Race Report – 2019 Space Coast Half Marathon

I think it’s clear that I like space races, as I have now run this race seven times, with plans to do it at least another two years. I don’t typically run for medals, but come on, this series is fabulous.

I’m not sure what’s going to happen after 2021, but I really want the full set of the human spacewalk medals. Why? Because they’re cool.

Admittedly, I also really like this race. The course is simple, very flat, and the time of year is perfect. There is nothing better than going down to Florida in late November/early December and just getting away for a long weekend before the crazy holiday season really starts.

This year, as per usual, we headed down on Friday and hit up the expo on Saturday. Though I didn’t buy anything, this expo gets bigger every year and there are some good vendors there. And the volunteers aren’t to be beat. The sheer organization of the whole event is incredible.

It’s nice to do a race that I’m so familiar with. This race starts in a little downtown area, and it can seem a bit confusing at the start. Everyone is trying to cram into this little space down a street between cute shops and it’s very crowded and the pace groups seem all messed up and it doesn’t seem reasonable that the course will clear out. But it does. Every year, the start works and within the first half mile, the space has widened and people can run a reasonable pace.

I didn’t feel super well trained for this race, even though I had done two 10+ mile runs. My only goal was to run with my sister, finish the race, and get a medal. I was also hoping for little to no hip pain. I’m still not back into shape after breaking my arm so I’m having to do a lot of extra rehab work on both my hip and my upper body.

This race was a lot of fun, as per usual. It wasn’t my fastest, but it wasn’t my slowest. I finished in 3:12:01, finishing with my sister, my friend Nikki, and having had a great time chatting our way through the race. And with some energy in reserve for a night at Disney World.

Once this series is over, I’m not sure how long I’ll continue traveling for this race, but it’s a lot of fun and I love being able to go to the beach to start the holiday season. It’s a great place, lots of good fun, and always an amazing time with friends.

Race Report – 2019 Patriot’s Olympic Triathlon

This weekend, I finally returned to the race stage after crashing on April 20th. Early in the year, I registered for the Patriots Olympic Triathlon, and it was the one race I opted to not defer after my crash. I really wanted to have something to work towards. I knew it would be tough, but I was dedicated to completing it.

Of course, the incoming hurricane had something to say about it. We were very lucky to not get hit, but thanks to Dorian, the swim was cancelled. The rescue boat was required elsewhere, so we know about the cancellation mid-day Thursday (the race was on Saturday). There were plenty of angry athletes, but I was just disappointed. Obviously, the important thing was that people were kept safe, so I’m glad the rescue boat could be prioritized to where it needed to go. And I was glad to know early so that I could mentally prepare.

My biggest worry was probably the swim. My elbow and shoulder still hurt when I swim. It’s not bad, and swimming doesn’t make it worse or better, but it’s just something I’m going to have to deal with for a while. So having the swim cancelled removed that worry.

It also really removed another big worry, which was a super fast cyclist coming up behind me after the swim. The race turned into a time-trial start, all self-seeded. While there weren’t signs indicating where people should line up, I figured there wouldn’t be any crazy cyclists whizzing past. Sure, there would be some jockeying for position, but nothing like a slow swimmer/expert cyclist coming out of the water later and then trying to crush the competition.

This race, I also had my boyfriend with me as chauffeur, carrier of heavy things, captain of the cheer squad, anxiety battler, and all around super supportive person. I think that definitely helped as well. He kept me out of my head and prevented a lot of stress.

eric shark
He took his cheer squad responsibility very seriously.

He also very proudly wore the shark head, much to the delight of many a toddler. After the race, I asked him how many people he took pictures with, and he said something like “Not too many, only maybe ten or so.” TEN? That’s a lot of people to ask a random stranger for a selfie!

The race also had a half-distance before the olympic, so we got to watch the half athletes go off first, which was helpful in understanding how they were going to do the time-trial start. The bike didn’t actually use the original “bike out” path, so I was confused for quite some time until things got started. I was ready to leave and return the same way, so the description of how the time trial would start made no sense to me until I saw it happen.

