Posts Tagged With: race recap

Race Recap: Cranford Jaycees Firecracker 4-Miler

Hope everyone had an awesome 4th of July! I know I did. 🙂

Yesterday, I ran the Cranford Jaycees Firecracker 4-Miler for the third year in a row. Spoiler alert…I pretty much bombed. Despite a start time of 9am, it was already approaching the 80s when the race started, and the humidity was absolutely ridiculous. I was drenched by the time I completed the first half mile.

cranfordfirecracker4miler

Allow me to rewind and say that, first, even though this race takes place in my town and right at the park where I do the majority of my training runs, I did not allow myself enough time to actually walk to the park. I left my apartment a bit too late, and by the time I had walked/run (VERY slowly) to the park and then stood in the never-ending women’s bathroom line, I jumped into the crowd of some 1,500 runners at the precise moment that the gun went off!

Unfortunately, it seems I didn’t guesstimate all that well in terms of starting amongst the the runners who share my pace, because I spent the first several minutes of the race trying to weave around slower runners and find an open stretch where I could finally exceed an 11 or 12-minute/mile! The race is usually pretty popular and crowded, but for some reason, I had an especially hard time getting into my groove this year, and found myself running on the sidewalks and apologizing constantly for bumping into fellow runners.

cranfordfirecracker4miler_4

As it turns out…it didn’t matter all that much. By the second mile, I knew this was going to be a less-than-stellar performance. I am still having the hardest time pushing my pace in the heat, and I had developed a cramp in my side (side stitch?) within the first 10 minutes of the race. I’m still not sure what caused it — it remained with me for the entire 4 miles — but since it couldn’t have been caused by going out too fast this time, I suspect it had something to do with something I ate, or possibly being dehydrated, or possibly having some kind of sodium imbalance (which is an issue I’m still working on trying to fix, thanks to you, my wise readers!). I even walked through the two-mile water stop to try to massage my side a bit (which usually works), but, no dice.

So, I pretty much ignored my Garmin and focused on the fun of it all. That has sort of been my M.O. whenever I end up running in a race that isn’t living up to my expectations. I’m not sure if it’s necessarily the best approach, but even though I’m definitely a competitive person and I always like to “beat” myself, running has ALWAYS been more to me than setting PRs. I know I’ll probably always be a middle-of-the-pack runner, but there’s still part of me that is just thrilled to be running just for the sake of running. I think that’s part of the reason I love my Sparkle Skirts so much…they’re a visual reminder that this is supposed to be FUN, and to try not to let my usual urge to beat myself up over everything take precedence over the fact that running is something I truly enjoy. At the end of the day, I feel pretty lucky to be able to do this after everything I’ve put my body through over the years!

Just in case you needed proof...it. was. HOT.

Just in case you needed proof…it. was. HOT.

As a side note, I was also sort of proud of myself for racing without capris (too hot!)…I finally seem to be coming to terms with my insecurities about those certain parts of my body (upper thighs, triceps, lower abs) which, let’s just say still contain a great deal of evidence that I used to be quite a bit larger! I would have never have felt confident enough with bearing so much of my thighs in the past, and body acceptance is just one of the many gifts that running has given me, honestly.

Even in the brutal heat and humidity, I still fared better overall than my previous two attempts in this race…no stopping to surreptitiously “tie my shoes” (read: catch my breath lest I drop dead), so to me, that’s a win! Also, if any residents of Cranford who may have been among the many people spraying us with hoses or sprinklers are reading this, allow me to take this moment on behalf of all of yesterday’s runners to THANK YOU! It was greatly appreciated!

cranfordfirecracker4miler_5

Anyway, my finish time was pretty atrocious (38:38), given that my average pace in shorter races as of late has been anywhere from an 8:30/9 minute mile, tops. It was made even worse by the fact that, as it turns out, the race wasn’t even chip timed! I’d estimate that it took me at least 30-45 seconds after the gun went off just to make it to the starting line, but all that was recorded was my gun time. I was definitely a little disappointed.

But, it’s all good. I have someone new in my life who forced asked me to sign up for yet another 4-mile race next week, the Woodbridge Run for Pizza (yes, that’s right, I’m running TWO pizza races this month!) so I’ll get a chance for redemption. Although, it will still be summer when I run next Wednesday, so, we’ll just see what I can do. 🙂

How do you deal with not living up to your race-day expectations?

