Saturday, March 30, 2013

Fast and the Furriest 5k 2013

I am super elated.

A couple weeks ago, I ran the Komen 5k and posted that I was five seconds from my goal of beating 29:00 in a 5k. My hope was that the close call would bode well for today's race, which runs the exact same 5k course. Well...sorry to spoil you so early in the post, but I can now amend that goal to be, "Beat 29:00 in a 5k consistently."

KS came in late Friday night, and we had just enough time to eat dinner and watch some of the FGCU vs. UF basketball game.

KS has a phobia of birds; Archie is helping to cure her through immersion therapy.
This morning, we got to the race with plenty of time to spare. I was wearing my Kayanos with the new arch-support orthotics, and I was a little concerned. They didn't really seem heavy, but I was worried that during a run my legs would notice a difference, no matter how infinitesimal. The heels seemed to be slipping a little, but there was nothing I could do. I tied those babies as tightly as I could and put it out of my mind.

KS and me pre-race...we didn't even match on purpose!
The race seemed smaller this year than last. There were definitely fewer dogs running it. Small races can have their positives and negatives. Most small races are low-tech, lack huge cheering sections, and aren't well-marked. But they can also help to focus you on your own run - as opposed to the runs of the millions of other racers swarming around you.

This case was definitely the latter. We all started off at our own paces, and I was happy when my Nike+ GPS counted the miles accurately according to the course. I had the impression of a lot of people passing me, but my pace was solidly in the low-9s, so I just let it go.

I pushed myself hard today, and I was worried I wouldn't have the energy to sprint the end. When I tried to pick up the pace at the last quarter mile, I felt like I might vomit. (I decided that if I did have to puke, I'd run-and-puke rather than stop and ruin my pace.) I got to that mental place where I was trying to assure myself that if I didn't hit sub-29, I could still do it some other time, and I should be happy just to finish...

But that big, stupid glowing red clock at the end of the race came into focus, and I could clearly make out 28:15, and I knew I was good.

Sweet, sweet success.
I picked the energy back up, grinned, flashed a peace-sign to M (who had finished in 25:56!), and crossed the line in 28:39, completely obliterating my goal.

KS was just behind me, having used me as a way to push herself (that never happens; I'm not used to being ahead of my running buddies), and PR'd by three minutes, finishing in 29:00 flat!

Clearly we were a little delirious from adrenaline when we took this pic.
I placed 6 of 15 in AG this year, which is exactly the same as placing 7 of 17, which I did last year. But I did break my time by almost a full minute, so I'm not complaining in the least.

M placed second in his AG and received a shiny paw medal:

He is super annoyed with me because I yelled at him to pose and everyone there heard and laughed at us.
After the race, we showered up and went out to our MeetUp group for the day, which was kayaking. It was a perfect day for it, sunny but not too hot, with just enough cloud coverage. I even tried paddle boarding, because the water was shallow and calm; I was able to put my fears aside and even stood up this time.

Like a pro.
"Exhausted" doesn't even begin to describe how I feel now, but it's in a good way. We're planning on having a fabulous dinner at Mad Fresh Urban Bistro tonight - it's the only place to bring an out-of-towner for dinner - and maybe crashing the couches for a movie in.

Spring break gave me one final hurrah this weekend; it started with a bang and is ending the same way. Too bad tomorrow I'll have hours of grading to do. That's when the whole "whimper" thing comes into play.


PS: Just for fun, here's a pic of KS and me back in 2005. Gotta love that camera quality.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Orthotics Aren't Just for Grannies

I've seen a lot of friends talking about kale and green smoothies, but I simply don't have the time or the ambition to learn to mask the taste of leafy greens in a smoothie. I don't even have time to make fail-proof smoothies loaded with fruit. Luckily, Tropical Smoothie has come to the rescue.
First of all, anyone who says, "You can't taste the spinach!" is either a liar or isn't putting enough spinach in. Or, a third option, perhaps their tastebuds are broken. Here's the thing: you can taste the spinach (and probably the kale too, but I'm not sure what it tastes like on its own so who knows?), but it's not a bad flavor. There's an earthy, rich taste below the sweetness of the fruit in this smoothie that is definitely discernible as spinach. If you hold the smoothie on your tongue for a moment, you can really pick out the flavors.

