Monday, March 16, 2015

My new career as a race walker - Run Hard Columbia Marathon 2015 Race Recap

Picture it: arms bent and pumping, butt swinging, heels digging into the ground, all with a fanny pack appropriately in place.  That was me at the Columbia Marathon last weekend. This is what I have resorted to in order to finish a marathon pain free.  It wasn't pretty but I got it done!!  Originally South Carolina wasn't on my schedule until 2019, but I'm easily influenced by others and it was drivable and gas was so cheap and I had someone to ride with and, well, you get the picture.  So even with a bum leg, I committed to SC.  The Columbia Marathon is a double loop course so I figured I had an easy out at the half if necessary.

Here's hoping that I drove all this way to finish this damn state.

After the most god awful long drive (500 miles is my limit and this was just a touch over 600) we arrived at our hostess's house.  My friend KM that I met a few years back at the Mississippi Blues Marathon graciously invited us to stay at her house and even cooked us a delicious pasta dinner.  The Columbia Marathon was slated to be her first ever marathon!  I was hoping to be able to run part/all of the race with her but I knew my leg probably wasn't going to cooperate.  Race morning was easy peasy and we scored a parking spot literally right next to the start/finish areas.  

Ready to run (or walk).
Let's take a selfie.

We started the race and I immediately stuck to my planned 2:1 run/walk interval.  My leg (side of knee and up into my quad) started to hurt pretty quickly.  The course is mostly through residential neighborhoods.  Some hills to contend with but nothing too bad. 

Look at those marathoners behind me!
I saw a shoeless man on the course and knew it had to be Eddie!

By mile 4/5, I was pretty sure that I was only going to do the half.  I even had doubts about how I would even make it to the half.  Leg was on fire.  I slowed it way down (if that was even possible) for the next few miles, but leg still hated me. 

Pretty lake around mile 6/19

Finally somewhere around mile 8/9 I switch to 1:2 run/walk intervals.  Leg seemed to like this a lot better and was able to make up a lot of time while doing this.  These were actually some of my fastest miles.  After a mile or so of this I made the rational decision to just try for the marathon.  I didn't take a day off work and drive 600+ miles to leave without finishing this damn state.  I was determined.  

Not today South Carolina!

I passed the half around 2:45 so I had 3:15 minutes to finish this thing (6:00 cutoff).  I kept up with the 1:2 intervals and caught up to almost everyone that had passed me.  I was feeling pretty good until about mile 15.  My general lack of fitness was catching up to me.  Miles 15 and 16 were a lot more walking (maybe skip running one of the intervals).  Then my back started to hurt and shoot pain down my leg around mile 17.  I took mile 17 super slow and was 100% certain that I would be dropping out at the next aid station.  I stopped to stretch a bit and decided to walk to mile 20 if I could (with absolutely no running).  After mile 17, I was able to gradually increase my speed and decided to just start speed walking.  Yup.  Straight up speed walking.  I had absolutely no pain from that point on.  Well expect for the wicked chafing I was getting on my ankles!  Apparently you chafe in different spots when you walk as opposed to run.  I was actually cruisin' and passing people that were running.  I had several miles in the 13's with most in the 14's.  It actually became fun to see how fast I could walk.  If you get those arms swingin', you can move pretty quickly!

This handsome fella greeted us on both loops.

Mile 20 came and I decided to just keep walking.  Leg/back were feeling great and I was in no danger of going over the 6:00 cutoff.  


We got back to downtown around mile 23 and had the Gervais St. hill to contend with but it was no match for this race walker.  I took great joy in passing people as they were "running" up it!  The last 3/4 of a mile is a straight shot to the finish line and I was determined to make my last mile my fastest walking mile!  Goal achieved with mile 26 at 13:25!  I walked through the finish in 5:50!  Not too shabby!  Finished with state #26!

Determination at its finest.
So stoked that I never have to come back to SC again!  No offense to anyone that lives in SC.  I live in Mississippi so I'm allowed to say that.

