Race Recap: 2013 Women’s Running Half Marathon

Another PR!! So stoked!

Official Time – 1:36:02

That’s a new half marathon PR. And I broke it by more than 3 minutes! So super happy. Now onto the actual recap.

I'm in there. Somewhere.

I’m in there. Somewhere.

This is an awesome event that I love. It’s newer (only 5 years old here I think) and really targeted at the ladies (obviously) even though they definitely don’t discourage guys from taking part. It’s still sort of local and a little smaller even though it has picked up bigger sponsors. I ran it for the first time two years ago and set my then PR at the 2011 race. Last year I did the 5K instead since I had less than 2 months to train after physical therapy ended and I was cleared to run.

It’s a lovely course through St. Petersberg, going along the water and past Tropicana field. There aren’t really much in hills though there are quite a few turns, so it feels like a fast course to me (though it might not actually be one…). Only thing that throws me off on this course is you run on some sections of cobblestones, but they’re relatively short. The long one has a nice wide sidewalk you can jump onto.

Now I hadn’t run a half marathon since Gasparilla in March of 2012, before I was out for 6 months, and so I didn’t have a real gauge going into this race. What could I do? Sure, I’d run a 15K in March but I was in different shape then. And the Marine Corps Marathon went fantastic – but I know more about guessing your marathon finish time from a half, not a half time from a marathon. Can that even translate right? Since you can push harder on a half due to it being shorter.

Coming in with a PR that was 1:39 and knowing my physical condition was way better off MCM than it was off Miami last year, I decided to shoot high for a 1:35. That’s a 7:15 pace and I admit, I wasn’t sure if that was gonna be doable for me over 13.1 miles. But I was going to try.

Luckily there was a 1:35 pace group for this race. Even better is that members of my running group, the Brandon Running Association, were dragged into being the pacers. So it was someone I know! Josh, who is ridiculously fast, got stuck with a group of us and it was quite amusing. The temps were a little cooler, so that was perfect. It was even overcast so no hot sun beating down. However, it seems to make up for that the weather threw some crazy winds at us – some gusts made it feel like you had to tuck in behind someone to keep going.

The first mile was a bit slower than pace, but then we settled in and had an amusing time for the next few miles. I actually felt quite solid and like I could stay on that 7:15 pace. But then I started to feel the pace further along near mile 7. We’d been fighting the wind even more the last few miles and 8 ended up being slow. Not sure if it was the best choice, but I decided to try pushing ahead closer to a 7:00 pace in an attempt to still make 1:35.

Unfortunately, I just couldn’t do 7:00s. I kept it close to the 7:15 but from about mile 9 on you run on a wide open road. There’s nothing to slow the wind and so this is the area that I struggled the most. The threat of rain, though it ended up just being clouds, meant there weren’t as many spectators along this stretch until you get closer to the finish. Also, the size and targeting of the race means it’s generally not a super fast field. So I knew the runners were spread out this far in the front. The next girl ahead was probably a good 250 feet and the immediate runners behind me were from the pace group.

Not having runners to either pull me along or push me forward was unusual for me. I’ve done well, but I’ve never really been “fast.” Additionally, most races have a good mix of girls and guys running it, so even if I end up being faster of the females there’s plenty of guys to pace off of. The WHM is different and this is the first time my struggle had to happen knowing I was near the front of the race. It was weird, but I definitely think I came out better experienced from it.

So while I couldn’t do the 7:00s, I could do the 7:15s and brought myself into the finish. I couldn’t close the gap to the girl ahead, but did manage to put enough space that no one caught me. Finished strong with the last mile being my fastest at 7:02 (obviously I still had a little gas in the tank) and woohooo for a PR!! Even if I did need a little help walking away from the finish while I fished out my inhaler.

So the final tally. A new PR at 1:36:02. Placed 16th overall and 13th of the women. Took first in my age group by 4 minutes. We’re still waiting on the team results, but according to one of our spectator friends, the first 5 runners on our team came in under 1:39, so I’m pretty sure the team will take the win for the 3rd year in a row.

