Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Race Recap: The Volcano Race PDX

On Sept. 28th, the family and I headed out to Mt. Tabor, a dormant volcano, in the city of Portland to play at the park and run a race.

This race was so much fun!  It is a smaller event, with under 150 running the 5K and less than 100 running the 10K options.  The Volcano Race PDX also had a kids dash after the other races were well over (allowing for kids to run or be pushed in a stroller by their parents in the earlier races or ensuring that family had crossed the finish before the kids dash started).  

When I picked up our goodies the day before at packet pickup, I was surprised by all the goodies!  The swag included lots of vegan goodies (score for me!  I'm a vegetarian...), coupons for the Children's Museum, vouchers for free entrees at Veggie Grill and jamba juice and other coupons and flyers.  The kids got a cotton race shirt and I received my tech shirt for this event.  If all that swag wasn't awesome enough... the race beneficiary is a really neat project to help inspire young people and encourage and expand their learning through the arts.  Go check out Young Audiences some time.  

Mariah who guest blogs on this site for me at the finish with me

Near the start and finish was a large volcano with a fog machine to mystify (see what I did there?) the kids and provide a great photo op (if the lush and picturesque park wasn't enough).  

Before the races started, two free yoga classes were offered for participants.  I'm not well acquainted with yoga, but enjoyed the soft music and practicing being aware of my breath.  The 10K and 5K were staggered by about 20 minutes.  

As I queued up for my 5K, I watched as Timber Joey held up the course map and directions were explained to us.  Give me a simple loopty-loop and I'm easily confused and doubting my sense of direction... but this course was very well marked and volunteers were out to help direct runners where to turn and which direction to go.  Thank you volunteers!  

Me off on the 5K and Bugaboo and Squeakers on their Kids Dash

The course is, of course, hilly since it is on a mountain... but the challenge is a lot of fun and very beautiful.  I enjoyed seeing the cityscape of Portland over the reservoir.  When I neared the finish with 1 mile to go, I ran past Mariah running the other direction nearing her finish line for the 10K.  The end of her race  had stairs... and while I didn't hear her complain about it, I'm sure it served as a nice challenge.  Maybe I'll be better trained for the 10K (or better rested) next year? 

When I crossed the finish line, my family wasn't there to greet me.  This is the first time that they were at a race with me but weren't there to cheer me in.  This wasn't a surprise since there was a playground next to the start/finish gate.  I finished my cooldown run and was happy to seem them busy and engaged with the volunteers at the "Art Zone".  

Afterwards, the kids dash was off and the kids had a blast running 1K through a flat part of the park.  At their finish, Timber Joey greeted them with cheers and a high five.  Parents had the option of purchasing a finisher's medal to commemorate the kiddos' race and proceeds going to Young Audiences, so we went ahead and purchased that for them and my husband rewarded them with their medals.  Of course they were over the moon to get one.  

They made masks, painted their faces, played with bubbles and listened to live performances from several different musicians and singers.  I enjoyed my complimentary beers in the beer garden and we all enjoyed the plethora of snacks offered.  

I highly recommend this event and look forward to seeing how it grows and expands over the years.  This event went off very smoothly with no issues and very well organized.  It's also nice to run a smaller event race too now and then.  I really really enjoyed the family festivities this one had to offer.  

Monday, September 22, 2014

Race Recap: Beat The Blerch

On Sep. 21st, I made the trip to Carnation, Washington to run "Beat The Blerch" half marathon.

This inaugural event, slated for Sept. 21st sold out within 30 minutes, while also crashing the servers for the registration site.  This left many disappointed since the park capacity could not also hold the entire fanbase for the cartoonist and race director, The Oatmeal.  Soon, a wait list was created and more permits obtained to offer another race on Sept. 20th.  Word on the street is that the race is hoping to expand to the east coast and somewhere more "central" such as Colorado.

