Sunday, August 18, 2013

Grumpy (herein Joyce explains why she is currently all emo)

I feel that I should preemptively warn everyone that I am in a severely grumpy mood. And, the bad news is that I don't see it getting much better over the next month.

1) My job ends on Sept. 20. My current job has always been scheduled to end on that date. It isn't a surprise. But, I'm surprised by just HOW much I have left to accomplish in the next month. I've been very consciously and steadily working on my to do list for at least the past three months, in an effort to get it under control. But, it feels like no matter how many projects I manage to finish, my "bosses" (who I dearly love) give me more. I'm also trying to make sure that I get the complicated stuff off the "to do" list of my replacement, so that she can ease into the role. If I think too hard about it, I start having minor panic attacks. I truly love this job and this work and I am devastated to be leaving. But I am starting to fail to see how I am going to get it all done and it is really getting to me.

And, I'd note that being really, really sad to be leaving isn't helping. I love that my work is on the cutting edge of my field. I love that I have to react to huge changes in the law, sometimes on the very day that courts hand down decisions. I love that it's hard, interesting, and challenging work and that I can spend half a day turning a puzzle over and over again in my head. I adore my colleagues, both onside and offsite. I grew up at this job: I've been transformed from a baby, fresh-out-of-law-school lawyer into a reasonably confident one (I wouldn't say I've mastered my practice, at all, but I can feel how much more comfortable I am with everything). I hate that this might be the most interesting job I ever have and secretly (or not so secretly, since I'm admitting it) worry that everything from here onwards will be less exciting. So, I'm not surprised that the impending end of my term (two years went SO QUICKLY) is contributing to the general funk, aside from the pressure to finish everything up neatly.

2) I don't know when I'm starting my new job, so I don't know when I'll be moving. I also don't know where I'll be living. I feel like I have to wait for a start date to make decisions. If all goes well, my transfer will be immediate, but I'll have some time off to move before I actually have to report. I have no idea how long I'll have, so I can't start coordinating the move and everything else that goes with it (roadtrip? shipping car? fly out to find a place to live first? when do I fly back to Seattle to collect my cat? will I even have enough time to find a place to live? when do I go to training? who will watch my cat while I'm away for almost three months?). I was ok with waiting on all of these details, up to a point, but the closer the end of September gets, the more this freaks me out. To make it worse, people keep asking me what's going on and I have to resist the urge to scream at them. If you run into me: DON'T ASK. Don't worry - as soon as I know details about the move, I'll probably scream them from the treetops.

3) I hate packing. It's one of my least favorite things to do. I have to do it. This makes me unhappy. Thankfully, it shouldn't be as bad as when I left DC, since living in a room the size of a shoebox (this has also really gotten to me over the past six months, because there's hardly any storage and the size magnifies any clutter) has meant I've accumulated less stuff than I otherwise might have done. I also never bought a lot of basic household items when I moved to Seattle because my roommate already had them, which is at least less to move, donate, or sell. I am excited to downsize, but the idea of actually doing it freaks me out.

4) I haven't been able to run this week. I think I could actually deal with all of those other things, if I could run. I've taken the week off thanks to a flare-up of sciatica in my left hip, which made it really painful to even walk (it's loads better now, thankfully, but I haven't tried running on it yet...maybe later today). So, I haven't been able to resort to my favorite stress-relieving activity, which is NOT helping my mood one bit. I'm also worried about my upcoming race schedule. I WILL do Disneyland, no matter what, but Eugene is almost certainly out (the race that I really wanted to PR) and Lake Chelan is iffy. Which sucks. A lot.

I know that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that I WILL get through this. But, it's just always hard to keep trucking when you're in the middle of a perfect stress storm. There are very exciting things waiting for me just down the road (baby brunch club! new friends to run with! a new ice skating club! volunteering at the NYC Marathon! hopefully seeing my friends in the UK!), so I just have to keep remembering that it will all sort itself out soon enough. But, please know that it isn't you, if I seem grumpy.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Disney Princess Half Recap (or...MY BEST FRIEND IS HAVING TWINS!!!)

(Yes, I KNOW this is like six months late. Oh, well. In my defense, I couldn't actually write this recap at the time of the race anyway, because the things that made this race special to me were not public knowledge....)

