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24 September, 2014

Top Ten

Now that I've run in TEN half-marathons, I figure that I have enough experience to write a top-ten list.  All of my races have had wonderful aspects that I genuinely enjoyed, and I wouldn't say that I hated running in any of them.  And because I'm a slow/beginning runner, I'm pretty sure that my list wouldn't match up with most other people's lists.  Just the same, here we go:

10. ODDyssey Half 2014.  Aside from the brutal hills, I also didn't like the fact that they advertised extra activities, but I didn't even see most of those as I ran by.  Best thing: free pint glass!
9. Celebration Half Marathon 2014. This was the inaugural year for Celebration, and I wanted to like it so much.  Unfortunately, the part that I remember the most was the miles of running through neighborhoods with almost no spectators.  Best thing: running on the boardwalks through wetlands.
8. Sarasota Half Marathon 2014. I love bridges!  And I loved the first 4ish miles of this race because of the out and back picturesque bridge run.  Unfortunately, the middle third of the race was on the most uninspiring stretch of road I've ever run on.  Best thing: running the Ringling Causeway Bridge.
7. Melbourne Half Marathon 2014. It's possible I said it before (one paragraph ago?), but I love bridges!  The bridges at Melbourne kicked my @$$, and I loved every second of it!  Honestly, I'd say I loved about 12 miles of this race.  But it lost a lot of its charm in the final mile, when I was running against the stream of people walking from the finish line to the after party.  The after-party was also too crowded to be worth my while.  Best thing: cresting the second bridge and being above the fog.  It was like being in Heaven!
6. Princess Half Marathon 2013. As my first half-marathon, I thought I'd rank this one high just for the sake of sentimentality.  However, I was stressed, had to stop to un-tape a toe, my phone died, and boy howdy are Disney races crowded!  I'm surprised I didn't bother writing a recap, but I think that speaks to my emotional state and other crap in my life than anything about the actual race.  Best thing: accomplishing a goal I never dreamed I could!
5. Princess Half Marathon 2014.  This was the third time I ran this course, and I found a certain comfort in that.  It was also the first time I did a "challenge," by completing a 10K the morning before.  I enjoyed running Princess 2014 way more than 2013, and I still tear up when I read my recap.  Best thing: pushing myself farther and faster than ever before, and being rewarded with a shiny glass slipper medal!
4. OUC Orlando Half 2013. For my third half marathon, I stupidly registered for a race 6 days after my second half marathon!  My legs were wobbly and uncooperative from the start.  I was ready to quit, until I met a fellow runner also struggling and miserable - Jackie.  She and I trudged through that race together, and made it not suck.  I really want to do this one again, now that my legs are a little more functional.  Best thing: making a new friend. The course was lovely as well.
3. WDW Half Marathon 2014. The reason this race ends up higher than my other Disney races can be summed up in one word: Cat.  This was the first time I started and ended a race with a friend, and it was wonderful.  Our time sucked, but we had a great time.  Best thing: memories to last a lifetime.
2. Marine Corps Half Marathon 2014. This race was book-ended by a long road trip with lots of laughs. Jackie and I had a really fun weekend.  The pre-race activities, the actual race, and even the after party were all really well done. Best thing: gaining a helluva lot of respect for the Marines.
1. Space Coast Half Marathon 2013. Of all the races on my fall calendar, this year's Space Coast is the one I'm most looking forward to.  I loved the race, the after-party, the volunteers, and the crowd support along the course.  Best thing: a fun, flat course and a fun space theme!

...and while I'm ranking things, why not rank the bling?

10. Sarasota -- I made the mistake of running this race for the bling...and then the medal was so ugly I could've cried.  This is when I learned the valuable lesson that you should never sign up for a race for the medal.
9. Melbourne -- I'm not a fan of having a sponsor logo on a medal.
8. Celebration -- the color scheme and design of this medal were both misses for me.
7. ODDyssey -- it's ok, but small and the 3-D design is awkward from most angles.
6. Princess 2014 -- this is the point where ranking got really hard, because I **love** all of these.
5. Orlando -- I'm a sucker for a round medal, because they make me feel like I have an Olympic medal around my neck.
4. Marine Corps -- it's simple, the Marine Corps logo is prominent, and somehow even the olive drab ribbon is appropriate.
3. Space Coast -- it's huge and sparkly, and the one that everyone else seems instantly drawn to. maybe it's not my favorite because I love an underdog?
2. See #5 regarding round medals.  Then add Donald Duck and a solid gold color.  Yep, I love this medal!
1. Princess 2013 -- 5 pink gemstones, a sparkly tiara, and a heart combined with my own sentimentality.  I'll always have a soft spot for my first!

