Race Weekend Recap: Mercedes Half Marathon 2015

Location:  Birmingham, AL
State #8
Half Marathon #15
Time:  2:14:41
Pace:  10:17

Thanks to my bitchy hip, I hadn’t run the 8 days preceding this race.  After two visits to the chiropractor and a lot of quality time with my foam roller, a softball (because the foam roller just didn’t hurt quite bad enough!), and an ice pack, I was almost back to normal although not quite at 100%.  But since I was assured that it’s just tightness and inflammation and that nothing is torn nor in danger of being torn, I wanted to give it a shot.

When I registered for this Sunday race, I already knew that I was going to have to work for a couple of hours Saturday morning, but I thought, “No big deal!  I’ll be out of there by 10, home and packed and gone by 12, and at the expo well before it closes at 6!”  Well that’s what I get for making plans.  haha We had two rounds of severe winter weather come through last week, and the roads were positively treacherous on Saturday, the worst they’d been all week. The highways and roads in town were clear, but I work in the delivery industry, and those roads only account for a small percentage of the roads traveled by my employees every day.  Usually when I’m going to be out of pocket, I let my people know to call a manager at a neighboring office if there’s an emergency, but I just couldn’t do that Saturday.  I couldn’t leave knowing my employees were out on those dangerous roads, and I couldn’t put the burden of worrying about them on any of my co-managers as they all had their own people to worry about.  But anyway, back to the point… it was nearly 5:00 by the time I got out of the office, filled my gas tank, grabbed a pizza to heat up for supper in the hotel room later, and got on the road.  The drive down was miserable.  I hate driving under three conditions:  at night, when it’s raining, and when I’m sleepy.  Well I had the perfect trifecta going for me Saturday making it a looooong 4-1/2 hours.  I had called ahead earlier that afternoon to the expo to let them know I wouldn’t make it in time for packet pickup, so they sent my goody bag and bib over to the host hotel where I could pick it up when I got to town.  I was super bummed about not making it down earlier because I had made plans to meet Holly from HoHo Runs at the expo!  So I drove straight to the Sheraton, was in and out with goody bag in-hand in less than two minutes, and back on the road to Homewood (where I’d booked a hotel just outside of Birmingham to save a few bucks!)  I had JUST gotten back on the interstate when traffic came to a dead halt.  All I saw were blue lights and tail lights.  I was was so ready to just eat and go to bed, and there I was, 10 minutes from the hotel, stuck in traffic.  Well one of those things I could take care of.  I reached into the back seat and grabbed my pizza.  Cold pizza for the win!  Thankfully, traffic cleared within just a few minutes.  I finally got to my room about a quarter till 10.  After a quick text to Holly letting her know I’d arrived and arranging our morning meetup plans, I crashed and burned.

Holly was also staying in Homewood at a hotel just right across the street from mine, and she very graciously offered to drive us downtown to the start.  She picked me up at 6:00 on the dot and we made our way downtown.  Parking was a breeze, so we had plenty of time to mill around before the 7:03 start.


Right after this picture was taken, the rain started.  It was never a heavy rain, but steady enough that we were pretty well soaked before the start.

We lined up between the 9:00 and 10:00 min/mile pacers.  I was planning on shooting for 10:00 miles, but once we started moving I settled into a 9:30ish pace and felt fantastic. There really wasn’t much to look at on the course, but I was never bored with it like at Mississippi Blues last month.  Even with the soggy weather, there were lots of people out spectating and lots of groups had come out and set up their own aid stations with gummy bears, bananas, orange slices, etc.  This was hands-down the most well-supported course I’ve ever been on.  The race itself had probably 8 or so stations (3 of which had GU), and there were probably at least that many extra ones tossed in.  It made them quick and easy to get through.

At the 10K mark, my time was 58:15, a 9:33 pace.  I was pretty excited to see that number because at the race that holds my current HM PR (2:07:24) my 10K split was 59:45.  But very shortly after that, things went downhill.  I wish I could blame it on my hip, but I can’t.  I didn’t even feel a twinge until around mile 10.  The same thing happened that happened at St. Jude in December.  I just reached a point where I was DONE.  Like flipping a switch, running all of a sudden got a LOT harder!  It could have been a lot of things really, (lack of sleep the last few weeks, dehydration, hills, stress, humidity) but none of the excuses matter.  It just wasn’t my day.  Not only did I not get that PR, I didn’t even meet the “B” goal of averaging under 10:00.  Matter of fact, my time was a minute and a half slower than last month.  I can’t lie and say I’m not disappointed, but I’m not beating myself up.  I still got to go to a new place and run a great race and turn a blogger buddy into a real-life buddy!  haha  And my race photos don’t even suck!

2-22-2015 - Mercedes Marathon 2

2-22-2015 - Mercedes Marathon

2-22-2015 - Mercedes Marathon 3

2-22-2015 - Mercedes Marathon finish

I would definitely recommend this race to anyone thinking about doing it.  It was reasonably priced, well supported, easy to get to, had fantastic post-race festivities, and I loved the shirt and medal.  And we even got a finisher’s beach towel!

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2015-02-22 17.00.59

I’d love to say I’ll be back to this race, but the truth is, I’ve got a lot more states to do before I start doubling back and repeating states!  haha  Maybe in 2025…

Race Recap: Mississippi Blues Half Marathon

Half Marathon #14
State #7
Time 2:13:19
Pace 10:11

Even before I decided to give this whole “50 half marathons in 50 states” thing a whirl, I had registered for what would be my 7th state–Mississippi Blues. It was within driving distance; it was on my birthday; and I had just heard great things about it, so why the hell not?!  The hubs doesn’t usually come with me to races, but since this was my birthday weekend, I didn’t give him an out this time.  He and I both worked until lunch Friday and then headed out on the 5-hr drive to Jackson, MS.  We drove straight to the convention center for packet pickup, and we were in and out of there in just a few minutes.  We arrived at about 6:30, so I wasn’t expecting to find the expo still set up because the web site said the expo ended at 6:00 but that packet pickup would be available until 9:00.  But there were still LOTS of people coming in, so I guess the vendors decided not to pack it up as long as people were coming in.  I made a quick round through the expo but didn’t buy anything even though it was pretty hard not to go wild at the Gypsy Runner booth.  So much cuteness!!!

