achilles tendinitis, race decisions, and a lack of originality

With a month and a half to Siskiyou Outback, I come down with a case of achilles tendinitis.

I woke up last Monday, got up and something like a rubber band behind my ankle felt like it was going to pop and rupture if I put any weight on my left foot. I’ve been RICE-ing like a fiend since, and adding as much stretching and foam rolling I felt it would tolerate. The outlook is grim… I’m back to walking normally on flat ground, but I am very pessimistic and I don’t see myself regaining my fitness to the point where I can complete a 50M trail race in a month. At altitude, no less.

The exact cause is still unclear. I’d started running primarily on trail as opposed to probably a 60 road/40 trail division for most of my training thus far. It could be that the running I was doing was too much and straining everything too intensely. It could be that I tweaked it on an uneven surface and the repercussions of that didn’t manifest until later.

Healing/recovery time, with almost all running (especially overuse) injuries, is uncertain and generally takes much longer than one would like, or has patience for. I have been jonesing to run, but the twinge that still occurs relatively often is really doing a great job at holding me back. It is frustrating all to hell.

Which brings me to my next dilemma…. do I still go for the 50M distance, hoping I can be healed enough to tough it out? Do I switch distances to the 50K, given that there is a huge possibility I can’t complete that distance either (and look doubly like a bitch)? Or thoroughly bitch it up and switch to 15K? No one can really answer that question for me, but I’m inclined to send this blog link around and ask some friends anyway. MISERY!!!

In other news… I check Running Warehouse’s new arrivals quite often, and this week, one of the new items is an ultra jacket from New Balance. When I saw it, I scoffed. Copying really is everywhere. Samsung did/does it with Apple most obviously. But it’s everywhere else, too.

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Nike released the Impossibly Light jacket last year, possibly earlier. I’m not sure when New Balance’s ultra jacket was initially released, but could it look any more similar to the Nike design? Everything down to the slanted zipper pocket into which the whole jacket tucks (pretty cool) is pretty much the same. I’d say the Nike version is clearly more refined though, which is why I feel like it might be the original. And hey, it’s Nike. Terrible labor practices, yes, but they do have hordes of designers at their bidding.

Anyway, gonna go wallow some more for now. I think I might try running tomorrow. Very possibly a terrible idea, but it must be done.

I Pooped and PR’d: The Surfer’s Path Marathon Race Report

Quite the eventful weekend. It all went down in Santa Cruz… the Surfer’s Path Marathon, the Capitola Half Marathon, and CA High School Div I Ultimate Frisbee Championships, all occurring located within a 5 mile radius or so (obviously not the whole course of the races). Below is a Garmin map of the whole course fyr.
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– Elapsed: 04:07:21 \o/
– Div Place: 132 of 519
– Gender Place: 39 of 253
– Age Place: 13 of 78 (F 20-29)

A Race of Firsts
– I ran a PR without expecting it. Almost actively trying to avoid it, actually.
– See title… I unleashed my first #2 during a race.
– Experienced chafing for the first time from my bra band.
– I felt like throwing up during a race. Who the hell can stomach that much GU sugary gel and drink? It’s ghastly.
– Started feeling kind of terrible incredibly early, around Mile 10.
– My left hamstring threatened to cramp on me starting around Mile 15 and continued until well after the race. Not great.
– First time recovery happened rather quickly. Walk around and stretch after races, even though it seems impossible. It’s much better than collapsing in a heap, inevitably falling asleep, then waking up not being able to move (what I’ve typically done).

K & I made it to UCSC in time to watch the last game of the day.

We then hustled to packet pick-up in Capitola, where I (kind of creepily, now that I’m thinking about it) recognized the husband of a rather popular run-blogger who goes by ‘Roserunner’ on the street. And surely enough, a couple seconds later I saw Roserunner, a couple steps back. It was kind of fun, seeing a well-known blogger from these parts (Bay Area) in person.

I would recommend going to The Sandwich Spot, which is what we ended up having for dinner.

We left the Airbnb at about 6:40am, but we walk much more quickly than Google Maps seems to think humans being are capable of walking. For 18 cold minutes, we ended up standing in a corner, judging runners who were stretching obnoxiously, clad indecently, etc. Another runner I’d met at a previous race, Paulette, found me in the crowd for a quick chat… later I saw her around Mile 12, cheering on runners.

