I Ran This Year!

Today I am celebrating!!  It’s my 41st birthday and what better time then to look back at the past year!  I’m kind of excited when I think back about all of the great races and events that happened this past year and where I’m headed this year! 🙂

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The Year of Races, PRs, and Pacing: 40th Edition

The first race in my new age group was the Hamilton Lakes 10K last April.  I ended having a super race and ended up with a 2nd place AG and a shiny new PR!  I’m running this one again this weekend, but I’m still working on recovering from my full, so no racing just yet!

I added 9 more half marathons to my growing list!  Of those 9 races, I paced 4 of them!  I am so happy to have found the love of pacing.  It has really added something special to my running!

I surprised myself with a PR at the Salem Lake 30K last September.  We signed up to use this race as a training run and I was thrilled when I saw that I had finished almost 23 minutes faster than the last time I ran it.

I ran 2 marathons (City of Oaks and Tobacco Road) and another ultra distance (43 miles) at Crooked Road.  I finally learned not to be afraid of the marathon distance and how to run and train for them that fits me.

We ran a new race to us in December, the Reindeer Fun Run.  I hope to go back and run that one again this year!  It was so much fun, even if the course was crazy hilly!

And finally,

Gasparilla!!  4 races over 2 days for 30.4 miles!  It was an amazing trip!  So much fun!

 

By numbers

21 Races

Ran my 35th Half at Gasparilla

Ran my 6th marathon at Tobacco Road

Ran my 3rd ultra distance at Crooked Road

2 new PR’s: 10K and 30K

First time race distance: 12K and 15K

 

What’s next?!

  • Pace some of the same races again this Spring and Fall
  • Pick a fall marathon or maybe a challenge?
  • Go for that 100K distance at Crooked Road
  • Run fun races through the summer (5k’s and 10K’s)
  • Run a spring marathon before I turn 42. 🙂
  • Sprinkle in some races (one per month)

Cheers to another year!  Cheers to 41!  It’s going to be a great year!

This week’s optional topic is healthy recipes.  Check them out at the Fit Dish Linkup and become part of the #fitfam by heading over to Jill Conyers at JillConyers.com, & Jessica Joy at TheFitSwitch.org.

Happy Week!

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Signs, Signs, Everywhere There’s Signs!

Hopefully, you started singing along when you read that title!  I actually love Tesla’s version of the song, but anything by Tesla is a win for me too!

This week’s Tuesdays on the Run is all about the spectators and those crazy race signs they come up with!  I rarely run with my phone to take pictures for races but I have seen plenty of great race signs.

Here’s a brief list of some of the favorite on course signs I’ve seen:

1. The giant heads.  In Richmond, Cara and I were chased along the course by a giant head of a guy’s girlfriend.  She must have been right around us, because every few miles, we’d see her giant head flying high above a sea of spectators.  It cracked us up!

2. The Power signs.  I love seeing the “Touch here for Power” signs.  For whatever reason, I feel really superstitious whenever I see them.  I’m afraid if I don’t touch it, I’ll crap out.

3. Anything that has to do with poo, farting, not wearing underwear, etc.  People who make these signs know their runners!  Bathroom talk is always funny and it keeps it all lighthearted.

4. The “You’re Almost There!” signs early in a half or marathon.  We laugh at these because either the person has no clue we really aren’t almost there or they are just being cruel.

5. “The spectating is tougher than what you are doing” signs.  They get me every time.  One guy listed all the things he had to do to get ready for to spectate and we just had to run.  It was pretty funny!

I also have to share some of my favorite personal race signs!

For my first marathon, my friend, Lauren, made some great signs.  Mine was awesome!  Except that she spelled my name wrong.  ha!!  I looked perturbed in the picture for affect.  I still crack up about it now!  It’s funny!signs

Who can resist a cutie kiddo in a pirate hat?!  Even better she had made signs for all of us running the first Flying Pirate race in 2010.  I can’t believe how little my baby girl was! 🙂 sign2

In 2013, she came to cheer me on in the Nike Women’s Race. 🙂 sign3

I ran the Baltimore half in 2013 and my friend, Jen, made a sign for me!  The weather did not cooperate and it was too cold and rainy for them to stand outside during the race so we met them for a post race lunch instead.  It was so great to see them!!sign6

A few of us went to cheer on friends at the Rock n Roll Raleigh race last year and we couldn’t go and cheer without signs!  These were a few of the ones we made.  sign5

What are some of your favorite race signs? Share them with me!

Looking for more fun race day signs, check out Tuesdays on the Run posts here.  See what other runner’s are sharing!

Happy Week!

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Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Marathon?

I mentioned yesterday in my race recap that I never realized I could learn so much about my training and running another marathon.  I’ve kind of had to let it all marinate in my head and heart a bit more and I’m still analyzing everything and really just letting it all sink in.  I’m not afraid of a marathon.  I’ll say it again. I’m finally not afraid to run another marathon.  YES!!TobaccoRoadMarathon

I’ve lived in fear of a marathon every time I’ve run one.  OBX was my first marathon and I had no idea what to expect.  Kiawah was where my fear showed up and stuck.  It went away a bit in Richmond, knowing that I ran it well, but I was in such pain at the end, that it took away from the fact I had a 20 min PR from my first full in OBX.  By Wrightsville, it felt like running one was such a crap shoot.  City of Oaks made me like the marathon distance.  It’s like the marathon and I came to some mutual respect.  I finished that race so happy and so proud that I finally found a way to run a marathon that works for me.  This weekend, I conquered my fear.  Finally.

