Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Wings for Life - Ft Lauderdale, May 3, 2015

Wings for Life World Run is a fantastic global race event that I had been hearing about since early 2014. This race is different than most races because it happens at the exact same time at multiple places around the world. All runners line up at their respective start lines, the gun goes off, and runners begin racing the course. Not only are they racing themselves and the other competitors at their individual locations, but the runners in various cities are also racing against one another for a global champion. 30 minutes after the last starter crosses the finish line, the pace car starts to follow the pack. When the pace car passes the runner, they are officially out of the race.

100% of the entry fee goes toward spinal cord research, and who doesn't love charitable giving like that? Sign me up!

On race morning, there was a much larger turnout than I had anticipated. It was already late in the season, so I figured many people would rather not deal with the heat and humidity... but I was wrong.There were SO MANY PEOPLE there!

Right away though, I knew my heart wasn't really in it. I was struggling to get going right out of the gate, and I knew this would be one of those days where I would need at least 2-3 miles of running just to warm up and shake out the normal aches and pains that I struggle with when running. Being a slowpoke, I knew that the likelihood that I would even have that opportunity before being pulled by the catcher car was slim to none. And from there, I was discouraged right off the bat, and couldn't seem to get out of my own way.

So I adopted the attitude that my friend Mel has tried to instill me. Each time I was within 5 feet of the person in front of me, my goal was just to slowly but surely pull up to them and overtake them. focusing on just getting in front of the next person (over and over again) helps to distract me from the larger picture that gets me discouraged in the first place. I don't know if I'm even explaining that right.

Anyway, I'm horrible at math, but they provided us with a little calculator online to tell us approximately how far we would be able to travel before we were officially out of the race. Being a slowpoke, I really didn't anticipate being able to go much more than 2 miles or so before the catcher car caught up with me and ended my race. I was surprised when I hit 2 miles.

Then I hit 3 miles, and I was equally surprised. I had finally shaken off the morning aches and pains. I was settling into my rhythm, and while I knew that the catcher car was right behind me, I forced myself to go one step at a time and overtake the next person. Then the next. I was picking up speed. I was feeling good. My lungs were feeling excellent. I was a beautiful day to be out for a run, it was a beautiful day to be alive!

Around 3.5 miles I started to hear a commotion in the not so far distance behind me. I peeked over my shoulder and saw people behind picking up their pace, sprinting toward me. I knew the catcher car was on its was toward me. I still had a lot of energy in the tank, and I kicked it into overdrive.

Officially I made it 3.62 miles in 51.39. My pace was 14:15. I still had energy leftover, and I am certain that had I been afforded another few minutes out there on the course, I would have pulled an even faster pace.

This race was fantastic. I can't emphasize this enough. I was really satisfied with the support (although the logistics of catching the bus back to the start line area and the afterparty left a lot to be desired). I was so satisfied that while I was at the afterparty, I signed up for next year. And next year, on May 8, 2016, I am sure that I will make it farther.

For more information about this event, please visit their website here.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Angel Flight SE 5k - May 2, 2015

I'm not really one for the 5k distance, but I knew that I need to get some of my running mojo back after being hit by a car during my previous half marathon, and then my first ultra marathon 50k distance race. I had a big race weekend in California coming up with my friend, and I needed to make sure that I kept the running mojo flowing freely.

I hadn't intended to sign up for a 5k, and considering that I am essentially a "bling whore" at heart, I never really intended to sign up for a 5k that didn't provide runners with any kind of medal at the end. Yes, I like my medals, sue me.

But I saw this race on active, and this was essentially a benefit for a non-profit that I could stand behind. The beneficiary of this race is Angel Flight Southeast, a volunteer pilot organization of more than 650 volunteer pilots who utilize their own aircraft, fuel and time to provide free air transportation to medical facilities for citizens who are financially distressed or otherwise unable to travel on public transportation. Angel Flight Southeast also coordinates missions to fly organ transplant candidates, people involved in clinical trials, chemotherapy or other repetitive treatment, victims of abuse seeking relocation, families receiving help from Ronald McDonald Houses, Shriners Hospitals and many other charities, disabled or sick children to special summer camp programs, and for many other humanitarian reasons. Angel Flight Southeast coordinates an average of 3,000 missions per year with its group of all volunteer pilots. 

