Sunday, June 8, 2008

Two great races, two great days

I didn't want to mention on Friday my daring plan to run two 10Ks over the weekend, for fear that I wouldn't actually do both of them. The first, the Dog Island Run on Guemes Island, was one that I preregistered for and definitely was going to do. The second, called the Lynnwood Hi-5 10K (and 5K) at the Alderwood Mall (yes! at the mall), I heard about last week and was pretty sure I would do, but I didn't preregister and so I had a potential out, if I wanted it. (When I first heard about this 10K at the mall, I thought no way! Running at the mall? That's crazy! But the idea began to grow on me... there's a certain appeal to combining two of my great obsessions, running and shopping, by beginning a 10K at the home of both Macy's and Nordstrom's.)

Dog Island Run

Even though the race did not start until 10:45 a.m., the rather remote location required an early start. And since I like to get to a race plenty early, this meant a very early departure. I left my house at 6:30 to pick up my mother at about 6:45.

After a stop at a north Marysville Starbucks, we headed toward Anacortes. The plan was to catch the 9:05 Guemes ferry, but I wanted to get to the ferry between 8 and 8:15. Which we did.
(I interrupt this writing to mention that I am sitting at the computer with a cat on my lap, which is the only way I can prevent said cat from either (1) walking on the computer keyboard and posting all kind of inappropriate comments on my blog, or (2) turning my legs, chest, and stomach into a pincushion [it's no substitute for acupuncture]).

Even though I've been in Anacortes many, many times (and my grandmother had a restaurant there when my mother was in college, which was long before I was born, of course), neither I nor my mother have ever been to Guemes Island. Guemes is technically one of the San Juan Islands, but it's just off of Anacortes, and is actually in Skagit rather than San Juan County. Guemes has full-time residents, vacation homers, and and old-fashioned resort. The ferry ride takes about 5 minutes, costs $3 round-trip to walk on ($1.50 for seniors), and has a narrow passenger cabin alongside the car deck.

We parked in the first lot we came to, which was the 72-hour lot (later figuring out that we could have parked much closer in the 24-hour lot), and I walked over to the terminal (a small building on the ferry dock which does, however, have indoor restrooms), bought our tickets, then went back to the car to collect my mother.

While we were waiting to get on the ferry I listened to two ladies who were race "officials" describing the course to someone. I think this is what I heard... "You start out going downhill for a couple of miles. Then it does get hilly for a couple of miles. Then the rest is flat." (We'll come back to that later.)

Although we had some rain on the way up to Anacortes, by now the sky was just lightly cloudy, with some intimations of the sun breaking through. Eventually. While it might not be ideal ferry-riding, island visiting weather, it was pretty perfect running weather.

Once we disembarked on the island, there was a shuttle bus waiting to transport us to the park where the race began. I'd already planned to use that stretch as a warm-up run. The brochure said it was 1.5 miles. Once I confirmed with the bus driver that the park was straight up the road, no turns, I set out at an easy jog.

I definitely needed this warmup before setting out on any kind of race. My body was not ready to run. But as I worked my way up the road, I felt my legs loosening up and any soreness I had abated. I spotted the "Start" banner, which was right at the park, much more quickly than I anticipated. I'm not sure that the distance was really a full mile and a half... I'm calling it 1.3 miles for purposes of my mileage log (this is all going to work out to round numbers, you see.)

There was a number of people already at the park (the ones who'd been on my ferry), but I knew the later ferries would bring many more. There was another ferry at 9:45, which would probably bring the bulk of the runners, and one at 10:15, which would carry the daring last-minute arrivals.

(My mother is in the middle of this picture, in profile in a teal green coat.)

After picking up my race number and shirt (designed by a local artist), I made my first porta-potty visit (no line). Then I sat at a picnic table with my mother and read a magazine for a while. At a little before 10 I decided it was time to head out on my real warmup run (since the trip from the ferry had been so early). I figured about 20-25 minutes would be good—that would give me about two miles.

