Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Jingle 5K and Frosty 5K

December 20, 2013
Lakewood Ranch, FL

For the past 10 weeks, I have been on of 3 coaches, training a group of people to run a 5K. This was the weekend of the races. Most of our group was running the Friday evening run, The Jingle. My plan was to find one of my girls and run with them. I worked most of the day, making sure to keep hydrated, since it was a warm day and looked like it would be a warm and humid night. I headed over to the race area about an hour before the start. There were tons of people there already. I had heard that there were about 2000 runners for both the 5K and kid's dashes. That's a lot of people for this race! I found a few of my group near the Fit2Run tent, so I hung out with them for a while. I only found one from my smaller group and she was in flip flops. She said her shin was hurting to much, so she couldn't run. Bummer! I looked for Valerie, but couldn't find her among all the people. I headed over to the corral, and standing on tippy toes, managed to find Gina just ahead of me. Since I was on my own for the run tonight, I figured I would try to keep up with her. They had the fast, sub 20 minute, people up near the start line, then it was all of us regular runners, and then the walkers in the back.

Once we hear the blast of the horn, we think we are off, but no, there is a girl on one side of the road holding a rope and another girl on the other side holding the other end of the rope. They are trying to hold back the runners to give the lead group more of a lead. Well, I never heard anything about different start times! This was crazy! People were ducking under the rope and running. The girl was yelling at us to stop and wait. Gina ducked under and went. I held back and waited a few seconds, but people were bumping into me from behind and pushing their way past and running. So I did what everyone else was doing and ducked under the rope and ran. I just hope I hadn't activated my timing chip while I was just standing there!

Tina, me, Nora, Mike, Don and Bill after the race.

We were running on a road that had lights, but not many of them, we turned to the left and then followed the road out. I was going at a pretty fast pace, but figured, since I had no goal for this race, I would push it as long as I could. Within a quarter of a mile, I could see Gina up ahead. I was just going to try and shorten the distance between us. Around mile 1, there was a water stop at a very bad spot. For some reason they decided to set up in one of the dark sections of the road instead of under a light. I'm sure the sun was out when they first set up, but maybe next year they will make a point of looking for the street light! You couldn't see anything! I didn't want water, so I ran to the left, to try and stay out of everyone's way. Just before the turn around, I spotted Linda, from our training group, just ahead. She had already had a good base of running when she joined our group, so she never really ran with us, just always ahead of us. So when I caught up to her, I said hi, and continued on. I figured she didn't need my help out there. Once we turned around and started heading back on the other side of the street, I tried to find people I knew on the other side of the road. But, it was to dark to spot anyone. I just kept running at a comfortably hard pace. Every once in a while, I would slow it down a little, but overall, I kept it pretty steady. I knew Gina was in front of me somewhere, but I could no longer see her. About half a mile from the finish, I saw my friend Susan just ahead. I gradually caught up with her. When I pulled up next to her, I yelled out a hi. She was running hard and could barely grunt out a greeting! Maybe I wasn't pushing as hard as I could if I could still chat a little? :) Soon, I noticed more people on the side of the road cheering, so I knew the finish was coming up. We took a left turn, I saw the finish line and pushed it in hard. I looked down at my watch and couldn't believe what I saw. 24:28 finish time! I was shocked! I couldn't believe I had taken 31 seconds off of my best 5K time. In these conditions! I was super happy. :) Linda came in pretty soon after me. She said she had a PR too. I later found out she got 2nd in age group. I was very happy for her. She said she was trying to catch me the entire second half. Happy to be her rabbit. :)

Linda and me after the race.
I waited around for the rest of my group to come in so that I could cheer them on. I was very proud of everyone! I didn't hang out to long. Just long enough for some photos and then to check out how I placed in my age group. I got 6th and Gina got 5th. I think it was a PR for her too. A good night all around.

Jingle finish: 24:28
age group 6/117
Overall 177/1312

Frosty 5K

My son, Aidan, and I left the house just over an hour before race start. We arrived pretty quickly, grabbing a great parking spot, not far from the finish area. We hung out for a while, before we decided to head over. We ran into Ken, and then Gina and her daughter. We found Carolyn, Robert and the rest of the 5K training group that was running today's race. I was feeling a little dehydrated, but figured since I had a great race the night before, I would just go out and do my best, but it wouldn't be a big deal if it was a lot slower. We lined up and listend to the announcements. We found out that even though it was chipped time, they would count clock time for age group awards. I told Robert and Aidan to not get to close, to have a good race, then Gina and I moved up a little closer. We really didn't have much of a chance of placing top 3. All the really fast local runners in our age group were here, but we still wanted to get a fair placement. After a few more announcements, we were off!

