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

Monday, April 20, 2015

Tap N Run 4K Ft Lauderdale - December 6, 2014

On December 6, 2014, Husbeast and I chose to spend the day participating in the Ft. Lauderdale Tap N Run 4K for the second time. We has participated the year before with a run club that I had been quite active with, and although I was no longer a member of that running club, we were looking forward to a nice day being active together.

We got to the event really early, anticipating that the event would be just as crowded (if not more crowded) than the year before, but apparently we really didn't need to give that much preparation time. Instead we took the time to get a wonderful lunch together at the Himmarshee Public House. Unfortunately, our lunch was so awesome, that when it came time to actually start this race, we were both so stuffed that we felt like we had lead in our bellies. Running just wasn't happening.

So we walked. And we laughed. And we enjoyed the gorgeous weather. And took joy in watching the other participants engage in all sorts of costumed shenanigans.

At each kilometer we were treated to a glass of local craft beer, which was nice.... particularly when races usually serve flavored water that is marketed as beer but more closely resembles horse urine...

By the second kilometer, my stomach couldn't handle any more carbonation or hops, so we just continued through the event.

I don't really have much to say about this event, actually.

It was an untimed fun run event that we had done before. It was more fun with a larger field of participants, and certainly more fun when we were part of a large group of friends participating. We got decent beer and a decent lunch, but the course is the exact same course that all 5k races in Ft. Lauderdale follow, and was the exact same as last year.

We both feel like we've grown out of the party scene in South Florida, so we begged out of the afterparty before we even got a drink at the bar.

I think for a one time event, this was great (see the report from last year), but not really a repeat event for us. We wont be back next year.

But we did have fun together, we got a couple of great photos, and we spent the day enjoying the outdoors, so all wasn't for naught.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Run Til You're Boared 50K Ultra Marathon- April 5, 2015

I know that I am still really far behind in blogging about races from this year... 9 races behind to be exact, but I had to jump forward to talk about my most recent race. Look at the title of this post... that's not a typo. It *is* supposed to say 50K... also known as just over 31 miles... also known as absolutely insane! I wanted to blog about it while the memories are still fresh, so here goes...

If someone had told me at the beginning of the year that I would be an ultra marathoner, I would have accused them of being into some fairly serious drugs. I've only been running for 4 years, and my first half marathon was in January of 2012. I attempted to train for my first marathon which was scheduled for January 2013, but I gave up after chronic injuries left me in constant pain.

When I backed out of my marathon experience, I realized that I really wasn't all that sad. When I stopped to think about it, I realized that I didn't really want to be a marathoner. Sure, it would have been nice to put in the training and get it done, but I wasn't doing it because I wanted to do it, but rather because it felt like the only logical step after completing countless half marathons already.

I'm a back of the packer.  I have asthma. I'm overweight. I struggle with foot issues. Sure, I wanted to take my running to the next level while overcoming great obstacles, but deep down, I knew that marathoning wasn't for me. Friends would ask me all the time when I planned to take that leap, but after that failed attempt at training for a marathon, the answer was always the same: I just don't want to. Maybe you want to, but I don't.

And then something crazy happened.

I spent the weekend at a race with my dear friend Mel, and he paced me through a 15k, a 5k and a half marathon. And he kept talking about this crazy event he would be doing on Easter Sunday in Jacksonville: a 50K Ultra Trail race calledthe Run Til You're Boared. I thought he was insane, but I wanted to check out the website. He told me repeatedly that this was the perfect race for me to take my running up a notch without the pressure that is normally associated with a full marathon.

But I was so untrained...

By the time my interest was piqued enough to pull the trigger on registration and get airfare to Jacksonville, I only had 5 weeks to train. And training wouldn't be easy. I had never logged over 14 miles at a time, and never logged over 18 miles in a day... somehow I had to get my head around how this was all going to work. I messaged Bobby Green (the race director) a few times to ask about terrain, I talked to a couple of established ultra runners for their advice, and I told a couple of very select friends. I was afraid that if I told everyone before the event, that they would think I was a failure if I didn't cross the finish-line.

On the day of the race, crossing the finish-line seemed like the easiest thing in the world. The real struggle for me was crossing the start-line. From the moment we pulled into the park, I was nauseous and overcome with an intense feeling of dread. 10 seconds before the start of the race I burst into tears and started to hyperventilate. But my friend Mel was right there by my side, as were other veteran ultra runners who turned to me and gave me encouraging smiles and words.

