Rehoboth Beach Half – State #23

Ran state #23 in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware this weekend.  Great race, perfect weather for running.  I’m too tired to write much, so here are some pictures from before, during and after the race.  A highlight was running about half of the race on a dirt bike trail in the woods.   Met up with fellow 50 staters for dinner Friday night, and enjoyed yummy crab enchiladas post race.  Glad to be racing in cooler weather again after my last two miserably hot races.

My pre-race inspiration was the guy behind me when I walking to the start.  He said to his friend “this is my 101st, but what I’m most proud of, is that 95 of them have been since I turned 70.”  Not sure if he was talking about full or half marathons… but either way that’s impressive!

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Half Marathon #18 – Rock and Roll New Orleans Race Report

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Unremarkable.

That one word sums up my experience at the Rock and Roll New Orleans Half Marathon.  It wasn’t a great day for me running-wise.  I didn’t particularly enjoy the course, except for the most scenic parts around miles 8-10.  And it was my first race traveling by myself without a running buddy.  Here are the highlights and low lights:

-It was unseasonably cold at race time.  Runners shivered in 40 degree weather for a start that took a very long time.  Not quite what I was expecting for New Orleans!

-The 3 mile up, 3 mile back run up St. Charles was sort of boring.  There is a trolley track down the middle of the road that’s dirt and it was a nice break to be able to run on this for several of the miles and get off the asphalt.

-A guy passed me on St. Charles wearing a New England Patriots Jersey and juggling three deflated footballs.  Everyone was laughing.  But by the time I got my camera out of my SPI-belt, he was too far away for a good photo.  Imagine running that fast WHILE juggling!  Geez!

-I think for the first time ever, I had to use the port-a-john during a half marathon. Too much water!

-The portion of the run past Cafe du Monde and the French Quarter was the most fun.  Bewildered tourists snapped photos of all these crazy runners going by.

-I got to meet a few folks from the Fifty States Half Marathon Club at my first race since joining.   We had a nice italian dinner the night before the race — and it was fun to color in another state on my jacket when I got home.

-The race took longer than I expected and it was past check out time at my hotel by the time I got back.  Because I was in a hurry, I pretty much skipped all the after-race activities, grabbed a banana and some water and headed straight for the shuttle bus and walk to the hotel. After showing ID, they let me back into the room to just to collect my bags. I stretched the rules and took at 2 minute shower to save my Jet Blue seat mates the agony of sitting next to me unshowered.

-No post-race pancakes were in evidence at the airport, so I scarfed some beignets — not a bad substitute.  When in Rome…

-The highlight of this trip was definitely NOT the race, but a 20-ish mile bike tour of the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans designed to showcase the rebuilding effort there post Hurricane Katrina.  It was fascinating, depressing, informative and neat to tour by bike. I took lots of photos, but haven’t had a chance to weed through them yet.

I arrived home to be greeted with 2 – 3 of snow with another foot on the way tomorrow.  My Arizona Half is in just 2 weeks near Phoenix, so I hit the treadmill yesterday for my long run.  My calves and hamstrings continue to be tight – so I will keep stretching and rolling and hope that Arizona is a better race for me!  And New Orleans deserves another chance for some sightseeing — and a trip that does not include a 13.1 mile run!

White Mountains Half Marathon – Race Report

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Well I’m happy to say that the New Hampshire curse has been broken!  After 3 failed attempts to run in neighboring New Hampshire, I finally succeeded on the fourth attempt — on a glorious-perfect-for-racing autumn day.  State #16 in my 50 state challenge is in the bag, so to speak.  Race motto:  Run Free or Die!

Here’s what I liked about this race:

1) Generous time allowance/walker friendly.  Added bonus –  an option to start 1/2 hour early for those who needed the extra time.  I didn’t, but opted for the early start which was fun because we got to see all the lead runners pass by around Mile 3.  I wish more races provided a feature like this.  It sort of reminds me of a golf handicap!

2) Beautiful Course — The race organizers promised a course that was flat and fast (of which I am often skeptical).  This one delivered as promised, running along the Saco River Valley with only a few significant changes in elevation, a couple of covered bridges, a barn with a giant smiley face on the room, and other local attractions.  It’s really interesting to see how different the west side of the Saco River Valley (farms, residences, views) is from the east side (outlet malls, hotels, and restaurants).

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3) The weather was perfect.  Low 40s at the start, and climbing to 50ish. Cloudy with just a few peeks of sun, and only a slight breeze. Can’t ask for better.

4) Nice medals, nice (except for the color) long sleeve tech shirts and awesome (optional) hooded sweatshirts.

Here’s what I didn’t like:

1) The first five miles on Route 16 — busy, open to traffic, not particularly scenic, except for one spectacular overlook.  I could have ignored all of that, but what WAS annoying was that the road has a significant crown for about two miles which made running difficult in that stretch.

