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Race Recap: 2015 Cocoa Beach Half Marathon

9 Nov

Around the time my MBA program was winding down, I started to notice how far my weight had crept up from all of that stress eating I did my last two semesters. I dusted off my old running shoes and went for a run with my crew and told them I was thinking of signing up for a full marathon this fall to get my butt back in shape. Thankfully they talked me into signing up for a half marathon instead and we chose the inaugural Ron Jon Cocoa Beach Half Marathon. I’m not sure how we chose this race, but I think timing-wise it worked for us and it happened to have a really cool Genie Bottle medal. I’m not a big medal person (I end up stashing them all in a big fish bowl), but appreciated that the race was near Orlando.

The Training

Just three weeks into our training, I found out I was pregnant and not long after that I had to take three weeks off from running due to the pregnancy. I rejoined my friends in training at the start of my second trimester and knew this wasn’t going to be easy. Sure, it was muggy so the runs were a struggle for all of us but I couldn’t seem to get enough air! And what the heck was up with my bladder? Why did I feel like I needed to pee all of the time?

I kept up with the girls for a few weeks until one long run I just couldn’t keep up. After a mile I split from the group and finished my six miler on my own. From then on, I was running all of my runs on my own. Thank God my husband is terrified I’ll fall and die, so he’s been riding his bike or running with me. I even got to fit in some training runs during our vacation in Portland, Maine and Boston.

Our gorgeous fall run in Boston

Six miles made for a gorgeous fall run in Boston

Unfortunately, I approached the half marathon start with an 8-mile run being my longest training run. I like my longest run to be at least 10 miles, and knew I was going to pull 5 miles out of somewhere on race day.

The Expo

I knew the expo was being held behind the race’s main sponsor, Ron Jon, so I didn’t expect much out of the expo. My friends and I showed up around 2pm and got through the packet pick-up line pretty quickly. It took us about another three minutes to walk the “expo” and then snapped some shots as Jeannie before we headed off to find some lunch.

I just had one wish: let me finish!

I just had one wish: let me finish!

The Race

The race started at 7:45am, but we had to board our shuttle to the start of the race no later than 5:45am. Afraid I would not fuel enough before the race, I ate everything I could get my hands on over the course of three hours:

  • Starbucks oatmeal (bought the day before)
  • Apple (courtesy of our hotel)
  • Pastry (courtesy of our hotel)
  • Nutri-Grain bar (courtesy of our hotel)
  • Banana (courtesy of our hotel)

The only thing I ate in the hotel was the oatmeal. The rest I ate as we walked the mile from our hotel to the shuttle busses and once we got to the start line. I can say that running out of fuel was never an issue with the race. I was fully fueled for the 13 miles.

It didn’t take us long to get to the race start on our shuttle, and found ourselves there with two hours to spare as we waited for the race start. We used the time to take pictures, watch the sunrise, snack on our hotel goodies, stretch, and use the porta potties.

Look, ma! Even genies have to use the porta potties!

Look, ma! Even genies have to use the porta potties!

My friends and I, ready to run!

My friends and I, ready to run!

Watching the sunrise as we wait for the race start

Watching the sunrise as we wait for the race start

I started the race with my friends, but it wasn’t long before we split up since I’m now a slow, pregnant runner and they are not. For the first time in a long time, I popped in some ear buds and settled into my run while looking for the next set of porta potties. Basically, I have to stop every two miles to use the restroom. The first mile I feel okay, and then I spend the next mile looking for a restroom. It’s pretty much the story of my pregnant life.

Around mile 6 I saw my husband who told me he would jump into the race with me to keep me some company as soon as I looped back out of the park we were running into. I took the opportunity to use the park restroom, then he joined up with me as I exited the park. I’ve never run a race with my husband before, mainly because he’s a fast runner, so it was nice to have his company.

Around mile 8, that familiar IT band pain started to creep up on me and I knew the minutes I had to bend my knees were numbered. Around that time the beach portion of the race began as well. Don’t get me wrong, beach runs are beautiful. But running three miles at the end of a half marathon is hard, especially when you aren’t used to running on the beach. I knew it was going to be a struggle and I was right.

Making our way down the beach

Making my way down the beach

Struggling on the beach but smiling anyways

Struggling on the beach but smiling anyways

Somewhere during the beach part of the race, I started to notice that my run was pretty much as slow as my walk and decided to switch to walking permanently. My husband didn’t seem to mind. He said he was enjoying our beach walk. Ha!

I think I tried to shout out with glee when I saw the runners ahead of me heading off the beach, but what actually came out probably sounded more like a grunt. Around this time, my husband ran off towards a bar that was open to see if he could use their bathroom and I walked ahead knowing he could catch up. I should probably mention that there were plenty of bathrooms during the first half of the race, but the second half of the race was seriously lacking rest stops. Oddly enough, after my six mile restroom stop, I think my bladder became numb to the bouncing and squishing by my little one and I didn’t have to go. Thank goodness because I would’ve been out of luck.

Admittedly, I wondered aloud several times if it would be silly to quit with less than a couple of miles to go. It was nice having my husband there to remind me that I would have to walk back to the start regardless. When we hit the final mile stretch, I tried to run but my legs were shot. I decided to save my legs for the final 20 yards.

Finally we approached the park where the finish line was and I could see the finish line. I sucked it up and started to run and managed to finish the race in under three and a half hours. As soon as I finished, I sought out a medical tent to wrap my knees with ice. That ice was glorious.