That said, it's really a delicious choice. Not only is it healthy and low-calorie, but it also doesn't pack too much wallop in the sweetness department. It's refreshing and thirst-quenching, as a smoothie should be.

Plus, bonus points for drinking something that looks like slime!

Could be pea soup? Who knows?
I know the Naked Juice brand (or whatever it is) offers a "Green Monster" flavor, but they use wheat grass and I'm uncomfortable drinking it due to the whole Celiac thing. (Wheat grass is supposedly gluten free, but I'm not testing that theory.)

I didn't run at all this week other than the four miles I did on Tuesday. After weighing my options regarding leg pain and getting new shoes, the best way to squeeze 150 more miles out of my beloved Kayanos was to get some insoles. As Fit2Run has now opened in my area, I was able to walk on in, get my foot pressure tested, and be fitted for some orthotics that would do just that.

Pricey, but cheap than new shoes.
I could immediately tell a difference when I put them in my shoes. My feet felt more supported and the cushiony spring I've been missing in the Kayanos was back. They don't make the shoes feel too much heavier, so I'm hoping I don't notice a huge difference in that during the race tomorrow.

Apparently I have high arches; my right arch is higher than my left.

They also noticed the ridiculously awkward way I had my shoes laced - half parallel, half standard criss-cross - and showed me how to completely skip the eyelets where the laces tend to hurt the top of my foot.

Nice open space where my foot tends to feel bruised.
Archie and I spent the last day of spring break lying by the pool. KS comes in tonight, so I should probably get some grading done...and I really might...eventually.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Next Year in Jerusalem

I really like running on holidays. There's something about it that really helps to focus me, while at the same time giving me something to reflect on during the run. My Christmas morning run was perfect, serene, and life-affirming, a perfect example of what a holiday run can be.

Passover began Monday evening, but it wasn't really a good day for a run. While I am on spring break, I was planning for the Seder all day, and we had our running group the next evening with six miles planned. On top of all that, I've been having some pain in my left hip/buttocks that I'm almost positive is shoe-related. I needed to take Monday off and do my Passover run Tuesday. Luckily, the holiday lasts a full week, so it's hardly cheating.

Seder was special this year. My brother Z moved back from Colorado and was in town just in time to celebrate. S came up from school, my parents drove in, and M and I hosted a family-focused Seder.

Something else made this an especially important year for me. My dad's mom passed away this week, and I was reflecting heavily on the fact that her family line is where our Judaism comes from. It meant so much to have everyone back in town on the heels of receiving that news.

This was the first year I got to use my Grandma's (mom's mom) Waterford crystal that she gave us for our wedding.
The family milling about in the background and taking many cell phones can you count?
Passover is a holiday of remembrance, of celebrating freedom, and of accepting responsibility for all people who still fight under the hand of an oppressor. It's probably the holiday that I identify with most and find the most relevant to our world today.

Even Archie got in on the celebration...he really enjoys his matzo.
We were too quick for my camera! The flourless chocolate cake was half-gone by the time I snapped this pic.
The run today was a good way to celebrate freedom from bondage. I chose to only run four miles today because of my hip and the race on Saturday. (I feel like an actual mature runner, keeping my injuries in mind!) AP was there, but I ran the majority of it alone, and that was fine. Bright sun, strong wind, 59-degrees, and a peaceful run was just what I needed. I hated every step today, but I'm grateful for the ability to run, the time I have to dedicate to things I love, the people I can share it with, and the freedom it affords my mind.

