Dino Dash 5K (NaBloPoMo day 4)

Yesterday morning I desperately wanted to ignore my alarm when it went off at 5 AM, even though I had taken full advantage of the extra hour of sleep afforded us by the end of Daylight Savings Time. I even went to bed relatively early on Saturday night because I had the Dino Dash 5K Sunday morning in Irvine. It’s a much larger race than the School Ghoul 5K last weekend so I had to factor in about 25 minutes of drive time and some parking difficulties when I arrived. After turning off my alarm I seriously debated going back to sleep, but I registered for this race for a reason. I know that I need motivation if I want to run more. With my low energy levels there’s no way I’m going to lace up my running shoes on a random weeknight, so races are necessary to get my rear in gear. Plus, my endurance is in the tank these days so running even a few miles is painful. A race at least offers the accomplishment of crossing the finish line, and usually a medal too. I need these proverbial carrots to get me moving in the right direction (rather than back to the fridge for a some leftover pizza). It’s demoralizing to look back and remember how much easier running used to be for me, but the only way I’m going to get better is if I put in these painful miles first. So I reluctantly turned on my bedside lamp at 5 AM, threw off my covers, and started getting ready for the Dino Dash 5K.

The race itself was really fun. I didn’t appreciate the uphill portions of the freeway overpasses, but their downhill counterparts were great. My finish time for the 5K wasn’t anything near what I would call impressive – maybe not even respectable – but I ran 3.1 miles more than I would have otherwise. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t miserable either. Progress! I hope that this is the beginning of my journey back to half marathons, and perhaps marathons (Disney World 2021), because I sincerely miss them. Not only do I love challenging myself, but there’s also the social aspect of running with friends and strangers who are meeting the same challenge. The medals are great too! I know that getting back into this hobby/habit will be extremely beneficial to my body as well. I’m not in terrible shape thanks to my gym membership, but my cardiovascular health could definitely use some improvement. (And don’t even get my started on other aspects of my body that are less than optimal right now.) I’m headed to boot camp tonight at 8 PM so that will help not only boost my physical well-bring, but also my mental well-being. That’s the number one reason I need to run more often. I have more races in a couple of weeks and I really need to break in a new pair of running shoes by then. I’d better get started!

What I learned today

This morning my alarm went off at 5:30 AM. This would be ridiculous for most Sundays these days, but today I was trying my darndest to make it to the School Ghoul 5K in Los Alamitos. I have missed so many races in the last couple of years due to my poor health, and every time it happens I feel a little bit worse. My near constant fatigue has gotten in the way of just about everything in my life, no matter how hard I struggle against it, so I try to gain ground whenever and however I can. Fortunately this morning was a win. I successfully got out of bed at 5:30 AM and got ready to leave for the 5K. It helped that this race is small and local (Los Alamitos is not far from my house) so I wasn’t facing a long drive or difficulties with parking or crowds. Also, it was the only Halloween race I had any real chance of participating in this year, and I had a whole outfit planned for the occasion. If at all possible I was not going to miss this 5K.

I arrived at the race start line plenty early, picked up my shirt and bib, and walked back to my car to put on sunscreen. I had 50 minutes to spare. That’s when I realized that I hadn’t brought my GPS watch with me. Or my headphones. In fact, I had forgotten all of my running electronics at home. Is it obvious that I haven’t run a race in almost two months? At first I remembered that I have a spare set of earbuds in my glove compartment for just such an emergency, but then it hit me that my phone hasn’t had a headphone jack since 2017. So no help there. Facing the prospect of running 3.1 miles without my usual playlist was so daunting that I decided to rush home and grab the items I needed. If you thought getting home and then back to the race would be the most difficult part of the morning you’d be wrong. That part was pretty smooth! I got back to the race start with a full 25 minutes before I had to run, so I thought I was in great shape. Then I tried to set up all of my electronics.

