Sunday, May 15, 2011

Big Lake Half Marathon: Photographic Proof

[I posted this on facebook but here it is for my blogfriends.]

The Big Lake Half Marathon was a pretty typical one of these events, even down to the professional photographer who camped out on various parts of the course and at the finish to take pictures of us passing by at our wildly varying paces.  The images are all then loaded onto a website where you can find the ones of you (by bib number) and purchase them in various sizes or as digital files to upload on your blog.

Or you can be ultra-cheap and send all your friends the link and your bib number and let them look at the watermarked previews instead.  Enjoy!

My bib number was 16 and Alan's was 17 (that's how early we registered for this thing!).  There are even a few of us holding hands just before the finish line (at which point Alan dropped me like a hot potato to check his garmin.  That's love!).

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Big Lake Half Marathon 2011: Race Report

Time for a classic, long, bloggy race report largely built around a series of pictures...

1. Here are all the things I planned to wear and/or take with me on race day laid out on a chair in the motel room the night before.   I was really pleased with all my wardrobe choices.  Although I took obvious care with color-coordination and even ironed the SOuLE MARKS logo onto the thigh of my capris, I was very careful to choose comfort and practicality.  I had the track jacket and a pair of long pants on in the am and post-race but was very happy that I chose a loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirt and capris to run in.  The weather was fabulous--cool and slightly breezy, sunny but not glaringly so..just perfect.  There were thunder storms saturday afternoon and evening, but not a drop during the race.

2. Here is Alan ready to go.  Across the little pond you can see the crowd of runners forming at the starting line.  I found a picture online taken from the start, and I think you can see Alan standing here very tiny in the background. 

3.  And here I am in the same spot, sporting my froggy greenness.  At this point, I determined that there was no sense pretending I could get through the lengthy port-a-potty line (just behind the camera), so we gave up and headed to the start.  I wasn't desperate and figured I'd take a pit-stop at the aid station around mile 3 or so.  Emilie always cries after a big race; I get choked up at the start.  The combination of nerves and excitement and starting line pomp gets me all verklempt, but other than that I was feeling good.  I saw a woman who looked exactly the way I felt at the start of the MDI Half: she was visibly teary, looked exhausted and was hovering near a tall, supportive-looking fellow.  I don't know what ailed her but I felt sooooo sympathetic.  It made me realize how incredibly lucky I was to just feel normal.

4.  This is the part for which there are no pictures (unless I eventually find some on the web). 
The horn blew and we mosied our way to the starting line for about a minute and then we ran. 
We ran along the bodacious curves of Letter S Road (actual name) and into the center of Alton.
Alan ran with his music on (they changed the rules on that about a week before the race, much to his relief);
I ran music-free for a while, enjoying the spectators and thanking the volunteers holding traffic for us.
Alan cautioned me to watch my speed--I was keeping pace with him--but I felt good. 
A mile and a half in, we ran past the finish line (ready and waiting for our return),
and a bank of port-a-potties (which I ignored).
We ran past our motel and I had no desire to stop for a nap.
We ran past a giant billboard that said "Got Pain?" and I fished out my cell phone and managed to find the camera function and take an almost passable photo while still running and keeping pace with Alan. 
I finally put one earbud in and settled in to listen to some music.
I started wondering where we'd seen that pit stop when we drove the course the night before.  I was quite convinced it was before the long steep climb and when we hit a nice downhill stretch I pulled ahead, figuring I'd be taking a break soon.

5.  This is the view from the Scenic Overlook (around mile 5 I think--we took the picture the night before).  By the time I got here I was chatting with a girl named Daija and feeling A. amazed to still be running non-stop particularly since you have to go UP to reach a view like this, and B. like, where in the world is that pit stop anyway??

6. [A few more photo-free segments here] I finally found the pit stop just before mile 6 (waaaay further out than I thought it would be) and lost several minutes standing in line for it.  I made good use of the time, though, stretching, refueling (dried cherries, dark chocolate covered almonds, cashews and M&Ms) and sucking down lots of water (no reason not to when you're about to pee anyway).  Alan blew past me while I was in line and I watched him pull farther and farther ahead and disappear around a bend.

