Thursday, May 22, 2014

LaCroix Mother's Day 5K- May 11, 2014

It was really nice to feel like I was getting my running mojo back, but it was still hard to push myself into training mode. I wanted to go out there and run to my heart's content, but I knew that I never really let myself completely rest and recover through the 12/13 and 13/14 running season. 

Now was my time for a real break from running and letting myself enjoy the journey instead of focusing on the end goal. I found myself at the gym more and more, and on the pavement outside less and less. I would get on the treadmill at a decent walking pace, and go for about an hour. Long enough to feel like I was accomplishing something, short enough to not mess up my plans for the entire day. 

I was happy with my schedule, and though not entirely happy about seeing no downward momentum on the scale, satisfied that the numbers weren't creeping higher and higher. I never started any of this running insanity with the hopes of losing weight (it was just a happy and much-welcomed by- product), but to see that the weight was not going anywhere after seeing it on a steady downward slope, that was kind of sad. But it's not about losing weight. It's about recuperating from my first 2 VERY hectic race seasons, and finding the love in the sport again.

So it was on that treadmill, putting in a quick 3.5 mile walk when I realized that I really enjoy being out there at races with other people. There is such a social aspect to the sport that I don't normally get to experience when I am training on my own. I have frequently shyed away from 5K races because I don't like the distance, but with my amount of training limited due to my self-imposed recovery training schedule, in order to get that experience that I love... it might make sense to enter into some local upcoming 5K races.

I think what was most appealing about the LaCroix Mother's Day 5K was that besides being local and it having a good reputation was that it was affordable. affordable is always good, right? On top of that, I got an email offering $25 entry to the race PLUS entry into the upcoming Weston Classic 5K on Memorial day for just $5 more. How can you beat 2 5K races (including race support, participants t-shirts, and finishers medals for all finishers) for a total of $30. SOLD AMERICAN.

The race itself was nice. It began in the Huizenga Park off of Las Olas in Downtown Ft. Lauderdale at 8am. Being a shorter distance, it made sense to justify starting a little later allowing people to sleep in while still beating the mid morning heat... but in practicality, it made no sense. We arrived at the venue and were soaked within minutes from all of the heat and humidity.

While I couldn't rope Husbeast into participating with me, I was able to rope him into coming out to support my endeavors (who doesn't love a good athletic supporter???). We spent some time wandering around, linking up with some friends from Karma Athletes before the race, and  enjoying the complementary beverages and music. Before long, it was time to line up at the starting corral and get the show on the road. 

It took a little while to ease into a comfortable pace. I was doing my intervals of 1 minute running followed by 1 minute walking, and at first, it really was more difficult than I remembered. I was having a log of pain in both the insides and the outsides of my ankles, more so in my bad foot that my good one, and this caused me to be a little nervous and hold back on my pace. But over time, as the pain slowly subsided, I found myself picking up the pace. And I soon found myself playing my pacing game where I pick random people and challenge myself to catch up to and/or pass them. It served as a great distraction.

And then I realized that there was another member of Karma Athletes right in front of me. As a back of the packer, I realize that most of the folks from Karma run a far faster pace than me. Usually I only see other Karma members at the start line and they either are ready to leave by the time I finish, or they have already gone home. And here, for the first time, I saw a member of Karma... and I had to catch up to her. I did manage to catch and pass her which she later did to me in return, but it was still a neat experience.

As I rounded the corner and headed into the finishing chute, I saw my husband in the crowd taking pictures and cheering me on. Then I saw the other folks from Karma cheering me on as well. It was neat to feel as if I had my own cheering section and people believed in me and supported me. 

I crossed the finish-line and turned off my garmin. It definitely wasn't PR material, but I wasn't that far off. I collected, my medal, my rose, my chocolate covered strawberries, a few bottles of water. and a few more miles toward my yearly mileage goal. All in all, it was a great day!