Race Recap: Marine Corps Half Marathon

I don’t think I can say enough positive things about this race.  The expo was held in conjunction with a local festival (at which I spent a whopping $2 on a pumpkin pie Rita’s), and packet pick-up also included a free pasta dinner.  I got my race bag from a nice man named Dennis, who snuck two extra safety pins in my bag when I commented about stealing the extra two that Jackie wasn’t going to be using.  We ran into him two other times the following day, and he was incredibly friendly both times.  He told us that this race was the original Marine Corps Half, and that they are happy that they get to show off the base to people who might otherwise not get to see it.  He also told us that we had the best weather they’ve had in 20 years.  We were definitely happy we got to enjoy that!

After we picked up our packets, I sheepishly asked a group of three Marines if I could be tacky and ask them to pose for a photo.  They obliged, and a woman standing nearby forced two other ones to get in the picture as well.  It just might be my favorite pre-race photo yet (or maybe a close second to the one with the astronaut mural from before last year’s Space Coast Half)!  Someone with the event also asked if he could take the same photo – lord knows where that’ll end up!

With only about 1,100 runners registered (less than 1,000 finished), the race really wasn’t crowded at all after the first mile.  Jackie and I settled into a good pace and set off on our own race, not paying attention to the hundreds of people who took off so quickly we couldn’t see them again!  We talked and laughed (the theme of the weekend), enjoyed the eye candy, and watched the miles roll by.  Jackie was having a problem with an anti-blister pad on her heel giving her a blister, so we stopped just after the mile 4 water station so she could yank it out.  The break gave me a chance to stretch my ham strings, which is always a bonus!

The course ran through Camp Lejeune.  We saw all sorts of fitness stations – climbing ropes, pull-up bars, giant tires… -- and joked about stopping to take silly pictures, but I thought that I might be at a PR pace and it stopped me from wanting to spend too much time horsing around.  In addition to the fitness stations, we seemed to run past housing for Marines of increasing rank.  We started going past barracks and “bachelor housing” (which reminded me of the fact that the AK gorillas are divided into the family group and the bachelor group), cute little single-family homes, and then two-story homes across the street from the water.  I was about to ask what you have to rank to get a two-story house, and then noticed that the little name plates at the foot of each driveway had rank and last name.  Mystery solved!  I saw a few Majors and Commanders, and then stopped paying attention.

The water stops were all manned by Marines in their cute little matching track suits.  They were Disney-friendly – making eye contact, smiling, and some yelling encouragement.  Even the ones doing traffic control (obviously on duty, judging by the side arms and uniforms) were friendly as we passed.  I’m not sure why I expected them to be scowling and judgmental about us slowpokes running through their base, but I’m so happy that they weren’t!

…and while we’re on the subject of the Marines, I think now is a good time to have a quick side note about running on the base.  It was humbling for me.  I realized pretty quickly that I needed to stop calling the Marines “kids,” even though many were practically half my age.  (reality gut-check: some of them were born the year I graduated from high school)  It’s disrespectful to refer to someone dedicated to God and Country, willing to die for said Country, and more committed to that job than I’ve probably ever been to anything as a “kid.”  I also noticed a handful of the people competing in the wheelchair division were wearing shirts that identified them as disabled veterans.  Wow.  I’m not sure I can even begin to put into words what it was like to come face-to-face with just a tiny bit of what I only half pay attention to on the evening news.  I definitely complained less about my sore feet and shin splints than I normally do, and that had A LOT to do with my surroundings.  Also, after the race our buddy Dennis told us that there was an 88-year-old retired Sgt. Major participating.  I checked the results, and it looks like he was the last one to cross the finish line at just about 5 hours.  When I’m 88, I hope I’m still that tough!

Around mile 9 or 10, Jackie and I pretty much stopped talking.  I think we were both trying to keep ourselves motivated to not slow the other one down.  In the last race we ran together, I noticed that my run pace was faster than hers toward the end, but that she walks faster than I do.  We were doing that again, and sort of leap-frogging each other.  Mile 9 was also the point I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the water stations were now every mile, instead of only on the even miles.  Thanks to the excuse to walk while drinking a tiny cup of water, we were actually able to maintain our intervals with no extra walk breaks.  This is the first time I was able to accomplish that with the 25/40 intervals (and the reason I bumped the intervals up to 30/40 on this morning’s run).  By mile 9 or 10 of Sarasota, those same intervals had kicked my butt!