My leg felt fantastic after the race and I could actually walk!  And the next day too.  I think I'm onto something with this race walking business............

This was a nicely organized race.  Course was well-marked and aid stations were plentiful.  The course isn't super scenic (mostly downtown and through residential neighborhoods).  The race is also very small so expect to be alone and to also share the road with cars on the second loop.  

As for travel deets, here ya go:
  • Race registration was $75.  I registered in February so this was a late rate.  I suspect it's cheaper if you register earlier.
  • I drove with a friend and we split gas.  My part was about $40.
  • I stayed with a friend the night before the race, so we didn't have any hotel costs.
  • Food was cheap too since our hostess fed us dinner the night before the race.  I spent a total of about $30 on food (lunch on the way to Columbia, dinner on the way back, and a snack/bottle of water or two).
  • So a total of about $145 to get South Carolina checked off my list!
I am not too sure what is to come of several of my upcoming races.  My legs seems to hate me only when I run.  I can do pretty much everything else pain free.  My next marathon that I am scheduled for is Garmin in Kansas on April 18.  I'm not too proud to drop to the half if I think my leg isn't any better (since I do have a secondary goal of running a half marathon in every state and I have not run anything in Kansas yet).  I have many friends that I want to see in Kansas so I'll definitely be making that trip no matter what!  Whether it will be a new marathon state (#27) or a new half marathon state (#22) is yet to be seen..........

Thursday, February 5, 2015

This was supposed to be the Sedona Marathon race recap - Yuma Territorial Marathon 2015 Race Recap

What a weekend!  Just when you think that you have everything planned out with this 50 states business, something is inevitably not going to go your way.  For many of my states, there is just no compromise on which race I am going to do!  Arizona is (was?) one of those states.  I have been literally dying to run the Sedona Marathon since 2013!  Why, you ask?  Eh, it's Sedona.  Google some pictures.  My original plan was for 2014, but it conflicted with something else, so I moved it to 2015.  I tried my best to make this as quick of a trip that I could but with Sedona being a few hours drive from the closest airport (Phoenix) and Phoenix being the location of the Super Bowl the same weekend as the race (making flights ridiculously expensive), I chose to fly in and out of Las Vegas (about 4.5 hrs from Sedona) and extend my trip by a day.  

It's state #25!

I met up with my friend GK in Vegas Thursday night.  I got an awesome deal on a hotel for Thursday night ($25!!!!).  We noticed that a large majority of patrons of this casino/hotel (and all other subsequent casinos that we visited throughout the weekend) walked with a distinct limp (which we'll call the Casino Shuffle - SPOILER ALERT: I fit right in after the marathon).  Friday morning we made our way out of Vegas and down to Sedona.  We drove 4.5 hours in heavy rain.  Halfway there, GK reads his email and announces that due to the rain the marathon portion of the Sedona races had been "shortened" and the marathoners would all be moved to the half marathon.  Hold up!  How the hell can you "shorten" a marathon?  It's not a marathon anymore.  Just say it's cancelled.  Skeptical, I continued on to Sedona to investigate, all the while scheming up a Plan B.  The Sedona races are all out and back along the same stretch of road.  Why on earth couldn't the marathoners just run the half marathon route twice?  It just seemed like such a simple solution.

The drive down the canyon into Sedona. Photo cred to GK.

We got to Sedona (the drive down the canyon was beautiful, but once in Sedona all the red rocks were covered by fog), stuffed our holes with hot dogs (vegan for me), and ventured to the expo to grab our stuff.  We asked about running the half twice but to no avail.  So now we were on to our Plan B.  I absolutely was not leaving this state without running a marathon and lucky for me, AZ had 3 (well 2 I guess after Sedona cancelled) marathons all on the same day.   Our choices were the Desert Classic Marathon near Phoenix (about 2 hrs from where we were in Sedona) or the Yuma Territorial Marathon in Yuma (about a 5 hr drive from Sedona).  Phoenix just seemed like too "easy" of a choice.  Yuma sounded like more of an adventure so we obviously chose that one!  Plus, fellow 50 Stater (and Sedona Marathon Reject) BM was heading to Yuma too so we had someone to hang with and share hotel expenses with there!  We were able to register for the race upon our arrival to the host hotel in Yuma and all of the volunteers were so nice and helpful.  We even got to speak to the race director (David).  He was super nice and very excited that we drove all the way down to Yuma to run his marathon.  

