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!

Race Report: Army Ten Miler

atm-2016On Sunday, I ran the 32nd annual Army Ten Miler.  This was my 8th running of the race.  Considering that I’ve only lived here 9 years, that’s a pretty good record.

What can I say about this race?  I love it.  I always enjoy the ten mile distance, and this race has exceptional atmosphere.  It’s a big race – 35,000 people – but if anyone can handle organization in a race that size, it’s the Army.

Of course, in a race like this, there is a ton of patriotism.  Lots of people running in honor of fallen soldiers.  Lots of Wounded Warriors participating in the race.  Lots of people running carrying giant flags.  It’s a really positive atmosphere.

This year was a bit more complicated since Metro isn’t opening early for races.  Shannon and I drove and got to the parking garage around 5:30.  My wave didn’t start til close to 9am, so we were definitely there earlier than we needed to be, but with the closed roads and large number of people driving in, I don’t regret the decision to get there so early.

It was actually raining in the morning as well, though it stopped before the race started.  I wonder how many people stayed away due to Metro and the weather.  Looking at the results, it looks like about 24,000 people finished.  Last year, there were 26,300, and around the same in 2014 as well.  So the numbers definitely were down.

While it didn’t rain, it was super windy.  I’m not sure how the people carrying giant flags handled the last bit of the race without blowing over.

My race turned out spectacularly.  I wasn’t sure how it was going to go, just two weeks out from Augusta.  (I have to admit, Augusta feels SO long ago at this point.  I can’t believe it’s been just over two weeks.)  My coach warned me that it was going to suck.  Surprisingly, it didn’t.

A bit part of that was that my friend Tricia and I ran into each other, so we ran the race together.  I don’t see her very often, so it was awesome to catch up and chat for those ten miles.  Made them go much faster than I expected.

Finished in 2:14ish, which I can’t be disappointed by.  I would have liked to be under 2:10, but given what I was coming off of, I think that was probably overly ambitious.  Either way, I finished, had a great time, and felt great.

Unfortunately, the next day I was super sore, likely from being so very cold before the race.  I wasn’t really warmed up when I started.  Ideally, I would have started slower, but who can manage that in a race?  I think I was more sore after this race than I was after Augusta!

Now, on to the next adventure.

Race Report: IRONMAN Augusta 70.3

I did it!  I finished IRONMAN Augusta 70.3!

Happy finisher!  All photos courtesy of my dad.

Happy finisher! All photos courtesy of my dad.

This report is going to be long, so settle in.

I was really well trained for this race.  Really well trained.  But I just didn’t know what was going to happen on the race.  I wasn’t worried about any of the individual legs, just how my body would handle that much working out all on one day.

First off, the people of Augusta are awesome.  Everyone was so friendly.  The local tri club was even inviting people to a practice swim on Friday night.  It was only semi-organized, but it was nice to know that around 5pm, there would be a bunch of people in the water.

Liz and I drove in on Thursday so that Friday, we could sleep in and hit the expo.  At the expo, I managed to hold back from buying too much.  After all, if I didn’t finish, would I want a bunch of Augusta 70.3 merchandise?  So I got a t-shirt, a pint glass, and a water bottle.  We sat through the athlete briefing and felt pretty darn prepared for the race.  I definitely recommend going to the athlete briefings.  Even though I knew most of the info already, it felt great to have that reassurance.

We went to the practice swim at the river.  Wetsuit on, I jumped in and swam the whole course.  It wasn’t easy, with a giant cheeseburger still in my stomach, but the current felt fabulous.  When I finally hauled myself out of the water (with the grace of a walrus), my watch read 29 minutes and change.  1.2 miles in 29 minutes.  AMAZING.  So I knew that come race day, I could easily do it in under 35 minutes (giving myself some extra padding for crowds, etc).

Saturday, we drove the bike course.  Definitely a good idea.  It was great to get an idea of what we had ahead of us.  And it wasn’t bad at all.  I was expecting worse hills. So I was feeling pretty darn confident.

Race morning dawned bright and early.  We opted to park at the garage near the convention center and take the shuttle (school bus) to transition.  While on the bus, we started hearing rumblings that the race was no longer wetsuit legal.  People were panicking.  I didn’t really care either way, but waited to hear the word from the officials.  As I started to setup, there it was.  The water temp was 77, so there would be a wetsuit wave.

I figured this would slow me down, but I wasn’t too worried.  I was certainly not waiting for a wetsuit wave.  My wave started at 8:20. The wetsuit wave was an hour later.  My biggest concern was the heat on the run, so I wanted to get off that course as early as possible.  There were definitely a few people around panicking though.  A lot of people choose Augusta because the swim is easy with the current.  This was the first time in 8 years of the race that the water was this warm.

We found Anne and then headed back towards the start line and stood on the hill to watch the race start.  Those pro women are fast!  Finally, it was time for Anne and I to head down to the swim start.  When it was our wave’s turn to get into the water, I jumped in and treaded water.  It would have been nice to hold onto the dock, but it was just too crowded.  The current wasn’t as strong as I thought it might be, so I wondered how slow this swim was going to be.

Finally, the horn blew.  And my hours and hours of exercise began.  The swim was really nice.  A bit crowded, but I started to pick off men from the wave before.  What surprised me was the amount of plant material.  There hadn’t been quite this much the evening before.  At one point, I ran into a stick that was at least three feet long.  I popped up to tread and move the stick out of the way.  Swim swim swim and there was the ramp to exit.  I got out of the water and glanced down at my watch.  So much faster than I anticipated.