Miles 1-7: dandy. K left and went on ahead early because he’s fast and such.

Mile 7: awkwardly called out to someone I thought I’d recognized. And indeed it was Chris, a coworker from when I worked at Palantir. We chatted at the half marathon turnaround in Capitola (where packet pick-up was located) and for a while afterward. He was running the marathon distance as well with his 2 buddies (no idea at all what their names are, but one was caucasian and other was asian) and they seemed to want to pick up the pace while I was not trying to over-exert, so I let them go… but oddly, after a mild hill about a minute or two, I caught up to them and wouldn’t see Chris again.

Mile 8-13: this segment started well. I was feeling strong for the first mile or two, then my intestines were like hay we are moving shit out now because of all the uphills and downhills and you are jiggling us too much. I started feeling otherwise uncomfortable around 10 as well. I didn’t feel like I could finish. The number of miles remaining was incredibly daunting, and it really messed with me mentally for the first time, even more than when I was a novice. 10-13 was literally trying to keep up a respectable pace while letting out some pressure-relieving toots in a safe and inoffensive manner.

Mile 13-13.1: we were passing the start area again to start our westerly loop, and I was very much like a shaken soda can at that point. I was plotting to use one of the 20 or so port-a-potties lined up near the start line, and the plan went very well. No lines (I would’ve had to wait at the single portie at mile 11ish). All went swimmingly and I was back out on the road.

Mile 13.1-22: the beginning of the second loop was cruel. around the end of 13, half-ers were directed to the left (finish), and full-ers were motioned to the right, which featured a giant hill. afterward, nice gentle downhill cruising along the cliffs and buffs. Beautiful, expansive views. Surfers. People and their dogs. Roserunner coming back from the turnaround already at my 17, her 22 (so quick… and going on to win 2nd place woman!). But it was also very isolated at times; we were all very spread out. At 20, I decided to distract myself with mental calculation, and was surprised to find that despite all the elevation changes and trail running, I could very well still PR. There were about 5-6 miles of trail (unexpected, as I never look at course maps before races… bad call?).

One woman and I kept trading places during this section (much of it on West Cliff Dr and then a large loop through Wilder Ranch), sometimes with huge gaps to the point of no visibility of the other. After many back and forths, I dropped her for good at 22. And remember Chris’ caucasian buddy? He’d caught up to me around Mile 20, and I caught him again around 21 when I saw him walking on the trail up ahead. Never saw him again.

Mile 22-24: another woman now comes to the fore of my race tale. We ran neck and neck for a few minutes, and without pushing my pace, somehow took the lead on her and thought I’d dropped her very quickly at 23. As I lost her breath and footsteps behind me though, I lost some of my drive. A very fit older man passed me. A couple other guys passed me (including Chris’ asian buddy). But I didn’t feel it in me to fight them. I even stopped to walk a couple times to ease the burn. But near the end of mile 23, she was back. I was not happy… I had to beat her, and there was a little more than 2.2 left. I didn’t know how much juice she had left, and I wasn’t confident of what pace I could maintain for the last two miles. I also typically have a good kick, but the most I’d sustained a finishing kick was for 0.5 mile, maybe slightly more. I’d have to engage the kick, but also keep it steady for 2.2. The battle began.

Mile 24-26.2: I was still ahead of her. But she was gaining. She was working, and she wanted to beat me. The last time I passed her, she kept looking back, but I wasn’t about to do the same. But she passed me (she had very uneven pace, as I made it a point to keep mine as level as possible). I stayed slightly behind her and let her lead the charge and pull me with her, and she kept me engaged to the point where I could see that older man again, who’d passed us earlier (and that I’d lost sight of), among others. At the Mile 25 marker, I decided I had enough energy left for a quicker pace for the last 1.2. Dropped her for good. Dropped the older man. Dropped a few others (including Chris’ asian buddy).

Before: see that purple shoe?
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After: purple shoes behind me now, mwahahha. nice capture of that surfer statue behind us.
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Though I hated that uphill at 13.1, this meant I would run that downhill into the right turn to the finish (yay). Buoyed by a lady screaming at the turn to ‘bring it in!!!!’, I charged down the hill and into the finish area.

