2014 Ragnar Relay Cape Cod Race Recap

If you had told me five years ago I wouldn’t think twice about flying across the country to meet a group of strangers and proceed to spend 30ish hours in a van with 6 [we’re fancy & had a personal chauffeur] of them, I’d undoubtedly declare you crazy. Since the idea was tossed around back in the fall, our team went through several iterations and the final Flock You Like a Hurricane runners who met up at Union Fish in Plymouth the night before race day were Ali, Anne, Rebecca, Amy, Danielle, Carolyn, Jess, Jessie, and our team captain Stacey. Kelly was coming down on Friday morning, Lindsay was dealing with horrendous travel delays out of Dallas, and Deb would be meeting up with Van 2 at Stacey’s on Friday afternoon.

Union Fish - Group Photo

Our team started at 10am on a super foggy morning in Hull and Ali was our leadoff runner. This girl had just run a marathon [and PRed!] the weekend before and absolutely crushed all of her legs. Anne and Amy were seriously fast and as many times as they said they were going to “take this leg easy”, they flew from exchange to exchange ticking off miles consistently in the 7s. I loved Rebecca – her last leg was tough and she was definitely hurting, but was still all “I LOVE RUNNING!” Wish I could kidnap her and run with her in Texas every day. Kelly displayed her impressively strong running skills as she powered through a hilly first leg and finished out the race with about 32 miles under her belt.

Van 1 Runners
I went into the relay with a twisted left knee and achy right shin, both courtesy of a nasty fall I took when Sox cut me off during one of our early morning runs. The knee was my main concern because shin issues are the bane of my running existence. My first leg went off without a hitch and as runner 6, passed off the slap bracelet in Duxbury Beach to Van 2’s first runner – Lindsay.

Ragnar Relay Cape Cod - Duxbury Beach

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Van 2  Runners

Our van had a break from 2 to 8ish, so we grabbed a quick lunch at Driftwood Publick House and then attempted a nap in a field at the exchange where we’d start running our second legs. Napping is a skill I’ve never been able to master so I spent the downtime Stick-ing my calves and following Van 2 via the #FlockYouLikeaHurricane hashtag on Instagram. We kept in touch with the other van through text message but Instagram was a great way to follow along and see which runner was currently out there knocking out their miles. Despite not being able to nap, it was still nice to take my shoes off and just stretch out the legs. Once nighttime fell, it was time to dress head to toe in reflective gear and prepare to send Ali on her way!

Van 1-2 Night Exchange
The night leg seemed to be everyone’s favorite so I was super pumped by the time 11pm rolled around and it was time for me to run. However, my right shin was less than enthused and throbbing only a mile into it. I decided to walk/run to keep it somewhat happy but running quickly turned into a shuffle. My gait started to change in an attempt to relieve the pain in my shin and then I felt the strain on my other knee. The last thing I wanted to do was bail on the leg, so I grabbed some ibuprofen at mile 3 and Kelly jumped in to keep me company. She was a lifesaver and kept my mind off of running while we finished out the leg together. After the handoff to Lindsay in Hyannis, Anne grabbed me some ice from the aid station and we set up some sleeping bags in a ditch [no, seriously…] near a school to sneak in a couple hours of rest.

Van 2’s night legs weren’t that long so we only had a few hours before it was time to run again. Shaun (Kelly’s husband and our fantastic driver) woke us up and we tried to quickly get our shit together after realizing we weren’t even at the right exchange. I had a minor meltdown when I realized my phone was missing, but while we were driving to the exchange Amy found it rolled up in one of the sleeping bags. Crisis averted. Once we pulled in, Ali hauled ass to the exchange and made it there just in time to grab the slap bracelet from Jessie as she ran in.

I spent the next couple hours trying to convince my teammates I could run my final leg, since it was “only” 3 miles. The response was a resounding “NO” and eventually I accepted it would be for the best if Kelly picked up the mileage. After she was done, we handed off to Van 2 for the final time and headed to brunch in Wellfleet. This was followed by a killer cheer session on either leg 33 – or was it 34? This is what I get for not writing the recap right away. We positioned ourselves at the top of a huge hill and busted out the megaphone and cowbell, blasted music from the van, and yelled at the top of our lungs for every runner that came by. Definitely a lot of fun and one of the highlights of the weekend.