I am mad excited! While I didn’t hit the 1:35, I got damn close. Still set a sweet PR and now I can chase that 1:35 in the future. I couldn’t dream of a better half considering the shape I’m in and the great race I had at MCM. Now I had another! Me = happy.

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2013 Marine Corps Marathon Recap

I RAN A BQ!!!!

Oh, and it was also a PR by nearly 17 minutes (my first marathon time was 3:50:41). That’s exciting too, but not as much as a Boston qualifier!

Official finish time – 3:33:23.

The entire race weekend was amazing and the experience of running the 38th Marine Corps Marathon will be hard to beat. This one will be a brief overview of the weekend, mostly focused on the race itself.

20131025_145741I flew in early on Friday morning to hit up the expo for my packet and grab all the goodies I wanted. It was packed full of people and quite cold (for this Florida raised girl). But alternating from sun to shade while waiting in line kept my from getting too chilly. The packet pick-up itself was swift and off I went into the expo. Besides spending way more than I probably needed, I enjoyed running into some friends. Josh and Justin from the running group were two of them, while Scott one of my DailyMile buddies was another.

I enjoyed all the signs hung up and definitely got pictures of each of them.20131025_120304

Saturday was another adventure of a short run to shake out the legs and test my tolerance to the cold. The run felt good and I wasn’t quite as affected after the first half mile as I expected which boded well for race day. After a quick and warm breakfast, the mother—who was amazing enough to travel up to support me in the race— and myself rented some bikes to check out part of the course and her best options for spectator points. What followed was an adventurous few hours of consulting course maps, area maps, getting turned around, and enjoying the sights.

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The day was followed by a lazy and relaxing afternoon about the hotel and it’s lobby. One fun thing about race weekends is most people you see in the hotel are also there to race! So I got to take part in some fun conversations and learn some stuff about the course from a variety of strangers. Then it was time to meet up with the charity team for our pre-race dinner and shenanigans. By the way, the food was delicious! I only knew a few members of the group, so it was fun to finally meet in person many of the individuals I’d chatted with about training on the Facebook group page.

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There was a good amount of silliness and a lot of volume to the dinner. Of course, no charity team is complete without their own picture! The Little Things 4 Cancer reps Wendy and Stephanie gave awesome speeches that let me know they really felt touched by the effort of our team which raised nearly $31,000. A fun evening all around.

The night before is always early after all the gear has been looked over, prepped, and set out in order of necessity. Then it was to bed where I admit to waking up just a few times thinking I had overslept.

100_4281Race morning was damn cold, but the misery was shared with friends and family. We headed out for a quick walk to the metro and then an extra long walk around the Pentagon to the staging area. I spent the entire time cold.

Once I made it into the corrals, it wasn’t quite as bad since all the bodies generated some warmth. It was awesome to hear the a capella version of the National Anthem while parajumpers descended with huge American flags. A beautiful way to get me pumped up even more and ready for the race to start.

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I ended up placed a bit behind the 3:45 pace group (not my intention at all) and so a bit further back than I planned. However, it wasn’t too bad as the first 2 miles were severely crowded and I would have had to dodge people to get up to pace regardless. Fear not, there was no starting out too fast for me with the crowds in this race.

The course is beautiful with fall colors and all the sights through Arlington, Georgetown, and the memorials of Washington, D.C.

It was cold – low 40s at the start and while it did make the 50s near the finish we had to deal with some chilly winds and cloud cover through the middle. While I didn’t exactly want the first 2 miles as slow as they were, it was a lot of fun dodging around people while taking in the course and spectators. I especially liked the point about a mile in where they had a U.S. flag hanging over the middle of the course, just low enough that if you had the height or a good jump you could brush it with your fingers (which of course I did).

