Race Report: 2017 Beat the Blerch 10K

Been a while. Let’s see if I remember how to do this!

Yesterday, I participated in my first race in almost two years. The race is part of a series called Beat the Blerch based on a comic by The Oatmeal, a/k/a Matthew Inman. Even if you don’t enjoy running, the comic is really funny and you should read it.

I wouldn’t have even known about the race if my friend K hadn’t asked our other race-loving friend R and me if we wanted to run it with her. It was selling out fast so I said yes, thinking that a race was as good a reason as any to spend time in Seattle with my friends, and that I could absolutely train for a flat-course 10K in four months.

While it was fantastic to spend the day before tooling around Seattle with K and R, I was not in racing form by the time Sunday rolled around. That ended up being fine because my racing partners were also dealing with their own health challenges, plus the race was very walker-friendly. Also, personal worsts are encouraged in a Beat the Blerch race because they ply runners with cake and Nutella along the way. So once we picked up our bibs and shirts, the three of us relaxed, chatted with other runners, and hammed it up in photos with a Blerch.

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A Blerch and me.

R and K tried Burritoughnuts (yes, tortilla-wrapped doughnuts).

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R actually ate hers!

Soon after this monstrosity was consumed, we had one last bio-break and then joined the other runners at the starting line, where a Blerch tossed tortillas and marshmallows at us, and then showered us with Doritos as we got on our way.

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Lining up for the 10K.

The mood was high as we made our way through the woods, peeping costumes and chatting and snapping the occasional pic. Mile 3 brought the hydration (and cake and couch) station! I knew the cake wouldn’t be gluten-free, but I hadn’t realized that all of the Nutella would be in sandwiches, so I didn’t get any mid-race Nutella break as planned. That was okay, though, because the day before I had loaded up on post-race treats from Flying Apron Café.

Despite my plan to take it easy, I got caught up in the excitement, and I told K and R I wanted to run for a bit. I ended up running about a mile in two separate segments. Although the running bursts felt good, I had trouble staying within my target heart rate, so I slowed down to a walk. There was also a long stretch of gravel that proved challenging; all of my other races have been on pavement, and I wasn’t keen on injuring myself so soon after recovering from the sneaky sciatica of last month.

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Through the woods.

Even though I was surrounded by people, I was lonely for my friends, so before the mile 6 marker, I stopped for some water and waited for them. The three of us ran the last wee bit to the finish, collected our medals, and got chocolate milk! (And then a proper meal in Redmond.)

All in all, the strengths of this race were the feeling of camaraderie with the other participants, the rampant silliness, the costumes, and the high-quality tech shirt with thumbholes that I’m going to love wearing while running in the cooler months. The challenge was the course: despite how scenic it was, that large-rock gravel was not fun for less experienced runners, and sharing a narrower course with both 10K and half-marathon runners meant that there were lots of “clumps” to navigate.

10K is a great distance for me, training-wise, and I’ve already signed up for another 10K race in about a month, my first in Portland proper. Going to the gym will be a lot more fun with this goal in mind. But I already miss my racing buddies!

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Racing is better with friends.

Now that I have a car, I sing (badly) all the time, but I was definitely overdue for some fun karaoke times with friends. Courtney, V, and I went to Voicebox and sang our hearts out. About ducks.

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Writing from: my study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: Zen’s snores … making me so sleepy.

Today I am grateful for a night out with FunkyPlaid and dear friends seeing a really good film (“Arrival”) and going out to dinner together afterwards to discuss it. I spent the earlier part of the day feeling very guilty and upset about the usual, and it was good to recover the evening.

I still don’t remember to take photos in the moment, so here is the restaurant sign just before midnight. Thrilling, I know.

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Writing from: my study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: the heavy keystrokes of an old keyboard, having finally given up on the wireless one.

This is the lower two-thirds of my friend Hawk’s face right before we ate all this food at Southpark Seafood. Not pictured: even more food.

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Writing from: my study. Listening to: the “Amélie” soundtrack, which the U.S. iTunes Store did not have but my library did. Libraries rule.

Look, I left the house today. I didn’t want to do it (not true) but I did it (true). It was looking like a whole three-day weekend spent hiding inside (except for nature) and despite expecting myself to do something social (like making at least two seconds of eye contact with another human being) I was enjoying days and days of writing and watching Netflix and cooking weird recipes and having unsatisfying conversations with the cat. I really was. Does that make me an introvert? I am finally at the age where I can say YES IT DOES proudly (sort of) and not worry about what anyone thinks of me (not true) and feel confident that my friends won’t wander off (definitely so very not true).

