The Gas Man Cometh (and Yet, We Still Have No Working Stove)

This weekend was a weekend of promise. The promise of a completion of our sweet abode. The weekend where everything remaining on the new homestead punch list was going to be checked off with a satisfying finality. Alas, when homeowners make plans, the Contractor Gods laugh.

Yep, this dude is laughing at us.

There wasn’t much left, really. We needed speakers installed, walls painted, and a gas line put in for our stove.

We finally had an electrician come and install speakers  throughout the lower level (which, of course, took longer than promised and involved much more damage to our walls than described). But, by Thursday evening, we had the television and speakers up on the wall, a speaker installed in the kitchen ceiling and an outdoor speaker. It was, despite the holes in our walls, a very beautiful thing. Because it meant we could paint the lower level and be done.

The world’s cutest non-professional contractor XFE spent the next couple of days patching the holes in the walls and prepping for paint. In the meantime, I went and ran a race. The Clarendon 10k, which is a very nice race, mostly downhill. Really, it’s downhill and they give you a metro pass to get back up the hill to the start line. Brilliant.

We looked pretty fast before the race started.

The amazingly awesome pacer that I am, I started off way too fast and almost died. So I ended up walking way more than I wanted to. Particularly the last two miles. It was truly pathetic. Especially since I had run 6.25 miles earlier that week without stopping at all and felt great.

This is Taylor. She decided to bring the sexy back to running. It was her first 10K and she totally kicked my ass. Probably because of that aerodynamic shirt. Less wind resistance.

Here are my splits, which really tell the story:

  • Mile 1: 9:24
  • Mile 2: 9:08
  • Mile 3: 10:03
  • Mile 4: 10:54
  • Mile 5: 11:36
  • Mile 6: 11:56

I really pulled it out for the last quarter mile at 11:48. My total pace of 10:34. Not horrible, but not what I had been hoping for. Luckily, there was beer. Lots and lots of beer.

Look at the triumphant yet sweaty faces. Good times

(You can’t tell, but I have blue tape over the Nike swoosh as I continue my one woman protest against the company that hired back Michael Vick. I couldn’t bear to throw out my UT shirt, which is literally, the last Nike item I now own.)

I moseyed home at around 3 pm and saw this going on outside my house.

That’s right! After 2 months of living here, we were finally getting our gas line for our stove. We applied for the line right after we moved in, but the gas department around here is slower than Sunday’s Emmy’s broadcast, so they were just getting around to putting it in.

But, of course, after tearing up the road and trampling my flowers, they realized they didn’t have a welder on duty and could not complete the task (XFE saved most of the flowers and replanted them, for which I’m very grateful. But my geraniums look pretty trod upon).

On Sunday, we needed to get out of the house so our real-non-XFE contractor could come in and paint our walls. XFE really, really wanted to paint the place himself, but I convinced that we didn’t want to leave such an important task to our inexperienced paint rollers and it was worth the money to get it done right. So we bought two cans of paint, moved the furniture to the center of the room, and headed out to our favorite winery for lunch and some wine shopping.

We returned home about 8 hours later and our contractor told us that things had gone just so doggone well that he hadn’t even needed to get into the second can of paint. This caused our collective eyebrows to rise in disbelief. Sure enough, a few hours later, after everything had dried, we started noticing spots that weren’t quite completely covered. The morning sunlight revealed even more uneven coverage areas.

So let’s go through the items we expected to be done with by this point:

  • Speakers – Check. Done and check.
  • Painted walls – Nope. Need to be redone.
  • Gas for stove – Nope. Still waiting.

We did, however, find a use for all that heavy-duty construction gear parked outside our house.  This is what happens when you leave your large moving equipment unattended.

(BTW, there are no pictures of the walls nor the speakers because XFE wants to save some surprises for the big unveil at Porktober. Yes, you read right: Porktober is happening again.)

Running Update: Hopping Pathetically Down the Bilby Trail

You’re probably reading along on the PoeLog and noting the conspicuous absence of posts about a certain activity, and you might be asking yourself, “Hey, I wonder if Poe still runs?”

Or maybe you have more important things to think about, such as when the heck is Jessica Simpson going to give birth? (Seriously, she’s been pregnant for like 2 years now. Her pregnancy feels like an episode of the truly awful Fashion Star. — Ya’ll, it’s really, really bad).

The short answer is yes. Poe still runs. It’s not, however, very blogworthy, unless you want to read post after post of how hard it is and how much I suck at it. Because I do. I really, really do.

It seems like no matter how hard I work at it, I still cannot get this whole running thing down. You would think, for all the difficulty involved, that I was trying to hijack Easter and get everybody to munch on delicious chocolate-y bilbies instead of bunnies.

Good luck with that, Australia. You guys are so crazy. Love your wine though.

I cut way back on my running after the infamous Las Vegas Rock N Roll or Die Half Marathon in December. My runs pretty much consisted of session on the gym treadmill and since my gym evidently doubles as a Turkish hammam, these sessions were limited to about 30 gasping, dying minutes, or about 3 miles.

I tried to supplement these pathetic efforts with more weight training and even some Pilates classes, but after a few weeks of pitiful attempts, I threw in the naturally-organic yoga towel. Luckily, I had a good excuse for my timely quitting: Australia.

