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Race Recap – Best Damn Race Jacksonville 2016

Who would have thought I could come back a week after running the Disney Marathon and run one of my best times at Best Damn Race Jacksonville?

I most definitely wasn’t expecting to have an exceptional race when I woke up Saturday morning. To be honest, I wasn’t even certain I was going to make the trip to Jacksonville at noon on Friday. My hubby was still working and I wasn’t feeling too inspired to run a race. I had several doubtful thoughts about going. I think the only thing that kept me motivated was that I hate to miss a BDR event.

Thankfully I didn’t skip out on the race, because it turned out to be one of my best races and I was thrilled with my performance.

Race Recap BDR Jax 2016

Going into this race I really didn’t know what to expect of myself. My legs were still feeling a little tight from Disney,  Even when I was lining up in the starting corral talking with Andrea, I still didn’t have a clue how the day was going to pan out.

Friday

I wasn’t planning to leave for jacksonville until late afternoon. I wanted to wait until my hubby was done working for the day so he could devote his full attention on the two kiddos. Around 4pm he told me he had one last conference call and then I could get on the road. Jacksonville is about three and a half hours from us. Making it to the expo before they closed up for the day was not a possibility this time. My only plan was to arrive in time to check in to my hotel and grab a quick bite to eat. Traffic was very light, so I was able to do exactly that.

I settled on dinner inside the hotel at the lobby restaurant. It wasn’t my first choice, but I didn’t want to venture too far from the hotel once I checked in. I was feeling lazy and too dang tired to put  much effort into finding someplace else to eat.

I ordered shrimp ceviche and a chicken sandwich with sweet potato fries. The meal was just meh. I picked at my food, drank my glass of Pinot Noir then signed for my tab and retired to my room.

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The best part of my meal

I laid out my clothes for the morning and double checked my belongings to ensure I wouldn’t be fumbling around looking for my hydration belt or breast pump parts at five in the morning.  Then I turned off the lights and drifted off to sleep.IMG_3831

Race Day

My alarm woke me at ten ’til five and I restfully rose out of bed.  I pumped, made coffee, put on some makeup and donned my running attire before snapping a pre race selfie and heading out the door.

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I easily navigated to the race start from my hotel and located registration and packet pickup.  Once I acquired my bib, grabbed another coffee and bagel from the Dunkin Donuts table, I then walked over to the BDR merchandise tent to see if I could help out before the half marathon started.  Beth was situated in the tent organizing merchandise when I arrived, later Jenn and Jamie arrived and then it became a real party.  It was my first time meeting them IRL (in real life).

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They are more than delightful and it was such a pleasure having chatting with them before and after the race.  We even shared a moment of excitement when a team of stormtroopers arrived on the scene.

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Soon enough, the 5k and 10k runners were released onto the course, so I excused myself to go line up for the half marathon.  I swear, I didn’t even think about the fact that I was there to run. Apparently, I was all about the socialization aspect of this event.

I found my way into the starting corral and near the 2:15 pacers.  I figured this was a good place to start.  I could always fall back if I needed to.

Just before the race began, I bumped into Andrea.  She had ran Dopey last weekend at Disney and wasn’t sure how she was going to run today. We chatted briefly about the course and then before we knew it, the national anthem was being sung.  About two-thirds of the way through the anthem, one of the race coordinators began motioning with his hands for the singer to “hurry up” as the lead runner of the 5k was already nearing the finisher chute where she was standing.  It was quite amusing and inspiring at the same time. His final time for the 5k was just over 17 minutes.  Every half marathoner was cheering as he blew past us towards the finish line.  It was the perfect send off for all of us as we were about to take our first steps onto the course.

The half marathoners started at Jacksonville Metro Park and ran West on Gator Bowl Blvd, parallel to the St. John’s River.  Not even a mile into the course we could smell the coffee beans from the Maxwell House factory.

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It was just one of the delicious aromas I encountered along this course.  We soon approached the bridge on Bay Street and made our way up and over.

I slowed to a brisk walk up the incline and then crushed it on the downhill.  I always find I do much better to walk the inclines instead of powering through to the top.  It keeps me fresh for the long haul and that was exactly what I wanted today.

After the first mile marker we made a couple turns near the Jacksonville Landing and past my hotel towards Riverside Ave.  Here’s where the enticing aroma of either bacon or pancakes tempted me towards an early exit from the race. I swear.  If I had seen the establishment where the smell was coming from, I would have ripped off my bib right there.  It smelled so good.   My tummy began to rumble as I fought off the urge to follow my nose to breakfast haven

We continued along Riverside Avenue and then rounded a little loop into a quaint neighborhood before touring the Shoppes of Avondale where I caught another whiff of breakfast, undoubtedly from one of the nearby restaurants.  I shook it off and checked my garmin to see how I was doing with time and pace.  I was keeping an even pace near 9:45 for most of the first half.  And at this point, I still felt good.  I was stopping to walk through every hydration station and that seemed to be all I needed at the time.  My breathing was only slightly labored and my legs were feeling pretty light compared to earlier.  I didn’t think it’d hold out for the entire race – I know, I’m exhuming positivity here – but I was going to let it carry me as long as I could.

