Thursday, May 26, 2016

Get to Know 2Toms Give Away!

It's the Get to Know 2Toms Give Away and it's super easy to win!

You probably already know I'm a huge 2Toms fan, and if you aren't already, you'll soon be a fan as well. Your chafing woes are about to disappear my friends. 

All you have to do is follow directions, and cross your fingers! I have TONS of prizes for a bunch of you lucky people! And a ton of exclamation points because I'm so excited about this give-away!


And I also have:

SportShield Roll On
SportShield Towelettes
SportShield 4 Her
SportShield 4 Her Towelettes
Blister Shield Powder
Blister Shield Powder Packets
Butt Shield Roll On
Butt Shield Towelettes
Captain SportShield T Shirts 
Stink Free Sports Detergent
Stink Free Sports Detergent Travel Size Samples
Stink Free Shoe & Gear Spray

There will be

2 Grand Prize Winners who'll each win:

The Captain SportShield Power Pack (filled with an insane amount of prizes)

10 Awesome Prize Winners who'll each win:

The Captain SportShield Mini Pack (filled with a few amazing prizes)

Here's all you have to do to enter below:

1. Follow 2Toms and me on twitter.

2. Retweet my contest announcement by copying this tweet (or RT me directly from twitter):

Get to Know @2Toms Give Away! Win Prizes! #ShieldYourself #CaptainSportShield

3. Comment on my blog. I suggest commenting on my SportShield for HER! Review. You can make any comment you'd like, but I hope it includes how excited you are to try 2Toms products!

Enter by clicking on this thing: 

a Rafflecopter giveaway    

You'll get 1 or more entries, depending on how much you love me. I mean you'll get 1 or more entries depending on how many times you enter based upon the criteria above. 

It's really that simple. Follow and retweet and comment and you're in! The contest will run for a week and I'll announce the winners on twitter and notify them via email. 

Good luck and as always, thank you so much for reading my blog! It means the world to me!

Now that you've read this far, as an extra thank you, I have 4 Captain SportShield t-shirts like the one I'm wearing below, in size Men's XL. Comment here in my blog and tell me you'd like one. The first four people who comment that they'd like a shirt will be instant winners!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Let's Get Real: An Analysis of Virtual Racing & The Leap Year Dare

I never understood why people would run virtual races when there are real races to run. But I also never understood why people would watch 50 Shades of Grey when there are real pornos to watch. It was time to figure it out. 

Virtual races are similar to real races in that you sign up, pay a registration fee and receive some sort of race pack (likely with a bib, t-shirt and medal or some combo of those items) but when it comes time to toe the line at the start...well...there isn't one. You just race yourself when it's convenient. It might be on a certain day or within a certain time frame but you can race your race from wherever you want and pretty much whenever you want to get it done. 

It seemed like...well, like not the real thing. It seemed like "a run." Or racing light. Fake racing? But to be fair, I hadn't ever tried one before. The only way to try to understand the appeal would be to experience one for myself. I focused on the part about not having to wake up early. I'm all about sleeping in so that part sounded pretty good to me. 

I signed up for something called the Leap Year Dare. Instead of one race, it would be 5 races throughout February (2016 being a Leap Year), starting with 2k, then 4k, 6k, 8k and culminating in a 10k race on the 29th. For $27 I would get a bib and a medal and I would run 5 "races." For an additional $20, I could order a t-shirt. Sounded reasonable enough for my experiment.  

The first thing I did when I received my race pack was put the medal away in a safe place without looking at it. I'm not about to even touch a medal that I have yet to earn. That's bad racing juju.  The medal would stay stashed until I completed all 5 "races." 

Next, I asked a bunch of my friends if they'd like to join me. There was a lot of confusion. "Where is the race?" "Um. It's virtual. You run a certain distance each week, leading up to a 10k on Leap Year Day." "Ok, but where do we race?" "Anywhere - that's the thing, it's a virtual race." "This sounds weird." "How do we get an official time?" "Uhhh I think you just time yourself?"