If traveling wasn't an option (or the race just simply sold out too quickly), a virtual race kit was available for purchase.  This wasn't merely purchasing a medal and printing your own bib.  Oh no.  Not when dealing with The Oatmeal.  He goes all out.  Virtual kits included swag such as Blerch stickers, a blerch magnet, cupcake flavored lip balm, snacks of some kind, the medal and a bib.

Wait. Wait. Wait.  What is a "Blerch" you say?  Check out his comic here:  The Terrible & Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances.

Race sign I saw at the start gate of my Sunday race and a picture of The Oatmeal in a green inflatable suit running his second half marathon in 24 hours.  Bottom, me and The Oatmeal and me with a Blerch volunteer.

I arrived midday on Saturday, and missed packet pickup on Friday.  This was disappointing because Matthew Inman (The Oatmeal) was going to be there to sign autographs and would have advanced copies of his new book, "The Terrible & Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances".  But, I wasn't running until Sunday, so I ventured to Seattle to pick up my sunday packet and head over to Carnation to watch the end of the Saturday festivities.  

Not only did I luck out and the line was a "short" (45 minute wait), but I also got a doodle of a blerch in my book and showed him the picture of "the Blerch" that I am running from.  (Since the blerch is defined as a version of his former self that he is running to avoid.)  After standing in line, the family and I unloaded our car and headed to our campsite.  This was the absolute best way to do a running event like this.  To fully enjoy the entire festival type environment, wake up and just walk on over to the race.  No parking, no commute time.  When the kids were tired of waiting for me, they could head to the camp playground (within sight of the Start/Finish) and have a little picnic or a cat nap in the tent (because I am THAT slow).  Anyway, we unloaded the car and set up camp and walked back to the race.  The last runners had not yet crossed the finish line.

Over 6 hours was on the gun time clock, and we were still waiting for at least one runner on the course.  A volunteer shouted that the last runner was on the home stretch and we all cheered enthusiastically.  He was awarded a DFL cake (bottom left picture) and we soon realized that he wasn't actually dead last.  There were still two other runners on the course.  The Oatmeal headed out (after having ran the half marathon earlier that day) and went in search of the last two.  They had befriended each other and were working towards the finish line.  The Oatmeal ran them in to the finish and allowed them to cross first.  They were each given a DFL (Dead Friggin' Last) sheet cake.  This was the cake on the course... and it was very very tasty.  It was hard to just eat one piece at the aid stations.  Maybe I didn't refrain from gluttony on my race.  Anyway...  

A race is sometimes only as successful as the heart put into it by the crew and the volunteers.  The volunteers were clearly putting all of their heart and energy into this.  

Volunteers offered Magical Grape flavored beverages, as well as sports drinks, water, cake and Nutella Sandwiches.  Bananas and potato chips were available as well.  

 The volunteers were out on the course to help direct runners where to go, offer encouragement, have food and drinks ready for runners entering their aid station and making fresh Nutella sandwiches if they were running low.  Other volunteers wore Blerch costumes and offered advice such as "Slow down Captain Speedy Pants!  You don't want to get hurt..."  "This is a beautiful day in the woods, take it easy and soak it all in.  No one will know if you walk."  "Take a nap with me on the couch."

And there were couches on the course to help with this temptation.

The course was mostly packed gravel and dirt roads with about a half mile in the beginning and end that was larger rocks and not as packed.  I don't remember reading about the terrain other than it was "nearly flat".  It was not exactly flat as it gain an elevation of 300 ft in 6.5 miles and then the half marathon turned around to descend that gradual climb.  I heard that the terrain got a bit more difficult for the Full distance.

Besides the aid stations full of sugary treats (as well as water and bananas), the fantastic volunteers, seeing The Oatmeal (autographs and photos) and watching him run, seeing him go out on the course to help his runners, there were other great race perks as well....

