Posts Tagged With: long branch half marathon

RACE RECAP: Superhero Half Marathon

As many of you know, I will take ANY excuse to dress up (and run!) in a ridiculous costume. So when I first heard about the DSCF3438Superhero Half Marathon in Morristown, NJ, I KNEW I had to run it!

When it came to choosing my costume, it was no contest…I had to go with a Disney superhero, and race as an Incredible! I figured I need all the practice I can get for the zillions of runDisney races I plan to participate in, anyway. I scoured the Internet for weeks trying to track down red running capris, ordered a black Team Sparkle skirt (because, surprisingly, it’s one of the few colors I DON’T already own!) and I tried my hand at iron-on transfers for the first time (let’s just say…it did not go well) to make myself a sweat-wicking Incredibles shirt. I reluctantly cut two holes in an old, stretched out Bondiband to serve as my eye mask (AND keep the sweat out of my eyes), and then I decided to try racing in my new black Pro Compression socks for the first time, since they just so happened to go with the outfit anyway.

First things first. I woke up on Sunday morning to find that it was raining. I’ve never raced in the rain before, so I knew it would be…interesting. Based on some friends’ reviews of this race, I also knew going into it that it was going to be a somewhat hilly course, even though the race website described it as “mostly flat” — which I’m not quite sure is accurate. One of the course’s steepest hills had the paramedics stationed right at the top, for crying out loud! Trying to run to the top made me feel like I was actually IN a cartoon — you know, like when the character starts running and thDSCF3445eir legs are flailing around and dust is flying but they’re not actually going anywhere.

It was also a double loop course, which I’ve now officially decided I loathe…there’s something mentally unnerving about running past the mile 8 or 11 mile marker when you’ve only just started the race, and after I discovered everything the first loop had in store for me, I really wasn’t all that anxious to do it all over again!

I had planned for this to be my “just for fun” race, and I’m glad, because I definitely did NOT perform to my full potential (my chip time was 2:11). The fact that I’m still not fully recovered from the Long Branch Half Marathon combined with the rain and the hills and the fact that I once again (very STUPIDLY!) decided to attend my usual Taekwondo and Thai kickboxing classes in the days before the race did not exactly make for an easy 13.1.

However, it was still a lot of fun! I tried to relax into whatever pace I could manage (by the halfway point, I was completely ignoring my Garmin and just kind of going with the flow). I forced myself to chill out and enjoy the festive superhero costumes (I was secretly pacing myself with a Wonder Woman for the entire race!) and the not-so-festive rain and sticky humidity that was certainly keeping this race interesting, if nothing else!734267_3145089682661_410711098_n(1)

And it was great…now that I’m learning to give up the ridiculous notion that I can somehow magically PR in every single race, I’ve decided to practice learning how to loosen up and stop beating myself up and just enjoy the moment. After all, running IS supposed to be fun (sometimes)…right?

It was definitely exciting to see spectators’ reactions to all the costumes…they’re superheroes just for coming out to stand in the pouring rain to cheer us on, so I was sure to say thank you to everyone and give lots of high-fives! The kids especially seemed to enjoy seeing me as “Mrs. Incredible.” ;-D

My only complaint? (Other than the weather, I mean…which is nobody’s fault except Mother Nature’s). I registered for this race several months ago, and requested my t-shirt size on the registration form, as is pretty much the protocol. As it turns out, however, because I didn’t make the drive to Morristown (which isn’t horrendous or anything, but it’s still about 40 minutes away for me and really just didn’t seem necessary) the day before the race JUST to pick up my bib and t-shirt, I ended up with whatever was leftover on race day. I find that to be a tad unfair — I understand that those who register the day of a race end up with whatever shirts are leftover, but what in the WORLD is the point of asking us to request our shirt size when we register months in advance if you’re just going to hand shirts out to whomever happens to pick up their bib first? And they obviously didn’t order enough shirts in general because I heard the volunteers telling a bunch of other runners that their shirt size was completely “sold out”…but “here, how about a nice men’s size XL?” Absolutely ridiculous. I really liked the women’s cut, tech race shirts — for once, I knew I’d actually get some use out of my “free” shirt — but alas, the shirt size I requested was no longer available when I picked up my bib over an hour prior to the race…so I ended up with yet another too-big shirt that I’m never going to actually wear. Not cool!

The good news? Since this wasn’t a “push myself until I want to puke just to PR” kind of race for me, I had the opportunity to experiment with some new race day strategies. For starters, I’ve been trying to figure out what’s been causing my stomach cramping in the latter half of a race, and I’m happy to report that my DSCF3452stomach issues were pretty much nonexistent during this race. I know it could just be that I slowed my pace down a little bit, but I also tried a few other strategies: I tried taking in more Gatorade during the race, but I diluted it with water at every station (which I allowed myself to walk through, for once). I also ate fewer Clif Shot Bloks (and later in the race) in case they’re actually causing me some GI distress and I just don’t know it! Based on the advice of some of you far smarter runners, I also tried to focus on any sodium imbalances I may have been causing, and snacked on pretzels and tried not to OVER-hydrate in the day or two before the half marathon.