Gun 48:14
Chip 47:16
Pace 15:10
OA 483/594

Monday, May 19, 2014

Heroes in Recovery 6k- May 3, 2014

I was wiped after my last race series that brought me through 5 states in 5 days to do 5 half marathons. I wound up walking them, which though I insisted that I was ok with, I was still kind of kicking myself for.

The course at Tradewinds park
It took me a lot of hard work to be able to say that I could run a half marathon. It took a long time and a lot of hard work for me to get to a point where I considered myself a runner, but I over did it. And I was left paying a very high price. Being sidelined, particularly when there is such a negative stigma that follows around those who walk at races can do a number on the psyche. Being called "just a walker" really can take a toll on a person, but even worse, when so many people say it in a negative way, those of us who walk races find ourselves internalizing this sometimes, at least I know that I do. I do the mileage. I go out there for hours and hours on end, putting one foot in front of another, racking up a ridiculous about of mileage, but walking it leaves me feeling inferior. I'm sure that a lot of that is my own conditioning of feeling like I am not good enough, feeling like an imposter in the running community, and just having poor self-esteem. Regardless, that's not really the point of this post, and I am quickly digressing. So back to the topic at hand.

I was wiped after my last race series that had me walking for a grand total of 65.5 miles through the Mississippi delta.

I knew that what my brain and my body needed more than anything was a break. I'd been constantly on the go for so long, racking up miles upon miles of race mileage, and that's not even considering all those hours out there that I plugged away at training runs. I was exhausted. My body was hurting, my brain was hurting.  It was time for a real break, one where I focused on other activities... Like zumba. And the gym. But I found that I kept putting myself up on that treadmill to walk just a few miles to keep my mileage up. And slowly the pain started to subside. And I felt like my ankles and feet were getting stronger. and I was remembering why I did all of this in the first place. Because it certainly sucks when I am doing it, it was nice to feel good again after putting in a little mileage.

And so that's why, even though I had been on a kick to resist entering into any more races until the fall when I know my body has had a bit more time to recover, I found a couple smaller races to enter which would (hopefully) allow me to rebuild some confidence and keep my endurance up. I had wanted to do the Heroes in Recovery 6K last year, but I had something else scheduled for that weekend. So when I found this year, when I found out that it was coming to town again, I signed up at the very last minute. I had hoped Husbeast might want to join me and get some of his running mojo back, but alas, it didn't happen. Not only was it a shorter distance than I normally do, but it is a cause that is near and dear to my heart, promoting healing from drug and alcohol addiction and the reclamation of life. How can one not support something like that?

So bright and early on May 3, I drove up to Tradewinds park in Coconut Creek, well prepared for a nice leisurely, no stress, shorter race. I wasn't aiming for any specific goal time, I just wanted to be out there and support a good cause, and try my hand (ahem, my feet) at running again. Would my weak ankles and feet let me do it? I really like my interval timer on my garmin, but I really only wanted it for the interval beeping, not to keep myself on any specific pace or to force myself to go faster. I just wanted to go out there and do my thing.

And I did. The course was gorgeous, we passed the lakes and stables. Of course the smell of the stables made it a little difficult for me to breathe, but I was out there having a good time. And I was smiling. There were a lot of walkers out there too. And by walkers, I don't mean veterans to racers who just happen to be walking. Because this event benefited various rehabilitation centers, there were a LOT of people who were bussed in from local programs to participate. Many of whom, it was clear by the way that they were dressed and by their etiquette on the course, were out doing their first event like this. This made the first mile or so difficult because there were walls of people in denim shorts who were walking at no more than a 22 minute mile who I needed to dodge and weave around. But with a little time, the herd thinned out, and I found myself pacing and leapfrogging with a couple of women who were also really enjoying themselves.

