race day

Race Report: Bootleg Tucson Marathon

First, I’d like to thank my friend Brooke for this disclaimer which I have shamelessly stolen from her google Doc about the bootleg race: Please note that this is NOT an official event in connection with any particular individual, club, or organization.  This event has no connection to or affiliation with the Tucson Marathon, it’s race directors, or the Holualoa Companies.  This is classified as a SELF SUPPORTED group of friends choosing to share the experience of running various distances together.  Any help, aid, or supplies are being offered by individuals in a Good Samaritan capacity and said help, aid, and supplies are not guaranteed.  It is additionally stated that no individual or party participating in connection with this event is being monetarily or otherwise compensated to do so.

So yeah. I finally did it. A full marathon. I decided back in the spring that this was going to be the year I finally ran a marathon. I chose not to talk it up much because with COVID and all… well, there was no telling what the future was going to hold.

A couple of months ago, my friend Don invited me to join a running/riding social group on FaceBook, so I decided to check it out. There was a thread about the 2020 Tucson Marathon – which was scheduled for December 5 – where I chimed in that I was planning to do it but was waiting to register because there was no telling what COVID was going to do to it. (Spoiler alert: it got COVID Cancelled.) My new friend Brooke from the group had wanted to meet up for a long run since she was also training for the 2020 Tucson Marathon as her first so we did a 20 miler together, which was fun.

The race cancellation notice came out just a day or two before that run, but we decided to run anyway. It was during that run when I mentioned I was planning to run the marathon on my own anyway because I’d come this far in my training and wasn’t about to give up on it. To which Brooke said, “Well… if you’re going to do it, then I’m going to do it too! I bet we can even wrangle up some volunteers for support.” A quick poll on the FB group showed further interest, and we were off and running. (HA!)

Brooke found, mapped, and chalked markings for an out-and back 5k, 10k, Half Marathon, Marathon, and 50k route, and organized volunteers. Another group member came up with a shirt design. I coordinated with a local business to put that design on shirts and medals which interested runners could then purchase at cost. Another member of the FB group volunteered to hang out at the start/finish with her camera to take photos for us. And the volunteers provided water (individually bottled, no big jugs) and snacks at a couple of drop-tables along the route, with my dear friend Don manning a goodie table at the start/finish line.

Tucson has an amazing community, and the way everyone worked together to accomplish this was just… stunning. Thank you all!

So, the race itself. We met at the park early for a planned 7am race start. (Yes, everyone masked up and maintained responsible distancing.) It was quite the cold morning – 32°F/0°C – and because the Catalina Mountains were between us and the (eventually) rising sun, it stayed rather chilly for some time. But by the time I made my way across the finish line it was a lovely 62°F-ish/16.7°C-ish. The out-and-back route was generally uphill on the way out, with the last 4-ish miles at a more pronounced grade, then (obviously, though it didn’t feel like it many times) mostly downhill on the way back.

So, how was my experience with the race itself? Well, here’s the gist of my inner monologue.

  • Mile 1
    • ZOMG I’m doing this! I’m running a marathon! (checks Garmin) 10:00/mile? I need to slow down or I’m going to burn out WAY too early!
  • Miles 2-8
    • This is quite lovely, if rather cold. I’m not sure why I was thinking this might just be a “one and done” thing. Maybe I’ll go ahead and make an exception for a second one at a “real” event when those are happening again. I mean, I got up to a 22 mile long run in training and didn’t die. This will just be another 4-ish miles on top of that.
  • Miles 9-13.1 aka “The Climb”
    • This sucks. This sucks. This sucks. This sucks. Why are the tops of my feet so sore? That’s a new one. And I’m not even close to the mileage I was making on my training runs yet. Am I doing something weird with my form? I’ve got a bad feeling about this.
  • Miles 13.2-17
    • I know this is supposed to be pretty much all downhill now, but… where the hell are all these inclines coming from??? This still sucks. This still sucks. This still sucks. This still sucks.
  • Miles 18-19
    • These were probably the two most difficult miles, both physically and mentally. My internal monologue said “Eff you… I’m done” and went off to smoke behind the gym, so this was basically two miles of pain and fighting the urge to break into tears for no particular reason. Much walking was done.
  • Miles 20-25
    • Having realized it was in it for the long haul, my internal monologue came back. Mostly in the form of choosing a landmark some distance ahead which I could have a walk break after passing, and chanting the name of that landmark until I got there. “Trash can. Trash can. Trash can.” Or “To the bridge. To the bridge. To the bridge.” Or “Big shadow. Big shadow. Big shadow.” I may have chanted along out loud a nonzero number of times.
  • Miles 26-26.38 (I intentionally overshot my turnaround point by a touch just to be sure my GPS wasn’t playing games with me)
    • Also, resisting the urge to break into tears of joy at the thought of finally getting to stop.
    • Also, also, I was right the first time. I don’t want to do this again.