Also…I have fallen madly and deeply and HOPELESSLY in love with my new Pro Compression socks! After reading nothing but rave reviews on some of my favorite running blogs — and given the fact that I’ve been having nothing but foot issues lately — I decided to give ’em a shot. And I am SO glad I did. I’ve worn them for a few shorter training runs, but this was my first time racing in them. I was having some leg issues during the race because I went in with them already feeling a little sore from Taekwondo/Thai kickboxing — like the GENIUS that I am — and my sopping wet sneakers didn’t exactly help with my usual blister issues,DSCF3462 and yet at the end of the race, my legs were feeling pretty good! Since I’ve heard they can help with recovery — and it took me several days just to be able to WALK after my last half — I decided to wear the socks for the rest of the day (after washing them…since, you know, the several other colors I ordered haven’t arrived yet!), and also sleep in them. I’m proud to report that while I do have a little bit of soreness today, given the fact that I practically ran up Mount Everest yesterday and my legs and feet are feeling this great means that Pro Compression socks are pretty much MAGIC socks…and I will never race without them again!

Does anyone else find racing in costumes as fun as I do? ;-D

superheromedal

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RACE RECAP: Long Branch Half Marathon

Yesterday I ran half marathon number 3, and I have to say…it was not easy.DSCF3344

As you may remember, I ran my second half marathon just two weeks ago, and crossed the finish line in a very unexpected 2:03. I was absolutely elated with my time (2:05 was my “best-case scenario” time goal). It was a beautiful day at the Jersey Shore, I was feeling strong, and in what seemed like moments after the start of the race, I was placing a medal around my neck.

So I sort of expected a similar experience this weekend when I ran the Long Branch Half Marathon for the first time. Once again, it was a BEAUTIFUL day at the Jersey Shore. But this time, I struggled. A lot.

Let me rewind a bit. On Saturday, I headed down to Monmouth Park Racetrack for the expo, where I picked up my bib and did a little a lot of shopping. I was trying to spot Kim from Barking Mad About Running, who also ran the half and was volunteering at the expo, but didn’t get to see her, unfortunately. I was disappointed that arriving at 10:30am on Saturday meant that the majority of the women’s shirts that I wanted were sold out in my size (interestingly enough, my spectators later informed me that they were all re-stocked for sale on the day of the race…not cool!). But I did manage to get some official merch, along with some super cute tees and a 13.1 magnet from Bay Six, a new fuel belt from Hippie Runner, and, of course, I spent lots and lots of time at BondiBand shamelessly digging through piles of headbands and carrying on about how much I LOVE them — prompting the woman at the table to ask when I was going to come work for them. (The answer: ANYTIME! CALL ME!) ;-D

2013-05-04 12.20.40The race was slated to begin at 6:45am SHARP for half marathon runners on Sunday, followed by the full New Jersey Marathon at 8am. After making the drive to Monmouth Park on Saturday for the expo in a solid 45 minutes, I went ahead and allotted an additional FULL HOUR to our morning commute  for the traffic that I knew was going to back up along the several lights leading into the racetrack.

So my sister, BF, and I piled into the car at the ungodly hour of 4:55am to make our way to the park…and I am sorry to report that I would have missed the start of the race completely had we left just five minutes later.

We arrived before 5:45am, but the traffic to get into the park was absolutely insane, and it took a solid 45 minutes just to make our way into the parking area. I proceeded to make a mad dash for the port-a-potties (because I know myself enough to know that I will NOT stop during a race), and stood in a line that appeared to be about a mile long. The race day security was no joke, either; I completely understand the heightened security, but I know there was some frustration about not being able to carry even a small purse.

Meanwhile, it was now approaching 6:45am, and the announcer was calling the start of the race. I figured I had a few extra minutes since I was in Corral C, so I didn’t worry too much — I had no idea then that the corrals were being released within seconds of each other. It was finally my turn at the port-a-potty, so I did my thing and then ran like hell to the starting line…only to discover that the corrals were now gated, and my corral was next to start. Another frustrated Corral C runner broke through the barricade, so a bunch of us followed, and it was IMMEDIATELY time to start running.

I’ve cut it close before, but I NEVER want another race day experience to begin this way…stressed and aggravated is no way to begin a 13.1 mile journey!

Of course, I had my sights set on beating my previous half marathon time of 2:03. I knew that only two weeks had passed since my last race, but I knew I had it in me to push just a little bit harder. My foot issues (which I have conclusively diagnosed as tendonitis) have been subsiding in the last week or so, thank goodness, but I tied my shoelaces loosely so as to not cause any flare-ups during the race. Little did I know that something so seemingly insignificant — SHOELACES, for crying out loud — would be among my downfalls in this race.

photo 3In miles 1-3, I was feeling good. I spent some energy weaving around other runners, but there was definitely room to run (not the case at Runapalooza, unfortunately), and I found my stride right around an 8:45 pace for those first miles. But then came mile 4, and I started to feel a little…off. Though I wasn’t experiencing any of the pain that I’ve been dealing with in my foot, I could feel some discomfort in my left shoe, so I allowed myself to pause for the briefest of moments to tug at my socks and adjust my sneaker.

