The Lost Dutchman Races 2013 Race Report

Well, apologies for taking a few days off from blogging. It’s been a busy week. As it happens, in addition to planning my Spring Break volunteer trip to Honduras and attempting to finish my dissertation, I also have three job interviews in the span of three weeks. I’m fully aware that having a lot of people interested in me is nothing to complain about, but it’s sure creating havoc with my schedule.

I’ve been signed up for the Lost Dutchman 10K since December. Last year I went to the event with my friend, who was running the half marathon, and we made an overnight trip of it and had a great time. (Report.) This year, though, I decided to make it a day trip. I’m already spending too much time away from home in the coming month. In fact I spent this past Thursday and Friday in Florida, came home and slept most of Saturday, then set my alarm for 4:45AM to wake up this morning and drive. Um, fun.

Whimsical western taxidermy fun

Whimsical western taxidermy fun

I have to say this for the Lost Dutchman, though: For being a locally organized, relatively large event (5 races, with hundreds of competitors in each) the organization is better than many other races I’ve run. I got to the race parking area 35 minutes before start time, and I was able to catch the shuttle, use the bathroom, pick up my packet, check my gear bag, take some pictures, and get to the starting line with time to spare! The only glitch was that they didn’t have a tech tee in my size, but I was able to give them my address and they promised to send me one in the mail. Class act. The race area also featured some silly photo ops and kid friendly activities, including Mary the burro.

LD_Burro

But you all probably want to know about the race, huh? Well, last week you may recall that I set a 10K PR on a training run and was doubting my ability to do it again today. But guess what? My week-old PR fell in a spectacular way this morning.

Mile 1–9:22

Mile 2–9:20

Mile 3–9:02

Mile 4–9:06

Mile 5–8:55

Mile 6–8:50

Mile 6.2–8:40*

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2013 10K Medal

In all, I finished just under 56:30, earning me a new PR and a 10th place finish in my age group. I’m really pleased and amazed at this performance, especially on a somewhat hilly course. I’m sure it helps that I’ve been doing so many longer runs these past few months, but today I also didn’t try to police my pace. In a half marathon if I saw a time under 9 minutes/mile I’d probably freak out and force myself to go slower, but I had enough confidence in my ability to finish a 10K that I just kept pushing. Maybe I should think more about adopting this mentality in all my races.

After the race I got some tasty food and was able to watch some really fast marathon finishers. If you’re a runner (or walker) and you ever happen to be in Apache Junction in February, definitely do the Lost Dutchman. The event supports local causes, has a great community feel, and builds awesome memories. I hope this Lost Dutchman won’t be the last for me.

 

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The Second PR of 2013

Lost Dutchman 10K Medal 2012

Lost Dutchman 10K Medal 2012

Yeah, that happened in a totally unexpected way. I set a 10K PR on my long run yesterday. I started off feeling good and thinking about the Lost Dutchman 10K, which I’m running this upcoming weekend. I’ve been hoping to finish this race in under 1 hour, which I’ve managed to do on training runs several times before. However, the Lost Dutchman is pretty hilly (despite their claims that it is flat, it’s rolling all the way) and I’ve been kind of lazy about training in the past month. Anyway, I ran my first mile yesterday in 9:42 and just decided to keep pushing. I ended up hitting the 10K mark at 58:38, a new PR by just over 30 seconds. Then I immediately had to stop and remember how to breathe, then I ran about three more miles. Win.

Just a little sore today. Let’s hope I manage something similar next Sunday.

(By the way, I totally love the Lost Dutchman and I might shake someone down to get a full marathon medal… or at least to get a picture of one.)

The Year of the Snake

Happy Lunar New Year, everyone! This is the year of the snake, and according to Chinese astrology snake years can be volatile–full of unexpected events and opportunities. I’ve never considered myself a superstitious person, but the year of the dragon brought me great things after I followed some good luck tips, so why not try again?

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One of the things you can do to ensure good luck in the new year is to prepare a meal that will please the new year’s governing animal. Last year, my friends and I had sushi because the water dragon likes seafood. This year, I was told that the snake likes eggs. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to make tea eggs. My Chinese aunt told me about them when I was in California and I was intrigued. Here’s how mine turned out, I love the patterns on the egg and shell after they have soaked overnight:

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This recipe also made my house smell delicious, like licorice and cinnamon. As to the flavor of the eggs themselves, I thought they were pretty subtle. I actually went lighter on some of the ingredients than I should have because I wasn’t sure how strong they would taste. If I make it again, though, I’ll follow the directions more closely. With this batch I got a hint of sweetness and spice especially in the yolks, but otherwise it tasted like a normal hard boiled egg. They did make a good breakfast with toast and honey, though.

