Monday, August 11, 2014

Race Recap (Or Lack Thereof): Riverboat Series


Riverboat Series
Saturday, April 12-16, 2014
Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana

April 10, 2014 - Travel Day

I left home before dawn for the 15 hour drive to the first hotel in Union City, TN. The first race would be just over the Kentucky border at Columbus Belmont State Park in Columbus which was only a short drive away. The drive was pretty non-descript driving through the flat terrain of the Texas panhandle, through the rolling hills of Oklahoma and Arkansas and finally through the small towns resulting in my final arrival in Union City. I checked into the hotel and waited for my room mates each of whom I had never met before. Cyd was the first to arrive and we headed out to lunch at The Corner BBQ in town which I'd highly recommend to anyone doing this series...great food and people there. We went back to the hotel to chill until our other two room mates, Cynthia and Andrea, arrived and since they hadn't eaten yet we recommended the BBQ place to them. Cyd and I eventually went next door to Sassafrazz for dinner...another restaurant I would recommend while in town. The rest of the day was just spent chilling out, unpacking and such and getting to know each other since we wee all strangers to one another.

April 11, 2014 - Rest Day, Packet Pickup

This was a no rush day with the only real task being to pick up our packets at the race venue. I picked up my bib for the 4 half marathons and the 1 full marathon that I had registered for and took a look at some of the shirts and such that were being displayed for sale. We  didn't stay at packet pickup for long since it was raining off and on. We drove around town a little just to look around...there's not a whole lot there...and just got our gear ready for the race the next day. Apparently our meals, besides the free hotel hot breakfast, was pretty forgettable since I can't even remember what we ate!

April 12, 2014 - Belmont State Park, KY - Race Day

Northern view up the Mississippi River
We checked out of our room bright and early and headed to the race venue
Belmont State Park was a beautiful locationn for the first race of the series. Located right along the Mississippi River the scenery was green and lush on on the unpaved part of the course it was just a tad slick and muddy in places. This was probably the hilliest of the five courses for this series.

The thing I love about the Mainly Marathon series' is that there is no time limit. You can run full bore or walk at a nice pace and enjoy the scenery and the camaraderie of all the other participants. For half marathon participants, we had to do six laps collecting a rubber band at the completion of each lap to keep track of where we were in the race.
Southern view down the Mississippi River.

I was lucky enough to know some people from a previous Mainly Marathons event that I had participated in so as we passed each other we chatted to pass the time away. I did my usual walking up the hills and jogging on the down hills but when it came to the trail portion of the course I tended to slow down to a walk just so I wouldn't lose my footing in the slick ground. My finishing time wasn't great 3:52:30 but I really don't care about my times when I do these events. For me, it's about knocking out another state on my 50 states quest.

Clint Burleson, race director, giving the
morning's instructions.

Race day packet pickup.
After the race I hung around for a quick post race massage and then started the drive to the next hotel for the race the following day.

Since I was the first of my roomies to arrive at the next hotel in Millington, TN I unloaded some of my belongings and awaited the arrival of the remaining three girls and was able to grab a post-race shower finally. Once everyone was there, I went back to unload more of my stuff and as I reached the top of the stairs and turned towards our room I slipped on an expansion joint and KERTHUNK! fell and severely sprained my ankle. Needless to say my racing days for this series was over. Thankfully I was traveling with my walking boot from back in September when I had a stress fracture just in case my ankle started acting up again. Unfortunately it was my opposite ankle that decided to give out on me this time.
My ankle within 2 minutes of my fall.

I put on my walking boot after icing the area for a bit and grabbed my crutches (which were also traveling with me) so that we could head out to dinner at Old Timers Restaurant where we were to meet a bunch of other people from the race for dinner. Imagine the shock when everyone saw me hobbling around on crutches! lol!
Only about half the folks that showed up for dinner!
After dinner I packed up and headed to the Memphis VA Medical Center to have my ankle checked for a possible stress fracture. After I was there for about 2 hours the final diagnosis was a Grade 3 ankle sprain which would mean major healing time. Not what I wanted to hear. Although this put an end to running any more races I decided to stay and follow the group and be a cheerleader/photographer since I had already done all the traveling to get to these races. Thankfully Clint has offered to defer the races that I couldn't do to another series which I plan to take advantage of in 2015.

I put on a brave face despite my disappointment in not being able to complete the series, but that stoicism would catch up with me the next day.

