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.

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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.

Here a PR, there a PR…

I’m just PRing all over the damn place lately, and I gotta tell ya–I LURVES IT!

I had another race this morning. This one was a four-miler benefitting the Lion’s Club. It was a two-mile out-and-back from the high school on fairly flat roads, so I was hoping I’d be able to maintain <10 min/mile again, and I totally did. Garmin time was 39:13. 🙂 When I handed in my card I looked at the winner board and saw that the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places in the female 30-34 bracket were already occupied by other runners’ cards, so I didn’t hang around for the awards. (If I didn’t get one, who gives a shiz?!)

I downed a bottle of water, made use of the high school’s facilities, and headed back out. I needed to get in 6 more miles today to stay on track with my training schedule. The Country Music Marathon & 1/2 in Nashville is coming up in less than a month, so I want to make sure I’m getting all my miles in! And even after pushing myself pretty hard this morning I STILL PR’d the next six, too! Only by like a minute and a half, but still! I knew I was already pretty tired from the first four, so I never dreamed I’d have it in me to hang in at a decent pace for another six. But I surprised myself yet again.

I don’t know where these times are coming from, but I hope they keep coming!

By Land and By Air

Running and flying. That’s what’s on my mind today.

I ran in a 5K this morning benefiting one of the local high schools’ track team. It was a very small race. I think most of the participants were the track team members and their parents. Knowing that this was probably going to be the case, I was SINCERELY hoping that there would be no more than 3 people in my age group so I could bring home some bling. Alas, that did not come to pass. Some of the parents of the high school students were IN my age group. Now that I have to check the box that says 30-34 instead of the box that says 25-29, I’m grouped with people that are actually old enough to have teenagers. (They start breeding young in these small towns.) But bling or no bling, I set a new PR and FINALLY got that <30 5K that I’ve been dreaming about! My time was 29:27–a 9:29 pace. Never thought I’d see the day…

My training schedule called for a 9-mile run this weekend. I had to do a little schedule shifting and rule bending for this one. It’s supposed to start raining tonight and rain all day tomorrow. I don’t mind running in the rain. Did it last week. But not the kind of rain we’ve got coming. Hard rain with thunderstorms here and there? No thanks. I’ll pass. So no long run on Sunday. And I knew I wouldn’t have another 9 left in me after running the 3.1 this morning. So I did what any excuse-making easy-way-out-searching girl would do. I counted that 3.1 TOWARD my 9. When I got home I headed out for another 6. I was exhausted. My body isn’t used to running a 9:30 pace, so I took these 6 pretty easy today. Kept the pace around 10:30 for the first 4 miles then took a one-minute walk break, jogged to 5.5 then walked the last 0.5 home.

As for the flying… the plane tickets are booked! THAT took a good little chunk of change out of the ol’ checking account. We had been watching the prices hoping that they would go down, but they haven’t budged. And with the “experts” predicting that gas will be going back up this summer, we were hesitant to wait any longer in fear of the fare going even higher. So everything is set! Now I’ve just gotta wait for it to get here!

It’s gonna be a looooooong couple of months.

GW,MA!6.66M Race Report

For any of you who missed it, Razz at Running off at the Mind, in his infinite geniusness geniusosity smartness, is hosting the best race EVER. The virtual kind. The kind that doesn’t require getting up at the buttcrack of dawn and driving longer than it takes to run the damn race. The kind with no entrance fee. The kind that you don’t even have to run all at once if you don’t want to! (See? I told you it was good.)

So THIS is my Global Warming, My Ass! 6.66 Mile Run race report. Actually, mine was an 8-mile run. What can I say? I’m just awesome like that. But for the purposes of this post, we’ll just talk about the first 6.66 miles.

It was a Sunday. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and you could feel spring in the air. Now, the whole purpose of this race was to give a giant collective “EFF YOU!” to Mother Nature for the winter she put us all through, but you know what? This Sunday, Mother Nature was pretty freakin’ sweet. It’s hard to stay mad at the ol’ girl when it’s 60 degrees and sunny with a pleasant light wind. Well, pleasant MOST of the time. There were times it was more gusty and annoying.

There really wasn’t anything outstanding about the run to report, once I finally got started. I had every intention of getting an earlier start on this one, but by the time I got ready to leave the house it was already pushing noon. Then I turned on my Garmin and it didn’t waste a second telling me that my batteries were low. Shit. So I threw it on the charger and started another load of laundry. Fast forward approximately an hour. I strap on a partially charged Garmin, lace up my new Mizuno Wave Rider 13s (their maiden voyage), clip on an iPod full of Chevelle, and drive into town. I parked at the Tractor Supply and successfully ignored the pleas of the Girl Scouts to buy their evil cookies. And off I go!

Most of you won’t get anything out of the route details, but I’m including landmarks for some of my local readers that are familiar with my town. For those of you that aren’t familiar with it, this should give you just enough information to know where to come stalk me, kidnap me, and steal my car.

Mile 1 – 10:48. On the sidewalk into town, left at the nursery onto Memorial, past the Maverick gas station, the storage building place, the vet’s office, the chiropractor, the Movie Center, the church, and Walgreen’s and left onto Hwy 77. Not exactly a scenic route, but it’s a nice change.

