Sunday, August 30, 2009

The View from a Water Stop Volunteer

[Edited - Aug 31, 2009]

I recently had an unpleasant experience working a water stop during a race. I've been thinking about how I would address this issue for a while. I want to make my point, but I don't want to disparage anyone. Here is what happened.

At this event, our water stop didn't receive cups until AFTER the race started, we didn't have any race staff contact numbers, we didn't have enough table space to set up cups in advance and we ran out of water after less than one hour. Most of our volunteers enter races and we have all been in events that have run out of water, so we were mortified!

Because we didn't have a contact number, we felt helpless. Though we were able to eventually reach someone, it was too late. The nasty looks and complaints we got from race participants was horrible.

So today, I was thinking about what I, as a volunteer, need from a race director to be a successful volunteer and help the race director look good.

Here's my list:
1) Instructions. How much water should be in a cup? What is the best way for a volunteer to hold a cup? How do we hand out gel? What should we expect crowd wise?
2) Contact information for key race staff. Who do we call if we run out of something like water or cups? Who do we contact if there is a serious emergency?
3) Have someone check on volunteers and verify they have everything they need.
4) If you promise shirts, hats, lunch, coffee ... whatever it is, deliver. Adults don't care so much, but when teens are helping out, and they expect a shirt or hat, they should at least get the shirt and hat.
5) Have supplies at the water stop before the volunteers show up. It was stressful receiving the cups AFTER the race started!
6) Make the volunteer sign up easy.
7) Make sure your web site is accurate regarding what will happen at that particular water stop. Is it just water? Will we be handing out gels or fruit? Will we receive shirts?
8) Make sure volunteers feel appreciated -- especially if you want them to come back the next year. How do you do that? Follow items 1-7.

If you've ever volunteered at a race, what else would you add?

Note: I am not disparaging any one race or race director. In fact, the person who owns the race I volunteered at is one of the best race directors out there. From the many races I've entered, it is evident that other volunteers need instruction for filling cups, holding cups, etc., too. I figure if I have questions and concerns, other volunteers must have similar concerns. Race directors have a difficult job. And no matter how hard they try, a race never goes off perfectly. With any luck the glitches they encounter are small and manageable. And to all race directors who welcome walkers in your events -- THANKS! I know it isn't easy to keep courses open for an extra long time.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Best and Worst Parts of the Parkersburg Half Marathon

Best Parts of this Race
- The pre-race pasta dinner and post-race pizza are included in the $35 registration fee. (There was even beer!)
- Each food event also had tons of fruit available.
- The volunteers are plentiful and enthusiastic.
- Ice-cold, wet, towels handed out at the finish line. Wow!
- Hotels in the area are reasonably priced.
- The entire town supports the race.
- There were course monitors verifying those who signed up as walkers actually walked.
- 17 water stops for a 13-mile race.
- Ice handed out at many of the water stops.
- Over 130 walkers!

- They ran out of water at the finish line. There were plenty of other beverages, but no water. From previous experience, I know this was an anomaly.
- The start is not chip timed! Why wear a chip if there is not a mat at the start? I was in the back, it took about 30 secs to reach the start. 30 secs can a big deal at the finish line.
- Hills and heat in August! It's a challenging course. The hill in mile 11 looks different after walking 11 miles than just looking at it from the side.
- The technical shirts are huge -- even the smalls.
- Now that walkers start with the runners, the race could be a little lonely. I liked it better when the walkers started 30-min early because there were runners around me the entire race.

This is the race I PR'd at a couple years ago. It's fun and definitely worth doing more than once!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Parkersburg Half Marathon Recap

I toed the line at the Parkersburg News and Sentinel Half Marathon at 8 a.m. yesterday morning with Deb. (Elaine, Peggy and Laura were much further ahead of us.) The walkers started with the runners, which was new for me at this race. (Up until last year, walkers started 30 min earlier.) The temps were mild, though I forgot to check what the temp was exactly.

Deb and I walked the race together and got off to a good start with our first mile at 14:43 -- in our goal range of between 14:30 and 15 min per mile to start. Our second mile was also 14:43 and we started passing a few slower walkers.

Generally when we walk together, I set the pace. In this race, Deb kept pushing us the entire way! She did a great job!

