Race Review: Navy Air Force Half 2017

Long time, no “see”!  I have a little race report for you today….

I ran the NAF last year and almost died.  Okay, that’s melodramatic and not funny, considering that I did see people go down on the course (this year, too, but we’ll get to that).  Still, it was SUPER tough!  It was so bad, I never even wrote about it!  My hip was a mess and I was in a lot of pain around mile 6. Also, the weather was super hot and sunny.  Even with that and a chest cold, I still got a distance PR of 2:15:53, which was 8 minutes faster than my previous one.

This year, I needed a half around the same time and thought, surely the weather gods won’t screw us two years in a row.  WRONG!

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When you can hardly see the top of the Monument due to humidity, it isn’t a good sign

Packet Pick Up

The packet pick up was at the DC Armory this year.  I was surprised because last year it was at the ball field and there were only a handful of vendors.  I didn’t think they would fill the Armory.  They didn’t.  It was outside, under tents.  They had more vendors but I was in and out in ten minutes. It was a nice, low-key pick up and went fine.  The race shirt is a nice, dark blue long sleeve tech.  I’ll post a picture of it later.

Race Logistics

At the last minute, I abandoned my plan to park at my work and walk the two miles to the start and bought a spot in the Reagan Building for $15, as advised by the race.  As did everyone else in the free world.  Even though I left my house at 5:40, I didn’t park until almost an hour later (only a 20 minute drive) because we couldn’t get into the garage due to congestion and security has to inspect all of the cars (life in DC!).  Pro tip: next time, I will go past the main entrance (by staying in the middle lane) and turn right to enter the back entrance.  No line!

After that, I had to find the portajohns.  Which were at the finish festival area, as far from the start as they could get.  There were only three lines and they were long!

Lines
3 lines!!

Per usual, I was in line when the National Anthem was sung.  Luckily, I was able to run to the starting area right before they closed the first yellow wave.  I had to almost trample a ton of red bib runners who were already crowding the start even though the announcer was yelling to let the yellows through.  Bah.

The Race

After that stressful beginning, my heart rate was jack rabbiting all over the place.  I couldn’t get it to come down and I was running in the 8s.  I read that in order to run a 4:15 marathon (my plan for November), you should be able to do a 2 hour half so that was my plan.  That meant keeping a pace around 9:09.  The first 4 miles had me in the very low 9s, high 8s.  I knew I needed to control that!  The good thing about starting way at the end of the wave was it was pretty empty ahead of me.  I had to pass a lot of people but I didn’t feel boxed in for the first couple of miles during the first out and back and then around Hains Point, like I usually do.

I was running with my Hydra Quiver from Orange Mud so I didn’t need to stop at the water stops.  I had one bottle full of Amped Hydrate and the second with “smart” water, both half frozen.  It was so hot, though, that they completely thawed quite quickly.  At mile 6, I used half of a e+ energy shot from Isagenix.

By mile 7, I was HOT.  This was around the Kennedy Center and Watergate.  It was really the only spot with a lot of spectators but most of the families just stood there silently, some holding signs.  I asked a guy next to me if they were watching a funeral.  Pro tip:  It’s okay to cheer for runners other than your own!  They actually like it!

We were now going up Rock Creek Parkway.  It is not really flat. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a dirty liar.  The road is severely canted in some areas so you are fighting gravity in two directions.  We also had to go up a legit hill to the turn around.  Let me tell you, my legs were begging for mercy at that spot.  Luckily, I knew some of my MRTT friends were just ahead so I kept moving.  At this point, was a bit ahead of my needed average pace (but I knew what was coming).

At mile 10, I dropped my half full Amped Fuel packet.  I had just taken some and it flew out of my pouch.  I wasn’t sure if I would need the rest so I trotted back and tried, and tried, and tried to pick it up.  Finally got it up and secured on the 4th try.  Did I mention I was hot?

Mile 11 and 12 were rough.  The sun came out and we had to go on a fully exposed area by Lincoln Memorial and on the Memorial Bridge. I took the rest of my e+shot but my pace still dropped to 9:35 and 9:42.  I could tell from my average that I would not make my 2 hour goal but I didn’t give up and walk, like I usually do!  Instead, when I beeped at 12 I decided to go as hard as I could.  Normally, I have a strong finish kick.  There was no kick this year.  My tank was E-M-P-T-Y. My last mile was 9:00 even and I crossed the finish line at 2:02:58.

Half times
Um, A 13 minute PR?? Oh, and I got a 10K PR, too!
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I’ll take it!
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I am beet red!

At the finish, I got my snazzy medal and a bottle of water but I was shaking so bad, I could hardly hold the bottle.  I immediately took two Endurolyte caps from Hammer and they kicked in while I was talking to some MRTT friends and I felt better. I then went to the food area and got some pretzels (which I immediately ate), chocolate chip cookies (ditto), a muffin, and two granola bars (neither of which I ate). I almost attacked a sketchy looking guy to find out where he got his banana but, alas, he brought his own (insert raunchy joke here).

