I Ran My Slowest Half Yet & Had A Blast

Fair warning: half recap & half general thoughts ahead.

Last weekend I ran the San Jose Rock’N’Roll Half Marathon.

It was my slowest half marathon yet at 2:13, yet it’s probably near the top as most fun I’ve had during a race. Normally, I’m a hyper-competitive racer & while that is fun in itself, there’s always a little extra stress involved in chasing a good time.

I signed up for San Jose several months ago, when I still had plenty of time to train and the intention of doing so (it’s a flat course, so could be a good one to try for a PR). Unfortunately, life got in the way between then & now. No training happened and running by itself barely did.

To make competition even less likely, I caught a cold the weekend before that I’d been fighting to shake all week just to do the race. Before Friday, I wasn’t sure I could make it to my car without passing out. So my participation was up in the air. Luckily, I managed to fight the cold off enough to at least take part but I knew I wasn’t going to be really competitive.

At the start, I had decided I would just aim to stay under 2 hours. Pacing for the first few miles had me comfortably around a 1:55 finish time. But this is the Rock’N’Roll race series, what’s a good race without some good music?

Somewhere around mile 5 or 6, I passed one of the bands & they were playing a song I love: Flirting with Disaster by Molly Hatchet (thanks dad!). And I decided: why struggle to get a “good time” when I know I wasn’t in shape for it, when I could take it easy, enjoy the music & just have fun making it to the finish line?

So that’s what I did! Took short breaks near the bands to dance & enjoy the music, walked through water stations while I chatted with the volunteers, and just appreciated a beautiful day in San Jose. I did have to make use of my trusty inhaler once during mile 12. It worked out though, as I was joined by a few mobile paramedics checking on me while I walked and got to chat. They can definitely appreciate not pushing too hard to make it to the finish line.

I remember always telling myself that if I was injured or not feeling well or not trained up or any other excuse, that I’d simply bask in running a race and having fun. Yet I’ve always been too competitive to do so. This is the first time and I had a blast!

Sure, I’d love to come back & run RnR San Jose again when I’m trained because it really is a flat course. It could be great to chase a PR on it. Yet when it was all said & done, I feel just as accomplished finishing this half marathon slower than any other I’ve run and rocking out during it.

The moral of this story: it doesn’t always have to be about competition or chasing a PR. It is entirely possible to just have fun at a race.

Race Recap: Mountains 2 Beach Marathon

And that’s marathon #4!

This race wasn’t originally planned. After recovering from Boston and from the cold I got following Boston, I started looking around to see if I could find a marathon to make another attempt at a 3:30. During Boston, I made the conscious choice 16 miles in to pull back. So I felt like it was worth looking a few weeks out rather than picking a race later in the year & having to train the full 4 months ago.

Luckily, a fellow runner and friend (Katherine) was also chasing a 3:30. After asking what time frame I should be looking at, to realistically recover and get in a couple weeks of training, she and I connected to try and find a race.

By the way, the recommendation was to find a race 7-8 weeks out. We picked one that was 5.
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Recap: 119th Boston Marathon

So life has been pretty busy since I ran Boston, but I hopped back on to write a new post & realized that even though I wrote up my entire recap for Boston a few days after, I never actually published it! Self fail. So here’s that post, unchanged, a month late. Oops?


 I AM A BOSTON MARATHONER!!!

Woo, got that off my chest. Final finish time was 3:45:54 for a pretty solid marathon. Now this recap is going to be all over the place, mostly because the day itself was crazy and partly because I’m not sure quite how to express it.

Fair warning: really long post ahead!

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Even the airport got some Boston Marathon flavor.

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Race Recap: Gasparilla Distance Classic Day 2 (Half Marathon & 8K)

I finished! Day 2 did not go quite as well as day 1 did. That said, I completed all 4 races so I’m happy. Though day 2 is definitely when I questioned my sanity for agreeing to do this.

Another early start to carpool out for the races. Met up with Jason, my running buddy, for day 2 and this time he remember his Garmin so we could technically say he was pacing me.

Almost donneeee!!

Almost donneeee!!

