As per usual, nowadays, I was playing Pokemon while running - an extra motivator and caught a special shiny version of Delibird. :-)
Week 1 of my marathon training is complete. I ran the distance run yesterday (5 miles) and it went really well. I feel like I could have run longer, which is a good thing. And surprising considering ym lack of running over the last year. I've pretty much run once every other week. I guess that was enough to not make me completely hopeless. It's pretty much 90% mental anyway. I ended the week having run a total of 13.2 miles. That is using intervals of 3 minutes running and 2 minutes walking as prescribed by my model for training, Marathoning for Mortals.
As per usual, nowadays, I was playing Pokemon while running - an extra motivator and caught a special shiny version of Delibird. :-)
You might think "A half marathon in June? You're crazy!" And the answer to that is "Yes" and Yes." Well, I can tell you that I would rather travel the country and run in states where the weather is a bit more amenable to running, but the Echo Half Marathon was close to my home, and the right price!
My running buddy, Sam, and I had been training fairly regularly for months, though my monthly average for miles slipped from 50 to 40 for May. It's getting hot in here! And while I enjoy not having to shovel snow twice a week in the winter, the summer humidity is less than desirable for running. And I've yet to find the motivation to get up at 5am to run. :)
Thus, on the morning of June 4th, with Sam's truck at the finish line - so he could jet back to Tampa for his work shift later that day (he's crazy) - we drove in my car to the start line and joined the other crazies for what was sure to be a humid race - it was very foggy!
With plenty of time, we were able to relax in the car for a bit, go to the bathroom with minimal wait times and chill for a few minutes. As the fog continued to thicken, we were joined by the other runners and were off and running soon after. We ran past the ranch we were staying at via Airbnb and made our way over the massive pedestrian bridge that proved to be the biggest hill of the race. We made it to mile 4 before the humidity became too much and we started intervals. Most of my races and almost all of our training, we would hit mile 6 or 8 before intervals, but the heat was too much today.
The rest of the race was pretty shaded and enjoyable. The volunteers at the water/Gatorade stops were very cheerful and encouraging. Not too much else in the way of spectators - a few intersections along the way had some. I was taking a cup of water and a cup of Gatorade at each stop, sometimes 3 total, and even still, by mile 11, I was feeling cramps coming on. We took it easier toward the end, and I staved off the cramps, but my legs still felt pretty tight. I conserved enough energy to run the last quarter of a mile and Sam and I finished our second half marathon together!
They (thank the gods!) had iced washcloths for runners as well as ICE COLD WATER!!! I would say there's nothing worse than warm water after a race - I know it's not true - but let me tell you, the fact that both the wash cloth and the water bottle were icy cold was a blessing! We took a few pics to celebrate our hard work and then Sam was off to head back to Tampa for his work shift.
I had the rest of the morning to peruse the finish line party quickly, head back on the shuttle to the start, shower at the ranch and explore some of the surrounding area - an IHOP, a citrus nursery, and then a little shopping. Excited for my boyfriend to be coming home from visiting his family in Texas, I made my way back to Tampa and after getting a massage at Carrollwood Day Spa (highly recommended!), I started cleaning the house in preparation for his arrival.
After my half marathon there, the drive from Maine was pretty uneventful and we got to our hotel in Connecticut in the late afternoon. Yes, you read that right...I planned on running two half marathons in one weekend. It's not as uncommon as you might think. We relaxed for a bit, and walked to Applebee's for dinner - grilled chicken, potatoes and mac n cheese for me. And lots of water. A stop at Walgreens and then back to the hotel, so I could prep my stuff for the race, we could plan a little for the next day, and go to bed early. The Mystic Half started at 7 am. Getting up at 5:35 am sounds early, but after you've done a Disney race, not really! :)
Again, we timed it perfectly and arrived to get a perfect parking spot with limited traffic. I had my race packet mailed to my parents' house, so we didn't have to rush from Maine to try to get to the expo the day before by 5pm. Just the usual pre-race granola bars, porta potty trips and making sure I had everything. I hugged my parents and got into the crowd for the start. My goal (after getting a PR the day before) was to just finish, but I still wanted to finish strong, so I found the 2:30 pacer, Beth, and struck up a conversation with her.
