Thursday, October 23, 2014

Random things I want

I've been shopping for myself a bit, and as the holiday season approaches (relax, I'm talking about my birthday, not Christmas) it's that time of year where I add lots of little things to my Pinterest or Amazon wishlist. Here are a few interesting things:

1. Hooray Sports tank top Look Human - $27
2. Forest Friends Book of Stickers Amazon - $5.39
3. Southwestern-Patterned Fringed Scarf Forever 21 - $12.80
4. KittenTexting Gloves Kohl's - $6.00
5. Unicorns are Jerks coloring book Amazon - $6.96

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Race Recap: Loveland Half Marathon

This is a stock photo, but I swear the trail looked like this. 
The Loveland Half Marathon took place Sunday, October 19, 2014 at 8:00am. [The course]

Last week was the worst. (Well, the worst for minor issues that aren't important. Long story coming. Brace yourself.) I had a work trip to Dallas Tuesday thru Thursday. Unfortunately, we didn't have our normal direct flights and besides adding 2-3 hours each way, our homebound connecting flight through Charlotte was cancelled at 10pm Thursday. An airline worker clicked and clacked away to get us hotel rooms and new flights, so we grabbed a shuttle to the hotel and ate mac and cheese pizza with beer for dinner. The next day (Friday) we did a little walking tour of the area and ended up at a local brewery. While that was lovely, we wanted to be home. And of course, when we got to the airport for our rescheduled flight the line for security was ridiculous AND (!!) our boarding passes didn't work at the gate. We had to wait for everyone else to board and only two out of our group of three were able to go home. I got bumped up to first class, but in that seat where you can't keep your bags with you.

Saturday I spent 8 (fun) hours celebrating and watching OSU football (from the highest, coldest, and wettest seat in the stadium) only to have to ride an hour and a half to Cincinnati that night to check into another hotel in preparation for the race. Over five days I'd spent four nights in three different hotels away from my dog and bed, which made me VERY grouchy. In fact, I yelled at Alex for who knows what and it led to a mild freak out in which I said the race could one of two ways: great because I would finally be alone without any responsibilities or terrible as I would die on the trail from stress.

Guess what? It went really well!

Stylish lady. Spoiler alert: this is after.
Checking in + what I wore 
The race was advertised as "no frills" and it cost $38 with a Labor Day coupon code (!!!). I was a little worried it would feel disorganized based on Facebook comments from past races. I did not have any issues before, during, or after the race. My only complaint is super minor: I wish we had race-specific bibs. Instead, our bibs advertised their next race, the Undead 5k. While I'm sure that race is lovely, when you run a half marathon you want to be rewarded with as much crap that says 13.1 as possible. ;)

We got there around 6:30am. I was freaking out because I wanted to be there earlier, but it was fine. We found a killer parking spot steps from the finish line and were able to keep warm in the car after I picked up my bib and timing chip. The volunteers were mostly high schoolers and they were so cheerful for that early in the morning.

It was really cold: about 40 degrees. I'm not quite ready for chilly fall weather (let alone winter-like temperatures) so I layered up a bit more than necessary, but it worked out in the end. I wore gloves, capris, a tank top, a long sleeve shirt, and a free breast cancer awareness buff (Yowie) I got at the OSU game. I usually adhere to "nothing new on race day" but I wore the buff throughout the game, so I figured it was safe. In the end, I removed my gloves around mile 2 or 3 and tucked them into my waistband and I rolled up my sleeves after mile 5, but overall I chose a good ensemble. This outfit generator helped me a lot last winter.

The beginning
The start of the race went well considering there were no pace corrals and a fairly large crowd. I'm assuming the race director was the one giving us instructions with a bullhorn. Regardless, Bullhorn Guy did a great job getting everyone to line up by speed and warning us of the few narrow points along the course.

Once we set off I spotted people going at a moderate pace and latched on. I started Map My Run before crossing the timer strip, but I didn't switch on my podcasts as I normally do. Here's a pet peeve of mine: people running a race with music and no headphones. Who wants to hear your crappy music? (Hint: I don't.)

