Sunday, August 31, 2014

Race Review: Dogathon Fun Run

Dogathon Fun Run on Aug. 31st, 2014
at Bella Organic Pumpkin Patch and Winery

Beneficiary:  Oregon Humane Society

Participants for this event were large and small and the event had a little bit of something fun for everyone.  This is the first time I had been to an event that wasn't just "dog friendly" but doggie participation was encouraged.  It was so much fun to see so many different K9 companions.

Packet pickup was the morning of the event.  Start time for runners was 10am and walkers an hour later at 11am.  I admit that with two young kids in tow (without a running stroller to keep them moving forward at a good pace) that I queued up at the back of the 10am wave.

I think it would be safe to stagger the walkers 15 or 20 minutes after the runners, but an entire hour will make for a long event for those waiting for the walking event to start.

It is hard to believe that this is only the second year for this event!  It went off without any complications and was so much fun.  Goodie bags at packet pickup included a bag for dog owners to clean up after their K9 running/walking buddy should they go potty on the course, some doggie cookies, a cookie for the runner/walker, your race bib, a cotton t-shirt that is pretty darn cute and besides some coupons and ads for the event host (Bella Organics) a voucher for a plate of (two) pancakes.  

The start and finish line was located in the main courtyard of the farm, near the farm store.  Course map was a complicated looking drawing with lots of loops on a dry erase board.  I had my doubts about it.... but the course was very clearly marked with volunteers at every turn or fork in the road to help direct the runners and walkers. 

The course was extremely beautiful.  The dirt road were soft dirt and in many places there were deep ruts from large farm equipment and trucks.  This would not be ideal for a running stroller, but I have been through worse with my behemoth stroller and saw some stellar moms councouring the trail with their strollers.

There were several aid stations providing water.  I forgot to turn on my garmin, so I can't tell you how close or far they were, but I can tell you that as soon as Bugaboo would whine "I'm thiiiiiiirsty."  There would be a water station!  Dogs enjoyed large wading pools full of water for them to take a dip or a drink from.

It was a hot, sunny day.

My only complaint would be that after about 2 miles in the course, my husband had to make a shortcut to rush Bugaboo to the bathroom.  Though i suppose there aren't many 5K races that need to put a porta potty out on course.  I think it was just over 2 miles, because when they went off course and back to the farm, Squeakers and I kept on walking for 15 or 20 more minutes and just as we crossed the finish line, my hubstud and Bugaboo crossed within 2 minutes of us.  

At the finish line, we cashed in our vouchers and enjoyed two HUGE pancakes dripping with strawberry sauce and strawberries and then whipped cream on top.  A band played some fun, jazzy tunes and if you wanted other food, wine, beer or beverages, the farm's food court was open along with other fun events such as the children's maze, activities with Radio Disney and other farm activities (such as picking blackberries or riding on the farm's "cow ride").

For more information the website for the event is Here.

I'm glad we found this event and proud of my family for getting out and trying (even if the hubstud and I ended up carrying the kiddos for a great portion of the "race").  I just wish the event was also when more berries were in season.  I always seem to miss the strawberries and blueberries.  

Have you done a "pet friendly" race?  Do you run with a K9 companion?  

Race Recap: The Inferno

Race Review for The Inferno Obstacle Race on Aug. 30th, 2014

This race was held in Salem, Oregon and offered free camping for all participants in an open field with one portalet and no running water.  Event parking (whether camping or not) was $10.  I had commitments on Friday that left me unable to take advantage of the free camping, but my friend Mariah was looking forward to that (and less of a commute on race day).

Have I told you how much I have been looking forward to this race... and at the same time dreading it?  (Race Preview with more details here.)  I have no upper body strength and working out really hard was not going to give me huge biceps in 6 months.  Maybe I need a personal trainer?  At any rate, I still can't muster a proper push up or a chin up on a bar and wasn't looking forward to scaling tall walls or trying to cross monkey bars.  Even more humbling was searching on google for some hints to what obstacles I might be facing... I find an 11 year old girl rocking some of the 2013 obstacles at a promo event in downtown Portland.  Check out this girl and how much she rocks!

I have seriously got to work on my upper body and core strength because this girl makes it look easy, and there is no doubt about it that this event is NOT easy and not for the faint of heart. 

You can walk around any obstacle that you feel you can not safely perform with a penalty of doing 30 burpees.  Mariah, who is a total beast and "accidentally" ran in the competitive heat and may have "accidently" won for the overall female division said she felt like she did 200 burpees.  There were some obstacles that were unavoidable and had to be completed in the competitive heat.  