We hooked around another neighborhood for a little out and back and then we began making our way back North up St. John’s Avenue.  I knew we had passed the half way point of the course and I was optimistic for a better than average finish time if I kept it up. It was at this point that I made the decision to maintain my current pace and push it.  I knew a PR wasn’t in the plan for me, but I was going to come closer to my second best time if I kept the momentum.  However, I knew the toughest portion of the course was still way ahead of me, so I planned to continue walking through the water stops, but not exceeding more than thirty seconds for each mile.

Miles eight, nine and ten crossed back over previous portions of the course and then we made it to the boardwalk along the riverwalk.  Mile 10 was flat and fast around the water.  Even though I hate running on cobblestone, I was able to maintain my average pace.  Being along the water, you could see just how thick the fog was.  Even at mid morning, you could barely see a few yards in front of you.  I resisted the urge to stop for a picture along the water.

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this was taken at 11 am from my hotel room 15 stories up.

Eventually we reached mile eleven and the largest incline of the race.  I slowed to a brisk walk and used the break to stretch out my arms and back.  I have a horrible running posture.  My shoulders slump as I fatigue and my upper back ends up very cramped.  I slowed to my slowest pace of the race here, 10:34, but I resumed running as soon as I reached the peak.   The final mile was back on Bay Street and towards the park.  I pushed myself to ramp my speed slightly and finish strong.

When I crossed the finish line, I clicked off my Garmin and did some quick calculations in my head.

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My Garmin was off by 0.19 so I figured I actually finished this half at about a minute faster than my second best time.  My PR is 2:04, but next fastest is 2:10:24  I was thrilled to have this time today.  What a great surprise!!!

Chip time    2:10:16

Garmin       2:10:20

Average Pace   9:49/mi

Best Pace  5:43/mi (this has to be on the downhill)

Splits

Mile 1    9:19

Mile 2    9:58

Mile 3    9:37

Mile 4    9:46

Mile 5    9:53

Mile 6    9:49

Mile 7    10:29

Mile 8    9:44

Mile 9    9:36

Mile 10  9:39

Mile 11   9:52

Mile 12   10:34

Mile 13    9:23

Mile 0.29  8:54

After taking a few minutes to cool down and grab some water, I made my way through the food tent.  Pollo Tropical, which is my favorite Latin fast food, is a sponsor.  They always have a spread of hot rice, beans and chicken at the athlete tent.  I grabbed a bowl of the warm chicken and then walked over to get a celebratory Bloody Mary.   As I made my way back to the merchandise tent, I mentally patted myself on the back.  Not only did I run a great race today, but I gave myself the confidence going into the next half of racing season.  I have 3 half marathons left to train and race towards that sub 2 goal of mine.  Having ran strong today made me realize I have so much more that I’m capable of.  I just need to train and put in the work.

With that decision made, I knocked back a couple Bloody Marys and celebrated a race well done.  And mentally prepared myself for the next several weeks devoted towards speed work.

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Have you ever ran a race when your performance took you by surprise?

How long do you typically recover from a marathon before racing again?

NYC Marathon Recap – Part 2

I realize I’m waaaay behind in getting this posted.  It’s been in my draft file for almost two whole weeks, so I apologize for the delay.

TCS NYC Marathon Recap

This post is going to begin where I left off from part one.  Be sure to catch up here, if you haven’t already, to get the whole scoop.

Race morning, I woke up 10 minutes before my alarm was set to go off.  I must admit that I had been concerned about the quality of sleep that I would receive staying in the middle of Times Square on halloween night, but I slept soundly and was feeling refreshed and ready for the day.  I guess  being 39 floors up above the action made a difference.  I laid in our big, fluffy, white, bed and began to cross off a mental checklist before getting up and getting ready.  I pumped (Yes, I’m still breastfeeding), brushed my teeth, dressed, put on some tinted moisturizer, waterproof mascara and body glide and threw on my Nuun visor.  Then I did what any respectful running blogger does on most race mornings.  I took a shameless bathroom selfie.

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Hubby was kind enough to make the ride downtown and over to Staten Island with me, despite knowing he’d be turned away after the boat ride.  I was really thankful to have him.  His company helped to ease my nerves.

 

When we got to the ferry terminal, the crowd began to bottleneck inside the main entryways.  We inched closer and closer with each passing minute until we finally made it onboard the boat.  The ride over took about 25 minutes and then I parted ways with my hubby on the other side.  Unfortunately, my time waiting in crowds was just beginning. I continued to follow the line of runners for the next 30 minutes towards the busses.FullSizeRender_2

After what seemed like a lifetime, we finally boarded our coach busses.  I chatted with another group of ladies during our ride over to Fort Wadsworth and learned I wasn’t alone in my journey towards making the NYC marathon my first.  It made me feel really good to know that I wasn’t the only marathon virgin out there.

The ride from the ferry terminal to Fort Wadsworth took a lot longer than I had expected.  Total time spent in the bus was around forty-five minutes, so I didn’t have  too much time before my start wave.  Truth be told, I had a comfy seat on the bus and after I exited into the start village, I would be copping a squat on the ground, so I didn’t mind.  Once we passed through security (it was heavy, but well organized)  we were able to enter the base and locate our start village.

