musings on running, life, and everything in between

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Ragnar again: Ragnar Relay Great Rivers Race Recap

I thought about naming this post, “Oops, I did it again.” But in the name of good taste, I refrained.

Anyhow, I haven’t posted in a bit for a couple reasons: 1) I think I’m overtraining and took a couple back-to-back days off to try and recover a little bit before Ragnar and 2) I ran Ragnar Great Rivers. I actually deliberated for a long time about backing out because of the whole overtraining thing and whether it was going to set back my marathon training further…but duty won out over commonsense. I blame my Asian background.

Anyhow, here’s the three outfits I planned. It was going to be blistering hot–read 90’s all weekend, so the least amount of clothing possible was the goal (without being just in a sports bra obviously. I am a lady!). You like the Ragnar Pro Compression socks? I got them for captaining Ragnar Chicago this year. I wore them at night. Wearing black compression in the heat of daylight sounds like a nightmare. If you’re new to the blog or Ragnar, you might want to read the first bit of my race recap of Ragnar Chicago to get situated. I will also admit that another factor made me question the wisdom of my decision to do this race. I got a late-night message from my friend on the team (Johanna, who’s the one who invited me) and Melanie, the van pick-up person, that there was no mini-van. The team had decided to get mini-vans to save money. That made me want to run screaming as we usually get 12 passenger vans, and even the Suburbans this year were TIGHT. But Melanie arrived 7 minutes after her appointment time and the rental place was closed! And she couldn’t get another mini-van from another spot. So we were going to create clown car capacities with a…wait for it…Hyundai Santa Fe. I test drove a Santa Fe a few years ago and didn’t remember a third row. I quickly Googled it and there is a third row but it’s small. I couldn’t imagine how we were going to fit 6 people and all their gear for a 36 hour relay race in Minnesota. Somehow, we did it! The saving grace was that the majority of the time, there are only 5 people in the van since someone is running. It was cozy…

Because the first van exchange was relatively “close” (i.e., driveable within a semi-sane amount of time…5 hours), Van 2 decided to forego the hotel costs and hassle and leave the morning of the race. My friend Regina woke up at 5 in the morning to drop me off downtown at the pickup site. She’s also my friend that gives me kimchee. I love her.

Anyhow, Melanie picked up Lisa, Daren, Sam, and me in Chicago and we got Norma on the way up. 

I realize that it seems like I’m doomed to be in Van 2 forever. Johanna sent me this gorgeous photo of the start of the race in Winona, Minnesota. Belying its name and the implication of a Minnesota start and finish, the vast majority of the race is run in Wisconsin. This is in Winona, Minnesota. FullSizeRender

The car ride up was pretty uneventful. I drove a big chunk of it. I enjoy driving long distances for some reason. We passed by some big bluffs on the way up–Mill Bluff State Park. Since I was driving, I couldn’t take a picture of them, but here’s an image I found online. Would love to explore them more one day.

We were taken aback by how hot and dry it felt when we got to the first van exchange (that’s Melanie in the bottom right corner of the pic). The port-a-potty lines were crazy long. 

This first van exchange (where Vans 1 and 2 meet to trade off running responsibilities) was different from Chicago’s. The one in Chicago is like a big party. There’s music, alot of Ragnar merchandise, good food, and general merriment. This year, there was even Zumba! This exchange had minimal food–the convenience store that was on-site had “make your own salami sandwiches” and dubious hot dogs. It seemed almost more like a waystation that people were passing through. And it was so miserably hot that people were swarming any shade they could find. We took the time to decorate our “van/clown car.”


I didn’t choose the name…

There WAS free pie, though, which was nice. We waited across the road the for Van 1 to arrive. Cell service was spotty for their van so we weren’t in communication with them much. They ended up being very late as one of their runners got hurt a mile in (oy, cue flashback to Ragnar Chicago). There was a very friendly dog on the property we were sitting near. I think he must have been one of those “invisible fence” properties as he wasn’t tied up at all.FullSizeRender_2Lisa, who’s an Ironman triathlete swears by olives. We saw the Mondovi, WI ambulance make several visits to the exchange, which was portentous…

Jack finally arrived, though, in a good amount of pain, and handed off to Sam (also an Ironman). Sam was Runner 7. I can’t find the correct elevation route, but her leg had a section that was essentially a 450 ft climb over 0.5-1 mile. We stopped partway up the monster hill to help mentally and hydrationally support her. I finally got a chance to run around 3:30. It was well into the 90’s by then, and my leg (5.2 miles) had very little tree coverage and a fair amount of hills. I made the rookie mistake of going out too fast for the hills/heat. I felt awful that run, and you can see my poor form (hip collapse anyone?) in the first pic. 

The temperature didn’t drop much as the sun started setting. It also didn’t help that we were running west.


Melanie handing off to Norma, and Sam practicing safety with her flag (required for street crossing).

Daren’s run was probably the roughest in some ways. It was flat, but it was about 8 miles and flat, but there was NO shade and he was running on a road. You can see the toll all that heat took on us. We weren’t done running until almost 10 p.m., so this is what we looked like trying to eat dinner at a Perkins at 11 p.m.