As we approached the finish, we were able to “run it in” to the finish line from a further distance than I usually can.  A nice (female) Marine put my medal around my neck.  Jackie and I congratulated a woman we leap-frogged during the race – 50 years old with 5 kids and a grandkid, running in her first half-marathon alongside her Marine husband.  They were pushing a stroller through the whole thing as well, and finished probably a minute ahead of us.  And we traded phones with that couple so that they could have a finisher photo together, and so that Jackie and I could do the same.

As far as post-race parties go, this one was pretty standard.  We got baggies with assorted fresh fruit, and they had water, Powerade, and even burgers available.  Beer was there for purchase, and there was a pretty decent band playing.  Since I’m not a fan of the giant post-race festivals, this small gathering was just my speed.  There was plenty of space to sit, wander, eat, and talk without my crowd-phobia kicking in at all.

I’m actually sad that this race is 10+ hours from home, because I genuinely enjoyed it and would love to do it every year.  Now that I’ve hit ten (TEN?? Yes, ten!!) half-marathons, I’m planning on ranking the races (and, separately, the medals) in a future post.  This race is going to be very close to the top.

So…how’d I do?  Thanks for asking!

Chip Time: 3:03:04 **PR** (by 4:15)
Pace: 13:59 min/mile
Overall Place: 905/964
Women’s Rank: 459/504

My Splits (according to RunKeeper):
Mile 1: 12:52
Mile 2: 13:04
Mile 3: 13:23
Mile 4: 13:30
Mile 5: 14:30 (includes our shoe-fix stop)
Mile 6: 13:35
Mile 7: 13:44
Mile 8: 13:30
Mile 9: 13:48
Mile 10: 13:28
Mile 11: 14:13
Mile 12: 13:37
Mile 13: 14:09

I had a massive runner’s high after this race like nothing I’d ever experienced before.  I was incredibly proud of my PR (although I didn’t realize until just now that it was 4+ minutes), and that I finally hit my goal of a sub-14 pace.  Jackie and I were both basically euphoric at the after-party, and neither of us managed a post-race nap.  I did have multiple laughing-with-tears episodes, one of which turned into a full-on ugly cry.  It’s always embarrassing when that happens, but I guess just had more emotions than I could process at one time!

It was a great race, and an amazingly fun weekend.  I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard, so often, for so many days straight.  Getting in and out of the car on the drive home Sunday was even funny, because we were both moaning, groaning, and limping every time.

18 August, 2014

Challenge Accepted

So...by now I assume everyone has heard of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.  For those who haven't, here's the quickie recap:

The stunt goes like this: People make a video of themselves dumping a bucket of ice water on their heads, post it on Facebook, Instagram, or other social media sites, and then challenge friends to do the same within 24 hours or donate $100 to ALS (many do both). (per the NY Times)

My favorite ex-boyfriend challenged me on Saturday, and unfortunately it took until today to acquire a videographer.  I missed the 24-hour window, but did douse myself, so I'm donating $25 to ALSA.org.  I don't have any particular emotional attachment to Lou Gehrig's disease, but this seemed like a fun way to raise awareness and funds for a good cause.  Without further ado, here is my #icebucketchallenge video:


I challenged Jackie because I love her kids to death and thought they would enjoy the heck out of dousing Mom with ice water, I challenged my mom because I love her to death and I would enjoy the heck out of watching her douse herself with ice water, and I challenged Cat because - yes - I love her to death and I can't even imagine the crazy noise she'd make when doused with ice water.

I didn't challenge Scott, although I seriously considered it.  Instead, as an early birthday gift, I let him come over and video me dumping ice water on my head AND promised I wouldn't challenge him.  I know, I'm too darn nice.  I'm sure someone else will challenge him...why wouldn't they?

...and for anyone who believes the Ice Bucket Challenge is another example of "slacktivism," the ALSA would like to tell you just how wrong you are!