As we climbed a big hill around miles 3 and 4, we actually sped up! I loved it when we did mile 4 in 14:12 and Deb said she couldn't go any faster. Still, we did our next mile just a tiny bit faster.

As the day went on, the skies cleared, the sun was high and it got progressively warmer. Luckily, there were more than enough water stops (17) and many had ice which was fantastic! The water stops were great with very encouraging volunteers. I don't do Gatorade on a course, but plenty of stops offered Gatorade.

Though I've seen a little more crowd support in previous years, there were many people sitting in their front yards cheering us on.

Between miles 9 and 10, Deb did something I have NEVER seen her do before -- she stopped at a Port-a-John! I took advantage of the opportunity and we made a record-breaking stop of only 1:10 (hence the over 15-min mile).

The day before the race, we scoped out the hill in the middle of mile 11. Funny how it didn't look too bad from the side, but in the middle of the race after 11 full miles it was a pretty big hill. In fact, Deb channeled our friend Chris and refused to look until we reached the top. The hill is not so bad for the first three quarters. It's a block long hill that slopes gradually. But the last quarter angles up dramatically making the entire hill horrible!

After that very memorable hill, we had a pretty steep decline on the other side which strained our knees in a different way.

With less than a mile to go I realized we had walked for exactly 3 hours. My half marathon personal record was 3:07 in Parkersburg and I thought I had a shot to break that record and left Deb. I did my best to speed up. In the meantime, I caught up with and passed Elaine who is ALWAYS faster than I am, but was slower than usual because of the heat. (She started closer to the front of the pack than I did.) Unfortunately, I was farther from the finish line than I thought, and it took 9 min 54 seconds to reach it. Darn!

Still, my finish was about 4 min faster than my last half marathon! Not bad! On top of that, I have Deb to thank because she pushed me for 3 hours.

So, my finish time by my watch was 3:09:54 and my official time was 3:10:26 with a 14:32 average! I would have liked to be faster, but that average is good for a hilly course.

Official Finish Times for Others in My Group
Laura - 2:40:05
Peggy - 2:52:55
Elaine - 3:10:28
Deb - 3:11:19

Deb's and my per-mile pace
1 14:43
2 14:43
3 14:21
4 14:12
5 14:11
6 14:28
7 14:33
8 14:24
9 14:18
10 15:34
11 14:29
12 14:55
13.1 15:03
My Watch Total 3:09:54

Friday, August 21, 2009

Race Day Decisions -- What to Wear!

I have often joked with my husband that you can tell what my current interest is by the types of T-shirts I own. When I threw competitive darts, I had shirts from various dart tournaments. I also have a collection of shirts from the different rivers I have rafted. (I still love white water rafting.) I now have an absolutely huge collection of shirts from races! Many are cotton and the most recent ones are mostly technical fabrics. (The technical fabric shirts don't seem to fit as well for some odd reason.)

So, packing for the Parkersburg Half Marathon I could not decide what shirts to pack. Do I take WALK! Magazine shirts even though the magazine has folded? Should I take a shirt from my favorite race? Do I pick a shirt I know Deb won't wear?

I love wearing the Big Sur Marathon shirt because it generates lots of conversation. I like wearing the WALK! Magazine shirts because they say "Why run slow when you can walk really fast!" Sometimes I like wearing shirts that show I'm from Columbus or even shirts from the last time I did that same race. You never wear the race day shirt the day of the race -- only geeks do that!

I'm not sure why this time was harder. So, I have my favorite Parkersburg T-shirt (red cotton) for the trip there. I've packed the WALK! Magazine Walking Team shirt for the race. (The team still exists.) And I have a plain solid-colored shirt if I feel like looking like an adult later in the day. (Sometimes I do that.) Right now I'm planning to wear my race shirt home. Yea, sometimes I'm also a geek.

(Photos to come after the race.)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sport Science Dispels Sports Myths

My son not only plays many sports, he likes to watch sports on TV and shows about how to play sports. Because of his interests, I started watching a show called Sport Science that airs on Fox Sports.

This show is a cross between Myth Busters and some type of "how to" sports show. OK, it isn't really like Myth Busters, but I don't know how to describe it otherwise. Basically the show asks questions such as can a female boxer hit as hard as a male boxer? Can crowd distraction affect a basketball player throwing free throws? Can a person sweat to death?

