Race Recap: Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon

Well guys, my first experience as a pacer was interesting. I paced the 3:25 group at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon Sunday morning in Biloxi, Mississippi. Technically, the race started in Pass Christian and ended in Biloxi.

We went over to Biloxi Saturday afternoon and hit the expo on our way in. The trip was really quick (less than an hour and a half!). I picked up my bib and pacer singlet at the expo, as well as a sweet Run Mobile bottle and some Goodr sunglasses from the Fleet Feet Mobile booth (I couldn’t resist). Um … the sunglasses are AMAZING! I ran the whole marathon in them and they are so comfortable.

We spent the night at the Beau Rivage, one of the host hotels. The hotel was very festive and done up “real nice” for Christmas.

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We walked all around and looked at the lights and the casino before settling in for the night. The air conditioner in our room was either broken or disabled and it was approximately one thousand degrees in our room (a slight exaggeration, but not a major one). I tossed and turned all night and eventually got up around 3 a.m. so that I could take an ice-cold shower. I don’t usually sleep well the night before a race anyway, so that wasn’t really a big deal.

The silver lining was that I was so excited to get outside into the 30 degree temps and run! Ha.

We left the hotel around 5:45 to make the trek over to Pass Christian for the start. I had a 26 mile car ride to mentally prepare myself for the race and see firsthand just how far we would be running. It was far … a long, long way to run. We arrived at the start line around 6:30 for the 7:00 start. I picked up my pacer sign at the gear check, waited in line for the bathroom and then before I knew it, we were lining up and taking off. Everything was seamless.

The weather was perfect! It was mid-thirties at the start and warmed up as we went. There was little to no wind (which on a point to point course could’ve been a major problem). Gear wise, I went with a long sleeve shirt under my singlet, shorts, tall socks, gloves, my rocking reindeer hat and my new Goodr sunglasses. I also held a hand warmer for the first few miles (and yes, just one … for whatever reason, I just assumed that a package of hot hands would have two in them since you have two hands, but apparently that’s not the case).

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We started right on time and I started right on pace. I planned to run even splits. I needed a 7:48 average to finish a few seconds under 3:25. I was determined to nail those splits and run exactly what I needed to run. Certain pacing companies won’t let you pace again if you don’t come within one minute of your goal time. I don’t think that was a stipulation here, but I still wanted to make sure that I ran what I was supposed to since there were other runners who were counting on me to do just that.

The course was beautiful. We ran right along the Gulf the entire way! According to the race website, the course is a “fast, flat, BQ-friendly path along the coast from Pass Christian to Biloxi. The course is a USATF Certified Boston Qualifier route and offers unobstructed beach views and a takes you past some of the coast’s most historic and beautiful homes.” There were aid stations and porta potties every mile and a half along the entire course. The aid stations had water, powerade and gels.

I wrote down the times that I need to be at in 5 mile increments and tucked the paper away in my glove for reference. For anyone that in interested in the actual details of my splits, here they are …

7:50, 7:47, 7:46, 7:47, 7:47
7:47, 7:47, 7:45, 7:47, 7:47
7:48, 7:50, 7:49, 7:51, 7:47
7:49, 7:50, 7:47, 7:50, 7:45
7:44, 7:45, 7:45, 7:38, 7:37

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I had a decent sized group for the first half of the race. Several of the runners seemed very appreciative of my consistent pacing. I was appreciative that they were appreciative. It was a nice little cycle of appreciation. One guy did ask me how many marathons I had paced, to which I had to awkwardly explain that this was my first time pacing, but he didn’t seem bothered by the response. So … since it was my first time pacing a marathon, here are a few random observations:

  • Running while holding a three-foot pole is difficult. I was SO OVER that pole by the end (heck, even by the middle) of the race. I hit a couple of people with it (sorry guys!) and kept shifting it back and forth, from right hand to left hand. Super annoying. Let’s go with signs taped to our backs next time!
  • Taking gels and water while holding a three-foot pole is even more difficult. I somehow managed to take the majority of a gel at mile 8 ish and at mile 16 ish, but it was NOT easy. The good news is that I feel like taking gels and water during a regular marathon will be super easy now in comparison.
  • Most of the people around you are going to be wearing headphones.
  • Most of the people around you are racing and not exactly looking to chat it up. I tried to make casual chit-chat, but no one was real big into it.
  • A marathon is a long, long way to run, regardless of what pace you are running. While physically I felt fine, mentally I struggled. I questioned why in the world I willingly signed up for this, why I was planning to do it again in a few weeks, why anyone would EVER want to run this far. Ha. Lots of negative thoughts that I really wasn’t expecting. I mean, I expect these thoughts when I am racing a marathon, but I wasn’t expecting them here. Perhaps I need to work on my mental game a little bit.

