Monday, May 30, 2011

ODDyssey Half Marathon, Philadelphia, PA

May 22, 2011

Last post, I told you all about the circumstances leading to creating a Dalek costume and running my fifth half marathon, the ODDyssey Half, without a time goal. Here's the actual race recap.

The race started at 7am in Philly, which meant that I woke up frightfully early, at 4:30am. Like all half and full marathon mornings, this began with a peanut butter sandwich, lots of water, and caffeine (a latte, today). My confused kitty groggily requested, received, and rejected breakfast, opting to curl up and go back to sleep.

Around 5am, Audrey jogged up to my doorstep! She has a marathon in June, and her schedule called for 20 miles. She got three of them done before meeting me.

We picked up Amanda and headed into Philly. The starting line location was the most convenient ever; it was in Fairmount Park, with huge FREE parking lots. Audrey left immediately to run four miles before the race started.

I was so excited!!
Wee I'm going to run in costume!!

Amanda was, too--she hoped to set a new PR!
Amanda looks quite normal and ready to PR!!

Of course I had to take some goofy shots as a Dalek:

Amanda and I walked the half a mile or so to the race area, right next to the Please Touch Museum. (As opposed to "don't touch", I believe?) We had about twenty-five minutes to spare and got in the interminable porta-potty line. We spotted plenty of other costumed-folk: a ladybug, a couple of flowers, a horde of Wonder Women, many manly men in dresses, some pirates. It was finally our turn. From inside, I heard the starting gun. Oops. At least it was a chip-timed race! Our chip times are about three minutes behind clock time.

Amanda ran with me for about a mile to warm-up, and then off she ran in search of her PR! I settled into a good groove and enjoyed carrying my whisk and plunger during the first four miles that circled around and back to the starting/finishing line. Several people called out, "I LOVE YOUR COSTUME," but no one acknowledged if they knew what I was. ;)

I'm on the left:
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After the first four or five miles, we headed down to the Schuylkill River for the first of two long out-and-backs. I'm not a fan of retracing my steps, preferring instead to run loop courses, but at least this gave us plenty of chances to see all of the costumes!

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There's the award-winning plug and socket duo:
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Royal wedding guest:
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Captain Jack Sparrow:
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The dish who ran away with the spoon:
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The car:
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And girls I ran near for quite a ways, the cop and robber:
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We ran up the river until we saw the famous Philadelphia Art Museum, and then we turned around and ran back. We passed the road leading back up to the finish and started the second out-and-back for a couple of miles along the river in the opposite direction.

While the river and trees are quite pretty, it would've gotten rather boring without the entertainment. There was an obstacle course: a huge bouncy castle with slides and ladders off to the side. I didn't run over it, but Audrey did. She said it was fantastic. Two teens were playing an over-sized game of Jenga and allowing participants from the race. There were a few stations with DJ-ed or live music. The best part, on this muggy hot day, were the Water Balloon Men. Sadly, they missed me with both balloons they chucked at me. Guess I was running too fast? ;)

The weirdest thing is that this "out" part of the out-and-back felt downhill the whole way, leading me to really worry about running uphill for the last few miles. When I turned around, though...a bunch of the "back" was downhill or flat... Good? Perhaps the heat muddled my brain.

I enjoyed seeing Audrey and Amanda twice!

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They looked strong and happy!

I kept pace with what looked like a father-daughter pair for the last two miles. She started fading, so he kept up a steady stream of encouragement. I decided to eavesdrop and claim the encouragement for myself, and it really helped! :) Especially going up the legitimately steep hill that was the last half mile or so. While they ran the whole way, I ended up walking a bit of it...but I still beat them to the top. ;) Sometimes, walking is just faster.

Nearing the finish line, I dug deep and sprinted to the finish! Amanda caught me, barely, despite this dude's head:
Amanda got me finishing! (Chip time~2:27)

I finished around 2:27, my slowest half marathon time. :) It was, however, one of the most enjoyable!

Amanda got her PR, with a time around 2:15! Audrey indeed finished a total of 20 miles that day, still running the race part at a very respectable ~1:45!

We received our medals and finishers' pint glasses, and broke them in with a free post-race beer. Here we are, enjoying a pint at 9:30am:
Audrey, Jess (as a Dalek), and Amanda enjoy post-race beer. At 9:30am.

Please note the banana in my holster and the granola bar in Amanda's shirt--the post-race food was excellent, in that we got a lot of it and had to get creative to carry it!