The first few miles of this course were HILLY. I suppose if you're from Cincinnati or Colorado these hills would seem small, but as I've mentioned before, my area of Columbus is pretty flat so any hill –no matter how small– is a workout. So, I'm truckin' along behind these moderately paced runners and my first mile is 10:22. Not bad - that would keep me ahead of my Cap City finish, or right on target if I need to walk later. But you know what? Deep down I felt like I could go faster. And on hills, if I amped myself up and chugged I felt better than keeping slow and steady. So, I suppose I started to run a little faster. It wasn't easy, but I didn't feel like dying.

About mile 1.5 some guy was at the top of a hill and said "you're done with the big ones! It's flat from here out!" At mile 2 a woman said something similar (after we'd finished a hill and could see another on the horizon.) While they were obviously a bunch of liars, I appreciated the sentiment. Around mile 3 there was a steep downhill. I felt like I was sprinting (with control). I ended up passing some people and set into the stride I would (somehow) maintain for the rest of the race.

Before I signed up for the half, I mapped the elevation so I knew it would even out around mile 5. After the steep downhill at 3, Map My Run kept telling me my splits were under 10 min/mile. There was a little voice inside that thought maybe I couldn't maintain that pace, but another voice won out:  it was the "trust your body" / "run what you feel" voice. I read a blog post last year from a woman who said when she stopped using GPS and started listening to her body, she started getting PRs. Obviously, I was feeling good, so I wanted to roll with it.

The middle to the end
Honestly, I can't tell you to much about this race. I didn't have my normal inner turmoil or desire to walk. Yeah, if someone said, "Hey we're not timing you and Map My Run stopped working and this isn't a race anymore" I probably would have walked, but as soon as I hit the bike trail at mile 5 and realized how fast I was going (relative to previous half marathons) and how good I felt (relative to every run ever) I knew I would try to run the whole thing, no matter what.

Turning onto the bike path was cool because it was a straight shot and very pretty. Fall colors abound and a river on the side made for a scenic vista. Earlier that morning I was pretty bummed I wasn't at the Columbus Marathon with everyone else. By mile 2 I knew I'd made the right decision. I prefer nature and quiet to asphalt and crowds.

Anyway, the leaders had already made it to the turnaround and were running by. They were roughly four miles ahead. The first woman was around 8th place and got a lot of cheers from the runners around me. Everyone was doing a great job staying two wide and it reminded me of Saturday training runs. Mentally, I pretended we were training and stayed with the group. I used bursts of energy to pass a few times and was constantly surprised every time my mile pace was announced. I was maintaining about a 9:45 pace! And somewhere along that straightaway, before the turn at mile 7, I thought, "if I keep this up, I can get a PR. If I decide to walk I will always wonder what could have been. This is the best I've felt and I have to keep it up." (Only it sounded less like a Hallmark movie.)

I was breathing hard after mile 8. Normally I think, "Oh my God there are still 5 miles left" but on Sunday I changed that to "Five miles? I can do that!" And with every mile I thought about the remaining time in ten minute chunks. And, you know, running at a quicker pace made those miles go a heck of a lot faster. (duh)

I took this photo before mile 10. I was behind that guy for a while. (Thanks for setting a good pace, guy.)
At 11.75 I texted Alex to let him know I was getting close. Inside I was thinking about the remaining miles. I wasn't maxed out. I was tired and I'm sure I was a freaky-breather someone had to get away from, but I was truckin.' Alex texted back, "Wow! You're flying!"

The last half mile was strange because I could neither see nor hear the finish line. I kept looking at my phone and the tenths of a mile ticked up until we arrived at the trail end and I could see the arch over the finish line. I sped up and breathed even heavier, but I didn't quite sprint in. In fact, I was passed by another girl... but whatever. When I came towards the line I saw 2:09 on the clock and Alex off to the side whooping and I knew I'd done a great job!

Final [random] thoughts
I didn't listen to any music, audiobooks, or podcasts!

Near the end I wondered if I would run another half. I figured I would finish under 2:15 and possibly under 2:10, but could I do that again? Should I quit while I'm ahead? But... I RAN 13.1 miles! All of it! It helped that my 12 mile training run went so well. It was easy and I knew I could keep going. After finishing this half I also felt like I could keep running for at least a few more miles. Which makes me wonder, can I get even faster....? Could I break 2 hours (next year)? Before you ask, I have no desire to run a marathon.

Obviously it was a good day. Those don't come around often, so maybe having a craptastically stressful week helped?

