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Where training meets fandom. And everything in between.

NEFC Recap

 

This weekend, I tagged along as “team manager” to the Metro Swat New England Fitness Challenge, held at Gillette Stadium. My friends and teammates from Unleashed (as well as some I didn’t know) were competing and I wanted to be there to lend support and help them in any way I could in what I knew would be a difficult challenge. This post will be pretty long, full of pictures, so grab a blanket and curl up.

 

 

The event would start at 10pm Saturday night and end at 9am Sunday morning. We all agreed to meet up at Unleashed at 4:30 for the hour long drive up to Foxboro so we could carpool together. Tara helped me pack anything and everything we could possibly need, including some freshly baked banana muffins she made. I brought any first aid you could possibly think of, extra TP, paper towel, tons of different snacks, cases of water, foam rollers, stretching strap, extra blankets, chairs, sleeping bags, etc. If you could think of it, chances are I had it! This didn’t leave much room in my car, so I only had Chrystal with me on the way up there and she already had a ride home planned.

 

 

We met up, moved stuff around, got people packed up and took off. The traffic flowed well and we made good time. We found a primo spot in the parking lot to set up our tent and unpacked our creature comforts. Then it was tailgating time! People went all out. There was someone down the row from us with a full-on trash can fire, people brought RVs, a person had a crock pot hooked up to their car battery. You name it, people thought of it. Our spot was even super close to the portapotties, but even early on in the evening they were already gross. Luckily, they had the stadium restrooms open for us with a short walk – score!

 

 

At 9 pm they started the opening ceremonies. They had the flag presented and National Anthem and then they had the team captains all meet in the middle of the field for a briefing. Our team captain Joey got all the info we would need for the night and a printed schedule. There were 40 teams competing, broken into groups of 4 teams. At each event, you would compete against 3 other teams – the same teams for the entire night. Our group ended up not having 4 teams though, and we never found out what happened to the 4th team. We were given the order that our teams would go to the events so we could plan ahead. Each team had 15 members and, in all but 2 events, only 10 members would compete.

 

Love this one! Amy, Chrystal, Stephanie, Christine, Corrine

 

The order of events was as follows with whatever pics I had of it:

Keg Relay – for this event, each team member had to line up on a 10 yard line (10, 20, 30, etc). Starting at the goal line, they would sprint out to the next team member with an empty keg, pass it off, run back, grab another one, repeat until all were passed to the other end. They then had to pass them all back to where they started.

 

 

Sandbag run – each team member had to either carry a Wreck Bag (sand bag) or push a wheelbarrow full of sand bags around the inside of the stadium and back.

 

Photo credit: Stephanie Santucci

Photo credit: Stephanie Santucci

Photo credit: Stephanie Santucci

 

Sand pile migration – each team had a huge pile of sand they had to move from one end of a parking lot to another, using only 5 gallon buckets, shovels and brooms.

 

 

Puzzle – each team was given a map to a location with a bag of puzzle pieces within the stadium. They had to get all the pieces and return to the start and assemble the puzzle.

 

 

Log carry – each team had to carry a log together to a check point. At each check point, the team would kneel down and another team member would cross the log. They would then return to start, team member would cross the log and they would move to next farthest check point. At the end, they all had to lift the log up and down until each member had crossed the log.

 

 

Super tag – all teams were given flag football style belts with 2 flags a piece. On go, they all basically just chased each other in a free-for-all and the last team standing with any flags was the winner.

 

Photo credit: Stephanie Santucci

Photo credit: Stephanie Santucci

Photo credit: Stephanie Santucci

 

Operation – each team had a station with a truck tire, 3 sledgehammers, a Wreck Bag and the board game Operation. While 3 team members hammered the tire at any given time, one other team member would run with the Wreck Bag up the stadium steps, across, down and back. They then had to take a piece out of the Operation game board and then jump into the rotation of hammering until all pieces had been removed.

 

 

Dolly – each team had a dolly they had to push up one of the stadium ramps with another team member sitting on it. Whoever was pushed up last would then run back down with it and pick up the next team member. This was repeated up a few flights and then they had to run back down.

Truck pull/Tire flip – each team had to pull a cement truck 50 yards, then run back and flip a truck tire to meet up with the truck. This was repeated 4 times. This was one of the two full team events where everyone was to compete.

Stretcher – each team had a medical stretcher. One teammate was strapped into it and the rest had to carry them up several flights of stairs and then back down before un-strapping them and running to the finish.

 

Photo credit: Stephanie Santucci

 

Final Run – an approximately mile and a half run around the perimeter of the outside of the stadium (approximately mileage based off of a teammate’s pedometer). This was the other of the full team events.

My team knocked it out of the park every time, but unfortunately it wasn’t our night to win anything. I think the big win was working together as a team and becoming closer in the process. In addition to managing who was doing what and making sure everyone was as comfortable and fed as possible, I took tons of pictures throughout the night. I was also official coat hanger, water bottle/phone holder and overall goofball, trying to keep things as light as possible. This was definitely crucial in the wee hours when we all had the ability to get a teensy bit cranky.

 

 

Once the events were over, our friend Keisha arrived just in time for the end and brought everyone coffee and bagels! Everyone got changed into some clean clothes and headed over to CBS Scene for the after party, not realizing it was only 9am and they weren’t letting anyone in until 10! Everyone was severely bummed after that. Half the team left, but a few of us stuck around. While we were milling about outside, a reporter came over to ask me some questions and I begged Christine and Stephanie to come over and do it with me because I was nervous! They both ended up getting quoted in the story here.

 

 

We ended up getting let in to CBS Scene a tad bit early and found some comfy couches in the corner to crash on. We really just wanted the food they told us we would get after the event but all that was out at the time was a MOUNTAIN of cheese (not really an exaggeration), crackers and grapes. We hung out until 10:30, some drinking coffee, others their free beers, and the real food never came and awards were never announced. I went back and re-read the website and it appears that was supposed to be at 11am. I have no idea why they would possibly make us wait 2 extra hours after we’d already been there since 6 pm the night before. Out of the extraordinary organization they showed throughout the event, this was a really poor ending to it and the one really big negative I have about the whole thing. Other than that it was completely awesome. The only other suggestion anyone had was to compete against different teams in each event, instead of the same teams all night.

