The Best (Races) of 2013

It’s been a while since I last blogged. What better way to get back into the swing of things than with a recap. Yay! It’s the last day of 2013 and that has me looking back on the past year. I’ve decided to capture the year with my top racing events of 2013.

Number 5: Ragnar Cape Cod

I love relay races and overnight relays are the best of those. Running my first Ragnar with a great group of people was the perfect start to what I’m sure will be a long relationship with Ragnar. We’re meant for each other. I loved the scenery of Cape Cod and the companionship of my team. And I also really loved the best ham and cheese croissant ever from a French bakery in Duxbury.

Done with Ragnar Best food ever

Number 4: Frankenfooter Half Marathon

This October, my mom completed her first ever half marathon. I couldn’t be more proud of her and her amazing accomplishment. She picked a great race, trained for weeks, and finished her first half. She even pushed through calf cramps to a strong finish – and I was right beside her every step. It was a wonderful experience to share.

Frankenfooter half marathon

Number 3: Disney Marathon

Early in 2013, I completed the Disney Marathon. It was a struggle. I had dislocated my fibula during training and came into the race undertrained and in pain. I knew that finishing would be a challenge, but I was determined. I had great friends to run with, the support of my family, and beautiful running weather in the Happiest Place on Earth. I had to walk, and went much more slowly than I had hoped, but I finished. Given my state of injury, I was delighted. The 2013 Disney Marathon showed me just how mentally strong I could be.

Disney Marathon Mile 20

Number 2: Rock N Roll Providence

I love the Rock N Roll Providence course and I’m sorry that they won’t be holding this race in 2014. It was my PR race in 2012 and I loved the course so much I made it a goal race for 2013. I planned my training schedule around the race and had a great training season. I felt strong and fit going into the race and all that work paid off. I crushed my goal time and got a 10-minute PR over the previous year. I even ran a few miles at my pre-surgery pace. I felt amazing and it confirmed that I’m on my way back to my pre-surgery fitness.

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…and…

Number 1: Gasparilla Distance Classic

This February, mom and I participated in the Gasparilla Distance Classic. I signed up for the Ultimate Challenge – a crazy lady combination of a 15k, 5k, half marathon, and 5 mile race across two days. Mom signed up for a challenge that included the 15k and 5 miler. The 15k was mom’s first real long distance race. I stuck with her and together we beat her goal time. She ran with me across the finish line. I turned around right away and took a picture of my mom, arms in the air, triumphant. It’s still one of my favorite race pictures of all time. It captures that moment that we all run for – the pure joy of doing what you didn’t know you could do.

Gasparilla half finish

2013 was a great year. And, today, as I set my goals for 2014, I can’t help but think that the best running is yet to come.

Ultra Cold

This past weekend I attempted an ultra marathon with a great group of runners. Someone suggested it a few weeks ago and it seemed like a good idea at the time. Of course, at that time the daytime temperatures were comfortably in the double digits, with highs in the 20s and sunny skies. I needed miles for my Goofy training and hadn’t been having good weather-long run luck. After missing a long run to sickness and one to an ice storm, I needed miles badly. And an ultra seemed like the perfect way to get those miles. A group of similarly crazy people, running ten 5k loops around a park. An ultra sounds fun, I thought.

As is the way of many good plans, this one started to unravel early in the week. The weather took a turn for the worse, with temperatures dropping into the single digits. We were lucky to get a high temperature of 10 or 11 degrees. By anyone’s standards, that’s some cold running. By mid-week the winds had picked up, ensuring sub-zero windchills. The forecast showed a major snowstorm heading toward the East Coast. Just in time for my ultra.

For those of you who don’t know me, I get cold easily. I usually don’t run in temperatures below 20 degrees. I just get too cold and warming back up is an all-day ordeal. I have a boiling hot shower, a hot drink, and even sit under an electric blanket. No matter what I wear, I get cold. So the impending snowstorm was not welcome news. This winter I’ve had to suck it up and run in single digits and sub-zero weather, but I draw the line at blizzard conditions. The rest of the group was going to run. And if they were, I was. I spent the entire night before the race praying to the weather gods and imagining myself dressed as Ralphie from Christmas Story.

