Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Running for turkey

I love a good turkey trot. I have done the one in Lansing several times, and I've been really wanting to do the one in Detroit. The last few years we've done Thanksgiving with my family in West Virginia, so as soon as we decided to stay in Michigan this year, I knew I'd do the Detroit Turkey Trot. There's something satisfying about running early on Thanksgiving morning and then gorging on an obscene amount of Thanksgiving treats.

Goofing around downtown at the Joe Louis fist statue
On Thanksgiving morning I woke up early and left my in-laws' house with my cheering section - my husband and father-in-law.  My husband's family lives just outside of Detroit so it was a short drive in. As soon as we got off the exit we realized how big this race was - traffic was entirely stopped. Thankfully we'd given ourselves plenty of time.

Hart Plaza early on a foggy Thanksgiving morning
We parked just outside of Joe Louis Arena, home of the Detroit Red Wings hockey team. I'm from West Virginia - we're not really known for our hockey, but my husband is a giant Wings fan. It was a chilly morning, so we walked quickly past the Joe into Cobo Hall where the race would be ending. 

I remember reading the turkey trot would have around 10,000 participants, but this was the largest one ever with 21,000 people participating in the 5k, 10k and 1 mile runs.  It was packed in downtown Detroit. Detroit has a renowned Thanksgiving Day parade, and the Detroit Lions were playing that same day. It's always great to see downtown so busy.

Thousands of runners
The corrals lined up on Woodward Ave near beautiful Campus Martius Park.  (As an aside there's ice skating in the winter at the park. I'm dying to go!) The race ran up Woodward Avenue and turned around. Crowds were already lining up to watch the parade, and the holiday excitement was infectious.

The Christmas tree in Campus Martius Park
Despite the corrals, there were a LOT of walkers in my corral. It makes it very difficult to get into a groove in a race this size. There were also a lot of people running with dogs. I love dogs as is clearly evidenced by my giant dog monsters. But in a race with over 20,000 runners, there's no place for your pup. I almost tripped over a tiny French Bulldog, and neither I nor the dog would've been too thrilled about that.

Looking relaxed at the start
Runners at Campus Martius
The race veered off onto Washington Avenue in front of the beautifully restored Book Cadillac before running in front of Cobo.  We then we ran down Atwater to finish at the lower level of Cobo right on the Detroit River.

I'm clearly excited to finish
I had no idea how fast I was going because the crowds were so large. There was such a great variance of speeds that I was having a difficult time pacing myself. I had a pretty decent time for me (27:40), and I loved running in the D on a beautiful fall morning.

Posing by the Detroit River after the race
I'm not sure I would do this Turkey Trot again. As much as I love being downtown Detroit and seeing those great crowds, the Lansing race is smaller and a bit more manageable. For those kinds of large numbers, however, the race was quite well organized. Despite that I did have a really fun time, and I felt much less guilty for that second helping of green bean casserole.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thankful for running

I have so much to be thankful for.  I have a wonderful husband, great family, the best friends anyone could ask for, pets who are adorable and a job I love.  In addition to all of that I have running.  Not only does it keep me sane, but I run because I can. 

I mean really - who wouldn't be thankful for these faces?
This month Runner's World did an issue highlighting its readers. One particular small blurb on a page said that this one person was so thankful for running because someone they knew had cerebral palsy and wasn't able to run. With all the people who are in pain and hurting and unable to run, I am thankful each and every time I lace up my shoes. An aching IT band means I did it.  Sore knees means I was able to hit the pavement. For those who love to run, it becomes a salvation of sorts. Maybe that sounds dramatic, but for me the best days I have are the ones where I make time to run.

This Thanksgiving as I am reflecting on what I am thankful for, that long list will include my ability to run. Running the Detroit Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning is a symbol for me that I'm healthy.  I've healed from my surgery, and I'm back in action. And that is something to be so thankful for.

Monday, November 21, 2011

All I want for Christmas is arm sleeves, compression socks and a race registration

It's that time of the year again when I start dropping not so subtle hints to my husband about my Christmas list. Some women want diamonds; others want pearls. I want a pair of plaid arm sleeves and a promise of a race in a sunny locale this winter. I'm totally serious.


I'll be honest - I don't even entirely understand the purpose of arm sleeves. Why don't I just wear a long-sleeved shirt? Either way they are adorable and I want a pair. Plus Shalane Flanagan wore arm sleeves when she was runner-up in the NYC Marathon in 2010. That alone makes them cool. But I digress.