After that, I decided to head back to the parking garage because I knew we had to go through security to get into the building and last year it was a nightmare.  Luckily, I ran into two more MRTT friends who told me about the “secret” entrance.  Pro Tip: skip the line at the main doors and go a bit further down the building and take the first right.  No one used that entrance so we were through in a heart beat and the bathroom is right there.  But, if you all crowd it next year so I have to wait in line, I demand the ability to cut the line 😀

Overall

This is not a Marine Corps race (or even Army).  They needed more bathrooms at the start and closer to the start.  They need a better wave system.  They need better communication, overall.  The weather still sucked (but the race couldn’t control that one).  There were hardly any spectators so if you need a crowd to keep you going, this isn’t a good choice.  It would have been nice if there was a HS pep group on Hains Point or something.  That was so boring.  The race shirt is nice.  The medal is fine.

I’d give it a solid B.  I say I won’t do it again but… well, I’ll likely see you next year.

 

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Race Report: Share the Love (of Hills) Multidistance

This may be the longest “race report” about a virtual race, ever.  But, I *puffy heart* loved it so much, I have to gush.  Please indulge my love letter to my “sole sisters”.

I’ve said before how much I absolutely ADORE my Moms Run This Town chapter.  These ladies are all so amazingly supportive and all around bad ass, I can hardly stand it some days.  A few weeks ago, I asked if anyone knew of a local-ish half marathon on Valentine’s weekend because I needed a time check for Blue Ridge.  These ladies can ferret out some of the most obscure races so I thought one of them might be in the know.  We can up empty handed but one of my friends piped up with an offer to make a virtual course for us.  And, the First Annual Share the Love (of Hills) Multidistance  race was born!

It was a double looped course, with the second loop in reverse.  The main loop was actually a figure 8, so ladies could drop out when they hit their desired distance. The house that was acting as home base was fully stocked with Lara Bars, Honey Stingers, water, pretzels, candy hearts, and other goodies.  The mom even remembered tissues and handi wipes (which froze, but that’s okay).

Our numbers were diminished a bit, due to the frigid temperatures, but everyone was happy to be running.  It was a real feel of 0 at the start but, luckily, the wind was light and the sun was shining!

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We had better finish line food here than at most races!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And, we’re off!

Only 3 of us were running the full 13.1 but we caught glimpses of the other distance runners and having friends at the aid stations was a big boost!

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This station even had a fire pit!  I didn’t want to get close because I don’t think I would have had the will-power to leave!
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No cold porta-pots here!

The actual race was pretty uneventful.  My two running companions were in great spirits and we had a fantastic time just taking the hills, one at a time.

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Going up one of the big ones – I’m bringing up the rear 🙂
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My husband and LR stopped by to cheer us on at mile 11. Always nice!

Before we knew it, we were done!!

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Strong finish!

With the help of these fantastic ladies, I was able to achieve an 11 minute personal record in my half marathon time.  That’s with a ton of hills and absolutely freezing temperatures.  I am so incredibly lucky to have such a fantastic support network!  I never thought I was much of a “group player” but being a member of MRTT has completely changed my tune.  I have received so much from the other members and I try to give as much as I get – but I know that the equation will never be balanced.  I truly ❤ MRTT

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Because I have to have at least one stupid picture of myself in every post!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Race Report: Rock n Roll USA 2014

I participated in the Rock n Roll USA half marathon on Saturday.  I honestly don’t know how this happened!  One minute I was saying how I wouldn’t run a RnR race and then next thing I knew, I was looking at the registration confirmation email!  I think I have a variant form of automatic writing that only targets race registrations 🙂

As you know, I have been dealing with plantar fasciitis and training for my first triathlon.  Because of this, I have not run any “long” or “fast” miles since… November.   All of my training runs have been “zone 2” (low heart rate) which means I’ve been exceedingly and excruciatingly slow.  I’ve been riding and swimming so my aerobic level is good but it’s not exactly the same.  This is not a good set up for your first half marathon of the year.  Just finishing this race in one piece quickly became worry #1.

Worry #2 popped up when I finally started reading reviews from last year’s race and saw some appalling reports about the water stations and finish line aid.  I decided rather last minute to wear my CamelBak and bring everything with me.  There were also gear check problems last year but it sounded like this year would be smoother as they hired UPS trucks to handle the gear instead of school buses (WTF?!).  So, even though I had not run with my pack since early October, I decided it would be a good idea.

Expo, SWAG

I stopped by the Armory around 10:30 on Friday morning, as my usual routine for DC races.  It wasn’t crowded at all and, even though there were many vendors, everything seemed rather quiet and subdued.  The bib and shirt pickup was actually below the main floor (didn’t know that was there!) and took all of two minutes.  My only quibble was they didn’t give me pins (have plenty at home!) or the zip tie if I wanted to check a bag.  I guess they were at another station.  All runners received a nice shirt, either unisex or women’s cut, and a fabric gear drawstring bag that could be used at bag check. I risked it and chose a large women’s cut shirt and it looks good – sometimes they look like babydoll tops!