100_4313The atmosphere was AMAZING. Passing retired veterans carrying flags in a diamond formation for each of their services, with a U.S. flag as point- and rear-guards. Individual military members and units taking on the marathon in full gear. There was no lack of inspiration or motivation across the full 26.2 miles. Plus just the sheer amount of spectators and on course entertainment (from regular bands to marching bands to drum lines). I settled into my pace by mile 4 (and also dropped all my throwaways) and just enjoyed everything I could see.

Around mile 11 I got to see my mom and that was a sweet boost. Then we hit the 13-16 mile area which is Hains Point. That was very emotional. This portion of the course has the least amount of spectators which I felt was appropriate for what was placed there. On the left side of the course every few feet were the pictures of each Marine killed in action. As the ‘quiet’ portion of the race, there was a respectful reverence for those who have given their lives in service to our country. And to help balance that, the right side of the course had posters set up with the usual race sayings from the motivational to the funny. It helped me keep from fully breaking into tears to glance from one side to another, to mix those runner sayings in with each picture I passed.

Then the course swung you full on into the National Mall and once again the course was lined with spectators and all the beautiful monuments, memorials, and museums that make up our capital. I really enjoyed just looking around me for the next few miles especially because it was so different from my last visit. There weren’t many tourists out crowding the sights—most people were bunched up on the course cheering on runners. So the view of the buildings and their architecture was largely clear and very nice. Especially the swing in front of the capital building which offered a fantastic view on approach for the runners and a sweet backdrop for pictures once we turned around.

Then it was across another bridge into Crystal City where I got to see Beth of Discombobulated Running in her cheering costume (which was absolutely hysterical). I think of the entire course that Crystal City was my least favorite. Partially due to it being the last area before you make it back to the Pentagon towards the finish and mostly because the roads there weren’t as well cared for as the rest of the course. But I made it through the torturous miles 20-24 with legs that were burning.

Thanks to where I ended up in the starting area, besides starting behind the 3:45 pace group (who I passed in the first half mile), I had no gauge for when I crossed the start line in relation to the gun or where exactly I was placed. Luckily, I actually didn’t think too hard on it until I reached mile 25. Then my not-questions were answered. Right at the mile 25 marker I caught the 3:35 pace group. Also amazing, Beth had managed to trek from the start of the bridge on the Washington, D.C., side at mile 20 to the ramp next to the Pentagon and Route 110 (to the finish) a mere 20 feet after the 25 mile marker. It was great encouragement not only to see her a second time, but to have her screaming “BQ!!” at me as I caught the end of the pace group and began my pass.

While that highway that made up the last mile was a mental challenge due to seeing a seemingly endless sea of runners, I had my boost thanks to Beth. I kept pace and passed many others who were losing steam. The last half mile was most amazing because of the crazy amount of spectators. They were ranged on both sides of the course as far as 3/4s of a mile from the finish, packed in and cheering loudly.

A girl with one of my favorite signs (a star symbol with the words “touch here for power” much like these two) got a tap from me as I went by. Near the end and just before I passed the 26 mile marker and turned to take the hill, I could hear my mother cheering. I couldn’t see her in the dense crowd, but being able to make out her voice was a relief. Any and all spectators are such a boost during a race, but having it be someone you know and so close to the finish just helps to dredge up that last bit of reserve, that last bit of strength, to make it to the end.

Once again I was dodging runners who had already emptied their tank, but I took that hill like the race had just started. Though there was definitely some dismay to realize I still had a few hundred feet to go once I reached the top. But I did! I crossed the line as the clock was breaking 3:36. I had done it! Months of preparation had awarded me an awesome race.

20131027_140424There was some stumbling and helping hands after I crossed the line. I offered my thanks for their service to the Marines I passed as I continued upwards to receive the totally awesome finisher’s medal. I had to wobble and take the stairs very, very slowly but I got myself up to the Marine Corps War Memorial for a finisher’s picture with my medal and a huge smile. It was only after that I finally had the courage to look at my Garmin and see my finish time.