Before I knew it, I was already hitting the 5K mark and just had a little more to go till the finish line. I was tired. The humidity was getting to me, the heat was oppressive, and the hot dusty breeze from the pastures and stables made it feel awful to try to get a full deep breath. But the finish line was in sight. I ran in, and was shocked to see that my garmin said that I had made a PR!

Unfortunately, all that meandering to get around groups early on in the event made my mileage go over, which slowed me down overall by 8 seconds per mile. Yikes. Still, it felt pretty dang good to go out there and enjoy running so much once again. The additional excitement from a near PR was just icing on the cake.

Gun 56:33.8
Chip 56:11.2
Pace 15:06/ mile
Time back 24:02.8 (Negative Splits!)
OA 230/397

Monday, May 12, 2014

Riverboat Series Day 5, Winnsboro LA (Citivan Park) - April 15, 2014

This is part 4 of a 5 part series about the 5 half marathons in 5 consecutive days in 5 states trip that I recently took which was hosted by Mainly Marathons.

Part 1, and Kentucky, can be found here.
Part 2, and Tennessee, can be found here. 
Part 3, and Arkansas, can be found here.
Part 4, and Mississippi, can be found here. 

Finally getting to this last post has me feeling mixed emotions. Great sadness to be putting this who experience behind me, and happiness to have once again spent a week with such amazing people who I am honored to call "friends" for a lifetime. And happiness to actually be finished writing about this.... for some reason, writing about series like these fill me with dread. I mean, I am usually one who writing comes naturally to... yet these posts leave me feeling like I will never be able to say everything that I need to say, and feeling kind of like a failure for not doing these experiences justice. I don't even know if that makes any sense. I think I might just be rambling.

Anyway, Day 5 brought us to Winnsboro Louisiana to the Citivan Park, and the searching that I have done about this park has brought little info. Essentially it is a smaller municipal park in Winnsboro Louisiana, but the modesty of the size really didn't mean much. This course was spectacular, running along a beautiful little creek, the sweeping trees and Spanish moss provided a great deal of cover and there was never a want for anything interesting to look at.

I actually thoroughly enjoyed this course, though the day got off to a rocky start. The night before had been once again plagued by no sleep on my part as my roommates were tossing and turning all night and in order to be as alert as possible the following day, I had skipped my sleeping medications (so as not to be drug-hungover during the race). We had been having some tension between ourselves and the night before I had seriously considered skipping day 5 of the race series altogether, and jumping on the next flight home from Shreveport, LA, in order to alleviate those tensions. In the end, I am happy that I didn't leave the trip early, but on the other hand, the emotional stress combined with the overall lack of sleep from the trip, and the exertion of already having completed 4 back to back half marathons was getting to me.

Getting dressed that morning, I managed to put a huge hole in the pants that I put on. Seriously, could this day start any better?

By the time we got to Citivan Park, I was spent. The lack of sleep and stress was really getting to me, though I had been avoiding the sleeping medications to stave off the drug-hangover, I was so exhausted I felt like I was sleepwalking, I felt fat from having torn my pants trying to put them on that morning, I just wanted to go to bed. Then, in getting ready to leave the car, I managed to forget things in my bag requiring a return trip to the car 3 times. And then when the race finally started, one of my fellow runners leaned over to me and told me that we had left the dome light on inside the car meaning that I would have to return to it during the middle of the race, lest the battery die.

NOT how I wanted to start my day.

After returning to the car again, I jumped back onto the course and started trudging along. I was still somewhat chilled from our foray in rain 2 days prior, so I felt myself snuggling into my jacket for warmth as I got my body moving. I wanted desperately to do well on this final day, but I soon realized I was having problems with my right calf. It seemed that I had a charley horse in my right calf that wouldn't subside. I took longer steps, I took shorter steps. I stopped to stretch, and felt good, but then I would take another couple steps and the pain would return.