Interestingly enough, the answer to all of those questions was "Yes".

I was most interested in the question about sweating to death. I missed the first couple minutes, so I don't know the name of the athlete who volunteered to be the guinea pig. Let's just say he was extremely fit.

He jogged on a treadmill wearing one of those silver "sweat" weight loss suits. He lost a tremendous amount of sweat and they explained how the kidneys and other organs work harder when the blood gets thicker. It was very interesting!

Though the show isn't often about running, it still is very interesting to see how they handle their questions. I'd recommend it to most sports fans.

There was one show I found interesting, but it really seemed more like a commercial. It was about a fabric that pulled sweat away from the skin, but kept the sweat in the fabric to cool the skin. They showed how wicking fabrics can actually lead to athletes being hotter because the sweat can't help cool your body when it is pulled away. An ultra athlete wore a shirt made of this fabric while (again) jogging on a treadmill with heaters raising the temperatures in the room to 125 degrees! The shirt worked, it kept his core temperature to only 100 degrees. The whole problem with this particular episode is that it seemed to be too much of a commercial for the fabric and the VERY expensive clothing line. (But then again, the show about the "Nutty Buddy" was similar.)

Let's just say, I don't think this particular episode was unbiased.

Being on the Local News

Today Deb, Elaine and I were doing a light hill workout before the half marathon Saturday. We got to the top of the hill at Griggs Reservoir when a gentleman hopped out of an NBCi car with a camera man and said he'd like to interview us.

We agreed thinking that, because we were racewalking and hot and sweaty, they wanted to ask us some health and fitness questions. I was pretty excited, thinking about what we would say.

Then the reporter, Matt Alvarez, informed us our water bills will be increasing because of tax increases and wanted to know what we each think about it! HA!

It is supposed to air tonight on the 11 p.m. news, but I doubt if I'll stay up. I was hot, sweaty, my hair was a mess (from being hot and sweaty) and I wanted to talk about something really important, like health and fitness.

It felt like it was going to rain, in fact, we almost didn't go tonight because of the weather. At my recommendation Deb and I met a little before 5. As we climbed our first hill, Elaine drove up behind us, parked the car and walked the rest of the way with us! We did just two reps for a mile total with a half mile warm up and cool down. We ended up walking a total of 2 miles.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Getting Antsy

When my walking mileage suddenly decreases, like taper week, I tend to get antsy legs. It's hard to sit still, I feel like I need to get up and walk around, sometimes they even ache.

To help alleviate the aggravation, I took a short easy walk of just a little over a mile tonight. It helped quite a bit!

But now as I'm getting closer to heading to bed, I'm getting antsy again. I'm going to have to run the stairs or something before I head to bed, or I'll never be able to sleep.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Taper Begins -- 8 Miles is a Milestone

We walked "only" 8 miles today. I love it when I can say that -- "only" 8 miles.

We'll reduce our mileage this week then the Parkersburg Half Marathon is next Saturday! Woo hoo!

Whether you are increasing your mileage working up to much longer distances, or tapering and working your way down -- 8 miles is a major milestone for me.

Each time I cut back my mileage to 8 miles, I think about training for the first long-distance race I ever entered 10 years ago -- half of the Columbus Marathon. Only TNT members were allowed to walk the race and we had to start an hour before the full marathon. On our first LSD, the TNT training program had us do only 2 miles. When we finally worked up to 8 miles it was so HARD! I was exhausted the entire rest of the day.

I followed that training schedule precisely and finished feeling great!

Now I've done enough marathons, half marathons and one 21-miler, that 8 miles really isn't such a big deal. In fact, even at times when I feel unfit, I can still walk 8 miles.

But most of the time, when I see 8 miles on my schedule, I'm excited. I know I've put in the time, the effort, the sweat, the hard work, and in a week, I'll be ready for the next race.

I'm beginning to think 8 should be my new lucky number.

(Nah! My lucky number has ALWAYS been 13 -- the number of miles in a half marathon! Coincidence? Maybe not!)

The meaning of the number 8:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What's Your Walking Pet Peeve?

I saw a recent blog post about runners' pet peeves. The ones mentioned mostly dealt with runners following too close to another runner, run/walkers who repeatedly pass the same person then walk and dogs not under control.