Start

The start was at 7:30, north the the Washington Monument.  I decided to metro in while some of my friends purchased a parking pass which allowed them to park at the finish at RFK Stadium.  They still had to metro to the start so it was about the same time. I also managed to score a Brooks VIP Potty Pass for basically free from my local running store.  I stopped by the LRS at 6:30 on Friday night and they had a ton of passes leftover and were giving them away.  Score!!  Double bonus as some friends were working the VIP area so a bunch of us just hung out there until it was time for the corral line-up.  If you ever get a chance to get one of the passes, I highly recommend it!  Running water, real toilets, HEAT, and nice little amenities.  Why yes, I would like some TUMS, just in case!  For those who weren’t lucky enough to get the special treatment, there was a huge row of port-a-pots lining the street near the UPS trucks.  I didn’t see the lines but it sounds like it was an adequate number.20140317-180037.jpg

There were a ton of corrals, combining both the full and half distances, and it was a wave start. I moved back several corrals to be with friends so we didn’t pass the starting line until 8:10.

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Course

It was DC.  There’s only so much you can say.  The start was nice, with the monuments.  We ran out to Arlington Cemetery and then back to the Kennedy Center.  Up Rock Creek Parkway to Adams Morgan.  Past Howard University and then to RFK.  The hill at mile 6 was really long and not pleasant. Some spots on the course were really lonely and not very stimulating, visually, but what do you expect of NE DC? My favorite was seeing the guy who dresses up at Mr. Incredible and plays his boom box on Rock Creek Parkway.  I saw him a few times last year and just love his enthusiasm!  Some people had make-shift aid stations set up and one guy had beer and sausages!  I appreciated the sentiment but I almost gagged on the smell!  Oy!

Aid

There were many water/Gatorade stations but I was glad I had my own water.  The first ones were having a hard time keeping up with demand but the later ones seemed better organized.  My big beef was the cups!  Some stations used paper Dixie cups but others used big, plastic SOLO cups!  Those things are definitely a hazard, especially after being squashed and broken (because runners seem to be unable to hit a trash can…) There was also a station offering GU and they seemed to have a good supply.  There were some port-a-johns along the course but they all had HUGE lines.  We passed a construction site by Howard and lot of runners even took over their construction johns!

Finish

Thanks to the help of a friend keeping me moving the first eleven miles and some minor miracle, I managed to finish in exactly 2:25, just a hair over an eleven minute pace.  I still don’t know how I managed that!  It was a 13 minute PR from my time at least year’s Historic Half!  I briefly entertained 2:20 but mile 11 was a struggle for me.

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20140317-184719.jpgHeavy Metal, natch!

The finish was well organized.  I somehow managed to try to run down the marathon chute rather than the half but they didn’t move over until after I hit the last mat so I appreciated that.  There were several photo ops and plenty of food and drink for everyone.  Chocolate milk, chips, pretzels, and clementine oranges.  I did not see a first aid station at the finish but there was a huge tent at the other end of the parking lot.  I also didn’t see any port-a-johns (which I needed).  There was a band playing but not a lot of people were listening to them.  There were also several vendors set up but I just wanted to get back to the metro and head home.  I really appreciated the foil blanket they gave us because my temperature quickly dropped and I would have been a sad panda, indeed, if I hadn’t had it!

As for using the pack, I’m glad I was self supporting but I am still paying for it.  My shoulder and back are still very sore because I was carrying it unbalanced the last few miles.  I couldn’t raise my left arm on Sunday and had to resort to prescription pain meds and it managed to kick off a migraine.  Not good.

Overall

I would give the race a B+.  Some parts were well organized and some needed help.  It appears that they did make a lot of improvements over 2013 so I think 2015 will be even better.  I would not be adverse to running this race again but I would definitely try to do early bird pricing or some other deal because this wasn’t a cheap one!  I would also still bring my own aid, but maybe after I had adjusted to using a pack again!

What I Wore

Athleta compression shorts, t-shirt, Buff band, gloves (which were removed at mile one but carried along because I’m a little nutty), wool socks, and Asics Gel Nimbus shoes. I also carried my CamelBak Annandale (which is now super cheap, if you want one!) and consumed two HUMA Chia Gels. I also had a “fat” sweatshirt that I wore until the start and tossed in the corral.  The race crew collected the discarded clothes for the local homeless shelters.

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Race Report: Crawlin’ Crab Half Marathon

It’s always nice to find a race group that consistently hosts an excellent race!  I first ran with J&A Racing in February for their Virginia is for Lovers 14K.  Yesterday, Little Runner and I partook of their Crawlin’ Crab race trio and were very pleased with the day (despite the weather!)

I had planned on this half marathon to be my big PR of the year.  My plan was to run with the 2:30 pace group and cut 10 minutes off from my previous PR at the Historic Half.  I didn’t count on the weather.  It was abnormally hot and humid and the sun was shining it all its glory.  Remember, I’m the wilting flower who usually collapses under those conditions but I decided NOT THIS TIME!

Packet Pick Up

The packet pick-up, as well as the race start and finish, was at the Hampton Convention Center.  It was super easy to pick up our packets, have my ID checked for the post-race beer band (even though I never have one), and pick up our shirts.  LR and I both received race specific shirts.  His was cute blue cotton T and mine was a red tech v-neck.  Even though it was a “ladies cut” it still fit appropriately.  I also received a 13.1 car magnet with a crab between the 3 and the 1.  It’s very cute!  The “expo” was quite small.  They had some race branded merchandise but I think there was less merchandise than the VIFL exp.  They also had a couple dozen vendors on site.  One chiropractor was doing complimentary KT taping, which I thought was nice.