Other runners might say that this was my "least friendly" of days, and they are undoubtedly right. I would briefly encourage other participants when we would pass one another, I would give smiles, but my mind wasn't there. I knew the only way I would make the distance would be to disappear deep within my own thoughts, so as not to think about the pain. As long as I didn't think about the pain, I knew I could just keep putting one foot in front of the other and meet my distance goal.

Forward momentum doing the work here. I was so out of it.
I found a song on my ipod that had a really good beat, and I put it on... on repeat. And I kept going. One foot in front of another. left, right, left, right.

It finally started to warm up, so I started to strip some layers off. And then I started to get too warm. but stopping to take off more clothes might make me stop altogether. So I just dealt with the heat and continued to put one foot in front of the other.

I don't even remember how many laps we had to take to collect the required number of rubber bands. I just knew I had to collect some, and when I had collected enough, I was done. The only goal was to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

And that I did. And I was so caught up in just getting it done, that somewhere along the line, I realized that I was no longer walking (as I had intended to do for the duration). Somewhere along the line, the forward momentum just took over and I found myself with more spring in my step. I was somewhere between walking and jogging, and maybe a little forward falling in there too. My music was turned up loud. I no longer felt as if I was in control of the movement in my legs. I was just sort of along for the ride. I saw friends finishing the race, and trying to get my attention to say goodbye, but I couldn't slow down. The end was in sight and I was going to get there...

And I did. My finish time was still less than stellar,  but it was the fastest I had finished a race in any of this 5 in 5 day series. 3:53:36. and that includes the trek back to the car to turn the dome light off.

I was finally able to sit down with some friends, have a couple of drinks. strip down the last outer layer of clothes and bask in the sun (resulting in another sunburn for this pasty white girl).

In retrospect, I'm happy I did this trip, but at the time, I was exhausted. I can only imagine what Parvaneh Moayedi was feeling.

Parvaneh in yellow here.
For those not in the know, between November 11, 2012 and November 10, 2013 Dear Parvaneh  ran the most marathons in a year, topping out at 168. I knew of Parvaneh from meeting her at the Center of the Nation series last fall, but what I didn't know was that when I saw her during the Riverboat series, she would be well on her way to beating her own personal record, and the Guiness Record that she had set last year. She was able to include all of these races in her new record (still pending verification) of 258 marathons in a year. I am so impressed and excited for her. Congrats Dear Parvaneh!

*Disclaimer: Nearly none of the photos that you will see in the posts about this trip are mine. I chose to not bring my camera with me during the races and instead rely on other people. To the people who have contributed photos to help tell this story, I am thankful.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Riverboat Series Day 4, Leroy Percy State Park (MS) - April 15, 2014

This is part 4 of a 5 part series about the 5 half marathons in 5 consecutive days in 5 states trip that I recently took which was hosted by Mainly Marathons.

Part 1, and Kentucky, can be found here.
Part 2, and Tennessee, can be found here. 
Part 3, and Arkansas, can be found here.

By Day 4, this trip was really getting to me.... Not only Do we constantly move from place to place, never really getting to unpack and let ourselves catch our breath, but sharing hotel rooms with non-family who have different habits can really take its toll. Further, being constantly on the go, using up ridiculous amounts of energy on the race courses and not eating right can really have an affect on someone. And lets not forget that I am such a light sleeper that finding respite from REM sleep was a failure every night.

But once again, on Day 4, we were up bright eyed and bristly tailed... this time with the destination of Leroy Percy Park in Hollandale, MS.  According to the state park website, Leroy Percy is the oldest of Mississippi's state parks, and is characterized by artesian springs, cypress trees and ancient oaks dripping with Spanish moss. Leroy Percy is the only state park featuring a wildlife preserve. The seasonal pursuit of deer, squirrel, turkey, duck and dove beckons to hunters in search of an unspoiled hunting area away from the crowd. Leroy Percy is also known for its alligator population - visitors can safely observe the scaly reptiles from two observation towers over their hot artesian water home.

