Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Race Recap: Fox Cities Half Marathon

This past Sunday, I completed my 20th half marathon at the Fox Cities Marathon (Appleton, WI), wrapping up a 4-in-4 series (4 half marathons in 4 weeks). The weather was amazingly perfect and I thoroughly enjoyed the run. I wanted a strong, pain-free run that was preferably faster than Wichita's 2:05 - that was my goal.

As you know, I've been battling a mild case of PF (plantar fasciitis). For the most part, it's minor discomfort that is more nagging than painful. However, I've been nursing it with massage, rest and ice to nip it in the bud. I ran very very little last week before the race (once!). I entered race day feeling unbelievably rested with a great desire to run.
Pre-race meetup with some Wisconsin bloggers and friends. They all went 26.2!
Note - the great $2 throwaway (blue shirt) that I scored off the Target clearance rack. It was so comfy that I hated to toss it! 
The start was quick with very little congestion. It was cold (38˚), but the sun came over the horizon in full force, making the early miles difficult to see. My sunglasses went on early and I kept my eyes down on the road. Once running, I warmed up quickly and tossed my shirt before we even hit the first mile marker. Underneath, I had arm sleeves with my tank top, which proved to be the perfect race attire.

I tried to hold myself back in the early miles. My legs were so fresh from a light week that they just wanted to take off! I concentrated on my breathing, trying to stay in an easy zone. If I can keep the first 3 miles at a (perceived) comfortable pace, it's a good indication what pace I should shoot for during the rest of the race. I was easily hitting low-9's and it gave me early hope of a possible sub-2.
Mile 1 - 9:03
Mile 2 - 9:11
Mile 3 - 8:59

I like the early part of this course, winding through nice neighborhoods. For a race this size, I think the crowd support is really good.... lots of families and a ton of signs.  In the next couple miles, the two-hour pace group clipped at my heels. It's always a huge group, especially in the first half of a race. I try to distance myself from the pace groups because it's so congested. The past few races however, we've tangled a lot. Because they run as a pack, it's easy to get trapped... and frustrated. The pace group would slow/stop at water stops and I'd pass. A mile later, I'd hear them gaining behind me once again. This went on for the bulk of miles 3-6.
Mile 4 - 9:11
Mile 5 - 9:10
Mile 6 - 9:17

Right about mile 6, we turn onto Plank Road. It's a long stretch that is necessary to get us from Appleton into the Neenah/Menasha area. There were more spectators this year than I remember from 2010, but it's still a flat-out boring stretch. Unfortunately, it's also the mileage that I start to get tired. The run becomes work - with very little distractions.  I walked at the mile 8 marker to take a GU gel, wash it down with water and remove my arm sleeves. Once I stopped, my legs thought we were done. I just couldn't get my rhythm back, and any notion of a sub-2 slipped away pretty quick.
Mile 7 - 9:09
Mile 8 - 9:44
Mile 9 - 9:40

We ran through Menasha's Jefferson Park and got our first glimpse of pretty Lake Winnebago. The sun glimmered on the water and I found it so peaceful. Too peaceful in fact -  my pace dropped into the 10's for my slowest mile of the race. Shortly after mile 10, we crossed over bridge #1 onto Doty Island. I swear the route changed here from several years ago, but I was quickly distracted by a women offering oranges up ahead. Sweet YES! My #1 craving while I run! At this point, I became focused on just looking for the next mile marker... "looking for 11" I'd repeat in my head. I was now grabbing water thru each aid station, but drinking on the run. I knew if I stopped to walk again, it'd be difficult to restart.
Mile 10 - 10:10
Mile 11 - 10:00

Before I knew it, we were crossing over bridge #2 into Neenah. I stopped at the top to take a photo. Across the water was the park that held my finish line.
Yes, I'm one of those runners who take pictures in race. Sue me. There's been a lot of b*tching about it lately with the recent news from the Hong Kong Marathon... I even heard people talking about it in today's race.  I step off the course and never interfere with other runners when I snap photos. The only thing it hurts is my race time... so don't judge.

The final stretch of the Fox Cities Marathon is my favorite part of the race. We turn onto Wisconsin Avenue and it seems like the finish is "just ahead", but in actuality, there is a good 1.5 miles to go yet. I tried to hold myself back, but the abundance of spectators and signs in this stretch definitely gave an added pep in the step.

