' Adventures with FitNyx: July 2017

Friday, July 21, 2017

Brokeman's Winter Warmup 2017 Race Recap

(I ran this race seven months ago.  As I'm catching up on everything I missed on the blog, I'm going back to address as many of my 2017 races as possible - but I can't promise this is the most accurate recap as I did not write it while the experience was fresh in my mind!  I also apologize for the brevity compared to my usual recaps.)

I considered giving up on my goal of running a half every month for a year before running my January half.  A mix of frustration, sadness, sickness, and winter weather blues had me almost convinced that it was time to throw in the towel.  But then I realized it's only three more months, and I didn't spend all the time, energy, and (let's be honest) money on nine months of running only to quit in the fourth quarter.  So I signed up for the Brokeman's series Winter Warmup in Columbus and bugged a close runner friend of mine to join me, and we took the trip down to my old neighborhood to tackle another course.

We stayed overnight in a cheap hotel so we could sleep in on race morning, and were a little surprised to find ourselves less than a mile from the starting line!  By far one of the easiest race mornings I've ever had, complete with Tim Horton's and some excellent pump up jams in the car while we waited for the starting time.  The course was all within a metro park which made for a very pretty run, especially passing some of the park's water features and going under or over some very cool bridges.  Unfortunately the iciness of the cold morning (which thankfully stayed dry, despite super low temps) made some of those bridges dangerous, but otherwise it was an easy course.  I wasn't expected to run as much as I did, and was very proud to find myself at the 10k mark in almost record time!  But then the lack of training settled in and the second half of the race was a little more stop-and-go, bringing me to the finish in about average time.

The most notable thing I remember about the experience of the run was the "cup-free" course, which was thankfully explained in detail on the Brokeman's website so I knew to run with my own bottles.  Water stops only had big jugs of water and Gatorade for people to refill their personal bottles; no cups or other trash items were used.  While this policy is very green and good for the park, I honestly don't think I would ever emulate it in one of the races I manage, for a few reasons.  From the runner's perspective, running 13 miles with a water bottle isn't natural for everyone.  Many runners prefer to race unencumbered; this type of police messes with their typical race MO.  It can be a difficult adjustment.  Even though some people would say "but it's just water and they can still drink on their own schedule" - try getting a set-in-their-ways runner to change any aspect of their race routine and see how it goes!  On the other side of the policy, the literless aspect, I don't really think that's a major problem in most races.  Volunteers who hand out water also do an exceptional job of cleaning up afterwards at just about every race I've ever run, worked, or spectated.  I think I, personally, will continue to arrange races with the convenience of disposable cups on the course.  What do you think?

Brokeman's Winter Warmup Half Marathon Breakdown

Organization: For a small company they were pretty well organized.  We walked right up to the table for packet pickup, there were plenty of volunteers who were very cheery and vocal, and communication was pretty solid!  Brokeman's Running Company puts on a handful of cost-efficient races across Ohio, most of which are full marathons, so they're no strangers to races.  I'm pretty sure they do their own timing too, making them a pretty self-sufficient company.  This race offered a few different distances so runners of all abilities could participate, and interestingly, each bib was marked with not only the distance but a map of the race course, printed up-side down for runners to read properly when they pull up their shirts to look!  Very clever, I've definitely never seen that before but it's a great way to help your runners stay on course!

The Course:  The Warmup was fully contained in a large metropark about a half hour outside of Columbus.  I loved the scenery but hated crossing the wooden bridges throughout the park.  On such a cold day, they were pretty iced up and there was little hope of the buildup melting.  The very long bridge we crossed twice (right before and right after the turnaround) was treacherous and many participants grabbed the handrails to inch along the curved bridge, afraid the ice and incline would lead to injury.  I carefully tried to pick my way across at a run, but had to slow up a few times for obvious ice patches.  In the spring and fall, I bet this course is stunning!  BIG points for the Swedish fish aid station, too...

The Swag:  Here's the thing about Brokeman's races: they're supposed to be cost-effective, with minimal frills to help keep the cost low.  As you can see, it's the smallest race bib I've ever seen (and I get a kick out of the late signups receiving bibs that say "procrastinator" instead of their chosen distance) but it's pretty cool that I could look at the route map during the race.  My "medal" is just a block of wood with a stamped-on image and a piece of twine as the ribbon; no one receives a shirt unless you want to buy one from their gear store.  This wouldn't be an awful setup, if the race were actually lower cost, but even the earlier entry fees weren't all that cheap!  While writing this, I've tried to look up the fee schedule for the race but this event's webpage doesn't want to load for me, so I can't give you an exact cost but I remember being shocked at how expensive this "cheap, no frills" race actually was.  With no police or city costs on such a well-contained course, and very economical swag, I'd expect a race called "Brokeman's" to be far less expensive.  This was one of the worst values for my money, of all the many races I have run!

