Thursday, April 17, 2014

North Face Endurance Series will be my 1st Ultra!

This post is sponsored by FitFluential LLC on behalf of The North Face Endurance Challenge.

People know I'm not typically a TRAIL runner,
but I'm not a complete novice either.
These are the trails behind my house,
groomed by yours truly.
Last night, I registered for my first Ultra Marathon.

Wow. Digest that.

On September 13, I will be running my first 50K (31 miles) at The North Face Endurance Challenge in Eagle, WI (southeast part of the state between Madison and Milwaukee) in the Kettle Moraine State Park.  The 50K is just one of EIGHT race distances. Seriously, there is something for everyone at this event... 5K, 10K, half-marathon, marathon relay, marathon, 50K, 50 Mile and even a Kids Race.

My hubby has already in for the 5K, and it should be no surprise that my kids also want to run. The weekend race schedule is spread out nicely to accommodate everyone. To put the cherry on top, the start/finish is located right next to a campground. Hands down, our favorite summer activity is camping. My family is so excited for our North Face race/camp weekend!!

The North Face Endurance Challenge worked its way into my schedule so perfectly.  I first considered this event back in 2011. Each year, there have been scheduling conflicts and honestly, I just wasn't ready for an ultra yet. With each passing year, I listen to my friend Rachel and others rave about the event. The North Face Endurance Challenge proves again and again that it is the premiere trail race series.  It has held my interest and deep down in my heart, I knew it would be my first ultra when the time was right.

That time is now. My running mojo has changed this past year.  I was once driven by speed (not that I was ever fast), but I was obsessed with the continuous drop in my race times. I think that's natural for a beginner to continually seek improvement. The chase for a new PR again and again was thrilling, but as we all know, the plateau comes eventually. When I finished the Eugene Marathon last spring, I was tapped out; exhausted. I felt like marathon training had stripped the enjoyment out of my run. Since then, I've honestly struggled to get into any kind of training zone. Sure, I run a lot of miles - but I enjoy every step without really taxing myself. I am rarely trying to hit particular paces or timing track splits, but I do like conquering distance. These days, I'm running for the pure enjoyment of the run. Since I'm not overly concerned with my times, it seems like perfect timing to tackle an ultra in the beauty of my home state.

The North Face Endurance Challenge falls nicely in my schedule, one month before the Milwaukee Marathon (my goal race of the year).  The 50K will essentially be the last long run before my taper into the marathon.  This is either genius or completely stupid, but sometimes you gotta roll the dice and have a little fun. My training won't vary much from the marathon plan already in place; however, I'll probably add more trail running in over the summer miles.

Now, I need some FRIENDS on the trail with me!
This is your official invitation to join me on September 13, 2014 
Register here using my code D30JMWI
to receive 10% off your entry. Score!
(Next price increase is July 19.)

Did I mention Dean Karnazes will be there?!? 
He is pure inspiration bundled up into one handsome package!
I heard him speak years ago at a race expo and it's truly worth your time.

Follow the trail of adventure!
Hook up with The North Face Endurance Challenge on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Race Recap: Lincoln Presidential Half Marathon

This Saturday, I ran a half marathon as a training run.  I did the Lincoln Presidential Half two years ago to get their famous giant penny medal (here), so I really had no intention of repeating it. I'm trying to focus my race dollars on the expensive mission of #RaceAll50.  But then, they announced a 50th anniversary edition bling... a $5 bill as the finisher's medal! As soon as I saw it, I registered within hours. (The $45 entry fee is right where I think a half should be, even as little as two months out.)

The $5 bling featuring Abe Lincoln of course!
The navy blue shirt was kinda goofy with the big Lincoln head, but I actually adore it.
It's a women's Gilden performance shirt that fits me perfect and is super comfortable.

My friend Cassie and I got up early to make the 1:20 drive into Springfield. Arriving just a 1/2 hour before the start, we nabbed a great parking spot one block from the start/finish. Another reason I love these smaller marathons - no fuss, easy in, easy out.  There simply wasn't enough time pre-race. I knew so many people running this race (which made it fun), but I still didn't get a chance to talk with everyone. Sorry if I missed you! Lots of pre-race photos and meet 'n greets with readers (thanks for snagging me when you saw me!).

