Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Archive for Sports

Hiking the Versailles Forest with Power Hiking Paris

If you’ve traveled to Paris, it’s likely your agenda included the Chateau de Versailles and the Versailles Gardens. Was the Versailles Forest also on your agenda? No? Well, let me share my visit.

IMG_4320

The Chateau de Versailles and its perfectly groomed gardens in the far distance

I extended my stay after the Paris Marathon to absorb more of this wonderful city. Doing so, I needed to add a long hike to fit in some training for the upcoming Hike Across Maryland after my return home. I did a web search of hiking groups in Paris and found the a Meetup Group, Power Hiking Paris, just what I was looking for. They had a 35K hike scheduled for Sunday, my last day in France. I requested to join the group, and after exchanging a couple of emails with Victor (it turns out I was the 3,500th member to join the group), I was in.

IMG_4344

The trees were coming into bloom with a blanket of French bluebells across the forest floor.

Instructions were to meet at the Gare Montparnasse on the platform for the train departing to Saint-Cyr. I found the hiking group (not difficult to distinguish with backpacks and hiking poles) in the boarding area at this busy station and had the opportunity to chat with most of them enroute to our destination.

Departing the train at Saint-Cyr, we immediately began hiking out of town to the Versailles Forest. As promised, the pace was fast, a swift hike on the flats and ascents and running on the downhills.

We continued in and out of forest and between farms, orchards and through small towns.

Screen Shot 2017-05-10 at 9.31.42 AM

Because I packed light for my travels which had to include my marathon running equipment, trail shoes and poles remained at home. Thankfully, except for one descent that was a bit iffy, my marathon shoes held their grip and the poles weren’t needed.

We took a short break for lunch and conversation in a meadow, then off again. 

Thank you, Victor, Serge and Meet-up Power Hiking for giving me the opportunity to meet and hike with you. It was a pleasure to join you and the hiking group while getting in my training miles and enjoy a forest in France I would not otherwise have had the opportunity to visit.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Do you attempt to meet the people who live in the city/country/region where you are visiting? Did you attempt to get a local point of view new to you? I have found several ways to do this, but it’s the first time I’ve done it through Meetup. If you’re interested in digging deeper in your travels than tour presentations or chats with your waiter, Meetup offers groups in a number of activities and interest areas. 

During your travels, do you have other means of getting to know people and explore your interests more in depth? If so, please share.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Route 66 – Mother Road Half Marathon Review

Where does one begin the pursuit to run 66 miles on Route 66 at age 66? Somewhere in the middle of course, at the Mother Road Marathon.  I opted to save Oklahoma for another day and began the Half in Baxter, Kansas.IMG_1314

The Mother Road is a small marathon, 139 marathon finishers and 250 finishers of the half this year. Yet, it operates as smoothly as large marathons I have run and offers all the percs without the elbow-to-elbow start.

My Mother Road experience began at the Springfield/Branson airport where my sister greeted me and drove us to our first stop at Joplin City Hall for packet pickup.  There was a small expo with sponsor and organization information and product tables.

Next stop to the LaQuinta, the marathon hotel. Race morning, a light continental breakfast was available to runners beginning at 4 a.m. Volunteers were on hand to welcome runners on the shuttles to the Joplin Athletic Center. Shuttle service began at 5 a.m.  From the Athletic Center, we transferred to buses for either Baxter KS for the 1/2 start, or to Commerce, OK for the full. From a runner perspective, the shuttles ran smoothly, always departing and arriving as scheduled.

A light rain stopped as our shuttle arrived in Baxter. The morning was cool so I pulled a stowed trash bag over my head and placed my jacket in a carryall provided by the race.  I handed it off to at bag check and made my way to the start. The rain stopped and I passed the trash bag on to a shivering rain-drenched runner caught in an earlier downpour.  A few words from the mayor, a prayer, the anthem, and we’re off for our 13.1 miles.

Chart-Course-Elevation-2013-300x215The first few miles were flat roadway, with a short distance on a water-logged trail where we merged with full marathon runners. Back to the road, the wind was at 10 mph, in our faces and cool. In shorts sleeves and short tights, I was comfortable  but could have used a pair of light cotton gloves.

The road ahead was going up, up, up.  The first half of this marathon is relatively flat, changing to a slight uphill for the second half.