So, yeah… that’s about how it went. I was hoping for a finish near 5:30:00 but expecting something closer to 6:00:00, and would have been thrilled with anything below six hours. And? My Garmin said 5:28:09, and Zombies, Run! said 5:37:44. The Garmin time is shorter because it auto-paused whenever I had to stop for traffic signals or to refill my water bottles. So that’s my actual moving time. Zombies, Run! is nice to have for the total time though.

When I crossed the finish line I felt terrible and proud at the same time, which I think is pretty standard for this sort of thing.

I’m glad to have this accomplishment under my belt, but these super long distances just aren’t for me. I think the half marathon will be my long run “happy place”. I can knock one of those out in about two and a half hours and be pleasantly tired but not so wasted that I can’t accomplish anything else for the rest of the day – much less being wiped out for the next couple of days.

Mt. Lemmon Half Marathon: Race Report

Saturday morning I completed the Mt. Lemmon Half Marathon. It was everything I’d hoped it would be and more. My only real goal was to beat my first half marathon time from December 2014, which was 2:23:something.

I woke up with my alarm at 3:30 AM, had a quick shower to rinse off the sleep, chugged a cup of coffee, wolfed down a peanut butter filled Clif bar, filled my water bottles, then did a quick check to be sure I had all the gear I’d need before heading out to La Mariposa to park and catch the bus up to the starting area.

Scored the single-seater bench at the back of the bus!

The morning was cool – mid-50s (F) – which was much better than the week before when our lows had been in the low to mid 40s. Turns out that while I didn’t wear as many layers as I would have had it been in the 40s, I still overdressed a bit. The bus ride was largely uneventful – aside from some annoying conversation I couldn’t help but overhear floating across the aisle. Fortunately it was only about a 20 minute drive, then I was able to distance myself from those folks

Sky is getting lighter. Almost time to line up!

The first seven miles or so were super fun, mostly because as Zombies, Run! would rattle off my km times, I knew I was blowing old PRs out of the water. Granted, since the road drops something like 630 feet per mile, I had a major assist from gravity. And I’ll take it.

The last six miles or so were…. mostly just me being ready to be done. The route almost levelled out and there were even a couple of small hills to climb, which were actually a bit of a relief after all that downhill running. Though I did have to walk on the larger ones.

Me and my sweet medal!

Well, I finished. I placed 381st of 776 runners, 148th of 243 men, and 15th of 27 in my age division. So pretty strongly middle of the pack all around. Also, I blew away every single PR I had on record. Here’s the list of my new records:

  • 1 km 0:05:22
  • 1 mile 0:08:45
  • 5 km 0:27:53
  • 10 km 0:58:31
  • 13.1 miles 2:15:05.42

So yeah. I don’t feel like I’m gloating when I say I pretty much killed it. Also, pretty sure I saved the ski lodge from the orphans…. or whatever the heck that After School Special subplot was supposed to be.

And now the part you’ve all been looking for, I’m sure… the official photos!

And now for the part where I don’t repeat the mistake I made after that 2014 half marathon when I didn’t get back into my exercise and food habits after “treating” myself and “resting” for far longer than was really warranted. I’m still pretty stiff and sore now (Monday evening) but I went to the gym for Push Day today and fully intend to do a short run tomorrow. It’ll probably be stiff and slow, but it’ll be a run. Also after a weekend of “I just did awesome in a half marathon!” indulgences, I’ve been getting back into my better food choice patterns today.