Even after the gun went off and we started our VERY long day of running, the attitude of other runners never changed. People were absolutely exhausted, some were downright miserable in their own socks and shoes, but they were each out there doing their own version of epicness... and they were supportive of each and everyone else on the course.

We were taking liberal bathroom breaks, breaks to change and refuel, and enjoying the opportunity to be in such a gorgeous setting, and this reflected in our time. For the most part, the course was fairly straightforward. 5 loops of 6.2 miles, all relatively flat, mostly in dirt roads through the wildlife preserve. But there were a few tricky areas of the course where we were routed through burn-breaks (where the course significantly narrowed and the footing was through deep loosely packed dirt and sand).

But although the course was tricky at times, the support more than made up for it. There were 3 aid stations on the course, and the race director did an excellent job of anticipating everyone's needs. My stomach was so upset during the race that I had to survive almost entirely off of pepsi (for sugar) and pickle juice (for salt), but there were options for both vegetarians and carnivores alike... with food ranging from gummy bears and marshmallow peeps, to bananas and oranges, to pb&j and bacon. Because the field of runners was so small, the volunteers at the aid station quickly learned what each runner preferred and made certain that it was immediately available to them when they came through. In retrospect, the only thing that I think the aid stations should have had at the very front of their tables was sunscreen... the weather was perfect, but it was overcast... so although I applied sunscreen, it clearly wasn't enough... note to self: next time be more careful.

Anyway, There were a few moments where I worried that I wouldn't be able to finish the race in the prescribed 10 hour time limit, but not once did I allow my mind to go to the negative side of questioning whether a finish was possible or not. Which I think leads me to the most important revelation of the day...

Anything is possible with the right attitude and mindset.

With an eye on the finish, you can do anything you put your mind to... as long as you really put your mind to it, failure is not an option. Barring any unforeseen injuries (which are always possible), your mind gives out long before your body ever will. If you enter a situation with the right attitude, the power of positive thinking will get you far. This is obviously not just a lesson for running, but sometimes it takes a crazy experience like an ultra to bring something like this into perspective.

At the end of the day, I was the last finisher with a time of 9:44:16. Not bad, all things considered. Age awards are 5 deep in ultras, and my time also qualified me as having achieved 4th place in my age division. I still can't believe that I did it! 

My name is Amy, and I'm an ultra runner!

I think the best way to really understand what this event was all about is to watch a video or two. Here are a couple of videos that my friend Mel took while we were out there... if you had to watch just one, I might suggest the last video which shows us coming into the finish line and all the excitement that went into it:

RTYB 50k 3rd loop video
Posted by Mel Abando on Monday, April 6, 2015

RTYB 50K 4th loop video
Posted by Mel Abando on Monday, April 6, 2015

RTYB 50k 5th and last loop video 2 - Finish line
Posted by Mel Abando on Monday, April 6, 2015

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Space Coast Half Marathon - November 30, 2014

I can't believe that I'm so far behind in my blogging about races. I can partially attribute this to a crazy schedule with my teaching job, or perhaps it was from the stress of having finished my ph.d. Regardless, I'm really far behind. I have a long list of 10 different races that I still want to write about, and the only way that I can seem to focus is if I plan to do them chronologically. Unfortunately, this means digging into memories that are over 4 months old at this point. And being not-so-fresh, I can't imagine that I will remember the same things that I would have had I taken the opportunity to write back then. This always seems to happen when I write in a journal, which I have been doing since I was a very little girl.

So where do I begin talking about the Space Coast Half Marathon from November 30, 2014? I guess I should start by saying that this was my second time participating in this half marathon. They are doing this really neat series where if you complete 3 of the 5 annual races, you get an additional medal for the challenge, and if you complete all 5 of the races in the series, you get another medal on top of that. I like the course, I like challenges, I like half marathons, and I really like this event, so it seemed like a no brainer for me to return to this race for a second year in a row. Plus, it meant getting to see some really awesome old friends.

I was super stressed out that weekend as it was only days  before I was scheduled to defend my doctoral dissertation. My phone died on the 4+ hour drive to Cocoa Beach, and because it was the weekend after Thanksgiving, this threw a wrench in the works for me and made me even more stressed than I normally would have been. I still wasn't fully up to speed after the injuries to my feet, and I felt like I had caught some kind of respiratory/sinus thing while at Disney a couple weeks before. I was NOT in my optimal performance. The weekend weather was much cooler than I would normally prefer as well, but ultimately that wasn't really a problem.