I always thought that it controlled me and whatever happened was out of my hands and to a certain degree that’s entirely true.  There are a lot of factors that go into running a marathon that I can’t control, but what I can control is me and my mind.  And that’s where my fear has been hiding…in my mind.  I was the one who never just ran in the moment.  I was always stressing myself about a finish time, what was going to happen at mile 20, how bad was I going to fall apart, etc.  I finally let that all go and I just ran.  I actually ran knowing that would probably all happen (the wall, the falling apart, etc), but I didn’t care.  I’d deal with it when and if it would happen.

Straight Facts

  • MAF training works for me.  I can’t say enough good things about it.  It’s not for everyone, but what I do know is that I’ve successfully completed two marathons using it. I’m going to continue using it as I transition into my Fall races.
  • Since City of Oaks, I was able to take 6:30 minutes off of my marathon time at Tobacco Road.  (The elevation gain for both were similar too: City of Oaks 971ft and Tobacco Road 941ft so it’s not like I went from super hilly to pancake flat).  Weather was actually better temperature wise in City of Oaks.
  • I ran both marathons using a max HR of 145 for as long as I could.  I let my HR come up to 150, then to 165.  I never was able to run a single mile under 10 min at City of Oaks.  I had 6 miles under 10 at Tobacco Road.
  • My last 6 miles of Tobacco was the strongest last 10K of any marathon I’ve run yet.
  • I know I that I can have success not following a traditional training plan.  For City of Oaks, I followed a traditional training plan with speed work, tempo runs and 20 milers.  For Tobacco Road, I never ran a 20 miler, just back-to-back runs.  Our highest weekend mileage total was 30.4 miles at Gasparilla.  I never ran any speed work either.  I just ran miles.  Lots of them.  I always made sure my weekly mileage matched the same mileage I ran on my traditional plan.
  • I only took 2 shot bloks for all 26.2 miles and I really didn’t need them.  It was more of a safety net than a necessity.  My body was successfully burning my fat for fuel and I never felt that heavy-legged feeling throughout the race.  I never felt like I needed the fuel to keep going.
  • Decreased muscle soreness.  By yesterday, I had little to almost no soreness.  I’m not sure what attributed to that at all, but it’s definitely something I noticed.  I had to stop myself from running more than a mile yesterday.  I told myself I’d take off 3 days (other than my slow mile jog to keep my streak up).  I can’t wait to run today!

Thoughts and What I Learned

  • I can run smartly and still go after huge goals.  I thought for a long time that I might have to choose.  I wasn’t sure that I could still train properly for a marathon without wearing myself out each time.
  • I went into this marathon nervous because I had not run a 20 miler.  Apparently, the back-to-back runs mimicked the long runs well enough to translate into the marathon.  Another bonus, I was never out there past 3+ hours on a long run either.  There is some information supporting this idea.
  • I’m not trying to qualify for anything.  I’m not an elite runner.  So why do I necessarily have to train like one?  I can use a plan that works for me and I can run marathons in a way that works for me.
  • I’m just running.  That’s all I’m doing…running.  Some races I may have a PR; most races I won’t.  What I can do is to be happy and celebrate each accomplishment and be grateful for the experience.

And most importantly,

I’m not afraid of the marathon monster!!

I think it’s kind of funny that I posted this on Saturday…maybe it was foretelling of the kind of experience I’d have at Tobacco Road, but I’m posting it again.  Just as a reminder.  Be you!  All you! IMG_4319-0

Happy Week!

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Race Recap: Tobacco Road Marathon

I can’t stop smiling.  This was the race of all races for me and I had no idea that I’d learn so much from training and running another marathon.  What started as Gasparilla training with a marathon kicker ended up being quite possibly one of my proudest moments as a runner!

Let me start at the beginning…

We arrived in Cary around 1:30pm and headed straight to the Expo to pick up our race packets.  The Expo was held in the Embassy Suites, the host hotel.  We grabbed our bibs and swag, which was a super nice tech tee and a sock hat for winter embroidered with the race logo.  I love when races hand out other fun goodies besides just a tee.  It was a smaller Expo but we took our time walking around, trying some delicious cinnamon bread samples from Great Harvest Bread Company and getting information and discounts for other events.  We stopped by the Race 13.1 booth to say hi since we’ll be pacing several of their races this year.  We each grabbed a really great long sleeve cotton tee with the race logo on it.  I like buying other race merchandise to wear every day.  tobaccoroadraceswag

We headed to eat lunch at Mellow Mushroom after and checked into our hotel a little before 4:30pm.  I was starting to feel a bit nervous as the hours ticked down.  We had a little of downtime before dinner so we decided to go shopping for just a bit.  It was the perfect diversion for me!  It kept my mind off of the race and it was a fairly entertaining trip looking through the racks at TJ Maxx.  Around 6:30pm, we tried a nearby Mexican restaurant which was really good and was exactly what we needed for a perfect pre-race meal.