Mile splits 
1 mi        10:22 min/mi
2 mi        10:29 min/mi
3 mi          9:45 min/mi
4 mi          9:39 min/mi
5 mi          9:37 min/mi
6 mi          9:48 min/mi
7 mi          9:39 min/mi
8 mi          9:47 min/mi
9 mi          9:32 min/mi
10 mi        9:52 min/mi
11 mi        9:40 min/mi
12 mi        9:41 min/mi
13 mi        9:39 min/mi
13.2 mi     8:19 min/mi

Final time: 2:08:52!
By comparison, my previous PR at Cap City was 2:19. Second goal of 2014 accomplished!

Overall: 247/463 (53%)
Females 30-39: 19/47 (40%) 

No longer grouchy and mean.
Up next
Hot Chocolate 15k on November 16 followed by the Powell Turkey Trot 4 Miler on Thanksgiving. My half marathon training is officially over until December, but I'll probably write up a nice training year summary instead of cramming it into this post.

See other race recaps here.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Race Recap: Maria's Miles 3 Miler

The crowd was 1,000 deep.

Maria's Miles took place Saturday, October 11 at 10:00am in Italian Village (a little neighborhood just north of downtown Columbus). The run was marketed as a 3 miler, but I wanted to use it as a chance to accomplish one of my goals for 2014: run a 5k with an under 9-minute mile pace. [Note: From here out I'm going to round up and call this a 5K because Map My Run said it was 3.09 miles.]

Alex joined me for our first 5K together since Valentine's Day and his first event in six months. Alex had one "training" run under his belt and guess what? (spoiler alert) He placed fourth. Yes, 4TH. Can you imagine being naturally good at something and NOT taking advantage of it?


The Race
This was the inaugural Maria's Miles. If you aren't from Columbus, or familiar with Maria's Message you can read a bit more here. The event is a run/walk and served as a lead-in to the yearly Italian Festival. Alex and I have never attended the Italian Fest, so it was fun to finally take part.

After a few words from Maria's family and the national anthem, we set off. Alex and I intentionally lined up near the front (we're in the picture above!) because a majority of the field would be walking. He took off. I could see him for a few blocks, but then he was gone.

I started fast, but not too fast. I knew I was definitely under 10 minutes per mile, but wasn't sure if I was under 9. I didn't have my phone GPS, just a normal watch clocking my time. Around six tenths of a mile we passed the starting line and shortly after that, just before going under the highway, I totally bit it.

Yes, I fell.

I found myself suddenly on the ground, breaking the fall with my left hand, right elbow, and both knees. So strange for many reasons, but first: prior to the race Alex said, "Watch out for stuff in the road!" Second, I did not trip on anything. And I didn't realize I'd fallen until I was down on the ground. It went something like this: Oh I'm tripping. -- I'm ok, lalala -- Wait I'm on the ground?!-- Ack, get up this is embarrassing! In all, it lasted about 15 seconds. I got up immediately - it didn't occur to me to stop to assess the damage. I said something like, "that was weird." to the nice man next to me and kept running. He was supportive and remarked, "that's the problem with running on the road!"

So, that happened around seventh tenths of a mile... Only 2.3 to go!

When I crossed mile marker 1 my watch said 8:24! Sweet! But, obviously, my hand and legs were pulsing with pain. Also, I was starting to get tired. Unlike past runs (you know, the ones where I have 10 more miles to go), I didn't allow myself to walk because if I walk after 1 flippin' mile how on earth can I expect to run an entire half marathon? (Running really is mental. I need to remember this.) At mile 2 we headed uphill. It sucked and people started to walk, but I stuck it out. I knew I was slowing down, but mile 2's time was 17 something... still headed towards my goal pace.

When we hooked around Goodale Park the grossest sounding man was hot on my trail. He was literally groaning "ughhhhh," gasping, and coughing. It was disgusting. So, I let him pass. About a half mile from the end a woman (my age!) came prancing behind me breathing as if she'd left her inhaler at home. It was so incredibly loud that I began to internalize and echo her rapid breathing. Once again, I had to take a step back and let her pass.

But the end was near. Despite my fall, I wasn't feeling too terrible, just tired from running quicker than normal. I didn't feel like I was running very fast, but I knew I was keeping an okay pace. I wasn't sure if I would achieve my goal, but I was happy I'd kept running after my fall.

