Saturday, October 30, 2010

Dean Karnazes Silicon Valley 5k

Another weekend, another race (my 9th!), and a smashing new personal record! The Dean Karnazes Silicon Valley 5k started before the crack of dawn this morning. We took the Lightrail to downtown San Jose at 6 am (owwww) and got there just in time to see the main event, the half and full marathons start.

Look! It's Dean Karnazes, world famous Ultramarathon Man! We've seen his documentary, but it was especially interesting to meet him since I just finished the book Born to Run, which doesn't paint him in the most favorable light.

Amy & Dean

Anyways, we met at the race expo yesterday. Our conversation went something like this:

Amy: I'm still a beginner, but you're quite an inspiration.
Dean: I'm still a beginner too [ha!]
Andy: She made me run a half marathon!
Dean: Oh, so YOU'RE the bad influence, huh? Are you going to run a full now?

This 5k seemed sort of like an afterthought for the race organizers; it was obvious that the full and half were the big deal. Which was totally fine, I'm just happy to have had the opportunity to be a part of such a large local running event. The course was amazingly flat, but the scenery... um... left something to be desired. It weaved through a pretty small section of downtown San Jose, past water reclamation areas, under littered bridges, and down random seedy streets. Again, didn't really mind, it was more about running a race than sightseeing for me this morning.

This part at the very beginning (and end) was nice!

And... wow. I smashed my PR (previously 45:15), and I am so excited about it! I never, ever thought I'd see any numbers like this. I know I claim to not get hung up on times and numbers, but... well.. yeah. I'm really, really happy.

5k PR

For some reason, this race was extremely emotional for me. Watching the half and full runners race past the starting line had me in tears, blubbering to Andy at 7 am about how I love racing and how these people are so brave to take on this challenge and blah blah blah. I don't really know what came over me, but it was there throughout the 5k too. I got teary eyed at least 3 separate times on the course, mostly when a song would come on my playlist that reminded me of our half marathon and trigger some overwhelming emotion. It was the good kind of emotion, though. The kind that made me hold my head up, push myself, and have some crazy fun doing it.


Campbell Oktoberfest 5k

Our first time back at the starting line after the half marathon was the Campbell Oktoberfest 5k. I was a little nervous since it was 2 weeks after Disneyworld and I hadn't done any exercise other than walking from my bed to my car to work and back. I started out way too quickly, something I've always been extra careful not to do. Maybe I was feeling a little too confident after doing 21k? Somehow I recovered and had the best time. Well, figuratively at least (HA!).

My unofficial goal was under-15 minute mile splits using my run/walk interval method, but I was determined to be happy no matter how I did. And guess what! My sprint for the last .1 mile really paid off!

Oktoberfest Results

My endorphin high after this race was incredible. After every other 5k I've done, I've had to will myself to not plop down in the grass and pass out. But I was ready to conquer the world after this one. I think the only other pictures I have of myself looking so genuinely happy are from my wedding day. 5k is my distance.

(photo by official race photographer)

Fun with Race T-Shirts

I'm not quite done writing about the Half, but I have some other fun things to share too! Mostly that I'm hooked on the 5k, I have an ulterior motive, and I'm not afraid to admit that.

A dear family friend of ours makes beautiful t-shirt quilts (you know.. like a patchwork quilt.. made out of old t-shirts). I've always wanted to have her make me one, but have never had a cohesive set of shirts with enough sentimental value to warrant one. I am officially now on a mission to gather enough race shirts to have a quilt made. I have 11 so far (including 3 from Disney) and I probably need at least 20 more (I'm tall, need a big quilt!). Hoping to do that by the end of 2011.

Race Shirts

It's kind of an unusual motivation to keep signing up for races, but it's funny enough and tangible enough that it's genuinely keeping me going. We've done one race since the half marathon, have one tomorrow morning, and another next weekend. I'm certainly not planning on racing every weekend, but it's fun to look forward to one or two per month.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Half Marathon FAQ

I've been stalling. I don't know how to put my experience into words, and I don't quite know where to start recapping the race. I do know that I'm not going to do a linear, mile-by-mile type of recap. I'll most likely just be sharing my thoughts about the race weekend randomly as I think about it.

I thought I'd start with a FAQ. I sent this question and answer series as part of a thank-you email to my friends and family that contributed to Andy's incredible scheme. The most relevant part, for those of you who are curious about how the actual race-running went, is the question about the hardest part of the race. If I was going to tell you one story about the race and how I pulled through (besides, of course, my audio cheering squad), that would be it.

Amy's Half Marathon FAQ

Were you surprised by Andy's scheme?
YES! I had no idea what he was plotting.

How did you find out about the surprise?
Towards the beginning of the race, somewhere in the middle of mile 2. All of a sudden Andy's voice came on in the middle of a song, explaining what he had arranged. From then on, every couple of songs, I was surprised with your messages - he had sprinkled them throughout my playlist without me noticing.

Did you finish?
YES! I crossed the finish line and got a medal that I've been proudly wearing around my neck for about 48 hours straight now. It was one of the most meaningful moments of my life.