We found my friends sitting nearby and we all congratulated each other on finishing a tough race. It turns out that I wasn’t the only one that struggled running during those three miles on the beach. But guess what? We all finished! And I finished my first race pregnant!

We all finished!

We all finished!

I finished, largely in part to this guy :)

He made sure I finished my first half marathon pregnant with our little one 🙂

Afterwards, we had to walk a mile back to our hotel, which was torture. We quickly rinsed off, tossed on our bathing suits, checked out of our room, grabbed breakfast at the Waffle House and then spent the afternoon laying on the beach.

Breakfast at the Waffle House

Breakfast at the Waffle House

Overall, I would consider running this race again if I needed a local half marathon to run, but I wouldn’t put it on anyone’s “must-run” list or choose it for their first race. This time of the year in central Florida is still pretty hot (we were lucky enough to have cloud coverage but it was still in the 80’s) and running 13 miles is hard enough without tossing in three miles on sand. And if bathroom stops are important to you, be weary of the lack of bathrooms towards the back half of the race. The race, however, does get props for letting me watch the sun rise on the beach while waiting for the race start.

Race Stats:

  • Time: 3:25:23.0
  • Distance: 13.28 miles
  • Avg. Pace: 15:28

PROS:

  • Local race if you live in the Central Florida area
  • Watch the sunrise at the start of the race
  • Cool genie bottle metal
  • A lot of runners dressed up like Jeannie so that was fun
The medal

The medal

CONS:

  • It’s typically still hot in Central Florida in October
  • Running on the beach for three miles is brutal if you’re not used to it
  • Course lacked restrooms on the back half of the race
  • Most of the course shared the road with vehicles

Did you run the Cocoa Beach Half Marathon? What did you think?

Race Recap: 2014 OUC Orlando Half Marathon

31 Dec

I knew that I needed to sign up for a half marathon to keep me somewhat running on the regular. My half marathon race requirements for the fall were simple: race has to be local and inexpensive (less than $75). Lucky for me the OUC Orlando Half Marathon is both. I registered early back in September and used a discount code that was in one of my race packets so the race was only $65. And on race morning, I rolled out of bed and had less than five miles to travel to the start of the race, with a slight detour to pick up my friend, Beth.

We got there early and parked alongside one of the downtown streets. I wished my husband good luck and he took off for a warmup, as serious runners do. Beth and I are not quite so serious and instead walked to the start. Along that walk I realized that I had forgotten my water bottle in the car, but my husband took off with the car keys. Instantly I panicked… I train with a water bottle in my hand and am used to sipping as I run. It was an unusually hot day for December and I knew it would be harder than usual to wait for each water stop. But I didn’t have much choice at that point so we carried on to the start line.

As always, the start was crowded, but not so crowded that there’s a need for runner corrals. That’s one of the reasons I like this race, it’s big but not too big.

All of the people.

All of the people.

We settled in to wait for the start. I passed the time by trying to lock in and keep a GPS location on my Garmin. We joked that we could always borrow Beth’s husband’s gold watch instead (like we had to do after a Garmin malfunction left us sans watch during the Chicago Marathon). Thankfully such measures were not needed.

Beth and I ready to run 13.1

Beth and I ready to run 13.1

Our training leading up to the half was rocky: both Beth and I had traveled for work more than usual during the past couple of months and had missed quite a few training runs. Consequently our longest training run had been ten miles. I knew it was going to be tough, and with the heat and no water bottle I knew this race would have an extra level of “fun” attached to it.

Around mile nine, I was started to feel the effects of the heat from the sun in the cloudless skies. Temps were well on their way to the 81 degree high of the day and I was getting angry. Then I saw this:

Did you say cold?? Okay, fine.

Did you say cold?? Okay, fine.

I’ve learned a valuable lesson in life: If someone offers you a free, cold beer, take it. Even if you’re running a race. It might just be the coldest drink you get on the course. I learned this lesson running the Flying Pig Marathon and didn’t hesitate to grab a cup.

When someone offers you free beer, you take it.

When someone offers you free beer, you take it.

The cold beer was like sweet nectar from the heavens. I was temporarily distracted from the hell that was the half marathon. Unfortunately, that only lasted for a short while. Around mile 10 Beth and I celebrated only having a 5k left. We also cursed that we still had a 5k left. We ran in silence and forced ourselves to keep fueling up with peanut M&Ms and pretzels (it works!). Thankfully I had accepted a water bottle from a complete stranger somewhere along the course, so I had plenty of water to keep me hydrated. Also, this is probably a good place for me to remind you that taking food or drink from strangers isn’t the smartest thing to do. However, I don’t know about you, but when I run anything over 10 miles, my brain usually goes to mush. This totally explains all the free pretzels I took during the Chicago Marathon.

We ran on and I remember the heat getting worse. I was legitimately concerned that I would puke or pass out or both. When Beth mentioned that she was scared she was going to puke, I didn’t say a word even though I felt exactly the same way. I was scared that just trying to say it would have me blowing chunks. Instead, I told myself to keep putting one foot in front of the other. WE… WERE… ALMOST… DONE.

Finally, we rounded the corner from Rosalind Avenue to the final stretch on Robinson Street. Seeing the finish line always puts a pep in my step and I have to be careful not to push too hard too soon. It would be a shame to run out of steam right before actually crossing the finish line. 🙂

Alas, both Beth and I crossed the finish line. She captured this pic of me trying to breathe again with my medal.

13.1 done.

13.1 done.

I looked down and saw our time: 2:41:08. I can’t complain.

Not my best, but not my worst!

Not my best, but not my worst!

