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Walt Disney World Half Marathon Recap – 1:39:39

23 Jan

Initially I had intended for this to be a goal race but as is typically the case for me, life had other plans.  After two months of nursing a knee injury, only to then be walloped with a cold-turned-bronchitis, I was left with total uncertainty as to how this race would go.

The one confidence booster I had was a workout Megan and I did the week prior – 1 mile warmup, 3 @ MP, 2 @ HMP, 2 @ MP.   I hit 8:07, 7:59, 8:01/7:24, 7:23/8:10, 8:06 and felt pretty decent.  The 7:2x paces felt a little aggressive, but I was pleasantly surprised at how easy the 8ish paced miles felt.  Worst case scenario: squeak in under 1:45 and not completely embarrass myself.

Mostly I was excited to bust out of the frozen tundra for a while and enjoy a much needed long weekend with friends.

Megan and I hit the expo on Friday; our seed times put us in the A corral and we both geeked out a little over this.  Feeling fast is not something I’m used to.  We walked around the expo for a bit and then headed out to grab lunch and buy some throwaway clothes – we totally underestimated how cold it actually was in Florida!

walt-disney-half-marathon-expo-bibs

Cheesin’ at the expo. I really dig this quote.

Race morning came sooner than usual but thanks to my old lady ability to fall asleep unreasonably early, I was able to get around 6 hours of sleep.  For those who don’t know, Disney races start at the crack of freaking dawn and because you need enough time to get to the start corrals, it means freakishly early alarms.  Like, 2:45am style alarms.  I don’t know if I’ve ever seen 2:45am sober before.

Race morning routine, same as usual.  Gulp some coffee, eat a Picky Bar, get dressed, stretch out a little, drink water.  We got to Epcot with plenty of time and hung out in the warm car for a bit while some other friends went to get their bibs.  Then we started the trek to the corrals.

It’s actually a fairly long walk to get from the parking area to the starting area, but there are tons of open porta-potties along the way and ample room to warm up once you get there.  Nice logistics, Disney.  +1 for that.

Finally it was time to line up and we geeked out a little more over the A corral business.  Before I knew it, we were off.

disney-half-marathon-race-start

 

The release of each new corral is signified by lighting off fireworks, and it was pretty cool to listen for them as we took off into the night.  Megan and I said goodbye and set off to do our own thing.  It was windy and my plan was to just run by feel until we got to the Magic Kingdom; it should be all tailwind from there.

The first five miles are kind of a blur.  I remember looking around a lot and trying to take it all in.  Then trying not to trip over people.  I wasn’t running very smoothly – I would start picking it up, then get nervous the pace was too aggressive and try to back off.  It took me a while to find my groove but I ended up settling in (7:39, 7:36, 7:34, 7:29, 7:31)

The course then goes by the Contemporary Resort and heads for the Magic Kingdom.  I wouldn’t consider myself a Disney fanatic by any stretch of the imagination, but I do have fond memories of vacationing there as a kid. Honestly, I feel lame for saying this but I got a little emotional running down Main St. and around the castle.  I thought a lot about my family – and my dad in particular – during this mile and I got all goosebumpy and teary eyed.  What a turd.

running-in-the-kingdom

Oooh look, a squirrel

I thought exciting Magic Kingdom would be kind of a let down, but it ended up being the opposite – I felt like the hard part was over and now I could cruise with the tailwind for a little bit.  I remember picking it up a bit because Shake It Off was blasting over some loudspeakers and that song is basically guaranteed to put me in a good mood.  I remember thinking how much fun I was having and just being very grateful.  This is all so uncharacteristic of me, I usually am hating life and mankind and myself and maybe even Taylor Swift by mile 7 of a half.

I kept plugging along in good spirits until about mile 10. (7:31, 7:30, 7:33, 7:29, 7:29)

That’s when the wheels started coming off.  We were running back into the wind for a bit and I felt like I couldn’t breathe.  I told myself to not wuss out but not kill myself either.  In retrospect, I think I could’ve pushed myself harder through these miles but in the moment, my inability to take a good deep breath was freaking me out.  Maybe that was justification for being a wimp, or maybe it was smart.  I’m not going to dwell on it too much. (7:43, 7:39)

Finally in the last mile, I could see my Garmin and realized I could squeak in under 1:40.  I also told myself to stop being a little bitch and actually run – there’s only one mile left.  Unfortunately, this seemed to be where the majority of the race photographers were located and daaaaaang do I make some ugly faces while I run.  This bothers me because hey – I’m running a race wearing a skirt for fuck’s sake.  Clearly I’m only doing this for cute race photos.

pain-face

I am screaming on the inside.

Finally I saw the finish line and boom, that was that. (7:29, 7:10 for the last .1)

Megan and I celebrated and cheesed it up a bit in our mutually delirious state.

walt-disney-half-marathon-medals

Hashtag precious.