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

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?

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

RACE RECAP: Runapalooza, Asbury Park Half Marathon

I’m still reeling from last week’s events in Boston, but I felt as though the only thing we runners can do to show our unyielding support for the victims and everyone affected by this tragedy — and a nice big F-U to the [insert expletive of your choice] who did this — was to just keep running.

IMG_6930So I ran my second half marathon this weekend, and, in a way, it sort of felt like it was my first — I completed my first half in Disney World, but I wouldn’t exactly call what I did “running a half marathon,” given the fact that I was stopping every half mile for photo opportunities! However, running the Miles for Music 20K in March gave me the confidence that I could actually RUN a half marathon…after all 12.4 miles is nothing to sneeze at, and I did manage to run the entire course with a sub-2 hour finish time, so I was feeling optimistic about my second attempt at 13.1!

I headed down to Asbury Park with my parents and sister at the ungodly hour of 6:30am on Saturday morning for Runapalooza, a race that benefits the Special Olympics of New Jersey; this year, some of the proceeds were being donated to help restore the Jersey Shore after the destruction Hurricane Sandy caused to our beaches.

We received several e-mails in the wake of the Boston Marathon advising us of security procedures — though I have to say, it was a little disheartening to see bomb-sniffing German Shepherds all over the place — and asking that we don blue and yellow to show our support. There were even blue and yellow ribbons and hairbands available for runners at bib pick-up, which I thought was really nice. I also pinned the Runner’s Unite for Boston race bib from RunJunkees on my back, and saw that lots of other runners had done the same.

I had to pick up my bib on race day, as I really don’t live close enough to Asbury Park to make the driIMG_6941ve twice in two days, nor far enough that I felt the need to get a hotel for the night. Those picking up their bib on the day of the race had to make a mandatory $5 donation to the Special Olympics of New Jersey; though I sort of resent the idea of being forced to shell out even more money (after my $75 registration fee!) just to pick up my bib, I was perfectly fine with writing a small check for a good cause.

The race also included a small expo — I know I’ve been completely spoiled with attending a runDisney race expo as my first! — and runners were awarded with a free beer afterwards (which I skipped…I hate beer). There were bagels and yummy mini muffins and bananas and other goodies to help us re-fuel afterwards.

IMG_6948It was pretty much perfect racing weather, other than being hit with a few strong gusts of wind (fine when it’s behind you, not so fun when you’re running AGAINST it!), and the course ran through lots of local neighborhoods with some lovely ocean views. It was unfortunate that a large section of the race took place on a main street, in traffic, where I had to run on the sidewalk at times…not an ideal option when it comes to preventing runner’s knee and other unnecessary aches and pains. However, everything was really well organized and there were plenty of volunteers to help cheer us on.

The race course usually runs on the boardwalk, but I knew they had adapted this year’s course to accommodate for the fact that, unfortunately, so much of the boardwalk was destroyed by the hurricane. I was definitely a little disappointed that we only had the opportunity to run on the boardwalk for the last quarter mile or so of the race — although it definitely was a nice way to bring us all home! — but, of course, that’s not the race organizers’ fault.

I went out pretty fast (which, for me, is about an 8:30 pace), and I held that for about the first two miles. I felt great, and my foot really wasn’t bothering me all that much, so I decided to juIMG_6996st go with it. I usually struggle with just how conservative to be during races, so this time I tried to push myself a little harder, and kept a close eye on my pace to ensure that I was holding about a 9:15 for the majority of the middle miles.

I was really enjoying the race and the first 10K seemed to fly by…but it always seems to be somewhere around mile 11 that I begin questioning WHY THE HELL I DO THIS TO MYSELF. I choked down a few Clif Bloks every few miles, but my energy really starts to dip in that last 5K…and like my first half, it was right around that point when I started being hit with stomach cramps that would. not. go. away. I wouldn’t allow myself to walk unless I was making a quick stop for water, so I’m thinking maybe I need to adopt a new strategy or continue experimenting with my race day fuel, since this isn’t the first time I was forced to slow down in the final miles of a longer race due to stomach issues.

