Friday, October 10, 2014

Ya know - Tyler Rose Half Marathon 2014 Race Recap

This is gonna be short and sweet because there's not a lot to say about this race.  I originally signed up for the marathon, wanting to earn my 6th Marathon Maniac star, but then I ended up adding Wyoming to my fall race schedule and this race was no longer needed.  I'm not one to waste money on race registrations, so I downgraded to the half since I have never done a half marathon in Texas (I did the Dallas Marathon back in 2012 so no need to repeat the state).  

I picked up my bib and shirt the morning of the race (I arrived in Tyler the day before but packet pickup wasn't open very late).  I ended with a way too big shirt because (shockingly) they ran out of smalls.  Ya know what I hate??  When you sign up for a race and they're all like "T shirt size?" and you're all like "hell yeah I'm a small" and then you get to the actual race and they don't have your size.  Why even ask me what size I want if you are just going to give any ole' size to any ole' person?  If X amount of people sign up for your race and Y amount ask for a certain size, don't you order Y number of shirts in that size plus extras for late sign ups??  Apparently this is rocket science.  The race started at the Rose Center and there was plenty of parking.  No troubles there.  The marathoners started 30 minutes before the half marathoners, so I sat in my car until about 10 minutes to go.  The race started on time and we were shortly greeted by our first hill (FYI - this is a very hilly course).  And ya know what was at the very top of that very first hill??  Some train tracks.  And ya know what was on those train tracks??  A train.  The leaders were stopped in their tracks waiting for the train to pass.  Since I was towards the middle, I wasn't affected.  

We ran A LOT on cobblestone.

My plan for this race was to just take it easy.  But ya know what never happens in a half marathon??  Taking it easy.  My first few miles were in the 9's, far from easy for me especially on a hilly course.  After a few miles I found my way down to a steady 10:00 minute pace.  This was going all fine and good until I got to an intersection just past mile 5 and there was a police officer there stopping everyone in the race so he could let traffic through the intersection.  I stood there for a good minute while he kept letting car after car go through.  There would even be large spaces between the cars and he would wait for the next car.  After uttering a few curse words and laughing (because you have to admit that it's kinda funny), we were allowed to proceed through the intersection.  My next few miles were still hovering around 10:00, so at least I had that.

Y U NO let us go, officer?

As I said earlier, this course is really hilly.  I remember very few flat sections.  We ran mostly through neighborhoods and along some busier streets.  The course as a whole was pretty uninteresting and not scenic at all.  Our presence did not please a lot of the Sunday morning drivers.  We got a lot of dirty looks and one guy even turned around at an intersection and burned rubber in the other direction which I thought was both funny and really immature.  Why don't people just stay in bed on Sunday morning?  

This might be flat.

Around mile 7 or 8, I felt a very brief flash of pain in my Achilles region.  This didn't please me, but I kept trodding along.  Then in about a mile or so, I felt another very brief flash of pain.  I don't like any kind of pain when I run, so I did what any sensible runner would do and I slowed my roll and started to walk up some of the hills.  I felt the pain a few more times, but it never lingered.  Just a quick flash.  My last 3-4 miles were at an atrocious pace and I ended up finishing in like 2:20, probably my worst half marathon time in a very long time (not counting races that I've done with other people.  No offense, other people).  

Imma finish this mutha!

It was nice being done with a race before 10:30 AM.  I didn't stick around too long after the race cause this chick wanted to get home.  I drove my stank butt back to Mississippi.  And that, my friends, is how I ran a half marathon in Texas.

But first let's take a hideous selfie and post it on the blog.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The good life - Monument Marathon 2014 Race Recap

I've pretty much decided that I am AWESOME at picking out races!!!!  For realz!  The Monument Marathon in Scottsbluff, NE, is truly a hidden gem - just my kind of race!  Well all except for the fact that the race website warns you of rattlesnakes on the course.  I was initially supposed to go to Scottsbluff alone, which is how I roll most of the time, but I ended up talking GK into running with me so I wouldn't be alone with the rattlesnakes out of doing Omaha for his NE race so I had a travel buddy!  He ended up recruiting another Maniac, and an epic road trip was born!