I cried! Even if it wasn’t exact, my watch said 3:33:32 and the difference couldn’t be so great as to deny me the 3:35 that would be a Boston qualifier. I spent all of training trying so hard NOT to put the pressure of attempting a qualifier on my shoulders. I wanted a great race, a PR, and to break 3:40. Anything more than that would be a pleasant bonus. So the fact that it happened deserved at least a few tears.

After that it was the usual post race of picking up water, gatorade, snacks, and making my way to meet family. My mother was waiting for me as I exited the finish area and I admit to a few more tears as I hugged her. We spent a bit of time in the finisher’s festival, but my legs were shot and I was looking forward to food and a shower. As luck would have it, I ran into Beth a third time and got to chat with her a bit.

Without a doubt, I would recommend this race to any and everyone. Not only is it a fantastic course with tons of spectator support, but the military and volunteers were great. The Marines, volunteers, and other service members all across the course at water stops, aid stations, and more were simply amazing. I never felt like any of them didn’t want to be there or weren’t excited for what each and every runner was trying to accomplish. Plus it’s like your own mini-tour of the capital and surrounding areas. And starting with 2014, they’ll be doing a lottery registration. Probably the only thing I wish I’d done differently was take a camera, but I’m too competitive to slow down or stop to snap pictures.

To talk briefly of strategy I think the main difference, besides the temperatures, in this race from my first marathon was that I took advantage of every water stop. I alternated taking e-caps and eating gels; made sure I got water at every stop even if I wasn’t consuming something or felt good. While I did skip the Dunkin Donuts stop, I grabbed some sports beans (as I lost one gel around mile 8) to fill the gap. As a result (at least in my mind) I didn’t hit the wall this time. My legs were definitely protesting, especially after the hills in the first 10 miles, and I could feel the burn of activity, more than ever after mile 20. But as some signs say, what wall?! I don’t see no wall!

So now I look on to future races and the possibility of Boston in 2015 (insert squee of excitement). I leave you with some numbers and more pictures. And yes, I did negative split! Huzzah!

Average Pace – 8:08
1st half – 1:48:30
2nd half – 1:44:53

MCM Training: Week 17/18

Annnnnnnddddddd it’s almost time! Now instead of worrying about other things, I can worry about packing and forgetting stuff! That’s 17/18 out of the way.

mcm - 1 week

Total Miles: 41

Hills: 7.22 miles

6×1.0mi – 8:04, 7:57, 7:54, 7:56, 7:56, 7:56

Less miles doesn’t mean less effort! Especially since I had to work off that ice cream I ate after lunch. Oops.

Intervals: 7.12 miles

7×800 – 3:29, 3:26, 3:28, 3:25, 3:27, 3:28, 3:15

Closing up the speed work for this training cycle, and not too shabby on the consistency this time. Early AM run with 2 others who are different paces, so these were on my own. Wasn’t sure if I’d pull the last one in faster but managed. It felt good and not too difficult.

Long Run: 10.51 miles @ 8:17 pace

If you can even call it a long run after the last 4 months of training. Felt good the whole way and like I was barely trying as conversation was easy. Hoofed it in to simulate race day strategy.

Now it’s just taking it easy in to race day. Less than a week to go! Except, ugh, packing.

MCM Training: Week 16/18

Annnnnd that’s it!!! 16/18 and officially in taper now. Very excited for that. There’s been a lot of attention in regards to the race getting cancelled due to the government shutdown. But I decided until the race tells me otherwise, it’s happening. That said, on to the workouts!

Total Miles: 57

Hills: 10.27 miles

9×1.0mi (sorta) – 8:32, 8:12, 8:09, 8:15, 8:16, 8:19, 8:15, 8:01, 7:57

Run made easier by having two of the guys (including my coach) along for most of it. I was a bit worried coming into this not only because I was late for my intended start, but I also hadn’t been hydrating as well through the afternoon as usual. Doesn’t seem to really have stopped me though. First one was sort of a warm-up and sort of me attempting to get on pace.

