23 February, 2014

Princess Half Marathon 2014 Recap

I truly regret not writing a recap of my very first half marathon.  Tons of stupid little details have slipped away, and eventually the only memories I will have of that race are the ones attached to photos.  And the girl who ran face-first into a road sign.  I don't think I'll ever forget that sound.

Anyway, this morning was my race-iversary.  Princess 2013 was my  first half marathon, and I was so proud to just finish.  My time, 3:31, wasn't important.  I had set a goal and accomplished it.  And in the days immediately following that race, my response when people asked if I would do another race was usually the same: "I'm going to wait a few days before I decide on 'never again,' but I kind of doubt it."  I'm pretty sure I signed up for Space Coast a week later and the rest, as they say, is history.

This weekend was big for me because it represented my first major first-time challenge since last year's Princess: back-to-back races.  With the 10K on Saturday and half marathon on Sunday, I'd be running 19.3 miles in one weekend.  And it occurred to me last week that I completely forgot to train for the extra miles.  I was supposed to be running 5 miles on Saturdays and my normal training runs on Sundays, but somehow I never quite got around to doing that.  So going into this morning, I was fairly nervous.  I did all of the recovery things I was supposed to do yesterday - ice bath, rest, hydrate - but I just didn't know how my body was going to respond.

I also had a small blister from yesterday.  You know me and blisters - they make me whiny.  And I haven't had one in a while.  I didn't want to go back to wrapping in duct tape, so I put about 6 layers of Body Glide and some antiperspirant on my foot and hoped for the best.  Flash forward: the blister is the size of a lima bean, and it's incredibly sensitive to the touch, but I barely felt it at all while I was running.  And thankfully, it didn't pop.

check out that fog!
and the poster on the left!
About the race: umm...this was the third time I ran this course.  It hasn't changed - long dark road to another long dark road, MK Toll Plaza, TTC, long road under the water bridge, through MK, loooooong road, on-ramp, overpass, and around the front half of Epcot to the finish line.  It was humid (OMG the fog!) but cooler than I expected.  I was less annoyed by my fellow runners today also.  I spent a while running in the grass to get around people, and did grumble at a few groups of 3-abreast walkers I passed, but people seemed much more focused on the race than they did yesterday.

During races, I tend to check my RunKeeper at every mile marker.  That way, I'm aware of my pace and I can laugh at how much further the GPS says I've gone than the course says I've gone.  This morning, my first mile was a pretty unimpressive 13:45 pace, and I chalked it up to the weather and the crowd and figured I'd just run "my" race and let my body take the lead.  I figured a 15 minute/mile average pace would be acceptable, but I'd be disappointed with anything slower than that.

When will I learn to stop underestimating myself?  My slowest mile today was a 14:39 min/mile, and I can only imagine that was bottleneck related more than anything else, since it was from the exit of Magic Kingdom, up to the Grand Floridian.  All runners are squeezed into one lane of road through there.

Anyway, I got to mile 9 and RunKeeper said I was still at a sub-14 pace (ok, 13:58...).  I felt absolutely fine - I distinctly remember that was the stretch of road that almost did me in at the WDW Half last month - and decided to push myself a little harder.  The toughest part of the course was still ahead of me, but I was doing the "maybe... just maybe..." math and thought I could finish around my Space Coast time.

I ran strong intervals up the circular ramp from World Drive onto Epcot Center Drive.  I ran strong intervals on the flat sections.  I ran even faster any time there was a downhill stretch.  I was passing WAY more people than were passing me!  When I looked at my phone at mile 12, I figured there was no way I'd PR (the little hopeful voice in the back of my head and her bad runner math skills had started thinking it would be possible back at 9).  I didn't mind though -- I was doing so much better than I'd anticipated, and having so much fun in the process, that I was already thrilled with the outcome.

No big deal - just 12.9 miles
into a half marathon
Since my time was pretty much in hand, I even stopped to take a picture in front of Spaceship Earth, basically as a bookend to a similar photo I took during the 10K.