It was also at this point where we started playing #SELFIE by The Chainsmokers on repeat. I entered the weekend with an extreme hatred for this song, but now every time I hear it I think of Van 1 rocking out and it makes me happy. But first … let me take a selfie! We made it to the finish in P-Town around 12:30 and just after 3pm Van 2 joined us. We backtracked on the course to find Jessie and then jumped in with her to cross the finish line together! Pretty sure this one is going in a frame – so many freakin’ amazing women in one photo:

Ragnar Relay Cape Cod - Finish Line

Ragnar Relay Cape Cod - P-Town
I have to send a HUGE thank you to Kelly’s husband, Shaun, for being our chauffeur all weekend. He navigated us from exchange to exchange flawlessly and surprisingly didn’t seem irritated at all to be stuck in a van all weekend with a group of girls he barely knew. He also was our professional photog, snapping 200+ pictures of us on our journey from Hull to Provincetown. He was a rockstar and made our lives so much easier.

Also a big shout out full of gratitude to Stacey, who despite being unable to run stayed on as captain and helped keep our team organized over the past several months, as well as through the weekend. She was Van 2’s driver / photographer and provided a place for Van 2 to stay between legs 1 & 2. She also took in 6 internet-turned-IRL-friends on Saturday night, which all of us appreciated SO MUCH. Her and her husband cooked us dinner, all while keeping the champagne and wine flowing as we recapped the incredible race. Best hosts ever, hands down.

I had always heard that team relays were a life-changing experience and couldn’t help but write it off as an exaggeration. How could spending almost 30 hours in a van with people you didn’t know be enjoyable? All of my skepticism flew right out the window while we were dining at Mamma Mia’s on Thursday night. The conversation flowed effortlessly and everyone’s passion for running caused us to bond instantly. The transition from ‘strangers’ to ‘friends’ was almost instantaneous. I couldn’t have asked for better teammates – each and every one of them are phenomenal. A reunion [Ragnar location: TBD] for 2015 was already in the works before we had even left the cape.

 And I absolutely cannot wait.

Ragnar Relay Cape Cod - White Crest Beach

All photos courtesy of Stacey Hedman, Shaun Gallagher, and Jess Clarke.

Weekend in Houston & the ABB 5K

On Friday afternoon we headed down south to Houston for the weekend. We should have been pulling into the race expo around 4pm but due to congested highways and the population of Houston being incapable of operating a vehicle correctly, it ended up being just after 5. When traveling somewhere new, you should definitely experiment with using the maps app on your phone without turning the GPS on. Turns out all of the GPS usage and iHeart radio streaming on our road trip to/from Florida in December drained the crap out of our data for the month and we had to navigate downtown Houston GPS-less. It was REALLY fun.

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The expo was massive and super organized. I loved how a volunteer could scan the barcode from my confirmation email on my phone rather than having to print out a hard copy. We picked up our 3 (5K x2 & the half for me) race packets in less than five minutes and were released out into the sea of vendors. I chatted all things Oiselle with Sara at the Fleet Feet booth, browsed the USTAF merchandise, and pretty much breezed through the rest. Skechers, a new sponsor for this year, provided all of the official race merchandise. The LE shoes created specifically for Houston were pretty cool and a lot of the apparel looked great too, but I wish there would have been other items like pint glasses or magnets. Something cheap that wasn’t clothing-related. A Skechers employee working the area said they’d keep it in mind for next year. Luckily on our way out I saw Chevron putting free magnets out on their table so I snagged a couple.

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I saw the Nuun booth but it was pretty busy so I skipped over it, only to realize later that night they were giving out Texas-specific water bottles with the purchase of two tubes. Now I need another water bottle like I need a hole in the head, but guys: this one said Texas on it. Somehow this justified the purchase and we went back the next morning to grab one.

Nuun Hydration - Run Texas

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After the expo we made our way to the hotel. Initially I booked the Residence Inn downtown so we wouldn’t really have to drive at all and could walk to the race start both mornings. After a little research, I realized I could move us out to a SpringHill Suites near Reliant Park and save $300 on the hotel/parking. It was about 10-15 minutes away and only two blocks from the rail station. I don’t regret this decision at all – $300 is $300.

