Virtual Race Report – 465 Virtual Challenge

The little car moves along the course!

While I’m not usually a big fan of virtual races, when the opportunity to run the 465 Challenge came up with BibRave, I said yes. I needed something to help me kick off the new year right, and I liked the idea of taking on a new challenge.

The 465 Challenge is a brand new virtual race, running you in a loop around Highway 465, which circles Indianapolis for a total of 53 miles. The goal was to complete 53 miles between January 1 and February 29 in whatever way possible. I decided that I was only going to count run miles, but you could count run, bike, swim, walk, whatever you wanted. That’s the fun of a virtual race.

You also had the option to do the 465 miles in the first 24 hours, getting your name on the 24 hour club list, or you could aim for multiple loops, putting you in the Looper Club. While I used to be in shape to run 50+ mile months, I’m just not there right now. So I was just looking to run a total of 53 miles. (Should be easy, right? Not during cold and flu season!)

One thing I LOVED about this race was the race emails. Every week, they sent a motivational email that included where you would be on the loop if you were doing your 53 miles at an even clip (.88 miles a day). Of course, they were sure to remind you multiple times that you should not, no do not, never ever go run on 465. That always made me laugh, and yet you know there was probably that one person…

For example, here is a bit from week 3:

Piping along the west side of Indianapolis amps you up for the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing!”!  The West side of Indianapolis houses the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home to the Indianapolis 500, NASCAR Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard, INDYCAR: GMR Grand Prix, and the MOTOAMERICA: Superbikes at the Brickyard!  Just the thought of those high speed engines has us picking up our pace! 

I really enjoyed learning about the area as I “ran” around the loop. There was also a Facebook group for this challenge, which was equally fun. There were a lot of people taking on this challenge as a way to kick off the new year, and for some, kicking off a new healthy routine. It was great to get to cheer on new runners and walkers.

The race swag is pretty sweet. It arrived just as I was finishing my 53rd mile, and it’s super cute. The medal is adorable, and the car slides around the course, which I love. They billed the t-shirt as super soft, and it definitely is. It’s one of the nicer race shirts I’ve received in a while. It also came with a bumper sticker, and while my car remains sticker free right now, I do have a fun collection of stickers on my bulletin board at work, and this one will fit right in.

While I don’t do a lot of virtual races, this one made me see why some people love them, especially the ones with an attached community. It was a lot of fun to get to talk with other runners, especially newer runners. It was good to challenge myself and make myself get back on the treadmill, no matter how much I didn’t want to. And it was fun to start the year on a positive note. So I think this one might just stay on my list for next year. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

Race Report – 2020 Disney 10K

This year, I finally returned to racing at Disney Marathon weekend. This year was “only” the 10k for me, since it was on my birthday. I considered running the half, but decided 10k was plenty. There would be opportunity for longer distances later. Cue ominous music.

Race morning dawned stupidly early, as is the norm for runDisney. We stayed at a monorail resort, but on race morning, the only transportation available was busses. I’m a huge fan of the monorail, but the bus worked just fine. Not too long of a wait, and our bus driver only got slightly turned around once. We made it to the race start in plenty of time.

I liked the way the corrals were setup this year – corrals were lined up next to each other and then filtered out the front and over into the starting chute, unlike in many races, where the corrals are lined up in a long line and you have to walk through the other corral spaces to get to the start. I felt like this reduced the amount of walking to the start line. They also metered people through the start, using a ribbon of sorts, so each corral was divided into mini-corrals for the start. This definitely helped some of the crowding.

We were unexpectedly in the last corral due to a mistake with placement on my sister’s bib (so I went back with her), and it was definitely crowded. It took us 50 minutes to get across the start line, which is just something to remember for future races. We were planning to do a run/walk and spent much of the time going around walkers. Nothing against walkers, but it would be nice if people kept to the sides when walking and didn’t walk in such huge groups going across.

I did have a negative moment – there was a guy throwing water over his head and basically throwing it directly into the face of the people behind him. So I said something him, just asking him to step over. He gave me attitude, so I responded with something like “Thanks so much for understanding! Have a great day!” And then throughout the race, I kept seeing him giving me evil looks. Come on, people, use a little common sense.