After visiting the porta-potty (still no line), I headed out down a road by the park, in the opposite direction of the race course. I trotted along for a while, until I came to the top of a big hill. I knew if I went down this hill I'd have to come back up (obviously). Oh well, it was too soon to turn back—so down I went. Then up the other side (which was less steep). I picked a road marker at the top of that incline as my turnaround spot. Then it was back down... and up, up, up. (A preview for the race to come.) After I was back up the hill and onto the flat, I decided to do a couple strides, picking a mailbox a ways down the road and running fast(er) to that point, slowing down again, then repeating with another mailbox. By that time I was back to the park and I rounded the corner and immediately got in line for one last porta-potty stop. Yes, now there was a line, but only about six people ahead of me.

I was lured out of line by a race official who told us there was another porta-potty on the other side of the park, but when I got over there the line was even longer! And further away from the start line. I decided to return, and got back in line, still with six people ahead of me, although of course a different six by this point.

As we were standing in line (a captive audience) an older lady came by gathering signatures for the Death with Dignity initiative. The three people in front of me engaged in quite a lengthy and emotional discussion over the pros and cons of the initiative... I'm not sure whether or not they signed. When she came to me, I did not want to rehash it all, and simply said "I'll sign." The woman behind me said "I'll sign too." (I thought about injecting a little humor by saying that my parents were getting older, I needed to have some options; but I didn't want to offend anyone. Let me add, I did make that joke to my mother, and she was not offended.)

After my one-minute turn in the potty (I had said to the woman behind me that there was enough time for us each to get one minute), it was just about time for the race to start so I headed over to the starting area. No timing chips, but I just stationed myself mid-pack (it was a small pack) and felt okay about that.

The guy with the megaphone reiterated that the first part of the race was downhill, then warned us of a couple miles of gravel due to unplanned roadwork. Then the gun (or horn, or whatever) went off, and so did we!
(The starting lineup. I can be seen toward the lefthand side, between the red arm and the bare arm.)

I knew that with a long downhill stretch to begin, I needed to take advantage of it to make up for the slower hills to come. Luckily with the warmup in me, I was able to begin at a good steady clip. I quickly settled into what felt like a good reasonable pace.

The downhills were great—all races should start this way. My thought was, if I could get a good pace in the beginning, perhaps I could hang onto it on the flats and maybe even some of the hills. And even when we started up some hills, I felt like I was able to keep most of my speed.

As we moved into the gravel road, I drew abreast of a guy who I had heard mention he was from Uruguay (though living in Canada now). I ran pretty much alongside him for quite a ways. I was kind of worried about him, though, because I could hear him breathing and it sounded awfully loud and gaspy. As we came out of the gravel (and the road seemed to flatten out), he asked me whether there were any more hills. I told him I didn't know. (I hoped not, and based on what I had heard before the race, this seemed like a reasonable hope.) I pulled ahead of him at that point and never saw him for the rest of the run.

In the distance ahead of me I saw a young woman running with a baby stroller. I was so amazed at her ability to run like that pushing a load. I had heard her tell someone before the race started that she would have to walk up the hills. So even with some walking time, she was averaging a pretty speedy pace. (She was, also, the wife of the guy ahead of me at the potty, who had said that whichever one of them did not have the stroller would have to "race." His wife had picked the stroller, and he was racing.)
(I am in the middle of this strip of pictures. The Dog Island website posted all the race photos, and I cropped it down to this. It's the first time I have ever gotten free, good pictures off a race site without having to pay the photographer an exhorbitant fee! Props to the Dog Island organizers! Note, by the way, that there are two, two people with strollers in front of me!)

I really felt good about my pace. I really wished I had a Garmin so that I could eventually find out what my pace had been! Doing math with my watch is only moderately effective. I planned, as usual, to pick up the pace at mile 5 for the last 1.2 miles.

Then, out of the blue, at about 4.5 miles, there it was. Another hill, longer and I'm pretty sure steeper than any of our previously hills. I had not been warned of this! (I learned afterwards that it is nicknamed "Heartbreak Hill.")