We headed back to the car to celebrate a bit and revel in the fact that we were done for the weekend.  A few of our friends were running the Goofy and a few were running the full but us?  Yeah, beer us.  Immediately.

race-celebration

Hashtag precious, part 2.

Overall, I was thrilled with the way this race went.  Sure, I’ve got some work to do – but leading up to this, I was running 25 miles per week and most of those miles were 10 minute pace on a treadmill.  This is also the best I’ve ever run so early in the year which leaves me feeling motivated and excited for 2015.

In summary: this was one of the most positive posts I think I have ever written and it made me realize I am feeling very positive in general right now.  So strange, kind of love it.  Hope it sticks around.

walt-disney-half-marathon

Empire State Half Marathon Recap

3 Nov sharkeys-post-race

After two weeks of taper, a disappointing marathon, two weeks of essentially no running, and then 3 weeks of around 30mpw, I was feeling … out of shape.  I’ve gained a little bit of weight, I haven’t really felt sharp or speedy or fresh, everything has been a little blah.  It’s not a great way to feel, for one, but it’s also hard to plan for a spring race schedule and set some goals when you have no idea where your fitness is.

So I decided to race the Empire State Half.  The nice thing about hometown races is that it’s real easy to make a last minute decision to enter, albeit a questionable financial call ($85 for a half that goes through a park that I frequently run in?  Yeah.  That was a bit hard to swallow.)

I had no idea what to expect from this race.  I really thought anything from a 1:35-1:45 was possible depending on how I felt that morning… and then I saw the weather forecast.  40 degrees at the start and 15mph winds gusting to 26mph?  SWEET!  Especially brutal because, as anyone who has ever run/roller bladed/biked/walked at the Onondaga Lake Parkway will tell you (there is nothing to block the wind coming off of the lake and it is fairly miserable to be heading into it for what seems like an eternity).

The one upside?  We’d have a headwind for the first half, not the second.  Therefore my strategy was to run by effort and make it to the turnaround feeling decent – then lay the proverbial hammer down.

I met up with Laura right at the start – we chatted, complained about the weather, and tried to stay warm in the car.  She eventually took off to run a short warm-up; I opted out because my stomach was feeling unstable.  The nice thing about this race is that the parking lot is right next to the start line, so I was able to hang out in my car until just a couple minutes before the gun went off.  I scooted over to the start and quickly found a friend from my running group.  Before I knew it, we were off.

I tried to settle into a comfortable groove; my feet were frozen solid but otherwise, I was feeling ok.  We had a nice little group working as we ran up 370 towards the entrance to the parkway.  I saw my friend Megan cheering around mile 3; it was great to see her and it definitely gave me a little boost.  I knew the hardest wind section was coming up, so I committed to just keeping the pace honest but in control.

empire-state-half-marathon-y-runners

Running buds! Trying to stay calm and focused during the first 5k.

My feet started to thaw out around mile 3, but the sensation was replaced by what felt like the onset of a really bad calf cramp.  I remember thinking that it was like there were icicles in my feet that had gravitated upwards into my calves, causing them to feel cold, stiff, and sore.  I tried to back off a bit and make sure I wasn’t overextending myself by forcing a certain pace into the headwind.  Splits for mile 4 and 5 were a bit slower, but whatever the issue was, it started working itself out and I felt a lot better by mile 6.  (I think if I had actually run a warmup, this wouldn’t have been an issue.  Oh well.)

Somewhere around here I saw Laura on the turnaround – she looked so great!  Super focused and running well.  I knew it was time to buckle down and see what I had left.  I hit the turnaround and just started cruising.

The miles from 6.5 to 10 just flew by.  I felt SO good – I knew I was working but it felt smooth and in control.

I saw Megan again at mile 10 and tossed her my gloves and my GU.  My stomach hadn’t bothered me at all during the race but I was definitely feeling questionable before the start, and decided not to chance it.  I didn’t take any water during the race either, for the same reason. (Typically I’ll take a gel around mile 7 if I think I can handle it – not really sure if this helps or not.)

Right after I ran by the mini cheer squad, I started to feel the hurt.  I just reminded myself that the last 5K of a half should hurt and told myself to keep running honestly, no purposefully back off, and see what happens.  The last stretch on 370 is pretty lonely which didn’t help either –  no spectators and the runners were really spaced out at this point, so I was just humming along by myself.

Finally I made it to the mall and so started the series of turns that would take me to the finish.

empire-state-half-marathon-finish

Oh my god, both of my feet are off the ground. It’s like I’m actually running and not just crapping my pants.

My calves were so, so sore during the last few miles and it felt like I was crawling.  I was trying to ignore my watch because I really didn’t want to know how much I had slowed down.  Once I could see the finish line, I just thew everything I had into it.  Making epic pain train faces like it’s my job.

empire-state-half-marathon-finish-line

What in the actual hell am I doing with my hand?