(Just a quick note on my Pilates adventure: Apparently, my core is made completely of marshmallow fluff as I am unable to sit up without the use of my arms and someone else pulling me. Like this girl explains.)

While I was in Australia, I didn’t work out at all, unless you count scuba diving, which is in fact, a form of exercise and a pretty damn good one too. However, I ate so much food it offset any cardio I may have engaged in. Which is all fine. That’s what vacation is for. I don’t regret it.

Since we’ve been back and with the mild weather approaching, I’ve slowly been trying to get back into running. Slowly being the operative word. It seems to get harder and harder to start back up with an activity once you’ve abandoned it for a while. Who would have thought?

To help motivate me, I’ve used an age-old technique that seems to work for me: fear of public embarrassment. I’ve signed up for three small races (no more half marathons for this girl) this spring. The longest one is a 10k and that distance alone may still kill me.

Want to join me? Here’s what I’ve signed up for so far:

Parkway Classic 5k and 10 miler– I did the 10 miler last year, and oh, what a difference a year makes. Last year around this time, I was a much, much stronger runner. This year, entirely different story. No, this year, I’ll just be running the 5k, thankyouverymuch. This race also happens to be the day after Amy’s wedding, which might make things a teeny bit difficult. Registration for this event is closed, but if you’re in the neighborhood, come out and point and laugh at me for being an idiot who signed up for a race the day after a wedding. I mean, people don’t drink at weddings, do they??

Run for Shelter 10k – I’m actually pretty excited about this one. Because of what it supports, not because of the distance. Although, 10k’s used to be my favorite distance. Oh memories. Now 10k seems very difficult indeedy. BUT, this race supports the Carpenter’s Shelter, the largest homeless shelter in Northern Virginia. The shelter is near our house and I very much support their mission. And, there are cakepops at the finish. I’m not really sure I’ll be in the mood for cakey, sugary things after running six miles, but I’m going to give it a shot.

Alexandria Running Festival Half Marathon and 5k – Guess which distance I’m running? Believe me, the Kids’ 1k Fun Run was definitely an appealing option at one point, but the stupid age cutoff is a bit young for me.

Guest Race Recap: Hot Chocolate, Hot Mess

So apparently Las Vegas Rock N Roll doesn’t have a monopoly on race hijinks and mess ups. Back here in little ol’DC, another race was going down the poop catcher. A race known as the Hot Chocolate 15k. A race that, had I not been in Vegas on December 3rd, I too would have been running.

Instead, I suckered other friends into running it, including our guest recapper, Katie. She’s been kind enough (and, on the Poe Scale of Hilarity, is funny enough) to write a post on the event.

Top 5 Fails of the Hot Chocolate 15K

By Katie Guest Bloggerson

The Hot Chocolate 15K hit the Washington area last weekend and, to play on the race theme, burned the District’s tongue.

Put on by RAM Racing, a for-profit professional race organizing company, this was the worst race I have ever run—and I say that with 40+ races under my belt. While there were plenty of complaints about the choice of location (National Harbor), the lack of public transportation in a city rife with options, and the swag (semi-transparent running jacket), these did not make my top five, mostly because I knew most of those things in advance. Without further ado, I present the top five fails of the Hot Chocolate 15K:

 1.       Pants on Fire! 

I spent 4 hours on the Wilson Bridge last weekend: 1.5 hours going to packet pickup on Friday evening and 2.5 hours trying to get to the race Saturday morning. What I learned from the Friday experience is that heavy traffic on a one lane road was a recipe for disaster—or at least for road rage and jerks driving up the shoulder because they are so much more important than the rest of the plebeians. But I consoled myself with the fact that I had a parking pass for National Harbor for race day and the traffic couldn’t be as bad because they only gave out a limited number of passes. What was that limited number? I’m glad you asked! It was 15,000. 15,000 runners got a parking pass of the 20,000 total.

As you can imagine this led to a clusterf*%# of epic proportions. RAM Racing decided it would be a good idea to let us know what was causing the delay (incompetence on a massive scale), but seeing as it was inconvenient to tell the truth, the company chose to invent an accident as the reason for crawling traffic. Suspicion grew when no one had seen the alleged accident and it wasn’t reported on the radio, and, as Washingtonian reported, suspicion was correct.

2.       #EpicFail

In addition to the “accident” conspiracy theory posts dominating RAM Racing’s Facebook wall was a chorus of angry voices demanding to know why the start was delayed, if they would make it across the bridge, and why no one was informing runners of start time developments. What’s worse, there was obviously a RAM Racing employee online because someone was taking down critical comments on Facebook. I’m in the communications field and the cardinal sin of social media is removing the “social” element, positive or negative.  The only exception is when it violates the obvious rules—profanity, expressed threats, etc.

 RAM Racing chose to remove everything negative to the point that one frustrated commenter created a new fan page, Epic Fail Hot Chocolate 5K and 15K, that earned more than 1,200 fans in less than 24 hours. Although it removed all comments from the day of the race, RAM Racing eventually threw in the towel on removing negative comments after it posted its official statement after the race (see item 5).

 3.       Life is a Highway, I Want to Run It?

Are you a people person? Better yet, a people person that hates personal space? Then this was the race for you. I expect to run/shuffle shoulder-to-shoulder with racers at the start line, but I didn’t expect it to last the full 9.3 miles. The upside of the clogged course was that it distracted from the fact we were running on a highway, still open to a lane of traffic, with no scenery (unless you count the two apartment complexes and a gas station we jogged by).