As I was struggling with stomach pains and fatigue in the last 5K, I couldn’t help but think of all the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. There were, of course, reminders of Boston IMG_7146everywhere, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one running with a heavy heart on Saturday. Thinking about the victims and their families, and the marathoners who never got to cross that finish line, really helped me to dig deep and finish strong. Who was I to complain about a little stomachache or a sore foot or feeling “tired?” Running is an incredible gift, and I was determined to run this race for all of those who can’t.

The good news was that I proved to myself ONCE AND FOR ALL that my 3:30 Disney Princess Half Marathon finish time can purely be attributed to my shenanigans on the course (still no regrets!) because I finished under my best-care scenario goal time of 2:05. My official chip time was 2:03:25, and I was beyond thrilled with the accomplishment…especially given my recent foot issues. Interestingly enough, my foot felt slightly sore in the first mile or two, and thenIMG_7167 the pain disappeared for the duration of the race, only to come back as soon as I started walking around after crossing the finish line. After some research into this phenomenon on-line, I’ve decided to try ONE MORE ridiculous self-treatment option — something so obvious as adjusting THE WAY I TIE MY SNEAKERS — and resting for a few days before sucking it up and seeing a doctor.

I’ve already submitted my shiny new half marathon PR to the folks at runDisney for Dumbo Double Dare…fingers crossed that it lands me in Corral A or B! 🙂

Does anyone have any tips on how to fight fatigue and finish strong in those last few miles?

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Race Recap: Miles for Music 20K

DSCF3029Yesterday I took on my first 20K, and I did it for time — unlike my first half marathon in Disney World last month. It was a race organized by a local music teacher and runner that benefits music education in schools, and I thought that was a great reason to get out of bed at 6:45 on a Sunday morning — even after losing an hour of sleep to Daylight Saving Time! — and see how I would fare in a 12.4 mile race. I’m a piano teacher, and plus, I’ll take any excuse to race in a themed outfit/costume — even if I am the only one! — so I was looking forward to participating in Miles for Music.

After some issues getting out the door on time (because, you know, that’s new!) and then having parking difficulties — my tardiness meant that all the lots near the park where the race was being held were full, so I had to park at the nearby university and jump on a bus to the registration area — I made it to the start line with just minutes to spare. Note to self: Do NOT cut it that close to the start of a race EVER AGAIN; I was nervous enough without having to worry about missing the entire damn race!

As you may have read in my last post, I had signed up for the Miles for Music 20K with the strict intention of putting my half marathon training to the test: I didn’t get a chance to run “for real” in Disney World, so now I wanted to see exactly what I could do. I was placed in the first corral at the Disney Princess Half Marathon, which was designated for runnDSCF3041ers who had submitted a proof of time that indicated finishing the half marathon in 2:15 or less.

Based upon my most recent 10K, I had submitted an anticipated finish time of 2:05, but photo ops and character visits — not to mention unseasonably warm temperatures — had caused me to cross the finish line in 3:30! I was determined to use this race as an opportunity to prove to myself that I could have done so much better.

However, since this was my first time running anything longer than a 10K for time, I was pretty much terrified of what it would feel like to run more than 12 miles without stopping — my long runs always include brief walk breaks and pit stops, but I try my best not to walk during races. I know there’s no shame in it; it’s just a mental thing.

When the race began, I put my race day plan into action: in my sleeplessness the night before (will I EVER reach a point where I can actually sleep the night before a race?) I had decided to try my best to maintain a steady pace that would help me reach my goal of completing the 20K in under two hours. I figured a sub-2 hour 20K finish would be more than enough evidence to prove to myself that I had belonged amongst those Corral A runners in Disney World! My normal pace is pretty much a solid 9-minute/mile now, but I know I tend to slow down quite a bit in the latter half of my long runs, so I also wanted to see if I could practice maintaining a steadier pace.

DSCF3043The course all took place in one park: we completed 2.5 loops. It was a really nice park and all, and while it’s not necessarily a bad thing to know exactly what to expect in the second half of a longer race (read: I knew after the first loop that there would be NO HILLS to climb!), there are definitely some cons when it comes to a race that takes place all in one location. For starters, you get lapped by all the faster runners — yes, there were some crazy fast people headed for the finish line when I was just starting mile 7! — and secondly, the scenery can get kind of boring. Not to mention, once you know just how long it takes to run that first lap of the park, you might not be so thrilled about having to do it all over again. At least I wasn’t!

