December 9, 2014

Annapolis Running Classic Half Marathon Recap

Boy, am I late getting this recap up! I ran it two weeks ago, on November 22, and while I couldn't recap it while I was away (no computer access) I meant to write this up when I got home last week.  Alas, life has gotten in the way again.

Several months ago, we decided to visit J's family in Maryland for Thanksgiving.  We hadn't been back East to visit my in-laws since 2010, so we were way overdue.  When considering the trip, one of my first questions was "is there a half marathon I can run?"  You see, I have a lofty goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states. I've only done 3 states (California, obviously, since I live here, but also Nevada and Oregon).  I was hoping for an opportunity to check Maryland off the list.  Amazingly enough, there was a half marathon in Annapolis the weekend before Thanksgiving, the Annapolis Running Classic.  With it only about 45 minutes away from my in-law's home, I had to sign up.  We ended up flying in early, the Thursday before Thanksgiving, in order for me to do this.  It really worked out well, because we didn't hit too much holiday chaos going this early (or coming back, which was the day after Thanksgiving).

While I have been to Maryland countless times over the years with my husband, I'd never been to Annapolis.  All I knew was that it was a Navy town, with the Academy there.  My friend Ted was a physician in the Navy years ago, and he lent me a Navy baseball cap to wear; I wanted to get into the Navy spirit!  While this race offered packet pickup in various sports stores around town, I opted for them to mail me my bib, which worked out perfectly; we got in late Thursday night, and went sight-seeing in Washington, DC on Friday, so I wouldn't have had time.  The week before the race I got an envelope in the mail with my bib and safety pins.  The finisher's shirt would be given to me upon crossing the finish line. One thing I was in a tizzy about was what to wear!  Living in San Diego, I'm not used to cold weather, and the forecast showed that at 6:00 a.m. (when the race started) it would be 28 degrees, and by 8:00 a.m. (when I'd be only an hour into the race) it'd be 32 degrees.  What do you wear? I asked on dailymile and twitter, and was told to wear capris, a short-sleeved shirt and arm warmers, along with a throw-away jacket. At the last minute while packing, I tossed in long running pants, a long-sleeved tech shirt, and also throw-away gloves. I figured even if I didn't wear them on race day, I'd be running other days while on vacation so I'd wear them.  After desperate emails to my cold-weather-expert-friend Barb, I was glad I'd packed the warmer things!

So what did I end up wearing?  My long running pants, a long-sleeved tech shirt, my arm warmers under the shirt, a throw-away jacket, throw-away gloves, a skullcap, and the Navy cap over that. It ended up being perfect.

Go Navy!
Race morning I was up very early. The race started at 7, and they advised getting there by 6:30 to avoid road closures.  I had read a few recaps from previous years that said traffic was a nightmare, as there's apparently only one highway going into the area (the same recaps also talked about how hilly the course was....uh oh!).  With my in-law's house 45 minutes away, and me not knowing where I was going, as I never drive in Maryland, I was up at 4:30 and out the door by 5.  Luckily the Garmin in the car didn't lead me wrong, and I breezed over to Annapolis with no traffic whatsoever.  I mean, NO traffic. I was glad I avoided that!  I entered the parking lot at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium before 6:00...which was great, except that now I had a lot of waiting to do.  In the car.  Which was freezing.  I kept turning the car on to get some heat going, then turning it off, then turning it back on.  Finally I braved the elements to run to the port-o-potties (I wanted to go before the lines started, which eventually formed) and then ran back to the car.

Pre-race in the tent. These people know how to throw an after-party!

Getting set up for their oyster festival

pre-race. do I look freezing? I am.

more pre-race
at the stadium


At about 6:40, I headed over to the big tent, which was supposed to be heated.  I'm not going to sugar-coat it---it was COLD!!!!  No more than 30 degrees, which I guess is literally freezing.  I wandered around the tent for a bit, which was warm not only from the heat lamps but all the people!  Different booths were getting set up for the finish line festival, which would feature an oyster festival.  People were in a good mood, although I heard a few people grumbling that it wasn't this cold in previous years (indeed, the website itself says that the average temperature for November 22 is 59, with a low of 39. It was 30 or lower, definitely not what they expected!)  Eventually we were herded out of the tent to the start line.  I lined myself up in the back, not knowing how to pace.  As usual, I've been injured (this time with capsilitis) and while I have my doctor's blessing to run, I'd taken some time off to try, in vain, to heal.  And having never run in such cold weather, I didn't know how it would affect me---I'd heard it can be hard to breathe, etc.  I shivered my way to the start line, pulling a second pair of gloves on so that my hands were double-gloved---and my poor fingers were still frozen!  A few announcements, the singing of the National Anthem, and we were off!