 4.       Involuntary Imprisonment at National Harbor

My limited edition parking pass cost me a handsome $10, so I was very surprised to learn that I couldn’t actually exit the parking garage with the pass. As my group and I finally headed home, we drove to the exit only to find a ticket system, no attendant, and a bar barricading our exit from this nightmare. After some phone calls and conversations with other runners, we left the garage 15 minutes later.

5.       What Doesn’t Kill Us is Good Enough for RAM

In a statement more than 1,100 words long, RAM Racing painted itself the victim of bad advice. I really can’t stress this enough—RAM Racing puts on these events for a living. They can blame fake accidents, Maryland road crews, and police officers all they want, but almost every major problem was 100% avoidable. The bottom line: RAM Racing was not an innocent bystander.

Just a note on the gag factor—RAM Racing actually used the phrase, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” If that doesn’t show the utter lack of perspective this company suffers, I’m not sure what does. 

 

Being the holiday season, I feel the need to say something charitable. The chocolate fondue boxes at the post-event party were pretty solid and helped to counter the bitter taste left by the race. Plus, this debacle gave me an opportunity to write a guest post for the Poe Log, making it all worth it. 

(EDITOR: HA! Told you that girl was funny).

Race Recap: LV Rock N Roll Wreck

Disclaimer: This is a very long, very thorough account of my Las Vegas RnR experience. I promise I won’t stop being your friend if you don’t want to read all of it. Seriously. You can skip it. I’ll be ok.

Pre-race creeping at the Cosmopolitan.

If you like the crush and sweat of other runners, bottlenecks galore, and wearing yourself out by weaving around crowds of walkers, then the Las Vegas Rock N Roll marathon and half-marathon is the event for you.

First the positives (it’s a short list): Let me say first off that running on the Las Vegas Strip at night is amazeballs. I ran the race with a friend of mine from Texas and her trainer, and we were all very excited and pumped up. Definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience to have that whole Strip closed down and lit up so you could run it for a couple of hours.

AND we ran past the pawn shop where Pawn Stars is filmed! I was so pumped I forgot to take a picture (yes, I had my camera with me. Check out all the awesome blurry pics! You. Are. Welcome.) I looked to Chumley, but no dice.

Another bonus: I signed up for the runner tracker thingy which sent my half-marathon-cheerleader-extraordinaire XFE texts on how I was doing throughout the race. It worked like a charm and XFE was out there cheering me on at mile 12, which was a HUGE morale booster. I’m always loathe to ask people to come out to the race because I just never know how my pacing is going to go or where I’ll be when and it’s so boring just standing around, so having this sort of thing available was a big stress reliever for me, and probably for him as well. I highly recommend signing up for that service if it’s available.

Final positive point, the course is nice and flat and fast. Fast, that is, if there weren’t 44,000 other people on it.

But therein lies the rub. It’s just too crowded.

This became abundantly evident when we strolled to the starting area and tried to locate the gear check. I know from previous endeavors that it will be very, very cold while you are waiting for your start (it was a wave start, which means corrals or groups of people start every three minutes or so). Then, you will start running and become very, very hot and sweaty. But when you stop running, it will become very, very cold again very quickly, and it is miserable. So I wanted to bring another top and jacket to change into after the race and check it, especially since the temperatures at start time was in the low 40s and dropping.

The problem was, we could not for the life of us find the gear check. It was nowhere near the start line. It was actually inside the Mandalay Bay. There were no signs indicating where the gear check was until, basically, right in front of the door to the auditorium. Nothing outside or in the finishing area. We had to ask several different people to locate it.

And the only way to get to the finishing area and then into the hotel itself and then to the elusive gear check was to go through the teeny tiny chute between the corral barriers. That tiny opening was surging with people going different directions. It was a pretty scary 10 minutes while we tried to push through without losing each other.

We finally checked our gear and located a corral close to the one we had signed up for.

I call this, "Stretch it oooouuuuuttt."

The marathon started at 4:00. Those poor suckers start their race by running out into a boring industrial neighborhood. Then, they have to merge with the half-marathoners, who began at 5:30 (my corral crossed the start line about 30 minutes later so around 6). This merge system is unfair to the poor marathoners on so, so many levels.

For one thing, nobody seems to respect the corral system. Corrals are organized by your expected finish time. For example, when I signed up three months ago (pre-foot injury), I predicted I would finish in 2 hours 15 minutes. I was assigned to corral 20. But when the day got here, I correctly predicted that my finish time might be a bit closer to 2 hours 30 minutes, so I moved back several corrals to corral 23. Why do this? Well, you do it so that faster people wouldn’t have to worry about running headlong into your slow ass. You’re back with the other heavy-footed plodders.

Now, most marathoners, are much, much faster than us lowly halfers. So when you have somebody going much faster running straight into a virtual human wall of much slower half marathoners, well, tempers tend to flare. There was a separate lane for marathoners, but it was separated by cones. Yes, you read that right: CONES. The race organizers did have people on bikes riding along the course and “encouraging” half marathoners to run on the right side of the road and keep a left lane open for the marathoners. Yeah, that didn’t really work out so great. Let’s just say, there were more of us than them (I think the halfers outnumbered the full marathoners by about 6 to 1. Ah, here’s the stat: 6000 vs. 38000)

XFE got some great shots for me. Can you see me in there? No? Try harder dammit!

