Top 12 of 2012

2012 has been a busy year and it’s been the first full year of the existence of DrRachelRuns. This New Year’s Eve, I decided to reflect on some of the highs and lows of the year. My running life has been an adventure deserving of its own retrospective.  Here are my top twelve running memories of 2012:

  1. Hood to Coast – Hood to Coast has to be the best thing I’ve ever done as a runner. It was amazing. Challenging, crazy, hilarious, and downright unforgettable. Read all about it here and here.
  2. Gasparilla with my mom – I’m March, I participated in the Gasparilla Distance Classic with my mom. It was her first real race and doing it with her was something I’ll always treasure. We had so much fun that we signed up for the 2013 races on opening day – and we’re both doing multiple-race challenges!
  3. Fleet Feet coaching – This fall, I had the amazing opportunity to coach for Fleet Feet Sport’s half marathon training program. I loved my team, and I loved seeing new half marathoners succeed. The best part of the whole experience was pacing some of my team through a great first half marathon.
  4. Lucy started running – Lucy, my non-running dog became my running companion. I am delighted to have her as a running friend and I’ve loved seeing how much she enjoys running.
  5. First triathlon – In August, I completed my first triathlon. It was a wonderful experience. After nearly dying on the swim, and suffering from swim-related exhaustion the rest of the race, I learned that I could endure a surprising amount of pain and still run well. Triathlon has made me a better runner.
  6. Dartfish analysis – In January, I had professional gait analysis. It was one of the best things I could have done as a runner. I saw imbalances and potential for injury. I also saw what I was doing well. Learning more about my running, and working with my trainer on improving in key areas, has been wonderful. I’ve been healthy – thanks to catching problems before they were problems.
  7. I’ve traveled a lot! Which means I’ve run a lot, all over the country.
    1. Salt Lake City  – where I ran “at altitude” for the first time
    2. DC – once to run the Rock N Roll DC with a friend, and once for work
    3. Michigan in July
    4. North Carolina for work
    5. And I’ve been to Florida (where my parents live) a lot!
  8. Running with friends – I have some really wonderful running friends and I’ve had a chance to run all over with them. We’ve done quarter marathons, runs in dresses and skirts, relays, and races.
  9. I passed my two year knee surgery anniversary – I’m not sure why this felt like such a huge landmark, but it was. Hooray!
  10. Accidental PRs – It happened once at Rock N Roll Providence (August), and then again when I was sick at Cape Cod (October). Surely there’s a lesson to be learned in my habit of accidentally running well.
  11. Becoming president of a running club – I haven’t blogged about this one yet, but I was elected president of a running club. I feel so honored to have been trusted to lead, and revive, a club that’s faded in recent years.
  12. And, finally, growing as a runner. As I read through old posts and looked at old pictures, I saw how much I have grown as a runner this year. Not only am I inching toward my pre-surgery speeds, but I’ve tried new things (triathlon and overnight relays), and shared my love of running with my mom and true running friends. This year has been a wonderful year and I’m so grateful for the amazing things that running has brought into my life.

The Fun Hangover

I haven’t written a post in a week. That’s right – a week. This is probably the longest I have ever gone without writing anything. And I don’t have anything interesting to say. I have a total Fun Hangover. The Fun Hangover is the unfortunate result of having too much fun, followed by a period of boredom or routine. Perhaps you have suffered this unfortunate effect after an amazing weekend or similar series of events. The Fun Hangover, though distressing, often goes away on its own. It’s similar to, but much less severe than, Post-Vacation Depression. Like normal, alcohol-induced hangovers, Fun Hangovers affect the body and the mind. Symptoms include:

  1. Fatigue, weakness, and hunger
  2. Pain – headaches and muscle aches, particualrly upon waking or upon having to do things that are boring
  3. Mood – depression, anxiety, and irritability; boredom, and agitation; nostalgia and longing are common
  4. Sensory – sensitivity to light and sound (particularly those lights and sounds associated with work, or the source of the boredom), frequent and intrusive thoughts of the past fun time

It’s clear that this Fun Hangover is impacting my ability to blog. I just overdid it. I had too much fun. I had a great bike tour, then a PR at an amazing half marathon, and Hood to Coast. I think it was the Hood to Coast that did it. Too much fun. And then it was back to school time. Routine, getting up early, meetings, dressing in something other than running clothes (and wearing makeup – gasp!), and dealing with the stress of the more structured part of my life. It was a difficult transition. Now I’m hungover and I can’t seem to shake it. Sigh.