I will start this by stating, for the record, that I met absolutely none of the goals that I’d set out for myself at Disney Princess (well, other than my goal to beat my time from 2011). But, the memories from that race are ones that I will cherish forever.

Rewind to Thursday morning in the main dining room at Port Orleans Riverside, when I’m BARELY coherent after getting in very, very late the night before. My best friend (Duchie) & her husband had flown in the night before from Chicago and I hadn’t seen them yet. Cue the hugs and squealing as we reunite. I notice that they exchange a “look” and I knew SOMETHING is up (seriously, I’ve known this woman for 16 years: I know when something is up), so I demand to know what’s going on. At which point she shows me an ultrasound of two tiny blobs. Cue MAJOR SQUEALING. And HUGGING. And tearing up. And then she says: “did you see how many there were?” And ZOMG, MY BEST FRIEND IS HAVING TWINS! They’ve only just found out themselves and she’s about eight weeks pregnant.

My original plan was to run the half at marathon goal pace (I was in training for the Eugene Marathon at the time). We started off at that pace, more or less, but it wasn’t super easy for either of us. The humidity always kills me (although I know I could have pushed and done it) and…she was 8 weeks pregnant. I think there was a moment, around mile 5 (I remember that we could see the backside of Space Mountain), when it was obvious from her breathing that she was having a tough time. Like way tougher than it should have been for her at that pace: she’s a 2:06ish half marathoner and we were on pace for 2:15. That was the first time I really realized how big an impact this pregnancy was going to have (and already had had) on her body. I think we both realized that in order to finish the race in whatever manner was safest for her and the tiny, precious cell blobs growing inside of her, we were going to have to throw “goal paces” out the window, slow down, and listen to what her body was saying.

Duchie kept telling me to go ahead and leave her. I told her there was no fucking way that I was leaving her. For one thing, if anything happened, I needed to be there to help her (and I knew that her husband and family were counting on me to get her through this race). And, I kind of already knew that this was going to be our last chance to run together for a really long time (indeed, her doctor told her NO MORE RUNNING at her appointment the following week). No way was I going to sacrifice this last run with my best friend and best running buddy for a chance at a PR. No PR means more than friendship.

From then on, we slowed down. We took some long walk breaks to get down gels and when her energy was down. We did a potty stop. We filled up our water bottles at least twice. We ran pretty slowly, but steadily. We chatted & laughed & strategized. But, we STILL didn’t stop for photos (although I told her that we’d HAVE to stop if Rucifee was out on the course…), because…it’s a race, not a meet & greet.

My absolutely favorite moment was when a little boy along the side of the course pointed at us, in our matching yellow shirts and Skirt Sports skirts and yelled: “TWINS!” Oh, kid, you had no idea!

For the record, Duchie later admitted to me that she hadn’t told her doctor that she was planning to run a half marathon. She DID tell him that she was going to Disney World, but might have accidentally on purpose omitted the reason for the trip. I’m really glad that she did! That race made me so, so happy. I have no idea what our final time was (2:27? 2:26?), but I’ll never forget running through the Castle and across the finish line hand in hand, with our arms raised in triumph. Duchie is one BAMF. And I do mean “mother.”

Thursday, August 08, 2013

My Best Tips for the Disney Princess

I’ve run in quite a number of races where you pull up in a parking lot, grab your bib and t-shirt, and start running. They’re low key and don’t take a lot of planning. Princess is NOT that race. The logistics are complicated. And a little bit of knowledge can go a long way, so here are a few things that I’ve learned:

DO get a bus as early as possible. The first year we ran, we stayed in All Star Sports. The line wrapped through the main building and all the way around the pool. I think we were in line for about half an hour, but the trip itself was pretty quick. This year, we stayed at Port Orleans: Riverside. Remember that the race buses will pick up at all of the shuttle stops at POR – we just walked to the nearest one and caught the first bus that stopped. BUT, a ton of people came behind us and I don’t think they all got on that bus. Traffic was horrible: it took us nearly an hour to get from the hotel to Epcot (a bus lane would have been a hella good idea, runDisney). Then, it was a long walk to bag check (and potties). It’s another long walk to the corrals. We were on one of the first buses of the morning and we got to our start corral with about 5 minutes to spare (and we’d been hurrying!). You’ll have a lot more of a time buffer if you’re starting further back, but do NOT underestimate how long it can take you to get to the start line.