All in all, even despite the exhaustion, it was a fantastic night and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I can’t wait to join the team and do it next year!

 

 

 

 

 

16 Comments »

RI Run For The Fallen Race Recap

 

On Saturday, Tara and I (as well as some teammates) participated in the RI Run for the Fallen. Since Tara was going to do this with me, walking, I decided it would be a great race to ruck. It worked out really well because of my foot anyway. We were also able to pause at each marker and pay our respects, as well as to the Gold Star family members who were present.

The event schedule was that the Gold Star families would arrive by 8:30, opening ceremony at 9:00 and race start at 9:30. We were able to pick up our bibs starting at 7:30, so we left the house around 6:45 for the roughly hour long drive to Colt State Park in Bristol, RI. On a side note, this was my first trip to this park and it was amazing. Beautiful, waterfront views and amazing trails. It’s really a shame it’s so far away or I would definitely run there more often.

This race was a free event, in its first year, and they just simply asked for donations instead of race fees. I signed up myself and Tara through Active under Team RWB RI at a teammate’s request. When we got there, we went to team check-in and they didn’t have us, but gave us bibs and just made a note of the team on a sheet of paper. Later, I thought we should ask if maybe they had us under individuals instead, but they didn’t. With our bibs, we also received a small bag with some flyers and a travel size deodorant in it. Tshirts were available for purchase, but unfortunately they didn’t have any in our sizes when we thought to buy one afterwards.

As we were waiting in line my friend Al snuck up on us and gave us a quick squeeze before we headed back to the car to drop off the bags and grab my ruck. We then went over to the memorial they had set up for all of the fallen soldiers from the state of RI since the war began. They had two bagpipers playing music behind the memorial and it was very moving. Each memorial had a picture of the soldier, his hero date and how he died.

 

 

We hung out by the water a bit and chatted with our friends until the opening ceremony began.

 

 

Everybody lined up near the memorial and they had a pledge of allegiance said by a girl scout troop, presenting of the colors and the National Anthem. They then had a chaplain lead a prayer, there was a poem read by a Gold Star family member, followed by 4 men who read the name of each fallen soldier with a bell ring after each name. That might not be the right order of things, but you get the gist of it. Lots of tears were shed throughout the morning.Shortly after they were done, we all lined up to start.

 

 

It was a beautiful day, albeit a bit warm in the direct sunlight. Along the route were more memorial markers. Family members of each soldier were stationed near their respective markers and it was sad to see that probably half of the markers didn’t have anyone there. At each marker we passed, we put a hand on the marker with a quick “thank you” to let them know we appreciated their sacrifice. If family members were present, we shook their hands and said whatever we could think of, knowing nothing we said could heal their hurt. There was one couple in particular that broke my heart. They were an older couple, so not sure if they were parents or grandparents of the soldier, but the woman was just pouring out tears and her husband looked like he was just barely holding it together. They got hugs, not handshakes. I just wanted to squeeze the pain out of her.

It was a very emotional day, but they had excellent execution for a first time race. The only small complaint I would have, and really just a note for the next time, is to have more water if possible. It was very warm and they were already out of water at the first stop and almost out at the second one. I think we got the last bottle of water to split. Maybe a suggestion would be to ask people to donate cases of water, or maybe suggest people bring their own? One other minor thing would be to have arrows for the course. It was pretty easy to follow along due to the markers, but there was one point where we made a large, unnecessary loop because we were just following the traffic. After the race, we found out they estimated it around 3.7 miles instead of 3.1. Tara and I figured this out as we were leaving and came across that area (next to a rotary) and we didn’t know when we passed that point of why there were hero markers on both sides of the road. We were supposed to come up one side of the road and down the other after going around the rotary, but everyone was following the sidewalk instead of the road, and the sidewalk veered off to the right. That also explained why that section had no markers for a while. If these are the only complaints after your first year, you’re doing great.

 

If you look at this map of the course, in the top right corner, you can see we were just supposed to go straight until the rotary and turn around. That’s not how people were going.

 

I took advantage of a chiropractic tent to have them check out my foot, so that was pretty nice. They were having catered food after the race, but the line was so long we didn’t stick around. I needed to get home and try to nap (which never happened) before the NEFC event (recap coming soon) that night. This is definitely a race we will do again in the future.

 

 

 

 

18 Comments »

Face The Music Friday #53

Saturday – Rest/anniversary party

Sunday – Rest/birthday party

Monday – 30 min yoga

Tuesday – 30 min elliptical w/ ruck

Wednesday – 30 min yoga

Thursday – Rest

Friday – Rest/errands

 

You will notice a lot of rest this week and I’m not a big fan. I want to run. I want to run now. Boo hoo, waaaah.

OK, pity party over, let’s talk about the week.

We had a great time on Saturday at my aunt and uncle’s surprise 30th anniversary dinner that my cousin put together. She did a really great job getting it all set up, inviting lots of people (most of whom I didn’t know) and keeping it all a secret. It was up in MA, where they live, near where I grew up at a restaurant called The Fours. It’s a sports themed place with awesome food. I had my steak and cheese egg rolls I’ve craved since the first time we ever went there with them over a year ago. They’re that good. They also had a cake made with a picture drawn on it of them at their wedding. It came out really good! Every time we have a gathering, the cake is always from Veronica’s Sweetcakes because my cousin’s best friend’s family owns the bakery. They’re amazing!!

Sunday was the birthday party for the twin boys that Tara nannies. It was held at a place called Teamworks. They have indoor soccer, bouncy houses, arcade games, etc so it was a madhouse. It was also VERY muggy on Sunday so we were sweating just standing around inside for 5 minutes. We hung out for just over an hour but I couldn’t stand on my foot anymore so we took off and came home to watch a VERY scary Patriots game that I had DVR’d while we were gone.

