Race Report – Kinetic International Triathlon

Kinetic International Finishers Photo

Photo credit to Keely

Triathlon number one for the season complete!

This was the first year (I believe) for the Kinetic International distance.  I’ve done the sprint here before, and the course looked the same as Giant Acorn (though I think the bike course is reversed from the last time I raced it), so I had a general idea of what I was getting into.  And then the weather forecasts started to roll in.

Once again, I started the season with a cold, rainy triathlon.  But this year, I knew what I was getting myself into.  I was much more mentally prepared for a miserable experience, and I think that preparation made a world of difference.  Also, it wasn’t that miserable.  But I was prepared for this to be a slower race than normal.

Race morning, the temperatures were in the upper 40s, and it was raining.  Great.  Awesome.  At least the 60-something water would feel warm.  Gotta find the bright side, right?  I got in the water as early as I could, probably at least 45 minutes before my wave started.  That’s the great thing about races at Lake Anna – you can get in the water super early and just sort of splash around until your wave starts.  It’s perfect for people nervous about the open water.

I was in the very last wave, which didn’t worry me too much.  This was an international and a 70.3 distance raced together, so that meant I had no risk of being the last finisher.

When my wave finally started, I struggled to find my groove at first, most notably because it was impossible to see the buoys.  The rain had stopped for the most part, but it was foggy and just hard to sight.  Not a big deal all in all, but annoying.  The swim course was a big rectangle, so once I made the second turn to go back towards the shore, things were much easier, though at that point, the wind picked up and there was some significant chop to the water.  I can handle that as long as I can tell where I’m going.

And though it felt like it took forever, I was finally out of the water and on my way to T1.

Swim: 41:24

One downside to races at Lake Anna is the long distance to transition.  It’s paved, which is nice, but it’s just a long uphill run.  Barefoot.  And since it had rained so much, once I got to transition, everything was just a huge mudpit.  I bet the bike tracks were at least an inch deep, probably more.  So that was hilarious to deal with.  No running for me – I didn’t need to find out how much padding my wetsuit would give me if I fell.

I stripped out of my wetsuit, getting it super muddy in the process and tried to clean my feet off to get my socks and shoes on.  (Yes, I wear socks on the bike leg.  I get blisters otherwise and it’s worth the few seconds it takes me.) I also watched a guy cursing at his wetsuit because he was stuck in it.

I opted to not put on my arm sleeves since the rain had stopped and I would rather be cool than overheat.  Plus they’re so annoying to put on while wet.

I definitely wasn’t hurrying in transition, which is probably something I should work on for next race.

T1: 4:39

On to the bike leg.  I was worried that because my cleats were so filled with mud that I wouldn’t be able to clip in properly.  Thankfully, it wasn’t too bad, but future me had some serious shoe cleaning ahead of her.  I headed out on the bike, which starts with a lovely uphill.  Having done the course a number of times, I was ready.

The roads were still a bit wet but not too bad, though I was still glad I had slightly underinflated my tires, especially on some of the speedy downhills.  I had a goal pace in mind and found myself just below it, but I think I tend to overestimate my goal pace in general.  I was also struggling with some tightness in my quads because I was so freaking cold.

I was pretty pleased with how I hung in during the bike, though I wished I had brought some cookies for a snack.  I forgot how much I like snacks on the bike.  Snacks are one of the best parts about biking!

Bike: 1:41:59

T2 went much better, though again, no running through the mud, so it was a slower trek.

T2: 3:15

And on to the run.  This I was familiar with.  It was a two loop course (though they tacked on a tiny bit near transition – I guess the old course was just a little short) with a grand uphill on each loop.  Hooray.  I didn’t even bother to try to run it, knowing it would shoot my heart rate up way too fast, so I just power walked it.  The downside to that is that there are tons of spectators there.  So I just chatted and said I was getting my moneys worth out of the course.

At this point, my upper hips/butt muscles were very tight (actually, using the internet I think maybe it’s my gluteus minimus? Anyone?) and I hoped I wouldn’t be fighting this the entire run.  Thankfully it just bothered me on the hill and then faded.

Because it was still cool, I was able to set into a good rhythm.  Not quite as fast as my most recent half marathon, but that wasn’t done on bike legs, so I was pleased to find a good groove.  I got tons of compliments on my Coeur team kit – it will be on sale next season!   It was awesome to feel so good out there.

The volunteers were spectacular.  As I was coming through, the pizza lunch delivery had just come for them, and I kept threatening to steal their pizza.  The tables were manned by kids with adults supervising, and these kids were great.  Sometimes, kid volunteers get sullen or bored, but I loved the enthusiasm these kids had.