But I left the house today and it was really good. I recommend it. I especially recommend it if you, like me, have been on an introversion binge and yet miss seeing your friends in the Real Life and not just in the Instagram World because even if they are photogenic (disgustingly so) they are so much better in 3D. The LOLs are more realistic, too.

There is even tea in the Real Life. And random craft fairs and charcuterie and clothing stores that are surprisingly interesting for clothing stores. And friends.

And friends.

And tea.

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Writing from: the safety of home. Listening to: “Living” by Sebastian Plano.

quartet

In grade school, I remember sitting in music class and listening to “Peter and the Wolf.” Fascinated by the idea of different instruments for different characters in the story, I was still confounded by the task of picking out the sounds of each within the whole.

In college, Patrick introduced me to an amazing variety of classical and modern music, and urged me to listen to the individual sounds. I tried so hard, but the more complicated the pieces became, the more frustrated I got; it all seemed to blend so well that I couldn’t focus on any particular instrument.

Older still, my ear for music is no less of a meat-grinder, smushing up all the delicacies into one enjoyable mass. But occasionally there are moments when I can latch onto a slithering viola, a yearning cello, a prancing violin. When these moments occur, it finally dawns on me just how important they are together.

Without further adieu, I present to you my string quartet.

._.-.

Béatrice, First Violin
When Tony and I became friends, I hoped so fiercely that Béa and I would too, by virtue of Tony’s connection with her. “Fiercely” is an apt adverb for Béa: she is fiercely protective, fiercely loving, fiercely honest. She intimidated me with her wisdom, her loyalty, and her absolute avoidance of bullshit. And now these are the traits of her I most admire and emulate.

Béa embodies the passion of children, her English tinged with Tony’s birth in Dublin, her laughter the force of thunderclaps. She is the easiest for me to focus on, because she simply draws focus wherever she goes. Yet no matter how much focus she draws, she gives that same focus back tenfold to the people she loves.

There is a part of Béa I envision standing in front of a violent, overflowing river, gauging how she will cross it. Not if she will cross it, but how. That’s Béa.

._.-.

Roe, Second Violin
Delightful Roe, charming and sweet, more subtle at times than even I fancy myself to be, and still powerful. Her measure begins with a complimentary email and slowly builds into an integral counterpoint to Bea; while Roe and Bea are similarly forthright, Roe is gentle where Bea is hard.

Within the quieter, subtler notes of Roe, there is still inimitable strength. She soothes and listens, but shares the tempo, adding her own words for inspection with an openness and a willingness to be human.

Compassionate without being overbearing, supportive without being hypercritical — Roe has a handle on the balance of emotion both internal and external. She does not ask more from me than I can give.

._.-.

Rebecca, Viola
Almost a year has passed since I met Rebecca, also online, in the alabama.birmingham.general newsgroup. We were both reaching out for someone, anyone, to pass the time with during a few games of Scrabble. From these outstretched arms came the Birmingham Boardgamers, my social “family.”

But there is an aloofness to Rebecca I have been wary of. From the start, I doubted whether or not we could be friends because she didn’t appear to need anyone new in her life. Instead of trusting her with that decision, I made it myself, and kept myself distant from her, too selfish to want to see what she needed.

People affect Rebecca intensely, more than I know even now, but now I have the chance to learn if I listen carefully.

._.-.

Sharyn, Cello
And underneath, alternating between mournful and inspiring, there is Sharyn, giving her advice while never assuming absolute Rightness. My favorite memory of Sharyn is a phone call we shared some months ago; she asked me questions. How did I feel about this, what did I think about that. I never suspected her of having ulterior motives, although if I did I’m sure she would reply that she doesn’t have the time, don’t be ridiculous.

Sharyn claims she is not classy. She is elegant, striking, witty and bright. If this isn’t class, I don’t care to know what is.

I am most in awe of Sharyn, for what she’s been through and for what she accomplishes on a daily basis. As a result of my own awe, it’s hardest for me to talk with Sharyn because I am afraid of disappointing her with my naivete, my lack of a career, my youth. But I haven’t disappointed her yet.

._.-.

When I don’t hear the individuals within the whole, I still know they are there. While I don’t have the sheet music before me, I still trust they will play true. Upon a sour note, I do not cringe, but am reminded of my own sour notes, and commiserate, knowing that it is not enough to unravel the entire composition. Together, these four combine to amaze and strengthen me; separately, the loss of one would detract from the melody I have come to depend on.

Perhaps I have an ear for music after all.

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