And here’s when the other issue arises: there were WALKERS in this race. Yes, a race billed as the “World’s Largest Nighttime Running Event,” had walkers. People who are consciously choosing to walk 13.1 miles. And, since they are very nice people who raise a lot of money for a very good cause, they started in the first several corrals. Which means that they were in the way of about 38,000 runners that started after them. Also: unlike runners, who will fall back and run in a line behind each other (me and my cohorts did this many times), walkers like to walk in large chatty groups, arms linked straight across the race route, waving their blinky neon-lit gloves at the bands and the few straggling and probably lost gamblers who stumbled upon the race while on their way to a different and undoubtedly luckier casino. For us runners, it’s basically like the old playground game Red Rover. Except the school yard kids are old people in neon orange vests announcing that they are participating on behalf of Team Challenge.

What about now? You see me, right? What? Are you sure you're trying?

The real challenge was getting around them. So basically, what us half-marathoners were to the marathoners, the walkers were to us (that should be an SAT question). I kept having to remind myself that they were good, charitable people who really care a lot about healthy colons (the race and fundraising are on the part of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation) and do not deserve to be throttled by my shoe strings (the only likely weapon I had on me at the time).

A couple of other issues: they ran out of water at some stations especially in the last half, which is unfathomable in a race of this size. There also didn’t seem to be too many medics. I saw people puking all over the place, including inside the Mandalay Bay, which was a freaking war zone after the race.

I'm RIGHT there! On the left! Ugh. I give up.

About the end of the race, after crossing the finish line, I was quickly handed my medal (glow in the dark, VERY cool) and started moving with the crowd towards what I thought would be water, food, mylar heating blankets. I did get a mylar blanket (the table appeared unstaffed and another runner was just throwing them in the air behind him so I managed to catch one out of the air). I also saw an unmanned table with flats of water bottles, so I grabbed one of those as well and continued with my crowd surge strategy.

That dude on the right seems quite scared of me. As well he should be.

Then, about 100 feet in, the surging crowd just came to a halt. I assumed we were picking up goodie bags with food. I was just stopped. In a crush of sweaty, disgusting, shivering people, myself included. Finally, out of the corner of my eye, I sensed some movement on the perimeters of the crowd, so I decided to forget the food and just get out of this crowd. I pushed my way over to the edge and shuffled along. When I looked back to try to figure out what had caused the ridiculous jam I had just been stuck in for about 15 minutes, I saw that there were about 5 or 6 lines for getting your picture taken with your medal. WTF?? Right inside the finish line?? How about some damn signage so people who don’t want a stupid picture can get on with their lives??

OK, you definitely see me now, right? Just look how fast I'm going! Everything's a blur I'm so fast!

Again, all I wanted to do at this point was find some room so I could stretch after my run. But no. There was no room to be had. I made my way back into the gear check area so I could pick up my phone and try to text my fellow racers (I got separated from them around mile 10 because my metatarsal problems had flared up in a MAJOR way. Several walking breaks, which was mildly disappointing, but not surprising, since I knew this might be an issue).

And Holy Running Hell, the whole place looked like a triage area. There was trash and spilled drinks and food everywhere, runners laying on the floor stretching as far as the eye could see. People zombied out, or puking into their mylars. It was crazy! So naturally, I wanted to get my stuff and get the hell out of there as quickly as possible.

Except ‘quick’ was not the order of the day by any means. Again, a HUGE bottleneck developed as thousands of people jammed into the halls of the Mandalay and tried to make their way to the shuttles, the taxi stand out front, or the tram to the Luxor or Excalibur. To add to the fun, the new Cirque de Soleil Michael Jackson tribute show “Immortal” (opening weekend, naturally) was letting out at the exact same time that me and my crew and about a bazillion of our closest, sweatiest friends were crammed into the exit hallway. I felt so bad for those poor people.

While all this crushing and pushing was going on, people were dropping like flies (understandably since it stunk so badly). Passing out and puking against columns. INDOORS! It was insane, chaotic, disgusting and overall horribly disorganized. We took the tram to the Excalibur to try to catch a cab, but the line was just way, way too long, so we ended up just walking back to the Cosmopolitan where my friend was staying.

I have no idea how long it took us to get out of that hell-zone from start to finish, but we were all so traumatized we just sat around the room stretching and looking at each other. We didn’t take any after pictures. They ordered some pizza from a restaurant downstairs, but at that point, I was just too exhausted and smelled too gross, so I met XFE downstairs and made our way back to the Venetian (we walked). It was hours after the race and I saw other runners just making their way back as well.

Chasing Vegas. Literally.

Apparently there have been quite a few complaints along the lines of what I just described.

“It was tough. We didn’t know where to go and there wasn’t anybody guiding us,” says racer Mary Murphy.

“There was a lot of chaos on the way back to the hotel,” adds Murphy’s daughter Kelli.

The photos, snapped with cell phones, show thousands of people pouring into Mandalay Bay hallways unable to move. People report being stuck for nearly an hour with numerous people vomiting and passing out.

“We had heard that lots of people collapsed,” says racer Christie McMorris. “Inside the hotel was horrible.”

