Sunday, February 09, 2020

Mississippi River Half Marathon

Yesterday I completed the Mississippi River Half Marathon. I chose this particular race because it was just a few hours from home and because of its cool medal. I needed a "between marathons" race to keep me motivated to run during the colder months. 

That theory worked very well until, per the usual, life happened. Several weekends before the race, a tornado hit my area. Needless to say that longrun did not happen. Then my kiddo got sick and I was up nearly all night. Then I got sick. Then... you get the picture. I seriously contemplated not going. That would have made me disappointed in myself, though. However, letting life get in the way had already done the job.

Between a couple of dear friends and my spouse, all of whom have more faith in me than I have in myself, I decided to give it a go. After all, I could walk the entire thing if I had to. You see, this was a very unique point-to-point race. Both the half and the full started at the same time, but the full marathoners would start 13.1 miles farther out than me. I knew I could surely finish this, even grossly undertrained, within the 7 hour full marathon time limit! 

Roughly 36 hours before the race was to begin, I booked a hotel room. Yep - I waited until the last minute. It was a slow drive down to Greenville, Mississippi. However, a Delta sunset never disappoints! I arrived at the race expo within an hour of it closing. It took place in a downtown space that was gorgeous.

 Here is a view of the entrance from within the space

 Here is a view of the expo from the entrance. No muss, no fuss.

I got my goods and headed to my extremely inexpensive lodging. I got to the business of laying everything out so as to be prepared bright and early the next day. 

 Expo swag - again, no muss, no fuss.

 I love this cool hoodie!

 There's flat Susan, all ready to go.

I set my alarm for 5 AM. Naturally I woke up many, many times before then. I got up and had two packets of oatmeal (you runners know why). I left the place, all packed up, at around 5:45 AM. I had to get on a bus between 6:00 and 6:30 to be driven to Lake Village, Arkansas. The half was to start on the Arkansas side of the Mississippi River. 

Here's the thing about runners: they're my favorite people! I love, love, love talking to people who have race experiences similar to mine, i.e. folks who have traveled around doing different races in different places. They're full of good info and just plain GET IT. Don't get me wrong here. I love all kinds of people. But, these are MY people! Honestly, chatting with other runners on the bus was almost as good as crossing the finish line. 

We got dropped off in Lake Village with roughly an hour to spare before the race. Fortunately, we could sit on the warm bus. We also had the opportunity to use the port-a-potties. It was a small race, so there was almost no line. That's a rarity! My oatmeal worked, let's just say.

Finally, it was time to start. The National Anthem was played, and we all made our way to the base of the bridge. We started promptly at 8 AM. The full marathoners also started, but 13.1 miles farther back. I love that concept because I knew that enetually the leaders of that race would zoom by me.  

 Waiting to begin is so exciting!

One thing I read about this race was how flat it was. That appealed to me! It was very clear that the only hill would be the bridge itself. I must say that it wasn't that bad. Plus, it was a beautiful structure, and the view at 8 AM was so pretty.

 The bridge was two miles long, give or take. One mile up, one mile down!

 Good morning from the Mississippi River! I literally ran over it.

As an Arkansan transplanted to Mississippi nearly twelve years ago, I must point out one observation. I love my new state, but I must say that Mississippi waits a while to welcome you with signs like the one below. Arkansas, however, welcomes you the second you enter the state. After all, it's God's Country. Ha! 

 I'd never pass up the chance to photograph a port-a-potty and Mississippi together.

Roughly five miles after the bridge we ran along a highway. It was basically flat and boring. However, the water stops were plentiful, and everyone was so nice. Next we turned off into a residential area. The houses were really spread out, i.e. the residents had acreage. I kept thinking of how nice it probably was to live there. Also, at this point the winner of the full marathon zoomed past me. It was exciting! Another guy was not far behind him.