2) The big fat uphill right before the finish line.  Yup, you had to work for this finish!

This was one of the smallest half marathons I’ve ever done with 500 something participants. So it was a little lonely out there at times, and the crowd support was a little thin, but better than I would’ve expected.  So thanks to all and nice job race organizers!

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New Jersey/Long Branch Half Marathon – Race Report

 

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New Jersey was cool. Literally. The planets lined up almost perfectly for yesterday’s Long Branch Half Marathon in New Jersey. Since I’m a little pressed for time, I’ll do a summary style race report for this, my 14th state half marathon (just 36 to go!).

Here’s what was good and bad about it:

1) Weather: The Good – The weather was perfect for running – it started off in the 40s at dawn with temps rising into the 50s. Even on a warmer day, the race is early enough (6:45 am start) that it is over before the mid-morning heat. If I could be picky, I’d rather not run with the sun in my eyes for most of the race which was the case since we were running mostly south and east. And the Bad? High sustained winds for the mile and a half along the beach just before the finish. Offsetting that … the cherry blossoms were out, which gave this spring-starved New Englander hope that summer will come eventually.

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2) Race Organization: Overall it was fabulous. Well-staffed, well-spaced water stops with great volunteers, and well-organized number pick up. Plenty of port-o-johns, plenty of parking at the start, organized corrals and a warm place to sit and wait for the race to begin inside Monmouth Park. The Bad? A really long walk to the shuttle bus post-race and similarly long walk to the cars from the shuttle drop off point. And mediocre food at the finish – a dry piece of bread that no amount of water would wash down, a banana, 2 pieces of salt water taffy, and a tiny granola bar. I hate to complain because it’s tough to be a race director, and this one gets a solid A with just minor things that need to be improved – darn good for a race of more than 10,000 people.

3) The Course: Great, mostly flat course, except for a few bridges. I found myself wishing for more spectators, especially during the first half of the course as we ran through quiet residential neighborhoods.

4) The Bling: The Good? Awesome medal. The Bad? Women’s technical T-shirts that were sized small with no warning of same, and insufficient XL T-shirts. The shirts are great, I only wish I had one I could wear!

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5) Pace Groups: The Good? Great 2:45 pace group – stuck with them for about half the race, and then they dropped me. I was smart to quit trying to keep up since 2:45 would have been a huge PR for me and I couldn’t quite sustain the pace. But they were funny and cheerful and did a great job coaching the group along. Ultimately finished at 2:52 and they were still there waiting for me at the finish to make sure I was ok. Even better, this race had a 3:00 Half Marathon pace group, something I don’t think I’ve ever seen. Since one of my goals was to beat 3:00, I was just glad they didn’t pass me.

6) Unexpected Pleasures – a high energy start to (first) a bugle “Call to the Post” – fitting for Monmouth Raceway, and (then) “Born to Run” – fitting for the Jersey Shore! QR Code on bibs for instant race results! Great motivational signs mid-course made Mile 6 seem to go more quickly.

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7) Unexpected Annoyances – NJ Tolls – $21.05 to go from northern NJ to New York? No coffee at hotel. No coffee at race. No coffee til lunchtime.

8) My successes – this was my fourth fastest half marathon ever, and my strongest race since recovering from my toe injury. I feel like I am still getting stronger and faster, and with the ten pounds off that I gain while injured and a little more training, I am pretty sure I can PR again despite continuing to get older (funny how that happens). I also feel like I’m getting smarter about pacing and race strategy. I felt strong through 11 miles and until I hit the headwind coming back up the coast.

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That’s me leading the pack (ha) through downtown Long Branch near mile 9.5.

What’s Next?  Still trying to find a race for late May or June that fits into my schedule and travel budget. Stay tuned!

San Francisco Half Marathon – Race Report

After sixteen months of not racing due to injury, I ran the 2014 Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon in Golden Gate Park — my fourteenth half marathon in my 13th state.

After checking the long-range and short-range forecast several times, it appeared that the weather would be cool and cloudy for the race.  So I was surprised when I awoke on race morning to find it raining steadily.  The temperature was about 45 degrees and it was windy — conditions that were predicted to last for the duration of the race.   I reconsidered my choice of clothing several times and finally opted for running shorts, a long-sleeved tech shirt, light tech jacket and a heavy fleece.  The fleece was primarily to keep me warm at the start though I couldn’t afford to leave it on the side of the road, since it was the only coat I had brought for my week in California. And I cursed myself for my last-minute decision to leave my hat at home and that fact that I had no headband for my ears.

I made my way downtown from my hotel and secured a spot in the parking garage under Golden Gate Park.  Reaching the outside entrance to the garage, I realized how cold it was and waited with a number of runners inside the garage until closer to race time, hoping the rain would let up a bit.  Finally we could wait no longer, and made our way to the start, used the port-a-johns, and then I huddled with some other runners in a small park structure while I waited for a friend who was running the 5K to arrive.

