Dec 3, 2014

Space Coast Marathon Recap (Going Sub-3:50)

On Sunday I ran my third marathon.


Until Sunday, I felt like the marathon and I really weren't good friends. Early morning wake ups, solo double digit miles, consumption of more Gus and salt pills than I can count, and the  inevitable marathon chunk up had me doubting the distance.  Let's face it: half marathons are soo much easier to commit to, and you can still eat lots of cheeseburgers during training.

I ran Space Coast last year and was quite disappointed in the result.  I trained hard for a sub-four hour marathon and came up quite short (4:08:41).  I thought about that race all year. This go-round was all about redemption.

The wake up call Sunday morning was a woefully early 4:00 a.m. My friend Kathryn, her boyfriend Craig, and I made the hour long trek to Cocoa Village and arrived just after the half marathon took off. There was a small amount of confusion as to the exact location of the port-potties, which led to me peeing in a bush. (I am from Alabama, after all.)

With minutes left to spare, I found MichellePaula, and Tyler lined up behind the 4:15 pacers.  The gun went off, and before I knew it, we were running.

My plan was to run around a 9:10 - 9:30 the first two miles, and then drop down to 8:45 and hold it as long as possible.  I know how I run: my first couple miles are slow; my middle miles are fast; and I typically fade towards the end.

#Glamorous
Instead, the first mile was flat 9:00, and the next three were all 8:41, despite dodging multiple pace groups [i.e., the 4:15 group; the 4:15 Galloway group; the 4:00 and 4:00 Galloway group; and finally, the 3:55 group].  It took seven miles before I was able to stop playing run around the pace group.

By mile ten, I had a feeling this would be my day.  By then, I was easily running 8:30s, even with the blazing sun (spoiler alert: it was in the mid-70s, and I ended up with a sunburn).

I made a friend during miles 5-14, and we spent a lot of the time casually chatting.  I hit the half point at just under 1:54.  The pace was quite comfortable, even with the heat.  (For fueling, I took a Gu every four miles and a salt pill every three.  I probably didn't need that much Gu, but whatever - it worked.)

Last year, I bonked hard at mile 19 and again at 20.  This year was so different.  "Life's A Happy Song" from the Muppets moving came on at mile 17, and I was actually smiling and singing along.  I hit mile 20 around 2:54 and still felt great.  It was very bizarre to feel so good this late in a marathon.

I did slow down at little during 23-25, and my miles went up to even 9:00s.  By 25, I knew that I needed to run a sub-9:00 mile to ensure a 3:49 finish.  I literally prayed for God to help me through the mile (I know - cheesy), but it worked.  I ran an 8:45.

The unfortunate part about finishing Space Coast is that there is a really, really long finisher's chute and you are finishing with half marathoners who started thirty minutes prior to you.  Thus, the half marathoners around me were finishing around 4:20.  Whatever - - - do what you need to do, but I was dodging gaggles of walkers in the chute - not cool since I was freaking sprinting to get under 3:50.  Further, the chute isn't closed off to pedestrians.  It was an awkward .2 miles.


But I did it: 3:49:39 - 19 minute PR.  I had hit my A goal.

After the race, I was shocked that I could walk pretty well.  Last year I was practically paralyzed.  I got my finisher's towel, sat down on the grass, and drank the most delicious Coke Fatty of my life.  And I smiled, because it was very sweet redemption after such a crappy race last year.

I've got Disney coming up in about a month, and I'm already scheming for taking a couple minutes off my time.  Or not.  We shall see how it goes.

Nov 3, 2014

Let Me Clear My Throat

Ahem.

[taps mic]

Is this thing on?

So, let's get the awkward part out of the way.  I sort of went away from blogging for the better part of this year. And yeah...sorry about that. I won't bored you with the details, but the bottom line is that work (a 2,000 hour minimum is NO joke) + trials + toddler + building a house is a lot to deal with. 