Once back the hotel, we got our race outfits laid out, set alarms, put out our breakfast bars and pretty much hit the bed.  We had to be at the parking lot by 5:30am in order to ensure we would be parked near the start.  This meant we had a 3:30am wake-up call.  tobaccoroadoutfit

Race Day

Alarms went off right at 3:30am and I got up after hitting the snooze a few times.  We all got ready and were out the door by 5:10am.  It was a short drive to the start and we were in a huge line of traffic right at 5:30am.  This race offers a parking pass option for $10 and you are literally parked right at the start.  You can choose to park for free in a lot about 15 minutes from the start and ride a shuttle in.  We paid for the parking pass and luckily made it into the first lot, which is closest to the start and port-a-potties.  We were so happy!  The only part of this that kind of stinks is that we had an hour and a half to sit in the car.  We did hit the potties a few times and just rested in the warm car until 6:30am.

We hit the potties one last time, cutting it super close and we heard the National Anthem while in the potty.  It wasn’t the first race that happened.  I did the same thing in Wrightsville two years ago.  I thought I’d be stressed out heading towards the corrals but we just kind of weaved our way to the 4:45 pacer.  We stood there for just a bit when I heard my college friend, Mindy!!  She was running the full also and I was so happy to see her!!  We talked for just a bit then she headed back over to her running buddy as the gun went off.

We headed out the park, passing under a huge American Flag flying above us.  It was really cool!  We ran just 3/4 of mile making our way to the nearby road.  I was running on using my heart rate so I stayed just at 145.  The first 2-ish miles were pretty much rolling hills.  I pushed on the downhills and stayed conservative on the uphills.  My first few miles were really comfortable and we settled into a good pace as we hit the American Tobacco Trail.  We’d be on trails for the next 21 miles before coming back out to the road.

The first few miles on the trail were a slight downhill grade.  With each mile, we were getting faster and faster.  My heart rate was on target and I continued to keep that pace as long as it felt comfortable.  At this point, we were right around the 4:45 pace group and it was making me a bit buggy.  It was crowded right near him.  The three of us were talking about how fast we were going but we also knew that it was mostly downhill at the beginning.  It’s such a hard decision so early to either stay at a faster pace or to slow up a bit.  I felt good by mile 5 (9:57 pace) and made my way around the pace group to get a bit more room.  Christine and Cara stayed just a little bit behind me.  I told them I was staying at that pace.  I ran the next 7 miles at the same pace (ranging between 9:54-10:15).  The turn around was at mile 8.3 and I saw them just before mile 9.  We yelled out asking how we were feeling and everyone was doing well!  I also started taking walk breaks every 4 miles when I’d stop for Gatorade.  My heart rate was in check and just started going above 145 on uphills.

Hit my 300th mile of the year at mile 5

I continued on at the same pace range from mile 13-19 (9:34 at mile 16 to 10:42 at mile 13).  I passed the halfway point at 2:18 which shocked the heck out of me.  About that time, I realized that I made the decision somewhere in the last few miles to keep pushing.  This is the first marathon that I have run where I ran so evenly and ran at a pace that would have scared me in previous marathons for a fear of crapping out later in the higher miles.  I had my heart rate training on my side and I could tell that I wasn’t pushing to the point of exhaustion.  By mile 20, I had run a negative split.  I didn’t hit a HR over 155 until mile 21.

At mile 21.5 is where the real work started for me, there was stretch for 3 miles of a slow uphill grade, 150 feet over 3 miles.  It was relentless.  I was getting tired, but not exhausted.  I ran the first 2 miles of this section at a conservative pace, slowing down as my HR would come up.  By mile 23.5, I was having to mix in some walk breaks just to try to get my HR to come down, preserve my legs for the remaining 2 miles to the finish.  Mile 24 was my slowest of the day (12:02).  I regrouped once I was off of the trail and headed back on the road back to the finish.  I was also watching my time.  I somehow ended up really close to being able to PR this race?!  I had an idea that I was close just by overall pace, but I also knew that my mileage was off from the markers.  I was running long.tobaccoroadelevation I dug in the best I could for the last two miles, running .5, walking .1 and running the remaining .4.  It was a plan that worked for me and I was comfortable pushing myself.  I was so close, but right as the 26th mile clicked on my watch, I knew that I wouldn’t make it and it was okay.  I ran the next .5 of a mile (yes, my watch was off .3) at a 9:15 pace, finishing strong.  I ran through the finish line with the BIGGEST grin!  I missed a PR by 42 seconds and I wasn’t bummed.  I was super giddy.  The marathon didn’t scare me anymore!!

I finished with a 4:39:42.  My best is at Richmond with a 4:39:00.  It’s the second time now I’ve danced around 4:39.  Last year in Wrightsville, I finished in 4:39:13.  So if nothing else, I’m super consistent.  Ha!  Here’s the thing though, the other two times, I felt a lot worse coming through the finish line.  In Richmond, my hip was really messed up and in Wrightsville, I felt like someone beat me with a bat.  I felt pretty good and nothing hurt!