When we arrived at the pre-race check in, it was a huge to-do, one that I am familiar with at the Space Coast event. many of the national and international running groups like Half Fanatics, Marathon Maniacs, 50 State Half Marathon Club, Mom's Run this Town, and Black Girls Run set up big group photos to take place before the race. It is like a mini-reunion of runners that I have met all over the country, and I love this opportunity. This is the photo from the half fanatics group

But before I knew it, it was time to go to the start line. We listened to the national anthem, and the race began. Husbeast was running the event with me, but he was seriously undertrained. When he quit running almost 2 years ago, he said he would only do one half marathon with me per year, and this is the one he chose. But he didn't ever want to do the maintenance runs or the training. So while I knew he would complete the race, I wasn't sure what shape he would be in at the finish. We decided that if we split up, that was ok. Around a mile into the race, he came trotting up beside me, barely winded. And I got angry.

It drives me crazy that I can work so hard to keep my maintenance levels up, that I can be out there putting in the training miles, and it doesn't seem to get any easier. I still get winded, I still feel exhausted, I still have moments when I question WTF I am doing to myself and my body. And it drives me batty that he doesn't put in the same amount of energy toward training and he still does better than me.

I didn't want him running next to me. I kept envisioning myself sticking a leg out and tripping him. I know he's my husband, but I was frustrated. I tried to speed up and he matched my cadence. I tried to slow down to force him to go around me, and he slowed down. I don't even know that he was conscientiously trying to match me, but he was driving me bonkers! Finally, around mile 5, I told him that enough was enough and that he needed to speed up or let me go on without him.

Sometimes I like to have someone to pace with. But I don't like it when that someone is my husband. I don't think its healthy for either of us.

So anyway, I was on my own from there on out. Lately, I had been feeling like I was missing some of my running mojo, so it was nice to just be out there and connect with an activity that I enjoyed so much. But soon, the weather started to get to me. It was in the low 60s for the previous two days, but during the race it was heating up into the 80s. This is a never fail trigger for my asthma. Plus having been sick recently, and with such a big day coming up for my doctoral program at school, I knew that I needed to be gentle with myself and not push it.

I felt myself slowing down around mile 7. I fought my asthma for the last 6 miles. Someday, I would be able to run a half marathon and break my PR, but that wasn't the day. And I was smart enough to know it. I slowed to a walk at mile 8 and vowed that although I was experiencing shortness of breath and wheezing, I would take advantage of every moment that I had out there on the gorgeous course. I chatted with some other folks who had also slowed to a walk. We told stories, we enjoyed the beauty of the day. And we finished.

Some days you run to beat a record or a time, other days, you slow down to get your money's worth out of a race. No regrets.

But you can bet that I will be back in November 2015 to race that course and shoot for a personal record!

Chip: 3:39:47
OA: 2986/3306
Sex: 2067/2330
Category: 266/310

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Disney Wine and Dine- November 8, 2014

By now, I am sure that I am the only one under the sun who blogs and who hasn't yet done a recap from the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon on November 8, 2014.

Or as some people affectionately call it: Splash and Dash, 2014.

Or as I lovingly refer to it: that character building half marathon where I almost got hypothermia.

Regardless of what I call it, it was a fabulous race... despite the rain, despite the cold, despite the illness that followed it, and despite the fact that it was a race put on by Disney.

Yes, you heard that right. I am probably one of the few people that I know that actually hates, loathes and abhors races put on by Disney. Yeah, I am probably going to get banned from Disney for life for saying that, but whatever, it is what it is.

I started my running journey with Disney. I did the Expedition Everest race twice. I did my first half marathon during marathon weekend at Disney, and I did the Glass Slipper Challenge there last year. But after that, I said I would never do it again. The cost is the biggest issue for me. I'm not made of money, and I have been finding that the prices just skyrocket for anything having to do with The Mouse. Usually the support at Disney races is superb, and the energy from the crowd really helps to motivate, but there are TOO many participants. The courses tend to bottleneck, the people are irritable, and I almost feel like there is a sense of entitlement emanating off of the participants: an entitlement that really seems to have no place at "The Happiest Place on Earth."

