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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Featured

With a new update to their site, IR4C has improved on their homepage featured athletes and added a function to promote and empower athletes who are blogging. This is the site we’re using as a team to raise money for our charity, TLT4C.

If you visit the site right now, I’m one of six athletes being featured on the homepage (2nd from the right). And added to that, in the “Blogs” menu in the top right under the “4 Cause” category is a blog from a few months ago regarding some of my motivation for this.

So go check it out! www.ir4c.com

Speed Work

So I’ve been talking the last few months about how I need to start adding in speed work, but haven’t actually done it. Well, now I’m 3 weeks in with 1-2 speed workouts a week. I try to split them up, one on Monday and the other on Thursday, so that my tougher workouts are spread across the week (Saturdays are long run days).

?????????????????Here’s the two speed workouts I prefer.

Tempo Run (Monday):

Mondays are all about the tempo run. Tempo runs are about maintaining a specific and more importantly consistent pace. Distances and paces will vary. Some will tell you do it at a ‘comfortably hard’ pace – where you could ask a running partner if the pace is okay but could not keep up conversation. Others will give you a time goal.

In my case, I do a mix of both. When I’m not training towards anything in particular I have traditionally gone by the ‘comfortably hard’ measurement. Right now I do have a goal in mind. As such I’ve set myself a goal pace to run this race at. Hopefully my logic here will make sense. Since my interval workouts will target the ability to have bursts of speed I’ve decided my tempos will be all about that consistent pace. And since my plan is related towards the end goal of a marathon, I’m pacing myself at slightly fast 8:00 miles. (As a note: if I ran that pace for a marathon I’d finish around 3:30. My current half marathon PR averages a 7:35 pace.)

To start it’s a pretty short workout. I’m doing 5 miles: one mile warm-up, three miles at pace, and then one mile cool down. My goal over the next few months is to slowly increase the distance—upping the miles so that I’ll be doing more at pace. Eventually something like a 10-12 mile workout with 8-10 miles at pace. While hoping this will rub off on me for the actual race, I’m more focused on it helping me get back into pacing myself properly (because right now I’m generally all over the place).

Want to read a little more about tempos? Check out this Running Times article with the basics or this Competitor article talking about different types for different training.

Interval Work (Thursday):

Out of habit from running with a group that usually does interval work on Thursdays, it’s now my preferred day as well. Just fits well with the schedule. Now I generally prefer doing these workouts at a track because the distances are easily measurable and do not require checking my Garmin every 30 seconds. I know there are downsides considered with the action of running in the same direction that can cause imbalance in your muscles, but I haven’t had too much trouble.

My usual interval workout involves 800m repeats. I start with a 1 mile warm-up (NEVER neglect your warm-ups and cool downs, they are so important to help keep from hurting yourself) before jumping into the repeats. Then it’s 800 repeat, 1/4 mile (or 400m or 1 lap on a track) at an easy jog,  800 repeat, etc. After the last repeat, I’ll close out the workout with at least a 1 mile cool down. Sometimes I’ll do a little more for mileage or if my muscles are still a bit tight.

If it’s a race week, I’ll traditionally cut back to 400m repeats and no more than 4. If I’m feeling adventurous I may do longer repeats than 800m, but 800s are my default (look up Yasso 800s if you get a chance). When not in training, a usual interval workout will be 4x800m and about 5 miles long. As training progress for the marathon, I’ll slowly be upping the repeats to finish at 10 total 800s (the last 2 workouts before taper).

Besides having a set distance, interval workouts also have a set speed. My goal right now is to average 3:30 per 800m repeat or the equivalent of a 7:00 mile pace. I also attempt to progressively get faster through a workout. While training for my first marathon I regularly finished my last repeat at 3:25 or faster. My goal is to attempt to do the same this time; train my body to be faster at the end than the beginning.

Interval workouts are great for two reasons. For one your teaching your legs the feeling of a faster pace/turnover than most of your other training will do. The second, assuming you work to get faster with each repeat, is the idea of finishing strong. Teaching your body to give more when it’s tired than when it’s first starting and full of energy.

So that’s about it. Just a quick little chat covering the speed workouts that make up my conditioning right now.

Why Running?

Or alternate title: experience trumps medals 9 times out of 10.

So I’ve had a couple people ask me why I’m so into running. And since most runs are long enough to get some good thinking in, why not? For me, running is all about the experience.

Whether it’s the adrenaline rush of working your way through a pack during a race or the feeling of accomplishment that comes when you get back from an awesome run done all on your own, I love it all.

Days where I have to push through to get a run complete might not feel the best, but show strength of character by getting the work done. It may seem a little crazy to enjoy the days that suck, but it says something for each of us that we try. And if we have to cut a run short, we’ll still go back out the next day knowing that we’ll make it a better day. The idea that it is what you do when no one is watching—that you make the effort to lace up your shoes and get out the door.