Anyway, the first three miles flew by, and I was maintaining a solid 9:05-9:10 pace. According to the 5K clock, I beat my 5K PR (27:59) by a few seconds, so I was feeling pretty good.

As I pounded my ways through miles 4, 5, and 6, I consciously fought to keep my pace to about 9:15-9:20. It was in these miles that for some reason, my right foot decided to go numb. Yes, that’s right…suddenly, I was getting these sharp pains in my foot, but there was no way that I was going to allow myself to slow down or walk when it was this early in the race. My left foot is a little sore after a long run from time to time, but I never had any issues with my right foot…and now I was dealing with this tingly pain that was making me EXTREMELY uncomfortable as I finished the first 10K. Admittedly, the time on the 10K clock did help brighten my spirits a little bit — I had beaten my last previous 10K PR by almost 40 seconds!

DSCF3047(Side note: My feet felt completely fine after the race, and my sneakers are only about two months old…any guesses on what could have happened here? And how to avoid this happening EVER AGAIN?)

Here’s where things got tough — in addition to the physical discomfort I was already experiencing, I knew the second half of the race — uncharted territory for me — would prove to be a serious mental challenge. I felt my energy levels starting to take a nosedive, so I reached into my Spibelt to cram a few Clif Shot Bloks into my mouth right before the first post-10K water stop.

I was planning to allow myself to walk through the water stops after the first 10K, but a quick glance at my Garmin and some simple calculations told me that I really didn’t have all that much extra time to play with if I wanted to finish this thing in less than two hours. So I changed my “walk through water stops” plan to a “stop briefly to gulp water/Gatorade if needed, but then start moving again IMMEDIATELY” plan.

I’ve already started to block out my memories of miles 7, 8, and 9. I had come so far already, but I found myself agonizing over just how much further I still had to go. My foot was really bothering me, and although the temperatures were great for racing (40s), the sun was shining and I was starting to feel pretty hot in my long-sleeved shirt. My legs had already been a little sore froDSCF3052m Friday night’s Taekwondo class, and now I could really feel my muscles tightening up. I tried my best to ignore the pain and instead focus on enjoying my race day playlist and keeping my pace steady — I had slowed down to about a 9:40 pace by the time I was approaching the 15K mark.

And then, finally, it was time for the last 5K. Every time I’ve done a longer race, I always take the time to reflect on how much I look forward to that last 5K — it’s a distance that seems so easy to me now, and yet it was less than a year ago that I ditched a local 5K I had signed up for because I was convinced I wasn’t trained properly and wouldn’t be able to finish it.

Still, the last 5K was brutal. I was tired, I was hot, and I was ready to stop on the side of the road, yank my sneakers off, and throw them in the garbage. My right foot was KILLING me, and I was so ready to be done with the race.

In fact, I believe it was in mile 11 that I started to seriously ask myself if running half marathons was something I REALLY wanted to do.

DSCF3053I kept pushing myself to go as fast as I could, especially since my pace was now averaging about 9:50-9:55 and I knew I needed to keep the remaining miles under 10 minutes in order to meet my 2-hour goal.

I wondered why I had willingly decided to put my body through this kind of discomfort, and started to doubt my ability to ever run anything longer than a half marathon…or if I even actually WANTED to run another half marathon.

The Disney Princess Half Marathon had so much excitement and fun along the course that I just sort of forgot about the distance…but this race showed me just how long 12+ miles can be.

But then I finally — FINALLY — saw the group of volunteers directing us to the finish line, and suddenly and amazingly and magically, all of the pain disappeared. I saw that the clock read 1:58, and I knew I was about to achieve my goal of a sub-2 hour finish time…and prove to myself that I most certainly could have finished my first half marathon in under 2:05. And as soon as it was over, I could not WAIT to do it again. Please, SOMEBODY help me make some sense of that! What kind of sick and twisted addiction is this?

I crossed the finish line, refueled with a soft pretzel, hot chocolate, and some Gatorade — LOVE — and took some photos with my race day swag: a baseball cap and winter gloves — which I also loved. Overall, it was definitely a well-organized event.

DSCF3080In closing, I assure you that I will not giving up on running any races longer than a 10K. After you stop running and the pain and soreness subsides,  it becomes abundantly clear why I cannot and will not give up on running future 20ks or half marathons — or maybe an even longer race someday, if you catch my drift.