I'm pretty sure that's the capital building

The first few miles ran us around the stadium, then heading into their downtown area by the harbor.  By mile 3 I was sufficiently warmed up enough to feel comfortable tossing my throw-away jacket at an aid station. I also took off one of the pairs of gloves. I was amazed by how warm I felt in literally freezing weather!  The downtown area was very cute.  Cobblestone streets, little shops, boutiques and restaurants...the kind of place I'd like to come back to explore one day.  We ran by the boats docked in the harbor.  The views were spectacular!

look how quaint this downtown is!

One thing that was funny for me was the first aid station.  Usually when there's an aid station, there's lots of water all over the ground from the discarded cups.  There was a volunteer at the table yelling a warning for everyone to watch the ice!  That was a new one for me---because it was freezing out, the water had frozen into ice!  I was glad for the warning, as it definitely looked slippery.  Also my Gatorade in my Fuel Belt was ice cold the entire run, even though it had never been refrigerated.


A logistical problem seemed to happen when we exited the downtown area.  It seems like we had to cross paths with the slower runners/walkers who were going the other way---we had to intersect their line. It wasn't a problem for me, as there was a big gap, but if it truly was an intersection (maybe I was mis-seeing it) it could have been an issue for other people.

After exiting the downtown area, we headed to the latter part of the run.  First we had to cross  big bridge, the Severn River Bridge. It was easily the biggest hill on the course, forming an arch shape that had us running uphill and then downhill---and, since this part was an out-and-back, we'd have to do it twice. Until this point, I was doing great maintaining my 2 minute run/30 second walk ratio, but at the bridge I ended up walking up most of it. I was suddenly spent, as I'd been doing a quicker than normal pace.  I was also getting very warm (weird in freezing weather!) and I ended up tossing my throw-away gloves at another aid station by the bridge (knowing I had a backup pair in my Amphipod Belt).  After the bridge we ran a few miles up a road (mostly a slight uphill) that was very pretty and wooded.  There was a turn-around point a few miles in here, then back down the road, to the bridge, and back.
The Severn Bridge looming ahead

gorgeous view from the bridge!

For a while I thought I might actually PR the race, but I blew up a bit in the second half.  The cold weather made me run faster, which I'm not used to. By the end, I just wanted to finish.  Finally I crossed the finish line in about 2:35---5 minutes off a PR, but still a great time for me, especially as I hadn't even considered "racing" this, only running it to cross a state off my list! I had taken some time to take pictures (as you can see) and had to stop to tie my shoe four times before I finally thought to just knot them, but even without those stops, a PR wouldn't have been in the cards for me.

As soon as I finished, I was freezing. Shivering.  I got my medal and hobbled down toward the tent where I was to get my finisher's shirt. And what a shirt it was!  A half-zip pullover with thumb holes. I love it, and have been wearing it all the time since I got back.  (They did run small, and I ended up exchanging my medium for a large).  While I was looking for some food, I saw someone with a cup of soup.  Soup!  Hot soup! I found where a big kettle of soup was steaming, and gratefully got a cup (it was vegetarian tomato!! Score!).  After relaxing with my soup for a bit, I shivered my way back to the car, cranked the heat up, and went home.

shirt and bling

Proud--and shivering---finisher

All in all, I am THRILLED I got to do this race. I can't say enough good things about it. I feel great that I was able to run so well, in unfamiliar weather.  I also enjoyed seeing all the Navy landmarks.  I wish I lived closer, because if I did I'd definitely do this race again.  It was scenic, well-organized and had a small-town feel. Not a lot of course support (ie no bands/entertainment, not a lot of spectators) but that also could have been a factor of the weather. Regardless, it was not needed---the views were entertainment enough.  Well done, Annapolis Running Classic!

November 6, 2014

Having My Cake---and Eating it Too

I have always said I would never do a full Ironman (140.6 miles).  The idea of swimming 2.4 miles, then biking 112 miles, and then running a FULL MARATHON (26.2 miles) did not appeal to me. At all.  I have referenced this all over my blog, in various posts, and whenever I wrote that I meant it.  Whenever people would ask me why I didn't want to do a full, I'd answer that I love to swim, bike and run, but not THAT much. I likened it to a cake:  I enjoy eating a piece of cake, but the thought of eating a whole cake at once seems really unappealing.  I've done the distances before. I've done a marathon, back in 2003, and never want to run another. Although running is my passion, that's TOO much running for me.  I've biked a century (it was 106 miles, only 6 miles short of Ironman distance).  And I've done the Tiki Swim twice, both times the 2.4 mile distance. I had no interest in putting it all together.  I even remember telling someone once that even if my Ironman entry was comped, and I got free coaching, and all new gear, I still wouldn't consider it.  I simply, and truthfully, had no interest.  And it was telling to me that, after both of the half-Ironmans I have done (SuperFrog and Ironman Oceanside) I told my husband and best friend that I would never do a half-Ironman (70.3 miles) again.  If 70.3 seemed like an ungodly amount of mileage, you can imagine how 140.6 sounded to me.

