Washington Warrior Dash race report

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For some reason I wasn’t my usual pre-race nerve wreck of a self at the start line. My mood was more, “tea and snuggles” than it normally is – even before an easy run. Only the reality of the situation was that I was an overly-caffeinated and overly-competitive runner standing at the start line of the Warrior Dash with a bunch of spandex clad elite athletes foaming at the bit to run away from me with all manner of physical and mental challenge on route. So, no cuddles.

Usually when the gun goes off, I blast out of the gate as fast as my little legs can muster and sink into a pace that probably won’t blow my heart up. Today, I leisurely jogged out… and up the steep little hill to the sand track that separated the boys from the men so early on.

I entertained myself by trying to find some footing that didn’t sink when I stepped on it. Sometimes the hard pack was on the side of the path, sometimes in the middle on the tractor rut. But every time, the footing gave way to a deep enough sand that would not let you run with any sort of power or grace.

“Wait, is that guy wearing jean shorts?”

Time to get moving.

When the sand turned to grass on a long flat section, I made a strategic decision to get ahead of said guy in jean shorts (and whoever else I could) so I wouldn’t get stuck behind at the obstacles. It would have been interesting to see how tight wet jean shorts worked out for him but alas…

The obstacles were good and fast – not too technical: walls with ropes, cargo net climbs, trail running on a rooty little trail. Easy enough.

I had a solid enough lead, was comfortable and hadn’t even let one mom curse word out.

I did take the pyramid climb a little fast and sloppy. Being the “obstacle clutz” as my husband calls me, I slipped and nearly came off at the top. I’m pretty used to slipping and as such, normally just catch myself and move on… like it was all part of the plan. I’m pretty sure the poor man beside me was thoroughly terrified though… if I’m to judge by the primal noise that came out of him when he saw me nearly slip off head first.

I then ran into a series of dug outs with dirt piled up between. Maybe more accurately, I fell into a series of dug outs with dirt piled between. Having “done this one before”, I thought the water would be about knee deep, give or take. In reflection, this is usually where my OC races go very very wrong: when I think I’m stepping into a shallow pit.

As I swam across and started trying to claw my way up the slippery mud pile, a herd of people (including the two much smarter ladies behind me) leapt across and scampered up. See ya later sucka.

Slew of mommy curse words ensue. Well, fudge it all, so much for not cursing out Ned Flanders style for once.

That’s the thing about OCRs. Things can (and so often do) change fast. In road racing, it’s unlikely that you’ll fall into a giant hole of mud or water and get stuck.

That’s the best and worst part about OCRs. The unknown. Just about anything could happen out there. All you can control is how you react to what comes at you. And you can never be sure how you’ll place until you cross that finish line.

I finally managed to haul myself up the crumbly dirt bank after a number of unsuccessful strategies and one barely successful one.

There were more walls, climbs and crawls. There was more running. There was a neat circular tube net that you had to drag yourself through which was a lot of fun once I realized that one should be upside down and really propelling with their legs.

As soon as I saw the Warrior Roast (fire jump), I knew the end was near. They never just throw a random fire jump in midway. No, it’s near quittin’ time.

The barb wire crawl was really more water than mud… so more swim than crawl. It was hard up figure out exactly what was the fastest way. A lady behind me even got up to run since the barb wire was really spaced out. That definitely would have been the fastest way.

At this point I realized that she was really close, and that being passed would knock me off the podium and my shot at the World Championships.

The last obstacle was a net climb up and a plank walk over a large drop with ropes on either side. The plank was much wider than my foot and didn’t require much in the way of balance… but it was slippery (and more to the point) a really long way down. I ran the rope through my hands as I crossed – just in case.

The last part to that obstacle was flying down a giant slide. You wouldn’t have guessed that I have a childhood fear of slides the way I hurled myself down. Seeing the slide pre-race, John and I discussed various methods of desensitizing myself to slides. I think I may have found a new style of therapy that consists of being seconds from a finish line with fourth place seconds behind you. You man up pretty fast.

All this followed by a really ugly sprint out of the water from the slide pool to the finish. I’m not a good looking sprinter as it is – and through water with someone chasing me does not flatter my form. It may not have been pretty, but I got it done.