Swim: 33:13

So happy to be out of the water

So happy to be out of the water

The run from the swim exit to transition was SO LONG.  When I got to T1, I made sure my feet were somewhat cleaned off before I got my socks on.  No need to have a rock in my sock for the next 56 miles.  I also took the time to put on my cooling wings, which I kept on the entire race.

T1: 6:17

Onto the bike.  I had decided that for the first ten miles, I was just going to ride comfortably.  Push, but not too hard.  I’m not used to flats, so I wasn’t sure how this was going to go.  Ultimately, I was riding way faster than I anticipated.  My first 5 miles were 15.5mph and the second 5 were 16.4mph.  Yes, that was a good clip.  But it was also a bit of good padding for the upcoming hills.  I ended up stopping at the first water stop to refill my water bottles and then at the second stop to grab some more water and use the bathroom.  It was hot out there and I was working hard to stay hydrated.

Even with the detour on the route, the hills weren’t bad.  Certainly no worse than the hills I had trained on.  In fact, I think they were a bit easier.  So I felt like I was flying through the course.  Of course, I have a lot of room for improvement on the bike, but I was really pleased with how I was doing.

Bike: 3:48:01

T2 wasn’t anything exciting.  Put my bike away, watched some poor girl completely unable to find her rack.  She just couldn’t figure out how to match up her number with the numbers on the rack.  That’s what stress does to you.

T2: 5:16

By this point, I knew I was going to finish under 8:30.  And I was delighted about that fact.  I also knew I would see my friends and family on the run, and that was awesome too.  This course is awesome for spectators.  There are so many options for them to see you.

This was somewhere on the first loop, I think.

This was somewhere on the first loop, I think.

The run was definitely hot.  The first mile or so was brutal.  I wasn’t sure how I was going to get through, but once I got some ice and cold water, I felt a million times better.  There were water stops a little more than a mile apart, and they were incredible.  Water, Gatorade, Coke, Red Bull, Clif Bars, Clif Shots, pretzels, chips, bananas, and oranges.  Most stops had ice, though some ran low, which made for some disappointed runners.

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By this point, I knew that if I kept my wits about me, I could get a sub-8 finish time, which would mean meeting every single goal I set for the race.  So I pushed the run, but not too hard.  I wanted to run around 14 minute miles.  But the heat made that easier said than done.  I stayed close to it until around mile 10 when the sun really started to beat down.  I realized that my run pace was slowing significantly, so I opted to power walk, which wasn’t terribly slower and felt a million times better.

Check out these awesome cheerleaders!

Check out these awesome cheerleaders!

I also had an amazing fan club.  My parents and my sister flew in to watch me race, and Nikki and Jenny came in to cheer as well.  It was so fun to see them out there.  There were so many awesome fans out there, but mine were the best.

Finally, the finish line was close.  It was amazing to turn that last corner and see the finish line straight ahead.

I can see the finish!

I can see the finish!

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Run: 3:16:38

Total time: 7:49:25.  All goals reached!

This race was so incredibly worth all the work.  It was hard, but it felt so great to cross that finish line.  I’m really proud of everything I accomplished and not giving up when things got hard.  And a huge thank you to everyone who supported me along the way.

Now, what’s next?

Finishers

Happy finishers who really need showers.

Swim Report – HarborFest Swim

IMG_2796As if a hilly 66 mile ride wasn’t enough, Sunday morning I did the Wave One HarborFest Swim at National Harbor.

Yes, I paid money to jump into the Potomac.  But it wasn’t as gross as I feared.  Just kind of stinky.

The race offered a bunch of distances – 750m, 1.2 miles, 2.4 miles, and the absolutely insane 5K.  Clearly, I went for the 1.2 mile swim.  While I wasn’t looking forward to a second early morning and missing Iron Girl volunteering for a jump into the Potomac, I was looking forward to trying out the race distance.

Of course, it wasn’t going to be much of a predictor for Augusta since the conditions are completely different, but it’s never bad to cover the distance.

The event was low key and well organized.  Before the swim, the race director offered various tips for the swim, knowing that a lot of people were using this as a triathlon open water swim practice. It definitely made for a positive atmosphere.  Plus it was fun to hang out with Liz and finally meet Laura in person.

The waves went off beginning with the longest distance, so we could watch people start the swim but also be reassured that we wouldn’t be the last out (I assume that honor went to one of the amazing 5K swimmers).  When it was time for the 1.2, I jumped right in.   Water wasn’t as horrible as I feared.  When the swim started, I was definitely trapped in a pack and had issues with other swimmers a couple of times during the swim.  Just a crowded event.  No real problems, just a little annoying.

For the 1.2, we had a two loop course.  Nice because it was a good opportunity to practice sighting and turn buoys.  I knew by the first loop that I was a little slower than I wanted to be.  But I still felt comfortable, so I decided to just push a bit harder.

I managed to get passed twice by one of the 5K swimmers.  So that was fun.  I also kept touching someone’s foot that was the grossest foot I have ever touched.  ICK.

I finished the swim in just under 53 minutes.  I was hoping for more in the 40’s.  But I’ll take it.  I was coming in fatigued from the day before, plus Augusta will be wetsuit legal and with the current, so I’ve got a good shot at getting closer to the 45 that I want.

All in all, not a bad event.  Then I had to go for a 10 mile run.  That was… less fun.  And took way more than 53 minutes.

Oh, and I thought this was cool.  After the run, I was walking back through National Harbor and everyone was standing around staring at something.  When I got closer I realized what it was.

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The Olympics up on the big screen.  Taking advantage of a beautiful day and getting outside and still managing to watch Team USA.  Seems like a win all around.