troubles. Though it was no picnic, it was the suffering gratifying challenge that only runners understand.

We went back to the hotel to shower, and for John to have some sleep. We had breakfast and drove to Langley, to the finish stage.  Van 2 team members arrived later and all 11 present runners waited for our final runner, Maryanne, to accompany her and to cross the finish line all together. 

We clocked 27:24:57, 40 minutes ahead of our goal, and we took second place on the sub-masters category. Sweet ending.

To close remarks IMMENSE thanks to our Cappie Jess for the amazing coordinated logistics. Again, this would have not been possible without her; to Diana for the fantastic and meticulous itinerary which was followed to perfection, and for Van #1; to our two Mr. Misters for the driving and moral support; to the Tebb's for the lodging gift; to Adam & Cari (Jess's sis) for Van #2; and to all SOLE SISTERS for making such a great team. 

A video is coming. Hey Sole Sisters... Ain't That Mister Mister...?



Monday, July 18, 2011

98, 99...

On Monday on my way to Cleveland, my flight encountered a Midwest storm that had me stuck in O’Hare till Tuesday. This screwed up my schedules, my work plans and my running impetus. When I finally got to my destination, 24 hours later, I was absolutely exhausted. Work became the priority and running was nothing but a luxury. But as I absorbed every inch of Cleveland downtown, I fell in love with the city. I couldn’t leave without at least jogging 3-4 miles. Though the temperature was warm (mid 70’s), there was a lot of breeze and it was not humid. It was a delight to have a leisure run, surrounded by beautiful architecture.

Back home, I had scheduled back-to-back races for the weekend. Saturday, a 5K, Washington Games Day, and Sunday, a Half Marathon, See Jane Run. I had no idea on how I would perform, as my body was very, very tired. When I woke up on Sat I told my husband: I need a new body; notwithstanding, I got ready and left to run a 5K to the best of my abilities. And to the best of my abilities I ran it. I PRd with 26: 52. That was the time I had in my watch, that was the time in the official clock when I crossed the finish line, and that’s the time given to the lady that probably gave her tab before me. I will contact the organizers who had me with 27:00. We sweat for 8 seconds, don’t we? As this 5K is part of Magnuson Series, I am planning on running it again in August to see if the time can be improved in the same course.

On Sunday the schedule belongs to a fun Half: See Jane Run, to run for chocolate & champagne. Friend Suzanne and I were planning on drinking “some” champagne afterwards.

As my body was tired for the week, and the legs tired for the 5K the day before, I went with a goal of not-to-exceed 2:13, which was my last week hilly Langley. I ran with the same heart rate strategy I used for the 15K in this same course: To keep a low HR ~ 148 bpm until mile 4; increase it a notch to ~152 and keep it stable till mile 6; then increase it to about 158 till mile 9; ~165 till mile 11 and then 170+
the last two miles.

It worked to perfection. It took me a little while to adjust the HR and I went a little bit faster than I wanted for the first mile, but finally settled and kept it in 148 till mile 3.5. The rule of my game was every body is allowed to pass me during the first miles. And everybody did. Out of a running book, HR strategy 101. Then between mile 4 and 6, when everybody has set their paces, nobody passes anybody. Between mile 7 and 8 the only few hills of the course showed up, but I feel very strong . Then, with 4 miles to go, the pace was picked up and now the rule is to pass people, most of them are tired. Again, out of the HR chapter in my running book. 

My friend Benny joined me at mile 10 to run with me for a while. It was fantastic. I saw Suzanne coming back after mile 11 and it was nice to know that there was a turn around very close to turn up the speed. And I did. I couldn’t feel stronger. My splits below reflect that: beautiful negative splits.

After the race, Suzanne, her friends and I had a wonderful celebration. We drank more champagne that the body could take (at least mine), laughed until the stomach hurt, and cried sharing some personal stories. I was hesitant to participate in this run due to the high cost of US$95. But the run, the PR, the shared moments, and the friendship of the day were definitely priceless…. Did I mention the champagne??? The champagne served also to celebrate that these two back-to-back races, with back-to-back PRs, are my last races with two digits: Races #98, 99...