Basically everything was smooth sailing up until mile 23. My group dissipated between the half way point and mile 20, but I still had about 3 runners with me at mile 20. By mile 23, I had no one. I hated to be running alone, but I knew that my job was to keep running the pace regardless of who was or wasn’t with me. Oddly enough, while I was running by myself, I ended up with a bike escort, as apparently I was the third place female.

I was using my Garmin to keep the pace steady and the mile markers along the course all seemed in line with the mile splits on my watch. My watch was beeping a little before the mile markers the further along we got, which was to be expected, as it is almost impossible to run the tangents perfectly over the course of a full marathon (so keep in mind that up until this point, I expected my watch to measure a tad long when we got to the finish). I picked the pace up ever so slightly between miles 20 and 25 to account for the minor discrepancy between my mile splits and the course mile markers.

The course was essentially a point to point course for 24 miles with an out and back stretch for the final two miles. At mile 24 we ran up the interstate on ramp (gotta love that) and ran on I-110 for what I assumed would be one mile. You could see the finish line at MGM Park as you ran up and onto I-110. I was running alone (expect for my bike escort). We came to the turnaround before I expected to and so I asked the bike escort (several times actually) if this was right. He assured me that it was. My watch eventually beeped to signal the 25th mile, but I never saw the 25 mile marker on the course. I had very uneasy feeling at this point. Half a mile later, we arrived at the 26 mile marker. I looked down to see 25.5 on my watch. I knew I had [inadvertently] cut the course somehow, but I was confused as to how. I debated just stopping right there and waiting for the clock to catch up so that I could cross at 3:25, but ultimately decided that would be silly, so I ran on into MGM Park and crossed the finish line.

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As I ran into the finish, the announcer said, “Here comes our 3:20 pacer! Wait. No. 3:25?! Someone is a little ahead of schedule aren’t we?” At this point, I was really upset. I felt like I had royally messed up and I was still very confused as to how. I stalked my pace the entire race and I knew that I had averaged EXACTLY what I needed to. After talking to other marathon runners and other pacers, we learned that the course was marked incorrectly and everyone ran short. Selfishly, I was relieved to learn that it wasn’t just me, but I also feel terrible for … well, everyone that raced … but especially those that got PRs or qualified for Boston.

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Finish line confusion. Me being like, “What exactly just happened?!”

As of today, the race organizers are standing by the fact that the course was certified and that runners’ GPS watches are not always accurate. While I agree with these statements, there is no doubt in my mind that we didn’t actually run the certified course. You can actually see where the turnaround should’ve been on the certified map (below on left)and if you compare that to all of the runners’ Strava data (below on right), it is very apparent that the turnaround was not in the correct spot. Lots of runners have questioned it, but the race organization is adamant that the course was certified and thus, was correct.

The race director sent out a heartfelt, sincere apology email to the marathon runners Tuesday afternoon. He wrote, “I am deeply sorry for this series of events. I am sorry that I didn’t recognize it earlier and that our responses have not been on point due to that. I always trust my staff and my people and they confirmed they did exactly as instructed.  It wasn’t until later that I realized my instructions were wrong. I have always taken a great deal of pride in the fact that runners can have faith in us to have a correct, safe and complete course no matter what. It’s painful to let so many down in that regard. Unfortunately, BAA does not currently allow exceptions for people not running the complete marathon distance at a race even if it is the event producer’s fault. For those runners who were able to make your BAA qualifying time, I am deeply saddened by my mistake especially for you.”

I was torn about how to eloquently word this post, but at this point, I think it kind of just is what it is. I feel that I did my best and did everything I could’ve done given the circumstances. It was a little bit crazy and not how I expected that to go down, but definitely an interesting experience. Pacing was fun and I hope that I get the opportunity to do it again one day!

Race Recap: Turkey Trot

Hey guys! Coming at you today with my annual Turkey Trot race report.

I love the idea of doing a race on Thanksgiving morning. Well, let’s be honest, I love the idea of doing a race on any morning. Thanksgiving is one of the most popular running holidays of the year, if not the most popular. I’ve been celebrating this age-old tradition for four years now by running the Turkey Trot for Hope 5K in Mobile. The race benefits Camp Rap-A-Hope, a local organization that provides year-long programs and a week-long summer camp to children between the ages of 7 and 17 who have, or have ever had, cancer.

Thursday morning was absolutely beautiful here on the Gulf Coast! I’ve been going on and on about how “one of these days,” we are going to have nice weather on a race day … well, Thursday was THE DAY! It was a crisp, clear 40 degree morning, perfect for running! There were 980 runners in the 5K (that’s a lot for us). I am so glad that there was such a good turnout to support this cause!

