Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Follow that Sister!

I am not going to write another post about how lame and unmotivated I am; I've decided enough with the self-loathing already. I'm almost forty and I've done some pretty kick-ass things and been through some stuff, but my modus operandi has been to berate myself, flogging and lashing in all manner of a monk in that Name of the Rose book. To wit: I rationalized, for over a year, that I am overweight because my subconscious self associated being fit and thin with my unhappy times living in a one bedroom walk-up across from a bar and alongside the railroad tracks (you know which side). Therefore, once I moved away from my steady diet of gin and tonics, trail runs, and bad dudes, I got, well, you know...fat and happy. I repeated this logic out loud to a girlfriend this summer and she furrowed her brow, and said, "Or, it could be that you had a baby and did a doctoral program and you let your physical regimen slide along the way." Or that. And, she continued, it's normal. Life happens. We fall out of good habits even as we are forming other good habits. Well, now she went and got all wise on me, like a good girlfriend! I let this new logic marinate in my brain for a few months. Still not lacing up the running shoes, mind you, but marinating nonetheless...

Fast forward a couple months and I'm packing my running shoes into a suitcase along with my swim suits and sunblock because I promised one of my Sole Sisters that I would run on the beach with her on our trip to Aruba. This Sole Sister I'm referring to is the one who runs marathons, half-marathons, and races in which she sets Guinness World Records for most runners with Santa hats on. And, did I mention that she does it while wearing the most kick-ass, brightly-colored running skirts (yes, running skirt! She's that hip!) and a high-tech GPS system strapped to her wrist. This sister does not play. Did I also mention that this is the sister who, a little over a year ago was not a "runner"?

This same sole sister has sent me inspirational emails, phone calls, running maps in my neighborhood, and a books with titles like Run Like a Mother and Slow Fat Triathalete to send me not-so-subtle messages about picking up running again. I think she remembered, perhaps more vividly than I, that running was a big part of my life for a long time and that I can do it again.

So, after a few days of playing on the beach, drinking fruity drinks in the kiddy pool while our kids splashed and played, and staying up late catching up, we set our alarms, laced up our shoes, and hit the beach at sunrise. I was nervous. I had not run with this sister in a few years, and I was scared that I wouldn't make it past the first grass hut without shin splints or side cramps. But, Sister assured me that "Garmin" would alert me with interval walking spells to make this first run bearable. Location calculated, shoes tied, and we were on our way, running on the packed sand as the tide licked our feet, my lungs opening up with each stride. My sole sister doesn't know this, but I was marveling at her with each step, looking at her tall, muscular frame, blonde ponytail swish-swishing back and forth and aforementioned kick-ass bright skirt moving with the breeze. As the tide came closer, we had to fall in single file and I followed her. I couldn't help but admire her as she run ahead, thinking of how far she has come in her journey to become a bona-fide runner. She looked so strong. I think we ran just a little over a mile that morning--far less than she would have run had she been on her own, but I was reminded that morning that the most important thing is to get out and move.

I've gone out once since then and did the run-walk method she recommended. I downloaded "Run Keeper" for my iPod, also her suggestion. Now to find a sassy running skirt...

Saturday, December 10, 2011

That's What You Get For Waking Up In Vegas

Never miss a sweet photo op.
Last weekend I ran in the Rock-n-Roll Las Vegas Half-Marathon, or as it's been dubbed 'Strip at Night'. After not seeing my running buds from Massachusetts for over a year, we were going to get to run a race together with a few nights of debauchery and sight-seeing thrown in. Oh yeah, and an entry in the Guinness Book of Records.

Friday morning, I got to the airport ready for fun! Three of the team met me at the airport and drove me to the host hotel, Mandalay Bay, where our awesome planner had booked us rooms.

Pulling up to the hotel, the Pam (as opposed to Garmin Pam) and Erin D. came running out to greet us. It was the best welcome! Thus began the whirlwind. After hitting the expo to pick up our packets, we got false eyelashes artfully applied in the Spa and went to see The Thunder From Down Under, which is a hilarious show of hunky Australians that's just slightly less cheesy than the Chippendales. We intended to walk back to the hotel and maybe get a drink on the way. Somehow we ended up in Cathouse, dancing our booties off until 2am and then chowing down plates of nachos, sliders and french fries. By about midnight, with the free champagne flowing, I decided that every picture would feature me with my mouth wide open. Thank God Erin (and her wicked sweet camera) is discreet, or we'd be in a heap of trouble!
All dressed up and somewhere to go
After a refreshing three hours of sleep, we were up and dressed and ready to make a world record attempt for the most people running in Santa costumes for the Great Santa Run (a 5k), which ended up being beautiful after a frigid wait at the starting line.