I ended up lining up with some other friendly Athenas. We chatted and had a lovely time as we waited for our race to start.

For the start, we walked to the start line and were told to go in pairs in 15-second intervals. We walked/ran across the line and mounted our bikes. And then we were off.

patriots bike mount
Don’t fall, don’t fall, don’t fall.

The start was a bit scary because we rode along a very narrow path along the side of the road (that would later be part of the run). There wasn’t any jockeying for position because there literally wasn’t any space for it.

Thankfully, that didn’t last terribly long, and then it felt like the race really started. I had done the race before, back in 2017, so I knew it was flat save for one bridge (that I had also ridden many times during Rev3 Williamsburg) so there wasn’t a lot of unfamiliarity here. Flat was a bit of a misnomer – there were some small rollers, and as someone who has done the majority of her training inside this year, they felt larger than they really were. My only goal for this ride was to at least try to stay in my racing zone – though I’ve not done a new FTP test since before my accident, so it’s possible that’s a bit high. My watch is set to beep at me when I’m out of the zone, and well, it did a lot of beeping! I wasn’t really watching my pace, but I knew I was doing well based on the time it was taking me to complete each 5 mile set (my watch beeps and gives me the time for each 5 mile “lap”). My only real goal was to keep to at least 15mph and I was absolutely doing that.

Of course, even with the time trial start, there were still a number of riders (male, of course) who came flying up from behind me. The whole point to the time trial start was to put everyone in generally the right spot pace-wise, so waiting til last to start is kind of a jerk move. I know plenty of people who do it running, and that doesn’t bother me, because there really isn’t much of a safety risk to a fast runner passing you, but as I can attest, a fast cyclist coming past you can cause all sorts of damage. Naturally, there was the expected shifting of positions, where I caught up to other riders or others caught me, but it was the number of riders who came blasting past that I found very frustrating.

Around mile 20, I started to get cocky. I hadn’t crashed! I had made it through the bike! Except not yet. No getting cocky now. I needed to finish the ride first.

And I did. Just under 24 miles (the course was a bit short the last time I rode it too) at 18.1mph.

Bike: 1:17:27

I was off the bike and running into transition. I couldn’t believe I could actually run into transition. I think I was just so excited to have not crashed.

In transition, I just felt like I was moving through molasses. I was sure I was in there for nearly five minutes. It felt like it took me forever. But it didn’t.

T2 (or T1, depending on how you view it): 1:45

I had looked at the run map for this race because I remembered that there was a weird turn and that the last time I raced, a bunch of people had missed it and ended up running a loop backwards. What I didn’t look up was what the course was like, so I had forgotten that a good chunk of it is through a wooded area, on a dirt path. It’s actually really pretty, but it also feels pretty darn deserted.

My goal on the run was to hold my intervals (1:1) and to keep to a sub-14 pace. I really wanted to be closer to 13, but I know where I’m at right now, and knew that might be pushing too hard.

The other thing I forgot about this race was how lonely it feels at some parts of the race. It definitely starts to feel like a bit of a mental challenge, when you feel like you’re the only one out there, no other runners, no spectators. I had to work hard to stay out of my head. I’m a slower runner – there’s no way around it. And I’m okay with that. But when I feel like I’m totally alone while racing, it becomes a mental game. So I just started doing race math. Each mile, how far under 14 minutes was I? How much time was I “earning” each mile? Whatever it takes, that’s what I did.

Look at that air!

I managed to ultimately keep a 13:09 pace, which is fantastic! I was super pleased with how well things turned out.

I made the final turn into the race and pushed myself to cross the finish line strong. I won’t lie – it hurt. But it felt so great to finally be crossing a finish line again.

Run: 1:21:42

Total race time: 2:40:56

I’ve never done a bike-run race before, so it was hard to say just what that time meant, but given that my main goal was to finish under 3:45, I’d say that even if there had been a swim, I would have been safely under that time. So all in all, a great race back! I also came in smack in the middle of the Athenas, which was an awesome place to be (and it was so great to see so many of us out there!). Now I have something to work towards for next season. And a great cheerleader to join me on the adventures.