Sedona Marathon Rejects!

Race morning was different in Yuma than what we were expecting in Sedona - we all got to wear shorts and tank tops.  Yay.  This is a very small marathon (less than 50 finishers this year) that starts and finishes right in front of the host hotel.  The marathoners started about 20 minutes before the half marathon (my kind of race).  

Pre-race selfie.

For the first few miles it was still dark, so we couldn't see much.  Early on, GK decided to play it safe and only run/walk the half, so it was BM and me for the 26.2 miles. This is a straight out and back course - so run 13.1 miles and turn around.  If you remember from my last post, my leg has been an asshole lately.  Between the Blues and this race (3 weeks), I had "run" a collective 6 miles (2 miles at a time and half of that was walking hence the " ").  So this race had the potential to be quite ugly.  Leg hurt pretty much from the start but nothing too terrible until later on in the race.  BM and I kept a good walk-a-minute-every-mile strategy (which turned out to be at every aid station) for the first 10 or so miles.  

Course starts past some desert landscape (litter included free of charge).
Can't believe we missed the Chihuahua races by a week.  No fair.
Part of the course runs through a small town.
And then begins the farms.
And some more farms.
Oh yeah.  More farms.
And just when you think you couldn't see anymore lettuce.
Halfway done with being halfway done.

The course is FLAT and (as you can see) mostly run next to lettuce.  Apparently Yuma is a giant salad bowl.  If you know me, you know that I love small, rural races.  This marathon fit the bill perfectly.  Now don't get me wrong.  Sedona would have been lovely, but the Yuma Marathon was a suitable replacement.  We hit the turnaround at about 2:25, which I was ok with.  My leg was getting progressively worse, so I figured there would be a significant slow down in the second half.  We pretty much knew exactly what to expect for the 13.1 miles back to the finish - lettuce (see above pictures in reverse order).  We took our time for the next several miles and walked a bit more.

I have no idea.

By mile 20, my leg was hurting more when I would start to run after walking, so I decided to venture on ahead and keep "running" as much as I could (with my definition of running being very loose).  After not running for 3 weeks, it's pretty hard to traverse more than 20 miles.  I walked miles 24-25, but tried my best to "run" for that last 1.2 miles.  I shuffled my way to the finish line in 5:21:40 and crossed off my 25th marathon state!  I'm halfway there baby!

Oooohhhhhhh we're halfway therrrrrrreeeee!

One of the perks of running such small marathons is that you are likely to win an age group award!  Once I crossed the finish line, the RD told me that I was 3rd in my age group, with the 2nd place woman passing me in the very last mile (it was apparently an exciting race in Yuma for the women aged 30-39).  The 2nd place winner was so nice and I found out it was her very first marathon.  She said that BM and I helped to push her along.  

I hope this sweet girl doesn't mind her picture on the interwebz.
Let's take a picture next to this cactus.

We talked a little more with David (RD) and you could really tell that he loves this race and puts a lot into it.  He also said that profits from the race go directly back into the community (he mentioned score boards at schools).  

Selfie with RD David and cactus.

Even though the Yuma Territorial Marathon wasn't what I came for, I'm glad I did it.  It is a very low key, community-directed, small, rural marathon.  My perfect kind of race.  The course is FLAT.  Aid stations were plentiful (about every mile) and the volunteers were amazing (at a few aid stations, the volunteers were actually running towards us to give us some water).  The aid stations had water, Gatorade, and fruit (bananas and oranges).  Some had candy.  Don't expect huge crowds and a bumping after party, but do expect a lovely, peaceful run through farmland.  