Once we hit the lake, we made a U to the finish. That little U felt like the longest stretch ever. I tried to take in the pretty water views (took more pictures) and focused on just reaching the lighthouse.

Mile 12 - 10:05
Mile 13 - 9:39
Right when the finish line came into sight, my phone beeped with a text. I glanced down to see an encouraging message from my hubby (who was following me via race tracking).
It gave me a good laugh and I picked it up all the way to the finish.

Official Chip Time 2:04:30
average pace 9:30
Overall  #1138 / 2776
Female  # 535 / 1805
Div F35-39  #119 / 389
*Note if you ran this event and received your official time at the results tent, re-check it online. My time seemed a bit 'long' to me; and sure enough, the online results are more accurate with my own watch.
Official Race Splits
5K mark - 28:11 (9:04 pace)
6.9 miles - 1:03:06  (9:08 pace)
11.9 miles - 1:52:49  (9:29 pace)

I didn't stick around long after my finish. First, I got cold almost as immediately as I stopped running. Second, my 93 year old Grandma was watching my kiddos for me. (Bless her!)  I grabbed a turkey sandwich, some cheese and more oranges. I sat down to eat and listen to the band, but wasn't really hungry. I ended up tossing my sandwich and decided to head out.

 As I walked back to my car, retracing part of the race route, I got to see the lead male (full) marathoners coming down the final mile. Even more notable, I watched as slower, larger athletes finished their half marathons. Some were smiling and laughing; some were wincing, struggling to finish. Some walked while other ran. It made my heart glow to see people of all shapes and speeds participating in events like this... and complete strangers cheering them on. No matter what the reason that gets people out here (competition, comradery or health), I think marathons are BLESSINGS for any community. They give me HOPE in people. The Fox Cities is where I grew up, the place I'll always call "home", and I couldn't have been more proud today...


Thursday, September 19, 2013

My 20th Half Marathon

This weekend, I am traveling back to Appleton, WI to run my 20th half marathon. TWENTY!

It's not a new state or even a new event, but I'm still really excited about it. Will there ever be a race I'm not excited for?  The Fox Cities Marathon was home to my 2nd half marathon, back in 2010. It was a special run for me that I remember with uncanny fondness. Since it is Throwback Thursday and I wasn't blogging back in 2010, let me reminisce...

My 2010 Fox Cities Half Marathon
My run three years ago at FCM was the first race that I finished with that "I just killed it" feeling. I trained relentlessly and came to the starting line stoked. It was the only time I was 100% confident of a new PR. (I completely fell apart at the end of my 1st half.)  There was an unexpected drop in temps that week, making race morning perfect in the low 40's. Coincidentally, forecast is calling for the same temps this weekend.

I lined up with the 2:15 pace group (my goal then), but separately quickly.  Instead I latched onto a couple gals who seemed to be having the time of their lives. They were eagerly waving and chatting with spectators. They were hilarious and I found them to be pure entertainment. I quietly became their running shadow. Unfortunately, I slowly lost the endurance to hang with them, and let them go around mile 8. 

I grew up in the Fox Cities area, a graduate of Winneconne High School, but had also worked and lived in Appleton/Neenah/Menasha during my post-college twenty-somethings. The FCM was a run down memory lane for me... I ran past my brother's old house, the gas station I stopped every day for cigarettes, the bar that was always 'one more' on the way home, and the park that I slept in the grass one night. Not the most pleasant of memories or my proudest moments - but a reminder of how much I've changed my life. THAT was my motivation; my drive.

My parents were there with my little kiddos, bouncing around town and cheering me on. (Hubs was deployed.) Looking back at photos, I can't get over how little they were. How did I ever find time to train? Sadly, this year will be different since none of my personal cheerleaders can come.

I remember crossing the last bridge and making the turn onto Wisconsin Ave towards the finish line. The crowds grew big and I got a short-lived second wind. I had no idea of my time (that was my pre-watch days), but was determined to empty the tank for my best time possible. I practically cried during that last mile because I wanted to be done so badly. And then I saw the finish line clock - a 2:09 brought about a whole different set of tears. I had blown away my goal by 6 minutes and PR'd by 24 minutes. I was sore as hell the next day, but walking on Cloud Nine!!

It really was my first taste of relentless determination for a goal. Since then, running has been an absolute constant for me. I may have tough runs, bad races, even injuries, but I never ever quit. To taste such delicious satisfaction again... is 100% worth the effort.