I started up as best I could. This time I felt myself slowing. I couldn't help it. I just slogged my way up the hill, short choppy steps, determined not to walk. I passed a few people on my way up. I even saw myself gaining on the woman with the stroller. When I was almost at the top I reached the 5-mile marker. As I passed a man we dubbed "Norm Colon" (because of his resemblance to a former neighbor, albeit in younger days), I made a joke about the irony of reaching mile 5 at the top of this hill. He didn't seem amused. Actually he probably didn't even understand what I meant. What I meant was the irony of being beat down by this hill just at the point where you would normally start to make a break for the finish line!

Because that wasn't happening, not yet anyway. The hill had been so debilitating that I struggled to regain my pace even when I was back on the level. Meanwhile, the woman with the stroller pulled ahead again, but no one came from behind to pass me.

Finally I got back into some kind of good pace (pretty darn close to mile 6, though), and then soon I saw the finish line in the distance. Blessedly, the road was now sloping downward, and I was able to put a push on to "sprint" toward the finish. (The quotation marks are intentional, believe me.)

I saw 53 on the clock and that gave me a finish line goal—sub-54. (It's good to have goals, even if they are small and created at the last minute.) I kept my eye on the clock as I pounded across the finish line and noted my time—53:52. (The finish board showed me at 53:31, but I told them that was wrong—they had apparently missed someone else's tag. I'd love to claim 53:31, but I can't.)

I know that hill at the end, and my slow recovery afterward, slowed my average pace immensely. I would love to know what I was running beforehand—not that it would change the overall finish time. And I must keep in mind, the uphills were what made the downhills possible, and it was the downhills that made me feel so fast throughout the rest of the race. Still, I really need to get a Garmin so I can get a better idea of what I'm doing.

After I recovered for a moment, I found my mother and headed back to the picnic area to grab some water and food (orange wedges). I also spent a few minutes chatting with the artist who had designed all the shirts. This year's is nice, but there are some really cute ones from the past. I would have bought one, except I cannot bring myself to get a shirt from a race I didn't run. Plus I have so many shirts, just with the ones I do run!

Then it was just a wait for the awards (I didn't win one) and door prizes (didn't win one of those either). The artist told me that they would finish in time for everyone to get the 1:00 ferry, and she was right. The overall winner of the 10K turned out to be the husband of the woman with the stroller. Later I saw them with their daughter (the stroller passenger), and she's no baby! She was at least three, maybe four years old, and must have been a good solid weight to push. (The woman told me that, except for uphills, it's no harder with the stroller than without, but I don't believe her. I'll bet without that stroller she would have been in the top finishers.)

The minute they said "this is the last door prize" there was a surge for the bus, and my mother was one of the first on. (So I got the seat by her.) It's not like we wouldn't get a ride, though; they were going to go back and forth until everyone made it to the ferry.

Although the ferry was supposed to land about 1:05, it actually came in some 15 minutes early because there was an aid car on board. (Interesting down side to living on a small island—delayed emergency services.) A lot of the passengers stayed on deck to watch the view, but I chose the cabin again. Although the sun was finally out, there was still a cold wind and I was a little chilled.

Back in Anacortes we headed directly to the Calico Cupboard for lunch—fish tacos and an apple cinnamon roll. Yum yum yum. Before we left, I changed my clothes so I would not be wearing running clothes for the rest of the afternoon.

Since we were up in Skagit County, it seemed like a good idea to stop at Christianson's Nursery to look at plants for my garden. A bit of background here... I have to admit that since my obsession with running has increased (and consumed more and more time), my obsession with my garden (and time to work in it) has decreased. This summer I would like to correct that imbalance, not by cutting back on running, but by finding more time to spend in the garden. Christianson's is my favorite nursery, for the ambience as much as the plants, and although I buy plants in many other places as well (Skagit Valley Gardens, Molbak's, Lowe's), I love to wander through Christianson's for inspiration.

