Run Woodstock : The Natural Miles

I was such a happy camper (pun intended) when I was able to attend Run Woodstock this year. Last year I was told by my doctor I wasn’t allowed to attend (even as a spectator) because I would be too tempted to push it. After going this year, I know he was right!

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Run Woodstock is a 3 day festival of Peace, Music & Running! It isn’t a FULL 3 days and honestly there is SO MUCH to do, it could easily spill over into Sunday afternoon, but I’m sure the race directors need time for clean up. Today’s post will focus on my arrival and the two “natural” runs. Tomorrow we’ll chat about the other events.

The camp grounds open at noon on Friday, and I intended to arrive around 300 in the afternoon. Then I realized I didn’t want to get up too early and opted to sleep in a little. If I was going the whole weekend without sleep I needed to start off on the best possible note. I say this because I was camping in the “rowdy” corner. My section of camp grounds is where every single event passes by on the way to the finish. 100% of the weekend there were people running past and others sitting around cheering. I loved this idea and knew what I was getting into, but wanted to be prepared.

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The 100 mile and 100K runners started at 400 PM. I arrived closer to 430, meaning I missed Mark and Dan take off on their adventures. I later found other friends who were doing those distances too. Many campers were already there and I found my site and raised my tent. Is that how you say it? Now I’ve only assembled this tent 1 other time, in April of 2012 and it was in my living room. Luckily my “neighbors” took pity on me and offered to help. This made it a lot quicker of a process.

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Wandering over to registration I found several members of the Cleveland/Akron tribe and chatted for a while. They were actually about a stone’s throw away, I just couldn’t see them due to a camper and picnic table between us. The sites are tiiiight though! They take a standard lot and split it into about 3 other “lots” for the weekend. I could fit my car and my tent on my site (front to back NOT side by side). Personally, I’m glad they do this, because it allows for so many more people to be able to stay. Some groups used one of the lots to park cars and put all their tents on another site as layout favored this arrangement here and there.

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After picking up my shirt and race bib I continued to unpack and eventually found myself sitting by a fire chatting with my friends and waiting for the first “fun” event…a relaxing 5K. I broke out the festive skirt I made that morning, to make sure it was comfortable enough for the main event the next day. It was a tad long and very thick, but it was super cute (I received sooooo many compliments) and it was comfortable.

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BTW, this 5K has a very special option. About 2 miles into the run there is a split in the road, you may go left or right. One way leads you along the trail and back to the camp grounds. The other way leads you deeper into the woods and you are allowed to run “natural” for a mile. Yes, this is exactly what it sounds like, you strip down to socks and shoes and run free into the night. Oh and you’re allowed a headlamp.

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At first I was super nervous about the idea, and especially about not knowing anyone, since my friend refused to get naked. Then I decided it was probably better NOT to know anyone. I came to the clearing and looked around and it was a lot of naked people. Interestingly enough, it felt weird to be the only person wearing clothes. There is a “bar” set up where they served wine, beer and water, a blanket for placing all your clothes and then a loop mile to run your heart out. While it wasn’t weird to be naked, I was worried people might say something or give me a dirty look. Everyone was VERY nice though! No one said anything negative about anyone else. We were all just naked and sweaty and happy. A kind man and two other ladies grouped off with me and we went for a run. Yes, “the girls” were not very well behaved on this “run” so I needed to hold them down every once in a while or slow my pace.

It was difficult to take it all in (don’t be dirty). Being naked, the night running, being so “in tune” with nature. I tried to practice being mindful and present, but I think there were too many things fighting for my attention. Parts of it still feel surreal.

Once back at the bar people milled about and chatted. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do another loop since I had many many MANY more miles the next day. So I picked up my “button” and walked back with a nice couple. Oh, there were different buttons (like scout badges) you could collect over the weekend for doing different events. You’ll understand better with tomorrow’s post.

The rest of the night was spent sitting by the fire cooking hot-dogs or other fire friendly foods and talking with friends.