We were staying at the Marriott, which was just a few blocks from the expo, and on the way there we saw where the start line was set up for the next morning.  It was super close to the hotel, so I was pretty stoked about that.  It was CRAZY cold, and I wasn’t looking forward to walking a long way to the start.  I knew it was supposed to be pretty close to the hotel, but I didn’t realize exactly how close it was.  I’m usually more frugal when booking hotels for races and stay a little ways out where it’s cheaper, but I splurged a bit on this one since it was my birthday and all.  🙂

So we got all checked in and the first thing we noticed when we walked in the room was how cold it was in there!  The heat was set to 73, but it couldn’t have been over 60 degrees in there.  We assumed that they hadn’t had the heat on in the room long and just cranked it up and called in a pizza for delivery because we just really didn’t feel like getting back out.  When the room still hadn’t warmed up by the time we were ready to go to bed, I called the desk and complained about the room being so cold.  Turns out they knew that was a problem for that room and a few others as we were directly over the parking garage.  They said they try not to put people in those rooms when it’s that cold, but they were sold out that night, and since we were some of the later people checking in, we were among the lucky ones.  They brought us a space heater and extra blankets and even knocked $50 off our bill for the night without me even asking!  Awesome customer service.  Anyway, that space heater made all the difference in the world.  I thawed out and was asleep by 9:30 with my alarm clock set for 5:30 to give me plenty of time to get awake and functioning before the 7:00 start.

We headed down to the lobby shortly after 6:30 but stood around chatting and prolonging heading out into the cold (starting temp was 23 and felt like 18).  About 6:45 we started the short walk to the start line.  As soon as I walked outside I noticed how quiet it was.  I kind of panicked at first thinking I had missed it or we were farther away than I thought, but I looked around at all the other runners around me and thought we surely didn’t all make the same mistake.  I guess I’m just spoiled to a lively race start.  I don’t think I’ve EVER been to a race that didn’t have a band or piped-in music or SOMETHING at the start.  There was absolutely nothing here.  A guy played the national anthem on the electric guitar, but that was it.  Just an emcee on the megaphone announcing how many minutes to start every so often.

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I seeded myself around the 4:20 full marathon pacer and moved to the edge of the corral so I could hang with D until the start.  When it was almost time, I handed my coat over to him and he headed back up to the room to go back to bed.  Yeah, races just aren’t his thing.  haha

There was absolutely NO energy to the start at all.  And that set the tone for the entire race.  Before I bash it too much, let me start by saying that it was very organized and the volunteers were great.  They were very friendly and helpful and just the fact that they were out there braving the cold for us was very much appreciated.  They were amazing and I thanked every one I saw.  But the race itself?  The race kind of sucked, y’all.  It was just…boring.  There was exactly one band playing on the 13.1-mile course.  The course was extremely challenging with constant hills, but that’s not why I wouldn’t do it again.  I don’t mind a challenging course.  I enjoy it actually.  But there just wasn’t anything to look at.  Several miles of it were right by the interstate, for Christ’s sake.  There was virtually no spectatorship.  I get that it was cold, but I’ve run cold races before where there were tons more spectators than this.  When we came up on the college campus I thought, “Yes!  This will liven it up a bit!”  Not a soul in sight.  I was so disappointed!  The other races I’ve done that have gone through a campus, that’s been the liveliest part!  At Murray State, I think every frat boy on campus was out there acting a fool.  I know all of this stuff is just personal preference.  I know there are a lot of people that take running more seriously than I do that think these things aren’t important (and think people like me who enjoy these things shouldn’t be taking up space on “their” course), but that’s just my subjective take on it.  I’ve run small races before too and was fine with it because I knew ahead of time that it was a small race with no frills and extras.  I guess in my mind I just had this event built up to be more than what it was.  It certainly seems to me like it was advertised that way.  Like I said… subjective.

Now the objective… This was a super challenging course!  Although I do prefer a hillier, rolling course over a pancake-flat one I was kind of over the hills by the later miles of this one.  I only have 11 miles worth of data from my Garmin because my dumb ass forgot to turn it on when we walked out of the hotel.  It was only when I took my coat off right before the start and saw my watch on my wrist that I remembered.  Of course it didn’t find a signal before the start.  When it finally found a satellite, I could see the Mile 2 marker ahead, so I just hit the start button when I reached that marker.  Since I didn’t have a watch for the first couple of miles I just tried to concentrate on not letting myself start out too fast.  I have a tendency to do that–especially when I’m cold!  I did a pretty good job of pacing myself I guess because I never really bonked.  I did get tired of the hills and started walking parts of them toward the end.  I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt not to expect a PR at this race, but I was kind of hoping for a second best.  As I watched my time during the race I knew that was possible but it was going to be close because I didn’t know my time from the first two miles.  At mile 12 I decided to give it what I had left.  Lucky for me there were no major hills during that last mile.  haha  When I crossed the finish line, my watch said 1:53 something, but I still didn’t know my time or if I’d hit my goal of second-best.  I was hoping for anything below 2:13:20, which was my time from the Shamrock Half back in 2012, but I’d have to wait to find out.

I found D right out of the finisher’s chute.  I really didn’t even realized I’d walked out of the finisher’s area until I was out of it.  When I crossed the line, I was handed my medal and a bottle of water and was offered a space blanket, and I kept walking to where I thought the food would be.  But there WAS none.  That was where I found D.  I asked him if I missed the food, and he said he hadn’t seen any.  I looked around to ask another runner where to get whatever they were eating, but… NO ONE had anything.  There was nothing!  I’ve run $15 5Ks that at least had fucking bananas and Oreos at the end.  Again, I guess those are just my personal expectations.  I didn’t read anything that promised finish line refreshments, so my disappointment was unfounded.  I just kind of assumed there would be something because I’ve never been to a half marathon where there wasn’t.  Another major strike against this race in my mind.  Had I known, I’d have brought something to MS with me to make a protein shake.  As it were, we walked back to the hotel and I ducked into the hotel restaurant and asked if I could just buy a banana.  They graciously just gave me three… I think probaby just to keep me from coming in and sitting down. haha

Aside from the awesome volunteers, I have to say the only thing I liked about this race was the medal.  Yes, I’m that shallow runner.  Bling size matters.