Who wouldn't see a fundraiser for such an amazing organization and jump to stand behind them?
The 5k itself was held at a small private airport just north of Ft. Lauderdale. It was already the tail end of the running season in S. Florida so the turnout wasn't that great, plus the organizers didn't publicize the race the way that they should have, so the race was a really small event. 

The race started on one of the runways, ran down the perimeter road, then back into the main area of the aiport. We ran the last 2 miles on the runway and then through the hangars. Many of the private plane owners and helicopter owners were out, and we were watching them take off and do touch and goes throughout the entire race, so that was definitely cool. On the downside, there was absolutely no shade on the course, and we were on hot tarmac the entire time... and the smell of jet fuel.

All in all, it was an excellent event. I went out there, I performed my best (all things considered), and I was met by puppies at the finishline... It wasn't a pr, but it was close! And considering that heat and humidity? I couldn't really expect much more than what I got. Did I mention the puppies?

Chip: 43:14.7
Pace: 13:36/ Mile
OA: 118/124
30-34F: 8/9

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Coral Springs Half Marathon - March 28, 2015

We can just call this one the one where I got hit by a car, and we can call it a day!

OK, so maybe its not that simple, but I did get hit by a car during this race.

Let me start by saying that this was the 3rd time I had run this half marathon. I ran it the first year with a friend, I ran it the second time solo with an attempt to PR, so when I registered for the race I knew that I would achieve that illusive PR on the third time. After all, third time's a charm, right?

And I probably would have reached that goal had I not gotten hit by a car, seriously. Or maybe it wasn't the actual getting hit by a car that slowed me down, so much as the fallout and the reporting that was required and almost getting pulled from the course a number of times after the incident. But I'm getting ahead of myself here. Maybe I should start at the beginning...

After the Gasparilla Challenge in late February, I had a few weeks off from running races. Husbeast and I took a small vacation, we had some quality quiet time on the weekend (something that we never get during running season because I am always off in one place or another), and we just enjoyed being together. I took a break from long distances, and focused on shorter distance runs, but more often... afterall, I had decided that I would be running my first Ultra Marathon with my friend Mel the week after the coral springs race. Essentially that meant that the Coral Springs half marathon was my last long training run before my 50K the following week, so although initially when I registered for this race, I had wanted to PR, I knew that if I was being honest, that just wasn't in the cards.

The morning of the race was a series of disasters. I was late waking up... possibly because I just wasn't feeling it. I was slow driving to the start. I slogged through getting prepared in my car before leaving the parking lot. I was one of the last people to the start corral, and as the National Anthem started to play, I realized that I had to go to the bathroom. I almost missed the start of the race because of that trip to the port-o-john. This was definitely not how I like to start a race. I was frazzled. And because I was frazzled, I started at a much slower pace than I normally do. I was hovering at just over 16 minutes per mile at a run-walk-run... and my body really just wanted to walk and skip over the whole running thing.

But after about a mile and a half, my body limbered up a little bit. I started itching to increase my speed. I think this is the first time I started putting 2 and 2 together that if I started almost unreasonably slow pace-wise I could increase my speed significantly and make up time as the race went on. I almost didn't believe my eyes when I saw it happen the week before at Gasparilla with Mel... but this race was feeling like a repeat. My pace was increasing without much work on my part, my energy levels were up, I felt strong and capable. And soon, by mile 5 I realized that I was running at a faster pace than I had ever run before, and I wasn't even feeling slightly fatigued!

I like this course because although it is not entirely closed, the runners run a large loop and are given at least 1 full lane of traffic along the course. On top of that, the cones protecting the runners from the traffic are closely spaced, there is a really strong police presence, and the support is spectacular. This is by far one of my favorite races because the support is so great, obviously I must love it to repeat it 3 years in a row, right? But there is a spot on the course where there is not a lot of support, and the officers are a bit more spaced out. This is somewhere between mile 7-9. Instead of being in a more suburban commercial area, the course sprawls out through a residential area flanked on both sides by gated community after gated community. And this was where I ran into problems with traffic.

Despite there being plenty of advertisement and signage out there that there was a race happening that weekend, it must have been the national convention of stupid drivers out there. Four different times I was running in my designated race course lane when a driver disregarded the traffic pattern and broke into the runner lane nearly hitting me. It was the 5th car... that was so oblivious to the world around her cell phone that ultimately hit me.