"Rocky's lesser-known little sister" came up to ask what I was, so I introduced yet another person to the wonders of Doctor Who. Maybe she'll go watch it. ;)

The start and the Inspiring/Intimidating Statue

On the walk back, a coconut water van suddenly pulled over and started handing everyone free drinks! Woohoo!
Free coconut water!!!!

I'm still not overly fond of coconut water...but I like it enough to drink it for free.

We stopped for Starbucks in downtown Philly, and were home by noon. :D

The medals really are awesome. It's the first I've gotten that's actually useful--it's a bottle opener!

My medal hangs out with the TARDIS.
Sweet finisher's pint glass AND medal!

In conclusion, while it was super fun to run in costume, enjoying the scenery without a time goal, I'm not going to register for another race until I'm back on track with my training, health, and pace. I'm doing a modified spring training program (running only 3-4 days a week, with longer long runs, and biking/strength training/resting on others) until I start marathon training in August. I might do another half in August or September, and possibly some 5-10ks, but running the marathon in under 4:30:00 is my goal of the year. :D


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Dalek Dress: Exterminatingly Awesome Race Attire

What do you do when you've just run your fourth half marathon, you're registered for your fifth half marathon, and shin problems and record-breaking bad allergies soundly KO your PR plans?

You remember that the ODDyssey Half Marathon in Philadelphia, PA, strongly encourages costumes, and you snap out of your funk!

About two weeks before the race (May 22, 2011), while chatting with Erica online, this thought hit me. We were discussing our love of Doctor Who (remember my sister's and my Gingerbread TARDIS?) and instantly decided that I simply MUST become a Dalek.

The Daleks are the Doctor's archenemies. They are an alien race of mutants who are permanently housed in large robotic structures, which closely resemble salt and pepper shakers with lights, a plunger, and a whisk attached. In other words, they look like this:

Gold Daleks

Black dalek

I knew how I would do it, too. I'd find inspiration from some incredible girly Dalek costumes I'd seen all over the (geeky part of) the internet. Specifically, I consulted both these ladies and this video.

First, as I have no sewing machine, I wasn't going to actually make my own dress. Target has plenty of cheap swimsuit coverups and sundresses right now, though. And, as I'd wear it on top of running shorts and a sports bra, it didn't have to fit perfectly/cover everything. Piece of cake to find this (but in black):
Dalek dress base

While the look of hot-glued hemispheres for sensor globes is definitely truer to the Dalek, I doubted they'd last after 13.1 miles of abuse. Instead, I chose to stitch on felt circles:
Felt circles

Turns out, it takes me an awfully long time to baste 32 circles to a skirt.

Faraday was my charming craft partner, and my awesome TARDIS cookie jar was a terrific tool box!
Bigger on the inside tool box!

Not trusting a strapless dress to stay put while I ran for over two hours, I stitched the front of the dress to an old sports bra:
Sewed strapless dress to old sports bra

Finally, I pinned on my race bib and I had a Dalek dress!
My dress is done!

Now, naturally, a Dalek costume requires accessories.

First: the headgear. My inspiration pieces used headbands. My head is large. Elastic headbands don't stay, and hard headbands give me a headache. I used something that was comfortable and also quite practical: a running visor. I cut an elastic headband in half and sewed it to the visor just over my ears, so it lay across my head:
Cut a headband in half and sewed it to the visor

This was so I could take my light bulb "ears"...
Hmmm I can use these...

...and attach them in the correct place. It's really haphazard (I left this bit til the day before the race. I kid not.), but I stuck Scotch tape inside and outside so I had a non-sticky flap of tape and sewed that to the headband. Yep. I'd try to do it differently if I had time. ;)
Haphazard: plastic cup, Scotch tape, and thread. ;)

IT HELD THOUGH. I lost no piece of my costume over 13.1 miles!

I wasn't going to have an eye-stalk, but while perusing Target (this is like a Target ad, except that I don't get paid for promoting them...) for a plunger (for the costume), I found THE most amazing sponge. This one.

Does it or does it not look like a Dalek eye?!

I ripped (gingerly) the sponge off of the plastic tube to which it is glued and painted the yellow part black. Newsflash: it takes a painted sponge a very long time to dry in NJ humidity.

Finally, I stitched it to my visor:
I painted a sponge and sewed it to the front for the eye-stalk.
Not baaad!
Dalek headgear

Silly, cheap, just-sturdy-enough-to-last.