It was boat loads easier than the Edmonton Spartan I raced a few weeks ago and I think I might have actually been smiling after I crossed the finish line. Hey, who cares if you’re sprinting like the first ape that fell out of a tree if you’re smiling right?

I also earned that spot at the Warrior Dash World Championships – so now we get look forward to a road trip to California in the fall… and another battle in the mud.

Race report from the Vancouver Spartan Sprint, 2013

Race Report from the Vancouver Spartan Sprint, 2013

This race was a last minute decision for me. When the race had to be moved to June 1st, I was heart broken. Same day as the Whistler Half. What to do.

I’ve hardly trained this year outside of running in races. My foot has been engaged in a nonstop cramp all the way up to my hip since March… which makes running difficult.

A bunch of friends were going, and I felt like 5k is a whole lot more manageable than 21.1 given my current shape. Plus, a guaranteed super fun time. Or something.

Spartan puts on a great race. You can tell they care more about the experience than the profits. They had shuttle buses to the top despite fairly ample parking, lots of washrooms, and a course that would be very difficult to get lost on. This is a big contrast to the competitor event that went on in the same location last year. I spent the whole time lost and frustrated. Obstacle races must be hard to mark, of course, but Spartan always does a bang up job. And the people who run it seem like a terrific bunch of people who love mud racing. If you do one mud race, I’d say do Spartan.

It’s definitely a little more nerve wracking not knowing what’s going to be out there. You know you’re in for 5k. But 5k of what? Turns out the “what” today was what bad dreams are made of. You know that one where you’re running up a mountain in knee deep snow. That was my morning.

The race director advised that we get out in front to the first obstacle. This is advice I often give. Although “get out front” and “sprint 200m uphill through slush to suffer the rest of the mountain climb gasping with the taste of blood in your mouth” probably wasn’t what he meant in hindsight. This was the only time in the race I lost my lead. And I told myself, “you will not loose the lead.”

The first real obstacle was pulling a “tractor” or cement block. Wow, way harder in snow. First off, you’re slipping. Second, the block isn’t. It plows up a little mound of snow in front of it. About halfway through I realized taking the rope over your shoulder helped immensely.

More uphill. Lots more snow.

I still haven’t decided if running through the deep slush was better or running along the crusty sides with the surprise fall throughs. I’m thinking as the day went on, after the trail had been broken it may have gotten easier. But that depends on the answer to my earlier consideration.

Bombing down the hill on the backside of the mountain was fun… being a kid fun. I didn’t realize until after I hit flat, snowless ground that my feet were in fact, frozen solid. That and I was very tired.

Their were also two girls hot on my heels. The typical runability of the Spartan course was buried under two-feet of snow. I usually can loose runners on the run portion to give myself a little extra time in the final obstacles. Not today. Better keep moving and avoid burpees at all costs.

The monkey bars were slick. I had to wrap my thumb around to stay on, and switch from doubles to singles near the end. I dropped one girl here. She was right on me so at least I could breathe a little now.

The board wall is made a whole lot easier with my New Balance Minimus. And by now my feet had been pounded back into flexing a little.

The last few climbs would have been fairly easy obstacles had I any feeling in my body. Normally I love a final rope climb but this one was tough. The knots in the rope kept on catching my feet (ok maybe my feet kept on catching them.)

The mud pit before the climb was also extra cold, extra long and contained extra sharp bits.

I missed my spear throw. Like always. This is where I did my first and only set of burpees. Good thing I’m a vegetarian, lest I ever need to catch dinner in the woods.

I finished in 44:31. My slowest 10k time ever… and it was only 5k! But I took the win and a nice little cheque home with me. And I have to say, I feel like I earned every cent.

Stroller at the Sun Run, Race Report, 2013

Stroller at the Sun Run, Race Report, 2013

I know, I know! Another race report. Last one for a while, promise.

I hadn’t planned on running the Sun Run with a stroller. I did it last year and I swore, “Never again.” It took me over an hour to get to the start line with a cranky baby in hand and a full bladder in tow. The rest of the run was spent swerving, dodging and spending every ounce of energy with the focus of a Jedi Warrior to not run anyone over.

Ama was a little bummed that she couldn’t run the Boston Marathon with me and as my constant training companion, she deserves to enjoy the events just as much as I do.