My husband said to me a few years ago that buying me running stuff for holidays is boring. Sure I've got 3 running jackets in various shades of pink, dozens of short- and long-sleeved running tees and several pairs of running gloves. I do not, however, have purple compression socks. I can't think of a good reason for this oversight.

What good is adorable running gear without the appropriate place to show it off? I desperately want to do a February/March race somewhere warm. Michigan winters are brutal, and by February I'm ready to be anywhere but here. There is the Double Bridge Run 15k in Pensacola, Florida in February, a half marathon in Austin and a half marathon in New Orleans in early March. Any of these seems like perfect places to show off a snazzy new running outfit received at Christmas.

We're coming up on the winter dead spot for races. It's always difficult as a runner to remain motivated when there aren't a lot of races coming up, and the weather is just going to get colder. It helps with motivation when an argyle running skirt is part of the picture.

I really hope Santa (ahem my husband) is reading this. I mean I've already sent him the website and have pretty much handed him my Christmas happiness on a silver platter. Now it'll just be a matter of nailing down the perfect winter vacation/race locale. 'Tis the season!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Back on track

Four weeks doesn't sound like a long time. For example, Christmas is what, five weeks away, and that time will just fly by.  When your passion is running, however, and your doctor tells you that you shouldn't run for four weeks, it feels like an eternity.

As someone who loves running and traveling, the last two weekends have been tough. Visiting both Chicago and Iowa City without hitting the pavement made me feel like I was missing something on my trips.  Running in every town we visit has become an integral part of going away.

And somehow, in less than six short years, running has become an integral part of who I am. I ran three half marathons in a year and took two years off from long races. Now I can't even imagine taking that kind of break from running. Running keeps me sane, and it is my time to clear my head. Without it I have felt like I've been in a fog this past month.

This morning I woke up early, put on my super cute running gear (let's be honest - cute gear is a huge motivator), laced up my fabulous purple Brooks running shoes and took off. It was a short and slow run, but it felt amazing. 

On Thanksgiving morning next week I'll be running the Turkey Trot 5k in downtown Detroit. I can't wait to be back in a race with thousands of my closest friends. Running these towns isn't something I do just for run. It's because I can't imagine doing anything else.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Visiting Iowa City

This past weekend my husband and I went with some tailgate friends to Iowa City, Iowa for the  Michigan State/Iowa game. For the first time in a long time (Chicago last weekend excluded) I didn't run while we were on a trip. Unfortunately I'm still on surgery restrictions for a few more days. I brought running clothes and considered breaking doctor's orders, but in the end I held strong and drowned my non-running sorrows in bloody marys. Oh and wine.

Iowa City is an interesting little town. Their downtown is cute - it's walkable, with lots of local shops and eateries, and a cool pedestrian mall right through the middle of downtown.  It's a small town (less than 70,000 people), and it's got a great college town vibe. Iowa City does a great job of leveraging its largest anchor institution, the University of Iowa. Like a lot of college towns (my beloved Morgantown, WV included) there's not a whole lot else there. The university is king.

Pedestrian mall in downtown Iowa City
Playground on the pedestrian mall - it's even kid friendly!
Iowa City was more quaint than I thought it would be. There were tons of local places to eat and drink at college prices. We had small pitchers filled with beer and mixed drinks for $3. As much as I love Chicago, you won't find a $3 drink in any places I've been.  On game day there were also tons of food trucks outside the stadium. It had almost a carnival like atmosphere. I'm not sure if there are food trucks in Iowa City other than on game day, but I sure hope so.

A food tent on the way into the stadium
One of several food trucks
Iowa City is, above all else, all about the Iowa Hawkeyes. We had a great experience with friendly Iowa fans. They welcomed us to their tailgate and shared their town with us. It was really a fantastic experience.
Tailgating in Iowa City
A friendly rivalry
Our Iowa City visit was pretty contained to downtown and campus, but it was a nice, quick weekend. I would definitely go back and check out more of the downtown establishments. It's fun to feel like you're in college every once in a while. Plus my husband's Spartans won the game, so that made for a much more pleasant trip. Next time we go to Iowa City, however, I will be lacing up my running shoes to run the hills on campus. Who's afraid of a few hills? Not this Mountaineer.

Kinnick Stadium at the University of Iowa

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Spectating ain't easy

We've already established how much I love the city of Chicago, and I was determined to run a race there this fall. One of my girlfriends suggested we run the Hot Chocolate 15k, and I was in. This idea was perfect - a girls' weekend in Chicago with a 9 mile run thrown in. The race gear includes a jacket, and the post-race party includes hot chocolate and fondue. Yes, please.

