Sunday, October 30, 2016

'Soup'er Hero "5k"

Let me start by saying that this 5k was actually 4.3k (2.66 miles), so my "23:53" finishing time is impressive, but not that impressive. This was a first annual race, so I'm giving them a pass on the short course.
I arrived at GCTC around 6:50 and texted Jenn to let her know I had arrived, and it turned out I had parked right next to her!
We already had our bibs because Ashley had picked up everyone's early and delivered them to school. There were a whole bunch of us teachers running: Jenn, Tubbs, Ashley, Kasey, Michelle, and Shelagh. Kasey, Jenn and I made our way to the staging area and the bathrooms, where we ran into everyone else. We hung out and took some pre-race photos until it was time to start.
All of us! Hero teachers!
Shelagh photobombed my pre-race lineup pic!
Michelle and I were both in our lioness skirts! After the race she told me she was buying it in the Safari print. I don't blame her; it's so cute.
Because this race was fairly small, I ended up starting right at the very front of the line! Talk about nerve-wracking. Luckily, that didn't last long. Within the first few seconds of the race, a handful of people had passed me and I was able to let up on the pedal a bit and find a good cruising pace.
Can you spot me awkwardly waving at the cameraman?
I hadn't run in over a week and was a bit worried about my stamina for this race, but everything felt good. The day was cool (73) and overcast. There was some gusty wind that made it hard to breathe at some points, but mostly I felt good.

The course took us weaving through an outdoor mall's parking lot, and while I ran up one of the lanes around mile 1.5, I caught sight of Jenn, Kasey, and Tubbs. I shouted at them but they didn't hear. Around mile 2, I could see the finish on the other end of the parking lot and knew the course would be short, but I wasn't sure how short.
I'm not sure at what point in the race this was, but I look like a confused T-Rex.
At that point, I began to feel my pace waning, but I knew I was still toward the front and wanted to try to keep pushing it. Around mile 2.4, Shelagh caught up with me (she'd been running with her daughter) and passed me. Then her daughter did. I finished just behind her.

I got a water then headed back onto the course to find the others. I found Jenn and Kasey just where Shelagh had first passed me, and I ran with them back to the finish and peeled off in time to get finishing pictures for them. Then, I went back and found Ashley, Michelle, and Tubbs.
Jenn and Kasey finishing.
Tubbs crossing the line while Ashley and Michelle cheer on the other side!
Shelagh's daughter had followed back out onto the course, and she called to Tubbs to "run with her heart" and that seemed to really perk her up.

After the race, we hung out to see results and bask in our accomplishments. I ran into Mari, who you may remember from Ragnar and various other races. I saw her at Sanibel, too, and it's been nice to bump into her at races lately.
Mari led the race for a little while; she ended up placing 4th in our AG.
Shelagh placed first in her AG, and her daughter placed second in hers! I placed 8/43 AG and 21/168 OA. For a race that was short and that I ran for fun after some time off, I'm perfectly happy with that.
My splits. I've officially given up on Nike+ and am getting used to wearing my Forerunner and using GarminConnect.
It was such an awesome experience to run this race with so many teacher friends, three of whom had never run a race before. They were really proud of themselves and so ready to find another! I was disappointed with the short course, but overjoyed with the experience and atmosphere.
If they fix the course next year to make it a real 5k, I'll probably be back.

Have you ever dressed in a costume for a race?
Do short courses bother you?


Friday, October 28, 2016

Friday...Seven? & A Race Discount

I don't know what the linkup "theme" is this week so I'm not linking up. But I finally caught up on as many blog posts as I could and I just wanted to write a little something before I return to my regularly scheduled posts. (That means I won't have a "weekly recap" on Sunday because I literally have not run this week.)

1. Let's start there. I literally have not run since the Tuesday before we left for Chattanooga. We were so busy while there that I just couldn't be bothered; I was there to cheer on Matt, not get my run on. After the 10 hour drive home, I've been so sore and tired I just want to rest.
We did climb Rock City the day after the race, so that kind of counts as a workout.
This video shows Matt, me, and Quack making our way through "fat man squeeze", a super narrow rock tunnel.