2015-01-10 17.51.04When the results were posted in the afternoon, I found out that I have a new second-best time by ONE WHOLE SECOND!  hahaha

2015-01-10 19.42.48Closing thoughts:  Did I enjoy myself?  Yeah, I did.  It was a great quick trip away with D, and we just don’t get that much anymore since we bought the business last year.  I gave a solid effort on a difficult course and I’m happy with the results.  Would I recommend this race to anyone else?  No.  Not by a long shot.  If big races are your thing, you’ll be disappointed.  If small races are your thing, you may enjoy this one, but you’ll pay more for registration than what it’s worth.

Race Recap: Memphis St. Jude Half Marathon

This race came dangerously close to being The One That Didn’t Happen.  The plan was that I was going to work until lunch Friday, and then someone from another office (since I’ve recently lost my only help in mine) was going to come and relieve me that afternoon and Saturday for the race.  Thursday afternoon, only minutes before leaving work for the day, I got a phone call that my relief’s relief person had a family emergency and couldn’t fill in for her to allow her to come to my office.  I thought I was screwed.  But things actually worked out, as they RARELY do in my profession, and I was still able to make it.  I had to work all day Friday, and only made it to the expo by the skin of my teeth, but I made it, and that’s all that matters.

I got out of the office at 4:45, filled up my gas tank, and hit the road.  I thought that would give me plenty of time, but after stopping at Olive Garden to pick up a to-go order I’d called in and then having to slow down to a crawl on the interstate because of the torrential rain, I was pushing it tighter than I liked.  When I got downtown to the Cook Convention Center for packet pickup, the traffic was nuts.  I finally found a parking spot a few blocks away and hustled to the center.  I grabbed my shirt and went to the Hero’s section where I was given my bib and a $25 coupon (for meeting my $500 fundraising goal!) for St Jude merchandise.  JUST as I was walking into the merch area, they came over the speaker and announced that the expo would be closing in five minutes.  Talk about coming down to the wire.  I didn’t really plan on buying anything, but since I had the $25 coupon I looked around anyway.  I ended up grabbing this running beanie and a new 13.1 sticker for my truck (since I’ve lost all my running magnets) with a balance due of $0.13.

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Then I made my way to my hotel.  Because I’d waited too long to make a hotel reservation, all the decently priced ones downtown were booked up.  And because I’m too fucking cheap to pay $200 for one night just to have a pillow to lay my head on for a few hours before a race, I booked a room about 10 miles out of the downtown area.  It was a little Days Inn out by Graceland.  For $60 I wasn’t expecting much, but it had really good reviews, so I took a chance.  When I pulled up, it was so cute.  It was all decked out in Elvis paraphernalia and had the guitar-shaped pool and everything.  It was cheap, it was clean, it was quiet, the bed was soooooo comfy, and the staff was super friendly and helpful.  The lady at the front desk was even tracking down safety pins for me at 10:00 that night because I’d lost mine somewhere between the expo and my hotel room.  Great customer service.  I’d highly recommend this hotel to anyone.  When I told the front desk of my plans the next morning and asked for a late checkout so I could come back for a shower, she told me that 12:00 was the latest she could offer me without charging an extra half-day’s rate.  (Which I made with a whopping 4 minutes to spare!  haha)

So anyway, after I got checked in, I heated up my pasta I’d picked up on the way in (I had done that because I knew I wouldn’t make it in time for the Hero pasta party, and I just REALLY didn’t give a shit about walking around downtown in the rain trying to find some dinner after the expo.) and laid out all of my stuff for the next morning.  That was when I realized I had lost my safety pins for my bib.  Thank goodness Days Inn is prepared for us unprepared folks and had little sewing kits for free!

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So with a bib safety secured to my singlet, I laid down for the best night’s sleep I’ve had in a while.  No snoring husband, no dogs waking me up needing to go outside, no cat yelling at me demanding breakfast or help up on the bed (Cat, I bought you some pet stairs–use them!)  I went to sleep, slept soundly, and didn’t wake up till the next morning.  I had my alarm set for 6, but I was awakened by a text message at 5:33 wishing me luck.  I laid there for a while perusing Facebook and Instagram and then got up and had some coffee and my standard race morning breakfast of a Clif bar.  I left the hotel right at 7 to allow myself plenty of time to get downtown, find a parking place, and get to my corral without being rushed.  It went perfectly and I was in my corral by 7:45.

I didn’t have much of a plan for the race.  I knew I wasn’t PR ready, but I thought surely I could keep it under a 10:00 pace, giving me a second best time.  But for whatever reason, and I haven’t figured that reason out yet, it wasn’t in the cards.  For the first 6 miles or so, I was running in the 9:30s and feeling GREAT!  I was thinking that maybe I COULD beat my old PR of 2:07 (9:44 pace).  But then around mile 7, I completely bonked.  I mean like flipping a damn switch.  I went from “WHEEEEE RUNNING!!!!!” to “WTF just happened?” in the course of a mile.  Maybe it was because the rush of downtown and Beale St. and running through the St. Jude campus was over?  Maybe I had expended more energy running into the wind than I’d thought?  Maybe I just fucking suck at running?  But I still thought if I could keep a decent pace I could still keep the finish time under 2:10.  Then by mile 9, my average pace had creeped up to 10:02.  I knew I wasn’t getting it back, so I just said, “Fuck it.  It will be what it will be.”  So I just ran (and walked) and enjoyed the crowd and the scenery and just appreciated the fact that I got to be there when only 24 hours before I didn’t think it was gonna happen.