Map My Run gave me a slightly different pace from the chip timer.
I crossed the line at 26:31. At the time I didn't know my pace and I quickly forgot to care when Alex saw me and asked, "What happened to your leg?!" I finally looked down at my legs to inspect the damage. I had no idea I was bleeding! The entire time I thought only the palm of my left hand was scratched.

Final results online show my pace was 8:33/mile! Wooooo!! One 2014 goal accomplished!

Overall: 72/808 (8%) 
Age Group: 5/114 (!!!)

Post race goodies included water, bananas, chocolate milk, and subs. The event shirts were super soft. I ran in mine, which was a little bizarre for me because I rarely run in t-shirts, but it was comfortable and seemed to breath well. We left shortly after eating our subs so Alex could do some side work, but were able to enjoy part of the Italian Festival (I even got some free popcorn from a woman that pitied my wound). 1,000 participants for the first year is impressive and I could see it becoming an even larger event in the future.

Some things I did differently during this run: ran faster (ha!), wore a t-shirt, wore sunglasses (forgot to put them in the gear check), no music/no audiobooks, no phone, no GPS, no water bottle ... so, really, I did a lot differently. Maybe that's why I fell? ;)

Up next: Loveland Half Marathon. (Next week!!) I'm not sure what to expect, but no matter; at least I know all of this half marathon training has helped knock :30 seconds off my 5K mile pace.

See all race recaps here.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Books of September 2014

September included my first wedding anniversary, first NFL game (Browns vs. Ravens), first trail race, first time winning prizes at an event (not for my skills. They were thrown into the audience.), and my second and third time visiting my mom in the hospital. (She's better now!)

The book list of September, while it may appear impressively long at first glance, is actually filled with audiobooks and graphic novels. So, you know, really heady stuff. I'm trying to find a new batch of audiobooks to run to and it's slow-going.

Anyway, let's get started:

Finished September 4, 2014 (Audiobook)
by Lauren Oliver

Review: 3.5–4 / 5 
3.5-4: This is the best of the 4 Lauren Oliver books I've read or listened to. (Still need to read Panic.)

The story follows Sam, a high school girl in the top senior clique, dating a super popular dumb guy, and dealing with insecurities related to her less-than-popular past. A couple reviewers call it Groundhog Day meets Mean Girls. I can dig that. 

When a character relives a day over and over, it can become tedious. I thought Oliver did a good job making the repeated day feel fresh each time. The book's a bit long for what it is, but I can see why Sam had to have certain interactions before the end. 

As for the end: meh. I'd say that was my only strike. But really, what are you going to do with a theme like this? You can't have it end like Groundhog Day so, ultimately, I can respect the decision.

My only other complaint is teen angst – especially at the end with the otherwise calm Kent – but, I suppose that comes with the territory in a book like this. 

Finished September 8, 2014 (Audiobook)
by Lemony Snicket

Review: 3 / 5 
I picked this up on a whim and probably enjoyed it more as an audiobook than I would have in print. I enjoyed the different voices and the narrator's British accent. 

It's a pretty disturbing story when you think about it, but for some reason kids seem to like that. I know I did when I was young. 

I'll keep listening to these. They're really short and would probably keep me entertained during a long run.

Finished September 9, 2014
by Stephen King (Richard Bachman)

Review: 5 / 5 Best book of the month. 
I loved this. It's right up there with Misery as a favorite Stephen King (/Richard Bachman) novel. 

I can't say too much about it without giving up the end, but I did take to the web to find out "what it all means" after it ended. (The ending was pretty abrupt considering the long route to get there.) There were so many interpretations; mainly a commentary on society -duh- and perhaps referring to (too) young men volunteering for the military without knowing what to expect. 

I would love to see this as a movie, but it's been optioned for years, so I'm not too hopeful. The things they could do with flashbacks interspersed with the pain of the event -- whew. I'd see that in a heartbeat.

Abandoned September 10, 2014 (Audiobook)
by Suzanne Young

Review: 1 / 5 Worst book of the month. 
Audiobook rating: I gave this two hours and it never improved. The narrator is monotone and I can't tell if it's intentional or if she shouldn't be allowed to narrate books. 

Story: The plot is pretty much like every other dystopian teen novel, but I may pick up the book someday soon. I have faith it could be a quick, fairly interesting read. I'm just not sure I care about moody teens with high rates of suicide... especially if this is a series. 