10 August, 2014

This is Why I Have a Blog

I have a tiny bandage on my forehead, right at my hairline near my temple.  Under that bandage is a small but mighty head wound.  It's one of those random ouchies I occasionally get that starts out as a bug bite or a pimple, gets scratched, and bleeds like a gunshot wound.

I'm not the only one who gets these, right?

Anyway, after my seven-mile run* this morning, I took a long bath, dried off, put pajamas on, and wrapped my hair up in the towel.  And then I climbed into bed and passed out for 45 minutes.  When I woke up, I pulled off the towel, intending to roll over and fall back to sleep, when **rip**!

Apparently my shower popped the scab, which then healed over into the towel.  Eventually I got it to stop bleeding long enough to bandage it up, but by then my nap was ruined.  I've been awake and groggy ever since.

Good thing it's just about time for bed!

*yep, I did just casually drop a longer-than-10k run into a story about something else.  I'm pretty badass like that!

05 August, 2014

Backward Progress


Well, it's been two months since my last check-in, and what a crazy two months it's been.  Between vacation, starting my new job, and some assorted other excuses, I've really been off the exercise wagon.  It's hard to say for sure, since I seem to be completely incapable of holding the same pose two of these sessions in a row, but I think I slid backwards.  I see a thicker middle, but my ankles look smaller.  Or I'm imagining all of it...

I can't be too upset.  It's kind of a miracle the budge isn't more pronounced.  I blew off my long runs during the past few weekends, and I've been eating like a horse (healthy entrees and healthy-ish snacks...but lots and lots of snacks).  However, I had a touch of insomnia this morning and ended up running 5 miles - this the red face and bad hair in today's picture.

The next check-in should be October 1, after my next half-marathon and maybe once the weather has cooled a tiny bit.  Maybe by then I'll have settled into a better pattern and finally broken the size 14 mark.

14 July, 2014

Race Season

The official RunDisney training program for the WDW Marathon started at the beginning of this month.  As I was planning my long training runs around my scheduled fall races, I realized I had a 13-mile training run scheduled for September.  What's a girl to do?  Find a half marathon, of course!  I'm actually traveling again for this one - up to Camp Lejeune, NC.  And since I haven't written out my race plans in a while, here's the list as of tonight:

2014:

2015:
I'm sure I'll pick up a race in March, maybe on my birthday weekend (Swamp House?).  That's the weekend after Gasparilla, which would be rough.  I guess we'll see where the wind blows my paycheck!  And of course, I'm sure there will be a handful of shorter races between now and then as well.  

For now, I'm looking forward to four new half marathons, one repeat half marathon, one multi-race challenge, and my first full marathon.

Now seeking new medal display ideas...I'm gonna need it!!

21 June, 2014

Oh, the Places I'll Go!

Today is the last day of Part One (weeks 1-2) of Jamie's Excellent Adventure.  Although I did my race recap right after ODDyssey, I didn't chronicle my travels to Philadelphia.  I also took zero notes while I was traveling, vacationing, and enjoying the hell out of the last week, so I'm using this post to record every thing I can think of.  It'll probably be long, but it's been amazing, so hopefully it'll also be entertaining to read.

The Journey
I set off from home just about 6 am on Friday the 6th.  Without doing a whole heck of a lot of research, I felt like I wanted to make it into Virginia on the first day and then have a shorter but more stressful (DC, Baltimore, and Philly traffic) day the second day.  I listened to the radio, sang loudly, and left my cruise control on almost the whole day.  I split up my food breaks and my gas breaks so I wouldn't be in the car for more than three hours at a time.  And I have to say, I really enjoyed that first driving day.  I didn't quite make it to Virginia, but as it turns out the town I stopped in was 10 miles south of the border.

Random thought I had at 1pm that first day: "I've been driving for 7 hours now.  That's how long I have to finish the Disney Marathon.  I think I might've preferred running."

On the second day, I found myself all of a sudden confused that when the speed limit slowed to 55 heading into DC, suddenly the slow cars around me were going 75.  The previous day, with a speed limit of 70, I was the fast car at 75-80.  I also think I stopped for a total of 3 tolls: one at the tunnel in Baltimore, another random one in Maryland, and the cover charge for the privilege of entering Delaware, which should have just had a sign up that said "closed for construction."  I eventually made it into Pennsylvania and had an "I am woman, hear me roar" moment when I realized that I had actually made it all the way there, all by myself.

And then I ran a half-marathon.