I won’t lie – I was a little disappointed to see the clock at 1:38:xx when I crossed.  I knew I had been running strong for the second half and I was in PR territory.  Unfortunately, I ran the tangents like a moron.  Nothing you can do about that except try to be more aware of it next time.  That disappointment quickly went away when I realized I still ran one of my fastest times on a day when I wasn’t even sure I could manage 8-minute pace.

Net Time: 1:38:24

14/714 females

2/107 age group

empire-state-half-marathon-splits

Pleasantly surprised that my last mile was the fastest, despite feeling like I was crawling.

After the race (which my incredible and amazing friend WON, by the way), we headed over to Sharkey’s to eat, drink and be merry.  The official post race party was supposed to be there – I say supposed to because it seemed like very few runners knew about it.  Which is a shame – not only is this one of my favorite bars, but they had a bunch of free food for the runners and plenty of space to hang out for a beer or two.  Hopefully the race does a better job of advertising this next year!

sharkeys-post-race

Stolen from Laura because I think it’s adorable.

All in all, it was a fabulous day and I’m happy with what I was able to do.  On to the next!

Fall (Summer?) 2014 Marathon Training Recap

12 Aug

In a way, I feel like I’ve been training for this marathon since the beginning of the year.  When I was trying to build back from the litany of injuries that derailed my fall 2013 plans, I always had an eventual fall marathon in mind.  And in a lot of ways, once I decided on a race and declared I was “officially” training for a marathon, there wasn’t a lot of change in what I was doing week to week.

For brevity’s sake, however, I’ll start this recap with the week of May 12th, which I think was the date we decided was the real start of training.

 

Week Of: Total Mileage: Key Workouts: Long Run: Comments:
05/12 43 None 15.03 Easy, base-building miles.
05/19 35.8 Buffalo Half Marathon in 1:39:30 14.6 (half, plus warm-up) Tapered just slightly for the race so overall mileage was lower.
05/26 43.8 None 15.12 More easy miles post-race.
06/02 49.1 6 mile tempo: 7:27, 7:17, 7:21, 7:16, 7:23, 7:07 (7:19 avg) 16.42 Solid tempo and long run along with overall increase in miles.
06/09 51.9 – 25 (30?) minutes of hill repeats

– 4×1 mile repeats w/400m rest: 6:51, 6:49, 6:57, 6:54

16.3 Quads were hurting from the start of the mile repeat workout but was able to push through. Thought I’d be dead for the long run but still held a 9:15ish pace.
06/16 48.9 – Ladder: 1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1; 5:43-5:59-6:33-6:41-6:52-6:49-6:57-6:47-6:07- 6 mile MP Tempo: avg 7:55 pace 17 Wanted to run 8-8:10 for MP tempo (ran it watchless) so I was happy to see my pace was close. Started to experience some groin/front-of-hip pain that progressed throughout the week.
06/23 41.2 7 mile MP Tempo: avg 8:16 pace 17.51 Groin/hip pain persisted and so I modded Tuesday’s speedwork to attempt another MP tempo. It didn’t go very well. Took an extra rest day and ran very easy miles the rest of the week. Got through the long run without pain intensifying.
06/30 43.3 5K Race – 21:12 16.18 More easy miles leading up to the race. Groin/hip pain still present, but not worsening.
07/07 44.8 None 12.47 Ran the Boilermaker with my bf and wasn’t sure what to do in terms of mileage or workouts. Didn’t want to trash my legs just in case. Ended up being a fun week of easy miles.
07/14 53.6 45 minute tempo – covered 6.3 miles/7:10 average pace. 17.49 Groin/hip feeling better this week. Tempo felt very good, even with poor weather conditions, and managed a big negative split. Then came the crash – this was supposed to be the first 20-miler of the cycle. Both my friend and I felt like SHIT the whole way, to the point where even a run/walk approach wasn’t cutting it. Had to call it at 17.5 miles. This was probably the lowest point of training, thus far.
07/21 45.4 Short intervals – 6x(60/90/30 seconds w/short recoveries) 20 Like the big dummy I am, I managed to tweak my hamstring running the short interval workout. I need to be fucking smarter about this. My body just doesn’t handle short and fast speed work. Took an extra rest day. Did, however, manage to get to 20 miles for the long run, which had felt entirely impossible the prior week. Win some, lose some.
07/28 50.6 Long strength intervals – 2x(5/7/3 minutes w/short recoveries) 21.52 Hamstring improving, but the last 3 minute interval aggravated it a little bit. All the intervals were sub-7:00 pace, so all-in-all, a workout with 30 minutes of ~5K pace running. Felt good. Followed up with a really fun and productive long run. A++ week.
08/04 52.5 60 minute tempo – covered 8.35 miles/7:15 average pace 22.5 Still contending with various “niggles” but had a really strong week. Very happy with the long tempo and had a fantastic long run with my friend. Hilly run and still managed a 9:08 pace.  This was probably the strongest week of training I’ve ever thrown down.