Me and Aidan

We ran down a dirt/paved road, before turning right. We were running through the parking lot of the park. We turned right again, and we were now on the main road within the park. By about the half mile mark, we turned left, to run on grass. This was a tricky spot. You had to watch out for some tree roots, which were hidden in the grass. Thankfully this wasn't a very long section, maybe a quarter mile at the most, before we turned left. We were now on a road. Gina and I were still together at this point, which was surprising. She is usually way ahead of me at a mile in! Just before we turned to the right, a woman in front of me dropped her phone and stopped to pick it up. Thankfully, I had quick reflexes! I jumped to the left and ran around her. We ran a loop through the neighborhood, before we coming back towards the park. We ran along the south border of the park, before turning left and then left again, back into the park. We passed by the area where we had started, before hitting a grassy section again and then the dirt path, that would take us around the lake. I pulled ahead of Gina during this section, picking up the pace a little and running it in strong to the finish! I can't believe I was only 15 seconds slower than the night before! I felt pretty good with both races. I went over to the Fit2Run tent to grab my phone (which I had left before the race) and then headed over to the area where the runners start their loop around the lake. I saw Wendy and Jim go by before seeing Aidan and Robert. Aidan was having a rough time, but was determined to finish strong. I got a photo of them, then headed back over to the finish area. Some how, I missed them finishing, but found them later. They both did great, finishing in around 36 minutes. Not bad for a kid who didn't really do much training! Our 3 other 5k training ladies finished with great times too. Proud of them!

Frosty finish: 24:43
age group 5/72
overall 95/663

Francine, Don, Me and Laura. Jen missed the photo!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Hillsborough River Half Marathon

December 14, 2013

Gina, Carolyn, Wendy and I left Sarasota just before 7am race day to drive up to the Hillsborough River Park. We got up there after about an hour, picked up our packets and then hung out for a while. Race start wasn't until 9 am. Very late for a half marathon. You would think the temps might have been cool, considering it's mid December, but no, we had a warm front on top of us. It was sunny, warm and humid. Just before 9, we wondered over to the race start area. After getting some course direction from Kip, the race organizer, we lined up and were off!

The first mile or so was all on the main road that runs through the park. We then turned right off the paved road onto a wide dirt road. This took us to a narrower section of trail that had a lot more hard sections to run on. I soon lost Gina behind me. I couldn't take my eyes off of the path in front of me in fear I would trip and fall! There were many sections that were muddy, which has us running single file along the edges, trying to stay out of the mud. We had a small creek crossing, which I managed pretty well, just getting the toes of my right foot wet, before we continued on, hitting a water stop and turning around for the trip back to the main, dirt road. On the way back, I managed to get all of my right foot wet in that creek! It felt nice and cool, but I didn't like the idea of possible blisters. Thankfully there wasn't a lot of loose dirt or sand on this trail, so I didn't have much clumping onto my wet shoe. My pace was pretty good still, a bit faster than I thought it would be. My quads had been hurting/tight all week. I could feel the tightness during the run, but it didn't hurt.
Miles 1 through 7 - 8:36, 9:12, 9:24, 9:12, 9:15, 9:36, 9:49

After we left this part of the trail, we were back on the wide dirt road. The 6 mile racers were on the other side of the road, heading back. This was my least favorite part of the course. For some reason that hard packed dirt road was hard on my legs. I slowed down a bit on this stretch. Not sure how long this stretch was, a mile or two, before we turned off the road onto a single track trail along the river. This spot was beautiful and I pretty much had it to myself. I was able to peek over at the river every so often, but I still had to keep my eyes on the trail in front of me. Lots of roots and uneven terrain. After a while, we left this trail, and entered another road that was pretty much all grass. By now, it was getting pretty hot and there was no shade here. I was still pretty much on my own. A couple of women passed me at one point and I passed a guy, before we left the grassy trail and ended up back on the hard packet dirt road. I got to the last water station, grabbed a cup and walked for about a minute or so before continuing on. I ended up running a bit with a guy who left the water stop at the same time. We talked for a while, which helped distract me from the heat. Soon, we were back on the paved road, and I knew it wasn't much further to the finish. Our pace picked back up while we ran on the pavement. I think it helped running with this guy. I might have finished slower if I hadn't had him there pushing the pace! We came up to the last little bit of trail section off of the main road. He pulled ahead of me here. The ground was very uneven, so I slowed down and watched where I was stepping. We ran along the river again for a short bit before we turned toward the right and through the finish.
Miles 8 through 13 - 9:42, 10:29, 10:35, 11:10, 11:06

Finish time: 2:05

Gina, me, Wendy and Carolyn

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Space Coast Marathon

December 1, 2013

I have never run the Space Coast races before, but had wanted to for a few years. When the race organizers announced the special Big Bang Medal series, I decided this would be the year to run the race! You get an extra medal after running 3 races and another special medal when you run all 5 of the races. Thankfully, I signed up early, because the race sold out pretty fast!