Fun at the NE border.
Make it stop!

I did extensive research on things do to in the area of Scottsbluff, and by "extensive" I mean I watched the Nebraska episode of Aerial America.  If you don't know about this show, get on it!  I'm addicted!  I discovered that there are several things to see in the area - Scottsbluff National Monument, the Oregon Trail, Chimney Rock, Courthouse and Jail Rocks, and Carhenge.  The first and second we would see during the race, so that left the last three to explore on our own.  Upon arriving in Scottsbluff, we checked into our hotel, grabbed our packets from the expo, and then headed about an hour northeast to the itty bitty town of Alliance.  England has Stonehenge, Alliance has Carhenge.............

Feast your eyes upon this artistic marvel!
I forgot my can of spray paint so we didn't get to leave our mark!
Stayin' alive!  Stayin' alive!

Yup.  This place was awesome and should be visited by everyone!!  On our way back to Scottsbluff we stopped by a really creepy looking dilapidated building.  I had big plans of sitting on the front steps and getting my picture taken and it was going to be so artsy, but the grass just looked like a breeding ground for rattlesnakes, so I stayed safely on the side of the road while the boys investigated.

No way no how! 

I initially had secret plans to kind of run this race for time.  Not PR time, but maybe just better than my usual slug pace.  I mean, it's the end of September in Scottsbluff, NE, which is about 3 hours northeast of Denver, surely it must be cold there by then!!!  I even commented to the hubs a month or so ago about how I could not wrap by head around the fact that it might be SNOWING for the race!!  Oh how wrong I was!  If you want your race to be HOT, then send me!!  The forecast had the high at almost 90 for race day with full sun!  And not a speck of shade on the course!  Now after 30-some marathons/ultras, I pretty much know what my limits are, and the sun is my number one nemesis!  So, my new race plan was to run as fast as I could until it got too hot to live, then just survive to the end!  With an 8:00 AM race start, the "run as fast as I could until it was too hot to live" part wasn't going to last very long!

Start of the marathon.
Maniacs and 50 Staters at the start

We parked at the finish line (plenty of parking there) and were bussed to the start at the Wildcat Hills Nature Center (where I had seen the rattlesnake sign the day before).  This is a very small race - about 100 marathoners - and the half marathoners have a different start location, so we had the buses to ourselves.  The RD came onto our bus and introduced herself.  We also had several other of the race organizers come on the bus to talk to us.  A nice perk you will only get at a small race like this.  The race started on time and for the first five miles we were going downhill.  I took full advantage of this and my splits were somewhere around 9:30.  The scenery was great from the very beginning.  For the first 5-6 miles, you are running on a highway, so it can get noisy at times.

Nice bluffs to look at.
He was taking a nap.

In the first three miles, we saw a snake sleeping on the shoulder of the road (see picture above), a snakeskin, and a smushed snake.  This wasn't looking too good.  For the first time ever, I did not use gels for a marathon.  I used real food.  And it was glorious!  Around mile 6, we turned off the highway and ran through some farms!  Can't run a marathon in Nebraska and not see corn!!!!

Corn in Nebraska??  No way!

Up until about mile 10, I was feeling pretty good, then it just got too damn hot!  We were making our way towards Scottsbluff National Monument and Mitchell Pass, and I could feel my legs starting to drag.  I hit the 13.1 mark at about 2:16-ish, which wasn't too bad.  Operation "Just Survive" then commenced.  

Approaching Mitchell Pass and Scottsbluff National Monument
Scottsbluff National Monument
You have died of dysentery.

Up until this point, GK and I had been playing a lot of frogger.  I'd pass him, then he'd pass me.  We both decided that we felt like death, so we stuck together for most of the rest of the race.  Right after Mitchell Pass, we had a monster hill to contend with.  This was really the first uphill on the course.  The second half of the course was pretty much a big loop around Scottsbluff National Monument.  Around mile 17 or 18 we entered the "trail" portion of the course, and when I say "trail" I really just mean dirt road.  Some big rocks, but nothing too bad.  This is also when we started to run directly into the sun and it was about 358 degrees outside and the sun seemed to be about 3 feet from the surface of the Earth!  We walked, of course.