To bring you up to speed on the last six or seven months, I present the following:

1.  We have a full-blown toddler.


C can speak in short sentences, count to 10 and say her ABCs.  She is also capable of throwing spectacularly loud temper tantrums in public places, extreme possessiveness (miiiiinnnneee!) and endless bedtime bargaining.  Life with a toddler is about 80% wonderful, 20% pass the wine.  In other words, we have a nearly two year old. Man, time really flies.




2.    We are building a house.

If you follow me on instagram (and really, why wouldn't you? :-) ), then you've seen me mention that J and I are building a house. We have lived in a townhouse since we married in 2007 and the older C gets, the faster we are running out of room.


J and I started looking at lots around this time last year.  It took almost six months to find a lot that we could afford in our preferred area and a builder that was trustworthy and upfront. (Seriously.  This was harder than it looked.)  Up next was permitting (hello, impact fees), then house design, weather delays, change orders, construction draws and finally, building.  If we are lucky, we will be in by the end of February 2015...almost a year and a half after we started our search.  Sigh.

3.  I am back to marathon training.  Because I am crazy.

Lighthouse Loop Half Marathon
 
Miracle Miles 15k - 1st in my age group!

Oh, the marathon.  Every year I sign up for the marathon, and ever year I bemoan the hit my free time takes thanks to all the training.

I've had some good progress this year, however.  I've PR'd in the 15k (1:14:41), the 5k (23:32), and the half (1:46:42).  The 5k and half PRs are pretty small (about 15 seconds a minute, respectively), but I'll take them.  I've not done a lot of speed work this training cycle, so getting a PR in the 5k was a particularly pleasant surprise.


(Junior League Halloween Hustle 5k.  They kindly provided me with a free bib.  You may recall that I ran this race last year and it was my 5k PR then, too.  Orlando friends, put this race on your list for next year!)

I've realized that this marathon training cycle is more about the journey than the destination.  Sadly, I had to leave my marathonfest group because the pace got too slow for me.  That was hard, and it's forced me to do a lot of my training runs solo.  Who wears two shoes and did 20 miles on their own?  This girl.


Solo long runs are hard for me.  I get bored.  I get tired.  There have been so many times where I've just wanted to sleep in, or cut my run short, or say forget it and drop down to the half.  This past weekend, I had 16 miles on deck.  I spent the first four willing myself to just put one foot in front of the other and not plop down on the ground and eat bon bons.  

Then two miles later, it all clicked.  If I want to PR this marathon (and I do, badly), I must learn to push past the very loud voice in my head that tells me I bit off more than I can chew.  This is basically a metaphor for my life.  Finish the job you started.  Forward progress.  Move the ball.  Bill those hours.  (Just wanted to see if you were still reading.)

Despite the struggles, I've been very happy with my progress.  I'm now less than 30 days from the marathon.  If it goes poorly, then I've got Disney a few weeks later.  Yes, I have a back up marathon.  That is obsessive, but at least I know it.

So that's the last few months in a nutshell.  You're thrilled, right?


Mar 31, 2014

Completely Mediocre

I had a depressing conversation with a former co-worker last year.  At the time, I was fresh off leaving my baby in the care of (relative) strangers.  I was sleep deprived, anxious, and wondering why I'd bothered to return to a job that was wholly unfulfilling.

When I returned from maternity leave, I was quickly nearing the end of my rope. My patience with my old firm had worn thin, much like my hairline.  One particular Tuesday, I got a nasty email from my boss that reduced me to tears.  In between sobs, I heard a knock: a female partner had come to ask me how things were going.  She saw mascara pooling under my eyes, so she closed the door and confessed something that has stuck with me for over a year.

She felt totally mediocre, all the time.  Mediocre attorney.  Mediocre Mom.  Mediocre wife.  I was shocked.  She was a partner in one of Orlando's largest law firms with two beautiful children and an adoring husband.  HOW could she possibly feel mediocre?


Twelve months later, I get it, and if I had to describe myself, it would be in this way:

Completely mediocre.

I came into parenting with one goal:  raise a healthy, happy child that felt loved and secure.  It sounded so simple.

Then came failed breastfeeding, and the formula police to make me feel like an asshole.

And the day care naysayers, so quick to point out my "selfish" decision to advance my career.