Well, now I'm considering eating a whole cake.

Let me back up.

A few months ago, my friend Steena was doing Ironman Wisconsin (for the second year in a row, I might add).  Ironman puts live feeds on their website on race day, and I was on the computer watching for her on the finish line live feed. Now, I've watched these finish line live feeds quite often---whenever I have a friend doing one of these races I try to check it out.  Never before have I been pulled in.  But for some reason, on this day, watching the finish line of Ironman Wisconsin, I thought to myself "I want to do that!"  The thought sure surprised me!  I mentioned it to my husband, J, and he was not surprised at all!  He said that over the years, as he's watched me increase my distances from sprint to Olympic to half-Ironman, he's expected that one day I'd want to do a full.  I guess it's taken 4 years of me doing this sport  to wrap my head around the thought of actually doing it.

And can I do it?  I think so. I need a lot of training, obviously. There's a 17 hour time limit, and because I am so slow in swim, bike AND run, I'll be cutting it close.  But I know this---if I complete the course and don't make the time cut-off (and therefore be an official DNF--did not finish) I will still be proud of myself.

But I won't find out for a while.  Although I'm suddenly hungering for a full Ironman, I won't do it for about 5 1/2 more years. I have my eye set on Ironman Texas, 2020.

Why wait? Why 2020? And why Ironman Texas?

Well, when I train for a 70.3 race, it takes a lot of time. Obviously. I am fortunate that I don't work, so I am able to train a lot in the week while the kids are at school, but I still have to do a long run and bike (and sometimes a bike-run brick) on the weekends.  J has NEVER made me feel guilty about my time away from the kids on the weekend, and neither have the kids, but, as a mom, I feel guilt anyway.  Because for both half-Iron races I tried to train as much as possible on the course, I biked a lot on Coronado and the Silver Strand for SuperFrog, and on Camp Pendleton for Oceanside.  That meant that on top of the 3-4 hours or so of biking I was doing, I had to add on 60-90 minutes of driving time to get to and from my destination. I would be gone all morning and into the early afternoon.  Again, my FAMILY never made me feel guilty. It's me.  I know I need, and deserve, my own life and time away, but still. 

So when I think about doubling the training effort, and knowing that I will be away a lot on weekends, it makes sense to wait 5 years.  In 2020, my son, D, will be going on 16 years old. My daughter, A, will be going on 14.  It will be after her Bat Mitzvah, which will be a stressful year.  They will be both be teenagers, and while I'm sure they will still need me on weekends, I don't think they will need me in the same capacity as they do now, at ages 10 and 8.  For my own sanity and mommy-guilt, I would feel better about this.  They are only young once, and while it's unrealistic (and unhealthy) to be with them every minute, I don't want to overdo the swim/bike/run and sacrifice my time with two of the loves of my life.

Also, 2020 is the year I turn 50.  What better gift can I give myself than to do an Ironman?  Yes, waiting until 2020 makes sense.  And Texas?  Because I have a lot of family there. I have two sisters, who are my best friends. One lives in Houston (where the race is) and one lives in Dallas.  And my dad and step-mother live centrally, so it's not too far for them. If I'm going to be spending 17 hours (or hopefully less) on the course, I want everyone there cheering me on---my husband, children, father, step-mother, sisters, brothers-in-law, niece and nephews. While I don't really relish the thought of traveling to Texas for the race (and all the expense and hassle of shipping my bike, etc), having my family there to cheer me on, as we also celebrate my 50th birthday, is gold. That's priceless.

My son is very excited about me doing this.  I have two caveats---I need to make sure that my body is holding up enough to train (I'm perpetually injured) and I need to make sure my family situation is ok (we have so many medical issues in my family, so really, knock on wood)....but I'm committing right here, on my blog, that if my body and family situation hold up, I'll be competing in the 2020 Ironman Texas Ironman.  April 25, 2020. Oh---and also if my passion for triathlon holds up.  There's always that. I can't, and won't, put in the hours upon hours of training if I'm over triathlon and training by then.

