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.