Rumpus in Bumpass, aka Swim, Bike, Crash

On April 20, I was scheduled for my first triathlon of the year. (Yes, it has taken me a while to get all of these words out.) I’m not typically a fan of early season racing. I like to get in some good practice swims before I race. However, last year, I was registered for Rumpas in Bumpass as a warmup for Choo 70.3. Obviously, thanks to my labral tear, that was out, but the race company had an awesome deferral policy. That meant that this year, I had an already funded race entry for the race. Might as well show up, right? Right.

I had mixed feelings going into the race. I was so thankful that the weather was supposed to be nice. Was I prepared? Yes and no. I hadn’t done any OWS swimming, and I hadn’t ridden my bike outside yet. But I had put in the work and I was excited to start the season and see some friends at the start line.

Race morning was gorgeous. All the rain had cleared the area and things looked amazing. I was feeling good. I got everything setup in transition and hung out with friends as we waited for race start. I wedged myself into my wetsuit. It felt good. I hadn’t had a chance to try it out yet, but I figured things would be fine. I didn’t have an issue with wetsuits.

Cue foreshadowing.

I got in the water early and tried to get used to the cold. It was in the mid-60’s. Not awesome, but not too bad. Two men’s waves went off, then it was our turn. Racing! Yay!

I struggled to get comfortable. Why? Probably the cold and the fact that every year, my first OWS of the year sucks. I need to remember this. Future self, do some practice swims before racing! So I got myself into a spiral and realized I had two options. I could quit or I could figure out how to get out of my wetsuit and keep going. So I pulled up at a jet ski and took off my wetsuit in the water. It was not easy and I was gasping from the cold. But once it was off, I was going to finish this race. I am way too stubborn to quit, and I was pretty proud of myself for getting through a really bad moment.(Ominous music continues.) With the pause and the lack of the wetsuit, I was now behind the pack, but not too far off. There were plenty of swimmers around me, and by the time I finished, I was coming out with the first wave of sprint swimmers as well (they had a shorter swim course, naturally).

The trek to transition was through ankle deep mud. Do not recommend.

At transition, I ran into another girl I had met earlier, so I shared my foot rinse water bottle with her, got geared up, wished the girl luck, and headed out.

(This part is harder to write than I thought it would be.)

The race was a two loop course for the Olympic racers and single loop for the sprinters. There was a slight straightaway, then you joined the loop with a lefthand turn.

I made the turn and merged in, found a solid spot on the right, but there were racers flying past me on the left, both sprinters and olympic athletes starting their second loop. There were definitely people riding in groups, not necessarily in packs, but just situational things where riders were riding a few across and not really following the rules. That can just happen racing. Unfortunately, those rules exist for a reason.

I was barely a mile in when I heard yelling behind me. I shifted farther to the right, as I had been riding about a foot out to stay out of the gravel and junk on the side of the road. That was the wrong choice, as the guy coming up behind me was attempting to pass on the right.

(Yes, this is a complete rule violation. However, because I’m not sure what was all going on around me, I suspect there was a cluster of riders to the left as well and he made the best decision he had in a bad situation. He didn’t know I was going to also try to get out of the way by shifting right. I’m choosing to believe this was just an unfortunate situation and not a blatant attempt to flaunt the rules.)

Always wear a helmet. Always.

The other cyclist hit me. Thankfully, I wasn’t going super fast. I flew over my handlebars. I landed first on my left forearm, then the rest of my body crashed to the ground. My head bounced off the ground. That was probably the scariest moment. Heads aren’t supposed to bounce off of things.

I never lost consciousness and instead sat up pretty much right away. My left side hurt and I knew I was bleeding, but I could move my hands and my feet, and these all seemed like good things. I could see straight and my head didn’t hurt.

Some amazing spectators came running over to me, and I wish I knew who they were so that I could properly thank them. They made me focus on them and kept telling me to not look at my left side. This freaked me out. “Are there any bones sticking out?” I wasn’t in a ton of pain, but had this vision of something sticking out of my arm. I also pretty quickly asked if my bike was okay. As any cyclist would.

