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