 

What has worked well for me:

  • More tempos
  • Higher mileage (for me) – a 40 mile week used to be a peak week for me; it’s nice to know that even when I’m feeling like I’m on the brink of a potential injury, I can “step back” to a 40-45 mile week and that does the trick
  • Starting with a good long run base – prior to “officially” starting training, I was routinely doing 2h-2h:15m long runs. The long runs used to be the hardest part of marathon training for me, and while I am not ready to say they are easy quite yet, they don’t take it out of me quite as much as they used to.

What hasn’t worked so well:

  • Adding a second workout while increasing mileage – I loved doing the second workout, but next time I want to keep my weekly mileage stable when I add it in.
  • Short speed workouts – yeah, my body just can’t handle anything faster than about 6:35 pace without combusting. I should probably figure out why that is.

And so here we are: 2 more weeks of real training, and then it’s taper time. I’ll try to recap those weeks in real-time (aka, stop being such a slouch).  As of right now, I am on the up-swing of the training roller coaster and I hope that it stays that way.

 

Are you training for a goal race this fall?  Which one, and how is it going?

Please tell me someone else out there shares the rollercoaster training feeling.

Buffalo Half Marathon Race Recap – 1:39:30

2 Jun

Pre-Race

Last year, I woke up the morning of this race at 3am and made the 2+ hour drive to Buffalo.  While it wasn’t the worst (or craziest) thing I’ve ever done, as this year’s race day drew closer I was feeling less and less like that was a thing I wanted to do again.  Luckily, Laura was also wanting to avoid a super early wake up and our fabulous friend Britt volunteered to host us for the night prior.  Umm, girls slumber party?  Does not require much arm twisting.

sleepover

I drove to Rochester to meet up with Laura, saw her work and her new adorable apartment, and then we headed to Buffalo.  We arrived without too much incident and headed to the expo.  Typical girl shenanigans followed: carbs, more carbs, meaningless chatter, lots of foam rolling, beer, and wine ice cream.  We stayed up way too late and tried way too hard to get a futon unfolded.  It was everything you could possibly ask for in a pre-race evening.

All the pre-race essentials right here.

All the pre-race essentials right here.

Race Morning

Buffalo was originally my goal race for the spring, but after running well at New Jersey and wanting to turn my focus towards building my base mileage back up since then, I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do … or what I would even be capable of.  I tapered for NJ and did not do so for Buffalo, so I really had no idea what to expect out of my legs.  I had decided that I wouldn’t start so slow that I might sabotage a PR attempt, but I also wouldn’t push too hard for it if the legs weren’t having it that day.  I wanted to put in an honest effort but not totally destroy myself, if that makes sense.

Britt’s apartment was very close to the start, which was perfect.  Laura and I ran the approximately 1.5 miles with Britt escorting us via bike; I remember my chest feeling very heavy and my breathing felt labored even though we were running ~9 min/mile pace.  Not very comforting.

I tried to shake it off; we met up with Laura’s sister who was running the full, said some good lucks and have funs, and then hustled our butts into the corrals.

Miles 1-3:  7:38, 7:22, 7:17

I find it amusing that my first split in every decent half I’ve ever run has been 7:38.  Apparently this is my magic “sorta hard but don’t go out too fast” pace?

I felt like I was working fairly hard, but I felt like shit during the first two miles of NJ as well so I told myself not to let up too much.  During mile 3, you could see the leaders on the turnaround and I spent my time looking for Laura.  This apparently was a very good distraction, as this ended up being my fastest mile of the race.  Note to self: run more out-and-back courses.

Miles 4-6: 7:30, 7:38, 7:27

WHY AM I SEEING ALL THESE 7:3xs.  WHY ARE THESE MILES TAKING FOREVER.

why-am-i-doing-this

It’s never good when you’re ready to be done at mile 5.  It’s also never good when your stomach is starting to feel a little off and you’re questioning why you didn’t make one last bathroom stop before the start.

Miles 7-8: 7:26, 7:33

The first .35ish miles of this segment was great – it was the last section of Delaware Ave and was relatively close to the finish, so the sidewalks were thick with spectators and hubbub and music and all that fun stuff that makes you forget how much you are NOT feeling this race.

However.  You then make a turn onto Niagara which is probably the worst section of the entire race.  This street was part of the old race course, but it used to be mile 1.5ish-2.5ish – early enough where you didn’t care that the street was shitty, the area looked rundown as hell, and there were no people around.  At mile 7 of a bad race, though … I remember purposefully looking for a street sign so I could curse it in an appropriate manner.  I grunted “Niagara Street, you are stealing my fucking soul right now” and some guy passing me gave me a dirty look.  I love making friends during races.

zero-fucks

The other fun thing about this section is that my mild stomach discomfort turned to a very distinct sloshing sensation.  I AM HAVING SO MUCH FUN RIGHT NOW!!