The race started on time - the weather was perfect, nice and cool! Soon, we were off, running into the Mystic Seaport and past some waterfront, then it was over a drawbridge and Mystic Pizza (I heard) was approaching. It was sooo far off the course (I realized too late), but I wanted a picture of it anyway, and got one, but then had to double time it to reach my pacer. I did find her and stuck with her for pretty much the whole race. We had a few people with us for parts of the race - here and there. Certainly, no one stayed with her longer than me. I was strong through the first 9 miles and I started to walk more at the water stops and up the hills. Eventually, Beth continued on without me (after I thanked her profusely) so she could keep pace, and I did my best to stay strong. I put my earphones in - to this point, I was just talking everyone's ears off, which certainly passed the time for me! - and ran on. I don't think I walked more than half a mile for sure...not that it really matters, but I was surprised while running that I felt so good, since I felt so bad after the race the day before. I really think it was because of the weather, and because the course was so beautiful and enjoyable.
Due to the out-and-back nature of the course after mile 7, I knew that mile 12 was just ahead. I walked up the last enormous hill, and started running again. With my music on, I crushed the last mile, caught up and passed my Beth, and ran into the finish area essentially alone. My parents were there cheering and I had the same amazing feeling when I crossed the finish. And still felt great!!!
I couldn't even eat anything after the Maine half, and at this post-race party, I did not hold back. I had some coffee biscotti ice cream from The Farmer's Cow and I had a fresh ciabatta roll with PB&J. The finish line was right by the Mystic Aquarium, and the post-race party was all set in the Olde Mistick Village, right where the start was.
All in all, this was one of my favorite half marathons, out of the 14 I've run so far. The weather certainly helped, but the route was very scenic, there were quite a few spectators, the post-race party was impressive for such a small town feel, and the tech shirt and medal were really nice.
As part of my life's goal of a half marathon in every state, I have taken to Google quite frequently to find my next race. It was with Google that I found the cool medals from Shipyard featured in all their races in Maine, and discovered that the Maine Coast Half was the same weekend this year as the Connecticut race I wanted to run - the Mystic Half. So, I put on my crazy pants and decided to run back-to-back halfs because "Why not?" After I felt like I killed the Star Wars races in April, I was excited to try to get a PR (personal record).
My parents picked me up at the Manchester Airport (NH) and we drove to Biddeford, ME to the race expo at UNE, with a short pit-stop at UnderArmour at the Kittery Outlets to pick up a pair of BoxerJocks. I left one of mine hanging on the drying rack at home. The expo wasn't very crowded (see above) and the weather was kind of dismal and cool, which boded well for race day. We had an early dinner and I prepped everything I needed for the next day.
Race morning, we were all up and in the car early and parked at pretty much the perfect time - the road into UNE was crazy. I was slightly irked that the race started so late - 8am - because the sun was already well above the horizon, and come to find out, there wasn't much shade on the course. So, despite it being around 60, it felt a lot hotter. The course was pretty flat and I definitely enjoyed running so close to the ocean. That was the most scenic part of the course. I was very focused on getting a good time, staying hydrated and running.
The last three miles was the hardest I've had to fight mentally to keep running in a race. Disney races I stop for characters, and other races, I hadn't been as well trained. I knew if I started walking, a PR would be out of reach. That's all I kept telling myself. I changed my iPod playlist from my normal running mix to the one I made for my 5K - all fast songs and for the last 3 miles, that's what I listened to. I have it arranged, so that my favorite song of the moment, and my "power" song played into the finish. "Confident" by Demi Lovato...just something about the brass line and the drums, makes me feel like a fighter. When I knew the finish was close, it was the best feeling.
People often ask why I do this - run half marathons. And it's for the feeling I get before and while and right after I finish. I guess some call it a "Runner's High." It's more of a "Finisher's High." It's not the running that makes me feel like that, it's finishing after I've run all that.
