Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Winter Solstice Half Marathon- another free TanKa event

Last Sunday my friend Katharine and I put on the Winter Solstice Half Marathon.  During our first ironman training together back in 2006, we put on a half-iron race for ourselves as part of our training. We needed to do a half to test the waters for our ironman, but there weren't any halfs nearby, so we put on our own race.  We called it the TanKa Tri (for Tanya and Katharine).  The name has kinda stuck ever since. 

We put on our free run last weekend at the trails.  Much like the Ho Ho Half we did last month, this event was free, but there was an "entry free" that had to be "paid" upon your arrival.  We asked each participant to bring 4 canned goods to be donated to the Regional Food Bank in OKC.  We figured that the food pantry would likely be drained somewhat for the holidays, so we wanted to help replenish it.  Plus, it's always nice to be able to do something good for your community and give back just a little.  The canned drive was a smashing success with almost 300 canned goods donated to the RFB.  Runners are the best!!

I showed up at the trails about an hour and a half early to get in a few miles before everyone arrived.  It was soooo cold tho.  I ran almost 4 miles but hardly warmed up much. Any exposed skin I had was instantly red and painful.  It was really quite chilly.  Even though I didn't get in quite as many miles as I'd hoped, I was glad to get in some before the group started arriving.
I don't know for sure many people showed up.  I know about 55 were signed up online, but I forgot my camera so we didn't take a group shot before the start.  There were probably close to 40 people total.  Like last time, there was an assortment of snack goods that people brought to share with everyone. Pringles, cookies, some heavenly pretzel peppermint stick creation, fruit, etc.  Biff was sweet and brought a HUGE jug of warm cider that was simply divine (and some rum if you were brave enough), and Rocky brought his iPod and speakers to give us music to bop along to. 

Kat made medals for all the finishers.  Big balls for the half, small balls for the shorter distances. She just used clear ornaments and put glue and glitter on the inside. They all turned out really pretty!!
(photo: Jennifer Fletcher)

Like the Ho Ho Half, there was a sign-in poster where you could keep track of your mileage in case you didn't have a Garmin (13 loops around is a bit much to keep track of in your head).

(photo: Jennifer Fletcher)
There was even that big sweet dog that I see all the time out there (although I don't think he knew he was part of our race).  He always has the BIGGEST sticks in his mouth when he's out there with his owner.  Cracks me up everytime!!
(photo:  Jennifer Fletcher)
All in all we had a blast.  It was VERY cold at the start, but it warmed up to managable temps as the morning wore on.  We had to leave a little early to get to a family function, but  there were still lots of people hanging out when we left.  And look at all these cans we got:
When we got home, the organizing neat-freak in me kicked in and I had to sort them by kind and organize them.  I couldn't leave a mess like that in the back of the car.  Much too OCD for that.
ahhh.... much better
All in all it was another great TanKa success!!  We have another run this weekend:  a New Year's Run.  I have to keep the events's the only way I'm going to make it through these long cold months!
Yours truly hamming it up in my awesome homemade running sweatshirt dress.  I'm going to put a stocking on the front of ALL my running shirts. You have no idea how handy that pocket was.  Kept my inhaler in there, some gels, my car keys, etc.  I only manged to get in 10 miles before we had to leave, but I'm OK with that.  10. 13. Whatever.  Close enough for a non-race.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Tulsa Turkey Mountain Half Marathon

I guess running a half marathon doesn't exactly make me an endurance junkie, does it? 
Does it count if it took me as long as some people take to run a full marathon? 
OK- so this race qualifies as an endurance race of mental agility- perhaps not physical longevity.  The race was held on Turkey Mountain in Tulsa.  I've heard things about Turkey Mountain- most of them revolving around the crazy difficult ascents and descents up and down the various ridgelines and mountainous bumps (to call this hill a mountain is embarassing to actual mountains, but it's as close as it gets in OK).  I was warned and I was afraid.  Rightfully so.  Although to be honest, much of the course was on flat or slightly undulating terrain.  There were only a handful of really steep, really technical climbs and descents.  The majority of the run was on the top of the mountain and didn't require a lot of effort.  From normal people, that is.  It still required a great deal of effort from yours truly.
We lined up at the starting line.  There were two races that went on simultaneously.  A trail half, a road half, and then those crazy people that did the marathon (trail first, road second). Trail lined up on this side, the road runners lined up on the other side of the finish line here and we went in opposite directions.