The Bottom Line:  I'm glad I got a January half in, and the course was picturesque, but I wouldn't pay for this race again.  There are other races that give you more for your money, and I'm not sure I'm the biggest fan of the no-cup water stops.  I get the environmental impact, but it makes a lot of people have to run a different race than they maybe trained to run.  I'll pass for next year and look for something in a warmer climate with better value for next January.

How much emphasis do you put on a race's "bang for the buck"?  Will a nice or challenging course outweigh a lack of swag if you're debating between races at a similar cost?  Would you prefer a cup-free course or would you rather be able to grab your cup as you pass the stations?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Home Ownership - Thinking Out Loud Thursday

It's been just under seven months of living in my new home, and I must say I'm LOVING it.  Being on my own schedule has been so wonderful, having my belongings around me helps me to relax a little more, and that feeling of "Adultness" is creeping back into my life.  I had dearly missed feeling like my life is my own!

Slowly, the rooms are coming together.  There's so much work to be done still, but I have plenty of time to make this house truly my own.  For now, I have a comfy, useable living room and bedroom; a fully functional kitchen with my own food stocked in the pantry; a nice office that's just about complete pending some wall art; and a craft room that is unfolding one day at a time.  Some rooms need accents and decor, but for the most part the house is liveable.  My "dining room" is giving me some trouble, since I'd rather have it be more of a mock solarium/hippie nook than put a table I'll never use in there and essentially losing the room...  And my basement will be an ongoing battle as I figure out how to arrange my storage, but eventually it'll include a game room and a home gym (which of course you'll see grow and develop right here).

Kaalia finally seems adjusted and actually is allowed free roam of the house while I'm out, which gives her the same sense of freedom I've been enjoying.  I also recently managed to get some fencing up, however temporary, in the sections of my backyard that needed barriers.  Now she can roam free when I let her out instead of being hooked on her yard leash and confined to a small section of the yard.  Playing Frisbee is so much easier now!

I'm finding that with a home totally my own, all my messy tendencies are slowly vanishing.  I do the dishes and the laundry regularly.  I keep my rooms tidy.  I put things away and am even getting a better system in place for organizing my clothes, accessories, crafts, and kitchen items.  Something about this perfect home has me finally believing in myself in new ways...  I've even revamped my wardrobe to dress in ways that make me feel good and confident!  The pieces are finally coming together.

It's amazing how freeing independence can be, isn't it?

Don't forget to check out the Thinking Out Loud linkup to see what other bloggers are musing about this week!  Thanks to Amanda at Running with Spoons for hosting!

What sets you free?  What brings out the better parts of you?

Monday, July 17, 2017

Santa Hustle Cedar Point 2016 Race Recap

(Much of this post was written last December, immediately after the race.  I recently finished the full post in an effort to catch up on the recaps I've missed since.  Hopefully my later additions are accurate portrayals of an event eight months ago!  Look for more catch-up race recaps in the coming days, too!)

As of December 11, I officially regret my decision to run a half marathon every month for a year.  I forgot about that whole "winter" thing, apparently.  Well, I was forcibly reminded when I attempted my December half at Cedar Point in nearby Sandusky.  Ever been there?  It's a peninsula, jutting out into Lake Erie, with a long narrow causeway linking it to the mainland.  Y'know what that's like in winter?  Miserable.

I'm no stranger to running in adverse weather, but I've never completed such a snowy race before; it's usually incredibly hot and humid when I think of "bad running weather".  During the winter months I usually hole up and hide from the snow.  Couldn't manage it this year!  In fact, I almost debated not going to the race at all when I woke up to a couple feet of fresh snow blocking my early-morning departure.  (Un)fortunately, I had planned to meet up at a friend's house to make the journey (and probably run the race) together, so I trudged through the snow, battled the unplowed roads, and joined forces to make the best of the day.

Despite the horrendous driving conditions, we make the trip in pretty good time, and were among the first to arrive.  Packet pickup was located in the parking lot in front of the park - and right on the lakefront - and we were so early they weren't quite ready for customers.  We stood in the cold, thankful that at least the snow had stopped for the time being, before finally being able to grab our items and retreat to the car until closer to the start.