Once everyone finished, we headed to the after race party, which was dying down.  I have a huge pet peeve with races that shut down the after party long before the last runner comes through.  It’s not the first event where this has happened and I feel like every runner should have their moment in the sun and enjoy a really good post-race shindig.postracepic

We decided to head to one of our favorite burger chains, Big Daddy Burger Bar, for food and celebratory brews!  We all had just accomplished something huge and it was time to celebrate that!!  Both Cara and Christine had come out of marathon retirement and I’m just a nut who wanted to run another one.

PROS

The race was well organized and all of the water stops were fully stocked with water and Gatorade.  Several of the marathon water stops had snacks too, which although I didn’t eat anything, was a nice touch.  The volunteers were awesome!!  Because this race was on a trail, there was not as much crowd support, but the volunteers well made up for that.  It was also super nice to see our friend, A Co, out there along the course too!!  She rocks for coming out there and supporting us!  The parking pass is worth the $10.  Buy the parking pass. The tee and hat are nice!  The medal is awesome!! Thanks to the Race 13.1 guys for being out there at the post race party with chocolate milk.  It hit the spot!medalpictobaccoroad

CONS

The post race party was over by the time we got there.  It’s a shame really.  The half marathoners get all the fun and the marathoners get a few cold pieces of pizza and leftover beer.  It was really anti-climatic, but lucky for us, we made our own celebration!

My other con is the use of the words “flat” in the course description.  This race is not flat.  Not at all.  There was 941ft gained over the marathon.  Sure there were no rolling hills along the trail, but there were plenty of sections of climbing.  We knew it wasn’t “flat” when we signed up so I’m not complaining, just not sure that’s a word I’d use to describe the course accurately.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post on what I learned!  I’m so excited to share my thoughts with you.

How was your weekend?  Did you run a race too?  How did it go?  Share it with me!

Check out other blogger’s posts at the Fit Dish Linkup and become part of the #fitfam by heading over to Jill Conyers at JillConyers.com, & Jessica Joy at TheFitSwitch.org.

Happy Week!

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Thinking Out Loud

Hi Thursday…can’t wait to see your friends, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  So let’s celebrate today with a little thinking out loud…

Thinking-Out-Loud

Happy Spring!!  We have had three…yes, three whole days of Spring like temperatures here in NC.  Tomorrow, it returns to a being a bit colder and rainy, but it’s been so great to get out the last few days and actually run not all bundled up.

Speaking of the weather, so far, so good on the weather for Saturday’s marathon.  It looks like 50 for the low and the high near 70.  I love when the weather is cut and dry as far what to wear.  I’ll be taking a skirt and tank.  I need to remember to bring trash bags to stay warm until it’s race time.  The overall temp is a bit warmer than I’d like but hopefully it won’t be humid too.

What’s my plan for this marathon?  What’s my time goal?  Um…I don’t necessarily have one.  Since we didn’t follow a “true” marathon plan, I’m sticking to my heart rate for this one.  I would like to see how much more improvement I’ve had since my last marathon following the same race day plan.  I’ve run using MAF for another 3 months and will continue it until late June.

So Cara’s Timehop the other day was about our marathon last year in Wrightsville.  It was actually the same weekend as this weekend…kind of funny.  Apparently I like running a marathon on the same weekend.  Then it got me thinking and this will be my 3rd marathon in a year (March to March), my 6th marathon.  That’s kind of crazy!

So what’s on your mind?  What are you thinking about?

See what other people are thinking about too for Thinking Out Loud Thursday hosted by Running With Spoons.

Happy Week!

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To Enter a Race Lottery or Not?

Runners everywhere just found out whether or not they will be running this year’s New York Marathon.  Only 18% of the people who put their names into the lottery were chosen.  18%?!  Cara and I threw our names into it last year and with similar odds (14%); neither one of us got in.  In retrospect, it was a blessing in disguise for us.  Gasparilla may not have happened if we did.  Everything truly happens for a reason!

Chicago’s lottery opens up on March 10th and Marine Corp (MCM) is shortly behind on March 13.  With all the big time popular marathons now using a lottery, it got me thinking about the pros and cons of either signing up for a race “the old fashion” way or throwing your chances to luck and putting your name in the lottery.

All of my marathons that I’ve run so far have all been through signing up vs a lottery.  I did enter a lottery race for the Nike Woman DC race in 2013.  I did not get in the first round, but through the second chance drawing. I was the only one in our group wanting to run it so the lottery worked well for me in that case.  We also entered the Cherry Blossom 10 miler lottery as a group.  We did not get in.  I love that both of those races offered an option to sign up as a group.  Either the whole group got in or no one got in.  That’s my kind of lottery!

So here are five questions to think about when deciding what to do for your next marathon.  These are the same ones that Christine and I thought about when making our decision about Chicago. lottery

To Enter the Lottery or Not?

1. Is this event THE event for you?  Or would you be happy with another marathon?

We both want to run Chicago.  Christine has run it twice before and she loves it!!  We are really excited about the possibility of running it, but then we started thinking, was it really Chicago that we wanted to run or was it that we really wanted to just run another marathon.  Chicago is on my bucket list of races, but would I be okay putting that on hold and running something else?