Remaining days and states - The anti-race recap

On day 2 of the series the race was held at Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park in Tennessee yet another picturesque location all nice, green and plush compared to the desert environment that I live in normally. I decided to sleep in a bit before heading out to the venue to watch part of the race and take some photos. I hung out and even crutched one loop of the course getting two blisters on my hands in the process. The day was cool and overcast but totally beautiful weather for a run. Watching everyone partaking in the race my disappointment finally got to me and I broke down in tears from not being able to do the races. The pity party for one was over fairly quickly thanks to some hugs and well wishes from my running friends and so I settled into my newly bought folding chair to watch the action of the day.
Crutchin' one loop of the course. Owww!

My friends Amy (in blue) and
Cynthia (one of my room mates).

Miss Margaret
After hanging out for an hour or two I decided to go checkout Graceland (not that I'm a huge Elvis fan) but I figured since I was in the area I might as well. The place wasn't as big as I thought it would be and it was decorated in standard 70's style decor. I only ended up staying about an hour before heading off to the next hotel in Greenville, Mississippi.

I suck at selfies!
Front of the mansion.
Gold records room.
Elvis' grave.
Luckily, we'd be in Mississippi for two nights for races in Arkansas and Mississippi. The third race was held in Lake Chicot State Park, Arkansas. I have to admit, it was raining cats and dogs so myself and one of my room mates decided to take a rest day and just stay in and out of the weather but there were the die hards who went out there and ran in downpours and lightening just to get their races done. My hat is off to them and their determination.

Race number four was at Leroy Percy State Park, Mississippi. Again I slept in a little before heading out to the venue to cheer and take some photos. I managed to stop and pick up a bunch of donuts for the already massive snack table and took a little walk part way along the course to some raised platforms to see if I could spot some alligators but it was too cold for them to come out.

Cyd, one of my room mates.
Out on the course...
Having fun on the course.
No gators!  :(
I left the race a little early for the drive to the final hotel in Rayville, Louisiana which was just a short drive to the final race location in Citivan Park, Winnsboro, LA. We met up with a few of the other runners for dinner the night before the race and had a grand old time with April and Krystal, two sisters, teaching us non-Southerners to talk Southern. This was one of the most fun dinners of the trip. Again the next morning I slept in a bit before heading off to watch the final race. The location is a beautiful park with a bridge and plenty of trees. Would've been a lovely place for me to run...
Amy and Mildred
Amy being cute!
Andrea, one of my room mates, with her medals
for the series.
This is what the food table looks like at
every race!
No gators...again!
Running through the woods.
Mainly Marathon family...
I spent one more night in Rayville with Andrea and Cynthia since Cyd had already left. We all went our separate ways early the next morning and I did the 12 hour drive back home. I had to cancel a lunch with my cousin in Dallas since my ankle was bothering me so that was a bit of a bummer. But, I'll be back to finish off this series in 2015 as well as a couple of the other series' in the Mainly Marathons schedule.

If you haven't done a Mainly Marathons event/series I highly recommend them. They have series' set up all over the US and I'm planning on doing the Independence, New England, Appalachian and Riverboat Series' in 2015. I hope to see some of you there!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Race Recap: Bataan Memorial Death March - Year 2

Bataan Memorial Death March
Sunday, March 23, 2014 @ 5:30amm
White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico

This was my second time doing the full course (26.2 miles) and the hubs first full ever. He had done the Honorary or Blue Course (15.2 miles) last year and decided to do the full course with me this year. I thought that it would be like last year with not much sand, but I was in for a rude awakening both mentally and physically.

Saturday, March 22, 2014 - Travel Day

After getting the K9s ready for an overnight without us we left home at about 9am so that we'd arrive at White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) at about 1pm for packet pickup. This not like an expo with only a few vendors there (USAA, Team Red, White & Blue, Army, local writers, organizations having to do with the Bataan Death March and merchandise) it's basically just a packet pickup. 

We bumped into my friend, Teresa, at packet pickup and chatted for a while before we headed out to Holloman AFB to check into our lodging for the night. After settling in we headed back over to WSMR to attend the pasta feed. Nothing much else occurring on this night other than setting up the gear for the next morning.
Packet pickup swag.
The quiet before the storm...finish line.
My bib honoring Col. Ray O'Day,
Cpl. Willard Howard both survivors of the
Death March,all the Filipino troops and guerillas
and my fellow veterans.
Gear for the race.

Sunday, March 23, 201 - Race Day

We were up and getting ready at 3:00am since we had close to an hour's drive back to WSMR. We checked out and unlike last year when there were no other people leaving the lodging at the same time as us there were probably 2-3 other cars that seemed to be getting ready to head over to WSMR. We arrived at WSMR just before 4:30am and ended up in a fairly decent line of cars as we came to the parking area. I thought we'd end up out in the boonies like last year when I had to walk an extra mile or so on painful feet but luckily just a couple of cars ahead of us the line was diverted in the opposite direction and we ended up parking less than a block from the finish area. Score!