The Half Marathon

This year the half marathon had a modified start from previous years. So grateful for that! The previous start featured a 180 degree sharp u-turn a quarter mile in that cut the course from a 3 lane road to a one lane on ramp/bridge over to David Island. The new start location featured us taking a different bridge/ramp across to the island that had two lanes and was a straight shot with no sharp turns and funneling.

But the start! Once again our shiny yellow challenge bibs got us entrance into the front start area for seeded runners and teams. And again, it was warm and humid out. Ugh, not exactly ideal race conditions. Still, I decided to be crazy (against Jason’s advice) and chase after the 1:35 pace group. As a mini-reminder, my current half marathon PR is 1:36.

Our position so close to the start and my determination not to lose space getting shoved around helped us get moving without being crowded back in the field. So we pretty much got going for a lovely jaunt in the dark around Davis Island (my favorite part of the course besides the finish). The 1:35 pace group got up to speed and passed us, but we decided to hook in onto the end of the group and try to stay with.

Davis Island is about the first 5 miles of the course. I like it because it’s still dark out (so generally the coolest portion of the race), the roads are wide, there’s often entertainment in places (a guy juggling flaming batons!), and the random people on their front lawns drinking spiked coffee while cheering on runners. As Jason had never raced the half marathon at Gasparilla before, it was fun hearing his thoughts on the course as we went along.

We would yo-yo off the end of the pace group, usually after water stations, as we’d lose distance on them and then trek it a bit to catch back up. Then you cross a ramp back off Davis Island and it’s Bayshore all the way to the finish. By mile 6 I had started to lose steam and we began falling off the pace group a bit. But I kept going along, though after mile 3 it was only because I kept telling myself “mind over matter.” So true in running, most of the time.

By mile 8 I was done with attempting (and by that point, failing) to stick with the 1:35 pace group and told Jason so. He pretty much already knew it, but humored me anyways. From there, we had another mile on the water side of Bayshore before we swung onto the back side of the road to head back to the finish.

I lost a lot of speed and I knew it. Mad thanks for Jason running with me because he was constantly positive encouragement to keep going towards the finish. ‘Only 3 miles to go,’ etc. If it wasn’t for him, I would have been going a lot slower than the 8 minute miles we had been doing.

There was some positivity seeing members of the running group as we went along. Near the end we were passed by the 1:40 group and Jason pushed me to stay with them. I had admitted at the start that chasing a 1:35 was stupid (not that it stopped me) and realistically I wanted to get in under 1:40. Well, there was my chance for that.

Most of the pacer’s group went on ahead to break the time so there weren’t a lot of people surrounding us as we came into the last quarter mile. However, Matt (you sandbagger!!) looped past us within the last 0.2 miles and I was yelling at him. Stuff along the lines of “darn you!!!” and “come back here!” Pretty sure the spectators were definitely laughing at me.

Still, we finished solidly (not sure I’d say strongly) and I managed to make it exactly 1:40:00 on the half marathon. Huzzah! Of course, like the day before the heat had gone up and the humidity lessened only a little as the race went on (so happy we had cloud cover). So Jason and I had a fun trip to the med tent where I got to use my inhaler and relax for a bit with some cold water. I do like that the Gasparilla team had brought out mini hand towels that were kept in ice cold water and handed out to runners as they finished. Helped to throw that around your neck and let it cool you off.

So med tent trip completed, we headed off to grab our medals and change out our gear before the 8K. No PR this time around, but a solid enough time considering the challenge.

Distance-13.21 miles

Time-1:40:00

Pace-7:37

Place-234 overall, 2nd in my age group

Between Races

This time we headed back to the car (no tent today) and made use of the nearby CVS to change clothes and shoes. So glad I did this because the humidity was just killing me. We also found that I had two blisters that totally explained by it hurt so much to walk around. Of course, they were in strange places on my foot, to it was quite interesting to switch my socks and shoes. By this point, I just wanted the last race to be done.

The 8K

To sum the 8K up in just a few words, CRASH AND BUUUUURRRRRRNNNNNN! All caps, bold, and extended length intended.