My Peoria running group (left), Marcia from Marcia's Healthy Slice (top right) and Carmen from She Runs Everywhere (bottom right). Carmen went on to run a killer race - new PR and grabbed 3rd place in her division with a 1:37!

The race started in front of the Old State Capitol, a one-block change from previous years.  I was pretty relaxed at the start and chatty with my pals. I wanted a good run, but had no illusions of anything spectacular. I've had achey muscles this past week and was actually slightly worried how painful 13.1 might be. I smoked this course with a sub-2 a couple years ago. I felt a bit sad to know I am no where near that speed or shape right now. Sigh.

Since this race is all about President Abraham Lincoln, the course winds through the Illinois Capitol to give you a full running tour of all the Lincoln sights.  In the first couple miles, we ran through the section of historic building, including Lincoln's home. Then we veered back downtown and past the current State Capitol building...

By time the first few miles are under my belt, I usually have a good feeling for how the race is going to go.  Today, I was not feeling it. My legs didn't feel any better once I started running, and our pace felt  taxing to me. I was super glad to be running with my pals Cassie and Heather. I kinda tucked behind them and let them pull me along.
Mile 1 - 9:43
Mile 2 - 9:38
Mile 3 - 9:31

We ran through some pretty neighborhoods with houses I can only dream of living in. The temperatures were in the mid-30's. Perfect for (me) running, but understandably chilly for cheerleaders. I remembered there being a lot more spectators last time (on a warmer day).  We ran a scenic stretch through Washington Park and the rolling hills began. The first part of this course is fairly flat, but the second half is definitely a challenge.
Mile 4 - 9:46
Mile 5 - 9:47
Mile 6 - 9:36

Washington Park

As we exited the park, there was a steep hill to climb. I tried to glide up it smooth and quick. I pulled away from my friends at this point. I knew there were challenging hills ahead and wanted to find my zone. Consistent mile splits are kinda my thing...
Mile 7 - 9:54
Mile 8 - 9:50
Mile 9 - 9:53

Shortly after the mile 9 marker, we entered into Oak Ridge Cemetery.  There's a nice downhill to pass by Lincoln's Tomb... but it's easy to miss that landmark when there's a huge UPhill looming to get back out of the cemetery. This is the hill that kind of killed me. It felt like knives stabbing into my glute muscles. Although I powered up it, not giving in to my desire to walk, I knew I was fading... fast.

coming into Lincoln Park
Anna giving the photographer some love
while I turned to head up the final hill.
Ha! Love this!
We made a few turns and quickly found ourselves in Lincoln Park.  There's a nice big downhill, but this time I knew what was coming around the corner... another uphill. I was not amused. I slowed to a walk halfway up... which conveniently is right when my friend Anna caught me. We chatted our way through the rest of the park, which was a nice distraction from the pain in my ass. Literally.

I completely forgot about the final hill that we climb to get out of Lincoln Park. But there it was, waiting to torture me. Anna sailed up it and I was struggling on my own again.
Mile 10 - 10:01
Mile 11 - 10:07
Mile 12 - 10:30

I was about to reach into my shirt and pull out an earbud for music when Cassie caught up to me. We chatted a bit, but she had gas left and moved ahead as well. I tried to hang with her in the last mile, but just couldn't find the motivation. Ugh, I can't remember a race where I felt so worn-down in the last mile.
Mile 13 - 9:46

The finish line was different this year too. There were suddenly a lot of people but I had a hard time seeing ahead where the finish was. I must have looked confused because some guy yelled out, "Turn left at the light and you'll finish." Whew, thanks. Done.

Official Chip Time 2:09:46
average pace 9:54
Overall #905 out of 2???
Female #378 out of 1134
Div F35-39 #68 out of 209

I didn't have the best-feeling run, but it sure was a fun event. The course is very pretty, albeit not-easy. The entry fee is perfect and it's a close getaway from home.  I would highly suggest this event - especially if you don't already have their famous giant penny medal. (There were complaints of people wanting the penny versus the $5 bill this year. I thought it was cool that the race actually offered the penny option at the finish line.)  All around GREAT RACE!