So. The foot. Let’s talk about it, shall we? It was feeling better throughout the week last week. By the weekend, I could almost walk without a limp. I decided if I was taking it easy, now would be the perfect time to start back up doing yoga, so I threw that in a couple of days this week. My foot felt pretty good by Tuesday, so I said I’d try a more weight bearing activity like the elliptical (so not completely pounding on it) and if I was going to do that I might as well throw my ruck on for training. I think I’ve been paying for that decision ever since. My foot started hurting more again – not enough to limp, but enough to bother me all day. Back to the drawing board I guess.

In other news, I have a HUGE challenge coming in November that I will share more about in it’s own post soon. For now, I have the RI Run For The Fallen in the morning (which I will be rucking and Tara walking with me) and then I will head home, shower, try to maybe take a nap and then meet my team for the New England Fitness Challenge Saturday night into Sunday. I’m not competing but will be the team manager and just cheer them on and do what I can throughout the night to keep them moving.

This week I don’t have a particular reason for picking this song, but I just really like it. Tara had me making her some playlists last weekend and I came across it again in the process. It’s great on a run. Have a great weekend everybody!

 

A Silent Film – Harbour Lights

 

 

 

 

 

 

20 Comments »

Face The Music Friday #52

Saturday – volunteered for Unleashed 4 hours at BoldrDash

Sunday – Surftown Half Marathon

 

 

Wait. Something is missing. There are more days to the week. Oh wait – I didn’t do a damn thing! Let me tell you all about the nothingness that was the rest of my week.

Sunday I did the half (yay me!). I had the normal soreness and could barely move the rest of the day. The following day – still pretty sore, but could move a bit better in general. However, I had this random pain on the outside of my foot. Not soreness, just pain. It happened every time I put weight on it (to stand or walk). If I’m sitting or laying down, it doesn’t even bother me in the least most of the time.

I had my chiro appointment scheduled well in advance for Monday after work. I told her about the foot pain so she had me take my shoe off to take a look. She took some little machine that vibrated and ran it along the outside of my foot and asked me if it caused any pain, which it didn’t. She told me that’s good because if it had caused pain it could be a stress fracture. She worked the hell out of that foot and calf/shin and said I should rest it.

 

My pain is basically the lower X

 

Tuesday, the pain was worse. I thought maybe it was because it was the second day, and I’m always a “hurts more on the second day” person after something strenuous. Then Wednesday came – and it still hurt really bad. I sent her an email to ask her if that was normal and she said she’d send me for an Xray to double check for the fracture anyway. I wasn’t going to be able to do it until at least Friday because I would have had to drive to Providence to get the Rx and then back to get the actual Xray so it wouldn’t have worked out. I decided to call my regular doc’s office and get an appt Wednesday afternoon because the imaging center is one floor below them so I could get it done in one shot.

The doc took a look at my foot and wiggled it every which way and nothing caused pain except just standing on it. She said it could be a bad strain or tendinitis. Lots of rest and icing were recommended (which I’ve been doing like it’s my job). The Xray confirmed also no fracture so that was good. I let the chiro know as well and she said peroneal tendinitis – lots of rest! So now of course I’ve been Googling the hell out of it to see how I can heal it faster. Luckily, should be OK within a couple of weeks from what I’ve heard/read.

 

 

Bad news is – I’ve got lots of things and stuffs going on! I’m supposed to do the CVS Downtown 5K on Sunday. I have the RI Run For The Fallen the following weekend, plus I’m going as support for my team at the NEFC overnight challenge that night into Sunday morning. Then GORUCK is in a few weeks.

I think everything will be play it by ear. My most important thing is the GORUCK. I didn’t pay for CVS because my company paid for this particular registration and I haven’t yet registered for the one after it. If I have to skip those, I can – I just don’t want to. You athletes know how it goes.

Enough blah blah blah. This week’s song is flashing back a few years. I love Rise Against so of course when their lead singer teams up with the Flobots, magic happens.

Have a great weekend everybody!

 

Flobots w/ Tim McIlrath – White Flag Warrior

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Surftown Half Marathon Recap

The short recap: I did it! I ran my first half marathon and finished with (a tiny amount of) time to spare!

Want more details? Well, read on!

Sunday started super early with my normal race routine. I usually wake up about an hour before I want to be up and out of bed (in this case, 2:30am) and chug a glass of water. I go back to sleep for another hour until my second alarm goes off. Who really gets up at 3:30am? I’m insane. The weather forecast was looking absolutely beautiful and it definitely did not disappoint.

 

 

It was chilly at the start. We got there just after 6am and right before the sunrise. It was just as beautiful as last year. It’s hard to beat a sunrise on the beach, no matter how cold. For the race, I was wearing my Unleashed Team t-shirt and compression shorts and calf sleeves. My legs were fine, but I was glad I brought a hoodie to wear prior to the start. I kept it on as long as I possibly could and gave it to Tara right before I went to the start and that worked out perfectly. Once I took it off I was freezing, but warmed up quickly when we started running.

 

 

Now, the day didn’t start out as I’d hoped. I woke up with a super tight right hamstring (which is not the bad one!). I tried rolling it out before we left the house, but it did nothing more than hurt me instead of feeling better. I decided I’d hit up the free massage tent the race was offering before the start to see if they could loosen me up. It helped a bit, but not in the way I hoped, so I just figured I’d hope for the best.

 

 

My friend Amy from Unleashed was also running this race. She got there a bit late, but it was right after I got my massage. I wanted to hit the portapotty one more time, so Julie and Tara told me she had gotten there and gotten in line. I found her and waited with her and tried to warm up a bit, then we thought they were starting the race! Turns out we had about 5 minutes, but basically by the time the line finished, I had come out of the stall and they WERE started! I saw tons of people running by. I quickly tried to get my stuff sorted, phone on and ready to set off Runkeeper and got my Garmin looking for a satellite while I hurried over to the start. We managed to get right in at the end (which is where I would have been anyway). I was able to start my Garmin right at the line, but we were running directly into the sun and I was having trouble seeing my phone screen, so I spent the first 1/10th of a mile or so fighting with it – hence why I never saw Tara and Julie (or heard them since I had turned my headphones on).

 

 

At the last minute (meaning race day), I made the decision to change my intervals on Runkeeper. The whole time I trained, I did 4 min run/2 min walk. Doing it this way, I was sometimes well under the 13:30 pace cut-off I would need to finish on time, but then others not so much. I decided I would need to run longer than I was (which I would do during training, but not consistently). I ended up setting the intervals for 6 min run/2 min walk and if I could do more towards the beginning, I would.

