TreesGreenville Turkey Day 8k 2017 – Race Recap

Race #138
8k #12
2017 Race #20
2017 8k #1
TreesGreenville Turkey Day 8k #8

So…before I get to the recap of today’s race, I have to admit that for the first time since I started running, I did not write a recap of a race that I ran. Last Saturday Mom and I ran the Tryon Half Marathon. Neither Mom or I felt particularly stellar on race day. For my own part, I was on the rough tail end of a cold that just wouldn’t let go along with a couple other minor temporary complaints. It had been a long, emotionally draining week. My only goal for that race was to go out and finish the race. Mission accomplished. Below are the stats for that race, just for reference.

Race #137
Half Marathon #44
North Carolina Half Marathon #8
2017 Race #19
2017 Half Marathon #9
Tryon Half Marathon #4
Final time – 2:02:27

Back to today’s race…

The week as a whole went much, much better. I felt better. I got in a couple speedwork sessions. The cold finally released its stranglehold. I felt confident that I could go ahead with my original plan for this race, use it as a test race for my goal 5k race which happens in a month.

I am glad that I did that. I learned a lot about myself as a racer.

When I put in my goal time into the race pace calculator, it spit out a goal pace of 7:15. I knew that would be tough but I wanted to see how well my body would hold up at that pace

Mom and I started together nearly at the front.

TreesGreenville Turkey Day 8k 2017
(We started behind the line, obviously.)

When the announcer gobbled to indicate the start I took off, feeling almost like a newbie. It has been quite a while since I have raced a short race. For so long as I have rebuilt after the injury and then trained for longer races, I start off at a more reasonable pace. This felt strange as I started that first mile. The pace felt fast but doable. I started to doubt that I would be able to keep up that pace, especially with the “hill of death” coming. (The hill that nearly kills me in mile 3 of the Greenville News Run Downtown 5k.)

Mile 1:https://flic.kr/p/GSnrSZ 7:13 (spoiler alert…this was the only mile that I achieved my goal pace)

When looking at the course map beforehand, it looked like the “hill of death” cropped up in the first mile. No, we got to start mile 2 with that hill. Thankfully though, the course turned onto McBee, halfway through the hill, so we did not have to run the entire hill. My pace definitely slowed during that mile and only gradually picked up through the second half of that mile.

Mile 2: 7:41

I expected my pace to slow down a little bit because of that hill and determined that I would negative split this course like a champ. If only that mental stamina had persisted.

The third mile of this race was the easiest mile mainly because it lacked any significant uphills. We also had a wonderful little downhill leading into Cleveland Park where we started running on the Swamp Rabbit Trail. I felt good but I think this was where I started to ease the mental push. I should have pushed myself harder here, just a little.

Mile 3: 7:29

I liked the fact that I had picked up the pace. I wanted to do that for the rest of the race. The course and my mental toughness did not cooperate.

Just before we exited Cleveland Park, I saw the uphill and remembered the uphill that challenges me every time. I had no desire to push even harder than I had been pushing up that hill. I knew how challenging that felt. The negativity started to creep in even before I started up that hill.

Then came the hill. I walked, twice, in that second to last mile. I couldn’t believe that I did that. The second time I tried to keep running but my body wouldn’t cooperate. As soon as my mind said that it was okay to walk, my legs eagerly complied with the order. I didn’t walk for long, maybe 15-20 seconds but I had lost the will to battle to the finish, to really shoot for that PR.

Mile 4: 8:06

When I reached that last mile I told myself that there was less than a mile left. I could negative split this last mile. I could push hard. I could get back to that goal pace.

I started off that last mile well. I pushed hard.

Then we turned onto East Broad. I have never run up that street. No one in their right mind would choose to sprint up that street, especially in the last mile of an 8k. That street held a nearly 50 foot elevation change in one block. I did not expect that last hill. Seriously? Yes, I gave in and walked again.

After mentally slapping myself, I took off again. I kept pushing even when we merged with the much slower 5k runners at the turn onto McBee when there was another small hill. As the 5k “runners” around me power-walked up the hill I pushed forward. This hill and that other short 10 second walk slowed my pace for this mile but I am much more pleased with the last mile than mile 4. Mile 4 was the worst mile of the race for me.

We finally made the turn onto Main Street and got to enjoy the downhill.

We didn’t finish on the downhill though. We had to go a little bit further past the downhill until the finish line just before the entrance to Falls Park.

As the finish line grew nearer I threw on a full out sprint and passed about 10 people, most of them 5k participants. I felt so strong through that final sprint and knew instantly that I could have pushed much harder through mile 4. I knew then that I had the fitness level for an 8k PR even on such a ridiculous course.

Mile 5: 7:35
Final time: 38:02 … Yes, I very much wish that I would have started my sprint just a little earlier.

Mom came in about 5 minutes later, looking strong and amazing.
TreesGreenville Turkey Day 8k 2017
Mom finished in 43:17

Final thoughts:
One of the first things that I thought after I finished was that I definitely needed to push myself harder in those last few miles. I felt fine, not even close to nauseated or in pain. That’s how you’re supposed to feel if you lay it all out there on the line for a short race.

It has been so long since I have raced a short race, really raced. For so long I have given myself an out and let myself run whatever pace that I wanted to run. While on one hand, it’s good to give yourself a break and not race every single race. That’s a recipe for burnout. On the other hand, every race can’t be this way, not if you want to push yourself to a PR.

Even though I did not reach my goal, I am glad that I was able to treat this race like a test race for my goal 5k coming up in a month. I know what I need to do. I know that I need to work on my mental toughness.

On the plus side, this is the first time that I have broken 40 minutes in this race, one of the few races that I have run every year since I started running. This is also my third fastest 8k time. The other two are my PR and one other Sunrise 8k where I ran only 2 seconds slower than my PR. To finish not feeling drained at all or like I had given anything close to full out effort? I’ll take that.

I feel reenergized and ready to full-out tackle the second half of my 5k training. Hilton Head be ready. I’m coming for you!