the start/finish line

The gun sounded and off we went.  I placed myself near the back of the pack, which is where I rightfully belong.  I know this, so I place myself accordingly.  I knew that we would hit single track soon and that I didn't need to be near the middle or closer to the front.  Well, when we all took off, somehow I ended up in the middle.  I'm not exactly sure how that happened, but it did.  And it was not good for me.  The first steep ascent happened almost immediately and there I was- stuck in a line of people.  Sometimes walking in sections, but mostly running WAY too fast for me.  I didn't really have a choice, so I just stuck it out.  My lungs were burning and I was struggling to catch my breath.  I really couldn't step off the trail or move over.  I was in a conga line and there was no way out.  So I stayed.  And suffered for a good 1.5 miles.  I finally was able to move over and let some people by.  And the people just kept on coming by.  I would move over, but I never totally stepped off the trail.  First of all, that is exactly what ended my Palo Duro (stepping off the trail to let someone by and falling and injuring myself) and there was no way I was going to ruin this race just to let someone pass.  I would move over- sometimes not far enough for someone's liking- then move back when it was clear again.  I walked from about mile 2-3.  I tried to be as courteous as possible, but often I held people up for a bit until I could move over.  I don't think it's fair that I should totally stop, hang off the trail and have to wait for 20 people to pass me everytime a group came by.  The crowded trail REALLY stressed me out. 
In my opinion, if you are passing, you should do your part to get a little off the trail, too.  If I move over a little and you move over a little then there is plenty of room to pass (clearly not everyone felt that way, but I digress).  Whenever I passed someone, I would move off the trail to pass.  On the downhills I came up behind people and I would ask if I could pass.  If they said yes, I did (thankfully nobody said no, but I would have waited if they had).
I made it to the first aid station in  32 minutes.  That was pretty fast for me- almost 5 mph.  WAY too fast for what I'm used to running on the trails.  I walked the next couple miles (up a crazy ascent and then through a flat part) while I caught my breath and tried to settle my heart rate.  It takes me a good 1-1.5 hours to even warm up, so I knew I needed to slow it way down in order to not burn all the fuel up at the beginning.
The race was an out and back, so all those people that passed me would soon be coming back at me.  The race leader passed me when I was at about mile 4.5  He was FLYING (that would make him about 4 miles ahead of me going at an unbelievable pace).  I moved over for all of the fast people in front.  If I was running, I would just move over as much as possible.  If I was walking, I would get off the trail for them as they passed.  Then I met the majority of the people and we would both kinda take sides on either side of the (sometimes) narrow singletrack.  It wasn't nearly as bad with people coming at me as it was with people coming up behind me.  I was much less anxious about the crowds as I neared the turnaround.
I hit the turnaround at 1.5 hours.  Not bad for me on the trails.  Sadly, that's about 4 mph, which is about what I average on normal trails- not to mention steep trails with lots of climbing.  The second half of the race was uneventful.  Just the way I like it.  I was alone for much of the time and had plenty of time to just listen to nature, look around (when not looking down) and tune my thoughts out.  For me, that is the most blissful part of trail running; listening, turning my brain off, and just floating along. 
At mile 10 I got really excited because I knew I was almost done.  I was also a little excited because I had managed to not bust my head open on the rocks so far. You have to celebrate the little things in life.
properly kilted and moustached and happy to be (almost) done
The best part about the last few miles was bombing downhills like a runaway truck.  I'm telling you, my Hokas are THE BEST!!! I have never been good at flying downhill without losing control and almost tripping and killing myself.  Not in the Hokas.  I FLEW!  I was not out of control, but I was not totally in control, either.  The Hokas were so good at absorbing the rocks and ruts that I never almost twisted an ankle, never almost tripped, never felt like the ground was reaching up to yank me down.  I truly felt like I was flying.  I had brief moments of what it must be like to be a fast runner, and it was heaven.  I have to admit that being fast might be fun.  For a little while anyway, but then you'd really miss so much because you don't get the chance to take your eyes off the ground and look around at your surroundings.  I truly appreciate that the most when I'm on a trail.  The looking around and taking in all the eye candy.  If I were fast, I would have to miss all that-and who wants to do that???
From the top of Stink Hill
(not the official name, just the name I gave it in honor of the treatment plant below)
I made it across the finish line in 3:19.  Heck- some of you would be appalled with that time and never tell another soul about that horrid finish.  I'm the running turtle- I'm PERFECTLY happy with that time.  As in all my races- I was proud to not come in DFL.  I was 41 of 50 women and 90 of 103 total finishers.  I'll take it!!!  My nickname isn't the Running Hare.  Or Run Speedy Run. 
Most days I'm just glad to finish without bleeding.  This race was no exception.
My medal was pretty cool.  It was one half of the ying/yang design.  My hubs ran the road half, so he got the other half of the ying/yang.  Together we had one cool medal. 
Tulsa Double Half- the easy way.