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The next morning was the ABB 5K, which was by no means a goal race for either of us since Brad was coming off a sprained ankle and I had the half the next day. We grabbed coffee in the lobby and took the rail downtown.

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The race was a super flat out-and-back and the weather was perfect. Beautiful morning for a run! We were pretty surprised with how many spectators were out cheering but it got me excited for crowds the next day. The National Guard handed out medals at the finish, which I thought was pretty cool.

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We had lunch at Freebirds and then went to see Lone Survivor. Okay, so I had heard this movie was pretty intense. I imagined intense like Act of Valor. Definitely teared up at the end and it was sad, but I was able to compose myself in less than five minutes. Let me just say that “pretty intense” does not even begin to describe Lone Survivor. I don’t cry at anything (owner of a black heart) and no amount of sniffling or deep breaths could get me back to normal before the lights came on. It was heart wrenching. Incredible movie, but heart wrenching.

For dinner I had my heart set on Italian and luckily there was a Carrabba’s only a few blocks from the movie theater. Once we cracked open the menus I realized we were at the most expensive Carrabba’s in all the land. Had I done a little research I might have noticed that this was the original restaurant and not under the same management as the chain. But since we were already there and every other Italian restaurant in town was probably swarming with runners, we stayed. At a normal Carrabba’s our exact dinner would have cost us $54 plus tip but at the original we were hit with an $85 bill. Good thing I saved a few bucks on the hotel.

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After dinner we returned back to the hotel so I could buy more songs on iTunes, tweak my playlist for the billionth time and try to get to bed early. Pretty sure Brad fell asleep before I did, but what else is new?

Next up, the Aramco Houston Half Marathon Race Recap

In 2014, I Will Run

And that’s it.

In the past I’ve declared a certain distance or time as my goal for that particular year. Whether it be to run a full marathon or PR in the half, I was always worked towards something running-related with a number tied to it. In 2013 I stepped away from that approach and simply wanted to focus on quality over quantity. Unfortunately, I didn’t exactly follow through on that.

2013 Austin Races

I jammed a million races into the spring and didn’t PR any of them. Don’t get me wrong: I know not every race is going to be at a hard effort and yield satisfying results, but at least one of them should have in order to meet my goal of “quality > quantity”. Sometimes I get registration happy and want to sign up for every single race out there.

I managed to restrain myself from registering for the Rogue Distance Festival, and a handful of local 5Ks & 10Ks. All were fairly affordable and probably could have been squeezed into the budget, but somehow I made it into the spring with the same two races on my schedule that have been there since July: Houston Half & Austin Half. And I’ve decided not to “race” either of them. The holidays/road trip threw somewhat of a wrench in my training and running was put on the backburner. ALL MY FAULT. Not blaming anyone but myself. If Houston let you defer without having to pay again next year, I’d defer to 2015. But since they don’t and the hotel is already booked, to Houston I go.

So what’s next? Ragnar Relay Cape Cod with Oiselle Team

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FINALLY! My first relay. I had hoped to run Hood to Coast with Nuun the past two years, but that didn’t pan out. I had planned on applying again in 2014 but we booked a trip to Mexico for that same week, and well, Mexico wins. Always. Back in the fall Jill tweeted about getting together a team of Oiselle runners for Ragnar Cape Cod. After countless emails back and forth, team Flock You Like a Hurricane was born + registered. So in the beginning of May I’ll be heading up to Cape Cod to run a 200-mile relay with Oiselle teammates I’ve never met. God I love the internet.

Head-Up-Wings-Out

And then after that? Who knows! I’m forgoing a spring goal race and focusing solely on Ragnar. I’ll probably have a goal race in the fall (in addition to Ragnar Trail Hill Country in October, depending on whether or not my sister decides to get married that weekend) but I don’t want to rush into it or even start thinking about which race until April or May. I don’t want history to repeat itself so instead of racing the crap out of the spring and being burnt out by May, I want to enjoy no-pressure miles in the spring.

So that’s the plan for 2014. I will run, plain & simple.