Some of the challenges you might face at future events:
  • 200 meter open swim.  This was off a dock and an out and back swim.  If you can only tread water, you can take the 50 burpee challenge for skipping it or throw on a safety vest and start floating.  It isn't that bad.  No sea monsters.  
  • Lots of walls to scale.  Some with ropes and some without.  Seriously lots of walls.
  • Tires hanging from ropes to swing from.  It's like monkey bars only it isn't... and it's a lot harder.  It's fun at least... but get ready to do some burpees.
  • Monkey bars with some of the bars vertical instead of horizontal. 
There were many more, but I don't want to give away The Inferno's secrets.  I will tell you that with some of the challenges that required carrying heavy objects and flipping big 'ol tires, at least there were some options to choose a size/weight that was appropriate to your individual strength level.

Training for an event like this does require some upper body strength, some good core, did I mention upper body strength? and some cardio.  It wouldn't hurt and only help to have a team of friends, or make friends in line at the porta potty to run with and help each other over some of the many walls to scale.  

Above all, go in it to have fun, challenge yourself and be safe.  Some of the volunteers to monitor the penalties were more on "the honor system" than to stand over you like a drill sergeant.  Do what you can and move on to the next challenge.  There are a lot of them.  

After being in a race that involved wasps, I really appreciated that The Inferno closed an obstacle after a participant tossed a log onto a nest and was stung several times.  I heard she finished the race and was "okay" but I know that those suckers hurt.

Serious beast.

Finishing this event is a huge accomplishment and a true test of your inner beast.  The medal is pretty awesome and it is a fun event.  If you participated, there was a great opportunity to sign up again for a significant discount, but if you missed out.... stay tuned to The Inferno's Facebook page for any upcoming information and possible discounts.  

What is the toughest race you have completed?  Physical or emotionally challenging?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Hood To Coast 2014 recap: Confessions of a first time relayer and first time team captain

A friend refered to me on facebook as "inspiring and intimidating" on facebook.... inspiring for how far I've come (losing 80 lbs and being able to go from a slow walk to a slow run) but intimidating because I am able to do a half marathon within a few weeks of each other and then go run "The Mother of All Relays" or "The World's Largest Relay" (full of people, not the world's longest relay).

I was surprised.  I didn't think of my athleticism as intimidating.  I don't do speed work.  I just started hill work.  I don't stretch before or after I run.  I'm lazy and don't see myself as serious.  Who the heck runs a mile warm up and then a mile cool down before and after 13.1 miles?!  The intimidating people do.  ;)  I'm just lazy.  Seriously.  If you are running 2 extra miles when you are doing a half marathon, you need an extra medal.  Those are serious people.   

And... maybe a bit of that lazy nature was how I approached Hood To Coast.  

After a death in the family, a note from our landlord to look for another place to live and then a friend going through a tragic stressful time... I sorta stopped running.  I hadn't done more than 6 miles since early July.  A team mate pulled me aside and was worried about me continuing to do Hood To Coast.  

I did it anyway.   And I lived to tell the tale.

I had no idea what I was doing as a team captain... and I was very lucky to be well connected in my little running community with lots of people who had run it before.  I still felt a little out of touch, but before long my friends who really are athletically intimidating volunteered to take the "hard legs" and I was given the easiest legs.

That isn't a bad thing.  I got to start the race off at the starting line, run through downtown Portland and then finish outside of Mist... the area is like running through a cold cloud.  

The race had lots of criticism and a couple blunders with traffic and safety that has left several people angry and frustrated (rightly so).  However, I'd like this recap to focus not on the unmoving traffic on exchange 24 and the runners left in the cold for several hours while neither of their team mate's vans had arrived or the scary gorilla jumping out to scare runners between exchanges 19 and 20... but I'm going to focus on my experience as a team captain and how my team did in this event (despite my leadership or the lack thereof.  Certainly a lack of experience.)  

Some of my favorite Hood To Coast moments:

Seeing the start line and THE mountain for the first time.  We watched the very first wave of runners start the relay.  Seeing the setting sun put Portland's skyline to a silhouette.  The relief of seeing the finish chute.  The exhilarating feeling of running my first leg down that steep mountain.  Meeting the friendly...mime at exchange 12.  My team mates crossing the finish together and one enthusiastically doing a cartwheel across the finish.  My sign on the windshield to remind us all that the van was our home for the next 36+ hours... not just home, but a "sweet" home?  Perhaps.  Seeing the Panda at the finish line party!  I saw him at exchange 24 waiting for his runner to come in.  I wanted to ask him for a bear hug to keep me warm.  I asked Bob Foote for a hug at the start line.  Hanging out in Seaside and reflecting on the event while my team mates journeyed home.  And sitting on the balcony of a hotel 4 stories up above the party below with my finisher's medal. 