My favorite part of the course came next. We went into a gated community that reminded me of the Old South. The homes weren't incredibly old, but the streets were tree-lined, and it felt regal. Some of the water stops there were offering food, like fruit, cookies, etc.  

 I love this type of street.

Once I left this area, I had around three miles to go. Chump change! At that point, and even before then, I equated the remaining distance to a run in my area. For example, six miles was "a long morning of speedwork." Four miles was "a typical morning of speedwork." I swear - running is 90% mental. The trick is to keep your mind right. Thinking "Ugh, I have six miles to go" is not good for anyone! I prefer "I ONLY have six miles to go." Mindset, I tell ya! Two miles equated to "the end of my neighborhood and back." Easy peasy! 

That said, I'd be remiss if I didn't learn that something one of my experienced bus mates had told us to be true. Once you turn onto Washington Avenue, at mile 12.5, I'd swear that finish line kept getting farther and farther away. Six tenths of a mile seemed to be about a hundred blocks away, but you could see it. What a dirty trick! LOL

I finally made it, and I was so proud for showing up, gutting it out, and not letting myself down. I have another race in the books, and I'll have a good base for marathon training in a few weeks. You gotta love a half marathon... the training is easier, obviously they don't take quite as long, and the recovery is much easier. I love to do a half every once in a while. It's a treat! As I told my non-runner friend, though, it's still an effort, and any distance is hard in the moment. I can stress myself out WAY more over a 5k than a full marathon. It may sound crazy, but it's my truth. 

 Ah, finished!

At the expo I was able to get pizza and a drink. They had other fare, too. I was focused on getting home ASAP. After all, I had a slow, scenic drive ahead of me. One of the perks of a race with less than 600 entrants was being able to park so close to the finish line. Even after "just a half," this girl was getting sore!

 You can see the finish line from my car. Bliss!

I got in my car and barely made it to Clarksdale, Mississippi before I felt like I had to stop and take a cat nap. I literally laid my seat back and napped in a McDonald's parking lot for nearly an hour. I've never had to do that after a race before. However, only once before have I driven home a few hours immediately after running. I was younger then! LOL

 My beautiful medal!

Isn't it gorgeous?!?!

I made it home and eventually "slept like the dead." I am happy to report that I did not get any blisters. While I definitely chafed, it was not the kind that makes you scream in the shower. That's a HUGE win! I was really sore yesterday, but today I am A-OK. That's also the perk of a half marathon. 

Like I said before, I am so happy I ended up doing this race. The director and the volunteers executed it beautifully. I feel accomplished and happy. That's especially good for me as a working mom. It's so easy to get wrapped up in the necessary day to do tasks; I often put myself on the back burner. This was an opportunity for me to accomplish something that had nothing to do with work or family, and it felt great! 

Monday, October 21, 2019

Detroit Free Press/TCF Bank Marathon

On Sunday I was finally able to run the Detroit Free Press/TCF Bank Marathon. It has been a bucket list race for me for many years. After finally getting back to running about a year ago, I knew it was high time to check Michigan off my 50 states quest. 

To be completely honest this was not the easiest race to train for because of the timeline. Being that it takes place in October, one must begin training in July. It was miserably hot and humid for the vast majority of my training season. In fact I had a genuine pity party about two weeks into it. I felt that I simply could NOT train in such conditions (even though I have certainly done it before). It made me really assess what I truly wanted; I had to dig deep if I was going to make it happen. 

Even then it wasn't the easiest of training seasons. Many runs did not happen. The ones that did were not stellar. I was lucky to make it to 18 or 20 miles tops. The ONLY shining victory was the fact that I grew to loathe speedwork less. That's huge for this girl! 

For twelve weeks I doubted my ability to run this race. I regretted purchasing my airline ticket. I waited until it was too late to secure lodging (unless I was a Rockefeller). I thought I was too slow and heavy to run this race. 