2013 Shiner Beer Run Race Recap

Shiner Beer Run

We almost didn’t run this race. All week the forecast called for high winds, cool temperatures, and rain. 38 degrees isn’t exactly standard Texas weather, considering it was 89 on Thursday evening as I drove home from work with the A/C on. And I don’t mind running in the rain when it’s warm, but when it’s that cold? Eh, not really that interested. I took a few polls on Twitter and changed my mind more times than I can count between Wednesday and Saturday. Crazy thunderstorms Thursday night had me saying “no freakin’ way!” but the calm, somewhat dry morning on Saturday at 3:30am helped me make the final decision: we were heading to the Shiner Beer Run.

Race Day Wear: Poppy Lux Layer, Oiselle singlet, Lesley Knickers; also added a throwaway sweatshirt and gloves, neither of which I was able to toss. Definitely warmed up in a mile or so, but once we started running into the wind there wasn’t a chance in hell I’d part with the extra layer.

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The city of Shiner is two-ish hours from our house so we left at 5:30. Packet pickup was available during the week at 2 locations in San Antonio or the Shiner brewery itself, but since we live so far away we opted for race day packet pickup. The ride out to Shiner was long and boring, with a lot of country roads and views like this:

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Pre-Race: We were able to score a perfect parking spot across the street from the brewery, allowing us to sit in the car until 5 minutes before the start. This was clutch. Also pre-race I made a quick bathroom stop and somehow the drawstring of my pants disappeared inside of the waistband. Massive fail. I spent the ENTIRE RACE hiking up my pants. ugh.

Swag: Awesome, some of the best I’ve seen. The shirt was a Brooks Podium tech tee and I loved the design – AND the color. Glad some races are starting to move away from white shirts. We also got koozies, an iron-on decal, bandana, and pretty sweet cups at the finish line to hold our beers. And it should come as no surprise that the finisher’s medal doubles as a bottle opener.

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Race: Ugh. The first two miles were through town and neighborhoods, but after that? Absolutely boring. Very hilly with lots of cows, horses, and farmland. Miles 2-6 were uphill into the 20mph wind. Even though you were running, you actually weren’t moving at all. We ran with our heads down, holding onto our hats and headphones. The wind was an issue pretty much the entire time (unfortunately never at our backs) and light rain came in later miles. The race coordinators had reminded us repeatedly of what to expect at mile 6/7 and I expected to hate it… but it was actually my favorite part of the course. They were on a gravel/dirt path and my legs welcomed the change from the asphalt. The last 3 miles of the course resembled the final miles of ZOOMA Texas and were basically a death march. To be honest, the entire race was a death march.

There was a fair amount of spectators lining the course despite the weather and the course being somewhat inaccessible to cars. Everyone was super enthusiastic, offering high-fives and words of encouragement. There were plenty of water stops and two fuel stops: one had GU gels and one had GU Chomps. The course was clearly marked, with markers at every mile and arrows painted on the ground to ensure you wouldn’t make a wrong turn.

Post-race: What we’d been looking forward to for 13 miles!

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Each runner gets 4 (yes, 4!) beers at the finish. Shiner had a few of their regular brews on tap, as well as limited edition White Wing and seasonal Shiner Cheer. I loved the options!

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As for food, everyone received two huge smoked sausage links: one on a french roll and one in a tortilla. Strange, but hey – this was a Texas race. There was also potato salad but I wanted nothing to do with food that wasn’t warm.

We went on a tour of the Spoetzl Brewery and had the rare opportunity to see production in progress (usually it’s shutdown on Sat/Sun, but was kept open due to the holiday next week).

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After the tour we grabbed another round of beers and checked out the race merch tent. It was all Brooks items so while that meant great quality, it also meant higher prices. Last year’s race tees were on sale for $10 but seemed like an odd purchase for someone who didn’t run in 2012. Our final stop was the brewery’s gift shop, where we were able to grab a beanie and two coasters for $20. Pretty affordable for touristy items!

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Overall: Unless you’re a freak of nature and hills are your jam, this really isn’t a PR course. The weather is Texas is so unpredictable (as previously mentioned, comparing Thursday to Saturday) and last year’s race was hot and humid. My recommendation is to approach it as a fun run with friends and enjoy the post-race party. It’s super organized for only being in its second year. If you love Shiner Beer, you’re going to love this race – PR or not.

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