And one of the things I have always been able to buy at Christianson's is... sweet peas! My favorite flower. In the years when I haven't gotten around to putting seeds in the ground in a timely fashion (too often, lately), I have relied on Christianson's for pots of started sweet peas. So, once again, I loaded up a cart with 4-inch pots of tall-growing sweet peas, plus a few knee-high type to spill out of a hanging basket, and three tom thumb (4-6") type to plant in another basket. (The picture shows my sweet peas from 2004... the year before I began running.) To avoid creating a dead plant graveyard in my potting shed, I stuck to the sweet peas for now (except for some trailing lobelia to add to the hanging basket). I can buy more stuff later. (Actually, I'm waiting for the 4th of July sales to stock up on annuals for patio pots. It's been too cold and wet this spring to really get going on annuals anyway.... I am confident that the later summer will be nicer!)

On the way home we stopped at Hagen's for a few groceries, and the weekend round of sample tables. (QFC has the best samples in the seafood department, but Hagen's has the best bakery samples. And usually cheese.) I figured that some samples would be okay to eat, as long as there wasn't cake, which I figured was a safe bet, since I have never, ever seen cake samples at Hagen's. Until today.... ! So I bravely walked past the tray of cake and left my mother behind to have her sample.

Then we headed back to my mother's house. By now I was feeling tired and relished the thought of a little rest, even perhaps a nap. Then I had a secret plan to go see a movie later that night. So rest was important!

By 7:00 I was fully revived. Fortuitously so, as I was planning to go to the 8:10 showing of Baby Mama at the Alderwood Mall (the only nearby theatre where it was still showing). I invited my mother to come along (expecting it was too late for her) and was shocked when she accepted! (But pleased.) (I didn't really think about the implications of a movie about a late 30-something woman getting baby fever, given my parents' woes over not having grandchildren—which they've managed to suppress, or at least keep quiet, in recent years as both my sister and I have hit 40. But oh well. We're all adults. We can handle this stuff. Luckily it's a comedy.)

We bought popcorn, a movie theatre indulgence which I've largely resisted in recent years. (Today I was big into "I deserve this.") I've always been scared off movie theatre popcorn by the horror stories about the fat and calories in those giant tubs of "buttered" popcorn. But let me tell you this. Either Loew's is trying to cut our calories or rip us off, because for the same five bucks they've always charged, a medium bag of popcorn is shockingly modest in size. I'm sure it's no bigger than a bag of microwave popcorn. And although it may be popped in some outrageously bad-for-you oil, I eschewed the yellow butter-flavored grease topping. (Salty? Yes. And usually I would eschew salt as well. But after reading about the risks of hyponatremia when running [albeit, it's more of a problem for ultra-runners than 10Ks], I thought a little salt wouldn't hurt me on a weekend with two races.)

My heading says this was a great day, and that was in large part due to ending it with the wonderful Baby Mama. I'm no movie reviewer, in large part because my standards are not that high and I enjoy lots of movies that critics find just so-so. But I think many critics and I agree, Baby Mama is just a delight. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are perfect in their characters (baby-crazy business woman Fey hires Poehler to be her surrogate, when she learns she can't get pregnant), and there are lots of familiar faces in supporting roles (Steve Martin, Sigourney Weaver, Maura Tierney, Holland Taylor). And Greg Kinnear. Oh, sigh. He's always been adorable, but he's just getting better with age. (He's 45 years old, is it any wonder I find him irresistible? He's just the right age for me. Never mind that he's a married actor, with kids, living in a completely different location and world from me... let me have my moment of drooling.) Of course, it's partly because his character in this movie (a lawyer who left the corporate world to open a fruit smoothy shop) is so appealing. Anyhow, the movie was a lot of fun, with some unexpected plot twists, and a satisfying ending. I give it 4 stars!

And so ended day one.

That was fun, let's do it again!

Lynnwood Hi-5 10K

Groan. Getting out of bed early again for another 10K does not seem nearly so good an idea at 6 a.m. today. Or 6:30. At 7:00 it seems just barely possible. I dragged myself up and pulled on my running clothes (luckily laid out last night, otherwise I might not have managed). I don't know if my achiness is from the run on Saturday or just getting up.

I left the house at 7:30 or so. That was okay—I would still get to Alderwood by 8:00, plenty of time to register before the 9:00 run.