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I found a line of port-a-pottys and took care of business, then grabbed a dry bagel (since the stock of cream cheese had been depleted)  and a couple bottles of water before heading to a spot near the Dunkin Donuts truck to relax.

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It was nearly 10:00am so I knew I didn’t have too much time to kill before they’d be calling for our wave to line up..  I chatted briefly with a group of ladies sitting near me about past races and weather conditions.  Then before I knew it, our start wave was called to line up.  On the way over to my corral, I began chatting with another drifter, Janet.  She and I had similar running stories and were expecting very similar performances, so we decided to hang together. Janet was a past resident of New York, but was currently residing in California. She reminded me of my best friend and I liked her from the start, so I told her we should stick together for as long as we could.IMG_0793

 

We tossed our outer layers into the donation bins and snapped a couple pictures of the crowds in the corral.

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Sinatra started “spreading the news….” then the National Anthem was sung and some facts about the marathon were shared over a PA system.  Shortly after, we heard the bang of the cannons signaling the beginning of our turn.

Miles 1 -2  (Staten Island to Brooklyn)

The race began very slowly from where I was located.  I knew the bridge was going to be very congested, so I held back the urge to begin weaving to find a break in the crowd.  I just tried to take it all in as we climbed the steepest incline of the whole course.IMG_0801

The Verrazano bridge is one of those parts of the course where you just soak it all up.   It’s quite breathtaking to see the city and all of the boroughs before you from that elevation.  Being on the top portion of the bridge definitely added to the experience too.  And I can assure you that nobody was relieving themselves off the side of the bridge.  I specifically kept my position towards the left side of the bridge just close enough so that I could see over, but without getting caught up behind the dozens of inconsiderate runners who literally STOPPED to take a selfie.  yeah, yeah, I know.  I’m a blogger and I’m notorious for taking pictures during races. But something I refuse to do is stop in front of thousands of runners in the beginning of a heavily congested race to capture the moment.  That’s just rude.

I tried to relax, focus on my breathing and hold back my aggression through the crowds.  By the time I found a groove, we were making our way down into Brooklyn.

Miles 3 – 15  (Brooklyn through Queens)

This was probably my favorite, as well as, the easiest portion of the course.  Once we had crossed over the Verrazano bridge into Brooklyn, the crowds greeted us with spirited cheering, and enthusiastic music ranging from hip-hop to polka.  It was the flattest portion of the course and the crowd was electrifying.  I found a groove and tried to steady myself.  I knew I was going to need to conserve my tank for later, so I tried to keep an easy pace through these miles.  It felt like the miles were flying by.  I had never experienced that in a race setting before.  I attributed it to being so heavily supported by the crowd and the amazing energy around me.   Having my own personal cheer squad waiting for me around mile 8 definitely helped too.  We had previously discussed points along the course where they would be waiting for me, so I kept checking my phone to make certain of their location.  Before I knew it, I spotted them and the colorful signed they crafted for me.  I know I popped a big cheesy grin when I saw them because my heart skipped a beat with enthusiasm at their presence.IMG_0823

Miles 16  (The Queensboro Bridge)

This was definitely not my favorite portion of the race, but I was really proud of myself for keeping a level head and approaching it smart.  Since  I didn’t train my legs with a lot of hill work, I knew there was no way I could run up and down five bridges and make it over that finish line still standing up. Staying healthy was more important to me, so I took several walk intervals going up this monster bridge.  I felt good with the short breaks that I took and I was proud of myself for pushing through as much as I did.  I relied heavily on my music going through this bridge. It was really quiet, as I assume every one around me was attempting to muster the stamina to just make it up that hill.

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Just as we were hitting the bottom, Empire State of Mind came on my iPod.  Between that song and seeing the  “welcome to manhattan” sign, I got chills.  It was awesome.

Miles 17 – 19 (1st Avenue Manhattan)

In that moment, as we came off the Queensboro bridge onto 1st Avenue, it was unlike any other moment I have ever experienced during a racing event. The crowd was unbelievable.   I can only equate the energy and electric sensation to the excitement I felt when I played softball.  I hit a few home runs back in my day.  Running into home plate with the crowd screaming “Way to go!” and “Awesome Job!” feels pretty extraordinary.  A throng of New Yorkers four and five deep for as far as you can see, doing the same feels pretty darn sensational.  I took that energy and added it to my fuel of determination.   For the next mile or so I was on a high.FullSizeRender

Unfortunately, the inspiration of the crowd wasn’t enough to keep me going very far.  What I needed was food and I was really hoping my hubby had something for me up ahead, because I was loosing steam quick.  My tummy was growling, and loudly too.   The GUs definitely weren’t doing enough for my system at this point. I wanted something solid. Since my start wave didn’t begin until 11am, I never ate lunch.  So I was running this marathon on two bagels and a cup of coffee.  Probably not my smartest race strategy, especially since I’m still breastfeeding.

When I spotted my husband and girlfriends past the 18 mile marker I was ready to collapse.  I was fading and it was clearly visible.  Thankfully, one of my friends, Suzan, had a banana, so I was saved!!!!  I scarfed down that entire banana and didn’t look back.  For the remainder of the straightaway, I pushed through my hunger pains and maintained a decent pace.  I took a few short walk breaks when I felt the need, but kept pushing ahead.