One of my favorite parts of this picture is the bit of “late” that is in the bottom right hand of this picture.

This is also right about when Van 1 contacted us to say that we were way off from our projected finish time and they were concerned we wouldn’t finish in time (the race “closes” at 9:15 Saturday night). We were looking, with everyone’s slowed pace and Jack’s injury, at pushing an 8:30 finish. Anjie (the team captain) had been in contact with Ragnar central and they suggested we “leapfrog.” Essentially, leapfrogging is when two runners would run one leg together (so let’s say Runner 6 and 7 run Leg 6 together) and then skip the next leg. It saves the integrity of the race a bit since everyone will still do the same mileage, but it will help cut down the overall finishing time. Obviously if we are in fear of not finishing under the time limit, we aren’t contending to win either. This would become an epic thing…but I get ahead of myself. What this meant overall was that our sleep/rest time was going to get cut down. We were pretty unhappy about it, especially since a bunch of us had to run our longest legs afterwards. It couldn’t be helped, though, as we wanted to finish in time.

Leg 2 for me was my longest at just over 9.5 miles. It also had hills, but because I was running in pitch black, I couldn’t see what I was doing. I realized after my run that it was so dark because there was no moon. The sky was clear so there were stars, but it must have been a new moon. Running without the sun beating on us made this my favorite run. Ha.I think alot of us liked our second leg the best for that reason.


My elevation map for leg 2, and the van exchange point.

This is what you look like after running almost 10 miles in the dark and having virtually no sleep.


This is what you look like when you sleep on a gym floor after a night of running and no sleep.

It was at the final van exchange where we got rumors that teams had gotten a heat advisory text from Ragnar Central suggesting they “leapfrog” runners or have Van 2 leave the last van exchange EARLY (i.e., before Van 1 pulled in for the exchange). Our main contact person was sleeping somewhere in a gym and Van 1 had spotty cell service so it was a bit chaotic at first trying to figure out what was going on. Ultimately, that message set the stage for a wild west kind of ethos, though. For some reason not everyone got the text and it was somewhat oddly worded, so people interpreted it liberally. One group of women said that you could leapfrog multiple runners (i.e., more than 2) at a time to finish faster. We verified that was not accurate, but I did see some crazy stunts. I saw MULTIPLE teams swap out runners partway through a leg. Tons of teams were leapfrogging. We were all just tired of being in the sun and wanted to finish as soon as possible. How this will translate into team times and finishing spots, I don’t know. There is no way that Ragnar Central could keep track of everything or that teams were reporting everything. We’ll see how it all pans out.


My last leg was over a massive highway and through some strange underpasses and industrial areas. I actually cropped out a hideous billboard from the first pic, and you can see I ran next to a freight train for part of it as well. 

You can see that my elevation for this leg was a slight decline, and it was just over 3 miles, so I felt good on this run. I even got to run through sprinklers some spectators had going on their properties. At the end, though, there was a woman struggling along in front of me about 50 meters from the end. The runner exchange was at the top of a sharp climb under an overpass. I figured it would be an easy “kill” (when you pass another runner), and I could sneak past her without the runner noticing. I was wrong! She totally got this major kick out of nowhere and we were neck-in-neck to the exchange. Both our teams were screaming for us to beat the other. My team claims I beat her out, and I think I did, but I’m not sure. Either way, it was hilarious and exhilarating. We were leapfrogging the next two runners together, though, which is why Lisa and Sam are both in this exchange with me. 

By the way, it will come as no surprise that I learned on this leg that Arby’s curly friends and diet coke are NOT good to eat right before a hot run. Lisa and some of the others in my van made Arby’s out to be so amazing. I think we all regretted that decision. Well, maybe not Lisa, but she’s just in denial.

Daren’s hand off to Norma and her final leg/anchor.

This was from Daren’s last leg, which took him mostly along the River.

IMG_1602With a title like “Great Rivers” and the promise of running Minnesota, I had really expected the run to be much more trail-like or in nature. I think there was a smattering of trail for Van 1 on their first leg, and a smattering of paved trail for Van 2 on their third leg, but it was alot more suburban/industrial at points than I expected. With that said, there were some very pretty moments from the race. The next are a bunch of random photos from throughout the course.

This is to show the completely cloudless mercilessly sunny sky that beat down on us for our final legs.

Sunset is always gorgeous!

Another cliff/bluff

A pretty country church and cemetery


Back’ish row: Johanna, Debra, Anjie, Jeff, Jack, Sam, Daren. Bottom row, Melanie, me, Blair, Norma, Lisa.

The full team at the end. This Ragnar DID give every team two pizzas, which was like manna after the run. I was disappointed to see that the medal is exactly the same as Chicago’s, with the exception of the Great Rivers logo. There also was no “double medal” for running Chicago and Great Rivers this year. 😦 They did other doubled-up races for the double medals.All in all, I’m glad I did it. I had a fun time and met some hilarious people. I got to push myself in different ways, AND I know we can save on transportation costs next year, haha (just kidding, guys…maybe). However, I thought Ragnar Chicago actually had a nicer route overall. Granted there are some less pretty parts, like running through Waukegan, but there are more actual trails and it felt like there was more camaraderie BETWEEN teams. I’m not sure if it was the heat or the leapfrogging shaking things up, but I felt like I didn’t see as many of the same teams from exchange to exchange and there was less chatting between groups. One thing that WAS great was vans were supporting runners not on their teams, meaning they were offering water and ice or even shooting them with water as they passed by. Everyone was just trying to survive and help each other in the process. Runners are great in that way.