Don't get me wrong. I am acutely aware of just how lucky I was that morning. I was lucky because I felt a brief warm breeze coming off the engine of her car as she pulled up behind me. I turned to check my surroundings over my left shoulder as I was lifting my weight off my left foot. Had my weight been disbursed more evenly, or had I been at a different place in my stride, the damage could have been devastating. But I was lucky. Her bumper hit the back of my left knee as it was mid-bend. I tripped a little and fell forward and out of the way. I was lucky to have seen her.

And although she broke into a restricted lane, she raised her arms up and screamed at me as if I was in the wrong. I regained my footing and kept plugging along as she decided whether she would stop to get out of the car and inspect either the car or me for damage... She chose poorly, ultimately deciding on neither. Instead, she drove less than a foot behind me, laying on her horn, screaming obscenities at me. I wish I could be tough and say that for her sake I was happy that there was a police officer less than 2 tenths of a mile away who came running to my rescue and who then stopped her, but I'm a baby. And I was shocked. After the officer determined that I was OK, I continued on my way.

The shock came for me around mile 8 when I realized that I was still on track for a PR, and I was still running my best race ever. I was running on adrenaline at that point, I am sure... but still...

At the water stop at mile 8.5, I briefly told the person in charge that I had been hit and that I was OK, but that they needed to be aware that it happened. And after that it was a blur. Every mile or so, I either had a police officer, a race official, a volunteer, or the SAG wagon try to talk to me to get more information. I understand that they had a job to do, and I don't begrudge them that, but I had 4 miles left and I didn't want to lose my PR now because of administrative issues if getting hit by a car wasn't what actually slowed me down. I continued on my way, but after getting stopped for the 4th time with an attempt to pull me from the course, I was angry. No amount of running was going to alleviate my anger. I told the officials that I would meet them at the finish line to go over any reports that needed going over, but to please leave me.

And so I finished. I lost out on the PR because I had been stopped so many times after the accident... but I finished the race. I would have intense pain in my shoulder and upper back for the rest of the week, but I finished the race. Under those circumstances, that's all I could have asked for. I was lucky. It might take some time for me to trust drivers on semi-closed courses again...  but with time, all things are possible.

Half Marathon #37
Gun 3:21:57
Chip 3:21:02
OA 381/386
Gen 217/222
AG 29/30

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Gasparilla Amber Challenge - February 21- 22, 2015

Since I started running half marathons just over 2 years ago, I had heard wonderful things about the Tampa Bay Gasparilla Distance Classic. Over the course of 2 days, participants run a 15K, a 5K, a half marathon, or an 8K. Participants can run any any of the races individually, or they can run any combination of the races to qualify for one of the various challenges. It was my goal to be able to run the combination of all 4 races, but in order to do so, the half marathon had to be finished well under the 3:30 time that I like to allow myself for a buffer, and I was not sure that I would be able to make that cut off after running the equivalent of 12.4 miles the day before.

Instead, I had to settle for the Gasparilla Amber Challenge: a 15k followed by a 5k on day 1, and the half marathon on day 2. I was splitting the costs of the trip with my friend Lisa (who had done A1a with me the week prior), but in the week since I had last seen her, she found out that the prognosis on her knee was not so good, and she was going to have to sit the weekend out. In the end, that was probably the best option for her anyway because she wound up with some serious allergy symptoms going on and was s-i-c-k.

A very cold start to the 15K
This is one of the largest races in the Tampa Bay area, and the expo was fantastic. The swag bags for the participants was stellar, and for those of us who were just crazy enough to do one of the challenges, we were even given jackets! We almost needed them the morning of the first set of races, if only it wasn't bad juju to wear race apparel before completing the race.

The morning of day 1 was colder than normal, but we had been going through an uncharacteristic cold snap recently. I was on my own at the race, but I knew that I would be amongst friends as I had seen facebook's chattering nonstop about this race for the previous 2 weeks. At the start line area, I met up with my friend Mel from Jacksonville, and his friend Suzy. We also met up with some other friends including April. I didn't think that I would be able to keep pace with them in the cold weather, but Mel (as encouraging as he is) insisted that he was going to be pacing the group relatively slowly so that we would have energy on day 2.

After the 15K
We started off at what Mel would call a "slow pace" but for me it was still a little faster than I would have liked to start. We chatted, our group dwindled down to just me, Mel and Suzy. We distracted ourselves, we encouraged one another, we took it easy, and then we harped on Mel that his definition of slow was clearly not the same as the definition that can be found in the dictionary. 