We walked like zombies to gather important rewards: chocolate milk and beer. Kudos to Track Shack for making sure both were available!

Chocolate milk never tasted so good.

Chocolate milk never tasted so good.

Don't let the cup fool you. This was Mich Ultra.

Don’t let the cup fool you. This was Mich Ultra.

Afterwards we found my husband, who had run into some friends. They captured this awesome picture of him on the final stretch.

My husband finishing strong

My husband finishing strong

Yep, his bionic foot held up just fine. But he agreed that the sun had been brutal. Hence, his topless running. 🙂

This was my third time running the OUC Orlando Half Marathon (you can read about the first two times here and here) and I always like running it. It’s a local, hometown race that won’t burn a hole in your wallet like some of our more famous Disney races do. Plus, it’s easy for friends and family to come out and cheer you on. If I’m not busy next year, I’ll definitely keep this race in mind.

Race Stats:

  • Time: 2:41:08
  • Distance: 13.1 mi.
  • Avg. Pace: 12:10/mi.

PROS:

  • Local Orlando race
  • Easy for your friends and family to come cheer you on
  • Easy, flat course
  • Nice, long-sleeved tech shirts
  • Track Shack always puts on a good race

CONS:

  • There are stretches of shared roads with vehicles (seemed like more than usual this year)
  • The middle of the course is not the most scenic of routes
  • Bumpy, brick roads for much of the course (watch your feet people!)

What’s your favorite hometown race? 

Race Recap: 2014 Seniors First Turkey Trot 5k

30 Dec

My “oh crap the year is almost over” goal is to finish my race recaps for 2014 before 2015 comes along. With only a day and a half left to go, I figured now was a good time to get started.

In 2007, my husband (who at the time was my boyfriend of just a couple of months) talked me into signing up for my first 5k ever. It was a tradition for him and his dad to run the Seniors First Turkey Trot and he wanted me to join them. He had (and still does have) a charming smile that gets me to say yes to things that I don’t necessarily want to do, so I of course hesitantly joined them. Seven years later, I set off to run my eighth consecutive Turkey Trot.

I’ve said this before, but running a race on Thanksgiving morning is an awesome way to start the day. The energy at the race is contagious and continues with you throughout the day. Also, it helps relieve some of that pumpkin pie guilt. 🙂

This year was especially exciting because my husband has been injured and unable to run the last couple of years. He finally came back with what we like to call a bionic foot (he had surgery and has been rehabbing it) and it was great to have him there.

Headed to the Turkey Trot.

Headed to the Turkey Trot with my husband and father-in-law

I haven’t exactly been working on my speed this year, but managed to maintain an average 10:20 pace. When I crossed that finish line, I was spent. That’s how I know I gave it my best shot.

By the way, I pushed myself by playing a little fun game during the race: Pick an indian or pilgrim or turkey (someone is bound to be dressed like them) and chase them down during the 5k. Once you catch them, pick a new “turkey” to catch. It totally kept me pushing myself.

My 5k time

My 5k time

On a side note, I saw a lot of runners trip on the brick roads and fall. Due to the beautiful (yet bumpy) brick roads downtown Orlando is known for, I see this happen often during any downtown Orlando races. If you’re not used to running on roads like this, it helps to watch the ground about 5 to 10 feet in front of you while running (if you look directly down you’ll likely still fall).

After the race, we headed over to one of my favorite Orlando coffee shops, Drunken Monkey Coffee Bar, for some hot coffee and breakfast sandwiches. My favorite (and quite indulgent) coffee drink is their Mojo Jojo. Let’s just say it includes coffee, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla and cinnamon and makes a delicious post-race treat! The three of us enjoyed some relaxed time together before a fun day spent with the rest of my family.

Post-race breakfast at Drunken Monkey

Post-race breakfast at Drunken Monkey

I will, of course, run this race again next year.

Race Stats:

  • Distance: 5k
  • Time: 32:41
  • Avg. Pace: 10:20/mi.

PROS:

  • You can bring the whole family (Many people walk the 5k)
  • Great scenic course around downtown Orlando and Lake Eola
  • Great way to start your Thanksgiving Day holiday
  • Untimed race means you can enjoy yourself and not worry about getting a PR

CONS:

  • “Walkers” don’t always start at the back of the race like suggested so you can end up weaving around them a lot
  • Crowded – not the sort of race you try to PR at
  • Untimed race so there’s no proof if you do PR
  • Bumpy brick roads

Do you have a favorite race that you run every year?

The Rest of 2014 Races

22 Oct

After overcommitting myself to training for the Chicago Marathon last year and working on my MBA, I decided to take it easy this year. It was that or clone myself. That said, after running this past weekend’s U Can Finish 5-miler 4.5 miler I only have two confirmed races for the rest of the year. That, and I have to somehow make it through this semester.

Orlando_Half_Logo

OUC Orlando Half Marathon

I needed a half marathon to at least get me out of bed in the mornings. I wrestled back and forth between running this half because D is running it. This will be his first half marathon since he injured his foot a couple of years ago and had to get surgery so I wanted to be able to cheer him on. But… I also LOVE this local race. Finally I decided to run the race and instead recruit family and friends to come cheer him on. I’ve run this race twice before (read about the races here and here) and look forward to running it again this year. You can register for the race here.

Turkey_Trot_logo

Seniors First Turkey Trot 5k

This year will mark my seventh year in a row running this Thanksgiving morning race. It’s always a great way to start the day and I look forward to running this with friends and family. You can register for this race here.

What races do you have on deck for the rest of 2014? 