The kicker for me was logic. If I deferred to 2020, 2021, or even longer, this race would always require me to train through July, August, and Septmber, i.e. it was never going to be any better. I might as well make a go of it. However, my confidence was shot and I had as much self-doubt as any three people combined. I kept my plans under wraps for fear of "public failure." I only discussed this race and my plans with the people I speak with I referred to it as my "secret marathon." 

As fearful as I was, I boarded a plane on Saturday. For all of my fourteen prvious marathons, I was excited. This was a whole new ballgame for me. Fear has never been my middle name... until now. 

The expo was large and motivational.

I went to the expo and felt like a fake. I expressed my concerns to one gentleman, and he said, "Just do what you can do, and run a smart race." Is there more any of us can do? 

Of course I had to snap a photo in front of the flag of Denmark, since our current excnahge student is from there.

Seeing the finisher's medal up close was excellent. Would I earn one?

The question was, "What drives you to run?" My answer is on the white paper.

Like I said, I waited until less than two weeks out to try to get a hotel room. When that plan obviously failed, I reached out to my friend Molly. She hosted me back in 2011 when I had an overnight layover in Detroit. She didn't hesitate for a second. She even arranged for us to stay at her dad's home, since he was as easy drive from the course. 

I unloaded all of my race swag on my bed in her dad's home.

Not only did sweet Molly host me, but she also let me be her "plus one" at a pre-race dinner that night. We went to a gorgeous home in the area and were treated to a scrumptious, home cooked meal.

Check out my awesome friend and that incredible view!

I sat among Molly and fourteen new friends. It was so cool!

I slept decently that night. Naturally I woke up at least three times, though. It's my norm! My alarm "finally" went off at 5:15 AM EST (that's 4:15 AM for my body), and I tiptoed out of the house around 5:45 AM. My reserved parking spot ended up being 1.1 miles from the start. It was no big deal, though, due to the energy of the morning. 

I got into my corral and thought, "Well, what will be will be." I prayed A LOT about this race. I prayed the week before, the night before, the morning of, and even during the race. Have you ever prayed while running? You should! 

We started before the sun rose. That was new for me.

Once my corral crossed the start line, something unprecedented happened. I got a little emotional! After all I was FINALLY doing this particular race. Everyone had way more confidence in me than I did in myself. I think I literally felt their positive vibes as I started running. I didn't even take a walk break for quite a while. I was amazed. 

I was feeling very good out there. It was flat as a pancake, cool and breezy. That's a Southerner's dream! Before I knew it we were to head up the ramp to the Ambassador Bridge to Windsor, Ontario. I just couldn't believe that I was going to do it! 

The bridge was one of the three inclines along the course.

I'm literally on a bridge that separates two countries!

The good news about an incline of a bridge is that it must come back down on the other side. I hustled down it into Canada. Canada, eh! We were required to run with our passports. No one was stopped at the border, to my knowledge.  

Yep, that's Canada. They were blaring "Sweet Caroline" as I passed the entrance.

We ran several miles in Windsor, Ontario. It culminated with running down into the Windsor Tunnel back to the USA. Not only was it downhill (until the middle), but obviously it gave me the opportunity to lay claim to running under the water. How cool!

It was cool and rather lively running in the tunnel.

Of course, at the midpoint we had to run UP to the land. That was the second incline of the day. Getting out of the tunnel was a long-awaited, much-anticipated victory for me. You see, they had to open the tunnel up to traffic at a certain time. If anyone wasn't out by then, they would be asked to leave the course. 

I did it! I beat the cutoff!

After a little more time in downtown, the half marathoners turned off to finish their race. That is always a somber moment for me. You can hear their finish line hooplah, yet you still have another 13.1 miles to go. It was OK, though, because this day was unlike any other. I finally took my own advice and tried to truly run the mile I was in. The miles went by quickly, and I was feeling good. Yes - I was actually feeling good! What the what?!?! Not only was I concentrating on the individual miles, but I was also focusing on taking one Gu every three miles. That broke up the entire distance into smaller increments for me.  