Perhaps a little hair of the dog is just what I need – I’m running the Fred Brown Lake Winnipesauke Relay next weekend. Maybe that will help me shake this Fun Hangover for good.

Hood to Coast – A Recap, Part 2

Read on for the second installment in my Hood to Coast Recap. Part 1 is here.

Saturday, 2am

It’s nearly time for me to run. Two faithful (and awake) runners get out of the van in the cold to wait at the exchange with me. I’m so grateful for the fleece Delta blanket a teammate has stolen from the plane. Everyone tells me to hurry. The sooner I am done running the sooner we can get to the next exchange, and designated sleeping point. Leg 18 doesn’t have van support – the vans go a different way to the exchange – so I bring my water bottle. My leg starts out in an area dominated by mini-mall and gas station sprawl. It’s completely dark and oncoming cars have their brights on. I am blinded by the changes in light and grateful when I turn into a neighborhood. The neighborhood gradually deteriorates. Someone on the corner offers me “something to help with the pain”. Yikes. I run faster. A few people pass me, but they’re moving so fast that their lights fade quickly in the darkness. I curse my headlamp. It is not bright enough. I can’t see anything and the road is a bumpy mess of potholes and patches. The course winds through the neighborhood and into farm country. I see the glimmering eyes of animals in the woods staring at me. Creepy! I run on, uphill. The hill changes to gravel, but keeps going up. Finally, after what seems like an eternity, I hear cheering and see the distant glow of the exchange. It’s like a mirage. I sprint to the exchange. I am so, so glad that creepy run is over. The teammates who have met me usher me across the field and into the van. We are all eager to get to the sleeping spot. On the way one teammate is so tired she curls up in the footwell of the back seat, trying to get comfortable. I am too awake to sleep. I’m starving, but too tired to eat.

Saturday, 3am

We arrive at the major exchange. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this. Hundreds of vans are parked in every available spot in a giant, grassy field. Thousands of runners, bundled up in blankets, coats, and hats mill around. The line for the Honey Bucket porta potties is at least a hundred people long. I have to pee but am horrified by the state of the porta potties and the idea of having to use one in the dark. We pull into a spot and have to stop sharply to avoid running over the people who are inexplicably sleeping in sleeping bags in the middle of the field. There are tents and sleeping bags everywhere. It’s what I imagine a runners-only refugee camp looks like. We all try to sleep.

Saturday, 5am

I can’t sleep. I haven’t slept at all. My neck hurts and I’m cold. One van-mate is awake. We give up on sleeping and head outside to check out the area. It’s early morning and we see that about half of the vans have moved on in the night. It’s foggy and cold. We use the porta potty and wait in line for coffee for our van. Back at the van, we all brush our teeth and eat breakfast. I feel cleaner with brushed teeth. I know that this is crazy – I haven’t showered and have been in a van overnight, but I feel better. At least I changed my clothes and used a baby wipe to clean up. I’m sure to a stranger we are disgusting, but I feel practically fresh.

We are all surprisingly upbeat considering the lack of sleep, lack of food, and sweatiness. Despite our state of exhaustion, we rally and get out of the van to cheer on the van 2 runner coming in. Cheers and high fives. Seeing our team is wonderful and we’re all awake and happy. The sun starts to come up and burn off the fog and we’re energized.

Saturday, morning

Everyone is running their last legs and the pain of the previous two is the topic of conversation. No one can move. Our van smells like a medicine cabinet exploded. We have muscle rub, Tiger Balm, and Biofreeze. We apply all of it. We use the Stick. We take advil. The overwhelming minty smell is probably a good thing. I don’t want to know how bad our van smells without it. We make an effort to clean out the van at the next exchange. It’s a lost cause. We’re gross, the van is covered in dust, and our stuff is everywhere. No one cares.

Saturday, noon? I don’t know – I’ve lost track of time

It’s rapidly approaching time for my last leg and we are stuck in a traffic jam at the bottom of the biggest hill I’ve ever seen. I’m glad I didn’t have to run over that hill. Another runner and I leap out of the van to run to the exchange. A volunteer yells at us.