Race Recap: U Can Finish 5 Miler

20 Oct

Or can you?

No. You can’t. Which is ironic given the name of the race.

In case you’re wondering why you can’t finish, it’s mainly because the course wasn’t actually five miles in distance. It was closer to four and half miles. Seriously. Check out my Garmin at the end of the race:

Not quite 5 miles.

Not quite 5 miles.

But I digress. Let me start at the beginning.

My husband is running the Track Shack Running Series and this is one of the races in the series. Last week he asked me if I wanted to run this race again (we also ran it back on 10/10/10). After looking over my half marathon training schedule to see if the race would be a good fit and then checking with my trusty training partner Beth, I signed up for the race. And because I am alumni, I saved a couple of bucks on my registration. Score! All three of us are UCF alumni, so it’s always fun to take a jaunt back on campus.

Sunday morning, D, Beth and I set off for the main campus. There were jokes to be made about trying to find an actual current student that was awake since it was eerily quiet near the dorms.

A household united.

A household united.

Beth and I did, however, run into running friends and took the opportunity to catch up. Also, the sunrise was a gorgeous backdrop to the start of the race.

I'm a sucker for sunrises.

I’m a sucker for sunrises.

And did I mention the weather was perfect? Because it was. It was in the 60’s and cool, perfect for a run around our old campus. The race started on time (or at least I didn’t notice it starting late) and Beth and I set off running mile intervals (run one mile, walk one minute, repeat). We were busy reminiscing about our college years as we ran the first couple of miles. However, when we passed the three-mile marker, I noticed that my Garmin didn’t match up. And then when we passed the four-mile marker, Beth pointed out that the last mile seemed to go by too fast. Sure enough, when I checked my Garmin, I had a shorter distance.

We also started to notice that the course was getting confusing. There were cones lining a route, but runners going in a different direction. We noted that having volunteers there would probably help with the confusion. In fact, volunteers on the course seemed to be scarce. We later heard from our friends that they ran the wrong direction and had to turn around. Even with that error, they still didn’t hit five miles.

Also, I also couldn’t help but feel like the race course wasn’t quite taking advantage of the sprawling UCF campus. There were a couple times that we ran down one street just to double back. I’m not a big fan of doubling back unless I’ve lost something.

As we neared the finish line, I knew something was wrong. We weren’t supposed to finish yet! And sure enough, when we passed the finish line my Garmin showed our distance completed to be 4.54 miles. Enter all of the “you can’t finish” jokes you can think of. Oh, the irony!

Race Stats:

  • Distance: 5.00 4.54 mi.
  • Time: 50:46.92
  • Avg Pace: 11:10/mi.

PROS:

  • Get to run around campus without being chased by campus police
  • You’ll PR for sure since there aren’t many 5-mile races … or 4.5-mile races
  • Nostalgic race for UCF alumni
  • You get to see all of the new buildings that weren’t there when you were a student

CONS:

  • The 5-mile race wasn’t actually 5 mile in distance
  • Course was confusing at times
  • Volunteers were scarce
  • Only those that completed the double distance received medals (I saw way too many racers walk up to get a medal only to be turned away… AWKWARD)
  • Not a lot of spectators

FINAL VERDICT: I’m a big fan of Track Shack events, but this one seemed to lack the organization that their other races typically have. Also, I like people to cheer me on and this race didn’t have a lot of that going on. And, like a friend on Facebook said, I paid for five miles and only got four and a half miles. Overall, I probably won’t run this race next year. However, I will consider streaking on campus. 🙂

Did you run the U Can Finish 5-miler this year? What did you think? 

 

 

 

Race Recap: Chicago Marathon 2013

21 Oct

After months of training for the Chicago Marathon in the humid Florida heat, I woke up marathon morning to experience something I had not experienced since our Florida winter from last year: cold. It was downright chilly (in the lower 50’s) when I woke up around 5 AM. Here’s what the weather looked like when I headed to bed the night before:

IMG_7736

It took my Florida mind some time to remember how my body feels in 50 degree weather, but after some thought I decided I didn’t need my long sleeve shirt. I would wear my planned running outfit:

  • Lululemon run tights
  • Lululemon top with built-in bra
  • Lululemon sports bra for additional support
  • Nike Frees and my neon running socks
  • Running gloves, arm warmers and sweatpants
  • iFitness run belt

My friend Beth (and running partner) stopped at K-Mart before leaving for Chicago and bought us some sweats for throwaways. The gloves and arm warmers I planned to hand off to D around mile 4, where he and Beth’s husband, J, anticipated to catch us. Worst case scenario, I could toss the arm warmers and fold up the gloves and jam them in my run belt.

IMG_7743

Before we left our rental. I hadn’t suited up with arm warmers or gloves yet.

However, I digress. The first thing I did when I woke up was go have a cup of old coffee from the day before (mmmm… ) and make my usual pre-long run pancake: one egg plus half a cup of oatmeal.

Easy, healthy pancake

Easy, healthy pancake

I topped my pancake with some peanut butter and ate half of it. Then D pointed out that it was still early and we wouldn’t be starting our race until past 8 AM, so I set the other half aside to take with me.

The old coffee did just the trick [ahem] and got things moving. I then got dressed, braided my hair, and threw on tinted moisturizer with SPF and some stain on my cheeks and lips for the race photos. 😉

We were meeting a friend staying at a hotel just a block away at 6 AM so we ran out of our apartment just after D took the photo of us above. Just as we were walking to our friend’s hotel, I realized that not only had I forgotten the other half of my pancake, but I’d also forgotten a KIND bar. I considered running back to the place, but my friend’s hotel was giving KIND bars to all of its guests and they offered me one. I grabbed it and decided I would look for a Starbucks when we got downtown and buy some oatmeal.