Race photos will be FREE for participants to download.  Free.  I can't tell you how many times I have looked at a race photo, wanted it and wished to frame it for my running wall.... but it was too expensive.  Also, each medal and shirt for the participants featured the distance you ran and not the others.  

Results were instant and available here.  

Though the race was a 10K, Half and Full Marathon, only your distance was celebrated on your medal and on your long sleeved shirt.  The shirt was a half zip, long sleeve with thumb holes.  No sponsor ads or logos... just "I beat the Blerch Finisher" and the distance and location.  

The medals had the distance below the sash The Blerch wore and had different colored ribbons.  Unfortunately I did not get the picture of the 10K medal, but the award for the top finishers in their age group was carved in wood with an emerald green ribbon.

The event was so much fun and you could tell a lot of thought went into it so it could be a fun and successful event.   Matthew never grew grumpy, even after the third day of doing autographs for lines that were hours long.  A friend had to leave to go back home (long car trip) so I offered to take his book to have signed and I figured I'd stand in line to have my bib signed.  I secretly hoped to ask him to draw an unflattering picture of me in my blerchy form, or being chased by a blerch... etc.  However it became clear that he was signing everyone's merchandise or bibs with his autograph and giving it back.   After three days of this, I bet he was getting pretty tired of doodling.  Signing would get pretty tiresome alone.  At this point, I was in line for over 2 hours.  The day before it had been 45 minutes.  ...I should've had him sign my bib too the day before.  Oops.

The person in front of me had a large pile of books and he signed every one of them without complaint or requesting the fan/runner pick two or three of them.  He had a good attitude with everyone.  When it was my turn, I asked if he would also include the dedication on my friend's book, but refrained from any more requests or doodles.  I'll have to ask next year.

If there is any complaint from me, it would be that, besides the Disney (mostly "The Little Mermaid") soundtrack on repeat, it would be that peppered in with the songs to shows most children at the event knew and were singing along to ...there was also Sarah Donner's song paying tribute to The Oatmeal's comic about The Motherfucking Pterodactyl. (click to listen to it when you are NOT at work.)  Of course my kids have heard worse... it's just that on repeat for several hours with a catchy tune is going to have embarrassing consequences as we work to deprogram them from it.

No race can be perfect, and this was pretty close.  

Did you run "Beat The Blerch" in Carnation or virtually?  Will you be attending next year?  i hope to see you there.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Glittery bling and purple butterflies.... Virtual medal earned!

I had written a little about the virtual I had signed up for HERE.  It was a virtual to help raise money for research and to help raise awareness for the Dravet Syndrome Foundation.  And I joined to help a very special little girl named Anna.  

Well, yesterday I received the beautiful medal in the mail!  According to the Dravet Run for Research facebook page, just over $10,599 has been raised for research on this rare form of epilepsy.  

I am proud to have been a part of this project!  

It is not too late to help contribute in some way to the cause and help them find treatment options to manage this difficult syndrome and hopefully one day to find a cure for it.  

Have you ever ran in honor of someone?  Do you do virtual races?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Race Review: The Oregon Marathon and Half (in the heart of Oktoberfest!)

Race recap from the Oregon Marathon and Half on September 13, 2014.

I know that not every event can be a fantastic experience... therefore at some point or another there will be an event that just isn't so great that makes the other ones shine.  At no fault (or very little fault) of Uberthons, this even just wasn't the shiny, awesome, amazing one for me.  Why?  I was so undertrained.  

 I hadn't had much of a long run since July...  I knew this was setting myself up for a miserable time, so I went into it with no expectations for a PR, my only pace expectation to stay ahead of "the sweeper".  I went into this event to have fun, wear a silly costume for 13.1 miles and enjoy the company of my fantastic sole sisters who were willing to hang back with me (and my misery happy-go-lucky pace).

The fantastic women who ran with me.  Andie is in a wheelchair that requires someone to push it, so we all took turns to help her cross her first half marathon finish line.