How can I run this path and not feel totally at peace?
I layered my socks again...but you can barely tell! Talk about matching!
 On a final note, I was talking to KS about the race on Saturday and this really cracked me up:

She thinks an inter-coastal bridge is small for me! Who am I, Superwoman?!
I'm looking forward to a PR Saturday, so here's hoping ice, foam-rolling, ibuprofen, and lots of stretches help get me in tip-top shape. I'm thinking I won't run again this week until the race.

The sacrifices we make for the sport, eh?


Friday, March 22, 2013

Welcome to Spring!

A good meal post-run really adds to the satisfaction that said run brings. But before I get to our fabulous Friday-night-start-of-spring-break meal, a brief recount of this week is in order.

Our Tuesday running group did five miles. It's the first time I've done such a long run since the half in January, and it felt good - but also slow and a bit painful. AP was there, and she ran the entire thing! For someone who's only just begun running (I think Tuesday was her third or fourth time), that's quite an accomplishment. Because I haven't done a long run in awhile, I was happy to go slow and steady, and we had a nice time.

The post-run glow is dripping all over us...It was 75 and sunny the entire run.
I know M loves me because he lets me wipe my sweat on him post-run. Oh, and he waits for me at the end with water ready to go.
I took two days off to recover, and tonight a college buddy came to hang out and crash with us before he heads back home tomorrow. I finally measured the loop around the lake at our local park at .3 miles, and decided it was a good place to start my speed-work. I convinced the boys to play some games while I did a short workout.

Nothing like a little corn-hole to start the weekend.
As pretty as the lake path is, it gets a bit redundant, as loops are wont to do.

Not even much wildlife out here today to stop and photograph...I did see a branch that I thought was a heron though.

I tried my compression socks + padded Thorlos and was 100% pleased with the results. No sore arches!
After the run and a quick shower, we brought AO to our new favorite restaurant, Mad Fresh Urban Bistro. We were lucky they sat us; it's an intimate little place with limited space, and they had a pretty big party in the back that was taking priority. But we sat at the bar - which is really the best place to sit if you want a view of the chef at work and some friendly conversation with the servers (one of the perks of this restaurant is that they take the time to get to know you and remember you!) - and were served in no time.

Chef Xavier doing his thing.
As usual, the food was perfection. We love how unique and tasty everything is here; it's pretty incredible to find such eclectic, superb, and authentic food - the kind of thing you'd find in a big city or abroad - here in our little city.
I had the beet salad...bacon, goat cheese, red peppers, artichoke...indescribable.
M and AO enjoyed their flatbreads with a couple beers.
The menu literally states that the chef reserves the right to deny ketchup to anyone over 10. The truffle fries are fantastic.
Overall, a completely enjoyable and welcome beginning to spring break. I hope the rest of it proves to be as relaxing and busy. We have Passover, a visit from KS, and a race to look forward to!

I selected this post to be featured on Running Blogs. Please visit the site and vote for my blog!

Monday, March 18, 2013

I'm Not Crying, I'm Just Allergic to Compassion

I couldn't read this article and not share my reaction to it.

Running, as I've mentioned before, is a sport unlike any other. The competition is with yourself; those you race against are both your competitors and your teammates. Runners form a tribe that both encourages and goads, forcing everyone to give her best. And whether your best is a 14-minute-mile or a 6-minute-mile, if you've put your all into it, that's something to be proud of.

All runners get that. When I volunteered at the Cops and Joggers 5k late last fall, I was choked up as faster runners finished the race, then went back out onto the course to encourage others and help motivate them to the finish line.

It's one reason I love racing with K, because as fast as she is compared to me, I never feel left behind because she's there at the end, cheering louder than anyone else.

So when I read the article about a marathoner who nearly collapsed at the end of the race, only to be caught and carried to the finish line by a fellow runner, I couldn't stem my tears. (Read it, read it, read it. It will make your day.)

