Calico Racing’s 2013 Running from an Angel 50 Miler, Marathon, Half Marathon, 10K, and 5K Race

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I ran my first 10K race!  Since my last running update when I ran Calico Racing’s Recycled 5K, I’ve been increasing my running distances to get ready for the half marathon in March.  On December 8, 2012 I ran my longest distance, 10 miles, in 1:59:27.  Having broken the double digit barrier I decided to scale back and run 5Ks for my two weekday runs and 10Ks for my long run on the weekend until the Running from an Angel 10K on January 12th.  The weather was gorgeous on my last weekday run before the race, 52 degrees instead of the 32 degree temperatures I’d been running in – I was excited for a repeat of the weather on Saturday but alas, it was a lot colder in town by then and especially by beautiful Lake Mead (pictured above).

The race start was a little later than I’m used to: 8:50 a.m. (I usually get up at around 5 a.m. to gear up for a run before the kids wake up).  I broke my own rule of not doing anything new on race day and ate a little breakfast at 7.  Sure enough, I wasn’t feeling great on the drive down to the Lake Mead National Recreation Area but by the race’s start I felt fine.  The race takes place in the fee-based part of the park (usually we’ve parked by the trail for the Six Tunnels hike and didn’t make it to the fee area) so we paid our $10 (my husband remembered cash, I would have forgotten) and drove to the parking area.  We debated walking from the free parking but I’m glad we didn’t try.  After packet pickup we were able to warm back up in the Subie, and pin our bib numbers on without fumbling with our gloves on.

We’d registered for the race way back in August 2012 so I’d requested a Medium shirt and my husband had requested a Large – both were too big for us!  I was able to swap for a Small but he didn’t mind hanging on to his Large though I have to mention he’s now lost almost 70 pounds in the last 8 months.  I am so amazed and proud of all of his hard work.  We’ve both been using MyFitnessPal.com and have had a lot of success with tracking our exercise and calories.  I reached my “30 before 30 goal” right before the new year so I’m down 30 pounds myself – it is so important to us that we’re healthy so we can be there for our kids.  I think they’re a big part of why we decided to get healthy.  I digress, but I know many people start running for the weight loss benefit but even with losing the weight I think what really makes me feel good about myself is putting my shoes on and running distances I never thought possible (for me).  I never even ran in high school P.E., I was always in the straggler group around the track still walking.

Well, not anymore!  One of the coolest things was that I wasn’t nervous before the race as everyone lined up.  I had worked a long day the day before so I didn’t have the energy to toss and turn that night and I ran into several friends that have been my running cheerleaders.  Jodymarie was doing the half marathon (it had been her first half marathon last year so she was running it again!) while my friends Angie (check out her awesome first half marathon recap here) and Kristi (who most recently ran the Rock and Roll 1/2 Marathon here in Vegas for the second year in a row) were doing the 10K.  It was a surprise to run into all of them, I even saw a few familiar faces from law school on the course as I ran, which all went to making me feel at home.  I have to also mention my friend Kacey, who ran the 2012 Running from an Angel race as her very first half marathon at 5 months postpartum – her recap is part of why I thought I could try running myself.

I was so excited to be chatting with my friends that I didn’t notice my husband line up near the starting mat.  Our plan was to use the delay start on our Run Keeper app so we could get our phones into our tune belts (amazon affiliate link) and gloves back on.  I started my app right before I crossed the mat so my tracker didn’t kick in until a minute later.  In a way, it was good because I would see a mile marker and then get the confirmation about a tenth of a mile later that I’d done that distance (the reverse is usually more discouraging).  My initial pace was fast, even uphill, so my first mile came in at about a 9:20 minute/mile pace.  Too fast, but race starts will do that to you.  By mile 2 my split was almost 11 minutes, my mile 3 and 4 it was almost 12 minutes per mile.  I was trying to attack the hills, not get injured, and have some energy left at the turnaround point.  With a 5K you know as soon as you start that you can push yourself and still finish but with a 10K I think there’s more planning involved, especially on a course that isn’t flat.  I saw my husband already heading back when I was about 26 minutes in and not near the turnaround point.  I had lost sight of him early on because of the hills.  The crazy thing is that I then did something I’ve never managed, even in training: getting faster at the end of a run (“negative splits”).  Mile 5 was at an 11:15 pace, Mile 6 at 10:59, and the .2 bit at the end was a downhill 8:58 minute pace.  I think that last bit had to do with seeing my husband at the finish line waving me on.  I love running races with him but also hope someday I can return the favor and cheer for him at a finish line.