Finally, FINALLY, I was cruising in to the finish.

Run: 1:20:22

Total time: 3:51:38

Not my fastest, but far from my slowest. I was thinking I would be around 4 hours with the weather, so I’m quite happy with this.  And I knew I had a good shot at placing Athena this race seeing as there weren’t a ton of entrants.  I was hoping for second.  First was unexpected and a delightful way to start the season.

Now I need a trophy shelf in my pain cave!

After the race, I got back to transition to retrieve my poor, muddy bike, and noticed they had  put down straw in transition.  SUPER nice.  Of course, my bike still had chunks of mud all over it.  That was a problem for future me too.

And my new tip: Use a blue IKEA bag as your transition mat (or stick it under your mat/towel).  Then when you’re done, you can throw all your gross gear inside it and haul it back to your car and contain the crazy amounts of mud.  When you clean your gear, just hose down the bag too.

 

Race Report – 2017 Cherry Blossom Ten Miler

This weekend, I ran my seventh Cherry Blossom Ten Miler.  And I think the weather was among the best that it has ever been.  This year has been pretty iffy, weather-wise, and while it was a little cool before the race, the day turned out beautiful and the blossoms were still beautiful.  Best of all, I got to meet up with some of my Coeur teammates before and after the race.  I’m so glad to get to know some of these girls so much better, and I’m looking forward to racing with them again.

As I wrote earlier this week, my goal was something under 2:10.  In my head, I had 2:05 wandering around, but I knew that was a long shot, as running 12:30s was going to be a whole lot faster than anything I’ve been able to pull out lately.  (Spoiler alert – I didn’t run that fast.  This isn’t one of those sorts of posts!)

This is probably the most “local” of races that I run, and I love that the logistics are so easy for me.  I get to park at my office building for free and walk down to the race start.  I love not having to worry about parking or traffic.  I left my house around 6 for a 7:30 race start and had plenty of time.  That’s the last time that’s going to happen this year.

Before the race, I met up with a bunch of my Coeur teammates and it was so fun to finally get to talk to these ladies in person instead of just online.  Everyone was so wonderfully nice.  Seriously, if you ever see anyone in a Coeur team kit out on a race course, just say hi.  Such friendly people.

I was in the Purple People Party Wave again this year – it’s the wave of people planning to finish in 2 hours or more. I joke that it’s the wave of people who like to get their money’s worth out of the course, but honestly, it’s often full of people who are stressed about the race time limit.  Because of the need to open up roads, Cherry Blossom has a 14 minute per mile pace requirement, so there are a lot of racers in the purple wave hoping that everything goes their way and they make that pacing requirement.

Before and during the race, I ran into a lot of friends, including some I was meeting for the first time in person.  Man, the internet is awesome.

As the race started, I didn’t really have a set pace in mind.  I knew I wanted to race under 2:10, so I wanted to run sub 13 minute miles, but other than that, I didn’t really have a major goal.  I just wanted to try to enjoy the race.

For whatever reason, this race, I just never found that running high, which was kind of a disappointment.  I was pushing, but not too hard, meeting my pace goals, and enjoying myself, but I never got that rush that we all often get during races.  So when I finished, it was kind of a bummer, even though my final time was pretty darn good.

Of course, part of the problem could have been that I didn’t realize how good my time was.

I ran a 2:07:09.  Which is meaningless until I look at my previous ten mile races.  This was faster than I have run any ten miler since before my heart issues were diagnosed.  I posted that, and my friend Kate said I shouldn’t qualify the PR.  And she’s right.  I should just reset everything in the spring of 2010 and move on from there.  So with that in mind, this was a PR.  It’s still a bit shocking to be cutting time from my races when I feel like I haven’t been run training a lot, but it shows just how much all my work on the bike really does help – and I enjoy it so much more.

Now, to see how this all plays out during triathlon season!

Blog post written with cat assistance.

Race Report – 2017 Little Rock Half Marathon

Sometime last year, a group of friends started planning to do the Little Rock Half Marathon.  Due to work commitments, I wasn’t able to join in, and then in November, my work schedule changed, and within two hours of that change, I was registered for the race, had purchased flights, and had planned to room with a friend.  While running isn’t my top training priority right now, I didn’t want to miss out on a fun weekend with friends.

When I registered, I didn’t really put two and two together and realize just how close this was going to be to the Donna Half Marathon.  I don’t typically race this close together anymore, though I definitely used to.  But hey, that just meant that getting up to race distance wasn’t going to be an issue.