Pic of me looking much stronger than I was feeling
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K & I bandied about our races back at the Airbnb. We then headed back to the USCS ultimate fields, where we caught the end of Alameda CLC’s last game, to win third at the tournament. So gratifying, as they beat Berkeley, a team that had prevailed for much of the season. We also stayed for the championship game and pizza.

Other thoughts
– Wore Saucony A5 race flats. They are much lighter than Kinvara 5, but I think I might not be biomechanically sound enough to rock those for the full marathon distance. But small sensations like extreme lightness, continuously repeated over 4 hours, are so important to my mentality and may outweigh the increased sore/tight-ness from decreased support after the fact. Who knows.
– I need to run this distance on trails pretty much every weekend between now and Siskiyou Outback to prepare more thoroughly.
– I understand now how rough downhills can be. The combination of elevation change and terrain variation were really killer. I imagine that elevation change on trails only will be much easier on the joints and muscles, but when the miles add up shit will still go down.

In non-running related news
I read Flatland by Edwin Abbott^2, and it is a fantastic book. Interesting sociopolitical messages and the author has excellent capacity for verbal exposition. My boss is a very visual learner, and she will often stop me when I am speaking to a visual representation of a user’s interaction with an interface, and ask to see it on a screen/IRL. I wonder how she would do with this book. Anyway, that is all.

Training and life woes

This will not be a very involved post, but I am at a point in my training where my mileage is higher than it’s ever been… about 40 miles or more per week.

I am feeling more and more sluggish on the daily to actually get myself out there. The weather’s been fine, nice and chilly to nice and hot/sunny. Once I get out there, there is some typical struggle on off days but generally I return feeling energized and accomplished. But it is feeling oddly difficult, too difficult, to get myself to go.

I feel like I want to sleep often and all the time. I try my best to avoid being lazy about recovery, but I’ve been (increasingly often) cutting short my rolling and stretching sessions. I wish I could have more time to do all these things. Work is getting to be too much lately. I have so many books I want to read. I’m also not just running, but going to the climbing gym 2+ times a week.

What to cut out to regain my enjoyment of doing things I enjoy….? And yes add the typical first world problems hash tags somewhere if you’d like.

1/30 – 2/1 (with Kaiser Half Marathon RR)

————————–i had a lover’s quarrel with the world…
———————————————-the best way out is always through.
———————————–– robert frost

Two (separate) Frost quotes that describe so well the last couple weeks. I suppose I should say that the little joys of this past weekend have managed to anesthetize things a bit.

Friday, 1/30
* Was nearly on my way out the office for a run, then got stopped/delayed for a good while. But then later, waiting for the light to turn crossing 1st St., a car rushed by and sprayed the street with $1 and $5 bills. Upped net worth by $15, eyyy!

* Spent the evening eating a giant albacore tuna burger and curly fries with some beer and vodka… on a boat. Then some mindless awkward dancing at layover.

Saturday, 1/31
* I’d participated in this Bring Back the Mile pick-the-winner competition(?) thing a few weeks ago, and then promptly forgot that I did. Almost deleted an email (thought it was spam) from a BBTM guy telling me I’d guessed the closest winning time for the men’s race. I was off by 1 centisecond! *bows* I’m going to get free stuff from BBTM. And free stuff from Running Warehouse :D :D :D

* Met up with a friend at Sports Basement to try on climbing and running shoes. They only had a few La Sportiva and evolv models, meh.

* Dinner at Nation’s. My pre-race dinner ended up being a cheeseburger, a chili cheese dog, half an order of french toast, half an oreo cookie milkshake. Hm, probably not the best idea in hindsight, but it worked out well. Had a deja vu moment (with my Carl’s Jr before CIM).

* Had a nice walk/Bart/Muni trip to my coworker’s place near the start of Kaiser Half. Nice to empty my mind and just walk in cold, windy darkness. At the house, a group of us watched random videos, including Too Many Cooks and Paula Newby-Fraser bonking hard in 1995. Some of us also decided to play nail/metal puzzles. I can’t find a picture of the metal one that was there, but it was ridiculous. The others weren’t too bad.
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Sunday, 2/1 (and Kaiser RR)
* I do believe my PR plateau has more or less arrived. I’ve now hit sub-2:00 for the half marathon (1:53:05). It’ll be much tougher going forward.