A half marathon is HOW long?!
13.1 miles!

How many people ran the half marathon?
A whopping 12,000! About 2/3 did the entire half marathon, and the other 1/3 did the half marathon relay (split the race between 2 people).

What was the hardest part and how did you get through it?
Mile 5-9ish. As most of you know, the race organizers had announced the possibility of being kicked off the course for being too slow, and I had a lot of anxiety about this. I wasn't sure whether that threat was actually going to be enforced until I saw the evil dudes on bikes. At around mile 5, a guy on a bike in an orange safety vest who looked uncannily like John Malkovich rode up to those of us who were towards the back of the pack and informed us that we had 7 minutes to get to the next mile marker to stay on pace. I took my headphones out and asked him if they were really picking the slowest people off. A really sad look came over his face as he told me that, yes, people who fell too far behind would not be permitted to finish.

He also pointed out 2 volunteers just ahead of me who were running with big balloons. These women were the "pacers." In order to maintain a successful pace, I needed to stay at or ahead of their pace for the rest of the race.

From then on, with a determination I had no idea was in me, I made it my mission to keep up with them. For the next 4 or so miles (which were the most boring part of the course - on relatively dark roads/highways between the parks), I ran with them and chatted with them. And listened to your messages. I was far beyond what I believed was my physical capacity at that point, but I refused to let them slip too far ahead of me, and knowing that another message from one of you would be coming soon helped me keep my head up.

Once I hit mile 10, there was plenty of distraction. I felt like the finish line was in sight, and the sights and sounds of Hollywood Studios and the rest of the course carried me through to the end. I stopped caring about how uncomfortable I was because I knew then that I would finish.

Did you run with Disney characters?
They didn't actually run with us, but they were stationed along the course cheering us on. Some highlights included Rafiki, Timon, Woody, Chip & Dale, Goofy, and the old dude from Up! Mickey and Minnie were also at the start and finish lines. I got a high five from Minnie as I crossed the finish! There was also live entertainment throughout the race.

Really?! You didn't know about the messages?!
Really. It was a complete shock. I wish I could have seen the look on my face when I first heard Andy's voice come through my headphones.

What did you eat at the Food & Wine Finish Line Party at Epcot?
When I was planning to run this race, I was sure that the party would be a huge motivation to finish. But for the last few miles, I got more and more nauseous (not surprising considering I was pushing my body much harder and further than it had ever gone), I couldn't fathom eating or drinking. Especially drinking. My hats are off to the atheletes who went straight for the beer & wine. Just before we left, I used my voucher (for 1 food item) for a Nanaimo Bar from the Canada booth. Nanaimo bars are one of my favorite things ever, and I thought I might be able to stomach it, but it was really disappointing in every way. Just wrong. It was just as well, probably shouldn't have been eating anything, but I was sad to see that Epcot didn't do my favorite treat proud. Andy got spanakopita from Greece and we called it a night. We did go back to Epcot the next day and wandered around the festival booths a bit, but this trip wound up being a lot less about food than I expected. In a good way.

How long did it take you?
A long time. Let's just say it was over 3 hours. But I don't care about the time at all. I just wanted to cross that finish line!

I heard you had another surprise this weekend...!
Yes! One of my dearest friends from college, Jeff, flew down from New York to surprise me at Disney World. He and his best friend Stella (who I was also friends with at Cornell) were waiting for me in front of Cinderella's castle on the first day of our trip!! Andy and Jeff spent months coordinating this.

Are you going to do another one? How about a full marathon?
Not in the plans. I'm really excited to continue running, but I plan on sticking with much shorter distances. 5k is much more my speed. We're already signed up for a 5k race next month!

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Best Gift

Before I tell you about how the race went, or how I had the time of my life, or how I feel sort of like a different person now, I want to tell you about the gift my husband Andy gave me the night of the race.

I wanted to write about this right after we got home but it's been hard, nearly impossible, to find the words to do this justice. But if there's one thing I've learned, it's that nothing is impossible, and that I'm capable of a lot more than I might believe. So please bear with me as I try.

Andy, with the help of all of my dearest friends and family, pulled off a giant surprise. Somewhere in the middle of mile 2, I heard Andy's voice come through my headphones. He explained that he had rallied everyone I know to record messages for me to hear throughout the race. He had snuck into my playlist and sprinkled these snippets of love after every couple of songs.

As I ran, I heard messages from dozens of people I love and who have supported me throughout my journey. Some were complete surprises, others were the comforting voices of people I talk to every day. Everyone said something a little bit different, but the message was the same: they believed in me and knew I could finish. Andy's voice popped back in several more times to keep me going too.

My body carried me to the finish line, but having that kind of support made it infinitely more meaningful and helped me keep my chin up and a smile on my face even when I thought I might fail. I keep tearing up now as I try to write how much it means to me that Andy gave me this gift. I think that's all I'm going to say, because I've written and rewritten a few more sentences about a dozen times and nothing feels big enough.

I'm just really, really thankful and filled with love.

Monday, October 4, 2010

I Did It!

Much, much, much more to come. But for now...