Before the Race

It was like Christmas morning (except for the whole it was Thanksgiving thing) when we woke up to temperatures in the 40s! Woo to the hoo! A brief moment of jubilation quickly changed to concern as I realized that I didn’t remember how to dress appropriately for a 40 degree 5K. Do I need tights, long sleeves, arm warmers, gloves, ear warmers or all of the above?! I mulled it over with a cup of coffee and decided to layer my singlet over a light long sleeve top. I threw all. the. clothes. in my bag and took them with me for good measure.

We got to the race about an hour before the start. Several of our friends ran too (yay! for racing with friends) and several of us needed to register. We got registered and ran the course before the race as our warm up. The course is the same course as several of the other local races except for that it starts (and thus, ends) at a different point along the way. I’ve run this race several times now, but I’ve run the other races along the course way more times and it’s always a mental adjustment to get used to the “different” route.

I warmed up with tights over my shorts and a long sleeved hoodie over my long sleeve shirt and singlet. I was chilly for a mile or so and then got nice and toasty. So toasty even that I decided to shed the base layer long sleeve shirt that I was wearing and get down to just my singlet, shorts, gloves and arm warmers. I have never run or raced in arm warmers before. I always talk myself out of it somehow, but this was a last-minute, game-time decision and I just went for it. The verdict: not for me. I felt like they were cutting off the circulation to my arms and I ended up pushing them down about a mile in (I’m glad I tested it in a 5K and not in a marathon :)).

We made our way to the start line with less than a minute to spare! I didn’t realize that we had cut it this close, but before we even made our way into the street to line up for the start, the horn blew and all of a sudden everyone was running. Alrighty then!

The Race

Since I am in the midst of the marathon-specific phase of my training right now, I didn’t really have any big expectations for this race. I wasn’t sure how my legs or lungs would react to running at VO2 max pace, as most of my workouts have been focused on strength and not speed. My coach thought that I should target somewhere in the 6:00 to 6:05 range. He is usually spot on with his pace recommendations (even though that is not a wide target pace range at all).

Spoiler alert: I averaged 6:01!

Let’s back up a little bit though … Daniel and I planned to run the first mile and a half together. His plan was to pick it up at a mile and a half and really go for it and I wanted to wait until about two and a half to really go for it. We talked about it beforehand and were each comfortable with our respective plans. We ran pretty much stride for stride through the first mile. I figured we would start fairly quickly (within the goal range) and run the first mile between 6:00 and 6:05 pace.

I have been really trying to not look at my watch during races except for at the mile splits. I want to learn to trust myself to run by feel and not worry or obsess over whether I am running too fast or too slow. I want to be a zen runner and be one with the pace. I am definitely not there yet! When my watch beeped to signal the first mile split, I looked down and saw 6:19. What?! I said out loud to Daniel, “Wait. What?! 6:19? That can’t be right. What does your watch say?” I legitimately thought that my watch was wrong. Fake news. Unfortunately, he confirmed that yes, the watch was accurate (go figure) and we weren’t actually running as fast as it *felt like* we were. In hindsight, I think there was a bit of a headwind during that first mile, but of course, I didn’t realize that at the time.

At the time, I was just mad (so not quite to the “zen runner” stage yet). Anger isn’t an emotion I typically experience while racing, but I think it actually helped me in this case. All of a sudden, I made a conscious decision to run faster and work harder. Daniel stayed right by my side, just as we planned, through the first half of the second mile. As soon as we got halfway through the second mile, he took it to a whole. nother. level. and promptly left me in his dust. I was mentally prepared for this (thank goodness) and I just focused on chasing him as best I could. I hadn’t looked at the pace again during the second mile (in fear that it would be slower than what I had deemed “acceptable” in my head). When the watch beeped to signal the second mile split, I looked down and saw 5:57. Yasss! That’s more like it!

The best part was that I still felt good (really good even). At this point, I knew I could maintain the pace for another mile, if not pick it up slightly. During the last mile, I kept telling myself that I can do anything for one mile. Less than 6 minutes to go, less than 5 minutes to go, less than 4 minutes to go, etc. It’s important to stay mentally focused during a 5K because if you let up, even just for a minute, you can lose your momentum. I focused on Daniel ahead of me. I was running by myself and so was he. We were both making ground on the runners in front of us, but we ran out of real estate before either of us were able to catch anyone. Before I even knew it, my watch beeped to signal the third and final mile. I looked down to see a 5:49 split!

I even managed a finishing “kick” for the last tenth and dropped my pace down to 5:20 for a few seconds. I don’t usually do that. Ha. I finished in 18:45 according to the results (18:42 according to my watch … I wish we could go with watch times :)). I was 1st female and 10th overall. Daniel finished in 18:32 and was 9th overall.

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Missing a few of the regulars, but thankful for this crew! 

After the Race

We ran the course again after the race as a cool down and swapped the deets of how the race unfolded for each of us. Everyone in our group did great! I think we were all in the top 20. After the cool down, we hung out for a little bit and waited on the awards, which thankfully didn’t take too long. The race was very organized and that is much appreciated, especially on a day when most people have other plans and gatherings to get to.