I can handle hills, but although shallow, these didn’t seem to end. The expected downhill when we peaked was nonexistent, only a plateau before the next hill.  Around miles 7/8, a snake-like bend through the town of GalenaIMG_1323was a colorful reprieve from that straight ribbon of highway. Cheering folks in lawn chairs lined the main street. Runners meandered through a section where paving was worn and cracked.

Original roadbed of Route 66

Original roadbed of Route 66

A sign cautioned to watch our footing – we were running on the original roadbed of Route 66.

Soon enough we were back out to the smoother but less scenic main highway. Plentiful porta-potties and water stations were staggered along the hilly route.

Approaching the finish, there was a sizable crowd and an announcer calling the names of first-time 1/2 and full marathoners. My finish was a 2:06, eight minutes shy of my 1/2’s in 2012.   This was my first race to rebuild distance, next working on my time to sneak back under that 2-hour mark.

It’s a short walk to the food tent where a variety of fresh fruit and energy bars were available.  The only thing missing was the hot cup of coffee that I crave post-run.

The atmosphere was festive with 5K participants mixing in.  Beer and pizza were available for runners and a live band played some classic rock numbers.

I retrieved my drop bag, picked up my AG medal and continued up a grassy hill for the hotel shuttle pickup.IMG_1312

From the runner perspective, this event looked flawless. The details required for planning a course through three states and multiple municipalities, synchronizing a marathon and half marathon with a 5K going off in Joplin takes a skilled and dedicated race committee. Congratulations to the Mother Road Marathon and all of the sponsors and volunteers that helped to achieve a seamless and historic race experience.

Next post, I’ll report on the travel, food and sightseeing that are the wonderful side benefits of destination races.ffl

5Ks and Independence Day – Perfect Together

photo

No shirts in my size, so this gentleman agreed to a photo. Thanks!

Warming up on a side street July 4th morning, I wondered how many 5Ks were being held across the country that very morning. I love that running is incorporated into the celebration activities in so many communities, with a distance that includes runners and walkers and easily accommodates a kid’s run. In thousands of towns and cities across the country, generations of families, local onlookers and groups of friends are out in the early morning summer sunshine.  

That festive spirit was evident in Springfield South Dakota where I participated in their Firecracker 5K put together by the Bon Homme Running Club.

Preceded by the Bull-arama and a street dance a day earlier, photorevelers were up early to begin another day of celebratory activities.

The Firecracker course was slighter longer than 5K to capture the most scenic route around town, with shaded streets, overlooks and the boat basin.  

Scenic Overlook on 5K Route - Lewis and Clark Lake/Missouri River

Scenic Overlook on Firecracker  5K Route – Lewis and Clark Lake/Missouri River

The oldest AG award was 40 and over, so no chance of medaling for this 60+ runner, but no matter.  I had a great time. 

The day continued on with hot dogs and other goodies at the town park.
Then, early evening brought a frog jumping contest raising funds for local activities.  Finally, the long-awaited fireworks.

How best to spend a July 4th evening?  photoSitting in the back of my Aunt’s red pickup, watching fireworks light the sky over the Missouri River. 

Which brings us to how I happened to be spending my 4th of July in this wonderful town. My firecracker of an aunt has a birthday near the 4th, so I joined a chorus of others who came to help her celebrate.  

Happy 90th Birthday, Aunt Loraine.

Happy 90th Birthday, Aunt Loraine.

I hope your summer running and celebrations are as fun-filled and meaningful.

I’ve Missed the Sweat

You can ski, you can swim, you can get on your bike and cycle for miles, you can lift weights.  You can do all that, but does anyone really sweat with those activities the way we sweat with running?

English: Drops of sweat

English: Drops of sweat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve missed the sweat.

I didn’t realize I missed it until, coming back from this injury, I felt I was ready to throw in a couple of intervals .  About half-way through the planned set, it hit me.  I have really missed the sweat, the kind of sweat that requires your running clothes bypass the hamper and go directly to the washer.  On that first day back, dipping my toe into speed work, I didn’t reach that point where the skin gets a whitish sheen and you feel like you can brush the salt away.  I didn’t need to. Even a moderate amount of sweat was psychologically uplifting for this returning-to-the-flock runner.

Sweat, the particular type of sweat  – and there is a particular type – that results from a good run feels like my body telling me “we did good.”  I haven’t found a source that says sweat generated when running is any different that sweat generated from a tough tennis match or digging postholes. It’s all from the eccrine glands as they respond to messages from the brain signaling a need to reset the thermostat. Still, runner sweat feels different. It sends a message that that we’ve purged some of the junk, mental and physical, that comes our way.  The sweat speaks to me saying “you are in better shape spiritually and physically than when you went out the door – now go take a shower, get on with your life and do it well.”  I’ve missed the sweat.

sweat-is-good-376064-475-475_large

Frugal Friday – Race Fees Paid for Naught

We interrupt the litany of Boston tales to explore the costs of races we don’t run – either because we don’t make it to the start line or the race is cancelled.