Soon we went to my favorite part of the course: Indian Village. It's a neighborhood of gorgeous, historic homes. I could have stayed in there all day! I was thoroughly enjoying viewing the homes and the fall foliage.

Unlike Mississippi, Michigan is actually getting a fall season this year.

Somewhere past the halfway mark, my lower left back started to hurt. I wondered if it was a kidney. I asked a medic what she thought. She thought it was possible, but most likely just a muscular issue. The astonishing thing was that the ONLY thing hurting was that. Again, I ask you, what the what?!?! 

Mile 17 is always special to me because it means I only have single digits left to go.

In the teens my thought was, "Wow, the next thing I know, I'll be to mile 20." Then 20 came, and I was looking forward to 21 because I could take another Gu. There was always a little victory to be had. This was truly the race of the positive attitude! Having only one thing hurting also helped tremdously. In the past EVERYTHING has hurt by mile 20, if not sooner. 

"Just five miles to go!" I couldn't believe that I was feeling so alive, hadn't hit the wall, and was still HAPPY. That can only be attributed to the power of prayer! Even going up the third and final incline of the day into Belle Isle was a good experience.

I will admit that after Belle Isle and the riverfront area with no spectators, I was quite ready to be done. It was mile 24 or so, meaning I had taken my last Gu, so my little victories were waning thin. My mind knew that two more miles were nothing, but my body was ready to be at the finish line already. This is the point of the race when, frankly, Ms. Positive isn't so nice anymore. It was the final countdown, so to speak. 

Then it was a mile and a half... then just a mile... then a half a mile... then just a few more downtown blocks to turn through. I finally asked a lady, in an exasperated way, "Where is it?" Only a fool would not know that I was referring to the finish line. She happily replied, "Just around the corner!" Thanks goodness!

There it was; the finish line. It was still there. It hadn't been disassembled already. There were spectators, the announcer, photographers, and -- most importantly -- volunteers handing out medals! When I was within close enough proximity to break into a run, I got emotional yet again. I was doing it! I had done it! No sweeper van, no dying muscles, no defeated attitude. FInish #15 was steps away!

I did it! It was the best marathon of my 40's for sure!

I called my husband and let him know that I was done. What a relief! All that worrying had affected so many areas of my life, and now the burden was completely lifted. This marathon did not get the better of me. Onward and upward!

The 1.1 mile walk back to my rental car was more like a crawl. It didn't matter, though, because I was on top of the world. I did it, I did it!

There ya go! It's my first international race.

I got back to Molly's dad's home and got cleaned up. We went to one of her childhood favorites, National Coney Island, for lunch. She remarked how I sounded really good when I voice messaged her near the end of the race. What can I say? It was MY DAY! 

Sweet Molly and I

I have such a good taste in my mouth about Detroit. Molly gave me a tour of beautiful lakefront areas, I met such nice people, and my faith and confidence in my running has been restored. That's more than I could have dreamed would happen. Even a day later, I couldn't be happer!

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Navy Ten Nautical Miler

Today Chasen and I completed the Navy Ten Nautical Miler around and on the naval base in Millington, Tennessee. As always I will tell you WHY I chose to do this race: simply put, it is local and has an AWESOME medal. As such, it was a bucket list race for me. Once Chasen caught wind of it, he decided to join me. I really enjoy getting to do races with him!

Because the race begins at 6 AM (yawn), we opted to drive up yesterday to the expo. I did not want to run the risk of being late today and not being able to get my bib, etc. It's about an hour away, and one never knows how morning traffic will be. We were both quite pleased with the race swag!
Those are a lot of goodies!

Today we got up at 3:30 AM (double yawn). Oh, the things I do for running! We had to leave at 4:30 AM, and I wanted to eat and make sure my oatmeal had time to settle. Then, a minor miracle happened. We actually left a few minutes before 4:30! I am an early bird (when I have to be), but Chasen is NOT. Thus the minor miracle...