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Miles 20 – 21 (The Bronx)

The Bronx was not the most lively section of the 26 miles on this course.  I’ve seen the Bronx during a Yankees game so I know first hand it has all the potential to surpass the other four boroughs, but today it just wasn’t doing it for me.  I switched on my iPod instead and cranked up the volume to drown out the monotony.   I kept looking back for Janet who was somewhere behind me, but I couldn’t find her.  I gave it a couple minutes of scanning the area before deciding to go on ahead on my own.  I was sad to leave my new friend, especially without a farewell, but I felt like the constant surveillance was pulling my focus.  As I drew closer to the Madison Avenue bridge, a particular sign lifted my mood.  Last bridge

Miles 22 – 26  (Fifth Avenue and Central Park Manhattan)

My smile faded somewhere in Harlem when my legs began to rebel against me. My quads felt like anvils, but even through the pain, the thought to quit never crossed my mind.  I knew I had it in me to finish.   I had come so far already.

Just for the heck of it, I checked my Garmin to see if a sub 5 finish was possible. I never mentioned this in my previous plans, but I secretly aimed to finish before the clock hit 5 hours.  I knew the New York Times posted the finisher names of anyone who crossed the finish before 5:00:00.  That was my only motivation for doing so.   I did some quick calculating in my head and figured I’d need to run a sub 10 average for the last few miles if I wanted to make the paper. I wasn’t really feeling too confident with that strategy and since my ultimate goal was just to finish, that’s all I cared about. At least that’s the only thing I cared about at that moment of fatigue.

I had one more spectator sighting left with my hubby and two girlfriends so I tried to keep focused on looking for them along the side.  Also, I knew my girl Kat was supposed to be spectating around mile 24, so I kept my head up looking for her as well.  Unfortunately, I never spotted Kat, but I did finally find my cheer squad at the tail end of mile 24.  I stopped briefly to say hello and thank Suzan again for the banana.  I stopped and gave them a hi five and told them how I couldn’t stay too long because I couldn’t wait to get this over with.  I had a little less than  two miles to go.

Through all my research on the New York marathon, I was well aware of the hills and gradual incline along Fifth Ave and into Central Park.  This portion of the course was by far the toughest aspect of the race for me. I knew it was almost over, but mustering up the strength to keep running seemed impossible at the time.  I took several short walk breaks through this portion and regretfully ignored the cameramen as I walked by.  Typically I never walk through a photography zone, but I just couldn’t fake it for the cameras.  I turned up my iPod as I tried to jumpstart my legs again.  When I finally spotted Columbus Circle and our final stretch turning into Central Park I wanted to cry.  I was so close I could taste it.

That final push through Central Park was over in an instant.  I barely remember anything except some unfamiliar sensation in my left knee.  It felt as if my legs were going to come apart at their hinges.  I prayed it was just muscular tightness and kept running for that finish line.  I even managed to smile and rejoice in my accomplishment for the cameramen.

nyc marathon finisher pic

After crossing and grabbing my medal I thought about collapsing and heading to the medical tent to fake an injury to sit down, but the hunger pains in my stomach convinced me to keep walking ahead to savor the post race refreshments.  I managed to stumble over and take a finisher picture and even took a couple pictures for others that requested.

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With my new shiny medal around my neck, I  proceeded to follow the masses towards the poncho retrieval line. We all shuffled our feet through the park like zombies, collected our ponchos along with a bag of refreshments – non of which I had an appetite for and eventually found our way through to Central Park West.

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I made my way past the masses and back around towards Columbus Circle where I was reunited with my husband. I hugged him and took a few minutes to bitch about how long it took to “get out of the mess” while he led me to one of our favorite restaurants where my girlfriends were waiting with a bottle of wine and all the food I could devour.

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Here’s our spread at Quality Meats.

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AFTER

 

 

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These awesome folks were amazing and I’m so happy to have shared the experience with them!!!

 

 

We spent a couple hours celebrating and enjoying the amazing food and drinks at one of our favorite eateries.  We dined on Sirloin, Steak Tartar, Gnocchi and Cheese, Brussels Sprouts and Corn Creme Brûlée.  It was heavenly and all I could ask for.  It was the perfect end to a once in a lifetime experience.

Oh, I’m sure you’re wondering about that finish time.

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Turns out, I didn’t finish under 5 hours but only a couple minutes shy.   I was really happy with that time being that it was not only my first, but a really tough course.  New York is no joke!

Oh, and as it turned out, my name was in the paper after all.  Evidently they took the finishers up to 5:15:00.  I never bought a paper but found out otherwise, which was a nice little surprise.

One thing is for sure.  I’ll be back another year tackle the streets of New York.  This race is an experience like no other and I felt privileged to have been able to run it.

In a city typically so preoccupied with the hustle and bustle of every day life, it’s unbelievable to have experienced the support and camaraderie of the spectators through every borough.

 

‘Til next time New York

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Empire State Building

 

Best Damn Race Orlando 2015 Recap

This past Saturday was the best damn race Orlando.  If you’re not familiar with this race series, then you might not know that it has three different distances to choose from.  There is a 10k, 5k and a half marathon.  I would be attempting the half marathon for the second time.  I ran it last year for the inaugural race, but if you remember correctly, I was about 11 weeks pregnant at the time and not necessarily feeling 100%.  So this year, I was determined to not only beat my time from the previous year, but to beat my last two postpartum half marathons.

