Thursday, September 22, 2011

Weekend Report (Part 2 of 3): MDI Half Marathon 2011

Saturday, September 17th
When we dragged ourselves out of bed in the wee small hours it was definitely nippy, but it proved to be a gorgeous day with blue cloudless skies, and crisp clear air...a most exquisite early fall Saturday in Maine. 
Much of the day turned out as planned (or better).  We arrived at the starting line appropriately equipped and on time for the horn (barely, in my case, but it meant I could skip the pit stop later).  The Nanas managed navigation and timing such that they met us each at several points on the course (including the crucial first stop where they handed us our camelbaks), didn't lose or damage either of the kids, and got everyone back to the Y in time to see us finish.  Mum even got some pictures.  Here I am swooping in for a hug from Jeremy at the top of Eagle Lake. 

I only paused long enough to get my headphones tangled up and to correct Mum when she mistakenly estimated that Alan would be back at the top of the lake in approximately 8 minutes.  We were four minutes apart at that point so her calculation would have him doing 6 miles in about 12 minutes.  [It turns out, he had been trying to help her determine how far behind him I would eventually be, but no matter.]   Here's Alan having completed said circuit (a reasonable amount of time later).

Alan just after mile 10
Alan--considering this just another training run, and part of his taper at that--had planned to take it fairly slow ("but not shingles slow" because that would just be embarrassing).   His final time was 2:33:02, a new PR for him (compared to 2:46:59 last year, and 2:47:57 at Big Lake).  He wasn't actually complaining about the finisher's "prize" when this picture was taken, but it does look that way, and the caption expresses our general feelings on the matter.
A freakin' TRAVEL MUG??!!  Where's my #@&#% medal?!?!
I knew I'd be faster than last year, but didn't think I'd be in a position to beat my time from May, so I was shooting for 2:50:00 and was going to be happy as long as I was under 3 hours.  This is me feeling pretty darn good about my own PR of 2:43:17 (compared to Big Lake's 2:47:56 and last year's sad, slow, shingly 3:13:13).
Nancy triumphant!  (and ready for a shower!)

Here we are with our support crew and Emilie-the-Great, who looks like a rock star and ran like one, too.  Note that SHE has a medal....

Medals vs Mugs

After polling registrants a couple months back as to whether we'd like an engraved travel mug in place of a medal, the race organizers decided to offer a choice of a mug or a medal.  That sounds reasonable, but unfortunately they grossly miscalculated how many people would want the hardware and so RAN OUT OF MEDALS by the time the back-of-the-packers arrived (you know, the people who are less likely to have an excess of race bling and more likely to care about it).  While I wish I had a medal, I really wish the organizers had been gutsier about the whole thing.  They should have picked one item, made it a quality item, and presented it with style.  The finisher's prize is a mug?  OK, then make it a darned nice mug, put a ribbon on the handle and hang it around my neck.  I'm serious! And make sure it says that I completed the race, instead of looking like something anyone could buy at a fundraiser and using it to advertise the store that sponsored them.  While I applaud efforts to be unique and interesting, this did not cut it.  I hope very much not ever again to bust my butt for 13.1 miles to be handed [I am not exaggerating here] A WHITE CARDBOARD BOX that says "MADE IN CHINA".  Unless I'm in China, in which case that last part would be fine.  But there better be something cool inside.

Other races have truly unique prizes:
  • The Myrtle Beach Mini Marathon  medal has a removable ribbon, a giant refrigerator magnet on the back and is shaped like a surfboard with a shark bite taken out of it that doubles as a bottle opener. 
  • There are companies like this one devoted to creating unique medals.
  • And, it doesn't even have to be a medal.  Pineland Farms Trail Running Festival gives out cowbells and I heard of another race that gives out small pieces of granite on a ribbon [hello? pink granite would represent Acadia nicely.]
Also, Alan was disappointed to be fourth in line for a post-race rubdown when they announced they only had time for two more people.  But other than that, everything was really well organized, the course was pristine and magnificent, and everyone was incredibly nice as always.  For all my razzing about the mugs, we know this race is special: there's nothing quite like it anywhere else and we're truly fortunate to experience it. 

Afterward, we drove around aimlessly for a bit hoping to find a shady spot with picnic tables, then gave up and headed back into Bar Harbor where our minivan circled like a giant silver vulture looking for a parking space.  Finally, we landed on the green (conveniently near the public restrooms) and enjoyed a lovely picnic.  We stuffed our faces, watched the boats in the harbor and even had a visit from a very friendly and trusting little bird that was like something out of a partially-animated, G-rated movie.

"Feed the birds...tuppence a bag..."

It even agreed to be passed around...