We got to park a few hundred feet from the start line!

Here we are before the race, fresh as tired daisies.

Before the race a Naval Chaplain sang us his rendeition of Elvis's "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" that ended with something like, "Runner Dear, You'll Need Motrin Tonight." We all roared. He did a great job, as well as with the prayer. The lady who did the National Anthem also did an outstanding job. 

I'd be remiss if I didn't say that it actually felt almost COOL at the start of the race. 68F with only 81% humidity is quite a treat for the Memphis area! I knew the heat would rise, so I aimed to enjoy the lower temps while I could. I was doing a conservative run-walk ratio and feeling GREAT!

One nautical mile is 1.15 land miles, FYI. Learn something new every day!

Because I was expecting it to be super hot, I was quite surprised at how well I felt for the longest time. I was taking Powerade at every stop, which was at each nautical mile, plus drinking my own water and having an occasional Gu. It dawned on me that this was the perfect day to close out my racing season, because I could bookend the middle two difficult races with successes. That's a great feeling to have as you are passing people!

We ran around the "military town" of Millington, and we even ran on base a bit. This event was very well staffed with both civilian police officers and military volunteers at literally every turn. I can't say enough good things about the organization of it all. Of course, I would expect nothing less from the U.S. Navy! 

There was actually quite a bit of shade on the course until the very end. At this point I did not feel so great, since the temperature was indeed rising. Once I got to land mile 10, which is just before nautical mile 9, I felt my body getting really warm for a second. This is how my brain works: I literally thought to myself, "If I pass out, I won't get my medal." So, I began to mostly walk. I could surely make it just over one more land mile!
 Almost there! In full sun! Ick. 

It's kind of tough to be "almost there" when you feel like you're out of gas. All you can do it keep on putting one foot in front of the other, ya know. So, I did. I finally got to the point where I knew it was one more straightaway, and then a sharp turn to the finish line. I could hear the hooplah, and I was ready for it! 

Because this race had a four hour time limit, it was very walker friendly. Thus, I had a lot of people behind me since I only started fully walking at the end. I smoothed out my shirt and shorts, turned that sharp corner, and tried to book it to the finish line. Done! 

 Just wait until you see that beautiful medal!

I met up with Chasen who was, of course, way ahead of me and had already completed the race (on basically no training, might I add). We went into the cool expo area again and got more drinks and snacks. It was GREAT to be out of the sun! 

Since this was my first nautical mile rice, by golly I set a PR!

There is my handsome husband!

It was so nice to not have a ridiculously long walk to Chasen's truck. That's a first! We got in the air conditioning and headed home. The best part was that we got to talk about the race the entire time. I love being able to do things with my hubby! 

 Ba-bam! Look at that gorgeous thing! 

This is the perfect way to end spring/summer 2019 racing.

The opposite side of the ribbon... Hooyah!

Now I have about eight weeks to simply base train before I get into my fall training season. These past four races have been such a long time coming; I can't wait to see how the rest of the year pans out!

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Great American River Run Half Marathon

I didn't know this race existed until about a month ago. I received an email about it from a local running store. When I saw the cool orange t-shirt and the medal, I knew I had to do it! It's a part of the Memphis In May International Festival. Anyone who knows anything about Memphis knows that Memphis In May is a HUGE deal. Even though I knew it would be brutally hot, I knew I just HAD to do the 2019 #MIMGARR Half Marathon. Chasen opted to do the 2019 #MIMGARR 5k. It would start just thirty minutes after my half.

Yesterday I ventured down to the historic Peabody Hotel to the race expo. It's an easy drive for me. Even though it was wicked hot outside, the Peabody garage is nicely appointed with an air conditioned walkway into the main building. Score! I made my way to the hall and picked up our goods.

 It was a rather small expo, but not the smallest I have seen.

I was in and out in a flash. It took less than thirty minutes, and I got free parking. Double score!