* * *

Sadly, I won't be running a PR (1:56) this year. A PR was my initial goal for a FCM repeat, but I've had a lazy rough summer. I'm not trained properly to even attempt that kind of pace (8:50). At this point, I would be delighted with a sub-2 performance, but even that may be a stretch.  I will shoot to beat the 2:05 I ran last weekend in Wichita and just see how I feel. Whatever happens, this will be a milestone - half marathon #20 for me!!

If you are running FCM, I'd love to meet YOU!  
I am meeting several other bloggers at 6:30am at the Pace Setters tent (start line) on Sunday. Please come join us and say hello!  I'll be sporting my pink Run With Jess tank and black capris. Odds are most likely I'll be wearing an old throw for warmth before the start too!
Iron-On Decal courtesy of RunnerDecals.com

I will have a wrist full of my RUN HAPPY bracelets. 
Come on up and say "Run Happy" to score a free one!

You can also TRACK ME here.
My bib # is 4649.
You know how I love to dissect bib #'s... My conclusion is that 4649 is a good one. First, it's odd, has doubles (4's) and the remaining numbers are multiples of the same number (3). It's just good - trust me.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Race Recap: See Jane Run (Wichita) Half Marathon

This weekend, I made a whirlwind trip to Kansas to knock off state #16 on my journey to Race All 50. I won (another!) free race entry - on Wednesday evening. So Thursday morning I registered for the See Jane Run Half Marathon, and hit the road on Friday to Wichita. Talk about last minute plans!

The drive was long and boring to Wichita. It took me 3 hours to get out of Illinois, another 3 to cross Missouri, and then 3 more to reach Wichita. The final hours were the most interesting because the scenery was new and different. (I like driving to new states to see new lands. I feel like when I fly, the big cities all look relatively the same.) Make no mistake about it, Kansas is flat and wide open spaces... as far as the eye can see across the horizon!  I saw lots of cattle and very little trees. While at first it was interesting, it quickly felt lonely out there. The best part... speed limit 75 mph!
Pretty much my view from Kansas City to Wichita...

I drove straight to packet pickup, which was at a local running store. It was quick and simple, and I was at my hotel in the next 10 minutes. I grabbed a last minute room (with a good military discount) at the Hyatt Regency... fancy-ish hotel, nice room with a beautiful view over the river. I settled in quickly and set out for an evening stroll along the River Walk...
Wow - Wichita has beautiful paths along their riverfront!
The extensive amount of winding river in Wichita is what first attracted me to this event. I'm an absolute sucker for water runs... I love running alongside rivers, oceans, even streams! So when I saw the course for the See Jane Run Half Marathon, I was smitten and knew this would be my Kansas race.

On Saturday's race morning, I made the 2 minute walk down the riverfront to reach the start/finish line. With no problem at all, I found fellow Half Fanatics, Tough Chiks and blog readers. We chatted away until the call to start. There were 500+ runners in the half marathon, which began a 1/2 hour before the 5K. My goal in this race was simply to enjoy myself and take in the scenery of this new state. I wanted a strong run, but wasn't going to push myself. Unlike the past two weeks in St. Paul and Chicago, I had taken two prior rest days so that this long run might be enjoyable. All systems were feeling good and the weather was finally comfortable in the mid-60's.

And off we go!
Never once a moment of "congestion" in this race.

Mile 1 - 9:03
Mile 2 - 9:11
Mile 3 -  9:26
From the starting line, we made our first (of six) bridge crossings. Less than a half mile in, we were already on a paved trail along the Arkansas River and I felt at peace with my pace. I ran comfortable on fresh legs, which I knew probably meant a faster pace than I could hold. I loved the trail we ran - pretty, shaded and great views of the river.

Mile 4 - 9:12
Mile 5 - 9:17
Mile 6 - 9:24
Mile 7 - 9:23
Shortly after mile 3, we turned to cross over and run the other side of the river. Midway through mile 5, we left the river and followed some quiet streets into a large park area. There were a couple gradual climbs back in this area, really the only elevation change I noticed during this race. I was still feeling pretty good, but definitely entering my "working" zone.

Mile 8 - 9:33
Mile 9 - 10:02
Mile 10 - 9:43
In mile 8, we cut through some neighborhoods to get back to the river. I remember starting to feel tired through this stretch. There were a few people out cheering from their front porches, but for the most part, this is a low-spectator event. Runners got spread out, so I focused on keeping the gal in front of me within reach.