While discussing my training plan with my coach, I emphasized that I didn’t want running to be my main focus.  The last time I was heavily run focused was before Donna in 2015 and I just didn’t enjoy it.  I don’t like running four times a week.  My race that year was stellar – about a minute and a half slower than my PR, and I was delighted with my results, but I wasn’t sure that chasing a PR was what I wanted to do.  I do this for fun, and if I hate all of the training, I’m failing in that goal.

So this winter, I’ve been very bike focused, while still running twice a week (a shorter run of 4-5 miles and then a longer weekend run).  By doing that, I’ve still been able to pull out races in the sub-3 category, which is always my goal.  My PR was set at the 2012 Virginia Beach Shamrock Half Marathon at a blistering 2:48:33, so I am quite happy with 2:55ish finishes with less training.

I did very little planning for the Little Rock Half.  I mean, I trained, but I didn’t look at the course, and only sort of paid attention to the weather.  As race week arrived, it looked more and more like it was going to be rainy.  Not ideal, but I’ll take rain over crazy heat for any race day.  (Well, maybe not for triathlons… I’ve done both and I’m not sure which I prefer.)

For race day, I knew I wanted to push the run, so I didn’t plan to run with anyone, but I wasn’t setting any specific goals, so I wasn’t nervous going in, nor did I really eat properly.  Way too much unhealthy food, way more alcohol than normal (which is really any alcohol – I don’t drink regularly anymore).

Race morning dawned and it was raining and chilly.  So I wore a long sleeved shirt over my short sleeved, figuring that if I got warm, I could take it off and tie it around my waist.  That sort of thing doesn’t bother me.  We also got incredibly fashionable trash bags from the hotel.

Black is slimming, right?

I ditched the trash bag before the race, but I saw people running in trash bags and ponchos for the entire half, and even saw some marathon finishers cross the finish line wearing plastic outerwear.  I didn’t think it was that cold.

Now, cold weather is my jam for running.  I even think that the fact that my wet long sleeved shirt pressed against my body helped my run.  I was miserably cold after, but during the run, I felt great.

During the first few miles, I felt like I was going out too fast, so I tried to pull back, but wasn’t very successful.  So I just decided to see how I felt.

Around mile 5, I started to wonder if I was on PR pace.  I also started to wonder just what my PR was.  I knew it was somewhere in the 2:48 range, but wasn’t sure where.

At mile 6, I started to do the mental math.  And continued that for the next few miles, as I continued to tick off sub-13 miles.  (I know, not fast for many, but my PR was at a 12:52 pace, so this was good.)

By mile 8, I knew that if I kept up the sub-13 pace, I could set a new PR.  So I decided to keep pushing, but not push too hard.  I knew there was a distinct possibility that I was going to blow up somewhere around mile 10, but I figured it was worth it for the attempt.

So I just kept ticking off the miles and holding to my intervals, hoping that my body would hold out.  It hurt, but in the good way.  I certainly didn’t feel like I was dying, as compared to many other races.  I think the temperatures absolutely helped.

By about mile 12, I knew I had it, and I was right.  I sailed into the finish with a time of 2:46:52, destroying my 5-year-old PR by over a minute and a half.  Definitely an unexpected result, but I think going in without that expectation really helped, and the conditions were just about perfect for me.

Clearly all the work I’m putting in on the bike has helped tremendously.  I love that I can see improvements like this without killing myself on run training.  I love killer bike workouts and loathe killer run workouts, so this is a huge win all around.

The race itself was awesome.  Amazing course support, and so very many spectators out there, even with the rain and the cold.  And best of all, the finisher’s area was all held inside the convention center, so we could get out of the cold and rain when we were done with the race.  This is definitely a race to keep on my list.  And the finisher’s medal is awesome!  Definitely bigger than normal, and the spiral on the back spins.  The marathon medal is insane – literally twice as big as the half medal and it pretty much takes up a person’s entire chest.  So if you race for medals, this is the race to run.

I set a PR, colored a llama, and drank a beer. All in all, a good day.

Race Report – 2017 DONNA Half Marathon

Another year, another successful DONNA Half Marathon.

This weekend was the 10th anniversary of the DONNA Marathon and Half Marathon, a race dedicated to finishing breast cancer.  The race is always a hugely positive experience and so much fun to run.  Far from being a sappy sort of event, this race is filled with lots of laughter, great costumes, and amazing spectators.

This is one of those races where you can run it however you want.  If you want to push for a PR, this is a great place to do it. With the exception of the end of the race, it’s fairly flat.  If you are a new half marathoner and aren’t sure how fast you can finish, this is a great race to try, as it’s got a 7 hour time limit for both the half and full, so no 3.5 hour time limit here.  And if you want to see how much you can eat and drink during a course, these spectators have you covered.  I’m pretty sure you could very easily get drunk while running this race if you wanted to.

