Monday, March 18, 2013

2013 Sarasota Half Marathon

Sarasota, Fl
March 17, 2013
As of yesterday, I was planning on running the Fl Beaches Halfathon today. I had signed up for the 4 race series in the spring of last year. If you ran all 4 races, you got an extra shirt, medal and there was a special category for competition. I've been wanting to run all 4 of the races for a few years and it was finally going to happen this time. Well, in January I got the flu. I missed race number 3. The race director was nice enough to let me use the registration to run the race next year, but I was now only going to run 3 races! As this race weekend got closer, I wasn't really feeling like running the race, but I had paid for it. There was a local half marathon going on the same day and most of my local running friends were running it. I kind of wanted to run with them! So, I asked my boss (I work at a local running store, who was a sponsor of the race) yesterday morning, if she had any extra comp entry forms. She had them in her hand and gave me one! We had race registration and packet pickup going on at the store, so right as we opened, I went over and got my bib and shirt and then worked the register for the next 5 hours. We were swamped!

It was great to sleep in my own bed the night before the race. I left home at around 5:30, stopping at Starbucks for a cup of coffee and then headed to the Players Theater to park. They are located right across the street from the race start/finish area. It's much easier to get in and out of there than the main parking lot next to the event. Carolyn, Gina and then Greg showed up by 6:15. We ran into Kristen and Amy and then all walked across the street and to the main waiting area (with a quick stop at the porta potties that had a short line!) :) We checked our bags and then waited a bit before they opened the corral. There was no strict system, so of course, there were going to be people lined up were they shouldn't be. Amy and Kristen moved closer to the start, while me, Greg and Gina hung out mid-way between the 2:00 and 2:15 pacers. We were packed in pretty tight since the corral was not very wide, but we didn't have to long to wait and soon we were crossing the starting line and off and running!

We head down the road for a short bit before turning right onto Tamiami Trial, heading south. We have just under a mile before we turn right again and head towards the Ringling Bridge. On the bridge, Gina pulls ahead. I let her go, knowing she is bound to have a great race today. Greg tells me his heart rate monitor is not working, which is not good. He falls behind me and I am now on my own, but with four thousand other runners around me! :) I pick up the pace on the down hill and then try to get into a good groove for the next few, flat miles. Just after mile 2, the first runner is passing me on his way back. There is a short out and back section here, which is great for seeing friends ahead and behind you. Soon I see Fernanda, who is kicking serious butt! At mile 3, we are running around St Armands Circle and heading back to the bridge. On the way back I see lots of local running friends. The next mile is spent looking for faces and waving and yelling out to them. Stacie, my Ragnar teammate from last year, taps me on the shoulder from behind and says hi. I loose track of her, but see in the results that she finished a couple of minutes before me! WTG Stacie! I slow down a bit on the second trip over the bridge, but gain a bit on the way down again. We make a left back onto Tamiami Trail and run back towards the race start, where the relay runners exchange is located. Miles 1 through 6 - 8:49, 8:43, 8:51, 8:56, 9:13, 9:11

The next 2 miles are pretty boring. We pass the Sarasota Storm water tent (my Tri team!), where I grab a quick drink and then a mile or so later, pass a water stop that Pat, my old boss, is working at. We are sharing the two lane road with traffic. We have the left side, next to the side walk, while south bound traffic is in the other lane. I am running on the outside of the road because it's the flattest on this slanted road (my left IT Band is a bit sore right now!). Many crazy people pass me on the right, dodging cars. Idiots. Thankfully, the 2 miles go quickly and we are soon turning right and running toward the Ringling Museum. I hear a big group of people behind me and see it is the 2 hour pace group. I keep them at bay for a couple of miles, but they end up passing me somewhere around mile 11. The course is still pretty crowded, almost "Disney" like. A lot of runners going for that sub 2! The next few miles are through the nice neighborhood that borders the waterfront. Lots of pretty houses and shady trees (even though we didn't really need them today since it was overcast). Just after mile 12, we turn right, back onto Tamiami Trail. We head past the Storm tent, I wave to Nicole and she yells out a "hi" as I pass. We run pass the park where I've run two loopy marathons, before we pass the relay exchange section. We turn right and I pick up the speed as I see the finish line ahead. I feel like I'm going to barf, but I want to run this in hard and finish strong. I cross the finish line, with my arms up in the air and a big smile on my face. :) Miles 7 through 13 - 9:20, 9:13, 9:14, 9:20, 9:19, 9:29, 8:56
Finish: 1:58:39

Total distance on Garmin: 13 miles! First time in a long time that I hit the mile marks on my Garmin AFTER getting to them on the course! I'll take it. :) I get my medal and then start looking for Gina. I find Amy and Kristen first, who tell me Gina finished at around 1:50! We find her moments later and she shows me her watch. 1:49! She crushed it! So proud of her. We go wait in line for food, which is a banana and yogurt for me, before finding a place to sit for a while. Gina texts Greg to see how he is doing. We finally get a reply and find him He had a great race too! We head to the water, to take a few photos and then meet up with Carolyn in the Beer area. I hang out for a while with them before heading on home. The bottom of my left foot is throbbing and my calves are tight!