It was hot.  Really hot and really sunny.
Beautiful.

Stop walking!
Old rusted out car on the other side of the canal.  Looked to be 50 years old at least.

We stayed on the trail for four or five miles.  I think these were some of the prettiest miles on the course.  It kind of reminded me of Bataan a little for some reason.  The trail was rolling, but I tried my hardest to run and then walk at the aid stations and at each mile marker.  After the trail, we got onto the road and it was the hottest ever!!!!!!!!  I saw a volunteer setting up a sprinkle ahead and thought I'd died and gone to heaven!!!!

So pretty.
Wet t-shirt contest.

There were at least two other sprinklers on the course and I indulged in all of them!  For the next few miles we wound our way through some neighborhoods and along a paved path, all with Scottsbluff National Monument in the background.  Aid stations were a little far apart in the beginning of the race (first aid station was at mile 3), but they were plentiful in the second half of the race.  They had water, ice, Gatorade, and GU.  The volunteers were super friendly as well.  There were also several people patrolling the course on bike that had water.  I never went more than a mile or two without seeing one.  



More corn!
It seemed like it took forever for us to get to mile 25!!!  Sub five hours was pretty much out the window, so we adjusted that to a sub 5:10 (I know you are impressed with my speed).  At mile 25, we were greeted by some shade!!!!!!!


Just a bit up this road, we turned right onto a dirt road and we ran alongside a cemetery.  



I was sooooo ready to just be done running!  My face was on fire!!  I had been dumping water on my head at every aid station and so my running skirt was soaking wet and getting very heavy.  I couldn't go a step without it almost falling to my knees.  

Bad picture, but the top of my skirt was below my butt!

Finally we could see the finish line!  We made the final turn and could hear everyone cheering for us.  Now remember that this was a very small race, so we were pretty much the only people in the entire finishers' chute, which was probably about a tenth of a mile long.  I'm thinking that we are going to run it in so as not to disappoint our adoring fans, but no.  GK stops dead in his tracks and proclaims "Eff it.  We're not going to make it under 5:10." We then proceeded to WALK all the way down the chute and across the finish line!  For some reason, I thought that this was the most hilarious thing ever!

Done and done!

We finished around 5:11, a good 30 minutes longer than I had originally intended!  Stupid sun!  We grabbed our medals and then made our way to the food!  They had pizza, chips, and all sorts of other goodies.  I grabbed a couple bags of chips and then our other road trip buddy comes running up to me and tells me that I won something!  Of course I'm excited so I run up to the front of the awards ceremony (while they are handing out awards) and proclaim that I had won something and I was there to claim my prize!!  Turns out, I got 3rd in my age group!  Haha!  One of the many perks of running very small races!  I figured that there must have been exactly 3 people in my age group, but I was wrong!  There were 4 of us!

Award-winning runner

We were able to shower at the expo location (the Western Nebraska Community College fitness center).  I couldn't find the women's locker room, so I just went ahead and showered in the men's locker room.  No big deal.  That's how I roll.  We then grabbed a quick lunch and headed out to see Chimney Rock. 

Make it stop!
Looks like a chimney, right?
Everyone make a silly face.

I have had the privilege to run some amazing races in amazing places this year (Bataan, Big Sur, New River, and Jackson Hole just to name a few) and I have to say that this race ranks as one of my favorites.  The course was never boring - we always had a view of Scottsbluff National Monument.  Although this is a mostly road marathon, the few miles of "trails" were a welcome change of terrain.  The course was also not very difficult, but it wasn't pancake flat.  I liked that.  The aid stations were well stocked and the volunteers were very friendly.  Overall, I HIGHLY HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend this race! 

