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Event recap: Anthem 5k

Temperatures are inching upward, daffodil chutes are beginning to peak through the ground, and the Louisville Triple Crown of Running has begun…it must be spring!

Nothing signals the end of winter in Louisville than the Anthem 5k. The race is the beginning of the Triple Crown and, to me, the beginning of spring. There are several thousand local runners who agree with me, I guess, since 8,525 of us finished Saturday’s race.

It didn’t hurt that we had gorgeous weather. While it was still quite cool at the 8 a.m. start on the Ohio River waterfront, there was a generous amount of sunshine and the promise of highs in the 50s. We were hopeful and eager after weeks of snowy, icy, frigid runs.

The Anthem 5k starts just north of Louisville Slugger Field in the second year of a new route. Like all of the Triple Crown races (and the Derby miniMarathon that follows in April), runners are packed in at the starting line and elbowing each other for a teensy bit of space. Even though the walkers are supposed to start behind the runners, the first mile at least is quite uncomfortable for everyone. The pack spreads out a bit after that, but it’s still a ‘cozy’ affair through to the finish line.

My training buddy, Valerie, and I met up for this race, as per tradition. I believe this is our fourth year of running Triple Crown races together. This was our best showing for Anthem, though, and we were proud that our track workouts with the group from the Ken Combs Running Store are paying off.

Although I know dozens of people that ran Saturday, I saw very few in the throngs of people. But I had no trouble seeking out the Panera Bread tent for my cinnamon crunch bagel (another tradition)!

Like all the Triple Crown events, the 2010 Anthem 5k was well-organized and festive. New this year was the timing device that replaced the chips: it was incorporated into our bib numbers and was disposable. That helped the bottleneck at the finish line quite a bit.

I feel like every Louisvillian should run (or walk) the Triple Crown races at least once, simply to experience the sense of community that comes with crossing that finish line. It doesn’t hurt to celebrate spring with a jaunt through the city with a few of your (literally) closest neighbors, either!

– albledsoe

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The Metropolitan Building

Do you have what it takes to climb 42 flights of stairs as fast as you can? The American Lung Association’s, 2010 Fight for Air Climb · Master the Met, will be happening in downtown St. Louis next Saturday, March 6, 2010. People of all ages will have the opportunity to challenge their legs and lungs as they make their way to the top of the Metropolitan Square Building. All funds raised go directly to the American Lung Association to help fight for cleaner air and prevent lung disease. Check out the event website here to see pictures from last year’s event and take a sneak peek at the training plan developed specifically for this event.

Do you think you could make it to the top? This year’s climb is full, but it’s never too early to get fit and start training for next year!

-Sara

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We’re starting the final week of January (where did it go?), and I’m wondering where everyone is as far as their goals for the year. Are you sticking with the resolutions and plans you set on January 1?

In 2010, I want to run the Louisville Triple Crown of Running, the Derby Festival miniMarathon, and compete in my first half-iron distance triathlon. I’ve been training for the running events with a group from my local running store, and yesterday sat down with my training partner Valerie to map out our schedule for the tri. Official training for that begins February 15, and I’m getting very excited!

Needless to say, every day isn’t perfect. In fact, I have a head cold now that’s making me feel very groggy, and I’ve been too busy to get in all the strength training I want. But overall, I’m keeping my goals in sight and try to just keep on keeping on. Having those events on my calendar keeps me focused and motivated.

If you haven’t done much so far in January, don’t worry. There’s still a lot of 2010 left, and plenty of time to reach any goal you set your mind to!

– albledsoe

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Running off the Turkey

Actually, the run was before I ate the turkey, but I think it still helped. My running partner Valerie and I met up early on Thanksgiving morning for the Iroquois Hill Runners Thanksgiving Day Run. I like this race because the t-shirts have turkeys on them, hehe. It’s 5 miles, but the first two are straight uphill. Great warm-up!

I’ve always thought of running as therapy because the sweating helps ease stress and frustration and the monotony is conducive to thoughtful prayer and problem solving. And running with a buddy makes it even better because you get to talk about whatever is on your mind. This Thanksgiving run was a great way to get in the holiday mood since Valerie and I discussed family, traditions come and gone, and our favorite dishes.

As we headed into the downhill around mile 3, I also thought about how much I have to be thankful for as I pursue a healthier lifestyle. The people and opportunities that have come into my life make it a fun adventure, and even when my body doesn’t want to cooperate, I appreciate it nonetheless for carrying me through this crazy life!

I’m obviously lucky to have Valerie, the ultimate training buddy. We keep things on our calendar, hold each other accountable during training, and cheer each other on during races. I’m very fortunate to have a great friend and athlete who complements my style perfectly.