DO plan where your spectators will be. We had a rough idea of where we’d see Duchie’s husband and my cousin, based on where he’d been two years before. Even so, it was pretty obvious that there were a lot more spectators than before and we had to do some searching. It really helped to know approximately where they would be and what they were wearing/what their signs looked like. It isn’t a half bad idea for them to have a balloon or something, too. If they’re good, they can catch you at least three times on the course! Make sure they sign up for runner tracking, too, but tell them not to be too alarmed if it doesn’t work (it's buggy).

Related: DON’T tell your spectators to go to the start line. They’re going to be on the other side of a four lane highway with a berm down the middle. There’s no way you’re going to see them or they’re going to see you. Just tell them to go to wait outside Magic Kingdom (and get a coffee while they wait), instead.

DO think about breakfast. Plan out what you’ll be eating/drinking before the race. POR has coffee makers in the room, so our morning tea/coffee was sorted. When we stayed at All Star Sports, we brought our own kettle to boil hot water for tea and oatmeal. I think we both just bought an extra bagel and cream cheese the day before the race this year and stashed them in the room to eat on the way to the race. Do not count on the quick service to be open for you to get food the morning of the race: it won’t be. I also spend a lot of time fantasizing about my post-race breakfast while running. Mickey waffles and bacon are the breakfast of champions. FACT.
DO bring your own fuel. Disney only gives out energy gels once along the course (around mile 8). Unless you’re fast (and this is Princess, so, honestly, the chances are that you aren’t…even I’m “Disney” fast and I’m not fast at all), you’re going to need more than one of those little puppies. Bring it. I think I did three gels this year: one before the start, one around mile 4 and the one at mile 8. Plan this, practice it, and don’t just think that what’s provided out on the course will be enough. Also, if you aren’t used to heat & humidity, think about carrying your own water, too. I carry this water bottle, but do whatever works for you...

DO hold hands. If you want the photographers to capture that moment of you and your best friend running through the castle/crossing the finish line together, HOLD HANDS. Otherwise, they’ll crop you out of your friend's photo. And that would suck. We got pretty awesome photographic results with the hand holding method!

DO plan how to meet up with your family and friends afterwards. We’ve found that right outside the baggage tents is really good (bag check is better at Disney than anywhere I’ve ever seen), because they’re sorted by last name. As long as you checked a bag: you WILL be exiting through a specific tent “door.” That way, you can’t miss each other.

2011 - but for an idea of the engraving...
DO pack some cash. If you want to get your medal engraved, they have someone who will do it on site. I think it’s $20 and that it’s money well-spent.

DO wear your medal to the parks. This serves a dual purpose: showing off your awesome bling (the cast members are super cute and will ooh and ahh over you) and jump-starting your recovery with some gentle walking. I wore my compression tights (under a dress…yes, I’m super stylish with recovery wear). Hey, whatever works. But, you know what: we CLOSED down the Extra Magic Hours at the Magic Kingdom that night. It was amazing (no, I really have no idea how we had the energy for it).

Monday, August 05, 2013

Ragnar Northwest Passage Recap

I appreciate the irony of the fact that race recaps are my absolute favorite thing to read on other peoples’ blogs, but that I’m absolutely terrible about posting them on my own. And, it’s especially ironic that the races I feel most passionately about are the ones that I haven’t recapped: it’s as though they’re intensely personal experiences that I want to keep close and am reluctant to share with the world. BUT, I promise that I will try to go back over a few of the big races from the first seven (SEVEN!?!) months of the year, if only so I can look back here in a few more months and smile.

But, I’ll start with Ragnar.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the relay races that have swept the country in the past few years, Ragnar runs a series of 36-hour events based on the same general concept – 12 people, two vans, and 200 miles (ack, look at lawyer Joyce, automatically following Bluebook rules on writing out numbers, even in her blog). Basically, everyone’s assigned a number (Runner #1-12). The first six runners (Van #1) run their six legs in order, passing off the magical slap bracelet “baton” at exchanges. Then, Runner #6 passes the baton off to Runner #7, who kicks off Van #2’s legs, while Van #1 has 5-6 hours to rest, eat, and generally recuperate. This process continues until everyone has run three legs.