2. Do you plan on running or making this a trip with other running friends?

For us, this was a biggie.  We want to run the race and have a trip together.  If only one of us got in, that would change that.  Do we want to run the event together more than we want to run it solo?  Part of the excitement of choosing a race is planning the trip.

3. Are you willing to leave it all up to fate? Or are you more of a planner?

I was willing to let go of my Type A personality and enter the lottery. I figured that if we got in, that would determine our Fall race schedule.  If we didn’t, there would be other options.  But waiting to find out, could limit those choices, but I am willing to take my chances. 

4. Are you on a budget?

For me, this is part of my decision.  A lot of the lottery races seem to have a higher price tag.  The entry fee for Chicago is $185 which is not too outrageous, but when I just paid that same amount for 4 races in Gasparilla, I was like well?!  Because we are not from the Chicago area, our race-cation cost will include a flight, hotel, and all meals.  Add in a trip to the Expo and other miscellaneous race swag goodies, the cost just keeps rising.  Now if you live near the race, then of course, this may not be a huge concern.

5. How do you handle disappointment and stress? 

When you enter the lottery, there is a chance you will not get in.  Unless you are guaranteed a spot with a finish time, you are one of tens of thousands vying for a spot.  Look at NYM, only 18% of those who applied were accepted to the race.  80,080 people were in the running for 14,326 spots.  That’s 65,754 runners who got the dreaded rejection email. When I entered the lottery for Nike, I sent out all the positive thoughts I could.  I imagined myself running through the streets of DC and I saw myself running that race.  I spent decision day asking Nick to check our credit card statement about 5 million times, watching FB and seeing posts from women announcing they were in, and wishing and hoping that I would be one of those lucky runners!  About mid-day, there it was.  The rejection email.  I did not get in.  I didn’t know if I wanted to cry or throw something. For a brief second, I really thought why not me?  Why did I not get in?  It was a weird feeling.  Like I wasn’t part of the “cool kid” club.  I made amends with not getting in and went about my day.  It took a bit of time to get over the feeling of missing out.  Strangely enough, they offered a second chance option a few weeks later and I jumped on it, of course.

Was I the best at dealing with that disappointment?  Not at all.  I wanted to run that race and was really upset I didn’t get in. Imagine if it was a lottery with a friend!  I would have been even more bummed.

So what did Christine and I decide to do??

After some thinking we decided that we will not be putting our names into the hat for Chicago.  We really want to run the marathon together and with a lottery entry, there are no guarantees.  Running a race together outweighs the race itself for us.  It would be a big disappoint if one of us got in and the other did not.  I know that most of the lottery races have a charity option, but that’s just not something that I want to do at this point.

We’re looking at other marathons a little bit closer to us which would require a car ride vs a plane ride.  As soon as we decide, we’re narrowing it down between 2, I’ll share it with you all!

What are your thoughts?  How do you decide to enter the lottery or not?  Who got in to New York?!  Anyone entering the Chicago or MCM lottery?

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Happy Week!

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Thinking Out Loud Thursday

It’s Thursday so that only means one thing….

Thinking-Out-LoudSo this week’s been our first week back since all our snow and they are calling for an icy start on Friday.  NOOOOO! After yesterday’s 70+ degree day, it’s so hard to believe that today is going to be so nasty and cold.  I’m over this mess. I’m fairly certain that by mid-July we’ll all be wishing for colder temps. We always wish for things we don’t have!  I just want to wear tank tops and skirts.  I want to feel that warm sun!  Spring, please hurry up!winter

Speaking for Spring, I also have a birthday this month.  The big 4-1!  I was just thinking in the shower (I do all my best thinking in there!) about how awesome this past year has been.  40 was awesome!!  I still think about all the things that I’ve done this year and the experiences I’ve had.  I’m so thankful and blessed to have been able to do it all!  I really achieved some awesome things which have only inspired me to continue to do more.  I want more.  I deserve more.40

Speaking of more, there will be more pacing in my life!!  Unfortunately due to a course problem, the City of the Arts half has been canceled.  It’s an absolute shame!  Some really good people worked really hard to put together a great race and there just wasn’t a way to pull it off.  Between construction and less than willing locations, it’s been postponed until 2016.  That means no pacing.

BUT

I check my inbox yesterday and there is an email about pacing opportunities for upcoming Race 13.1 events.  They have added a ton of races this year and they need pacers for just about all of them.  I quickly looked through the list and saw that Race 13.1 Evans GA needed a slew of them.  I texted some friends and we all jumped on the opportunity immediately.  I’ll be pacing the 2:15 group and Cara and Christine are teamed up to pace 2:30.  And the exciting part of all this, I add another state!!!  Right now I’ve run halfs/fulls in NC, SC, VA, MD, DC, and FL.  This will give me GA. 🙂  Not only will I have another state, but by pacing Evans, I will have three Race 13.1 races so I’ll earn the special X3 medal!!  It’s all about the bling!!1424205358_EvansMedal_Final

Only 10 more days and I will run my 6th marathon.  I’m super excited and a bit nervous (but more good nervous vs bad nervous).  I’m looking forward to crossing another finish line and spending some time with great friends.  It’s a win in my book already!