The Destination
My first week in New Jersey was actually pretty quiet.  I bummed around Jackie's house quite a bit, drove around the area (literally for the first time by myself, since I didn't get my license until college and then the only other times I was here I was with Scott), did some shopping and A LOT of eating...  After the stress of the end of school, start of grad school, leaving my old job, packing, driving, and racing I was perfectly happy to decompress and just relax.  Of course, "relaxing" at Jackie's house is an adventure all on its own, what with the kids and the toddlers and the pets.  I have to say I totally love it as a temporary visitor, but I'm better suited for a quieter existence!

The Active Part of Vacation

this IS our warm-up routine!

On Saturday the 14th, I did a 5k with Jackie's whole family.  The course was a small circle that we were told to lap 10 times (though I did 11 laps to make it 5k by RunKeeper standards), and every time I passed the girls they would ask what lap I was on.  Their response was always "so am I."  So I'm not really sure how far anyone else actually ran but I was proud of them for going out and doing it!

...and I also had a 5k PR, so I'm pretty proud of myself too!

oui, je suis une artiste!
Saturday night, Jackie and I went to one of those "drink and paint" places that was having a fundraiser for a group she belongs to.  We drank, ate, and painted.  I think they do a really great job running the place, because there were about 15-20 people there, and no one's painting was completely awful.  They were all also very different, as you can tell by my painting (on the left) and Jackie's (on the right).  There are things about my painting that I don't love, but who cares?  I'm still going to hang it up at home somewhere, probably with all of the paintings I bought at thrift stores.

the family that jazz hands together...
On Sunday (Father's Day), I went up to New York to spend the day with my cousin Jenn and her family.  I drove to Trenton and then hopped the train to Penn Station, where I met up with Jenn and the girls.  We hopped on the subway to Hell's Kitchen, where we had a huge amazing Greek feast (and every time we turned around there was another plate of hot pitas straight from the oven).  Trip and the girls then headed off on their own NYC adventure day, and Jenn took me to see Violet, my first Broadway show in more than 15 years.  (the last was either Miss Saigon or Beauty and the Beast)  I requested Violet because it stars Sutton Foster, and she didn't disappoint.  In fact, the whole cast was great (I bought the soundtrack), but she was radiant.  We both cried too.  There's something so magical about being on Broadway.  The theaters are old and beautiful, the performers are the best in the world... major goosebumps!  (by the way, here's the Tony's performance from Violet, in case you are interested)  The day wrapped up back at Jenn's for dinner, a subway ride (by myself) back to Penn Station, and a train back to New Jersey.

Also, I (allegedly) saw a dead body while I was headed back to the subway station.  There was a man laying on his back, not moving, and an EMT jumped out of a fire truck, walked over and looked at him, and then asked the people standing around what was up.  The guy's head was blocked from my view by a mailbox or something, but he definitely wasn't moving.  Since the EMT didn't immediately check his vitals or anything, I decided that he must have been obviously dead.  My crosswalk light changed, so I didn't get to stick around and find out the rest of the story.

Tuesday the 17th found me back in Pennsylvania, this time for dinner with Dawn and Mark.  I was really glad they were able to meet me, since Dawn was my closest cousin growing up and we haven't had a chance to really catch up in far too long.  We caught up on each other's life stories (between all of us, there was a lot to discuss!), dished some family dirt, and had a genuinely wonderful time.  And despite being full from dinner, I couldn't resist swinging through the Sonic drive-through next door for an orange slush for the drive back to NJ!

Dinner the following night became a mini high school reunion.  Originally planned for Tom and I, it turns out that Bill and Vicky were also able to come out.  Bill showed up with a folder of letters and postcards from the college years that had me cringing, laughing, and crying.  Our relationship has been from the beginning quirky and uniquely us.  I love him so much, and continue to be grateful that he's in my life.  The four of us laughed so much during our dinner I think we all hated that it had to end.

Dinner did have to end though, because I was up bright and early Thursday morning to spend another day in New York.  This time, my hosts were my cousin Alexander and his girlfriend Megumi.  Alexander promised me a day of hijinks, and he didn't disappoint!  They picked me up at Penn Station and our first stop was the Houdini Museum.  The museum displays were moderately interesting, but the visit took an unexpected turn when the man behind the counter asked "would you like to see a trick?"  We then had what was basically a 20-minute private magic show by this guy, who truly knew his stuff.  He transformed dollars, hovered coins, and did a lot of fun card tricks.