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Saturday there was once again a nighttime fun run. There was the option for a 5K with a “natural” detour, or a standard 10K. Part of me wanted to go for the 10K and miles, but part of me knew I may never get a chance to run naked again and might as well live it up!

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On Saturday I actually decided to run, where as Friday I walked the first portion with my friend. It was so freeing to run through the woods, just me and my thoughts, at a slow but wonderful pace. The daytime rain had cooled things down and I was in my happy place. It was hard to believe I’d already put over 17 miles on my legs.

I knew two of my friends were in Saturday’s group, but I expected them to be well ahead of me and out of sight, out of mind. A woman I met along the way entered the clearing with me and told me it was her first time in 3 years of attending to do the “naked” portion. Saturday’s group was MUCH larger and MUCH more under the influence of alcohol. HA! The guy who lead my Friday night group saw me and gave me a high-five for coming back. I tossed my clothes onto the pile and stood around chatting.

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An older man looked at me and told me I looked familiar. He then proceeded to tell me about a nudist colony he was headed to and other random information. I was very uncomfortable. I walked around talking to others and could constantly see him behind me over my shoulder. Weird. I’m sure he didn’t mean any harm, but still.

I ran a loop with the woman I met before and she loved every minute of it. I think it was still very surreal to me, so being able to experience this second night through new eyes was a gift in itself. I also learned some very interesting things about the female body as it ages.

After the run I joked with some friends who were amazed at how comfortable I seemed, maybe I was taking “Blissed In- Happy in My Skin” too literally, huh Bex? We walked back to camp when the bar closed. We didn’t have to go home, but we did have to get dressed and leave the woods.

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No one could believe I ran naked or that I did it sober. It was a very good experience for me. I realized no one has a “perfect” body, but we all have bodies we can do amazing things with out on the trails. I know I don’t look the way I want to look right now, but I need to work on not letting that stop me from living my life, just as Kim so wonderfully wrote about in her blog.

I looked good last year, but injury meant I couldn’t attend, who knows what next year will bring. I chose to live in the moment and took a risk. Friends told me I would never regret it and I certainly do not! I plan to do it again in 2014, maybe I’ll run some extra loops! Who knows, maybe I’ll see you there?

Race Report : Hemophilia 5k Superhero Run

I knew I was going to run in the Hemophilia 5k Superhero Run over the weekend, but I just never really got around to talking about it. In a way it is an unexpected 5k, although it was totally expected.

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My friend Laura from work (she was an intern for the past year) knew I liked to run and invited me to be a part of her team, “Mikey’s Team”. Her younger brother has the condition and her Mom was recently elected to the local board, so they were doing their best to raise awareness and funds at this year’s walk/run fundraiser. Here is a snippet of the lovely email she sent inviting people to join her team:

Many of you don’t know my little brother was born with a condition called hemophilia. Hemophilia is an inherited disease that keeps your blood from clotting and requires an IV infusion of Factor 8 (what’s missing in their blood) to stop internal and external bleeding of even minor scrapes and bruises. This condition can be severe or mild, but either way, it’s life altering. Though my brother Michael is a mild hemophiliac, we have had to keep a close eye on every bump and bruise since he was born. He is unable to play contact sports and has to travel long distances and to doctors appointments with medication just to be safe. Having experienced this less traumatic situation with Mikey, we can only imagine what other families go through just to keep their family members with severe hemophilia alive. The medication needed for this condition ranges in the thousands on a daily basis.

Each entry was about $25 and their goal was to raise at least $2000, with over 100 people attending for her her, we raised over $2500! Her family donated the money on our behalf so we were able to participate for free. A number I like to hear! And we were given team shirts, and I’m a sucker for a matching event.

The race was held at Sunny Lake Park in Aurora, the same place I have been training for the Moebius-Green Monster Trail race for next weekend. It’s an underutilized area for sure. We had beautiful weather and used the paved path around the lake. Runners did about two laps to reach the 3.1 mile goal.