There had been water stops consistently for every two miles throughout the race. After I hit the mile 8 marker, I finally stopped to walk and take a GU gel and water. Just when it was starting to feel "sparse" on the course, a huge bunch of runners caught up to me... including fellow Tough Chik Jessica (who went on to PR). Now, we were back on the river for the next couple miles. I remember with great glee seeing that Mile 10 marker... finally double digits! I was really starting to warm up (and sweat!), and thankful for every turn that we caught the cool wind.

Mile 11 - 10:29
Mile 12 - 10:05
I stopped to walk after the mile 10 water stop again. As I went to grab the water from the last volunteer, another runner reached right in front of me and snagged it... so I had to walk backwards to the table to get another. Grrrr, time sucker.

We left the river once again and ran through part of the city, which now seemed alive with more traffic. The course mainly followed sidewalks, which was fine for the most part. Crossroads were worked by volunteers and officers, but you did have to deal with some cars exiting parking lots. So my focus shifted from "how tired I feel" to "watch where you're going".

Mile 13 - 9:54
I always try to give that last mile a little push, but honestly, I didn't have much drive today. We crossed another bridge and I was a little turned around on our location. Finally, as we weaved thru a repeat area from the start, I felt the finish up ahead. I love the surge of passing runners in that final stretch and today, I passed quite a few. I focused on a gal in a pink tank top and gave it my all to pass her before the finish line.

Official Chip Time 2:05:29
average pace 9:34
Overall  #111 out of 525
Div F35-39  #28 out of 104
KANSAS: State #16 in my quest to Race All 50

Again, the size of this event made it super easy to find friends after the race. There was a nice post-race area set up in the adjacent park, where I bumped into practically everyone I knew there. There wasn't much for post race food (pretzels, bagels, bananas), but for the second time this month, I got CHAMPAGNE after the run... and delicious CHOCOLATE!  Mmmmm, two of my favorite things. I hid the chocolates away for my drive home, but happily took a glass of the red moscato champagne to sip on my short walk back to the hotel.

I really liked this race, and would definitely recommend it. The ease of everything (packet pickup, accessibility, hotels, course, start/finish line) is just how I like it.  I'm not a 'big event' kind of runner, so the size and simplicity of this race made it very enjoyable for me... and worth the 9 hour drive there and back!!

The swag was sweet too...
• short sleeve tech shirt (we had the choice of green or red) in a women's cut that actually fit!
• keepsake champagne glass
• finisher's medal on a "shoelace ribbon"... creative, multi-purpose, I like it.
• delicious chocolates from See's Candy... these were so rich and gooooood.
• GU energy gel in our bag (not pictured above)
• Nice big tote bag with a cool saying printed on it... no cheesy sponsor bag (not pictured above)

Thanks Kansas for a great run... 
and to all the friends I met that made it such a fun experience!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Three Things Thursday: FANATIC Edition

I was inducted into the Half Fanatics back on May 21, 2011.  If you're not familiar with HF, it's a couple thousand runners who are in love with the 13.1 distance. It's an online community for support and race planning... and fun people to meet when traveling around at races. We all have a number; I'm Fanatic #1092. Through time, you advance "moons" based on how fanatical you get... I'm currently on moon #4 Jupiter, that I earned by doing my first back-to-back in March (2 half marathons in 2 days).  I just realized that in October, I'll move to Mars by completing 3 half marathons in 3 separate states in 10 days. Well, when put that way, it does sound kind of fanatical.
   Oct 12 - Hartford Half Marathon (CT)
   Oct 13 - Newport Half Marathon (RI)
   Oct 20 - Komen Promise Run Half Marathon (IL)

Earlier this week, Kim and I were discussing 2014 race plans and which states we could potentially run together. It's a science, ya know. In discussing Kansas, Kim brought to my attention the See Jane Run event. I checked out their website and liked what I saw (especially the course along water). So naturally, I connected with them on all the social media outlets to keep in touch. They were having a little contest on Facebook. I entered and... WON!!
Good news... it's a FREE race entry!
Bad news... it's THIS Saturday!
I was a little turmoiled because my fall schedule is already heavy with races. I don't mind the actual running, but all the traveling tires me out. I really want to RUN this course (and color in another state), but dreaded the long drive to Kansas. I was almost scared to bring it up to my hubby, but he was super supportive and said "GO! ...but I'm not driving you."