The girl in this photo?  She has already run 19.1 miles of her 19.3 mile goal for the weekend.  She has a blister on her foot, is having some chafing on a part of her body that I won't mention here, and literally has completely sweat-soaked every piece of clothing on her body.

And that is not a fake smile.

That girl?  She's beaming.  She is prouder of herself than she can possibly articulate.  She is feeling like a rock star -- a sweaty, sweaty rock star.

And so, in the tradition of Disney races, I rounded the corner just after this photo was taken and passed the gospel choir at Mile 13.  At that point, I stopped my music, took out my headphones, and finished without the RunKeeper lady talking in my ear.  As I approached the finish line, I don't think I stopped smiling (though the race photos may tell a different tale...).  I high-fived Mickey Mouse.  And I ran across the finish line with my arms high above my head.

A nice older man put my medal around my neck (though I had to ask him to do it) and told me congratulations.  I immediately stopped to take a photo with my new "bling" and headed on to the same basic set-up as yesterday.  Though after I picked up my Powerade, I noticed that volunteers were handing out mesh backpacks similar to the ones we got at the 2013 race expo.  This was the best thing ever, because it gave me a place to stash all of the things volunteers were handing me.  I got in line to pick up my Glass Slipper Challenge medal (the shoe! it's so sparkly!), took my finisher photo, got my bananas and snack box, and enjoyed the long slow walk to my car.

Ironically enough, the girl handing out the GSC medals actually did put it around my neck.  But it was backwards, so I had to immediately take it off and flip it around.  That's not a complaint though.  I can't possibly complain about the volunteers.  For the "payment" of a one-day WDW ticket and a thin jacket, those people gave their all to support me and more than 20,000 of my closest friends today.  If my math is correct, I believe there were 8 water stops and I took 3-4 cups of Powerade/water at each one.  That's 30 people I breathlessly thanked while running.  And it doesn't count all of the ones high-fiving us, cheering, telling us which way to go... It's absolutely mind-boggling just how many wonderful volunteers were out there.

A friend asked me this morning if I was still planning on signing up for the full marathon next year.  I told her I thought so... as long as nothing catastrophic happened today to break my confidence.  I have to say if marathon registration opened right this second, I'd jump up from the couch to get my wallet.  I talk a lot about runDisney getting too expensive for me, but this weekend really made it obvious that nobody does it like Disney.  It wasn't always wonderful, but I really had a great weekend overall.

Oh, and you know how I said I knew I wasn't going to PR?  Well...

My Race Stats:
Clock Time: 3:38:09
Chip Time: 3:08:40 **PR** (by 39 seconds)
Pace: 14:25 min/mile
Overall Place: 11,681/20,751 (almost in the top half!)
Gender Place: 10,755/19,282

My Splits (according to RunKeeper):
mile 1: 13:45 min/mi
mile 2: 13:25 min/mi
mile 3: 13:48 min/mi
mile 4: 13:25 min/mi
mile 5: 14:00 min/mi
mile 6: 14:21 min/mi
mile 7: 14:39 min/mi
mile 8: 14:17 min/mi
mile 9: 14:02 min/mi
mile 10: 13:59 min/mi
mile 11: 14:04 min/mi
mile 12: 14:23 min/mi
mile 13: 13:55 min/mi

Random Observations: 
* I will run, no matter how tired I am, if it involves high-fiving a bunch of cheering spectators or volunteers.  I love that!
* Watered-down yellow Powerade is the nectar of the gods
* If you are spectating and holding a poster, angle it toward the runners.  Otherwise we can't read it as we fly past you at dizzying speeds!
* Another argument against white race shirts (leftover story from the 10K): I ran for a while near a girl who was apparently wearing a new pink or purple sports bra under her white race shirt.  Four miles into the race, the shirt looked like it had been tie-dyed!
my shiny new medals - time to reconfigure the rack again!