Besides actually training for this challenge, I probably should have taken another gel or snack and more than just water between these two races. Jason had this illusion of grandeur that we’d be running 7:30s. In my mind, I knew we’d be lucky with 8:00 miles. By the time we lined up for the 8K start, I just wanted to finish.

We started out pretty solidly, even though the clouds had started to disappear and the sun coming out meant higher temps on top of the humidity. The first 3 miles actually went relatively well.

And then I hit the wall.

This one was significantly worse than when it happened during the Miami Marathon. (And in my blogging failure, I never actually recapped that race for you guys. Suffice to say, hitting the wall sucked.) I didn’t just slow down, my body full on said ‘stop.’ As shamed as I was to do it, especially with Jason being an awesome sport and staying with me, I had to walk.

This is something we struggle with at times (as athletes with a competitive spirit). I had to be realistic though. As much as I would have rather kept running, even if it was slowly, my level of hydration (or rather, dehydration) combined with the sun, heat, and humidity made it a possibility that I would pass out if I kept going like that. So I let go of my pride and move to the side to walk.

Jason, amazing running buddy, pacer, and friend that he is, stayed with me even though he could have easily kept going.

20140223_113347So we rotated between walking and very slow jogging. At the next water station, I walked through it and grabbed several cups of gatorate and water. I needed the calories and electrolytes just as much as the hydration from them. That was enough to give me a little boost and we ended up jogging the last 0.4 miles or so in.

Ironically, I was able to lengthen my stride a bit for a tiny bit of speed to finish. And what happened but one of my calves seized up and I nearly face planted. Once again, Jason to the rescue as he grabbed my arm before I could go down and pretty much dragged me to the finish. Okay, we more like hobbled since I did contribute to the movement, but still. Course, he let me go a few feet away and told me I had to finish on my own. Haha, you Jason, are a fun and terrible friend 😛

I finished! I made it across the line for 4 out of 4 races and claimed my 5th medal for completing the Gasparilla Ultra Challenge.

Distance-5.02 miles

Time-53:47

Pace-10:43

Place-1858 overall, 71st in my age group

Closing Day Two

Woohoo!! Even if I failed miserably in that last race, I finished! Completing these last two races to round out all four makes me feel so accomplished. The fact that I made myself finish that 8K even though I was fully prepared to collapse on the side of the road is not diminished at all by my less than stellar time.

I didn’t voice it (don’t want to be negative and all that) but I fully expected my body to decide enough was enough during the half marathon. Would I have liked to complete all 4 races competitively? Of course! Yet realism had to rule out and the facts were simple; I had not trained for this event.

Even being dead tired and with horribly sore feet (and muscles!) I enjoyed chatting with everyone post race. When all was said and done, I am super pleased with what I accomplished over this race weekend and I plan to do it again. Except this time, I’ll actually train for it and maybe I’ll be able to place for the women overall. I can dream at least!

So my totals for day two – 18.23 miles in 2:33:47.

100_4395Which rounds me out for the entire weekend to about 30.4 miles in 4:06:07. That puts my overall, average pace under 8:10 and let me place 65th out of 631 Ultra Challenge participants (and #8 of the women—I missed 3rd place for the ladies by about 13 minutes, which could be made up if I ran a good 8K). Definitely thinking I’ll be trying again next year.

So I close up my recap with the fact that I had a blast racing and seeing all my friends across the weekend. Major thanks to Jason for being my partner in crime for all 4 races, even when I wasn’t doing so great. You can pace for me any time! (I’d offer to pace for you, but you are mad faster than me.) Also, mug #3!!

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Race Recap: Gasparilla Distance Classic Day 1 (15K & 5K)

Ahhhh the start of my crazy weekend of running. Day one of the Gasparilla Distance Classic race weekend featured the 15K and 5K races.

20140221_165329-1The 15K

I had held onto the hope that we would have good weather, but alas it wasn’t to be. We started off with temps in the low 70s and 98% humidity at the 7AM start. A positive of the weekend is that a fellow runner from my group was also signed up for the Ultra Challenge and like me, had not trained for it. As he is usually much faster than I am, he offered to run with me for the bulk of the races. So we met up before the race and headed into the corrals.