Going into race weekend, I was already really excited for many different reasons.  Probably the biggest reason was because my best friend, Marci, was flying in from California to run this race with me and my girlfriend Diane – her sister-in-law.  I hadn’t seen her since my birthday last year, so her visit was very much anticipated.  She was also bringing her boyfriend along, who I was meeting for the first time, to run his first official half marathon along with us.

I had planned to drive over to Orlando with Harrison on Friday afternoon to pick up our bibs, and then drive over to the airport to meet my friends, but traffic was ridiculous and I barely made it to the airport with enough time to pick them up. Traffic on the I – 4 corridor from Tampa to Orlando is my least favorite and the most unpredictable.   I ended up coordinating with Diane to pick up our bibs instead.

We all met back at the hotel and then we found a nice little Italian spot in downtown Orlando to grab dinner.  Since I had driven over with the baby, I had to wait for my husband to drive over and pick little man up before I was even able to start getting ready for bed.  My hubby drove over around 8 o’clock and met up with us at the hotel for about an hour or so.  I was able to nurse Harrison one last time (remember he doesn’t take a bottle very well)  while Rosalyn played and entertained everyone else in the room.  Eventually I had to say goodbye to them so the rest of us could get to sleep and take our flat runner pictures.  BDR Orlando 2015 Flat Haley

I woke up at 5 am the next morning.  The half didn’t start until 7:15, but I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time to pump, eat something, get dressed, take my obligatory hotel bathroom selfie, and grab some coffee – not necessarily in that order.BDR Bathroom Selfie

We drove from the host hotel to the start line – about a mile – and found parking super duper close to where the finish line party was setup.  We had plenty of time to kill before the start of the race, so we hit the Dunkin Donuts tent for coffee and bagels and then made a pit stop at the port-o-potty lines.  BDR Orlando 2015 PortopottyWe chatted for a while and then took a couple group photos before heading to the back of the corral to line up for the race.BDR Orlando Prerace pictures

BDR Orlando Start Line CorralI didn’t really mind lining up in the very back for a change.  Since I didn’t have any specific race goals, other than beating my last two race times, I was really laid back and focused on having fun. The weather report was predicting rain, so I wasn’t feeling too hopeful for a hugely successful race.  Truth be told, I was more worried about getting my iPhone wet than having the rain impede my race strategy.  (I had a little plastic baggie tucked into my Flipbelt to shield my phone from the rain, if it came down to it)  My plan was to run for as long as I had it in me, then start 3:1 intervals when I began to feel fatigued.  I’ve been running intervals on all my postpartum training runs longer than 6 miles, so I figured I would most likely be doing something of the same for this race.

As we took off, I remember telling Marci and Diane to pay attention to the cobblestone streets.  There were so many dips and uneven spots. I’m really surprised I didn’t see anyone trip this year.  (last year I witnessed two different runners eat it at the very beginning).  We bobbed and weaved a little for that first half mile or so.  We kept our pace at a very slow and steady 10:30. I took the lead through most of the congested traffic, so I kept looking back to see if my girls were still there.  We had previously discussed running at a 10:30 pace for the entire race, but I just didn’t know how my legs were going to feel going into this day, so I just played it by ear. If I felt good, I wanted to run hard.

The first mile was a slow one.  I took my time; with each step I carefully studied the road for perfect placement of my foot.  I did a lot of sidestepping to avoid potholes and uneven areas of the cobblestone streets.  I hadn’t hit my comfort zone just yet.  t wanted to make sure my legs were good and warmed up before I began making my way through the packs of runners.

Once we made it past that initial mile, I stopped turning around to check for my girls and instead I just settled into a nice comfortable 9:30 pace.  I didn’t want to leave them, but I felt good, so I kept moving forward on my own.

The course starts on Central Blvd and takes runners through a tour of the downtown neighborhoods with a turn onto Maguire, leading over to my favorite part of the course rounding Lake Underhill.  It’s only about a mile loop around the lake, but I love this loop, because you get to catch other runners as you enter and exit the loop.  I always see half a dozen or more friends during this point in a course, but I hadn’t noticed any familiar faces this year.  In fact, I didn’t even see my girls as I was leaving the lake.  So that led me to believe that they had fallen way behind me, which made me a little concerned. Nonetheless I just kept moving forward.

By the time I had made it to the six mile mark, I was beginning to feel fatigued. I went ahead and ate my Salted Caramel GU (best flavor of all time) and downed some water at the next hydration station.  I figured it would help push me past this hump, but I didn’t feel much better nearing the 7 mile point.  This is when I decided to go ahead and begin rotating in the 3:1 intervals.

I took that first break and within an instant felt recharged.  Why is it that I feel so deflated whenever I’m forced to take a walk break?  I’m always so tough on myself and I feel defeated if I have to walk. I should know by now that it always recharges my body and keeps me finishing strong.

Even though I was still feeling good and wanted to keep pushing forward, I knew that I needed to pull back just a little to maintain my stamina for the remainder of the race.  Instead of keeping exactly with the intervals, I skipped a few of the “walk” portions in favor of keeping up with a pace group.