Me, Sondra and Carole before the race start.
I headed over to the Kennedy Space Center early Saturday morning. It was about a 3 hour drive from my house. I should have gotten gas before I left. I hit the toll road and after a while I discovered there were no gas stations around. Once I got off the toll road, there was nothing around at all! I drove with the empty gas light on for about 15 minutes, before I finally saw a gas station. Scary! Once at the expo, I ran into Vanessa and Sondra and their husbands. We chatted for a little bit, before I headed in to get my packet, shirt and to shop a little. This was a pretty small expo. Packet pickup had been going on at the local running store for most of the week, so by Saturday, there wasn't a hole lot of race merchandise left. I got a Space Coast Marathon ornament and a Marathon Tervis Tumbler. Once I left the expo, I headed to my hotel in Cocoa Beach. They were not ready for me to check in yet, so I grabbed my beach chair and my book and headed over to the beach, which was 2 blocks from my hotel. I had a nice relaxing time there before heading back to the hotel and checking in. A couple of hours later, I headed to Outback to meet up for dinner with some of my friends from the Weight Watchers Marathoners board. We had a great dinner and then I headed back to the room for an early night.

Race morning: I got up just before 4 am. I was still trying to figure out my race strategy. I had a secret hope of starting out with the 4:20 pacer, but with the starting temps in the low 60s and humid, I wasn't sure that was a good plan. I figured going out with the 4:30 pacer would be a safer bet. I knew I had it in me to run a 4:30 and on a good day, even faster, but I wasn't sure it was the day. I got dressed, got my gear and a cup of coffee and then headed out the door. I wasn't sure exactly were to park, but I followed some cars towards the race venue, and ended up getting a good spot in a lot near the water, to the east of the race start. I hung out for a little bit, then met Brenda at the bathrooms. I ran into Sondra there too. I ended up inviting her back to my car to hang out for a while. With the wind, low 60s was feeling a little cold! After hanging out in the car for half an hour or so, we made one more bathroom stop before I went in search of the Marathon Maniac photo spot. Just after 6 am, we were directed to head over to the starting area. The half marathoners had already started. They would run the second half of our full marathon course. I got a quick photo with Sondra and Carole before finding the 4:30 pacer. I decided it was the smarter choice. I would try for this PR first and then try to get a faster one on a cooler day. They had a recorded version of the National Anthem, which kept getting cut off. Once it happened the first time, everyone began to sing, so when it kept happening, everyone's voices got louder and louder. It was pretty cool. To send us off, they showed a shuttle count down on a big screen. Once the shuttle had lift off, we were a go!

Slow start to the race, as we were all packed into a pretty small road. We ran south, then made a couple of right turns before turning left and heading north along Indian River Dr. I was just ahead of the pace group. I kept trying to slow myself down and not loose them, but it was hard! I should have started behind them! But if I'd done that, I would have never found David up ahead in his Sarasota Storm shirt! Around mile 2, I saw David's Storm shirt just ahead of me. I ran over and said hi. We introduced ourselves and started chatting. Our pace was similar, so we kept running together. The road was slanted in many spots along this part of the course, so I tried to stay in the middle, flat part as much as possible. At one point, maybe around mile 5 or 6, we saw the lead marathon runner heading back. He looked really strong and had a big lead on the next guy. It was great seeing all the other runners. It always pumps me up. Splits miles 1 through 7 - 10:05, 9:48, 9:53, 9:39, 9:36, 9:41, 9:35

Heading to the finish line.
After the turn around, I started to keep a look out for Carole, Sondra and other Marathon Maniacs. I love waving and calling out to people. I was feeling really good still, but it was pretty early in the race. David and I kept having to slow down the pace. We both were looking at a 4:30 goal. I loved this neighborhood. We had the Indian River on one side of us and some pretty fantastic houses on the other side of us. I had thought it would be pretty flat along the water, but it wasn't. There were little rolling hills. I'm sure it was nothing for someone coming from a hilly area, but for me, after a while, they started to get a little harder and harder to run up! As we headed back into the downtown Cocoa area, where we had started, the course narrowed down again. Lots of crowd support here, though. We made a few turns, passed pretty close to the finish area and then we were heading north on Riverside Dr. Splits for miles 8 through 13 - 9:21, 9:36, 9:45, 9:46, 9:35, 9:47