People tricked in and we stayed warm for a while.  I was surprised at the size of the crowd, considering the snowstorm and the less-than-stellar forecast for the rest of the day.  But, we were out there, so why wouldn't everyone else show up too?  We took a few minutes to play around with our new costumes, and realized that the Santa beards that came with the registration might actually help on such a cold day by keeping our faces warm while we ran!  Sadly they were just a little itchy and wouldn't stay in place very well, but we took them on the course anyway just in case.

Runners lined up for the half marathon first, stretching along the back edge of the parking line along the beach.  The race entered the park through a side gate under the newer Gatekeeper roller coaster, and we spent about two miles running through the empty rides to the sound of cheery Christmas tunes playing on the park's loudspeaker system.  The first aid station had chocolate chip cookies, and the second had little cups of M&Ms!  By the time we got back to the front gate, we were thoroughly enjoying what we thought was turning out to be an awesome race.

Things took a bit of a turn once we left the park though.  The next couple miles went around the outside of the park, along the Sandusky Bay where the wind was quickly becoming fierce and COLD.  Even though the park was just over the fence, we could barely here any of the music that was now entertaining the 5k participants (who would add their third mile after running in the park by looping the enormous parking lot), and the aid stations no longer had any treats, just frozen cups of ice.  My friend's injury was acting up, and I wasn't doing great either, so we started the arduous process of walking the majority of the rest of the course.

Crossing the causeway was tough.  Not only did the wind and the dropping temperatures make it bitterly cold, but the causeway is mostly a long arcing bridge, so half of the trip was uphill.  We were still trying a little run-walk mix on the way out, but that rapidly faded into just walking as we turned off the causeway and headed into Sandusky proper.  To make the time pass more quickly, have more fun, and have a positive impact, we started cheering on every single runner we passed (as is my custom in Towpath races).  My friend's favorite little cheer was "way to go Santa Claus" for any of the guys, and "way to go Mrs Claus" or "Mrs Claus' friends" for the gals.  Some people had fun holiday outfits like tutus, festive leggings, or light up shirts, so we specifically called out our favorites and put a lot of smiles on the faces of struggling runners, which in turn put smiles on OUR faces!

Sadly this could not last, as eventually we were no longer passing other runners.  We were getting further behind the people in front of us, and the few people who had still been behind us on the causeway were slowly starting to pass us.  The struggle with injuries won out, though, and we kept walking.  It did give me a chance to connect a little more with my friend, who I mostly knew through running only, so I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation, even when the snow returned and mounted into a blizzard by the time we were back at the causeway.

The return trip over the bridge was humbling.  We were seriously struggling.  Somehow we gutted up the hill, down the other side, and back to the parking lot - where we were shocked to realize we still had to make the mile long loop around the lot before we could finish.  Only a handful of cars remained as we were second-to-last in finishing; thankfully the rest of the cars were for organizers who not only kept the finish line up until the last person crossed, but also stayed to take photos (which I didn't buy, but nice that they waited) and make sure we were properly fed and received our medals afterwards.  They were very upbeat and congratulatory, which was very welcome after the grueling 13.1 miles we'd just crossed.

After a bit of stationary recovery in the car, we started our trip back, which also went surprisingly quickly despite the snow.  My friend's incredibly thoughtful beau had hot Chipotle waiting for us upon our return so I got a little extra rest and fuel before hopping back in my car to head the rest of the way home.  It took me hours to warm back up, and I will hopefully never have to finish a race in those conditions again, but I'm glad that I went and finished even against the struggles!

Santa Hustle Half Marathon Breakdown

Organization: The Santa Hustle is a traveling race series that operates in various cities, so they don't really have a local basis, but they DID have quite a few volunteers who were surprisingly peppy for such a cold, early morning!  Check in was quick and easy, the race started promptly, there was ample food and medals even for us back-of-packers, and from what I understand the early packet pickup was a major convenience for people traveling out to Sandusky.  I must say I was pleasantly surprised and, looking back, can't really think of anything about the organization of the race that didn't go pretty smoothly!

The Course:  One of the reasons I registered for this race was because of the Cedar Point-ness of it.  I love amusement parks and visited several times over the past summer.  How cool would it be to run through the empty park??  Well that was really the ONLY good part of the course, and it only lasted two miles.  I really wish they could have had us run the first two AND the last two miles in the park, cutting out much of the boring Sandusky neighborhood portion in the middle of the race.  That would have been much more fun!  I'm also disappointed with the aid stations - not that there weren't enough or they were badly spaced (for all that the water was frozen anyway), but because the race website said "cookies and candy stations throughout" yet we only saw goodies at the first two stations.  I would have loved more goodies later, and I think a hot chocolate station somewhere in the middle of the course would have been perfect.  Also, I hope I never run that causeway again.  Ever.