So I'm feeling a little FANATICAL this morning - but also excited at the last minute travel/race plans. I registered (FREE!) this morning and tomorrow, I leave for Kansas. If only I could click my heels together and skip the car ride...

I've been a Half Fanatic for two years and never knew they had a Facebook group. How is that possible!?!? I found it this morning, thanks to my friend Gigi, and now I feel hooked up with my fanatical family of runners.

Are you a Half Fanatic?   Share your member # below! And by all means, join the FB group if you're not there already...

Ever register spur-of-the-moment for a race?  It's kind of a thrill...

Ever win a free race entry?   How can one pass up a free race... Not me!

Have a FANATIC day!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

My 9-11 Run

My parents' generation will always remember where they were and what they were doing when Kennedy was shot.  For us, it's 9-11.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was just 27 years old,  hadn't even met my husband yet, working for Miller Brewing Company. I was in the middle of an early sales meeting with one of my distributors in Galesburg, IL when the receptionist burst in and yelled, "Turn on the TV!" We sat in shock watching the replays of the first tower crash, and then watched live the hit of the second tower. Like most Americans, I was absolutely stunned to the core. I will never understand the pure evil that resides in this world - many who hide under a "religion". There is no cause worth that amount of innocent destruction. Sometimes, I find myself feeling so naive in my wishful illusions of PEACE amongst countries, communities... shoot, even families.

As always when the world confuses me, I turn to running. I find inner peace and solitude through beating the streets with my sneakers. It helps to lessen the pain and sorrow, if even for an hour. As I remember back on 9-11, the magnitude of it all makes me feel weak, and yet I reach for inner strength as I lace up and hit the road...

Today I ran for Robert Dismas McMahon. Why him? I scrolled the 9-11 Memorial list, wanting to run for an individual rather than the masses. I scrolled to the spot in the list where my last name would be and there was Robert. So I ran to honor him today. I found myself wondering more about his life details as I ran, so I put the internet search engines to work to find a nice writeup. He was a NY Firefighter who perished in the World Trade Center, leaving behind his wife Julie, son Matthew and another unborn child at the time.

This was the route I ran today... creative mapping to spell out the date of significance. My total mileage ended at 7.67 miles. It was overcast when I left the house, but by time I started running, the bright sun had made its presence. Man, it was hot and I was kinda miserable. But every time I complained, I tried to counter it...

I'm so hot. And yet it must have been even hotter for those firefighter in full gear, running into the tower in an attempt to save people...

These hills are hard. And yet the elevation the firefighters climbed going up the stairwells to help people out and bring order to tragic chaos...

It's so humid, I can't breathe. And yet how devastating it must of been for those people stuck in the fire and smoke inside the towers... how difficult it was for them to breathe, the oxygen slowly disappearing from the air...

I'm so thirsty. And yet how dusty and unbreathable was the air as the towers collapsed and crumbled to the ground...

My feet hurt. And yet the pain that must still burn inside the families of the 3000+ victims from the 9-11 terror attack. Today, I pray for you.

And so, I kept on running...

I run because I can. 
When I get tired, 
I remember those who can't. 
What they would give to have 
this gift I take for granted. 
And so I run harder for them. 
I know they would do the same for me.

God Bless America!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Race Recap: Chicago Half Marathon

I ran a FREE half marathon last Sunday! Several months ago, I won a giveaway contest for the Chicago Half Marathon. Somehow, I made a place for it amidst my busy weekends. Best of all, Amanda offered me a free place to crash and picked up my packet... saving me a ton of travel time into downtown Chicago the day before.

When the alarm went off at 4:15 am Sunday morning, I felt completely out of sorts. I took a quick cold shower in an attempt to wake my body up. Dressing quickly as "neon twins", we were out the door, picking up some other runners on the way into Chicago. Let me just say... the amount of driving big city people do amazes me. I could never spend that much time in a car on a daily basis.
I'm standing UP on the curb and I'm still
a little shorty next to TooTallFritz.com

After a bit of parking confusion, we were finally out of the car. There was no question where to go... just follow the thousands of runners heading towards Jackson Park. I've run a number of races in downtown Chicago - many on the lakeshore path, so I was delighted to hear this event was a different location (southside). Knowing that I had a well-versed hostess, I literally did zero logistical prep for this race. Shoot, I didn't even know the route! I was pretty much a little puppy, following Amanda wherever she led me. We lined up a little behind the two-hour pace group and waited for the start.