Kid’s Kilometer and Race Start

We were advised to be at the convention center by 7:00 if we wanted to park and we had no problems finding a good spot.  The Kid’s Kilometer began at 7:30.  They started with Miss. Someone – Teen Virginia? I don’t know – leading the kids through the Pledge of Allegiance.  I thought it was a nice touch.  The race started right on time and LR blazed the way.  He was very excited that it was chipped timed and was asking me to look up his results the entire ride home!

My race began at 8:00.  I was seeded in corral 4 and my pacers were at the back of the corral with the obligatory sign.  They were very nice guys and not excessively chatty.  The Hampton University marching band led the start with the chair racers at the front.   It was already in the 70s and very humid at this point.  It was all very organized and orderly.

On the Course

Did I mention it was hot?  We were all dripping by mile 2.  There were 7 water/Gatorade stops and I had my small bottle of EFS but that was barely enough.  I lost track of my pacers at the mile 7 water stop and was feeling a little discourage.  I was miserable and my time was starting to show it.  Luckily, this was about the time that we moved into the neighborhoods where some wonderful people had set up sprinklers, an impromptu Skittles and pretzels stop, and several had cases of water that they were passing out.  They were freaking awesome!  There was also a planned candy aid station with fruit flavored Mike & Ike’s.  I didn’t think I would take any but I wound up with two cups (3 pieces in each cup).  I needed the sugar!

The course itself was almost entirely flat.  We just had “hills” on the two overpasses and one over an inlet – which smelled like steam crabs – that struck me as very fitting.  We ran past the water for a bit and by some interesting architecture but I was honestly just trying to keep moving so I didn’t look around very much.  I think it was around mile 10 that I saw one of the pacers helping a woman to the curb.  I talked to him for a minute and he was cramping so badly that he had to drop from the group.  At this point, I really wanted to walk but my stubborn side kicked in and I tried to push as hard as I could.  I decided to run until mile 12 and then finish strong.  And I did.  Mile 12 was at an 11 minute pace.  I wound up setting a new personal best by 4 minutes.  It wasn’t the 2:30 that I was hoping for but, considering the conditions, I was just fine with my time.

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Strong finish!

On Course Support

The support was fabulous. There were plenty of volunteers passing out cold water at all 7 aid stations plus a police officer or other official at all intersections – most of the roads were still open to traffic on one side so this was very important.  There was a gel of some sort at one of the later aid stations but I wasn’t paying attention since I don’t use them.  And, of course, the Mike & Ike’s.  The course and the mileage was well marked and agreed with my Garmin.  The true gems, though, were the good people of Hampton who were out showing their support.  Around mile 11, a woman sitting on her porch asked why we were running.  I shouted back “because we can!” and I heard her mumble “uh, okay…” but she was still out there waving, even if she didn’t get it.

The Finish

It was so great to come down that last straight to the finish!  I saw my husband and LR at the side and the crowd was cheering.  When I heard them announce my name as I approached the mat, I pushed as hard as I could and finished in great form.  Volunteers were waiting with a crabby medal, water, bananas, Power bars, and – best of all – buckets of ice cold wash clothes!  Oh, heaven!  I immediately plopped one on my neck and the other on my face and told the volunteer that I loved her!  We also received a nice finishers hat.  I almost missed that table because I was so preoccupied with the wash cloths 🙂  The finish festival was inside the convention center but we didn’t go to it.  The J&A finisher food is a bread bowl with soup.  When I signed up, that sounded awesome.  After that run, I could hardly stand the thought of eating something hot.  Plus, we had to motor back to the hotel for a little pool time before heading back to home.

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Done!

Overall

A+!  This was a well-organized, family friendly event.  I would be happy to run it again any time, but maybe next time they can dial the sun back a bit?

Quick Tip

If you are running with you kids, wear matching shirts in some obnoxious color.  LR and I both had on fluorescent orange shirts – we were going for a “crabby” color – and it was very easy for us to find each other in the crowds and for me to spot him in pictures that the organizers posted on Facebook

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Bright orange, in the front!

Race Report: Fountainhead Half Marathon

I have professed my love for Marine Corp road races in the past and now it is time to do the same with EX2 Adventures and trail races!  I ran/walked/sloshed in the mud their inaugural half marathon at Fountainhead Regional Park yesterday and had a great time (what better way to kick off marathon training??)

Registration, Packet Pick Up

The registration fees were very reasonable for this race – early bird is only $60. I used my volunteer coupon that I received for volunteering for the Hemlock Overlook race towards the registration costs.  Packet pick up was the morning of the race.  After signing a waiver, I quickly moved through the pick-up line for my number (99!) and shirt.  The shirt is a cotton shirt so I won’t use it for running but it’s a great royal blue with a gold logo (a nice nod to Boston) that I know I will use a lot during my “normal” life.  My only gripe is that the shirts do run very small but I already knew that and sized up.  My husband dropped me off at 7 and I was through packet pick up and hit the bathrooms by 7:15.