* Mini RR
Had a bit of space food, water, and headed out. This was an 8am start, but for some reason people were in winter jackets and long tights and all that. I considered wearing my onesie over my typical tank/shorts combo, but it was too high maintenance to have to then strip, pack it in a bag then drop it off for transportation to the finish. Plus, it wasn’t even that cold. Just a bit nippy. And the sun was already out… ugh.

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I had a slow start… I’m used to 7, 7:30am start times. The first few miles were highly uneventful and not very pretty. After we looped back and started our trek through Golden Gate Park proper (along JFK), it was very, very lovely. I need to run here more often.

Turning onto Great Highway was tough… as I am lacking a better term to encompass all my thoughts around this. That same turn felt better the Sunday before…? or perhaps I was just deluding myself. My times started to increase again, even though I’d just run a slight decline and was now at flat sea-level for the next few miles. The cheer squads along the highway, well, they kind of made me feel lonely (although, h/t to the guy who yelled ‘go, green hawk!’) and the expansive beach views were breathtaking… and breathtaking. Felt exhausting.

But despite everything, I maintained a sub-9:00 min/mile pace throughout, and was able to finish well. Made up a lot of ground in the last mile, and in the last straightaway. The finish was after a few turns with poor visibility; I can typically rev better when I see the finish, so meh to that. But bulldozing past swathes of people, especially the ones who’d challenged me early and/or throughout the race (you, girl in the gray tank and black shorts. you, super tall girl in the black/red tank and black tights. you, girl in the purple l/s), was delicious. Making more memories of Ocean Beach and the Great Highway, equally so.

Some things seen
– more people in Oiselle
– 4 shiba inus
– 1 waterfall
– 1 pagoda

Race Photos, and one non-race photo

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And… one can’t always look halfway decent, so here is a thing. and a thing.

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* I am training for a 50 miler, so I suppose this was a good way to build up weird endurance, but generally, I highly advise against grabbing a shit ton of muscle milk type bottled protein drinks and bananas and energy bars, and then walking approximately 5.2 miles with all that crap (plus my change of clothes, shoes, laptop, etc.).

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However, some fun stops
– Mojo with my boss. Talked about the ridiculous shit that goes on in our lives, and in our work. Mojo has great sandwiches, and there’s a bike shop in the back. Over the course of our approximately 2-hour late brunch, I was able to offload 2 protein drink bottles from my backpack. Huzzah (but still, not really that much relative to what was still in there).
– REI has a larger selection of climbing shoes than does Sports Basement. Was able to get my sizing for La Sportiva, evolv, Five Ten, Boreal, and Scarpa. Sizing is way off for all these brands. Hot mess. Can’t even go by euro sizing, which generally works for other shoes :\

* Realized earlier in the day that the Super Bowl was… that day. So I watched it. And wow, the epic fail. Pounding the Rock did a comparison of this game with the epic fail that was the Spurs’ blowing of the 2013 NBA Finals. Some good insights.

* Ate all of the thai foods.

* So if Running Warehouse is my run-gear significant other, hmm, I definitely cheated on RW with Hellooo, 40% off Saucony Peregrine 4 in an impossible-to-find size, and hellooo, 46% off Saucony Kinvara 5 (although I’m pretty sure they listed the latter by mistake. they are nowhere to be found anymore on the site, understandably… after all, they are still the current model! the Kinvara 4s still on the site aren’t even 46% off!). Also, this is the second time Kinvara 5 has been photo’d on this site. I do love these shoes!
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* Bought a couple Five Ten climbing shoes. As of this writing, they’ve arrived and I’ve settled on this model (Five Ten Hueco).
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And that’s all, folks.

2015 Race Plans!!!

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Feb. 1 Kaiser Permanente SF Half Marathon
Starts near the deYoung and hits the Great Highway in the middle miles. Merhaha love the Great Highway!

Mar. 22 Oakland Running Festival
(Pending my whims and fancy)
Have run ORF Marathon in the last two years, but pondering the half this year. Great course, great crowd… and merp, $95 from now until the expo :\ Paying that for a half seems… just… wrong.