Mile 9: 8:26

Ha.  Ha ha.  Ha ha ha.  The sloshing in my stomach persisted and all my focus went to determining if I could make it to the end or not.  At mile 8.52, a single porta-potty appeared directly to my left and I was immediately so happy to see it, I could swear it was glowing around the edges.  I darted in and tried to make it as quick as possible, but I ended up losing about a minute.  To be honest, I’m pretty frustrated by this only because it continues to be a theme in my races.  I should like, do something to figure out why this happens or something.  Hmm.

Miles 10-13.1: 7:33, 7:29, 7:28, 7:35, 1:06 (7:28 pace)

When I exited the porta-potty, the 1:40 pace group was directly in front of me.  This was probably the saving grace of the rest of my race.  I hopped out in front of them and kept telling myself “do NOT let them pass you.”  I wasn’t sure how my legs would react after the pop-n-squat and I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised that they didn’t cramp up or start refusing to cooperate.

Pretending Im happy at mile 11.5ish

Pretending I’m happy at mile 11.5-ish

At this point though, the chest-lung-breathing thing that I experienced during the warm-up caught up to me.  Every time I tried to take a deep breath, it hurt my lungs and I felt like I was going to choke.  I just tried to hang tough with whatever I had left, and stick to my mantra of “do not let them pass you.”  It certainly was not the fast finish that I had in me for NJ, but I can’t say I’m disappointed with the overall time.

DONE.  Finally.

DONE. Finally.

Overall: 1:39:30, 45/2110 females, 9/428 age group

 

garmin-splits-buffalo-half

 

I saw Laura and Britt immediately after I finished and I stopped in the chute to complain about my complete inability to breathe properly.  I was happy in a weird way to hear that Laura had experienced the same thing – we both realized it was pretty damn humid outside and neither of us have really had a chance to acclimate to the weather.  Sometimes I wonder if I’m just being a big baby, so when the girls with elite numbers have similar issues, it makes me feel less like I’m just composed entirely of wuss genes.

Here is the medal I got for my wussiness.

Here is the medal I got for my wussiness.

I realize this recap sounds like more complaining than anything else, and honestly, I’m rubbing myself the wrong way even as I type this (heh heh … TWSS).  This was my 3rd fastest half marathon ever, I should be nothing but happy – and again, it’s not really the time itself I’m upset with, more the actual race experience.  It wasn’t pleasant.  That being said, I am definitely grateful that even on a bad day, I can still come in under 1:40.  I finally really feel like “I’m back” after a slow, gradual build up of mileage and fitness over the winter.  I am excited to get back to my weekly routine, get back to speed work, and to not pin a bib on for a while.

A Very New Jersey Weekend

2 May

There was a lot of excitement this past weekend beyond that lil’ old race I ran.  In no specific order, here are some of the highlights:

1.  Going to Wawa

WaWa

Umm I think I was talking about this on Instagram for probably the entire month of April.  Dear Wawa, please extend your chain into Upstate New York.  Your coffee is the best gas station coffee I have ever had.  Love, Heather.

 

2. Going to Vincentown Diner

There was a lot of hype over this diner and I have to say, every word of it was true.  Typically when I go to diners I stick to breakfast food, but the menu here was really quite extensive and all of it sounded delicious.  I went with a Reuben, but also really wanted to try a few of their salads and burgers.  Next time, Vincentown.  Next time.  We all also gorged ourselves on dessert and basically waddled back to Hollie’s afterwards.  It was fantastic.

Sometimes we wear things that arent spandex.

Sometimes we wear things that arent spandex.

 

3. Meeting Hollie’s fiance aka Fueledbyfuel aka Mr. LOLZ

He showed up with a box full of red velvet cake.  Enough said.

In all seriousness, it was great to get to know Tim a little bit and I don’t think he was too offended by our ridiculousness.  Though we did ask him to take quite a few photos …

Setting out for a nice 6 miler around Hollies neighborhood.

Setting out for a nice 6 miler around Hollie’s neighborhood.

 

4. Learning about gypsies

There are some amazing shows on TLC.  I’ll leave it at that.

 

5. Going to yet another diner post-race

Get in my face immediately.

Get in my face immediately.

They put my eggs on top of my french toast and for some reason, I thought this was the greatest idea ever.  I’ll blame low blood sugar.

 

6. Spending time with two of the most fun people on the planet

Saying our goodbyes.

Saying our goodbyes.

Hopefully it won’t be too much longer before our next adventure.

 

Where was the last place you road-tripped to?  Do you love New Jersey diners as much as I do? 

New Jersey Half Marathon Race Recap – 1:38:05

30 Apr

A few months ago, Hollie talked me into coming down to New Jersey to visit and run this race.  Actually “talked me into” makes it sound like a lot of effort on her behalf- I’m pretty sure all it took was one Facebook post.  But I digress.