Pre-Race

The pre-race announcements started promptly at 7:50.  The race director walked us through the course, made sure we knew which way to go at the trail splits (right!), described the aid stations, and made sure everyone knew the basic rules of trail races – no headphones, pass on the left, let people know you are passing, etc.  At 8:00, we started the half mile prologue to place ourselves before entering the trail head.

The Course

When I volunteered at Hemlock Overlook, I thought that I was so glad I wasn’t trying to run that!  It was very hilly and looked incredibly tough.  Well, guess what!  Fountainhead is at the other end of the same system!  Thankfully, I have trained out there twice, made it 4 miles out the last run, so I sort of knew what was in store for me but the unknown 3 miles were … hmm, challenging.

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My Garmin died at mile 9 – it was more of the same only all of the downhills in mile 1-3 were now uphills!

It is a heavily wooded forest so there was no direct sun, other than one small open area.

You can see how steep the hills are by the angle at the side - and this wasn't a terribly big one!
You can see how steep the hills are by the angle at the side – and this wasn’t a terribly big one!
Walk the plank!
Walk the plank!

We crossed several wooden bridges, a few quagmires of mud, and one larger stream that was we couldn’t jump.  The stream was a lot of fun, the very steep and muddy hill right after it was a bit less fun.  I was a little worried about that hill because it was a real mess by the time I hit it.  I made  it up safely but it did kick off my tendonitis in my ankle.

Trail Support and Aid Stations

There were volunteers ALL OVER this trail!  I was amazed!  They were at all of the spots where we had to split onto a side trail for the loops and there were several that were just out to make sure everything was okay.  There were 4 aid tables that we hit a total of 7 times.  They had water, Gatorade, and one of the double stops had Gu in a variety of flavors.  There was plenty of water, etc., even for those of us bringing up the back.  There was even a nice golden retriever that I had to pet a bit to boost my morale. 🙂  It was pretty humid in the woods and I was sweating like a horse heavily.  I decided at the last minute to bring my small bottle of extra concentrated EFX and I’m glad I did.  I drank at least one cup of water at every station, all of my handheld, and even refilled it at one of the later stops and still drank most of that!  I also used two of my new Huma Chia gels, review coming tomorrow.

Partial view of the lake
Partial view of the lake

The trail was very well marked in the unmanned areas.  There were LONG pink streamers that even I could spot and the “wrong” trails were marked off with caution tape.  There were several times when I totally lost the pack so I really appreciated the conscientious marking.

Finish

I was one of the last runners in.  I knew I would be and I’m okay with that.  My only goal was to stay ahead of the sweep, and I did!  At mile 7, I saw a runner behind me who was wearing a vest and I thought that was the sweep.  I panicked a bit because I knew I couldn’t push hard for an extra 6 miles.  Turns out that it was just a runner wearing a Nathan’s hydration vest!  D’oh!

My final time was something like 3:20.  I did a lot of walking at the end.  Even with my late finish, there was still plenty of food left including hot egg and cheese wraps!  They were perfect for my rebelling stomach!  They also had cookies, a variety of crackers, bananas, water, soda, and Papa John’s pizza (much to Little Runner’s delight!).

Overall

Overall, I give this race a solid A.  I truly hated that muddy hill but I think it would have been a different story if it had been drier.   Everyone was super friendly and helpful. I must also comment on my fellow runners – trail runners are not the same as road runners.  At my other halves, I hardly get a head nod from the faster runners as they pass me on the way back.  At this race, every runner who passed me told me “good job” or the like.  One woman even told me that I was stronger than I thought and to keep pushing.  I really appreciated those words of encouragement!  What a great group of people!

I really hope they keep this course in the rotation and I plan to do it again next year.  Maybe I’ll be “middle of the pack” by then!

DONE!
DONE!

Race Report: Marine Corp Historic Half 2013

As predicted, the Marines put on an excellent race yesterday! Let’s break it down.

Registration

I didn’t decide until 3 weeks ago to register for this race but there were plenty of spots and I had no problem registering.  It was $110 for the race plus an “in training” shirt.  There was a bit of a delay in being able to register myself for the Track a Runner feature but it was fixed by Friday.  I had to communicate with the organizers a couple of times about this and they were quite helpful.

Expo, SWAG

The expo was at the local expo and conference center.  We arrived at 4 pm on Saturday and were able to park and get my bib with no problem.  The race shirt was a nice, bright orange tech shirt.  I really like it!  The expo had the local running store, a couple of supply booths, a NUUN booth, and a few race groups. They also had a lot of Historic Half merchandise for sale.  It also had Mahatma Rice and a bathtub restorer…  We were in and out in 30 minutes, that includes the time it took for our son to play some of the give-away games.  Sean Astin was also running the race but I didn’t see him at the expo or the race.

Start

Unfortunately, all of the hotels right near the start were booked so we had to stay a few miles south of town.  The race started at 7 and we parked about 6:40.  We didn’t adequately prepare for the walk to the start so I had to hustle through the corrals to try to seed myself before the gun.  I was still working my way back while the front corrals were in motion.  They also had the spectators pushed back from the sides of the start so my husband and Little Runner didn’t see me at all.    Next time, we will stay at one of the hotels next to the expo center and have my family spectate from the one mile marker.  It was very open there.

