Pardon Me, But I’m RACING Here. Running Ettiquette: Rules of the Race

It’s that time of year again. SPRING. Today marks the first day of Spring, and of course in the great Northwest, Spring has announced itself with the ever-traditional Monsoon storm of storms. We expect this here, just like we know that no matter how warm and beautiful our Octobers are, we can count on Halloween being just about the worst weather on record for the entire year. (We save a lot of money on kids’ costumes, and just dress them in raincoats and boots.) When you live here, you just have to know how to buy outerwear!


Happy Spring!

Spring also marks the beginning of race season. If you are into organized races, you are probably scouring the Internet sites that advertise your favorite distance, and planning your life around training schedules, race schedules, and, oh yeah,the occasional family time.


My Irish friend Suzanne and I after the 2012 Shamrock 15k. Cold, wet, shivering, and      loving every minute of it.

Last Sunday was Portland’s annual Shamrock Run. It was NOT raining, which is pretty much a miracle, and myself and 35,000+ close friends and acquaintances thought it would be a good idea to dress like goof balls, and run anywhere from  5k to a 15k, shoulder to shoulder, in the “almost” freezing temperatures. To be honest, I almost bagged the whole thing.

As you may know, I have been crawling slowly, back from an injury like many athletes do, from time to time. No matter how positive I try to be, it really does SUCK. (How’s that for motivating?) Most of my running buddies were doing the 15k and that started at 7:40 am. MY race this year was the 5k, which started at 9:20. DISCLAIMER: Since I had to sign up early in the year for this one, and it ALWAYS sells out, I chose the shortest distance, since I didn’t know if my Physical Therapist was even going to clear me for running by this time. When I woke up on Sunday, I was sore from having run 10 miles the day before. This is the furthest I have run, since starting up again a few weeks ago. So, my self talk went something like this: “It’s cold out. Your friends are all gathering early for photos and you are still home in your jammies.” “Why bother going at all? You are running by yourself.” “Just bag it, you’re sore from yesterday”…..and so on. I almost didn’t go, and then at 8:30, I slapped myself and got dressed. It was definitely cold out, but it wasn’t raining, and I didn’t know if I would ever run the Shamrock again without rain.

                                                                                                                          Getting ready to start

Getting ready to start, in my “toned down” costume.

I never remember how crowed this race actually is until I try to line up in the corral:

photo (3)I was pressing flesh with throngs of green clad crazies, all gussied up in and awaiting the start time. There was a great DJ getting everyone excited, live music, bag pipes-the works. It was festive, to say the least. I started smelling trouble however, when the DJ asked “Everybody that’s here to run the Shamrock for the very first time, raise your hands”. In a split second, I realized that I was surrounded by 12,000 people and just about 11,999 of them were here for the first time. Oh God, help me.

This was my view at the start. If you look really closely, you can almost see the actual starting line archway.

This was my view at the start. If you look really closely, you can almost see the actual starting line archway.

Purely for sanity reasons, I decided to try and wade my way to the front section of the line. This proved to be  impossible, but I gave it a gallant attempt. They started the race in waves every 30-90 seconds, and it took about 20 minutes for my wave to cross the starting line. To say that I was running at that point would be a lie. It took several blocks before I did anything that even resembled running. Here is where the etiquette lesson starts. NEWBIES, pay attention:

First off, KNOW your abilities. For Heaven’s sake, you signed up for a 5k RUN, not a 5k WALK. (For the record, there was a 5k walk and a 1k “Leprechaun Lap” for kids 12 and under and their adult companions.) Some people get all excited and sign up for these things thinking they will train,but never get around to it. Here’s the thing: while this might be a fun event, when you are walking 3 blocks after the start, holding hands 3 across, in the middle of the road, and stopping to turn around and see who’s behind you, you are causing a hazard. Before I got to the 1/2 mile mark according to my Garmin, I saw 2 people that had collapsed from exhaustion. Seriously??? Know your abilities, people, and act accordingly.