Overall, I am very happy that I stayed in town to run this half. I've been traveling around to run races so often, it was nice to be home and run with friends. I am happy that the Fl Beaches race got my money though, as that is run by a "local" guy and the money goes to local organizations, while the Sarasota race, while held locally, is run by a larger "business" out of the Miami area.

Gina, Greg, Me and Carolyn

Monday, March 11, 2013

Dances with Dirt - Green Swamp marathon

Withlacoochee River State Park
March 9, 2012

Trail marathon weekend! I was excited and nervous leading up to this race. Only three weeks since my last marathon and one long run of 12 miles on the trails a week ago was the extent of my long mileage training. I was hoping that would be enough to get me through this race. I was also excited because this was going to be my 10th marathon! Not many, by Marathon Maniac standards, but considering this was the 5th one since mid December, I was pretty proud of myself. :)

I headed up to Rhonda's house Friday afternoon. She was nice enough to offer me a place to stay the night before the race, since she lives about half an hour away from the race venue, it would be a quick trip in the morning. We had a nice dinner and a good chat before going to bed around 9:30. The alarms went off at 4:30 am and we were out the door by 5:15. We arrived at the race venue, the Withlacoochee River Park just before 6 am. We headed over to the tent to pick up our bib, t-shirt and post race meal ticket then headed back to the car where it was warmer. The race start was going to be cold! It was 43 degrees out! About 15 minutes before race start, we headed over to the porta-potties and then to the race start. It was a small group of people. 50 runners for the marathon and even less for the 50K. The 50 mile runners started earlier and the 10K and half marathoners were starting at 9am. The race announcer counted down to the start and then we were off!

The first part of the race is a 10K loop that takes us back to the start. We then continue on for a 20 mile loop. The first loop had a variety of terrain. Beautiful flat, grassy trail, single file path through very tall dead grass, sandy roads and deep muddy trails. A guy named John ran up to me and mentioned he's a maniac (I had my maniac tank on.) We chatted for a while, and while we were chatting, we missed some blue flags and went off in the wrong direction. Thankfully we heard some shouts behind u,s warning us of our error. Detour one of two. :) We continued on. We caught up with Wendy, who was down from MN. I ran with her for the rest of the loop. She was a pro at these long distance trail runs and helped me out with some advice. The temp was warming up nicely now that the sun was out, so I pulled off my arm sleeves and tossed them on to Rhonda's car as we passed the parking area. I stopped for a quick refill of my water bottles at the aid station, before running passed the start area and on to the big loop. Miles 1 through 6 - 10:26, 10:29, 11:31, 10:19, 11:01, 11:33

Heading out on the trail again, I was quickly on my own. For the rest of the race, I was often on my own, which is so different from regular races! I ran down a long sandy stretch and then out to the main road. We ran this for just a little bit before turning right, crossing a bridge and heading back onto the trails. Every once in a while I would pass someone or I would be passed. I was already see people having a hard time. It was still so early! One guy, who had passed me earlier, came up from behind me again. He must have had to take a break in the bushes. (I passed him again, for the last time, a mile later) Another guy, who had the water on his back for both him and his girlfriend, pulled off to the side of the road just before the first aid station. Never saw him again. Passed his girlfriend soon after and let her know he was a ways back and not looking to good. I stopped at the next aid station to refill my two water bottles grabbed a little snack and then headed on. Miles 7 through 10 - 12:08, 11:34, 11:44, 11:38

The next section of trail was challenging because of the little hills. I decided to walk up them after running the first one. I didn't really lose any time. The woman up ahead of me ran them and even though she pulled ahead of me on the uphill, I would catch up to her on the down hill and flat sections. A lot of the rest of the race involved running on trails with high brush and scrub, so I had a hard time seeing if anyone was ahead or behind me. I really had to pay attention to the pink flags we were following. Often, I would stop and look around because I hadn't seen a flag in a while. Luckily, I would find one just ahead and know that I was going the correct way. Miles 11 through 15 - 12:02, 11:02, 11:40, 12:50, 12:07,

