Wednesday, 16 December 2015

The trip home

I'm here, in Ireland!! I left Columbia at 8.30 am on Saturday and made it to Dublin around 2 am EST. My flights were really good.
Despite the 4 hour layover my bag did not make it on the flight to Dublin. Filling out the forms to track the bag and get it delivered was interesting considering remembering the date was a struggle at that stage!! It ended up being delivered to my parents house before I even got there. So other than delivering some presents (which I can do later) it was more lugging it on and off a bus.

I was greeted (for the first time as in-laws...awkward but not really) by Martina's parents at the airport and went to their house. After a big welcome by Charlie, an English cocker spaniel, I went to bed for a few hours, before being spoilt for the day. I slept for pretty much a full nights sleep later that night (Irish time) so thats got me well settled into the new time zone.

Then this morning was the one appointment I was nervous about...the US embassy! It was a breeze. I had one moment of panic because they wanted my birth cert, which I didn't have, but that was a mix up. A quick interview and my visa was approved..they have really streamlined the system.  Now I'm just waiting for my passport to be couriered back on time for my flights :) I'm so relieved and happy that it went well!

A quick stop off for my small bag and I was on a bus towards home. I finally got to see my parents, brother, dogs and meet my brothers gf for the first time. Somehow I've managed not to cry once, tear ducts of steel!

I've been sampling some of the food I've been missing..mostly junk food like Club Orange (type of soda) and Tayto (cheese and onion flavored chips). I'll be the size of a house by the time I get back. No running yet since its mostly all been travelling but tomorrow I'm going to get out! Beautiful running weather here right now if its not raining.

I'm going to leave it there for now..sorry about the lack of pictures my parents internet might implode trying to upload this, never mind pictures. My instagram is on the side bar or (@kathyoconnell83) if you want to see my trip as it unfolds.

Friday, 11 December 2015

San Antonio, Texas Highlights

The Zoo
This is a old zoo and apparently one of the first to breed a white rhino. When I go to a zoo I compare everything back to the one in Dublin which has done such a great job expanding its enclosures to create a more natural environment for the animals. This one seemed small  in comparison but the animals seemed happy. The stars were the baby lions who had fun stalking their dad and playing with each other.

 We also had fun feeding the Lories. All you had to do was clean your hands, buy some nectar and go into their enclosure and these little guys went nuts. They even know how to take the lid of the nectar container!!

The Menger Hotel
Yes the hotel we stayed in is actually something people come to see. It opened in the 1800s and has a long history and a very famous guest list. I can see why.

The Riverwalk
The riverwalk was originally built to prevent flooding in parts of San Antonio. Its lined with hotels, bars and restaurants (mostly mexican or steakhouses). Its very busy and I'm sure it gets old fast  but its beautiful lit up with millions of lights for Christmas. A 40 minute boat tour is a fun way to learn some of the history behind it, we did it at night to take in the lights.

The Saga at the San Fernando Cathedral 
Charting the history of San Antonio in pictures projected onto the San Fernando Cathedral. A great way to spend 20 minutes.

El Mercado Spanish Market
The largest Mexican Market in the US. Lots of indoor and outdoor shops, restaurants...and margaritas.

The Alamo
Famous for the Mexican-American war battle here, these beautiful old buildings were originally a Spanish mission. In the main building and throughout the grounds you can see artifacts from the time of the battle.

Thursday Randomness

Procrastionation is the bane of my life. Stress makes me ignore whatever is stressing me out...which never works. Which is why I still haven't started to pack for Monday, I hate packing. However, I finally looked at my list of required visa documents and by some streak of luck I have them all. I just have to print my picture, CVS here I come!

I was entering my results from the RnR San Antonio into the Half Fanatics site and it turns out I finished in the top 25% of the field. In a race that big, its not a big deal but can I call myself a front runner?.. I'll be breaking the tape any day now ha ha

I haven't run or done any exercise this week so far. A major case of the lazies has occurred...that and I want my shoulders to loosen up. I'm also catching up on sleep, which I didn't really get in San Antonio, before I travel for 12+ hours.  Lets not go into jet lag already tired.
yes that is a 4 hour layover

Lastly, I found a 5k I could run at home (if I can get to it) on St.Stephens Day/Boxing Day. It'll be cold and flat and maybe fast..if I get to do it. So maybe RnRSA wasn't my last race of 2015!!!!

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Rock 'n' Roll San Antonio Texas 2015

This is the last of my races for 2015 :( but I finished the year off happy--13 half marathons and 1 full marathon later. I've also run in 9 new states. Not a bad year! 
As I'd mentioned Martina is going to a conference in San Antonio, Texas this week and when I found out that Rock n Roll had a race there, the weekend before, I decided to go. There are so many fun looking races in Texas that I could have done but this one was just too convienant to ignore. I really had zero expectations and didn't even look at a course map. 

The weekend turned out to be a nice mini vacation and the race was really fun too. We flew into San Antonio on Saturday and checked into the Menger hotel. This was Martinas conference hotel so we decided to stay there so she wouldn't have to switch hotels once the conference started. It's really old (like 1800s) and super fancy. Funnily enough Rock n Roll offered a better discount for it than the conference...running wins! It's supposedly haunted with ghosts but I didn't see one :p 

After checking in we went to find the expo and of course I quick marched us over a mile in the wrong direction. I was so mad at myself because I knew Meb was going to be at the expo at 1pm for a half hour and I'd missed him! Turns out he stayed almost an extra hour and I kind of pleaded with the guy controlling the line to let me be the last to see him. I got to meet him and he signed my bib. This was my first encounter up close with someone famous that I admire. Turns out my fan girling makes me quiet and look scared, ha ha!  Kara Goucher and Lauren Fleshman were running the half but I didn't see them at all...maybe it's just as well, I'm not sure my nerves could take it.