I inquired with the Leap Year Dare Race Director, asking if we were to time ourselves and then report it somewhere, like, on line? Or were we to email our times to the RD? I received a really nice reply. "You can post them in the Facebook group if you want, but really it's just for fun. We don't record the times." 

This is the first time I heard someone say a race would be fun. Haha! There are a lot of things I love about racing, but racing is not fun. Racing is stressful and rewarding and challenging and tough and insanely exhausting. It would be for fun? And there would be no winner? This virtual racing thing was getting more confusing by the moment. But since I had already received the medal before even running a step of the race, I had to see it through.   

I glanced at the Leap Year Dare Facebook page the last week of January and discovered that we were actually supposed to complete the first "race" that week! There were 5 to complete so the first one actually began the last week of January. I rallied the troops. "Reminder that we have our virtual 2k for the Leap Year Dare this week guys!" My friend Isabelle was the first to reply, "If I run 10 miles does that count?" We were all still confused. We were to "race" 2k, or 1.24 miles. "Should we do this on the track?" "Can you "race" on a treadmill?" I didn't really know but we decided you could do whatever you wanted, whenever. That was the beauty of virtual racing, right? 

So racing was now going to be fun and there was no pressure and it was to be convenient? I mean, it sounded kinda good. But what happened in reality was that without any motivation I completely forgot about it, and the week was nearly over when I was like, shit! The 2k "race"! I have to do that! And by then honestly, I didn't really care. I can knock out 2ks in my sleep. I had already done several runs much longer that week, and now, in the basement of my apartment building I cranked up the treadmill and "raced" my official 2k. During the "race" I slowed down to take a phone call. Then I stopped to retie my shoe. I really wasn't in a hurry because there was no one around to race against. And when it was done, it was just...done. I snapped a pic of myself with my bib, cracking up.  I sent my friends a note. 2k race in the books, bring on the next one!" It felt silly and weird.   

Are you supposed to wear the bib? Awkward. But go me!

The next week was 4k, or 2.4 miles. I decided that if I was going to make something of this experiment, I had better revamp my plan of action. Instead of going into the 4k with no pressure, for fun, I would PR the 4k and even though I wasn't racing other humans, I would run the hardest I could for 2.4 miles. That worked a little better. I ran hard for 4ks and then rounded out the run with a couple more miles at a more comfortable pace. Then I hopped on my bike and went on a 12 mile night run around the monuments at The National Mall. "Race" two was complete. 

4k "raced" on a mild February DC day

For the 6k, I was up in Canaan Valley, WV, so I decided to XC ski that week's race. I mean, cross country skiing is as tough a workout as running and this race appeared to have no rules, so why not? I skinned up to the top of Mount Baldy as fast as I could and skied back down for 3.7 miles of virtual racing. 

I skinned up the mountain from all the way down in the Valley. In true virtual race form, I had the course to myself. 

I even took a little break at a warming hut on the way down - it's not like I was trying to beat anyone, right? 6k "race", complete. 

Why not take a little break? I seem to be the only one here "racing" anyway. 

By this time, the enthusiasm amongst my runner friends had dissipated both virtually and in reality. "Are you still doing that pretend racing thing?" "I ran a 10k race over the weekend - do I count that as the 10k even though I didn't count a 4k or 6k? Cause I forgot about those." Some had just stopped logging the distances. "Who cares if I ran 6k? Honestly I have no motivation to "race" when there isn't an actual race!"  

That was my problem too. This whole "convenience" thing really was not a motivator for me. I was conveniently forgetting about the "races" since I didn't have to do them at any specific time. Sure, I was running, but was I "racing"? I still wasn't sure what it all even meant. And I wondered how many people bought the virtual race packs and never actually got around to actually running the "races"? But I had two more weeks of "racing" to complete. The medal was waiting for me. 

I was in California for the 8k and 10k "races." 