After the fiasco getting my phone set up, I just told myself to calm down and find a good rhythm. I tend to get caught up in the speed of a race start, but the good thing was that all the speedy people were long gone by the time I got over to the start line. This left the people who were mostly around my pace anyway, so that was a good thing about getting to the line late. I saw these two women in front of me who looked like flags (red tshirt, blue tutu with white stars), so I decided I would try to keep them in front of me as long as possible. After a few miles though, I ended up passing them and then stayed in front of them. I lost them for the remainder of the race by mile 3 or 4 and never saw them again. Then there was red shirt man. We slingshotted each other almost the entire race and he told me towards the end that he kept me in front of him as his lead to follow. He ended up beating me though, because towards the end I made two pits stops to pee. I was glad I’d built up some spare time!

 

 

I was able to maintain my 6/2 for probably 8 or 9 miles. It was around this point I started to hit a wall, and hit it hard. We were away from the gorgeous beach views on pretty well-traveled roads and there was no pack to look at ahead or anything. It was very mental from that point on. My pit stops came around 11.5 and maybe 12.5 miles? Or a little sooner? I’m not sure, but towards the end. Oddly enough, I almost didn’t fuel at all and still felt strong for the most part. I had brought a sleeve of Shot Bloks with me, but never even opened them. They were offering Gu on the course, but I don’t like gels. The only thing I ingested along the way was water and two small half-full cups of Gatorade. I was surprised, but I had fueled well before the race (banana, bagel with peanut butter, coffee) so I figured I just had good stores built up!

 

 

Like I said, I built up a nice little cushion for myself and it was very much needed towards the end. Between the pits stops and not being able to maintain a run for very long, I was getting very nervous about beating the 3 hour course limit. Once I passed 12 and looked at my watch, I figured I had it in the bag (I think it showed 20 minutes?), however I walked way more than I planned. I just couldn’t find enough oomph to switch back to the run and when I did, it was for very short bursts. When I rounded that last corner, I told myself I was going to walk to a hotel sign I could see in the distance, and then said I NEEDED to run to the finish because I was cutting it very close.

Shortly after the sign, I picked it up and then I noticed my friend Amy running towards me to run me in. I can’t even tell you what a welcome sight she was. And then I saw Julie and Tara off to the side who had been waiting with her. I got a high five from Julie on the way by and managed to pick up the pace the tiniest little bit to get across that finish line. I also got my first ever shout out at a race! The guy at the end said something about me finishing and “for the Unleashed Team” which I thought was fun to throw in there. So cool to hear!

 

 

I grabbed a water from the people at the end of the finisher chute, proudly took my medal and put it over my head. I couldn’t wait to get out of there to find Tara and my friends and get some hugs! It felt so good to be done! My body was very angry so I just kept moving to get to the beach and go stand in the cold water. It felt so awesome after that!

 

 

After my quick trip in the water, we said our goodbyes to Amy and I shuffled my way over to look for food. The bananas didn’t look great, I didn’t like the bars they had and the only other option was clam chowder (yuck!). I got a clam chowder and gave it to Julie and then we went to check out the merch tent. I got a cute bumper sticker and a finisher tshirt for $5 on clearance! It doesn’t have the year on it, but that’s OK. It was only $5, so you can’t really complain. I was hopeful to get another massage, but they were already broken down and done for the day so that was a huge bummer. After we made our purchase, we headed over to the car so I could stretch before driving home, where I would promptly foam roll and lay in my recliner for the remainder of the day watching the Patriots and our DVR (hey, I earned it!).

 

Course map from race website

My Garmin data

 

Overall, I thought it was a great race. They DEFINITELY made an improvement over last year that I noticed. Each time they have this race, it falls during Fall Fest and there is a carnival set up in one of the beach parking lots. Last year, it was in the lot closest to the start, so we had to park farther down the beach and walk up. The registration was also set up in a parking lot across the street from that. This year, they had the volunteer lot where the registration was last year, plus the carnival was farther down the beach. This meant the parking was right next to the registration area and all the tents and portapotties were all in the one lot. One complaint though – they still need more portapotties. It was set up MUCH better than last year (in clear groupings with signs showing where to form lines), however there just aren’t enough. This is why there were still long lines again right before the start this year and I missed the actual start of the race.

I think the improvements were great this year, but the volunteers were even more awesome. They were all cheering us on and stayed there until the very end and that’s very much appreciated! There were even still multiple photographers still on the course as us back-of-the-packers came in for the finish. I tried to smile through the pain to get some good race photos, so we’ll see what I get!

I’m really proud of myself for not only finishing, but actually meeting my goal of being an “official” finisher by beating the 3 hour time limit. My official time from race website: 2:59:10! I also didn’t finish last, which is a nice bonus.

Thanks for all the well wishes and support along the way! It’s meant the world to me.

 

 

 

 

32 Comments »

Run Wild 5K Race Recap

Yesterday was going to be a fun 5K that I was doing with my friends. My best friend’s FIRST 5K I might add. In my opinion, it was one of the most disappointing I’ve ever done. Although, one would argue I didn’t even do it, but we’ll get to that.

The race was the Run Wild 5K, held at Franklin Park Zoo in Boston, MA. It was a nighttime race, held after the zoo closed after regular hours. The weather was not very nice to us – low 90s, humidity around 80% and a severe thunderstorm/flash flood/possible tornado warnings. Grrrrreat. We actually lucked out that it never rained on us, but at certain points we were hoping it would, just to cool us down. It was a scorcher!

 

 

The first thing I didn’t enjoy about this race was the lack of communication. I had told everyone about this race and thought it would be a fun one for us to all walk together. We all love animals and who wouldn’t want to run a race through a zoo! Typically, as a race gets closer you get emails telling you all the particulars that you’ll need to know. I waited all week, but we didn’t receive our first actual race communication until almost 7pm the night before the race – only to tell us that they would email us our bib #’s in the morning.