I’ve run this race for speed and I’ve run this race for fun. This year, I wasn’t aiming for a PR, but I had done some pretty great long runs over the past few weeks, so I decided I wanted to push a bit to see what I could pull out, even though my training hasn’t been run focused.  But I also wasn’t out to kill myself.  One thing that I worried would be working against me was the weather.  This year was predicted to be warm.  Perfect weather for hanging out on the beach, not great weather for running.

Race morning was cool, but not cold.  Plenty of people were bundled up, but I’m pretty sure that was the Floridians.  I was comfortable in my short sleeves.  The pre-race area is great – plenty of porta-potties, a warming tent, and free coffee and donuts!  Amazing!

The race starts with a wave-start, but the waves are self-seeded based on your estimated finish time.  Half and full runners start together, which I love.  And the best part?  Each wave got its own cannon of confetti that just kept blowing.  It’s great that everyone gets the fun of the start line, not just the fastest runners.

I decided to push a bit on the early miles, pick up a bit of padding for when the sun came up, and miles one and two were a little fast for me.  Unfortunately, all my hydrating in the days prior to the race meant that I needed a bathroom stop early on, so I lost a few minutes there.  Luckily, not too many.

There were so many spectators out for this race.  I loved it.  Neighborhoods really get into it and it’s almost as if they’re competing to be the best neighborhood.

I settled into my pace and made my way through the race.  I felt surprisingly good, even though it was warm.  My parents were cheering at mile 7, and the plan was for them to have shots of Fireball for all of us, but the bar didn’t open this year.  So disappointing!

Photo credit: My Dad

But all was fine, as a spectator had set up his own tent later with mini shots of Fireball.  Race nutrition saved!

We really lucked out with the weather.  The sun managed to stay behind clouds for the first few hours of the race.  The faster half marathoners had no issues with the heat.  For me, the sun came out sometime during mile 11, just as I was venturing onto the bridges – the only really hilly part of the race.  No shade and solid inclines… yuck.  Lost a bit of speed here.

As I reached the top of the final bridge, I remembered why I always push through this part – there are SO many spectators cheering people on, encouraging them up and over the hill.  You can’t stop there!

I pushed through and my final time was 2:56:56.  Considering that included a bathroom stop, a drink stop, and a quick pause to say hi to my parents, I’m pleased with that.  Most importantly, I had a great time and I felt good throughout the race.

Post race area was also awesome.  Soda, water, beer, snacks, hot dogs… yum.

I continue to adore this race.  I’ve gotten much more picky in the races I run, and this one will definitely stay on my schedule.  It’s the sort of race where you can make it whatever you want, and runners of all levels are welcome.

Until next year, Jacksonville Beach

 

Race Report – 2016 Space Coast Half Marathon

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I love this race.  LOVE this race.

For the fourth year in a row, I ran the Space Coast Half Marathon the Sunday after Thanksgiving.  It’s become part of my holiday tradition.  Stuff face on Thursday, fly to Florida on Friday, visit Kennedy Space Center on Saturday, race on Sunday.  (Then gallivant around Disney.)

This race is so well organized and so much fun to run.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt that a good number of the people running have raced before so they know what’s going on.

The race starts and ends at a park.  The race provides transportation, but we’ve found it easier to just drive in and park.  This year, Liz drove us in and dropped us off which was a huge perk.  As per usual, met up with friends and waited for the race start.

Pro tip – there are indoor bathrooms.  Avoid these.  Just go use the portapotties.  The indoor bathroom line is ridiculous and by the time you get through the line, they will be just as gross as the portapotties, if not worse.

One thing I love about this race is that it’s an out and back.  That means that if you know anyone else running, you’re all but guaranteed to see them out on the course.  It also means that you get to run by some fabulous spectators twice.

The residents in this part of Cocoa have to deal with their road being pretty much shut down thanks to the race, and many of them handle it quite well.  There are a lot of people out in their yards, watching and cheering.  And some of them get really into it, cooking breakfast and providing all sorts of drinks for the runners.  I’ve never seen so many different alcoholic options on a course before.  Very impressive, Cocoa residents.

As for my race, it went surprisingly well.  I wasn’t sure how it would go since the race is often terribly humid, but this year was a bit cooler than normal, which made me happy.  I wanted to run a sub-3 if I could.  My training hasn’t been stellar, as it’s technically my off season, so this race was just to see what happened.  And I ended up with a course PR – 2:55:14.  Not by much – only a minute or so.  But it felt awesome and I had a great time, so I’ll take it!