For Love of the Run

A little over a week ago, I ran my 43rd half marathon. Sometime in the midst of the run a recurring thought popped into my head, the thought of wanting to be done already. This thought and others like it occur fairly often during runs of all types, not just races. Why do I do it then? Why do I devote so much time, energy and money to something I frequently just want to finish and be done with. In this post I will attempt to explain something I have thought about for years, a feeling nearly indescribable, something that has hooked me so well, I just can’t quit.

To explain, I have to look back. My number one strength is context, after all.

Growing up, I both loved and hated running. i loved the sprints like the 50 yard dash at field day in elementary school or the sprint to first base after hitting an infield ground ball in softball. I loved the idea of accomplishment, of beating everyone across the finish line or beating the throw to first when everyone assumed that it was an automatic out. I disliked the prolonged effort of running the mile in junior high and high school. Others beat me routinely. My junior high P. E. teacher sat on the bleachers while we ran. I distinctly remember how much we all disliked her for that. I felt out of shape and lacking in the athletic gift department. A homeroom full of jocks in eighth grade helped little. In the end, I internalized these negative thoughts and believed the lie that athletic endeavors aside from recreational softball weren’t for me.

Then steps in the achiever in me. I often obsess over goals, anything from reading a certain number of books in a year to completing 26 races before my 26th birthday. I started running because of the thought of adding the tantalizing title of “half-marathoner” to my list of accomplishments. Many times over my first few years running, doubts dogged me through every single run, especially those leading up to my first half and full marathons. I wrestled with doubt throughout the races until I crossed the finish line. Why did I keep going then? Pure stubbornness, pigheadedness. I made a goal and I determined to keep it. When did it switch? When did it become something I do for the love of it rather than an extrinsic and sometimes self0created reward?

This came on gradually, lacking a specific aha! moment. The longer I ran, the more specifically I trained, the fitter I became. My body leaned out, becoming thinner but not lighter. My speed increased which led to a climb up the rankings. I no longer felt out of shape when I ran. I often finished runs feeling exhilarated, thrilled with my effort and hungry for more. Often I felt highest when the run had challenged me the most. I felt the lowest when I gave in to the negative thoughts and cut the run short or walked in a race.

Why running then?

Running suits me. The long minutes and hours stretch out like a canvas primed for the paint of my imagination. Running suits my introvert nature. I can go for a run whenever. I have no need to scrounge up other people to form a team. I tasted success much more quickly with running than with sports that required much more upfront investment.

Where do these thoughts of being ready to finish come from then? I have thought them from the moment I started running; I love a good countdown. These thoughts stick around because running still challenges me. I push to the uncomfortable point, expecting the due reward at the finish. The thoughts come from the struggle. The payoff comes with the finish line.

That is why I continue to run marathons and chase my Boston dreams. I hurt like no other time than in the throws of the marathon, all of the miles that come after mile 19 yet I push forward because that marathon finish line bestows a high like no other. Even when my time expectations got the better of me, I cross that line and smile form ear to ear.

This past Sunday reminded me of both the struggle and the victory as I watched Shalane Flanagan pull away from three time NYC Marathon champion, Mary Keitany and end her professional career, likely, with her first world marathon championship, the one thing lacking form her stunning pedigree. I watched her run, her stride strong and steady and wanted to get out there. I thought about her dedication to her training and wanted to step up my own efforts. I watched my all time favorite athlete, Meb Keflezighi give absolutely everything he had in his final competitive marathon, his 26th at age 42, and collapse at the finish line, utterly spent. That feeling surpasses all others for me, that feeling that comes after leaving everything on the course. Then I watched a little of the footage of some of the 50,000 other runners there that day, all running the marathon and thought back to the amazing sensation of camaraderie I felt in Chicago last month.

All these words still do not come close to an accurate picture of the runner’s high, the thing that keeps me running even when I start a count down. I run for love of the run, for all the reasons I delineated and the intangible ones that elude my tenuous grasp on the English language.

Spinx Run Fest Half Marathon 2017 – Race Recap

Race #136
Half Marathon #43
South Carolina Half Marathon #31
2017 Race #18
2017 Half Marathon #8
Spinx Run Fest Half Marathon #4

I almost forgot about this race. After Chicago, my mindset shifted first to recovery and then to building up for a 5k PR training cycle. (I’m finally devoting an entire training cycle to a 5k!) It’s a good thing I already registered for this and that Mom texted me earlier in the week asking me to remind her which races I had registered her for.

I was on my own for this one. Mom had a marriage conference at church so she couldn’t run with me. I made no distinct plans. My half marathons coming on the heels of marathons usually do not include anything close to speed. Although, usually I am the glutton for punishment who decides to run one two weeks after a marathon. This time around I waited an extra week.

Dad was going to come watch me at the finish but forgot to write it on his calendar. I totally get that. I have to write things on sticky notes or to do lists and still forget half the time.

Instead of writing a detailed recap I will simply leave a summary. I knew while I was running that I would likely not have enough to write a detailed post. I simply settled into an easy pace, at least it actually felt pretty easy and zoned out, in a good way.

My paces were as follows

I continue to love this race distance; yes, I am half crazy.

After the Chicago Marathon – Review, Tips and Lessons Learned

An introspective person by nature, I spend copious amounts of time after a race (or pretty much anything for that matter) reviewing and reflecting upon my performance.

After my tenth marathon, with a time that met my C goal but nothing more, I have plenty to reflect upon and learn from regardless of how pleased I am with my time and my performance given the conditions.

First off, the review.

For this race, I am adding a tips section. The night before the marathon I searched fruitlessly for concrete, applicable tips on arrival, even reaching out to a marathon Facebook group I participate in and came up with nothing, even concerning anything related to the race.