So, yeah. That was super fun and I’m glad I did it. Will I do it again next year? I don’t know yet, but chances look pretty good. As always, thanks for reading.

Cinco de Mayo 10k report, Onederland!

So today was the Dr. Gann’s Diet of Hope Cinco de Mayo 10k. I always forget how much of this course is uphill – and how much of that uphill is in the first half. I did pretty well and enjoyed doing the latest Zombies, Run! virtual 10k at the same time. Made it through the first half without any walk breaks, though some of the uphill bits got the better of me on the return leg.

At first, I thought I’d done a new all-time PR. Turns out I remembered my previous PR incorrectly, and actually missed it by a good 6 minutes. But still, this was a new record since getting back into running back in the fall. Gun time was 1:10:33, chip time was 1:09:37. Placed 16th out of 17 in my age group and 313th out of 420, which is about what I expected.

Here are some photos I snapped at the race.

Oh, and here’s another thing that happened this morning:


Yup, that weight starts with a 1. I’ll likely yo-yo back and forth over that line for the next few days (at least), but I’m still taking that win.

Race Report: Old Tucson 4-Mile Trail Run

Coffee up, buttercup. This is going to be a long post.
Coffee up, buttercup. This is going to be a long post.

So this weekend was the Old Tucson Sunrise 4-mile Trail Run.  I signed up for it as a “baby step” between a 5k (3.1 miles) and a 10k (6.2 miles).  Except I somehow managed to not pay attention to the part where this is a trail run.  No wide, smooth, paved paths here.  So I also managed to get my first trail run – ever – in the books this weekend.  Is that a thing I’m interested in continuing?  I don’t know.  I haven’t ruled it out, but it also wasn’t one of those “THIS IS AWESOME AND I HAVE TO DO IT MORE!!!!” experiences.

Anyhoo.  I got there at 7am to secure good parking and get my timing chip.  Then…. I waited.  A lot.  See, because the track is so narrow for the middle two miles, they split this into two separate races by gender.  The ladies went first at 8am, then them men at 9am.  So I tooled around Old Tucson for a while taking selfies and waiting for our turn to run.

Once race time got there, things got awkward.  See, there was also a family 1-mile fun-run at the event, which did the same loop as the first mile of the 4-mile route.  And they did that run along with the men.  So there was lots of dodging around kids, but that’s okay.  At the split-point near the end of the first mile, it was off into the desert along the tracks used by the Old Tucson horseback tours.  Much of it was only wide enough to go single-file and while none of the hills were huge (I’m looking at you, Saguaro National Park East 8-miler and A-Mountain half), there were quite a few of them.  Definitely had to walk a few of the steeper ones.  But I made it through and didn’t biff it, so I’ll call that a win.

I know, I know, get to the results, already.  I finished about where I figured I would.  My personal trackers had me finishing around 43:30, but I also didn’t get to stop them right as I crossed the finish line.  I’m usually pretty good about noticing the big clock at the end of the course, but I just…. didn’t this time.  So from the official results, I actually finished in 42:08.7 for a 10:32/mile pace.  I’m pretty thrilled with that because on most of my runs lately I’ve been just below 12:00/mile.  I finished 168th out of 196 men, and 19th out of 21 in my age group.

Sitting down with coffee and a burrito. Also, TIRED.

After the race, they provided breakfast burritos which were… nothing spectacular but definitely appreciated.  Then we were free to enjoy the park for the rest of the day so I rode the train, went through the haunted mine tour, browsed a few shops which hadn’t been open while I wandered and waited for the race to start, and went home to shower and get lunch.

A finisher is me!
A finisher is me!

Then it was off to Cy’s to have her mom work on my gig vest.  About this time last year, she made us some super fancy clothes for super fancy gigs – which was convenient since we had a super fancy gig coming up.  Unfortunately, that was also when I was at the heaviest I’ve ever been.  We’ve got that same super fancy gig coming up in a couple of weeks, so I figured I should probably try on that vest in case it needed altering since Cy’s mom is in town again.  Yeah… it was a friggin circus tent, but no longer.  She was able to take the vest in by about 12 inches.  I’m excited to have a comparison photo from that gig.