A few weeks ago, I ran Ragnar: Northwest Passage, a 196-mile (or more, depending on whether you got lost along the way) race from the Canadian Border to Whidbey Island. Back sometime in the spring, I was asked to join the Ladies of the Green Lake team, which needed a few new members to make up for people who hadn’t returned from last year. I knew a few of the women and, after they assured me that they didn’t care about my pace (I was definitely one of the slower members of the team), I signed on. BEST choice EVAR.

Ragnar Tip #1: if you have the option, joining an experienced team is kind of great – they know how things should be done already and can calmly deal with all of your “OMG, I’M SO NERVOUS/WHAT IS GOING ON/WHY DID I SIGN UP FOR THIS/WHAT IF I GET LOST” freakouts. Thanks, guys!

I was Runner #3, so I was in Van #1 (which I picked because a vet told me that the first van has a more normal sleeping schedule). My three runs were:
  • An 8.3 miler at 12:45pm, so I was completely exposed to full sunlight, no shade, in about 80-degree heat. Oh. And there were hills. And I got passed by a million fasties (your start is based on your team’s anticipated pace; we started relatively late, but I was one of the slowest on the team). It was HARD. But there were stunning views of Mt. Baker!
  • A 6.6 miler at 10:45pm. This one was pitch black and flat flat flat flat flat. It was actually kind of cool. I spend the first four miles of it tucked right behind another guy. Every time I got close enough to pass (that’s called a “kill” in relaying), he’d speed up juuuuuuuust enough to stay ahead of me. But, at about 4 miles, his legs fell off and I got around him. I can’t say that I managed to maintain my early pace for the rest of the leg either, but I had more than enough to never see him again. Oh. And my calf started cramping again, like it did at Lake Sammamish. Apparently my legs actually hate flat running. Pity. Most of the run, it almost felt like I was drunk (I definitely wasn’t) and it felt really hard to keep running in a straight line, which I chalk up to running in the pitch black with pretty low energy reserves.
  • 2.4 miles at 8:30am. Which I killed. Not gonna lie. I paced the first two runs cautiously, knowing that I had to hold something in reserve to get me through all three legs. And, since I didn’t have to do that anymore, I turned on the burners for a smokin’ run.
I feel like there is SO MUCH more that I could say about Ragnar. I did really enjoy the experience, especially getting to know my vanmates and OMG COWBELLING AND YELLING FOR EVERY SINGLE RUNNER WE PASSED ALONG THE WAY (note: lots of vans didn’t do this – they just drove past you. Which is LAME and ought to be against the rules)! But my biggest takeaway from the whole thing was: “It was HARD.” I’m proud of the runs I pushed out and knowing that my teammates were waiting was both exciting and came with it’s own kind of pressure. I enjoyed and hated that at the same time.

Ragnar was also special in another way: about two weeks before the race, I’d taken over Seattle Green Lake Running Group’s defunct twitter account (@sglrg, hollah!). We’d had one for a while, but no one was manning it. And that’s not cool in social media world: we definitely needed to make sure that someone could at the very least, answer any questions that someone might have about the group or one of our runs. There are some amazing social media/twitter users out there in the running community (oh hai, @oiselle) and I felt like I’d been watching them long enough to get a very, very basic sense of how to use twitter to engage with current and potential members. I knew Ragnar would be a big opportunity for us on twitter, so I spent a lot of time during the race (with some help) sending out updates and retweeting things that our runners had posted (btw, a really small percentage of our runners have twitter accounts and most have no idea how awesome twitter is…I need to spread that gospel). The social media aspect of it was really fun and I definitely learned a lot about how to use it as a tool for promoting our group!

Ragnar Tip #2: Take your phone. And take a photo of your leg map. It makes you feel a lot less anxious about the possibility of getting lost and it might just help your team avoid adding an extra 10 miles to the race, therefore finishing fifth in your division, instead of first. It will also help you avoid being the girl who got lost and ended up running on I-5. That really happened. No, it wasn’t me!