Race Review

Registration and Packet Pick Up
Registration – Chicago has two different methods for entry: time qualifier and lottery entrant. Unlike Boston, times for qualifying marathons last for three years. Thus, this year constituted the last year I could use my Rome Marathon time. Registration for time qualifiers and lottery entries ends much sooner than expected. About the time I was about to start training for Chicago, Mom mentioned that she might like to run this with me. Unfortunately, lottery entry had long since closed. If you want to run Chicago, you must decide way in advance.

Packet Pick-Up – Some people really love expos. I like looking around, being with all these other running focused people. Seriously, 40k people running a marathon all getting together? Best. Ever. As far as buying stuff? That’s not my focus, as the many posts on frugality and minimalism would best explain. I did not mind attending the expo only a couple hours before closing. We did not have to deal with long lines plus, Paula Radcliffe just so happened to be on the Runner’s World stage when we walked by. *Cue major running nerd geek out moment*
Chicago really does have the packet pick up down to a fine-tuned, efficient science which is a must for the second largest marathon in the world.

Race Shirt
I really like the clean and simple design. When I first picked up the shirt I wondered if I had made a mistake in choosing the small. Most times that is the perfect size. Occasionally the smalls run too short. Thankfully, this one fits just right. I will likely use it as a cross-training shirt since I am not a fan of high-neck shirts on runs.

Pre-race amenities
I will cover a lot of this in the tips section below.

Course and course support
As I mentioned in my recap, at times I wondered if I should just turn my music off since I couldn’t hear it over the crowd support. I love having this problem. According to an article I read afterwards, somewhere around a million people lined the course to cheer on the runners. (See the tips section for more.) This course has quite a few turns but lacks hills of any significance. Even the rollers a few people around me noticed, I hardly noticed since they pale in comparison to the hills we have in South Carolina. The Marathon’s over 12k volunteers handily manned water stops and served as course monitors having been well trained. I never once had an aid station issue. Plus, the course has 20 aid stations, nearly one every mile.

Finish line and Post Race Amenities
I tend to head straight home after a race or at least straight to the nearest milkshake and coffee purveyors. Nothing about that changed. I wandered through the post-race area, the one accessible to only runners and volunteers and picked up necessary accoutrements along the way from my medal to a bag of food. I also witnessed many caring and efficient medical volunteers checking on any person who sat down in that area. You had to keep moving.
Unlike in DC for the Marine Corps Marathon – which, granted, ran mere months after Boston 2013 – Mom had no trouble finding the Runner Reunite area and me. The tall polls with the letters were positioned just after the entrance and security check making them highly visible.

Photography
Marathonfoto provides official photography for the race. They have a strong enough reputation that I do not need to review their services.

Results
Results can be found immediately online or via the app. Unlike past experiences with race apps, this one worked like a charm for Mom. She could easily track my location and has plenty of screenshots to prove it.

Tips Section

1. The official recommendation is to arrive two hours prior to your particular wave start. You do not need to arrive that early. I understand why they give that recommendation. Despite those instructions, too many people wait until the last possible second to access their gate and corral causing enormous congestion. In race this size, they will not delay the start for you. However, even an hour and a half before the start, I breezed through security and the portopotty lines which meant that I ended up spending half an hour sitting on a bench shivering until close enough to the start I actually headed into the corral.

2. If you possibly can, avoid having to use gear check and arrive one hour before, not two.

3. Use the portopotty section in the area before entering the corrals. I was able to cycle through this line, with plenty of time in between, twice. I attempted one last time in the corral but that line moved so slowly I ended up abandoning the attempt.

4. Bring throwaway gear for the time that you wait before the sun comes up. You will have to wait a little. Bring a trash bag or a heat sheet form a previous race or something like that to stay warm and save the energy that you would otherwise waste on shivering.

5. If you absolutely must have music, use at least one headphone. I have stopped using headphones and instead run with the music playing from my phone. Those little speakers have nothing on Chicago crowd support. Only a few sections lack complete crowd cover so a little silence might be welcome.

6. Wear your name somewhere. I did this for the first time during this race and loved it! It never ceased to bring a smile to my face.

7. Start taking water or Gatorade at the first aid station. Despite the October date, Chicago has a reputation for some really draining heat. Take hydration at every station. Your body will thank you.

As I think of other tips, I will add to this section.

Lastly, the reflection bit…

As I mentioned in my retrospective, my training has not approached the rigor I would have hoped. Several things seemed to get in the way. Instead of waxing eloquent, I will stick with simple bullet points, boil it down, so to speak.

  • I do not run well in the heat, no matter how “acclimated” I am.
  • My best performances have come under one of the following circumstances: cooler weather, spring date, with a coach’s help or all of the above. (See Rome for proof.)
  • My best two times have come while working with Matt as my coach. I think I have reached the limit of how fast I can push myself when I am the one designing my training plan.
  • My base mileage for this training cycle hovered too low. I think I would have been able to make it a little farther in those later miles even with the heat but only one other time this training cycle has my mileage reached 40 mpw.
  • Tiered goals and letting go of goals makes the overall race experience far more enjoyable.
  • I need to rebuild my mental toughness. It’s been a while since I really pushed myself out of my running comfort zone. That’s what it’s going to take to get that BQ.

Marathon Retrospective

This coming Sunday, I will run my tenth marathon, a milestone deserving some reflection.

When I tell people about my upcoming milestone marathon, they speculate that I must have been running for a while. In some respects, I have dedicated quite a bit of time to running. In other respects, I have called myself a marathoner for only the past six of my thirty-two years.

This journey began back in 2009 when I set foot in a gym for the first time. A casual comment introduced me to Spinx Run Fest, the site of my first half marathon and full marathon. I decided to run the half marathon in 2010, doubting that I could actually complete the distance. this doubt persisted even after I finally registered three weeks before race day. In the middle of that race as my mind wandered through the miles, I realized that the following October, I would be 26.2 years old. That thought planted a seed that took root in fertile ground. The roots dug deep.

I registered for that first marathon the first hour of registration. I stumbled through the training, making my fair share of rookie mistakes. However, I crossed that finish line and became a marathoner, finishing less than a tenth of a second under five hours. I knew when I finished that one was not enough.

