Race Recap: Memphis St. Jude Half Marathon

This race came dangerously close to being The One That Didn’t Happen.  The plan was that I was going to work until lunch Friday, and then someone from another office (since I’ve recently lost my only help in mine) was going to come and relieve me that afternoon and Saturday for the race.  Thursday afternoon, only minutes before leaving work for the day, I got a phone call that my relief’s relief person had a family emergency and couldn’t fill in for her to allow her to come to my office.  I thought I was screwed.  But things actually worked out, as they RARELY do in my profession, and I was still able to make it.  I had to work all day Friday, and only made it to the expo by the skin of my teeth, but I made it, and that’s all that matters.

I got out of the office at 4:45, filled up my gas tank, and hit the road.  I thought that would give me plenty of time, but after stopping at Olive Garden to pick up a to-go order I’d called in and then having to slow down to a crawl on the interstate because of the torrential rain, I was pushing it tighter than I liked.  When I got downtown to the Cook Convention Center for packet pickup, the traffic was nuts.  I finally found a parking spot a few blocks away and hustled to the center.  I grabbed my shirt and went to the Hero’s section where I was given my bib and a $25 coupon (for meeting my $500 fundraising goal!) for St Jude merchandise.  JUST as I was walking into the merch area, they came over the speaker and announced that the expo would be closing in five minutes.  Talk about coming down to the wire.  I didn’t really plan on buying anything, but since I had the $25 coupon I looked around anyway.  I ended up grabbing this running beanie and a new 13.1 sticker for my truck (since I’ve lost all my running magnets) with a balance due of $0.13.

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Then I made my way to my hotel.  Because I’d waited too long to make a hotel reservation, all the decently priced ones downtown were booked up.  And because I’m too fucking cheap to pay $200 for one night just to have a pillow to lay my head on for a few hours before a race, I booked a room about 10 miles out of the downtown area.  It was a little Days Inn out by Graceland.  For $60 I wasn’t expecting much, but it had really good reviews, so I took a chance.  When I pulled up, it was so cute.  It was all decked out in Elvis paraphernalia and had the guitar-shaped pool and everything.  It was cheap, it was clean, it was quiet, the bed was soooooo comfy, and the staff was super friendly and helpful.  The lady at the front desk was even tracking down safety pins for me at 10:00 that night because I’d lost mine somewhere between the expo and my hotel room.  Great customer service.  I’d highly recommend this hotel to anyone.  When I told the front desk of my plans the next morning and asked for a late checkout so I could come back for a shower, she told me that 12:00 was the latest she could offer me without charging an extra half-day’s rate.  (Which I made with a whopping 4 minutes to spare!  haha)

So anyway, after I got checked in, I heated up my pasta I’d picked up on the way in (I had done that because I knew I wouldn’t make it in time for the Hero pasta party, and I just REALLY didn’t give a shit about walking around downtown in the rain trying to find some dinner after the expo.) and laid out all of my stuff for the next morning.  That was when I realized I had lost my safety pins for my bib.  Thank goodness Days Inn is prepared for us unprepared folks and had little sewing kits for free!

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So with a bib safety secured to my singlet, I laid down for the best night’s sleep I’ve had in a while.  No snoring husband, no dogs waking me up needing to go outside, no cat yelling at me demanding breakfast or help up on the bed (Cat, I bought you some pet stairs–use them!)  I went to sleep, slept soundly, and didn’t wake up till the next morning.  I had my alarm set for 6, but I was awakened by a text message at 5:33 wishing me luck.  I laid there for a while perusing Facebook and Instagram and then got up and had some coffee and my standard race morning breakfast of a Clif bar.  I left the hotel right at 7 to allow myself plenty of time to get downtown, find a parking place, and get to my corral without being rushed.  It went perfectly and I was in my corral by 7:45.