Despite some of the setbacks I had placed on myself, the race was a great event with very few issues.  The course was beautiful and started in the cool of the day.  The day did heat up rather quickly though, but this (of course) is not to the fault of the race directors and the weather was pretty accurately predicted by our local meteorologists.  

 One request I have seen is that marathoners would like to start even earlier to avoid the heat. I felt bad for some of the finishers coming into the home stretch and were clearly exhausted by the heat.  Uberthons had plenty of aid stations fully stocked and lots of porta potties on the course, and there were opportunities along the course that a friend/family member could meet their runner to provide additional support and emotional encouragement for their runner.   (You would need to drive or bike to that location, as there was not spectator shuttles running on the course, but it was spectator friendly.)  Did I mention that one of the aid stations offered fresh watermelon and salty pretzels?  THANK YOU!!  What a great treat while trying to make our way to the finish.  It was ice cold and delicious.  

I also heard some complaints about the gravel sections of the race course... however, this was not a surprise that there would be gravel.  The information was provided on The Oregon Marathon webpage.  I can not at this time imagine what it is like to run 26.2 miles, nor the agony that may ensure for having some gravel stretches... but I think it is fair to point out that it is in the course description and runners were given the opportunity to either train for it or skip this event and avoid the gravel all together.  The half marathon course had no gravel.

There were some issues for me on the half marathon course towards the end.  It seemed that after the 11th mile, the volunteers were also exhausted by the heat and not giving as clear of directions as I would have liked to have for where to turn or where to actually run.  Which side of the road was I supposed to be on?  A friend ran back to mile 10.5 (after finishing her half marathon!) to help us take turns pushing Andie's wheelchair toward the finish.  Without her knowing where to go, I would not have been so confident about where we were going.  As it was, we had our choice to share the street with traffic or share the sidewalk with other Oktoberfest patrons walking at their own pace and unaware of people hoping to run by unobstructed as fast as they can.  That was a little frustrating.  We ran in the street for awhile, but it seemed that there were no "runner on road" signs and we better get back on the sidewalk.  

I never felt unsafe, I just wasn't sure which spot I was supposed to be on (or sometimes which side of the road to be on).  When we passed the 6 mile mark, we ran into one of the race directors (Darwin) helping runners to safely cross the street.  It was so encouraging to see him.  He is always full of good humor.  I heard he was "all over" the full marathon course as well and it helped encourage my friend to see him popping up here and there out there to cheer people on.

When we got to the finish line, we got to finish on a brand new track at the high school.  It was great to finish on the softer surface and it was easy to muster up the last bit of energy and run in with all your heart when so many are there cheering for you.  The announcer called our name over the intercom as we passed through the finish chute.  I'm a narcissist and love that.  I admit it.   

Some of my running buddies hanging out with Darwin.  Check out the serious hardware for this race!

The bling for this race is some serious hardware!  If you aren't prepared for the weight of it, it could knock you down when the volunteer puts the medal around your neck.  I might not be joking here.  

The beautiful medal features the Mt. Angel Glockenspiel, a man in lederhosen and a woman in a dirndl... but the best part?  There is a pinback on the medal that can be removed so you can wear a piece of your bling all the time.  Under the pinback is a mug of beer inside the state of Oregon.  How cool is that?!  Pretty neat. 

My team was awarded the use of the VIP tent for having the largest team.  Unfortunately, this was not clearly marked "VIP" and was also used for the "non VIP" runners to claim their banana and sample larabar.  We quickly ran out of shade waiting for our marathon team mates to come in.  I would recommend putting the VIP members behind the tent (in the shade) and put the bananas and things for everyone up front (backwards from the setup that actually happened).   That wasn't a big deal to me... there was a bit shade, cold towels and juice... my issue was that our VIP gear check turned out to be our bags strewn on the ground and chairs for us to dig through to locate the bag with our bib number written on it.  I felt that wasn't very secure and relying a little too much on "the honor system".  A friend of mine who ran with me never did find her gear bag (with an expensive coat in it) and would be out of luck all together if she had decided to check her phone and keys.  At least she still had those items with her so she could go home?    