After a quick stop at Starbucks for a tall latte (not wanting to put too much milk in my stomach to slosh around), I ate a banana and a mini-breakfast cookie on the road. I was trying to find a delicate balance between nourishing myself for the race and eating too much too close to run time (only a little more than an hour from now).

Despite my mocking of a 10K at the mall, the benefits quickly became evident. Since the mall stores wouldn't open till 11, parking was easy to find. Plus, I would have a parking spot for as long as I chose to stay at the mall later! I parked near the Terraces (where the race started), so I could run back to the car as needed. After I turned in my registration and picked up my bib and chip, I took advantage of another mall benefit—Starbucks. Since I already had a drink, I felt free to plant myself at a table inside Starbucks and use their restroom as often as I needed to. Which was, of course, three times before the actual race start.

I didn't feel like as much of a warmup as yesterday. It was close to 8:30 before I left my cozy Starbucks spot to run around the mall parking lot. I went five minutes in one direction—all the way to P.F. Chang's—and then back. Since I still had a little bit of time (after a bathroom stop), I jogged around in the other direction. That led me to the start of the children's race, so I stood on the sidelines and clapped and cheered as the little ones ran (and straggled) by.

Then it was 9 a.m. Not quite time to start (they were a little behind schedule as usual) but time to gather at the starting line. And then—9:05, 9:06, 9:07?—we were off. As I crossed the timing mats, I worried slightly because my chip foot never actually struck the mat (turns out that doesn't matter, luckily). I didn't look at my watch at the actual start time, which prevented me from calculating my pace every mile—probably just as well. I need that Garmin, though!

We turned right out of the mall parking lot and then right again to run past the Rack and Calico Corners. After that I lost my sense of geography and just relied on the orange cones and numerous course workers to direct me. (I know we were on 44th at one point because I saw Washington Mutual.) There were numerous signs marking the kilometres and miles, each one with the name of a local business on it. I felt a certain irony when the 5K point was "sponsored" by a funeral home!

I would have expected Lynnwood to be flat, but not so. Only a mile or two in we hit the first hill; one of several throughout the race. I felt pretty good on the hills, maintaining my pace quite well. I passed several people, including two men in the first few miles. (Unfortunately they "came back" and powered past me near the end.)

About halfway through the only people anywhere near me (in front of me, that is—I didn't want to break my stride by looking back) were two women. We maintained a fairly even pace for quite some distance, until I slowly began to close the gap. I passed the young woman in green first. The other, wearing an aqua top, kept ahead of me until we hit another hill. Then I pulled ahead and never saw her again.

Not so for the girl in green. At about the same time as the two men passed and left me in their dust, Ms. Green pulled up on me as well. For the rest of the race we ran shoulder to shoulder. I didn't want to let her get ahead and I assume she felt the same. I don't know whether I was working to keep up with her or she with me! I think it may have been the former though, because as we turned back into the mall for the final two tenths mile, I felt myself flagging. I told her, go ahead, and she fiercely urged me on. "We've been together this far, let's finish!" I pushed myself as hard as I could, but in the last few steps I "let her" pull ahead and cross the finish line before me.

After we turned in our chips we congratulated each other and hugged. She said her Garmin said 53 something, which was good to know, as the time clock was set for the 5K and gave times which were several minutes short for us. Later I ran into her again and asked her what the splits were for the last couple miles. Mile 4 was about 8:30 and mile 5 was 8:09! I should have asked about the .2 as well. I really, really need a Garmin.

The chip times were posted a bit later (it's amazing how how that works) and my official time was 53:35 (apparently an 8:39 pace). I was first out of five in my age group (women 40-49) (got a medal for that), 7th out of 27 women, and 31st out of 56 participants.

Another good thing about this run? Good food. I grabbed a few mini-water bottles, wrapped a giant chocolate chip cookie in napkins to save for later (and then later went back and took another cookie to eat immediately), and had two small cups of Jamba Juice strawberry smoothie (shades of Baby Mama movie). (But no Greg Kinnear anywhere to be seen.)

After watching the awards and confirming that I didn't win any door prizes, I slipped into the Starbucks restroom to change my clothes. Then it was time to head out to my next destination, just across the way to the movie theatre to see Sex and the City!