When I finished - with an eventual PR (yay!) - I was super light-headed and HOT! Even though it was still well under 70 degrees. My parents were at the finish, I saw them right away, and I cruised in under the announcement of my name and Tampa, Florida. Woo hoo!
It took my a while to recover after the race. I drank about two bottles of water and I grabbed a bag of ice to put on my head and neck. I sat down, I walked around, stood in the shade. I did not feel the best. I did not get the free slice of pizza (my friends will really understand how bad I felt!) and I let my parents have my two free beers (I'm a liquor guy).
I hobbled with my parents to the car, soaked in some cool water in the bathtub and by the time I took a shower, I felt a lot better. Breakfast at a local joint was a lovely exclamation point to the day, and good preparation for our drive to Connecticut.
So, at the beginning of 2016, a wonderful lady that I've met through work and running simultaneously - I believe because of the Busch Gardens Run for Wildlife 5K - asked me about joining this Run The Year 2016 challenge, where one runs 2,016 miles in 2016. Now, that was a bit of a stretch for one person, but our team of four is going strong and just surpassed 1,000 miles.
My part of that is 200. Which I passed a few days ago. :)
I'm excited to add to it this weekend, when I run back-to-back half marathons on successive days. I am feeling good and am pretty confident I can get a PR if all goes smoothly. I won't blow it out of the water, but I've been pretty close before, and I've been lucky lately. Fingers crossed.
I was pretty restless last night (enough to drive my fiancé from our bed and into the guest bedroom - sorry Alan), and then I had trouble staying asleep in the early morning hours - because I was excited! I had done so well at Disney's Star Wars Dark Side races that I was pretty sure I could get a 5K personal record (PR). The alarm went off and I scurried about getting ready for my friend and co-worker, Kathleen, to pick me up at 6:30. We got there really early to pick-up our race bibs and shirts and were happy to have done so, because we got a great parking spot, no lines at the bathroom and plenty of time to relax. I must also iterate that if you are doing a race, do it with somebody else. It was so nice to have Kathleen there to chit chat, relax and have fun!
Pretty soon, we were almost ready to go - they called everyone over to the start. A huge ladder truck extended its ladder over the course and two firemen unfurled a giant American flag from it. The National Anthem was played, and soon the horn was sounded and the race started. I was off like a shot, Kathleen said so. :) I always start off fast, and this race was no exception - I can't help it. My legs were burning by the first half mile. I skipped the first water stop, but got some at every stop thereafter if only to give me a psychological boost. Halfway, I was pretty spent, but I had looked forward to this race for a while and felt a PR was so close. According to my Garmin, my pace still looked great.
I had carefully crafted a playlist the night before of songs to keep me fast and pumped up and it worked. And it also only lasted 26:17, so if the music ran out, I better be near the finish line. My previous PR was 27:36 at 2014's Lowry Park Zoo Run Run 5K. Once I had a mile left, I knew I could push through the burning muscles and I did! I got a PR! My official finishing time was 25:51.1. I was the 99th person to cross the finish line, the 66th man - out of 519 total runners. I was 6th in my division (Men, 30-34) out of 17. I am very proud of this accomplishment.
I started training for the Star Wars Dark Side Challenge in January, and sticking to all but two of my training runs allowed me on Weight Watchers to lose 26.8 pounds (so far!) and get a 10K PR and 5K PR. Looking forward to my back-to-back half marathons in two weeks, and hoping for a PR there as well.
One of my running friends, Debbie, convinced me to join this challenge - Run the Year 2016 - where you (or a team, which is what we are doing) run 2,016 miles in a year, this year. You can find more information at this website. With my 14+ miles and Debbie's Dopey Challenge at Disney World behind us, we've already logged over 100 miles between the two of us. We should have two more teammates joining shortly. I'll keep you updated as we progress.