To stop your own race, at mile 26, to help a fellow runner succeed...that is true class right there.
Running is a beautiful sport. The most important competition is with ourselves, and the understanding we runners have for each others' struggles is what gives races a depth beyond - I think - any other sporting event. We have all faced a hard race, a bad run, an injury, a mental block.

You will see, time and again, runners sacrificing a personal victory to help another runner be a victor as well. Take the Olympic trials this year, when Ashton Eaton clinched the World Record for the Decathalon because Curtis Beach saw the moment for what it was, and waved him to the finish line, sacrificing his own win for a bigger victory for the running world.

You can see the moment below (around 1:00 if you don't want to watch the whole thing), and read about it here.

The article at hand today showed me once again that fellow runners are the best friends you could ask for, because they have been in the trenches, and they want to see success for anybody crazy enough to fall in love with this sport. What a heartwarming, moving reminder. I am so grateful to be part of this crazy family.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Reflection On the Off Season

Over the last few weeks, really since my break from running, I've been enjoying a lighter schedule. I'm running no more than three times a week, keeping my runs short, and running in the evenings. All of these things are in keeping with an "off season" mentality.

As much as I liked morning training when I had a hefty goal in mind, I'm liking this whole rest-heavy thing I have going on. With only three runs a week, my longest scheduled race a 10k, and extra time to sleep in the morning, I'm finally feeling like myself again. I'm feeling happier and less stressed. Running is fun again; none of the runs feel like a chore, or just another check-mark on a training plan.

Three shorter runs a week definitely beats the alternative.
I'm not in the best running shape ever, but I'm maintaining, and focusing on short distances and fundamentals - like negative splits - has helped me to improve my pace. All in all, as the first full year of real training slips further into the past, I now can reflect on what an off season should be. And I'm loving every minute of it.

Despite having my new phone, I haven't gotten any on-the-run pictures yet. I'm not yet at a place where I want to pause in the middle of a run to take photos.

Lats night I did a short, nice run around the park with AP. Although I felt like the run was slow, the pace was still sub-10, even with a walk break. So clearly I'm making progress. I'm glad to have sucked another person into running! (I will be running this week with both the iPod Nano + chip and the Nike+ GPS at the same time, to check the accuracy of the GPS.)

Afterwards we went out for dinner and drinks, and we let M come along so he wouldn't starve. I know chocolate milk is good for recovering muscles; what's the word on chocolate martinis?

Mood lifter, muscle relaxer, muscle healer?
I've been doing my exercises religiously, and I'm seeing a big difference in my core. The swaying bridge is my new favorite.

The weekend has been fun, but it's slipped past me. I'm so glad spring break is right around the corner!


Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Best Thing

My classroom is where I proudly display my medals. While my bibs are "stored" in a pile on my bedside table, I make sure to hang my medals near my "about me" poster:

It's March and kids are still noticing this for the first time. They're not very observant.
This is a good storage place because it keeps me motivated. But today the best thing happened, and I realized that all my talk about running and displaying my running swag is having a deeper impact than I could have ever guessed.

Last week the kids wrote memoirs about a single life-changing event. I wrote one as an example and shared it. Of course, it was about running. (I'll post it here when I remember to bring it home.)

Today, three girls stayed after class. I assumed they had questions about their upcoming research paper. But no! I was surprised to learn their question was much more meaningful.

"We all have the same question. How did you get into running? We want to start."

I could not keep the grin off my face, and I'm pretty sure I clapped/squealed a little. I told them that I was driven to run by a desperation to have some freedom during grad school, that at first I hated it, but that sticking with it eventually brought on the best kind of addiction. I gave them some simple interval advice, and then had to send them off to their next class.

I hope if they have more questions, they come to me. I'd be happy to help, given the time. More than anything, this really made my day today. Sometimes, they actually listen, and they really can be full of surprises.