Lastly, what would a Dalek be without its appendages? Easy-peasy: the whisk. $1. Fab. Harder: most costumes go with an actual plunger, but all of the ones at *ka-ching!* Target were industrial size and there's no way I'd carry one on a 5k, let alone a half marathon. What to do, what to do.

Dalek accessory material


I stuck a plastic rod from a broken kitty toy through the funnel and borrowed electrical tape from lab to encase both. Using black felt with a sticky back, I covered the inside of the funnel.
My Dalek appendages!

(I also decided to wear those black wrist sweatbands, from a costume in college.)

I thought the funnel needed a bit more punch, and wanted to tie it together with the pink sports bra I'd wear for reals under the cheapo one sewn to the dress, so I added pink duct tape (I may never buy regular again). My plan was to carry the appendages for at least a few miles at the start and again at the finish, when the cameras are usually out in full force, but figured I'd get tired of them at some point. Happily, my fuel belt has perfect little elastic loops on each side:
Fuel belt=perfect place to stash appendages.

Here's the best shot of my dress; you can actually see the contrast between it and the felt circles:
Weird face, but best shot of my dress

I'm all ready at the start of the race!

Faraday is not afraid of the Daleks:
Faraday is not afraid of the Dalek

This was a super fun, easy project! I'm pumped to already have a new costume this year, for whatever parties come up, and it was a BLAST to wear while running! I'll do a proper race recap once the official pictures are available, so stay-tuned for the tale of my slowest ever, but one of my favorite ever, half marathon. :)

Adjusted ;)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Let's visit Slovakia! Wien und Praha, Part IX

Once again, I took so many pictures, so please go see more at your leisure. :)

April 10, 2011

Months ago, my good friend Meg told me that if I visited Vienna, I had to take a day trip to Bratislava, Slovakia. While I only barely scratched the surface of Vienna on
Saturday, the next day, I took the U-Bahn to the Wien Südbahnhof. I arrived an hour early, because I hate to be rushed in unfamiliar circumstances. This train station consisted of a tiny cafe, restrooms, and outside platforms. I bought coffee and walked well out onto a platform to find a bench in the sunshine. The wind ripped through the station. I was freezing by the time the train arrived.

Thankfully, the Österreich Bundesbahn train was quite comfortable and warm! The ÖBB provided a "Bratislover" pamphlet detailing (in German and English) the stops on the hour-long ride between Vienna and Bratislava and describing popular tourist sites. It nicely complemented the photocopied library book pages I brought with me. While watching the beautiful Austrian scenery change into lovely Slovakian landscape, I planned my day. Green rolling fields, pretty forests with little streams, and tiny towns with rusty cars, swingsets, and the occasional farm animal lined the tracks. I was thrilled when the street signs changed from German to Slovak. Our conductors switched languages with the border crossing, too.

I'd been learning basic Czech phrases in preparation for my Prague trip (to follow the next day), and ascertained that they should be understood in the Slovak Republic, too. Still. This would be only the second country I'd visited without taking a year of college classes in its language first, so I was a wee bit nervous. And I feel so sad using the excuse that "everyone speaks English".

(Those college classes: English, Spanish, and German. [Okay, technically, I've never taken a year of college classes in the English language. {This could explain some things.}])

Armed with my map, a smile, and some prayers, I left the train station.
Back to the train station!

Bratislava around the train station is like New Jersey around the airport. Not pretty. Just kind of dirty.

However! A short 10-15 minute walk landed me at the Presidential (Grassalkovich) Palace, which was quite pretty:
Grassalkovich Palace

Empress Maria Theresa rides her horse in its garden:
Maria Theresa

From the palace's front plaza, you can see a bit of the nondescript part of the city, with hints at its beautiful old areas. Notice the Bratislava Castle in the background to the right, and Michael's Gate peeking out to the left:
More modern part of the city

(Pause: I must defend New Jersey, my adopted home state. It also improves the farther one travels from transportation hubs. Parts are *quite* beautiful.)

I am always intrigued by the contrast of old and new. Michael's Gate was originally built in the 1300s, but modified in the 1750s:
Michael's Gate

I am also fond of local wildlife...

...and perplexed as to why KFC and McD's are all over the world. Everywhere.
Sigh. Our country's exports.