22 February, 2014

Enchanted 10K Race Recap

This morning was the inaugural Enchanted 10K, and also the first part of the Glass Slipper Challenge.  Disney races have gotten too expensive for me, and I had no intention of running the Princess Half again this year.  But since Cinderella was my favorite princess as a kid (even before I had a Wicked Step-Mother of my own), I jumped at the chance to pick up the medal with a glass slipper on it.  Of course, in order to pick up that medal, I still have to complete tomorrow's half marathon.  For today, let's talk about the 10K.

pretty bright-eyed for 4am, no?
I got up at 2:15 and was out the door by 3:15 headed to Epcot.  I pulled in there right about 3:45, parked, and got along with the very important business of "hurry up and wait."  We were actually waiting close to the start line, so I was able to snap this picture and post it straight to Instagram.  Please take note of the general fluffiness of my bangs and hair feathers -- they sure didn't stay that way for long!

When the race started at 5:30, my corral (D) still hadn't moved.  It was sort of strange to go through the National Anthem (by a trumpeter -- it was awesome!) and the "official" race start in the same waiting pen I'd spent the previous hour in.  For some reason, they spaced the corrals out with ten minutes between, so I didn't actually start running until 6:00, more than two hours after I arrived at Epcot.  I wish I had realized this in advance - the extra unexpected waiting put me on tilt and I was pretty grumpy when we started.

...and then we ran out of the Epcot parking lot, out the toll plaza, around a hairpin turn, and up one of the awful overpass hills I'll see again tomorrow around mile 11.  We went under an overpass where Princess [Anna or Elsa? the blonde one] from Frozen was waving and talking to the crowd.  My reaction was pretty much "hey it's that princess from that movie that everyone but me has seen!"  And then I realized they had the snow machines out.  Though it was hot and humid, somehow that fake snow really made me happy.  The rest of the pre-Epcot half of the race was congested, with walkers and runners tripping over each other.  I ignored my intervals a lot because I kept getting boxed in.  Until things spaced out around mile 2, I pretty much just ran when I could.

My general theme today with other runners on the course was something like "Please Make Them Go Away."  I had a young teenager who was whining at his mother come to a complete stop in front of me and I yelled "woah woah woah" as I slammed into his back because I couldn't stop in time.  Another woman near me yelled at him to get on the grass if he needed to stop, and then his mother finally realized maybe she should pay attention to her kid.  I also had people stop in front of me to pose for on-course photographers -- the ones who are there to get pictures of people running the course. I may have yelled at a pair of girls who cut me off and did that.  Aaaaand I also yelled "get off the course" at the handful of people waiting to take pictures at one of the mile markers.

Yeah, not my finest hour.  But people seriously need to learn race etiquette!

Anyway, once we got into Epcot, my mood brightened considerably.  The run through the World Showcase was really nice, with music playing and lots of photo ops.  It's always interesting for me to see places I've been a million times before under different circumstances, and this definitely fit the bill.

mile 5 - this was my cheering point for the last 10K
We left Epcot through International Gateway, and ran past the Boardwalk, Swan, and Dolphin before hitting mile 5 at the Yacht Club.  You remember the  the 5-mile marker from the last 10K, right?  I couldn't resist finally stopping for my photo.

My favorite spectators of the day (aside from the guy with the sign that said, "you look HOT when you sweat") was a family sitting on a bench outside the Beach Club.  They were clapping as people passed, and for some reason when I went by I yelled "wooo" at them.  This was all the instigation they needed, and they went cheer-crazy.  I did the balled-up shaking fists of excitement completely involuntarily, and cracked up laughing.  They were totally cheering for ME!  I'm fine with pretending people are cheering just for me, but this time I totally take credit for the outburst.  It was so awesome!

We re-entered Epcot backstage at IGW and actually ran right by the trailer a friend of mine works at.  I was all of a sudden bummed that it wasn't a weekday or I'm sure he would've been out watching the crazy parade.  I considered going over and leaving a note (or sweaty butt print) in his cubicle, but I figured it was probably locked.