Page 13 of the handbook states that when registering your team is making a commitment to average as a whole no slower than 9:45 minute mile pace or 32 1/2 hrs in total time.  We averaged a 10:31 min./mile pace and finished in 34 hours and 50 minutes.

Here are a few tips when you are a captain to a relay team:

* Get ready for surprises and don't get stressed by them.  Team members will quit, at the last minute.  Even if they don't want to.  Have back up runners available up to the day of the event.  Volunteers will quit.  Have back ups of those too.  

*  Reward your volunteers well.  Hood to Coast has them standing out there for 5 hours (on average) with little to no supplies.  Show them some love.

*  Reserve a hotel or beach house.  Everyone just ran a relay!!  I don't care how close y'all live and how much y'all want to sleep in your own beds, kick back with each other for one last bonding session, smooth out any wrinkles, enjoy a beer and chat about each other's personal experiences.  

*  Have a plan of when and where to go get food together.  Van 2 is going to be exhausted and need replenishment after the finish line festivities.  As soon as the "hangry" (hungry/angry) episodes can be avoided, the better.  

*  Relax.  Take it all in.  Enjoy it.  

I'm sure there are lots of other great tips out there, but it all boils down to just have fun.  Just because all your teammates are your friends and like you, doesn't mean they will all like each other.  Make sure personalities are going to mesh and people can be at peace instead of at odds with each other.  

One other thing, pack comfort foods.  Even though I ran less than my long run distances, my gastrointestinal tract was not happy with it. I loved my chocolate milk, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (Thanks Dave's Killer Bread!) and salt and vinegar chips.  That was all I ate.  And Orange ricotta pancakes.   Take what you know, what you've trained with and under no circumstances should you try something new.  Even if your next run is in 6+ hours.  You can't always get to a bathroom when you need one. 
Eating my third PB&J with Dave's Killer Bread

Have you ran a relay?  What advice would you give a new team captain?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Getting closer to Hood To Coast!! (And maybe a teeny bit stressed about it)

I woke up this morning to my phone buzzing with text messages and alerts.  10 days until race day one of my runners has to drop out due to work conflicts and another may be dropping out depending how he feels after a half ironman this coming weekend.  A Half Ironman!!  I'm in awe.

And stressed.  We have alternates all lined up and eager to take their spots, but the unknown drives me batty.  Especially since I'll be away from the computer for 5 days while camping... right before the Hood To Coast relay.  Did I mention it's 10 days until race day?!

10 days until race day.

In other team news and updates, I picked up the team shirts and hoodies today.  They are amazing.   H&S Screen Printing did my Moms Run This Town shirts and they came through again with high quality, screen printed shirts with a beautiful design thanks to the hand drawings done by one of my teammates.  

(I think they might be better than the official race shirts.  Sorry Hood To Coast!  See the official race shirt HERE.)

"Robin From The Hood And Her Coastal Van of Misfits" is ready, or just about....

Have you ran a relay?  What crazy shenanigans have you faced in the last few days before "go time!"?

Friday, August 8, 2014

A little joy in a lot of stress

I would be half lying if I only posted the good things and never talked about when I am struggling.

My shoulders are balled up with stress.  This is what's on my mind:

My hands and feet are going numb for hours at a time.... right before I run my first relay race (more on that).  My doctor appointment is Aug. 15th.

I leave for camping on Aug 17th.  With two small children.... for several days.  Without my husband (who is at a new job).  What the heck do I pack for camping?  I realize now how much I rely on my husband for this kind of thing.  

Our gracious landlady has informed us to start looking for a new house to live in as soon as possible because she will be preparing to put her house on the market.  (Though this wasn't our official 30 days notice).

I run Hood To Coast on Aug 22-23.  I have never left my kids for more than a few hours.  This is going to be a huge thing for me....  I'm scared.  I'm still breastfeeding Squeakers in the evening, so this will be different.  I leave her with a friend at the beach on Wed.  Pack the vans on Thurs and run Fri and Sat.  I'll see her again Sat. night.