Our race course was a short loop through the campground areas, but it did  take us by one of the observation towers above the artesian springs... which I was not inclined to be climbing as my legs felt like they were buried in setting cement. The cypress and oaks were beautiful with their draped Spanish moss, but I've been to areas in the south before... it didn't feel like anything I hadn't seen before. I hate to admit it, but this course really left very little impression on me.

I was tired. I was cold (the actual temperature was blustery and there was a windchill, but I still hadn't felt like I had warmed up from the previous day's half marathon swim). I just wanted to do my half marathon and get it over with. Just to check the box.

Seth, Brina and I have talked about check boxes before. Brina and I are both members of Half Fanatics, while Seth is a double agent with Half Fanatics and Marathon Maniacs. Brina is also a member of the 50 State club (which I actually plan to join). Since joining these clubs (which we all seem to really enjoy being a part of), we have noticed that sometimes it feels like we are off to challenge ourselves to the next big accomplishment. Its always about doing something more and more impressive. Why run a half marathon if you can run a half marathon every weekend? Why run in a few states when you can run in THEM ALL??? With that kind of mentality, its easy to see how sometimes the race can morph from doing the race because we really want to and we really enjoy it, to doing the race just to check off the box saying that we did it.

For me, the Mississippi race was a check box kind of event. I walked it with my dear friend Mildred, and we chatted, and it was good. I really don't have much more to say about it than that. I checked the box.

My finish time reflected as much. 4:30:10.

My slowest race during this series.

Sometimes we just have to check the box.

And then I checked the box next to 25 half marathon's completed.

And then I checked the box next to a celebratory shot of Fireball.

To be continued...

*Disclaimer: Nearly none of the photos that you will see in the posts about this trip are mine. I chose to not bring my camera with me during the races and instead rely on other people. To the people who have contributed photos to help tell this story, I am thankful.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Riverboat Series Day 3, Lake Chicot State Park (AR) - April 14, 2014

This is part 3 of a 5 part series about the 5 half marathons in 5 consecutive days in 5 states trip that I recently took which was hosted by Mainly Marathons.

Part 1, and Kentucky, can be found here.
Part 2, and Tennessee, can be found here.

Though each of the days from this series blended together, creating such havoc with my memory and ability to break it down into days, each day had one significant thing that also made it stand out. Day 1 was that horrid hill. Day 2 can be summed up by the word green.

Day 3 can only be described as wet. Wet. Wet. Sopping wet. To the core wet. Feels like swimming wet. And then some more wetness.

Day 3 brought us to Arkansas, to the Lake Chicot State Park in Lake Village, Arkansas. That morning, we woke bright eyed and bushy tailed (albeit we were all exhausted so a bit prickley), got ready, and went to the hotel lobby to see if we could partake in the complimentary continenntal breakfast before it was officially available to guests. Other participants in the series had the same idea, and as we scoped the food and gobbled it down, we saw the news which was calling for severe thunder and lightening storms, and sporatic tornado warnings. It was already rainy and wet outside in the parking lot, but we piled into the car anyway, thinking that if it got bad, we could always choose to skip the event, or perhaps Clint (the race director) would call it due to inclement weather.

Lake Chicot State park is a gorgeous place (or it would be had the weather been nicer) that according to the Arkansas State Park's website sits on Arkansas's largest natural lake, [which] is a scenic setting in the Mississippi Flyway for fishing, boating, and birdwatching. This 20-mile long oxbox lake was once part of the main channel of the Mississippi River. Cut off from the river centuries ago, the lake is the nation's largest, natural oxbow remnant. Outdoor enthusiasts have so many recreational choices at this oasis in the Delta. Included in the programs offered by the park interpreters at Lake Chicot State Park are party barge excursions on the lake.

Unfortunately, because this is an enormous park, there are multiple entrances for the various activities that they offer. Our GPS wasn't so great at finding the location, and we wound up driving through what we believe was a large private farm and their cow pastures... I think we woke a bunch of cows up too, but with the lightening going off all around them... they were probably awake anyway.