As is my usual luck, the start didn’t begin how we wanted. We were about 15-20 bodies back and near the 7:30 pacer. Exactly where I wanted to start. Of course, the actual start we got slammed to barely moving and ended up crossing the line behind the 8:00 pacer (how?!). So once again, I (and Jason, my running buddy) spent the race chasing after the 7:30 pacer.

Now my original goal was to try and run around a 7:15 pace. Of course, my logic for this was skewed—I ran my half marathon PR at about a  7:20 pace, so I figured a bit faster was doable. Yeah, didn’t really consider the fact that I’d be doing 4 races across the weekend. But regardless, we started slow and got to spend another race chasing.

Felt pretty solid and got the 7:30 group within sight, but since my Garmin had us under that pace time we just kind of cruised along. However, the humidity was really causing a struggle. I definitely took advantage of each of the water stations along with my e-caps.

The 9+ miles went relatively well and we finished strong. As it was only my second 15K, it ended up being pretty easy to PR by nearly 5 minutes.

Distance-9.35 miles

Time-1:09:05

Pace-7:23

Place-251 overall, 7th in my age group

Between Races

I had somehow convinced my parents to take part in the 5K, so they had shown up by the time Jason and I finished the 15K. There was a bit of socializing, getting refueled and re-hydrated, grabbing the totally awesome medals, and switching out gear. I ended up changing my shoes and top before we headed back out to the 5K start line.

The 5K

Tackling the 5K at Gasparilla is always interesting because it holds the bulk of their registrants. This race was split into 4 waves: red wave (seeded and under 35 minute finish time), blue wave (35 to 50 minute finish time), the stroller wave, and the walker wave (anything over 50 minutes). The Gasparilla 5K usually gets around 15,000 entrants.

Originally I had considered doing the 5K with either of my parents (dad was blue wave and mom was walker wave) but they encouraged me to try and race the entire weekend. It probably didn’t help that I had thrown down a challenge or two to some of my running buddies also doing the Ultra Challenge.

So Jason and I hopped in near the front of the 5K wave only to realize that our bibs for the challenge, which were yellow, got us into the front area for seeded and teams (who also had yellow). Huzzah! Now we were already tired, the temperatures had gone up even if the humidity was down into the 80 percents, and decided this one was more for completion. No PRs happening in this 5K.

As Jason kept reminding me, it was a very crowded race and we had to keep in mind that we would be running 18 more miles the next day. Good thing he was kind enough to run with me all weekend (though I admit I would probably have gone much slower all around on my own). So that said, we just sort of had fun and took it easy on this one.

100_4382While I would have liked to come in under 23 minutes, still making under 24 and sub-8:00 miles was a solid way to end day one. We enjoyed all the people we saw even if it was crowded and featured a lot of dodging. I also kept taking the inside track and missing the group handing out beads along the course (a Gasparilla tradition). Darn it!

But we ran our 1.5 miles or so out and hooked a u-turn back towards the finish. I did feel a bit jipped because you run under a bridge less than a quarter mile from the finish with a sign that said something along the lines of “you’re almost there.” But the curve of the road makes it so you go under that sign but can’t see the finish banner yet. It’s a lie! Haha there was some amusement due to me complaining on that one.

Yet another solid finish for the 5K with a decent time for Jason and I to close up day one of racing.

Distance-3.14 miles

Time-23:15

Pace-7:28

Place-337 overall, 10th in my age group

Closing Day One

PhotoGrid_1393105862039From there it was hanging out and chatting with friends before grabbing my second medal. Then it was off to see the other waves and cheer on the parents. I am super proud of both of them for completing the 5K! (It was my dad’s first!) Also, mugs!!

20140222_094405Day One’s totals: 12.64 miles in 1:32:20.

Keep an eye out as part two of my recap will feature Sunday’s races.