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Official chip time: 1:08:00.8 for a pace of 10:58 minutes per mile.  Not only a record for me since it was my first 10K race, it beat my best training run by almost half a second and was at a faster pace than my 5K race in October.  I can’t believe it!  I knew my GPS tracker was off because of my glitches at the start so the official time was a real surprise to me.  So encouraging to do that well on race day and on a trickier terrain – you can see the elevation in green on the image above.  I also included a shot of the course so you can get an idea of the beautiful views we had with the lake right there.  I got the exciting news that my husband finished 12th overall which is fantastic – he really rocked the course and we’re both excited for the half marathon we’re doing the day before our 6th wedding anniversary in March!

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Here’s a picture of me (on the left) with Angie (middle) and Kristi (right) wearing our medals.  I got cheers from both of them when we would pass one another on the course!

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This is a shot of the finish line from where they had refreshments laid out.  Someone was making fresh pancakes for people which I thought was so indicative of the kind of outfit Calico Racing is – very personable!  I made a cup of tea (best idea ever for after a cold race, though by the end of the race I’d shed my gloves and panda hat) and grabbed a banana and applesauce for the car in case I needed them but I never like to eat after running so I ended up giving those to the kids.  E and R were most excited about the medals but the race banana comes in a close second (we even had bananas at home already!).

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The wing theme was pretty cool – I saw people wearing wings on the course and our race tees (long sleeve tech tees, very nice) have white wings printed on the blue shirt.  I will wear my shirt proudly.

I still have never experienced a “runner’s high” but I was left feeling like a real part of this community.  I spent my childhood moving from place to place.  I moved to Las Vegas in the summer of 2000 but going to an event and getting to connect with friends we’ve made here and to not feel like an outsider makes me feel like I really love this place.  I think the change happened a little after our brief foray to Winnemucca, Nevada for almost a year.  We never thought we would move back, but when we did we knew we had to make an effort to make this our home.

“Bloom where you’re planted,” as a friend once told me.  I think in the last three years especially we’ve done just that.  I can still voice things I’d like to see improved here, like education or access to justice, but Nevada is our home and it really feels like I’m home.  I know it is already a little after the new year but if you are feeling unstuck or out of place where you are, please consider taking up a hobby or connecting with people in your community.  Resolve to reach out in real life (the internet is a great facilitator but I quit Facebook a few months ago and am glad I am focusing more on making time to meet people for lunch or playdates instead of just sending greetings out into the ether) and the results may surprise you.

2012 was a rough year.  We had many scares and struggles but reaching out for happiness is never a mistake.  Every day is another chance to start something and before you know it you’ll be looking back and seeing that you made a positive change in your life.

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Favorite songs during the race:

Imagine Dragons – On Top of the World (amazon affiliate link)

Tidal Wave – Sub Focus (amazon affiliate link)

Taylor Swift – Red (amazon affiliate link)

Ed Sheeran – The A Team (amazon affiliate link)

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Also, I made a page to gather my running posts: Couch to 5K and Beyond

Calico Racing’s Recycled 2012 Half Marathon, 10K, and 5K Race

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Earlier this year I decided I’d set myself the goal of running the Vegas PBS 5k on October 6, 2012.  When the FAAN Walk conflicted as it was that same morning, I decided to find another October 5k to try.  Mind you, this was all before my spontaneous decision to run the Terminal 3 5K in the middle of my Couch to 5K plan.  I finished One Hour Runner at the end of September so I probably should have signed up for the 10K race for October but I had no idea I’d be able to be at a 5K distance at that point, let alone a 10K one!  We surprise ourselves sometimes…