Finished September 13, 2014
by Roald Dahl

Review: 3.5–4 / 5 
I saw the movie a long while ago, but never read the book. Found it for 80 cents and gave it a try. 

Pretty dark and twisted for a children's book. The grandma is pretty frank with her grandson about the witches of the world. Coincidentally, he walks into a witches' convention and overhears their grand plans. I remembered the movie pretty well, and about 3/4 through the book and the movie go different ways. The book ending is completely different - a bit dark, but still lovely - but I can see why the movie couldn't swing it. Very bizarre. I wish I'd read it as a kid just to see if I'd have liked it.

Finished September 15, 2014 (Audiobook)
by Chelsea Handler

Review: 3 / 5 
In the beginning, I kept thinking "Wow, Chelsea Handler is a horrible person." I maintained this opinion until the last two stories. Luckily, Ms. Handler seemed to have the same opinion and I felt she turned a corner near the end.

The audiobook was narrated by the same woman who read Orange is the New Black. In my times of deepest doubt (Story 1 or 2: "Am I going to finish this book?"), I would pretend these things were happening to Piper and it was easier to swallow.

Finished September 23, 2014
by Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman 

Review: 3 / 5 
I read their blog, so I've seen a few of these projects in the background of posts. 

What I liked: the photos and book layout are amazing. I really loved the table of contents and how it shows a thumbnail of each project. For the most part, Emma and Elsie keep things simple. I think that's what makes them so appealing. When I read their blog I feel like I could make everything I see. 

Not wild about: the tutorials were very simple. Almost to the point where I had to wonder if they had time to write the book while making all these items. Then again, if you've ever read a DIY book, chances are you can fill in the small steps yourself. 

What I'd like to see more of: before and afters. I'm sure it was a result of having an outside photographer, but I would have loved to see some of the spaces before they were finished. 

I'd also love to see more from their team. I think this was written before they had full time staff, but the pages with nine of the same object in different styles got me thinking: Their next book could include some of the new, more complicated woodworking tutorials from Josh (?) and several variations of smaller projects by each member of the staff - including the husbands. That would be cool. 

Overall, a fun book. I didn't come out of it with any new projects, but I appreciate their not perfect approach to life. This had a lot less text than the photo book, but I'm not sure that's a bad thing. 

Finished September 23, 2014
by Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman

Review: 3 / 5 
Overall, it feels like this book was right in their wheelhouse vs the home DIY book. I think they're starting to get deeper into home decor, but they were more experienced with photography when this book was written (and had more content as a result).

As many have stated, this is not for photographers. No F stops and ISO, just simple ideas for taking photos, developing skills with a camera that does most of the work, and refining an eye for detail.

I didn't read much that I didn't already know, but I could see it being helpful to someone starting out.

Other reviewers also mentioned this feels like a book about taking perfect Instagram pictures and selfies. In the end, it did sort of feel that way with all of the images of Emma and Elsie. But it's their book and they practice on each other, so it makes sense. If they create a second edition or volume, I'd like to see them include their staff (though maybe Sarah will be the photographer?) and maybe tips about natural settings/travel photography.

The tutorials at the end were a mix of great ideas and a few "yikes, you must have run out of time" projects. I think their new team members could probably help flesh that out a bit, too.

Oh! One thing I loved and want to see more of: the examples of bad setup vs good (lighting mainly). Would love to see this extended to cropping, framing, color selection, filters, etc.

Finished September 25, 2014
by Lev Grossman

Review: 4–4.5 / 5 
The second actual book I read this month!

My favorite of the series, by far. It had a lot of the elements I liked in the other books, but smooshed together: Brakebills, Fillory, underground magic, etc. 

To be honest, I forgot most of the plot from the first and second books. I should have refreshed myself with a summary, but I was afraid of spoilers, so I avoided it (advice: Wikipedia is spoiler free for book 3 if you only read the plot summaries for books 1 and 2.) I was able to fill in the blanks as it went along, but one character reveal in the middle confused me and didn't make sense until I finished the book and consulted Wikipedia. 

Anyway, I think these books would be even better on a second read. I may even try them on audiobook. 