We then took the subway out to Brooklyn, where we had lunch at a Vietnamese sandwich shop (yum!) and then went to this place called Film Biz Recycling, where they sell and rent items used by TV and film production in NYC that might otherwise end up trashed.  We returned to Manhattan via the Brooklyn Bridge.  I'm not sure why this was so exciting for me, but it was such an amazing moment.  Walking toward the city, seeing the Statue of Liberty and the new World Trade Center building to the left, midtown to the right, and the cables and iconic structure of the Brooklyn Bridge straight ahead... Wow, I just loved it!

The Brooklyn Bridge: possibly my favorite half hour of vacation
We then stopped for margaritas and a snack at one of their favorite kitschy bars before doing a quickie tour of the financial district.  They rode the subway back to Penn Station with me, I got a bagel, and then hopped the train back to Trenton.

Side note: I had the pleasure of sitting next to a drunk man on the train back from NYC.  He was simultaneously hitting on me, sexually harassing me (thank you for telling me that your thumbs, like your d---, were large), making racist anti-Muslim comments about the man across the aisle (who was black and speaking French, so I think perhaps he wasn't personally responsible for 9-11), telling me about his wife and kids, and talking about how much money he makes.  Really though, he was harmless and got off the train long before I did.  Had he been staying on until Trenton, I might have jumped off at some point and taken a later train.  It was kind of fun chatting with a random stranger though, even a creepy one.

Yesterday, Jackie and I took the kids to Great Adventure.  The park was pretty dead -- the longest we waited all day was 30 minutes, and a bunch of coasters were actually walk-on.  I got to take each of the babies on Dumbo-like rides, and rode coasters of varying scariness with the older girls.  I think I might have ridden ONE coaster that was there when I was younger.  That park has changed a lot!

The past week has been full of memories, lots of walking, and lots of late nights and early mornings.  Today was my last full day in town, and I spent it doing homework and laundry.  I took myself out to Bobby's Burger Palace for dinner (yum!!) and started getting my things together.

I'm so sad to be leaving.  It turns out I feel South Jersey roots that I didn't know I have.  I'm happy I got to see so many of my friends and family members, but also bummed about the people I couldn't connect with or spend enough time with.

On To School
I leave tomorrow morning and head to State College.  My one week summer intensive course starts on Monday at 8:30 and I'm definitely looking forward to getting started...but I'm also terrified at the same time.  It's been a long time since I've set foot in a classroom and actually tried.  I guess we'll have to see how it goes!  Hopefully I'll have another "I am woman hear me roar" moment on Friday when I'm done with the class!

11 June, 2014

ODDyssey Half Marathon Recap

Greetings from rainy New Jersey, my home base for two weeks.  What started as a "runcation" for the ODDyssey Half turned into an extended visit stretched out between the race and my week at Penn State.  So I'm enjoying quality time with Jackie and Jon and their kids (OMG toddlers love taking selfies. This is my new favorite "make it stop fussing" activity. Thank God for the Otterbox!).  And since I have some quiet time, I thought now would be a good opportunity to recap the original reason for this trip.

The Expo was held the day before the race, on Boathouse Row.  This was fascinating for me, since you see the boat houses from the opposite side of the river any time you take the Schuylkill Expressway out of Philly.  To actually be over there... I don't know - I thought it was kind of awesome!  I was able to get a close parking spot, and after two days in the car genuinely enjoyed the short walk to Lloyd Hall.  I picked up my bib and t-shirt, got a quick photo in front of the race banner (thank you random stranger -- yes I will hand you my iPhone for the sake of my own vanity!), and then headed out.  The expo was small, and I didn't really have a whole lot of interest in shopping.  I found a bench under a tree facing the water, and hung out there waiting for Nicole, who arrived about 20 minutes later.  Once she got her bib and shirt, we made our way from Fairmount Park to Center City to check into our hotel.  I got us lost, circling all those one-way streets trying to find the parking garage, but we got there eventually.  We carb-loaded for dinner, I got some homework done, and we got to sleep nice and early.

Pre-Race mornings are always mildly stressful, especially in a hotel room, double-especially when you're sharing that room with someone else!  But Nicole and I got ourselves fed, dressed, and out the door in plenty of time to walk the four blocks to the shuttle stop.  Because we waited until the week before to book the shuttle, we ended up with the earliest time -- 5:30.  As a compulsively early person with a desire to use the port-a-potty before it gets completely horrid, this suited me just fine.  The bus ride from Center City to Fairmount Park was quick and easy, and I have to say I kind of like the Mega Bus.  With outlets over every seat and free wi-fi, I think maybe it wouldn't be the worst way to travel long-distance.