Of course, we took a boatload of fun photos after the race...

Wearing a Badgers outfit (in honor of Saturday's Final Four game) was a blast. I got so many cheers along the course from Big Ten fans. At the post-party, I bumped into a fun Kentucky fan. We were both wearing the sparkle skirts too! 
How about just one more hill Mr. Lincoln?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

First Quarter Review

In January, I created a year-long training plan here to make all my races work together... and ultimately land me a substantial marathon PR in the fall.  The plan was broken into phases to keep my focus in line (and keep myself from doing anything stupid). And just like that, the first quarter of 2014 is gone. It's time to check in...

January 94
February 105
March 113    
Q1 Total 312
For the most part, I was successful at slowly building my mileage and keeping plantar fasciitis (PF) at bay. It pops up from time to time again. As long as I roll and stretch the foot after every run, it's good.  As I started 2014, fresh off pneumonia, three miles was a tough workout. I felt like I was starting this running thing all over again, from scratch. There were days I cried over my evaporated endurance. But slowly, I trudged through one of the toughest winters (since I started running). I refused to let the constant snow and bitter cold temperatures stop me. The 'quick 3' began to feel short and easy once again. I'm happy to say now (three months later) that I feel like I'm back to where I was last fall.

January 11 - Chicago Polar Dash (14 miles)
March 15 - Shamrock 8K
March 16 - Shamrock Half Marathon
(click on the race names for full recaps)
I was a wee-bit worried about finishing the Chicago race, based off my simple lack of training. Could I even run 14 miles? I took it slow and consistent, but ran the total 14 miles in wet cold conditions. In March, I was thrilled to be back on my #RaceAll50 journey... checking off state #20 in Virginia. Both the 8K and 13.1 were a test of control and pacing for me, and I was happy with the results. Keeping my pace under 10min/miles for both races, with a nice kick to finish each.

For eight weeks, I hosted the #WinterMiles Challenge. Over 1400 people started the New Year with this challenge! The concept was basic - an accountability to encourage participants to run their miles each week - without giving in to winter excuses. There were prize giveaways each week, as well as a mid-challenge virtual race. I received so much positive feedback on the challenge, that we'll definitely repeat next winter.

The ZOOMA contest engulfed me at the end of January and all of February. Everyday, I begged my friends, family and readers to vote for me. It consumed so much of my thoughts - trying to come up with new ideas each day and obsessed with following the votes.  It was a close race, but in the end, I won the trip to run ZOOMA Napa Valley (June 28)... and then got the joy of giving away a second trip! I will never be able to thank you enough for this! California will now be state #24 on my #RaceAll50 quest.

Spinning - 43 classes
That's an average of 3.6 classes per week, most of which I was the instructor. No matter how you look at it, getting paid to workout is a bonus! My classes have been full as of lately which gives me a energy boost. By far, Spinning is my favorite cross-train and the numbers prove it.

Swimming - 5 workouts
Total fail here. I started the year with a pledge to get back into the pool. It does wonders to widdle my middle and lose weight - without the extra pounding on my runner legs. All five swims I've done have gone well, and yet like strength work, my heart is just not in it. If I have any hope of not drowning doing well in my July Olympic Triathlon, I best get myself focused and in the pool. This is a must-change for the second quarter.

Strength - 9 sessions
All but one of these classes, I was the instructor. (Every Mon night, I teach a 1/2 hour Strength class at the gym - 10 minutes each of arms, legs, core.) Simply put, I need to do more strength work on my own. I have a huge assortment of weights at home and should utilize it more. Working 10-15 minute sessions into my day would payoff big for my running. I somehow just gotta will myself to do it, even when I don't want to.