So here are the travel deets:
  • Sedona Marathon registration: $81 (I had a $10 discount; this was the introductory rate since I registered probably the day it opened) - unfortunately, I lost this :(
  • Yuma Territorial Marathon: $85 at packet pickup (I had a $10 discount)
  • I flew into Las Vegas (it's actually only about 5 hrs from Yuma).  The flight was $300.
  • I rented a car from Thursday night through Sunday morning.  It cost $95 total and my portion was $55.  My portion of gas for the trip was about $25.
  • Hotels: 
    • Thursday night - Arizona Charlie's Boulder Casino in Las Vegas ($25)
    • Friday night - Original plan was Sedona so I had already paid for the hotel there (Days Inn Kokopelli - $61).  In Yuma we stayed at the Cocopah Casino and Resort ($77).
    • Saturday night - Royal Resort in Las Vegas ($31) - This hotel was a great location (right off the strip) and I would definitely stay here again when visiting Vegas.
    • I had room shares all 3 nights.  I lost the $61 for the hotel in Sedona since I booked that through Priceline, but my hotel total for the 3 nights was about $117.
  • I spent way way way too much on food - about $100.  I need to work on that.
  • So total was about $770.  A bit more than I like, but I actually had to pay for a flight and I ate the Sedona Marathon entry fee and the hotel fee in Sedona.
As for my leg, it's still being an asshole, although slightly less of an asshole than after the Blues.  I could actually bend my leg the next day, but I still had the Casino Shuffle going on as I walked through the casinos and down the strip in Las Vegas.  No one noticed though as this is the standard walk in Las Vegas.  My next marathon that I'm signed up for is the Mississippi River Marathon on February 14, but may drop to the half.  I did go to the doctor today and got a steroid shot right in the IT band.  I'm hoping that will help some.  I've been doing hip/glute strengthening exercises the past few weeks and have also been getting active release therapy a few times per week.  Doctor has me starting some PT next week.  I will back out of all races that are not new states if I have to, but backing out of new states would be a last resort.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Just happy to finish - Mississippi Blues Marathon 2015 Race Recap

Another year and another Blues Marathon is in the books!  This year's Blues Marathon, along with the First Light Marathon in Mobile the following day, was the Maniac Reunion.  I had no intentions of running Mobile again, but after this announcement was made, I ended up signing up for that race too which was in direct violation of my new rule for 2015 - No spending money on hotel rooms for races unless it's a new state.  Doh!  I'm so weak.  I made arrangements for several friends to stay at my house and to travel with to Mobile so the cost of the hotel room/travel was pretty minimal.  But I digress.  Let's get back to the Blues!  Race morning was so freaking cold!  Actually the entire race was so freaking cold!

Pre-race selfie.  Yes, hubby's beard is real.

Last year, I actually did pretty well at the Blues, finishing with a new PR of 4:14:59.  This year, I knew it would just be good to finish without my asshole right leg falling off!  Ever since Pensacola, my right leg has decided that it hates me.  I've had pains in both my adductor and my IT band that have made me cut a lot of my runs short.  So just getting through the Blues this year would be a victory.  The race started and I ran with my friend TW for the first few miles.  My asshole leg pretty much hurt from the very beginning.  

WTF is up with my arm swing? (pic courtesy of Fleet Feet Jackson)

I didn't take my hunter orange sweatshirt off until around mile 5, but I did so very reluctantly and once I did take it off I immediately regretted that life decision.  I actually never felt "warm" the entire race.  Always slightly chilly.  I stayed just ahead of or with the 4:30 pacer for about the first 11 miles or so.  This is much slower than I have been running my long runs but was just trying to keep my damn leg happy.  