Everyone is cranky. I wish I had eaten something other than another banana and more Fig Newtons. Finally, it’s time for my last leg. It’s billed as “mostly downhill”. Good joke, Hood to Coast staff. As I climb up yet another hill, I curse the course designer. My legs feel like sticks. I’m sure I look like Frankenstein running. But I run on, and suddenly, I’m overtaken by feelings of great joy. The Pacific Northwest is beautiful! I’m running outside, along a gorgeous trail, and I have friends waiting for me in a few miles. This is great! Euphoria lasts approximately one mile.

We are done and head directly to the bar. We have a drink. Everyone is tired and cranky. I don’t want a burger, and another teammate wants a salad, so we move on. I change clothes in a port potty. I’m getting quite adept at maneuvering in porta potties. Some time later, we arrive in Seaside. We’re all happy and already feeling nostalgic. We head for the ocean and dip our feet in. No one is brave enough to go in.

And, before we know it, it’s over. The announcer is calling our team to meet our last runner and we run over the finish line together. We pass out medals, we take pictures. And, suddenly, it’s over. There are hugs and high fives and stories of battles with hill and exhaustion. We are happy. We are a team. And I realize that it’s the best thing I’ve ever done as a runner.

Hood to Coast – A Recap, Part 1

This weekend I had the incredible joy of running in the Hood to Coast relay in Oregon. It was truly an amazing experience and I struggle to really capture its awesomeness in this recap, but I’ll try. The strange thing about Hood to Coast is that it is a bit of a time warp, or an alternate dimension, where it’s difficult to keep track of time and everything blurs together. I have bits and pieces of memories, but some stories seem out of order and whole chunks of time have been lost to sleeplessness and exhaustion. I’ll try to piece together a recap that makes sense…


The team is finally together having arrived on various flights. We meet up at the team’s main hotel to go grocery shopping, sight seeing, and touring.

First, we headed to the store. What an adventure. You’d think it would be easy to shop for a day and a half in a van. Turns out 12 runners eat 12 different things before runs. What makes one person sick is the best food ever to another. We end up with cookies, pudding, Fig Newtons, Cheerios, apples (two kinds), bananas (5 pounds), and tangerines. We are sure it’s too much food. Next, we decided visit Multnomah Falls, a gorgeous waterfall.

It seemed like a good idea to walk the one mile to the top. Turns out that one mile is straight up. Half of the team pushes onward, thighs burning. We make it to the top, realize it isn’t that exciting, and was probably a bad idea, and head back down. We all pile into the van and drive to the Pearl District for some shopping. Fun!

Friday, morning

We have a great start time – 11:15am, so we can sleep in and leave at 9am. I’m sure this is the last sleep any of us will get, but I’m wide awake at 6am. The team starts the trek up the mountain and we’re all instantly fired up when we start to see runners coming down the mountain. We’re listening to music, talking, taking pictures. We pass the Safeway in Sandy and I realize that’s where my first leg will end. It sure doesn’t seem as flat as the elevation chart in the booklet. We keep climbing. Our first and second runners start worrying. Their legs are really straight down. Another teammate who has run HTC before warns – you can’t stop even if you want to. Yikes.

We make it to the timberline, the location of the start. We take lots of pictures and get into place. Our first runner starts her quad-shredding free fall down the mountain. The first few legs are exhilarating. We’re all so excited to be running that we chat non-stop between legs. When we pass our runner we all lean out the van windows screaming and cheering. Everyone gets out of the van and waits to cheer our runner in to the exchange. We get the first inkling that the legs may be harder than we anticipated. Everyone’s legs are shot.

Friday, noon-ish

I’m hungry. I realize that my plan to eat a huge breakfast and store food like a hibernating animal has failed. I eat some Cheerios, Fig Newtons, and a banana. The runner before me sets off on his “very hard” rated run. We drive down along the same route. I think very hard is an understatement.

Friday, afternoon

Time for me to run and finish the first set of legs for Van 1. I’m runner 6. I have to run along “rolling hills” and into the town of Sandy for a van exchange at the Safeway. It’s 86 degrees and sunny. There is no shade anywhere on my route and the heat waves coming of the blacktop are visible. A fire company hands out water and a gas station owner sprays me with a hose. I think he’s an angel. The hills, marked as “hard”, seem gigantic. It’s punishing, but I race down the mountain, knowing my team is waiting for me. I can hear the cheering from at least a quarter of a mile away. At the exchange, vans are everywhere, people are milling around, some cheering, some shopping, some resting. It’s total chaos and it’s amazing. I feel such a camaraderie with the other runners and it’s great to see my teammates in Van 2.