Yeah, that’s about right.

Last year, when the race was run in the morning, the race was capped at 28,000 runners. The switch to a nighttime race almost doubled the participation. And next year, the organizers are aiming for 60,000. Good luck to them. I will definitely not be amongst them.

But for anyone else doing it in the future, a few tips:

  1. Avoid gear check. Just catch pneumonia in your sweaty, wet clothes instead.
  2. Avoid going inside the hotel at all. I know you’re cold and it’s nice and warm in there, but I’m telling you, you don’t want to do it.
  3. Bring your own water and bring enough for the entire race and after. And don’t share with anybody, otherwise you might be getting water from a fire hydrant and a trash can. (Yep, that happened, according to some reports.)
  4. Get the hell away from the finishing area as fast as you can. I recommend walking fast and never looking back.
  5. Have food ready for after the race. Because there’s a good chance you won’t find any at the finishing area.
  6. Be really, really fast so you can be in one of the early corrals and done before the chaos begins.

I promise to be more positive tomorrow. I had a fantastic post-race day, including awesome food, some shoe shopping, and a massage. All’s well that ends well.

Las Vegas: Exactly Like Venice

I’ll go ahead and kill the suspense: Yes, I actually finished the Las Vegas Rock N Roll half. No, I did not die. Or puke. Or crap myself. And I did it in 2 hours, 23 minutes, which is four minutes better than my previous half marathon also called, “When Chicago Froze Over in May.”

So, success all around. For the most part. I do have some serious bitching to do about the whole enterprise. But let’s not jump ahead. You have a whole week of Vegas recaps ahead of you.  Just know there will be a bit of snark sometime in the next couple of days. As if you couldn’t guess that running with 44,000 other people was rife with some disorganization.

 

Anybody know where we can get a cab?

 

My ½ marathon cheerleader for life XFE and I arrived in Las Vegas on Saturday morning. We met with XFE mere for some scuba mask shopping and lunch (That’s right! I finished my online scuba classes. I’m half-certified! Fishes better watch their shit. I’m on my way!)

We checked in to the Venetian, which I had never stayed at before. It’s humongous! Seriously large. Like, an airport or something. I’ll do a full hotel review tomorrow.

We were in the Venezia tower, kinda close to Thomas Keller’s Bouchon, which is where we ate lunch. Except, they were only serving brunch. Which was kind of a bummer, because this marks the THIRD time I’ve had brunch at Bouchon (what can I say? It’s very popular on the Vegas Bachelorette Party circuit). Also: the service was pretty disjointed this time, and considering how expensive a place it is, it was disappointing. So I won’t be going to Bouchon again anytime soon. I figure three times is probably enough anyway.

XFE walked his mom out and went to go gamble away our hard-earned cash (ok, fine,  his hard-earned cash) while I went to pick up my race packet and check out the Expo. Luckily, it was at the Sands Convention Center which is adjacent to the Palazzo, which is adjacent to the Venetian. Basically, I didn’t have to go outside. And since it was like 30 degrees and windy in Vegas that day, I was glad of that.

I can sum it up in one word: MOBBED. From the minute I was walking toward the entrance until I made my way out the door about 45 minutes later, ever single step was slowed by other people. And for a bunch of runners, people were moving like slow cattle. It was a slight foreshadowing of the actual event.

The Expo seemed really cool. There were a ton of vendors and booths with just about every kind of runner paraphernalia you could possibly imagined, but since it was so packed, I just got my stuff, cruised through and left.

It’s a bummer because it’s definitely one of the largest expos I’ve ever been too and I’m sure I would have bought some stuff, but even if I had wanted to buy something, for some reason, they had a central cashier area, so you had to bring whatever you wanted to buy over to this central cashier area and get in a long, long, long line to pay for it. Uh, no thanks.

I did, however, get a photo with a showgirl, so that was a win.

Race Review – Alexandria Turkey Trot

Hey y’all! Sorry I neglected you guys! I’m sure you’ve consoled yourselves with tons of leftover turkey.

But man, between training for the Las Vegas Rock N Roll half marathon, finishing up online scuba classes, major work projects (including a complete redesign of the magazine website and revamp of the editorial process), the usual house work, figuring out the logistics for our future trips (in-country air, hotels, etc.), watching all that reality TV and reading all those trashy tabloids, and I’ve been busier than a one-legged man at a butt kicking contest.

So, since I’m so dang busy, I figured I’d heap something else on my plate on Thanksgiving Day: my first Turkey Trot.

I don’t do a lot of Turkey Trots because I don’t like running in the cold. Thanksgiving is usually pretty cold. Too cold to go out and run a 5k. But the weather’s been pretty good here in these parts lately, so when I saw the last call to register on Twitter on Tuesday, I figured, why not? And it started at 10, which isn’t too early at all. Plus, it was right in my backyard – I walked to the start line from my house.

The Alexandria Turkey Trot was 5 miles and was a loop around the neighborhood of Del Ray, starting and finishing near a junior high school. When I say neighborhood, it really was in the neighborhoods, down side streets and past people’s yards, which was a mixed benefit. On the one hand, lots of families were outside cheering us on and giving us water, but with about 4,100 runners, it got a bit crowded at times.