Around mile 10, I started loosing steam.  I resolved to  take a couple minutes to walk it off and then restart my intervals on the next cycle.  After doing so, I felt a little better and decided to take another GU.  I don’t typically eat two GUs during a half marathon, but I figured it couldn’t hurt.  I needed something to jump start my engine again.

As I was nearing the 12 mile mark, my knee began to hurt a little.  It wasn’t feeling too bad, and thankfully it wasn’t anything like how it was for Space Coast, but I knew it was going to slow me down more.  

I went into this race not expecting much, but I got a little hopeful in my head during the first half, thinking I was on point to bring home a shiny PR or something ridiculous like that.  Being that i’m just 5 months postpartum, and have only been back running since December, I truly lack the training and haven’t put in nearly enough training runs this season to race at peak performance.  At this point, it’s just been wishful thinking.

On the final stretches of the course, there’s about a mile and a half of a straightaway on South Street.  I had my little moment where I kept praying for God to give me the strength to finish strong.  That straightaway kept getting longer and longer in my head.  At this point I just wanted to be done.  And then, what do you know, Marci and Diane pop up out of nowhere and tap me on the back.  Thank you Jesus.  Just what I needed to keep me honest and pushing to the finish line – which was less than a mile away at this point.  The three of us pushed each other through to the finish line and we collected our medals and met up with their family immediately after.  We were done.  BDR Orlando Stats 2015BDR Orlando 2015 Finisher Pic GroupBDR Finisher PictureI wasn’t able to stay at the finisher party too long because I had to get back home to feed little man, but we were able to gather for a group shot with our medals.

Every year this race impresses me with the turn out, on-course support, and finisher medals. It’s slowly becoming a recognizable brand and I’m so extremely proud to be affiliated with it as a race ambassador.  This particular venue is probably my favorite of them all and I can’t wait to be back in 2016 for another go at it.

If you’re interested in running the BEST DAMN RACE CAPE CORAL, registration opens this Friday at 12:00 pm noon    I’ll be signing up for another half.

Have you ever ran a race with your best friend?  

Have you ever ran one of these races before?

 

2014 Sarasota Half Marathon & Relay Race Recap

Last year, I had wanted to run this race, but it was scheduled on the same day as another local race – the one where I PR’ed and almost ran a sub 2:00.  So when the opportunity arose for me to run the Sarasota Half Marathon this year with the Tampa Bay Bloggers, I jumped at the opportunity.  

I drove over to my parents house on Friday morning and dropped off the toddler, then headed over to Fit2run in Sarasota to pick up my race bib and packet.   My parents were going to keep my daughter for the weekend so that my hubby and I could finish up some house projects on Saturday, which we did.  That evening I drove back to my parents house and spent the night with them – they live closer to Sarasota, so the morning drive to the start line would be shorter from their house.  

I woke up at 4:00 a.m. and readied myself for the morning.  I ate a PB & banana sandwich and drank my coffee.  I made my Nuun, gathered my race gear and got on the road by 4:45.  

I arrived in Sarasota a little before 5:30 and decided to park at a garage 0.7 mi away from the start line.  There was already bumper to bumper traffic on Tamiami Trail (near the start/finish at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center), so I parked where I could get easy access.    Thankfully, there was a bus providing shuttle service to the start line from the garage, so I hopped on and waited briefly for our short journey to the start.  

Unfortunately, the bus ride took a lot longer than expected due to the massive amount of traffic on Tamiami Trail.  After waiting a good 10-15 minutes on the bus without much advancement, the entire bus load of race participants exited and decided to walk the remainder of the way.  I ended up losing quite a bit of time between walking  to the start and waiting in an enormous port-a-potty line.  When I eventually made my way to the starting coral at 6:45, I found myself waaayy back past the 13 min pace group.   I decided to settle in where I was and just roll with it.  

We waited for a few minutes after 7:00 for the start to commence, then we were off to a slow congested start.  Being towards the back of the pack, I had a lot of maneuvering to do through the crowd.  The course starts off at Van Wezel and heads South over the John Ringling bridge to St. Armands Circle and then back again to Van Wezel.   I loved this part of the course.  The sun was just beginning to break when we crossed the bridge.  It was beautiful.  

Immediately following the loop at St. Armands Circle, I found a bathroom and emptied the tank.  I figured it was better now than later when bathrooms are more scarce.  When I jumped back on course, I ran into a few of my running buddies.  We chatted for a few miles while we made our way back over the bridge and back to Tamiami.

I ended up running the first few miles a little faster than I had anticipated.  Maybe it was the weaving in and out of runners in the first mile, or maybe it was the group of friends I bumped into that temped me to keep their pace.  Either way, I felt a little fatigued by the 6th mile and I wanted to take a walk break.  I didn’t do it though; I held off for a few more miles.  By this part of the course, we were headed North on Tamiami up to the Ringing Museum.  This part of the course is kinda blah.  There’s not much to look at besides the store fronts and oncoming traffic.  I tried to zone out and focus on my form.  Turning up my music helped.  I kept up a decent pace and lost myself by the time we turned into a beautiful neighborhood near the water.  

My Garmin beeped at the 9 mile mark and I decided that it was time to take another pit stop.  My bladder was feeling the pressure with every single step, since around the 7th mile.  It was long overdue at this point.  