Yes, running can be hard in the moment, whether you’re hobbling through a long run or forcing yourself to ignore your legs or your feet or your knees when they’re screaming at you to just stop running in the middle of a race. But I don’t think it’s any secret that the hardest things in life are, more often than not, also the most rewarding…and to me, running makes me feel as though I can do anything. My foot pain went away, and my sore, achy legs will eventually feel normal again, and then all I’m left with is this incredible sense of pride and accomplishment…and like anything in life, achieving your goal suddenly makes all of the obstacles and the hardships and the adversity you face along the way so very, very worth it.

Okay, so who has long race tips for me? Please tell me it gets easier!

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Race Recap: Disney Princess Half Marathon (part two)

Just in case you missed my previous recaps from the Disney Princess Half Marathon weekend: check out my expo recap here, and race recap part one here.

727314-1128-0050s

When I left off, I had spotted my ChEAR Squad in front of Cinderella’s Castle. Now I know what they mean by the power of the spectator in a race, because it really did provide an instant boost that I needed to face the second part of my first half marathon. I stopped for some castle pictures and then waved good-bye to continue my journey.727412-1008-0014s

I will say that the second half of the race wasn’t quite magical as the first for me! Once we made our way out of the Magic Kingdom, I no longer had that BIG MOMENT of running through the castle to look forward to…and now that the sun was out (although there were plenty of clouds, thank goodness), the heat was starting to affect me more and more.

I continued my race day plan of running until I spotted a character I wanted to pose with, and vowed not to let myself stop to walk at all. I mentally gave myself permission to slow my pace down as much as I had to in light of the weather conditions, but I had worked so hard and trained for months and months to RUN a half marathon — and that’s exactly what I intended to do.

I’m proud to say that even though I was definitely tired, and did slow down through one or two water stops and took an unexpected potty break in mile 9 (let’s just say I was suddenly hit with some stomach issues that simply would not wait until I finished), I kept that promise!

DSCF2788However, all of my silliness and photo taking in the first half of the race had really started to catch up with me. The second half of the course is marked by some very narrow paths, and as I looked around at the runners around me, I saw that there were a handful of women who started in B and C…but a whole lot more with E, F, G, and yes, even some H’s, printed on their bibs.

I seemed to be the only A left, and for a brief moment panicked about spotting those dreaded buses that would whisk me to the finish line.

Truth be told, I hadn’t been paying a whole lot of attention to time, and was pretty much only using my Garmin to gauge my pace at that point (I kept starting and stopping it for character/water/bathroom breaks)…so I was getting worried about just how far back in the pack I had fallen. My proof was right there in front of me, when I spent the majority of miles 7, 8, and 9 just trying to weave around the walkers and slower runners.

I can’t complain — it was my own fault that I was now amongst the slower princesses — but it was frustrating and pretty much impossible to “make up for lost time,” as I had hoped. I couldn’t quite find my pace as I tried over and over again to politely DSCF2787break through walls of walkers who, unfortunately, were taking up the entire path. Some of my more dangerous maneuvers included running on the grass, which was very uneven and muddy and I feared slipping or twisting my ankle…and, I’m not proud of this, but I definitely took on a few stretches of road in the oncoming traffic lane with several other runners who seemed desperate to get ahead of the pack — despite the warnings of the cast members telling us to stay on the other side of the traffic cones.

By the time I reached some of my the character photos I definitely planned to stop for, including Genie and Stitch, I knew that I could pretty much count on tacking on a solid hour to my anticipated finish time. The lines for characters were getting a little shorter — I think everyone was just ready to finish the race! — but it DSCF2795was still eating up some significant chunks of time. Worst of all, though, I found myself really struggling by miles 10 and 11, especially as we had to make our way over some hilly overpasses on the way back to Epcot…and I really, really just wanted to finish. I scarfed down the remainder of my Clif Shot Bloks in those last few miles, and that helped, and I felt fortunate that my body wasn’t aching or in pain. I was just tired.

I kept wishing I had gotten just a few more hours of sleep, or didn’t eat whatever it was that hit my stomach with a vengeance in mile 9. I cursed the weather over and over again for being so hot and humid, and I cursed myself for not incorporating more speedwork into my weekly training runs…I now felt as though I was crawling, and my Garmin showed me averaging about a 12-13 minute/mile.