As for the travel deets, here goes:
  • The race registration was $70 (I think I had a $5 discount code).
  • I flew into Denver from NOLA.  I had Southwest points that I used for half of my round trip.  I paid a total of $134 for my flight.
  • Since my flight out of NOLA was super early, I chose to stay the night there.  That cost me $63.
  • We rented a car that totaled $47 for the weekend and spent about $75 in gas.  I paid for 1/3 of all of that, so about $41.
  • I stayed at the Super 8 Scottsbluff.  Unfortunately I did not have a room share, so I had to foot the entire bill of $81.  Any area hotel would be fine since you park at the finish and get bussed to the start.  If you are a half marathoner, the finish is also the start area. 
  • I probably spent another $60 on food over the entire weekend.  
  • Parking at the NOLA airport was $30.
  • Memories: Priceless!
  • So a total bill of about $479 for an epic adventure!
For the rest of the year, I get to hit up three more new states - Maine, Indiana, and Florida!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Stayin' alive - American Discovery Trail Marathon 2014 Race Recap

I added the American Discovery Trail (ADT) Marathon to my schedule pretty late in the year when I saw that I could score a pretty cheap flight from New Orleans to Denver for Labor Day weekend.  Like I mentioned in my previous post, this was supposed to be a quick in and out trip, but with the addition of the Jackson Hole Marathon this trip turned into quite the little trip (and raised the price of the flight quite a bit).  After finishing up the Jackson Hole Marathon, we made our way down to Cheyenne to spend Sat night and then finally arrived in Colorado Springs Sunday morning.  I thought for sure that I would be sore from the Jackson Hole Marathon, but surprisingly I was not.  I actually felt like I hadn't run at all the day before.  Since we had all day to kill in Colorado Springs, we decided to go check out Pikes Peak.  I'm not entirely sure what I was thinking when I suggested that we drive to the top, since I am a very anxious passenger.  For much of the drive up (and down) I covered my head with my infamous Marshall University Marathon jacket, turned up Tenacious D in some headphones, and delighted the other passengers in the car with my beautiful singing voice!

Sweet God Jesus!  I don't look ridiculous at all!

Once almost to the top, it started to freakin' snow and KG thought that it was a good idea to bring this to my attention.  Because now the thought of driving on a snow covered road at the top of Pikes Peak was very reassuring.  

Cowboy lovers.

By the time we parked and got out of the car it had stopped snowing and it was actually really clear, but super windy.  I wasn't scared at all once out of the car and we walked around a bit and took a bunch of pictures and got a quick bite to eat.

Beautifully clear!
I believe that this train would have been more terrifying to ride up the mountain.
Hey look at us!  We're at 14,110 feet!
GK doing his best John Travolta impression.  Stayin' alive, stayin' alive!

The drive down was slightly less terrifying for me.  We made a couple stops to snap some pictures.

Beautiful!
Unfortunately we did not see Big Foot.

Sorry for all the giant pictures, but I'm too lazy to make little collages.  After spending more time than we thought we would with Pikes Peak, we were hungry, so we ordered take out from a place just up the road from our hotel.  Sitting on the beds in our PJ's just seemed a whole lot more appealing than sitting in a restaurant eating.  Our order was all messed up - my salad had cheese and GK's spaghetti and Italian sausage wasn't spaghetti and sausage.  Our dinner was made even more appetizing after discovering that one of the beds was infested with little black curly hairs!  KG called the front desk to inform them that it looked like there were unsanitary pubes in our bed.  A nice boy came and changed our bedding and ended up knocking one of the salads on the floor and ranch dressing went everywhere.  I'm sure he thought that we were a little odd as we could just not stop laughing at the whole situation.  

Race morning we were picked up in front of the hotel by the shuttle and brought to the race start at Palmer Lake.  I have no idea where this is in relation to Colorado Springs.

Race start
No frills here.

This race was a bit larger than the Wyoming race, but still quite small at about 350 participants. We started just about on time and began our 26.2 mile journey back to Colorado Springs.  This race is mostly run on a hard-packed dirt trail, nothing technical at all and therefore not in violation of my "no more trails" rule.  This proved to be an ideal surface to run on as my legs felt fantastic for about the first half.  I didn't even feel like I had done another marathon 2 days before!

