Monday, October 27, 2014

Are you my gym teacher? - Mount Desert Island Marathon 2014 Race Recap

The Mount Desert Island (MDI) Marathon has been my choice for a Maine Marathon for a few years.  I registered the day registration opened last October!  Gotta get the cheapest rate!  MDI takes place in Bar Harbor, ME, and always gets rave reviews for scenery.  I flew out of Memphis late Thursday and arrived in Portland, ME, pretty late!  I then drove the 3-4 hours to Bar Harbor Saturday morning.  You guys know if a marathon ain't an adventure to get to, it's probably not worth doing!  Or at least that's my way of thinking!  I enjoyed looking at all the fall colors during the drive (no fall colors here in Mississippi yet).  On the way there, I stopped at a convenience store to pick up some water and the clerk asked me if I used to be his gym teacher!  This would have been acceptable if the clerk was in high school, but this dude was older than me (for realz, I asked)!!!!!  I'm pretty sure I should have been offended, but instead I thought it was funny.  Upon arriving in Bar Harbor, I picked up my packet quick-like and made my way to Acadia National Park.  LOVE!!!!!!!

Cadillac Mountain
Jordan Lake
Lovin' the leaves.
Waves and rocks at Sand Beach
Thunder Hole (I'm in 3rd grade so I laugh every time I say that)

After all the excitement of Acadia National Park, I was HANGRY!!!!  I ended up at a delicious Thai place (The Bangkok Restaurant) just a short drive away in Ellsworth.  I sat at a table and ate all by myself and didn't care one bit.  The food was delicious!  They special made my Pad Thai without the fish sauce or eggs.  Yummy yummy in my tummy!  After dinner, I headed back to the hotel, where I chatted with the guy that works at the front desk about food and running!  It's a small world and he is a member of a Facebook group I belong to so a few weeks back we planned to meet.

Race morning was super easy.  My hotel (The Bar Harbor Villager) was pretty much at the start line for the marathon.

See start line, see my hotel (sign that says Villager).

It was COLD for this southern belle!  Just about 50 degrees with the temp staying about the same throughout the race.  Once we started, I warmed up a bit and my choice of clothing was perfect (shorts, thin long-sleeved shirt, 50-states singlet).  It wasn't too far into the race that the hills started.  If you are not a fan of hills, you should stay far far away from this race.  I remember very few "flats".  For the first several miles, the wind was at our backs, which helped with the whole hill thing.  The trees were absolutely gorgeous.

Pretty colors everywhere.

One of the water views we had.
More water.
And some more
Pretty

We ran on the side of Hwy 3 for quite a while before turning onto a more secluded road (I'm having a hard time remembering specifics about the course - sorry).  I was making fairly decent time.  I had no lofty goals for this race other than to try to finish under 5 hours.  My last three marathon finishes have been less than stellar, so I at least wanted somewhat of a redemption.  Well 50 degrees, overcast, and practically sea level are magical conditions for marathon running.  I got to the halfway point in just over 2:16, which is lightning fast for me right now.  Somewhere around miles 17 or 18 (I think, I can't remember), we hit a stretch of coastal road and the wind was no longer at our backs.  It was straight at our fronts!  I have never felt wind that strong before!  Maintaining pace for these few miles was a struggle.

The infamous "tree"


I got to mile 20 and was stilling feeling good and making pretty good time (I was a few minutes ahead of my goal pace of 10:30).  Then I got to mile 21 and started to hate my life.  I never look at elevation profiles for races because I mostly don't care!  And I'm glad I didn't for this race!  Miles 21-25 are pretty much uphill!  These are the most unforgiving hills and I saw my pace drop to closer to 11:00.  Once we hit mile 25 though, it was downhill to the finish.  The last quarter of a mile was terrible - we were on a narrow, gritty, dirty road and had about 6 inches of running space as cars drove past us.  If I could give one recommendation, it would be to close that road to cars.  I crossed the finish line in 4:31:35, which is an awesome time for me right now especially on this hilly of a course.  And I never felt like I was working too hard (except those last few uphill miles).  

Done with marathon #31 and state #22 (ME)

I returned back to Cadillac Mountain after the race (as the day before was very foggy so you couldn't see much at the top).  I overheard a man telling his wife that he was surprised that he wasn't having any trouble breathing up there.  Cadillac Mountain is 1500 ft above sea level............

Hideous selfie on Cadillac Mountain.

Overall, I thought this was a great race.  I'm not sure that it compares to Big Sur in terms of scenery (I read that somewhere), but it is nice.  You will see 26.2 miles of road and trees with some water views thrown in for fun.  The course is hella hard!  Be prepared for constant ups and downs.  I like hills so this made the course far from boring in my opinion.  The shirt is fantastic (see picture above).  I have already worn it like a million times.  The medal is also fantastic!  Who doesn't need a lobster claw in their medal collection???

As far as costs/logistics/planning, here ya go:
  • The race registration was $81.  This was the cheapest rate as I registered on opening day of registration.
  • I flew out of Memphis, TN, into Portland, ME (Southwest).  The airfare was $330 which included early bird check in.
  • Upon arrival in Portland Friday night, I stayed at the Fireside Inn and Suites.  This was $83 for the night.
  • I drove to Bar Harbor Saturday morning and for Saturday night I stayed at the Bar Harbor Villager (in the Annex).  This was $97 for the night.  Instead of late check out, the hotel had shower rooms set up for after the race for hotel guests that had to check out before the race (the slow people).
  • I went back to Portland Sunday evening after the race.  I stayed at the Super 8 Portland/Westbrook and this was $77 for the night.  I stayed at all of these hotels by myself and felt perfectly safe.
  • I rented a car which cost $88 for Friday-Monday.  I spent $45 in gas.
  •  For dinner both Saturday and Sunday nights, I ate at The Bangkok Restaurant.  Super tasty.  Highly recommend.
  • This was a relatively expensive race for me, at a total of $801 (not including food), but the costs were spread out over almost a year.  Totally worth it though!
I'm off to Indiana and West Virginia this weekend for the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon and the Marshall University Half Marathon.  Good times are sure to be had.  

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!