(It’s amazing how easy it was to stifle the urge to go before I was pregnant, but there’s absolutely no way I could make it through an hour of running now, especially with all the liquids I had to ingest to prevent dehydration, at least without risking the possibility of soaking my running crops)   

I waited to see when the next port-a-potty would pop up.  Thankfully, I spotted one not too far out.  I  managed to get in and out in record time and back on the course.    

As we weaved in and around this beautiful tree lined neighborhood, I noticed a green haze of pollen falling from the oak trees with every gust of wind.    Pollen is my arch nemesis and I cringed at the potentially dreadful aftermath  I would face if that allergen entered my airways.  I hadn’t taken any allergy medicine that day, so I prayed that I would make it to the finish before I encountered any repercussions.  To my surprise,  I wasn’t phased a bit.    

I started to take minute long walk breaks for every water station I hit.   It definitely helped me conserve my energy, but I was still sputtering out.  

First_Watch_Sarasota_Half_Marathon

Somewhere around the 11th mile I heard someone call my name from behind;  I smiled when I noticed that it was my girlfriend Chrissy.  I was so happy to bump into a familiar face.  We were both fading and I really just needed someone to keep me moving forward at this point.  She admitted to me that she wasn’t really able to talk, and I was glad, because I felt the same way.  We silently pushed each other the rest of the way through to the finish line and then immediately met up with Denise and some others to rest up and take some pictures near the water.    

One thing is for sure.  I was glad to be done.  This was my last half of the year (most likely) and it felt good to accomplish it at 14 weeks pregnant.  I was proud of myself for sticking with it and finishing yet another thirteen point one. The course was really very nice, and the weather was cool enough to make for a pleasant experience.  I really liked the start/finish being hosted at Van Wezel.  This is a perfect location for a finish line party.  Being right on the water makes for a nice, relaxing finisher party. 

After chatting and taking pictures with some of the Suncoast Striders, I made my way over to where the Best Damn Race Ambassadors were meeting.  We had previously planned to meet up and grab breakfast together post race, so we were gathering together to make our way there soon.  We ended up at First Watch (go figure), and we enjoyed a delicious breakfast with a group of pretty awesome people.    It was a great way to end the morning.  

Sarasota_Half_Marathon_Bloggers

Beth, Meghan, Nanci, Caitlyn, Yours Truly, Chrissy, Denise, and Brad.
Representin’ the Tampa Bay Bloggers

Sarasota_Half_Marathon_Finisher_pic

 

Disclaimer:  Through the Tampa Bay Bloggers, I received a complimentary entry to the First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon and Relay in exchange for my honest review. As always, the opinions shared on this blog are my own.

Best Damn Race – Orlando 2014

Last weekend was the inaugural Best Damn Race Orlando.   As you might remember, at last year’s Safety Harbor half, I experienced a whole new racing experience, one that was everything a runner could expect from an event titled the “Best Damn Race.”     When I was asked to become an ambassador for this organization, I was beyond excited and thrilled.   And after last Saturday’s race events, I’m even more proud to be affiliated with Best Damn Race.    

Friday afternoon, I drove over to Orlando from Tampa to volunteer at the expo for packet pickup.  I had the pleasure of working alongside some of the most spectacular people, two of them being other ambassadors for BDR.   Meghan and Andrea joined me and other volunteers as we handed out race bibs, shirts and race bags to participants at Lake Eola Park.   

Best_Damn_Race_Orlando_volunteer

Myself and two of the other ambassadors

The weather was gorgeous and the entire expo was well organized and full of awesome vendors.  

That night, I shared a hotel with my neighbor Matt who was also running the half marathon.  Race morning, we woke up, got dressed (I had to take a pre-race picture) and headed down to the park to prepare for the half marathon start.  

Best_Damn_Race_Morning_PictureWe arrived downtown with just enough time to find parking, scarf down some fuel and hydration, hit the port-o-pottys and line up in the starting corrals.  My friend, Matt, is a little speedster compared to me, so we parted ways at the start line when I headed towards the back near the 2:15 pacers.  I had been feeling really good the past few days, so I was going to setup near my usual pace group and see how my energy levels would allow me to perform.  

One thing about running through this pregnancy that I have come to terms with is that I cannot predict just exactly how my body is going to perform on any given day.  I hate to use the phrase “wait and see”, but that’s how I feel going into a lot of these long runs and races.    Even if my training is there, I might have an off day and my energy levels could be lacking the stamina to keep me afloat during a longer distance.  

Another thing I definitely knew going into this half was that there was going to be the need for a bathroom break at some point(s) along the course.  It doesn’t matter which trimester, the pressure and need to pee is always there.   I purposely kept my morning hydration under 24oz that day because I wanted to avoid the port-a-pottys as much as I could.    I only drank one small coffee and a small bottle water with a Nuun tablet.  I skipped the first few water stations also in attempt at staving off the urge to pee.  

Once inside the starting coral, I searched for a couple of my running pals to gather nearby.  I didn’t spot anyone near my pace group, so I kept to myself and decided to turn up the tunes.  When the start gun signaled the beginning of the race, I was in such a trance listening to my music that I completely zoned out and forgot to sync my Garmin.   I stepped over the start line and had to step off course to get synced up.  That was definitely a first for me.  I’m never letting that happen again.  Rookie mistake.  