The BFF’ers have been talking about doing a different Ragnar, so my “reconaissance” of Great Rivers will be useful in that regard, haha.

Anyhow, I hope everyone had a great run this hot weekend. I promise to write up the whole overtraining thing soon.

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Long run short

Oy, just mixed up kids’ gymnastic times for the second time this summer. Both kids are in gymnastics at two different days/times. I keep getting the times mixed. I had someone say I was probably clinically ADD once. Clinical or absent-minded professor? I have a number of friends who have been diagnosed as ADD, but prefer to try to do workarounds rather than medicate. I have a couple of books recommended to me, but I haven’t taken the time to read them…One might say those two are related. Ha. But I digress…

This week’s long run was 16 miles. I decided to forego Friday’s 5 miles and just rest since I’ve been feeling so gnarly lately. I’m glad I did. With the humidity, it was slogging along. I also woke up way too early to certain evil minions that live in my home. Sigh. We were a little under the easy long run pace, because we were all so irritated about running we just wanted to get it done. Ha. It felt okay actually. A huge sigh of relief from me! Still, we had run most of it on the Salt Creek trail so it cooler and SHADED. Running in the open concrete for the last 4.5 miles was no fun (my friend Mary and I got a ride to the start where most folks were doing 12-14 miles and then running home to finish the rest).

Still, I enjoyed getting a chance to run with Mary. We somehow only manage to run together a handful of times a year as our schedules are complicated. However, she’s the one who opened my eyes to the world of running blogs a couple years back and we trained for Chicago together two years ago. She’s also one of my fellow Korean runners 🙂  She’s amazing. She just did her third tri ever (she’s done one once a year for the last 3 years) in June and qualified for nationals because was in the top 10% of her age group! It’s in Milwaukee in two weeks, and she’s a little nervous about it. She’s only ever done the sprint distance and Nationals are Olympic distance. Tri’s are also an interesting beast as they require so much equipment and the more you spend, the better it helps. It’s great, though, as she’s looking to just get a finisher jacket and see what she can learn from it. I’m jealous. I wish I could do triathalons but that whole swimming thing. BLECH. I did sign up for once years ago–a supersprint. But the lake got too high in bacteria levels so they made it a duathalon.

I’ve decided that my signature “thing” will be bad selfies. The less-than-flattering hat helps to continue that goal. 16 miles done before 9 am. Not bad 🙂
And while I’ve read that it’s bad to treat food as a goal or celebration for a hard workout, I figure coffee is relatively harmless. I did resist the donut calling my name. Or the almond milk mocha I was debating. The cheap part of myself refused to pay that much, though, so I went with iced coffee doctored with cream and sugar.   

Ugh, one thing that happened on the run that WAS new was some chafing! I’m not sure what happened as I’ve done long runs in these shorts before, but a seam or something was rubbing me wrong the whole run. I kept poking at parts of myself that probably didn’t look so ladylike or attractive. I was trying to get that stupid seam out of the way, though. I chafe under my arms when I wear tanks and sweat, but I’ve never had inner thigh chafing before–and trust me, it’s not because there’s a huge gap in between them or anything. It’s not horrible, but it doesn’t look pretty either. I use Body Glide on the backs of my arms before long runs in the summer, but obviously didn’t anticipate this either.

Finally, I had a 5 mile recovery run on the plan today. I was tired so decided to forego the early run. I’ve been sleeping HARD lately, but still tired–like full on drool, not moving, arm asleep hard sleeping. Not sure what’s up. Anyhow, because of the heat/humidity, I decided to take it to the Y. I’m not actually sure I sweat less than I would have outside, but I didn’t have to use nanny hours to get my run in and the kids had fun in the kids’ room today. For whatever reason, I chose the treadmill with a frozen screen of CNN. I swear I’m a maschoist sometimes.

I did some hills on the treadmill, though, in anticipation of Ragnar Great Rivers (it’s official, I’m on it!). Like the weirdo I am, I did request that if any of the higher mileage positions didn’t want their position anymore, I’d take it. Right now, I’m slotted to be runner 7 (funny since I was runner 7 last year for Chicago), which is 16 miles. I have 17 for that Saturday, so I’d like to at least hit that since it’ll be chopped up anyway. But I don’t think my training will really be impacted that much either way, and obviously I’m starting to be a little looser with following the plan.

All this heat and rain has been good for some of my veggies at least. Behold the magnificence! I’m actually not sure what to do with a zucchini that big…Maybe give it a name and make it our pet?

11703119_10153263198747949_7696192938921812671_nHopefully all of you had a good weekend/long run.

What’s your favorite post-run treat/motivation?

Any ideas for the zucch?