Speaking of the gig and vest, that also meant I needed a new black button-front shirt to wear with said vest to said gig.  So I stopped at the thrift shop on the way home to test my luck.  Grabbed a couple of XL shirts mostly out of habit and… too big.  Tried a couple of Large shirts and wouldn’t you know they were just right!  (Last year, I had to buy a 3XL black shirt for this gig, just for some perspective.)

So then I got home and decided I should probably go through my “too small” bin again.  I tried on item after item and nearly every single one fit.  A few things even went straight into a new “too big” bin.  And my “too small” bin now consists of exactly one tee-shirt and one pair of jeans.  So that felt pretty good.

So that was Sunday.  Saturday was pretty ordinary – gym day, then lots of errands.  Skipped the ParkRun because of Sunday’s race.  (Also, I slept late so didn’t finish at the gym in time to make it to the run.  But I would’ve skipped it anyway.)

Friday was my first meeting with the cookbook club at Bookman’s.  I was really stressing about this because I just didn’t know now to make the logistics of prepping a pot-luck dish in time for it were going to work.  Then I found granola recipe in the featured book and was able to make it a couple of days ahead so Friday I just had to get home, feed the cats, get my stuff together, and get to the book store.  (Also, that granola is good!!!)  They were a lovely group of people, and everyone’s food was delicious.  I’d pretty much talked myself into bailing after this first meeting – largely because of nerves over “new people” combined with stressing over food prep schedule logistics – but I think I’m going to stick it out at least one more month.  Though the next meeting is the same evening as my blacksmithing class, so that may be a challenging schedule.  At least I have lots of time to get to know the cookbook this time around and maybe find another good make-ahead dish.

I think that’s probably more than enough for now. As always, thanks for reading.

Race Report: Jingle Bell Run 5K

So, today was my first legitimate attempt at a race in… four years, I think?  (I signed up for a set of increasingly longer races as a package a couple of years ago in hopes that they’d get me running again.  They didn’t, and I ended up walking all three of those.)

Anyway.  I woke up this morning to find an email from the race organizers letting me know that since the donations I collected added up to more than $100, I was getting VIP status.  That meant access to a closer parking lot, and access to the VIP tent where they had free breakfast and stuff.  So that was cool.  (Thanks, Dad & Jen!)

Running shoes with bells and grass.

Ready to run… with bells on. Literally.

So I go there stupid early because that’s what I do.  Went to the VIP tent and had a coffee, a cookie, and a bit of lemon cake, but passed on the breakfast burritos.  I didn’t want to be too weighed down before running.  Then I pretty much just wandered around aimlessly for the next hour and a half, waiting for the race to start.  I really should find some local running friends or something for these sorts of things.  But that requires talking to strangers.

Wreaths and garland arranged in a suggestive array.

I’m… not sure this greenery placement was thought through. Because I’m 41 going on 13.

The race itself was pretty uneventful.  Course was nice and well-manned.  Pretty much flat.

The goal I’d set for myself was a sub-36:00 5K.  I wasn’t sure whether or not I’d actually make that, but I was pretty confident it would be rather close either direction.  Well, my official time was 35:27! (The monitor at the end said 35:25.4, but the results on the site say otherwise.)  I placed 64th out of 274 finishers, and 10th of 33 in my age group.  Damn straight, I’ll take that!


My chip time is a whole 1.6 seconds faster than my officially recorded time. I’m also noticing that they’ve got my age wrong. I’m not 42 for another week, still. But that’s okay.

Happy with my finish, I headed back to the VIP tent to see if they still had any burritos.  I know waiting until afterward meant they’d likely be out, but I was in luck.  They just had enough fixings for a couple more, so I got my free breakfast burrito.  And enjoyed it immensely.



So there you have it.  My first “legitimate” race attempt in a few years, and I’m happy with the result.  As always, thanks for reading!

I did it!