The 8k was one of my favorite runs ever in my life, and completely unexpected. My boss and I ran the Greenwich Steps in San Francisco and had a total blast. Was it a race? Most definitely not. Did it really have anything to do with the Leap Year Dare? No. But it happened to be the correct distance and since no one else seemed to care, I counted it. 8k, done. There was one more "race" to go!

Leap Year Day fell on the first day of my conference. We had meetings scheduled from 7AM until 10PM. It was one of those non-stop days when you barely remember to catch your breath. I fell into bed exhausted after finally making it back to the hotel after our business dinner and then remembered today had been the day to "race" my 10k for The Leap Year Dare. I thought about going to the gym and jumping on the treadmill. Then I looked at my mileage tracker for the day and there it was staring back at me: 6.7 miles! I had walked, very quickly in fact, I would even say *racing* from meeting to meeting (in heels by the way) just a bit more than a 10k that day. Leap Year Dare was done! I had crossed the virtual finish line! I fell back into the soft pillows, settling my tired body into the bed, and wondered if I would ever recall where I had hidden my medal.   

The race was over and now I could try on my Leap Year Dare tee!

This is the back of the super cool Leap Year Dare shirt. I still haven't found the medal. 

My experiment was over. I had completed the Leap Year Dare. I earned my medal. But I still didn't understand the allure of virtual racing. So I decided to ask some experts. I put this question out to the Run the Year 2016 Facebook group - Why do you participate in virtual races versus real races? And I received more than 100 insightful comments. Some people didn't understand my question and they told me their reasons were "to support the charity" or "for the bling" or "so I can give my 'I Run 4 Buddy' the medal." I gently responded, "Right, but you can support charities and get medals at real races. What I'm trying to understand is why do you do virtual races instead of real ones?" This has always been the part that I didn't get and even after completing the Leap Year Dare, I still didn't understand. 

What happened next opened my eyes. And if you agree with the few who commented that they, like me, feel that virtual races are kind of a waste of money, or that they seem to be just the act of buying a medal to reward yourself for a run, take a look at 

The Top 12 Reasons Why People Run Virtual Races: 

I paraphrased the comments and analyzed them, and learned a lot!

1. I hate crowds. {Ok, yes, I agree. People are gross. Especially early in the morning. Very good point.}

2. I live in the middle of nowhere {Valid. Getting to races is tough even when you actually have races to be able to get to. If you live in a remote location, real racing might not even be a choice.}

3. My best friend lives across the country and we pick the same day and time. We FaceTime at the start and finish - We virtually race together! {I love this. This so cute and sweet and awesome! I want to do this with one of you or a bunch of you. It sounds really fun. Who will do a Facetime Virtual Race with me? I'll provide prizes from 2Toms!}

4. This particular virtual race has a unicorn medal {Yes, we know that unicorns are a high motivator, of course. Interestingly, more than one person said they race virtually for unicorn medals.} 

5. I use the virtual race medals and themes to organize real races for my kids. {Once you throw kids into the mix I'm not going to debate you. I can barely take care of myself. The idea that you would do this for your kids melts my heart. Love it.}

6. I am a soccer mom and we spend all weekend at soccer during the time real races are run. {Same as above. I would die as a soccer mom. Proud of you for even finding time for any virtual races at all after all that soccer.}

7. I hate port-o-potties. {YAAAS. This person wins.}

8. I live in Alaska. {Anyone who lives in Alaska is a badass to me and therefore I defer to your judgement on what is and is not awesome.}

9. I live on a remote island and cannot leave. {What?}

10. I'm doing 45 races this year for my 45th birthday and didn't want to take up that many weekends. {For real? You should be lying by the pool every weekend with that many races planned for during the week. Wow!}

11. When I was Active Duty I couldn't go to races so I ran virtual races. And I filled my candy jar with my medals. {Anyone who defends our freedom can race however she wants, and thank you for your service so very much.} {Side note: I bet I would be at my goal weight if I replaced candy with medals. Nothing tastes as good as a win, but actual medals taste awful.} 

12. I get annoyed by people who pass me in real races. {Cannot. stop. laughing.}

See? There are a lot of reasons to participate in virtual races after all! 