Fortunately my interval timer is stand-alone so all I had to do was clip it onto my pocket. The watch and headphones proved to be more of a problem. Last month when the iPhone 11s came out I went to the Apple Store and took advantage of the newly lowered prices on older models to buy an iPhone 8. My iPhone 7 was slowly dying and it was time for an upgrade, but I didn’t go crazy and buy anything too fancy. Unfortunately, I haven’t run a race since before my phone swap so my Bluetooth electronics had never been paired with the iPhone 8. After a couple of attempts I gave up trying to get the Garmin app to recognize my watch since that connection wasn’t essential for the race, but I really needed the headphones to cooperate. The best part about wireless earphones is the wireless part, but it is also the most breakable link in the chain. No phone pairing = no music. I tried everything I could think of up until the moment the race started, but it was no use. My iPhone 8 and my Bluetooth headphones were just not going to play nicely together. I was resigned to run the race with no soundtrack, the useless headphones tagging along as ballast.

Plenty of folks have told me how much they enjoy “unplugged” running with only the ambient noise of nature and their inner thoughts to entertain them. Today I learned that I am not one of those people. There are two reasons I absolutely need my favorite playlist in order to make plodding along on the pavement tolerable. 1) Running by itself is boring! Without a the distraction of music I lose interest in this particular form of exercise very quickly. It’s monotonous and every mile seems to drag on forever unless I have songs to listen to or friends to talk to. Ideally both. 2) I have difficulty regulating my breathing without the aid of a tempo. I learned this a long time ago I got my first iPod and it completely changed my workouts. While running the 5K today I had to sing to myself the whole time (silently, of course) in order to keep from breathing erratically. It was rough. I was completely exhausted, mentally and physically, when I crossed the finish line. As happy as I was to run the 5K, it was a miserable experience without my playlist. I will definitely make sure all of my electronics are working before my next race!

2017 Resolution #1 revisited

“As far as race bibs go, I have a huge stack of them in the same box as the old medals. The most recent ones get displayed on the front of my refrigerator, but after their tenure there is over they are filed away. My goal for 2017 is to put all of them (OK, maybe not the ones that I can’t even remember what race they’re from) in a scrapbook or album for future reference.”
1/4/17 webpage post

4/26/18:
It’s getting dangerously close to May, but I still haven’t documented any solid resolutions for the year. It seems silly to even consider the traditional New Year’s enterprise now, being nearly four months behind schedule, but at some point I’ll probably make a list anyway. However, in order to avoid getting too far ahead of myself, I figured I should probably follow up on my 2017 Resolution #1 before making any for 2018! Regarding 2017 resolution #1, I never posted this revisit (that I started writing a whole year ago!) because I had only accomplished half of my goal, but at this point I’ll take credit for that portion and the rest can wait.

4/25/17:
As April is drawing to a close I can happily announce that I’m finally making some real progress on my first New Year’s resolution. On March 12th I ordered a scrapbook for my race bibs from an Etsy shop that makes them specifically for this purpose. Then last week I finished putting my first 75 bibs in it. They range from April 2014 to December 2016. I admit that some of the bibs from that backlog got tossed because they were so generic that I either couldn’t remember which race they were from, or they weren’t memorable enough to keep. I’m really happy with how the scrapbook turned out. It’s a fun memento that reminds me of all my achievements and doesn’t take up space. But funny enough, it’s already almost completely full! I’ll need to order a second one for future race bibs.

The race that almost wasn’t

You don’t know how happy I was to run the Seal Beach 5K on March 24th. Not because it’s my beloved hometown race or because I can basically roll out of bed and walk to the start line, but because I had to defy the odds to get there this year. I was on a business trip to two different cities during the week, and I booked my flight home on Friday evening so that I would be back in time to run the race on Saturday morning. It wasn’t ideal with my plane landing in Orange County at 10 PM, but I was committed. However, things didn’t exactly go as planned.