I can relate -- those are annoying! But walkers have other issues and here are a few of mine:

- Run/walkers who register for races as walkers. (I'm sorry, even if you run a little bit, you are a runner.)
- People who come to a water stop and literally stop. Seriously, water "stop" does not mean you have to stop. Move off to the side and keep moving!
- Runners who run into walkers who are off to the side of the road.
- Walkers who use the reasoning "I paid the same amount as a runner" as an excuse to be inconsiderate to other athletes. They usually start way up front with the elite runners then walk several across blocking faster athletes from passing.
- Walkers who sign up for a race knowing they cannot finish in the time allowed. (They give all of us a bad name.)

So, what are your walking pet peeves?

Slowing a Little Before Race

The Parkersburg Half Marathon isn't for another 10 days but I've been taking it a little easier this week. (Normally, I don't start to taper or walk easy until the week of the event.)

Yesterday, I didn't do a speed workout because my heel is bothering me. It doesn't actually hurt, it just doesn't feel right. I know it is from wearing too light of shoes on a long walk. (Maybe it's bruised?) I did 3 easy miles in well-padded cushy shoes. Afterward I iced my heels and felt pretty good!

Today Deb and I did a hill workout as we do every Wednesday. We didn't walk hard, just up and down our hills four times. It's not hot today, but it is humid. We didn't purposely walk slower, but it did take us a little longer.

I've been doing weekly speed and hill workouts for a couple months, so I'm not worried that this week the workouts are a little less intense. I'm sure we'll be ready.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Sore Today

I cannot believe that I am sore today. The good news is, I'm a good sore. The bad news is, I was not sore last week after walking the exact same distance. I have to assume that the reason I'm sore is because we were walking much faster than we did last week. I wonder if it had to do with wearing the thicker, heavier shoes. I'm sure that the shoes being less flexible affected my stride.

Sunday tends to be the day I go grocery shopping and cook for the week, I tend to do a lot more standing. It makes the muscle soreness more obvious than on other days of the week.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Walked a New Route Today

Normally when we walk starting at Tuttle Park, we head north toward Clintonville and after half an hour we turn around. In fact, several of us decided we really don't like walking there for long distances because we always turned around after only 30 min. Today we intended to walk 11 miles, so we took a different route heading south toward downtown Columbus.

The Olentangy Trail in this direction is a lot less crowded than sections further north. No massive marathon training groups, fewer bikes and no rude bikers screaming at us.

We followed the Olentangy River past OSU all the way to downtown and the Broad Street bridge. It was great! We ended up walking across the river from the Santa Maria all the way to COSI.

It was nice walking a part of the trail we didn't know well. It was very scenic and fun walking through campus. The only thing I didn't like was having to wait for traffic to cross two major roads, and we got a little off track twice. When we ended up on sidewalks it was sometimes confusing to figure out where we should go to stay on the trail.

Regardless, it was a great walk. I'll definitely walk it again, though I would feel uncomfortable walking a lot of this trail alone.

Hey Larry, thanks for the recommendation!

Though we had intended to do 11 miles, we did only 10. I had a hot spot on my left foot that ended up turning into a blister. Peggy, who was walking with me had a similar problem. I need new shoes, but this is going to sound lame, I'm having a hard time justifying spending the money right now. Tons of auto repairs, huge vet bill, wedding gifts.... And I have to admit I'm spoiled. Over the last few years, I'm used to getting shoes for free. Now that WALK! has folded, I don't get those free shoes.

I know, for the health of my feet I really need to get the shoes. I'm hoping I can hang in there just a little longer. In the meantime, I'm wearing shoes that are just a little too stiff, but have great padding and very little mileage on them and make my feet feel great. They just are not good for racewalking.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Woman Wins Chicago Half Marathon!!!

Kara Goucher won the first Rock N Roll Chicago Half Marathon on August 2! Let me clarify -- she didn't just win the women's division -- she won the entire half marathon beating out the next closest runner by 19 seconds! Her finish time was 1 hr 8 min and 5 secs.

I had hoped that one day we would see a woman win a major race. After all, the best women marathoners still beat out several thousand men. I have to admit, I just expected it would still be several years.

Read the story here:

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Tossing Out My Shoes

I'm pretty loyal to shoes. Too loyal at times.