Then there are days when everything seems perfect and you just fly through the miles. I’ll feel like I’m seriously floating, like I hardly feel my feet touching the ground. Only to realize that 5, 6, 7 miles have passed in a haze of happy running. Why shouldn’t that experience feel amazing?

gasparilla

One of my favorite medals from the 2012 Gasparilla Half Marathon.

I enjoy all forms of exercise, but rarely get that same runner’s high when I do things like bike or swim. This may be because I’m just not as refined in those sports as running (and I think I suck at them).

This seems a good time to write about this too. After the events at the Boston Marathon earlier this week, it’s only right to reaffirm why exactly we do this. Of all the races that occur, for many this is the Holy Grail of running; the standard we seek to achieve. One of my lifetime (running) goals is to  qualify for and run Boston. And that is one race where the finisher’s medal may hold a place of honor, but will never eclipse the feeling of running over Heartbreak Hill, past Fenway Park, and around that last corner down Boylston Street to the finish. Especially now. For those of us who take up endurance running, it’s not just a healthy choice or a phase. It’s a lifestyle. We define ourselves as runners.

But back to the intended topic. More than anything, I was a bit of a lost lamb when I was younger. I had things I wanted to do and directions I wanted to go, but they were all the standards of growing up. There was very little of me figured into those plans. So I truly believe I began to find myself through running. I was a runner before in high school, but not like the kind of runner I am now. Not just in the distances I do, but in the person I am and what running means to me.

I had to take those years off to be able to come back to running and appreciate it as a completely different person. The words below I believe to be a very apt description of my love for running—of the path I’ve traveled with running to reach the point at which I stand now.

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time. – T.S. Eliot

I’ll end with only a little more, playing off my alternate title. That one time where the medal trumps the experience? That’s only because that awesome medal will remind you of that amazing race experience.

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First marathon medal.

My Thoughts Are In Boston

Just wanted to express my thoughts and prayers to those in Boston. During the Boston Marathon today several explosions occurred near the finish line. Current reports are listing 2 dead and at least 23 injured.

Luckily, all of my friends and fellow runners have reported in okay. If you are local to the New England area, please reach out to the Red Cross and other organizations who are already organizing ways to help for things such as blood donations.

Also, if you are catching up on the news regarding this be careful clicking links for images as some are GRAPHIC.

Be safe, help those around you, and make sure to let others know you are okay.

Where To Go From Here

I’ve started back into running, though no serious training so far. About 20-25 miles a week at the moment, what with life getting in the way. I’ll be road tripping cross country starting next week as I move myself out to the west coast. It’ll be an adventure to get there and a greater adventure to start training in the dry air and hilly terrain of San Diego.

The question is: where do I go from here?

I want to set goals, but I’m not quite sure what to set. Do I just sign up for a marathon and hope my life settles out before it happens? Part of why I’ve been so uncommitted to much of anything, much less my running goals (outside of when I was banned from running), over the last while is because of that uncertainty. I would hate to prepare mightily for something like a marathon, only for life – not an injury – to get in the way of it.

Seeing so many of my friends complete events in the last couple of weeks (Ragnar Relay and the Disney Marathon weekend) has me longing. I know my life is at a different place than theirs, but it can’t stop me from wishing. Yet each time I read another post or blog about what race they’re signed up for in the future, I get jealous. I want to be there, running those races and settled in my life that I can do so comfortably instead of making my head hurt wondering if now is the right time.

I guess sometimes you just have to jump without looking where you’ll land. With so much else happening, I’ve been too afraid to do it. But maybe it’s time to let go and embrace the unknown? Maybe it’s time for me to sign up or shut up. Words to think on I believe.

The Return

I’ve been horribly negligent in posting. The unfortunate truth is that I’ve simply had too much going on. But, the semester has ended and ‘winter’ break has begun.

Since it’s been so long since my last post, thre is a lot to say. First off, I’ve noe done the equivalent of two 18 mile runs. My mileage has been able to increase gradually without too much trouble or damage. This weekend I’ll attempt my first 20 mile run. I’m not really worried, since the building up of the long run has gone well so far. It’s just so long.

Now on to the fun stuff! On November 20th, I ran the Women’s Half Marathon in St. Pete and not only PRed (if not, there would have been a problem), but also broke my intended time goal. I was aiming to break 1:45. I ran a 1:43:47!!! Yay! Sadly, I missed placing in my age group by a mere 20 seconds, but my team took 1st place. Kudos girls!

I also made the spontaneous decision to run a half marathon with one of the girls in Largo this past Sunday, the 11th. Since I randomly decided the night before, I hadn’t really planned or prepared for it, so I didn’t know what would happpen. But apparently the first time wasn’t a fluke because I came in at 1:43:57! Glad for that, as it reaffirms my fitness level and has me hopeful for breaking 1:40 in the future.

So a lot h as happened. I’m sure I’ll think of more, but expect in the near future for some pictures and more posts. Less than7 weeks to Miami!