The Swag:  Costs for this race range from $50 to $70 for the half marathon ($20 cheaper for the 5k), and the website promised a lot of value.  Advertised swag items included the Santa hat and beard, a finisher medal (stockings for the half, but the 5k was something else), a long sleeve tech shirt, and candy cane socks, along with the course amenities.  As you can see by the photo, I'm missing one of those advertized items: I never received any candy cane socks, nor did I see anyone else get a pair!  I didn't even notice that the website had included them until much too late after the event to speak up, so I'll forfeit that battle...  I do have to say, I'm SO much more pleased with the Greenlayer thumb-holed hoodie I received than the non-hoodie shirt design displayed on the site!  It's comfortable and high-quality (although one of my seams on the thumb hole is opening, but I think I got it caught on something).  I see the value in this race, for sure, especially if you register early enough to get the lower end of the rate spectrum.  Paying $50 for this race is a bargain, thanks to the good swag and amenities!

The Bottom Line:  I'm torn on whether I'd say I "recommend" this race.  I do NOT recommend completing the race at a slow walk in the middle of a snowstorm.  That has nothing to do with the race itself though!  If the course went back into the park at the end of the race too, I'd say "done deal, this is a must-run", but that boring Sandusky portion and the chanciness of the causeway in the variable lakeside weather make me cautious.  It's definitely a good value and it's really cool to run through the park in the snow!  But you'll have to make your own decision on whether this December race is right for you.

What are the worst conditions you've fought your way through for a race?  Do you speak up if your race swag isn't what was advertized?  What's your favorite Cedar Point ride?  I'll give you a hint, it's probably Maverick...  ;)

Friday, July 14, 2017


It's a familiar story: I write for a while, stay consistent a bit, then vanish for weeks or months at a time.  I come back, say "life happens", and then the cycle repeats.  I can't promise it won't happen again, but I have things to say so I'm here for now.

My life has gone in many directions.  I've achieved, I've suffered, I've lost, I've loved, I've done a bit of everything.  But I never "fit in", so to speak.  I never found my "place" in the world.  Certainly not for lack of trying!  After years and years of forging and chasing opportunities only to find myself back at square one, I had almost given up hope.  This whole business of "trying" and "following my heart" began to seem futile.  Even after starting my running hobby a little over three years ago, I still seemed to struggle to find where I would belong.

Always smiling, though, even when it's tough...

Early last year, I was hired to what I thought was my dream job.  I got to work as a race manager full time, involved in hundreds of events of all sizes and distances, and I LOVED what I was doing.  The job itself really was so much of what I had dreamed I was meant to do.  Unfortunately, trouble in paradise proved once again that even the seemingly best opportunities are not always as perfect as they appear.  I struggled with some health and environment issues, and finally backed out of the position to take care of myself and realign my goals and dreams.  Taking away as many lessons as possible, I started to look for new opportunities, but I also tried to take stock of my motivations and ultimate vision for my career.

This time around, I am much more confident that I am in the right place.  I even believe that I was in the right place before, too - the right stepping stone to a world where my visions are more likely to become reality, and my passions and dreams will be more applicable.  On Monday I started a new job, very similar to what I did previously, and the sense of belonging has been incredibly strong.  I know it's early, but I have a chance to restart this career choice armed with a lot more knowledge and wisdom, and nowhere to go but forward.

Along with this career twist, my personal life seems to finally be settling into a wonderful place.  My new house is amazing, and I treasure every aspect of having a home that is mine.  Kaalia is enjoying the spacious Frisbee yard and the excitable puppies that moved in next door.  The neighborhood is quiet and friendly.  My once-bare rooms are slowly filling with furniture from the consignment store at the corner and decor from my years of collecting and crafting.  I'm spending quality time with quality people who support me, encourage me, and challenge me, while also keeping me grounded and focused.  I'm taking better care of myself and rebuilding my confidence.

The future looks very bright right now.  I'm sure life's ebb and flow will drop me back into darkness occasionally, but I'm slowly learning that the darkness only makes the bright times more incredible.  Following my dreams has been a dicey ride, but persistence seems to finally be paying dividends.  Hopefully, as I pick the pieces back up, my hobbies will come out to play once more and I can return to the writing I've always loved.  There are so many stories to tell from the past few months...  I can't wait to share more adventures and race recaps with you, and bring the fitness community along with me as I continue to make my place in the industry.

And, y'know, bug me if you wanna hear from me more often.  I never mind the encouragement.