On Monday my flight from Orange County to New York (with a layover in Atlanta) was blessedly uneventful. It was so cold in New York, though. Luckily there was no snowfall while I was there and I didn’t have to deal with much ice due to covered parking at my hotel. That leg of my trip was very successful. Then it came time for me to fly to DC on Wednesday evening. Of course that was the day Winter Storm Toby was terrorizing the eastern seaboard so it seemed very likely that my travel plans would have to change. But as the day progressed Delta never modified my itinerary or downgraded the status of my flights so I headed to the airport as planned. My co-workers who were on direct flights that afternoon had to reschedule their travel for the next day. However, since I had a completely out-of-the-way layover in Detroit first, I somehow made it to Dulles without any trouble because my flight landed around 9 PM. By then the snow had stopped and the roads were perfectly clear when driving to my hotel. It really couldn’t have been any easier. I thought the worst was over, but I was so wrong.

On Friday evening I headed to Dulles to fly back home, with a layover in Minneapolis first. My flight from DC took off late due to “air traffic” (Delta’s explanation) which caused me to miss my connection to Orange County. When the plane landed in Minneapolis I ran to attempt to make the connection, but when I arrived, out of breath and fairly sweaty, the jetway doors had already closed. I was out of luck and so annoyed. Delta had already rebooked me on another flight the following morning so things were looking bad, but I hadn’t quite given up hope of getting home that night. My final opportunity was a flight to LAX that was leaving a few hours later. Of course it was overbooked, but an airline employee put me close to the top of the standby list. Miraculously I got the last seat on the flight so I was headed home! It landed at LAX at midnight. Remember that I was originally supposed to fly to Orange County? This meant that my car was 40 miles away. I took a very expensive taxi ride from one airport to another, picked up my car, and drove an additional 30 minutes to get home at 2 AM. At that point I had been awake for about 20 hours and I was exhausted. I fell asleep around 2:30 AM with my alarm set for 7 AM in order to give myself a bare minimum amount of time to get ready for the Seal Beach 5K in the morning. So everything worked out and I got to run the race, but I never expected it would be such an ordeal!

St. Patrick’s Day 2018

St. Patrick’s Day on the weekend for a change is a rare chance to do something exciting for the holiday without the constraints of a workday. So can you guess what I did today? I ran a race, of course! Big surprise, I know. The Big LA 5K at Dodger Stadium this morning was delightfully St. Patrick’s Day themed with green shirts, green race bibs, and a medal with a shamrock on one side. It was fantastically festive. And I got to wear one of my holiday-specific running shirts for the occasion. It proclaimed my heritage as “Irish Every Day.” Very accurate. Even the weather cooperated (winter finally arrived in Southern California this month and it’s been gorgeous). Everything was great, except for the course. There are some serious hills around Dodger Stadium and they make for less than pleasant running. I’m still getting back in shape after a few months of inactivity so it wasn’t an easy 3.1 miles for my weak body, but I’m so glad that I went out and did it. The LA Big 5K is also the last race in the Triple 5K Tour of LA Challenge (Santa Monica, Pasadena, and Los Angeles) so I got an extra medal at the finish line. That’s always good motivation to get up before the crack of dawn, drive an hour, and hit the course even when I don’t want to! Let’s hope this marks my return to regular running again. 2018 has been rocky so far, but I think it’s looking up. Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!

Thirty-nine

January 9th
My actual thirty-ninth birthday was a mess. I was supposed to be spending it at Walt Disney World, but obviously that didn’t happen. The best laid plans, and all. First of all, a rain storm woke me up at 6 AM so I decided to go back to sleep rather than getting up and getting drenched going to work that early. It was going to be my first day back at work after the holidays, but I was still tired after battling the flu and its aftermath for over a week. Under the circumstances, the pouring rain was more than I thought I was capable of dealing with. Work was stressful considering that I had to catch up on all of the emails that had been piling up in my inbox since December 21st. Also, there were more than the usual number of meetings which made the day even more frantic. I was pretty worn out when the workday was over, but I decided to go to a boot camp class at 7 PM since I wasn’t keen on spending the rest of my birthday simply sprawled out on my couch. It was my first time at the gym for at least a month so it was very challenging. I was sore for a week afterwards, and it turns out I wasn’t healthy enough to be exercising yet anyway. I felt pretty sick the next day. But at the time I was glad to get out of the house for an hour. On the way home from boot camp I stopped by Panera and picked up a bowl of tomato soup for dinner. Not exactly the birthday dinner I planned, which was a steak dinner at Le Cellier in EPCOT, but at least the soup tasted good.