Mostly, I was just scared. I was sitting in the middle of the race course bleeding and it took a while for medical get to me. In reality, it was less than five minutes, but it felt like forever. I was able to stand, and cradling my left arm, I climbed into a cart and was taken to a waiting ambulance where they checked me over. I was freezing cold since I was wet and they kept piling me with blankets so I stopped shivering. They didn’t seem terribly worried, which was insanely reassuring. I needed to be seen by a doctor, but things weren’t dire.

I convinced them to put my bike into the ambulance and had someone retrieve my backpack (with my phone and ID inside) from transition and went to the hospital. No sirens, so it was a long trip. I chatted with the EMT and found out how he got into the gig. Mostly I think I was trying to distract myself.

At the hospital, things didn’t seem like too big of a deal. They helped me out of my wet kit and into a hospital gown which was awesome. Being cold was the worst part of all of it. My head was fine. I got taken for x-rays and was really hoping my shoulder and collarbone weren’t broken. I didn’t want to deal with pins. And they were fine! My elbow was less fine, and more worryingly, there was a whole bunch of gravel in my arm.

The most painful part were the muscles in my left shoulder and up into my neck. They still hurt today. But nothing was bad. They asked me if I wanted any pain meds and I said no. They insisted on Tylenol, so I took that.

I refused to look at the wound in my arm. I decided I didn’t want to know. The PA came in a number of times to irrigate my arm to work to get the gravel out. And apparently, they were able to get a lot of it out. But when I went back for more x-rays, it wasn’t enough and I needed surgery to get the gravel out and possibly a bone chip.

Great.

I was pretty chill through all of this. I wasn’t even concerned when they were pushing two kinds of IV antibiotics. This seems fine. My brain is weird. When they said surgery, I was like “Okay, let’s do this.” The whole time, I really was thinking about how lucky I was. I bounced my head off the ground and I was fine. This injury was relatively minor.

So off to surgery it was. Thankfully, it was just rocks and no bone chip. But I woke up with a brace on my arm, an appointment with an ortho for the following week, and prescriptions for even more heavy antibiotics. The worst part was that when I woke up, I was so hungry. I was given a soda and crackers, but I had a brace on one arm and an IV in the other so I couldn’t get food to my mouth. It was an incredibly cruel moment. Generally though, I felt good and was ready to break out.

The final verdict is a broken elbow, serious road rash on my left shoulder and quad, some very colorful bruising and a gross wound on my left elbow that is going to leave a sweet scar.

Two weeks out and healing is going as expected. I start up PT on my arm this week and will be getting a new brace. My doctor told me that recovery is probably around 8 weeks, so I’ll be back out there soon enough. But of course, this means that my comeback season isn’t happening this year. I won’t be trained up for 70.3 Ohio, so Sherpa Shark will be back as a spectator (and thank goodness I bought the insurance). I was registered for four more local races with Kinetic Multisports (the group that runs Rumpus) and because of my crash, they deferred my next two races til next year, have offered to defer my September races (though I hope to be back by then) and offered me a free entry into next year’s Rumpus. I think I won’t be taking them up on the last offer – crash aside, I need OWS practice before I race, so no more early season races for me.

In general, I feel really really lucky. This could have been a lot worse. Yes, I have moments of being annoyed by the situation, disappointed that I’m going to have to rebuild my fitness AGAIN (all I’ve been able to do since the race is walk and some lower body strength work), but I’m okay. Of all my limbs to injure, my left arm is probably best, since I’m right handed. I can still type (and am encouraged to to help keep my shoulder loose). It’s awkward and I still hurt, but my recovery is going to be easy compared to what it could be.

I have to say that one thing this made me realize is how amazing my friends are. Liz dropped everything to drive down to the hospital, sat there all day, talked to my surgeon, and stayed the night with me. Kim and Jon drove a stupid distance from their house on a Sunday to go retrieve my car from Fredericksburg. And so many others sent offers of help, meals, or well wishes. It definitely made me feel loved.