For as "slow" as I was going, the miles seemed to fly by.  I ran pretty much the entire way, just very slowly.  I wasn't wearing any Maniac gear because I was feeling less than social.  In addition to my asshole leg, I was also getting a cold.  Pretty much the running gods hated me.  The Blues course is "rolling" and that's pretty much all you have to keep you entertained.  Most of the course is through residential neighborhoods and along the highway.  Not very scenic at all!  For it being so cold, I was impressed with the amount of people out cheering us on in the neighborhoods.  My ass would have been inside!  By the time I got to about mile 22, I knew that at least a sub-5 finish time was in the bag.  I didn't want to stop running because it was most painful to stop and then start again.  So I "ran" (maybe shuffled is a better word) until I hit the finish line.  Finished in 4:43:45.

Look at that quad!

I grabbed my metal, a bottle of water, and my heat sheet and walked (hobbled) directly to my car.  Leg was definitely pretty angry with me.  Chances of doing Mobile the next day were slim to none!  Even bending my leg was a real struggle.  Got home and discovered that hubby had done well in the half and had signed up for the Mississippi River Half Marathon in a few weeks.  

Too cold for outside pictures.

The medal this year is fantastic.  As you can see, both the marathon and half marathon medals are quite large.  I'm not sure why the guitar tilts the way it does.  Don't people play it tilted the other way?  Upon looking at all my Blues medals, they all tilt this (what I consider) wrong way.  In our race bag, we didn't get a shirt, but a vest that resembles that of a Walmart greeter (thanks to JL for making that reference on Facebook because I thought it was the most accurate description of this hideous piece of race clothing).  I can't believe the number of people that were actually wearing that thing during the race.  Unless I dress up as a Walmart greeter for Halloween one year, the chances of me putting that thing on are pretty much ZERO!  They gave these vests out in 2009 and they were bright yellow.  One of the only pieces of race clothing that I've actually thrown in the garbage!

Welcome to Walmart.  Let me play you a little ditty on my guitar.
After a quick shower, we were on our way to Mobile for the First Light race.  At the expo, I officially dropped to the half marathon and upon waking up on Sunday morning I officially kept my ass in bed.  No way I was even walking the half marathon.  I wasn't too sad about this since I've already done this race.  It's more important for me to finish new states, so if that means dropping out of a few "local" races, then that's what I'll do. 

A week later and my leg feels perfectly fine, although I haven't been for a run since the Blues.  My next run just may be on January 31, 2015, when I FINISH the Sedona Marathon in AZ for my 25th state. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The First 24

At the end of the month I will be halfway through the states - state #25 is slated to be Arizona on January 31.  Super excited about both going to Sedona AND being halfway done with my states.  So here's how the first 24 went.............

State #1: Georgia
Georgia Marathon (2009)

I picked a hell of a hilly course for my first.  Not sure why since I lived in flat flat flat eastern North Carolina at the time.  Nice course showcasing the best little neighborhoods of ATL. 

State #2: Arkansas
Little Rock Marathon (2011)

Yup - TWO YEARS passed between my first and second marathon.  I was WAY into half marathons at the time, so marathons were a rare occurrence.   Little Rock is always popular because of its ginormous, tacky medal. 

State #3: Mississippi

This is my "hometown" race, so I do it every year.  The course is rather boring as there is not much to see in Jackson.  It's only kept interesting by the endless hills.

State #4: Delaware

This race still remains one of my favorite races (maybe top 5).  I was so surprised at how beautiful Wilmington, DE, was and I thought the organizers of this race were first class.  This is a marathoner's marathon.  Highly recommend but it is hilly (and can be a tad warm). 

State #5: West Virginia

Marshall is always a good pick for WV.  It's FLAT, which I imagine is a rarity in WV.  Double loop course that is (honestly) less than scenic.  If you're not afraid of hills, I might look for another WV race.  Just sayin'. 

State #6: Texas

Typical big city marathon.  The part of the course that goes around the lake was nice, but other than that it was just sort of meh.  Big city races just aren't my favorite, but if you like them, this would be a good TX race for you.