Calico Racing is a local outfit with founder Joyce Forier at the helm.  I’d heard from other runners that Ms. Forier puts on great races and they were right!  I saw her at the start and at the finish cheering folks on and being genuinely happy to be there.  Her volunteers were fantastic as well.  Even though the theme of the Recycled race was that the shirts and finisher medals offered in exchange for a discounted race entry fee would be recycled, I never felt like the race was an afterthought.  Plus, the chosen charity of Calico Racing benefits cats so how could it be anything but an awesome race?  My husband and I arrived early at the Railroad Pass Hotel and Casino and were directed to the parking lot near the registration table.  It was windy and cold on October 27, 2012 and we grabbed our packets, Calico Racing themed tech tees, and sat in the Subaru for a while to warm up before going into the casino to wait for the race to start.

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I hoped that things would warm up when the sun peeked over the mountains but the wind had other plans.  The half marathoners started first, then the 10K runners (pictured below getting ready to head out), and the 5K group (the largest contingent) went last.  Our loop was 1.55 miles out and back, though I had read in advance that there would be hills I don’t think I anticipated an uphill stretch right away.  The first incline began after the start line you see below, we turned left into an almost U-turn and were off!  My husband was very quickly a red blur in the distance but I am nowhere near as fast as he is so we had not planned to actually run the race alongside one another.

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When I ran Terminal 3’s 5K the majority of the crowd was ahead of me as I walked the first 5 minutes or so, but running from the get go was a different experience in crowd management for me.  I got into my pace for a little bit before weaving around walkers to find my own running spot on the course.  I ran the whole thing non-stop!  It was a goal of mine and I was really pleased about it.  Another goal was to beat my Terminal 3 5K time (43:53) and the hills made me nervous about accomplishing that.  A few weeks back a 12 minute mile was “pushing it” for me on a flat course but with my continued training I was shocked to realize that I was keeping an almost 11 minute mile pace the whole way out and back!

I saw my husband on the return loop when I was 15 minutes in so I knew he was going to get his goal of a sub-25 minute 5K – he achieved a 24:24 time to be 7th overall, I’m so proud of him!  I managed a time of 34:19 which was a huge improvement since June and you can tell by my smile in the official race pictures (1, 2, and 3 – I put my bib number on the back of my jacket because I worried about needing to unzip it during the race, the pig tails were just for fun) that I felt awesome heading for the final stretch.  I think downhill is the perfect way to finish a race, by the way, but my favorite moment was in the first mile when I reached the top of a hill and saw Las Vegas’ skyline stretching out in the distance, framed by the sandy colors of the mountains by the Lake Mead area.  Running somewhere so beautiful certainly gave me a boost.

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At the finish I loved seeing my husband waiting for me, he’d already had a snack and recovered considerably from his run.  I realized that my leg was shaking a bit when I was stopped for the removal of my timing chip from my shoe (thank you to the volunteer who stopped me, by the way, I would have forgotten to return it otherwise).  My “Recycled” medal was from Calico’s 2012 Once in a Blue Moon run and it had a recycled sticker on the back so I held that side up for my post-race photo.  My husband got the same medal so it helped when we came home and let the kids wear them.  E was all over the idea of wearing a medal but R was more interested in the banana I had brought from the finish line food.  There was a great selection of food and drink after the race but not much seemed vegan (though I think it all was vegetarian) so I opted for the banana.  Then it was time to head home, my mother in law was watching E and R (who both were awake when we left the house for some reason) and we had an event at the park to get to that morning.