A dear friend of mine just went through a terrible medical emergency.  It didn't go well.  I am devastated for her.  I can't even begin to narrate the feelings in my heart for her and her family.

I am searching for a new place to live.
I am writing out my camping packing list, purging junk and getting ready to downsize.
I'm looking over running gear and trying to figure out what to pack and sort gear for each van.
I'm the team captain so I'm trying to get people the information about legs and other questions they have and help them feel confident, comfortable and relaxed.
I am excited to be asked to join the Run Oregon blog for a trial period to see how it goes.  They are an amazing group of people with a well informed blog on all things running in the Oregon and Southwest Washington area.  I feel like a little kid graduating to the big kid table.

And through all of this...  I am happy.  I am.  Okay, I cry a lot for my friend and I worry about camping and leaving my kids.  But in a way this relay race will be a small escape from reality for a couple days.

Then I got the mail today.  I sort of forgot through all of this that I had purchased a livingsocial deal for a photo collage blanket.

There was stress with that because the terra drive with every photo ever taken in the last 9 years was destroyed.  Squeakers was running, tripped on an ill placed cord and it went crashing to the ground.  The company we sent it to can not recover the info on it.  Hopefully we can find someone who can save it.

Anyway so grainy facebook pics and low res phone photos have been sent to me and I treasure each and every one of them.  I sent them in to for my photo blanket and I got this:

Isn't it amazing?!
Bugaboo has to help me hold it up... it's that big.  The theme is running and my family.  My first race (5k) ever and nursing Bugaboo at the finish line.   My second race (5k) a year and a half later and nursing Squeakers at the finish.  My first half marathon with my kids under the big black umbrella to cheer me in the typhoon.  Their first kids' dashes and their first race medals.  Running in costume together, doing color runs together....

Photos carry a lot of meaning to me and I can't believe they are gone, but I won't lose hope that they can't be recovered someday.

I won't lose hope that my friend and her family will heal emotionally from this devastating time.

I will keep my hope strong that I can camp with my kids, be independent have fun and stay sane.

I know I will walk into Hood To Coast exhausted from the camp trip but I know it will still be fun.  I hope to keep my tears at bay so that it is fun for me teammates as well.

This blanket came in the mail just at the right time.  I look at it and think of the example I am now to my kids.  How they enjoy running and doing races as much as I do.

I look at it and smile.  Life is complicated, difficult, beautiful and good.  It's all good.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Product Review: Noxgear Tracer360 visibility vest (Or how a little, light weight vest could light up my life!)

Product Review: Noxgear Tracer360 visibility vest (Or how a little, light weight vest could light up my life!)

If you haven't had a chance to check out the Tracer360 from Noxgear, check out this video:

  • 360 degree illumination
  • Full Color Spectrum
  • 360 degree reflectivity with 3M Scotchlite reflective waistband and the edge of the light source on the back
  • Unit will alert you when batteries need replaced.  When you power on and off, a green blinking light indicated the battery life is good.
  • Vest is able to be worn in all seasons.  It is rain proof, snow proof and pretty much Oregon proof.  Everything I need.
  • It is super lightweight an comfortable!  6.5 ounces and feels like it is hardly there.

The vest is tubing that illuminates and attached to a light source (to be worn on your back) and a stretchy waistband with the 3M reflective strip.  As you can see above, the flash on my camera picks up the reflectivity.

This vest is very comfortable and lightweight, extremely easy to navigate and adjust size with no chafing, bouncing or any other undesirable issues while wearing it.  

The possibilities are endless for this piece of "running gear".  Maybe you aren't a runner, but need to be visible while riding your bike in the twilight hours?  Ultimate glow frisbee at night?  Maybe you are participating in a night race or glow themed event...

I'll be sporting this at Hood To Coast relay along with my team mates.  

I can't express enough how much I love this.  My neighborhood is surrounded by 3/4 mile with no sidewalk.  The shoulder gets a little thin at times.  I want to be seen.  Most of the time I stay on areas with sidewalks and I've noticed cars slowing down and moving over... even with me on the sidewalk.  Bicyclists ask me where they can get one.  I can't wait to post more pictures from Hood To Coast with my team lighting up the race course!

To check out more of the features and size options, check out Noxgear's website HERE.
and when you are ready to pick one up, I have a 15% off discount code posted below... but hurry!  You want to get one before the code expires September 30th.

With cool summer runs in the evening, relays at night and the sun slipping away into shorter days with Pacific Northwest winters and rain, I am looking forward to using this vest year round.