Now, when I registered Tara and myself, the confirmations clearly stated each of our names in the confirmation emails for our respective registration. It was very obvious I registered two people. By the time we got the emails with our bibs the following morning (sent at almost noon – when packet pick-up was set to start), I received two emails again, but each one only had Tara’s name and bib #. It made me a bit concerned, but when we got there and picked up, they had both our names and two different bibs so I figured we were good to go.

We had gotten there extremely early. In this heat, it turned out not to be such a great idea, but we thought we were going to beat the traffic we had seen on our way up from RI. Turns out I was thinking we’d be going a different way than we did. I think we probably got there right around 3:00 or just after. We thought we’d spend that time going around looking at the animals, since our bibs got us free admission to the zoo.

 

 

We ended up finding some shaded seating and sat there for an hour or more until the race started. We didn’t even need to move to break a sweat. Since the four of us were going to walk (I’m the only runner), I decided I would ruck the course to get some training in where I can. Once everybody started lining up, we stood up to get ready to head to the back of the line. Turns out where it said “start” was on the wrong side of the line, so they told everybody we needed to move so the entire pack had to move to the other side of the start line and turn around to face the “finish” portion of the banner. Very confusing! Once we did that, the MC said a few words about the cancer charity we raised money for and then we were off. No National Anthem or anything.

It was very clear from the start that we were what seemed like the only walkers in the group. It turned out there was one couple walking ahead of us, but they gained a quick lead and only gained more from there, so basically we were walking by ourselves, other than the turnaround where the leaders passed us. We were immediately concerned with the lack of signage and whether or not there would be people to direct us where to go since we couldn’t see anyone ahead of us. The course, as it turns out, was only in the zoo for maybe the length of a football field, if that*. After that, we were out in the general public, running through a parking lot, into the woods on some trail, back through a football stadium where we looped around 3/4 of the track and back again. Very strange. I have to say, the volunteers we did pass were fantastic! They were all very encouraging and made sure we always knew where we were going. Once we got into the trail portion in the woods, there was much better signage about turns we needed to take and we also felt safer because there was a guy patrolling on a mountain bike that passed us 2 or 3 times. The volunteers were one, maybe the only, positive about this race.

After we finally made it back to the zoo, almost an hour later, we were really just hoping they would still have the finish line up. We realized that the photographer had already taken off, so we wouldn’t get a finisher photo. Now, for me, it’s not a big deal because I’ve done this tons of times, but we’ve never done anything as a group and Julie had never done one at all so I really wanted her to have one. It was highly disappointing, but I shouldn’t say I was surprised. This same photographer didn’t even snap a photo of us at the start because by the time we got to the front he was already turning his camera upside down and climbing down off of whatever little thing he had been perched on to take the start photos.

We were so done with the whole thing that by the time we finished, we really just wanted some water. They were having a big after party with all sorts of craft beers they had talked about, but didn’t mention anything else they would have. We saw people eating food, but didn’t know where to get it. The only thing we saw was a tent for Naked Juice (which only Tara took part in), or a couple of things of bottled water you pumped into a cup. I guess they had pizza and maybe something else*, but we never saw it and were just too hot to hang around.

*As of the time of me writing this Sunday night, we’ve realized a couple more things. When we finished the race and I stopped my Garmin and Runkeeper, and Julie stopped her Runkeeper, we realized we were around 1/4 mile short – it was around 2.77 miles. I didn’t think anything of it and didn’t really care because we weren’t technically racing. As I looked at the “details” link from the email (that I see also gives more detail on the food situation), it shows the course does a whole loop around the back when you come back IN to the zoo – but no one was there to direct us to that point. This would mean also that maybe the finish line wasn’t backwards? Who knows. We never saw these details because we didn’t see the email until we’d already left the house and really only needed our bib #’s to get in. Had we gotten it sooner and had more time to check out all the links, maybe I wouldn’t be so annoyed.

In addition, we’ve never received an email re: results, but I did find a link on the zoo race page for results. Upon viewing the results, I’M NOT EVEN IN THE LIST OF FINISHERS!! So what I thought was just an emailing glitch? Not so much.

Even through the misery of the weather and the lackluster race direction, I still think we had a fun time together. We always do. I just wish that Julie could have had the kind of experience I have when I run a race, versus the “walker” experience or those that finish at the back of the pack. I was actually surprised at the lack of walkers in this race. Oh well – lesson learned! Next time we’ll pick a better one, but we’ll always have fun.

 

 

 

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Spartan Sprint – Amesbury, MA – Race Recap

Yesterday’s race was hard. Like, incredibly hard. I always say that Tough Mudder is the hardest thing I’ve ever done but this would rival right up there with it. We didn’t have quite the elevation change that we did at Mount Snow for TM, however we had a good amount of up and down some pretty gnarly hills at Amesbury Sports Park. They did a fantastic job with this course and I was pretty impressed. To give you an idea of it, here’s a “leaked” picture of the course map that someone posted a couple of days beforehand and then the Garmin GPS data from a fellow Spahten (thanks Adam Ouellette!).

 

4.8 miles of madness

 

It was an absolutely gorgeous day for a race. The sun was shining, the humidity was reasonable and we had a slightly lower temp than normal (for August anyway). I think it was low 80s by the time our Spahten wave went off at 11:30am. And speaking of Spahtens, we had biggest team and had our OWN wave with a little over 250 members running at the same time. Totally amazing, and totally difficult to take a team photo.

 

Photo credit: Vince Rhee

 

Tara and I left the house around 6:15 to meet up with Zak at Unleashed who was going to ride up with us. The traffic wasn’t bad going up so we arrived in Amesbury around 8:30, just as other members of Unleashed were arriving. We hooked up with them at the viewing area near the Hercules Hoist so we could watch the Elite racers come through. We got to see the ever awesome Chrystal finish (taking 8th for Elite women!), as well as a few other Spahtens and Unleashed team members. And let’s not forget to mention I met one of my favorite bloggers – Heather from Relentless Forward Commotion. Thanks to Keisha for the sly picture!