After the race you could claim your post race Oktoberfest packet within the festivities and partake in the activities there.  Packet included a bracelet into some of the beer halls with live concerts ($10 value)  and two vouchers for food at the plentiful food carts ($10 value) and $10 in token for beer or wine.  Very generous packet, especially given the price of the race... however I have heard from numerous friends that they didn't even know about the packet!  Oops.  Again, that info was available on the website but sometimes there is just too much info to sift through?  I'm not sure.  I happened on a link called "last minute news" and read through that.  Posting the link on my facebook page did not ensure that all my friends were aware of it.  Someone made a good point that mentioning it at packet pick up or even making the Oktoberfest packet available at packet pickup would have been helpful.

To get to Oktoberfest you could walk (just under 1 mile) or hobble... or wait for the shuttle.  We wandered all over, interviewing every runner, spectator and volunteer we could find and no one knew where the shuttle picked up.  Signs would have been helpful.  We waited in an area that appeared to be full of busses, but there was also a tournament of some kind going on for the kids at the high school... so we decided to hobble over to the party.  On our way, we ran into Randy (one of the race directors) who was driving the shuttle.  Oops!  His van was full, and he offered to come back around to get us, but we didn't meet up with him again.  (We hobbled off course to look at the festivities.)    

Overall, there may be a few things that could change to make the event run a little smoother, but it is a great race organization, beautiful course, well supported, great price and value with great swag (shirts were very pretty too) and friendly volunteers and race directors.  I would absolutely run this event again.   I do feel that the positives outweighed any of the negatives, though I do hope my friend is able to recover her lost gear bag. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Ready or not... Oktoberfest, here I come!

It's race day!  I'm off to Oktoberfest to complete my 4th half marathon this year.  (4 more to go as of this writing.)  Maybe someday I'll bite the bullet and train for a full.  Just toying with the slight thought of how to muster the bravery.  Maybe I should wait til my kiddos aren't so little anymore?  

Anyhow, my Moms RUN This Town group got together to make the largest team, and therefore qualify for VIP status.  I'm looking forward to that!  Some of us are even dressing up for the occasion.  

This is a tech shirt I found for under $3 at the thrift store, and this is what I did to it:

And, I couldn't just leave the back blank, so here is the back:

But enough dawdling... I better get ready.  I'm lucky enough to have a few friends who will stay with me since I am under trained for this event.  Well, they aren't staying with me peper say, they are helping me to help Andie cross the finish line.  Her health has declined in such a way that I'll be pushing her in a wheelchair for her first 13.1 mile race, with the help of some fantastic team mates when I get tired. 

Wish us luck!  More later.  Off for a big adventure!!!! 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Race recap: The Color Run (and how it compared to my "Color Me Rad" race last summer)

Do one color race, and you've done them all.... right?  It might seem that way, but some of the bells and whistles one race venue offers might not match up to what they can deliver and one race company certainly may do things differently than another.

Back in June 2013, I ran Color Me Rad.  It was my first gimmick race with a fun theme and untimed.  It was also the first time I convinced my husband to run a race with me (or run at all) and we took the kids with us through the fun.  My kids have been hooked on running events, training runs and races ever since.... just as long as i push them in the stroller.  

Anyway, I couldn't help but think of that first experience when I ran The Color Run on Sept. 6th.  I thought both events were fun, but there are definitely some differences worth noting, depending on what you have in mind.

Color Me Rad Cons:
  • Located in Vancouver, Wa. with congested traffic into event venue. 
  • The waves through the start were pushy and hard to get into the start.
  • There were so many bandits, it really frustrated me that I paid over $50 per bib and people walking down the street (smoking cigarettes) were jumping into our race and joining for free.