I always look forward to getting a pie and a handmade medal at this race. The kids make the medals during their summer camp, which is really special. I love unique awards like that.

An added bonus this year was that the overall winners also got a gift card for a free pair of shoes from Running Wild! Major score. After the race we got cleaned up and headed to my grandmother’s (apple pie in tow) for a nice Thanksgiving afternoon with the family.

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Brooks was hoping to snag some of that pie, but he didn’t. 

I have so much to be thankful for, not only on Thanksgiving Day, but also on every other day of the year. Thanksgiving can be somewhat of a bittersweet holiday for me, as that is when the attack happened (12 years ago now), but it also a wonderful reminder to just be thankful and that every day is a blessing. There will be days (or years even) that are hard, but those days make you stronger and more appreciative of the other days (and years).

Happy [late] Thanksgiving y’all! Talk to you soon!

Race Recap: Turkey 10 X 2!

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I have shorts on, I promise. Note to self: don’t wear towel in future post-race pics.

This year’s Turkey 10 went a little bit different from how it has in the past. You can read my recap from last year’s race here. Seeing as how several of us (at least 5 for sure) are training for the First Light Marathon (FLM) in 8 weeks, we decided to revive a tradition that only a brave few have dared in the past, the Turkey 20 miler. It is only in the throes of marathon training that a runner would dare to attempt such a feat. I, myself, have done it once before (circa 2012), also in preparation for FLM. Others in the group have done it many a time, but they are far braver than I.

We spent what felt like ages (i.e., weeks) discussing our plans for this event. We planned to get to the race about an hour and a half before it started, to run the course “easy” beforehand and then to run the race at or close to goal marathon pace. This was definitely a key workout in our training and I was looking forward to it. We all talked about it a good bit over the last few weeks and the hype had me … well, hyped.

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I was equally as excited about my new turkey socks! Although I must say, I am a tad disappointed that they aren’t symmetrical. I don’t know if I just got a bad pair or this is how they are supposed to look. Either way, it’s not a big deal and they are still super cute!

We got started on our first 10 miles at 7:00 a.m. The race started at 8:30 a.m., so this gave us an hour and a half to get our 10 miles in and hopefully have a minute or two to go to the bathroom, take a gel, get some water, etc. before the actual race started. It was 75 degrees and humid for the run. What the what?! The weather has not been cooperating for races recently. We’ve actually had some really chilly mornings (like today for instance … it’s 35 degrees), but it is NEVER chilly on race day. One of these days it will be. If I say that enough, hopefully it will be true at some point.

The 10 mile “warm up,” if you will, went by fairly quickly and with no major issues. We averaged 7:56 pace for the first 10 miles. We didn’t have much time at all once we got back to the start to get ready for the actual race. I did manage to take a gel and hit the bathroom (it was essentially a sprint to the bathroom and a sprint to get to the start line on time … that was probably the fastest I ran all day). I *attempted* to make some UCAN gels the evening before the race, but I don’t think that I got the ratio of powder to water quite right. I put the gels (which were basically just liquid) into plastic baggies and I just bit the corner of the bag to take the gel. In theory, this seemed like a good idea, but in practice, I wasn’t a fan of the plastic baggie method. I’ve got a 22 mile long run coming up and I might try again (using a different recipe and a different container).

As far as the race itself goes, my plan was to run as consistently as possible, somewhere in the 6:45 to 6:55 range. Rather, that was my plan in ideal conditions, but 75 degrees and humid is less than ideal for a race in November. Daniel ran the first 7 miles of the race with me, which was lovely. We talked a little bit, but not a ton. It was just nice to have someone there to work with. We stayed pretty consistent for those 7 miles. Our splits were 6:58, 6:54, 6:59, 6:59, 6:56, 6:56 and 7:04. I started to fade at mile 7 (17 for the day), but Daniel felt good and I wanted him to go on ahead.

I definitely faded, but it wasn’t a total crash. The last three miles were 7:10, 7:19 and 7:08. In the moment, I was a tad disappointed that I wasn’t able to keep it under 7:00 pace, but after thinking about it a little bit more, I’m okay with it. My average pace for the race was 7:02, which is not far off from where I ultimately want to be on race day. I still have 8 weeks to get to that point too. I have to remind myself sometimes that I am where I am, not where I want to be … yet! That’s why we train!

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#runlove

After the race I was a little dizzy and light-headed, which is not good. Once I got something to eat and got some electrolytes in, I felt fine. We headed over to the after party (a pot luck style holiday party) and stuck around until we got our awards. Our group was 4 out of the top 5 men and I ended up as the first female, so I’d say it was a pretty good day!

I always enjoy this race and this year was no exception! Doing the race as the last 10 of a 20 mile run definitely takes the stakes up a little bit. We all put in some solid work and I know that will pay off in January!