I am excited for my next Calico race in January (a 10K!) and finally registered for the one after that: the Red Rock Half Marathon in March 2013.  My goal for the 10K is to run the whole way and finish smiling.  I think I can finish it in around 75 minutes but it is supposed to be hilly and it will be my first 10K race so I want to just do my best.  In January it will have been a year since I started on my journey as an adult-onset runner which is exciting.  I know you don’t have to race to run but I think the Recycled 5K boosted my spirits after the rough time I’ve been having just with life in general so I like having another race to look forward to when I need to stay motivated to train and exercise.

Historic Railroad Tunnel Trail Hike and Nomadic Wise-Walker Backpack Review

The other day, my husband forwarded me a link to this National Park Service page about Nevada’s Historic Railroad Tunnel Trail.  As you can see from the picture of me above, it is a fantastic hike and you get to see great views of Lake Mead as you go!  Be warned, however, this is not an ideal summer hike, especially not with children.  Here’s a bit of background about the tunnels:

The Six Companies, Inc. Railroad was, of course, abandoned after the completion of Hoover Dam in 1935. The U.S. Government Construction Railroad section was sporadically used until 1961, when the last generator was hauled over its rails and installed at the power plant.

The tracks were dismantled in 1962 and sold as scrap. The tunnels and trail were nominated in 1984 to the National Register of Historic Places.

Today you can walk or bicycle along the elevated railroad bed used to haul supplies and materials for the construction of Hoover Dam. Enjoy the spectacular views of Lake Mead and the surrounding desert landscape. (Source)

Right away I knew we had to check it out, so I pinned it to Pinterest to save the idea for later.  Almost instantly my friends were commenting to keep them posted if we headed over there so on April 28th we met up with several friends and their little ones to give the trail a try.  I was cautioned that we wouldn’t likely make it through all six tunnels with the kids but we will be back for more.

So, what do you need to know?  First of all, there are no definitive directions for getting there.  Well, we knew there’d be parking before the fee station for Lake Mead recreation but the signage to find the turnoff tells you it is coming in half a mile and that’s it.  You’ll want to turn left onto Lakeshore drive heading south on the US Highway 95 towards Hoover Dam.  When you go through Boulder City just follow the signs to stay on the freeway.  We missed the turn and had to turn around, I used the free Android tracking app, My Tracks, to track the way we went using GPS and you can see we overshot a little and had to turn around at the Hacienda’s parking lot (click the thumbnail below to enlarge).  If you reach the Hacienda, you’ve gone to far!

The parking lot is on your right after you get onto Lakeshore drive.  We arrived at 9:30am or so and it was packed but shortly thereafter the morning crowd headed out and there were spaces available.  Just be aware if you’re meeting a group that it is a small lot and you might want to park at the Hacienda and carpool to park if you’re running into trouble.  I used the tracking app to record our route on the trail as well.  I’ll share that here, we went 3.2 miles total, a little over 5 kilometers, round trip.  The kids did ride in the jogging stroller some of the way but did a fair amount of walking.  The trail has an increase in elevation but is smooth and looks like a lot of fun to bike.  We stopped for a while before turning around so the whole excursion from start to end took 2 hours.  You’ll want to factor the drive to and from the area in so an earlier start than 10 in the morning would be ideal.  Luckily we had fantastic weather that day!

There’s signage showing you the trail, I wish I’d looked more closely at it because early on there’s a fork in the path – one side (to the left) has a large gate that is open and the other stretches off to the right.  Go through the gate, I saw lots of people stop and wonder which direction they should go, just like we did.

There were creosote bushes as we made our way to the first tunnel (which was about a mile into the trek).  They had lovely yellow flowers.

It isn’t long before you get to see Lake Mead and the marina below.  We have such beauty so close to Las Vegas and I can’t figure out why we don’t make a point to check it out more often.  Well, aside from the fact that when you have small babies that hate car trips you don’t like to venture very far from home.  R will be 2 in August and E will be 4 so things have improved greatly on that score!

I love the reds and browns of the desert landscape, this was a view to the right as we headed to the tunnels.

Another thing I love about the desert is seeing how tenacious plants and animals are about survival.  This was growing in the site of a rock wall on a tiny patch of dirt:

It is a little hard to see in these thumbnail photos but the lighter area of the islands and land surrounding the lake are signals that the water level of the lake has been dropping.