I enjoyed the course – I felt like we got to see a lot of Epcot, and plenty of backstage too. In general, some of the overcrowding was frustrating, but that’s to be expected in a race like this, especially when we started further back than where we should have started. It was a slower race than I wanted, but really, I can’t complain too much. We were there to have fun after all.

(Now, don’t get me started on the new Club runDisney that they’ve announced. Infuriating.)

I’ll be there next year for the marathon, which is on my birthday. Terrifying. TERRIFYING.

Final results: 1:29:19.

Race Report – 2019 Space Coast Half Marathon

I think it’s clear that I like space races, as I have now run this race seven times, with plans to do it at least another two years. I don’t typically run for medals, but come on, this series is fabulous.

I’m not sure what’s going to happen after 2021, but I really want the full set of the human spacewalk medals. Why? Because they’re cool.

Admittedly, I also really like this race. The course is simple, very flat, and the time of year is perfect. There is nothing better than going down to Florida in late November/early December and just getting away for a long weekend before the crazy holiday season really starts.

This year, as per usual, we headed down on Friday and hit up the expo on Saturday. Though I didn’t buy anything, this expo gets bigger every year and there are some good vendors there. And the volunteers aren’t to be beat. The sheer organization of the whole event is incredible.

It’s nice to do a race that I’m so familiar with. This race starts in a little downtown area, and it can seem a bit confusing at the start. Everyone is trying to cram into this little space down a street between cute shops and it’s very crowded and the pace groups seem all messed up and it doesn’t seem reasonable that the course will clear out. But it does. Every year, the start works and within the first half mile, the space has widened and people can run a reasonable pace.

I didn’t feel super well trained for this race, even though I had done two 10+ mile runs. My only goal was to run with my sister, finish the race, and get a medal. I was also hoping for little to no hip pain. I’m still not back into shape after breaking my arm so I’m having to do a lot of extra rehab work on both my hip and my upper body.

This race was a lot of fun, as per usual. It wasn’t my fastest, but it wasn’t my slowest. I finished in 3:12:01, finishing with my sister, my friend Nikki, and having had a great time chatting our way through the race. And with some energy in reserve for a night at Disney World.

Once this series is over, I’m not sure how long I’ll continue traveling for this race, but it’s a lot of fun and I love being able to go to the beach to start the holiday season. It’s a great place, lots of good fun, and always an amazing time with friends.

Race Report – 2019 Patriot’s Olympic Triathlon

This weekend, I finally returned to the race stage after crashing on April 20th. Early in the year, I registered for the Patriots Olympic Triathlon, and it was the one race I opted to not defer after my crash. I really wanted to have something to work towards. I knew it would be tough, but I was dedicated to completing it.

Of course, the incoming hurricane had something to say about it. We were very lucky to not get hit, but thanks to Dorian, the swim was cancelled. The rescue boat was required elsewhere, so we know about the cancellation mid-day Thursday (the race was on Saturday). There were plenty of angry athletes, but I was just disappointed. Obviously, the important thing was that people were kept safe, so I’m glad the rescue boat could be prioritized to where it needed to go. And I was glad to know early so that I could mentally prepare.

My biggest worry was probably the swim. My elbow and shoulder still hurt when I swim. It’s not bad, and swimming doesn’t make it worse or better, but it’s just something I’m going to have to deal with for a while. So having the swim cancelled removed that worry.

It also really removed another big worry, which was a super fast cyclist coming up behind me after the swim. The race turned into a time-trial start, all self-seeded. While there weren’t signs indicating where people should line up, I figured there wouldn’t be any crazy cyclists whizzing past. Sure, there would be some jockeying for position, but nothing like a slow swimmer/expert cyclist coming out of the water later and then trying to crush the competition.

This race, I also had my boyfriend with me as chauffeur, carrier of heavy things, captain of the cheer squad, anxiety battler, and all around super supportive person. I think that definitely helped as well. He kept me out of my head and prevented a lot of stress.

eric shark
He took his cheer squad responsibility very seriously.

He also very proudly wore the shark head, much to the delight of many a toddler. After the race, I asked him how many people he took pictures with, and he said something like “Not too many, only maybe ten or so.” TEN? That’s a lot of people to ask a random stranger for a selfie!