I would, hands down, say that SGLRG MADE Ragnar for me! We had about 150 runners out there, including 11 teams made up of our runners exclusively. And it was the coolest thing, when we’d run into each other out at the exchanges or running. There was a lot of friendly smack talk and a lot of van “tagging” going on and it was just so much fun to see everyone! Ragnar felt like a big old party to hang out and act like little kids! It was just so awesome.

Ragnar Tip #3: Take a sleeping mask for the gym where everyone sleeps at the major exchanges. There’s a lot of ambient light and the mask blocks that out. It also helps if you manage to still have the ability to sleep anywhere, as long as you’re lying down. Even a little helps you feel less like a zombie. The free coffee is even better for that, though.

Finally, I’d like to list of the things that kept me sane and running through Ragnar, in case it helps anyone else plan for a future relay (or just so I can refer to it next year):
  • A warm cozy hoodie and sweat pants. It gets cold.
  • PILLOW. I mean, you need a sleeping bag, too, but the pillow is KEY. I couldn’t believe that some people thought that they didn’t need it!
  • Snacks. Obviously. My favorites were peanut butter pretzels and pouches of banana applesauce from Trader Joe’s. And my shelf-stable chocolate milk “juice boxes.” The milk and the smoothies were great for when I didn’t feel like eating real food right away after a leg: I could at least get those down to start the recovery and ensure that my fuel reserves didn’t get too low.
  • Foam roller and stick. The stick was great, because you could do it even when you had to hop in the van immediately after finishing your leg, because the next one was short (usually you had at least 5-10 minutes before you needed to book it to the next exchange). Jasyoga’s vanyoga was also a hit. Legs up the seat in front of you!
  • Jugs of water. It was great to refill as often as we wanted to, from our own reserves, rather than having to worry about finding water along the way. I also carried water on my two longer runs – I couldn’t believe that a fair number of people opted not to carry it on that long leg! I knew that ifI started the race by dehydrating myself, the next 24 hours were not going to be fun.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Eugene Marathon Date Change

Well, the big running news of the day (aside from the announcement of the Oiselle team...) from the Pacific Northwest is that the Eugene Marathon changed its date from the end of April to the end of July.

Now, that's not as crazy as it sounds out here, because our weather is basically amazing all year 'round. And, if anything, it's helpful from a running perspective, because it'll happen after the local runners have had a chance to acclimatize to the heat (or, you know, what we call heat), rather than running the risk of an early hot day when we aren't ready for it.

BUT, I'm seeing some very mixed reactions on twitter, which basically fall into two categories (and now I've perused facebook, I'd say that it's actually overwhelmingly negative):

If you live in the PNW (so MOST of the people who have run/were planning to run Eugene): "OMG, that's the same weekend as San Francisco and a week after Ragnar Northwest Passage and there's NO WAY that I'm doing that double! And it'll be way hotter than April! This stinks: we just lost our favorite spring marathon. Guess that I'll have to go run Vancouver this year."

If you don't live in the PNW: "AWESOME! I've always wanted to run Eugene and now it doesn't conflict with all of the other marathons (Boston), plus I won't have to train through the snow and ice! It's a summer marathon without stupid hot, horrible weather! I'm so in!!!" ...except for the people who are like "OMG, it's way too hot where I am to train for a July marathon..."

My running club definitely seems to be in the first category, since Ragnar is one of our favorite & biggest races of the year.  I'm lobbying hard already for our new target spring race to be North Olympic Discovery, which I think is the best and most perfectly organized race anywhere in Washington. And I was hoping to fly back for NODM already, so getting to meet up with my SGLRG friends would make it even better.

I totally get why Eugene is changing dates. I think they want to be more of a national marathon and I definitely think that this will help them attract more people from outside the Pacific Northwest. But, I think it's kind of a shame that we've lost an amazing spring marathon. (Ask me again in October: I might feel differently if I get into London this year.) And given the negative reaction I'm seeing, I'm not convinced it was a very good idea.

Finally, and dear Eugene Marathon organizers: I might be a lot more excited about the race coinciding with the "Celebration Expo" if I knew what the heck that was...and no, google doesn't know either. Is is the IAAF World Juniors? Anyone know?