Sunday, May 30, 2010

Ragnar Relay NY: General Race Review

Sorry for the delay, but I've included lots of photos to make it up to you all!
I really don't even know where to begin describing Ragnar. Summarizing 180 miles of running and everything that goes with it is really difficult, but I'll do my best. I'll do a second post with details about our team's race, this is more general info. Feel free to ask questions if I leave anything out!
There were free Tats in the race packet. We even Tattooed the van.
Ragnar Relay NY started in Woodstock and wound its way through the Hudson River Valley ending in Dobbs Ferry. The course was beautiful albeit a little on the hilly side (I think almost every leg finished uphill) marching through country roads, parks, trails, small towns, and residential areas (a great little change for a girl stuck in the city).
Wait, I have to run up that?
Ok, it was worth running up!
Oh, look water.
With over 200 teams registered, it was far bigger than I expected but remarkably well organized. I can only imagine the logistics of marking out the course, positioning volunteers at every exchange, and ensuring that everyone had a good time, but the Ragnar folks did it! Teams ranged from 6 (Ultra teams) to 12 members (normal, 'sane' folks), with a whole variety of abilities, energy, and team creativity (spirit was big on the course).
Each wave start consisted of about 15 teams in order to stagger them out along the course.
There were 36 legs total in the race ranging in distance from 2.7 miles to 8.3, each rated for distance and elevation change from 'easy' to 'very difficult'. Each runner ran 3 legs (Ultra runners ran 2 legs back-to-back 3 times), and while not running, runners were responsible for cheering along other runners and tending to the needs of their team member on the course. I was a member of a mixed ultra team (3 guys, 3 girls), that was heavy on the sarcasm and sass. If you can't take the heat, don't get in our minivan.
Like a Glove.
It quickly became obvious to us at the start that there was a big difference between 6 and 12 person teams, more than just the mileage. 12 person teams were heavy on the spirit, costumes, and themes (this is NOT to say they were any less serious runners), while 6 person teams were a little more subdued, possibly conserving energy for what was to come.
This entire team dress up as Pre.
With a 6 person team, you only have one van (12 person teams have 2 vans, so people can take a break) and the team is awake the entire time. Its a bit exhausting to put it nicely. Either way, both types of teams were in for the experience of a lifetime and far more time in a van than is healthy. The race itself is like a rolling party and its very social. Along the course we were constantly leap frogging other teams, running into them at exchanges, and cheering for them on the course. It made it fun to have more than one van honking and cheering for you as they went by.
Ragnar is a blast. Our team had a few snafus along the way (I'll get to the details in my next post), and we still had a great time! We even were trying to pick out our next one while still jammed in the van. That should speak volumes for what the race was like.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Lazy Blogger

Ok, I know I owe you all a lot of updates. Its been a big few weeks both in running (2 races to report on) and life (grad school is o-v-e-r!), so I apologize for the laziness. Good news is that everything is calming down and I can return to 'normal' life, though I am not really sure what that is anymore!

So as a little teaser, here is some of the excitement that is coming your way:
1. Ragnar Relay recap! This might have to be a double.
2. Warrior Dash recap. I think I have finally got all of the mud off my body. That stuff sure likes to hide.
3. Alternative forms of Cross training! Let's just say I'm not sure any of you have thought of this one.

Until then, here are a few words of encouragement from the locals in North Georgia!
Not sure this is the last thing you want to see before heading out on Warrior Dash.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

May Madness.... Why should March have all the fun?

So I am deep in the heart of my May Madness of racing (3 races, 4 weekends, 40+ miles of racing, which wouldn't be such a big deal if thesis hadn't killed my training) and I am prepping for the biggest one: Ragnar Relay. To be honest the last race is just a silly victory lap with Viking helmets, but I'm still counting it.

Tomorrow we depart from peaceful Maine (up here for my bi-annual visit with the family) and head to Boston to pick up the remaining team members (we're a ragtag bunch coming from all over the country). The relay begins in Woodstock NY and, in a most fitting weather report, rain is in the forecast. Hopefully it’s not a reenactment of the original Woodstock, But alas, we will still be a bunch of nuts riding around in a van for several days, as we wonder through upstate New York.

My poor running shoes can't handle another day like this!


In fact we are 6 nuts. Special enough to think needing an extra 6 runners was unnecessary. Something we may come to regret. Since we are 6 we each get to run back-to-back legs three times during the race totally 25 to 36 miles per person for the entire relay. Nothing too crazy, but I can only imagine how I will feel crawling out of the van for my last leg. I am lucky enough that my first leg is my longest (16miles) and they get progressive shorter each time. Hopefully my IT band appreciates this fact.