I've also joined three challenges on MapMyRun - one of which is to run 1000K this year, or about 454.5 miles. And that one is on my own. I'm hoping these challenges act as little incentives (since I'm pretty competitive) and keep me on track. Another addition to my mental prep other than knowing I have three half marathons this spring. :)
So, lo and behold, I had a race during my rejuvenated training regimen!
I ran three times last week - a mile (or slightly more) each time. This week I had a longer workout on Sunday. My boyfriend Alan and I took Honey (our dog) with us...we walked 1.5 miles, ran 1 mile and walked 1.5 miles. And then the rest of the week was busy with work and us celebrating Alan's birthday, so I did not get my mid-week run in, despite bringing running gear on our little getaway to St. Pete. Oh well.
This morning I got up at 6:30 am and since everything was ready and waiting for me, I was out the door and on the way to Busch Gardens rather quickly. I gave myself more time than last year, so I was not rushing to a parking spot and despite some traffic, it only took me about 10 minutes of waiting to get one. I had time to hit the porta-potty and ran into my keeper friends from Disney - Craig and Melaina - as well as co-workers Christy and Morgan dressed as wildebeest. We all chatted a bit before the race started and I got some quick photos as the start gun was going off, and then we were running through the park.
It was great to see fellow zookeepers along the way - staff from Bird Gardens, Myombe, Edge of Africa and Jungala. And it's always fun to run past the animals. Although I didn't stop to take any pics along the route - Melaina is a fast one! - I did see the cheetahs, flamingos, tortoises, tigers, alligators, and we heard the lories.
Despite a ~2 minute walking break (that Craig and Melaina were kind enough to join me on), I still managed an 11:01 pace per mile for a total race time of 34:08.1. So, it wasn't my best 5K time ever, but I'm pretty proud of myself for running almost the entire race with very little training.
I realize that even though I'm not seeing results NOW - other than being able to run more than a mile without completely dying - it will take time to see more results, i.e. weight loss. That is my primary goal at this point - to get healthier and lose some weight. I was pretty low during my marathon training. I hit 199 at one point, but I have now returned to my prior-to-marathon-and-possibly-worse state and I do not find it acceptable. I am trying to change my eating habits, but that is a lot harder for me than going for a 3 mile run. They are habits after all, and I am the pickiest of eaters. With time, and hopefully with resolve, I will be able to physically better myself.
I fully realize that I've devoted little time to this blog and that is mainly because I've also devoted little time to running.
I've let my body get to a point where I am unhappy with it, and certainly not anywhere close to "marathon-shape." At the same time, I realize that training for a marathon was a part-time job and I am not in the same place, vis a vis my personal life, that I was at that time. I am very happy with my boyfriend and to be completely honest, I enjoy spending a lazy morning with him more than I do sweating and tiring myself out for hours on end.
That being said, I've instituted a new running "program" in which I currently run three times a week - Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday, and on the off-chance I break my promise to myself, then Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. I visited my parents in chilly Massachusetts at the beginning of November and used the cooler weather as a launching pad for my new regime. I ran twice when I was home (3 day visit to see my Mummu) and walked 2 miles with my Dad as well. Those excursions basically told me what I already knew - that I was out of shape - and allowed me to be honest with myself - I need to get back in shape.
I have tried my boyfriend's gym, but seeing a bunch of muscled gym-boys peacock around each other does not encourage me to return --- until I can peacock as well, of course. So, running it is. I find it relaxing and meditative and it's about time I turn this flab into fab again.
So, hopefully, I will be writing on here a lot more. My first week back, I ran a mile on each day - Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. My boyfriend and our dog joined me on Tuesday's run (that's my "Saturday") and it felt good. I was able to get up early enough - on my weekend! - that it was only sweltering instead of scorching. I signed up for the Busch Gardens Run for Wildlife 5K so there's that to try to not embarrass myself at, but my time will be nothing like last year's and that's okay. I hope to continue my quest for a half in every state this year, but as the Wildfire Half Marathon in Denton, Texas in July taught me...I will be training for them. :)
So...last Thursday, I braved the frigid cold of Florida and headed to the airport, where I flew home to Boston to become an icicle. Seriously, one forgets how cold "below zero" is until you are waiting outside for your parents to come pick you up. Why is the passenger pick-up on the second median at Logan? Also, Floridians...you really don't know what cold is.