The morning of the ultra (Seth’s Fat Ass 50for the record) I woke up to 5 degrees on my thermometer. The one that is sheltered by the house. Sigh. I geared up in layers upon layers and microwaved my water to slow down freezing. I packed my little hand warmers and set off.

At the race start, it was 10 degrees. Double digits. Score! But the windchill had the real feel temperature at -3. Yikes. Being outside for even a few minutes was terrifying. It. Was. Freezing. But I was determined. I told myself I would tough it out for at least three laps. I could run 10 miles and be happy. The course was lovely. It was a series of 5k loops in a very nice park and adjoining neighborhood. The view was pleasant and the course mostly flat, so I really liked it. The loop set up was perfect for a freezing cold day. I overheard lots of runners plan their escape after a loop or two.

Three laps came and went and I was freezing, but knew I could do one more. About halfway during the fourth lap, it started to snow heavily and I started to think. I wondered what frostbite felt like. Could I have frostbite? I hadn’t been shivering or had any goosebumps for at least an hour. (Side note – I now know this is a pretty bad sign. Oops) I knew it was time to call it quits when I had difficulty stepping up a small curb. I couldn’t move my leg the three or four inches. It was simply too cold and too numb to move. I was done.

I’m disappointed that I didn’t finish. I know I could have on another day. My legs (aside from feeling like they might snap off from cold) felt strong and I was running well. But it wasn’t meant to be. It was simply too cold for me. And in retrospect, I know I made the right decision. I have broken blood vessels on my legs and it took me a full day to fell normal. It was definitely the right call to DNF. This experience has made me more determined than even to run an ultra soon. Know any good ones? The only requirement – temperatures that don’t begin with a 1.

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Review and Giveaway: My Race Ragz

When the nice folks at My Race Ragz contacted me about doing a review, I was thrilled. I’m a huge fan of personalization and I think that a personalized anything makes a great gift. Their offer was perfect timing for the holidays – and for me to get some awesome DrRachelRuns gear for winter racing.

My Race Ragz is a custom apparel company that offers printing and embroidery services. What makes My Race Ragz unique is that they will do your printing with no minimum order. Seriously. You can print just one shirt, 10 shirts, 100 shirts, with no small order penalty (if you order more than 10 you do get a nice discount). What’s even better is that all the printing isn’t your average screen printing, it’s done through a dye sublimation process in which the dye is applied directly to the shirt. This ensures that your shirt retains its sweat-wicking properties and that the design never peels off. Super cool.

All printing is done on technical, wicking shirts made of microfiber performance polyester. They offer a wide range of styles for men and women and three fabric types: a 100% Microfiber Performance Mesh, a 100% Smooth Performance Microfiber, and a stretchy 88% Microfiber/12% Spandex blend. The My Race Ragz website has a variety of standard designs available, and users can upload custom art for that one of a kind shirt. Never again will I apply my name to my shirt with electrical tape. When my brother runs his first marathon and I want a shirt that points him out, I won’t have to write on myself in permanent marker. My Race Ragz makes it possible to have just the shirt I want in just the quantity I need.

Creating my custom shirt was easy. I went to the “Create” tab, uploaded the art, centered it, and submitted it. In less than 10 minutes (no kidding), my shirt was off to the printer. I was delighted with what came back.

My Race Ragz shirt

The design was exactly what I had uploaded. The colors are vibrant and the edges are sharp. The design looks exactly as I had hoped it would. The graphics were clear, crisp, and have so far withstood repeated washing in warm water and several trips through the dryer.

My Race Ragz close up

The shirt itself is excellent. It’s a nice quality, a normal thickness, and wicks well. It’s comfortable to wear and easy to layer. The feminine cut and sizing were just right for me. Just a note – the shirt I selected isn’t seamless, so if you’re someone who’s bothered by seams on your running gear, be forewarned. I didn’t find the seams noticeable, but it’s worth note just in case. There are a variety of styles to choose from, including singlets and short sleeve shirts. Overall, I was very impressed with My Race Ragz and will definitely order from them again. The whole process was easy, the shipping was fast, and the shirt is a nice addition to my running wardrobe.

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Full disclosure: The folks at My Race Ragz offered my a free, customized shirt for the purposes of writing this review. Despite that, the review is honest and the opinions my own.