We were staying near the north end of the Magnificent Mile and had planned to walk the mile and a half down to Grant Park. The streets were dark and there were a few people clearly left over from the night before. But more and more runners kept popping out and hitting the streets. We picked one, like the stalkers that we were, and followed her. She led us straight to a subway station!

Waiting for the train downtown.

Waiting for the train downtown.

We made it downtown with plenty of time to find a Starbucks for my oatmeal. We said goodbye to our friend (who’s faster than Beth and I and had an earlier start time) and headed to the Starbucks off S Michigan Ave and E Balbo Ave. As I sat eating my oatmeal, I decided this was a good place as any to meet after the race so I texted the location to D for our post-race meet-up.

We then made our way to the corrals. Security was very similar to that of an arena sporting event: you had to have a ticket bib to get in, and they searched all bags (including my run belt). I felt safe entering the starting corrals.

IMG_7754

the security lines

Then came the wait for the start. We are used to very early morning run start times in order to beat the Florida sun, so having to wait until after 8 AM to start a run was like torture. Beth and I both agreed: we just wanted to get this hell train moving.

At least we had a pretty view:

IMG_7759

Panoramic of the start corrals

IMG_7772

We could finally see the start!

When we started to make our way towards the start line, I shed my sweat pants and added them to a pile of other runners’ throwaways. It always makes me feel better to know that they get donated.

As we crossed the start line, Beth hit start on her Garmin. Which reminds me … we should probably talk about this Garmin. You see, during training we used the Garmin that I borrowed stole from my husband. That is, however, until one week before the marathon when the plastic on the back of the watch broke in a way that the band broke off. Through social media Garmin directed me to their Customer Service, who offered to send me a refurbished watch for $99 in time for the Chicago Marathon. This was super awesome of them, but I haven’t had the best of luck with refurbished anything so I opted against this. I was considering buying a new watch when Beth mentioned she had one she never used. We took it for a test run on our last long run and everything seemed to work out fine, so I decided not to buy a watch right away. I have plenty of other financial obligations right now and not having to add to that was a huge relief.

So we started running. And it was beautiful!

Running the streets of Chicago

Running the streets of Chicago

About five minutes passed and Beth realized her watch should’ve gone off for our first walk break (we run 5 minutes and walk one minute). She something along the lines of “something is wrong.”

I was too distracted by all of the pretty buildings and the awesome crowds to really give it much thought. I assumed it beeped and she just missed it. We walked so that she could figure it out.

After several minutes of walking and tinkering with her watch, she realized she had it set for “run 26.2 miles and walk one minute” intervals. Oops. She fixed it and restarted her watch. Now we were running without knowing exactly when we crossed the start line. Advice: whether you have a watch or not, make sure you look at the clock when you start. I tried to do this, but for the life of me couldn’t find the start clock location. *Sigh*

So we start running again and I suggested we run through the next walk break since we had lost so much time. Again I got lost in the beauty of the city.

The best way to get to know a city is to run through it.

The best way to get to know a city is to run through it.

Beth’s Garmin beeped to let us know that it was a minute walk break, but we ran through it. Then Beth said, “Uh oh… Something’s still wrong.” The watch never beeped to let us know our minute was over. We again slowed to a walk and she started to tinker with it again.

At this point I started to make suggestions: that we could run the entire marathon, walking at water breaks; that we look around and find someone else doing intervals and just follow them. With every suggestion Beth looked at her watch harder. I think my back-up plans were making her nervous. Finally she handed me her watch, where I found that she had set the watch to “run five minutes and walk one hour” intervals. Ha ha ha ha ha ha … We fixed this and started running again. This time we ran through two walk breaks since we had to make up some serious time.

Around mile 4 we started to look around for our crew. I was eager to shed my gloves and arm warmers. Also, I had forgotten to bring sun block so I wanted to get some on before I started to burn.

I spotted my husband not long after and then noticed he was standing near a familiar face: my friend Rox had flown in to surprise me!

Me trying not to sweat on Roxy.

Me trying not to sweat on Roxy.

Rox pointed out that she had never missed any of my marathons, which is very true. Yay! They slathered me up with sunblock after I discarded my arm warmers and gloves and then Beth and I were on our way.

Between miles 4 and 11, the next time we would see our crew, we ran through Chicago’s Boystown and Old Town.

IMG_7775

Boystown

The energy was AMAZING. And I always love a guy in drag.

Somewhere around this time, I had to the use the restroom. We had already run by the first set of portable potties due to the long lines. When the second set came up, the lines were still crazy, but I didn’t want to gamble on running to the third set. We lost around 10 to 15 minutes waiting in line. I could just see our goal of 5:30 slipping away from us.

We finally got back on the road and ran through some more intervals to make up more time. Then, as we had finally started to think nothing else could happen with this damn watch, something worse happened: Beth’s Garmin died. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry as Beth yelled expletives at her wrist. I suppose it was meant to be for us to run without the beeps. We started to estimate intervals from the time on my phone. That was fun.

Around mile 11 we saw our crew again. While Beth was busy borrowing her husband’s very non-running watch, I hammed it up with D:

IMG_7788

Seeing my husband was a sight for sore eyes.