May 17 Surfer’s Path / Capitola Marathon
Course winds through some great neighborhoods, W. Cliff Dr. (big fan), a couple bridges (yeehee!), starts and ends on the boardwalk (meh, but beach at least). Excited to see more Santa Cruz beach/bluff views.

Jul. 11 Mt Hood 50 OR Jul. 25 Siskiyou Outback 50
(Pending my whims fitness level, let’s be real)
Mt Hood now has a lottery-based registration, which I despise on principle. It is also 2.5 hours from Portland. Siskiyou Outback does not have lottery-based registration, and is 5.5 hours from the Bay Area. Latter currently winning. Both also conveniently avoiding the week where I may need to be in Mexico City for work (meh). Also, need to confirm a copilot/runner (or more than one) to keep me awake while driving to whichever one of these ends up happening.

Dec. 6 CIM
(Registering on Mar. 1)
For future reference, if CIM offers 500 runners an early, heavily discounted re-race registration option for the following year’s race… DO NOT WAIT TO DO IT. Now I have to wait until March and probably pay about $20-30 more :( Sad-bean town.

So excited!!! Hopefully my stupid right Achilles tendon, which decided to get pissy with me in the last couple days, does not derail these plans.

CIM 12/7 RR

Man. CIM was an amazing experience. I PR’d (gun time 4:15:55) and kicked hard down the last stretch… passed at least 5 people on my way to the finish line. My friend ran his first marathon, had many struggles (due to a nagging hamstring injury), but I believe has been bitten by the run bug… *evil grin*, and finished strong as well.

Getting to Folsom went very smoothly. Parking in downtown Sacramento for the bib pick-up went equally smoothly… traffic was a little much around the Sacramento Convention Center (where the race expo was located), but nothing compared to San Francisco downtown. Found a parking spot with a meter that didn’t ask for money (woohoo). Afterward, before heading to Lake Natoma Inn in Folsom, we decided to stop by Carl’s Jr for our pre-race dinner. Probably not the best idea, but it worked out quite well. Nom six-dollar burger with bbq sauce, hot sauce, extra ketchup/mayonnaise and fries!!!

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Saturday night:
Lake Natoma Inn is beautiful and awesome. However, there was an unfortunate wedding party that decided to be obnoxiously loud until the wee hours of the night. That, combined with some serious insomnia I’ve been having over the last few months, really did not help my getting rest.

Race morning:
Possibly one of the worst things of race morning that could’ve happened happened. Our bus to the start was scheduled to leave at 5:30am, sharp. Due to a FRICKIN frustrating miscommunication, my friend and I rushed downstairs at probably 5:31am (me with a backpack, my friend with a duffel and backpack and drawstring bag) just in time to see the bus ON THE WAY OUT OF OUR HOTEL PARKING LOT. I panicked. We both started jogging toward the increasingly rapidly departing bus, and then I started sprinting all-out because no way was I going to figure out mystery logistics (we were directed to take those buses for a reason) now. I shouted at the bus driver’s window and asked him to stop for us. Thank goodness he stopped. My friend and I got on, and we ended up helping out another straggler while we stopped. Everyone on the bus laughed that we got our race warm-up in early :)

Of course, now we had our huge assorted luggage on the bus. I ran through all the options for what we could do, the most promising one being offering one of the race gear bus drivers all of my cash and my firstborn to take our luggage to the finish somehow (and not steal all our stuff). We ended up meeting Mike of gear bus #1, who was amazingly gracious. He took special care of my backpack, and even put my friend’s killer duffel/backpack/drawstring bag medley in the front cab of his gear bus. He was a lifesaver. All of our stuff made it intact to the finish and I’m so grateful to him! I didn’t even have to offer all my cash, even some of it. I am not a fan of most people but Mike really made me remember how awesome some people can be. MIKE YOU ROCK!!!

Folsom hotel peeps got our own heating tent. It is weird, because in places like heating tents, a lot of awkward (but mostly done in a nice way) sizing-up of others happens. It’s kind of hilarious. Then there are women participating in their own fitness fashion shows. Way too many women show off and wear too much makeup (even any makeup is confusing to me) before running 26.2 miles.