At the end of the race, I was exhausted. The cold had given way to a bright sunny day, the raw chill associated with the fog had burned off, and the temperatures were increasing, but once we stopped moving we all felt a little chilled. We crossed the finishline together, then we went to Mel's car to meet up with his wife and hopefully warm up for a few minutes before the 5K.

Before the 5K
The 5K was one of the first 5K races that Mel's wife Jolyn would participate in (at least that she would be able to get a medal for). I had never met Jolyn before, but I immediately fell in love with her. When we started the 5K, Jolyn paced with Suzy and another of our friends (Amanda), while Mel and I stayed back to allow her some space without the stress of her husband. 

The 5K was much more walker friendly, and we used this to our advantage. We laughed, we joked, we encouraged Jolyn, and when Mel and I saw the RedBull Girls giving out free cans of Redbull, we quickly detoured off the course to procure enough for our little band of athletes. Our finish time was respectable for a walk pace, not one of my worst, but not one of my best. But we helped Jolyn into her 5K finish and she finished close to her fastest pace up until that point.

After the 5k
At the finishline, my friend Lisa met up with us and we went to lunch to recover. Then we rested up for day 2.

The morning of Day 2 was exponentially warmer than day 1 had been. Instead of long sleeves, I probably could have worn a tank, but because of a packing fail on my part, I had really only planned for the uncharacteristically cool weather. I met up with Amanda in my hotel lobby and we walked to the start together where we met up with Mel and Suzy. 

What I haven't mentioned about my friend Mel is that he is a Galloway trainer and pacer, he has paced many races, including the RunDisney races. Most of the time he runs as a group pacer, but sometimes people reach out to him privately to pace him for specific events. I have seen Mel at various events, I was friends with him on facebook, but I during the course of this weekend, it was clear to me why people like to have him pace them.

I rarely get pictures of me running!
When we started the race, a couple of us were concerned that we couldn't maintain the required pace through the first 5 miles of the course (where the pace requirement relaxed a little). So we took it really slow, but maintained a strong pace around 15:45 per mile. After the first 5 miles, we slowed a little to around 16 minutes per mile and Mel and I got to talking. 

I like to run negative splits, and I started joking with Mel that with a little extra effort, I could bring my overall pace from 16 minutes down to around 14:30 (finishing the half marathon), and bring in a PR. I was joking, and Mel knew it, but at the same time, he saw the opportunity for a challenge. We discussed the possibility of forcing myself to PR with Amanda and Suzy, and they suggested that we leave them and pursue this option.

And we agreed that if it was a possibility, Mel could help me reach my goal. So we said our goodbyes, and Mel and I slowly started to create a gap between us and them. With his steady coaching, we started overcoming runners in front of us. We weren't sprinting, but on our run intervals we were pushing just a tad harder than normal with the intent to pass this next person or that next person. I looked down at my watch, and by mile 9, we were well on our way to getting me that PR.

Gasparilla is a spectacular spread, with all the bells and whistles, but the one thing that nobody ever really talks about is the course. The 15K from day 1 is straight our and back (flanked on one side by the gorgeous waterway). But then the 5K repeats the first portion of the course and goes out and back. The half marathon starts with 4-5 miles on a small island, but then the last 10 mile are the exact same course as the 15K. This leads to boredom and for me, boredom leads to burnout. and by mile 9 on the half course, I was really feeling the burnout.

After finishing the half
Mel kept pushing me, I kept following. The temperatures kept increasing. And my asthma kept worsening. With less than 1 mile to do, my body failed me. I couldn't seem to catch my breath, the coughing from running in the cold the day before had caught up to me, and it was so bad I felt waves of nausea. I begged Mel to leave me behind. There was only so much that he could do to help me get to a PR, but my body wouldn't allow me to go any further.

1 mile left, and he left me to my own devices. I slowed to a walk, the coughing continued, then the nausea turned to vomiting. I stopped to vomit with half a mile left, then I vomited again with only yards to go. I was spent. I didn't reach the PR, but I was only about 5 minutes off from it. Not bad for such a strain on my body, and for day 2 of a challenge like this.

And when I crossed the finishline, Mel was right there waiting for me with a smile on my face, asking when we would be planning our next adventure.*

With an armload of bling after the weekend!
Chip 2:19:33
Gun 2:23:21
Div 430
Gen 2835
OA 5033

Chip 57:33
Gun 59:11
Div 801
Gen 6177
OA 10706

Chip 3:24:38
Gun 3:33:11
Div 474
Gen 3146
OA 5533

*When we finished the race, Mel suggested that I join him for his next ultra marathon... Ultimately I chose to join him, but at that point, it was only a pipe dream. He's always up for a good challenge. He and I have some other extreme distance trips planned for the near future... but that's a story for another day.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Fort Lauderdale A1a Half Marathon - February 15, 2015

On Day 1 of the Fort Lauderdale A1a weekend, I ran a 5k.