Intervals: 9.25 miles

10x800m – 3:22, 3:26, 3:26, 3:27, 3:25, 3:28, 3:28, 3:28, 3:15, 3:06

Success! That’s both my 10 repeat weeks done! Skipped the morning to sleep in (fatigue has been getting to me) and no one else was planning to be out at 5AM. Took it easy and just went out to start at 6PM with another of the guys in training. Lucked out after my first repeat that Steve showed up as we were in the same pace range. Ended up running 7 with me and we stayed pretty consistent. The last two went really well (as the times show). Legs were tired, but managed on my own. Hydrated well during the afternoon and had a small snack about 45 minutes before the workout. Yay.

Long Run: 18 miles @ 9:36 pace

Actually expected this to be closer to 10 pace. Early miles running with a slower paced group, then running more towards 8:30s than 9:00s with Donna and Justin. Pain really hit me in the knee and several of my leg muscles at about 12 miles in, so I had to slow it down. Ended up doing like 10+ pace the last 3 miles with Randy and Mandy ( lots of those two, plus an Andy in our running group haha). Never quite had it hit me like that, so I wasn’t prepared for it. But I got the miles in!

After ice and taking it easy Saturday, a shorter recovery on Sunday went well. Just had a little tightness around the knee joint. Didn’t think about it until after, but I was out and about most of Friday with a good amount of walking & the buildup from these last few high mileage weeks probably strained it a bit. I’ll be taking it extra easy over the next 2 weeks so I can keep the knees in good condition for the race. Ice and rest as needed!

Now in taper!!! My life is currently complete, now if the race could just get here without anything crazy going wrong.

MCM Training: Week 15/18

Yay! 15/18 and that means just one more week until taper. Plus we’re getting all kinds of emails and info about the race that has me excited. Now these politician people better get the government running again so all the museums and memorials can be open when I get there. On a totally different note, highest mileage week EVER!

Total Miles: 64

Hills: 10.26 miles

9×1.0mi – 8:21, 8:08, 8:20, 8:09, 8:00, 8:00, 8:08, 8:13, 8:11

Not super consistent but way better than the past few weeks. And I felt awesome doing it. Guess I managed to be well hydrated and timed my pre-workout snack well. Plus I got to mix up running a few on my own and then the rest with different people. It was still humid, but a degree or two cooler than it has been.

Intervals: 9.57 miles

10x800m – 3:29, 3:26, 3:25, 3:24, 3:23, 3:25, 3:24, 3:24, 3:22, 3:12

Was already feeling the fatigue from this week, so during the warm-up I was doubting if I’d be able to complete all 10. But Kathy as usual was her positive self and we just sort of took them in 2s. I was good about halfway through, then struggled with the last couple that Kathy ran with me (she did 8). After that, guess I was so close to the end that I was able to push through 2 more and finish. Legs were definitely tired, but all 10 managed.

Long Run: 23.1 miles @ 9:24 pace

Woohoo! Last really long run complete. The 18 miler next week will be nothing haha. Anyways, once again a bit surprised by what I was able to bring the pace down to. Early 11 with friends were in the 9:45-10:00 range. Which I was okay with because I just wanted people to run with. Then the later 12 with different friends ended up being largely sub-9. Getting back to the car at 20 and needing 3 more was a bit rough, but manageable. Tested out the shoes and socks I have planned for the race and they held up fine – now just waiting the top so I can test that out too.

So close to taper and therefore, race day! Actually managed this week of miles much better than I was expecting. Though I admit to taking naps to make up for early morning workouts. Made good use of stretching and compression socks – didn’t have to ice the knees this time. Managed to hit the workouts solidly, so I look forward to one more week before taper. 17 days and counting!

MCM Training: Week 14/18

I can’t start a report without saying 14/18 down! So there’s no confusion on the specific workouts, for this particular week Monday-Wednesday was pretty much downpour of rain the entire time.