Volleyball has started this week, so I'm getting my "workouts" in that way. My upper body is in so much pain!

2. That said, Saturday I have a 5k that I plan to run for fun and to support my colleagues who are running it. As I mentioned before, this is their first race ever and I just want to enjoy it with them!

3. It's avocado season! Our tree is dropping avocados like crazy. Last night I made curry and topped it with some slices. We have so many we have to give them away or they'll go bad; even refrigerating them doesn't help because we have about a dozen a day to go through!
Florida avocados are huge and flavorful; they're basically twice the size of the Haas variety.
4. Matt does not understand what "rest and recovery" means. We got home Monday from Chattanooga and he went out for a paddle on Tuesday and Wednesday.
I don't know, this is just an excuse to post more pictures of us from Rock City.
5. I voted! Mailing in my ballot was a lot less fun than going to the polls but at least I know that even if volleyball goes late on November 8, my vote has been counted!
6. Kristina and I were chatting about A1A a few weeks ago. I wanted to run it with Elizabeth but the price and travel factors were deterrents. Still, we considered it. I love it so much that to me, the cost is totally worth it; you get what you pay for. Kristina messaged me to make me aware of a 20% off code they were offering, and then just this Thursday she hooked me up with a comped race admission in exchange for a blog post about the race! I mean, I can't say no to that.
You guys know I was disappointed to miss this race because I've run it twice now and have loved it both times; I'm so glad I can run it again this year!
So I plan to pay half of Elizabeth's race entry (as a birthday gift to her - she and I share a birthday!) and that way we can both run it. I also have a code to share with all of you for 15% off (once the 20% deal ends this week), so if you're in Fort Lauderdale in February and want to run an amazing 5k, half, or full, use ALI at checkout!

7. Matt put together a surfing video when hurricane Hermine was bringing in some fun waves a few months ago. He entered that video into a film festival and was chosen as a finalist!
His film will be shown on the big screen at a real movie theatre and he has a chance to win $1000. We'll dress up and walk the red carpet. Seriously, how many talents can one person have?!

So that's life after Chattajack. What's new with you?


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Chattajack Recap 2016

This took me longer to write than my own race recaps! I just wanted to do it justice; this was truly the hardest race Matt's ever completed. He is a BEAST.

I've said it before and those of you who have run a marathon know it's true: 26.2 miles is a long way and a lot can go wrong over the course of that mileage.

So when you're talking 32 miles on the water, you know that holds true...tenfold.
For those of you who weren't reading here last year, Chattajack is a 31-mile standup paddle board race in Chattanooga, TN. (Because of the currents etc, the race is really 31-33 miles. This year Matt's GPS clocked in at 32.) Matt completed it for the first time last year and totally loved it; last year they didn't have much current but they did have mild, beautiful weather. He finished well ahead of his goal.
An aerial photo of the racers on the river this year.
This year, not so much. As we drove into Chattanooga on Thursday night, we were greeted with gentle rainfall that welcomed in the weekend's cold front and gusty wind. By race morning, it was 48 degrees and the wind was gusting at 20+ mph.
This Floridian was NOT READY.
Still, Matt was ready to go. We were staying at our friend Quack's house this year, and we had my car so I was able to plan to meet Matt along the course much more easily. Friday evening, we went to the sign-in at Ross's Landing, where the race would start Saturday morning.
I noticed quite a few bibs still hadn't been picked up when we arrived and commented that there may have been a few racers who had chosen to drop out due to weather. Matt prepped his board before checking it in.
This year, alongside the course map, he taped a photo of himself and Nana for extra inspiration. Then we drove around to the places I'd plan to meet him along the route.
In line for packet pickup.
We had sushi for dinner and then turned in for the night. Saturday morning was upon us before we knew it! The safety meeting was scheduled for 7:30am, so we left the house around 6:30 to arrive at 7. It was freezing. What would have been a brisk, clear morning was made brutal by the gusting wind.