12-6-2014 - St. Jude finisher's photo
Come on, photographer… Would a “Hey, fix your shirt” have killed you? 😛

I crossed the finish line in AutoZone Park in 2:17:29.  I’m really disappointed in that time.  There just isn’t any reason for it.  I’ve run 5 half marathons faster than that before, and I was no better prepared for any of those (except the PR one, which I ran during marathon training) than I was this one.  But whatever.  I’m disappointed but not bitter about it.  It’s hard to be bitter about taking part in such a wonderful day for such a wonderful cause.  I love this race so much, and I’m already looking forward to my fourth running of St. Jude next December.

2014-12-06 17.36.49
Half marathon #13 done.

RnR St. Louis Race Weekend Recap – Day 3 – RACE DAY!

If you missed Days 1 & 2, go catch up here.  I’ll wait…

Okay, now that we’re all on the same page, let’s pick up where I left off.  IT’S RACE DAY!!!!  Start time was 7:00, so we had set our alarms for 6:00 with plans to leave the room about 6:45.  We were only a few blocks from the start, and it was chip timed, so none of us really cared to stand around in the corrals forever before the start.  As we were walking up, still several blocks away, we heard the gun but still didn’t bother to get in any hurry.  We still stopped to get pre-race pictures before jumping in the corral.

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Me, Kim, and Trisha. We hadn’t found Tiina yet.
10-19-2014 - Pam & Tiina before RnR St. Louis

Kim snapped this photo from the start line.  The race banner, the sunrise, the arch in the background… best race photo ever.


And just a couple minutes later, we were crossing the start line.  I had absolutely no plans or goals for this race whatsoever except to ENJOY IT!  I hadn’t run more than 8 miles since March, so the only thing I had in mind was to keep it slow and steady so I didn’t blow up halfway through.  I did a pretty good job of that.  I felt really good all the way through, other than being pretty hot.  It was in the 40s at the start and in the 50s by the finish, which I usually wear shorts to run in, but that day I had on tights.  I ran pretty steadily until I hit the 10-mile mark and then I started walking up some of the hills, of which there were plenty.  That’s one of the things I love about this course.  It’s constant rollers.  I have learned that I by far prefer a rolling course to a flat one.  I seriously just love this race.  I crossed the line in 2:21:35.  Out of my 12 half marathons, that puts this one right in the middle time-wise.  Given that this one was run solely for fun I’m TOTALLY cool with that.

10-19-2014 - Pam crossing finish line

10-19-2014 - RnR St. Louis finisher's photo

It’s fun to think that a few years ago I ran a 2:21 fully trained and felt tanked at the end and now it’s my “fun run” time after a full day on my feet and climbing up and through and over shit at the playground…excuse me–“museum.”  And I remember a day when running 10+ miles would put me back in bed for a nap before lunch.  haha  Okay, maybe that’s not a good point because I totally would have taken a nap Sunday if I’d had time.  But instead we all headed back to the hotel for quick showers because we had tickets to go up into the Gateway Arch at noon!  We thought we were leaving in plenty of time, but a complicated checkout at the hotel, lots of traffic because of the Rams/Seahawks game, a walking detour because of construction at the Arch, and a long security line made us a few minutes late.  Thankfully they let us go on up anyway.

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View of the stadium from the top of the Arch.

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River view looking out the opposite side.

And just some more photos from the park grounds…

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One of my favorite pictures from the weekend, taken by some random kid Kim picked out of a crowd.  haha

And with that, our weekend was a wrap.  Kim and Trisha had a plane to catch, and I needed to get on the road home, so we dropped Tiina back at her car where she’d parked close to the start line that morning, and we headed back to the airport.

I had an AMAZING time with these ladies, and I cannot wait to do it again!!!!!

My Comeback Race! The Little Rock Half Marathon

My year-and-a-half half-marathon hiatus came to an end on Sunday in Little Rock.  For those of you just checking in to see how badly I embarrassed myself … HA!  Joke’s on you!  I surprised even myself and pulled off a decent time!

Garmin stats:
13.29 miles
10:06 pace
My 2nd fastest half-marathon of my 11

Official stats
13.1 miles
10:15 pace
My 3rd fastest half-marathon of my 11

Earning me what is probably my coolest medal to date…

And now for the rest of the story, which is most likely only interesting to me…

First off, MAJOR PROPS to the volunteers and race director!  The volunteers were awesome for being out there in crappy weather conditions, but they were all in such good spirits and seemed genuinely happy to be there.  And the race director… bless her heart for having to make that horrible decision to call the race and pull runners from the course.  Awful decision to have to make, but the right decision nonetheless.  Safety first.


My mom and I were staying with her friend in Cabot, which is only about a 20-minute drive from the start line, so that made for a super easy race morning.  For the 8:00 start, we left her house at 7:15.  They dropped me off about a block from the start, and I was standing in my starting corral by 7:45.  PERFECT.  Well, perfect except for the weather.  I was kind of underdressed to just be standing still.  I only packed a tank top and shorts since the forecast showed 50 at the race start.  I didn’t think the rain and wind were supposed to start until later!  WOOPS!  haha  When I was getting dressed that morning, I decided to forego the tank top I had brought and instead wore the super dorky race shirt.  At least it had short sleeves.  I was FUH-REEZING in the rain and wind until my wave crossed the start line at about 8:15, but I was comfortable once we got going except for my hands.  As the temperature dropped, my hands went numb from the cold.  I didn’t bring any gloves, so I was trying to warm them up one at a time by wrapping one then the other with the garbage bag I’d gotten from a volunteer at the start line.  (Again, KUDOS to the race peeps for thinking of us unprepared folks and supplying garbage bags for makeshift ponchos!)

I didn’t really havee a plan going into the race.  I knew I was grossly undertrained only having run 10 miles… once… SLOWLY… so I didn’t really have any expectations or a race plan other than just run until I couldn’t run anymore.  So I started off at what felt like a pretty conservative pace (which ended up being faster than what I expected conservative to feel like) and held onto that pace until around mile 11 when I had to start walking parts of the longer hills.  I completely surprised myself by crossing the finish line in 2:14.  Never expected that at all.  Not that it’s a spectacular time or anything… it’s several minutes off my personal best, but for where I’m at right now, I’ll happily take it!