We ran back into Epcot next to Imagination, and then through the Innoventions breezeway, past Spaceship Earth, and out of the park backstage the same way as the half marathon.  The last .1 mile happens in the parking lot, and I managed to run about half that length, finishing with my arms way up in the air.  (no worry about sweaty pits -- at that point I don't think ANY of me was dry!)

After the finish line, I looked for a volunteer placing medals on people, but every single one was just handing them out.  So I took my medal, placed it proudly around my own neck, and headed toward the rest of the post-race stuff - Powerade, wristband (that plus tomorrow's medal are what combine to get my GSC medal), finisher photo, banana, snack box...  Before the race, they mentioned that there would be princesses doing photo ops in the reunion area, and I really wanted to stop and do that, but the sky was getting darker and darker and I had a long walk to the car and didn't want to risk getting soaked.  I'll have to take my medals over to MK one day (when I'm not dripping sweat down my face) and do "hero shots" like the ones Nicole and I did last year.

Considering the sticky weather, my generally crappy starting mood, and the inconsiderate runners, I had a really good time today.  The first half of the course was dark and boring, but the Disney folks did their best to make it slightly more interesting.  But there really is something special about running through the parks.  I wish I could do it all the time!
the 10K medal has Cinderella's coach on it!

My Race Stats:
Clock Time: 1:58:58
Chip Time: 1:28:01
Pace: 14:10
Overall Place: 4723/8964
Gender Place: 4062/7922

My Splits (according to RunKeeper, which imploded on me around mile 4 but apparently still kept time and believes my pace was 13:35 for the whole race):
Mile 1: 13:14 min/mile
Mile 2: 13:24 min/mile
Mile 3: 13:27 min/mile
Mile 4: 13:37 min/mile
Mile 5: 13:57 min/mile
Mile 6: 13:54 min/mile

The Minnie 10K that's part of Marathon weekend is still on my bucket list - mostly because I want the medal - but I think it's going to have to wait 'til 2016 since I'm pretty sure I'm going to sign up for the Marathon (!!) in 2015.  The course is worth doing again...and maybe in two years I'll be fast enough to get into a corral with fewer people getting in my way.

Oh the Humidity!

This isn't my real Enchanted 10K recap.  This is just a quick post to point out that it is February, and for the second year in a row this particular weekend is unseasonably hot, humid, and terrible.  How do I know?  Photos don't lie...
2013 vs. 2014

I actually think this morning might have been worse than last year.  After all, it was only a 10K and my face is redder and bangs more stalactite-like.  You can also see a dry spot in last year's purple shirt.  I'm pretty sure I didn't have an inch of dry fabric on me this morning!

Anyway, I figured I would do the side-by-side with today's picture, since tomorrow I'll be wearing a visor and not have bangs showing for my second Princess Half Marathon.

PS - I was so excited to be able to recycle last year's feathers! They are now hanging from my rear view mirror, so that probably means they are retired.

12 February, 2014

Nerding Out

I had a conversation with one of my imaginary "work boyfriends*" today unlike possibly any conversation I've ever had at work before.  And it all started because I didn't feel like running after work.

Me: I'm feeling pretty slackery.
Him: Is slackery a real adverb?
Me: Well, it would be an adjective, but no I think I made it up.
Him: No...pretty sure it's an adverb.
Me: Let's change the words.  "feeling pretty lazy" would make lazy an adjective.  "walking lazily" would be an adverb.

I kid you not, this went on for another five minutes, during which time the phrases "diagramming the sentence," "modifying the I," and "predicate adjective" came up; plus the merits of diagramming sentences were discussed.  In the end, he ended up emailing his teacher mother to settle the debate.

I got a text after I left work telling me her reply -- it would be an adjective modifying "I."

My reply: "neener neener."

*The work boyfriends are a long and winding tale for another time.  They are real people, but their boyfriend status is imaginary.  

04 February, 2014

During, Again

It's been two months since my "M" adventure at Old Navy and my decision to post a picture of myself in spandex pants and no bra on the internet.  (hello, creepy Googlers!)  Since then, the grocery store scale tells me I've lost a whopping 4 pounds, but my body tells another story.  Since that photo was taken, I've bought smaller pants for work and taken a smaller race shirt.  I also have a bad feeling I'm about to need to get some smaller bras...again.