We finally got to our destination and learned that everyone had difficulties with people being sent through main streets, random pastures, to closed or no-longer-in-service access roads, and areas that had clearly ONLY been appropriate for vehicles when there wasn't any flooding. (fast forward 12 hours and we heard the news telling us to beware of flash flooding, so that gives an idea of the kind of weather we were facing, but I digress).

We got to the start line, and everyone had their rain gear on... except me. Living in South Florida, I find that the rain is actually more refreshing than a nuisance... particularly when running or walking for exercise... it really shouldn't surprise anyone that I don't even own a raincoat. And a poncho? I should have had one of those... but because I love the rain, I didn't think that I would actually need one. What I had forgotten is that in places other than South Florida, the rain is not only wet, but it is accompanied by a raw cold. Yikes. I quickly found a trashbag and tore some holes into it for my arms and head. Good enough for government work.

Though the park was enormous, the course itself was short. It was just over a mile out and back, meaning that we had to collect either 8 or 9 rubberbands plus do one extra lap for the half marathon distance... These short courses can get monotonous after awhile and having limited visibility because of the storm didn't make it any better. About 4 miles into the race, I stopped at the car to strip off my ipod and my garmin timer... lest they be ruined in the rain. Clint told us that because the storm had stirred up, we could stop in our cars or take cover in the shelters, pausing our timers and have that time subtracted from our finish time if we wanted to. My thought was that unless it was lightening out, I couldn't see any reason to stop. We kept going.

I found myself remembering a moment years ago when I was caught in torrential downpours in La Vega, Dominican Republic. We had been shopping for supplies for the dental clinic, and the skies opened up on us and we couldn't find anywhere to take shelter so my friends Becky, Steve and I kicked off our extra layers of clothing and our shoes and we joined a bunch of school children who were frolicking in the runoff from the roofs. We danced, we laughed, we giggled, we threw water at each other, and what could have been a miserable afternoon turned into something that years later still brings a smile to my face.

It was remembering that afternoon in the Dominican Republic that really transformed this race. The roads were flooding in places as the storm drains couldn't keep up. We were soaked to the core, and going through calf high water in places was enough to really ruin a person's mood. In a split second I realized that feeling miserable was only going to make things worse and adopted a fake it till you make it attitude.

I jumped into the very next puddle that I saw. It was halfway up my calves and the water went everywhere!

And then I jumped into the next, and the next, and the next. And when people started laughing, I started kicking water around like a 3 year old in a puddle instead of a 30 something year old. And I was having the time of my life. I even randomly hugged another guy who was going the opposite direction... just because he looked like a soggy cat. And then I splashed some more.

And when we got to our final lap, and collected our rubber bands, I was ready for that last lap, and I was prepared to make the biggest splashes yet! It was going to be epic.

But not 20 yards into the final lap, my walking partner re-counted her bands and we realized there was a discrepancy. She had one more than I did. I must have lost a rubber band when I stripped a layer off at the car!

We turned around and hauled our butts back to the finishline to report our times. I was having so much fun, I was prepared to do an extra few laps! But alas, it was over.

I had a finish time of 4:11:30, 11 seconds faster than day 2, but who cares? It was 4+ hours of playing in the rain... I'd have blisters for weeks and I wouldn't be able to get warm for the next 3 days, but it was worth it!

To be continued...

*Disclaimer: Nearly none of the photos that you will see in the posts about this trip are mine. I chose to not bring my camera with me during the races and instead rely on other people. To the people who have contributed photos to help tell this story, I am thankful.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Riverboat Series Day 2, Meeman-Shelby State Park (TN) - April 13, 2014

This is part 2 of a 5 part series about the 5 half marathons in 5 consecutive days in 5 states trip that I recently took which was hosted by Mainly Marathons.

Part 1, and Kentucky, can be found here.