I thought that marathon #2 would come the next November after I took advantage of an 11/11/11 sale and registered for the Savannah Rock n Roll Marathon. Instead, after reading someone else’s musings about being thought crazy for running two marathons in a year, I decided to up the ante at one of my May half marathons and go the full distance. Marathon #2 in New River taught me that this marathon thing might just be right up my alley. Even with a last minute training plan chance to bump up the mileage, I shaved twenty-four minutes off my first marathon time.

Marathon #3 taught me the power of mantras and the importance of hydration. Even in approaching winter, Savannah maintains humidity. My mantra for that race was “I feel good. I feel great. I feel wonderful.” (Bonus points if you can name that move.) That marathon still bears the distinction of being the only marathon I have ever run completely without music. At the time, I planned to run a trail 50k a couple months later.

Then came marathon #4, San Francisco. After running first the first half marathon and then the second half marathon, I had to run the full. Not only that but I also made the audacious goal of making San Francisco my first sub 4 hour marathon. I met that goal even though the odds seemed to stretch out of my favor in the last 10k. I also lost my first toenail. (It’s also the only toenail I have ever lost.)

I ran my first really big marathon for #5 that fall when I ran the Marine Corp Marathon. I had big, in retrospect too big, goals of qualifying for Boston. Instead, the beginnings of what, so far, has been my only injury a mere week before the marathon cropped up and grabbed my attention. I learned how to deal with unexpected curveballs with humility as I crossed the finish line with a nearly identical time as San Francisco three months before.

I took time to regroup and put off my next marathon, #6, until the fall of 2014. I got a coach, a new type of training plan and headed to the Twin Cities to a marathon that is still one of my favorites. I learned that I had improved as much as I could on my own; it was now time to reach for more experienced help. That extra help paid off. I shaved off another ten minutes.

Marathon #7 took me across the Atlantic to the Eternal City. I started under the shadow of the Colosseum, ran across cobblestones slick with a light drizzle, smelled the “stinky man from Bologna,” marveled at the splendid opulence as I ran through St. Peter’s Square and finished back where I started with a time that still today is my PR. That marathon taught me that I could do this. I came so close to that ever elusive BQ with marathon #7. I giddily registered for Chicago and continued to push forward. I ended up with a distal hamstring strain. Although I trained smart, I had underlying structural issues that finally came to a head. Chicago 2015 was not to be.

Once I, with a lot of help, started figuring things out and rebuilding, I wanted redemption. Marathon #8 taught me that I could still do this. I enjoyed Tobacco Road even though for the first time on my marathon journey, I went “backwards,” time-wise.

Marathon #9 took a lot longer coming due to major life changes that started the week before Tobacco Road. I wanted to run another marathon in 2016 but I knew that I wanted to make my return to the classroom my priority so instead I trained for and ran the Hilton Head Island Marathon with Mom. Marathon #9 taught me that tackling this sort of training with someone else often exceeds expectations of marathon running enjoyment. I learned that putting my goals aside for the sake of someone else brings much greater rewards.

Even though I have yet to run marathon #10, I have already learned a lot. I have become a smarter runner. I have learned to adjust to ridiculous weather and a lack of AC at work after 3:15 – the district turns off A/C at that time in all the school buildings to save money – and the subsequent exhaustion. I have learned that rebuilding takes time, especially rebuilding the right way. I have learned to hold loosely to my goals so that a slower than expected time doesn’t completely crush me.

Here’s to marathon #10 and to the ten that follow!

Race 13.1 Charlotte 2017 – Race Recap

Race #134
Half Marathon #42
North Carolina Half Marathon #7
2017 Race #17
2017 Half Marathon #7
Race 13.1 Charlotte Half Marathon #1

I had no intention of running another half marathon two weeks out from Chicago. Then I registered for 13.1 Greenville and got sucked in with the offer of additional bling. If I ran both Greenville and Charlotte, I would complete the “I-85 Challenge” and earn an additional medal. I am a sucker for half marathons, especially with extra bling.

Originally Mom was going to go up with me but I forgot to mention that unlike the race two weeks ago, this race took place on Sunday, not Saturday. She had a meeting at church which she had to attend. I almost said “forget about it. I’ll just run in Greenville on Saturday.” I wasn’t super keen on driving up to Charlotte and racing on my own. However, I decided to go ahead and go.

Emily, Ellis’ oldest daughter, lives in Fort Mill, only 20 minutes from the race start. She graciously opened her house to me so that I could drive up Saturday night.

After a good night’s sleep, I headed over to the start, ready to run.

Unlike two weeks ago, I had no specific plan for this race. I thought about trying to maintain an 8:30 pace (my new marathon goal pace) rather than an 8:00 pace. When I checked to see which pace groups would be available, I decided to just run by effort instead of trying to stick to a specific pace. I have found that when I am in charge of making myself run a certain pace, I check my Garmin far too often which makes it much tougher mentally.

Although I started a little further back than I would have liked, congestion was not a problem.

We started on time and headed out on the course. Since I did not have a specific goal other than a vague sense of running at an 8:30 pace, I did not take the time to look at the course ahead of time. I assumed that it would be a straight out and back like Greenville two weeks ago.

A few rolling hills populated the first few miles, nothing too terrible.

Mile 1: 8:15
Mile 2: 8:02

Somewhere in the third mile we entered the trail. This race had just about every possible type of surface. On the trail we had boardwalk, pavement, cement, and hard-packed gravel/dirt at various points. I liked the switch up of surfaces. Plus, the trail section was absolutely gorgeous. So pretty.

Mile 3: 8:20
Mile 4: 8:24
Mile 5: 8:22

A little after we finished the fifth mile, we exited the trail and headed back out onto the road, mainly through various neighborhoods. I had just started to wonder if maybe the course wasn’t a straight out and back because I hadn’t seen any signs for the mile markers that we would pass coming back.