All in all, I am very excited for the weekend and hope to have some exciting running tales to tell when I return.

Hope you have a good weekend!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Flying Pig Half Marathon Race Report

I know what you're thinking, "Flying Pig wasn't on your race calendar?!" Yep, you're right. It was a late addition. A crazy idea that once planted in my mind, I couldn't get out. So off I went to Cincy for the weekend to get in some miles and learn the real meaning of racing in the rain.

Flying Pig Half was on Sunday May 2 (Sorry for the epically slow race report), right in the heart of the mid-west crazy rain storms/flash flooding (yes, mother nature still has it out for me). After hearing such wonderful things about the race, the fans, and the support, I was determined to not let a few sprinkles (or inches of rain) ruin the weekend. Upon my arrival in Cincy, the first thing I noticed is the overwhelming commitment to the theme. Everything is Pig and the whole city is behind it! The newscast is all Pig related stories. Everywhere you turn there is a sign supporting the Pig or wishing runners luck, and the support continued through out the weekend. Everyone, from fans, race volunteers, and even runners, is dressed in their best pig related fashions (ears, tails, tutus, whatever). A-plus for spirit at this one.

Unfortunately, When pigs fly, EB does not. I had a pretty bad flare up of ITBS early in the race, so I mainly tried to enjoy the course, the fans, and survive to the finish because I had a much faster friend stuck waiting in the rain for me to hobble across the line. The flash-flooding during the race didn't help things, but definitely made for an unique experience. At the time the gun fired, rain was coming down at about an inch an hour and there was stong lightening in the area. Soaked doesnt even begin to describe how I felt starting this race. Before I even made it to the starting area, I had stepped in several deep puddles on accident and my clothes were already soaked through. It was just that bad and there was nothing you could do about it. The good news is that when my feet are that wet, they don't bleed, so I guess that was a bonus. Check out the race website for some great pics of the rain! The race photogs didn't even take pics in the early miles, but once the rain started to calm down they caught a few shots.
Pre-race enjoying the sprinkles, er, monsoon.
Expo: Its a Big one. Even with well over 15,000 participants this race still offers a lot for each runner. The expo was a bit crowded, but really, when are they not? You could still move around and see/get everything that you needed. In addition this year, the Pig was a Runner's world challenge race (they have some fun videos and pics) and I literally ran into Bart Yasso at the expo (he has rocking calves). The race shwagg was impressive (dri-fit Shirt, Duffle bag, and official race poster) especially since the race was not anymore expensive than usual ($60 if you register early).

Race: The course isn't easy, which kind of surprised me given how many first timers and run/walkers were there. The course is challenging, but not impossible. The early miles include several bridges and quick visit to Kentucky, but thats basically the warm-up for the middle section. From miles 6-9.5 you climb steadily uphill. The good news is that this is where the heart of the fans are. Even in the flood conditions, there were tons of people along course cheering, ringing cowbells and proudly waving posters (covered in clear trashbags to survive the elements). I can only imagine how amazing they are in good weather! Once you conquer the hills, you are quickly shot back down them in under 2 miles, which is tons of fun for speed reasons, but murder if you have ITBS. From there its flat into the finish. My one complaint about the race was the lack of official corrals at the start. It was simply the honor system, which with a race this big, never works out well. I found it hard to find the pace signs at the start, but this may have been due to the insane weather at the start and the fact I had my head down looking for puddles. I didnt hang around much post race to check out the party because of the weather, but I've heard its a good one.

Overall: I really enjoyed the race! I know that sounds crazy considering the weather and my inability to walk up stairs for 4 days afterward, but its really well done. The commitment of the volunteers, the fans, and the whole city is excellent! I hope to do it again and see everything the Pig has to offer in good weather.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Oh, so THAT'S my IT band!

So after the issues I faced at Talladega Half Marathon, I ended up with a little ITBS (so much for trying to not run on the banked curves). I have never had any IT band trouble in the past, but it is definitely one of those items that you know as soon as you feel it. I spent two weeks afterwards warming it up with easy/light runs, lots of stretching, and resting it as needed. I had a little residual tightness in my hamstring, but for the most part I thought I was back in business. I put it to the test Sunday with another half marathon (Race Report coming soon!), and unfortunately it looks like things are not all better. I have been sticking to a strict regimen of RICE for the past 48hrs and have already seen some good improvements. I'm having no trouble stretching the top near my hip, but does anyone have any recommendations to stretch down closer to the insertion at the knee? That is where I am having the most pain. I have been using one of lovely roommate's toys to stretch it out, but would like some other ways to get at it. Any recs?
Weapon of ITBS recovery
All ideas are welcome!

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