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Running with children, high school reunions, and Ragnar (again)

Nothing like being awoken 15 minutes before your 4:10 alarm by one child sleep-yelling about bugs in their bed and another child’s feet in your face. And of course this was after a restless night of sleep (partially to trouble and partially to said child in bed). Sigh. Nothing like being a runner with children.

I’m not sure what it was, but I had lay awake thrashing for probably close to 2 hours. Yes, I know that’s bad sleep hygiene (for the uninitiated, sleep hygiene is all the practices around your sleep that should help you sleep better, kind of like your physical hygiene). From what I’ve read, if you are having trouble falling asleep for more than 20 minutes, you’re supposed to get up and read or do something else in a different room and then try going back to sleep. This way, you don’t start building associations with your bed as a place of bad sleep. I don’t generally have trouble sleeping, though, and I kept thinking I wouldn’t be laying there for 20 minutes…

I ended up thinking alot about two things–my high school reunion and Ragnar. Let’s start with the reunion since that’s the heavier stuff. I’ve decided after much contemplation to go to my reunion, but only the school tour and picnic. I don’t want to spend the $50 (now $75 since I missed “early” registration) to watch alot of people get drunk, particularly people I don’t remember or wasn’t friends with. My feelings about high school are a whole other post, but what I was brooding on was the list of 5 or so people who won’t be there because they’re dead. I know 1 of them was from cancer at 23 and 1 from suicide/mental illness in college or shortly after. The other 3, I’m not sure. In my morbidity, I tried to Google them, but it’s harder than you think. I would guess overdose or suicide, but I’m not sure if that’s fair. I knew all of them, even if only tangentially. One of them I had several classes with, and he was so smart. It brought back to me, the importance of my previous post–how we need to reach out and ask for help, try to survive. It’s strange to think someone from your memory is permanently gone, forever trapped as a high schooler.

OK, it’s really early for stuff that heavy. Anyhow, the other thing keeping me awake is Ragnar. Specifically, Ragnar in Minnesota, mid-August. My friend asked me last minute to sub in for her team. Kicker(s) is that 1) they are renting mini-vans, 2) it’s a coed team, 3) they’re paying for everything out of pocket, and 4) I wouldn’t be in the same van as my friend. I’d be with … STRANGERS. All those seem like reasons NOT to do it. Oh, and I have a half marathon race the weekend before. However, I’m not always very reasonable. I’ve wanted to do this race for 3 years now. AND I’d get a double medal for running both races. Most of the van I’m in is women, and the one guy in it seems to be a professional baker…Plus, I’m so unexcited about anything with running right now, it might be really good/fun to do something I’d be excited about. I’m going to see my friend later today so I’ll make my decision by then probably.

Speaking of baked goods…I just renewed my Costco membership. I feel like these croissants are reason alone enough to warrant the membership fee. Haha.

I first discovered them years ago when we stayed at a B&B in Seattle. I loved the croissants at breakfast every morning, and the innkeeper shared that they were from Costco. Delicious.

I also need to step up my nutrition training game for real. My sweet tooth is starting to get ugly. I DID read this article about why you should eat like an elite runner, meaning high quality food that everyday people eat. No crazy specialized, super-restrictie diets. I’m down with that. Having done no grain/gluten, no processed foods, no sugar diets before, I haven’t been particularly impressed with the results. Yes, I’ve lost fat (not so much weight), but I probably would have with any increased upgrade in diet and exercise. And, actually, that’s what they’ve found from people losing weight on those diets. That it’s primarily based upon calorie deficits from restricted eating in controlling carbs and not purely from no carbs. The article points out that Kenyans eat almost 70% of their diet in carbs, and no one is accusing them of being obese or slow. There are very few elite runners that eat crazy diets outside of their cultural norm. I’m pretty sure that the elites, though, aren’t putting away the sugar like I am. I’ve got exactly 7 weeks left to Fox Valley. Let’s see what I can do in that time.

Finally, as a small boost of confidence in my running, I saw this article about 12 male celebrities who have run marathons. I beat all of them. Edward Norton comes in first out of the group with 3:48:01.


I know it’s sad to look for such random things to get excited about, but hey, it’s that point in training. 🙂  It makes me feel a little bit better about myself, that celebrities with all their access to training and coaching can still fall behind me.

Anyhow, Jen’s picking me up in 10 minutes to do our long run, so I should probably get dressed. Hope everyone has a great day! And feel free to comment about thoughts on Ragnar Minnesota, training ruts, and nutrition pointers 🙂

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First Place Ragnar! (and some other stuff)

Hope everyone’s long run was good this weekend! I did 12 this weekend and it was not the greatest. Pace-wise and all it was fine, but it was humid and felt warmer than the low 60’s my phone said. During our run, Amy tripped on a downed branch around mile 5 and skinned her knees. It shook all of us and there was definitely blood, but she kept on running. She was slated to do 16 I think and decided to just do the 12 with us. Because it’s creepy and weird to ask someone if you can take a picture of their bloody knee to post on your blog, ha, I am linking another blogger’s advice on how to run with a bloody knee.