The Course

This was my first residential race so it was a nice surprise to see home owners sitting on their porches with signs and bells!  There were shuttle buses from the start to mile 7 but the lines were so huge that my family was not able to get down the course.  I’m not sure where the buses wound up going because there weren’t a ton of families on the course.  It was mostly locals.  There was a group of Colonial period dancers and a couple of musical groups.  One was more rock but there was a nice strings group that was fun.  Oh, and Civil War drums!  We ran past a Confederate cemetery and a bit of the river.  Of course, the big talk was all about Hospital Hill. Seriously, people were talking about it from mile 1 and the misinformation was epic!  One person was telling everyone it is two miles long!  In reality, it was about a mile and a half long but there was a flat spot mid-hill so it didn’t feel that long.

Hospital Hill Elevation
Hospital Hill Elevation

Don’t get me wrong, it was definitely challenging, but one of my big goals this race was to run ALL of the hills, including Hospital Hill, and I did!  It was very gratifying to run past others who were walking!  I think that was a first for me.

Finish

I was able to finish strong and was very proud of my effort.  I PRd by two minutes on a much hillier course and I didn’t fall apart like last time.  I do wish that there had been more crowd control in the final stretch.  It was very distracting to have people saunter across the course while runners were making the final push.  I also wish my family had been able to see my finish but it was recorded by Comcast Sports so they were able to watch a clip.

Massive Bling!
Massive Bling!

Overall

I would give this race a solid A-.  The bus issue was my biggest gripe but everything else went very well.  They had plenty of on-course water and Gatorade and even had Sports Beans at one point.  The weather was drizzly to start but then it dried off.  It remained very humid but the temperature never reached 70 (thank goodness the sun didn’t emerge!)

I was prepared for cooler temps and wet conditions so I wore capris, a short sleeve shirt, visor, and wool socks. I also had a garbage bag/rain poncho in case I needed it.

This was such a good race for me and really helped my confidence after last month.  I think that I ran a smart race: I didn’t go out too fast, I saved some energy for the hills, and I stopped and stretched at mile 10 before anything started seizing on me. I had some ankle pain but it wasn’t debilitating.  Per my pattern, the Marine race was my redemption run 🙂  I am looking forward to doing it again next year!

Done! See you in 2014!
Done! See you in 2014!

Second Half – I Can Do This!

Sunday, I will be running my second half marathon at the Marine Corp Historic Half in Fredericksburg, VA.  I have to say, I really don’t know what to expect.  My training has been really off since the Swamp Stomp, the weather is looking less than optimal, and my body is having a rough time with the meds that I’m on for the poison ivy fall-out.

[whine] Seriously, I thought about leaving kickboxing and TRX twice last night and sat and cried in the bathroom while cleaning up my legs that had spontaneously started bleeding between classes. Thinning skin, anyone? My legs are starting to hurt less but my skin just feels so weird and stretched and uncomfortable, especially around my knees. The horrible cystic acne isn’t helping my mental health, either. [/whine]

I’m not going to panic, though.  Historically, I have had very good runs with the Marines.  I ran my second 10K with them last October after my first, disastrous one, with another group in September (I mentally think of it as my personal Death March) and the Marines totally salvaged my confidence in my running.  They have excellent on course support and this course will have several opportunities for me to see my family rather than the normal wait for the finish.

My ankle feels so much better than earlier this week.  I seriously thought I had fractured something on Monday.  I now  have full range of motion again and I have been doing the stretches and excises every day.  I also have KT tape and will tape for extra support on Sunday.  I might even tape my adductor muscles.  I’ll be wearing capris so it won’t be visible and the extra support can’t hurt.

I also learned the hard way last month to NOT GO OUT TOO FAST.  Maybe if I yell it at myself a million time, I will get it!  I don’t think they will have pacers on Sunday but I will program my Garmin to beep when I go above my pace.  While I will be happy to do better than last time (2:40), my A goal is 2:30.  Of course, my C goal is always to not hurt myself, not hurt anyone else, not be last, and hopefully get at least one decent picture 🙂 (I thought I had a good one last time until I saw the couple dressed as Superman and Supergirl behind me, walking in their Vibrams)

I will not psych myself out.  I am going to go and do the best that my body can manage.  It has been through a lot lately and I need to respect the effort and the miles.

Hoorah, Marines!  Let’s go!

The Best Laid Plans

Man, I hated Steinbeck in high school.  Still not a fan… But, two things have certainly made my plans go awry.

1. My dog continues to try to kill me.

I am highly allergic to any skin affliction.  When I was little, in backwater Michigan where the mosquitoes will carry off your young if you aren’t careful, I would swell up from every single bite so badly that it looked like I had mumps.  One time, both of my eyes swelled entirely shut from one bite on my cheek!  I am also very allergic to poison ivy.

