Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Running in Circles.....or Should I Say Ovals?

My January half marathon is in the books....another 13.1 miles down.....173.8 miles to go.

For those of you that haven't been keeping up, I am running a half or full each month for a total of 200 miles raced in 2011 to raise funds for LIVESTRONG.   It is my RunningSTRONG for Hope Coast to Coast Tour.   The number of miles is significant.  They represent the total number of years my father, mother, sister and husband all lived before cancer stole each of them from my life.

My December race in Vegas was a PR (that's a personal record for those non-runners following my adventure)....and this past weekend was also a PR.....a PR for an indoor half marathon.  Of course, it is the ONLY indoor half marathon I have ever competed in....but hey, a PR is a PR. 

This also marked my 16th half marathon....and was by far the most difficult.  Yep, it even beat out Nashville which to date I always considered my toughest.  Nashville = hills, IceBreaker = flat.  So, hills vs flat....flat should win every time right?  Well, Nashville had some scenery.  The IceBreaker had an ice rink.  Yes, there was some scenery.  There were a few Olympic speed skaters in spandex flying by from time to time (I will admit....they were a nice view....but variety does count over the course of 2 hours).

This was hands down the most unique experience I have ever encountered in a race.....well, with the exception of the Muddy Buddy.  47.7 laps around a speed skating rink on a makeshift track in Milwaukee, WI, in January.

Note the speed skaters on the rink.   This is NOT me by the way.

Wondering how I kept track of those laps?  Well, thank goodness I didn't have to count them myself.  Each runner wears a chip that tracks the number of laps, which are then posted on a large screen.  If you are lucky, you may see your name and number of laps completed flash up while running by.  I unfortunately - or maybe fortunately - was never so lucky.  Turns out there was a glitch of some sort with my chip and the computer...but thankfully the chip was counting the laps.  Mix some very diligent race staff with a a little elbow grease and my laps were identified.  It was very odd to be running a 13 mile race and have no idea how far along I was.  By the time it was all straightened out, I was 11 miles in.  It was pretty exciting to realize I only had two remaining....8 more laps.  Although at times it was nice not knowing how many dreaded laps remained, it did make it more difficult mentally to not know what pace I was running, when to take my gels, hydrate, etc.   But, I just went with feel.....which is probably a better approach to take - but just a different approach than I normally use.

This was a very well run event.  There was a 5K, 2 half marathons, a marathon relay and a full marathon over the course of 3 days.  About 200 people competed in the half but the group was split into two races.  The start was crowded but thinned out rather quickly.  Slower runners stayed to the right and faster runners passed on the left.    Each runner provided their own water bottle labeled with their bib number as cups were not allowed on the track.  A wonderful, enthusiastic - and organized - volunteer group manned the table and handed off bottles as requested by the runners. Great concept and it worked remarkably well.  I cannot say enough about the volunteers and race staff....they were awesome....cheering us along the entire time.

A few other highlights:
  • Although it was single digits outside with snow and wind, the temperatures inside were perfect for running.... about 50 degrees.
  • No head phones allowed (I don't run races with my I-pod anyways but the monotony of a track workout does require some music) but the race officials were prepared and had a great selection of songs cranked up for the endurance of the race. 
  • Interesting facts about some of the runners were shared by the announcer; such as, first time dad, Black Hawk season ticket holder, running with their spouse/mother/sibling.....and running a half marathon every month to raise money for LIVESTRONG.  Yes....they announced me - VERY exciting.  
  • The other runners.....in most races you pass by someone, notice a funny or inspiring  t-shirt, talk to a few along the way.....but never see them again.  It was great to see everyone for the entire race - and provide encouragement....and receive encouragement.  There was a "bond" among the runners....similar to that bond that exists on the bike rides at the LIVESTRONG Challenges.  
    But the BEST part of this race?  Well hands down, no competition.....the BEST part was seeing my daughter - that 7-year old "Cancer is Bad" spitfire of mine.
    Making the turn and seeing her standing along the wall, giving me a thumbs up, holding up her handmade "Go Mom" and "Go Packers" signs (not sure how she became a Packers fan living in Illinois but I suspect there is a 2nd grade boy responsible for that), and the occasional high five.  Yes, that was the BEST part of this race.

    Nothing better than seeing one of my inspirations for embarking on this adventure standing there cheering me on.  This is the same little girl that I shared on an earlier post about her views on cancer..." Cancer is bad" and "Cancer hurts families."  Although this race was difficult, it most certainly wasn't as difficult as the pain her father felt or the emptiness she feels for her father.  Nor was it as difficult as the battle those 28 million living with cancer deal with on a daily basis....including a amazing and inspiring LIVESTRONG friend that was recently diagnosed with yet another round of cancer.  This race I ran in her honor....and in honor of the 28 million....and in memory of those that we have all lost.

    Another 173.8 miles to go....please consider supporting me along the way....over 80 cents of every dollar donated is given back to organizations in our communities to help those with cancer SURVIVE!  Any amount helps!
    Click here to support Barbara's efforts for LIVESTRONG 


    1. Wow - congrats!!! Not sure I could handle the monotony of running in circles (ovals?) - pretty amazing, sister!
      And isn't it the best seeing your kids when you're racing? I swear it makes all the difference in the world. :)

    2. Hey -- thanks for commenting on my blog! Congrats on your goals and your accomplishments-awesome! Sorry that I missed you at Icebreaker. Are you also from Wisc then? Hope to meet up with you at a race sometime.