Besides meeting Meb I got my bib and t-shirt. The t-shirts (Brooks womens cut) were tiny. Normally for women's sizes I always get a medium, some are very loose, some are a nice fit but this one can we say it was highlighting my muffin top a lot. Martina changed my tshirt for me at the race (not offered at the expo), while I was running, for a large and it gave me a small bit more room but not much. Other than that it was nice. 
The rest of the expo was large and I noticed a new vendor at this one (specifc to San Antonio)....Seaworld. I saw free sunglasses first and then walked away when I realized who was handing them out. They had two penguins there in a glass box (for how long..who knows?) and were letting everyone and their mother crowd and touch safe and not stressful for the animals, right. Sorry I hate them a lot, they are so shady!

Enough ranting...the race! The next morning the race started near the Alamodrome (sports arena). The holding area was a big open parking lot with lots of port a potties and stands with fruit and water. Leaving the hotel I had a few sips of coffee and at the start I grabbed a banana as I was hungry. Ice cream for dinner the night before was probably not the best race prep ever. The race started at 7.30am, for me really 8.30. I like when time changes work in my favor. 

The race had 32 assigned corrals (self enforced) and I was in corral 7. Right around the 2 hour pacers. I felt very stiff all week, especially my shoulders but I thought if I felt good running I'd run with them for a while. It took about 5 minutes to get across the line and Meb was there giving out high fives (and at finish). 
The weather was really nice, cold enough to run but I didn't need gloves or a hat. It took me the first couple of miles to warm up but I clung to the pacer and that got me into a rhtymn. Eventually I felt like the pacer was forgetting his job. One minute he'd run a normal pace and next thing I'd look at my watch and see 7.xx and it felt like it too (not just wacky gps). He was hitting the average time bang on for the miles but not at an even pace. I knew that would kill me so I just let him go and I trod on by myself. 

Miles 1-5 of this race are nice and flat but the middle section is hills. Including one long sucker near the zoo. I'm glad I've been including a few big hills regularly in my training runs. For the steepest section of the long one I walked but ran all the rest. The long hill was lined from bottom to top, almost half a mile, with spectators cheering at the top of their lungs and high-fiving their hands off. So it was pretty fun despite the hills. The last few miles the race flattened out again thank goodness. The hilly section gave me two very slow miles but I still felt good coming out of it and I made up my time on the back half of the course. 

I felt good through the whole race. My shoulders were tight (but they were very bad before the race) and my hamstrings tightened up but I wasn't in any pain and the pace remained easy enough throughout. The only place I ran into trouble was at the start of the last mile when I got a few stop in your tracks stomach cramps. That last cup of gatorade or the fact that I wanted to up the pace for that mile was too much. I slowed down to let my stomach calm down and was fine for the last half a mile. 
I finished in 2.02. I'm thrilled with that, a definite improvement in the last two months. I'd like to knock a few more minutes off that at a relatively easy pace before trying for a PR but I feel like I'm getting back to me. 

As usual for Rock n Roll they had a ton of drinks and food at the end. Nothing very substantial but enough to hold you over til you get a decent breakfast. I made my way through the crowds, found Martina and waited around 15 minutes for a free massage. I'd had enough of my shoulders and neck so it was worth the wait. The massage lady had a strong accent (in my head German..prob not though) and boy was she good. She kept commenting on how tight my shoulders and left hip were and asking me if I had back pain. When I said no, she said I probably should?! She was very strong, pushing so hard she was lifting me and the table at times. My entire upper back cracked as she was pushing down along my spine (into table and towards my butt), exactly what I needed and my shoulders felt better than they had all week!!
 Sadly she could only work on me for 5 minutes but I have a longer massage booked for Thursday so I'm looser before the long flight to Ireland.After that it was just the usual shower and breakfast routine before enjoying another couple of days of visiting San Antonio.

The race was very well organized. The expo was good, medal was nice and course support was great. I don't think other than running past the Alamo the course was very unique to San Antonio, if you like the novelty factor, but it is such a fun city to visit so I'd recommend this race for a fun weekend away if you like to travel.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

January plans

I've decided not to run the back to back half/25k in January that I was considering. I don't think I'll be ready in time. Although, I'm happy with how I've progressed in the last few weeks, I don't want to screw up by piling on the mileage on that weekend when I'm not ready and injuring myself. 
The decision was made the more I thought about my trip home. Realistically, I know I'm going to miss some (a lot) running and lifting for the two weeks I'm there. Its just not practical where I live to run on the roads. I'll be 100% reliant on other people (aka my brother) to get to a gym or trail and when I lived at home for a short while, before moving to the US, his dedication to being my chauffeur was patchy at best ha ha. 
This leaves me running just the Mississippi Blues Half Marathon that weekend. In good news this opens up the opportunity to do something other than run and drive on this trip. Right now my plan is to leave early on Friday, camp in Jackson MS, run Saturday morning and then drive 2-3 hours back to Alabama, hike part of Saturday and Sunday before driving the rest of the way home. I found an awesome camping spot and an opportunity to do some hiking not that far from our route home.
Not a bad view!

This will be my first experience of winter camping. I'm looking forward to the camping, not so much the cold. It won't be really really cold because we are so far south but regardless sleeping outside at this time of year is a shock to the system. We can hire some additional gear (like real sleeping bags) from the university recreation center to make it better. This will keep the whole trip to a very manageable cost compared to staying in hotels and it's an adventure. 

Has anyone else done cold weather camping? Any tips?