State #7: Louisiana

This is a good race for LA although the back half of the marathon course is really really boring.  I did the half marathon at this race in 2014 and liked it (the half is mostly all around the LSU lakes and the campus).

State #8: Ohio

Another pretty typical city marathon.  Big race.  Goes through downtown and surrounding neighborhoods.  Hilly, but not terrible.  

State #9: Connecticut

Day 1 of my first double.  For a "bigger" race, I actually really liked this race and it's one of the few city marathons that I would go back to in a heartbeat.  Great course - nice mix of city and rural.  

State #10: Rhode Island

Day 2 of my first double.  Absolutely breathtaking course for the first 13.1 miles.  I wish they made this a double loop course because the back half of the marathon is a snooze-fest, especially after running the first half.  

State #11: Missouri

This course ran mostly through residential neighborhoods but the fall colors are in full bloom.  Not too hilly of a course, but just enough hills to keep it interesting.

State #12: Tennessee

Coldest ever!  Feels like temp of 9 degrees F at the start!  Yikes.  Also, hilliest ever!  Beautiful course that winds its way through Nashville's Percy Warner Park.  Great race with a cult like following.

State #13: Alabama

Day 2 of an unplanned double.  Decided to run it while running the Mississippi Blues Marathon the day before.  Nice course.  Good to double with Mississippi.

State #14: New Mexico

It's hard to describe this race.  Probably my favorite race that I've ever done.  26.2 miles in the high desert of New Mexico with the Organ Mountains all around you.  Such a beautiful course with inspiration everywhere you look.  In my opinion, this is a MUST DO event.

State #15: California

The Big Sur Marathon speaks for itself.  Highly scenic.  This is a bucket list race for many people and for good reason.  Save your legs for the second half because that's where all the hills are!

State #16: North Carolina

OMG!!  What a gem of a race!  This race is near Boone, NC, and is 26.2 miles of postcard-worthy views.  In my opinion, this is my perfect race (small, rural, scenic).  Barns, Christmas tree farms, cows, horses, a river!  I die!

State #17: Illinois

This was an inaugural event but was nicely done.  A few hills through Starved Rock Park, but otherwise flat.  Run past lots of farms.  No shade the last 13.1 miles and it was hot and sunny.  

State #18: Kentucky

Great race in the middle of nowhere!  You can count this race as either KY or WV since it starts in one and ends in the other.  Some big hills.  Scenic.  

State #19: Wyoming

This was day 1 of a "sort of" double (there was a day between the races).  Jackson Hole is a great destination with both Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks nearby.  The course is scenic but a lot of it is run next to busy highways which sort of took away from it all.  Either way, I'd do this race again just because it's in Jackson Hole. 

State #20: Colorado

Day 2 of a "sort of"double.  Nice course around Colorado Springs with Pikes Peak in the background.  Not a technical trail, but this race is mostly on a hard packed dirt trail.  Very nice for running.

State #21: Nebraska

Along with the New River Marathon earlier in the year, this is (in my opinion) a perfect race.  Small, rural, and highly scenic.  It was hella hot this year (and no shade on the course) but that didn't matter because the course was so nice.  I also got 3rd in my age group (out of 4 - haha).

State #22: Maine

If you don't like hills you should stay far far away from this race.  Cause it's hilly!  Constant up and down.  Great course around Bar Harbor.  

State #23: Indiana

Another typical big city marathon so not my favorite.  Flat course through the city, parks, and residential neighborhoods.  Super cold too! 

State #24: Florida

Not my first choice for Florida, but it was drivable and fit the schedule.  Really boring course.  You are definitely not running along the water for this race.

So there it is.  My first 24 states.  I'm super excited about reaching the halfway point and even more excited to tackle the final 25.  Lots of states that I have never even stepped foot in!! I plan to finish either late 2018 or early 2019 in Pennsylvania.  I'm taking my time and enjoying my time in many of my remaining states.