Van 1 decides to head to the hotel in Portland to eat and shower.

Friday, 6pm

Van 1 arrives at the hotel after sitting in traffic for some time. We are delighted to make it to happy hour in the hotel bar. Everyone eats real, hot food. It’s delicious. We all take showers and have an hour or so to rest. I can’t sleep. I write a blog post and send some texts instead. I’m sure this is a bad idea. Sleep would have been better, but I’m too excited and on an endorphin rush.

Friday, 9pm

We arrive at the second major van exchange, and park in a dirt lot. We walk to the exchange point, a park in the middle of the city near the water. It’s pitch black, but we somehow manage to locate our team and, together, we wait in the dark. We share stories of our legs and talk about the scenery. It’s beautiful. The weather is perfect.

Our first runner sets off on Leg 13. It’s kind of creepy. She runs over a bridge and along some railroad tracks. I’m secretly glad this isn’t my leg. The next two legs seem worse. It’s like psycho killer territory – old industrial areas, train tracks, and scary warehouses on the edge of Portland. Everyone in the van worries about how mentally hard these legs will be for the runners. We begin to move out of Portland and to an area that seemed like a road to nowhere. It’s dark, uphill, and boring. Leg 15 seems so miserable that we wait in the van at the halfway point to cheer for our runner. We make it to the next exchange, an abandoned weigh station. It’s late, dark, and everyone is tired. Everyone isn’t getting out of the van at every stop anymore. I eat more Fig Newtons. I think a midnight snack will help. Word of the tire store fire and associated lengthening of leg 17 is spreading. Our leg 17 runner takes the news of the mile addition with grace. He’s not ruffled. We are all tired, but we press on. It’s still fun, but maybe not as energetic as before.

To be continued…

Hood to Coast! Van 1, Session 1

Where is the world is Rachel? Somewhere in nowhere Oregon, running Hood to Coast.

This morning my team and I set off on the 200 mile voyage from the timberline at Mt. Hood to the beach. Van 1 is done with our first running session and, boy, was it crazy.


Our session started with some major, quad shredding downhills. Then, three legs into the session, it evened out for a bit. After that came the brutal 5th and 6th legs. The 5th and 6th legs were rolling, with several severe uphills, and full-on sun. It was HOT on the course. I ran leg 6, running last in our van. I swear I nearly melted on the course. The humidity is very low, but the sun in these high altitudes is hot and bright. It was unrelenting. There wasn’t even so much as a stick to use for shade. Despite the hot, hilly conditions, I ran well. 6.75 miles in about an hour. Whew!!

Now, Van 1 is at the hotel. We were close enough to come back. We had hot showers, hot meals, and a short dip in the giant ice bath (outdoor pool). No time for sleep – we have to get back out there for our nighttime runs.

There will be a major update when all is said and done. This is an incredible experience!

Packing for Hood to Coast

In less than 24 hours, I’m leaving on a jet plane, and heading to Oregon for Hood to Coast. Hood to Coast is the mother of all relays and I can’t wait to run it. It’s a running lifelong dream. Here’s how it happened:

Months ago, some running friends mentioned that they were thinking of applying to the Hood to Coast lottery and asked me if I would like to run. I have wanted to run Hood to Coast for years, and I finally had found a team of people who wanted to run and wanted me to run with them. Yay! Our fearless leader put in the application. I couldn’t believe it when she told me we got in. We were going to Oregon! It seemed so far away. Now, the time has come. And I have to pack!

As one of our team’s officially designated highly organized teammates, I prepared a packing list. Here it is:

Three sets of running clothes plus a spare set just in case, rain shell, long sleeve shirt or pullover, hat, sunglasses, five pairs of socks, reflective vest, wind jacket, headlamp, flashing light, camera, Garmin, iPhone, chargers for camera iPhone and Garmin, clothes to wear in the van, warm up pants, flip flops, two pairs of running shoes, sweatshirt for the beach, The Stick, Biofreeze, handheld water bottle, compression sleeves, arm warmers, and snacks.

Turns out that’s  lot of stuff! What a mess!
Yikes. I’m not sure all that stuff will fit in one bag. And, is that really all that I need? This is my first relay and this is a big one! I got some great advice to put my running clothes in baggies to keep the parts together and organized.
I love anything that makes travel more organized. The big question remains – did I miss anything? Relay veterans – what would you add or subtract from my list?
Stay tuned for updates and reports from the race. Hood to Coast, here I come!