I was up and ready in my “superhero” getup.  I didn’t realize until the night before we could dress up or I would have been much better prepared.

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Once at the race very few people were as “homemade” as I was and I didn’t want to leave the car. Eventually I did though and the kids loved me! The adults I think were a little apprehensive.

After meeting up with Laura and crew I put on my shirt and re-pinned my towel.  With barely minutes to spare I lined up with the small but mighty crowd of runners. FAR more people were there for the 2 mile walk an hour later.

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The course itself wasn’t too terrible. My quads hurt a lot from Zumba the night before and from a lack of road training. Lack of road training also meant numb feet from hitting a hard surface repeatedly. Loved my Saucony’s though! Very good shoes. It also didn’t help I had a bath towel pinned to my body, trapping any and all heat against my back. I was a hot and sore mess by the end of it all.

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Official results have not been posted yet, but my own watch and phone app said I finished just under 38 minutes. One of the slowest 5k’s I have done in a long long long time. There were a ton of factors playing into it though…and I tried to simply be thankful I was out there and I was running.

Hoping and planning to do it again next year and maybe I can get some of my friends to join in too?

Race Report : Run Drenched Columbus

A few of you on Facebook and Twitter saw my comments about how disappointed I was with the Drenched 5K in Columbus, OH last weekend. I’d like to take this time to give a few details on what happened….or more accurately, what DIDN’T happen. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the fact I was able to attend the event for free thanks to agreeing to promote it, it would have been a complete waste of time and I would have been angry, not just disappointed. I supposed this will be one of those posts to prove I don’t “love” everything I receive for free, so you can trust my reviews.

My Mom and I spent the few days before the race filling water balloons. With your registration you’re supposed to receive 25 balloons which you MUST fill on your own and bring on race morning. Or you are not allowed to take part in the final water fight. I guess this is one of the issues with attending a race out of the area, because we had to go and buy our own balloons. This turned out fine tough since it allowed us to bring 150+ balloons, but I noticed our packs on race day didn’t have any balloons. I know it was too late to fill, but it would have been fun to bring them home. If I were someone with a paid registration I would want everything promised to me for that money.

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Speaking of what came with registration. Runners were also given shirts and sunglasses. The sunglasses were cheap giveaway quality with blue accents with “Drenched” written on the side. VERY small and actually hurt my head to wear, which is odd because I wear a children’s frame for glasses since I have smaller head. I don’t know how other adults comfortably wore them.  The shirts were nothing to write home about. Mine was white with “Drenched 5K” written in blue across the chest. The “5K” part was a blue water drop. I honestly found the shirts a little dull and made people look like they work for the water company. Some had shirts with a big blue water splash across the front and “Drenched 5K” written in white inside the splash. Those were much nicer IMO.

So, when Mom and my sister and I arrived, we pushed/dragged/scooted the cooler full of balloons from the COSI parking lot to the the check-in.

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Something very cool? In the street by COSI is a giant scaled (for buses to stop on and kids can be entertained) we pushed our cooler onto one and noticed it weighed over 100 lbs! I was super impressed with myself for being able to help. Getting stronger!

Along the way we posed for an “official” picture.

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This brings up another issue. Obviously it wasn’t safe or smart to bring a camera around the race. Unless you have a decked out water proof version or trust plastic baggies (which is what I did). For this reason, I thought it was WONDERFUL they had photographers there! OK NOT when it costs a minimum of $12 to get a copy of the picture. Are you kidding me? 100% of those picture profits better go to the same charity the race was a benefit for and not any less with those prices. This was not a marathon or other big time event.

Some of you may be asking, what do you wear to a water fight run? Well, I wore my swim trunks (I bought a pair years ago in the men’s department and they are quite the investment. Very practical for this event as well as time spent at amusement parks when you want a pocket or to ride rides and your typical short girl bottoms aren’t public friendly). Along with my trunks I wore a sports bra and a tech shirt. Then socks and old shoes I didn’t mind getting messed up. I planned to walk most of it with the family anyway.