Run on, turtles!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Tulsa half marathon on Turkey Mountain tomorrow

Tomorrow we are running two separate half marathons.  I'm doing the trail on Turkey Mtn and he's doing the paved on the river trails.  Both will be loads of fun.  I had *almost* considered doing the double half (trail first, then road), but thought better of it since my training hasn't been much in the last month.  I hate playing it smart, but sometimes I actually make the correct call.
Each race has half of a cool medal.  If you do them both, together they make a ying/yang design.  Turns out I don't have to do both to get the ying/yang.  We'll combine our medals and have one really cool super medal.  Best of both worlds (with about half the pain).  Will report on it tomorrow. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Upcoming event: The Winter Solstice Half Marathon

This year our no-fee "race" will be at Bluff Creek on Sunday, December 23rd at 8:30 am.  The temps are getting cooler and it's time to start thinking about running in brrrrr...colder weather (it's about doggone time, right?).   And you know the best part about celebrating the Winter Solstice, right?   Of course you do- the days begin to get longer again.  And we ALL are excited about that!

So put it on your calendar and join us for the Winter Solstice Half. 
Entry fee is 4 canned goods to be donated to the Regional Food Bank. If you want to bring some snacks to share with other runners that would be great, too!  Like the Ho Ho Half, this will be a self-supported event so bring all your own nutritional needs (water, gels, etc). 

See you then!
Let's hope it doesn't look like this---------->

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Product Review: Amphipod 20oz handheld

I'm no stranger to handhelds.  I've tried a few over the last couple years.  And I haven't really liked any of them.  I've been disappointed to say the least. 
The first one I tried was the black Zoot on the right.  The strap pinched my hands where it tightened and it wasn't comfortable holding on runs.  Then I made my own handmade one (the little black neoprene guy sitting in the front) and it works pretty good, but it's only 8oz so it doesn't come in handy for long stuff.  Then I tried the pink Nathan one.  I liked it at first, but the elastic is starting to stretch out and it's not holding its shape like it used to.  Plus, again, it's not super comfortable where the strap tightens, and it's not comfortable to hold the round bottle with my miniscule hands and their pathetic grip-strength.
I finally broke down and bought the Amphipod 20oz.  I tested it out at the store (walked around with it for about 10 minutes trying to see if it would fit my rather small hands).  I really liked how it felt in my hands.  The bottle isn't round, it's more oval I liked and it enough to want to give it a try.
The good:  it's really pretty comfortable to run with.  My hands are small and I don't have a very strong grip, but I can run with it for about 10 miles and not feel any discomfort in my hands.  I haven't run with it longer than 10 so I don't know how it will hold up in a marathon or in an ultra. I also REALLY like the neoprene sleeve.  I can see that being nice in the summer and winter, but more importantly, I like that I don't have to grip the slippery plastic.  The neoprene gives my hand something soft and grippy to grab ahold of.  It means my hand can just kinda sit on the bottle comfortably without slipping around.  I also really like the shape of the bottle.  It conforms to your hand, and even tho my hand doesn't come close to going all the way around, it feels like I have a good grip on it even when I'm not really trying.  The strap that tightens is also very comfy.  It doesn't dig into my hand and I hardly even notice that it's there.
The bad: the pocket is terrible.  But to be fair, I think all handheld pockets are terrible.  It can hold 2 gels.  Or my car key and some pumpkin seeds (a lot of pumpkin seeds), but that's about it.  It's pretty useless, but at least it can hold my key which is mostly all I need it to do.  I also don't care for how big around it is, but like I said- I have tiny little hands and I don't know that there is a bottle shaped good enough to conform to my hand.
As you can see- the bad list is a lot shorter than the good list.  That means I like it A LOT more than I dislike it.  I haven't been able to say that about any of the other handhelds I've tried.
So far I've really enjoyed running with it.  I ditched handhelds and went to just a hydration pack this summer, but now that winter is here, I don't really need to carry a giant bladder on my back.  And soon the temps will (hopefully) start dropping and I really don't want a sweaty back that will freeze up on runs with the hydration pack on.  I may wind up getting another Amphipod handheld for the winter for when I do really long stuff.  I give this handheld 2 thumbs up.
The Amphi and I on our inagural run together.  Love at first run!
Just so you know, I was not paid to do this review, nor was I given the product free to try out.  I bought it, I liked it, so I reviewed it.  My review is totally unbiased.