20140202_072615Starting time came quickly and we were off.  I had decided that I was going to do 1:00/0:30 walk/run intervals at the outset to see how I felt.  We started off in the park and then miles 2 and 3 were around a city square with a little bit of an uphill. During this time, I removed my heavy jacket and had to run the rest of the way with it tied around my waist. Because of the rain, I decided not to use Runkeeper on my cell phone so I didn’t know my splits, but they had volunteers calling out the time elapsed as we went by.

Miles 3-7 went well.  There were some nice downhill stretches that I ran and I was aware of a small group of runners that seemed to be going the same pace as I was.  We’d pass one another, but never get too far ahead, and then switch things up again. At mile 7, we emerged onto the “Great Road” (Route 1), which I had heard some of the runners talking about in the garage.  As soon as we turned left onto Route 1, there was a strong headwind, with driving, cold rain coming right at us. I didn’t know the course well, but saw that this was an out and back and saw mile 12 on the opposite side, so knew that I was in for at least a couple miles of difficult running.  It was three miles out and three miles back on Great Highway.   This was the most difficult part of the course, but also the most beautiful stretch, with sand dunes and the Pacific Ocean on one side.

By the turnaround near Mile 10, I was really feeling tired and thought I was starting to get blisters. I stopped, took off my shoes, checked my feet and then re-tied them tighter to minimize slippage. Retracing our steps on the Great Road, I could still see other runners struggling into the wind, though the rain had lessened to a drizzle.  I was feeling good and running faster than most at this point (might have been the tailwind), so I was consciously picking off one or two runners at a time and passing them. At Mile 13 we turned back into the park for a short uphill stretch to the finish.  They called out the name of the woman ahead of me — one of the runners I had been with the whole way.   I was surprised to find that she was from Watertown, Mass. and said hello in the finish area.  She must have started ahead of me because the final standings have her finishing after me.

The finish was well-organized and staffed with mylar blankets, water, T-shirts and snacks.  I made my way to the exit and was surprised to discover that it was about a half mile walk to the shuttle busses.  I heard a lot of cold, wet, tired people grumbling on the way to the bus — which took us four or five miles back to the parking garage and start area.

My only other issue with this race was at the parking garage.  It took me at least 45 minutes to exit the garage due to traffic.  And then the parking attendant tried to charge me an additional couple of bucks because I had exceeded the 15 minutes allotted between the time I fed the pay machine and the exit.  I stopped for my first ever meal at In and Out Burger on the way home.  It wasn’t the traditional post-run pancakes, but it WAS good!

Overall a well-organized, executed and solid race, with good support and a net downhill – and a great race for someone that wants to run in San Francisco without monster hills.  One GREAT thing about this race is that bibs are mailed in advance so no need to arrive a day early and attend an expo to get them.

My time didn’t matter for this one, it was all about finishing and seeing how my foot would feel.  It was fine and I was only a little bit sore the next day — typical post-race soreness.  So I’m thrilled to be back to racing and already planning out the coming year’s adventures!

Broken Toe Update

Readers of this blog have put up with the saga of my broken toe and attempts to get back to running over many months.  And there is — at last — good news!

I had a second surgery to remove the screw that was placed in my toe in November of 2013, fourteen months after the original injury. Here’s a picture of that nasty old screw — much bigger than I thought it was!

2013-11-15 13.35.13 After a few weeks to heal, I was able to gradually start back to walking and then to running and the difference was immediately noticeable.  I’ve been doing physical therapy and massaging my foot to break up the scar tissue and can finally run again without pain!

And the GREAT news is that after training for two months, I ran in the San Francisco Half Marathon last weekend!  Details in the next blog…

Stay, Damn it!

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One of the things that we’re learning in my leadership class is the concept of “stay.” Stay means having something that it’s important to you (your “stake”) and sticking with it through the highs and lows. Through the uncertainty and difficulty. It means keeping your focus when everyone around you knowingly or unknowingly seeks to divert you.

I’ve found the concept of “stay” useful in my runs. Yesterday, for example, I was only a half mile into my planned four mile run and I wanted to stop. But I was determined not to quit. I reminded myself that the first mile is the hardest, and told myself to stay with it. By Mile 2 I was feeling great. Then I hit another low just before the three-mile mark. It was hotter than I expected, I was getting tired. I wanted to walk the rest of the way home. “Stay,”  I told myself again. I slowed a bit, I tinkered with my breathing rate, adjusted my gait, and was back in the groove for the last mile.

“Stay” also comes in handy for the final miles of a long run.  For sticking with a training schedule, and yes, in those final 6.2 miles of a marathon.

What tricks do you use to “stay” when the going gets tough?