Going to the Dogs

Amazingly, one of the things I don’t post much about on this blog is dogs. I have a little dog named Rico who is nearly 4 years old, and I have had dogs almost all my life. My home growing up was a dogs-are-people-too kind of place. The four cocker spaniels we had over the course of about 20 years were like my little brothers and sisters as much as pets. After the last of our dogs passed away and my aging parents decided they wouldn’t get a new one, I knew it was time to start thinking of becoming a pet parent myself.

While my parents chose to get pure-bred dogs from reputable breeders (usually the dogs who were considered “not fit for show”), I felt strongly about getting a rescue dog. I’ve always been partial to small breeds, and I knew that here in Arizona chihuahuas often come up for adoption. I also researched the breed and felt that one would fit my lifestyle, not to mention that as a renter small dogs are less limiting to one’s housing options. This all sounds like a lot of head-work, but in truth when I saw chihuahua mix Rico at the Humane Society of Southern Arizona on September 11, 2010 it was my heart that did the talking. He was dragging around a toy bird as large as him, our eyes met… It’s a classic love story.

Short, dark, and handsome is totally my type.

Short, dark, and handsome is totally my type.

Rico and I have rarely been apart since. He’s come with me on vacations, stayed in a hotel, and even flies on planes! I never could have anticipated how much it has changed my outlook and helped me with depression to know that every night there’s a little one waiting at home to greet me, and every morning there’s someone waiting to hop in my bed and cuddle.

More than that, though, Rico has introduced me to the world of shelter dogs. I’ve become a whole-hearted advocate of dog adoptions and since December I’ve also been volunteering at the Pima Animal Care Center once a week. It’s hard to overstate the difference love can make in a shelter dog’s life, but here are some things I’ve picked up over time:

  • Breed is not destiny: The majority of dogs at PACC are pits and pit mixes. These breeds often get into the news for causing trouble, and they can seem intimidating. But through interacting with many pits, I have a much deeper sympathy for these dogs. People often get them for protection, they may do little or no training with these dogs or leave them outside all the time, and I’ve even seen dogs that were involved in fighting. An adult dog has the mental capacity of a toddler. Like a child, if you don’t socialize them properly they will become unruly. But many of these “problem” dogs are great at heart and can be trained to be good pets.
  • There is no such thing as an outside dog, period: Being from upstate New York, this seems a no-brainer to me. A dog that is kept outside all the time could not survive in a cold climate, but here it’s quite common that dogs are left outside. This is a terrible idea because it deters proper socialization and training, and because it makes dogs susceptible to illnesses like valley fever and to theft, assault, etc. If you’ve ever seen a dog with a serious case of valley fever, which I have, you will think twice about ever leaving your dog outside over long periods of time.
  • A dog’s backstory is only part of the story: Ask anyone who’s adopted a dog and you’ll find out that the “problem” dogs in the shelter often end up making the best pets. Rico was considered a rescue for behavioral problems. He came from a home with four other, larger dogs and supposedly had aggression toward other dogs and humans. In the first few months I had him it was clear that he wasn’t properly housebroken and had anxiety issues, but today those issues are just not there. It’s not magic; it’s just patience, love, and attention. Maybe his former owners could not give him that, but they had the foresight to recognize it before he crossed the point of no return. Many others have similar stories, for example a close friend adopted a lab mix who allegedly jumped fences. Once she got into the right home, though, she’s never tried to escape again.
  • Love can conquer all: I think making Rico feel loved and secure was key to addressing his behavioral issues. Many shelter dogs have never really known that feeling. It breaks my heart to see dogs who appear to have never been walked on a leash, or who don’t seem to know what a treat is. It’s unimaginable to me that someone would not recognize the spirit in a dog or cat and respect that they are intelligent animals capable of feeling. But animals who find something to live for can do amazing things. One of my favorite little shelter friends, the one who made me determined to keep coming back, was a Boxer who was confiscated from the home where he was abused. I met him on my second visit to the shelter and he was in the worst shape that I have ever personally witnessed a dog in. But I spent time with him. I gave him food. I told him he was handsome and that someone was going to love him. Then I went home and I have thought about that dog every day since. Today he is out of the shelter after nearly two months. He lives in a foster home and is supported by a rescue agency. They post pictures of him online. He still has a long road ahead, but he’s put on weight and is getting loved and he doesn’t even look like the same dog anymore. That’s what loving a dog can do. It can save a life.