And the Pinterest mommies with their homemade baby food and meal prep and craft projects.  I felt their eyes peer into my Amazon cart full of pouches and puffs.

And the constant parenting articles about letting your child experience disappointment, and the right amount of TV and iPad time and hey, the mommy wars!  That's a thing!  Did you know you're in a war?

And Facebook quizzes and status updates and blog posts (yes, just like this one) that bemoan the exhaustion of parenting and its politics in 21st century America.

50 years ago (hell, 10 years ago - five years ago!), there wasn't this constant chatter on social media about complaining about a job that billions of women had before us.  But as much as I roll my eyes about the media's insane focus on motherhood, I can't deny I don't feel the pressure.   I wish I were immune to it, but I am not.  This is why I, too, feel completely mediocre.

Motherhood made me realize that I truly cannot do it all.  I cannot bill as many hours as I'd like.  I can't be with C as often as I'd prefer.  My husband gets neglected.  This blog gets neglected.  I can't adequately train for a marathon right now, nor can I manage the time to be as good of a friend as I'd like.  I fail a million times a day.

However, the whole is larger than the sum of its parts.  I may get Mommy-tracked at work.  I may be the last person to pick up C from daycare each day, and I'll never have the time to train for an Ironman, but I juggle a lot and I do it as well as I can...

And there's nothing mediocre about that.

Mar 7, 2014

Best Damn Race Orlando (Recap)

The short story:

Stats:
1:47:26 finish time
5/90 in my age group
34/303 out of all women

Picture cribbed from Meghann
The longer story:

After running a PR two weeks ago, I went into Best Damn Race with absolutely no goals in mind except to not get injured. My spring half marathon goal had been to break 1:50, and that had been accomplished in Daytona.  It seemed unlikely I'd see another PR so quickly.

The morning of the race, I spent a whole 10 minutes driving to the start of the race downtown.  I even parked in my work building's garage.  Very easy, very familiar.  Shortly after I arrived, I met up with Katy and we caught up on life before she lined up for the 10k.  Then I wandered around until I saw Meghann at the Iron Girl tent.  She and I chatted for a couple of minutes, and next thing you knew, every blogger in Tampa and Orlando was at the tent.  Beka mentioned she wanted to run a PR, or somewhere between 1:50 - 1:53.  The 1:53 part sounded good to me, so I offered to run with her.

The race went off with an a cappella version of the National Anthem by a group of students from UCF.  Meghann, Beka, CarissaMichelle  and I started off running in a pack.  I thought we were running pretty slowly, but the first mile registered under 8:30.  Guess it was the weather and good company?  In any event, my plans for "running it slow" immediately went out the window.

Meghann, Beka and I continued to run together for at least the first six miles or so.  Around mile six, Beka and I got slightly in front of Meghann.  The course was a bit wonky, in my opinion.  Apparently there were over 40 turns?! It kind of felt like they were jamming in a half marathon on a very small area of downtown Orlando.  I would have preferred it showed off different parts of my fair city, but overall it wasn't a bad course.  Just twisty.


The fun part of all the twists and turns was seeing friends on all the out and backs.  Like Beka said, it felt like celebrity spotting and kept us entertained.  "Oh, there's so-and-so.  She's looking so strong!"

I nearly lost Beka around mile 8 thanks to my dilly-dalllying at a water spot.  I caught her and told her that if we could get to the 15k mark in 1:18, she'd easily PR.  Well, we came up on the 15 mark in 1:17, so I knew we'd probably be under 1:50 provided we didn't drop our pace.

Beka had a couple nasty leg cramps towards the end, but she fought them off and didn't stop running.  We made the end turn onto Central and the finish line was in site with 1:46:xx visible.  We finished with a time of 1:47:26, an entire 9 seconds faster than my Daytona time two weeks before.  Whoop!

After the race, we found Amanda,Paula, Michelle, Katy and Meghann (who came in less than a minute after we did) and I celebrated with a nice, cold beer.


It was eight ounces and I felt hammered.

The only bummer about the race was that it came up short on my watch by about .20 mile.  My watch does constantly measure short, and we may have lost signals going under several bridges, but I think the course was a scotch short.  Oh well.  Still one of my Best Damn Races!