The race fee was $20 and the organizers did something really nice which was give you the option of buying either a short sleeve tech shirt or a long sleeve cotton shirt for $10 extra. Your choice. I, of course, went with a tech shirt and since I did not know what the sizing would be like, I got a large, which is a bit large, but I did not want a repeat of a smedium incident.

Pick up was pretty easy, and there were plenty of places to donate canned goods to Alive Alexandria, a nonprofit organization of volunteers from over 40 religious congregations and the community working together to help those in need in Alexandria, Virginia. I did not, however, see a bag check place, which was unfortunate since I had worn a heavy jacket that I didn’t intend to run in.

It was an ok race. As always, my only goal was to run the whole race without stopping. But, I had some major stomach issues that really slowed me down. I had to stop a few times in a bit of a panic and with some cramping. There were no porta potties and I spent the whole race trying to figure out whether I would be brave enough to go knock on somebody’s door and ask them to use their bathrooms. It didn’t come to that because of sheer willpower. Also, the only organized water station I saw was at mile 3.5. I don’t usually stop at water stations unless it’s a really long run or really hot, but I did think it was a bit late in the race.

They also had a Doggy and Stroller participation, which people definitely took advantage of, but again, because the course was so narrow, it became a real issue at some points. I definitely saw one person using a double stroller to mow down another runner. Like, rolling up on her heels. And dogs, well, they want to stop and sniff a lot, so dodging them became a very big part of the race.

Hey, while I’m thinking about it, let’s go over some race etiquette.

1)      Don’t wear a marathon shirt to a five mile run. It’s douchey, ING dude. We get it: you’re a serious runner who’s gracing us with your presence today. Wear a race shirt of equivalent distance or less.

2)      This is just me, but I don’t wear the event race shirt until I’ve actually run the event. It’s kinda like being that dork at the concert wearing the band shirt. Again, we get it: you’re a fan, but save it for some other time. Maybe at another race (as long as it’s equal or less distance).

3)      Don’t stretch on the ground in the corrals. I know you need to stretch, I do too, but if people can’t see you because you’re on the ground, people will step on you.

4)      And children? Well, you can guess how I feel about that one.

I finished in 52.25 according to the race clock, but 50:10 according to my Nikeplus, which I paused whenever I had to stop and take a breather. Other stats: I was 903th woman out of 2,148women. 284th in my age group. 2,118th person overall out of 4,053. It was a disappointing race for me time wise. And I definitely took a few walk breaks of about 30 seconds, including a break about ½ mile from the finish, which is really demoralizing.

But, I got over it. At least I went out there and did it. Plus I ran 10 miles a couple days later. And I felt quite superior when I went and gorged later that day.

We’ve gone to our friend’s Matt and Melissa’s every year for the last six years and It. Is. Awesome. There’s usually about eight of us, most of us are repeaters. Basically, our responsibilities as guests are to bring some booze (wine and whatnot) and Matt and Melissa literally do everything else.

We get there about 2 p.m. and start eating. There’s a few appetizers (including pigs-in-a-blanket, my favorite) to munch on while Melissa works her ass off on the rest of the spread, which is a significant amount of food. Amazing turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and not one, but two types of macaroni and cheese. It’s crazy. Oh, and there’s a couple of pies.

It’s a lot of food. And, we always bring our own Tupperware to take home leftovers, which my Gordon-Ramsay-wannabe-for-life-partner XFE turns into amazing grilled sandwiches with avocado, bacon, pepper jack cheese on sourdough bread.

Oh, and sorrys, no pictures. I took a ton of pictures, but they were all on Melissa’s camera. Melissa actually has pictures from all six Thanksgivings, which we looked at this Thanksgiving and that was pretty fun. Some of us have held up pretty well, some not so much. Pretty hilarious stuff.

Speaking of somebody who’s held up well. Some gratuitous Petunia pictures. This is what she was up to while I was running. Neighborhood watch cat.

 

 

 

Run Review: Run for the Water 5k, Austin, Texas

I’m back! OK, what did I miss? I mean, Kim and Kris are still happy young newlyweds, right? And Jessica Simpson is totally not preggers, right? And Rick Perry gave an amazingly awesome speech in New Hampshire that’s going to help him regain the top of the polls, right?

Oh, so…..none of those things are accurate?

Well, I wouldn’t know, because I was eating and shopping my way through Austin. Yee-haw!

Also: I ran a race. So let’s start with that.

I'm right up there in the front somewheres. Not.

I ran the 2011 Run for the Water 5k, which helps the Gazelle Foundation secure access to clean water in the small African country of Burundi. There was also a 10-miler and a kids run. There were about 3,000 participants between the 10-miler and the 5k. They also had barefoot divisions in both categories, to which I say, hell to the no thanks. I don’t know if they cap the number of race participants, but they seemed pretty pleased with the numbers. I registered kinda late, September 13 and the fee was just $17.

The race took place at 7 am on Sunday, October 30 and it started and ended on the First Street bridge right in front of RunTex, a popular Austin running store. It was cold and dark when we started (I think the temp was around 50 degrees), but it was nice to watch the sun coming up as you ran back to the bridge at 7:30 am.

We were staying at the W Hotel on Lavaca and 2nd, so I had a short walk over to the start. Interesting note: the course went past the (fairly sparse) Occupy Austin folks who are camped out at the City Hall, but there were no comments or heckling or anything like I might have expected. The police had cracked down the night before and arrested 38 of the occupiers, so maybe that had something to do with the silent treatment.