Matt opted to race in the 12'6" division this year; there were fewer men in that division and that meant fewer people to draft off of. Matt had used social media pre-race to find people to draft, and spent some time race morning frantically looking for the one guy he thought he'd want to draft with. No luck.
Matt prepping his board (in the foreground) under the spotlights before sunrise.

Cold, but humoring me with a photo.
(Spoiler alert: he did eventually find Jeremy Whitted on the water and drafted him for the first three miles before making a slight mistake; he couldn't get back into his draft and then before he knew it, Jeremy was gone! He went on to win first place in the division.)
Like last year, a band (including the race director on guitar) playing Led Zeppelin's Kashmir urged the racers out to the starting line. Without much ado, the race began!
This is like playing Where's Waldo! Below is a better picture of Matt's pre-race-face.

This year, I was very prepared for my job as Sherpa! I hopped into my car and made my way toward mile 10.7, the Suck Creek Boat Ramp. I stopped at a gas station for a bathroom break, to grab a coffee, and to fill my tires. Prepped and ready, I made it to the first viewing point well ahead of schedule.
This draft train was cool - there was 8 guys or so in it! Matt wasn't one of them though because they're on 14' boards.
Last year I missed Matt at this point, so I was really glad when he finally rounded the bend and I was able to scream at him from my spot on the ramp. (I was concerned he wouldn't hear me from the more distant viewing points but he told me afterward that he heard me each time!)
Matt is that tiny speck!
At this first point, Matt was on his own. The wind hadn't quite picked up to the point of whitecaps, but the river was choppy. I was really nervous to see that he wasn't drafting anyone.
Mile 10.7: Suck Creek. He's still smiling at this point!
Off I drove to the second spot, mile 19: Raccoon Mountain. This was a great spot because I was able to go down onto a pier and be very close. There were a few different places to park and see the racers, and I wanted to get as close as possible.
The view at Raccoon Mountain.
RIGHT on the water! I don't know why more spectators didn't climb down to the pier.
At this point in the day the wind was really strong. The racers passing me looked to be standing still at some points, and they were struggling. Spray was coming up off the water and the chop was erratic. The sun felt good but the wind was slicing through me.

Finally, Matt appeared, and he had a friend in tow! A fellow 12'6"er, Karl, had caught up to him around mile 16 and they had formed a little draft train. I was able to call out to him and get photos; then I ran up the embankment, jumped in my car, sped down the road a few hundred meters, and hopped back out to cheer him on again just as he passed by the second viewing spot.
I was so tempted to yell, "I love you!" but felt silly doing it. I told him instead, "See you at Sullivan's Landing!"
The next place along the route was mile 24. At this point Quack joined me. This spot was again very far from the racers, but I borrowed some binoculars when I thought Matt was close based on the Find-My-Friends app and was able to see that he and Karl were still trucking along. I screamed across the water: "GO MATT GO! SEE YOU AT THE FINISH!" (I asked, "Do you think he heard me?" and Quack responded, "I think the entire valley heard you!" A couple older ladies waiting for their husbands seemed jealous of my lung capacity.)
You can just barely see Matt and Karl across the water.
A paddler who had been out for a leisurely paddle that morning told us that the conditions were very hard. She knew a few racers who had DNS'd and said she was sure there were going to be a few DNFs, too.

Matt's cousin Nikki texted that she was at the finish, and I gave her a rough estimate of Matt's finishing time. Then Quack and I went to meet her at mile 31 (32): Hale's Bar.

This was when things got hairy. The wind, which had been bad the entire morning, was whipping around us and the finish line sprint, which goes alongside the pier, was full of choppy waves and currents going in all different directions. As racers began to come in, we noticed how hard it was for them to stay upright. Matt's estimated finish time came and went, and he was nowhere in sight. I had no service at the pier, so I couldn't check on where he was.

All I knew was that he was really late, and I was getting scared.

When he finally came around the last corner and into the final sprint, he fell off his board. Matt never falls. I was so worried; I knew if he felt fine but had fallen he'd be pissed, but I was sure something was wrong. Matt doesn't fall.
Post-fall, soaking wet and just ready to be done.
He tried to get on his board and fell again.