We race with The Power of the Unicorn!

I'm not only glad I tried one virtual race (or five if you really think about it) but I'm especially glad I took the time to ask why others are drawn to this form of racing (and thankful for everyone who took the time to respond so graciously). 

I learned a lot. I learned that while virtual races are not my preferred kind of racing, that for some people, virtual races can be quite satisfying. I was glad to try it, to branch out, to experiment, to learn. And now if you'll excuse me, I guess I should probably try watching 50 Shades of Grey.  

Thursday, May 12, 2016

2001: A Marathon Odyssey - September 11th & My First Marathon

My September 11th story is unremarkable in comparison to so many, but it is mine and the horror of it will likely never completely leave me, despite my efforts over the years to forget. Not much really happened to me that's worthy of reporting, but the feeling of that day will never go away. It's right there as soon as I start to think about it, and sometimes when I don't even try. 

It was 8:30 in the morning and I was chatting with my girlfriend Carolyn on the phone from my apartment in Arlington, Virginia, as we watched the Today Show. Katie Couric was interviewing Harry Belafonte (we liked Katie's shoes, but we felt her hair style choice was poor) and I finished getting ready for work during the commercial break and then half listened as Matt Lauer interviewed someone about Howard Hughes. I called Carolyn back as Matt broke away from the interview to report the first plane.  It seemed strange, but far away. "I'm so late for work," I said to Carolyn, "This is really weird. Let me know what they say - I'm headed out the door." I turned off the TV and made the short commute down Columbia Pike to my office while the second plane hit. This is getting really weird, I thought, but I needed to get to work, and New York seemed really far away. I took the elevator up to the PH, the penthouse, named so in my office not just because we were located on the top floor, but because it was the 13th floor and PH made for a nicer floor name than the somewhat ominous 13th. Up in the PH, my co-workers were discussing New York, the Trade Center, the planes and how strange it all seemed. Moments later I quickly headed back down to the garage because I realized I had left my laptop at home. I sped back up Columbia Pike still not fully aware that our world had changed. I grabbed my laptop, and as I rushed back down Columbia Pike again, the 3rd plane flew into the Pentagon. 

In hindsight one would think my natural inclination would have been to get away from my tall office building, located so close to the Pentagon, but I was compelled to get to my coworkers. I headed back up to the 13th floor and into complete chaos. People were screaming, crying, hugging, holding hands, as they watched the Pentagon burn from our windows. Someone came running through the office shouting, "EVACUATE THE BUILDING! GO HOME! GET OUT OF HERE!" My co-worker John grabbed my hand and pulled me into the stairwell. "WE'VE GOT TO GET OUT OF HERE!" As we made it down to the garage, in full panic mode, I realized I had left my purse on the 13th floor. John looked at me, at the stairs, at the elevator and said, "Let go of my hand for one sec. Wait right here. I'll be back." He got into the elevator and went up for my purse. And I wondered if I would ever see him again.  But he was back in a few moments, my purse in hand. We hugged and ran to our cars. I drove back up Columbia Pike again, now listening to Jack Diamond on Q107 reporting complete insanity: there were still planes in the air, there were planes headed into many buildings, no one knew what was going on.

In the moments between the Pentagon crash and my 5 minute commute back home again, the Red Cross had set up a triage unit at the Salvation Army on Glebe Road, next to my apartment building. All roads were blocked and only emergency personnel and residents of the street were being let in. I talked to a police officer and he asked me for my license. "I can't let you in unless you live here," he said. My license had an older address on it. I asked again. I just wanted to go home so I could find Jeff and my mom and all of my friends.  He let me by. An hour later I left again to pick up Jeff at the metro and we once again begged our way back into the blocked off triage area so we could get home. We were running from the parking lot to the apartment when we heard and felt the sonic boom. In my panic I fell to the ground. I was completely and totally out of control. I realized the feeling of being terrorized.