Posing at the expo with random person in a costume. I think it's an eagle?
Unfortunately my surgery saga prevented me from doing the race. I initially intended to run the 5k, but I am still on running prohibition for another week. This mean I got to be a spectator for the first time ever. My husband is always a faithful and vigilant spectator for my races, so I vowed to do the same for my friend. 

Here I am playing the role of spectator before the race

Race day was gorgeous. I was infinitely envious that I wasn't running, but even I know my limits. There were thousands of runners in downtown Chicago. The excitement was palpable. We stayed at the Congress Hotel right near the start at Grant Park. This is one of the biggest races I've ever seen - certainly the biggest for a distance less than 13.1.  

5k runners waiting at the start
After the start I decided one of the best reasons to not run was the ability to head to Dunkin' Donuts for coffee. Unfortunately I discovered the 5k ran right in front of Dunkin' Donuts. Foiled! Instead I decided to hold off on caffeine to cheer on the runners. I have to say for as many spectators as there were on the course, there was very little cheering. I was even chastised at one point because someone's baby was sleeping. Really?!? It's a race! I know from experience that cheering helps runners. 

5k runners between me and coffee deliciousness
One of the strangest things that happened during the 5k was a guy who decided to leave his parking garage and drive through the runners to get wherever he so desperately needed to be. An irate spectator ran through the race to stop the guy and an argument ensued. It was SO dangerous that he pulled out into the throng of thousands of runners.

I did a lot of back and forth during the race cheering on runners and trying to find my runner. I have a new appreciate for my husband. He always manages to get the perfect photo of me during the race and finishing. It can't be easy. 

Because I had picked up my bib and packet, I had a ticket for the post race treats. I did enjoy some of the fondue. It was awesome. I didn't run, so it's less of an issue, but I'll admit I'd rather have a medal than chocolate. Clearly I get that's part of the deal, but for future reference I'd choose a medal over chocolate.

My bib that I didn't get to wear. It did, however, get me some fondue.
Following the race we did my favorite thing to do in Chicago - shopping. Michigan Avenue has some fantastic shops, and we hit the shops hard.  We also had meals at some fantastic restaurants including Rhapsody and Park Grill in Millennium Park.   

I've blogged before about running in Chicago and how much I love that town. This time, however, we spent some time wandering around in Millennium Park. Chicago uses green space masterfully.  Even on a Sunday morning as we wandered around the park there were lots of people taking photos and enjoying a beautiful fall morning.  I've often heard people say that if a city is trying to cut money they should just cut parks. Chicago is a perfect example of how wrong that logic is. Their parks are vibrant places that attract people. They are critical to what makes Chicago wonderful.

Posing with the bean in Millennium Park
We travel a lot, and Chicago still tops my list of favorite cities. It checks all the boxes for what makes a great place. I guess since I didn't get to run this race I'll just have to sign up for another Chicago race later. Any excuse to continue this love affair...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Using R&R wisely

I'm sure it's not surprising that I'm still not thrilled to be sidelined for a few more weeks. It doesn't matter that I certainly don't feel like running, and I realize it's important to listen to my body. It's just the idea that someone is telling me I can't do something. My instinct is to push back and do the opposite. In this case what I'm doing is planning my running schedule for the upcoming few months. It keeps me motivated.

My mandatory rest time ends on November 19, just in time for me to jump into the Turkey Trot 5k in Detroit on Thanksgiving Day. I love running in Detroit (it's one of my favorite cities), and I am a little disappointed that I will have to run the 5k instead of the 10k. At any rate, I am very excited to join the thousands of runners doing this race. I've wanted to run this race for a number of years, and we've been out of town visiting my family over Thanksgiving the past three years. I am so excited.

After running the Detroit Marathon last year, I swore I would never do another full. Famous last words, right? Earlier this week I registered for the Cellcom Marathon in Green Bay in May. I am excited to get back into a marathon training schedule even though I may be singing another tune when I'm doing my long runs. I hear Green Bay is a beautiful city, and I think it'll be a nice weekend trip to Wisconsin for the race.

I started running through Team in Training, and at that time I really didn't enjoy raising the money. Now I'm thinking it would be fun to do another Team in Training race in the fall. It's such a good cause, and there is a great support system. Plus it's an opportunity to mark another cool town off my list. I'm not sure what the fall line-up will be for the Lansing area team, but the spring races include Madrid and Vancouver. Those are both towns I'd love to run and visit.

I'm not good at recovering, but I am good at planning. Next year is going to be full of races. I'll be back in action in exactly 3 weeks.