January 21st
To make up for the disaster that was January 9th, I celebrated my honorary thirty-ninth birthday last Sunday. Unfortunately I had to get up at 4:30 AM to get ready for the Pasadena 5K. It was a cold morning by Southern Californian standards and I carpooled to the Rose Bowl with one of my running buddies who doesn’t have a functional heater in her car. Not the best decision when it’s 39 degrees outside and you didn’t think to dress warmly enough. I should have driven instead. But even without heat we still stayed in the relative warmth of the car until 10 minutes before the race started. The 5K itself was pretty good, and the finish line was on the Rose Bowl field, which I enjoyed. My plan for the afternoon was to meet my good friend Natalie and her family at Disneyland, but I was tired after I got home from the race. Luckily a short nap re-energized me and I made it to Anaheim just in time to join them for lunch at Carthay Circle. A meal of tri-tip and cheesy mashed potatoes definitely made up for eating boring tomato soup for dinner on my actual birthday. It was absolutely delicious. After that we made our way to Guardians of the Galaxy where my 5 year-old goddaughter surprised everyone by agreeing to ride it. What a perfect birthday present. She’s a real trooper. We also went on It’s A Small World Holiday (the last day before they removed the Christmas decor) and Peter Pan’s Flight before we decided it was time to go to our respective homes. I was hoping to check out the new scenes on Star Tours, but the line was long and I knew I needed to rest rather than push myself to stay at Disneyland longer. Luckily it will still be there on my next visit, which I hope is too far in the future. It was a lovely belated birthday celebration, even it if wasn’t the one I originally planned.

A humbling lesson

2018 has been teaching me a humbling lesson. We’re nearly two weeks in and I’m still not healthy. I’ve only been able to work two days so far (one of those being my birthday, but more on that in another post), and those were tough. I’ve only exercised once (I went to a boot camp class on my birthday) and that turned out to be a terrible idea because I experienced a relapse of my lingering illness the next morning. I’ve barely gone out my front door since New Year’s, and I haven’t had enough energy to do much of anything around the house either, so I’m slowly losing my mind. Suffice to say, things aren’t going well for me at the moment. If I think about everyone who’s out there living their lives to the fullest right now it makes me angry, jealous, and sad. And then there’s Facebook and Instagram showing me multitudes of pictures of smiling faces and all of their exciting experiences. It’s gut-wrenching for me. Especially seeing photos from my friends who successfully completed the Dopey Challenge last week. That was supposed to be me. I planned for it, I worked for it, and I deserved to cross the finish line with everyone else. But I’m starting to realize that I can’t live in the past anymore. I can’t compare my journey with anyone else’s. My best-laid plans didn’t come to fruition this time and I have to accept that. This wasn’t a failure, but an unavoidable obstacle that I had to navigate. The only thing I can do now is move forward. It certainly won’t be easy, but I think that once I’m healthy (whenever that is) and back to my normal routine that I can start preparing for the rest of the year. I cannot wait for that to happen.

Right now I’m sitting in a hotel room in Carlsbad. Back in October I registered for the Carlsbad Half Marathon without considering that a flu virus could knock me down so hard that I wouldn’t be in any shape to run 13.1 miles on January 14th. So last week I called the race company to ask whether it would be possible for me to switch to the 5K instead due to my extremely poor health. Luckily that wasn’t a problem at all. So tomorrow morning I’ll be attempting to complete a measly 3.1 miles and finally, finally start my 2018 running journey. Hopefully that journey will culminate in training for neat year’s Dopey Challenge (January 10-13, 2019), but I have a long road to navigate before I get there. This first step is infuriatingly small, but I have to start somewhere. I wish I wasn’t so incredibly out of shape, but there’s really no other possible outcome after three weeks of near inactivity. These next few weeks are going to be painful. So many miles, so many races, and so many more obstacles waiting for me, I’m sure. Let’s hope I’m up for it.