...and pecked at Alan's ankle...
...and Madeline's sparkly nailpolish.

So a good day was had by all and at this point all I had to do was figure out how to get up off the grass. 
Oh yeah, and run a 5k the next morning.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Weekend Report (part 1 of 3): On Pins and Needles

Friday, September 16th

After months of tending the countdown calendar on my cubicle wall, I arrived at work dressed in jeans and last year's MDI Half Marathon technical tee and slid the ominous number "1" into its little laminated pocket.

until we run the
MDI Half Marathon

I worked a few hours, set my vacation responder to "on", then zipped home to to make a double batch of my new favorite snack--homemade granola bars with dark chocolate and dried cherries [recipe coming soon, I promise, Anne-Marie!].  Then I finished packing my clothes [read: finally decided what to wear for the race], the cooler (coldcuts, condiments, water, gatorade and coke), the green bag full of breakfast stuff (pop tarts, oatmeal, raisin bread & bananas), the picnic basket (plates, napkins, breads, snacks), and the red bag (camelbak parts and cowbells). At some point Nana Mary arrived (with more poptarts, cinnamon buns, brownies, cheese and crackers) and we eventually got all three kids home from school and packed and into the car and over to Mom and Dad's.  We left James there, to spend the night with Gumpy and help push the train in the Charleston Bicentennial Parade, and picked up Nana Lois.  At last six of us were off to Hancock where Alan and I unceremoniously deposited the two kids, two nanas and all our stuff, grabbed a couple of over-sized brownies, and dashed off to the island*. 

Somewhere around Lamoine I had a few moments of internet connection on my phone and updated my facebook status.  Alan asked "so how do you feel?". When I hesitated, he said "I'm guessing you're feeling better than you did last year?".  Hell, yeah!  For the past two weeks I've been a little down on myself for not feeling as prepared as I'd like to be.  I had a really great half in May with good reason: I'd worked hard, plus I was healthy and mentally prepared, too.  But this summer, I didn't really do a lot of the training I meant to do.  I did almost everything on my plan for running, but did virtually nothing else--no weights, no wii, no cross-training whatsoever.  On the other hand, boy, does it feel good to be gearing up for this race again and not have shingles!   So, I've been looking at this year's MDI Half as "the great do-over".  Conditions are really pretty much the same as last year in terms of my overall fitness (although I wish I were improved), the one real difference being that I'm not sick: I don't have nerve pain from my ass to my ankle and I have been sleeping through the night like a normal person.  Crazy!  [Side note: last year a week before this race our friend, Sue, supported me while I was barely able to stand with chills, fatigue and nerve pain, watching my kids run the DI Pie in the Sky fun run and telling me that there would be other chances to run a half marathon.  This year, a week ago, I watched my kids run (adorned in pie-winning costumes!) and then ran the 5k with Sue's husband, Bucky and their dog, Cricket.  What a happy difference!]

We arrived at packet pick-up with time to spare before dinner, so when an acupuncturist asked if we wanted free mini-sessions we shrugged and said "sure!".  Neither one of us had ever tried acupuncture, but we love our chiropractor and I didn't feel like it a would be a big stretch.  Next thing we knew, I was face down on a table with tiny needles in my neck, my lower back and one leg while Alan was draped in a chair with needles in his back and a space blanket draped over him while strangers milled around picking up their packets and talking about "jogglers". 

Is that Alan or a giant baked potato??

Actually, I found the whole thing very relaxing.  The needles only prickled when they were being inserted or moved and she managed to calm down a nasty knot in my neck and help relax the issue I've been having with my achilles.  Alan took a little video of a needle in my ankle wobbling in rythmn to my pulse. Weird. Right afterwards I was a little chilly and worried that I'd tighten up again, but we donned our fleece jackets and walked to dinner so it wasn't an issue.

We turned straight to the pasta menu at Poor Boy's Gourmet.  We'd never been there but it lived up to its internet reputation nicely--excellent food, very nice people and very reasonably priced.  We enjoyed huge bowls of pasta with delicious sauces on their pleasant, mostly-enclosed porch--again, I was afraid I'd be cold, but wasn't--and listened in to some other runners dining at the next table.

I had dessert--white chocolate cheesecake with a chocolate cookie crust and raspberry chambord sauce.  Mmmmmmm...

By then I was nicely stuffed, relaxed and ready to go.  We drove back to the cottage, where we reviewed the plans for the morning with Mum and Mary.  I took a Tylenol PM and Alan set his alarm for 5:30am. 

*Mount Desert Island, home of Acadia National Park, Mt. Cadillac, Bar Harbor, Reel Pizza, Little Notch Bakery, Seawall, Blackwoods, Jordan Pond House, Wonderland, the mice from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and so much more.