Race Report: 2017 Beat the Blerch 10K

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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.

Day 9 of Project 365: Bagpipes in the mist.

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I was promised bagpipes. And there were bagpipes.

Everything else was icing.

Speaking of icing, when I set out for Holyrood Park this morning at my usual brisk warm-up walking pace, I slipped and fell. It wasn’t a bad fall, although a passer-by stopped long enough to tell me that I should be walking in the road (thanks, I think). While taking eensy baby steps the rest of the way to the starting line, I wondered if running a race was the best thing to be doing at -1°C (30.2°F). Although I was prepared mentally and had plenty of layers on, I worried a little about the state of the course.

When I arrived to my wave’s place in the starting line-up, the race organisers announced that there was nothing to fear. Plenty of grit had been placed on the course, three times over, and so I took my place and we were soon off!

Even though the first third of this particular course is all uphill, I was immediately glad to be running it. It was misty and cold but not wet. I got to see the swans in their pond one last time. I tried to peek down into Duddingston but it was so misty that I could barely make it out.

And the pipers! There were pipers at the 1k, 2k, 3k, and 4k markers. Some runners stopped to take selfies with the pipers. I asked the piper at the 3k marker if I could take his picture and he obliged. (I loved running in the slowest wave. Most of us were just trying to finish, not get any PRs, so lots of us stopped for pictures and chatted as we jogged.)

Shocking no one, I listened to the original Broadway cast recording of “Hamilton” as I ran. This was one of the best ideas I have ever had and it resulted in the following tweet:

The last bit of the course is all blessedly downhill so I got one last soar down Arthur’s Seat to the finish line. And then:

I hope I never fall out of love with this musical.

It was a slow 5k, even by my standards. I don’t even have accurate statistics because Runmeter quit at the start (due to a RAM issue that I now know how to fix) and I had inexplicably left my Garmin at home even though I remembered to bring my lip balm but it is pumpkin spice lip balm so before you question my priorities remember I’m a white girl and this is pumpkin spice lip balm we’re talking about here people.

As this is a special post doing double-duty as a race report, you get a second photo today. It’s a super-creepy selfie I took on the walk home. What is going on with my eyeballs in this shot? I’m not even looking in the right place and I’m the one taking the photo! It’s all the pumpkin spice.

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When I got home, I took a very hot shower and discovered just how cold I had gotten because it was all going so well and I was warming up and then everything itched all at once like I was one giant chicken-pock. (Yep, that’s the singular of “pox”.) It was still a great shower, and a great race. No matter where I live, Arthur’s Seat will always be my favourite extinct volcano.

And thank you, anonymous person, for donating to the Joshua Nolan Foundation. Your generosity will help someone here get the mental health counselling they need.

Day 8 of Project 365: One last 5k around Arthur’s Seat.

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Shortly after moving to Edinburgh, I met an extraordinary woman named Laura. She is extraordinary because she somehow picked up the pieces of her life after her son Joshua took his own life at only twenty-two years old. And after she picked up those pieces, she forged ahead to found the Joshua Nolan Foundation the very next year.

Tomorrow will be my last 5k race around Arthur’s Seat, at least for now, and I’m running to raise awareness for the Joshua Nolan Foundation. The Joshua Nolan Foundation works with their partner counsellors to fund counselling sessions for people who have been identified as ‘at risk’ of suicide. If you or someone you know has been impacted by not having access to this kind of support, please consider donating to the Joshua Nolan Foundation.

And please think fleet-footed thoughts for me around 10:00 GMT tomorrow! I’m a bit creaky but I want to finish strong for such an important cause.