"MONEY"

“MONEY” (Photo credit: Englishpointers

English: Symbolized moneyAs with any type of travel, participating in road races sometimes requires transportation and lodging costs in addition to registration fees.   So, for those of us who want the max from our running budget, how do we minimize costs when the race is a no-go?

There are online registration services that provide insurance coverage for fees in some circumstances, such as injuries, but those I’ve seen don’t address cancellation of a race.

So, why don’t we get to the race start line?  We’re already invested and it’s understood that race registration fees are nonrefundable.  In my personal case, the most costly recent races I have missed and may miss, both in travel costs and entry fees cover both the scenario of the cancelled race (NYC Marathon) and potentially this year’s Boston Marathon; the first a race cancellation, the second an injury.  (Note to self:  Downhill skiing was not the wisest choice of cross-training.)

Injuries and unexpected family events are the primary reasons I have been a no show after registering for a race and I hear those reasons most frequently from running friends when they bail on a race and the registration fee and travel expenses go down the drain.

English: Dripping faucet Deutsch: Tropfender W...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And what are the reasons that races actually cancel? In my experience, weather-related cancellations are most frequent and they make sense.  I’ve been registered for races where portions of the course were under water.  Adventure races aside, do you really want to be out there anyway?
The most notable weather-related cancellation,  the 2012 New York City Marathon found runners from around the world either settling in for New York City shopping and shows, or more likely scurrying to find another marathon, preferably along the Eastern seaboard.

Then, there is the March 17 Rome Marathon.  No, not cancelled, but Runner’s World reports the start time may be delayed from 9 a.m.  to late afternoon depending on the date a papal decision is made.  So, registered runners may have a little more time to lounge on the piazza sipping cappuccino before they begin their journey past the Coliseum and the Trevi Fountain.

TREVI FOUNTAIN

TREVI FOUNTAIN (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then, there is the previously scheduled April 10 Gaza Marathon which in fact was cancelled after authorities in Gaza determined women would not be allowed to participate.  The United Nations Relief Agency then promptly canceled the marathon.
While I was looking forward to New York, I’m not enroute to Rome this year and I’m not one of the 370 women who had registered for the 26.2 mile Gaza run.  But, who knows what wiles of the world will occur between the time I commit to my next race entry and the time the start whistle blows.

If someone has the answer for this frugal senior runner, please let me know.  I’m daydreaming of an easy cost/benefit formula that would intuitively tell me when it’s time to hedge my bets with insurance coverage or some other method of cutting my losses.  You may be saying it already exists – it’s called common sense.  True, but common sense is sometimes in short supply when the lure of  intriguing travel and race destinations call.

Tales of Bostons Past – No Soup for You

A Victorian B&B with street parking and a convenient metro stop was base for my 2010 Boston Marathon.  imagesMy host greeted with a question spoken in an gentle old word accent. “Are you a marathon official?” No, I clarified, I am in Boston to run. “You, you are running the marathon?” Having assured him that, yes I qualified and had run the marathon previous years, Rudy shook his head and made a thoughtful offer to have a pot of chicken soup waiting after the race.
I settled into my third floor bedroom to prepare for an early a.m. departure. Race morning, I caught the metro to the Boston Commons, found a window seat at Dunkin Doughnuts, sipped coffee and, until I joined them, watched runners congregate at the shuttle pickup.

The Bus to Hopkinton

Time flew at the Athlete’s Village and I was soon throwing my warmup bag into a bus window.  In my corral were several women in the 60-64 age group. We compared qualifying times then suddenly we’re off, punctuated with the beep-beep-beep of chips on the trip that would end at Copley Square.

Boston

Boston (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Within three miles of the start, I ran across my goddaughter, running for Dana-Farber. We fell in, chatting long enough to arrange to meet at the finish, then went on our separate journeys.

My goal for this Boston was to actually qualify for Boston at Boston, a time that had so far eluded me. I had trained well and felt strong through the hills. Crossing the finish line, my Garmin indicated I was 30 seconds off my qualifying time. (Later, seeing my time listed as a BQ on marathonguide.com, I realized while I didn’t technically meet my goal, I did qualify within the 30-second grace time Boston then allowed.)