Race Recap: Battleship 12K

Hi! Happy Monday.

I ran the Battleship 12K (7.45 miles) yesterday morning. I ran this race last year, really enjoyed it and knew that I wanted to run again this year. The Battleship 12K is a patriotic run on Veterans Day weekend to honor those who have served our country. It starts on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay and finishes at the USS Alabama. The Battleship 12K partners with the Boot Campaign, Mission 22, & Team RWB to further their missions and the raise awareness for the men and women who bravely serve our country. It is a great race that supports a great cause!

Before the Race

The race started at 8 a.m. in Spanish Fort. They offer race day packet pickup, which I think is always a nice option. An 8 o’clock race start about 10 minutes away from home is quite nice! I could’ve [theoretically] slept in until close to 7, but of course, I was up before 5. The weather was supposed to be really nice for the race (upper 50s and low humidity), but instead I woke up to temperatures in the 60s, rain (just a light drizzle) and 95% humidity. Sigh. The light rain pretty much continued all morning and throughout the race. I didn’t really mind it, but I definitely would’ve taken lower humidity and sunshine if given the choice.

I got to the start area around 7:15 to pick up my bib, shirt, etc. and to do a 2 mile warm up with a few strides. The packet pick up was in a different location from last year, so that threw me for a bit of a loop (they had this posted online, I just failed to check because I assumed I knew what I was doing (but we know what happens when we assume)). I had plenty of time, so it really wasn’t a big deal at all. When I gave her my name and ID (you must have your ID to get your bib (just FYI)), she said that they had given me the #2 bib since I was the 2nd overall finisher last year. I’ve never had that happen before and I loved it!

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The race plan was this:

  • Mile 1: Ease into it and find the race rhythm. Goal pace was somewhere in the mid 6 range (6:25 – 6:35 ish).
  • Miles 2 to 5: Settle into a strong, sustainable rhythm without pushing too hard. Goal pace was somewhere around 6:15 – 6:25.
  • Miles 6 to 7.5: Race it to the finish line, depending on how much gas was left in the tank. If I felt good, I would try to drop the pace down some.

The Star Spangled Banner was sung, the cannon was fired twice (the first time was unintentional and quite startling) and we were off.

The Race

I knew from last year that the first mile had a nice little downhill start. I  had to hold myself back during the first mile. The pace felt effortless, but we were running downhill and we had 6.5 more miles to go! My first mile split was 6:22, which was pretty much right where I wanted to settle in. Unfortunately, I didn’t ever settle in next to anyone (I am the queen of getting stuck in no man’s land during races). I turned my watch over on my wrist so that I wouldn’t look at it, except for the mile splits. I really wanted to just focus on running by feel and get more in tune with what that felt like. My go to mantra for this race was “run the plan.” I repeated it to myself several times and tried to really stay focused on what I was doing.

Miles 2 through 5 are fairly uneventful. There aren’t a lot of spectators along the course, but you are running across the bay, so there is plenty of water and scenery to take in. We had to go over a few small bridges with only a very slight incline, but we also got to go back down the other side of each incline, which made it nice. My watch shows 6:25, 6:26, 6:25, and 6:23 for those 4 miles.

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Map from Strava

Once we passed mile 5, I picked the pace up a little bit (per the plan). I was actually catching up to the third place runner at this point as well, so my goal became trying to steadily reel him in. I ran mile 6 in 6:12 and caught up to him! He stayed with me for perhaps a quarter of a mile and then I went on ahead. My 7th mile was 6:16. At mile 7 we turned into Battleship Park and there were volunteers at the last water stop handing out American flags for us to run in with. I almost missed getting a flag last year, just because I wasn’t expecting it, but this year I knew what to expect and I was more than ready to get my flag and run it in.

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I finished with a time of 47:17 (6:21 average) for 1st female and 3rd overall. The first place guy ran 5:17 pace (holy smokes) and B. Rouse was 2nd overall with a 6:10 average. He was within sight, but never quite catch-able.

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After the Race

I debated running back across the bay after the race to get a long-ish run in, but ultimately decided against that. I did manage to get in close to 4 miles of a cool down in (thanks to B. Rouse for joining me for that!), which gave me close to 13 miles for the day. I’ll take it! After we finished up our cool down, I promptly turned into a human popsicle. Yes. It was 60 degrees, but I was wet from both sweat and rain and once I stopped moving … I was frozen (what can I say … sometimes I defy the laws of science). I don’t know how you people who live in cold climates manage. I am a wimp.

My mom was sweet enough to come over and pick me after the race. They have shuttles that take you back across the bay, but she offered to come and I wasn’t sad about it. I turned the heat up to 85 on my side of the car and layered up with dry clothes. Thanks mom!