Mile 2 – 21:34. Past Walmart, the print shop, a factory, and a day care. Sidewalk ends. Running in the road facing traffic now. Not much of a shoulder to run on, so I have to jump the curb and run in the grass at times when traffic won’t allow for the oncoming cars to move over. Note to self: This road would probably be fine for early morning runs, but not such a great one for midafternoon weekend runs.

Mile 3 – 32:38. More open road here on the bypass. Good wide shoulder to run on. Running into a pretty strong headwind here though. The bypass takes me back to the highway that Tractor Supply is on. I’m making my loop.

Mile 4 – 44:28. I feel really good, but I stop by the car when I pass to grab a couple swigs of Gatorade because I know I’ve still got several miles to go and it’s only gonna get hotter. I turn left onto Memorial again, but instead of going straight, I turn right at the Chevy dealership onto Volunteer Dr, a hot spot for walkers, runners, and people who want to let their dog poop in someone else’s yard.

Mile 5 – 55:26. Through the city park. Holy crap, I haven’t seen this many people all winter long!!! The sunshine is bringin’ ’em out of the woodwork! Make one lap around the 0.75-mile track and head back out onto Volunteer.

Mile 6 – 1:07:42. Continue on Volunteer for just a short bit then turn at Fred’s Dollar Store onto Jim Adams Dr. past the urgent care clinic, some financial building, and the movie theater. Pretty tired by this point.

Mile 6.66 – 1:15:12. I finish up my virtual race by turning left onto Mineral Wells. THE busiest street in town. The name might be different, but every city in the U.S. with a population of more than 2 has this street. You know, the one with McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King.

So there you have it. My GW,MY!6.66 mile race report and my tour de Paris. Just to finish the story, I went on to finish my run past Lowe’s and back past the Movie Center and chiropractor, etc., and wound up back at my car, right where I had left it eight miles and 1:31:02 earlier.

I’ll take my last-place prize now, please.

(Oh, and BTW, I really liked the new Mizunos. I didn’t have any of the post-run foot pain! They did, however, rub my pinkie toes. Not to the point of blisters. Just a little pink and raw. Nothin to make a fuss over.)

Maybe I Should Just Take up Golf

Or knitting. Golf might require too much athletic ability.

I suck at running. Some days I suck less than others, and those are the days that keep me from throwing my shoes out with last week’s kitty litter. But today I REALLY suck at running.

I had a five-mile race this morning at the state park in New Johnsonville. It’s known for being a fast, easy, flat 2.5-mile in-and-out, so I was really looking forward to it, thinking I would have a new, shiny PR to put in my log.

NOT. THE. CASE.

I was over a minute slower than my last five-miler and almost two minutes slower than my old five-mile PR.

I’ve been mulling over it all day trying to come up with reasons I sucked so bad. This is the best I could do:

  • I haven’t run since last Saturday. Weather, PMS, work, and after-work obligations have just simply prevented it this week.
  • PMS. Without going into great detail so as not to scare off my male readers, I’ll just say this is something I only do roughly once a year. When I do, it’s a BITCH.
  • Diet. This is also PMS-related. My diet this week could rival that of any pothead. I have subsisted primarily the last few days on Doritos and chocolate.
  • Terrain. The road we ran on was a tar-and-chip road. After all the snow and ice we’ve had this winter, we might as well have been running on gravel or trails There were potholes and loose spots with every step. I spent the entire five miles watching the ground two steps in front of me, side-stepping and jumping often to avoid injury. I really felt like that zapped a lot out of me because I wasn’t able to just get in a zone and run mindlessly like I like to do.

So I get a big, fat FAIL for this week, but damnit I WILL have a better week next week. It’s supposed to be sunny and mid-40s every day, and I don’t have a single thing planned in the afternoons, so getting in my midweek short runs shouldn’t be an issue. Then next Sunday, I have a little rendezvous with Mr. Seven Miles.

My own personal little-over-a-quarter-marathon.

Let the Games (and the Cursing and the Crying and the Pain) Begin!

It’s that time again! I’m 12 weeks out from my second half marathon, so it’s time to get serious and start really training again. I’m actually kind of excited about it, though. I’m excited to see just how much time I can knock off. I’ve continued to run (albeit sporadically) through the holidays just enough to keep me fitting in my jeans and keep me from having to start from scratch at the beginning of this training schedule. So I feel pretty good going into it!

I ran my first race yesterday since the half in November, and I was quite pleased with the result. It was a 5-miler, and I came within 34 seconds of my old 5-mile PR that I set back in October. Yes, it was 34 seconds SLOWER, but my old PR was set on a flat route, and this course I ran yesterday was SUPER HILLY. Not one freakin’ flat spot anywhere. You were either climbing up a hill or coasting down one the entire five miles.

IF I can manage to maintain yesterday’s pace for 13.1, I will finish the HM in April 18 minutes faster. That would make me a very happy girl. 🙂 I’m determined to do everything I can in the next three months to make myself a stronger runner. This time around, I plan to really push myself during my short runs rather than just cover the distance, vary my routes to incorporate more hills, and actually do some cross-training. On the recommendation of a couple of friends, I just ordered the P90X DVDs. I’m usually VERY skeptical of at-home fitness informercial junk, but I hear these are pretty awesome. Stay tuned for my personal review!