 

 

We hung out for a while cheering people on and then I headed to the Spahtens tent to figure out who I was going to run with. I knew my friend Tony would be there so I searched him out and Sylvia was there, but was feeling pretty off after she did the Hurricane Heat earlier in the day. I don’t blame her at all for not running twice. If you don’t know what the Spartan HH is, you should Google it. Hardcore.

Originally, I thought I’d be running with two women I didn’t know, that I had been hooked up with by Dennis after running with him at Dirty Dash. I had never met them and had no idea what they looked like, so I never ended up seeing them. I also thought I was running with Stephanie from Unleashed, but she opted to run earlier and thought she could run it twice and run again with me at 11:30. Unfortunately, she hadn’t finished yet when we were lining up to start. Chrystal ended up jumping into the wave just after we started to help me out – so I ended up with Chrystal (for 2/3 of the race), Tony, his friend Kelly and another Spahten, Wendy, who I had first met at the Finish at the 50 race. We had so much fun as a team and did great helping each other out. There were a couple of other people that seemed to pop in and out as well (Drew, Alex, Al and maybe some others I’m forgetting?). It took me 3:00:54 to finish, but the time flew by with these guys by my side (and yes I’m bitter that 55 seconds kept me from getting a sub-3 finish LOL).

 

Tony, Kelly and I at the start

And we’re off!

 

I did more burpees than I thought I’d be doing at this race. I feel like there were more volunteers at Mohegan (my only other Spartan Race to date) and therefore more help to get you over/through obstacles. There were certain obstacles I didn’t see a single volunteer (not to say they weren’t there, just not noticeable). I skipped the inverted wall early on simply because I knew how difficult it was for THREE big, burly volunteers to get me over it. I didn’t want to do that to any teammates so I just hopped to the side and banged out my burpees.

Let’s do a play-by-play of the obstacles, shall we?

First off, they start you out running up the big hill by the main festival area and you immediately go through a couple of big mud trenches at the top, then it was into the woods we go! I can’t remember if things went by order of this map or not, but I’ll break them down in that order.

Somewhere near the start, and not on the map, were mud pits we had to go in and then cross over large logs to the other side.

 

 

OUT walls – I did fine on these, no burpees. The over wall is only the ever issue. I cheated a bit on this, but got over it myself using the side rail support beam. You’re not supposed to use that to get over, so that is why I considered it cheating. Rolling under and going through the other two walls is easy.

Another wall – this one I think is the one I got 10 fingers from some random guy that helped me out

Inverted wall – as I said before, I burpeed out on this one on purpose

Tractor Pull – this is basically a big cinder block with a chain through it that you had to drag down and back through the mud. A little difficult, but not terrible and easy enough to do by myself.

Tire pull/drag – You had to pull a large tire on a rope towards you, then take the tire and drag it back out to it’s starting point. This was easy for me.

Sandbag carry – we had to grab a little pillow sized sandbag and carry it down a hill and then back up. I want to say the women’s weight was probably 30 lb or less. Not sure about men.

Monkey bars – I wasn’t taking any chances so I stepped to the side and did burpees for this one

Rope swing – This was basically like a Tarzan style rope swing from one platform to the next. Tony went first so that he could catch me on the other side. I was really nervous about this one because of my shoulder, but was feeling pretty good so I tried it after some coaching from Tony and those around me. I ran the few steps I had room to run, swung out, but just didn’t have enough momentum to reach the other side for him to get me. I ended up in the water in a lot of pain. I climbed out and just took a minute to take a few deep breaths and collect myself after I tweaked it there.

Hercules Hoist – we were told by a volunteer at this obstacle that men was 100 lb and women was 70 lb. However, this varies from person to person – some people who helped out on course build said women’s was 85 lb so I have no idea. To save my shoulder and help Wendy out, we opted to lift it together and do it twice. Not a problem. If my shoulder wasn’t dinged up, I may have attempted it myself. It didn’t feel as heavy as Mohegan did.

 

Me and Wendy tag teaming the Herc Hoist

 

Bucket Brigade – you had to take a Home Depot style bucket (I think they’re 5 gallon buckets?) and fill it with gravel. The women had a slightly lower line to fill it to and the men had to fill it almost to the top. This was a killer for pretty much everybody out there, even the Elite racers. Wendy and I again opted to do it together so we each carried a side of the bucket. We still stopped to rest twice on the way up and once on the way down. It was definitely not light!

 

This is what exhaustion looks like

 

Bridge – same as Mohegan. Climb up one side, walk across on planks, climb down other side. This was over the starting area so you walked under it when you went to line up to race. Cool placement and not that bad.

 

 

Slip Wall – I believe this is called the slip wall because it normally has water before it, but they didn’t have anything like that in front of it. Instead, they made us crawl under maybe 10-15 ft of barb wire before climbing over it. I had a little bit of a hard time with it, but I got coached through it and did OK.

 

Wendy doing the Slip Wall. No pic of me because Stephanie ran to the other side to help get me over.

 

Another wall (taller) – I tried it, but with no volunteers and being exhausted already, I opted for burpees

Rope climb – didn’t even attempt it – more burpees

Traverse wall – attempted it, but wasn’t happening – more burpees

 

Steph doing the traverse wall

 

Spear Throw – bad shoulder=bad throw, but I tried twice anyway. Tony threw twice so I wouldn’t have to do burpees and he nailed both of his, but I still did some burpees because I suck and missed twice. LOL

 

 

Barb Wire Crawl w/ Dunk Wall – hardest, most painful obstacle of the day (not counting the incident with the rope swing). We had to roll under barb wire for somewhere probably close to 200-250 feet (!!!), going over rocks upon rocks and probably 4-5 mud hills that they built up for us to climb over in between rolling. After we finally got through that, we slid down a mud hill into about neck deep water which led to a wall we had to swim underwater to get to the other side. I didn’t mind that part because it cleaned off all the dirt and mud from the rolling!

 

This is pure happiness to be done rolling under barb wire!

 

Fire jump – self explanatory. I feel like this was slightly higher than Mohegan, but not as wide to jump. No issues here. It was pretty cool because right before I went, a couple of guys asked them to throw some gasoline on the fire so it would flame up for them to jump through. Looked equally badass and scary to me!

After the fire jump, we just needed to run back down the hill to the finish line! I was so happy to be done with this tough course! The hills and trails were definitely a tough obstacle.