Cheesin' at mile 11

Cheesin’ at mile 11

Then off we went with Beth’s husband’s watch to guide the way for the next 15 miles. I meant to get a photo of her wearing a regular timepiece during our run, but forgot. We were too busy trying to make up lost time. But trust me, it made me chuckle every time I looked over at her. But thank God for that watch; I had grown tired of looking at my phone.

The rest of the marathon we ran quieter then we have ever run. We are typically a pair of chatty runners (me more so than her) but instead we ran in almost silence. I think this was for several reasons:

  • The watch drama had caused anxiety that had drained us of energy
  • We were running faster than we had in our training runs in order to try to make up lost time
  • Beth was distracted with estimating five and ones on her husband’s watch.
  • I was distracted looking for runners that were running the same intervals as us.
  • We were both taking in all of the sights

We saw our crew later around mile 19 in one of the Spanish neighborhoods of Chicago. I suspected that Rox, who had lived in Chicago before, was getting them around the city. It was great to see them a third time!

You find out a lot about yourself and others when you race a marathon. During this marathon I found out that Beth and I will take pretzels from complete strangers. As the mile numbers neared 20, more and more people started to offer us pretzels and we would take them in any shape or size. I think the pretzels, coupled with our peanut M&Ms and our chews, are what kept us from hitting a wall. Sure, my legs started to get sore, but I still had energy and so did Beth. Our crew was surprised to see us so upbeat at mile 19.

I remember looking at the mile 21 marker and thinking “we haven’t hit a wall yet!” Then we hit mile 22 and I thought “holy crap… only four more miles to go!” As we hit mile 23 I started to celebrate only having a 5k left in my head. And finally we hit the 25 mile marker and I remember saying to Beth, “I think we might make it to 26.2 after all!”

As we approached the 26 mile marker, we saw our crew cheering us on. It gave us a pep in our step. We were running that marathon high when we rounded the curve and saw the dreaded uphill. I had heard that there was a hill before the finish… I just didn’t realize that it was right before the finish. We didn’t discuss whether to run or walk uphill; we both just powered on up the hill.

And like that, 05:44:20 after we started the 2013 Chicago Marathon, we were done running 26.2 miles!

Marathon

My marathon splits

Yeah, Beth and I totally did this at the end:

finish

I’m not a big high fiver, but there’s something about running a marathon that makes you want to high five every person you see. That’s right; I’ll take pretzels from strangers and high five them. Hey don’t give.

Afterwards volunteers bestowed upon us medals, then we hobbled to grab water, a box of snacks, a bag of ice and our free cup of beer. We sipped on our beers as we made our way to the exit, but had no problem giving up our beers for freedom outside of those gates.

It turned out that our Starbucks meeting spot was perfect. We didn’t have to walk far to meet up with our crew. I was too tired to remember to get a photo of them. Sad. I was apparently also too tired to remember to eat anything out of my snack box.

Our crew did get a photo of Beth and I as we waited for a train on our way to get an Italian beef sandwich.

Ice is good for marathon runners.

Ice is good for marathon runners.

I think the whole “drink a beer and forget to eat the food in my box” was a mistake: I had to jump out of the crowded train after two stops because I felt like I was going to pass out. I leaned against a pole and slid down on to the gross subway platform floor. Call me classy. Then I started to dry heave as D and Rox probably began to try and figure out how to get me to a doctor. One of them handed me a bottle of water and I asked them to tell me what was in the snack box. When D pulled out some sort of beef jerky, I demanded it and devoured it. I followed it up with a granola bar and immediately felt better. Beef jerky and a granola bar go quite a long way. Lesson learned.

As they stood staring at me, unsure of what to do next, I announced that I was ready to go get my Italian beef sandwich on from Portillo’s. They sort of glanced at each other, silently questioning whether they should listen to me. But I think the power of the Italian beef sandwich is strong and they agreed.

And it was the best sandwich ever.

This photo does this Italian beef sandwich no justice.

This photo does this Italian beef sandwich no justice.

I had three goals set up for this marathon:

  1. Run the marathon injury-free and feeling as best as one can while running a marathon*
  2. Run the marathon in 5:30
  3. If that doesn’t happen, run the marathon in 5:45*

*Goal accomplished!!

Two out of three isn’t bad. Next time I’ll make sure we get that watch thing figured out ahead of time. 😉

I would most definitely run the Chicago Marathon again. I loved the city, the food, the crowds and their incredible energy and the accessibility of everything. I  whole-heartedly recommend this race to runners. I also recommend taking pretzels from strangers.

Have you run the Chicago Marathon? What was your favorite part?

I must be CRAZY. And I can’t wait to have a deep dish pizza.

19 Feb

I have undoubtedly lost my mind. However, it seems like the passing of nine months has allowed for me to forget the hell that was Marathon #1 and Marathon #2 and my stance of “only running half marathons for the rest of my life.”

Come this October, I will hopefully be celebrating the completion of Marathon #3 with a deep dish pizza, a chicago-style hotdog, or all of the above. If I’m really lucky, I’ll be sitting next to Oprah.

If you haven’t guessed it, I’ll be running the Chicago Marathon on Sunday, October 13th.

chicago_marathon_logo

Look out hot, steamy, muggy Florida summer training runs… here I come!

Race Recap: Orlando Half Marathon 2012

7 Dec

After running last year’s Orlando Half Marathon with a good friend and seeing what a great race it would be to get a PR, I was determined to try and do so this year. But then life happened and I ended up having to train for a half marathon in one month. My goal quickly morphed from ‘get a PR’ to ‘just finish and around 2:30 would be nice.’ Last Saturday morning, I set out to do just that.