Lots of color!
Color Me Rad Pros:
  • The after party was a LOT of fun!  The DJ was good at making it a party atmosphere.
  • There were costume contests with swag for prizes.
  • Lots and lots of swag being thrown at the crowds.
  • Everywhere you went, there were free packets of color for the finish party to throw in the air.
  • The lines for the photo booths were small.  There were several booths the opportunity to have your photos taken.
  • There were at least 5 color stations within the race and color was generously applied to participants.
  • Color stations were more than dry corn starch.  Some color was applied by green bubbles through a large bubble machine and color cornstarch water from large spray bottles.  

Believe it or not, these people have gone through 4 color stations...
The Color Run Cons:
  • There were only 4 color stations and all were cornstarch in dry form being squirted through a pull top water bottle.
  • Volunteers were very stingy with color.  I got completely through the first color station when I asked "Do I get color too?" when someone sprinkled a little on me.  Blue did not stay with me until the finish line.
  • Most of the race is on gravel.
  • The race only hands out one or two color packets and most participants threw that at each other shortly after leaving the finish chute.
  • The after party at the stage was small.  The DJ tried to encourage people to throw powder in the air but not many had any packets remaining.  They need to give more out.
  • The lines for the two photo booths were too long to deal with.  More photo booths needed.
  • If you were going to get any free swag thrown at you at the start line, you had to be right below the DJ.  If you caught it, you had to carry it through the race.  Save the swag for the after party/stage and throw more color packets at the beginning of the race.

The Color Run Pros:
  • Traffic seemed well negotiated and parking plentiful.... however we took public transit.
  • Crowds were a lot larger, but waves were very well organized.
  • Someone was in a unicorn costume!  Awesome dude!
  • There was some pre race zumba to dance to
  • Post race you could stand in line to have someone blast you with a leaf blower to get color off.
  • A sponsor brought a 360 degree camera booth.  That was super cool (but the line too long for this mama with young kids).

You can see how much color I had on when I left Color Me Rad vs. how much color was on me at The Color Run.  I think it's fair to see which race venue I would choose if I do another one of these... 

Have you done a color themed run?  Were you disappointed or did you enjoy it?  

Friday, September 5, 2014

Running for someone besides myself...

I had never heard of Dravet Syndrome before a running buddy mentioned to me that she had a family member with it and that there was a virtual race/fundraiser happening to help raise awareness and raise funds for research for this rare form of epilepsy.  

Would I like to do it?
Sure!  Why not!? 

Well, I haven't raised as much money as I had hoped to do on my own personal campaign for the fundraiser, but as of Sept. 5th there was a total of $10,000 raised for this small cause and small race.

Well, as with any virtual, the rules are relaxed and you can run the half marathon all at once or run 13.1 miles broken up over several runs within a certain time period.  My goal is not to get a PR with some outstanding time to cover the distance but to help raise awareness.

So today, I printed out my bib and dedicated a short (but long!  It's hot out...) run to my little friend who I haven't met in the hopes to brighten her day and in hopes to raise money for research, awareness and hope for medication to manage this awful form of epilepsy. 

I've somehow forgotten the "foundation" on the website for the Dravet Foundation... so I promise that the shirt has been edited in real life to reflect the proper website.  Oops.  I feel like a heel on the "raise awareness" part.  Maybe I should redo the 4 miles from this morning.

There!  Now it is complete!
 Tomorrow is a color themed race with the kiddos, so I'll rock this shirt tomorrow at the race (with the full web page URL).... and it won't be white anymore!  The kids are excited to wear purple butterfly wings.  (A purple butterfly is often the symbol used with Dravet Syndrome.)

4 miles done this afternoon and 10 more on my schedule for tomorrow.
The shirt before I added a plethora of puff paint, the sorta finished design and my virtual race bib.

Do you do virtual races?  What draws you to them?  Causes?  Cool medals?  Just a need for a new challenge?