On day 2, I had to wake up bright eyed and bushy tailed to arrive at my 35th half marathon.

I knew that this half marathon was going to be a slow one. I was feeling somewhat down on myself and my athletic abilities for the past few weeks (maybe even months). Thankfully, my dear friend Lisa was coming down from the Stuart area of Florida, so I would get to see her and spend some time with her.

Lisa had previously done some significant damage to her knee, and was waiting on the results of an MRI or something. Because she's a crazy half fanatic just like me, she wasn't about to let some pesky injury slow her down. I decided before the weekend even started that I would forgo my own pace and would instead walk with Lisa and hope for a finish that was sub 4 hours.

This would be the 3rd time that I had done this course, and while it really is one of my favorite courses to date, I felt confident in my decision to spend the morning enjoying the event with my friend at her pace.

The course is straightforward, starting in downtown Fort Lauderdale, going over the intercoastal and toward the beach, then north for for 2 miles to a small park which is very peaceful and serene. Then back out to the beach, northward until mile 8, then a turnaround and south on the beach until the finishline.

I had a lot of friends who were also participating in the race, and it was nice to see them out there on the course. A few friends got their elusive PRs, and I couldn't be happier for them. Around mile 12, I had a friend leave the oceanfront restaurant that she was having brunch at and walk the last mile or so with me to encourage us on a nice finish.

I finished strong, as did my friend Lisa. We met up with other friends at the finishline area, and then we went off to start our day. There really isn't all that much to say about this race... unremarkable course as it was my 3rd time doing it, unremarkable weather, unremarkable pace. The real joy was in the camaraderie and conversation with a dear friend that I don't get to spend a lot of time with.

Listen, it wasn't my best finish time, but I took solace knowing that I had accomplished more in that morning before everyone else was awake than most do over the course of the day.

And hey, it was half marathon #35.

Gun 4:05:44
Chip 3:59:40
Pace 18:18/ mile
AG 334/340
OA 4200/4240

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Ft Lauderdale Valentines Day 5k- February 14, 2015

It was my plan all along to run the Gasparilla Distance Amber Challenge in Tampa at the end of February, and I was falling a little behind on my training schedule. The Amber Challenge consists of a 15k followed by a 5k on the first day, then a half marathon the following day. Obviously, I have done challenges like this before, however, I was always a bit more trained. So at the last minute, when I found out that there was a Valentines Day 5k as part of the A1a half marathon weekend in Fort Lauderdale, I signed up in a heartbeat.

There aren't a lot of places to plan a 5k course through downtown Ft Lauderdale, so the course was one that I had ran numerous times before. My familiarity with the course helped me to break up the distance a little more and provided some much needed distraction.

REMEMBER... I don't usually run 5K races because it usually takes me about 3 miles to warm up during a run and shake out the aches and pains. And because of this, I needed all the distraction that I could get.

As I meandered my way through the course, and cursed the nagging pains in my shins and lower legs that have become my standard for the beginning of any run, I chatted with fellow runners. I wound up meeting a woman who was really struggling, and I offered her a little encouragement along the way.

It was a short race, the crowd was pleasant, the weather was nice. I was home before my husband even woke up for the day... so that was good. And although I treated it like a training run for the half marathon that would follow the next day, and for the Gasparilla Distance Amber Challenge a couple of weeks later, my pace wasn't that far off from a 5k PR.

I was proud of myself. And when I ate those chocolate covered strawberries later, I didn't feel guilty one bit.

Gun 45:03
Chip 43:45
Pace 14:05
Cat 52/57
OA 639/838

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Melbourne Music Half Marathon - February 1, 2015

I might have gotten a little crazy with my registering for races for the 2014-2015 race season.

There, I said it. It was much harder to actually get that to come out of my fingertips than I thought that it would be.

My first and second year of running I was gung-ho about everything. I wanted to run ALL THE RACES, even if that meant pushing myself just a little too hard and bending the doctors orders just a little so that I could get back out there without a full recovery on an injury.