Ultimately, my message to anyone who is considering rescuing a dog or volunteering at the animal shelter is this–Don’t let fear or sadness stop you from doing it. Even if you just come to walk a dog or cuddle a dog, it means a lot. I get sad about the dogs, I’ve cried about the dogs. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out for them. But it will work out for more of them if they have positive attention in their lives. The benefits of volunteering, for me, far outweigh the cost and the concern. Every time one of these little ones goes home, the world gets a little brighter. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?

Potstickers and a Busy Life

Well, if I haven’t been posting it’s because I’ve been insanely busy this week… but not necessarily in a bad way. Things on a number of fronts are starting to come together, but more on that later.

In busy times, it’s hard to keep up with cooking and exercise. I’ve had my share of “comfort food” meals recently (I think I had cheese pizza for lunch or dinner no less than four times this week), and since my knee is still bruised I’ve been taking it easier on running, too. One thing I recently discovered, though, is that potstickers or gyoza make a quick and easy meal. If you haven’t made them before, it’s totally easy. I got a package of wonton skins at the local Chinese grocery for under $2 and took my cues from this basic recipe. At the behest of reviewers, though, I chose not to pre-cook my mushroom filling and they turned out fine. Another recommendation is to cook them with vegetable stock instead of water for a richer flavor.

Filled potstickers, waiting to be cooked.

Filled potstickers, waiting to be cooked.

photo 2

Post-cooking, drizzled with a rice wine vinegar/soy sauce combo

This recipe has given me a few good, quick meals in the past couple of weeks. Also, be on the look out for these almond cookies if you have a Chinese store near you. My Chinese aunt bought them for me in California and they are quite good! Chinese new year is just around the corner… Perhaps I’ll make some more new recipes soon to celebrate.


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Tinkerbell Half Marathon Report, Part 2

…As we last left my race report, I went to bed early (-ish) on Saturday night with a belly full of churros and ice cream and after walking around all day at Disney’s California Adventure. I also forgot to mention that I did a quick (1.6 mile) run on Saturday morning to see if I could wear my new race shirt without fear of chafing. In all, Saturday was a bit of me bucking my normal pre-race trends of rest and relaxation. Another thing I tend not to do is to wake up on the morning of a race and barely leave time to get to the starting line. This was clearly unintentional. Just to give you an idea, under normal circumstances my relatives live two highway exits from Disneyland. On race day, it took me about an hour to get there and park. Madness. I love you, California highways.

At any rate, this race was clearly not designed with locals in mind. If you weren’t staying at a Disney-endorsed hotel, there was no shuttle available and you were forced to pay regular parking rates ($15, WTF) to park in the only one of the park’s parking structures that was open. Total BS. The only plus is that the parking structure was huge and lines moved quickly. By the time I parked, though, the start was 15 minutes and a half mile away. And I had to pee. Dammit. It was a sprint to the starting line and I got there literally just as my corral (the first one) was starting off. At least I had a warm-up.

The first part of the race was spectacular. The first five miles ran through back lots, the California Adventure park, Disneyland proper, and Downtown Disney. Crowd support was awesome. I couldn’t believe how many red hat ladies were out! Of course, because I was trying to PR I had to be conservative about stopping for character photos. Honestly, I figured I would build up a time cushion of a minute or two, and then stop for photos at the end. Makes sense, right? Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that basically all of the character photo opportunities would be in those first few miles of the race, and there was no opportunity to loop back after the finish. I stopped for one and only one photo, with Captain Jack Sparrow. Because he had no line. Which I couldn’t believe, and I told him so. Sure, he’s not really Johnny Depp, but a girl can dream. Anyhow, also on the character photo note, I felt better about not posing for pictures when I saw some that were taken of other racers later on. Race start time was 5:00AM so obviously it was dark out, but some of the pictures I’ve seen (including my own) were quite poorly lit. Disney did do a great job with the race experience otherwise, though: Radiator Springs/Carsland, the Small World Cruise, the Castle, and Paradise Pier were lit up beautifully, and the World of Color fountains in the California Adventure park were extremely cool. I also had no problem with crowding or with the course being narrow. In fact, I was running the race of my life.

This was taken the night before, but just to show you what it looks like all lit up.

This was taken the night before, but just to show you what it looks like all lit up.

At mile 5, we left the Disney Parks to run around Anaheim. Obviously running down residential streets in the dark was less satisfying than being in the park, but once we got into the main streets of Anaheim there was plenty of entertainment. School bands, cheer teams, and spectators were out to see and entertain us. I hope these kids somehow benefitted from the race, since they were up extra early. At mile 8.5 I took a Cliff shot from the station and just kept going. Really, the race becomes a blur at this point. I remember the bands and the signs I saw, but this was unlike any half marathon I’ve ever run before. I felt no strain, no fatigue, I was just go-going at a consistent pace and feeling great. It was hard to even believe my Garmin as it was clicking off 10, 11 miles and I was approaching the parks again.