 

 

I’m so happy to have had the Battle Buddies I had yesterday and the support of Chrystal and Stephanie on the course as well as Tara on the sidelines hooking me up with some badly needed Powerade. I think that helped me get through that last mile when I was bonking.

 

 

Spartan definitely put on a really great race. Everything flowed seamlessly, from the parking, to the shuttle buses, to registration. There were a lot of good vendors there and food options as well (I’ve never been so happy to eat a crappy cheeseburger in my life). I would suggest maybe more hoses and a bigger changing tent, but other than that I really have no complaints!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dirty Dash Race Recap

Saturday was the Dirty Dash at Amesbury Sports Park in Amesbury, MA. I had first heard about this race from a fellow blogger out west, before they ever had a location here scheduled and thought it sounded like a lot of fun (along the lines of a Foam Fest fun run). As soon as I heard it was coming to MA, I knew it would go on my list of races this year. I thoroughly enjoy the fun runs. A lot of hardcore OCR racers will say they’re not very challenging, but they’re not meant to be. That’s why they’re called “fun runs”. Everyone can do them, even grandmas – and I saw several of them out on that course having a blast with their children and grandchildren!

I got up to start getting ready around 5:30 since it would be about a two hour drive for us. We hit the road somewhere around 6:45 and arrived just before 9:00, so that worked pretty well. The ride up wasn’t bad because I think we were early enough, but when we left the traffic on that side was a nightmare.

Once we got up there, parking was a breeze and we headed towards the check-in. What we noticed, though, was a table with a few men that appeared to be searching bags. Now, when the race info was emailed it specifically mentioned that you should bring water to hydrate, so we had packed a couple of bottles of water. The signs as we approached said that NO food or drink could be brought in, so I had to take it out, drink some of it and then give it up to the people at the table. Tara then had her bag searched. This was really frustrating, considering the options they had for sale inside the festival area. I paid $3 for a Gatorade after the race which is ridiculous, but I digress.

After we got through the bag search, I waited for a moment in the proper alphabetical line to hand in my waiver and get my bib. This was really quick and easy the way they had it set up. I also was able to switch my time there. For some reason, when I chose the NE Spahtens team during registration, it wasn’t the right one. I had been registered for 11:00 but the team wave was apparently at 10:10. I told the guy at registration and he just shrugged and wrote down 10:10 on my bib so I was happy they didn’t give me a hard time about swapping. The festival area, once inside, was really tiny given the amount of the space available at the Amesbury Sports Park. I don’t really know why they set it up that way, but it wasn’t a huge issue. People were just extra close.

I met up with some fellow Spahtens that were running and met some more new faces. I ended up running with 3 of them for the whole race and had a BLAST. We took a team pic before our wave and then got ready to race. The race started on a very steep uphill and then after that you couldn’t see anything, so no pics from Tara this time, other than the start and finish.

 

 

The course was really fun, very well spread out and had a decent amount of obstacles. Some regular, challenging things like wall climbs and a cargo net climb and then some fun inflatable stuff. And lots and lots and lots of mud. The Dirty Dash definitely delivered on the mud. I did notice that the course map didn’t match up with what we actually ran though. They held a Dirty Girl mud race there the weekend before and apparently they took their sweet time getting their stuff broken down. The Dirty Dash people literally had like 1 day to set up their race, so it appears they left some stuff out, like the monkey bars. This wasn’t an issue for me since I can’t do those anyway because of my shoulder.

 

Big Mean Hill #1

 

As always, I can never remember the order or all the types of obstacles, but there was lot of mud pits, some tunnels to crawl through, a pit with pipes through it to do over/unders, cargo net climb, wall climb with 3 walls of varying heights, hay bale climb, another set of walls to climb with a rope, a big bouncy house, an inflatable balance beam on rollers (so it was like a see saw), a water slide, a log balance beam and a beer chug (with optional root beer chug for those under 21, or people like me who don’t drink beer).

The one negative about the course itself was the finish. This was the first race that I ever had to WAIT to cross the finish line. They had poorly planned to take the pictures right after you cross the finish, but the photographer was taking 3-4 different posed pictures of every group. This caused a back-up that was going back up the hill by the time we got there. We waited probably 30-45 minutes by our estimation just to take a picture. What they should have done is put it off to the side after the finish and you could opt to go in there if you wanted to take the pic or not.

 

Waiting in line to “finish”

 

One more thing I should make a note of is that there were no changing tents. There were some not-very-powerful hoses to rinse off, but nowhere to duck into and change into dry clothes. There was no way I was doing it standing in front of everybody, or doing it in a portapotty, so I opted to drive the two hours home in wet clothes.

I’d probably rate this a 3.5 out of 5 stars if I had to pick something like that. It doesn’t really matter though, because there has been talk that they are going under like many of the other fun runs that have gone bankrupt lately. Whether or not this is true is pure speculation to me, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Face The Music Friday #42

Saturday – Rest – spent most of the afternoon in the pool

Sunday – 5 miles

Monday – Rest

Tuesday – 4 miles

Wednesday – Rest – met with nutrionist & giving my blisters some healing time

Thursday – 4 miles

Friday – Most likely rest instead of tomorrow

 

Not the most productive week, workout-wise, but I’m pleased that I stuck to the half marathon training program that I’m following. I did the distance I was supposed to, when I was supposed to, and that’s my main focus right now. My issue is that I’ve now developed blisters, dead center, on the balls of both feet – probably about dime-sized. I’ve switched over to wearing only strictly hiking socks (either my Smartwool or Thorlo), plus I got some blister bandaids. Now, these suckers are supposed to be waterproof, sweat proof and last for days. I put them on Wednesday, went for my run Thursday after work, and they basically disintegrated in my socks. I’m actually kind of pissed because it’s almost like they melted INTO my sock – like seriously, there is a sticky residue all over my friggin’ expensive Thorlo socks and those bandaids weren’t cheap either. It was like $7 for a box of 6 bandaids! When I took the sock off, it was crumpled under my toes and had come off on it’s own probably halfway through my run because I could feel the blisters bothering me around that time but just kept going. It’s a good thing the Thorlos are padded because I think that helped me finish out my run. So yeah, I’m pretty pissed off and don’t know what to do next. Hence why I didn’t really do any cross training (which would have been elliptical).