To be fair, not all of the participants are like that. And in the defense of many, I would say that people deserve to feel entitled after paying the equivalent of the college education for their first born child in order to participate in the race. Further, many people choose Disney as their first race, and they may not fully understand race ettiquette, or they may be just doing the race for fun because MICKEY... thus they don't really respect the mileage, but whatever.

All of these things combined are what contributed to my swearing off of Disney races altogether last February.

But then my dear friend Sarah said that she wanted to train to run a half marathon. And if I did Wine and Dine with her, it would hopefully coincide with the upcoming defense of our doctoral dissertations (which it did, sort of). So my friend from out of state wanted to go, and not wanting to pass up an opportunity to spend time with her, I gritted my teeth and we planned a 5 day trip: complete with special meals at restaurants that we had always wanted to go to, character breakfasts, hidden bars, and the wine and dine festival at Epcot. Running a half marathon while I was there seemed like the least I could do was promise my first born to the Disney Debt Collectors and partake in all of the other fun events that my friend planned.

We had planned to dress as the girls from the Celebrate a Dream parade, but once in Orlando for the weekend, we realized that it was going to be too cold. While Sarah sat up late one night editing her dissertation, I slaved over the sewing machine finishing our costumes... which we almost scrapped at the last minute because weather forecasts were predicting very cold temperatures and sporadic rain.

Sporadic my butt. It felt like It stopped raining a for a little while at the staging area before the corrals, but once we got to the corrals (with ponchos on over our costumes which were over some warm weather gear we had purchased at WalMart at the last minute), it was a monsoon. We sat in the corrals and shivered as we waited for our wave to be released.

The race itself was a blur. The crowds of spectators weren't as big as they were for other races, but I think that had to do with the monsoon dumping Gallons of water on us. The support from volunteers was (like expected) spectacular. What surprised me was that the course wasn't as packed with participants as other events. Instead of 35K participants, it was closer to 14K. And that made a huge difference in maneuverability (although there was still some bottlenecking in Animal Kingdom). I absolutely loved that the race happened at night. I loved running though the Osborne Spectacle of Lights. And I am sure the after party at Epcot would have been wonderful had we gone, but our lips were already turning blue (no joke!).

On the other hand, the cold was a problem, but the rain was worse. I heard someone (I don't remember who) say that the only thing you could compare it to would be standing in your shower in your running clothes with the water on full blast on COLD for 3 hours and trying to run... and I think that's fairly accurate. With that much water, the roads were oily and slick, I was worried about my footing for miles at a time, and it was hard to keep up morale. I was lucky to have one of my best friends by my side, otherwise I might have gotten on the but with other people as we reached mile 6... people that were holding up fairly well pace wise, but who were so down-trodden from the weather.

Strangely, despite finishing well over our intended finishtime, and despite being so cold that we shivered for days afterward and had other symptoms of early onset hypothermia for the next 24 hours, Sarah and I agreed that this is a race that we would definitely be down for trying again.

And this is coming from the girl who said she would never do another Disney race again.*

I don't have any finishline photos because we were so sick we had to rush back to the hotel, so I'll just leave you with this blue-lipped one from right underneath the Peace On Earth sign... fitting for 2 girls who met while on a journey to become Doctors of Peace, right?

Clock 4:15:55
Net 3:43:53
Place 11334
Div 1351
Gender 7437
5K 46:58
10K 1:38:51
15K 2:34:16
Character Building: Priceless.

*I have also now committed to running the Disneyland Tinkerbell Challenge with Team Muscle Makers as a charity entrant. I swear, my opinion of Disney races may have been seriously altered.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Flannigan's Rock'n Rib 10K- October 26, 2014

It has been so long since I have written. I am sitting at the computer, preparing to write, feeling overwhelmed by the laundry list of races that I still want to recap for my blog, and wondering where I will ever find the time (let alone the energy). Because of this, and in an effort to catch up a bit, this post will be somewhat short and (hopefully) sweet.

I hadn't originally planned to run the Flannigan's Rock'n Rib 10k, but my dear friend Vikki convinced me that she wanted to run a 10k the day immediately following her first half marathon (the Halloween Half Marathon in Miami Beach). She insisted that she wanted to do it, and I thought it would be nice to log some extra mileage... I certainly wouldn't be racing a 10k the day immediately following one of my first half marathons after the great foot fiasco of 2013- 2014, but going out there and enjoying a nice run with a friend would be nice.