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Before the race started people were squirting each other with guns and hanging out along the water fountains. Becky and I took one of our balloons and played toss until it broke. Others did their own version seeing how much fun we had. There was a low turn out which was probably due to the recent rain and the fact it only barely stopped before the event.

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Once we took off I know the three of us were SO EXCITED. We thought we had read about sprinkler zones, foam zones, spectator zones, fire hoses and slip n slides! Looking at the website now, I see they have changed it to be VERY CLEAR those are only OPTIONS and not promised at every venue. I wish I had checked the map, because Columbus was a sad state of affairs.

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We ran past a hydrant or a hose at the first corner then down along the water front where we encountered a ton of geese poop. I know that isn’t exactly their fault, but hello you’re a water race, you couldn’t have hosed it down a little but before be started? Super gross. This was also where the spectator zone was located making it hard to be safe as everyone avoided poop and slamming into each other. I think the spectator zone should have been further into the course where people were spread out and in a grove.

After this nearly nothing happened. We ran along the water front and the only excitement was the goose poop and listening to small children complain about the heat or the adults complain about lack of water (both for drinking and for refilling), poor course and poor living up to advertisements. Along the 3 miles there was 1 sprinkler zone and 1 foam zone. The sprinkler zone I think was 1 or 2 very small sprinklers set off to the side. At least this is what it seemed to me when I went past.

Around the half way point we were given small cups of drinking water and saw the foam zone. When my group went through it seemed to be about 5 feet of muddy grass with some type of dirty foam fading on either side. Looking at pictures from the front runners I could tell earlier the entire zone was flooded with foam/bubbles. I don’t know if they ran out of mixture or what, but we were far from the end of the line, and I felt so sorry for the kids who would come to the foam zone and be greeted with mud and fading filthy popping messes.

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After half way/foam there wasn’t another thing on the course. It was simply 1.5-ish miles of walking along a sidewalk, seeing some trees and maybe talking to a few other people on the course who were just as disappointed. When we made it to the end, a lone man stood with a fire hose and occasionally splashed people turning the corner to the finish arch. Running under the arch some people had buckets of water thrown on them, we were not any of these people.

Back at the main section, you could hear the announcer telling people it wasn’t time for the balloon fight. No one listened and before they could even attempt to protect the row of supplies, kids were running over and breaking into bags and totes. I will say the water balloon fight was fun. IT HURT LIKE CRAZY THOUGH! Haha.

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I could tell the younger kids loved getting wet and the older ones did too, most of the younger ones did not do as well on the course. Lots of complaining and being carried.

The whole time I wondered why such a scenic and boring route was chosen, but I assumed it would have been better with a larger turn out. Not as many road closures or chances to become lost. Finding an article on the race recently, I came across notes at the bottom how local residents and businesses complain about the road closures for events such as Drenched, so I may be right in my assumption.

After the race was super lame too. On the webpage it seemed there would be almost a festival like feel with fun and laughter and the 3 story free fall onto the blow up base or whatever. Mom and Becky were super bummed about not having a slip-n-slide finish (I was too), but I was REALLY upset about not having the free fall. That is 100% the ONLY reason I wanted to do this event. Haha.

Oh and another thing, I wish I had saved a screen shot, because I swear when I created it team the site originally said there was an incentive for simply making a team and a Facebook page. Then as you gain more people there were incentives. At the race I was told it was only for bringing at least 10 people. When I checked at home I see there have been updates and it indeed says at least 10. It also says the incentive for the shirt is for the team captain only, when before it said everyone would get a custom team shirt. Lots of behind the scenes changes.

I guess it wasn’t “false” advertising because they have disclaimers about not everything being at every event, but it was certainly misleading. There wasn’t NEARLY the things in Columbus as other events portrayed and I know a number of people who will not be back next year. Me, my mom and my sister are 3 of them.

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Have you ever had a disappointing experience with a race? Do you like the theme or adventure races? Which has been your favorite race for 2013 or the one you’re looking forward to doing in the coming months?