By mile 11, I was mentally and physically DONE — so much so that I decided I wouldn’t stop for any more characters or photos. I kept texting my ChEAR Squad to let them know I was on my way, but that the heat was really getting to me. I argued with myself about stopping to walk a bit over the hills (in defiance to the the green army man from Toy Story shouting at us to “move, move, move!”)…but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Mind you, I was moving at a ridiculously slow pace (for me) at that point…but I just kept running.DSCF2799

When I finally saw the mile 12 marker, I knew I was going to be able to do this. The last two miles had taken a lot out of me, but with just over one mile left to go, I decided to push myself and pick up the pace as much as I could. Running into Epcot infused me with some refreshed Disney excitement, and even though I was struggling, I knew that I would be finishing my first half marathon in just a few minutes…and that it would all be worth it in the end.

727332-1150-0038sAnd when I finally saw the shiny “13” mile marker and the finish line in the distance,  suddenly, all of my physical discomfort seemed to disappear. I sprinted towards the bleachers at the finish line and started waving like a loon at my sister and boyfriend (I never did spot my mom!), and of course felt compelled to run over for a quick photo with Princess Minnie Mouse before hopping back into the throngs of people crossing the finish line for my ultimate BIG MOMENT.

Another quick review of ChEAR Squad: There seemed to be plenty of room for spectators at the finish line, but if you have someone in your party who has trouble standing for long periods of time (that would be my mom) or if you want those aerial shots of you crossing the finish line that can only be taken from the bleachers, you may want to consider the additional expense. My personal ChEAR Squad also seemed to thoroughly enjoy the complimentary beverages and bathrooms while they were waiting 1,000 years for me to finish the race!

I threw my hands in the air and finally, it was over. I had finished my first half marathon.

I thought back to all the training runs I had done in the sweltering summer heat or the pounding rain or in three inches of snow. I thought about all the times I was busy with writing assignments or too tired or not feeling up to running, but still forced myself to lace up my sneakers anyway. I thought about all the 5Ks and 10Ks I had pushed my body through in preparation for this very moment.

IMG_3960And somehow, all of those hours upon hours of pounding the pavement were made so very, very worth it in those two seconds I spent crossing the finish line.

Even though, as anticipated, my participating in the Disney hooplah along the course cost me A FULL HOUR of time, I have absolutely no regrets. I Screen shot 2013-03-06 at 12.21.25 PMwouldn’t have done this race any other way, and now I will forever have all of these photos to remember the time I did the impossible. The girl who was too overweight and out of shape to run a mile had just completed a half marathon, and I don’t care what the stupid clock at the finish line said — nobody can ever take that away from me.

A large part of the reason that I’ve always loved Disney is that, to me, it represents dreams. Yes, of course I realize it is, at the end of the day, a multi-zillion dollar entertainment corporation, but I do believe at its core that the heart of the Disney message is not being afraid to chase your DSCF2803goals…not matter how unlikely or “impossible” they may seem (everyone knows the famous Walt Disney quote about doing the impossible, right?!). I have spent my entire life being put down by others, and being told that I couldn’t be a writer or that I would always be overweight. It took me a long time to wake up and realize that none of those things were true…and that I had the strength inside me to pursue my dreams all along. I never could have known that, someday, one of those dreams would include running a half marathon — or that I would not only become a writer, but also successfully learn how to live as a healthy, active person. 727388-1012-0018s

That’s why I feel there was no more appropriate place to run my first half marathon, and while I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the Disney Princess Half Marathon to the serious competitive runner looking to PR because it would probably prove just a bit too darn crowded, I couldn’t have asked for a better first half marathon experience. If anything, this race has reminded me to stop doubting myself, and taught me the importance of pushing myself out of my comfort zone — and now that I’m no longer afraid of the distance, I’m already registering for my next half marathon (which I WILL run for time, to see what I can REALLY do!)

727340-1011-0027sOh, and after I was sprinkled with pixie dust and handed my very first half marathon bling, I did manage to get my photo with my favorite princess…and went on to enjoy a few more magical days in Disney, where I reveled in my accomplishment. I cannot WAIT to take on Dumbo Double Dare, and I’m already planning my next several RunDisney races — consider me an addict.

The best part of all is that now I KNOW I can do this…so there’s no stopping me now! 😀

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.