Feb 25, 2014

What Makes a Good Race?

A little housekeeping first: the winner of the Dunkin' Donuts mCard is Kate!  Check your email for the details. :)

I'll be running my third half marathon of the year this weekend, the hopefully appropriately titled Best Damn Race.  I mean, that's a pretty bold title choice for a race.  Like, my expectations are pretty high.  It got me thinking, too.
 
What makes a good race?

For me, it's a few things.  In order of importance from most important to least:

  • Weather (this is out of the race's control, although you know if you run anywhere in Florida in the months of May, June, July or August you're probably going to sweat your @$$ off).  I consider weather in the high 40's - low 50's to be ideal.  Too bad it's like that for all of three weeks a year here in Central Florida.
That'd be "cool" weather for us
  • The course - lots of turns, or long straight shots?  For example, Best Damn Race has all kinds of hairpin turns, which are not my favorite. Makes me glad I ran the Daytona Half a couple weeks ago.   Is it hilly, or flat and fast?
  • The crowds - are we talking a local 5k where you can sign up race day, or the back corral of the Princess Half Marathon?

  • Course support - It would be helpful to have enough volunteers to man the aid stations.  Cough, cough, Lake Minneola Half).
  • Entertainment/crowd support - I don't really mind an empty course, but it is nice to have spectators to push you through those last tough miles.
  • Medal.  I like cute ones, mmmk?



Things I don't really care about:


  • A post-race "party" with beer.  I like to grab my food and get out, and I've never been able to choke down a beer right after a run.  I will say that the pizza at the Chicago Half Marathon was legit.


  • The shirt.  Truth be told, I think most of them aren't very flattering.  Most of my race tech tees are now pajama tops.  I did like the Space Coast shirt, though.



  • Gus/Gels/Energy bits on the course.  I just can't try new stuff.  My stomach hates me for it.
What makes a race good for you?  I didn't mention price, but obviously that's a really key factor too.

Feb 20, 2014

No. Sleep. Till. College. (Dunkin' Donuts Coffee Giveaway!)

One of the biggest lies I told myself when C was an infant was that once she slept through the night, I'd begin to feel rested again.

What. A. Crock.

10-12 hour work days, + an hour to work out (if I'm lucky) + the nightly bedtime routine (is it just me, or are the hours from 5:30 - 7:30 the most difficult?) = one tired mama.  I won't be getting any solid sleep until this little one goes to college.


Every morning, I look forward to my liquid cup o'gold - a.k.a. my coffee.  I only allow myself one cup a day, so it has to be a good one.  

On Monday morning, I'll be swinging by my local Dunkin' Donuts for a FREE (yes, you read that correctly) 20 ounce cup of Dunkin's new Dark Roast.  (Fun fact:  my local Dunkin' is exactly .90 miles from my house, and it was my bathroom pit stop during every single one of my pregnant runs.  Thank you, kind Dunkin's, for helping a preggo out!).


If you're a local reader in Orlando, stop by your Dunkin' Donuts on Monday for your own free cup.  Some additional details:

The new Dark Roast blend uses the same high-quality, 100 percent Arabica beans and delivers the same smooth taste as Dunkin' Donuts' legendary Original Blend coffee but is carefully roasted longer for a bolder, richer flavor and a stronger finish.  It is now available in participating Dunkin' Donuts restaurants in the Orlando area in both hot and iced coffee varieties. 

To give  their Dark Roast coffee even more flavor, guests can take a "shot in the dark" by customizing their beverage with one of eight different flavorings, including French vanilla, hazelnut, toasted almond, blueberry, coconut, cinnamon, caramel and raspberry.  Each of the delicious flavorings is unsweetened and can be added to Dunkin' Donuts' regular and decaffeinated hot and iced coffee, lattes, Coffee Coolatta® or hot chocolate. 

How awesome does the caramel shot sound?  Mmmmm.  Coffee.