Borrowed from sportphoto.com

I was pretty spent after the race and beyond ready for a long warm shower.  My weather app showed 50 with a feels like of 50 at the start and 38 feels like 26 at the finish.  Thank GOD the rain held off though!  It rained pretty steadily on me for just a few minutes somewhere around the middle, but then it slacked back off to a drizzle again.  I was so happy to get my hands on a space blanket at the finish line!  I made my way through the finisher’s area and called my mom to let them know I was ready for them to come pick me up.  They’re they worst spectators ever.  Haha  They chose to have breakfast in a warm, dry restaurant rather than stand out in the cold rain!  (Hence the lack of photos.)  Weenies.  We headed back to Cabot, and by the time I got out of the shower it was pouring.  I felt soooo bad for the people still out on the course.  I knew they had to be miserable.  It wasn’t until later in the day that I learned that they had called the race at that point due to the lightning, cold, and impending ice.  Mom and I loaded up and headed home, and that’s when the TRUE test of endurance began…


Hands Down the Most Fun Personal Worst EVER

This past weekend, the hubs and I met Michele and her hubs and kiddo in Sevierville, TN, and she and I ran the Santa Hustle Smokies Half Marathon.  When we signed up for it, we knew it was TOTALLY for fun because, HELLO, I just ran a marathon the weekend before!  Well, when we decided on this “just for fun” race, Michele took that and ran with it.  Which resulted in this:

Thaaaat’s right.  That’s me in a tutu.  Yuk it up.

We saw some cute outfits in the starting area (which was literally right in the parking lot of our resort, by the way), but I think this was probably the best.

Thanks, random chick, for letting me take a picture of you and your offspring.

And then it got even funnier when a guy dressed up as The Grinch started acting like he was stealing the kid in the middle up there dressed up as a present.

Before long, it was time to head to the start.  Michele’s race crew was there to see us off, (true to form, mine stayed in bed) and snapped a few photos.

I didn’t even realize it was time to start until the crowd started moving forward.  We got in no hurry on the course whatsoever.  We ran when I could, walked when I couldn’t.  (Dude, my legs were still like 400 pounds each 8 days post-marathon.)  We chatted, we ate cookies, we stopped to take pictures…it was 2:44:45 of awesome.

Aid station fuel
Screw Gu.  We have Oreos.
Michele with her beloved Oreos.  They still had a gazillion left at the mile 12 aid station. The volunteer told us to take a tray with us.  It was EXTREMELY tempting.

Michele’s family was there to meet us at the finish line (yep, my husband’s ass was still in bed) and caught my most favoritest picture ever.

Can’t see it?  Zoom in.

Yep, that picture pretty much sums it up.

With an elf handing out candy canes as you cross the finish line!

I find it hilarious that my 10th half marathon was my slowest, but I would not have changed a single thing about this!

Race Report: St. Jude Marathon

The short version:

It was hot.  I bonked.  5:13:44.

The long version:

I knew going into this weekend that the weather wasn’t going to be ideal for me, but I knew I had to just make the best of it.  I knew regardless of what went down, it was going to be a fun weekend.  I was spending it with a girl that I had gone to high school with.  She had signed up as a St. Jude Hero and had committed to a pretty high level of fundraising.  High enough that they supplied her hotel room, so she invited me to crash with her!  They put us up in the Double Tree RIGHT AT the start line.  Seriously, this is looking out our hotel window.

See that street just on the other side of that parking lot?  Yeah, that’s where the corrals lined up. PERFECT location.

Nicky’s goal was also 5 hours, so we planned to at least start together.  And then the day before the race, I got this text from a good friend of mine who was running the half.

A twosome just became a threesome!

Kelly’s been battling back spasms throughout the training cycle and didn’t know where she was going to come in time-wise.  She ran St. Jude as her first half in 2:07 last year but knew she couldn’t do that this year.  If she was going to have to run it slow, she figured she may as well run it slowly with two friends!

So anyway I got to Memphis about 4:00 on Friday.  We got all checked in and situated and walked a few blocks to the expo.  Zero line for packet pickup or T-shirts.  Awesome.  We poked around the expo for a few minutes and still had time to kill before we ate dinner.  Nicky had tickets for us to the Heroes pasta party and presentation, which didn’t start until 6:30.  Rather than stand in the crazy long line that was already forming to wait for them to open the doors, we walked to the Trolley Stop Bar across the street in the Marriott to have a drink while we waited.  When the time came, we headed back, got our food, and got seated just in time for the presentation to start.  Parts of that were kind of interesting.  Parts kind of boring.  Parts really depressing.  I wouldn’t go to another one.  Not because I don’t support them, because I do.  They’re a great facility doing a great thing.  It’s just that I go to these races for fun, and that was not my idea of a good time.  I played on Facebook through most of it.  By the time it was over, we were ready to head back to the hotel to get our stuff ready for the next morning and turn in.

Since the race didn’t start until 8 and since we were so close to the start line, we didn’t have to stress about getting up early.  We actually both woke up well before our alarms went off.  We were dressed, had eaten breakfast, and were heading down by 7:30.

Walking up from the back end of the corrals.

We didn’t have assigned corrals.  They had pace ranges posted on each corral sign and let you seed yourself.  After discussing it the night before while looking at the hour-by-hour forecast, we had decided to move ourselves up to corral 9 instead of in 10 with the 4:55 pacers.  The first few miles would be a good 10-15 degrees cooler than the last miles, so we thought we would be better off taking advantage of that while it lasted.  The plan was to run about an 11:00 min pace.  Not MUCH faster than the 11:27 we needed to come in under 5, but enough to hopefully give us a little cushion so that we could slow down when it got hot.  I texted Kelly and she agreed that sounded like a good plan to her too.

Me, Nicky, and Kelly.  And I’m embarrassed to admit how long I looked for that Sweaty Band before I remembered I put it around my neck so I wouldn’t forget where it was.