In the past few months, I was named an Ambassador for both ProCompression and Gone For A Run. These are two companies whom I highly regard their products (as in I buy them and use them). I'm excited to share more opportunities with these brands (giveaways! discounts!) for you.
Use code BLG14 for 40% off Marathon Socks & Arm Sleeves at ProCompression!

I'm disappointed that I haven't lost a single pound in the first quarter. After a roller coaster of up/down 5 pounds, I stand exactly where I was on New Years. In order to hit my marathon run goals this year, I have GOT to get a good 20 lbs off.  I'm not overly obsessed with the scale, but a lower number certainly makes running easier, faster and less pounding on my joints.  What's my problem? I like the sweets, carbs and beer. To win, I've gotta get it under control.

Here's to new quarter... April thru June!  
More miles, more swim, more strength, better food.
Check out my upcoming race schedule here.

How was the start of YOUR year?
What are your goals for the 2nd quarter?

Friday, March 28, 2014

Tiger Trot 5K - Race Entry Giveaway!

When it comes to 5K races, I love small town events. Maybe it's because I grew up in a small community, but there is such a cozy feeling about running amongst friends... and groups of kids darting around the course to cheer you on. It's pure fun without all the whoopla of big city races.  No parking concerns, no crowds, no fuss... just run. Oh, and my standing 5k PR is from one of those itty bitty small town races.

The Tiger Trot 5K is one of those small-town races that I highly recommend. Last year, my husband and I switched roles for a day... he ran the race and I cheered with the kids.  The chip-timed race course starts at Marquette Elementary School, circles the small town, and ends in pretty Independence Park. Once all the 5K racers finish, there is a short children's race, free for the little ones. Last year, they even got a finisher's ribbon!

After the race, participants gather in the school cafeteria for food, drinks, door prizes, and award age-group awards - 1st, 2nd and 3rd overall, plus 1st & 2nd in each 5-yr age group.  That's a lot of awards for a small race... which means you have a greater chance to winning something, if you're on that cusp like me.

Instead of the average 5k cotten tee, the Tiger Trot boosts a tech-style run shirt as part of your registration. If you are a member of the local running club in Peoria, this is also an Illinois Valley Striders Grand Prix Series Race.

Proceeds from the Tiger Trot 5K benefit the three local schools - Marquette Elementary, Rogers Elementary and Georgetown Middle School. I can't think of a better way to raise much-needed funds for our schools... while encouraging our children to take up a healthy activity like running (versus video game playing).  Personally, I get so tired of the kids coming home with popcorn and junk catalog sales.

What's better than a family race outing on a beautiful spring morning?!  We had such a wonderful time last year. I hope you can join in for the 2014 race on Saturday, April 26.  Register here before April 12 for the early bird pricing ($25). There is also a spaghetti dinner the evening before at packet pickup, that helps the local Cub Scout pack... 5-7pm at the Real Life Church.

Find the Tiger Trot on Facebook here.

A good friend is the race director for the Tiger Trot 5K and has graciously offered me a race entry to giveaway to one of my readers!  It's so easy to enter...
  • Comment* below - With so many 5K races these days, how do you determine which one you run? What is the determining factor?
  • Share this post on Facebook and/or Twitter to spread the word about this great race! Include hashtag #TigerTrot
Good Luck! Winner will be announced Monday, April 7, 2014.

* To enter by making a comment below, you need an online profile. To do so quickly, select the OpenID option in the "Comment As" dropdown. Enter the web address to your Facebook profile...

Thursday, March 27, 2014

I'm a Runner... What's your problem?

Running makes me happy. When crap (for lack of a better word) is piled up in my head, running breaks it up and sets my priorities straight. Stress and worry disappear as the sweat beads across my forehead and drips off my elbows.

Running makes me appreciative. I thank God every single time I run for the ability to breathe hard and put one foot in front of the other. There will come a day that I won't be able to do this... I'm thankful today is not that day.

Running helps me to dream. It teaches me that with hard work and dedication, anything is possible. My parents taught me that I could be President someday, but MARATHONER (times five) was never even a thought! As my feet grace across the pavement, future hopes and plans unfold in my head like a blueprint. Often I return home with big ideas that never materialize, but I keep dreaming anyway.