See Jane Run Splits
1- 9:30
2- 10:31
3- 10:21
4- 10:20
5- 9:56
6- 9:30
7- 9:27
8- 9:59
9- 9:30
10- 9:17
11- 9:43 (a car in an adjacent street hit a runner (not in the race). Fortunately there was a cop just in front of the accident who stopped us so he could go and help the man.
12- 9:26
13- 9:19

5K at Magnuson Park

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Hil-Lee Lang-Lee, By Yours Tru-Lee.

When I ran Mercer Island Half in 2009 I thought that I had run the toughest road half marathon in Washington. Though I knew Whidbey Island was tougher, the odds of me running the one way course were pretty low. Ferry to Whidbey, then one-hour drive to Deception Pass, or drive inland all the way to Deception Pass seemed logistically complicated. As the packet pick up is the day before, the race requires overnight in the Island adding more dough to the race equation.

Then I learned that Whidbey had another half marathon in Langley, just 6 miles from Clinton, which is 12 min away in ferry from Mukilteo (i.e. home).  So, I registered for that one.

The goal for running hilly Langley was to take it easy; have fun, enjoy the gorgeous sound views, and take my time. The week had been hard, workout / speed wise: Monday 4th of July, a 5K, a 10K and a 3.5 miles run, being the races, my second best in both distance (8:46 and 9:10 min/mile). The 3.5 mile run was to complete a triple in 24 hours, to mimic Ragnar relay race day. On Wednesday I had my 2-mile trial which is a race for the coach to know where I am at (8:44 min/mile) On Thursday I did five 800 hundreds, averaging 4:10 (8:22 min/mile). And on Sat I ran a 5K in Mill Creek getting an 8:59 min/mile. My legs were obviously tired so a hilly course in Langley had to be an enjoyable run without pushing the pace.

I got very early to Langley and after picking my stuff I went and jogged a couple of miles to keep my legs warm (50F/10C… yes, is summer). I talked to some runners and a guy asked me: what’s your goal today? And the word goal rang like a bell. 2:15, I answered without even thinking.

A goal? Wasn’t the goal just to go out and run? Why to time THE goal? And why 2:15?

Well, it seems that Lizzie cannot just go and run a race to take her time and enjoy the views. She needs a goal WHILE enjoying the views.

As an island, Whidbey hills are very respectable. The motto of the race: Gently Rolling Hills: Next 13.1 miles. Therefore, Langley is not a PR course, unless is your first half, or you have only run Half Marathons in this place. My Mercer time this year was 2:15, so a challenging goal would be to beat Mercer. That was a tough goal. As I said, my legs were very tired, and the course is way hillier than Mercer.

So here we go, running about 0.1 mile behind the official car of the race until they set the clock. The gently rolling hills showed up from the start. My first race question was: who defined gently? Gently? Soft? Delicate? Not really. They were all the antonyms: coarse, hard, harsh, rough. And for that, I love them, because I gotta admit… I love hills. They are marvelous. Mile 1, and 2, and 3, up and down… and 4, and 5 and 6, up and down. Then it came a wall. A climb so tough that I felt like hiking in my Avila mountain in Caracas, Sabas Nieves, la Subida del Diablo (Devil’s Hill). Whether I believe it or not, I had clocked up to that point, in every mile, my current PR pace until this demoniac hill got me. In this section I lost a couple of minutes. But that was OK, because I was focus on not exceeding 2:15. At mid point, a volunteer told me: the worst is over. Is it? How come if I have been climbing and descending from the start? What I had climbed I have to descend, and what I had descended I have to climb.

Then, I picked my incentive to keep my pace. There were 3 women, coincidentally in pink, running ahead of me most of the race. One of them, Sue, and I, were in a passing game from mile 3 to mile 9. The other two were simply ahead. At mile 9, I got wings. Oh boy if I felt I could fly. I passed Sue, and internally told her: Chao!!!. I knew that she would not be able to catch up with me. I felt fantastic, knowing that the second wind had arrived. Then I passed Pink No. 2. She turned around and had an expression like: Are you kidding me? I also knew that she would not be able to pass me. They were tired, and I was picking up the pace. At mile 11 I started to feel tired but just thinking of the two pink ladies approaching didn’t let me slow down. The competitive me was not going to make me lose the effort I had put from mile 9 to 11. I kept a steady pace. Then became a game against Pink No. 1. The distance between the two was shortening… and shortening…and shortening. And at mile 12.5 I passed her at a speed that gave me a total satisfaction. I pushed for the last stretch and sprinted my last 0.2 at 6:50, passing a guy that was sprinting as fast as I was.