The race was Sunday morning, so my Dad drove us to Liverpool, NY on Saturday night (see above). It started snowing about an hour into the drive and stress was not at a low level. We saw three separate incidents of car-off-the-road on the other side on the way out there. A drive that should have taken us just about 5 hours, took us almost 6 1/2. There were plows out there and from time to time, we would slow down behind one until we could make our way around it. We saw a really cool truck that had an attached trailer-like plow, dragging behind it, plowing the lane next to it - a double lane plow! Luckily, my Dad is very calm and collected on the road and we made it. We went out to Santangelo's Restaurant for dinner where I had possibly the best (homemade) ravioli I've had. Back at the hotel, I laid everything out for the next morning.
I woke up around 7:30am to head down to the hotel's breakfast. I ate some eggs and a bagel with cream cheese. We headed to the Salt Museum (below, second from left) near Onandaga Lake for packet pick-up. Quite a few runners already there, huddled in the warming tent. Loud music was playing, merchandise was there, warm bathrooms were available in the Visitor's Center, and the guy at registration made a big deal that I was from Florida when he looked at my ID. I was told by the race director that there was another person from Florida - there was. I looked at the results after the race and she was from Wesley Chapel...only a few miles from where I live.
Soon enough, it was 9:20am and I decided to head to the Start Line. I handed my Dad my winter jacket. It was cold. 24 degrees. A little colder than projected a few days earlier, but the next day it was around 0, so I was thankful for the "warmth." It was cloudy too, so no sun to warm us up. I didn't actually feel that cold since I was wearing the right stuff. My feet were the coldest part of my anatomy, and once the race started, my hands...but the focus became about the running and not the temperature. The director thanked the race sponsors and the 31 charity bib runners, of which I was one and started us off.
The race course was a double out-and-back, fairly scenic, but the course was challenging in that I was trying to avoid the slush, and when the pavement ran out, it was really hard to get a good footing on the snow. Miles 1 and 2 were relatively clear of snow. It wasn't until the third mile that the snow became a small issue. The turnaround was after mile 3, so for those keeping track, miles 3 and 4 were snow-covered, as well as miles 9 and 10. The other turnaround was after the finish line, so I actually ran by the finish during miles 6 and 7. In any case, all you need to know is that it was fun, it was cold, and I finished. During mile 8, I realized that if I ran at just about 10:30 per mile, I might get a PR, and I did get down to about 10:20, but as soon as I hit the snow again, that pace crashed, and I knew I wouldn't get it (see below).
Still, I finished strong, continuing to run. I tried walking once to give my muscles a break, but I could barely feel my feet (only noticed this when I started walking) and it felt better to run anyway. I ran past the finish line (again), around the loop by the playground, and headed back to the finish. I got my medal, met up with my Dad, got some water, tried the soup, talked to my Mom on the phone, texted my boyfriend, and we headed back to the hotel, so I could shower. One of the best showers ever, though my torso was tingling from the de-thawing process.
My finish time was 2:31:54, 11:36 pace. There were 555 runners. I finished 429, but it's not like this was a race for a beginner, these were experienced runners! Overall, I am happy with my performance. The conditions were hard. I was exactly 10 minutes from a PR, so if I ran 46 seconds faster per mile (or 10:50 pace), I would have tied my best time ever.
The winner was in my age group - 1:17:52, 5:57 pace. I was never lapped by the winner, but I did see him fly by in the opposite direction three times. To me, he seemed like he was sprinting. I'm not sure I'll ever condition myself to run that fast, but it would be nice. New goal? Nah! I'll just keep trucking on my 50 Halfs in 50 States challenge, reaching for a new PR, and entertaining the Seven Continents Marathon Challenge.
I've included some photos of our ride home including the awesome ice covering the granite walls through which the highway winds, as well as the bridges over the Hudson River.