Soon, I reached the Staré Mesto: the Old City or Historical Center:
Slovak and English

After a brief stop in a tourist center (to get another free map), I headed to the start of my self- and guidebook-planned walking tour, stalking runners on my way:
Old Town

In the charming Hlavné námestie (main square)...

...I stopped for lunch in a bagel shop. While not traditionally Slovakian, my bagel sandwich and latte were delicious.

Then, I started my tour. I admired the Old Town Hall with its cute dormer windows:
Old Town Hall tower

I said hello to Knight Roland, one of Napoleon's soldiers, and a guard in a booth:
Napoleon's Soldier and me
Napoleon's Soldier...just chillin'

I compared the Jesuit Church...
The Jesuit Church
Inside Jesuit Church the Franciscan Church...
Franciscan Church
Franciscan Church cross base
Franciscan Church inside

...and found that only the latter explicitly banned ice cream.
Franciscan Church: no ice cream

Next, I was pleased by the pastel pink Primatial Palace:
Primatial Palace

It's known for being the site of the signing of the 1805 treaty between France and Austria. Unrelated, it has a statue depicting St. George slaying a dragon.
Slay them dragons!

The narrow stone streets reminded me of the medina in Fes.

I bought a couple of souvenirs and had to speak for the first time in the country. The shopkeeper didn't really speak English, so we smiled and pointed at things. She helped with me the pronunciation of thank you (ďakujem)!

Finished with the Staré Mesto, I began my trek up to the Bratislava Castle. Along the way, I caught my first glimpse of the Nový most (New Bridge):
New Bridge

The Hrád (castle) is on quite the hill.
Climbing up to the Castle
Bratislava Castle

Which means it had fantastic views of the city and the Danube:
Chillin' by the castle, lookin' at the bridge

St. Elisabeth of Hungary has a lovely statue in the park:

Soon, I walked a different way down the long hill.
Climbing down from the castle

And was briefly tempted by "Welcome! Beer, Food."
Welcome! Beer, Food

Underneath this massive new bridge,
Walking to the new bridge

Is a terrific pedestrian and bike bridge:
New Bridge/Novy Most
Hi, Hrad!

At the top of the bridge, there's the UFO restaurant, where you can watch, taste, and even groove.

Here's a good layout view. To the left is (obviously) the Hrád, to the right is the Staré Mesto, and directly behind them is the train station.

The wind blew incredibly hard on the observation deck of the tower:
Windy and Green

Notice how GREEN the grass is! When I left New Jersey, it was a brown, dead, end-of-winter color. Spring had clearly arrived in Austria and Slovakia!

This is difficult to read, but the frosted window says, "Enjoying the view?"
"Enjoy the View": on the window in front of the toilet

It's in the women's restroom, at eye-height when one is doing one's business. Ahem.

If the wall couldn't be a window, it was mirrored in that little WC. I decided to give y'all a chance to see my wind-chapped self.
In the bathroom at UFO, top of the New Bridge

As quickly became a theme on this trip, I warmed up with a cappuccino in UFO. :) The server automatically greeted me in English, and I spent my respite eavesdropping on an English-speaking group of Brits, Americans, and Germans.
UFO: restaurant with delicious cappuccinos.

I walked back to the Staré Mesto and found the embassies of a couple of my favorite countries:
German embassy
US Embassy!! Hello!!

The Slovak National Theater is quite gorgeous:

The relaxed Man-at-Work sends his greetings:
Manhole man.
Man at work

A sweet young gal with a cute puppy offered to take my picture as I was struggling with a self-portrait:
Me and Hat Man

"I know, I'm always on my own, too," she said, with a smile and British-with-a-hint-of-something-else accent. :)

Chilled to the bone and super tired, I wandered up to the Hlavná Stanica and waited for my train. I had a wonderful time in Bratislava, and highly recommend it as a day trip from Vienna!
Leavin' for Vienna

On the ride, I napped, read, munched on almonds (the last of my airplane travel stash from home), and spoke a bit of German with my seat companion. While language was not at all an issue (English and charades sufficed), I noticeably relaxed upon re-entering Austria. I'm by no means fluent, but I feel so at home around Deutsch. :)

Back in Vienna, I U-Bahned to the city center to exchange euros for Czech crowns, and have a last hearty Viennese meal of meat and potatoes. I bought cute little petit four zum mitnehmen back to my hotel. After packing up for the morning's early departure to PRAGUE, I ate my dessert and SLEPT.