I had no goals for this race other than to run comfortable. I wanted a long training run that felt good and strong. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. My 18th half marathon was one of the roughest 13.1's I've ever run. Boo...

The morning temps were in the lower 70's, but that damn humidity hung in the air (again). As soon as we started running, the sweat immediately began to trickle down my forehead. I wore a visor instead of my usual BondiBand and was immediately regretting that decision. Thankfully, the sun was tucked behind cloud cover. It could have been so much worse if that sun was blazing.
Our outfits were pretty much designed around the last month's Sock-of-the-Month.
We are both huge fans of ProCompression.

Mile 1 - 9:31
Mile 2 - 9:34
Mile 3 - 9:35
Mile 4 - 9:37
The start was a cluster, as all these big city races are. I didn't bother with much bob and weaving as I didn't really care and we were moving consistent. The first four miles wound around Jackson Park before we headed north. Once we hit Lakeshore Drive, the road opened up and the run was less congested. This is also about the time my quad muscles started to remind me of how much they needed a rest day. (On the way to the race, I had massaged my achey quads with muscle cream, but it just wasn't enough to revive them for a race.)

Mile 5 - 9:45
Mile 6 - 9:59
Mile 7 - 9:55
Mile 8 - 10:29
The course was fairly flat (it's Chicago!), but my poor quads felt any little incline, no matter how faint. I grew tired quickly and was utterly disappointed with how I was feeling. Of course, it was all my own doing. (Don't ever underestimate the importance of rest days. I'm having a hard time fitting them in lately while teaching at the gym.) Amanda and I were running together - kinda... in the same vacinity, but not side-by-side. I'm not a fan of chitter chatter during races, so our conversation was a combination of one-words, grunts and pointing.

The lakeshore views were pretty and there was a nice wind blowing off the water. The mass of people running in front of me was overwhelming. I kinda felt like I was in last place... until we hit the turnaround. I started walking through every water stop around mile 6. Surprisingly, I remembered to take a GU at mile 7. I was covered in wet sweat and had to wrestle with the gel to get it open. As promised, I allowed myself to flip on the music at the turnaround point (mile 8.5)... a welcome relief!

Mile 9 - 10:13
Mile 10 - 10:03
Mile 11 - 10:41
I found myself a bit bored on the way back. I had to concentrate to keep a healthy pace, but continued to walk through every water stop. Unlike last week's race, there seemed to be nonstop aid stations. I almost felt guilty stopping to walk drink so much. I was consuming way more fluid than I'm used to on the run and it was sloshing around in my belly... yet I was still so darn thirsty. I find humidity such a tricky weather condition to run under.

Mile 12 - 10:18
Mile 13 - 9:28
The end was near and I focused soley on that. Evidently, I found some extra energy to bring it home as my last mile was the fastest of them all! Even at the finish, the road was full of people. As we picked up speed down the finishing chute, I had to weave around runners to find an opening. My run buddy Amanda and I finished at exactly the same time... right down to the second.

Official Chip Time 2:11:06
avg pace 10:00 min/mile
Overall  #4777 out of 10,594
Female  #2013 out of 5958
Div F35-39  #295 out of 856

After our exhausting finish, we couldn't get over how WET we were. Literally, we were ringing out our tanks and skirts for the next hour. My legs were slippery wet, like I just got out of a pool. I can't remember the last time I had sweat like that before.

Amanda scored us VIP passes, so we made our way over the big white tent by the finish line for a huge spread of yummy food, beer and ice cold soda (which I was totally jonsing...)
best post-race plate ever!

The best part of the Chicago Half Marathon for me was meeting up with all the bloggers that run this race! I loved chatting with new friends and finally meeting some whom I feel like I've known forever... It's amazing the bonds one can make online with people of similar passions.
Bloggers Rock!

Overall, I thought the Chicago Half Marathon was a great event, despite my disappointing run. The race seemed well organized from my perspective, and the course could easily be a PR run. I wouldn't mind seeing more corrals or graduated starts to alleviate the early cluster. Thanks so much for hosting and running with me Amanda! You made this "big city race" so easy for me.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Today's Musings