My morning started off with a mad dash to the red pagoda by Lake Eola. What did I tell you? I’m either a hot mess on race mornings, or calm and zen. On this morning I started off calm and became a hot mess when I realized I was leaving my house late. I had zero cash on me, so I knew I was going to have to find a free parking spot on the street.

Luckily, I found a spot where me and D used to park for Magic games. As I pulled up to one of the last available spots on the street a fellow runner directed me to park as close to his car as possible, leaving space for one more car behind me. Ah… runners… always helping each other out.

When I stepped out of my car, he asked me if I was ready. This man was a complete stranger and I’ve never talked to him in my life before. But I knew exactly what this fellow runner was asking: Was I ready to do a warm-up run to the start line? I nodded and took off behind him. I had a red pagoda to reach soon or feared losing my ladies that were patiently waiting for me.

I arrived at the pagoda to find my friends smirking.

Oh! Look who’s here!

I never imagined you would be late.

Hemarie? No, she’s never late.

Clearly, their sarcasm reinstated my reputation for running on Puerto Rican time. 🙂

As we walked to the start of the race, my friends asked me if I was cold because  I was wearing my favorite Lululemon No Limits Tank. It was around 60 degrees. I laughed and pointed out that I was hot already… I had just run. I heat up pretty easily and rarely ever wear long sleeves to a race. The closest I came was at the Disney Marathon when I had to wear arm warmers at the start (and later removed).

Here was the view as we made our way to the start:

Walking to the start.

Walking to the start.

We had a few minutes before the race started so I snapped this photo of the ladies:

The ladies: Beth, Emily, me and Kim

The ladies: Beth, Emily, me and Kim

Emily (second from left in photo) just ran the Space Coast Marathon Thanksgiving weekend. To her, this was just a shakeout run. 🙂

Beth and I both knew we weren’t going to PR, but wanted to push our pace with this race. When I heard Em mention our fast past in the first mile, I figured the inevitable would happen… we were going to split up. Shortly after, I was thrilled to see Beth keep her pace with me when the others dropped back.

It was a gorgeous morning to take a 13.1 mile run:

orlando_half_2012_running

We started running at an 11:27/mile pace, and slowly settled into an 11:00/mile pace. We ran 5 and 1’s (run 5 minutes, walk one minute, repeat) and felt great. We settled into our conversations about life and the miles seemed to pass us by.

The Orlando Half Marathon course tends to change almost every year, and I noticed that this year’s course was very different from last year’s. I couldn’t help but think that some of these roads weren’t exactly the nicest roads to showcase Orlando for any out-of-town runners.

When we hit mile 8 of our run, I saw that we were running in pace to come close to my PR of 2:27. We did a mini celebration, knowing we were only 5 miles short of finishing.

orlando_half_marathon_mile_8

Along the way we saw familiar faces both on the course and off. I made sure to smack our former running group member, Sammie, in the tush every time we snuck up on her. I made sure to duck afterwards in case she turned around swinging. 🙂

Somewhere in the middle of mile 10 I started to feel drained of energy and stopped talking. Beth must’ve felt similar because she stopped talking as well and suddenly we were running in silence. Our pace started to creep up between 11:30 and 11:47 in our intervals and I forced myself to eat my vanilla stinger waffle. It almost made me gag. It’s funny how being tired can turn the tastiest of treats to a turd.

Speaking of which, these port-o-potties made me laugh:

orlando_half_potties

Think D and I can get some of these for our wedding? 😉

Around mile 12, I started to feel a pull in my left IT band. Since I didn’t run longer than 9 miles in my one month training program, I forgot that this happens. Damn you IT band! I started to focus on picking up my feet.

As we hit the final mile, we started to pick up our pace again and dropped back down to an average of 11:00/mile. I broke our silence:

Me: Only one more mile to go. We can do this, right?

Beth: Yes! We can do this.

Yes, there was doubt in there. And while Beth replied optimistically, she later admitted that she too was dying inside.

The end of the course had us rounding the corner of Lake Eola and finishing with a straight shot. I told Beth I wanted to take a quick 30-second unsanctioned walk break to the corner so we could run out the rest of the race. I got no objection from her.

As we rounded the corner and picked up to a run again, we saw the finish line in sight. I waited patiently for that point where I knew I could sprint out the rest of the race without dying and tried to focus on my breathing. It is often at this point of the race that I start to pray that I don’t pass out right there in front of the finish line. Because that would be really embarrassing. I certainly don’t want a YouTube video of me going viral.

I also must’ve been super delirious, because this picture at the end captures me smiling:

orlando_half_2012_finish

I was happy to catch a glimpse of my love just before I crossed the finish line. It helped me get those last couple of steps in.

And just like that (or two hours and thirty-six minutes later) I finished my fifth half marathon. It wasn’t my best time, but it wasn’t my worst either. I’ll take it!

Race stats:

  • Distance: 13.1 miles
  • Time: 2:36
  • Avg Pace: 11:47/mi

PROS:

  • Local half marathon
  • Get to sleep in my own bed the night before
  • Easy for your friends and family to come cheer you on
  • Easy, flat course
  • Nice, long-sleeved tech shirts
  • Track Shack always puts on a good race

CONS:

  • With all the road closures, your spectators have to get around by foot or bicycle
  • There are stretches of shared roads with vehicles
  • The middle of the course is not the most scenic of routes

After the race I headed to get my post-race refreshments:

Not pictures: chocolate milk

Not pictures: chocolate milk

And as always, it was nice having my number one supporter waiting for me at the end. I can’t wait for this man to become my husband:

The future Mr. and Mrs.