I didn’t have much of a plan for the race.  I knew I wasn’t PR ready, but I thought surely I could keep it under a 10:00 pace, giving me a second best time.  But for whatever reason, and I haven’t figured that reason out yet, it wasn’t in the cards.  For the first 6 miles or so, I was running in the 9:30s and feeling GREAT!  I was thinking that maybe I COULD beat my old PR of 2:07 (9:44 pace).  But then around mile 7, I completely bonked.  I mean like flipping a damn switch.  I went from “WHEEEEE RUNNING!!!!!” to “WTF just happened?” in the course of a mile.  Maybe it was because the rush of downtown and Beale St. and running through the St. Jude campus was over?  Maybe I had expended more energy running into the wind than I’d thought?  Maybe I just fucking suck at running?  But I still thought if I could keep a decent pace I could still keep the finish time under 2:10.  Then by mile 9, my average pace had creeped up to 10:02.  I knew I wasn’t getting it back, so I just said, “Fuck it.  It will be what it will be.”  So I just ran (and walked) and enjoyed the crowd and the scenery and just appreciated the fact that I got to be there when only 24 hours before I didn’t think it was gonna happen.

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Come on, photographer… Would a “Hey, fix your shirt” have killed you? 😛

I crossed the finish line in AutoZone Park in 2:17:29.  I’m really disappointed in that time.  There just isn’t any reason for it.  I’ve run 5 half marathons faster than that before, and I was no better prepared for any of those (except the PR one, which I ran during marathon training) than I was this one.  But whatever.  I’m disappointed but not bitter about it.  It’s hard to be bitter about taking part in such a wonderful day for such a wonderful cause.  I love this race so much, and I’m already looking forward to my fourth running of St. Jude next December.

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Half marathon #13 done.

#GivingTuesday

It seems I’m a little late to get the #GivingTuesday memo!  I got off work and got on social media for like half a second and saw dozens of #GivingTuesday posts.  I didn’t even know this was a thing.

From the website www.givingtuesday.org, “We have a day for giving thanks.  We have a day for getting deals.  Now we have #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back.  On Tuesday, December 2, 2014, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose:  to celebrate generosity and to give.  It’s a simple idea.  Just find a way for your family, your community, your company, or your organization to come together to give something more.  Then tell everyone you can about how you are giving.  Join us and be a part of a global celebration of a new tradition of generosity.”

What a FANTASTIC idea!

I’ve been asking my friends, family, and Facebook friends for a while now, and in honor of #GivingTuesday, today I’m asking you too!  Will you please donate to my St. Jude fundraising page?  I signed up to run the half marathon this weekend as a St. Jude Hero and pledged to raise $500.  As of right now, I am $75 away from that goal.  So if you haven’t celebrated the cause yet and you have a couple of dollars burning a hole in your pocket, please donate if you can!  Did you know that families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, housing, or food so that the family can concentrate only on getting their child better?  That is AMAZING, and they can’t do it without our donations!  Please give as generously as you can, but NO AMOUNT is too small!

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Training Recap & PFTW

Adding a new puppy to your life unexpectedly a has a way of totally upending any plans that you may have had.  Since this is Sami’s second week here with us, we’re kind of getting into a bit more of a routine.  After a largely nonexistent training week the week before last, last week wasn’t terrible.  I got in an easy run, intervals, and a long run, so I guess I got the necessities done anyway.  So let’s talk about those three runs a little bit…

The easy run was an easy 5.4 miles.  It was supposed to have been 6, but I was in a time crunch.  Not much to say about this run.  It was easy.

The intervals… well I have a little more to say about the intervals.  A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I thought I needed to reassess my goal pace.  I don’t talk much about pace specifics here because frankly I’m embarrassed by them, but I think I need to put it out there to get my point across for this one.  My 5k PR was an 8:38 pace, so until recently I’ve been happy to keep my 400s under 2:10 or so.  Well, a couple of times here lately I’ve seen indications that I may be a little bit faster than what I’ve given myself credit for.  Last track session, my 6th 400 was 1:54.  So when I went back this week for 6 x 400 again, I decided to try to keep them all under 2:05.  I kind of shocked myself by pulling off a 1:55, 1:58, 2:00, 1:57, 2:00, and 1:56 with 200 recovery in between.  Sigh Sometimes I wonder what I could do if I’d actually push myself and commit to a solid training plan.