As 2015 started, I was realizing that my big problem was that I had spread myself a little too thin the previous two seasons. And while I realized that, I also think I might have finally gotten it through my thick scull that some races you run for the fun of it, and some races you go all out and race, aiming for a PR. By choosing to separate my races between competition mode and joy mode, I realized that I was able to bring joy back into this sport for me.

All along, I had planned to run and RACE the Melbourne Music Half Marathon. On paper, this race looked flat and fast. I was intrigued by the fact that they would have 23 different musical acts on the course for entertainment, and I thought that this would be a good race to PR at... particularly after what happened not long before that at the Miami Half Marathon.

My friend Vikki and I had actually planned an entire girls weekend (a mini-runcation) of sorts for the weekend. We would drive up two days befoe, stay at a decent hotel overlooking the beach (which I rarely indulge in), visit the sweet artsy little town of Melbourne, and we would run the race. It was a great plan, and we really enjoyed our time away from our men.

Our men, that sounds so caveman-eque, my other feminist friends would gasp!

Anyway, the race was ultimately not really anything to write home about. It was essentially a big square that hit a decently sized bridge at mile marker 6, then another really large bridge at mile 12. The first half of the race had really interesting scenery, and it was easy for me to maintain a nice easy race pace.

The problem was that going into the first bridge, I started to have a nagging feeling in my hip and groin that appeared to trail down into my foot. I had done too much too hard the week before, and I was certainly paying for it now.

So Vikki and I eased up and brought it back to a walk. She hadn't put in any significant high mileage since Halloween, and she was also having some nagging pain to a recent injury. So we decided that we would walk the rest of the race, and enjoy the company, enjoy the bands, enjoy the crowd support, etc.

But the course was really front-half friendly with entertainment and things to distract us from the distance. We were left with little more to entertain us than giggling as we bit the heads off of gummy bears or catcalled one of the course marshalls that constantly rode by us on a moped with his 80s music blaring.

By the time we finished, I was almost delirius from the boredom of the course and the excruciating heat that seemed to increase exponentially (welcome to Florida!). I really didn't care about the time when we finished, because I was laughing and joking with a good friend the whole time. And we have pictures to prove it.

Half Marathon #34
Gun 3:49:49
Chip 3:46:54
OA 1103/1127
AG 679/699

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Miami Half Marathon - January 25, 2015

For the past 2 years, I have done the Miami Half Marathon. I have to say that this race really ranks up there in my top favorite race courses, and it isn't just because it feels like it is right in my backyard. I love the festivities, I love that there are 35k+ runners at the event (yet it never feels anywhere near that crowded, and certainly doesn't feel as crowded as Disney races which boast the same attendance). And while the Miami Half Marathon is one of my favorite races, we seem to have a love/hate relationship.

In 2013, Miami was my second ever half marathon, it was a week after my first half marathon and would qualify me for half fanatics. I didn't eat a banana before the race, and around mile 10, I got a calf cramp that sent me straight to the ground and almost put me out of commission for the duration of the race. But I still finished with a smile on my face.

In 2014, Miami was my 17th half marathon. I walked almost the entire race because I was in the midst of the horrible foot issue that dominated the greater part of 2 years. It rained on my proverbial parade (and the actual race), and at mile 11, due to a very late start for all corrals, I happened to get stuck behind a drawbridge that was in the upright position for 7-8 minutes. I barely finished that race because my muscles cooled down too much and I could not get motivated again for the last 2 miles. Although they ran out of finisher medals, I finished the race with a huge smile on my face, and vowed to be back.

Obligatory pre-race picture with Seth
In 2015, I planned to go back to this race and finally complete Miami without complications. Complications seem to be the story of my life, so I knew that the likelihood of this happening would be slim to none, but I wanted to go and give it my best.

The morning of the race was cold, but that's really to be expected for that specific race. I started the race with space blankets on to keep me warm, but the first 3/4 of a mile or so through downtown before hitting the MacArthur Causeway had me sweating. I stripped my blanket and immediately regretted it as I climbed the causeway. The wind was whipping across the bridge, and I quickly caught a chill. Thankfully, others had already stripped off layers of clothing so I could grab a sweater (which I could strip again later and would still be donated). As soon as I put on the extra sweater, I felt my tension dissipating and my muscles loosening up. I knew that this was going to be a good race and by the time I reached Miami Beach at mile 4, I knew that I was on track to have one of my best half marathon runs to date.