7. Back on the road, I hit the turn at the top of the loop that told me I was about half way through and brought me back down to lake level.  The downhills were a little tricky--I felt like a runaway tractor trailer desperately trying to brake--but then the course was weaving and winding past gorgeous homes, in shady lanes, with many ups and downs.  I tried to keep myself chugging along, hoping to be not too far behind Alan by the end, but I didn't have the momentum any more to run non-stop. Every now and then another water stop would come along, most with music, some with people in funny costumes, all with smiling friendly volunteers.  They all made me feel like a million bucks even though they didn't know me.  A barbershop quartet even sang to me about being 16 (my bib number).  I didn't need water thanks to my Camelbak, but I took Gatorade at every chance.  This is noteworthy because I hate the stuff: I can only stand it during races.

8. Around 2 hours in, I decided that it would be prudent to refuel some more, so I pulled out a free Gu-like thing that came in Alan's goody bag.  It was strawberry-banana flavored and reeeeally thick.  I purposely started sucking on it between water stops so I wouldn't be tempted just to ditch it in the nearest trash can.  This was wise. When I finally told myself to imagine it as mashed bananas it made more sense to my palate and wasn't so bad.  I think it helped, but can't be sure.

9.  By this time, I felt like I'd done an awful lot of walking, and I was quite certain that Alan was approaching the finish line well ahead of me.   On the other hand, I thought maybe I'd kept the walking breaks pretty short because my time was looking good.  My general goal was to do better than MDI which was 3 hours and 13 minutes and I really wanted to break 3 hours.  My estimates made that look very attainable, but the longer I've been running, the less I trust my math.

10.  And then something strange happened:  I turned a corner and was starting up a kind of fierce little hill when I looked up and saw a familiar figure.  There was Alan not far ahead of me!  I said something like "Holy &@#$! that's my husband!" to no one in particular, and then I got me some motivation.  I caught up to him about 2.5 miles from the finish and we stayed together until the end.  I really hope that somewhere there's a picture of the two of us crossing the finish line hand in hand.  We were very much together but apparently my bib (attached to my belly--no comments please!) crossed the line before his (attached to his thigh) because the official results put me one second ahead.  We weren't announced by the guy with the mike by the finish line chute because another guy was using the PA system to give out the age-group awards somewhere nearby.  But as I said in my previous post, that's OK; we were there for us.  Our net times were 2:46:56 and 2:46:57.  That put Alan about the same as MDI and gave me a PR of about 26 minutes.  I'll take it!

11. Post-race, we drank lots of water and wandered through the food line and then got in line for massages.  We probably spent 45 minutes in that line, but it didn't matter.  We had ice cream.  Homemade. With chocolate sauce. And various other foods.  Our medals and tech tees are awesome and colorful and everything was really well organized from online registration right through bag pick-up. There was supposed to be a chance to vote for your favorite water-stop in the "Big Lake Battle" but we never saw anything about that and Alan said the pizza wasn't very good (I opted for a bagel and cream cheese) but neither was a big deal.  And I made friends with a great gal named Lucy who kindly took our picture. 
See how happy we are to have made it into the massage tent? 

This lady gave a great massage AND she hammed it up for the photo op!

12. Back at the motel, I realized we didn't have a good picture of our logo-bedecked thighs.  Alan's was on a scrap of fabric pinned to his shorts and mine is ironed right onto my capris (I scorched it a little in the process).  I did so well these last two races, since the inauguration of the logo, that I think I'm going to have to be superstitious about it. 
Anyway, nice job, legs (all four of you!).

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Race Report: Animal Orphanage 5k 2011

[I know, this isn't THE EXCITING EVENT that you're eager to read about, but I have to do this in the proper order.  I slapped these photos into a draft post right before we headed off to NH expecting to finish it from the motel room, but when we got there Alan's laptop said "detecting no available networks" so we were wireless-less...until a brief period on Saturday afternoon...but that's for the next post.]

THIS post is about the Animal Orphanage 5K (and pet run) on May 1, 2011, involving all five of us plus Nana and Gumpy.  We gathered at the Old Town YMCA sporting the matching tee-shirts I made.  They have our names on the front...

...and our new logo on the back.  [In case you can't see it in this picture, it says "SOuLE MARKS" and has a shoe print.]