Running makes me strong. Physically, my body is stronger than six years ago - when a flight of steps left me panting for air. I've lost a bunch of weight since lacing up the running shoes. My daily runs help me to keep my weight in check, despite my love for food and beer. But even more important, running gives me mental strength I never thought was in me. I feel like I can conquer anything... if I take it one step at a time.

Running is important in my life. Can you tell?

So when I read these pretentious attacks about running, it quite frankly pisses me off.  Several people sent me links to articles this week... Running hurts your knees. Running has no purpose. Runners wear silly clothes. Marathons make you fat. Running is waste of time. Running tears down your muscles... blah, blah, blah. There are some interesting reads. Other times, it's just a writer looking to stir up a reaction and get pageviews.  I too wrote college research papers and am fully aware that you can find a research study out there to support any claim you want to promote. Been there; done that.

So here's my answer to all those articles who'd like to talk negatively about running... You clearly don't understand the euphoria that a simple run can bring. Truly, I'm sorry for that. I would love for everyone to catch a runner's high once a day. It would be a better world, for that I am certain.  So here's an idea... stop pretending you know what running is about and save those judgements and ridicules for yourself. (Yes, running with a tutu just might make us faster... or at least happier. So what's it to you?) 

I realize that running is not everyone's passion... maybe you like weight lifting, zumba, gardening, or a combination of it all. Whatever your interest is, DO IT and enjoy it with every fiber of your being. But stop the debate of which activity is better. Whatever activity excites you on the inside and keeps you active is the BEST... for you. Let it be at that. In fact, you should be happy when your neighbor finds an activity that makes them a better person - even if it's running. Who knows, they may be the person that "runs for help" someday when you need it...

Monday, March 24, 2014

4th annual Jelly Bean race

Celebrate Spring by running with me in the 
4th annual Jelly Bean virtual race!

What's a virtual race?  A virtual race is running a specified distance (timed) without being present in the actual race location.

DATE:  April 13-20, 2014
The race begins on Palm Sunday and ends on Easter Sunday, 8 days.

LOCATION:  Pick your favorite local route or just hop on a treadmill.

EVENTS:  Choose the event that works best for your current fitness level. If you complete both the 5k and 10k distances within the 8-day time frame, you will earn an extra point into the prize drawing (2 entries max per person).
- Run 5K (3.1 miles)
- Run 10K  (6.2 miles)

RESULTS:  Report your race time(s) HERE before Tuesday, April 22 at 12:00 noon CST.   This is a fun race; no Garmin/treadmill photo required to verify your time. 

PRIZES:  When the Jelly Bean results window closes, there will be a random prize drawing from all finishers.  Prizes include:  GU Energy assortment pack, Subway gift card, Headsweats beanie, tube of Nuun hydration tabs, Swiftwick socks, You Just Got Chicked headband, 2pk of LockLaces, Advocare fuel pack, water bottle with phone pouch, and a Run & Eat Cupcakes shirt. 

Follow me for race updates...

  • No need to pre-register. Just mark your calendar, tell your friends, and organize a local group run in your area. This makes a great family event to get the kids active! Bookmark this webpage so that you can come back for updated information until raceday. Join the FB event here.
  • Order an Jelly Bean finisher's medal below (optional). Proceeds from these medals will be donated to the St. Jude Children's Hospital as part of my fundraising for the Bartonville-to-Peoria St. Jude run
  • On race week, PRINT A RACE BIB for each person participating. 
  • Finally, RUN the Jelly Bean... and have FUN!! Take pictures and please share them on my Facebook wall.  Hint, hint... I always award one prize to my favorite picture.
  • REPORT RACE RESULTS for each participant before 12noon on April 22. You will earn one entry into the prize drawing for each event that you finish (2 max). Each event may only be completed once.