We exited the trail onto a terrible hill. Absolutely terrible. I knew it was going to suck. I told myself to slow down, to let it suck and then be over with. The problem with that? The hill felt like it lasted forever. I ended up walking a little as I approached the summit but only because my legs had just about had it.

As soon as I arrived at the summit, I started running again and never looked back, figuratively speaking.

I felt a little mentally exhausted in those early miles, like I wanted to go back to sleep. (Well, I actually did want to go back to sleep….) Sometime after that hill in mile 6, I forgot about the need for sleep (until time to write this post, of course).

Mile 6: 8:56 (Stayed under 9!)

The rest of the half felt really good. I settled in to what turned out to be an average 8:20ish pace and felt strong. The scenery continued to be beautiful, even the neighborhood portions. My body forgot the earlier exhaustion and instead remembered all the training I have put in.

When the turn around came a couple miles later than the half way point, my earlier suspicions of a quasi-loop, quasi-out and back course were confirmed. As the runners started coming back, I counted the women to figure out my standings. At the turn around I was the 34th woman. I decided to make a goal of finishing at least in the top 3p women.

Mile 7: 8:40d
Mile 8: 8:15
Mile 9: 8:33

I still felt good and now found myself on the homestretch. After we passed mile marker 11 and had only 2 miles remaining, I decided to see how many people I could “pick off” aka pass before I got to the finish line.

I also breathed a sigh of relief when I realized that we would not have to tackle that monster hill again.

As I came through the final miles I felt strong. My legs felt prepared to run this pace, a pace that if I could translate it to the marathon would put me coming in roughly around my PR. Wow. I am so happy to be back at this level, potentially. It’s been a long road back (which I’ll save for a later post.)

When we made the final turn for the finish line, I still had gas in my tank and a guy just a little bit ahead of me. Why not? I poured on a full-fledged sprint and beat him to the line!

Mile 10: 8:34
Mile 11: 8:17
Mile 12: 8:22
Mile 13: 8:13
.19: 6:57
Final time: 1:50:32

I am absolutely thrilled with this time and extremely glad that I decided to go ahead and race. Much needed Chicago confidence boost.

Race Review

Registration and Packet Pick Up
Race day packet pick up went off without a hitch! Everything was well laid out, just like Greenville.

Race Shirt
This shirt looks just as awesome as the one from Greenville. This one does not have “FINISHER” on the front. I look forward to adding it to my collection.

Prerace/morning (evening) amenities
The start/finish location, although in a parking lot, was decked out by the race organizers complete with a DJ and customer support tent. (This was the same as Greenville.)

Course and course support
I really enjoyed this course. Race 13.1 had plenty of monitors and police out making sure runners went the right way. The only tricky section came near the turn around when we went acros a bridge that was barely wide enough for two runners. This wouldn’t be a problem for most of the course but this bridge was in the out and back portion with runners going both directions.

Finish line and Post Race Amenities
The start and finish line were well stocked with the DJ still going strong. All sorts of things were available from water to fruit snacks to Papa John’s pizza. Now, I like pizza just as much as the next person but I do not understand the appeal of room temperature pizza at 9 in the morning. I am an odd duck though. (This is the same as Greenville.)

Photography
Official photography should be available within a few days. (Same as Greenville)

Results
You could not escape from this race without knowing your results. Not only do they text you but they have an instant results tent where you can look up your bib number and print out your results including age group breakdown. It also updates nearly immediately. (Same as Greenville)

Race 13.1 Greenville Race Recap

Race #133
Half Marathon #41
South Carolina Half Marathon #30
2017 Race #16
2017 Half Marathon #6
Race 13.1 Greenville Half Marathon #1

I went into this race with the goal of making this a test race for Chicago training. At almost exactly a month out, this race fit perfectly into the schedule. Of course, I also want to run all the half marathons and having this new race in my “backyard” means that I would be here to run this regardless.

Mom and I pulled into University Ridge at 6:30. This turned out to be exactly the right amount of time. From the moment we walked up to the start area I was impressed. The organizers had everything set up with very little confusion possible. The time passed by speedily thanks to an excellent DJ and a quick moving portopotty line. There were a few people that tried to bypass the line and come around the other side, right as I was about to walk up to a recently emptied one. One guy even opened a door where a person still sat inside. I told him, “there’s a really long line dude.” He looked up, saw the line and said, “Oops.” I just shook my head.

When Mom asked me when I expected to finish, I hedged and told her, “definitely under two hours, maybe under 1:50.” I did not tell her that I planned to find the 1:45 pacer and stick on him like glue for as long as I possibly could. I had no idea how long I would be able to stay with him, which is why I hedged.

Race 13.1 Greenville 2017

Right on time, 7am, we were off. We headed down the hill from University Ridge into the Park and onto the Swamp Rabbit Trail. I knew that hill would suck big time at the end of the race when we had to come back up.

Race 13.1 Greenville 2017

That first mile felt like a cluster. I tried to stay with the pacer but so many people jostled back and forth, somehow unable to find their pace. One guy who had been running a couple steps ahead of me for a few tenths of a mile suddenly looked to his left, saw a gap and took off like a gazelle leaping to the left around the pacer between a couple other people and off in front of them. It looked like he was the ball in a pinball machine.

After that first mile we settled in and headed down the Swamp Rabbit Trail towards the Zoo. This meant that we would go through the section that has been closed for construction for months. I used to hate that janky bridge that crossed the river down there. The bridge consisted of metal grates that bounced as you ran over them. Several other times that I have run through that section I have slowed to a cautious jog over that bridge. The janky bridge survives no longer. Wow Greenville. This section looks so impressive and they aren’t done yet! It will be beautiful and there will be bathrooms on the trail! That’s something the downtown section of the Swamp Rabbit has lacked for a while.

We reached the turn around for the first section around mile 1.5. The gradual uphill began here. The only thing I kept telling myself was to keep with the pacer. Keep with the pacer.

If I want to BQ at San Francisco next year, I need to incorporate serious hill work in my training, especially with regards to mental toughness. Greenville hills have nothing compared to San Francisco.