They started letting corrals go right at 8:00, and we crossed the start line 16:22 later.  I remember this because I paid close attention to the clock as I crossed the mat, because like a DUMBASS, I forgot to turn my watch on until the corral ahead of us was starting.  It didn’t find signal until we were almost at the one mile mark.  I waited until Kelly’s watch showed 1.00 to start mine so I would know that mine would always be exactly a mile behind.

We did pretty good at sticking to our 11:00 plan.

1 – 11:14  (Typical first-mile congestion.)
2 – 10:40
3 – 10:50
4 – 9:37    (That’s bullshit.  The buildings were messing with my satellite signal)
5 – 10:49
6 – 10:56
7 – 11:02
8 – 11:02
9 – 11:04

We had been walking through the water stops, but somehow we got separated during the one around mile 9.  That was the last time I saw Kelly.  She went on to finish the half in 2:22.  Not bad at all for not having halfway trained!

I was really starting to get hot, so it was around that time that I decided that it was time to start throwing some more walking in.  I started doing 0.9 mile run, 0.1 mile walk.  Plus walking through the water stations.  Even doing this, I caught back up to Nicky somewhere around mile 14.  When I stopped for my 0.1 mile walk, she said she was going to go on ahead again because she was planning to stop at the next portapotty.  That was the last time I saw her.  (She went on to finish in 5:00:17.  She didn’t wear a watch and didn’t realize how close she was to five hours.  She said if she had known, she would have been a little quicker in the portapotty, or maybe stopped for one less picture, or maybe would have refrained from posting a Facebook status that she was halfway through her first marathon!)

10 – 11:17
11 – 10:51
12 – 11:09
13 – 11:39  (Walked an extra few seconds at the halfway point to rearrange things in my SPIBelt that kept bouncing and driving me crazy.  I ended up just taking the damn thing off and holding it.  It’s NEVER bounced like that.  I don’t know what was different this time. )
14 – 11:03

Mile 15 is where things started to get pretty sketchy.

15 – 12:02
16 – 12:51
17 – 12:04

And then the wheels fell off.

18 – 13:04
19 – 12:01
20 – 11:44

It was somewhere around mile 18.5 that the 4:55 pace group caught up to me.  I tried.  I tried so hard to hang with them.  I just. didn’t. have it.  I stopped and walked and sobbed as they pulled away from me.  It was right then that I gave up any hope of 5 hours.  I was exhausted.  I was crusted over with a layer of salt.  My hands and fingers were hugely swollen.  I was sunburned.  I was fueling like crazy and drinking at LEAST one water and one Powerade at every single station.  But it must not have been enough because…

Then the muscle cramps started.  Both inner thighs, left hammie, and right shin.  The right hamstring was tight, but it never full-on cramped up.  The inner thighs were what had the most impact on my running.  After mile 20, I was pretty much running for a minute and then walking for however long it took me to walk the cramp out.  There were a couple of times that I was able to run for two or three minutes before the cramp took hold, but mostly I was fighting just to reach one minute.  That’s how the last 6 miles of this thing were run:  One minute at a time.  It made for a looooong 6.49 miles.

21 – 13:19
22 – 13:11
23 – 13:35
24 – 13:35
25 – 13:01
26 – 14:00
26.49 – 12:33

I finished in 5:13:44 and was (am) so, so, so very disappointed.  But I left all my tears on the course along with everything else.  I can be upset about the outcome, but I can’t be upset about my effort.  I know that I gave it every little bit of everything I had on that day.  I’m positively certain that had it been cooler, or even cloudy, I would have reached my goal.  I just did not stand a chance on a sunny, 71-degree day in December after being acclimated to much cooler temperatures.  This is not the scene that you expect to see on December 1st.

Clear blue sunny skies as seen from the infield of Autozone Park.

Eighteen weeks of training shot to shit on one unseasonably hot day, but whatcha gonna do?

After we grabbed our finish line goodies we headed back to the hotel to get cleaned up.  We both tried to take a nap, but neither of us were successful.  Rather we just laid around and watched TV until we headed down for a delicious Thai meal.  Right after that we met back up with Kelly and her husband, Ben.  He ran a 3:52 marathon, by the way.  As awesome as that is, the heat and cramps got him, too.  He had trained for and was shooting for  a 3:30 finish.  Quad and hamstring cramps crippled him in the last miles.  We met in our hotel bar and stayed there until we were just all too sleepy to stay any longer.  That was by far the highlight of the weekend.  There’s absolutely nothing like drinks and laughter with old friends to make you forget about a crappy race.

Kelly, Ben and two of their other friends that I met that night.
Me.  Beer makes me laugh.  A lot.

Me, Kelly, and Nicky

Race Recap: Rock N Roll St. Louis Half Marathon

I’ll just get right down to it.  I blew my own mind this weekend.  I ran faster and stronger than I ever expected, and I couldn’t be more proud of myself right now.

Let’s see… where to begin… I made it to St. Louis around 3:00 Saturday afternoon.  For the most part the drive up was uneventful, but about halfway there my phone’s car charger quit working.  Ordinarily that wouldn’t be a big deal, but since I was using the GPS feature, the battery was draining FAST.  Then when I got into downtown St. Louis, there was a lot of road construction and I got all turned around.  By the time I found my way to the hotel, my battery was in the red zone.  Again, this wouldn’t have been a big deal either… IF I had brought my wall charger.  But I didn’t.  So to preserve the battery I had to keep my phone off most of the time, thus explaining the very few photos from my weekend!

Anyway, after I got checked in, I did the expo thing, grabbed a to-go plate of spaghetti from a little pizza dive near the hotel, ate, and was in the bed by 8:00.  I was up late the night before and had to get up early to work half a day that morning, so I was pretty worn out.

Up at 5:00, Clif bar for breakfast, dressed and ready to head to my corral by 6:00!

The outfit.  And photographic evidence of why I always wear my hair covering my ears.

It was still dark and a little on the chilly side just standing around.  There was a beautiful view from the corrals though.  The sun rising behind the arch was so pretty!  