Originally I intended to shoot for about a 1:40 at this race, but after a handful of decent workouts in the past few weeks, I started to wonder if I was in slightly better shape.  Due to that, and to the fact that my fall racing plans impact my plan of making Buffalo my goal race (more on that later), I went into this race thinking that I would race it all out and let the chips fall where they may.

Laying out my race gear usually gets my mind in the game the night before.  I do this for about 2 percent of all my races.

Laying out my race gear usually gets my mind in the game the night before. I do this for about 2 percent of all my races.

Pre-Race:

I was trying to be enthusiastic, but due to poor logistics at the expo and realizing that the half started way earlier than I thought it did, I was sort of stumbling around Hollie’s house like a zombie.  I finally pulled myself together, procured a cup of coffee, and we all hit the road.  On the way there, I distinctly remember telling Laura that my main mission would be to find a porta-potty (foreshadowing! wee, fun!).  I also felt myself starting to get hungry, and ate half of a Picky Bar I found in my car (more foreshadowing! such fun!).

We got somewhat close to the race start at Monmouth Park and then boom!  Huge line of cars.  The volunteers at the expo had warned about this, and I honestly thought we left early enough to avoid the traffic but apparently we underestimated just how bad the congestion would be.  By the time we were able to park and I pinned my bib on, it was 6:30am – leaving only 15 minutes until the start of the race.

Let me spare you the agonizing details and just say that I had a choice to make: stay in line, use the bathroom, and fight through the hordes of walkers or get my butt to my corral and find out how long I could run before an emergency situation popped up.  I chose the corral.

Miles 1-2

As soon as the gun went off for the wheelchair start, I realized I didn’t have my Gu.  Typically this wouldn’t have been a deal breaker, but I woke up so full from the night before that I didn’t eat a real breakfast.  As I mentioned above, I did have half a Picky but I didn’t trust that could fuel me through a PR half marathon attempt.

I stood there waiting for my corral to be released and realized that having to poop and facing the almost certain bonk that was waiting at mile 10ish was probably not going to make for the best race ever.  I decided to run by feel and not force the pace.

I started just behind the 1:40 pace group and tried to hang with them for the first two miles.  I felt like I was working too hard to keep that pace.  I told myself, it’s just not your day.  Hang tough for as long as you can, and readjust your goal to 1:41-1:42.

Miles 3-5

The only thing I remember from this section of the race is the mental struggle to stay positive.  I kept my head down and did my own thing, not looking at my Garmin, and just tried to enjoy myself.  I got ahead of the 1:40 group at some point here, and thought about how funny it would be when they swallowed me back up later in the race.

Miles 6-10

At this point, I caught up to a handful of girls and one guy who was cracking the cheesiest jokes as loud as he could.  I stayed with him for a mile or two and honestly – he was the biggest difference in my mental game.  I was laughing out loud and joking back with him.  It was genuinely fun, and for once, my race photos actually reflect that I might actually like this silly running thing.

Dare I say ... Im enjoying myself??

Dare I say … I’m enjoying myself??

I eventually broke away from the funny guy and realized that I wasn’t feeling nearly as bad as I thought I would.  My lead-legs were gone, and my stomach – thought a bit uncomfortable – was not entirely revolting.  I was still worried about my lack of fuel, and was disappointed to have not seen gels being handed out on the course.  I told myself to keep ignoring the Garmin and keep the pace steady.

Miles 11-12

think it was around mile 11 where I saw the best cheerleaders!  I was so totally in a zone at this point that when spectators started popping up with more frequency on the course, it didn’t really phase me.  All of a sudden though, I thought I heard a familiar voice – and sure enough, Laura and Danielle!  I was so happy to see them; I wasn’t sure if I was actually going to see anyone out on the course because the rushed start led to somewhat uncertain logistics.

wave-hi

 

Seeing the girls put a spring in my step, all the way until the final turn onto the boardwalk.

At this point, it felt like you should be almost done, but my watch only read 11.8 miles.  The wind – although not terrible at around 12MPH – was now a direct headwind.  For some reason, I was still afraid I was going to bonk and told myself to just stay in the comfortable pace zone.  I think I was mostly just traumatized from previous terrible boardwalk finishes at races in Virginia Beach.

Miles 13-Finish

When I passed the mile 12 marker, I finally had the guts to look at my watch.  That was the first point I realized that I was close to a PR.  I was having a hard time figuring out how that was possible, but I knew with only a little over a mile left, it was time to push.

Somehow, even in the last mile of a race, on the  boardwalk, into the wind, I was still all smiles.  I don't even know who I am anymore.

Somehow, even in the last mile of a race, on the boardwalk, into the wind, I was still all smiles. I don’t even know who I am anymore.

When I finally saw the finish line, I knew it was going to be close, and I just tried to sprint as hard as I could. Unfortunately, I came up a little short.

This is my aw crap what the fuck face.