In preparation, I have signed up for my third half-Ironman. I will be doing Vineman 70.3 in July! I'm very excited about this race.  It's a very popular race, and it sold out in about 7 minutes, so I'm very lucky to be registered. It's supposed to be hot---can get up to a yucky 90 degrees--but also beautiful, as the course goes through the vineyards of Sonoma County.  Unlike my first 70.3, when I felt nauseous after hitting the registration button, or my second, when I felt nervous, I have only felt excitement about this one.  Yes, the nerves will come, but I KNOW I can do the distance. While I'd love to improve my times, my main goal is to have fun and practice my nutrition for long-course racing (which I always mess up on during race day).

So, that's that.  I'm doing another 70.3 in 2015, with an eye in the future for a full Ironman.  Putting out there on the interwebs makes it seem more real.  And I know that though it seems so far off right now, the time will fly by and soon enough I'll be in the depths of training!

November 4, 2014

Awesome 80's 5k Race Recap ('14)

For the third year in a row, I ran in the Awesome 80's raceThe inaugural year, 2012, I ran the 10k option (it was my first 10k ever).  Last year they only offered a 5k option, which was fine with me, as I ran it with  my son.  This year it was again only offered as a 5k, and an untimed one at that.  Still, my son, D, and I were excited to run it, as we had fun dressing up last year and wanted to again this year.  Plus, the theme was Pac Man, and we were coveting the cute medals!

Having learned from the mistake I made in last week's 5k (not reading the instructions carefully) I made sure I knew when packet pickup was.  They only had a few hours blocked out on Friday afternoon, which was Halloween.  My kids were troopers, going with me to packet pickup at Road Runner Sports in their Halloween costumes, which they had worn to school.  While at Road Runner Sports, I treated myself to a new Amphipod belt for my phone (we have a Nathan brand one at home that doesn't really fit my huge phone), which I used during the race and loved.  We were given a t-shirt and bib; no goodie bags or timing chips, as it was untimed.  (Side note: I wasn't aware that this race was untimed until I received the race day instruction email just a few days before. Not that I wouldn't have run the race anyway, as I do love this race, but it would have been nice to know this fact at registration. All previous years were chip timed).

Friday night, soon after trick-or-treat, it began to rain. I heard that it hasn't rained on Halloween in San Diego since 1988, so this is truly rare.  I asked D if he still wanted to go with me in the morning if it was raining (I would go regardless) and he said yes. I had to laugh---he's hardcore like his mama!  But I wasn't laughing when I woke up early Saturday morning. The plan was to leave the house by 5:30, and I was up before 5. It was POURING rain.  Ugh!  I woke up D and he still wanted to go. We decided not to wear our 80's costumes; we'll save them for next year.  We got dressed in alternate clothing, grabbed some windbreakers, and headed out the door. Luckily it stopped raining soon after we started driving down to Mission Bay, and it didn't start raining again.

The last two years parking was hard.  There's a dirt lot at the corner of Mission Bay Drive and Sea World Drive that most people park in, including us. It's a bit of a walk to the start, but not too far.  However, I didn't want to park there this time, as I knew the lot would now be mud. I didn't want to park in it, OR walk in it. I chanced getting off the freeway an exit early and made my way down a back way toward Fiesta Island. I was glad I did, as there was PLENTY of parking in a real lot, and very close to the start line at that!  We got down there by 6, and waited in the car for half an hour, as the race didn't start until 7.  We finally got out and made our way to the start. It was very uncrowded, especially as compared to the previous two years.  They had port-o-potties, but also there is a real bathroom there, as it's a park. Last year I waited in a long line for the real bathroom.  This year I walked right in and had my choice of stalls! I believe the rain scared people away, which was a shame because it did stop raining after all.  D and I check out the DeLorean that was there for display, and then lined up to run.  D wanted to be up in the front; it wasn't a timed race, but there was a finish line clock and he wanted to check his time at the finish so he wanted to be first out the gate (I had my Garmin for me, so it didn't matter about my placement).

view of the DeLorean and hoverboard
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Soon we were off!  This course is always very boring...a loop around ugly Fiesta Island. I didn't take pictures this time, as I was actually running really well and didn't want to stop.  I've been running a 2 minute run/30 second walk ratio during training, but during the race I did 4 1/2 minute run and 30 second walk. My injuries (sciatic nerve compression and capsulitis in my toe) didn't hurt at all.  I felt great! At the finish line I double high-fived Chewbacca and Mario. Only at an 80's race, right?  I ended up finishing (unofficially, of course) with a 10:46 minute/mile pace, which is pretty darned good for me in a 5k.  Not a PR, but one of my best.  D finished the run in 29 minutes flat.  Much faster than me!

finish line

We got our cool Pac Man medals and were home by 8:15. I was proud of him for not only running such a great race, but for being willing to run in bad conditions.  We hope to do this run again next year, this time in costume!

loved this year's theme!