Quentin started the series as a total tool, but in the end he seemed like a decent guy. Occasionally I'd roll my eyes at a plot point that seemed a little too convenient, but overall I'm very satisfied with the ending. 

Read on September 25, 2014
by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky

Review: 4 / 5 
I enjoyed the back and forth between times; now, then, and later. The art was nice and clean, though the main characters looked a little old. Maybe they are. Anyway, the background gags were fun to seek out. I laughed out loud at a few. 

I was surprised how graphic it was, but probably because I read kid comic books. ;) Nothing too crazy, but lots of naked bits and porn. But what was I expecting from a book called sex criminals? 

I'll keep reading these as they are released. I appreciated the art process write-up and the extra cover art in the back of the book.
Read on September 30, 2014
by The Oatmeal (Matthew Inman)

Review: 3.5 / 5 
I have stupid reasons for not giving it a higher rating, so I thought I'd round up to 4. 

First, I've read a lot of this before on The Oatmeal or other websites. I don't seek out his comics daily, so I was surprised I'd seen half of the book. I do appreciate the new content. 

My other ridiculous complaint is how he depicts himself as a fat blobby man. It's really cute and endearing... until you see what he actually looks like: a thin, fit runner-man. So, having that mental image of a person in tip top shape (who is very fast for a non pro runner, despite his statement about his PR) is a little weird when you read all of the negative statements about his body and eating habits. It almost seems like body dysmorphia, but in this case I think he's trying to appeal to a larger crowd. Also, he said he used to be fat, so I'm sure that's always with him.

I could relate to a lot of this book, but he is pretty intense in his running, feelings about people at the gym, and life in general. I've enjoyed many of his online comics, but those are usually about more universal topics like work, grammar, or cats. 

I'm sure a lot of runners will get this for Christmas / Hanukkah 2014.

- - - - - - - -

For the most part, these reviews were ripped from my Goodreads. 

What did you read in September? 
What are you reading now? 

What I'm looking forward to: Getting back to House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. Totally abandoned it last month. Whoops. I have a few books reserved at the library, but I forget what they are so they must be super exciting.

As always, be my friend on Goodreads.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Race Recap: Summer Squatch 10k

Photo by Fleet Feet Columbus
The Summer Squatch 10k trail run took place 6:15pm Thursday, September 17, 2014 at Alum Creek State Park. [The course]

Prior to Tuesday, September 18 (two days before the race) I had never run on an actual trail. I've hiked lots of trails - flat and mountainous - but I've never run on one. A couple months ago I saw a photo on Women's Running and thought, "I've got to get into that." It seemed like a perfect combination of running and being outdoorsy– two of my favorite things. (Add in an audiobook and I'd be in heaven.) Then the soul-crushing Emerald City Half obliterated my love of running and I didn't sign up for much of anything. For a week, anyway.

I signed up for the Summer Squatch the day before the final price hike. $45 still seems like a lot for a 10k, but it felt like an "experience." And let's get this out of the way: I signed up for the race because of the awesome medal.

So cool | Photo by Fleet Feet Columbus
I wasn't prepared in the sense that I hadn't trained for it at all. I was supposed to run some trails down in the Hocking Hills on our anniversary trip the weekend before, but we ended up hiking, exploring Athens, and drinking a lot of beer. Whoops. To make up for my lack of experience, I read a few articles. Pretty much the only nugget of wisdom I took from the articles: Your pace will be about 2-3 minutes slower than normal.

I eventually ran on a gravel path (easy) Monday before the race and followed it up with an honest to goodness trail run on Tuesday. But only 2.5 miles because the trail ran out. I was ready (ha). Inside I just kept telling myself, "just don't finish last." (My rule in cross country. What can I say? I'm still too lazy to actually train.)

My hilliest course, to date
The race
We arrived after sitting in rush hour traffic. Good times! (I don't know how anyone works downtown and lives in Powell. How do you get home everyday without going crazy?) We arrived to find a few things: the park bathroom was not open (I used the woods. They eventually brought porta-potties), the size small shirt was gigantic (but still very cool. I have since used it as PJs.), and - ohmigod -everyone looked like trail pros. I had my headlamp and water bottle, but you could tell this group knew how to handle a trail.

We're off! | Photo by Fleet Feet Columbus
The trail was constructed (by hand/shovel) last winter. As we lined up at the start we were told to watch out for rocks and roots (the trail's namesake)... and water crossings.