Celebrate your Jelly Bean finish with a finisher's medal, an optional add-on to the virtual race.  New for 2014, every medal purchase includes a snack-size bag of Starburst Jelly Beans!!  Proceeds from these medals will be donated to St. Jude Children's Hospital as part of my fundraising for the Bartonville-to-Peoria St. Jude Run on August 4. (Later added) Thanks to you - St Jude received a $500 donation from the sale of these medals!!
Sorry, Finisher's Medals are SOLD OUT.

•  •  •  •  •

Join me in-person for a local fun run to complete the Jelly Bean race!
Bring out the kids to make it a family run! I will supply the jelly beans.  
Sunday, April 13 at 11:00am
East Peoria Trail
Park and meet by "the train"
Fon du Lac Park Admin Building
201 Veterans Drive, East Peoria, IL

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Race Recap: Shamrock Half Marathon

My Shamrock Bling collection!
Finally wrapping up my Virginia Beach race weekend... If you missed part one, click here to read about the race expo and the 8K run last Saturday.

Sunday, March 16...
My morning alarm went off too quickly. I didn't feel well rested, and a quick glance out the window told me the wind had not eased up.  The half marathon started early at 7am (the full marathon was later at 8:30am). I grabbed my ClifBar for breakfast, only to realize it had chocolate in it (I gave that up for Lent!). Ah!  Thankfully, I had a sample-size granola bar from the race expo.

Temps were in the low 40's (which is my favorite race temp), but that wind had a chilling effect on me all weekend. So I grabbed a long sleeve tech shirt that I just bought at the expo. Hubby drove me to the start line - about 15 blocks down. I had originally picked my hotel based on the starting line for the full marathon, which was a different location than the half, also a different time.  We arrived a 1/2 hour early to meet up for the Half Fanatics and Tough Chik pictures. While hanging out in front of the Cavilier, I found a bunch of other online friends too!
Team Tough Chik!
Online friends finally meeting in person!
I was having so much fun chatting with my new friends that I almost forgot the time on the clock. By time I walked to the portapotties, it was less than 5 minutes to the start. When the gun sounded and the first corral set off down the street, I was literally inside the toilet. First time for that.  I found my way to corral 4 in the nick of time.

My goal for the Shamrock Half Marathon was to maintain a 10 min/mile pace for the first 10 miles and then see what I had left. It was essentially a long training run and a little test to see where my endurance was at. My legs weren't exactly rested and didn't feel as fresh as the prior day's 8K, but I felt good.

Hubby found me first near mile 2. Once running, I warmed up quickly and was second-guessing my choice of long-sleeve. The wind just didn't feel so bad once we were running in mass.

Hubby jumped in the car and caught me again at mile 3. He typically catches me a 6-7 times during a half marathon. But being a cheerleader in a car proved to be a difficult task at the Shamrock Half Marathon. The north side of Virginia Beach is a narrow area and most the roads were closed off for the race. There just wasn't a way around unless you were on bike.

I skipped the first water stop because it was a cluster, but then quickly reminded myself, "Don't be stupid. The majority of my hydration yesterday was beer. Take the damn water."  From that point on, I snagged a water cup at every water station and drank on the run.
Mile 1 - 9:54
Mile 2 - 9:54
Mile 3 - 9:49

After mile 3, we veered off on on the heavily wooded area along First Landing State Park. I loved this stretch, probably my favorite of the whole race. Three miles of quiet woods with a wide road to spread the runners out.
Mile 4 - 9:49
Mile 5 - 9:58
Mile 6 - 9:54
bad photo on-the-run, but you get the idea...

I was unglued from my watch most of the race - just trying to maintain a comfortable pace. Every once in a while, I'd look down to check a mile split and always happy with what I saw... nice and even. After mile 6, we entered Fort Story, a joint Army/Navy base. As we broke out of the wooded area and approached the Atlantic Ocean (large sand dunes blocked any views), the wind gusts slapped me in the face.  For the most part, the miles through the base were rather boring, except for when we passed between the old and new Cape Henry Lighthouses.