Bag and tag pickup was pretty easy. You could pick up bags at RunTex beginning on Friday. I went on Saturday and there was no line or anything. The swag bag had the assorted promos for upcoming races, a voucher for a free Whataburger with purchase of sides, a pretty nice 2012 calendar featuring water projects in Burundi, and a sweet bright blue tech shirt. As we all know, I only care about the tech shirt.

I did not wear my shirt at the race. That's kind of lame. But I did wear it to the gym last night. So, here you go.

 

The race was supposed to start with the 10 mile runners at 7, but I don’t think it actually started until about 7:08. After both the Burundi and U.S. national anthems, the race started. Then the 5k participants were called to the start line. We started a tad bit late as well, but I don’t remember the time. There were no corrals or pacers, you just kinda started wherever.

Which brings me to another important point: The main thing to remember if you are planning on running in an Austin race is that folks are way more chill about this whole racing biz. Some folks were running, some were walking, some just wanted to show their support for their running buddies by bringing their kids in a red wagon onto the course. Nobody seemed very competitive or like they were going for a personal record. So, you might have to bob and weave around some pretty laid back folks, their kids, their dogs, their grandparents. It almost seemed more like a parade than a race at times. It was definitely a less “runner” vibe than I get at a lot of the DC races. Don’t get me wrong: everybody’s very nice, they’re just not in a big hurry to get this race thing going.

The course was an out-and-back. I would not call it a flat course: there was a long uphill portion near the halfway point, but I’ve seen worse. The course support was provided by Keller Williams Realty and was pretty good. Lots of folks were out there to direct, which became pretty important when the two races split. I think there was one water station that you hit on the way out and back, and I saw Porta Potties at one point. No VIP potties though, so I didn’t stop.

My goal in all races is generally the same: don’t walk. I always try to run the whole race. This was a good race for me. I did not walk, and I finished in 30 minutes, 21 seconds, which is respectable. I came in 147th among the 5k women; 322 overall place in a field of 813; and 55th within my age group.

There were 493 women in the 5k and the average women’s pace was 37 minutes, so I did better than the average, which is great. Hell, I even did better than the average man, who came in at 31 minutes. Of course, the first place women’s finisher came in at 20 minutes, 38 seconds; and the first place man crossed at 16 minutes, 41 seconds. But, who’s counting.

The after party was pretty great as well. Whataburger was giving out breakfast taquitos and I saw several local businesses giving away breakfast tacos and coffee as well. No Juan in a Million though.

I almost never hang out after a race and this one was no exception. I grabbed a banana, a granola bar and a water and left since I was (a) cold; and (b) I planned on being back to the hotel by 8 am. By the way, I did not bring my camera and take any pictures, which I know is kinda lame, but I was just focused on getting the race done. Sorry. I’ll try not to be so lame in the future. Also: race pictures still aren’t available.

Oh, by the way, the first place finisher for the 10 mile race was Scott MacPherson from Cedar Park, TX. And he was hitting the finish line as I was walking back to the W. Turns out, he finished the whole race in 48 minutes, 49 seconds. That is INSANE. Much props to that dude. I take longer than that just getting ready to go for a run.

This guy is kinda fast. But I'm sweatier, so I think that means I'm working harder.

Race Review: Run! Geek! Run! 8K

Despite my lackadaisical running schedule these days, I pulled myself out of bed yesterday morning to go run the Run Geek Run 8k in West Potomac Park.

Speedy-looking, no?

The race started at 8 am. My personal chauffeur XFE dropped me off as close as he could get and I set off with a banana, my iPod and my camera. I was, of course, ridiculously early and there wasn’t really anything to do, so I spent about 45 minutes just milling about, taking pictures. There was a DJ playing music, which was nice. There was a row of about 12-15 porta-potties, and not too much of a line.

The finish line before the race.

 It was actually a pretty small race. I signed up for it only because it was supposed to have a tech shirt. However, when I went and picked up my race packet on Friday, no tech shirt. In it’s place was a long-sleeved t-shirt. Serious bummer. I tweeted and Facebooked the race event organizers, but did not get a response. So, I brought my shirt along on Saturday morning and tracked someone down to ask about the mix up. She said they’d had sizing issues with the tech shirts. To which I say, get your act together. It’s not the first race of the season. You are a running store, you should probably know a little something about shirt fit at this stage of the game. Whatever.

The offending t-shirt

The race started on time, no corrals or anything. A few people were dressed in their best geek gear. I set a good 10 minute pace from the start and had no real problems. It wasn’t a terribly crowded course where you’re dodging tons of people or anything like that.

I traded spots with these two girls a number of times until they just blazed me the last mile or so. They really kicked it up.

There were water stops at 2 miles and 4 miles, approximately, but I didn’t need them. True story: I saw a woman eating a Gu at around the 1/2 mile mark. Hilarious. It’s just a five mile race — probably don’t need a Gu to replace the approximately 500 calories you’ll be burning. Personally, I’ve never eaten during a run, even my half marathon. I just don’t have the coordination.

 

This was the guy in first place. He passed me when I was about 1.4 miles in, so about 15 minutes in. Crazy. The picture is blurry because I’m so fast. Actually, I didn’t stop for pictures. I’d just stick my camera out and snap.