The race also had a half-distance before the olympic, so we got to watch the half athletes go off first, which was helpful in understanding how they were going to do the time-trial start. The bike didn’t actually use the original “bike out” path, so I was confused for quite some time until things got started. I was ready to leave and return the same way, so the description of how the time trial would start made no sense to me until I saw it happen.

I ended up lining up with some other friendly Athenas. We chatted and had a lovely time as we waited for our race to start.

For the start, we walked to the start line and were told to go in pairs in 15-second intervals. We walked/ran across the line and mounted our bikes. And then we were off.

patriots bike mount
Don’t fall, don’t fall, don’t fall.

The start was a bit scary because we rode along a very narrow path along the side of the road (that would later be part of the run). There wasn’t any jockeying for position because there literally wasn’t any space for it.

Thankfully, that didn’t last terribly long, and then it felt like the race really started. I had done the race before, back in 2017, so I knew it was flat save for one bridge (that I had also ridden many times during Rev3 Williamsburg) so there wasn’t a lot of unfamiliarity here. Flat was a bit of a misnomer – there were some small rollers, and as someone who has done the majority of her training inside this year, they felt larger than they really were. My only goal for this ride was to at least try to stay in my racing zone – though I’ve not done a new FTP test since before my accident, so it’s possible that’s a bit high. My watch is set to beep at me when I’m out of the zone, and well, it did a lot of beeping! I wasn’t really watching my pace, but I knew I was doing well based on the time it was taking me to complete each 5 mile set (my watch beeps and gives me the time for each 5 mile “lap”). My only real goal was to keep to at least 15mph and I was absolutely doing that.

Of course, even with the time trial start, there were still a number of riders (male, of course) who came flying up from behind me. The whole point to the time trial start was to put everyone in generally the right spot pace-wise, so waiting til last to start is kind of a jerk move. I know plenty of people who do it running, and that doesn’t bother me, because there really isn’t much of a safety risk to a fast runner passing you, but as I can attest, a fast cyclist coming past you can cause all sorts of damage. Naturally, there was the expected shifting of positions, where I caught up to other riders or others caught me, but it was the number of riders who came blasting past that I found very frustrating.

Around mile 20, I started to get cocky. I hadn’t crashed! I had made it through the bike! Except not yet. No getting cocky now. I needed to finish the ride first.

And I did. Just under 24 miles (the course was a bit short the last time I rode it too) at 18.1mph.

Bike: 1:17:27

I was off the bike and running into transition. I couldn’t believe I could actually run into transition. I think I was just so excited to have not crashed.

In transition, I just felt like I was moving through molasses. I was sure I was in there for nearly five minutes. It felt like it took me forever. But it didn’t.

T2 (or T1, depending on how you view it): 1:45

I had looked at the run map for this race because I remembered that there was a weird turn and that the last time I raced, a bunch of people had missed it and ended up running a loop backwards. What I didn’t look up was what the course was like, so I had forgotten that a good chunk of it is through a wooded area, on a dirt path. It’s actually really pretty, but it also feels pretty darn deserted.

My goal on the run was to hold my intervals (1:1) and to keep to a sub-14 pace. I really wanted to be closer to 13, but I know where I’m at right now, and knew that might be pushing too hard.

The other thing I forgot about this race was how lonely it feels at some parts of the race. It definitely starts to feel like a bit of a mental challenge, when you feel like you’re the only one out there, no other runners, no spectators. I had to work hard to stay out of my head. I’m a slower runner – there’s no way around it. And I’m okay with that. But when I feel like I’m totally alone while racing, it becomes a mental game. So I just started doing race math. Each mile, how far under 14 minutes was I? How much time was I “earning” each mile? Whatever it takes, that’s what I did.

Look at that air!

I managed to ultimately keep a 13:09 pace, which is fantastic! I was super pleased with how well things turned out.

I made the final turn into the race and pushed myself to cross the finish line strong. I won’t lie – it hurt. But it felt so great to finally be crossing a finish line again.