But then Vikki realized that she didn't really want to run a 10k the day after her first half. I was sad at first, but then I invited my good friend Seth to join me. This race was only about 20 minutes from my house and had a later start time than I am used to, so that meant that I was able to sleep in a little while waiting for Seth to pick me up at my house.

One thing that you should know is that prior to this race, I had only once ran a 10k. While I really enjoy the half marathon distance, 10ks and I have a love hate relationship that is mostly just hate-filled. I hate 10k races almost as much as I hate 5k races, and the reasoning behind it might surprise some. I can only explain it like this: the 5k and the 10k feel much longer than half marathons.

Logically, I know that this isn't the case, but they just feel like they last forever. Whereas with a half marathon, I can really zone out and turn in toward my own thoughts and mental processing, in a 5k or a 10k, I feel like I always have to be focused, and because of that, I feel each and every step... and the race feels like it drags on forever.

So knowing that about this race, I didn't really have high expectations. It was an out and back course starting at a local park. You ran 5k north on main city roads, then turned around and ran the 5k back. The race started later than I would have liked, so it was already fairly warm in the hot Florida sun by the time I was even 2 miles into the course. I had really pushed it the day before at the disaster of Miami Beach Halloween Half (which I had to walk the majority of because I was so under-trained from Foot-mageddon), so I didn't have high hopes. But I wanted to go out there and give it my all.

I started slow, and found myself quickly limbering up and increasing pace as I ran each run intervals with the Galloway style 30seconds run/30seconds walk plan. It was tedious, and I was bored, but it was a 10k, I was expecting that.

Around Around mile 4, I realized I was leap frogging with another girl. Our intervals were not matching up, but she was also doing 30/30 intervals and we kept passing one another. We did this for about 2 miles until we returned back into the park for the final stretch. She was looking like she was gassed, and I offhandedly goaded her on, suggesting that she was going to let me beat her. We both giggled, and continued along. I was in front of her, and I could see the finishline.

I had about 20 yards left before the final timing mat, and I was entering the chute when I saw Seth standing there, cheering me on. I smiled ear to ear, happy to be finishing. Then out of nowhere, the girl I had been leapfrogging with, sprinted by me on the left hand side, daring me to beat her.

I gave chase, pulling out all the stops. I was definitely exhausted, but I took her challenge. Both of us sprinted full-bore to the finish line as the crowds let up whoops and hollers. The crowd was so excited watching us barreling toward the finishline (two overweight back of the packers giving a wild competition), for a moment there, I felt like we were fighting for first place in a marathon!

I wish I could say that I beat her, but I didn't. I was a split second behind her, but that didn't matter... I was still a winner.

I would definitely run this race again, although by the time I finished the beer and the ribs were gone. I'm a vegetarian so not having ribs there for me at the finish wasn't a big deal, but I was sad about no beer.

Gun  1:37:20
Chip  1:33:44
Pace  15:35
Div  80/87
OA  886/930

Monday, January 5, 2015

Wrapping up 2014, ringing in 2015

Happy 2015! As I sit here thinking about all of my accomplishments of 2014 and planning my goals for 2015, I am reminded about how far behind I am with my blogging and my race recaps from the previous year. If you will allow me, I'd like to skip ahead to my yearly wrap up and goal setti
ng for 2015, then return to finish blogging about the last few months of 2014. It will be a little disjointed, but to me, it seems to make sense.

The number one goal that I had in terms of running this year was to have completed 520 miles. For some more experienced runners, this might have seemed like a really lame goal, but it was just slightly higher than the goal of the year prior, and considering that I spent the last half of 2013 injured, setting this nominal goal for 2014 seemed doable. At the end of the day though, I hadn't counted on being sidelined with foot complications, and this goal was just not attainable.

After calculating and recalculating my tally for the year, I finished having traveled 323.11 miles.

In some respects, I am happy that I was able to do this much, and in other respects, I am saddened that I set a goal and wasn't able to meet it. I hate not finishing what I started, and it feels like I have let myself down. Husbeast keeps telling me to open my eyes and see all that I did manage to accomplish this year instead of what I wasn't able to accomplish... so here goes.

This year, (although I haven't finished blogging about all of them), I completed

  • 15 half marathons
  • 2 10K races
  • 1 6K race
  • 2 5K races
  • 1 4K race
  • 1 race that billed itself as a 5K OCR but came up lacking

and the most important distance race of my life...