I ran down the pier and encouraged him. He was back up and just single-mindedly paddling to the finish - not fast, not sprinting, but steadily.
The race organizers wouldn't let me run all the way down because they said the end of the pier was in bad shape for spectators, so I stood and watched him as he finished, sat down, and immediately went to eat something. I thought I was going to cry; I just wanted to be near him and see how he was.

Finally, he looked up. I waved at him. He waved back.

He made his way over to us and I could see he was shaking uncontrollably. He was soaking wet and the wind hadn't died down at all. His fingers weren't quite working as he tried to remove his bib, open his chocolate milk, etc.
Slowly recovering.
I went into caretaker mode. Get him out of the water. Get a sweater on him. Get socks and shoes on him. Get him to the car and blast him with hot air.

Quack and Nikki's husband Robert carried his board back to the car and I put an arm around his waist and literally held him upright and pushed him forward as we made our way back to the car. We wrapped him in his towel and as many dry shirts as we could.
We managed a cheer-team picture before we loaded him into the car.
During the drive back to Quack's, I blasted the heat and felt like I was in a hot-yoga class.

He fell asleep on the short drive back. He wouldn't stop shivering.

Luckily, once he had a hot shower and we got some food in him, he seemed to recover. But this was honestly the scariest moment of my married life. I really thought he was hypothermic. (We learned later than at least one racer had been rescued from a bank after he had rolled his surf-ski and was too cold and weak to continue - he was pre-hypothermic.)
Warm, dry clothes and a burrito...this is post-race heaven.
So. This was all a crazy adventure, but it wasn't over. We left for the award ceremony and celebration. Matt got a complimentary massage while I sought out his results.
He finished in 6:26 (compared to last year's 5:40 - he realistically thought he'd come in around 5:15 this year) and 3rd in his division. So at least all the pain and struggle paid off! In his division, 9 racers either DNS or DNF. As it turned out, only 356 started the race even though 500+ signed up (remember this unclaimed bibs way back at the beginning of this post?); 310 finished. Quite a few didn't make the 8.5 hour cutoff time. (We saw on the race's Facebook page that one racer took 10 hours to finish, but they were determined to get it done despite the conditions.)
Waiting for awards to be announced.
At the ceremony, the race director talked about how it's important to do what's safe for you, and if that means you DNF, that's okay. Because of how the river curves, the wind was rarely at the racers' backs; it was basically a wind tunnel of headwind.
Here's the beginning of the post-race newsletter. The Facebook page is fully of hilarious "I-survived-Chattajack-2016" stories.
The course is a WPA certified course and as such, racers can only go to their knees for 5 strokes or else they're DQ'd; they can also only draft racers in the same board division, which is why Matt wasn't in a draft train for some of the race. (Matt and Karl stuck together until Matt's legs started to give out from constantly trying to balance and fight the waves and wind, around mile 28. He told me he fell just before I saw him turn into the finish, about half a mile out, and at that point he knew he was just cooked. He legs were "mush.")
Jeremy, Karl, and Matt!
Anyway, the director made it clear that those who weren't in contention to podium and "did what they had to do" to finish were a-okay; it was the hardest year they've ever had and those that finished are going to be Chattajack legends. Some racers stayed on their knees for the last five miles or more.
One telling response on the "Is everyone okay?" post on the race's FB page. Those finishing after the time limit legit don't get medals.
The wind was brutal throughout the entire race, and the complications for paddle-boarders certainly didn't go unnoticed.
With my winner!
A close up of the award.
Matt met his goal of reaching that podium, and despite how hard the race was he said he felt really strong until the end; it took a lot out of him, but he's ready to do it again next year. Sounds familiar.
The day after the race we went to Rock City to take some photos...but I'll write about that later.

All in all, it was an intense weekend. I'm so grateful to Quack for his hospitality, and I'm really proud of Matt's fellow racers, including the other CGT race-team members Murray, Mark, and Meg (who took 2nd place in her division). I know we'll be back next year; I liken this race to BDR, and I know Matt is ready to totally own that river and get his redemption without all that wind!