Sunday I ran 12 miles.  They were uneventful.  At 70 degrees, it was hotter than it has been and wiiiiiindy as helllllllll.  But with my H20 hydration pack loaded with Nuun and a couple of gels, I made it through it with no issues.  Was it as fast as I’d like?  Not at all.  But it didn’t suck.  Then I came home and got the foster pup and walked her for 2 miles on the road behind my house then took her home and traded her out for my two dogs and took them to the park for three laps (2.25 miles).  I’m sad to say those are the only meaningful longish walks they got this week.  I fucking hate this getting-dark-at-5-pm bullshit.  I can’t walk them from home after dark for fear of getting mauled by the coyotes, and going into the park after dark skeeves me out because it’s just too dark and secluded, and I can’t carry my gun into the park.

So anyway, that brings us to this week… It’s race week again.  St. Jude is on Saturday.  And yet again, I am unprepared.  This will be my 13th half-marathon.  You’d think I’d have this shit down pat by now, but I have never gone into one feeling like I was properly trained.  Sure I can get through 13.1 miles.  But will I go out there and kick ass and PR and race to my full potential?  Nope!  Again.  Maybe someday…

A Belated Christmas Gift & A Product Review: H20 performance hydration pack

“Belated Christmas gift?!  What?!  It’s not even Christmas yet!”  I know, I know.  I guess technically the gift wasn’t belated.  It was received on Christmas Eve.  TWO YEARS AGO.  But it got pushed to the back of the closet and forgotten about, and I just found it a couple of days ago!

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Christmas 2012 my niece got me the H20 performance hydration pack from Outdoor Products.  I was so excited to get it, but I tucked it away because I wasn’t training for anything right then that would warrant using it.  Then when I started running longer runs again, I completely forgot I had it!  This week I was pulling out stuff to donate and found it in my closet, and I think I was even more excited than when I opened it two years ago!  I used it on my 12 miler Sunday.

When you unzip the pack, you see that the two-liter bladder is velcroed into place under an insulated divider, leaving a place in the pack to put personal items.

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That’s all great except for two things.  First, the divider doesn’t go all the way to the bottom of the pack, so if you put a phone or something in it and it goes down past where the divider stops, it’s in direct contact with the bladder.  If the bladder sweats or leaks, well, that could lead to bad things happening.  Second, anything you put in the pack is inaccessible without taking the pack off.  Again, not a huge deal, as most people would use the pack for phone, keys, etc., that you wouldn’t need during the run anyway, but Sunday, I wanted to carry a couple of gels with me, and I had no convenient place to put them.  It just would have been nice if there had been a small pouch on one of the shoulder straps or something.  Again, not a huge deal.

When you put the pack on, there are a couple places to adjust to make sure you get a good fit.  The shoulder straps adjust to make sure you get proper placement on your back, and then there’s a sternum strap so that you can adjust how snug the pack fits to you.

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You can see from the first photo that when I adjusted it down to fit me, I had a lot of loose strap dangling.  I didn’t think it was that big of a deal until I started running.  There were 20+ MPH winds blowing, and every now and then it would catch those straps just right and it was like being whipped!  I need to do something about those.

So even though I’ve mentioned a few things I wasn’t 100% crazy about, overall I LOVED it.  Comfort-wise, it was worlds above the Fuel Belt I’ve been using for long runs.  For the most part, I forgot it was even there, and for me to say that, that’s HUGE.  I’m weird about having stuff around or against my body while I’m running, and this thing didn’t bother me at all.  I can’t believe this has been in my closet unused all this time!!!

What’s your preferred method of hydration during long runs?

Do you carry your own water during races or just take advantage of the aid stations?