Dirt and mountains as far as the eye can see.
GK loves being a little teapot!

This is a net downhill course that starts at 7200 ft and ends at just about 6000 ft above sea level.  This I'm sure helped me in the first 10-12 miles of the race as I was able to keep a nice pace and stay just ahead of the 5 hour pacer.  He was the Grim Reaper for GK and me and we had to stay ahead of him.  Around mile 8 we entered the Air Force Academy and this is also where the course started to roll.  

More dirt and mountains!
Pretty flowers.
The first "Oh sh!t" hill.

Somewhere before this giant hill I lost both GK and the 5 hour pacer.  And by that I mean I was way behind them.  And my stomach decided that it didn't like me anymore.  I believe I must have been unknowingly poisoned by some animal product but I have no proof.  Port-o-potties were pretty scarce on the course too.  So I just commenced to walking when my tummy got cranky.

Can we please please please move here?  Running trails everywhere!

Somewhere around mile 17 or 18, we started to run on asphalt/concrete.  This was quite the shock to my spoiled legs.  Don't get me wrong.  I love road running, but after your legs have been on soft dirt for 18 miles, they will definitely feel the difference!  My walk breaks were quite frequent and it might be more accurate to say I was taking running breaks from walking.  I felt fine other than my stomach.  

Pikes Peak
More Pikes Peak.

Somewhere around mile 23 we got back on the dirt and my stomach started to cooperate slightly.  I was able to run faster than a snail for the last few miles and made it to the finish a few minutes faster than I had at Jackson Hole two days before.


Don't blink or you'll miss me!
I have excellent head balancing skills.
Me with my much faster friends, one of them an award winning runner.

Obviously both GK and KG were long done with the race and were waiting on my slow butt.  KG won 2nd in the masters division and walked  away from the race with cash money!  Sadly, I only walked away with a Dr. Thunder and a very unhappy gut.  I ran to the bathroom one last time and it was the most awkward situation ever!  There were no doors/curtains/anything on the stalls.  This surprised just about every person that walked into the bathroom.  I waited for the very last stall as the first stall just did not seem like a good option at all!

I though this was a great race for Colorado, especially with the Jackson Hole Marathon being the same weekend.  There were aid stations about every two miles with both water and Gatorade.  Some aid stations had gels.  One suggestion for improvement would be more port-o-potties.  I didn't see very many.  The course is not closed so you will be sharing it with bikes and other non-race runners.  The course got a little congested on the Air Force Academy campus and it remained that way until the end.  This wasn't a bad thing to me, just something for you to be aware of if you are interested in this race.  I thought the course was very nice and scenic.  There is a stretch of the course that runs alongside I-25, but the trail is pretty far removed from the actual highway.  The rest of the course is pretty quiet.  

As far as costs go, the Jackson Hole Marathon cost $70 (this was after a $20 discount) and the American Discovery Trail Marathon cost $81.  For travel, I flew into Denver (Southwest flight $316 including Early Bird check-in).  I met up with KG and GK in the airport and we rented a car (Priceline bid totaling $172 from Hertz).  We ended up adding a driver which added another $65 to that.  This is a bit high for a rental, but it was a holiday weekend and it was the best I could get.  We drove the 9 hours to Jackson, WY, where we stayed at the Ranch Inn ($140).  After the Jackson Hole Marathon on Saturday, we drove to Cheyenne and stayed the night at the Fairfield Inn and Suites ($99).  Sunday morning we made our way down to Colorado Springs where we stayed at the host hotel, the Antlers Hilton ($109).  Both hotels were in excellent locations for the races (Ranch Inn was about two blocks from the race start and the Hilton was a shuttle pickup location for the CO race).  I paid one third of all the car and hotel expenses.  Not a bad ticket for such a fun trip!  Plus you can't take it with you when you die and you are not guaranteed tomorrow!  Experience life while you can!

Next up is NEBRASKA!!!!