Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Myrtle Beach Half Marathon

A few months ago, Sara and I decided that the timing of this race would work well as part of our Boston Marathon training plan.  Myrtle Beach is just over a 3 hour drive from Durham, has a beach, offered a fun post-race party, and hotel rates were reasonable, so it also seemed perfect for a girls' weekend.  We set out on Friday after work, checked into the hotel, grabbed some dinner at the pre-race pasta buffet, and picked up our packets.  Since our hotel was race headquarters, both dinner and packet pick up were right there, which made things very convenient, and I would definitely recommend staying at the Sheraton if you're to travel to MB for this race.

To our disappointment, sun and spring-like temperatures were markedly absent from the forecast, and the weather was predicted to be in the 40s and rainy with 20-25 mile per hour winds.  I guess this was much better than the snow and ice storms we'd had just a few days earlier, but still wasn't exactly what I had in mind when I signed up for a race at the beach.  So at 6:00 we set out to run yet another half marathon in the rain.  After a mile warm up, we lined up somewhere between the 1:30 and 1:45 pace signs and thankfully the rain stopped just as we ditched our throwaway clothes.

The plan was originally to run at goal marathon pace (7:30), but given this year's setbacks and complete lack of mileage, I decided that was probably not the best idea and called it a supported training run, especially given the weather conditions...

From MyrtleBeach.com:
[Runners] were greeted with a cold, rainy morning and bone-chilling wind on race day.  But they ran. Sporting makeshift trash bag raincoats at the starting line and ditching layers of wet clothes along the course, they ran.  The rain stopped shortly after the race start, but the wind was a constant companion, relentlessly battering the participants and spectators as the course weaved along the oceanfront. But that’s the thing about runners. They just kept running.

Miles 1-3 (7:38-7:29-7:31)
I was curious as to how much of a struggle that GMP would be and how much I should adjust my expectations/goals for Boston, so I started out with Sara.  She sped up during mile 2, so I decided to just stick to 7:30s as long as it felt comfortable.

Miles 4-7 (7:43-7:50-7:55-7:55)
The headwind was taking a lot out of me, so I decided to slow down a bit.  My training plan called for 14 miles at 7:45-8:00 for the day, so I figured I could stick to that pace range and still end up with a successful workout.  SO. WINDY.

Miles 8-11 (7:51-7:42-7:51-7:52)
I assumed that once we made the turn to head back to the start/finish, that the miserable headwind would be a tailwind.  Unfortunately, that part of the course is more sheltered from the wind thanks to some large hotels, so we didn't benefit from it nearly as much as I'd hoped.  We did have a few nice gusts at our back though, it felt a lot easier to run the same pace, and in between resorts we had a nice view of the ocean, so I actually enjoyed this part of the course quite a bit.

Mile 12-13.15 (8:11-8:05-1:02)
Just after mile 11 we turned left off of Ocean Boulevard, and the full force of the wind was coming right at us.  I felt like I was almost running in place, and the effort level went way up while the pace went way down.  I wish I'd pushed a little harder to keep it under 8, but at that point I was cursing the wind and the thought of running faster had zero appeal. 

Overall, the race went about as I'd expected, though it took a little more effort than I would have liked to just run at my normal training pace.  Given how little I've run, I'm trying not to worry about it too much.  Sara, meanwhile, killed it despite the wind and won 2nd place female master's, so at least one of us was fast!  

After the race we walked back to the hotel, showered, and went back to the finish line for the awards ceremony, which featured both an elephant and a monkey!  Normally I'm ready to go home and shower, so I don't spend much time at post-race parties, but since we were clean, dry, and dressed relatively warmly, we decided to stick around.  The band was pretty good, they had unlimited Sam Adams and cider (which sure beat the standard one-free-bud-light), and we made some new friends, so all in all it was a great experience and I'd definitely recommend it/run it again.

Elephant at the finish line
Award winners got to hold a monkey for post-race photos!
3rd half marathon in 4 weeks
Of course we'd have to make friends with this team, right?
Putting that award to good use
And we met Superman
(Um... NO)
Interviewing for Not the News

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Massacre Marathon Relay

Running, spending time with friends, and dressing up in festive attire are all high on my list of favorite things to do, so it's no surprise that I'm a huge fan of relays.  Fortunately my friends are like-minded, and were on board with ordering the somewhat-overpriced-but-totally-worth-it holiday sweater tech shirts, so we felt confident in (at the very least) being the best dressed team out there!