Anyway, I thought now would be a fun time to revisit "during" and document my progress.  So here's two months' difference.  I don't know how noticeable the changes are to people who don't see me like this every day (which is, of course, everyone but me!), but I'm actually pretty pleased with the side-by-side comparison.

Here's to continued progress (and the future purchase of a full-length mirror so I can stop standing monkey-toed on the edge of the bathtub)!

03 February, 2014

Melbourne Half Marathon Recap

Y'all know I have trouble accepting compliments, right?  It seems once every few weeks someone uses the word "inspirational" regarding me and my running.  Every time I hear it, I kind of cringe.   Me? Inspiring anyone to do anything?  No way!  But last week I did something even I was kind of inspired by.

On Monday as I was typing up my recap from the Celebration Half, I started to feel sicker and sicker.  I still don't know whether it was food poisoning or a stomach bug... All I know is that I ended up throwing up for the first time in eleven years, and was sick for more than 24 hours.  I had a fever over 101 and the dehydration was so bad my calves and thighs were cramping up.  In short, I was miserable.  I called in sick from work for three days, though that last day was more about resting than recovery.  Friends online and at work on Friday all asked if I was going to skip the race on Sunday, and I never hesitated before explaining why I would be there at the start:

If I can't finish, then I'll hop on the van of shame.  But I'm not going to not start just because I'm worried I might not finish.  Sure, it's not as eloquent as DFL>DNF>DNS, but I said it without thinking.  I totally meant it.

So anyway, on to Melbourne...because I did go.

The race expo was small and pretty peaceful when I got there around 3:00 on Saturday.  I was easily able to navigate the separate tables for picking up my race number, hat, and timing chip before heading into the actual expo room for my shirt.  I was told they were out of XL shirts, and was offered a XXL.  I took a L instead, knowing how huge the XXL I got from Celebration was (I'm actually wearing it now - it's pretty much like a sponsored night shirt).  I was told that there would be XL shirts available at race morning packet pick-up, which seriously annoyed me.  Why was I being penalized for showing up and going to the expo?  Anyway, as soon as I got to the hotel I tried on my L shirt and was thrilled to realize it pretty much fit as well as the women's cut XXL shirt from Princess last year.  It's tight, but not unflatteringly so.  That said...

Dear Race Directors, Please stop it with the white shirts!  Do an internet search for high impact sports bras and you'll see why!

This race had I think 2000ish participants between the half and full, but it felt very small and fairly disorganized at the start.  There weren't any of those "line up near your pace" signs set up, and it seemed like we were all just kind of bunched together looking confused.  Eventually we were off across the start line (with timing mats that were like lumpy throw rugs...).

The first two miles were tough for me, not because of my exhaustion/dehydration, but because of the inconsiderate walkers spread across the course.  I know I was leap-frogging some of them, but there were some big time jerks strolling along just being in my way.  By the end of the second mile, I finally cleared the worst of the walkers and was able to settle into a decent pace.

The end of the second mile was also the point where I thought "woah...I'm kind of woozy!" I had a big handful of Craisins and continued along.  It seemed like there was at least one water stop per mile, and they were well stocked.  Unfortunately, their yellow Gatorade was full strength, and I had to mix each with a cup of water just to get it down.  And I'm not sure how to explain it - whether it was tap water or really cheap paper cups - but the water tasted really unpleasant.

One of the really cool things about this race was the on-course entertainment.  Not only were there a wide variety of local bands and DJs, but there were really bizarre acts like a woodwind trio (oboe/clarinet/bassoon, playing the Rocky theme when I passed them), an accordion group, bagpipers, and a pianist.  The pianist was at the top of the first bridge, just past mile 5.

...and let's talk about the bridges, shall we?