Iroquois Hill runners thanksgiving run 2009

Valerie and Amanda at the IHR Thanksgiving Day Run. Action Shot:)

My husband, Adam, is the best support team ever. Even though he thinks I’m insane for taking on some of the things I do, he not only cheers me on throughout training and at races, but he also puts up with my fatigue and crankiness when I’m sore or tired from training. Not to mention my weird eating restrictions and the seemingly crazy stuff I have to spend our money on (Gu? Body Glide?). He was my hero when I was training for the Memphis St. Jude marathon; every week when I came home from my long run, he’d greet me at home with one of my favorite recovery foods (usually thin crust cheese pizza or homemade guacamole).

Speaking of the marathon, I’m very thankful that I am a marathon finisher. It’s one of those things that I’ll always have, and can always think back on when things get tough. I mean, I made it through that, as painful as it was both physically and mentally, so I know that now I can handle just about anything.

I’m thankful, especially at a cool, damp November morning race, for great running and fitness innovations like disposable hand warmers and sweat-wicking ear covers. Genius!

Of course, I’m very blessed to have the greatest blog partner on the planet in Sara. Her smart, funny posts make me laugh, I admire her work ethic and creativity, and I appreciate her support in life in general. We’ve been great friends for years, and it’s fun to have this new adventure to share, too!

Mostly, I’m just thankful that I have the ability and desire to push myself. Our bodies are fragile and not everyone gets to use theirs fully, so if we’re blessed with good health we should fight to maintain it. I love feeling strong, feeling like I have some power over something. For that, I give thanks.

– albledsoe

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Once we retrieved Valerie’s missing tire from the offending team and reassembled her bike, we were ready to set out for checkpoint (CP) No. 1 of the NSAAR! Rough start aside, we were still pretty excited and anxious to make up the lost time. The first bike leg took us out of Jameson Camp and through several neighborhoods, then down to a mall.

Some of the CPs were manned, and the staffer or volunteer would initial or punch our “passport” sheet. Others would be unmanned, but we’d have to answer a question from our clue sheet to prove we were there. Things like: Is the sidewalk on the N, S, E, or W of the intersection of such-and-such streets? How many light poles are between this street and this street? One of the clues really threw us off, because it gave us an intersection to locate and asked us to give the name of the company on the large blue sign at the NW corner of the intersection. Well, there was a solitary giant GREEN Prologis sign at that corner. We looked around, double-checked the compass, checked further down the street, and scratched our heads for several minutes (several other teams came along meanwhile doing the same). We finally determined it was a trick question, and our official answer for that CP was: No Blue Sign.

As a team, the Smarty Panties finally figured out how to coordinate three women on bicycles with a clue sheet, maps, compass, and passport/pen between us. It took some trial and error (and trust among partners!), but we finally settled in to a comfortable system just in time to jump into a canoe and right out of our comfort zone!

Valerie checks her gear at the transition area

Valerie checks her gear at the transition area

Gear was an issue the entire day, though I think we did exceptionally well for complete newcomers. Leaving our bikes on a creek bank and getting into the canoe was interesting; I think we’d been expecting these types of transitions to happen in the transition area (right?). That wasn’t the case. You pretty much keep all your crap with you all the time (backpack, helmet, shoes, food, pocketknife, duct tape, etc.). Getting into the canoe, our biggest concern was our backpacks. There was already water in the bottom of the canoe, and we didn’t want everything soaked. I wore my pack, and was able to keep Valerie and Marcia’s packs on my feet since I was in the middle. Valerie took the front position and Marcia steered from the back.

All of the Smarty Panties had some canoe experience, but these canoes and the creek we were in still proved to be the most difficult event of the day. We assumed it would be a chance to relax, eat and drink, review maps/clues, and gather ourselves for the next portion of the race. That assumption is pretty hilarious in hindsight, because we spent the entire time in the canoe (which was wobbly, yellow, and plastic, much like a Fisher Price toddler toy) stressed and frazzled, trying not to tip over and carrying the thing through areas that were too shallow to paddle through. We were one of the few teams that managed to not end up tipping, which helped us have a better rest of the day.

We had a small orienteering course in another park at the end of the canoe debacle, followed by a LONG walk back to our bikes. This trek included some bushwhacking, but I think we probably could have avoided that. Oh well, we felt very adventurous hiking through the weeds, and finally did make it back to the bikes (we even went over/under a chain link fence…quite Rambo of us, huh?).

Team Smarty Panties: Valerie, Amanda, Marcia

Team Smarty Panties: Valerie, Amanda, Marcia

The last bike portion was simple now that we’d mastered our system (and safety-pinned the strap of my backpack together after it broke), and we were soon back at the camp, where we received another map outlining a ropes/team-building course and another orienteering course. We completed several of the team-building challenges (one point for each team member that completed it), but the lines were very long, so we decided to tackle as many of the orienteering CPs as possible in the hour or so we had left. [Teams that finished after the 6-hour race deadline were penalized for every minute they were late.]