If it was just my stupid foot that was the problem, I could have dealt with it. But overall, I just wasn’t feeling that great. By mile 5, I knew that this was just not going to be my race. My legs felt heavy, I felt tired…and the miles ahead of me seemed endless.

The course took us through a variety of back roads and neighborhoods in the towns of Long Branch, Oceanport, and Monmouth Beach. Though I know Hurricane Sandy ravaged the race’s previous course along the boardwalk — and that race organizers overcame enormous obstacles in re-routing the course and being able to hold this race at all — the scenery just wasn’t that exciting (also, there were several giant hills that I wasn’t expecting!). If it weren’t for the AWESOME spectators, I don’t know what I would have done — I kept pausing my iPod completely to feed off their enthusiasm (I still don’t know how I rudely ignored the cheers from blogger pal (Writing While Running) and fellow Jersey girl Amy…sorry again that I missed you!)

When I reached the halfway point where the half marathon relay runners were switching off, I spotted Emily, who blogs at Keep Running Keep Writing and whom I know from our former shared post at New Jersey Monthly magazine. I was really struggling at that point, but I was so happy to see her and all of the relay runners and spectators at the 6.5 mile mark — some of whom gave me shout outs for my Team Sparkle skirts! — and they infused me with the energy I needed to take on the second half of the race. I waDSCF3338s shocked to see that my sluggish 9:30 pace was now back to around 9:00 for the next mile or so.

The energy was short-lived, however. Now not only was I tired, but I was POSITIVE that I had an enormous blister forming on my left foot…I refuse to allow myself to walk during races, but I begrudgingly let myself stop for moment to re-tie my shoelaces. It helped a little bit, but unfortunately it was too late.

I spent the final miles of the race playing every mind game I could think of to ignore my aching, blistering feet. The cherry on top of it all was that my usual stomach cramping was back in full force by mile 10 — now I know it’s not just a coincidence, and I’m determined to figure out what is causing it.

Meanwhile, I kept telling myself to just keep doing the best I could, not every race can be a PR, enjoy the moment, look how far you’ve come, blah blah blah, but there’s part of me that still couldn’t help but be disappointed in myself. Old habits die hard, and I am the textbook definition of a perfectionist…and once I knew this race wasn’t going to result in a new PR, I felt defeated and discouraged. I could not wait for that finish line.

In the last two miles, we did have the opportunity to run along the beach — I had already seen the Sandy devastation during Runapalooza, and did my best to ignore the sight of the torn up boardwalk — and there’s something about being near the ocean (or any body of water, really) that really does soothe me. So while I was dead tired and ready to rip my sneakers off and throw them far, far away, I sucked it up anDSCF3380d forced myself to enjoy this moment and be proud of myself…and thankful that even though it wasn’t my best performance, I was still so very fortunate to be doing something that I love.

And then the finish line was finally up ahead, I was handed my medal, and all of the pain and frustration of the previous 2 hours, 7 minutes, and 9 seconds (my official chip time) just faded away.

Oh, and when I reunited with my sister and boyfriend, I finally did rip off my sneakers…and proceeded to find the most disgusting blood blister (never had one before, but a Google search definitively confirmed my diagnosis) you could ever imagine on my left big toe. It is GROSS.

Overall, the race was well organized and I, of course, had an amazing time…but basically this is all a long-winded way of saying that you learn a whole lot from a race when you fall short of your expectations!

1.) First and foremost, when race organizers say get there early, THEY. MEAN. IT.

2.) Perhaps it wasn’t the best idea to register for three half marathons over the course of six weeks. D’oh.

DSCF33873.) I need to work on my pacing. In my last half, I went all out in the beginning and then crashed and burned a bit at the end. This time, I tried to be more conservative in the beginning, and then various factors prevented me from picking up the pace in the final miles…so I just got slower, and slower, and slower.

4.) It’s time to figure out what the hell is causing me stomach issues every. single. time. I race! I’m currently using Clif Shot Bloks as my fuel, as many of the gels I’ve tried cause nausea. The blocks don’t seem to bother me during long runs, but I’ve recently been experimenting with Honey Stingers gels (delicious, BTW…I LOVE honey), so I’ll have to see if I need to make a switch.

5.) More hill training and speedwork. NO EXCUSES!

6.) Rest means REST. In the week prior to my last half, I did very little running (or anything, really) because I was trying to rest my foot — and I ended up feeling fantastic during the race. Last week, since my foot was feeling better, I was desperate to “make up for lost time” and I’m sure I ended up over-training — which would explain my sluggish performance yesterday. I need to get better about tapering and not pushing myself too hard in the days before a race.

7.) Most importantly: I cannot — and will not — PR at every race. So I need to stop being ridiculous and realize that I’m not a robot and that sometimes, I just have to accept that I’m doing my best and be happy with it.

How do you deal with race day disappointment?

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