The first few miles winded through some of my favorite downtown Orlando neighborhoods.  One, in particular, was where I looked into purchasing a home many years ago, when I lived in Orlando.   One of the nice features of downtown is the brick roads.   However, they are not the most race friendly surfaces.  There were many areas where I really had to pay attention to my footing to insure I did not trip and wipe out.  It kept me on my toes for the first mile, then we hit the asphalt streets and I could finally relax into my pace.  

I had told myself that I was going to attempt to keep a 10 min pace for as long as my legs would let me.  My goal was to hold out on the walk breaks until after I hit the 8 mile mark.  

The first couple miles went by very well.  I took it slow and let my legs warm up before I began to notice a gain in my speed.  Little by little, I began to ease into my normal race pace.  It felt good and easy and I was really happy about that.  

We weaved down and around a bunch of side streets through downtown before we crossed East near the Orlando Executive Airport and the 408 Expressway.  That lead us right into the 4th mile at Lake Underhill park.  The course directed us onto the trail and around the lake for a beautiful view of the  park and lake.  I had to stop to snap a quick picture.  

Best_Damn_Race_Orlando_Lake

When I rounded the Lake near mile 5, I spotted a port-o-potty.  There was only one, but it appeared to be unoccupied so I decided to slow down and make a pit stop.  I paused my Garmin, and did my business as quick as possible.  However, when I jumped back onto the trail, I forgot to un-pause my Garmin and I lost a couple tenths of a mile.  I was not having a good Garmin day.  I decided to push my pace slightly so I could try to make up a little time from the potty break.  

Miles 7, 8, and 9 were setup in an out and back fashion.  I ended up seeing a lot of my friends along this part of the course.  Of course, they were all ahead of me.  It was good to see everyone doing so well.  I made sure to holler at each one and give them encouragement as I passed them.  

Even though I was aiming to keep a 10 pace through most of the race, I  ended up surprising myself when I read that I was maintaining pace around   9:45.  This made me smile every time I looked down at my Garmin.  I actually got a little emotional and almost cried.  I was really worried that pregnancy would take my ability to love running away from me, but this was a day that I could rejoice in my redemption.  I celebrated inside and patted myself on the back for doing as well as I was.  

I decided to push myself a little farther before mentally agreeing to take a walk break at the 10 mile checkpoint. I was still feeling good, but I didn’t want to push my luck.  I wasn’t trained for 13 miles.  I needed to listen to my body.  

Right after the 10 mile water station, when I decided to take that walk break,  there was an extremely brief moment when the 5k speedsters crossed paths with the half marathoners.  It was very inspiring to see them zoom past us with their fresh legs and aggressive strides.  I wanted to pick my pace back up and hightail it with them, but my body just wasn’t where it needed to be.  It was there at this moment that I got to see the race organizer, Nick Zivolich, pass me by as he raced his own race.   I didn’t know it was him at the time, but discovered it at the finish line when awards were announced.  

Our last three miles directed us down to South street where we were once again reunited with the 5k ‘ers.  It was at this portion of the race that I began to struggle to keep myself from walking.   There were a lot of participants on the course at this part and unfortunately, there were a lot of walkers amongst them.  I kept telling myself that this was my race and it didn’t matter what everyone else was doing, but it was so easy to slow down to take a few walk breaks.  I was tired and my hip and IT band were beginning to throb.  By the time we hit Rosalind Ave and the final stretch before the finish line, I was battling my mental endurance.  I searched on my iPod for a power song to take me the rest of the way.  Macklemore & Ryan Lewis carried me the remainder of the course with Can’t Hold Us.  I gave it all I had and pushed to the finish line.  

I was beyond excited to pass through the chute and cross that finish line.  When I did, my friend, Matt, was right there waiting for me.  He had finished his very first half marathon in 1:41.  WOW!  I was impressed!  My official chip time was 2:21.   It wasn’t my best time, but I’m going to go ahead and call this my PPR.   (pregnancy personal record).   We immediately went over to take a finisher picture with our medals.  

BestDamnRace_Orlando_Finisher_picture

I was starving, so we made our way through the food and beverage tent and grabbed plenty of carbs in the form of bagels, fruit, and the most delicious chocolate muffins. We then moseyed into the beer area where we lounged on the soft grass, stretching, eating our carbs and enjoying the gorgeous weather.  Matt had a beer or two, but obviously, I skipped the beer and instead hydrated with H2O.  

It was an absolutely fabulous day with perfect race conditions.  I couldn’t have asked for a better morning.  

The icing on the cake was the email I received a week later with my free race photos.  Yay!  Best_Damn_Race_2014_Orlando Best_Damn_Race_Orlando_2014_Finish_line_picOnce again, I cannot express how honored and privileged I feel to be affiliated with the Best Damn Race series.  It truly is the best experience for a runner.  And to have these memories to share down the road to my unborn son or daughter, makes me so proud to have accomplished it.  

I look forward to next year’s races even more now.  It’ll be hard to top this year’s events, but somehow, I think Nick and his crew can make it happen.   Until then, I’ll keep ya updated on all the important info leading up to registration.  =)