The weather ended up being perfect most of the day; sunny and clear, but cool enough that we weren’t overheated running around with backpacks and long pants.

We finished about 30 minutes before the deadline, the fourth team to cross the finish line. I was so proud of our team, we came in with no idea what to expect, and when we faced a problem, we made it work. Valerie, Marcia, and I were all happy with our finish, especially that we finished DRY, and are ready to come back next year armed with experience, lessons learned (like the importance of a better backpack), and great attitudes!

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Adventure Race Day! It was very exciting to finally be starting the NSAAR. It was a cold morning–I believe high 30s–but in all the hustle and bustle we stayed pretty warm. My team grabbed a prime spot in the transition area near a tree. Easy to spot, built in bike rack!

An adventure race bike rack

An adventure race bike rack

If you’ve done triathlons, the transition area for an adventure race would crack you up. It’s really just a marked off area where you stake your claim to piece of ground. No bike racks, nothing marked by your number. We had large garbage bags to mark our spots. I was glad we didn’t have to throw our bikes on the ground, but that’s what most teams did, and I guess it wouldn’t have been that big a deal.

We were given the maps and clue sheets one hour before the 8 a.m. start. We immediately began marking out our first few steps. It was a bit confusing, because there were several maps (we were expecting just one). Now we know!

All along, we’d been wondering how the event planners manage to keep everyone from just following each other the whole time. Did you get different clue sheets so you visited checkpoints in a different order? We’d heard from repeat racers that sometimes you start in the canoe, which naturally separates teams, or they’ll do a running challenge to spread out the pack. Ours was a hide-and-seek! The race director announced that one person from each team would take a tire of their bike to be hidden by the race staff. Tricky! Before the race began, they revealed that the tires (which had been marked with tape and the team number) were at “the barn.” So our challenge was to locate the barn on the map, run as a team to retrieve the tire, put it back on the bike and have it inspected by race staff, and THEN begin the race.

Marcia studies the clue sheet before the race

Marcia studies the clue sheet before the race

Team Smarty Panties made it to the barn pretty quickly, especially Marcia, who is tall, leggy, and pretty quick. All three of us had laid eyes on every tire there, and none was ours. Um? We had to wait until every single team had retrieved their tires and only one was left, and we finally realized another team had grabbed our tire instead of their own. So we immediately began the race in last place, and a little wary of how the rest of the day would go…

– albledsoe

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After about two months of training, team meetings, and gathering supplies, the day of my first adventure race was here. Although we had very little idea of what to expect (despite our best attempts to weasel information out of the race coordinators via e-mail), my Smarty Panties teammates and I practiced our mountain biking and orienteering and prepared as best we could to take on a brand new challenge. We were only slightly concerned about what exactly bushwhacking is, and what we might need precisely 3 yards of duct tape for.

The No Skirts Allowed Adventure Race (NSAAR) is held outside Indianapolis and is for women only. This was the third year for the event, and it doubled in size from 2008. The 2010 race is already scheduled for October 9 “somewhere northeast of Indy,” so check it out if you’re interested.

Departing Louisville for NSAAR

Departing Louisville for NSAAR

We arrived at Jameson Camp on Friday night in the pouring rain, and checked into some pretty nice cabins (I grabbed a top bunk, as always), and then headed to the nicest campground lodge I’ve ever seen for registration and meetings. As the women congregated, the buzz and excitement grew, and I almost forgot I’d been sick all week. The event staff remained quite adept at dodging our questions and left us clueless about any details of the race. We did have a required ropes clinic, where we learned fun tidbits like “if you see red (on the harness buckle), you’re dead.” The group was amazingly attentive during that session…

My Smarty Panties team of Marcia and Valerie were joined in the cabin by four other ladies from Louisville, most of whom know Marcia and her husband through their Rogue Racing Project. More on that (very cool) topic another day. We were all bunked in the same room, and spent the night trying to set out all our supplies and make sure each individual and each team had all the required gear. Luckily, everything worked out and we were all good to go with few complications. Bags were packed for the following day, clothes were set out, food and water were gathered, and we settled into our bunks.

NOTE: Trying to figure out the concept of 3 yards of duct tape and how that would work? Some smart gal figured out to wrap it around a water bottle!

None of the seven of us had any adventure racing experience, so there was a lot of unknown. Luckily, the forecast was clear for Saturday, and we were prepared to have fun, learn some new things, and, if all went well, spend as little time bushwhacking as possible!

– albledsoe

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