The real slow down started just after mile 15. My legs were so sore! All of the uneven terrain was really taking a toll on my body. My upper back and neck was getting pretty stiff too. I decided to start taking walking breaks. Just after mile 19, we came up to another aid station (there had been one other one before this). I drank two small cups of soda ( I'm not much of a soda drinker, but this tasted awesome!) a cup of water and ate half a banana.  I then walked for almost half a mile before running again. The soda tasted great, but it was not sitting great in my stomach. There was a relay category to this race (50 miler I think) and at this point, we were seeing them run past us on the opposite side, towards the aid station. They all had way to much energy! Miles 16 through 20 - 14:57, 13:35, 13:11, 17:49, 14:47

This last part of the race was the hardest both physically and mentally. I was really hurting and the terrain was getting choppier and harder to manuever. There was no way I could run through some of these sections, even if I felt up to it! I was thinking that maybe I wasn't cut out for this type of running, that I should have trained better and that maybe I should not run the 50K next month. The weather was perfect today, but it is bound to be much hotter next month. I really need to work on some positive things to chant to myself to help get me out of these funks I get into! I missed another turn during mile 24. I passed a couple of girls who had stopped and were stretching. It wasn't until about a quarter of a mile later that I realized the trail was much rougher than normal and I couldn't find a marker any were. The girls weren't to far behind me, so I yelled back to them asking if the saw the flag. Just then, I saw a couple of runners off to the side. We had missed a sharp left turn! We back tracked and soon were on the right path. It looked like a big truck had driven through, punching a bunch of holes in the ground at random intervals. I had to walk and hop through this section. Then we got to the section that had chest high weeds. I could have used a stick or something here. My arms took on that job. I was still taking long walking breaks. Running about half a mile and then walking for a quarter of a mile. I figured I should be able to make my sub 6 hour time goal with that. Finally we hit the last aid station. I asked how much further we had and was told a mile. We made our way into a section with lots of tall cypress trees and lots of little cypress nubs sticking out of the ground. With the shuffle like running I was currently doing, there was no way it was safe for me to run through this! I knew there was going to be a river crossing coming soon, but wasn't prepared for how deep and wide it was! I had seen a video from last years race. The person was able to hop over the "river" because there hadn't been much rain. I figured it would be the same this year. No such luck. A guy just ahead of me, plowed through it. Getting his leg stuck in the sand, but pulling it out quick and making his way up the bank on the other side. I wasted a minute or two walking a little ways up the river to see if there was a better place to cross. Nope. Two other runners caught up to me. I let them go first before getting in. The water camp up to my knees and was cold! It did feel refreshing though. I made my way across and up the bank. We made our way back to the sandy path that lead to the parking area. Having soaking wet shoes and then running through deep sand is no fun! I started to walk a little, but when I looked at my watch, I saw that it was 5:52! I needed to hustle to make it in under 6 hours! I started running again. Ran through the grassy area of the parking lot, passed the aid station, gave a high-five to John (who had finished) and ran through the finish!
Miles 21 through 26.9 - 14:16, 13:55, 14:15, 18:03, 14:54, 17:29, 16:09
Finish time: 5:56:08

After I passed the finish line, a woman came up to me, asked my name and age and then told me I was first in my age group! Crazy!! I got my finishers medal, a bucket with the race logo and a pint glass with the race logo. I grabbed a bottle of water and a banana and then waited for Rhonda to finish. She wasn't too far behind me, finishing just over 6 hours. We grabbed our meal tickets out of our car and headed over to get some grub. Cole slaw, BBQ chicken and beans. Plus a cup of iced tea. Yummy! We headed out soon after. It was after 1pm! I needed to get a shower and head home.

Overall, I am proud of myself for running this race. I wish I could be faster, but that just takes practice. Most everyone is slower running the trails. I did waste a lot of time at aid stations. My Garmin shows my moving time as 14 minutes less than my overall time! Oh well. I enjoyed chatting, eating and drinking at the aid stations. :)

Post race notes: bring a towel and a beach chair to the next trail race. Not a lot of seating at these trail events. Lots of race finishers were laying on beach towels on the grass or sitting in their beach chairs. Also, bring flip flops! It would have been nice to get out of those wet socks and shoes right away. :)

Race shirt and bling. It was definitely an Extreme Trail Run!