So what’s on your mind?  What are you thinking about?

See what other people are thinking about too for Thinking Out Loud Thursday hosted by Running With Spoons.

Happy Week!

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Gasparilla Half and 8K Race Recap

The final recap of our trip!  I shared our experiences from our travel days and the Expo, as well as our day one races, the 15K and 5K.  Now it’s time for the last two races, the half and the 8K.

Gasparilla Half and 8K

We had an even earlier wake up call Sunday morning, 3:30am for me!  The half starts at 6am.  We luckily all had an early night and we’re tired from Saturday’s races already.  We had an awesome pre-race meal in Ybor City, Cristiano’s Coal Fired Pizza and Italian Restaurant.  So we were all well fueled for our longer distance race day!

We left the house around 4:45am so that we could park in the same lot again and meet the guys by 5:30am.  We’d have a little longer walk to the start of the half.  When we got to where we parked on Saturday morning, the parking garage was not available, so we parked in a lot right near it, thankfully.  All of the potties we hit on Saturday morning, were gone, so we ended up walking towards the half start in search of some.  We all got in line and I quickly headed back to where we parked to meet Marty and David.  We returned to meet the rest of the group and got in our corral for the half.  With 6300 runners, they have two starting corrals.  Amanda is super speedy so we hugged her as she headed to the first corral and we headed to the 2+ hour corral.  runnersworld

We started in between the 10:15 and 10:30 pacers for this race.  We only have a short turn around time to get to the 8K so we wanted to give ourselves as much time as we could.  The 8K goes off at 9am and we have to be in that corral before 9am or we don’t finish the challenge.  That may seem like enough time, but with the two corrals, we wanted to start in the middle of the second start.  The temperature was a lot warmer too.  At 6am, it was already 60 degrees so we had a hot, humid day ahead of us!  We wanted to run as much as we could before the sun came out.

At 6:05am, we were off!  The start of the half was at the same place as the end of races yesterday.  We headed out on Platt St and made a left onto Plant St.  We crossed over the water to Davis Island for the first part of the half.  It was nice to run in a different location.  I also wore my heart rate monitor for all of the day two races.  My goal was not to see any sub 10 min paces for the first few miles.  I ran really even keeping below a 11 min mile pace for the first nine miles.  I felt really good!!  The miles on the island flew by and we were quickly back on the bridge back towards Bayshore Dr. challengepic

Once we crossed over we had just under 8 miles left in the half.  We ran along the bay side heading out and back along the house side on the way back into the finish.  We all hung together and just walked through the water stops, unlike the day before where we never took any breaks.  We just kept going and I stayed under 11 min miles for the next two miles through mile 11.  We ran the next 3 a bit faster and ended up finishing the half a bit faster than any of us thought.  Going into the race, we thought we’d be over a 2:30 but we surprisingly finished in 2:26.

We quickly grabbed water and Gatorade and made our way to the start of the 8K.  We stopped along the finish line of the half, cheering on runners and waiting to see Carole come across!  We caught up with Kathy’s mom who was coming to walk the 8K. There were just over 4600 runners and the race was pretty packed.  We started near the 11 min pace group again. We waited just a bit and right at 9am, the 8K promptly started.  The 8K was the only thing standing in our way of completing this challenge!  challengepic2

At first, we were all a bit stiff.  My legs were not loosening up as much as I had hoped.  We ran along for the first mile, but quickly decided that it would be best to switch to Galloway and run for 3 minutes and walk for 2 minutes.  Not only were our legs tired but the temperature was also rising steadily.  By the start of the 8K, it was already 70 degrees and hot! Our goal all along was to make it to the 8K and do what it takes to get it done.  We stuck with the run/walk plan the whole rest of the race and ended up finishing feeling pretty good!  We had done it!!finishchallengepic

I got a little emotional coming across the finish line.  After almost a year in the planning and 12 weeks of back to back long runs, we had done it!!  We completed the Mich Ultra Challenge!  30.4 miles in 2 days.  I knew that we had trained well and did our best to be prepared for the distances.  It was our best decision to run this as a endurance race vs speed.  I also truly believe that running by heart rate was the best thing I could have done during training and the race.

We decided to skip the post race party, knowing that it probably would be about the same and opted to head to a local pizza place for some grub!  We said bye to Marty and David after lunch and we headed back to the house for a day in the sun!  We were so excited to enjoy the afternoon.  It was bittersweet because everyone back in Greensboro were having a terribly cold day and we were totally being spoiled with an almost 80 degree afternoon.medalpic

PROS

I forgot to mention the medal drop-off yesterday!  For those running the Challenges, they offered a place for us to safely leave our medals so that we could run the next event without having to jingle the whole way.  It was a great touch and much appreciated!  Again, day two’s races were all well organized and all aid stations were well stocked.  It was nice to run Davis Island in the half.