That was when I first started entertaining thoughts about dropping back from the pacer.

We had already started some conversations though which kept me connected. The pacer asked if we had any first timers or veterans. I said that I was running my 41st. The pacer reached back with the 1:$5 sign and joked, “here, you should take this.”

David, the pacer, told us that he ran even splits and he was true to his word. All of my splits when I ran with him *spoiler alert* were within 7 seconds of each other.

Mile 1: 7:56
Mile 2: 8:00
Mile 3: 7:57

Once we turned onto the portion of the Swamp Rabbit that headed towards Furman the incline started to level out and I got my legs back under me. The next several miles felt like a honeymoon portion. I felt fairly good even though my legs started to protest, gently. I ignored my watch and let David do the thinking.

We talked off and on throughout these miles which I enjoyed. The miles passed fairly quickly although as we approached the turnaround, not quickly enough.

Mile 4: 7:55
Mile 5: 7:55
Mile 6: 8:01
Mile 7: 8:04

We all felt like we lost a little momentum on the tight turn around just before mile 7. This is also where I started wondering just how many miles I would be able to stay with the pacer. I kept telling myself, “get to mile 8. Get to mile 9. Get to mile 10.”

Then came the hills just beyond the Swamp Rabbit Cafe. In the grand scheme of things these hills are barely inclines. When pushing for a pace that’s faster than normal in the back half of a half marathon, these hills can prove to be mountains.

I stuck with the pacer up these hills but my legs held onto the increased effort feeling tight and heavy. I just couldn’t shake it. I had come this far. A little more than 2 miles remained until the end of the race. My legs did not want any of the encouraging words David offered at that time. They clung steadfastly to the pain of the hills and would not let go.

Mile 8: 7:59
Mile 9 7:56
Mile 10 7:59
Mile 11: 7:56

When I passed the Mile 11 marker, I dropped to a walk and dropped away from the pacer.

The last two miles could best be described as a “struggle fest.” I do not regret it at all. I knew I had chosen an ambitious pace. By holding on as long as I had, I had almost guaranteed a sub-50 time.

I ended up walking again at 11.5 but then told myself to power through until the end, only 1.5 miles left. I could do this.

Then came the hill I dreaded from the moment I saw that the race started and finished in the parking lot at University Ridge. This is the hill I knew as we ran down in mile one would challenge me right up until the finish line.

When you reach this hill, all you have left of the race is a little over a quarter mile yet I had to walk again.

Once I made it out of the park I picked it up again. With the finish line now in sight, I could do this. I pushed as hard as I had left and crossed the line meeting my secondary goal, sub 1:50.

Mile 12: 8:22
Mile 13: 8:49
.2 nubbin 9:43
Overall Time: 1:46:47

Results Race13.1 Greenville 2017
I like those numbers!!

I really, really, really enjoyed this race. I hope they keep coming back to Greenville.

Race Review

Registration and Packet Pick Up
While I do not remember much about the actual registration, packet pick up went off without a hitch. I loved the location in Union Square, much easier to find than the location from 2012. I don’t even remember where that was. Oops! That was from a different race.

Race Shirt
I haven’t put the shirt on but I love the bright yellow and the technical fabric. My only complaint was with all the people wearing the shirt before the race started. The shirt has the word “FINISHER” in giant letters on the front. Clearly people, you have yet to finish the race. Yes, I am just a bit OCD.

Prerace/morning (evening) amenities
The start/finish location, although in a parking lot, was decked out by the race organizers complete with a DJ and customer support tent.

Course
The ending hill nearly kills you although not as much as the one in the last .2 of the Marine Corps Marathon. Other than that, the Swamp Rabbit Trail provides a nice flat-ish course with a few rollers just challenging enough. Greenville runners certainly are spoiled to have the Swamp Rabbit Trail in our backyard.

Course Support
Race13.1 had plenty of pacers, which I obviously took advantage of. The out and back format of the race with plenty of runners provided a cheering squad of runners. It’s so cool to be able to cheer on people both in front and behind me. The water stops were well stocked with volunteers doing a great job.

Finish line and Post Race Amenities
The start and finish line were well stocked with the DJ still going strong. All sorts of things were available from water to fruit snacks to Papa John’s pizza. Now, I like pizza just as much as the next person but I do not understand the appeal of room temperature pizza at 9 in the morning. I am an odd duck though.

Photography
Official photography should be available within a few days.

Results
You could not escape from this race without knowing your results. Not only do they text you but they have an instant results tent where you can look up your bib number and print out your results including age group breakdown. It also updates nearly immediately.

Julie Valentine Run2Overcome 10k – 2017 Race Recap

Race #132
10k #11
2017 Race #15
2017 10k #2
Julie Valentine Run2Overcome 10k #4

I had absolutely no time goals for this race. The only thing I kept in my mind was a thought about restraining myself because I had nearly 10 miles to run afterwards. Fall marathon training for the win.

Even though I ran a nearly identical time to last year (Mom ran 40 seconds faster than last year!) I think the fourth time around may have been the charm when it comes to this race.

I have run the race enough times to know the course fairly well. (It also helps that they haven’t changed the course at all.) I’m prepared for all of the hills on this course. I have learned my lesson regarding summer heat and humidity. I know better than to aim for a PR or a fast time at this race.

Julie Valentine Run2Overcome 10k 2017
Ellis tried to hid me from the picture by telling Mom to keep moving over until she stood in front of me.

Starting out Mom pushed the pace faster than I probably would have run if I were by myself. Our splits do not show that but that’s what the effort felt like. We kept up fairly even effort even though the pace varied quite a bit due to the hills.

I never felt too winded. Mom never asked to walk. We powered up the hills, including the last one on Cleveland Street that usually takes my breath away. I barely noticed the incline this time.

Ellis stood at his usual spot just before mile 6 to get a few pictures.

Julie Valentine Run2Overcome 10k 2017
Julie Valentine Run2Overcome 10k 2017

We pushed the pace at the end and finished strong.