Three weeks ago, my legs began to itch a bit and I thought it was just some passing allergy.  Then they itched more.  Then I was drawing blood from itching so much.  Both of my lower legs looked like I was turning into the Creature from the Black Lagoon.  Or I had leprosy.  Whoops, lost a leg!  Let me just grab that!  I thought it would clear up with enough calamine lotion/Benedryl/antibiotic cream but it was not.  And it was hurting. And it was affecting my plans for my tri.  I couldn’t very well go to a public pool looking like I had some sort of plague.  Plus, the chlorine!  I can’t even imagine.  So, I have not done any swim training for the past 3 weeks.  I also haven’t done much running because my long pants (no capris! See “plague” and “health risk”) hurt when they moved on the skin.  I finally went to urgent care yesterday, at my husband’s very vocal insistence.  Diagnosis – a nasty case of poison ivy!  I am now on steroids and am already feeling better.

But how?? I haven’t been on any trail runs!  Ah, but three weeks ago, when the weather was warm, I took the dog out for a pee while wearing capris and he went traipsing through some of the undergrowth in our back yard to find the perfect spot.  I investigated yesterday and…

If I hear "leave of 3, let it be" one more time...
If I hear “leave of 3, let it be” one more time…

Score one more for the dog!  This means that I need to reschedule my tri.  The same group has a bit of a longer race in June that I will do but I’m a bit bummed that I can’t do this one on my birthday.

2. Rock ‘n’ Roll Sucks

My next scheduled half was to be Rock ‘n’ Roll Pittsburgh.  I was so looking forward to this one!  We were going to make a little vacation of it.  See some of the cool museums.  Spend time with family.  And there was a chance that some family was going to run with me!

Yesterday I received an email from RnR: It is with great disappointment that we have been forced to postpone the event until 2014. We can no longer plan to organize an event without the support from the Mayor’s Office, Director of Public Safety and the Special Events Committee on the agreed upon date of August 4, 2013.  Blah, blah, blah.  Whatever.  I really wasn’t psyched about running with this group, per se, but the schedule was great.  Now what?

Now I’m going to do the Marine Corp (yes, again) Historic Half on May 19.  The Marines put on a great race and I always do really well with them.  My first 10K was a community run that was an absolute disaster (for me) and almost put me off running.  My second 10K was two months later with the Marines and I had a fabulous time – even while dodging Hurricane Sandy!

Now the crazy part – I ran my first half on April 13.  My second will be May 19.  If I can squeeze in one more before June 13, I qualify as a Half Marathon Fanatic!

I’ve had to make changes but all is not lost!

Race Report: Dismal Swamp Stomp Half Marathon

I ran the Dismal Swamp Stomp Half Marathon in Chesapeake, VA on Saturday, April 13.  This was the race’s 7th running and my first go at a half.  I saw the ad for the race somewhere (Runner’s World?) and was intrigued by the name and the promise of a flat course.  I think it was the perfect choice for my first half.

Registration, Packet Pick-Up, SWAG

The registration was handled by Active.  $77 got me in, as well as my son for the “Cub Run”.  Quite the bargain!  The packet pick up turned out to be at the hotel in which we were staying – the Hyatt Place Chesapeake.  After fighting horrendous DC traffic all the way down, we were very happy to not have to fight more crowds or drive all over Chesapeake.  Little Runner and I picked up our packets while DH checked us in.  It was a very smooth pick-up.  No line!  Little Runner received a cute “Cub Run” shirt that he insisted on wearing immediately and I received a nice fleece pull over.  My pull-over just had the Mettle Events logo on it.  I was disappointed that it was plain but discovered I received the wrong one and they are working on getting me one with the race logo.  We also received two little drawstring backpacks and some local literature and SoyJoy bars.  There were some race shirts, hats, etc. for sale but it was cash or check only so I had to pass.

The hotel itself was great!  We requested a handicap room so that I could take an ice bath after my race and the room was very spacious. It was also very quiet!  The bed was comfortable and I slept like a rock!  There were many restaurants within a mile of the hotel so we had no problems scrounging up dinner and breakfast.

Race Day

We were up at five and at the Cracker Barrel by 6.  Little Runner was a bit out of sorts and we had a huge fight before leaving the hotel.  We got our act together, though, and enjoyed a nice breakfast.  I had scrambled eggs, a banana, and half a blueberry muffin.  Perfect!  Race time was slotted for 8 so we left the restaurant by 7.  It was a short 15 minute drive to the Dismal Swamp and we parked with ease within a short walk to the start.  The temp was in the low 50s with a bit of a breeze.  I wore capris, short sleeve shirt, wool socks, my Saucony Ride 5, and sunglasses.

IMG_0719.JPG
Ready to Go!

The start was delayed five minutes to allow everyone to park.  The first ones out were the pushers.  This race was being run by Ansley’s Angels and had several pushers and hand crank racers.  Five minutes later, it was our turn!  Even though it was a smaller race, there were still pacers.  I lined up with the 2:30 group but left them after the first mile when they were staying around 12 minutes/mile.  Looking back, this was not wise.  Also, my right knee gave a twinge when I stepped on the start mat.  Duh, duh, duh!  Foreshadowing!!