Thor 10K (NaBloPoMo day 29)

How do you follow a post like the last one? I’m still in shock over the loss of my friend and I hardly know what to think. My first idea was to share a funny story from work yesterday, but I jotted it down on a sheet of paper and then forgot to bring the write-up home with me, so that lighthearted interaction will have to wait until tomorrow. It will have the honor of closing out NaBloPoMo. Until then I’ll share something else that’s upbeat. Especially since I need to finish my Disney race recaps before they completely disappear from my mind.

The Thor 10K took place at Disneyland on November 11th. The theme of the Avengers 10K changed each year depending on which Marvel movie has most recently been released or is up next in theaters. In 2015 when the 10K was born it was the Captain America 10K (the race was held between “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Captain America: Civil War.”), and then in 2016 it was the Doctor Strange 10K (“Doctor Strange” was released about a week before the race). This year we got the Thor 10K due to its proximity to “Thor: Ragnarok.” (I actually went to see it in the theater on opening day when I was in Orlando and I really enjoyed it. More humor than your average Marvel film. I’m already looking forward to the 2018 releases.) I do like the rotating theme because it gives us some variety on our race shirts. I woke up at 3 AM the morning of the race, quickly got dressed, and walked from my hotel to the start line. Our course I selected my Thor running shirt for the occasion, and I paired it with a red skirt. It was another opportunity for me to run without having to apply sunscreen since the race started at 5 AM. Perfect! I didn’t break any speed records during the 10K, but I was happy with my pace and I thoroughly enjoyed the 6.2 miles through the Disneyland and California Adventure parks. At the finish line I quickly grabbed by medal and started walking back to my hotel to avoid the rapidly rising sun! I originally intended to have breakfast at LaBrea Bakery at Downtown Disney after a quick shower, but instead I stumbled into the much more conveniently located breakfast buffet at my hotel. Fortunately the food was delicious, especially the exceptionally crispy bacon. I ate more than my fair share. After that I took a lovely nap. Later in the afternoon I walked over to the resort area because I had a dinner reservation that evening. I spent some time in Disneyland taking in the first days of the Christmas decorations before heading over to California Adventure for dinner at Wine Country Trattoria. I had some lasagna in preparation for the Avengers half marathon the next morning. On my way back to my hotel I bought some cupcakes from Sprinkles at Downtown Disney. Their seasonal pumpkin cupcake is one of the best bits of baked goods that I’ve ever tasted. It was the perfect dessert. I was exhausted that night so I actually went to bed at 8 PM, hoping to be well rested when my alarm went off super early the next morning, only to be woken up at 9:30 PM by the nightly Disneyland fireworks. That was annoying, but I still managed to get a good amount of sleep before getting up to run 13.1 miles the next morning.

Be on the lookout for the final installment of my 2017 runDisney adventures sometime next week.

Turkey Day 2017 (NaBloPoMo day 25)

Thanksgiving was two days ago and I’m just now sitting down to write about it. Holidays are always busier than I imagine. But today I’m resting in preparation for a 20 mile run (or attempt, at least) tomorrow morning so I finally have time to finish this recap while I’m sitting on the couch watching Star Wars movies.