Saturday was my first day back post Boston. 5k easy. OK, not easy. The quad in my good leg (of all legs) seized up on me 3k in and I had to hobble/walk back. Luckily, my wonderful friend Yun was there to push the stroller and I back home.

I showed up race day planning on walking it, stroller and all.

In a show of support for Boston, all those participating in the Sun Run who were at the marathon were invited on stage to join in a moment of silence to a beautifully played trumpet solo. And after it, we were led, along with the big ticket runners, to the starting line.

They saw the stroller and hmmm’d. I don’t know what John said but something about me being courteous and the world record holder for female stroller push… they let me in and told me to stay out of the way. I of course understood why they wouldn’t want me in front, nothing would grate at my soul more than getting in another runner’s route to a PB.

Luckily I am used to running in tight fast moving packs with a stroller and instead of running for speed (which was not happening anyway), I ran to stay out of the way and send love to the fasties blasting past me like I was the hobbled stroller mama I was.

Ama and I had a great time. I was so happy to have her along to enjoy the moment.

Never has there been a race quite like this one was for me. Seeing the sea of blue and yellow ahead, being out there, running again. Running again with others like me. Those that had felt the pain in Boston. Those whose hearts still ached.

The spectators were louder than ever before, the air fresher, the people happier.

I felt that we were all out there running for the sheer love of it. I know Ama and I were.

Several people in our club got PBs that day. One even lopped 3 minutes off of her time despite being almost 10 years older.

Ama and I ran 46 minutes. No where near my fastest 10k time.

Like most of my best races, it wasn’t the time that mattered. That makes two of the best races in my life in one week. Both injured, uncomfortable and slow… but I was loving every minute.

I am reminded of some wise words I heard recently, “Life is too ironic. It takes sadness to know what happiness is, noise to appreciate silence, and absence to value presence.”

Not that I wouldn’t appreciate running injury free, but I’ll appreciate a run how ever I can get it.

Boston terrorist attack

I will write an official race report. But right now nothing I went through seems to matter.
 
After clearing the finish area, we decided to leave downtown on the train to have lunch near our friend Tim’s place. We crammed on a train and set off. A nice man gave Ama and I his seat. Ama was entertaining the whole train as usual. At the next stop an announcement came on telling us to leave the terminal due immediately due to an emergency. Not one person on the crammed train budged. We figured for whatever reason that since we were on the train, the announcement didn’t apply. He meant us and reiterated that. Soon the stairwell up was flooded. Somehow tired marathon legs found the strength to push up a flight of stairs carrying Ama. At this point, I had a feeling there was a bomb, and I continued down the street rather than figuring out where to go right outside. People were rushing around in all directions, some panicked, some confused. Then sirens everywhere, and the police and military sprang into action. It was absolute confusion and fear. We had no idea how many bombs, where or how big. Everyone was being move out but the trains were closed. We lucked out on a cab – but when it came we had to fight for it and thankfully Tim’s wonderful girlfriend Carol Ann, held tight. I held Ama close and buckled her in since we had no car seat. 
 
Car seat or not, that car ride out of there felt much safer. It was also the first time we figured out what was going on. “I don’t know just get out of here” was all we heard until then. Something about it “being in the bleachers.”
 
As we rode away, a seemingly endless trail of ambulances and police cars stormed into town. Runners were getting pulled off course. One to the horrific news her friend was one of the injured.
 
It’s hard not to think about what might have been if the train was a second slower or I would have walked and Ama and John would have wandered over to see me finish. But it does no good. We lost an eight year old girl today along with another 2 lives. And over a hundred were injured. No one should ever have to live or die anything like this. 
 
The hardest part might be that this attack was targeted at the spectators… and due to it’s low placement children. People don’t come to run Boston for the course. They come for the fabulous people that line the course for 26.2 miles to cheer for each runner like they were the only one out there. They come to offer things to complete strangers for nothing in return. The people that line these streets are the salt of this earth and it pains me so deeply that anyone would harm them.
 
Tension was still running high on the airplane. It’s the only time I’ve heard an announcement that passengers are not allow into the cockpit and that the door is bulletproof.
 
You should always count yourself lucky when your family is safe, happy and healthy. Today is a weird mix of immense pain for the wounded, dead and their families -and thankfulness that we made it out.