  • My dissertation was completed and successfully defended, earning me the title of "Doctor."

I also was able to check off another 6 states in my quest for running a half marathon in each state of the United States (KY, TN, MS, AR, LA, UT).

As I think toward next year, I have one goal... and that is to finish what I started last year and reach that number of 520. This year, I will do it.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Halloween Half Marathon, Miami Beach - October 25, 2014

I spent the entire month of September slacking off in the running department. I told myself that it was to help recover from the nasty feet injuries that I had been dealing with for almost the entire past year, but that's not true. I kind of talked myself into thinking that I couldn't find the time to go out for a run with my hectic new schedule of teaching in the evenings, but that's not true either. I could have gotten up in the morning to run if I had really wanted to. I forced myself to go to the gym to try to keep up my cardio, but in the end, I realize that it was more of just going through the motions, rather than pushing myself. The fact, plain and simple is that I was feeling pretty l-a-z-y during the month of September, and I just didn't wanna.

But then, just as I was emerging from my lazy-funk, I suddenly lost my voice. Normally laryngitis wouldn't be a big deal, but it developed into something more. 3 days later, not only did I no longer have a voice, but I was starting to audibly wheeze from somewhere in my throat. Throat wheezing is nowhere near as scary as bronchial wheezing so I dismissed the symptoms as just some fluke allergy issue.
getting ready

But the next day, I developed a cough. A deep dry cough that was as unproductive as congress is frequently proving to be. I sounded like a child with whooping cough, and I couldn't catch my breath. I rushed to the emergency room, where it was discovered (after a few consecutive albuterol nebulizer treatments) that I was in fact having a horrible acute asthma attack. It took me almost a week and a half to recover and feel that I could breath sufficiently without the help of pharmaceuticals.

When this past weekend rolled around, and it was time for the Halloween half marathon in Miami Beach, I knew that I would really have to focus and hold it together just to finish upright, but I also didn't want to take a DNS (did not start) on this race.

with Brina and Seth, my running and travel buds
In some respects, I feel like I really surprised myself, yet in other ways I really felt like I let myself down. For example, I am surprised that I got out there and finished in a decent time considering that I had a fluke respiratory issue in the 2 weeks leading up to the race... and on the other hand, I feel like I let myself down by only being able to run my intervals for the first 6.5 miles and then choosing to walk the rest. In some ways I was surprised that I could make it 6.5 miles doing my intervals in the first place, and then I felt let down that my pace was horrendously slow.

I love having a Garmin to be able to really keep myself in check and ensure that I am staying on pace, but it can be a double edged sword... something that I realized at this race.

My friends Vikki and Richard were completing their first halfs
While its great to keep yourself on track for pace, there is such thing as being too clock and pace obsessed.  I wouldn't say that its a debilitating obsession or anything, but it is definitely something I am concerned about. Whereas earlier in my running half marathons journey I might have been less concerned with the pace if I was having an off day, at the Halloween race, it was clear that not making my interval times (for legitimate reasons like coughing up small children from my injured lungs), was just another reason to get down on myself and start with the negative self-talk.

Gone seem to be the days where I just focused on the running and the journey of it all, rather than the finish.

For this reason, in this post, I wont be including my finish time or my place like I normally would. I'll just say that I finished faster than my first half marathon, but not by much. And that time's not bad considering how under-trained I was... something I am not so proud of.

What I can say about the course is that it was a million times better than the course for the same race as last year. The race started at Jungle Island where the parking was a nightmare. I needed the rest room before the race, and because we had difficulty parking and had to walk to the port-o-lets, we actually arrived back at the start line after the gun had already gone off. The course took us up and over the Macarthur Causeway for approximately 4 miles and into South Miami beach where we ran through South Point Park. From there we traveled approximately 4 miles along Ocean Drive to  Lummus Park and along the boardwalk to a turnaround point where we then looped back to the finish. While It was considerably a better course than last year's with no "hardpacked sand" to run along, we spent the majority of the race running on bricks and concrete. Again, I loved being on the boardwalk but the boards get incredibly slick from the humidity and dew, and I am afraid to fall on my face.

Because most of the race is off of pavement, the jury is still out as to whether I will run this race again next year. But they do have awesome finishers medals, and it is an opportunity to dress up for Halloween and run a race.

What do you think of my lady bug costume?

Half Marathon 28 complete!