It's been a hard week on the pedals. 
• I started off the week with 22 miles in Chippewa Falls (WI) while on Labor Day vacation. It was dark and dreary that morning, not to mention cold. I wasn't in the mood, but headed out anyway, knowing odds were likely that I wouldn't be back in the area. The ride was just blah for me, and I found myself on the verge of a cold the rest of the day. I jacked up with vitamin C, slept and all was good.
• On Tuesday, I taught Spinning class. My gym got new bikes (yeah!), but they are different and require new adjustments. My settings weren't right and the whole ride felt miserable for me. I deal poorly with change...
• Thursday, I procrastinated all morning and didn't get out on the road until the afternoon sun was blazing. I headed out my usual route towards Hanna City and was enjoying the saddle for the most part. On the way home, I decided to take a detour and adventure down new country roads. To my dismay, I eventually noticed my rear tire was leaking air. I stopped to air up the tire and navigate a new (shorter) route home. Of course, the most direct route was Middle Rd... I know this one well and avoid it for a reason... it's hillier than heck!! I struggled on the inclines and breezed down the big declines... and then I hit construction. Out in the middle of nowhere. No turning around; no side roads. My only option was straight through. The road ahead was complete gravel... and more hills. Most dangerous ride ever... with a bad tire. I stopped several more times to add more air and eventually made it home. Ugh.

I've been scheming 2014.
• Now that I started my fall racing schedule, I'm looking ahead to the spring. The only race I know for sure (cause I'm already registered!) is the Shamrock Marathon in early March. Everything else will revolve around that. Honestly, I'm not even completely thrilled by the prospect of another full marathon. I sat down the other night with the calendar, only to realize proper training should start right after Thanksgiving. Crap! I normally don't like to get serious until January...
• Other races I'm looking at include Diva Half Marathon (Branson, MO) and Lincoln Half Marathon (Lincoln, NE). Both the weekend of May 4, so I'll have to pick either/or. I'd like to find a double-state weekend in April if I can pull it off...

Another hot race coming up!
It's miserably HOT here in Illinois again today. We are suppose to get rain tonight to cool things off a bit, but I won't believe it until I see it. I'm heading up to the Windy City to run the Chicago Half Marathon. I won a race entry thru TooTallFritz.com, and have no intentions of running 'fast'... just enjoyable. Hopefully, the heat will control itself, so I can look cute as pie in this brightly colored outfit...
Perfect example of how one can assemble a race outfit
based soley on the SOCK OF THE MONTH at ProCompression!

Have you picked out your 2014 races yet? Which ones are you running?

Do you take 'great care' in picking out race outfits, or just wear whatever?

Got a big race this weekend? Where? How'd you do?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Race Recap: Women Rock MN

Over Labor Day weekend, I packed up the family and headed 7 hours north to Chippewa Falls, WI.  It is truly beautiful country up there. There were so many outdoor fitness activities that I couldn't contain myself... biking and hiking trails everywhere! I crawled out of the camper on the first morning and adventured around the campground, finding some neat trails through the woods. I'm not typically a "trail runner," so the bumpy ground and high-stepping over tree roots gave me a good workout... more than I intended on a rest day.  A few hours later, I left the hubs and kids behind to join up with "the girls" in St. Paul, Minnesota for Women Rock MN.

After picking up the girls at the airport, we headed straight to the expotique (aka packet pickup). There was a good assortment of booths and fun photo opps (with half naked men). Kudos to race organizers for allowing size exchanges on the race goodies. My tank immediately looked small, so I exchanged for the next size up. The jacket was super cool and fit perfectly in my normal size.

Lindsay, me, hot dude, Kim, Patty and Lisa sprawled across the front.
Reuniting with these ladies was - by far - the best part of this trip!!
Five states were represented amongst us... IL, MN, VA, OR and TN.

We met up with another bunch of ladies from my Sole Sisters running group for dinner at Eagle Street Grille - where we had thee most friendly sassy waiter. There is absolutely no proof pictures that we drank multiple beers the night before a race. Opps. I stayed with Patty at the Holiday Inn downtown, which was a great walking location to everything - the expo, dinner, and the race finish line. The finish line was essentially the shuttle pickup for the half-marathon. Our group met in the morning by the buses, which then took us to the starting line, out near the old Ford plant.

A fine bunch of runner girls!

I haven't run a half marathon since May, so this was a nice easy "get back in it" race for me. My intent was to use it as a fun training run. As we lined up just in front of the 10 min/mile mark, several of the ladies discussed their time goals. I looked at my bib #2122 and decided 2:12:2 would be today's goal. Ha! Not very strategic, right?! But I hoped to stay around the 10 min pace, preferably below.