Total Miles: 56

Modified Hills: 6.63 miles

8:55, 8:39, 8:33, 8:02, 8:13

Yeahh, was not on for this workout to begin with and then the rain just made it worse. Normally I love running in the rain, but this workout just did not happen. Got started, had to ease into the pace, and finally just decided to cut it short.

Modified Tempo: 6.54 miles

8:12, 8:21, 8:04, 8:00, 7:52

Changed my Tuesday recovery into a tempo to semi-make up for cutting hills short. Felt much better, except for the fact that it was still raining. But in this case it just kept the run relatively cool, though I did nearly face plant into the wall trying to run to the shower without leaving puddles of water all over the house. Not as long a workout as I was planning, but obligations kept it from going farther.

Intervals: 8.63 miles

9x800m – 3:27, 3:28, 3:24, 3:25, 3:20, 3:27, 3:20, 3:24, 3:22

By Thursday I was struggling a bit from being tired – made up the miles I’d been missing so far in the week on Wednesday with a double run. So I crashed and slept in Thursday to meet up with with someone around 7AM instead of 5AM. Glad to have gotten the sleep, but wasn’t sure I’d be able to do as good pacing without Kathy running in front of me. Not nearly as consistent as with her, but still managed pretty well I think. It was hotter and the sun had come up, so not as good conditions as 5AM, but not bad. After getting all that sleep (like 9 hours), it was like a reset and the second half of the week went much better.

Long Run: 18.19 miles @ 9:10 pace

Recharged after Friday off, decided to just breeze my way through this one. Joined a couple people for a slower early 8 – we averaged around 9:40 or so. Then hopped on with two of the guys for around 9:00 pace for the next 10. Think the easier early 8 helped to ease into the run and kept the miles relaxed. Even the next 10 that were all sub-9 felt good. While I just wanted the miles, quite pleased that the pace was dropped as much as it did.

Almost to taper! Others starting to race has me super excited for race day to get here. While this week wasn’t ideal with the rain throwing everything off and just having an exhausted time getting through the workouts (plus some other stuff), it ended well and I still met my mileage goals. I’ve broken in both pairs of new shoes and retired the old ones (they needed it). Pretty sure I know which pair I’ll wear for the race, but Saturday’s 23 will be the true test. Less than 4 weeks to race day!

MCM Training: Week 12/18

And week 12/18. That’s what? 4/5ths done? (Not quite…)

Total Running Miles: 53

Biking Miles: 12

Hills: 9.33 mi

7×1.0mi – 8:23, 8:14, 8:02, 8:07, 8:13, 8:03, 8:09

Ugh, horribly inconsistent. This was a pretty miserable workout for me. My routine was off, I probably wasn’t hydrated enough, and that combined with fatigue from the 22 miler added up. Sure, I technically hit my pace goals – but it didn’t feel that great and there was no consistency.

Intervals: 7.37 mi

8×800 – 3:29, 3:23, 3:23, 3:23, 3:22, 3:24, 3:21, 3:18

So yeah, a bit speedy there. But I felt fine doing it! Could probably have even had one or two faster, but I think this is more than fast enough. I ran with one of the girls (Kathy), though it’s better to say that except for the last repeat I was chasing her. Another morning workout that was awesome.

Long Run: 18.07 @ 9:27 pace

So yeahh – don’t know what it was but Friday night I was dead tired by 9 and absolutely dreading getting up on Saturday. This was the first workout (this training cycle) that I believe I seriously just considered skipping or putting off to another day. Knew it wasn’t going to go too well the moment I woke up. Still, went out and did an early 8 super, super slow. Then tagged onto two others for the next 10 and was able to bring the pace down. I managed, but I just didn’t feel it.

4 more weeks of tough workouts and then it’s TAPER! A couple not so great runs this week, but considering what my mileage is I’m not surprised. I’m getting super excited for the race. Got my new shoes (posts to appear soon!), should be getting the race top anytime now, and I’ve picked out which shorts I plan to race in. All that’s left is to get through the training. Here’s a sneak peak of one of my new shoes!

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