I took this one right after I got there.  It got prettier as the sun rose, but I didn’t want to turn my phone back on and waste any more juice.
By the time we got moving, the sun was well on its way up.  It didn’t take long at all to get warm.  Within just a couple of miles I had a good sweat going on, but I never got uncomfortably hot.  Sure I would have preferred it to be a little cooler (It was like 55.), but otherwise I can’t complain at all.  It was a beautiful day for running!

As of the time I crossed the start line, I still hadn’t fully made up my mind how I was gonna run the race.  I figured I would know within the first couple of miles whether I was going to race it or just run it.  Well when I felt how naturally the 9:30s were coming, I decided to just hold onto that as long as I could and see where it took me.  Little did I know I’d be riding that pace all the way to the finish line.  A few things of note…
  • The course started and ended downtown with some parks and residential areas in the middle.  It was really pretty nice!  The spectatorship was great.  There were aid stations aplenty, and they were all super well organized.
  • I passed several people on every hill.
  • I hit the 10k mark in PR time.  When my watch read 6.2, the time on it was 59:09.  When I crossed the 10k timing mat, my watch said 59:45.  So either way I got my sub-1:00 10k.
  • My watch showed a distance of 13.2 at the end.  I did a decent job of running the tangents, but there were a few times that I chose to run around the pack rather than slow down and run with it on the tangent line.
  • I hit a rough patch around mile 8.5.  It was right after I had stopped for a few seconds at an aid station.  I had walked through a couple of them prior to that so that I didn’t drown myself trying to take a drink, but I actually pulled off to the side and stopped at this one to dig the compression shorts under my skirt out of my crotch and launch a couple of snot rockets.  I know.  I’m such a lady.  For a few minutes I was afraid that by stopping I had lost my groove, but I just keep pushing and eventually came through it and found my stride again. 
  • The mile that included the aid station stop was my one and only mile over a 10 min/mile pace.
  • I had three Clif Shot Bloks at mile 4ish, three more at mile 8ish, and about half of a vanilla bean GU that I had grabbed from one of the earlier aid stations at mile 11ish to get me through those last couple miles.
  • I hit the lap button when my watch read 13.1 at a time of 2:06:30.
  • I crossed the finish line feeling positively triumphant.  My goal was to average less than a 10 min/mile, and I crushed that.

For now I’ll have to use my Garmin stats because, for some reason, according to the official results I wasn’t even there yesterday.  Faulty timing D tag?  I dunno, but from the looks of the event’s Facebook page, that happened to a lot of us. I’ve turned in an error correction request, but I don’t know how long that will take; if it will have my 5k, 10k, and 10M splits; or even how accurate any of it will be.

After collecting my bling and some snacks, I headed back to the hotel to clean up because I had plans to meet THIS GIRL for brunch!  What better way is there to celebrate a PR than with good company, food, and booze?!  Valuable lesson learned:  I am a CHEAP DRUNK immediately after running.

So half marathon #9 was one for the record books (well, MY record book anyway) and has left me looking forward to December 1st more than ever! 

One more for the ever-growing collection.  My precious…

Racing on a Whim

I wasn’t planning on racing this weekend.  Really I wasn’t.  But when a Facebook friend posted Friday afternoon, “Who all is doing the Fantastic Four tomorrow???” I started thinking.  The whole reason I had NOT planned to race this weekend was because I had been planning on doing a 5K last Saturday and didn’t want to race two weekends in a row.  But since I ever-so-gracefully fell last Friday afternoon and didn’t get to race the 5K the next day, that was no longer a reason not to race this weekend.

So I did what any runner would do.  I checked weather.com.  High 82, sunny, gusty winds developing later in the day.  Hmmmm……  but the race started at 8, which should only be 60 and breezy.  So I decided right then.  I decided to decide when I woke up the next morning.

Well, that almost didn’t work out.  I forgot to set my alarm, so thank goodness for starving kitties.  (At least that’s what she would have me believe.)  Starvin’ Marvin came into the bedroom demanding breakfast at 6:38.  Registration started at 7:00.

I went outside with the dogs to assess the situation.  Yep, it was about 60ish.  Yep, it was breezy, not gusty yet.  Cloudy.  A little humid, but what the hell.  Let’s do this.

I tossed on some clothes, decorated my bedhead with a headband, grabbed the necessities and headed to the high school where I forked over $20 and then sat in my truck yawning and wondering why in the hell I had decided to do this rather than just crawling back into my snuggly bed.

I wasn’t real sure what my goal should be for this race.  Of course I wanted to PR, but that was kind of a given since my only other four-mile race was two years ago at a 9:49 pace.  I decided I’d just wing it.

We eventually lined up on the track and someone yelled “Go.”  Right off the bat, I set my eyes on another girl that I knew to be faster than me and in my age group.  The goal became to hang with her as long as I could.

Mile 1 – 8:29

I was still hanging with her pretty well but the gap was widening a little bit.  The course was a two-mile out-and-back, and by the turnaround point she was probably a solid 30 seconds in front of me.

Mile 2 – 8:50

Ahhhh, halfway there.  But I really didn’t know how much longer I could hold this pace.  I felt myself fading.  By mile 2.5 I was really wishing that the race had been a 5K.  And then the goal shifted again.  “MAKE it a 5K with a .9-mile cooldown.”  So I raced until my watch read 3.1 miles.  I hit the lap button at 27:11–a 40-second 5K PR!  Then I walked and caught my breath until my watch read 3.2 miles, at which point I noticed that my average pace was still 8:58.  So the goal changed again:  Keep it sub-9.  I tried.  I REALLY tried.  But the “pop” was gone out of my legs.  I was only keeping it around a 9:10 pace so my average pace was creeping up, but when I saw the finish I was able to pull off enough of a kick to land the average at 8:57.  According to my Garmin anyway.

Garmin stats:  4.04 miles/36:04 = 8:57 pace
Official stats:  4.00 miles/36:06 = 9:02 pace

I’LL TAKE IT!!!!  🙂

It was even good enough for a 3rd place AG award.  That’s why I love me some small town races!!!