CONS

I also failed to mention yesterday too that the end of each race (both days) is run on cement.  Normally that wouldn’t have been such a big deal, but by the end of the second day, the last race, we could tell.  Within a few steps on to it, my back instantly felt awful.  It’s weird how a pavement change can do that!  It’s a minor thing and really can’t be avoided given the course.

Our goal now is to return to Gasparilla at some point again to complete the other two Challenges offered.  We’d love to have a whole Challenge medal collection!  I mean, we already did the longest one first! 🙂

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Gasparilla 15K and 5K Race Day Recap

Part two of my Gasparilla Recap!  With so many races and fun, it needed to be a few separate posts.

Gasparilla 15K and 5K Race Day Recap

4:30am came early!  But with us being so excited, it really wasn’t that bad getting up super early.  We all got ready, ate some breakfast, and were headed to the race by 5:45am.  Our goal was to park as close as we could to the starting line.  David gave us some direction on where to park and we lucked out totally!  We were less than 2 blocks from the starting line.  We quickly hit the potty line and met up with Marty and David.raceday15K

As far as the weather, it was actually on the cool side for Florida.  Race day morning was in the mid-40’s and slightly windy.  We all dressed for the second race, knowing that the temperature would warm up quickly.  It felt perfect to us, considering we were used to running in colder temps.  I was actually grateful for the colder race day mornings mostly due to the fact that I don’t do too well in hot temps.

We headed to the start line and made our way to the 11 minute pace group.  I was running all of the races on my heart rate and based on most of my training runs, this was a good place to start for us.  At 6:45am, the horn sounded and the race was underway!!  The 15K has just over 5900 runners so we were surrounded by other runners the whole race.  It was crowded at the beginning, but they had all of the lanes of traffic closed so we were able to spread out pretty good.  We crossed the Hillsborough River on Brorein St.  The bridge kind of freaked me out.  It was a metal grate bridge, the same kind in Wrightsville and where we saw runners shoes get stuck in the grating and fall.  In Wrightsville, they told us to make sure we pick our feet up.  Cara and I quickly told our crew to do the same.  That was the last thing we needed!

We made a left onto Bayshore Blvd.  We quickly hit a bank of potties right after we turned and then kept on going.  We ran really evenly for the first few miles, just taking in all the sights.  It was mile 4 before we even realized!  The course was beautiful!!  Huge Florida homes lined the street on the right and the bay was on the left.  There were water stops every few miles and entertainment along the course.  The Rough Riders were out there passing beads!  It was very festive!

Just past mile 5, we hit the turn around on Gandy Road.  It was great to see Marty, David and Carole!  We all cheered each other on when we passed.  The course is an out and back, but this time, we were on the side closer to the bay.  I loved that they had the street closed down in both directions.  We had plenty of room to spread out!  We hit the last mile where the majority of the cameras were and we hammed it!  It gave us a great boost heading towards the finish line.  The race finished just shy of the Platt St bridge.  Coming through the shoot, there was plenty of water and Gatorade to drink to rehydrate before the 5K.  We had about 45 minutes until the 5K start so we hit the potties again before walking the short distance to the starting line.5KracefinishI felt great through the 15K, but just after my tummy started feeling bad and I had some mild cramping.  I was trying not to think about it too much.  The 5K has over 14,000 runners.  In order for it to run so smoothly, they have corrals that go off every 15 minutes.  Right at 9am, the first group were off.  We got into the second corral that was starting at 9:15am.  I decided to take a shot blok now, just in case I needed it for the 5K.  I didn’t feel tired, but erred on the side of caution.  We waited for maybe 10 minutes and then it was our time to start.

We headed on the same course as the 15K so we were prepared for the bridge.  I stuck with my heart rate and hung back for the first mile.  David and I were just taking it easy.  He stopped at the first water stop and I kept going.  My tummy started not feeling that good and the cramping was getting a bit worse.  I thought I’d stop at the next port-a-pottie but we were already passed some and we weren’t hitting the next group of them like we did in the 15K.  I was stuck!  I picked up my pace a bit and caught up to Cara and Christine.  I hung there for a minute but then realized I need to keep moving.  I was not feeling good at all.  I picked it up a bit more, knowing that there were potties up ahead.  Around mile 2.5, I was able to jump in one.  Thank goodness!!

I got back on the course and just kept running.  Within another .6 mile, I was done running and was never so happy to be finished.  I have never had close calls like that in a race before.  I’m not sure if it was my dinner from the night before, eating the chomp, or maybe taking in too much Gatorade and I actually over hydrated myself.  Either way, I was glad nothing bad happened.  Marty was waiting for me at our meeting place.  Everyone finished shortly after and we made our way to the post race party.

This is where my only criticism of the race starts.  The post race party was a mess.  We were all given a bag for our post race goodies.  We entered one super huge line and slowly made our way through each station.  About half way through it, I couldn’t take it any more and popped out of line.  After running 12+ miles, the last thing I wanted to do was to stand in line.  We made our way over to where they had Coke.  That’s all most of us wanted was a cold Coke.