Mile 1: 8:28
Mile 2: 8:43
Mile 3: 8:40
Mile 4: 8:20
Mile 5: 8:36
Mile 6: 8:10
Last .2: 6:53 (average pace)

After drinking some water and arranging where to meet up, I headed out for another 9.8 miles to make 16 for the day.

Julie Valentine Run2Overcome 10k 2017

Mom and Ellis stayed for the awards. Although it apparently took a while to get started but once the awards were announced Mom collected her award, second in her age group, and mine, 3rd in my age group. I love the awards this year, the Run2Overcome logo with individualized age group place and age group.

Julie Valentine Run2Overcome 10k 2017
Julie Valentine Run2Overcome 10k 2017
These pictures are included per Ellis’ request.

I continue to love this race and plan to run it and support the cause for which it raises money for as long as I can.

San Francisco First Half Marathon 2017 – Race Recap

Race #131
Half Marathon #40
California Half Marathon #4
2017 Race #14
2017 Half Marathon #5
San Francisco First Half Marathon #2
San Francisco Marathon Race #5

Last year during wedding planning for Mom and Ellis we talked about all running the San Francisco Marathon this year. Plans changed; Ellis hasn’t been running and Mom and I decided to run the half marathon instead. Then I learned that this was the 40th running of the marathon and that it just so happened to be my 40th half marathon. I am a huge numbers nerd and also mildly obsessed with the number four. I had to run this race.

After a four year consecutive stretch of coming out for this race, I took a break in 2015 and 2016. My work schedule was not conducive to this race. As low man on the totem pole at the bank, I often did not have the ability or the personal days to take off a Friday and a Monday to come out for the race. I am so glad that my schedule works a lot better for the race now. I will be back.

San Francisco First Half Marathon 2017
That’s me, signing up for next years marathon. That’s right, the full marathon.

Back to this year’s race…

We, after a slightly awkward start, got a Lyft to the start line. After a portopotty stop – I was not about to make the mistake of six years ago and skip that – we headed into the corral. I joined Mom in the third wave. The time I entered as my estimated time put me in wave 2.

San Francisco First Half Marathon 2017
This is right before we entered the wave since Ellis, obviously, couldn’t go with us.

We didn’t have long to wait. A few minutes later we were off!

San Francisco First Half Marathon 2017

I really enjoyed every bit of this race, even the ridiculous hills.

We started off at a fairly good pace and stayed to the left. Pretty soon we settled into a good routine of moving single file to pass people. (That happened a lot in the first few miles.)

The temps were low and the scenery beautiful if a bit foggy. I could tell that we would not have very scenic vistas on the bridge.

We ran our fastest miles in this section which also was the flattest except for one hill in mile 3 which we happened to walk up the day before after picking up our packets. We explored the Fort Mason area. As we explored I recognized the vista and remembered that we ran this way. That hill is no joke. When we ran up, that was the first time I wondered what I was thinking

Mile 1: 8:49
Mile 2: 8:42
Mile 3: 9:05
Mile 4: 8:34
Mile 5: 8:51

After mile 5, the few flat-ish miles ended. We headed up the steep incline leading to the bridge. This one is also no joke.

As we headed over the bridge, I felt a little sorry for anyone running this race for the first time. I remember being in complete awe over the view. (I also took some of my first and only “running selfies” while going across the bridge. Never again) We could see between 50 and 100 feet in front of us. Fog covered the rest. This also made the bridge wet and a bit slick. This ended up making my left shoe and sock a bit wet. Thankfully the organizers blocked off an extra lane so that we had three lanes to work with instead of two. This made the middle lane a “passing lane” and lessened the chance that runners going opposite directions over the bridge would run into each other.

The water stop at the “scenic” overlook also had Gu gels and chomps. I decided to grab one of the packs of Chomps even though that meant I had to back track a few steps because the volunteer, a kid, didn’t have long enough arms. πŸ™‚ (Of course, I’m not actually critiquing the kid. I thought it was pretty cool that he was out there volunteering.)

We made the turn around quickly. Before the race I had thought about stopping here and taking a selfie with Mom but the fog prevented that. We headed back onto the bridge and back towards San Francisco.

Mile 6: 9:50
Mile 7: 8:53
Mile 8: 9:00
Mile 9: 9:07

After we got off the bridge, Mom wanted to get some fuel but her hands were numb. On the Marin County side of the bridge there was a small section of the bridge where the wind blew quite freely making it just a bit chilly. We walked for a brief section while I got the chew out of the pack for her. Soon after that we started running again.

Mile 10: 9:03

The hills start in earnest during the last 5k. Up and down and up and down and up and down some more.

Also during this section comes a portion where they do traffic diversions. I don’t understand it completely but I think they alternate a certain section of the course so that vehicle traffic isn’t impaired significantly. That means that every so often runners are shifted to an alternate portion of the course. Obviously, I have run through these sections before. I’ve just never been the first runner to have to turn onto the new section. It’s just a bit unnerving to turn off from running with several hundred other people to seeing no one in front of you. The volunteer who directed us to the alternate section kept shouting “It’s the same race. I promise!”

The mile from 11.5 to 12.5 … wow … killer, mainly because of the frequent and significant rollers.

Finally we rejoined the course just outside Golden Gate Park. We knew the end was near. We made the turn into the park. Only half a mile to go. After looking at the video Ellis took of us with less than a tenth to go, I know that I need to work on my form, especially at the finish. I make conscious effort to maintain proper form at the beginning but then the thought usually fades after a few or several miles.

A few minutes later and we made the left turn, splitting from the marathoners. Just before the finish shoot Ellis stood, positioned to get some great shots of us coming in to the finish.

San Francisco First Half Marathon 2017
San Francisco First Half Marathon 2017

With mere feet to go, I started to sprint and pulled away from Mom. Other than that we were pretty much side by side the entire race!