With Seth, just after finishing
I try not to count my chickens before they hatch during a race, but I couldn't help but get excited when I was looking down at my GPS and realizing that I was pacing faster than I ever had before. I'm no math guru, but when I finally figured out my projected pace, I realized that by mile 6 I was on pace to PR by close to 10 minutes. I ran into my friend Adam who is a coach for the local team in training chapter, and even he recognized how much faster than normal I was pacing. With every step, I tried to reign in the excitement, but I couldn't help myself. I felt myself picking up pace even more, pushing each stride. I felt my lungs burning and my muscles screaming.

And obviously, that leads me to the part right before mile marker 8, where I got started with horrible exercise induced abdominal cramping. The cramping was so bad that no amount of lamaze style recovery breathing was going to get them to subside. I was doubled over in pain at one point, and Adam showed up again out of nowhere checking in on me. I felt like a fool. I had no real reason to push it that hard. I was already running faster than normal, I was already on track... but my brain wouldn't let me accept good enough with where I was at... I forced this on myself by pushing further and faster and harder than normal.

It took me just over a mile of walking (and stopping every 50 yards or so) to get the cramping to subside. but by the time that it did, my dream of a PR was out the window. My mood was shot. I couldn't motivate myself to run anymore, and wound up finishing at a nice brisk walking pace. But I finished.

This was half marathon #33, and I finished with a smile on my face.

And hey, if I want to shoot for a PR at Miami again, there's always next year!

Gun - 4:05:05
Chip - 3:29:11
OA - 12549/13,155
Sex - 6,303/6,760
AG 1,047/1,081

Thursday, May 21, 2015

First Light Half Marathon, Mobile Alabama - January 11, 2015

Over the past year and a half, I had spent more and more time with my friend Seth. I don't know if it was that first trip that we took together where we conquered 6 half marathons in 6 days in 5 states (5 half marathons and a full for him), of the shortly thereafter, but I soon found that I was thirsty to travel the country and run a half marathon in each of the 50 states. Since that first trip, I had completed another 5 states in 5 consecutive days, and had traveled to Utah to run a half marathon with my friend Sarah. I thought for sure that due to financial constraints, that I would be unable to get another state under my belt for at least another year.

But my friend Seth had this ungodly goal of completing 30 full marathons in 30 different states during the calendar year of 2015, and he planned to do his first full marathon of the year on January 11, 2015 at the First Light Marathon and Half in Mobile, Alabama. The biggest obstacle in his path was that airfare to Mobile, Alabama was ridiculously expensive. He planned to make the drive, a trip which would consist of at least  10 hours in a car each way. He asked me and another friend if we wanted to join him, and both of us said no. For me, the thought of spending 20 hours in a car over the course of 72 hours was not appealing at all!

But then my husband suggested that I go afterall. He has been nothing but encouraging through my running journey, and fully supports my goal of hitting half marathons in all 50 US States. At the last minute, I called my friend Seth and told him that I would be joining him afterall.

I think what I liked the most about this race was that although it was a very small race, the crowd support was phenomenal. The race was part of a 2 part double header with The Mississippi Blues marathon and half in Jackson Mississippi, and the double header was this big reunion event for both Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics. Having it be the reunion event meant that every turn that I made meant that there were familiar faces of other runners that I had met through these organizations. Seriously, having Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics at a race is like having my own little family at an event, even when I am so far from home.

The half marathon was walker friendly, and because I ran into a dear friend from California who I hadn't seen in over a year, I chose to walk the race with her. We walked through the most gorgeous historic neighborhoods with sweeping flora and canopies made of Spanish Moss (which is incidentally neither Spanish nor a moss), we walked through some relatively beat up commercial neighborhoods, and the most quaint southern family bungalow style neighborhoods. I absolutely loved this course! With each turn in the road, my senses were tickled with new scenery, and I never got bored. And of course, I talked to many people on the course, all while being cautious to not step in a broken section of pavement or trip over a random stray root that had pushed through the blacktop.

At around mile 10, my veteran running friend and I noticed that there were 2 girls who we were leapfrogging with. One of the girls was struggling to finish. She had completed a half marathon years prior, but hadn't trained for this event. We assured the girls that we would help them finish the event and told them that we would stay with them. And we did. I later learned that the girl who was struggling was at her breaking point right before we met up with her, and she was ready to quit. She didn't, because of us. This is why being in the back of the pack is so rewarding sometimes!