The weather at the beginning of the race was pretty darn perfect. Lots of humidity (I think close to 100%), probably around 60 degrees. A light rain would’ve been nice, personally. Could’ve been a bit more nippy.

My race itself was actually not very eventful.
Some tidbits:

  • Around mile 4, the smell of horse shit was overpowering for a good 400 meters or so.
  • Around mile 8, there was a man on the right side of the race (stone-faced, not cheering, but observing) on a fold-out chair. In his lap was a sizeable (and equally stone-faced) goat, with its legs tucked in perfectly.
  • Around mile 14, there was a man with two llamas on leashes on the left side of the road.
  • Around the end of mile 14, I saw my friend trip and almost fall way up ahead. When I got closer, he’d been helped to sit on the side and was working through a cramp. I yelled at him that I would see him at the end. I then proceeded to tell every person at the next aid station that someone needed help a half mile or so back.
  • Somewhere between mile 18-20, my gluteus medius and/or tensor fasciae latae started tightening up pretty intensely. Every step felt like my hips would start spasming and cramping at any moment, and the next step I took would be the one that would wipe away the previous awesome 18 miles. I ended up power-walking through most of the rest of the aid stations as a way to not exacerbate the issue.
  • Miles 22-24 were struggle town.
  • The home stretch felt great. I could see the finish line from the second to last straightaway, and when I turned the corner, I turned on the jetpacks. Not sure where they came from. I took that last corner verrry tight, squeezing between some lady and the metal barriers, and quickly gauged the women between myself and the finish (didn’t notice until later that there were separate finish chutes for the men vs the women… odd), and set my sights on the asian girl with the gray tank. Good running form completely broken, I surged forward, grunting rhythmically like those annoying tennis players, and made it past my target (see pain-face/success photo below!). And then almost collapsed. After wobbling and holding my hips (and then my knees) through the finish chute, I got my medal, space blanket, water bottle, and finish line photo.

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Fueling went well. Did either a swig of both water and Nuun or just water at the aid stations before halfway. After the halfway point, alternated water and Nuun // water and GU and Nuun. Ate all of ze orange slices at the last couple aid stations.

Thanks to Nike, Oiselle, Garmin, Saucony, and Balega for making awesome running gear. Nike/Oiselle: no chafing anywhere! bahaha! Garmin: ridiculously accurate GPS tracking. Yay! Saucony: my feet were happy throughout. Balega: I only had the tiniest blister on one of my toes. Previous marathons, it looked like my toes had boils on them.

Spent the next hour or so running around the various medical/icing/massage tents and huge food and bag pick-up areas trying to find out what happened to my friend. I went by the bag pick-up a few times and the super helpful bag volunteers let me loiter multiple times and confirm that my friend’s huge luggage pile was still unclaimed. Ultimately, he called to say he’d finished and was in one of the finish line buses going back to our hotel.

After a long ride back to Folsom, we were able to get back into the hotel room and take showers. We then scoped out the pasta situation near the area, went to a place that was randomly closed, and then just said fuck it and went to Olive Garden. We went through two baskets of breadsticks, minestrone and chicken/gnocchi soups, seafood alfredo and stuffed chicken marsala, and two fruit smoothies. It may be biased to rate Olive Garden after having just run a marathon and waiting 2 long hours to get back to the hotel/to being not disgustingly salty/sweaty, but it was so damn delicious.

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I then had to drive back because my friend got the itis.

My friend’s run:
My friend had a fantastic race up until that moment I saw him trip and start cramping. I saw a man (also racing) help him up and bring him to the side to sit. Over the course of the rest of the race, he ended up cramping a few more times and was offered salt tablets, more salt tablets, electrolyte drinks, water, food, words of encouragement, negative motivation (whatever it’s called… “I don’t want to see you sitting, stop sitting, get up and run!”), even massages, from a combination of spectators, race volunteers/medical staff, and other race participants. Apparently, one runner almost tripped trying to get to him while he was on the ground cramping to give him support. This sort of thing, the we’re in it together-ness, the selflessness, the kindness, is just really beautiful to hear about, and it makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Makes me love running and the other people who love it as well all the more.