I actually don’t follow her blog that much, but I follow her on Instagram. She posts alot of funny memes and food stuff. Plus, her title of “run eat repeat” is pretty much my life mantra.

Speaking of eating. I’m beginning to think that my obsessive relationship with sweets is rubbing off on my daughter. It might be time to do a FAMILY sugar detox.

I’ve done sugar detoxes in the past and found them helpful for breaking my addiction to sugar, but I haven’t made my kids participate in it (and my husband has an unworldly/unnatural/freakish disdain for sugar). I don’t think they eat more sugar than our friend’s kids, and actually might eat less, but I don’t necessarily think that’s a “healthy” amount either. And with all the new data on how sugar is addictive like drugs (I mean, seriously, I know recovering crack addicts who can’t quit the sugar), I would like to help my kids build a healthy regard for sugar as a sometime treat and not the constant presence in their lives. I mean, even yogurt has crazy amounts of sugar!

And I’ll start that detox any day now…right after this horchata…

Ha, I tried to justify that horchata as healthier because it was made with coconut water. Yeah…it was delicious and different! We went to a taqueria, El Taco Feliz Taqueria, for Father’s Day lunch. We don’t get great Mexican food out by us strangely enough, so Chicago is always the better bet. Plus we were on our way to a hat store nearby (Hats Plus @ Six Corners). The taqueria was tiny, only one bench in side, but had nice seating outside. The woman who owns it was super friendly and so nice, and the food was great. We will definitely be going back. We also went to our local concert in the park for Sunday night as requested by the father of the family.

Don’t worry, I’m just taking a walk with my Trader Joe’s Jo-Jo cookies box peg leg. 

I went out for an 8 mile run yesterday and it was gross. I made plans to meet a friend Stephanie at 6 am, and she bailed on me at 5:45–texting me she had a headache. It was funny because it was a big struggle to get up that morning, and I seriously contemplated canceling. However, I hadn’t made plans to run early with her before and she had declined running with some other folks at 5 am to run later…blah blah blah. Guilt. So I talked myself into getting my legs up and moving, and I was dressed and ready to head out the door when she texted (I was supposed to run to her house by 6). For a split second, I thought longingly of how I could have slept in a bit. BUT, the weather was super-humid yesterday and I knew the temps were just going to go up even higher. At the end of it, I was happy I had committed to get up and meet someone even if it didn’t happen. I’m telling you, accountability is key! It was funny because something similar happened later that day too, where I made a commitment to meet someone for something and she bailed, but it got me where I needed to be.

You can see that the grey is not a great color to sweat in. Sexy time. Yup. Also, I felt very self-conscious as my son watched me take selfie after selfie trying to get this shot. I should just start going with the first shot and call it a day.

The weather yesterday was super weird. It didn’t get as hot as it was supposed to, but the humidity was oppressive. It was also very windy in the afternoon. It was one of those days where the temperature isn’t that high so you feel like you shouldn’t have the air conditioning on, but the atmosphere is so heavy that you do. When I walked out of the house a little after 8 last night, though, the sky was a crazy golden light. Everything looked lit up like a post-apocalyptic film, where it should have been dark but everything seemed to glow. I took some pictures, but it really didn’t catch the full extent. Anyone know if there was an explanation for it?    Finally, the big news! The official results are out, and our team won first in the Women’s Open Division! After winning third, then second, we finally got first this year. We are beyond excited. The other team retains 5th place. I’m super-impressed and amazed by all of the women I got to run with this year. Now we’re talking about whether we want to try a different Ragnar next year or if we have to go back to defend the title. Ha.


Post Ragnar blues and race-photos

It’s always tough the days following up a race. You feel driftless, tired, and a general malaise. You no longer have purpose, you’re still tired and recovering (particularly with a relay series where you get barely 2 hours of sleep), and for those of us with kids, you would willingly get back in the van with the stink and run another 20+ miles to escape the screaming, fighting, and demands for attention. Ha. How else do you think I was able to convince 23 other women to do this?!

One of the things I always detest after races is getting my race photos. Inevitably, they are hideous. i’m always caught mid-step, looking down, looking miserable, looking squashy, what have you. Maybe it’s because I try to be too cool for school and refuse to smile or raise my arms up in victory when I see photographers so they just get my grimace. Anyway, I have resigned myself to never be this guy


Race photos are usually pretty rough for alot of people, so of course the above photo went viral because it was so ridiculous (hence the meme is called “ridiculously photogenic guy”). I take the photos in stride (haha, get it?!) and usually just see if theres anything I can learn from them regarding form, etc. I was sad to my Ragnar photos from the last leg of the relay. Now, granted, it’s the last leg, and I did an extra leg so I was super-tired. Still, I feel like the photos are fairly awful. I look like I’m totally collapsing inwards on myself.

race_888_photo_20140903 copy

I won’t horrify you with the whole series, but I was struck by how bad my form looked. One of the key (and simplest) things to remember about form–beyond cadence, midfoot strike, whatever–is to RUN TALL. I look like I’m trying to conserve my space in the world and running anything but tall. I was also unaware I was collapsing in to my hip so much. Here’s the same photo as the one above with lines to indicate difference in a straight midline and where my hip is. I’m not fancy enough to get a protractor on this photo to measure the degree of change, and I should probably do it again making sure my shirt is straight; however, I’m pretty sure you would agree that the photo indicates I drop my hip.race_888_photo_20140903