Chasen and I left our home just past 6 AM this morning. Phew. That's highly unusual for us. We found street parking and headed to the Mississippi River. I thought we had oodles of time. 

 Here are other runners ambling to the start. They must be 5k'ers.

After a quick visit to the port-o-potty, I noticed that it was 6:57 AM. My half was to start at 7 AM. I could neither see nor hear the start line. Oh no! I started walking much faster until I heard the start line hoopla. When I arrived the race had started by two minutes thirty seconds. Oh well... nothing I could do about it at that point.

This course went through so many noteworthy parts of downtown Memphis. The first little bit went through historic Beale Street. You can NOT visit Memphis without at least driving by Beale Street. 

 Home of the Blues

From very early on we were offered wet towels. We received a weather advisory via email yesterday. I knew it would be brutal, so I altered my race strategy from "give em hell" to "let's not die today." Just keeping it real! 

 Here is a shot of downtown from afar. 

After I got out of downtown a bit, I discovered what possibly very few people know: where all of the downtown carriage horses reside. There was a least a solid mile of odoriferous reminder of livestock. At one water stop I asked a lady, "When does the manure smell end?" I was serious. Phew. At that same water stop, a lady had a baggie of pills. I thought they might be salt tablets, but what she offered me was ibuprofen. I found that odd. I declined. 

 Har dee har har!

 I certainly do! LOL

After the miles of manure I was routed to beautiful Harbor Town. It's a lovely, well kept part of Memphis right along the Mississippi River, just south of downtown. I've heard people say that they live in Harbor Town so that they can be in Memphis without having to be IN Memphis. So be it!

 That's the I-40 bridge you see in the distance.

Just part a water stop manned by the Hash House Harriers, which was the BEST stop because they had a cooling fan, I had to go up the A. W. Willis Avenue bridge. I caught a look at it and made a horrible face. One Harrier said, "Oh, you got this!" Bless him.

 It's as bad as it looks, but I made it up and down.

By this point I was at mile 11. This was when I was to call Chasen, who went home to get a well-deserved shower after smokin' his 5k. Oh how I envied him! It was very much a "one foot in front of the other" day for me. The temperature continued to rise. The sun is not my friend. 

 The 5k'ers were long gone by the time I got to this sign. It made me smile.

Shortly thereafter I was routed directly to the riverside. I still could not see the finish line, but I knew it was coming. Lots of people were going the opposite direction with their awesome medals. I Have I mentioned how hot it was?

Finally, it was my turn to cross the finish line. The announcer called my name and city. It has been a while since I have heard that! Boy was I relieved. I was handed my medal and an ice cold bottle of water. PTL!

I called Chasen, and he and Isaac were soon in my sight. It was so good to see them! He took several pictures of me. This is, of course, my favorite.

 That's my fella and I! I want to make him proud.

Wouldn't you know we had to walk UPHILL to the car? Phew. Yes, after 13.1 hotttttt miles. Oh well, I'm tough. Ha! Chasen had me some necessary post-race goodies waiting in the car: a big ole pickle, a bottle of water, and a Coke Zero. That man knows what I like! 

 I got in the car like Fred Sanford. I ate my pickle like a champ, though.

We picked up some lunch on the way home. I told him that once I got home, I wanted to shower, nap, and watch TV. Basically, I did not want to leave my air-conditioned bedroom all day. I pretty much stuck to it! 

 How 'bout that cool orange shirt?!?!

 This medal was sooooo sorth it!

What a beauty! 

Am I going to do this race again next year? N-O. It was far too hot. I have another hot one coming up next week, and I am really adjusting my goal and strategy. The heat is NO JOKE, and safety is the #1 thing. It was a great course with lots of historic places along the way with excellent swag, and I am glad I made it through. But, my racing season ends in one week, and I am NOT sad about it. This is why most people train for fall and winter races, especially us Southerners. 

Stay tuned for the next one!