PS: I have stepped into the 21st century and have finally gotten an iPhone! This means running with Nike+ GPS instead of the shoe chip, taking pictures on the run, and having the added safety of actually having a phone on me while I'm running alone. So exciting!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Old and New Collide

As much as AP may have hated me during our run at the 6-weeks-to-6-miles group, I was so glad she came! She texted me in the morning to check and see if I was still going; sure enough she really had gone out and bought new running shoes and was planning to join.

AP (pink shirt) and me (blue singlet) on our warm up lap.
I was seriously exuberant! It's so nice to have an old friend nearby, especially if she's going to be interested (semi-interested, even) in running. In fact, it's just nice to have another girlfriend to hang out with.

The road ahead...tree-lined and beautiful.
We've already decided to try to get together Saturday evening for a nice run and dinner.

Also, props to her because she hasn't run since high school or something like that, and she did nearly the entire four miles we ran today.

It was a pretty overcast evening. I felt sore and my legs were really heavy, maybe from the race on Saturday, but I was happy to be back to the four mile distance. My pace didn't suffer too much today, either. Next week we'll be doing five, so if I run Thursday I think I'll need to keep it at four.

Some of the group hanging out after the run.
One of M's paddling friends struck a deal with him that I had nothing to do with. She'll teach me to paddleboard if I teach her to run. She came out tonight and was great, so I don't think she really needs my help, and I'm petrified of the water, so we'll see where this goes.

Happy Tuesday, everyone!


Monday, March 11, 2013

Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5k

Saturday's race was a whole new experience. I've run races alone before, but it's been awhile, and I've always had at least one cheerleader at the end. But Friday M was working on my sister's car all day and night and was too exhausted to come to the race. (When I woke up at 6:30 to start getting ready, he was just finishing up and cleaning the garage. Talk about dedication!)

The race started a bit later this year, which was fine by me. It meant a chance to sleep in! And, because I've run this race before, I knew what to expect with getting there and finding parking, etc. I had my race packet already, and I didn't need to get to the venue as early as I would have in the past. This year, I remembered to run in memory of M's grandma, who passed away from breast cancer when M was in 8th grade.

I loved my bright neon for the race, but it was WAY too early/bright for a look at my face.
I don't know if wearing her name is what did it, but I was really emotional at the opening ceremonies this year.

My students tend to do the fun-run/walk for this race, and sure enough I passed a group of them on my way to the start line. It's always nice to see them involved in a good cause, up early on the weekends, and participating in an event like this. After chatting with the students, I went and did a warmup lap, about a quarter mile at a nice slow pace, and then did my stretches.

It was cold in the morning, but by the time the race began at 8:15, it was in the mid-60s and sunny. I was a little warm at certain times in the race; I really need to remember that I heat up really quickly, no matter how cold a run starts.

Anyway, I took it easy (or so I thought) in the first kilometer or so, then began to boost up my speed. I didn't worry about keeping pace with anyone or avoiding being passed; I just was true to myself. Being so familiar with the course was very helpful. I knew exactly where I usually tired out and was able to power through; I knew the upcoming turns and when we were nearing the end. Because there were no surprises, I was able to crank up my speed earlier than usual, and finished with a PR!

This is bittersweet, though. I really sprinted the end because I saw the clock was at 28:50, and my goal for 2013 is to break 29 in a 5k. But by the time I crossed, the clock read 29:07; my official adjusted time was 29:04. So I missed my goal by 5 seconds! At first this was discouraging, because if I had just kept my pace up in mile 2 I would have gotten it. But as a runner-friend pointed out later, being that close to my goal shows that I have some pretty crazy self-awareness going on, and I'm on target to meet the goal this year.

My stats ended up as: Adjusted time: 29:04; Adjusted place: 279/576 overall; Age group: 13/36; Female overall: 110/326.

Not too shabby at all! (The Fast and the Furriest race at the end of March runs on this same course, so I'm hoping that will be the one that brings me in under 29.)