I was feeling really good and took my first and only energy gel to make sure that feeling would last. As we rounded the coastline and headed south again, I started to itch for the finish.
Mile 7 - 9:53
Mile 8 - 9:57
Mile 9 - 9:53

Coming out of the base, I grabbed a cup from one of several 'beer stops' along the course. Hmmm, it tasted good; a sneak of what was to come at the post-party. I was trying to hold myself on-pace until the mile 10 marker; but once that beer went down, my patience wore thin. I slowly stepped up my pace, plugged in my music for the first time... and the fun began.

As tired runners slowed down, I picked it up and began passing people non-stop. It takes control and patience to hold a slower pace early in the race... but this is the reward. It is so wonderful to feel strong and in-control at the end of 13.1 miles. I found my tempo pace and picked people off one by one. I even dropped the hubby a couple texts to let him know where I was. He had grown weary of the traffic rat-race and just took the car back to the hotel. I got a good laugh when he texted me (at mile 5), "Hurry up! I'm at the finish!"

I felt taxed in the last mile, but was determined to make it my best split of the weekend. The course zigzagged back towards the beach. We rounded the last corner onto the boardwalk and got our first oceanview of the half marathon. The strong wind put a damper on any kind of finishing kick. The flags waved us in for the finish, but that final stretch seemed to stretch on and on.
Mile 10 - 9:31
Mile 11 - 9:18
Mile 12 - 9:31
Mile 13 - 8:58

VIRGINIA - State #20
Official Chip Time 2:07:40
average pace 9:44
overall #3443 of 8936
F35-39  #300 of 921
Female  #1594 of 5510

This is nowhere near a PR for me (1:56), but I was really happy with my run at the Shamrock Half Marathon. I've been slow coming back from plantar fasciitis - building endurance and my speed again. A 9:44 pace for this distance is good for me right now... so I was all smiles with the results. I should mention if you are pushing for a PR, this is a great course. Seriously, the FLATTEST 13.1 I've ever run!

The race was fun... but the post-party was awesome!  We immediately went to the big warm tent on the beach. What a set-up inside! Hot soup, cold beer and a complete concert setup with four great bands throughout the day.

One of the best things I did the day before was buy a cheap sweatshirt. Sweaty and now cold, it felt awesome to put that sweatshirt on. We hung out for an hour before walking back to the hotel to change and try to catch my friend Patty in the midst of her full marathon. After a change of clothes, we returned to the post-party, waited for Patty to finish, and drank Yuengling beer until the band played their last song - 4:00 in the afternoon!! I loved one of the Irish bands so much that we followed them to Murphy's and celebrated our Shamrock runs well into the evening.

I had such a fabulous time at the Shamrock Marathon events. It lived up to its well-deserved reputation and I was extremely pleased that I chose this event to fulfill state #20 Virginia on my journey to Race All 50. Not only was event execution flawless, but the swag involved with these races was stellar!

Thank You Virginia!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Race Recap: Shamrock 8K

Time to recap the awesome weekend I had in Virginia Beach for the Shamrock Marathon events! I went into this trip with the mere goal of knocking off another state (#20!) and a much-needed getaway with my husband.  I tried really hard not to take the races seriously. What?! My running is not fast right now; I'm no where near my standing PR. I'm okay with that, but sometimes the time on the clock can overshadow the experience for me. Honestly, I felt like Virginia Beach was the first time that I was able to release myself from performance expectations and just be happy with where I was at.

We arrived in Virginia Thursday evening. (All four of our flights there and back were either delayed or cancelled. Travel was not the fun part of this trip.) Arriving in Richmond, we drove down to Williamsburg for the first night. It was such a cute historic town. In the morning, we walked around the downtown and university area. There were so many runners - since a large part of the roads were closed to vehicles. It seemed like a runner's paradise and my feet were itching to run there.

We took our time traveling the final leg into Virginia Beach, adventuring along some smaller roads. This is my favorite part of the #RaceAll50 quest... I enjoy getting outside the bustling cities and off the interstates to see the different countrysides and get a real feel for the area. We came into Virginia Beach from the north side, stopping at Fort Story to see the Cape Henry lighthouses.