Now we had the half marathoners on the River side of the street. They were on their way to the finish line. I got to see Brenda, Patti, Vanessa and her husband. The sun was out from behind the clouds now, and it was starting to get pretty warm. David and I slowed down our pace. Somewhere between mile 17 and 18, David told me he was going to have to walk for a while and to go ahead. So now, I am on my own and will be for the rest of the race. My right hip, right where the IT Band connects, was starting to hurt. It had been achy for the last week, so I kind of figured it would become a problem during the race. It was another reason why I didn't go out with the faster group. Once I saw the 20 mile marker (for those heading back, not me) on my right side, I knew I would be getting to the turn around soon. It seemed to take forever to get to there! The best part about it was the large group of people out there cheering everyone. Now I was on my way back and very happy to be heading that way. At the 20 mile marker, there was a group of people who had the 3 Little Piggies station set up. If you had signed up ahead of time, you would stop, eat some bacon, and then get a special medal before continuing on. I'm very happy I didn't sign up. There is no way I could have gotten that bacon down! Splits for miles 14 through 20 - 9:43, 9:51, 9:53, 10:11, 10:02, 10:22, 10:18

Me and David after the race.
The last 10K of the marathon was the hardest for me. I really slowed down. It no longer seemed as hot, which was good, but that was because we had a strong wind blowing into us! I seemed much stronger than when we had started the race a few hours before. I started to take walking breaks at most of the water stops and I also stopped a couple of times to stretch a bit. I did have some distractions from keeping an eye out for Carole, Sondra and Dave. Once they had all passed, I tried to get into a zone and focus on keeping good running form and not on the pain in my right side. Once I hit mile 25, I knew I would get a PR. I wasn't sure it would be under 4:30, but I knew it would be under the 4:32 from New York. I was bummed that I lost that 5 minute lead, but I put it out of my mind and focused on finishing.  Once we got close to the park, where the finish line was, we had to get off the main road and onto a sidewalk. This was a tight squeeze. There were a few other runners around me as we tried to get on the sidewalk. I passed quite a few people as I made my way around this large, semi-circle to the finish line. I was so happy to be done! And to see my first ever sub 4:30 marathon time! It's taken over a year ( I had tried last January at the Disney Marathon), but I finally did it! Spits for miles 21 through 26 - 10:53, 11:02, 10:50, 11:20, 10:50, 10:48

Finish - 4:29:52
age group 44/195, overall: 476/1682

Monday, December 2, 2013

St Pete Women's Half Marathon

November 24, 2013

This was the 5th year of the race and my 4th time running. I ran a half down in Miami last year, so missed the great weather they had up here! Today's weather was going to be a little warmer than I would like, but I wasn't planning on running hard just a week before the Space Coast Marathon! I wanted to take it easy, just run a comfortable pace. My periformis had been hurting for a couple of days, so I didn't want to get injured further.

I started out running with Gina and her friend, but just after a mile, when I saw how fast we were running, I decided to pull back. I did not want to be running any faster than a 9 min mile pace. Around mile 3, I got a sharp pain in my periformis and thought for a minute I would have to pull out of the race. I worked on running with good form, which helped to alleviate the pain. The course has changed a little this year, but besides the starting line beginning further back on the main road and not running out to the end of the pier, the course is the same for the first half.
Splits mile 1 through 6 - 8:34, 8:35, 8:56, 8:33, 8:49, 8:52

Once we pass the Vinoy and turn right along the water front, the first big change in the course happens. Instead of running down Central, we turn a block or two early. This takes us directly to the lake that we run around. I actually like this change. Once we get around the lake, we make a right and then another right turn on to Central. This becomes my least favorite part of the race. We seem to run West on this road forever! I soon realize that, while we go out on this street, we do not come back this way. I take a peek down a side street to my left, and see runners over there. This is a bummer. I love an out and back section where you can see all your friends. A few blocks past the interstate, we run left, down a side street and then another left. We are now heading back to the water front. Just before we pass The Tropicana stadium, which we do not run in this year, the 2 hour pacer passes me. I didn't think I had fallen so far off of pace, but I was feeling good at my pace, and didn't really care about my time, so I didn't try to catch up with him. I saw Darlene pass me a little later. I went over to say hi, then continued on. We are now on a slight down hill. I feel my speed picking up, which feels good. Finally, we turn right onto First Ave. Then turn left onto 5th ave, running in a big semi-circle to get to the finish. I push it hard once I see the clock still shows 1:59. I finish strong with my 4th sub 2 hour half!
Splits mile 7 through 13 - 9:00, 9:11, 9:02, 9:22, 9:13, 9:27, 8:55

Finish: 1:59:43
Total miles: 13.37. Pace: 8:55, OA place: 344/2852, AG: 49/487