Mile 11: 9:17
Mile 12: 9:12
Mile 13: 9:28
last .28: 7:19

I finished in 1:59:51.
Mom finished in 1:59:55.

That’s a whole lot better than the first time I ran this race (2:24:xx).

Race Review

Registration and Packet Pick Up
Registration is painfully easy for this race. The pain comes from the area of your credit card.
Packet pick up is wonderful. I love their expo. The last time I ran this race back in 2014 was the first time that the expo was held in the Fort Mason center. I didn’t like it as much then. I liked the old venue better. I had no such qualms this year.

Race ShirtPrerace/morning (evening) amenities
From our end, everything was well organized with plenty of portopotties available. I have seen on social media that the UPS trucks that served as the gear check vehicles for the full marathon did not arrive on time for the earliest waves which resulted in many people just leaving their gear behind with the workers who still waited on the trucks. Traffic can be an issue in San Fransisco.

Course
This course challenges you right out of the gate with its early start time. (If you run the second half you get to “sleep in” a little.) I absolutely love running over the Golden Gate Bridge, even if the fog completely obscures the vista. The hills are not for the faint of heart either. I love every bit of this course.

Course Support
Each aid station is more than adequately staffed with volunteers. I am not a fan of Nuun at all. I do not like the 0 calorie electrolyte beverages. I have also seen other complaints about this on social media. Since water is always available, it doesn’t bother me too much.

Finish line and Post Race Amenities
Plenty of food awaits at the finish line. The first thing you get is a bottle of water. Then you walk a little ways to receive the medal. This was genius. Instead of having everyone come to a complete stop shortly after the finish line and cause a bottle neck, there is plenty of space.
They also have a special challenge tent where I picked up my 40 for 40 medal. I love all the special extra medals and challenges that the SF Marathon participates in. To qualify for this challenge, you had to have run a 2017 race that when combined with another SF Marathon race that you have run in the past five years equals 40 or more. For most people, that meant a marathon and a half marathon which is how I qualified.
I am not a particular fan of Muscle Milk though and its artificial flavoring.

Photography
Photography is available. As of this recap, it has not been posted yet.

Results
This took several hours for the race to post. When they were available, however, the race sent an email with a link where you could search up your results. My results are not correct. I had to submit a correction request since my gun time and chip time were mysteriously the same and had me starting 13 minutes before

Red, White, and Blue Shoes 5k 2017 – Race Recap

Race #130
5k #47
2017 Race #14
2017 5k #4
Red, White, and Blue Shoes 5k #7

I keep coming away from this race a bit disappointed. Given the weather and my prior training though, I have nothing to be disappointed in. Still, when my time at this race has gotten slower each year since my PR… There’s always next time.

Optimistically I planned to run around a 7 minute pace. I knew that was probably unrealistic but I still wanted to shoot for it. Obviously, I should try to be a bit more realistic. That quick early pace set up rather perfect positive splits.

When we arrived we jogged over to Paladin Stadium to pick up our bibs. That was a bit of a mess. Everyone there was supremely helpful though. Long story short, we got bibs. However, a little research after the race showed that I actually forgot to register us this year! The lady helping must have found last year’s information. I have already reached out to the race organizers and asked how I can pay for the registration. Hopefully I will be able to clear that up.

I got in the mile warm up by jogging up to the start line and then around the little loop in front of the Cherrydale Mansion. (I realized when I got home that I forgot to get in the mile cool down afterwards. Oops.)

Red, White, and Blue Shoes 5k 2017

We made our way to the start. I mentioned my goal pace to Mom. She told me to go ahead and run by myself.

A minute or so later and we were off, on time!

Red, White, and Blue Shoes 5k 2017

Since I had worked up fairly close to the starting line, I made my way through the congestion fairly quickly. Immediately I could feel the heat and humidity. This drains me more than just about anything else. I think it would be fantastic if they could move up the start time to at least 7:30 or 7:00. It is South Carolina in July, after all.

At some points during the first mile I was almost at my goal pace. A couple hills interfered and slowed my pace for the mile. I knew that the first mile would be my fastest of the race.

Mile 1: 7:23

The remaining two miles felt like they stretched out forever in front of me. I had no idea if I would be able to keep up this pace for the next two miles. *Spoiler alert: I did not.* I was already drenched in sweat and wishing for my water bottle. I never carry one on a 5k. I gave myself permission to slow to a walk and grab water at the water stop, also something I never do on a 5k.

The water reenergized me a little but that quickly faded. I kept telling myself, one more step, one more step. I could feel my pace dropping but I switched my Garmin over to the heart rate screen for the middle mile, yet another thing that I never do in a 5k.

Mile 2: 7:38

I could hardly wait for this last mile to be over. I had to go up the hill behind McCallister though. I hate that hill, especially in this race. It’s just steep enough to cut out all the momentum but not steep enough to make you feel like you’ve conquered anything.

My muscles tightened as I went up that hill. After I crested the top, I kept waiting for my muscles to release, feel the relief. It didn’t come. I told them to release but they wouldn’t. I ended up walking again, yet another thing that I never do in a 5k.

While that did the trick, it felt like a terrible slog to the end. I was determined to get it done though.

I managed to get up the hill right by the stadium and make the second to last turn. Everyone urges you to finish strong. Everything in you wants to sprint right there. This time, though? I did not feel like sprinting. I just wanted to be done.

I did increase my speed a little after I turned into the stadium and made it across that finish line which could not come soon enough.

Red, White, and Blue Shoes 5k 2017

Mile 3: 7:57
.05 nubbin 5:59
Overall: 23:13

Mom came in about a minute later at 24:40. Ironically, this is 9 seconds faster than last year where she placed in the Grand Masters Female but this year she barely snagged 5th place in her age groups. A lot of speedsters showed up this year!

Red, White, and Blue Shoes 5k 2017

While this may have been only of my most poorly executed 5ks, I am still pleased with my performance and the race overall.

Red, White, and Blue Shoes 5k 2017

Also…no race review today. I’ve run this race 6 times before. πŸ™‚