We grabbed our gear and headed to the staging area. The wind was blowing pretty good so we tried to huddle next to one of the buildings where we met another Team Red, White and Blue member. About half an hour before the race we took a group pic with Team RWB before heading out to the Civilian Light division staging area. The opening ceremonies were as emotional as the year before with the names of recently deceased survivors announced as well as the names of the survivors that were attending the festivities. The Wounded Warriors were announces as a group and then it was time to start heading for the starting line. The WW always lead the race followed by Military Heavy division (military members in full gear including a 35+ pound ruck), Military Light division, Civilian Heavy division and finally Civilian Light division. It took more than an hour for us to finally get up to the starting line. (NOTE: Wait until you're actually out on the street making your way to the start to use the portapotties, there's absolutely no line!) I didn't get to shake any of the survivor's hands this year since we were stuck in the middle of the crowd, but those on either side of the crowd were able to. And then we were off!

Hubs and I feeling good pre-race.

I was feeling pretty good at the start while we were on the asphalt, but by the time we hit the marching trail I realized that there was much more sand than there was last year. This made running and passing people a bit difficult. The one good thing with the extra sand is that there wasn't as much dust blowing around as last year. There was a bagpiper playing on the side of the trail (he was also doing the race) around mile 2 or so.
First mile.
On the trail approx mile 2.

We came to the first aid station at mile 3 and I was feeling pretty good still even with all the sand. We grabbed some fluids and fruit and headed on our way. We kept going until we hit the aid station at mile 10, by this time I could feel that I was building a blister on the ball of at least one of my feet. I stopped to take a look at it and put some duct tape on for a little protection. My feet at this point were burning and throbbing but after a short rest and fighting with my shoe to get it back on we continued on our way. It was at this point I started my moaning and groaning saying that I'd hop on the first bus headed back to the finishing area. I never did, but the poor hubs had to listen to me bitch and moan for the next 16+ miles. 
First time I've seen one of these on the course.
We finally made it to the half way point. This is a large aid station where they sell burgers, hot dogs, chips and drinks every year. My feet were extremely painful and although I took my shoes off, I didn't pull my socks of the check the damage for fear that it may make me quit. I think I was near tears at this point from the pain. We rested for about 20 minutes and again I had to fight to get my shoes back on. I struggled to my feet and we slowly continued on our way. I gotta say, I'm glad that the old man was with me this year because I would've quit if he wasn't. I was going to finish his first full marathon with him even if I had to crawl. I'll tell you though, I was never in this much pain last year!
Captain America incognito?
As we came around the back side of the mountain, my feet were feeling somewhat numb which made progress a little easier. We made it back to the mile 10/18 aid station and I again had to stop to take off my shoes. Again I seriously considered getting on the buses headed back to the finish but talked myself out of it. Shoes went back on with a fight and we were off again even slower than before. 

After crossing the road, we headed into the "Sand Pit." This is the sandbox of the race. I thought the sand early on was bad, this sand was literally 2-3" deep. Last year this area wasn't bad at all and I remember thinking, "What's all the hullabaloo about the "Sand Pit" that everyone keeps talking about?" Well, this year I found out...and I wish I hadn't. Thankfully this year I had gaitors on so I didn't get much sand in my shoes but the going came to a crawl at this point. After what seemed like an eternity, we finally got out of the sand (that's figurative, there was still sand on the rest of the course but not as much as in the "Sand Pit") and reached the mile 22 aid station. Again I stopped and took off my shoes and I must have looked pretty bad because for the second time this race a medic/RN came to check on me and see if I was okay. I told I was fine (I was not) and eased my shoes back on and began the slow last 4.2 miles to the finish. The trail wasn't as sandy as earlier portions of the race but there were a couple of small hill which seemed like they never ended to me. I could see the water towers by base housing and near the finish line and they seemed to get farther away instead of closer. 

Eventually we made it to mile marker 26 and took hub's obligatory "my first full marathon" photo there.

The old man's first full marathon, almost complete.
We crossed the finish line together taking a full 40 minutes longer than I took last year...damned feet. But I was feeling good enough (better than last year when my feet were burning and tender from sand in my shoes) to head directly over to the free burgers and hot dogs to have some nourishment before the five hour drive home. We walked to the car and I finally took off my shoes and socks to discover large blisters covering most of the balls of each foot plus a smaller blister to the right foot and heel. Those would eventually take a few weeks to heal even after draining them. 

Even with the pain, I was happy with myself for not giving up and continuing on. I can now say that I have completed this race for 2 years and yes, even with the difficulty of this year I'll be back for more torture next year because it's not about me. It's about remembering the men who died/survived the Death March and the women who were interred during this same time. They had no choice, it was march or die for them. For me the pain that I had to endure was nothing compared to theirs.