Race Recap: Ragnar Relay Florida Keys

Wow, I’m not quite sure where to even start with this one. So much happened over a couple of days and I don’t think I could even get all of it into a single recap. I’ve already decided to focus largely on the running and race aspects of Ragnar, with a few amusing stories thrown in. So this will not be a complete play-by-play of the adventure of doing a Ragnar Relay. I would prefer you still get some surprises whenever you complete your first one.

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No FL Ragnar is complete without a branded beach ball.

Our start time was 11AM (technically 10:30 but bad traffic made us push it back one start) and against our hopes, it was killer hot. As runner #2, I got to tackle legs 2, 14, and 26. While it was my first Ragnar, most of my teammates had done this before. The start time was earlier than in the past, in an effort to be with the bulk of the other teams throughout the race.

Leg 1: Miami

4.45 miles in 33:27, pace 7:29

Starting just before noon, I got to run from Bayshore Boulevard right on the water west into the city. I had about 4.4 miles cutting across Miami towards my exchange on the University of Miami campus. The route itself wasn’t too bad, though I did get slowed down waiting to cross the road at intersections.

DSC_0005This leg was a mix. On one side, it was my first one and so I was fresh. On the other, it was very hot and the middle of the day with very little shade along the route. After the team talking about actually being with other runners, I ironically only saw one other runner the entire leg. I spent it chasing him, but considering the guy was on an ultra team, I figured he was in better shape than me.

A big element to be aware of is that roads don’t close for Ragnar. When available, you run on the sidewalk. So moving around pedestrians was kind of interesting. It wasn’t that bad until I got to the outer edge of the University of Miami campus, which you run along for a bit before you turn in. There were tons of college kids moving pretty slowly and half of which with headphones in. Not a problem usually, but they seemed especially oblivious to their surroundings and I had to yell quite a few times to get a space to open up. I had to cut into the road more than once through this portion.

Still, considering the heat I felt like it was solid pacing to start off and I was definitely pumped to move along on the route.

Leg 2: Middle of Nowhere

5.22 (4.7) miles in 42:09, pace 8:04

No seriously, this leg was in the middle of nowhere. I got to run mostly along a canal access road. This portion of the Ragnar route fills the gap between Homestead and north Key Largo. Instead of the usual routes like US1 or Card Sound Rd, we instead got to take back roads and finally no road at all. I definitely understand the dislike of having runners on the main route into Key Largo as the road is dangerous, not even including that these sections will be at night.

This was an interesting leg because the exchange where I handed off was still along the access road. So the vans actually had to drive by, very slowly, all the runners on this leg. It was kind of nice since being in the middle of nowhere meant there was no ambient light, just the lights from the runners, so the headlights of the vans going by helped keep it from seeming too lonely. There was a little paranoia because the canal is right there and there were a few times I heard splashes. So definitely wondered if there were a couple alligators hanging around.

DSC_0091Running wise this leg was a bit tiring just because of the terrain. I was tackling it at about 8PM, after hours of getting in and out of a van. Then very little of it was on pavement; a small stretch of road connecting the field of the exchange with the canal access road. The biggest issue was the access road itself as it was loose rocks and gravel. Not wanting to risk injury and already knowing my knees are weak, slowed it up a bit on this leg. And as you may have noticed, I listed two different distances. It was listed as a 4.7 mile leg, but ended up being a half mile long. After the fact I learned that half mile came off of the next leg, which the runner after me thanked me for. Not sure if it was good or bad, but I managed 14 passes during this one.

Leg 3: The 7 Mile Bridge

9.5 (9.0) miles in 1:20:20, pace 8:27

As you can see, I definitely lost speed over the course of the relay. Which I expected, even if I wanted it to be different. There were a lot of factors for this leg. First off, I started just before 8AM so the sun was out and it was already heating up. I had only gotten about 2-3 hours of spotty sleep, most of which happened scrunched up in the front passenger seat of our van. Probably not the best location to try and sleep in, but I was fighting with 5 others for space in a 12 seater van.