I kept myself to the back and let the pros hurry forward. The first 3/4 mile was on relatively flat grass with a few gulches and one water crossing that took a girl down. She immediately got back up, threw her arms in the air, and screamed, "woooooooo!!" before continuing on. Impressive. I latched on to a woman wearing a Warrior Dash t-shirt and a camelback. She was going at an easy pace and I knew I had a lot of trail ahead.

Almost as soon as we crossed into the woods there was a steep downhill. We're taking hold-on-to-the-trees-as-you-go-down steep. A guy stopped to take a photo of it. Immediately after was a steep uphill. The ladies in front of me walked, so I walked. I was taking my cues from the pros.

Around mile 1 some of the ladies got confused and tried to turn before they were supposed to. It was the only mishap on the trail and the race volunteers set them straight, but not before I passed the group. My beacons were gone, but I soon latched on to two very chatty ladies up ahead. By this point the field was starting to spread out and they were the only two runners I could see, so my expert plan became stay with them!

Typical trail view
I had MapMyRun alerting me to every half mile. My pace was wavering between 11:20 and 12:00 for a while. Faster than I anticipated, but it seemed slower than reality. I felt like I was flying down the trail. Occasionally, the two runners ahead would talk to me. It was tough because I had headphones in and listening to The Archers. From our short conversations I found out they are in MIT (10:30 and 10:45 pace group), ran full marathons, and ran at least one 50k trail run. I was impressed. Also a little impressed with myself for staying with them. But, they were talking a lot and I was breathing heavy just to keep up.

Every time I passed a mile marker I felt equal parts relief and disbelief. One more down, but it feels like I've run twice as far! Even though I was extremely tired and SO HUNGRY (chews did not cut it on the trail), I was having so much more fun than I had during my two half marathons. I knew I'd do it again.

Between 5.5 and 6 I started to slow down. The ladies walked steep up- and downhills and I followed suit, but I had to confess I was losing steam. I walked a bit more than a downhill, but I was able to keep them in my sights. Somehow! Mile marker 6 came and I knew I only had two tenths of a mile remaining. I came to the final road crossing, got encouragement from some of the race volunteers, and came to the grasslands. I KNEW the race was almost over. The ladies were still up ahead. No one had passed me since mile 1.... but then I had a mini shut down. I stopped and walked (noooooo) and I'm pretty sure I saw stars before my eyes. I ate a chew as I heard two new ladies approach from the rear. I think they said a few words of encouragement as they passed ("You're almost there!" I knowwwww.). If I had one regret in this race, it would be that I stopped running. I should have trotted along and maintained my place. At the time it felt like I would die, but I'm sure two tenths of a mile at 10% power wouldn't have killed me.

Looking nerdy
I crossed the finish line minutes later (running) and had a hard time breathing as I talked to Alex. Weird! But I was so happy to be done and in a new way: not happy because I was soooo over it, but happy that I'd done it! I was proud! And I finished before sunset (about 7:30pm)!

I knew there were at least 5 people behind me based on the folks I'd passed. We stayed for a while after, but as it got darker and darker, I got hungrier and hungrier, so we left before the entire field was finished. The next day, someone asked how I'd done, so I looked up my results.

Overall: 77/108
Females: 27/55

When I see those results I'm pretty happy. And I think about the following: I finished before more than one person! I was 50% for females! This was my first trail 10k. EVER! I did so much better than anticipated. And, ugh, guys are naturally so much faster and stronger. Not fair. ;) This was a field dominated by trail runners -some who helped build the trail and have been on it for months - and I held my own.

Alex's photo from the finish line
Up next
Alex thought it looked fun and even though a 10k is his absolute distance maximum, he wants to sign up for trail races now. We're looking into the two race Rock and Roots Trail Running series this winter. Should be interesting!

Beyond that, I have another half marathon (yikes) on October 19 in Loveland, Ohio and Alex and I will be running the Hot Chocolate Run (he the 5k, me the 15k) on November 16. We're also planning to run a few holiday runs and 5Ks. Gotta love the cooler weather!

My Running goals for the end of 2014
Run a 5K at a sub-9 minute mile pace. Even 8:59 will do.
Run the next half marathon in a respectable time. Ideally, faster than Cap City, but at least faster than Emerald City!
Run more trail races

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