Run: 1:21:42

Total race time: 2:40:56

I’ve never done a bike-run race before, so it was hard to say just what that time meant, but given that my main goal was to finish under 3:45, I’d say that even if there had been a swim, I would have been safely under that time. So all in all, a great race back! I also came in smack in the middle of the Athenas, which was an awesome place to be (and it was so great to see so many of us out there!). Now I have something to work towards for next season. And a great cheerleader to join me on the adventures.

Rumpus in Bumpass, aka Swim, Bike, Crash

On April 20, I was scheduled for my first triathlon of the year. (Yes, it has taken me a while to get all of these words out.) I’m not typically a fan of early season racing. I like to get in some good practice swims before I race. However, last year, I was registered for Rumpas in Bumpass as a warmup for Choo 70.3. Obviously, thanks to my labral tear, that was out, but the race company had an awesome deferral policy. That meant that this year, I had an already funded race entry for the race. Might as well show up, right? Right.

I had mixed feelings going into the race. I was so thankful that the weather was supposed to be nice. Was I prepared? Yes and no. I hadn’t done any OWS swimming, and I hadn’t ridden my bike outside yet. But I had put in the work and I was excited to start the season and see some friends at the start line.

Race morning was gorgeous. All the rain had cleared the area and things looked amazing. I was feeling good. I got everything setup in transition and hung out with friends as we waited for race start. I wedged myself into my wetsuit. It felt good. I hadn’t had a chance to try it out yet, but I figured things would be fine. I didn’t have an issue with wetsuits.

Cue foreshadowing.

I got in the water early and tried to get used to the cold. It was in the mid-60’s. Not awesome, but not too bad. Two men’s waves went off, then it was our turn. Racing! Yay!

I struggled to get comfortable. Why? Probably the cold and the fact that every year, my first OWS of the year sucks. I need to remember this. Future self, do some practice swims before racing! So I got myself into a spiral and realized I had two options. I could quit or I could figure out how to get out of my wetsuit and keep going. So I pulled up at a jet ski and took off my wetsuit in the water. It was not easy and I was gasping from the cold. But once it was off, I was going to finish this race. I am way too stubborn to quit, and I was pretty proud of myself for getting through a really bad moment.(Ominous music continues.) With the pause and the lack of the wetsuit, I was now behind the pack, but not too far off. There were plenty of swimmers around me, and by the time I finished, I was coming out with the first wave of sprint swimmers as well (they had a shorter swim course, naturally).

The trek to transition was through ankle deep mud. Do not recommend.

At transition, I ran into another girl I had met earlier, so I shared my foot rinse water bottle with her, got geared up, wished the girl luck, and headed out.

(This part is harder to write than I thought it would be.)

The race was a two loop course for the Olympic racers and single loop for the sprinters. There was a slight straightaway, then you joined the loop with a lefthand turn.

I made the turn and merged in, found a solid spot on the right, but there were racers flying past me on the left, both sprinters and olympic athletes starting their second loop. There were definitely people riding in groups, not necessarily in packs, but just situational things where riders were riding a few across and not really following the rules. That can just happen racing. Unfortunately, those rules exist for a reason.

I was barely a mile in when I heard yelling behind me. I shifted farther to the right, as I had been riding about a foot out to stay out of the gravel and junk on the side of the road. That was the wrong choice, as the guy coming up behind me was attempting to pass on the right.

(Yes, this is a complete rule violation. However, because I’m not sure what was all going on around me, I suspect there was a cluster of riders to the left as well and he made the best decision he had in a bad situation. He didn’t know I was going to also try to get out of the way by shifting right. I’m choosing to believe this was just an unfortunate situation and not a blatant attempt to flaunt the rules.)

Always wear a helmet. Always.

The other cyclist hit me. Thankfully, I wasn’t going super fast. I flew over my handlebars. I landed first on my left forearm, then the rest of my body crashed to the ground. My head bounced off the ground. That was probably the scariest moment. Heads aren’t supposed to bounce off of things.

I never lost consciousness and instead sat up pretty much right away. My left side hurt and I knew I was bleeding, but I could move my hands and my feet, and these all seemed like good things. I could see straight and my head didn’t hurt.