Added to that, the first leg for our van was relatively short at about 2.5 miles. So I didn’t have much time to stretch out and get myself ready with the rush from exchange to exchange. I had mentally prepared myself for the distance, the bridge, the hump, and even the lack of shade. The one thing I hadn’t really looked at or considered for the leg description was the three sets of stairs I had to traverse to get going against traffic. Much rather would have just crossed the street, but they make you tackle stairs up to the pedestrian bridge, stairs down the other side to go under the actual 7 mile bridge, and then back up a third set on the far side so you are against traffic.

Biggest pains were in my quads and this is the one leg I wanted music on. It was stunningly beautiful with the sun only partway in the sky behind me. Even the closeness to cars going by didn’t detract from my enjoyment of this. Plus tackling the 7 mile bridge, one of the most hated legs on this route (I’d heard all kinds of stories about it), was just up my alley of going for the challenging.

DSC_0130Even carrying a water with me, I started losing a lot of speed about halfway through. What sapped my strength at that point was the hump. For some reason in my mind, the hump was in the later half of the bridge (like 3/4s of the way or nearly to the end). It was more like halfway, which set it at most around mile 5 of the leg. Though the curve of the bridge made it so I could see how much was past the hump, there was dismay at getting to the top and realizing there was still miles to go.

Once again, the route was a half mile long. I had already passed 9 on my Garmin (I do know that’s not exact) before I even reached the Ragnar Relay sign that said 1/4 mile to go. But there wasn’t much to do but keep going. Even with strain in the muscles bordering on pain with the heat and dehydration beating down, I managed to get one final pass before I made it into the chute for the exchange, bringing my total for leg 3 to 26 passes. Smart of the Ragnar organizers to have a canopy with water right there for runners coming off the bridge.

19.1 miles in 2:35:56, average pace: 8:10

DSC_0536But success!! I had completed my first Ragnar. Definitely learned a lot from it and struggled a bit towards the end. That said, I would do it again. I would even tackle the same legs so I could do better next time (especially on the 7 mile bridge). Not sure how it works out, but felt accomplished to total 40 passes across my 3 legs.  Can’t really complain about my overall pace for 3 legs spread out across 24 hours matching up with my marathon PR pace either.

Final thoughts: it was AWESOME and you should consider running a Ragnar!

Race Recap: 2013 Brandon 5K

Woot woot! That’s another PR under the belt for my 5K.

Official Time – 21:46

PhotoGrid_1386205949457Now I admit that 5Ks are a bit easier for me to PR because I run them so rarely. The last 5K I actually raced was over a year and a half ago. If I didn’t PR now, I’d be slightly worried (not really). But I managed by more than 45 seconds and took the top of my age group (not hard since most of them sleep in hehe).

Now I really like this particular race first because my running group puts it on. Second because it’s a small and local race. So there’s no crowded course and getting boxed in at a slower pace. Plus they do a half marathon as well and it’s the main draw. The 5K is more for slackers such as myself. I didn’t want to race halfs two weekends in a row and really did want to complete a 5K just so I could grab that faster PR.

The weather ended up being on our side with it overcast, foggy, and cool. There was even a bit of misting, though I couldn’t tell if that was from not quite rain or the fog. But it made the start and races pretty mild compared to some others. I placed myself near the front and ended up probably around 15 or 20 once we got out of the start rush.

Then I sort of settled in around a 7:00 pace and kept my eyes on the one girl ahead of me. I sort of know who she is and she’s fast – runs for her college and all – so I decided to settle a bit backwards of her and see what happens. Well she ended up taking it easier today and I could have entirely paced with her instead.

About the halfway point (this reminds me that 5Ks seem so short after aiming at halfs and full marathons), they had a water stop set up and some girls from the group were egging me on to catch her. I figured it was worth a try and so picked it up a bit to just start closing the gap. I managed to get closer and was probably only a few feet behind her when we passed the 3 mile point and the last push where she left me behind.

After chasing her for 1.5 miles I just didn’t have the staying power to match her kick in the last 0.1 mile or so. Still, I finished 2 seconds back from her to take 2nd place overall for the ladies in the 5K. That also gave me the age group win. Super pleased to have managed all that with a PR on the distance. I may not race them often now, but 5Ks give a bit of self-confidence since I run them so much faster now than I did in high school.