I loved the race again this year and I would highly recommend it to anyone (near or far). There are so many men and women that sacrifice their lives to protect our freedom. Participating in a patriotic event on Veterans Day weekend is a wonderful reminder of just how much we have to be thankful for.

I hope you guys have a wonderful week! Have you ever run an odd race distance?

Race Recap: Senior Bowl 10K

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This was such a beautiful sight! Photo cred: Tim Ard.

I had my sights set on running the Reese’s Senior Bowl Charity Run 10K for several months and originally wanted it to be one of my key races for the fall. I hadn’t done this one race in several years (quick recon confirmed that the last year I ran it was 2013). Senior Bowl is typically one of the bigger races in the area (probably only behind First Light and Azalea Trail). There were 514 participants in the 10K and 595 participants in the 5K this year. So, small in general, but one of the bigger local races if that makes sense.

This was my 5th Senior Bowl 10K. I’ve run this race in 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013 and now 2017. The 2009 race was the first time I ever wore a team running singlet (Team Spiridon … holla!). I remember feeling like this was a very big deal at the time and I felt like I had “arrived” as a runner. Haha. The 2010 race was my first sub-40 10K, so that will always be special too. I won the race in 2012 on what seemed like a fluke. I remember being “interviewed” after the race (definitely another first!) and telling the guy that I never imagined that I would EVER win that race, regardless of how many participants decided to show up or not show up.

I know that likely no one cares about the preceding paragraph except for maybe me, Daniel and my mom and dad. Thanks for being my biggest fans and most loyal readers! On to this year’s race …

Before the Race

Several of our running buddies ran Senior Bowl this year, which always makes a race more fun. I met Rebecca, Jessica and Sasser at Starbucks to carpool over to Mobile. We got across the bay and found parking with no problem. We picked up our packets and met up with Cody and Young Daniel downtown.

My original plan of treating this as a goal race was modified because of a cranky hamstring. I tweaked my hamstring the last week of October and had a mild hamstring strain. In the grand scheme of things, definitely not a big deal, but it just meant that I had to take it easy for a week or two to make sure that it healed and didn’t turn into a tear. I can’t even imagine how painful that would be and I definitely don’t want to find out! My coach asked me if I still even wanted to do the race and I told him that I did (mainly because I was already registered). We decided that the best course of action was to approach the race as a lactate threshold (LT) workout, which as it turns out, is easier said than done.

After our standard two warm up miles and two porta-potty visits, it was time to roll! It was 70 degrees and humid at the start. I’m pretty sure this qualifies as less than ideal, especially for a November race!

The Race

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Going into the race, I had 6:25 to 6:30 pace in my head as my LT pace and I wanted to start conservatively and finish strong. Young Daniel and I planned to run the first few miles together at around 6:25. We came through the first mile in 6:28, which was right within my pace range, so I was happy. I felt good overall, my hamstring wasn’t bothering me at all and I could see the first female just ahead of us (so basically this is where my “run this all at LT pace” plan went out the window). Miles two and three were 6:18 and 6:09 as I caught and passed the first girl. The 6:09 was a bit rich and I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold that the entire second half of the race, so I tried my best to reign it in. My first 5K split was 19:38.

During the fourth mile, I set my sights on chasing down a pack of four guys ahead of me. My mile four split was 6:17, which got me up to the group. The group kind of fizzled out and I ended up passing two of the guys and leap frogging back and forth with the other two guys during the next mile. My split was 6:21. By the time we got to the final mile, two of the guys were ahead of me and two of the guys were behind me and I don’t think our places changed from this point to the finish. My last split was 6:22 and I finished out the 0.2 with a 5:54 pace. My second 5K split was 19:35, so I managed a tiny little negative split. Woo!

After the Race

The 5K & 10K winners got caught in a whirlwind of post-race interviews and photographs. I mean, for a local race, they do this one up right! The photographer was “coaching” LaJuan and I on how to tilt and turn our heads to capture our most flattering angles. It was quite comical. I felt silly posing for the pictures, but at the same time, I’m not sad to have learned the proper head tilt and arm positioning. Ha.

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Hands on the hips was highly recommended. 10K & 5K female winners! 

We all did a two mile cool down to get a nice, even 10 for the day. This was Jessica’s first postpartum race and so of course, we had to document that with a friend selfie.

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So thankful for these two!

They took their time getting to the awards, but it was nice to hang out for a little bit and catch up with friends. Overall, I am pleased with how this one went. I’m happy with my time and happier to have been able to enjoy a wonderful fall morning doing something that I love with my friends!

Race Recap: Running for the Bay Half Marathon

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Wall of buoys. 

Hey guys! I ran the Running for the Bay Half Marathon in Apalachicola, Florida on Sunday. I know that you are all dying to hear all of the painstaking details of how that went down, so let’s get to it.