We continued walking along the water walk to the festivities.  They had a beer tent, music and food trucks.  Again, a mess.  The beer line was ridiculously long.  All the 15K runners had been hanging out for a while and now add in the 5K runners, it was close to 20,000 people hanging out.  We decided that it wasn’t worth standing in line for a “free” beer so we decided to leave and head to somewhere closer to the house for food and a brew.  We said our good-byes to Marty and David and would see them in the morning.

We headed back to the Independent for lunch!  It was so good the first day, why not?!  By now the temps were up in the 70’s and it felt so nice outside!  Such a treat!  postracelunch

PROS

The race itself was really organized.  There were plenty of water stops, fully stocked with water and Gatorade.  There were also plenty of potties along the course too.  The race course was absolutely stunning!  Easily one of the prettiest courses I have ever run.  When we turned back at mile 5ish, seeing Tampa in the sunrise was awesome!  The crowd support was great too.  Both events easily handled the amount of runners.  It never felt crazy crowded and we had plenty of room thankfully to the use of all of Bayshore.  The medals and swag are awesome!

CONS

I love a post race party!  We were all looking forward to this, but unfortunately this one was a bust for me.  The lines were crazy long for post race food.  The walk from the finish line to the post race party was really long.  The beer lines and after party location was just too crowded.  I’m not sure what else they could do to improve it.   It may help if they had separate locations for the 15K and 5K.  The space just can’t handle 20,000 runners.

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Travel Days and Gasparilla Expo

Since coming back from Tampa, I’m been a little MIA on my blog.  We got back late Monday night and I’ve basically been recouping since.  Luckily, we had snow fall a few days this week which meant no school and lots of family time! Total win! 🙂

Our Gasparilla trip was so awesome!  I’m going to break up the trip and the races into separate blog posts because I’m having a hard time narrowing it all down.

Travel Days and the Gasparilla Expo

So let’s jump back to a week ago, we left Wednesday for Tampa.  Thankfully, due to snow, we were able to leave earlier in the day.  Christine, Cara and I started the 10+ hour trip south around mid-morning.  We made great time and enjoyed the car ride.  We got to Savannah around 3:30pm but still felt good so we continued on making it to Jacksonville right at dinner time.  We called it a day, grabbed some dinner and stayed overnight there.  wednesdaynightdinner

We got up early on Thursday, hit the gym downstairs for a quick run, and enjoyed the “free” breakfast.  We left Jacksonville right at 10am and drove the rest of the way to Tampa.  We were in contact with Amanda who had flown into Tampa earlier in the morning.  We agreed to meet up for lunch around 1pm at The Independent, a pub near our rental house.  The food was awesome!!  I was so excited to see they had Beef on Weck!  This was the perfect start to our trip.  thursdaylunch

After lunch, we headed to the grocery store for goodies for the rest of the week and headed to our rental house.  We met the owner, Mike, who was awesome!!  The house was amazing!  We instantly felt at home and the view from the backyard was spectacular!  We were in FLORIDA! 🙂  We had the rest of the day to hang out and to get settled.  We headed to Ybor City for dinner at the Tampa Brewing Company.  We had a delicious meal and made our plans for the next day.  Carole was flying in mid-afternoon and we’d be hitting the Expo. riverview

Friday morning, we got up and headed out for a little run.  It was a nice day, though a bit cool for Florida.  We got dressed and realized that we were within a short drive to see manatees.  So we made the trek to the Manatee Viewing Center in Big Bend. It was so cool!!  The manatees were just hanging out in the warm water.  They have an elevated viewing deck so you could see so many of them!  After the manatees, we headed towards the International Mall for lunch and to check out a running shop.  We had a great lunch at The Pub Tampa Bay.  manateeWe scooped Carole up at the airport and headed to the Expo and caught up with Marty and David.  This was probably one of the biggest Expos I’ve ever been to!  It had a lot of vendors, music, free samples, etc.  We made our way to grab our bibs and swag.  There was a snag with the tees and Cara ended up not getting all of her shirts.  They ran out of her size!  They are correcting this by sending her shirts once they are made and printed.  The Expo was well organized, though a bit hectic.  We headed over the Gasparilla official merchandise area (made by Under Armour).  I grabbed a badass skull tank and a hat.  I was disappointed that they didn’t have other race themed merchandise.  A lot of us were looking for blankets, every day tees, etc. but they didn’t offer it.  A huge miss in my opinion! For a race this size, I was surprised they didn’t have that type of merchandise.

One of the cool parts of the Expo was the huge banner which looked like the race logo, but when you looked at it closer, it contained all the names of all the participants.  We searched the banner for our names and snapped a quick picture in front of it. expo

Before leaving, we made our plans on where we would all meet up in the morning.  I researched places to park near the start.  That’s always the one thing that stresses me out!  Luckily David was really familiar with the area and he was great at pointing us into the right direction for parking.  We said our good-byes and headed back to the house.  Carole got settled into her room and we headed to dinner at a nearby Mexican place for dinner. raceoutfit

We were all in bed early!  We had a 4:30am wake-up call.  The 15K starts at 6:45 and we wanted to be there by 5:45-6am to hit the potties and meet the guys at 6:25am.  We laid out all of our race gear and turned the lights out by 8:30-9pm for me.  Tomorrow was the day!!  raceswag

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