Finding my goddaughter (would love to have a photo but lost it when my cell phone crashed) and her family at the finish, I declined an invite to join them at a Vietnamese restaurant, thinking ahead to the soup

7852353-an-image-representing-chicken-soup my host had waiting for me.

Arriving at the B&B, Rudy greeted me from the second floor landing, waving my freshly printed results, excited and incredulous. “How did you do that?”
After receiving his congratulations, my evening went downhill. He had forgotten a commitment to a bridge tournament during the day which did not leave time for cooking. “So, you see, I am sorry but I have no soup for you.”
Having waved off friends who were now on the other side of town dining on comforting Vietnamese cuisine, I accepted the annoucement with all the grace I could muster. After making my way back to the third floor and luxuriating in a warm shower, I reassessed my food stock: two energy bars, a sandwich bag filled with a mix of pecans and walnuts, a banana, 2 small cartons of chocolate milk, and a can of Pringles. Opting out of a restaurant search, I dined on an odd mix of these items and was soon asleep.

Although there was no soup for me, morning came and Rudy served a wonderful Dutch omelette accompanied by fresh fruit, hearty bread and interesting conversation. It made the last trip from the third floor on my post-marathon legs worthwhile.
Soon enough I’m leaving the Mass Pike,

Massachusetts Turnpike

Massachusetts Turnpike (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

listening to a couple of DJ’s continue the neverending debate over the best pizza in New Haven.
So long, New England and Boston – I love you, I’ll miss you and I’ll be back.

What I Learned at the Marathon Relay

“80% of success is showing up.”  So says Woody Allen.

English: Woody Allen in concert in New York City.

English: Woody Allen in concert in New York City. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my particular case as a first time participant in a marathon relay, the quote is apt.  I was registered on a 60+ Age Group Team at the Harrisburg Marathon.  We placed first in our category.  We were also the only team registered in that category, but no matter.  Just apply Woody’s 80% rule.

Team Captain Brad pointed out that had we registered for the Masters Division, we would still have placed first. And why not?  Amongst the four of us, we brought more than 150 years of running experience to the relay.

How is it that this is my first relay experience? Well, it was the first time I was asked to join a relay team (thanks, Brad). And, I really love distance running.  It was only the expectation of the relay coming on the heels of the NYC Marathon a week earlier that enticed me to forego the full Harrisburg Marathon and say yes to the relay.

Silver Streaks Frank, Brad, Mary Lou and Greg pre-relay

Asking our team captain what I needed to know to run the relay, his response was “Be looking for Greg to approach the relay transfer, move the chip from his ankle to yours as fast as you can and run as fast as you can.”  O.K. , I can do that.

The relay assignment gave me a new understanding of my strengths and weaknesses. As 3rd leg runner, roughly a 7.4 distance beginning at around the 13 mile point on the marathon route, I was to cover the section with some fairly tough ascents and descents. After the hand-off (or ankle-off) from Greg’s arrival at the transfer point, I joined a bevy of runners on the marathon course.

As I approached the hills, I was suddenly surrounded by the 8.5 mile pace group, their pacer shouting out to his flock notice they were entering the hills followed by all types of encouragement.  Since 8.5 is more a 10K pace for this 9.5 pace marathoner, I made an instantaneous goal to stay with them.  I took side glances at their running style, their stride, assessing what makes an 8.5 minute mile marathon runner.  I stayed with them through the first several uphills and mild downhills and flats.  When the downhills grew more extreme, the fraidy-cat button in my brain turned on and I slowed my pace, cautious of freshly fallen leaves on the trail.  The 8.5 minute mile runners surged around me like moths flitting by my ears.  Huh?  How is it I kept pace with this group on the worst of the uphills to be left in the dust on the downhills?

Note to self:  Take the opportunity during the winter to work on your downhill posture, footing, and mental courage to emerge a stronger downhill runner in the Spring.

Running friends Marge and Dave join us at the finish line

Exiting the park, I could see the 8.5 pace sign a quarter mile ahead of me. One more turn and I was within shouting distance of my relay transfer point, but certainly not within shouting distance of the 8.5 mile pace group.  The pacer’s sign was a white spot in the distance.

I quickly removed the chip from my ankle, transferring to Brad for the final relay leg.  With a wave of thanks to the volunteers working the transfer station, I was off to join my team and the festivities at the finish.

Looking better at the finish than at the start.