Friday, March 1, 2013

5th Anniversary Princess Half Marathon

February 24, 2013

With Mary Poppins and her gang.
Disney weekend started out in Tampa on Thursday. I worked to help set up the Fit2run booths at the Gasparilla expo, which had it's races the same weekend as the Disney Princess half marathon. Friday, I worked at the expo and was on my feet for about 10 hours. I left downtown Tampa at about the worst part of the day, 5pm. It took me an hour and a half to get to the Disney resort, where the expo was and were I was staying that night. I made it into the expo about 20 minutes before closing. I got my bib and shirt, before checking out what they had in the race merchandise area. It was a small space, much smaller than the marathon weekend merchandise space. I didn't find the race tank I was hoping to buy, but did get a coffee mug. I checked in with the Rock n Roll/Women's half marathon booth, were I would be working the next day. I had hoped that I would be sitting a lot, but unfortunatly, the tables were set up high, so no sitting at them. I then headed off to check in and then find dinner. There was a massive line for the restraurant in the resort. I waited, got a dinner to go, then headed to my room. I was up for another hour or so before going to bed. I was tired! I was then up again before 6am. I ran 3 miles (3 loops) around the resort before heading back to the room to pack up and drive over to the parking area set aside for expo workers. The expo was crazy busy all day! I couldn't believe the lines for everything! Just as big as the marathon weekend expo. The expo closed at 6pm. We were packed up within 10 minutes and out of there. Katie, who was sharing a room with me and Brenda that night, showed up just before closing, so we headed out for dinner at Outback Stakehouse before heading to All Star Sports to check in. My 3rd hotel in 3 days!! We left a key at the front desk for Brenda, who was at a wedding and would be in later. After getting settled in and relaxing for a while, we were in bed by 9:30 with a 2:30 am alarm set. 

Me, Brenda and Katie before the race
2:30am came around quick! We got dressed, got our gear together and then headed out the door to my car. The drive to the Epcot parking area went pretty fast. I remembered to get into the far left lane, which always puts us in the parking area closest to the waiting area and finish line. We sat around for a little bit and then just before 4, we headed out. We went in search of the meeting spot for the Half Fanatic group photo. there were crazy long lines to get photos with Characters, but no fanatics. I looked on the facebook page to see if anything had changed. The meeting spot had been moved to the front of the merchandise tent, which was were we came in! So, we headed back over there. We found Della and a couple of other fanatics, took a quick photo, then made our way to the porta potties before heading off toward the corrals. Once we got near the corrals, we waited for the porta potties again before heading into corral A. It was great that the 3 of us were in the same corral. I lead us up close to the front, but not right at the front. Then we sat and waited. The time actually went by fast. Soon the lone wheel chair guy was off and then it was our turn. After a pep talk from the Fairy God Mother and a blast of fire works, we were off!

Normally I'll post my split times and discuss the miles and how I felt. But, I'm going to skip that for this report. Within the first mile, I could tell this was going to be a race for fun and not for time. My stomach was upset and my legs were tired from all the standing I had been doing. Plus, it was very warm this morning, with very high humidity. The opposite of last weekends weather for the marathon! I tried to keep a decent pace, pretty much at the fast end of my long run pace. I decided I would stop for photos and just go with the flow. I hit the first steep hill, which is an underpass leading to Magic Kingdom. I decided to walk it, since there was no point getting to tired. As I walked up, Juli passed me. She was looking so strong running up that hill! At the top of the hill, I got a photo with the Gene puppet. In Magic Kingdom, I stopped for a photo with Buzz Lightyear and then Jessie, before running through the castle. There was a long ling to get a photo with Mickey and Minnie, so I didn't stop there. I've got a couple of good photos with them already. I ran through the castle and over to the front for a photo. They had 3 photographers and only me there! Seems like not many runners in corral A stop for photos. Good for me. :) As we ran out of Magic Kingdom, I stopped for a photo with Aurora and her prince.

The rest of the race went well. I continued to just take it easy and not look at my watch to much. Since I've run this race 4 times now, I kind of remembered when to expect things. They had plenty of water stops, which was good, because I wasn't carrying any water with me. The cliff gel spot was around mile 8. I knew to wait to eat that, as the water stop was a little way down the road. I stopped for me photos with one of the Ants, Mary Poppins and then with Elastic Girl. I felt really great as we made our way into Epcot. I think this is the best I have felt while running through here! I've always felt really yucky when I get to this spot. :) Heading out of Epcot, I knew I just had a few turns before seeing the finish line. Mickey and Minnie were waiting for us as we crossed the finish line. I gave Minnie mouse a high five and then crossed the finish.

Finish time was 2:15. Not my best time, of course, but I'm happy that I ran it for fun. I'll probably not run this race again for a few years.