Race Report: 2018 Space Coast Half Marathon

So I’m a bit behind in my blog updates.  The weekend after Thanksgiving, I ran my first and only half marathon for the year.  This was my sixth year running the Space Coast Half, but this year felt a bit more important, since I hadn’t raced a 13.1 since the previous year’s Space Coast Half.

Obviously, if I’ve done a race six years in a row, I probably like it.  And the one thing I have to say is that these race organizers are always improving.

In terms of my performance in the race, I wasn’t too concerned about the distance.  I knew I would be slow, but my coach had me do a 13 mile training run, something I had never done in half marathon training.  I wondered why I was doing it, but didn’t question her expertise, and I’m glad I didn’t.  What that training run gave me was the confidence that I could cover the distance without pain from my labral tear, but it also gave me an idea of how fast I would race, so I didn’t have to put a lot of time into worrying about that.  It was really freeing to not be focusing on a finishing time.

This year was the first year in a new four year race series, and they made a few changes for this year.  The expo continues to grow, which is nice, though I so rarely buy anything at race expos anymore, especially when I travel to a race.  I need to make more room for stuff in my luggage so I can shop.  

Race morning, my sister Caitlin and I made plans to race together.  I think I’ve seen her more this year than I have since we lived in the same timezone.  That’s been pretty awesome.  Dad dropped us off at the race start, which was a huge perk. No worries about parking!  Another change this year was that they added a second half marathon.  The marathon course is sort of shaped like an infinity symbol, and previously, the half marathon was only the south side of the course.  The marathoners ran the north loop, then joined the half marathoners on the south loop.  This year, there was an option to run the north loop half marathon course.  The big difference between the two, aside from the scenery, is that the north half has a 3.5 hour time limit, while the south half has a 7 hour time limit (the full marathon time limit).  Even though I’ve run the south course 5 times, when it was time for race registration, I was completely unable to run thanks to my hip, so I registered for the south course, in case I had to walk the entire race.

The start line was as crowded as ever, though this year, marathoners and north runners were instructed to be on the right side of the street, and south runners on the left.  Until we got much closer to the start, there was no indication of divided corrals.  Additionally, as we made our way up to the start line after the race started, we realized that there were some very poorly placed pace signs.  That meant that the start was quite crowded and there was lots of darting around people in the first mile or so.  If that’s the worst thing I can say about the race, so be it.

We really lucked out with weather.  It was cool and slightly overcast all day.  Absolutely perfect.  And the spectators were out in full force.  Some of the people in the neighborhood set up bars in their front yards for the runners.  You know I love a run where I can have a mini margarita!

Aside from one mild calf cramp that I think was due to low sodium (at least I think so, since some salt helped it), this race went really well.  I ran exactly as planned.  My pace was where I thought I would be based on training, and most importantly, I felt amazing throughout the race.  I wasn’t sore at all and I felt like my form was pretty decent.

I was so, so excited to be racing again.  Sure, I have a ways to go to get back to my previous pace, but that will come with time, and it’s still not something I’m terribly worried about.  Since it’s not like I’m trying to qualify for anything, it makes sense to just let my pace evolve naturally as I continue to train.  

Look out 2019, here I come.

 

 

Race Report – 2018 Army Ten Miler

Ten years.  I’ve been running this race for ten years.  That still feels absolutely insane to me.  I guess this running thing has become a bit of a lifestyle.

For much of the year, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to run this race.  With my labral tear, I had two big race goals.  I wanted to be able to complete Rev 3 Williamsburg and I wanted to be able to complete the Army Ten Miler.  Honestly, I thought ATM was an even more remote chance, not only because of the distance but because of the time limit.  ATM has a 15 minute mile pace limit.

Unlike with Rev3 Williamsburg, when I registered for this race, I knew I was injured.  So as I prepared for the race, I really only had one goal – finish.  Sure, I wanted to be magically fast, but mostly, I just wanted to finish.  And that meant keeping a sub-15 pace.