The Race

The course certainly lived up to its description.  It was a flat as a pancake!  We ran through a tunnel of foliage for the the first 4 miles.  There were very few glimpses of water, which was a bit of a disappointment, but there was some shade and everything was very green.  I ran the first 3 miles without music but turned it on at the second water stop.  At mile 4, the elites passed me on their home stretch to the finish.  It is fun seeing the super fast runners but it made me feel like I was running in slow motion!  I cheered on the top runners and all of the pushers who passed by and some returned a wave or thumbs up.  Mile 6.5, turn around and do it again!  Miles 4ish-9ish were in the sun since the woods gave way to a flat open field on one side so it was a bit toasty.  There was also more of a headwind.  At first, that was refreshing but then it was just annoying.  Until mile 10, I was hanging around11 minutes/mile.  That would have given me a 2:20 finish.  But, right after mile 10, I started to slow so I decided to walk a bit.  BIG mistake.  My right  knee started hollering when I resumed my running.  I know I was unconsciously compensating but I couldn’t help it.  Before long, my adductor muscles (boy, that sounds so much better than groin!) started cramping and I had some serious spasms going on.  I kept slowing more and more until I was finally reduced to a walk.  I knew I was going to blow my goal time of 2:30.  When I heard the 2:30 pace group coming (the one runner was very chatty! 🙂 ), I pretty much started bawling like a baby.  I feel sorry for the poor guy working the water at mile 12.  I was a snotty, crying mess.   Thank goodness for sunglasses!  I limped through the last mile and Little Runner brought me home at 2:42:24.

I can’t get the video to embed but here’s my finish

http://results.bazumedia.com/athlete/index/e/3573329

Post Race

I almost went down once I crossed the last mat.  I am so thankful for the wonderful medical staff who were right there.  They had me seated, iced, and dosed with ibuprofen within minutes.  I rested there for a bit and waited for DH to find us.  I then shared some pizza with Little Runner and sat in the grass to stretch and wait for his Cub Run.  His run was a hoot!  He put on his Speedy McSpeedster face and went to town!  I think he had a great time!

Speedy McSpeedster
Speedy McSpeedster

Overall

This was a great race, overall!  There was plenty of on course support – water at 1,3, 5, 7, 9, 12 and Gatorade at two of the tables (I think).  There were also volunteers giving out Power Gels at some point (mile 4?).  Not a lot people cheering but it was barely noticeable with the heavy vegetation.   There were also 3 port-a-potties on the course.  I think there should have been a couple more at the first one since there was a long line and the men weren’t able to sneak off into the trees with the course!

I give this race a solid A.  My efforts, though, receive a C+, at best.  I hadn’t been as diligent about my training the past 2 weeks, I went out too fast, I should have stretched when things started seizing up, and I shouldn’t have had a finishing time in mind for my first race of this distance.  My top goal should have been to just finish.

sad
Sad Runner Girl

Oh, and I thought that I had had a bad race – they announced that 3 years ago, a woman collapsed at the finish line and was pronounced dead.  She was later revived and she ran the race on Saturday!  Holy crap!

I did it!
I did it!

Cue Freak-Out

My first half marathon is in 3 days and I am starting to … fret.  I always get this way before doing a new distance.  I develop a serious case of the self-doubts.  I worry that I won’t finish, that I’ll hurt myself, that I didn’t train enough.  None of this is ever true but it doesn’t stop it from worrying.  My goal for the next 3 days is to stop the negative talk.  Distraction helps so, let me tell you about the race!

My first half marathon will be the Dismal Swamp Stomp.  Last fall, when I was contemplating my first half, the Another Mother Runners had Bart  Yasso, Chief Running Officer of Runner’s World, on their podcast.   The subject of the show was “does size matter”  (of a RACE!  Get your minds out of the gutter!)  Bart’s advice was to try to find a race that you think you will enjoy and a first that sounds cool is always good.

Around the same time, Nike Women’s Half announced that they would be offering an inaugural half in DC in 2013.   These are the same people who have local fire fighters give out Tiffany necklaces as the finisher swag.  Now, Nike Women’s is super popular – I’m sure the presence of hot firefighters is just a coincidence!  They have a lottery entry and it is still a big race.  I don’t mind crowded races too much.  Except when people line up at the front of the corral and then WALK from the start.  Or hold hands with their friends so no one can pass.  Or wear BELLS on their CamelBak so they jingle.  Okay, maybe I don’t like crowds.  But still, crowds mean lots of spectators and it’s nice to have cheering people out there, even though they aren’t necessarily cheering for you.

The other race under consideration was the Dismal Swamp Stomp.  It is a smaller race, it is in flat Chesapeake, VA, it has a lot of community support, and it’s an out-and-back.  In the end, DSS won.  I’m pretty pleased with the choice so far.  Packet pick-up will be a cinch and parking at the race won’t be a problem.  The race organizers have a good reputation and have been responsive to various issues.

Even though they are small, they will still have pacers.  If they have one at my pace, I plan to try to stick with them.  My goal is a 2:30 race.  If I’m with a pacer, I won’t go out too fast and it will give me an incentive to keep going.  They have awesome carved herons as the age group awards.  Maybe some day I can snag one of those!

My “B goal” is, as usual, to not finish last, to not hurt anyone, to not hurt myself.  Also, get a good race picture!!  No old ladies with canes or people blowing snot rockets in sight!

I know I can do this!  I just need my brain to get on-board…