Now for the fun part:

I'm giving away one $25.00 mGift card to a local reader so you can stock up on your fill of Dunkin' Dark Roast.  Just comment below and tell me how many hours of sleep you get a night.  I'll pick a winner Monday, February 24.

Thanks to my Jawbone, I know I average around 7 a night, but I wake up a lot. 

Disclosure: Dunkin' Donuts provided me with a mGift card to give away to my readers as well as a card for me to try the coffee.  All opinions are my own.

Feb 17, 2014

2014 Daytona Beach Half Marathon Recap

Surprise!  I ran a half marathon yesterday, and I wasn't sick.  FINALLY.


I signed up for Daytona Beach Half Marathon on a whim after someone in my running group posted a nice discount code in our Facebook page earlier this week.  I'd heard really good things about the race, and I've been in a bit of a running slump lately.  I needed a confidence booster before Best Damn Race in two weeks (my goal race).

(Side note: one of the realities of having a toddler is that someone needs to watch said toddler while I'm racing.  We've worked it out so that J has Saturday mornings to swim/play tennis/run, and I get Sundays.   While this means I'm not running with Marathonfest this season, it lets me race.  I am super thankful that my husband supports my running addiction).

Race Pros:

  • LOVE that there was packet pick up in Orlando on Friday, thereby preventing me from needing to drive to Daytona on Saturday.
  • The course!  We ran all the way around Daytona International Speedway (about 2.5 miles), then headed down towards the beach.  A brief portion of the race took place directly on the beach as the sun rose, and it was just gorgeous.  To get there, we had to run up (and down) the Broadway Bridge - twice
  • Real bathrooms 
  • Good course support, and a surprising number of spectators for a smaller race
  • Adequate number of water stops
  • Celebrity racers (i.e., I ran by Jimmie Johnson around mile 6 - it was an out-and-back and he was on the other side of the road)
  • Good medal
  • Tons of post-race food
  • Early start.  You need this in Florida.
Race Cons:
  • No goodies in the race bag, even though it's a bit of a pricy race.
  • Ran out of post-race beer (I didn't partake since I drove straight home)
  • No gender-specific tech tees.  I'm knit-picking here, but the reality is that more and more races have them now.  I'm so short that a mens small tech tee swallows me, which means that most of my race shirts never get worn.
On to my race:

Up at 4:00, on the road at 4:15.  Made it to Daytona by 5:00. I'd heard last year's parking was horrendous, and I did not want to get stuck in traffic. They obviously resolved the issue, as I had no issue getting a spot.  We drove under the track to park in the in-field.  Very cool



There were qualifying races later in the day, so there were tons of cars there already.  Hence why I took a picture of the cars edging my row. Good thing I did or I never would have found my car!






View from the infield.  Daytona is MASSIVE.

Like I said earlier, the first 2.5 miles are on the track.  I had no real strategy except 1) run the first mile SLOW and 2) keep an even split.

Mile 1-3:
8:28
8:12
8:18

5k split: 25:47

Now, my goal was sub 1:50, or around an 8:20/mile pace.  But my legs wanted to go faster than that, and it didn't feel hard, so I kept going.

Miles 4-6

8:10
8:04
8:15

10k split: 51:10

At mile 6, we began the climb over the causeway bridge.  Going up was tough, but going down was surprisingly harder.  My glutes were screaming at me.    That bridge was a beyotch!



Mile 7 partially took place on the beach, just as the sun rose.  Beautiful.  PS- thank goodness for hard-packed sand.


Mile 9 was the second climb over the bridge.  I really wanted to walk it.  But I didn't, because I knew if I started walking I wouldn't want to stop.

Miles 7-10
8:05
8:16
8:20
8:05

15k split: 1:16:40 (woah!)

By this point, I pretty much knew I had sub 1:50 in the bag.  But then I did some math and realized I could finish WAY under 1:50 if I kept it up.  So I did.

Miles 11-13.1
8:10
8:20 (getting tired)
8:00 (finish line in sight!)
:45 for the last .11

Final time: 1:47:35.  Goal ---> blown out of the water.  5th place in my age group.  I'm as surprised as you are.

I have never smiled so big crossing a finish line.  Damn, I needed this race.