In regards to that nutritionist appointment, I met with him after work to get more details on the plan he had worked up for us. He had emailed me two separate one-day meal plans, one for workout days, one for not, plus a list of food exchanges because I’m so picky and need alternatives for several things he has on the list (like fish, grapefruit, oatmeal, etc). I’m kind of bummed that’s all we got for $75 (discounted rate for Unleashed ambassadors), but we’ll see how it goes. We’re supposed to follow the one day plan he gave us for two weeks and keep him posted at the end of each of those weeks to see how we’ll progress. I guess at that point he’ll tweak it if necessary. We also will now be using protein powder so that should be interesting. He had given us a sample of a cookies and cream flavor (which is one of my fave ice cream flavors) and it’s not terrible so I think I can get used to it. I bought a jar of that and a couple of blender bottles as well. I’ll be sure to keep everyone posted as to how it’s going and what happens after two weeks in case anyone is interested in seeing a nutritionist. I’m not sure they’re all the same, but who knows. I may end up eating my arms and not be able to type an update. That’s what dictation software is for, am I right?

 

 

I’m really excited for tomorrow as it’s the day of the 1 year anniversary open house at Unleashed! I’ll be there bright and early around 6:30 to get the day rolling and it goes from 7-2 if anyone local wants to stop by and try out some FREE demo classes. And not just obstacle classes – they’ll be offering all the others, too, like kickboxing, kettlebells, TRX, etc. All the ambassadors will be there helping out with the main tent and spotting people, but we also get to have some of the fun, too. I can’t wait to try out some different classes that I could maybe add to my repertoire. I’m sure I’ll have a post about that after the fact.

This week’s song was just randomly picked off my running playlist. Not sure if I mentioned it, but I’ve been listening to only podcasts lately when I run and it’s fantastic. I just listen for my audio cues from Runkeeper to tell me when to switch from run to walk, but other than that I keep getting enthralled listening to Nerdist podcasts. If you have any others I should listen to, please tell me!!

So anyway – this week’s completely random song is Little Talks by Of Monsters And Men. Have a great weekend!

 

 

 

 

 

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Finish At The 50 – 10K Race Recap

On July 3rd, I ran the Finish At The 50 10K race at Gillette Stadium – home of my beloved New England Patriots! The event had a 5K option as well, plus there were supposed to be fireworks after the race. Unfortunately, they cancelled the fireworks the day before due to the weather forecast, which turned out to be a bad decision as it never rained. Some speculated it’s because the Boston fireworks were moved from Friday to Thursday due to weather and they are put on by the same event company, but who knows. It was a big bummer though!

First, let’s talk about that weather. Hurricane Arthur was moving in and we expected rain both Thursday and Friday. However, as of Thursday morning, no rain in the forecast – yay! Bad news – it was going to be hoooooot and humid. This is what it looked like just prior to the race kickoff:

 

 

It absolutely felt that hot, too.  The breeze was the only saving grace of any comfort whatsoever. It was a hot breeze, but at least it gave us some sensation of air movement. I have to say, the rock stars of the day were the people in the neighborhoods that we ran through. It seemed every couple tenths of a mile there was someone in their front yard spraying the runners with their hoses/sprinklers. I ran through every.single.one. It felt glorious!

 

 

I had the day off from work, but unfortunately Tara did not. We made our schedule work the best we could and thought we might end up having to each drive up there separately, but luckily she was done early enough that we could go together with a slight modification. We ended up arriving around 4:30 I think. Parking was really easy, right next to the stadium, and just a short walk to registration. That was also seamless with no wait. The only strange thing about it was that we had to go to one area for our bibs, then go to the opposite side of the courtyard to get our tshirt. Not a big deal, just strange.

 

 

After I got my stuff, I tried to meet up with some Unleashed teammates before they started. Two of them were doing the 5K race (which started at 5:30) and one of them was doing the 10K with me at 6:30. We were able to find each other just in time and get a quick pic before the race started.

 

 

After the ladies took off, Mike went to get some pics so Tara and I headed over to meet up with the NE Spahtens that were there at the race. I only know one of them personally from Unleashed, so I said hello to her and then just kind of stood there awkwardly for a few minutes because everyone else was already kind of chatting in their little cliques. I decided I’d rather go sit in the shade than be that random girl standing there, so we sat for a bit. Eventually, another Spahten came over and sat with us that I had never met before and we hung out basically until just before the start of the 10K. We did manage to get a team picture, but it was quite the ordeal trying to squeeze everyone in for the person taking the picture (who was at a really weird angle). This was the best one that Tara could get of all the attempts she made.

 

 

We went over to line up right around 6:15-6:20. They did the National Anthem and then shortly after we were off – sort of. They started the race, but it was a good 3 minutes before I crossed the start line. This is the only pic Tara could get of me for the entire race, right after the start. I had noticed Julie and Dan standing on the left, but never saw Tara, so this is the moment I yelled out to Julie who hadn’t even seen me run by. It was all quite comical.

 

 

I’m hoping I’ll get better official race photos, because they took a bunch of them towards the end in the stadium. We even got to run through the big blow-up helmet the team runs through before a game!! I was so giddy running on the field that my favorite team runs on. SO amazing!

After the race, we found another Unleashed teammate and managed to get a finisher shot of everyone. Even the kids are Unleashed kids!

 

 

Shortly after, we all split up and went our separate ways and I tackled the beast know as “A million stairs”. I forgot how many I would have to climb after I just ran over 6 miles and I was not a happy camper! Tara, Julie and Dan thought they were hysterical and Tara made this lovely little collage to show my disappointment in these stupid stairs.

 

 

See them all?? Do you see???

 

I did pretty well overall. I was aiming at finishing under 1:30 and just barely squeaked by with 1:29:18 by my Garmin (unofficial email said 1:29:14).

 

 

This is definitely a race I would do again, but I would hope the weather would be a little more gentle on us! My gang were troopers, even though they went in the restaurant and ate while I was out there melting!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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