I had a great pair of shoes a couple of models ago that I absolutely loved! They were light enough to roll my foot, but heavy enough that I could walk a half marathon in them. I loved the shoe.

As is typical, the manufacturer "upgraded" the shoe. There were some obvious improvements and on my short distance days, I liked them better than the original. I was happy.

The problem started when I started training for a long-distance event. Somewhere around 5 or 6 miles I got a blister on the inside edge of my right heel. Having been a former Blister Queen, I was confident I could work through it. These shoes were a little different. The more I wore them, the shorter the distance needed to develop a blister.

The manufacturer even sent me a new pair in a different size, and that pair also caused blisters. I've never encountered that before.

It's been a while since I have worn the shoes. Today I was short of time and decided to do just a short 2-mile walk with my husband. I thought it would be safe to wear the shoes. Before we were even close to being finished, I could feel a hot spot on each foot and ended up developing blisters on both!

OK, I give up. I'm not even close to having worn out the shoes. In fact, there is plenty of mileage left on them. I'm not sure if the problem is the shoes, my feet, or racewalking in these shoes instead of running.

So, through a local running store, FrontRunner, I've decided to donate both pairs to a group that gives shoes to needy runners. I hope a person with a different gait will fit these shoes better than I do.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


Did my speed workout a little differently tonight. Instead of walking a quarter mile as fast as possible, I decided to walk as fast as possible for a set time.

Because I hovered around 3 minutes for a quarter mile last week, today I walked as fast as I could for 3 min then did a recovery walk for 2. There is a cul de sac across the street from my house which is pretty good for doing speed. After the sprint, the recovery walk takes me back to my house with enough time for a quick gulp of water before the next sprint.

Both methods have benefits. I like knowing that I'm walking a quarter mile faster each time. Yet, I also like knowing that as soon as my watch says 3 minutes, I can quit. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to really mark (or remember) where I stopped each time to see if I was able to walk farther.

My shin muscles worked pretty hard and my legs felt appropriately rubbery by the time I finished. And I probably should have spent more time cooling down and stretching afterward.

It was nice and cool tonight! Perfect weather for walking. I wore the Chines racewalking shoes, which are great for being flexible and rolling my feet. They might be too light though. My heels were bothering me toward the end.

I did cough a little while walking, but I think it is OK. I was breathing deep and trying to clear out the last remnants of my cold. It should be totally gone any day now!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Easy Couple Miles Today

Just did a couple of easy miles today. The temps were perfect for walking! Nice and cool in the low 70s. Unfortunately, I was feeling somewhat wiped out from the day. I decided to listen to my tired self and take it easy.

I do plan to do my weekly speed workout tomorrow.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Missing Mile Markers - 10 Miles I Think

Those of us planning to do the Parkersburg Half Marathon this month did a 10-mile training walk yesterday. The weather was perfect! The temps were mild (slightly chilly) when we started at 6:45 and the morning was sunny and beautiful. We started at the Park of Roses in Whetstone Park and headed north toward Worthington Hills.

Because it was our long slow distance day, we had anticipated walking between 14:30 and 15 min per mile. I like to check every mile to be sure we are on track.

We started between mile markers. The first mile we could measure we were slower than we had planned at 15:09. The next couple were 14:55 and then 15:12. From this point out, I had trouble finding mile markers. I'm not sure if they were missing or if I just didn't see them.

In the event we couldn't find mile markers, we had planned to walk for 2 1/2 hours -- so after about 77 min, we turned around. As we got closer to our starting point, we started running into members of the Buckeye Striders Walking Club. Peggy was walking a little faster than us, so I tried to pick up the pace to walk with her.

When Peggy joined us, I pushed myself as she simply "strolled" beside me. The pace had to be good (for me), because by the time we returned to the starting point, I had walked for 2 hours and 27 min! 77 min out, yet a total of 2:27!

I felt great at the finish and only coughed when Deb made me laugh during our walk. Because I had not walked as much as my training schedule called for during the past week, I was thrilled to feel so good after walking 10 miles. However, driving home I started getting a headache which got progressively worse and lasted for hours! Not sure how it is related -- might not be at all.

My guess is that we walked somewhat close to 10 miles since we walked longer than 75 min out.

I'm pretty sure I need new shoes. I really hate buying new shoes! I hate trying to figure what I need and whether the shoes on my feet will feel good after 13 miles.