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