Like I mentioned in my last post about this trip, the days seemingly blended together. To me, the parks we were running in seemed fairly indistinguishable from the next, and other than the course on day one in Kentucky, they seemed fairly unremarkable. No worries though, because the reason that I do these series is less about seeing interesting places and more about spending time with interesting people.

Day 2's course was plotted through the Meeman-Shelby State Park. According to the Tennesee Parks Website, "Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park is a 13,476-acre hardwood bottomland area bordering the mighty Mississippi River 13 miles north of Memphis featuring mature Bald Cypress and Tupelo swamp. Most of the facilities are on top of the majestic Chickasaw Bluffs that rise from the bottomlands and are covered with large oaks, American beech, hickory and sweet gum. There are 10 state Champion Trees and two National Champion Trees as well as endangered and protected plants. Deer, turkey, otter, beaver, foxes and bobcats are plentiful throughout the forest. Over 200 species of songbirds, waterfowl, shorebirds and birds of prey, including the American Bald Eagle can be seen; the area is a favorite for bird-watchers."

We only got to see a small area of the park, as this was a 6+1 lap course, but what we saw on that course left an impression on me. I think that if I had to choose one word to describe this race, it would be Green. The course started in the parking lot near a picnic area, and we quickly found ourselves trekking through what felt like a living and breathing canopy of greenery. I had never seen colors quite like this and it felt like it was comforting in ways that I am not sure I could even put into words. This was by FAR, my favorite course of the Riverboat Series.

I know I've mentioned it before, but when I first registered for this series, I had hoped that I would be able to run all 5 races and in some way redeem myself from what I perceived as poor performance during the Center of the Nation Series back in September, but with my injuries never quite healing on schedule and then feeling residual weakness, I knew this wasn't going to happen for me during this series. Day 1 in Kentucky didn't help. My right hip really took a beating during the first day, and I was still scared of reinjury to my right heel and ankle... I had gotten a massage the day before which helped me tremendously, but I was definitely afraid of pushing myself. Through the help of some pharmaceutical intervention, I was able to cut the pain a bit, but I felt myself holding back. Though I was walking the course, I wanted more than anything to run, finish and do well, but even finishing at a walk meant getting out of my own head and letting myself go a bit. And in letting go, I kept finding myself getting distracted by the sheer beauty around me. I guess there are worse things to be distracted by...

You know that scene in Twilight where Bella and Edward are getting married and it this surreal forest wedding and they are blanketed by the most amazing foliage? That's the only thing that I can really equate this course to. Of course it wasn't really like this, and of course there were no glittering quasi-vampires or bad actresses, but still, this is what it felt like to me. And it made me happy. And it made me linger on the course.... taking each and every moment in, enjoying the simple fact that I was alive to experience this.

And then there were the butterflies. The only wildlife that I saw out there were the surreal moments where I was surrounded by the most beautiful groupings of butterflies that I ever saw. Butterflies are very special to me (did you know that the Monarch's DNA actually changes when it transforms from caterpillar to butterfly, something that I had always wished that I could do when I left my family of birth for my family of rearing), so this was a really neat experience in and of itself.

I don't have that much more to say about this race or the course, other than to say that I enjoyed each and every moment of it. My times reflected the constant lollygagging and self-reflection that I stopped for... and normally slower times would have bothered me... but looking back. I almost wished that I had taken MORE time on this course.

Finish time: 4:11:41

My time had me coming in last place for the half marathoners that day, qualifying me to receive the infamous gator bait (last place finisher) award. The award is on the sill above my desk, and every time I glance up, I am reminded of what a surreal experience this was. Thank you to Clint and the folks at Mainly Marathons for bringing me to this magical location.

To be continued...

*Disclaimer: Nearly none of the photos that you will see in the posts about this trip are mine. I chose to not bring my camera with me during the races and instead rely on other people. To the people who have contributed photos to help tell this story, I am thankful.