2014 Dog tag, front.
2014 Dog tag, back.
As close to legs on the wall as I could
get during the drive home.

What did I like about this race?
What it stands for, the emotion that goes into the race, the people it strives to remember.

What did I not like about this race?
The amount of sand compared to last year.

Would I do this race again?
This race is one of my annual races...I will continue doing it for as long as I can.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Race Recap: Arizona Spartan Sprint

Spartan Sprint - Arizona
Saturday, February 8, 2014 @ 10:30am
Fort McDowell Rodeo Grounds, Arizona

The husband took off from work for a day to travel and participate in his first (and possibly his only) Spartan race. Too bad I was coming off an injury and we both hadn't done any real training. This was going to be a brutal trip...

Friday, February 7, 2014 - Travel Day 

This was a trip we had just taken in December...a nice 10+ hour long drive through southern New Mexico into Arizona through Tucson and finally into Phoenix. We had planned originally to get a hotel room because my usual Spartan Race partner in crime, Jeff, was supposed to come with us but he had to cancel out so we ended up staying with the son and his fiance instead. We arrived at their apartment around dinner time and they were out to dinner so we stopped at Jack in the Box and picked up some food and sat on their stairs (they live on the 3rd floor) while we waited for them. Once they arrived we settled in and spent the rest of the night visiting and went to bed relatively early to rest up for the race the next day.

Saturday, February 8, 2014 - Race Day

We got up early and headed over to IHOP for a light breakfast. The hubs ate a full breakfast while I basically had the equivalent of one pancake. The nerves were running high because we both knew we weren't ready for this race, but we had come all this way so there was no way we weren't going to do it. We headed out to the venue around 8am and finally arrived on site at about 9am. We found some other Weeple Army members and hung around with them for awhile before departing to look around and check out some of the obstacles near the finish line.

Our wave came up pretty quick and we lined up with the rest of the Weeples knowing that we were going to be falling behind since we weren't ready for this. The chant of "AROO! AROO! AROO!" came up at the start and then the smoke bomb went off and we were on our way.

22 Obstacles in order of appearance:
  • Under - Over - Under - Over - Under - Over
  • Over - Under - Through - Over - Under - Through
  • Monkey Bars (assisted each other)
  • 6' Wall
  • Stone Carry/Burpees
  • Hercules Hoist
  • Rope Climb (FAILED, 30 burpee penalty)
  • Barbed Wire Mud Crawl

  • Inverted Wall (FAILED, fell 8' flat on my back about 1' away from a brace, 30 burpee penalty)
  • Sandbag/Pancake Carry
  • Block Wall/Rope Climb (FAILED, 30 burpee penalty)
  • Tractor Pull
  • Mud Pits
  • 8' Wall
  • Cargo Net
  • Traverse Wall (assisted each other)
  • Spear Throw (FAILED, 30 burpee penalty)
  • Barb Wire Mud Crawl
  • Dunk

  • Slippery Wall (FAILED, 30 burpee penalty)
  • Fire Jump

  • Gladiators 

This was by far my worst showing at a Spartan Sprint. I still had fun but the hubs...not so much. He doesn't think he'll do another one. So I walked away with a 150 burpee penalty for the first time (max prior had been 120) and a bruised ego. It took us 3:04 to finish this blasted race...about 50 minutes longer than it took me in 2013.

After this beating we took our cold water shower that is so kindly provided by Spartan (a hose with a spray nozzle) and changed into some clean clothes before heading back out to the son's place where we nursed our bruised egos and went out for some Hawaiian BBQ as a post-race treat. We spent the rest of the afternoon/night just hanging out with the kids playing board games, watching TV and just relaxing for the trip home the next morning.

Sunday, February 9, 2014 - Travel Day

We left the kids place around 8am and again grabbed some breakfast at IHOP before heading home for an uneventful trip. Surprisingly there wasn't too much stiffness from the brutality of the day before so that made for a fairly comfortable, albeit boring ride back to New Mexico.

What I liked about this race:
I do enjoy the Spartan Races. They're challenging but a lot more fun if you're in somewhat decent shape to participate which we were not.

What I didn't like about this race:
My arch enemy obstacles as usual: monkey bars and traverse wall even though we both did them by assisting each other, the inverted wall (now my most hated obstacle) and the slippery wall (I always get halfway up and then lose my footing and slip/fall back down).

Would I do this race again?
I'm seriously considering giving up OCRs after 2014 so I don't know. I just feel like I'm too old and out of shape to compete. We'll have to see what happens.