Nicole and I both rocked the pink & blue...
completely unintentionally!
Anyway, we found ourselves in "hurry up and wait" mode once we arrived.  We took some photos, stretched, I got to see Lynne (who was running her very first half -- and did so faster than my own PR -- I'm so proud of her!), and then we lined up in our corrals.  The start was disorganized.  The PA wasn't loud enough to be heard in the back of the field.  I think someone sang the National Anthem, but without speakers further back we couldn't hear any of it.  Pre-race announcements?  I dunno -- maybe there were some.  I heard the "womp womp womp" sound of Charlie Brown's teacher over the speaker, but couldn't actually make out any words.  They also set us off in waves, which I guess worked out ok because I never really thought the course was crowded.

The race, once we got underway, was lovely.  We started and ended at the Please Touch Museum, and wound through Fairmount Park.  The smell of honeysuckle was absolutely distracting for me.  It turns out that's up with jasmine and orange blossoms on the list of smells that link me instantly back to my childhood.  But I digress... It was a beautiful course.  Unfortunately, it was also brutal.  There were two monster hills during the run.  The first, a steep climb around mile 5, led to the Strawberry Mansion Bridge.  I was actually able to maintain my intervals for this one, though certainly not my pace!  The second, which felt like it lasted a half mile, was after mile 12.  I vaguely remembered reading recaps from other years, and knew this hill was a spirit killer, but I was feeling cocky.  After the causeway bridges at Melbourne and Sarasota, I thought I'd have no trouble here.

I.  Was.  Wrong.

I walked the whole hill.  My legs absolutely refused to even pretend to run until I was at the top.  Luckily, once I reached the top of the hill, I think I only had 1/4 mile to go on flat ground to reach the finish.

After crossing the finish line, I was handed my medal and a Philly soft pretzel and I set off to find Nicole.  Strangely, it wasn't until we were waiting in the beer line that I realized I didn't see anyone handing out water.  Nicole said she had gotten a bottle, but they were being stingy with them.  They also handed out chocolate-peanut butter Kind bars.  I would've liked to try it, but it was so melted and gross that it went in the freezer at the hotel and then just looked like a rock-hard mess.  Chocolate: not the best idea for a race in June!

The line for beer (and commemorative pint glasses) was long, but moved quickly.  We sat in the shade enjoying the fermented fruits of our labor, and then headed back to the hotel and a post-race brunch at Reading Terminal.

My Race Stats:
Chip Time: 3:14:55 (my second-slowest race of 2014)
Pace: 14:52 min/mile
Overall Place: 2800/2881
Gender Place: 1674/1741

My Splits:
note: RunKeeper thinks I ran 14.47 miles at a 13:30 pace, and I don't know why it was so far removed from reality.  So I'm mostly including these for S&G's
mile 1: 12:16 min/mi
mile 2: 11:55 min/mi
mile 3: 12:51 min/mi
mile 4: 12:55 min/mi
mile 5: 13:35 min/mi
mile 6: 15:13 min/mi
mile 7: 14:10 min/mi
mile 8: 12:47 min/mi
mile 9: 14:18 min/mi
mile 10: 13:45 min/mi
mile 11: 13:58 min/mi
mile 12: 14:04 min/mi

mile 13: 13:55 min/mi
mile 14: 12:55 min/mi
mile 15: 14:17 min/mi

Up until that last hill, I really felt like I was doing very well.  I felt happy and strong into the end, which I hadn't experienced in a long run since I adjusted my intervals.  And I think on a flat course this would have been an easy PR.  I enjoyed this race, though I certainly wouldn't travel up from Florida for it again.  This was my ninth half-marathon, and although I'm disappointed by my time I'm proud of how far I've come.

I had considered running the 1/2 Sauer 1/2 Kraut race this coming Saturday, but I'm going to let common sense prevail.  This means my next half marathon isn't until Lake Nona at the end of October.  My only other races for the fall season are the Space Coast Half and Divas Half.  The rest of the time I'll be training for the WDW Marathon.  And although I haven't registered for it yet, I think my first post-marathon race will be Gasparilla.