I guess before we get into it for realz, we need to back up for a minute. My friend Rebecca is training for her second 50 mile race (check out the recap of her first 50 here). She needed to get a long run (like a 31 mile long run) in last weekend and so she did some searching and found this race in Apalachicola. She asked if I would be interested in tagging along and running one of the other various distances (there was a plethora to choose from … 5K, 10K, Half, Full & Ultra). It sounded fun to me, so I told her I was in! I decided to do the half as part of my long run for the week.

We left around noon on Saturday to head over to FL. It took us about 3.5 hours to get there, which wasn’t too bad. We saw a full moon at 3 in the afternoon on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere FL, but otherwise the trip over was fairly uneventful. We arrived at the “expo” (using that term loosely) and picked up our numbers and our tee shirts. This was definitely a bare bones, no frills race, which we were totally expecting and is totally fine. They did a great job putting on a million races at the same time.

After the expo we headed to find out “hotel” (also using that term loosely). We stayed on St. George Island at the Buccaneer Inn. We checked in and were handed an actual key (as opposed to an electronic card) from behind the desk. I’m pretty sure that the room furnishings used to be part of a diner somewhere. It was really quite comical! We had a good laugh about it at least. The room was clean, so really we were fine. We were in the room for less than 10 hours anyway. If you plan to stay longer than 10 hours, I’d likely explore other options! Ha.

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We got dinner at the Blue Parrot (next door to our hotel) and hit up the local Piggly Wiggly to get some water and coffee supplies for the morning. We both crashed and it was lights out by 10 p.m. I think this actually might be the most sleep Rebecca has gotten in at least 3 years. The race started at 7:15, so we got up around 6 and got to the start by 6:45. We didn’t have any trouble finding parking and there were no lines for the bathrooms. I had planned to do a two mile warm up before the race. It was still fairly dark at this point and so I stayed pretty close to the race start and just ran up and down the same street several times.

The full and ultra marathoners started at 7:15 and the half marathoners started one minute later. I’m guessing the 10K and 5K started one minute after us, but I wasn’t there for that part, so I’m not entirely sure. It was 75 degrees, 99 percent humidity and 20 mile per hour winds at the start. Not exactly ideal running conditions. One of these days, I just know that we are going to have good weather for a race! I just know it. That day wasn’t Sunday. The first mile went up and over a fairly substantial bridge. The remainder of the half marathon was decently flat, except for the last mile, which went back up and over the same substantial bridge.

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Me. On a bridge. Trying to show you how steep it is. 

I had planned to start at around 6:55 to 7:00 pace for the first few miles and wanted to ease it down to 6:45 for the remainder of the race. I quickly realized that I wasn’t going to be able to hit those paces and tried to just keep an honest, hard effort. I caught most of the full and ultra runners within the first mile (which makes sense … they were going 2 to 2.5 times farther than I was). After the first mile, I was pretty much on my own out there. I don’t always listen to music during races, but I am oh so glad that I decided to bring some tunes along for the ride on this one. I needed a distraction for sure.

Map

My splits for the first 5 miles were 7:23, 7:03, 7:27, 7:30 and 7:25. That got me across the Apalachicola Bay bridge and there was little bit of a reprieve from the wind once we were directly off the water. My splits for the next 3 miles were 6:56, 7:05 and 6:50. I was feeling pretty good and was happy to see a splits under 7.

After that I was headed back across the bridge. Thankfully, the wind wasn’t as strong one you headed back. I definitely started feeling HOT on the way back. I guess the wind distracted me from the heat for a little while. My splits on the way back were 6:53, 6:53, 6:59, 7:11 and 7:07.

The finish line was fairly anticlimactic. The medal, however, is amazing! I don’t usually even care much about the medal, but this is definitely one of my favorites! I collected myself for a couple of minutes and then headed out to do my two cool down miles. When I use races as workouts, my coach usually reminds me to try to make the run as continuous as possible in order to get the benefits from a stamina and endurance perspective. It’d be pretty cool if you could choose a spot somewhere in the marathon and take a breather for a few minutes and not have it count towards your time.

After my cool down, I headed out to check on Rebecca. The ultra course ran across two bridges, so she had headwinds for over 10 miles during the first half of her race. Yikes. She was also running by herself for most of the race. By the time I got to her the first time, she was almost to mile 20. I ran a couple of miles with her in between 20 and 25 and then headed back to the finish and met her on the final bridge. She passed the first place ultra runner (male) around 25. When I met her on the last bridge, she was in first overall, but the second place girl wasn’t too far behind. Rebecca was determined not to let that girl catch her though. She busted out a sub 7 minute last mile to hold on to the WIN.

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My legs were in a total state of confusion after running that last little bit with Rebecca. In fact, I’m fairly certain that they are still angry at me. She collected her medal and trophy and we somehow managed to accomplish things like walking, eating, putting on dry clothes and driving home. We drove through some bad weather on the way back, but luckily we made it home safely and avoided the worst of it.