Sigh. All these little things build up to create imbalances in the body. I drop my hip because I have weak hips and glues, a common issue for runners. Because of this, my stride is a little different. For example, I’ve noticed that the left heel of my Newton’s show more wear than my right (yes, that means I am heel striking and not mid-foot like I pretend to myself), and I get more tightness in my right hip. You know what this means, right? Ugh, strengthening moves. I did some quick Googling and found some one-legged squats you can do off a stair or box and some side leg lifts. You can also check out this resource for more exercises. You may also recall I posted before about running form. That post had more resources about stride analysis and such.

Just as a point of comparison, I have included another photo from Ragnar. This is Patty from Team 2/Too. She’s awesome, super-supportive and enthusiastic, and qualified for Boston (first time) at Chicago last fall. Look at her form. She looks like she’s got legs of steel; she’s airborne, and she looks strong. She’s my role model… I won’t reveal her age, but she has a kid in college! Seriously amazing.


Another residual effect of Ragnar has been my extreme tiredness and inability to wake up early to run. That means I am running mid-day in the heat and humidity. Yesterday was actually not crazy hot, but it was extremely humid. I was drenched by the time I was done. You can see my nose wrinkling in disgust, ha. I actually used some Body Glide before the run, which added to my general sliminess. I don’t generally chafe, but in the summer, I tend to get some chafing/irritation on the back of my armpit/shoulder area.

You can also see the awesome runner’s tan I’ve been working on. I am not comparing myself to Kara Goucher in any way, but she did post recently about her runner’s tan pic that went viral. It’s probably the most in common we’ll have 🙂

Anyhow, friends, stay cool and hydrated on your long runs this weekend!


Ragnar Chicago Race Recap

Ragnar Chicago finally happened. It was probably the most chaotic and trouble-ridden one of the 3 that I’ve done. Coordinating 24 women, 4 vehicles, and 2 teams is alot. There’s alot of room for things to go wrong. And short of a vehicle breakdown, almost everything that could have gone wrong did. It still ended up being an amazing experience, perhaps more so for all the trouble-shooting we did.

We had a last-minute runner switch out 3 days before the race. There was a family death and the funeral, which was out of town, was the Friday of the race. We did some last-minute scrambling and were actually able to find TWO women who were able to do it (the upsides of being part of a 180+ women’s running group). We ended up going with a woman, Amy, who was the first to be able to coordinate abandoning her family for a few days. She ended up being awesome (which was fortunate since none of us had ever run with her before, ha).

The other team captain, Swati, was trying to negotiate a lower rate for our vans leading up to the pick up. The company was trying to pull some nonsense about making us pay for extra days because they weren’t open on Saturday after 12, and we would have to pay for Sunday and Monday. She got us a slightly lower rate, but I got a bad feeling when they called her Wednesday night and offered her the use of some Suburban’s for $10 less in lieu of the 15-passenger vans. Uh, no. A few hours before we were supposed to pick up the vans, Swati posted on our group page to NOT pick up the vans. The companies were pulling some ridiculousness that 3 of the 4 vans were being recalled by Chevy, so they weren’t available. Swati called Chevy, who refuted any recall of 15-passenger vans. Alot of yelling, negotiating, and threatening, Swati was able to get us 3 Suburbans and 1 15-passenger van for a super-deep discount.

I have to say, that the Suburbans didn’t seem to drive much easier than the vans. They are big! I did miss the leg room, and we definitely would have packed lighter if we had know. Still, it wasn’t as horrible as I was afraid it would be. In fact, I noticed this year that there seemed to a great more SUV’s and less vans. Not sure if there was some sort of weird van shortage or if everyone was trying to save money. Anyhow, I think we looked pretty tough with our giant cars and tinted windows. In fact, we didn’t get very many magnet tags in our car (one tradition of Ragnar is teams “tagging” other teams with team magnets), which was black. We think we looked intimidating. Ha.

My favorite team magnet from the whole race.


Other than ours of course (designed by Andrea, who was runner 1 on Team 2–she was also on my team/van last year).


A goofy picture of my team posing in front of “van” 1.

Both teams. All 24 women at Patty’s house (she’s the one towards the center right with short hair, glasses, and an Illinois shirt). She’s such a super-gracious host, and her husband Bob helped us negotiate van stuff as well. They are ridiculously cute and kind. 

So quick summary for those who haven’t done Ragnar before. There are usually 12 runners (although you can also do an “ultra” version with 6 runners) in 2 vehicles. One van is the “active” van meaning it’s leapfrogging runners from one position to the next. Between runners 6 and 7, there is a “van exchange” where the two vans will be and the formerly “inactive” van swaps off. The first van then jumps to the next van exchange, eats, rests, whatever. That means, van 1 for my team started at 7:45 am, but van 2 wouldn’t start until almost 1 pm.