On Thursday I woke up at 4 AM so that I could get ready for the Oceanside Turkey Trot. Of course I picked one an hour away so I had a bit of a drive to get drive down there, but luckily the traffic was nonexistent that early in the morning. I was even able to use cruise control. I took advantage of that time to listen to my “Hamilton” soundtrack because I want to be adequately prepared for the show at the Pantages next month. The Oceanside 10K started at 6:55 AM. This was the race I ran with a friend two years ago in order to earn a new personal record. It was tough, but she helped me reach that goal. This year I had an idea in the back of my mind that I wanted to try for a new PR, and without too much effort I was actually doing well for a majority of the race. But then my mile 5 was a full minute slower than it needed to be due to a couple of hills and running on the uneven planks of the Oceanside Pier. That pretty much ruined my PR attempt because I didn’t have enough buffer to make up for the slow down. In the end I finished faster than I did in 2015 (1:08:05), but about 1 minute slower than my current 10K PR from the Avengers 10K last year. It was a valiant effort, but I just couldn’t keep up the right pace for the full 6.2 miles. After getting good and tired during the 10K, it was time to walk back to the start line and run the 5K! It was basically my cool-down and I ran much slower than usual to recover. After that race was over I picked up my shirt, walked back to my car, and started driving home. Much to my surprise the traffic going north wasn’t bad at 9 AM, and I had enough time to finish the “Hamilton” soundtrack.

The second half of my day was dedicated to Thanksgiving dinner. Before I left for Oceanside I put a block of cream cheese out on the counter to warm up so that it would be at room temperature a few hours later. The plan worked perfectly and I was able to mix up my pumpkin dip appetizer shortly after I got home. (It’s basically cream cheese frosting with some added pumpkin and spices. Not exactly healthy, but it’s definitely seasonal and everyone loves it. Even the kids. My goddaughter ate a whole bunch of ginger snaps with pumpkin dip before we even sat down to dinner.) I watched some of the Mystery Science Theater annual Turkey Day Marathon online while making my final Thanksgiving preparations (i.e., slicing apples and pears for the pumpkin dip and throwing everything in a bag for transport.) It was a scorching hot day for late November (95 deg at Natalie’s house) so I decided to wear a dress to dinner. Pretty fancy for a work holiday! I had another long drive to get to Pasadena, but I must have made offerings to the right gods that day because I had very little trouble with traffic once again. Folks driving south on the 605 weren’t as lucky, though. Poor souls. Thanksgiving dinner with Natalie and her family was amazing. I ate a whole plate full of the traditional dishes (turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, potatoes, etc.) as well as a lot of delicious extras. Baked brie with cranberries, roasted Brussels sprouts, and even some bread pudding for dinner. I was completely stuffed afterwards. It was a great time, even with the ensuing food coma. Eventually I had to drive home (my fourth and final extended journey of the day) and go to sleep after such a long and eventful day. Thanksgiving 2017 was quite the success. Now it’s time for the Christmas season to officially begin!

Spider-Man 5K (NaBloPoMo day 17)

Last Friday was the beginning of the Avengers Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland. Not only did it take place only a few days after I got back from the Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend in Orlando, but it was the last Disneyland race weekend for an unspecified period of time. (Smart money is on the West Coast runDisney races returning no earlier than 2020, but it could be later due to all the resort construction.) I was really glad that I’d signed up for all three distances (5K, 10K, and half marathon) so I could bid a proper farewell to the Disneyland races. However, when my alarm went off at 3 AM that Friday morning I seriously questioned that decision. Having to wake up hours before dawn has a way of dampening your enthusiasm, even for things you love! I quickly got dressed (no sunscreen required for such an early race) and drove to Disneyland. Continuing my superhero apparel theme from the weekend before, I picked my Black Widow shirt and a red skirt for the Spider-Man 5K. The shirt appropriately said “spider” on it and everything! And since it was 10 deg cooler in Anaheim that it had been in Orlando the week before I was able to wear my favorite running capris rather than needing shorts. Fall in Southern California is the best. The 5K snaked through both Disneyland and California Adventure parks and it was a lot of fun. There were multiple Spider-Man sightings in both parks. If I’d been smart I would have stopped for some pictures with characters on the course, but I didn’t take advantage of that opportunity. When I finished the race I got my medal, grabbed a banana, and headed back to my car in the parking structure. It was a weekday and I needed to go to work – after a shower, of course. The Avengers Half Marathon Weekend was off to a good start and I still had the 10K and half marathon to look forward to.