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28 October, 2014

Race Recap: Lake Nona 13.1

Scott wanted to try out a half marathon, and had his heart set on Space Coast.  Unfortunately, that race filled up on day one and he didn't get a chance to register.  So we were looking at the Halloween Halfathon in Clearwater... until I found a cheaper race much closer to home: the inaugural Lake Nona 13.1.  I'm so glad we did!

I offered to drive, since I remember trying to drive after my first half marathon was... challenging to say the least.  So I picked Scott up at 4:30 and we drove up to the Lake Nona medical complex.  Parking volunteers were plentiful, and I managed to not get lost.  We took some stupid pre-race pictures, and I was trying AWKWARDLY to balance between trying to keep Scott's nerves from getting the best of him and giving him space.  When I'm the nervous one, I mostly just want to know that someone is there but not touching or talking to me.  Because I'm prickly like that.

Anyway, after a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem (I'm pretty sure it was a live singer...), we were off.  I don't know the total number of runners, but it didn't take too long to spread out.  The race started at 6:00, so the first few miles were under dark skies.  I snapped a blurry picture of the beginning of the sunrise over the lake, but that was the only picture I took during the race.  The weather was perfect -- below 60 at race start -- and I thought I had a good chance of finally finishing a sub-3 race, so I wasn't going to stop for silly selfies or anything.

The course included two out & back sections, and I saw Scott on both passes and knew he was still trucking along.  Except for one overpass (which we did twice), the course was pancake flat.  The water stations were well-stocked and well-staffed.  The volunteers were friendly.  I'll even admit that running past the high school cheerleaders (twice) was incredibly uplifting.  There was a marching band at the top of the overpass, and I could hear them from a distance but they were on break both times I passed them.

Right at mile 10, the 3-hour pace group caught up to me.  I panicked, because I remember that the 3-hour group passed me at mile 8 of Sarasota and I never saw them again.  And of course, the last third of that race was really difficult for me physically and mentally.  This time, I checked my watch and realized that they were at least 5 minutes ahead of pace and that as long as I could still see them ahead of me I'd finish in plenty of time.  The pacer sent a lot of the group ahead, and I ended up leap-frogging her and the other runner she was with and talking to her.  She was so nice that I actually wish I had done the race with them.

When I saw the finish line ahead, I was shocked.  I thought I still had a half-mile left!  As I ran across the line, I saw the first number on the race clock was still 2, and I was so thrilled.  I was pretty sure when I woke up that morning that I'd PR.  Around mile 10, I was almost certain I'd finish in under 3 hours.  But there was something about crossing the line and realizing I'd actually done it.  It was amazing!  I was given my medal and my bottle of water, and I kind of shuffled off to see what I could do until Scott finished.  The solution?  Take lots of pictures!  Selfies, medal pics, pictures in front of the race backdrop, a picture ringing the PR bell... oh yeah, it was an ego-palooza!

That is one beautiful medal!
Also pictured, my ego trip and me ringing the PR bell

After I got some orange slices from a vendor (I saw people with bananas but never figured out where they came from) and walked around some more, I found a spot on a short wall close to the finish line, and sat with my feet up playing on my phone and cheering on strangers as they finished.  I got a text from Scott that he was about 1/2 mile away from the finish, and got ready to take some photos of him.  Though he walked most of the race, he ran into the finish, and I actually had to jump off my wall and run to beat him so I could take a picture of him finishing with the clock in the background.

And that's when the most amazing part of the race happened.  Not only did a huge crowd of volunteers cheer him in and congratulate him, but someone took the time to place the medal around his neck.  As we were standing off to the side while he caught his breath, multiple volunteers (members of the Lake Nona Run Club) came up to congratulate him and hugged him.  The lady who was on the course on a bike, who Scott says was wonderful and checked on him a lot during the race, came up and congratulated him.  They were all so genuinely happy for him.  It's a testament to the running community in general that they are SO welcoming to people of every level.  I have experienced that time and again, and for some reason it still surprises me.  There are a zillion people at the Disney races, and I've never felt like more than just a number there.  But to have so many volunteers ask if this was his first race, say they were proud of him, and then actually say we should stay to cheer in the next two walkers... wow!


Having finished my race my way, I had already put this on my "do it again" list.  The race was run by the run club - people who were out there because they love the sport and had a crazy idea to put on a race.  It was pretty bare-bones, but I loved it for its simplicity.  They capped attendance at a level that made the course easy to navigate, and they ran it well from start to finish.  But seeing the way they came together to support the last handful of finishers was just beautiful.

So let's talk race stats:

My Race Stats:
Chip Time: 2:56:54 **PR** by 6:10(!!!)
Pace: 13:30
Age Group Rank: 105/124

My Splits (according to RunKeeper):
Mile 1: 12:36
Mile 2: 12:46
Mile 3: 13:10
Mile 4: 13:15
Mile 5: 13:18
Mile 6: 13:15
Mile 7: 13:27
Mile 8: 13:29
Mile 9: 14:06
Mile 10: 13:23
Mile 11: 13:17
Mile 12: 14:10
Mile 13: 13:40

Before I go, I need to mention that PR one more time.  At the Marine Corps Half, Jackie's shoe fix stop gave us about 3 minutes of rest.  For some reason, in my head I remembered finishing that race in 3:01, so when RunKeeper said I finished this race in 2:57 I was really happy to have a 4-minute PR.  But when I looked up my race results from Marine Corps and realized that I actually finished in 3:03, I was genuinely shocked, thrilled, and a hundred other positive adjectives to have smashed a month-old PR by over 6 minutes.  I still can't believe that!  I have a feeling this one is going to stand for a while though.  Space Coast is a pretty big race, and I have a feeling I'll be moving in a herd for much of the race.  Diva is the week right after, so my legs won't be fully recovered.  My next half after the Marathon is the Sarasota Music Half on February 8.  Maybe I'll be recovered and the weather will be in my favor, but that race includes two passes over the Ringling Causeway Bridge, which is not a small elevation. Who knows?  I've learned to stop doubting my abilities.  After all, I've knocked 13 minutes off my pace in 11 months from last year's Space Coast.  Maybe next year I'll run this race with the 2:45 group...

Stranger things have happened!

Upcoming Races:
Nov. 8: Great American Bacon Race 5k
Nov. 30: Space Coast Half Marathon
Dec. 7: Divas Half Marathon
Jan. 11: WDW Marathon
Jan. 25: Hot Chocolate 15k (tentative)
Feb. 8: Sarasota Music Half Marathon
Feb. 21-22: Gasparilla Half Marathon (Michelob Amber Challenge)
March 1: Swamp House Half Marathon
June 7: Echo Half Marathon

02 October, 2014

Another Two-Month Check-In

Happy October! This is the month where s--t starts getting real with marathon training. The weather is FINALLY starting to break, and I've got my first longer-than-13-mile run this weekend. At the moment I'm dealing with some monster sinus issues, but haven't got a fever. Plus, I'm a mouth breather when I run anyway. No excuse to take time off!

Below are this month's check-in pictures. I'll be getting my vitals taken next weekend, and am very curious to see what my weight is. Sometimes I feel like I'm still hovering around the same old number, but other times I feel significantly smaller. I know my BMI (imperfect measurement that it is) is at least 5% lower than this time last year. And as long as the numbers keep dropping, I don't really mind how slowly that happens. 



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!!