Monday, February 22, 2010

Ren-fest and Running

Ahh, February. Sunny, warm and beautiful. Just another South Florida winter weekend!

The Florida Renaissance Festival is currently in full swing at Quiet Waters Park. It's an absolute must-do in my book, so the boys and I headed up there Saturday for a day of Celtic music, sword fighting, and renaissance fare. Yes, I am one of those dress-up geeks. Sean and Nathan elected not to go "in garb" this year, but at least they didn't pretend not to know me. Jeff was out of town, attending a homeowners association meeting for our cabin in Gatlinburg, so it was just the 3 of us.

Running around all day in the heat in heavy garb and eating street food probably isn't the best taper strategy, but it IS fun.

After a lovely day in the 16th century, I was rudely awakened by my alarm Sunday at 3 am for the Ft Lauderdale A1A marathon / half. It's a scenic run, starting downtown Ft. Lauderdale, to the beach, through a park, and finishing up and down A1A. The weather promised to be cool, clear and calm - perfect!

Ever have one of those days where you're just not feelin' it? I dragged myself slowly and a bit reluctantly through my pre-race routine and headed downtown. The A1A a nice middle-size race, with a field of around 5000. Enough to be exciting, but not overwhelming. As we assembled in the corrals, I booted up my new Garmin 305 GPS watch and figured this would be a good test run for the device. I wasn't expecting too much from myself, though; feeling sluggish and a little acid stomach-y from yesterday's faire fare.

The field started off slowly, and I did too, figuring I'd just take the race as it came. But as the race went on, I started feeling better. As the sun came up, and we hit the beach with its cheering crowds and rock bands, I perked up and started hitting my stride. How great is this - running along the beach, seeing the sunshine and beautiful ocean, everyone happy and smiling around me. It's a "great to be alive" moment. There's nothing like going out for a long run to pep you right up! Since I ran most of the race not paying attention to any possible finishing time (not caring really), I was surprised and pleased to finish at 2:04, quite a respectable time for me!

Maybe tapering in the 16th century isn't so bad after all.

My new toy performed beautifully (except for pairing up properly with the heart rate monitor, I should have done that before I left home, too many interfering signals!). It was nice to be able to check my pace and the distance as I went along. The REALLY cool thing was hooking it up to my computer afterward and downloading all of the data. I can see the course on the map, look at cool graphs, ooohhh, ahhhh. I'm such a geek.

Another weekend of fun in the South Florida winter sun ....

Thursday, February 18, 2010

All's quiet

I haven't blogged for a while, but I'm still running!

I ran a 5K on Feb 6, a Rotary 5K event for which Motorola was one of the sponsors and our Wellness center staff did the warm up. A small-ish group (about 10-12 people) from work participated in the event. I ran a so-so 27 minutes, legs still tired from the previous week's half-marathon. Still, it was definitely fun, especially when my Wellness friends were there cheering us on at the finish! I just love that.

It's that time of year when you can literally run races every weekend, Saturday AND Sunday if you want. Between the three counties, there's always something happening, usually multiple happenings. My running group friends participated in another event last weekend - a 5K run followed by a 100K bike ride for a charity event benefitting a local pediatric hospital. I contemplated running the 5K, but felt I needed a week off from hard racing. I'm glad, because it turned out to be a VERY chilly morning - upper 30's to low 40's. (I'm such a wimp) THEY totally rocked it out. I did a couple of medium-long runs on my own (10 miler on Saturday and 7.5 miler on Sunday) instead. Running from my house is warmer, no standing around for events to begin!

One more thing to mention - I got a new toy: a Garmin 305 GPS unit! I'm still figuring it out, but it looks to be one cool gizmo. (Justification: All of my friends had one ....) It will come in very handy when I start ramping up my long runs in the spring -- no more trying to calculate mileage in my head. After 18 miles or so, my calculating ability goes right out the window - I can't even add 2 and 2. Something about all of the glucose in my brain draining down to fuel my legs .... I get really stupid. Fortunately, we have technology!

Next up: Ft. Lauderdale A1A half marathon this Sunday .... 6 am sharp!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Nature Trail

Our Saturday run - Bigfork Nature Trail. Two runners, 3 dogs. That's just about the right ratio. Perfect snow cover, just enough for the Yaktraks to dig into. Crazy dogs taking bites of snow as they run, and rolling on their backs to make snow angels. Something about snow brings out the puppy in all dogs.

The falling snow outlines the trees and shrubs. It's a comfortable 32 degrees. (Compared to running at 15 degrees with wind, 32 feels just fine.) We see a bald eagle, ducks swimming on the river, and our friends with their dogs. A Nature Trail run requires stopping for chats with fellow dog-owners. Some days, the chats add an extra five or ten minutes to the run, but that's part of the fun.

We've passed Ground Hog Day, but it's clear that we've got at least 6 more weeks of winter. Running in the snow. Running for fun.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Just another day at the beach!

Ah, South Florida in January. Gotta love it!

My Sunday started rather early (2:30 am!) - I met my friends at 3:50 am to carpool down to the race start. We made it downtown in ample time, early enough to see late-night partiers stagger back to their cars as we pulled into the dim parking garage. We had plenty of time to make necessary potty stops and chat before dispersing to our designated corrals for the race start.

This year's Miami marathon was the biggest ever, with over 18000 registered participants. The weather was rather hot and sticky at the 6:15 am start, but a cold front blew in during the race bringing cooler breezes and a sprinkle or two. It meant that it wasn't a typically-sunny winter day, but the cooler temperatures were much appreciated.

We started in the dark, but the sky began to brighten in the east as we ran over the McArthur causeway toward Miami Beach. As always, the brightly-lit cruise ships fascinated me as we ran by the Port. All of those people onboard, sleepily packing up to disembark, likely not even noticing the thousands of runners streaming by. It was daylight by the time we hit South Beach, certainly light enough to see the two, ah, gentlemen on the sidelines cheering us on while dressed in ladies lingerie. I probably wouldn't have minded, but I think one of them looked better in a bikini than I do.

In such a large race, I was always surrounded by crowds of runners. There was always something to see - entertainment, onlookers, support crew, the scenery, or just other runners. I passed several Multiple-Sclerosis team runners pushing wheelchairs carrying MS patients. Both runners and riders had big smiles on their faces as we cheered them on with "great job"! It made me humbly grateful once again for the blessings of robust good health and the ability to move under my own power.

Almost before I realized, we were on the Venetian causeway and heading back toward downtown Miami. An enormous cheering section was assembled just as we re-entered downtown, which always gives me a surge of adrenaline and a little more kick to my stride. A couple of miles farther and the full marathoners split off, we rounded the bend and crossed the finish line. I posted a 2:09, not a great time for me, but the best I've managed at this particular event.

I shuffled through the crowded finisher chute, accepted my medal graciously, and picked up a few food items, then headed over the Motorola tent to say hello. A few finishers were there, and after chatting a few minutes, I headed back to the car to change and re-group. Not too long after, we were our way out to IHOP for some serious refueling.

Ahh, nothing better than a long run followed by pancakes! Life is good.
(thanks to Bobo for the photo!)