The finish was more than sensational when I saw the clock in 2:13:29. I beat Mercer a softer and “gentler” course by 2 minutes. With tired legs.

I got second place in the division and got a beautiful framed photography. And guess what, Pink No. 2 was in my age group. When she was called as the third finisher, she looked at me, and said: You!!!!

This was Hil-Lee Lang-Lee, By Yours Tru-Lee.

Definition of Gently, por favor?
Top Three 50-54

Marie and I - 5K on 7/9/11 - Both got 7th place in our divisions (40-49  and 50-59)
With Nancy. Her second race... but receiving Lizzie's racing poisoning

Monday, July 4, 2011

Running Trifecta

Ad-Honorem Coach, Tony Seabolt, scheduled for The Sole Sisters several “triple” runs to mimic Ragnar Relay Race. The triples should be run in less than 24 hours. As I couldn’t join the team for any of the triples, I scheduled my only one, with, of course, races. The Fourth of July would be the perfect weekend for it.  On Sunday 3th, in the morning, Pioneer Race 10K in Olympia; at midnight the Firecracker 5000 in Seattle; and Yankee Doodle 10K in Everett on the morning of the 4th. The distance of these 3 races simulated pretty much the distances of my Ragnar legs (5.8, 3.2 & 6.4).

On Friday 1st I decided to bail out from the Pioneer run. Reason, to drive a total of 160 miles for a short run didn’t seem worth the effort. Let alone when I found out that I was mistaken and the race was a 5K instead of a 10K. Now, for sure, the driving was not worth the race.

The Firecracker 5000 became then my first “leg” and it was a total prelude for Ragnar. Not only because it was part of a triple run in 24 hours, but also because I would be running with three of the Sole Sisters. The fabulous run started at 11:55 pm on the 3rd. To mention that we had a blast would be simply short of words. We ran together the red, white and blue race, and had a fantastic time. Kristen was our camera-woman taking pictures while running. Jess made sure that all of us were always in sight. When I slowed down during mile 2, she was constantly looking back to make sure that I was close. I felt really humble seeing that somebody cared so much. During mile 3 I felt strong and picked up the pace and Marie ran all the time by my side; if I pushed she pushed; if I receded she receded as well. She never went ahead but stayed by me. Great lessons from friends that know what “together” means. I ran my second personal best 27:13 (or my best, as my current PR of 26:43 has been in doubt – Run For Tina, a course that seemed short). I got 5th place out of 55.

Now, I had only 5 hours of sleep to get ready to double the distance in the Yankee Doodle Dash. I woke up kinda dead at 6:00 am and after a warm shower and in another red, white and blue outfit I took off for my second “leg”. The day was sunny and in the low 50’s. Perfect for a short run. I went with a heart rate strategy. At mile 2 I felt really tired, and at mile 3 when I wanted to increase my heart rate, I simply couldn’t. My aerobic system was ready to be turned up, but my legs didn’t have the strength. Then at mile 4, I heard somebody from a balcony making a lot of noise and calling me. My friend Melinda was there with her hubby and a cowbell, cheering on me. I turned my head back, told her “I love you” and took off. It was the boost I needed. My heart rate raised to where I wanted, and I felt so good, that I could put the speed I wanted. I finished in 56:57 and in third place. This was my second best (best 56:22). During the awards a lady told me: "We were head to head until mile 4, when your friends called you and then, you disappeared. I never saw you again."

I felt great and victorious. Boy, two races in less than 8 hours and I had clocked my second best in each. But the day is not over. I had another run to complete my triple. This time won’t be a race but a run by the neighborhood. After a nice breakfast, a movie, and a 3-hour nap, I hit the road for 3.5 miles. Between the smell of the firecrackers and the barbeque of most neighbors, I completed my run at a 10 min/mile pace. I was definitely tired, but I made it. 

This triple wasn’t a real trifecta (where a bettor predicts 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place in a horse race), but I decided to call it like that. It was not a race with three finishers; it was one finisher in three runs, with a couple of good placings. That was my Running Trifecta.

Sole Sisters
With Juan and Raphil, son Diego's schoolmates
With Shauna and Glen from my running club Chuckit
At Yankee Doodle Dash
At Yankee Doodle Dash
3rd place at Yankee Doodle Dash