DL_MeI definitely got my butt in gear as I was approaching the finish, even though I knew by then I would meet my goal. I had intended to run the first 11.1 miles just as I did in my last long training run and then take walk breaks at the end if I needed to… But I felt so good I just kept going. Elation was the feeling as I approached the finish line and saw Daisy Duck and Minnie Mouse and heard my name announced–more than a minute under my goal time of 2:10.

As others have mentioned, the finish area was a little uninspired. I wish there had been some characters, photos, more things to do or at least more places to watch the other runners finish. I did get a nice breakfast pack, though, and a heavenly massage. I was also initially disappointed with the race pics… but they put up a nice finish pic (see left) after all, so no more complaints. In all, I’m very happy to have had the Run Disney experience, and I would totally do it again sometime. Are these races expensive? Yes. But, in the end, there’s nothing to compare it to. And now that I have my 2:08-ish PR, maybe I’ll feel comfortable slowing down and enjoying the next one.

Next up: Lost Dutchman 10K 2013!

Tinkerbell Half Marathon Report, Part 1

Well, last weekend I ran the Tinkerbell Half Marathon at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA. The weekend was so big that it’s going to take two parts to tell it all!

On Friday, I drove out to California. The plan was to hit up the race expo, visit Disneyland, and then return Saturday to spend another day at the parks and on Sunday for the race. The race expo was at the Disneyland Hotel and I had a bit of a hard time finding it, but that’s partly due to my failure to correctly read a map.

Screen shot 2013-01-23 at 3.27.25 PMLines moved surprisingly quickly, and I was able to pick up my number, test my timing chip, buy park tickets, and get a race packet without issues. The race t-shirt is a really cool design, which is also on my race number and program. In a stroke of genius, the race packet also includes a drawstring backpack with the race logo. I used this all weekend to carry things around the park. Aside from these items, there weren’t too many “goodies” in the packet. A snack-sized Luna bar and some race info, but not as many samples as I’m used to getting. The expo itself was also OK, but smaller than what I expected for a race this size. I’d say it was similar to what I saw at the Women’s Half Marathon event I did in Scottsdale in 2010, and it may even have been smaller. Nonetheless, I did make sure to scarf down some free samples of Cliff shots and Luna bars, plus I bought myself a glitter headband for my race kit. I didn’t have time to put together a costume for this race, but in case you wanted to do one last-minute, there were plenty of opportunities to stock up on wings, mouse ears, sparkle skirts, and Run Disney gear at the expo.

Visiting Disneyland by night was extremely cool. One discount (and about the only worthwhile discount) that the race offers is an evening ticket that is discounted by about $20 off the regular ticket price. I also had to buy a full-day ticket for Saturday and got a $2 discount on that… but come on, Disney. I think you can cough up a little more of a discount given how much I paid for this race in the first place. Anyway, on Friday night I got on many of the iconic rides: Pirates of the Caribbean, the spinning tea cups, the Matterhorn, and I saw the Captain EO tribute! Lines were pretty short, and everything lived up to expectations. I have to say, spinning in the tea cups and watching the fireworks go off overhead is a mental snapshot I will always remember.

DL_Castle
DL_SmallWorld

On Saturday I returned to the park to scope out Disney’s California Adventure. This newer part of the park celebrates several more recent Disney and Pixar films. I was very excited about visiting Cars Land, since I loved the movie. The layout did not disappoint. It’s really just like the movie come to life! Sadly, though, the lines for rides here were horrible. I never did get on the Radiator Springs roller coaster.

DL_Carsland


DL_FlosMy favorite rides at the California Adventure park were the Tower of Terror, and pretty much all the rides I went on in the Pier area. This part of the park has a ferris wheel, a roller coaster, flying swings, and a Little Mermaid-themed ride. The Never Land 5K race took place on Saturday morning, and I saw lots of people with their “medals.” I stopped a young woman and her family to take a picture of their medals. They reported that it was a great time and wished me luck on the half.

DL_5kmedal

I also had no shame about acting like a big kid all day long.

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DL_Pluto

At the end of the day, I watched the Pixar play parade and then headed back to my aunt and uncle’s house for an early bedtime before waking up at 3:30AM to get to the race the following day. The only question is, after a whole day on my feet and stuffing my face with ice cream and churros, would I be able to meet my goal time? (Dramatic music)

To be continued…