I had a baby shower to go to post-race, so I didn't hang out long. BG has been a best friend since middle school, a bridesmaid of mine, and a runner. She's going to eventually write a guest post here about her half marathon in Africa, but obviously she has things on her mind right now other than writing.

Don't let that glow fool you...she is definitely ready to not be pregnant anymore lol
My sister and mom were at the baby shower, as well as other friends from the good ol' days. It was nice to reconnect, especially as I discovered one such friend lives in my neck of the woods! Small world! I'm looking forward to seeing more of her. She had been invited to "this running club on Tuesdays" but doesn't run; turns out it's the same group M and I go to (6 weeks to 6 miles), and I urged her to come along, so I hope to see her this week.

We three clean up pretty nicely.

Me, BG, and AP, who will hopefully make an appearance at the running group this week!
That evening, we went to dinner for M's dad's 60th birthday.

It's not a party-worthy picture if it's not dark and blurry!
What a packed and excellent weekend this was! I'm enjoying being busy, but I'm woefully behind on school work. Is it spring break yet?


Friday, March 8, 2013

Sticker Overload

There is seriously nothing better than winter and early spring in Florida. There's a route I really love running, a lovely loop with a nice sidewalk and quiet streets. Being on the back curve of this loop just brings an immediate sense of serenity. The curve feeds out onto a busy, well-lit road that feeds a straight shot back to the starting point. Basically, it's a perfect 2-miler with a relaxed first mile and a heart-pounding finish.

The perfect loop.
The bad thing about it, though, is that the back curve of the circle is unlit. Running this loop means running in daylight, and of course that means running in heat. But! Ah, we've had a bit of a late cold spell, and yesterday evening the sun was up and it was 62. I was excited to have a short, slow run before my race tomorrow. It's only a 5k, a course I've run before and really enjoy. I'm still recovering from whatever sinus bug I had, so this lovely short loop was just what I needed.

By the time I got out there, it was 7pm. The sun was just about down but there was plenty of blue sky and pre-dusk light. The run felt wonderful, and although I tried to keep it slow, I ended up running it way below my usual pace. With negative splits! By the time I was on the main road, it was full dark and I was happy to be bathed in the light of the streetlamps. It was a perfect run.

So, needless to say I was happy. I'm looking forward to a fun race tomorrow.

To finish up, just a quick funny picture. Mind the bad quality - no smart phone, of course, and I was taking this in bright sunlight from my car, so I had to darken it a bit so you can see what I was seeing, and it's still nearly impossible. I wish I had an iPhone...

2nd "13.1" and TRI sticker not shown because I cropped the license plate.
I mean, really. I love race stickers; I have a 13.1 sticker myself. But do we need multiples? This car had a TRI sticker and two each of the 26.2 and 13.1. Oh well, whatever floats your boat! Soldier on, Corolla.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

So Far This Week

If there is one reason I need a smartphone, it's to take pictures on the run.

Last night M and I met up with the 6 Weeks to 6 Miles group I mentioned last week, and on the way I gave him one, one, directive.

"You'll have to take some pics of the run for me for my blog."

He didn't even complain. He was totally fine with that. But by the time we finished our 3-miler, complete with chatty friends and distracting scenery, we were photoless. M had completely forgotten to take even one picture, and I had forgotten to remind him.

So this is all I've got:

Post-run leg-shot. Super.
I'm really enjoying this group. It's very much about going at your own pace and just focusing on the basics. The people are friendly, and the accountability is keeping us going. One of the girls I cooled down alongside is a physical therapist opening a practice nearby with focus on sauna, dry heat, and athletic massage. Sign me up!

The "coach" this week is someone M and I have met before, and he and I got to talking about the route. It's a nice little sidewalk along a main road, but it's beautifully paved and tree-lined. The entire loop is six miles, and as we got to talking, I mentioned that I was looking for trails and new paths to run. He had the most brilliant idea ever: go to a bike shop and get a free trail map. Genius! I'm really excited to do this.