Me around mile 4. Not very flattering, but I wanted to get a photo of me with the Washington Monument.

This was my time on the second clock, the one after the finish line. I didn’t get a good shot of the finish clock. So I finished in about 50 minutes. I went up and down on my pacing, starting a bit slower, speeding up, slowing down. The usual. I can’t pace for shit.

The post race party was pretty small: water, bagles, bananas and chocolate chip cookies, which was a nice touch. I stuck around for about 30 minutes post-race, and had a cookie while cheering on my fellow racers. Then began the long hike to the metro. The race website insists that it’s a metro-accessible location, but that’s a bit of a misnomer. The nearest metro was Foggy Bottom, which had to be at least a mile or so away. But it was fine. It gave my legs a chance to cool down and my sweat to evaporate.

All in all a good race, but I certainly wouldn’t have done it for a damn t-shirt.

This is my new boyfriend in the background. He basically crossed the finish line the same time as me. Quite humbling.

Running Rants and Hot, Hot Pants

Anyone up for a little thigh-chafing action?

 I came across this story the other day about running in short-shorts. Not just short-shorts, but SUPER-short shorts. Probably like these from American Apparel. (I often pose like this while running as well)

Admittedly, the shorts in the picture our running temptress alludes to don’t seem “American Apparel short.” Even still, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be comfortable in them. I’m a modest girl. Not burka modest or anything, but I definitely prefer some thigh-coverage during my runs.

My favorite part is the writing on this piece; behold:

“I went on a 4-mile run, and my legs felt so free and unconstrained.”

What the hell were you running in before? A suit of armor??

“I loved feeling the wind on my skin and looking down at my legs and seeing my muscles working hard, which was, oddly, motivating!”

Damn right it’s odd. And it just sounds vulgar. I’m not trying to watch How It’s Made here. But I guess that’s what I get for reading “Glamour,” right? Sex tips AND running shorts advice…..all in one.

At this point in the narrative, I’m imagining that this girl must be pretty banging, like super fit and obviously having no thigh touching issues, unlike the rest of the female running population. And Jessica Simpson. Seriously, is she even wearing pants in that picture? I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure her thighs are touching.

But then, in the very next sentence, our short-short-wearing she-puma reveals that she’s had a baby! How? What? I….I….I’m just so confused! I’ve never had a baby and I have to practically run bowlegged to keep my thighs from touching! I single-handed keep Body Glide in business! Who is this miraculous vixen??

Actually, nevermind. I don’t want to know. I’d probably strangle her with the waist cord from my oversized shorts if I ever saw her.

(SIDENOTE: Running Buddy Amy was gifted a pair of running hot pants from her significant other for her birthday last year. She has never worn them on a run, despite my repeated pleas to do so, thereby ensuring much mirth on my part. I told her she should do her SO a favor and wear them around the house while cleaning.)

Keeping on the running theme: I’ve been looking for races to participate in this fall. One of my very favorite running stores – Pacers – puts on great events. They really do. They’re well organized, the course is clearly marked, there are plenty of potties and other course support along the way, great post-event parties, and almost always, a tech shirt. So Pacers was of course, the first place I looked for a fall race. And I got pretty pumped when I saw this race, which I did last year.

I went to register and look what they’re giving instead of tech shirts:

Here’s what they say about their “new swag.”

“Have enough tees?”

(ED: Bite your sacrilegious tongue. That’s not even possible.)

“Want something new?”

(ED: This is the part where I think maybe they’re going to give away something totally cool like a sweat wicking hat).

“The Clarendon Day 10K/5K is proud to provide a pair of commemorative flip flops.”

(ED: WTF???) 

“Register soon to secure your flips! Limited to first 2200 registrants.”

(ED: Then they make it sound like it’s something totally lustworthy and I better get off my duff and register before they run out. OF FLIP FLOPS.)

Flip flops? Are you kidding me? I do not run for flip flops! I can buy flip flops at Old Navy for like 99 cents! I’m not about to pay $50 to run 6 miles for a pair of flip flops! Not cool.

 I still love you Pacers, but I’m beginning to question your marketing efforts. Are you even aware that there are some races where hot San Francisco firemen hand out Tiffany necklaces at the finish?! (Ok, admittedly, it is put on by the company that supports puppy-killer Michael Vick. So obviously, I won’t be running it. Even for a Tiffany necklace.) Or this one with chocolate AND a running jacket.

The last Pacers event I ran was the Dash for Dad four miler in June which was (a) hot; and (b) featured a hellacious couple of hills that almost killed me. So, I feel, I really earned my sized medium women’s tech shirt on that one. But the shirt? The shirt was a teeny-tiny sized smedium in white, which lovingly showed every roll and bump. Like, Anderson Cooper tight (sorry Anderson, you’re a total silver fox, but you need to go up a size on those black tees).

Seriously, it looked like a baby tee on me. Since I had totally soaked through my normal and now banned Nike Longhorn running shirt during the race, I had to change into the race shirt to ride the metro home without killing everyone with my running stench. When I rolled up to the homestead, XFE took one look at me and busted out laughing. He still asks why I don’t wear that shirt.

Strike two, Pacers.

Long story short (hardly), I’m still looking for some fall races. Any suggestions? And there better be a normal, human-sized tech shirt involved.