I think this race is likely a one and done for us, but it was really fun and the course itself is very scenic. If you like running across water, you should definitely hit this one up.

Apalachicola is known as the Oyster Capital of the World. We decided to pass on the oysters at dinner Saturday night, as raw seafood pre-race seemed a little suspect. What are your thoughts on oysters? Think they are delicious? Think they are too slimy? Think it would only be worth it if you could find a pearl?

Race Recap: Shrimp Fest 10K

Howdy!

I ran the Shrimp Festival 10K yesterday morning. The race was a very last-minute decision (as in, I decided Friday evening that I was going to run it). I had 18 miles on my schedule this week and so I concocted this master plan of running before the race, running the race and then running some more after the race. So yeah, basically my plan was to run, keep running and run some more. Genius! I needed to be at work around 10 or so Saturday morning and so I ended up doing the majority of the miles before the race so that I could leave and get back at a decent time.

I sipped on coffee and UCAN on the way to the race (about a 45 minute drive), got to the race around 6:30, registered and hit the [paved] trails! Daniel came with me to the race and rode his bike while I was running. The sun had just come up and I felt completely comfortable running on the trails by myself. I took my phone with me and listened to a podcast while I ran. I don’t wear headphones, I just let it play out loud. I would never do this in a race (as that can be quite annoying), but when I am by myself, I’d rather listen out loud (softly) than wear headphones. I saw some rabbits, a few deer and some other wildlife that I think I’m forgetting. It was very peaceful.

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I thought this sign was great! 

I met up with my friend, Jill, at about five and a half miles or so into my warm up. She wanted to do a three mile warm up and so we tried to coordinate our schedules so that we could run three miles together before the race. We haven’t seen each other in a while and I guess we were just extra chatty and also not paying attention to what we were doing, but before we knew it, we realized that we were actually about two and half miles away from the start … and it was 7:40! EEK. We had to really book it to make it back in time and we weren’t sure that we even would.

We threw down a 7:18 and a 7:14 mile in our best attempt to actually make it to the start of the race on time without completely exhausting ourselves. I hadn’t even pinned my number on my shirt yet and so we were definitely scrambling. Daniel called me asking what in the world we were doing and I explained that we just lost track of time and were currently hauling it to make it back. The race had chip timing, so we had decided that even if we had to start late, it would be okay, we would just have to do a lot of weaving around folks on a very narrow trail. There was also a 5K that started about 15 minutes after the 10K. We heavily contemplated that as well.

Ultimately, we made to the start of the race by the skin of our teeth with about 1 minute to spare. Whew! The good news is that we didn’t have to worry about getting nervous standing around waiting for the race to start and also that I definitely got the “continuous” feel of my long run in. There were no breaks between the warm up and the race!

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Off we go!

The race starts and finishes at the Orange Beach Sportsplex and runs on the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail (a trail system with over fifteen miles of trails throughout Orange Beach, Gulf Shores and the Gulf State Park). The trails are all paved and it’s a great location for a race (or just to run if you are ever in the area)! The only minor drawback is that the GPS satellites are a little wonky in there and you can’t really rely on your watch for accurate mid-race data. I am trying to get away from Garmin stalking anyway, so this actually worked out.

Jill and I ran the first two miles together (6:49, 6:57). This wasn’t a goal race per say for either one of us and we talked about trying to keep it under seven minute pace with maybe a negative split if we felt good.

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Thanks Lizzie for the mid-race cheers & pics! 

I kind of did a quick assessment at mile two and decided that I wanted to try to pick the pace up a little bit and get close to 6:30 if possible. I was feeling pretty good and managed to hit 6:33, 6:32, 6:33 and 6:39 for the last four miles of the race. I didn’t think to restart my watch after the “warm up” to have accurate times and splits for the race, so my mile markers were a little bit off the whole time and I wasn’t even sure what my total race time was until I got to the finish line (it was 41:37). I think I was fifth overall and first female, so I can’t really complain about that!

I didn’t have any real expectations for what I was going to feel like running a 10K already being 10 miles into the run. I was pleasantly surprised! I was also very thankful that I had already done ten miles before the race because that meant I only had to do two miles afterwards to get my eighteen in. My legs were definitely toast at that point, but I got it done. Daniel’s family was in town staying at the Gulf and they came out to the race, which was wonderful. It’s always great to have a little bit of extra moral support out there.

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The fam! 

We weren’t able to hang out very long after the race since I had to get back to go to work. Only 1 more day until “second” tax season is over! Praise the Lord! I hated to miss the awards, but sometimes you just do what you gotta do. I’m glad that I made the last-minute decision to run this race. It’s definitely a good one. Hopefully I’ll be able to run it again next year and perhaps not have to come and go in such a mad dash!