Back at Mandalay, we showered and changed into comfy clothes and made our way down to the spa where we alternately relaxed in any one of three different temperature whirlpools and slept on the chaises. Oh, and somewhere in there we had room-service bring lunch to us in the spa lounge; Because we're that self-indulgent. It was wonderful.

Alas, race day still loomed ahead and I was ridiculously dehydrated from a night of debauchery followed by a good part of the day spent in the moisture-sucking steam. We had a pasta dinner at another team member's time-share then it was back to the hotel where we turned on the TV just in time to fall into comatose sleep. And then it was race day.

After a glorious ten hours of sleep, I was sitting on the bed in our room scrolling through facebook when I saw on the feed from Run Like a Mother: The Book 'Don't forget we have another mother runner meet-up this morning at 9:30 at the Starbucks in Mandalay Bay around the corner from House of Blues.' Oh-My-Gosh! I had been so disappointed not to meet SBS and Dimity the prior day at the expo that I dressed and rushed down to the 'Bucks in a hurry. I felt like my race weekend was complete after chatting with them for almost an hour, except for that whole running 13 miles thing.
I knew they were tall, but these mother put my 5'9" bod to shame! It was so awesome to meet them and other mamas who were later featured on the blog for race reports. Yet another link in the chain of connection to other runner mothers!
I've not run many night races, and trying to plan all day for what to eat, how much to drink, and how to keep your legs fresh was tricky. Vegas involves a lot of walking, and I'd not yet found anything fun for my kids. A few of us walked to m&m world, then had lunch at the MGM Grand's Grand Buffet before heading back to the Mandalay to start pre-race prep. My outfit laid out, I crawled under the covers with the ridiculous idea that I'd get a little nap.

My mind would not shut off! I had initially thought that since I got a PR in Walla Walla that I wouldn't really care about my time in Vegas, but as it approached, I thought it would be fun to get just a little bit faster. Pam had already told me that she planned to stick with me, even though she's a lot faster than I am now, but we hadn't been able to run together in so long, it's what she wanted to do. I was so excited to run with her and have the time to catch up. We decided to go sans iPods and I'm really glad we did. There was so much congestion that the people who had iPods, and listened to them loudly, were not able to get over when runners coming from behind announced their presence.

There were a lot of kinks, from woefully understaffed water stations to a congested finish line that made you come to a dead stop all the way to some late finishers who didn't even get a finisher's medal, that will need to be worked out for upcoming years but having a night race that closes the Vegas Strip, has a marathon that converges into the hot mess in mile 14 and has 44,000 participants is bound to have some bumps in the road. Literally.

Zappos and RnR are being very proactive and have been collecting data via particpant surveys since the day after the race. After 13.1 miles of stutter steps, shuffling around other runners and a zig-zag pattern that added two-tenths of a mile, I was just 2 minutes off of my PR, so I'll take it. I honestly almost cried as we were nearing the finish, because it felt like it just kept getting further away, as you had to zig-zag through the parking lot to get to it, but it did finally come.
With my beloved Pam!

Post race we hobbled to the showers and then wandered from Casino to Casino trying to rustle up that dinner we'd been talking about since about mile 3. After walking through three casinos and finding every restaurant either closed or with a three hour wait, we decided to head back to the buffet. We were starving. The post-race food was terrible, in a word, with bananas so green you couldn't even get the peel off. We made a stop at a daquiri vendor and I have to say that it was the best Pina Colada I've ever had. It's a good thing, because after finding the buffet closed, room service with a 3.5 hour wait and no pizza places that would deliver due to the hot mess that was the strip, we finally called it a very hungry night at just past midnight and went to sleep with rumbling bellies. The next moring, we hit the buffet, and we hit it hard, just in time for me to get a massive stomach ache that was barely 'cleared up' before heading to the airport. 

Overall, I had a fabulous time with my girlfriends. I got home Monday night just in time to do a quick session of no-mercy decluttering with my mom, (eight garbage bags of donation from the playroom and random linen closets and drawers, wahoo!), throw up a few Christmas decorations so that my mother would stop hounding me about the fact that my still-up Halloween decorations were giving her 'seasonal confusion', pack again and head off two days later for our family vacation to Aruba; which is where my sweet laptop is perched this moment. More on that (and the epic flight that got us here) coming up!