We arrived at the race expo shortly after it had opened on Friday. Traffic and parking around the convention center was crazy, but I tried to remind hubby that we were on vacation; no hurries. Indeed, we took our time in the expo - nearly 2 hours! I'm usually in/out of expos because of the kids, but today we stopped and visited with everyone. Several of the races that I have earmarked for eastern states were there, so we talked with each of them in detail. I didn't plan on buying any clothing while I was there, but found some sweet deals and ended up with bags of goodies! We also happened to be the first people in line when they announced Yuengling beer samples...
Samples at the race expo was just the start. Beer became a popular theme for us on vacation...

After checking in at the LaQuinta hotel, we went in search of food since we had skipped lunch. We found an amazing seafood buffet... Not the best pre-race food, but it was perfect for two hungry travelers on a Lenten Friday!

I was having problems determining what to wear for the races. The temps were mild, but the wind was vicious (all weekend) and cold. I just couldn't shake the chilly feeling. On Saturday morning, I immediately grabbed the one and only long sleeve run shirt I had brought along. Our hotel was right by the 8K start, so I didn't leave my warm room until 15 minutes before race time. The sun was on its way up and I hurried over to the oceanfront to snap a few pictures of the gorgeous sunrise before jumping into my race corral.

I've run a lot of races - many who attempt to do corrals and fail miserably. J&A Racing, who hosts the Shamrock Marathon events, did an impressive job with their corrals and movement. The start was so smooth!!  I had planned on running the 8K with my husband, but he was unable due to a knee injury (He had surgery the day we got home). I lined up at the front of corral 7, which worked well for a nice start. My legs felt fresh and it was so good to run!

My goal for the 8K was to keep my pace around the 10 min/mile mark... in order to save something for Sunday's half marathon. I knew within a few blocks that I started too fast and reeled it back. For the first two miles, we ran south along Atlantic Ave, mostly hotels and tourist businesses.
Mile 1 - 9:34
Mile 2 - 10:00

At the end of Rudee Inlet, we looped around onto the oceanfront boardwalk. Oh-yeah! THIS is what I came for! It was a gorgeous sunny morning (and I wasn't cold anymore). This was exactly where I wanted to be!

It got a little congested along the boardwalk as people were stopping to walk. I don't mind walkers as long as they move to the side before they come to a stop. I weaved my way through and managed only one collision. I tried to relax, enjoy the ocean view, and soak in the sun. Shortly before mile 4, we zig-zagged back onto Atlantic Ave. The spectator crowds were big through this area so it was kind of fun. My posse of cheerleaders was waiting there for me there too...

 They had planned out the best race photo ever... photo-bombed by my own spectators! Ha!

The last mile was oddly the most congested of the run, as I was catching the slower folks of early corrals.  "What the heck, let's pick up the pace."  It's my own little quirk, but I love making the last mile of every run the fastest.
Mile 3 - 9:56
Mile 4 - 9:52

Mile 5 - 9:12

We turned the corner onto the boardwalk again, this time heading south - smack into the wind. The finishing stretch was pretty cool, lined with waving flags, spectators and the statue of King Neptune looking over us.

Official Chip Time 48:38
average pace 9:43
overall  #2230 out of 8310
F35-39  #151 out of 783
Females  #935 out of 5157

The first race of Shamrock weekend was done. I went a wee bit faster than my 10min/mile goal, but I felt good and happy. Somehow, I totally forgot about the post-party on the beach until after we were back at the hotel (Duh!).  Oh-well, I was able to use those beer tickets the next day.

If I were seriously racing this weekend, I would have relaxed the rest of the day to recover, hydrate and prepare for Sunday's half marathon. Instead, the hubs and I enjoyed our vacation time together. We rented bikes and tooled up and down the beach, stopping for drinks (the non-hydrating kind) and ice cream along the way.

After a fun afternoon, I was exhausted and ready for a nap. But there was no time for that! We hit up the pizza joint next to our hotel - sitting on the outdoor patio, listening to live music, drinking (more) beer and visiting with my dearly missed running pal.  It was perfect. Eventually, I grew tired and logic told me to go to bed.

The Shamrock half marathon was the next morning...