Anyway, this was one of my slower races, but I enjoyed every moment of it. I had wonderful company, and I enjoyed each moment. And the icing on top of the cake was that each registration for the event benefited an amazing charity: L'arche Mobile. According to their website, L'Arche is an international federation of communities in which people with intellectual disabilities and those who help them can live, work, and share their lives together. In gratitude for receiving the funds generated through this marathon, members of the L'arche community hand-make all of the finishers medallions. Rather than giving out finishers medals that are commercially designed, manufactured, and mass-produced... each finisher is awarded a finishers medallion that was hand-crafted by someone who the L'arche program supports... and each finisher receives their medallion from a member of the L'arche community. 
I've heard a lot of people complain about the lack of medals and the handmade nature of the finisher medallions, but I wouldn't trade my medallion for anything. It actually ranks up there as one of my top 5 favorite finisher awards. 

Finish time: 3:47:57
OA 685/699

Monday, April 27, 2015

Weston Rotary Run for Tomorrow Half Marathon- December 14, 2014

This is another one of those races that I really don't have a lot to say about... I'm going to try to share a little about this race, but feel free to skim past this mediocrity. The mediocrity doesn't come from the writing (I hope), but instead was palpable throughout the event. I feel horrible saying that, but I can't find any other words to really express my thoughts about this race.

I wasn't really expecting all that much from a race that was put on by a local rotary club. My mother has been a Rotarian for most of my teenage and adult life, and I was a Rotarian for a couple of years when I was finishing my Masters degree and beginning my Ph.D... I loved Rotary for what it provided me in terms of leadership training, community service opportunities, and the more global attitude that it seemed to foster in me. I don't love it for what it provides in a road race though.

It was a last minute decision to register for the Weston Rotary Run for Tomorrow Half Marathon. I wanted to get one more half marathon under my belt before the end of the calendar year, and this seemed to fit into my schedule perfectly. I knew it would be a smaller race, and was excited for that, because I expected that at a Rotary event I would get the kind of course support that I am fond of... you know... the kind that is actually existent... without having to deal with the massive crowds at the other local race that was happening that same day.

My friend Seth chose to run the event with me, but when I say "with me" that doesn't mean stride-for-stride matching. What I actually mean here is that we drive together, hang out at the start line together, we each run our own race, then he meets me at the finishline when I am done.

The field was really small. and normally that wouldn't have bothered me, but I was having a slow start day. The first 3 miles (aka, until the sun came up), my vision was constantly being disturbed by the police cruiser that was following directly behind me because I was the last in the pack. After the sun came up, I managed to pick up a little speed and put some pace between me and the last finisher, but I wasn't able to maintain my status of "not-last for long."

It was a gorgeous day, and although it was a little warmer than I would normally like, I wasn't really worried about the weather. What bothered me though is that the race was hosted in a town that is well-known in South Florida for it's affluence and the amount of money that is spent manicuring the perfect little entries of all of the perfect little gated communities. This means (and I don't know why it didn't occur to me until the middle of the race), that there was no shade to be found, and the views bored me half to death because all I saw over and over again was variations of the exact same landscaping. I was bored out of my mind, and I slowed down because of that.

By mile 8, I soon found that I was back of the pack again... this doesn't bother me normally, but the cruiser who was at the tail end of the pack wouldn't give me the space that I needed, and was right on my heels the entire time. So of course, I was happy when at mile 9, the officer in the cruiser asked if I was ok, then proceeded to leave me out there on the course myself. Guess her shift was over? I don't know.

Like I said, I was happy to have a little more space to do my own thing, but that happiness was short lived. Apparently, when the cruiser passed me, the people at the aid stations determined that the race was already over, so I went without course support for the last 4 miles. No water is ok for some folk, but not back of the packers who have no shade and who are in a concrete jungle in South Florida. I was also left to my own devices to cross major intersections on my own. I had to stop for traffic, and when I say major intersections, think 3 lanes each direction.

As I rounded the corner and came to the finishline area, I knew there was something wrong. I was well within the mandated time frame for finishers, but I could tell that the finishline was basically already packed up. From a distance, I could tell that my friend Seth was having a heated conversation with one of the timing officials. I later learned that he basically had to argue with the officials to prevent them from packing up and leaving me out there on the course entirely. They must have been in a rush? I don't know.

I finished. It wasn't pretty. I did it without the support that I should have had, and the support  that I paid for. It was another race to add to the tally for 2014, but I won't be returning.

Gun 3:31: 55
Net: 3:30:50
Pace 16:05/mile