The starting gun was exactly 10 minutes late according to my Garmin. (Not sure why, but late starts are a pet peeve of mine. I tried to remain patient, not one of my finest virtues.)  I had debated on whether to even wear my watch, but eventually did so with a determination not to look at it. I wanted to just run what felt comfortable. Of course at the start, the adrenaline made that faster rather than slower.

Mile 1 - 9:17
Mile 2 - 9:17
Mile 3 - 9:14
Mile 4 - 9:32
Mile 5 - 9:37
Mile 6 - 9:49
The first six miles were a simple out and back. Starting temps were much cooler than expected (low 70's), however the humidity hung in the air. I began a trickling sweat immediately and it only got worse as the temps increased throughout the run.  The first half of the course was mostly under shade, but the rolling hills surprised me. My quad muscles had an odd ache from the time I got out of bed (most likely due to that trail running the day before). As I took each incline, my quads reminded me of why one should rest the day before a half marathon. I know better. Out and backs are not my favorite in a normal training run, but I do enjoy them in a race. I get to see all my compadres, no matter if they are in front of behind me. Each time I pass a friend, it gives me a little boost in my run. And it's rather entertaining to watch others greet their friends as well.

Mile 7 - 10:07
Mile 8 - 10:12
Mile 9 - 10:03
Mile 10 - 10:01
In looking at my splits, it's easy to see my "comfortable pace" slowed as the miles ticked away. By time I reached mile 7, I felt... done. The shade went bye-bye and I quickly got hot and miserable in the bright sun. Some serious head games started battling back and forth. To shut myself up, I flipped on the ipod that I had stuffed down my bra in case of emergency. For once, I was happy to have music pumping in my (one) ear, giving me a second life.

Throughout the race, I stopped to walk thru every single water stop. This is a first for me... I usually run straight through during a half. I was constantly thirsty today and reminding myself to run comfortable. I'm nowhere near PR form or time, so there was no reason in my mind to push it. By the end, I was grabbing three cups through every stop - 1 water to drink, 1 water to dump over my head and 1 of the little blue drink - Gatorade, I believe?

Mile 11 - 10:33
Mile 12 - 11:00
Mile 13 - 9:17
The second half of this half marathon felt flat for the most part. There was one big hill inside mile 11 that I remember having to stop and walk.  I used the excuse "finally a river view" to stop and take a photo... which oddly never took? When I hit that #12 sign, I was suddenly in a big hurry to get this thing done. I grew closer to Lindsay, who had been in sight nearly the whole race. Eventually, I caught up to her and we ran much of that final 1/2 mile together into the finish.

Official Chip Time 2:09:22
average pace 9:53
Overall Rank  #842 out of 2195
Division Rank  #216 out of 494
State #15 - Minnesota in my quest to Race All 50

I was exhausted, hot and sweaty. But even at the finish, I had enough brain power left to comb the line of men and find the best looking guy to collect my finisher's necklace. We snapped some finish line photos and then hunted down the champagne!

As yet another hot man filled my glass, I said, "Don't be stingy. I like champagne!"

We didn't linger long in the post-party. I was soaking wet and wanted to change clothes. I hurried through a shower and was on the road quickly back to my family. We had plans to go river tubing that afternoon, and I was looking forward to relaxing in the sun with my feet soaking in the cool water.
Post-race bliss!

My final take on Women Rock MN...
Personally, I loved the event. Weather out of anyone's control, it was a decent race. I had zero problems and found everything to be very well organized. Pre-race communication was good. If you read through everything, the answer was there. There were mentions of sponges and water towels being added to the race, but I evidently missed those stops along with the GU. I was actually surprised at the amount of spectators - all the men with kids made me smile. If I had a dollar for every time I heard Go Ladies! or Go Mom!, I'd be rich.  At the finish, we received a grab bag with food and plenty of water... and champagne! I'm not sure what else was at the post-party because I didn't stick around. I had expected more river views based off the course map, but that wasn't the case. While the early hills were challenging, the final mile was pretty sweet to have easy/flat/fast.  I registered early - back in February for the best price. Race entry was $75 + the $15 optional tank top that I selected. There were several price increases along the way, which their website could do a better job of outlining those dates.  All in all, I thought the race was worth it. Good event and great swag!

All the goodies I brought home... running jacket, champagne glass, Sexy Men calendar, racerback tank, and a gorgeous finisher's necklace. The "W" stands for Women, although my mom reminds me it will always stand for WUCKI (my maiden name).