Know how to dress. Most races have groups of people in costume. I do my best to look like the biggest idiot of the bunch,  because I am an attention hog, but there are rules. (Well not really-but humor me here, ok?) I think Stacey and Clinton would have a hay day with this guy:denimDenim Cargo shorts? Really? I’ll bet THAT felt really good going up the hill! I saw lots of great costumes, as I always do, but I’m not that good with the camera while running and dodging people.

Honor the other runners’ race. Despite your own goals or lack thereof, most seasoned runners of all levels come to a race with some kind of goal in mind. Maybe it’s the first time they will run the distance without walking. Maybe it’s a celebratory race in honor of a loved one. Maybe they are trying to PR. It doesn’t matter, just make sure that YOU are aware of those around you. I can’t tell you how many times people stopped short right in front of me on Sunday. Then there’s the groups that HAVE to stay together and spread out across the whole street. My favorite is the family that decided to hold hands in the middle of the road and walk at mile 2.9, while most everyone else was just starting to pour it on for a strong finish. So here’s the deal: If you are struggling, (and most of us do at one time or another) pull yourself over to the side of the course, and get the heck out of the way. If you walk through a water station, GREAT! Just don’t walk back into the middle of the pack with your cup and then slowly start up again. MOVE OVER. Simple rules of the road will give your running mates and yourselves a positive experience, AND reduce the risk of injury and collisions. While I’m at it, here’s a very important suggestion. At the finish line, KEEP MOVING. (Am I shouting?) Holy mother of God, I hate it when runners stop and bunch up, and start hanging out at the finish line. Do your socializing, stretching, or throwing up on the sidelines out of the way of the other people barreling through the chute.

I had been struggling a little up the hill in the second mile, mostly because of my tired legs and lungs from the previous day’s run. The entire race, I was bobbing in and out of people, running in place several times looking for a clean break, and bouncing off people at other times. didn’t really have a time goal for the Shamrock, because I’m not a 5k runner by habit, and I just wanted to have some fun and get in a few miles. But, when I looked at my watch and realized that I would have a chance to finish in under 30 minutes, I turned it on. I know I can get a little competitive when I am not keeping a lid on it, and I might have yelled at a few people in that last 1/4 mile. “Get out of my way” “Comin’ Through”, and a few more not so nice things did find their way out of my mouth. (Oops. I’ll have to work on that.) In the end, I finished in 29:54, 16th out of 302 women in my age group. I’m happy with that. It was a great day and a great race.

I left right after running because I had to go to work so I missed all the Irish music, and the huge party, but I had a wonderful walk back to my car over the Hawthorne Bridge, and managed to avoid all the downtown traffic.

I took this while walking back to my car. I just love Portland mornings.

I took this while walking back to my car. I just love Portland mornings.

I hope you enjoy my blog. Share with your friends and let me know what you think. Rock on runners.

Miley Cyrus Gave Me a Gift

I’m not a Miley Cyrus fan. I don’t pay any attention to her really, although I do know who Hanna Montana is, or was. But last Saturday, I got a wonderful gift from her! OK, so she didn’t actually send me anything, maybe it was nothing more than a “being in the right place at the right time” sort of thing.

So here’s the mystery: What do  running uphill, Winter in Oregon, Exercise Induced Asthma, and Tendon tear recovery have to do with Miley Cyrus? Stay tuned my little chickies, and I will tell you.

Last Spring, on a training run with my Honey Badgers, we were running up what we call Cemetery Hill, for some lung splitting 45 degree hill training. Well, 45 degrees might be exaggerating, but, trust me, it was STEEP! Anyway, up we went, switchback after switchback, when all of a sudden, I heard this whistling sound coming from my heaving chest. Not knowing what it was, I kept going, but slowed way down and told my friends I would meet them at the top. Rose, a nurse, decided she was going to hang back with me. This was NOT because she too was struggling, mind you, but rather, because she didn’t want to have to keep looking back at me to evaluate at what point  the CPR should commence.