Finally, the shot you were waiting for: a tunnel!  It feels very pioneer-like to go through here and feel the cooler air.  I was able to get some fantastic silhouette style shots but the kids are in them so I won’t share them here but if you are looking for a neat place for a photo shoot, this is it!

We got as far as the second tunnel.  There was a bench and a viewing area for the lake so we snacked, visited with everyone, and decided to head back before we overstayed our welcome as far as the children’s moods were concerned.  I was able to spy my favorite desert flower, though, the globemallow.

As we approached the tunnels some hikers heading back told us they’d seen a family of bighorn sheep nearby.  They were still climbing about when we got to the second tunnel – they stared back at us and posed a little for some photos.  Beautiful.

Whether you live in Vegas or are just visiting I think this is a great outing.  Pack plenty of water, put on the sunscreen, and bring snacks.  Speaking of packing, I answered a request from my favorite pen store, Jet Pens, for a “mommy blogger” (am I one?) to try (and review as a diaper bag) the Nomadic CB-01 Wise-Walker Multi Compartment Day Backpack in Gray.  I received the backpack for free but my opinions are of course my own.  I wanted to review it in this post because the day we made this hike was the first day I had transferred the contents of my beloved vegan Crystalyn Kae handbag into the backpack instead of carrying both the bag and the diaper bag.  As an aside, my purse is also a great diaper bag but with two kids when you are on adventures you need something a little different.

Since that day I haven’t gone back to carrying two bags, actually.  There are tons of compartments and pockets which have been great for having a separate area for our necessary allergy medications, diapers and wipes (of course), and my wallet as well as the very necessary lunches and snacks I need to carry for the kids.  It has two raised strips on the back where it meets your back for air flow and a buckle in the front to help distribute the weight.  It is not a giant school backpack that may come to mind, it is pretty light and compact when empty so it scales to your needs (to a point).  I need to throw a first aid kit into it because one of our friends cut her finger on a rock while we were out and I kept thinking “I really should carry some bandages!”

Another neat feature is a little pocket on one of the straps that you can put a train ticket or money into for quick access.  The product site on Jet Pens has great photos of the interior as well as other glowing reviews so do check it out if you are interested but the bag is $103 which I know is a lot of money.  Well, I guess if you are looking at other diaper bags it is in the middle of the range cost-wise and it has features that are in demand.  The results of my unscientific poll:

Pockets and Compartments? Check.  Neutral?  Check.  Being able to carry it AND a toddler?  Check!  (By the way, all of the ladies quoted above are wonderful, thank you for your responses @catestew, @xFoodAllrgyhelp, @TGBTS, and @babytoolkit!)

My previous diaper bag is by Skip Hop and it is a simple black messenger.  The downside to the Skip Hop has always been that it was not easy to carry so we’d leave it in the car a lot (I’d carry all the allergy medications in my purse anyway).  The thing I liked about it was that it strapped with special separate buckles to the handles of our stroller.  It is hard to hang the Nomadic Wise-Walker on the stroller even though it does have a handle so that is a downside but ideally you’d be wearing the backpack anyway.

I like the idea of neutrally colored bags because they can be used through babyhood and beyond, even though the Nomadic Wise-Walker is expensive it is future proof.  I took it with us on another trip to the Bellagio Conservatory that I’ve yet to post about and it was great especially since I’d forgotten our stroller at home.  The only big negative I’ve experienced with using it is that some stores have policies requiring that you let them hold backpacks at the front of the store while you shop.  I saw a sign directing me to do that and asked if I had to turn the bag over but was luckily told that it was okay to carry it.  It is something to be aware of, at any rate.  Food allergy families especially have a bit more gear than most and need it close at hand so I am really appreciating the review bag I received.  If you are shopping for a diaper bag in backpack form you’ll want to add it to your list for consideration.  Thanks, Jet Pens!