The future Mr. and Mrs.

I will definitely run this local half again in the future!

Did you run this year’s Orlando Half? How was it?

Ready to Run

30 Nov

Race mornings you’ll either find me tearing the house apart looking for some Shot Blocks or sitting calmly eating a bagel and waiting for my time to head out the door. I can never predict if I’ll be a frantic mess or a zen being ready to run, so I try to prepare myself as best I can ahead of time.

First, I like to start with a little list making:

Yes, I remind myself to check the weather.

Yes, I remind myself to check the weather.

There have been a couple of times that I’ve ran out of the house dressed for the wrong race. If my house is hot, I’ve assumed it’s hot out. If there’s a sprinkler on, I think it’s raining. So now I check the weather the night before and set out appropriate attire. By the way, tomorrow is going to be perrrrrfect at 7 AM.

orlando_half_weather

I picked up my bib earlier today at Track Shack. I managed to sign up early enough to get my name of my bib. And check out that nice low, even number. This must mean good things lie ahead, right?

orlando_half_bib

I picked up my favorite local pre-race dinner on my way home from work: the baked chicken entree from Black Bean Deli. It comes with yellow rice, black beans and a small salad. It’s a giant serving so I’ll only eat 1/2 of it. When I posted my dinner choice on Facebook and friend joked that they certainly wouldn’t want to run behind me. Silly boy, doesn’t he know I’m Puerto Rican? Beans are like water to me. Seriously though, if anything were to happen to me while running this half, I want to know that I left this great world with rice and beans in me. 🙂

Afterwards I stopped and picked up one bagel from the Publix bakery for my breakfast in the AM. Yes, ONE bagel. We don’t buy bread for the house any more because we don’t eat it much, so if I bought an entire pack of bagels it would go to waste. I know this because I’ve wasted many a pack of bagels.

Next I came home and tossed my running clothes in the washer and started to plug in all of my electronic devices. My iPod Shuffle is charging and my Garmin is plugged in as I type. My running belt, sunnies, sunblock and earbuds are laying out so I don’t forget them.

And while I waited for D to get home so we could have dinner, I ate a fortune cookie from last night’s Chinese dinner.

Orlando_half_fortune

This is so perfect in so many ways.

Tomorrow morning I’m going to cross that start line and do just that: what I can, with what I have, where I am.

Good luck tomorrow to all my fellow runners of the Orlando Half Marathon!

Race Recap: 2012 Seniors First Turkey Trot 5k

26 Nov

Running the Seniors First Turkey Trot 5k hosted by the Track Shack is easily one of my favorite Thanksgiving Day traditions, followed closely by eating pumpkin pie. This year was my sixth consecutive year running the 5k. (You can read about last year’s race here.)

After a couple of years of running solo or just with one other person, this year was back to having a full blown group of the people I love with me. D, my number one support system, was unable to run again so he and the pugs came to cheer us on, along with my sister’s boyfriend, who was fully equipped with a sign.

My loves up front: D and the pugs

My sister’s boyfriend, Adam, came equipped with signage

Before the race I had trouble finding my little sister, who had walked to the start with some of her friends. However, I saw the boys during the first mile of the race and asked if she had passed. They told me she was a few minutes ahead of me. I took off running after her.

You see, this was my little sister’s first 5k. I’ve been asking her to run one with me for the last couple of years and this year she finally agreed. I think it helped that some of her friends were going to run too. I had dreams of running this first 5k together, but when I couldn’t find her at our arranged meeting spot that morning I knew the only way I would run with her was if I found her on the course. I had no idea that my sister was going to kill the 5k and run it in 29 minutes. I never caught up to her. I was very excited to find her at the end of the race and hear she did so well. My newest running goal will be to be able to keep up with her during the 5k we plan to run the weekend before I get married. 🙂

My lil Sis Melissa (aka “Badass”)

As for my own race time, I was actually pretty impressed with myself. It’s been a rough summer and fall for running this year, so I was surprised to see that I ran the 5k (or 3.15 miles to be exact… I blame that on the weaving in and out of crowds) in 31:44 with an average pace of 10:03/mile. My personal best was about a minute less several years ago when I was chasing after my BFF Rox. That was before she realized how fast she really is and ran slow enough for me to kill myself to keep up.

Here are some pics from the race:

Gotta love the turkey hats!

Utensils (this one’s for Jill from JoggingJeans.com)

First mile

The pugs at the finish line

Fierce ladies

Besties: Rox (left) and my lil Sis (right)

After the race, we walked to a nearby corner store and got some bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches on a bagel and coffee. Mmm… they tasted almost like the sandwiches I used to buy at the bodegas in NYC.

When we walked up to the corner store, there was a girl sitting down with her bib on. D’s dad talked to her and it turns out she broke her foot trying to avoid a walker. Oof… how sad! Even though this is a very walker friendly race, I wish race directors would put a little bit more emphasis on walkers starting in the back and walking on the right side of the course to let runners pass. A lot of walkers probably have no idea, and I think the reminder could be helpful. I’ve also seen runners run right into walkers, so we all need to be mindful of each other.

PROS:

  • Walker friendly race – You can bring the whole family!
  • Great scenic course around downtown Orlando and Lake Eola
  • Great way to start your Thanksgiving Day holiday

CONS:

  • Walker friendly race – A lot of weaving around walkers
  • Crowded – not the sort of race you try to PR at
  • Untimed race

Did you start your Thanksgiving Day with a local race or exercise with friends and family?