This is my “aw crap what the fuck” face.

My “aw crap” moment only lasted for about a second.  Even though I was 20 seconds shy of a PR, I honestly never expected to have this kind of race on that day.  I wasn’t sure that I could pull it off even if everything went smoothly pre-race, and obviously, not everything did.  To have run by feel for the majority of the race, while having fun, and turn in my second fastest half ever?  I’ll call that a success any day of the week.

nj-half-marathon-splits

Syracuse Half Marathon Race Recap

4 Apr

I will first of all admit that I was not highly enthused for this race.  Coming off a week of being sick (strep throat, a lot of fun) and then leaving for a week of work travel (which was actually about as fun as a work trip can get), my head was not really in “let’s go run hard” mode.  Waking up to discover single-degree temps and fairly heavy snow killed whatever inkling of excitement I had left.

Thankfully, I knew Laura was coming out to race and I figured it’d look real bad if she came all the way from Rochester to run and I bailed.  I’m pretty sure that’s an unforgivable offense, actually.  So I adjusted my planned wardrobe, brewed a cup of coffee, and headed out the door.

Photo shamelessly stolen from Laura.  My wardrobe was Running Snowsuit, aka wearing-four-layers-of-shirts-and-a-jacket.

Photo shamelessly stolen from Laura. My wardrobe was Running Snowsuit, aka wearing-four-layers-of-shirts-and-a-jacket.

The snow stopped by race start, but it snowed enough to cover the streets and there wasn’t enough time for the sun or DPW trucks to do anything about it.  Spoiler alert: running on snowy, icy streets sucks.

Going into this race, I was hoping to pull off a 1:45 with a moderate effort.  I met up with some friends from my running group at the start; they planned to run 8:15s and see how it felt after a few miles so I decided to tag along.  The only real hill in this race is in mile 2, so I knew I wanted to back off that pace if necessary to avoid killing myself at you know … mile freaking 2 of a half marathon.

Miles 1-6: 8:09, 8:31, 8:02, 8:01, 7:56, 8:04

The pace felt real easy during these miles; the most frustrating part was running in the snow and slush.  Not a single step I took felt stable and I was entirely convinced I was going to bite it.  Part of the problem here was that the road conditions made it tough to follow the actual course – the lead runners were largely running in any tire tracks in the road (I presume that was their intent, at least), and so, the mid-packers followed.  It was the best shot at not slipping, but it also was setting everyone up for terrible tangents as we were all running outside of the cones.

Race leader coming down a slippery hill.

Race leader coming down a slippery hill.

(source)
((also a great article about the race, go check it out))

 

Miles 7-10: 7:41, 7:53, 7:41, 7:51

My tangents were bad enough by this point that I tried to start manually lapping my watch.  This makes interpreting my splits kind of goofy so stay with me here.  Just after mile 6 we made the turn on to Court St and I got really annoyed at the wind, and annoyed with the snow, and decided I wanted to be done sooner rather than later.  I didn’t want to kill it because it was still early, but I needed to feel more like I was moving.  I held pace with a couple of girls who might have been on a college team?  Or a running club, possibly.  They were wearing matching jackets with a logo and had a coach on the course who ran with them a few steps, but I can’t for the life of me remember what the logo said.  ANYWAY, they were running a fairly steady pace for a bit until they started taking selfies and then would lag and surge.  I don’t really need to inject my commentary here.  It suffices to say that I was frustrated by this.

Miles 11-13.1: 8:06, 7:46, 7:45, 7:00

Mile 11.  Good ol’ mile 11.  This section of the course covers part of the Creekwalk in downtown Syracuse.  On a nice day, it’s a gorgeous place to run.  On a day where it is ~15 degrees and has been snowing?  It’s essentially a death trap.

I made the incredibly stupid mistake of trying to pass a girl, stepped on a 3″ sheet of ice, and did a wildly elegant one-footed slide/hop type move while yelling “shit.  oh shit!  SHIT! I am sorry, I am so sorry!!”  I thought I was going down, and even worse, I thought I was going to take that poor girl with me.  Somehow, I recovered my balance but I slowwwwwwed down like crazy after that.  It didn’t get any better – the entire Creekwalk was sheer ice.  I yelled “shit!” a few more times and chatted with the runners around me about how we were all probably going to break our legs.  I’m sure they appreciated it.

This section kind of took the spring out of my step and I started to let myself get negative.  Somewhere around the mile 12 marker, I saw one of the coaches of our running group who shouted some encouraging words which was honestly the boost I needed to not limp it on in to the finish.

Catching flies?  No but really, why is my mouth hanging open?  Also it's probably time for a haircut, that is one out-of-control ponytail.

Despite photographic evidence to the contrary, I did not run this race stoned. Also it’s probably time for a haircut … that is one out-of-control ponytail.