Also, apparently my favorite running store, Fit2Run, has opened a location right near me! Before, I could only shop there when I visited my parents. I am so excited...I'm tempted to look for work there just for the chance to be surrounded by running paraphernalia all day!

The running group meets about half an hour from us, and on the drive home we often take the chance to stop at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods, since they're on the way and we don't get a chance to go otherwise. I was very excited to pick up some of my favorite-but-hard-to-find brands, and some new products. I miss Pop Tarts so much; I have no clue why. These new Glutino toaster pastries are AMAZING.

Schar is one of the BEST GF brands out there, and these "pop tarts" are flaky and just sweet enough. Perfect!
I have been looking for GF Pop Tarts since college at least. I'm so glad I won't need to experiment with baking them from scratch unless I want to. I can't tell you why I've wanted these; maybe the convenience. But I had one of each flavor for breakfast this morning because I've been too congested to have milk, and they were just what the doctor ordered.

(Someday I'll do a post on being gluten free...someday.)

Speaking of doctor's orders, I've been battling a nasty bug for the last couple days. I took Monday off work, wracked with teacher-guilt the entire time, but I just couldn't breathe well enough to teach. I finally started coughing junk up Monday night, and was well enough to run Tuesday evening, so hopefully I'll be 100% by the Komen race on Saturday, followed by a baby shower for one of my best friends! (My first middle school friend and bridesmaid to procreate! Very exciting!)

This is shaping up to be a pretty good week.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Volunteering - Hooters to Hooters

I've never experienced a race that moved me to tears at the finish line. Even the races that left me completely elated - or completely devastated - haven't really gotten the waterworks going. But something about volunteering chokes me up. Watching people struggle and overcome in a way I myself have before is profoundly awesome.

Standing in 43-degrees - luckily the rain had stopped by the time the race began - ringing a cowbell and telling runner after runner, "You look great!", "Looking strong!", "Keep it up!", "Great job!", I had to compose myself multiple times.

Just before the runners showed up, clutching my cowbell to keep me warm. If you look closely, you can see my ear muffs.
There is something truly moving about watching runners of all calibers and abilities push themselves to the limit. From the moment we saw the first runner coming in, accompanied by a policeman on motorcycle, to the last runner keeping with the sweeps car, I was filled with joy and a warm feeling of solidarity that overcame the cold of the day.

Our friend SP nearing the end, still looking cheery!
The first half-dozen racers were men, and I cheered like crazy for the first woman to cross our mile. (M and I were at 5.5.) I saw runners in jerseys for groups I belong to; I saw children; I saw at least four friends that I had time to call out to; I saw old and young alike; people running together in matching outfits; runners of all shapes and sizes...Basically, I saw the runners I always see, racing by, smiles on their faces. Some thanked us. Some gave us high-fives. It was an incredibly rewarding experience.

Bagpiper playing in the runners at mile 12.8.
Because this was the Hooters Half, one of the women cheering near our mark was holding a sign of a torso, nipples covered in bandaids, that said SHOW US YOUR HOOTERS! Multiple people, despite the cold, really did flash us! Not surprisingly, most of those flashers were men. It was hilarious. We worked with a police officer to block traffic. My nifty orange vest made me feel all kinds of official.

By the end, I was so warmed up from hopping around and shouting that I barely felt the cold. Like the last time I volunteered at a race, I felt energized and excited to run. It was definitely worth the 5:30 wake-up.

Servers from Hooters handed out the medals. I love these track suits!
The bottom line here is that volunteering at a race is a worthwhile experience if you like to run races yourself. Races can't happen without volunteers. Seeing the other side of things helps you gain an appreciation for the work that goes into any race day, no matter how big or small the race. Plus, seeing all those runners tearing up the course serves up a good dose of personal motivation and inspiration.

Perhaps the best part of all this was that M, who had no interest in volunteering and wanted a chance to sleep in, got up and came with me. That's true support and love right there. I'm paying him back in waffles.