As an added bonus, I scored a $10 Subway gift card as a door prize!  Woohoo!  That was half of my entry fee that I earned back!

Then I ran four more miles.  Because… well, you know… it just sounded like fun.

And then I came home and had an awkward self-timer photo session with my medal on the deck.  Because… well, you know… I’m a dork.

A Belated Race Report: Yuengling Shamrock Half Marathon

Last Sunday, I ran my eighth half marathon–the Yuengling Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach.

We came up on this on the beach near the finish line area the day before the race just as the guy was putting the finishing touches on it.

I’ll just cut to the chase.  While I did PR with a time of 2:13:20, I did not have the race or the outcome I had so hoped for.  So that’s how the story ended.  Now let’s start at the beginning.

It was a long haul from West TN to Virginia Beach.  I was pulling out of the driveway at 6:15 Friday morning, and D pulled us into the parking lot of the hotel almost exactly 15 hours later.  (We split the driving in half–5 hours me, 5 hours D, 2.5 me, 2.5 D.  That helped break it up some.)  We did nothing that night but check in and hit the hay.

The next morning I woke up and hopped in the shower because we had plans to meet Michele and her family at the expo as soon as it opened at 10:00.  When I got out of the shower, I could hear all kinds of hootin’ and hollerin’ outside.  I got dressed and stepped out on the balcony to find this going on right outside our hotel.

It was the 8K!  I had no idea it was running past our hotel or I would have been down there cheering them on!

So then we headed to the expo.  I’ll tell ya, the Days Inn we stayed in might not be fancy, but it was in the perfect location.  Ocean view, right on the strip and boardwalk, and within walking distance to everything–expo included.  We walked just a tad over a mile to the convention center and we were some of the first ones there.

No wait line for the packets, no waiting at the Solutions desk (so I could change corrals so that me and Michele could start together), and easy maneuvering around the booths.  Perfect!  I was super glad we got there early because by the time we left over an hour later, the crowds had already started filing in and things were starting to get tight.

The rest of the day was spent just knocking around the Virginia Beach/Norfolk area.  Among other things, we walked down to the boardwalk to scope out the finish area.

They had already set out the food, water, and finishers’ hats and hoodies.

Before we knew it, it was time to head back to the hotel, get everything ready for the next morning, and turn in.

The outfit!

With the Irish mani as the final touch. 🙂

Five a.m. came way too fast, but it was just enough time to get up, get dressed, and walk to the corral for a 7:00 am start.

I fired my photographer.  He took this at the start and didn’t even get one at the finish.  Many thanks to Brightroom for the only proof that I was at this race.

Eventually corral 3 crossed the start line, and we were off.  The first couple miles felt effortless, and we kept having to reign ourselves in to keep from running too fast.  However, that feeling didn’t last.  Just to put it bluntly, that flat course beat the living shit out of me.  The course’s elevation chart showed that there was an ever-so-slight uphill grade for the first half and then back down the last half.  Well, damn, that first half I was thinking, “Man, I didn’t think I’d feel that slight of a grade!  If I feel it going uphill, I’ll be coasting downhill to the finish!”  NOT. THE. CASE.  I never once felt a downhill grade.  I guess after you run on flat for so long, it all starts to feel like an uphill battle.

We did fantastic for the first 8 miles.  At the water stop at about mile 8, we walked for just a minute to get something to drink and for Michele to grab her Chomps.  (I had been fueling with Shot Bloks as we went along.)  When we picked back up and started running again, we were still at a 10:01 average pace–dead on for my 2:10 finish goal.  And then from that point on, I watched it slip farther and farther away.  We never got our rhythm back. We ended up separating at mile 9.  Michele wanted to stop and walk again, but I was still hoping I could find my groove and recover.  (Remember, Michele is coming back from injury.  She had been running a max of 4 miles, then ran 9 once the week before the race.  So a huge KUDOS to her 2:18 UNTRAINED finish!)  Well, I never did find my groove.  I couldn’t get my pace back down to save my life.  My legs were toast.  My hammies and hips were desperately begging for a hill that never came.  I walked for a minute or so at miles 10, 11, 12, and even for 30 seconds at mile 12.6.  Right after that, we turned onto the boardwalk for the final stretch to the finish.  It was painful, but I picked it up to a sub 9:00 min/mile for that last half mile to finish in 2:13:20.

Note to self:  ALWAYS WEAR SUNGLASSES.  They go a long way in hiding pain.

So relieved to be done!
So, to sum it up, If I may steal a page from Adam’s book, while what I had hoped for was this,

what I ended up with looked more like this.

Quick, somebody call Guinness!  It’s the World’s Worst Race Photo EVER!  Even sunglasses couldn’t have saved this one.  It seriously deserves an award.  The fact that I’m even sharing it says a lot about my self-deprecating sense of humor.

So there you have it.  Overall the weekend was unbeatable.  I had a wonderful time with my husband and our friends, relaxed on the boardwalk and the beach (if only it had warmed up about 20 degrees after the race!), did a little shopping, and just had a glorious weekend away.  But if I’m being honest?  The race in itself?  Meh.  Don’t get me wrong, it was nice and all.  Great volunteers, great schwag, very organized… I just didn’t find that it lived up to all the hype.  The course was nothing spectacular, the spectatorship was spotty at best… I guess I just had it built up in my head to be something it wasn’t.  Maybe I’m just getting too old?  haha  I tried to take a nap after the race, but our hotel was too close to the finish line party.  I couldn’t sleep for the music.  So I figured, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!  I had planned to after a nap anyway.  We just headed down earlier than I’d planned.  I really wanted to enjoy the post-race festivities, but the Yuengling just did not sit well on my belly.  Every racer was entitled to four free beers, and I ended up tossing mine before I made it through the first one.  If that’s not a sign of old age, I don’t know what is! Or dehydration.  Or exhaustion.  Whatever.

Me, sporting all my finisher schwag.

So HM No. 8 is in the books, and I have one more shot at my goal this spring–April 21st.  I can only hope that it isn’t 90 degrees by then.  The way this spring has been going so far, I wouldn’t bet against it!