Some amazing spectators came running over to me, and I wish I knew who they were so that I could properly thank them. They made me focus on them and kept telling me to not look at my left side. This freaked me out. “Are there any bones sticking out?” I wasn’t in a ton of pain, but had this vision of something sticking out of my arm. I also pretty quickly asked if my bike was okay. As any cyclist would.

Mostly, I was just scared. I was sitting in the middle of the race course bleeding and it took a while for medical get to me. In reality, it was less than five minutes, but it felt like forever. I was able to stand, and cradling my left arm, I climbed into a cart and was taken to a waiting ambulance where they checked me over. I was freezing cold since I was wet and they kept piling me with blankets so I stopped shivering. They didn’t seem terribly worried, which was insanely reassuring. I needed to be seen by a doctor, but things weren’t dire.

I convinced them to put my bike into the ambulance and had someone retrieve my backpack (with my phone and ID inside) from transition and went to the hospital. No sirens, so it was a long trip. I chatted with the EMT and found out how he got into the gig. Mostly I think I was trying to distract myself.

At the hospital, things didn’t seem like too big of a deal. They helped me out of my wet kit and into a hospital gown which was awesome. Being cold was the worst part of all of it. My head was fine. I got taken for x-rays and was really hoping my shoulder and collarbone weren’t broken. I didn’t want to deal with pins. And they were fine! My elbow was less fine, and more worryingly, there was a whole bunch of gravel in my arm.

The most painful part were the muscles in my left shoulder and up into my neck. They still hurt today. But nothing was bad. They asked me if I wanted any pain meds and I said no. They insisted on Tylenol, so I took that.

I refused to look at the wound in my arm. I decided I didn’t want to know. The PA came in a number of times to irrigate my arm to work to get the gravel out. And apparently, they were able to get a lot of it out. But when I went back for more x-rays, it wasn’t enough and I needed surgery to get the gravel out and possibly a bone chip.

Great.

I was pretty chill through all of this. I wasn’t even concerned when they were pushing two kinds of IV antibiotics. This seems fine. My brain is weird. When they said surgery, I was like “Okay, let’s do this.” The whole time, I really was thinking about how lucky I was. I bounced my head off the ground and I was fine. This injury was relatively minor.

So off to surgery it was. Thankfully, it was just rocks and no bone chip. But I woke up with a brace on my arm, an appointment with an ortho for the following week, and prescriptions for even more heavy antibiotics. The worst part was that when I woke up, I was so hungry. I was given a soda and crackers, but I had a brace on one arm and an IV in the other so I couldn’t get food to my mouth. It was an incredibly cruel moment. Generally though, I felt good and was ready to break out.

The final verdict is a broken elbow, serious road rash on my left shoulder and quad, some very colorful bruising and a gross wound on my left elbow that is going to leave a sweet scar.

Two weeks out and healing is going as expected. I start up PT on my arm this week and will be getting a new brace. My doctor told me that recovery is probably around 8 weeks, so I’ll be back out there soon enough. But of course, this means that my comeback season isn’t happening this year. I won’t be trained up for 70.3 Ohio, so Sherpa Shark will be back as a spectator (and thank goodness I bought the insurance). I was registered for four more local races with Kinetic Multisports (the group that runs Rumpus) and because of my crash, they deferred my next two races til next year, have offered to defer my September races (though I hope to be back by then) and offered me a free entry into next year’s Rumpus. I think I won’t be taking them up on the last offer – crash aside, I need OWS practice before I race, so no more early season races for me.

In general, I feel really really lucky. This could have been a lot worse. Yes, I have moments of being annoyed by the situation, disappointed that I’m going to have to rebuild my fitness AGAIN (all I’ve been able to do since the race is walk and some lower body strength work), but I’m okay. Of all my limbs to injure, my left arm is probably best, since I’m right handed. I can still type (and am encouraged to to help keep my shoulder loose). It’s awkward and I still hurt, but my recovery is going to be easy compared to what it could be.

I have to say that one thing this made me realize is how amazing my friends are. Liz dropped everything to drive down to the hospital, sat there all day, talked to my surgeon, and stayed the night with me. Kim and Jon drove a stupid distance from their house on a Sunday to go retrieve my car from Fredericksburg. And so many others sent offers of help, meals, or well wishes. It definitely made me feel loved.