I managed to make it to the top and continue the run with no other problems, and I brushed it off as early Spring allergies. A few weeks later, on another run with Coach Jim’s Elite Runners in Training, we were running up Mt Tabor, another steep run with several switchbacks, and it happened again. THIS time, I thought it was a panic attack, so I slowed way down, calmed down, and was able to recover and continue to the top and beyond. At this point, I developed a secret fear of running up steep hills.

When the wheezing returned a few more times I actually did contact my doctor, and low and behold, I have Exercise Induced Asthma, so I now have the pleasure of carrying ONE MORE THING with me along on my training runs.


My little friend “Sniffy”

Sniffy now travels with me to every run and workout, and manages the job of keeping me breathing, thank God, so now I have no excuse for wheezing up the hills, unless of course, I am in fact, having a panic attack. (If I ever write about my Ragnar Race, I’ll tell you about the Grand Mal of panic attacks at 1 am)

Two and a half weeks ago, I started with my running come back, after a long break due to injury. I’ve been logging some short miles, and Saturday was to be my longest yet, clocking in at just over 8 miles. As it turned out, my training group was going to be running Mt Tabor. My nemesis. THE HILL. ASTHMA. PANIC ATTACK. ACHILLES TENDON TEAR. Oh God, I stressed all week about this run. I showed up at 8am and met approximately 60 other brave souls out for anywhere between 8 and 20 miles in temperatures in the low 30’s. Portland runners are just amazing-there were people in shorts that day. I had my trusty layers on and my secret weapon, hand warmers, inside my gloves.860735_10200842375000969_387207006_oWe headed out in our respective pace groups, and I plodded along the first 2 miles of warm up, with Mt Tabor looming in the foreground. At mile 2.4, the climbing starts and within less than 1.4 miles, rises 400 feet. That might not sound so bad to some people, but it is a killer to someone new or newer to running, especially if you have psyched yourself out for it every time! Being the recently rehabbed runner who doesn’t want to end up with another 11 weeks off, I took it easy up the hill, and alternated running and walking during the steep parts. I wanted to regularly “check in” with my Achilles, and Peroneus, just to make sure I wasn’t hurting it again. I managed to scale the top,and circle around the summit, catching up with my pace group half way downhill, at the bathroom stop. At this point I was victorious. I had climbed Mt Tabor, I had survived it, and my foot and ankle felt just great. The rest of the run went superbly, and for the first time in months, I felt like I was coming back.

When I got to my car and headed to my office to shower and go to work, Miley Cyrus’s song, “The Climb” came on the radio. My radio station doesn’t usually play this song, so I was thinking, “Oh please, really? Miley Cyrus????” But then I started listening to the words and I started crying in the car. Before you dismiss me as being overly sentimental and emotional, let me explain.

I returned to running for the first time in 15 years,  just 3 years ago at age 50. In late 2011, I decided to train for a half marathon, something I had never done before. By Fall of 2012, I ran 2 marathons, and other than incurring a stupid injury, felt like I had accomplished one of the most incredible things I had ever set out to achieve. Then I was sidelined. Stopped cold.

Meico foot

This is me recovering by our pool in Mexico.The swelling had gone down.

Recovery is not sweet or swift at my age. I am struggling with the comeback. Every run is a major challenge. I want to run another marathon, and I want it NOW. I obsess about the finish line. I long to run with my friends at a faster pace. I want MILES!!!! But for now, I can’t do those things. I have to take it easy and gradually build it up again. I can’t risk damaging my foot and ankle again, by doing too much, too soon.

So, when I heard this song on the radio, I thanked Miley for the gift of words. Her song is now on my ipod, which in itself is pretty funny, but I will sing it over and over again, while I journey back to 26.2.

I can almost see it
That dream I am dreaming
But there’s a voice inside my head saying
“You’ll never reach it”

Every step I’m taking
Every move I make feels
Lost with no direction
My faith is shaking

But I gotta keep trying
Gotta keep my head held high

There’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose

Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb

The struggles I’m facing
The chances I’m taking
Sometimes might knock me down
But no, I’m not breaking

I may not know it
But these are the moments that
I’m gonna remember most, yeah
Just gotta keep going
Lyrics from <a href=””></a>