Here’s runner 1 (Andrea) from Team 2. You can’t tell, but it was pouring during the start. Van 1 for both teams got dumped on. Our team was delayed by a few minutes getting started because it was raining so hard.

11406947_10106251872309650_6666824667263102584_nOne of the lovely parts of running this relay is how many trails in Wisconsin you get to see. In my opinion, those are much nicer than the semi-monotony of the country roads.  1795567_10205477743136277_3419993561803276919_nThere were sisters on the other team, Laura (left) and Jen (right). My siblings laughed when I suggested we try it together once….


One of the things I love about Ragnar is also its goofiness. Here is van 1 of Team 2 getting loose with some Zumba at the first van exchange.

Swati, who is also a total fashionista, got excited to see someone wearing the same running skirt. A running banana no less. We also saw some folks in care bear outfits and wild animals.

Here’s my van trying to look really excited at our first van exchange.11393135_10200538143533704_2558339456823482890_n

I think that picture was taken right before we realized that our runner 6 got hurt on her first leg at mile 3-4 of her 9.9 mile run (Just to clarify, each runner in a 12-person team runs 3 times over the course of the race. Each “leg” is different distances). One of the other runners in her van had to actually run back (her van had stopped at mile 7 to cheer her on) to where she was in the trail and finish her leg. That injury totally threw us for a loop as she had one of the most distance-heavy runner positions. Kirstin finished her first leg, picking up about 6 miles. Emily, in her van, finished her middle leg, which was fortunately shorter. I picked up her final leg, which was about 6.5 miles. There was alot of back and forth about who should pick up which leg. Emily had the greatest mileage runner position, but was also one of our strongest runners. Jen K would have been game for just running back-to-back (the hurt runner was runner 6 and Jen was runner 7), but her hamstring was starting to really bother her. As the other strongest runner (and being runner 12, the “furthest” in positioning from runner 6, i.e., the most rest time), I decided I should make it up. So all in all, I ended up running just short of a marathon, about 24 miles.

Kelly, who left a 4 month old at home, was awesome. She pumped like a champ. On a side note, there was alot of talk about body parts, body fluids, and body functioning–mostly flatulence and bowel movements. I think this awesome photo is of her finishing a run that was a mile longer than she’d anticipated. There was a weird runner exchange where you could pick your runner up anywhere along a mile stretch of road. We picked up Michelle, the runner before Kelly, earlier, so Kelly ran a mile longer…She was really excited about that.


Amy was our last-minute runner add and she ran anchor, Runner 12, for Team 2. She rocked it. Look how strong she is!


My van was ridiculous and stopped at one point mid-way through a run to cheer me on. Michelle N thought it would be funny to pretend to spank me. Not photographed was Michelle R doing cartwheels (yup, there were two Michelle’s and two Jen’s in my van).


One of weird parts about running towards the front of the whole race experience is that you do run some stretches alone (Patty and Laura from Team 2). It can be peaceful, or sometimes creepy. HA.



Jen was having some hamstring issues, so here she was stretching it out. Also not pictured was me at one exchange straddling her to massage out her butt. Yup, that’s how we do it. I love her Rainbow Dash (My Little Pony) socks.

One awesome aspect of running with two teams was seeing so many familiar faces at multiple exchanges. For awhile, we were running the same times/legs as Team 2. Here we are at one of the major van exchanges where they were supposed to be sleeping (at a high school).


Jen K and Jen V, runner position soulmates. They were both Runner 7 on the two teams.


Yes, I am wearing lipstick like a weirdo during my night run because I forgot my chapstick.11058405_10152954290527532_9140711738925522412_nNight runs can be a nice break from the heat of the day. It also makes you run faster because it’s creepy! Still, folks try to get into the spirit of it with glow sticks and such.     11401579_10155717222670385_1463886230025582013_n

While van 1 got to sleep indoors, van 2 got to sleep outside in a tent on the beach. That was actually pretty cool, and although the tents were pitched right by the exchange so we heard cheering and team numbers being called out all night (by “all night,” I mean the 2 hours we had to sleep), I actually got more sleep this year than I did last year on the floor of a YMCA. I still felt pretty nauseous and gross waking up the next morning.

Another fun aspect of Ragnar is marking the “kills” you have during your run. A kill is when you pass another runner during your leg. Here, Swati is totally getting in a last kill before the hand-off.


These next 3 shots are from the final hand-off. Michelle R is totally channeling that chick from SNL here.


I love how this shot looks like a super-exaggerated picture of “run faster.”


Here’s the actual hand-off. You like my ridiculous rainbow compression tights? 11391723_10152957383082532_2827115666582839253_nHere’s the rest of my van at that exchange in their “ladies from the 80’s costumes.”


Jen K, Jen H, Michelle N, Michelle R, Kelly

One of the “fun” aspects of being Van 1 is that you’re done earlier, so you can clean up your van, get breakfast, and chill out while waiting for the other van to finish.


Erik met me at the finish with the kids.

11392951_10153044720843931_3534614991186193107_nMy van re-enacting our photo from Exchange 1.