These photos were all taken after the race and we don't have much in the way of "during" shots because we were all IN it so we had no one parked at the finish line to witness.  The official results show this, however:

62  12/28      81 Nancy Marks          42 F                   31:41 10:12
63  14/20      80 Alan Marks            43 M                  31:55 10:17

Yes, folks, it finally happened: I chicked* my husband.  Woo hoo!  He got an early lead while I sort of checked in with the kids at the start and then I spent a long time trying to catch up.  At mile 2 I was just about there and then *gasp!* he stopped to walk!!  I didn't expect that and when I patted him on the back and said "get moving" I thought he'd follow but it just wasn't his race.  I had my best 5k ever and he was disappointed to have backslid from the week before.  I'm sorry for him but I gotta admit, it felt good being the first Marks over the line for a change!  He said he figured it was just a matter of time before I caught up to his pace.  I always figured his long legs would keep me at bay... 

In other dramatic news, James and Madeline earned awards for 1st and 2nd in their respective age groups!  James ran the first 2 miles without stopping (which was his goal) and Madeline ran the first mile and a half (more than her goal) without stopping, and Jeremy ran the whole last tenth of a mile really fast (we wouldn't let him run before that). Nana and Gumpy crossed the finish line as walkers hand in hand.  Go team!!!!  Here, the kids show off their tees, ribbons and smiles back home on the deck:

Everyone had fun and it was a great day for Team SOuLE MARKS!!

*chick (verb), in road racing, when a girl finishes ahead of a guy, often dramatically.  To be chicked is to be beaten by a girl.  Alan is of course accustomed to having lots of women finish before him, but never his wife.  Until now.  he he he

Friday, May 6, 2011

Race Report: 4.20 Healthy High 5k

On April 20th (4/20), Alan and I ran the "Healthy High" 5k, a little race in its 4th year, put on by the Alcohol and Drug Education Program at UMaine.  This was our first road race of the season and a big deal for me because it was the anniversary of my first road race ever last year.  A lot of the races we have planned for this year are repeats of last year with the simple goal of doing better than we did last time.  One reason why I chose this race last year is because it starts and finishes at the UM Rec Center which is across the street from my office.  The race starts (theoretically) at 4:20pm (ten minutes before the end of my normal work day) right next to the lot where I park for work every day.  This makes it very convenient for me, although not-so-much for all the other university employees who are trying to bolt from campus at 4:30.  My advice: next year plan to run or spectate.  So there.  Actually, that's my one big suggestion to the organizers: get the whole campus involved--make it a super fun event to watch, have contests for the best cheering section, etc.

So anyway....the weather was crazy all day long!  Way crazier than last year.  This April 20th included a strange assortment of rain, slush and hail.  Several hail storms in fact.  In the end I was really glad that the roads were clear--no slush at all--even though I could still see white on the grass in a few places.  I do sort of almost a little bit regret that I can't claim bragging rights for running in a hail storm.  That would have been bada$$, man...!

We left Mum & Dad at our house with the kids and Stacy joined them, too.  They all stood across the street in the mist and the cold to wait to see us pass and then the kids and the Gumps drove to the finish line and to hang out at the Rec Center after.

I had a great run and I owe a of it to bib #1, Dr. Dana, the VP for Student Affairs at UM.  I fell into step with him shortly after the start and felt really comfortable there so we ran the whole way together.  Neither one of us wanted to stop running so we just kept each other going.  And he is so well know and well loved on this campus that every step of the way someone was there clapping, cheering, cracking jokes, waving and smiling.  And he greeted everyone he knew, even shaking hands with the volunteers and asking after family members, but he never stopped.  Together we kept a very consistent, relatively easy pace.  It was kind of like being in a parade with a politician, but it totally worked for me.  Remember how much I love external motivation?  Well, it turns out that I don't even care if it's really being directed at the guy next to me.  I ate it up.

I only have a few shaky, damp looking pictures on our camera and haven't gotten Mum's off their camera yet,  but someone was taking finish line shots and I found this one on the web.  You can see Dr. Dana in the background--I didn't dust him exactly, he paused to talk to the race organizer, one of his star employees.

Finally, a half decent picture of me running.
Alan did GREAT!  He knocked 2 minutes off his time from last year and finally broke 30 minutes (net time).
The race was well organized.  Laurie Sidelko's done a great job creating and developing the event.  They added a 10k this year, and had several sponsors and tons of snacks waiting for us at the Rec Center.  I know they were disappointed with the turnout--they had 500 people pre-registered but a lot of no-shows on account of the weather.  You can't contral that, especially not in April in Maine.

Official Gun Times:
152/259 Alan Marks 30:00
190/259  Nancy Marks 34:01