Speed-wise, I wasn't really sure what I could expect of myself.  I threw a faster-than-jogging mile and some 400s into a run on Wednesday to test out the knee, and thankfully had no pain, but hadn't done any speed work or tempo running since my injury in December so even those short efforts felt incredibly hard.  I do think the cycling has helped me avoid getting completely out of shape, but I'm definitely lacking running fitness and had no idea how the 1.6 mile intervals would go.

Fortunately, I have very fast teammates, so I figured they'd give me a big lead and I wouldn't have to worry about it too much.  Last year we were edged out by four cross country girls, who, thanks to their homemade shirts, we referred to as the Puffy Paints.  Sure enough, the puffy paints were back, and we were determined to take them down this year.  Allie started us off with leg 1, which is a little longer than the others at just over 2 miles (to get the total to an even 26.2), and to my surprise, puffy paint #1 came in a few seconds ahead of her.  Allie is crazy fast, so that was not a good sign, and I hoped that, like us, they'd put their speediest woman first.  Caren ran leg 2, and kept even with her puffy paint girl, so I started leg 3 a few seconds behind.  As expected, they'd put their slowest runner in 3rd position as well, and to my pleasant surprise, I found that I was actually running faster than she was!  The first part of the course includes a relatively big uphill, some flats, and then another uphill section.  The great part about the course layout is that the corresponding downhill is at the end of the loop, so you can see the finish as you come out of the woods it's all downhill from there.  I was happy to hand off to Ellen showing an average pace under 7 on my watch, and even happier to have put a few seconds on the puffy paints.  

The remaining laps went by in similar fashion, with Allie, Caren, and Ellen pretty evenly paired with the fast xc girls and blasting laps at near 6-minute pace.  Though I was by far the slowest runner on our team, I was able to put additional time on Puffy Paint #3, who was finishing each lap in about 12 minutes while I kept it close to 11.  By lap 3, I felt that our lead was safe, but was inspired by my super fast teammates to not slack off too much, and was thrilled to average under 7 minute miles for all 4 laps.  Happily, redemption was ours, and we finished as the first women's team (5th overall) in 2:48:33. 


Overall, I was really pleased with how the race went.  I didn't think I'd be able to run sub-7 but my body is responding to returning to running pretty well.  I am not where I had hoped to be and have a lot of work to do, but the last couple of weeks have me feeling pretty optimistic.  When we did this race last year, I had a lot going on and was preparing to fly home to visit my mom in the hospital, so it was a very emotional time and I didn't really race well, but I decided to compare this year's splits to 2013.  While I expected this year to be quite a bit slower, my splits for laps 1 and 3 were actually exactly the same, and 2 and 4 were faster this year!  I'm definitely taking that as reason to be optimistic, and hope that all is not lost for my spring racing season after all!

2014 Splits
Lap 1: 10:55 (6:49; 2013: 10:55)
Lap 2: 10:48 (6:45; 2013: 10:57)
Lap 3: 11:02 (6:54; 2013: 11:02)
Lap 4: 11:06 (6:56; 2013: 11:17)

Big thanks to my awesome friends/teammates for being supportive and encouraging through everything! 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

RNR New Orleans Half Marathon

I still haven't run much and am trying to gradually come back from my knee injury, so this was to be my first longish training pace run in about 2 months, and the goal was to run about 8 minute/mile pace and just stop along the way whenever the mood struck us.  The result: the most fun run ever, as evidenced by our race photos, which tell the story better than I could write (and in far fewer words)... 
Sarah and Ellen before the race 

We had to stop because of the irony

Donuts and beer?!
Clearly they knew we were coming.
Giant inflatable = excuse to pose in the middle of the street
Running into the fog in the French Quarter
More inflatables, more posing
I think they made these just for Ellen
King Cake!
Jello shots
(we had to do 2 because the first photo was blurry)

Signs for Sarah

Mile 25
On her way to a new PR of 3:13!
Mission accomplished!
My knee started to feel a little sore before mile 2, but thankfully the pain never got worse than a bit of discomfort, which is good news for my hopes of getting back to marathon shape in time for Boston.  Of course I'm not where I'd like to be training-wise, but 13 miles is a good place to start, and I couldn't have had more fun doing it!

Monday, February 3, 2014


Finally starting to run again... hopefully the extra time on the trainer will help me in the long run.  In the meantime, just trying to patient and ease back into training without overdoing it... 11 weeks until Boston...