I loaded up with a small popcorn and large diet coke, and settled into my seat for a sublime movie experience.

How do people write about movies without either spoiling the plot or just raving endlessly?

I'll choose raving.

Here's my review: ♥♥♥♥ That's four hearts (hope they translate when this is published), meaning I love, love, love, loved it.

From the moment I saw the first preview before another movie a couple months ago, I have been anticipating this movie. Sure, that's a recipe for a letdown (although remember? I have low standards, so I am very rarely let down too much).

The movie trailer that first pulled me in....

A little background to help understand why this movie touched me so much.

I have never had HBO, but I watched all the original episodes of Sex and the City on video (and later, DVD), as soon as they were available. I still watch reruns on TBS and syndicated TV. (And in fact, I have become so used to the "edited" versions that I wasn't quite prepared for the return of graphic sex scenes!)

So the moment the movie opened with a touching nod to the history of these characters, I was drawn in. I started crying and, actually, I cried throughout the movie (my wad of paper napkins, meant for popcorn fingers, got all used up).

I can't really identify with any of these characters with regard to their glamorous lifestyles and, er, active love lives, but still I identified with them as my peers (that means 40-something-year-olds). And in fact, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis, and Cynthia Nixon are all exactly the same age as me. (That's a change, isn't it? Actresses playing characters that are the same age as they are.) (I especially feel a bond with Sarah Jessica Parker since I have known her as an actress my age since we were both young. Me, Sarah Jessica, and Brooke Shields; we're like this....

Anyhow, my one little spoiler (which has very little to do with the plot), is that I especially identified when Carrie was dubbed "the last single woman over 40." Waterworks.

Oh yes, there were many touching moments (tears), happy moments (tears), sad moments (tears).

Would everyone find this movie as moving as I did? Well, I'm sure it depends upon your propensity to cry in movies. I just talked to one person (who's not even 30 yet), who found it just as tearjerking as I did, while her friend mocked her for crying. (Needless to say, I think women would be most likely to cry—but who knows?)

I wonder, though, if I was even more open to the gamut of emotions because of the state I was in after running the 10K—surged with endorphins, already on an emotional roller coaster because of the race. Isn't there a close tie between euphoria and despair? If I think of my typical emotional state as closed (doors locked, windows shuttered, no one's getting in there!), perhaps running (especially the intense running in a race) is a way of opening up, flinging open the doors and windows, so for that short time frame after a run, when I am suffused with exhilaration, I am able to freely express emotions that I would typically keep in an emotional vault.

Or maybe I'm just a sucker for sentimental tricks.

Actually, I feel quite spent after looking up all those fancy words. Here's some more I like. Ecstasy, joy, jubilation, exultation, rapture, contentment, pleasure, gladness, cheerfulness, glee, bliss, delight, enchantment, satisfaction. Running can produce all of these emotions, and, in fact, help take away your sadness, grief, sorrow, misery, depression, wretchedness, melancholy, gloom, despondency, dejection, and woe. Doesn't that sound good?

So the next time you're feeling a touch of melancholy, perhaps a nice run will bring on some cheerfulness. And if you're suffering from dejection (and maybe even rejection), sign up for a 5K or 10K to fire up a dose of exultation or even rapture! (That might be asking a bit much, but depending on the post-race goodies, who knows? Bananas and bagels, maybe some pleasure. Chocolate chip cookies and Jamba Juice smoothies, bliss!)

I topped off my delightful afternoon with a quick trip through the mall and the purchase of a pair of shoes at Nordstrom's (pleasure) (although nothing as decadent as you'll see in the movie) (I am, of course, referring to shoes).

Then home and, in the late afternoon sunshine (which was not to be seen in the morning), I planted my sweet peas (satisfaction).

1 comment:

Laura said...

Sorry to get so behind in my blog reading, but great job in those two races! As for the movies, I liked SATC just fine but didn't love it (but I also didn't love the series and haven't seen all the eps), but now I want to see Baby Mama! I love both Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, and while I initially heard bad reviews, it sounds good.