Race morning came as normal.  I will admit, I wasn’t super motivated to run.  As has become my routine, I planned to arrive at a local parking garage by 6 am.  Definitely earlier than I needed to be there, but as roads are shut down, it’s just easier to get there and be ready to go.

Things were a bit different for the race this year due to some road construction.  It meant that the course was different and the start was a bit different.  They added two additional start waves to help thin out the crowds.  Typically, we would have gathered in grouped corrals in the Pentagon parking lot, and then led to the start.  Due to the construction, the corrals were lined up in a straight line from the start.  Since I was in the 9th wave, the brand new pink wave, that meant the start was a hike away.  Some people opted to not go to the corral and instead wait for the corral to come past them, but we opted to go to the corral and wait.

As per usual, the wheelchair racers were finishing before we started, and just as we got to race start, the race winners were coming in to the finish as well.  That’s aways a bit funny and a bit demoralizing.  Mostly, I was jealous they were done.

While this year’s race wasn’t as hot as last year’s, the humidity was ridiculous.  My weather app said the humidity was 90%; the race announcer said it was 100%.  Either way, it was disgusting.  The race started and I started my intervals and within ten minutes, I was dripping sweat.

I opted to run with a handheld water bottle for this race.  Nowhere near enough fluid to get me through the race, but more than enough to get me between water stops.  And I was definitely glad I had it.  The first water stop was around the two mile mark and they were out of water cups (though I believe they had cups of Gatorade).  Volunteers were pouring water into mouths, into cupped hands, and in my case, into my water bottle.  Due to the heat, people were taking multiple cups (not blaming them – it’s just what happened) which meant they ran out by the late corrals.  I had my bottle refilled and went on my way.

Due to the rerouted course, there was one spot where the race came to an absolute standstill.  I’ve never had that happen in this race before, even with 35,000 racers.  It didn’t last long, but it was certainly a surprise.

At one point, I ended up running alongside a vision impaired runner and his guides.  I was so impressed with their process.  The runner and one guide were each holding onto a large ring, and it was seamless how the guide would call out directions.  The second guide ran right behind them, blocking anyone from attempting to cut between them.  They moved as this tight little pack and it was so cool to see.

This race is always so organized, thanks to the amazing volunteers and the organization of the Army.  So I was really surprised when we got to mile 7 and there was no more Gatorade at the stop.  I don’t typically use it, but  was shocked that they were out.  That said, there was plenty of water everywhere, which was great since by that point, I was ready to pour it on myself.  Which I did.

This year, I was slow enough that I saw the cutoff after it was closed.  Around mile 5 or so, if you’re behind required pace, they divert the course because of roads that have to be re-opened.  This only cuts about two miles off of the race.  I’m usually enough ahead of it that I don’t see it, but this year, the diversion was in place by the time I looped back to that spot.  This unfortunately had an impact on my race.  At the beginning of a race, you’re always passing people and being passed, but by midway or so, things have usually settled out.  Sure, you are still being passed or passing, but not to a great extent.  However, when a group of slower people is diverted, that whole process has to start over.  For the most part, it wasn’t problematic, but I definitely got caught behind a few packs of walkers who didn’t realize they shouldn’t take up the whole course.

The hardest part of this race for a lot of people is the bridge near the end.  It’s the same bridge that destroys people at Marine Corps Marathon.  I don’t usually have an issue with this bridge.  Not so this year.  I was starting to get fatigued and I was just mentally tired of running, so this bridge felt so very long.  It felt great to get off the bridge.

I got my second wind sometime around mile 8.5, mostly because I knew I was getting close to being done.  Plus by that point, you’re back with the crowds again, which definitely helps motivate.

Finally, I made the turn to the finish line.  I really had hoped to have a sub-14 finish, but I just didn’t have it in me as I came to the finish and ended with a total time of 2:20:07.  Certainly my slowest Army Ten Miler, but also a finish I’m super proud of.  This was the longest distance I’ve covered since before my injury.  Six months ago, I couldn’t run a single mile.  So being able to race and cover the distance was so incredibly rewarding.  And I managed to do it without any pain from my labral tear.