 

I had 1:45:22 for 13.24 miles, 7:57 pace.  I’m pulling the annoying blogger move and giving you Garmin stats because I knowingly ran the tangents terribly.  (Although, to be fair, I thought I’d see more along the lines of 13.4 on my watch by the end.  But it makes me feel better, so deal with it.)

Afterwards, I met up with Laura and some of my other friends and we ate, chatted, and complained about the race.  Ha.  I think everyone was a lot slower this year than last year (I didn’t run last year, so I don’t have a personal data point) and the general consensus is that your time was probably good for at least 2-4 minutes faster, if not more, on a day with better conditions.

Now, I know that everyone out there is running the same race – I am again pulling another annoying blogger move to make myself feel better because I was S.O.R.E. the next few days.  So I’ll give myself an A for meeting my goal time-ish, and a B for the effort – it was more than a moderate effort to achieve that time, but I like to think it was equivalent to a 1:42ish on a better day. syracuse-half-marathon-medal

All that complaining aside, it was a fun day and anytime I get to see one of my good friends at a race is A+ in my book!  And I had no regrets about not rolling back over and going to bed that morning … isn’t that how it always goes?

Lake Effect Half Marathon Race Recap

5 Mar

Better late than never, right?

I won’t lie – I was way more excited about getting to see Hollie and Laura again, to meet Britt, and to hang out with the rest of my local running buds than I was to actually run this thing.  Back when I registered, I thought I’d be mid-marathon training and possibly in shape to go for a PR, assuming weather played along.  The thought of running a slow (for me) half as my first race of the season didn’t exactly have my panties in a twist with pre-race nerves and enthusiasm.

However, once it was actually Sunday morning, all of those being-way-too-hard-on-myself thoughts disappeared and I was ready to just have fun.

lake-effect-half-marathon-bib-medal

The weather was perfect: about 35 degrees and sunny, with only a slight breeze coming off of the lake. I should’ve adjusted my wardrobe accordingly as I started to overheat in the second half of the race, but live and learn, I suppose.

The course is a double out and back which would typically drive me nuts (especially since I do about 50% of my long runs in the park where the race is held, so it’s even less of an exciting scene for me).  What saves this race is the fact that I knew probably 30% or so of the people running it, and I had a blast awkwardly cheering for people as they passed by.

A couple of friends from my running group wanted to run 8:24s and since that perfectly aligned with my hoped-for pace, I joined in with them from the get-go.  It was nice to run and chat; between the cheering, we told a bunch of embarrassing stories, I bragged on my friends a bit, all the good stuff.  The first 5 miles flew by almost perfectly on pace, albeit with a bit of weaving and dodging during the first crowded mile.

It was a lot of surging and pulling back from miles 6-10.  My friend and I were feeling good, but we were being cautious about not blowing it too soon.

Around mile 11, I started feeling somewhat fatigued.  Not awful, just tired.  I let my friend go – he was ready to push, and I know he wanted to get as much under 1:50 as he could.  At some point I caught up to and kept pace with a very friendly woman for a bit.  It’s always kind of nice when you sync up with someone when you’re not feeling great – it keeps you both in it and for me at least, keeps my head from going totally negative.  Eventually she fell off the pace again, and I just kept pushing forward.

I kicked it in for the last .1, feeling ready to be done.  As soon as I crossed the finish, I realized how much I had left in the tank and was happy that I had run a truly honest effort – not easy, but not an all-out race – and had accomplished my hopeful time goal to match that type of effort.

lake-effect-half-marathon-garmin-splits

Obviously, this is where the fun really began.  I was 99% sure Hollie had pulled out the win since the last time I saw her, she had a decent lead on the second place female.  What I didn’t realize is that she killed it with an almost PR, and that Laura actually did pull out a PR even though she raced a 10k the day before.  After we caught up with each other, we changed quickly and waited for Britt who wasn’t too far behind me.  I was happy to see how well she did, especially given the bumpy road she’s been through over the past several months!

Super creeper pic of Hollie getting her 1st place award.  Laura and I creeped along like paparazzi weirdos.

Super creeper pic of Hollie getting her 1st place award. Laura and I creeped along like paparazzi weirdos.

We drank coffee and chatted while waiting for the awards, then headed downtown for Blues Brunch at Empire Brewing Co.  The lesson we learned there is: don’t be a shitty waitress when your table is full of starving runners because low blood sugar makes people crazy.  Service aside, the food was great, the Bloody Mary I had was even better, and hanging out with friends after a race is probably the most fun ever.  So.  Good day!

So happy I can't even open my eyes.

So happy I can’t even open my eyes.

I’m sure there are highlights I am forgetting (worst blogger ever award) but I have to say that this race was exactly what I needed to give my motivation a little oomph, but also to break up a long, cold, somewhat boring winter.  I can’t wait until the next time I get to see these guys again (Syracuse Half -> NJ Half -> Buffalo Half !!!) and I know my chance to race hard and shoot for PRs will be coming soon as well.