The race is one big loop that involves crossing two causeway bridges.  These bridges are pretty high and steep, but absolutely awesome to conquer.  Fog was so thick on the first bridge that I couldn't really see the grade - I just knew I was going up.  I did all of my intervals, but definitely slowed the pace.  And on the way back down, I let my stride open up and enjoyed the pull of gravity.  The second bridge pretty much covers most of the distance between the 11 and 12 mile markers.  Though it was clear at the bottom and the top, there was a weird fog layer halfway up.  The payoff was reaching the top and looking out over the water - blue sky above and clouds below.  It felt like I had run up into heaven.

Or maybe it just felt like I had died.  Truth be told, somewhere in that last bridge I used up my reserves.  I was getting chills and was starting to get woozy again, but I kept going.  My jog intervals were slower, but I didn't quit.  Yet.

Dan (of the Orlando Half) had long-since finished, but intersected with me right after mile 12 to take an "action shot" of me.  He pointed left and told me that's where the after-party was, and I went right.  And then realized I had to run another 3/4 mile.  I hated this part of the course with a hatred previously reserved for the hills after the Epcot on-ramp at the Disney races.  I hated the fact that scores of runners wearing medals were walking the opposite direction - some rudely in the course. I hated the lack of cheering spectators.  I hated every turn in the road.  And I hated that I had hit the wall HARD and decided to walk the last half mile.  I was so happy to turn the corner and finally see the finish, but still walked halfway before I started running again.

After crossing the finish line, a wonderful volunteer put my medal around my neck and asked if she'd see me again in three weeks at Princess (I was wearing my Princess shirt) and I talked to her for a minute while another volunteer snapped the timing chip off my shoe.  I got a cup of water, and then another, and then I wandered down to the after party...where I immediately got a bottle of water out of a kiddie pool full of ice.

The line for pizza and pancakes was pretty long, so I got a banana instead.  Dunkin Donuts were there, but their line was also long.  I decided to get in the beer line, and stood in it for five minutes before realizing that it wasn't moving at all.  So I gave up, grabbed another bottle of water, and started back up towards the parking lot.

Side note: there was no directional signage from the after party back to the start/parking area.  More than a few of us non-locals were incredibly turned around getting from one to the other.

Anyway, I guess I was a little bit bi-polar about this race.  It was awesome and horrible and exhilarating and frustrating.  I brought a lot of baggage along though, so I can't really blame them for some of my issues.  And I have to say, I was thrilled to not only finish this race but finish it only 3.5 minutes slower than my PR the week before.

I loved the bridges.

I loved the entertainment.

I will likely do this race again some day.

Race Stats:
Chip time: 3:12:58
Pace: 14:44
Overall place: 1077/1181
Division place: 103/111

My Splits (per RunKeeper):
Mile 1: 12:43 min/mi
Mile 2: 13:09 min/mi
Mile 3: 13:39 min/mi
Mile 4: 13:54 min/mi
Mile 5: 14:04 min/mi
Mile 6: 14:03 min/mi (first bridge)
Mile 7: 14:27 min/mi
Mile 8: 15:03 min/mi
Mile 9: 14:47 min/mi (chasing the elusive Gummy Bear station)
Mile 10: 15:10 min/mi
Mile 11: 14:51 min/mi
Mile 12: 15:30 min/mi (second bridge)
Mile 13: 15:34 min/mi

Random Notes:

  1. Mocha-flavored CLIF shots are like delicious frosting that you squeeze directly into your mouth.  I'm not sure how it would taste if not mid-race, but was in love with this flavor!
  2. The race had a gummy bear station "on mile 8," which I expected to be near the 8 mile marker.  It wasn't until nearly mile 9, and my run mantra quickly became "where the F--- are my gummy bears?" over and over again until I finally got them.  You wouldn't think three gummy bears in a dixie cup would do much, but POW! they were amazing.  I am thinking about swapping craisins for Starburst in future races.
  3. I like orange wedges.
I just realized that I managed to turn a race recap into a foodie post.  Sorry about that, but I like food.  Why do you think I'm still running?

Up next: Glass Slipper Challenge - 10K on 2/22 and Half Marathon on 2/23.