I did it!

10k race report

10k race today.  This was my first time repeating a race, so going in already knowing the course was a new experience.  I actually did much better than I’d anticipated given I haven’t been running nearly as often or as far as I would have liked in preparation.  Ended up not walking nearly as much as I thought I would need to, which was nice.

I got all excited near the finish when I heard someone shout, “Hurry! If you hurry, you might beat 1:10!”  Sure enough, the clock said 01:09:54.  So I put on an extra burst of energy and crossed the line only seconds after it switched over to 01:10:00.  I was thrilled to have beat last year’s time by almost five minutes!

Then the actual times were eventually posted online.  Gun time 1:15:40.  Chip time 1:14:54.  So 13 seconds slower than last year.  Had I actually paid attention to the recorded time on my phone, I would have realized the finish line clock was off and saved myself a little disappointment (both RunKeeper and Zombies, Run! reported 1:15 and change) but that’s okay.  As unprepared as I felt for this one, I still basically equaled last year’s performance.  And you know what?  I’ll take that.  Hell yeah, I’ll take that.

Placed 449th out of 592 total and 21st out of 22 in my age group for the men.

45th TMC Saguaro National Park Labor Day 8-Miler

So today was the 45th TMC Saguaro National Park Labor Day 8-Miler. I’m feeling pretty drained right now, but I wanted to get this documented while it was still fresh.

The couple of 8 mile runs I’ve done in training clocked in around 1:50:00, so that’s the time I was hoping to get given that the race course is a very hilly loop through Saguaro National Park East and things are relatively flat where I usually run. If I could beat that time by a little bit, even better. I was particularly nervous about this one since I signed up a little late and never did get a chance to go check out the terrain in person before the race. Looking at the elevation map that they sent, I figured I’d be doing pretty well if I finished in under two hours, much less in my 1:50:00 goal. I guess there’s something to be said for adrenaline because my official time was 1:38:54! Placed 540th out of 675, so not nearly as close to the back of the pack as I was expecting, and was 38th of the 39 men in my age group.

And you know what? I’m damn proud of that. Especially when you take into account the fact that I haven’t even been running a full year yet.

The first three miles actually felt really good. I think I tied my current best time for a 5k, which was pretty cool. The fourth and fifth miles sucked rocks. Seriously. Starting at roughly 3.75 miles, the course runs uphill until just past the 5 mile mark without really leveling off and with absolutely no downhill breaks to bring some relief. I managed to not take any walk breaks until around 4.1 miles. After that, I had to walk at least part of every uphill stretch.

I honestly don’t remember much of miles 6-7 aside from cursing under my breath every time I saw the road heading uphill again. Though I did see a former co-worker volunteering at the 6 mile water station, which was kind of cool. By the 8th mile, I was just ready to be done. In some ways, that last mile was the cruelest. The road undulates up and down while meandering through a bunch of curves. The problem is that many of those curves look identical. Each time I was sure I’d be rounding the next corner to see the finish line, I was greeted with another stretch of road that I could have sworn I had just run.

So, yeah. I finished, I didn’t die, and I beat my goal time by more than 10 minutes.

After finishing, I made my way down to the area where they had refreshments available. Downed some chocolate milk, grabbed a couple small bags of goldfish, then found a shady spot to sit down and catch my breath. Now, I don’t know if I hadn’t hydrated enough in the previous days or what, but it took a good 15 minutes or so before I could get back up without starting to black out. That was more than a little unnerving. I eventually made my way across the parking lot to another water station where I was able to drink a bunch of ice cold water, which seemed to help drastically.

I’m feeling much better now. Good enough even to head out for what has become my traditional post-race burger and beer – once I’d had a shower and lazed in front of the TV with a cat in my lap for a bit.

Probably ought to make it an early night tonight. After all, I was up at 4am.

I think my next big goal is a half-marathon in December. What? It’s just 5.1 more miles than I did today. Heh… “Just.”

Oh and for those who are interested in such things, my mile splits according to RunKeeper were: 11:41, 10:32, 11:08, 11:22, 14:32, 11:36, 12:49, 12:39.