In the days following, the skies were silent but there were near constant sirens on the roads, or so it seemed. Maybe I was just hyper aware of every noise. Paranoid. Terrified. Stressed. Every little normal life act seemed scary. What was going to happen next? So, when my mother casually reminded me that she would be flying to Dublin in a month for the Dublin Marathon, I freaked out. Dublin was really far away. "What if your plane gets blown up? I'm going with you." 

I was making absolutely no sense, but the world no longer made sense and everything felt out of control and I wasn't sure what to do about any of it. So I told my mother that I would fly to Dublin with her and we'd do the marathon together. What? In 2001 a good bit of exercise for me was walking  a couple of blocks to the bar. I was not yet a runner, I was in terrible shape. I was overweight. I smoked tons of cigarettes and I spent many late nights per week with a whiskey and a beer in hand at my favorite dive bars. 

My mother, on the other hand, had been training with the Leukemia Society's Team in Training for months, to race-walk her first marathon (her first half marathon was the year before, Mayor's Midnight Sun in Anchorage). But I was thinking, how hard could it be to walk 26.2 miles? And my mom was 30 years older, I could certainly keep up with her right? And I'd never been to Dublin. I would protect her and we would race together.   

I went along with her to a couple of TNT training practices before the race and learned a few things. Race walking is NO JOKE. A lot of race walkers haul ass. I went on to continue respecting them when I first became a runner and would routinely be passed by race walkers. Both younger and older race walkers. They wiggle walk their hearts out! I also learned what it felt like to be sore. Ouch. I could barely move after those training walks. Barfly to marathoner in 3 weeks is not recommended. But I was committed. And my mom agreed to slow down a bit for me. Mostly I was so proud to have some insight into this training world that my mother had been so involved with that I had been paying very little attention to prior to September 11th. She was amazing. She made it to every training practice, during the week and on weekends, and she also did a ton of fundraising for the Leukemia Society. I was beginning to learn that being an athlete is fun and despite the soreness, it's a lot more rewarding than a hangover. And in the next few weeks I had something positive to focus on instead of the terror. Before we knew it, it was time to get on a plane and race a marathon. 

Once we landed in Dublin, there was such a warm welcome by everyone we came into contact with and we felt so at home in this great little city. And we raced!  We wiggle walked our hearts out! We had such an amazing time together. Like my personal September 11th story, nothing much worthy of reporting actually happened to me that day. We raced all over Dublin with a ton of people from around the world. Unlike my September 11th, where I can remember every single mundane detail of that day, the marathon day is a bit of a blur.  But like September 11th, the feeling of that day will never go away. Only this time, the overwhelming feeling and memory is of joy and achievement and being with family and being surrounded by people cheering and smiling and laughing. That is what I will always remember. And when we'd crossed the finish line, my mother and I ended the day in a little pub, drinking our very first ever Guinness to celebrate, while we planned our next marathon. 

 The medal seems old school now, like someone printed them in local trophy shop but it remains one of my favorites.

There are a thousand reasons to love this photo. Please note where we're wearing our bibs. What? Did  we not notice we were the only ones wearing our bibs on our collar bones? We clearly had no idea what we were doing but we were so happy doing it. And I need to give a special shout out to my Le Sportsac fanny pack! That thing was retro even in 2001 (but I think they might be back in style now, cause I've seen the Petworth Hipsters slinging those things around on their hips on Georgia Avenue). I also love our cute little matching cotton bandanas. And the fact that we crossed the finish line together holding hands.  

The smile on my mother's face in this one says it all. Proud. Happy. The smile on my face says I'm ready for a beer! 

This poster was rolled up in the marathon swag bag. My mom had it mounted on wood into a 3D poster for me. I treasure it like I do the memories of that day. I look at it and think, you can do anything. You can get through anything. Grab someone's hand and make it happen.