11427168_10153159453697949_1735339597627966812_n My whole team at the finish. Emily, far left, actually wore a full leotard. Awesome.11401157_10153159453022949_8547621591039376315_n

This is a picture of me eating the ridiculously small portion of pasta salad that was the post-race food at the finish. Why am I “drinking” it? Because there were no forks. Last year they gave each van a full pizza. This year, sample-sized pasta salads with no forks, um yeah…I was so hungry, I “drank” it anyway.


Most of the team enjoying their post-race beverages.


One neat feature of the race this year was that all 12 of the medals (on the backs, so you had to look) fit together like a puzzle to make a message. That was neat.


After all that adrenaline and lack of sleep, you can’t help but conk out on the ride home. The 80s garb just makes this picture that much better.11429932_10152922674393837_4466441985154112234_n

And finally, hours after I got home, I got this text from Ragnar. Ugh, that is the final bullet we dodged.

10689708_10152922706118837_6975335543604256852_nRagnar Chicago 2015 is in the books, and running with such amazing, powerful, joyous women was a blessing. That is what brings me back over and over. I have to say, though, that I am not sure I’ll run Chicago again next year (although I will run a Ragnar). There were a number of things that happened this year that were frustrating–1) the shirts were cotton (for all that money and a record number of teams registering, cotton shirts, really?), 2) pasta salad (really? no forks even? at least a slice of pizza?!), 3) the mapping/directions on route this year were sparse. I got off route on my last leg. The last leg is running through Northwestern and Loyola’s campus and then on the lakefront path to Montrose Beach. If you’ve ever run that part of the path, you know there are a couple options as there are some parallel paths. I was actually on the wrong path when I got re-routed by another Ragnar runner who saw me and redirected me. I heard another runner ran 4 miles out of her way because she missed the turn and was crying at the finish. Jen H also got lost on her leg (as well as another team’s runner we overheard) and had to run an extra 1.5 miles. 4) there was no van coordination this year which made it a bit frustrating and more expensive.

I think I’m ready to try Ragnar somewhere else, but there was already alot of talk about “next year,” so we’ll see.

Also…preliminary results are out…AND we are currently first in our division. We’ll see if that’s what it all shakes out to be…so stay tuned!

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Gearing up for Ragnar Chicago

It’s been a whirlwind of activity the last couple of days. Last-minute haggling about the vans, which it turns out was meaningless as we are only getting 1 van. Just a few hours ago, the captain of the other team (Swati) was finalizing van stuff and supposedly Chevy was recalling 3 of the 4 vans we had reserved. Smelling BS from a mile away, Swati called Chevy and they were not recalling any 15 passenger vans. There was alot of chatter back and forth amongst all of us and Swati and corporate. Long story short and several heart attacks later, we have 3 Suburbans and 1 15-passenger van. It’s gonna be a different experience…I know that teams will use larger SUV’s and I know that we CAN fit in it. It just won’t be as roomy. Waah, first world problems.

While there have been multiple last-minute things that have happened in previous years, I feel like it’s been especially crazy this year. Maybe it’s with helping to manage two teams, but we’ve had multiple late withdrawals of runners, flipping around of runner positions, and just general nuttiness. It’s all gotten settled, but this van thing has been just another piece of the nuttiness of this year’s Ragnar.

I also belatedly realized that we will not have an indoor sleeping option for Van 2. Instead, we’ll be in a “tent town.” Um, yeah, sounds great. I’m having horrible flashbacks to two years ago where we chose to sleep outside with the fog horn going all night, sudden drop in temperature (I’ve never been so cold…well, maybe after the Champaign Marathon), and a thoroughly wet sleeping bag from the morning dew. Refreshing…

Anyhow, moving on to less sad things. To help make sure I got everything for my legs, I laid everything out. Leg 1: is our team shirt. Close up in second picture. Leg 2: Every Mother Counts shirt. Leg 3: pseudo-costume. Our team “theme” is “Ladies of the 80’s.” I’m going as a half-hearted Rainbow Brite. I wasn’t really a child of the 80s in terms of dress or popular culture involvement. My parents, being the stereotypical Asian immigrant parents, thought rock music and most pop stuff was evil, so my experience of the 80s was limited. However, they let us watch a crazy amount of TV. So instead of going as Flash Dancer or whatever, I went with cartoons. I got excited and got the sparkly skirt and rainbow compression tights, but fell short of doing much more. Frighteningly enough, there are “sexy” Rainbow Brite adult costumes. *shudder*

I’m super-excited for our team tanks and matching magnets. I’ll have to get a photo of those up when I get one. For those uninitiated into Ragnar, teams sometimes make magnets to tag each others’ vans as a way to “get” them. It’s fun because you get to see lots of different designs and representations of running clubs from all over.  

Finally, as I joked with my team, after 3 years of Ragnar, I’ve learned what is important to pack. Trashy magazines. You’re generally too tired or amped up to read anything of substance, but there is some decent downtime. Time to indulge the trashy side. I did throw in Runner’s World to at least pretend I will learn something.   IMG_0935I know this post was short, but I’m getting picked up soon. If you want to follow our adventures, we’ll be tagging at #bffRagnar and #runNerder (or the larger pool of #RagnarChi)