Posts Tagged ‘half marathons’

Wait. What was my time?!

Date: July 29, 2017

Distance: 13.1 miles

Time: 2:02:32

I must say, I am really enjoying running races without regard to which state they are in.

In the case of today’s race, the Timpanogos Half Marathon, I decided to run it because it happened to be scheduled the weekend my full marathon training plan had me running a 13-mile training run. When I noticed my plan included a 13-miler this weekend, I searched for local races to see if there happened to be a half marathon scheduled nearby. Sure enough, there was.

I was also intrigued by the downhill course. I LOVE running downhill races. In addition, the race website promised a well-supported, scenic race so I overlooked the 6:00 a.m. start time and signed up.

I ended up absolutely loving this course. And, even though my training runs have been much slower–more like 11 or 12 minutes per mile pace–I was astounded that I averaged a 9:20 minute mile pace for the entire race. Starting off, I suspected that a 2:30 finish time would most likely be within reach than realized about halfway in, after I passed the 2:10 pacer, that this could end up being one of my faster times. In fact, I think this ended up being my second fastest time ever. Such a shock to me, particularly since I was in the emergency room at my local hospital with a blood clot in my lung only seven months ago. I’m truly surprised and happy.

If you are considering running this race, here’s what I would say in summary:

Packet pick up was well organized and the packets included standard fare. It did, however, take me three hours to drive to the packet pick up location and back. I joked today that it took me more time to pick up the race packet than it did to run the actual race.

The race shirts were a tad on the small side, but the medium I ordered is wearable–and a great fabric and design.

The medals were awesome, if you are into big, shiny bling. These delivered.

The event itself was very well organized. I felt as though the aid stations were spaced perfectly apart and well staffed. Water and Power Ade were offered at each stop. A couple of the stops–including the start–also offered Gu.

The shuttles to the start were great. It did kind of suck, however, to have to get to the starting line so early. I took one of the earlier shuttles (as they encouraged people to do), and ended up waiting for an hour-and-a-half before the race began. The early start and need to drive almost 45 minutes to the shuttle pick up meant that I got a grand total of three hours of sleep the night before the race.

I loved that they not only offered a bag drop, but they also had a clothing drop at mile one and mile three. The sweatshirt I wore during the first mile of the race was not, however, at the finish line as promised when I checked. Good thing I considered it to be a throwaway one anyway.

The course was the BEST. The majority of the race is downhill on a paved, scenic canyon road. As the course nears the finish at the local high school, it mostly uses well-designed, paved running/biking trails. The course was indeed scenic.

The finish line was great. Runners finished the race by completing a lap on the high school track, then making their way through the medal and food line. Food was plentiful and the volunteers were friendly and helpful.

A very nice feature of this race was that it encouraged participants to honor loved ones who had cancer because it was sponsored, in part, by the Huntsman Cancer Institute. Bibs offered at the start allowed people to write names of people who had either passed away from cancer, or whose treatment was successful. The words read, “In memory of” or “In celebration of” and, as always, I think races are a nice way to honor those we love.

I’ve certainly lost close friends and family to cancer and my aunt happens to be going through chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer right now. She was certainly in my thoughts as I raced today and I made sure to wear a pink “strength” bracelet in her honor.

In summary, I highly recommend this race to anyone who loves a good downhill race. It would not be hard to talk me into this one again, that’s for sure.

Back on the horse. SLC Half Marathon

Date: April 22, 2017

Behind Utah Capitol Building as we neared Memory Grove.

Location: Salt Lake City, UT

Time: 2:22:04

Distance: 13.1 (13.35)

I think this was the fifth time I’ve run the Salt Lake City Half Marathon, but this year, the course was completely different–for the better! The race has always started at the University of Utah and ended up downtown but taking the beginning of the course towards the capitol and down Memory Grove was a great change. The change resulted in a more scenic, more downhill course overall.

The best part? My daughter, Kaitie, ran with me and she did amazing. I was so happy to have her company at the start and at the finish.

#resist

After days of rain, we were lucky that we had a beautiful, clear day for the race. It was cold, however, and we were glad we wore long running tights, long-sleeved shirts, and covered our ears. As a nod to Science March Day, I added my #resist button to my headband. Other racers were in solidarity and I saw a race shirt that said, “Racing for science.”

I wasn’t sure how I would do since this was the first race I have done since I was forced to walk the January race in Hawaii. My training runs have been slow and I’ve really taken it easy following my blood clot diagnosis in December. Also, while I had gotten in my longer-mileage runs, I hadn’t been so diligent in getting all of my shorter runs in. I was happily surprised, then, to have finished as fast as I did. And, I felt good! At about mile 5, I could feel the spot in my right lung that signaled the location of my blood clot in December, but it was more of a dull ache and nothing else. After a few minutes, the nagging sensation went away and at no point did I feel short of breath or concerned. I now have renewed hope that I’m back on track as far as my ability to keep running goes, and I’m even more motivated to continue my workouts.

Guess I’ll keep signing up for races, keep going to Bikram Yoga, and keep taking my dogs to the dog park.

____________

Best sign? “Run as if United wants your seat.”

Cold start!

shirt & medal–luggage tag!

Finish at old courthouse downtown.

Great day for a race!

Alaska Half

Date: August 20, 2016

Location: Anchorage, Alaska (Skinny Raven Half)

Time: 2:27:12

Distance: 13.1

The 49th state is my 49th state! What a great feeling to be this close to my 50-states goal. This was a whirlwind of a trip, but one made more meaningful because my daughter and one of my sons completed this race with me and my whole family came along for the trip. For Keil, this was his first race ever and even with minimal training, he finished in 2:33.21. I was really proud of him and hope this experience sparked an interest in racing and running for him.

KeilSkinnyRaven

Keil

Kait outraced us all and I was really proud of her 2:18:55 time. Both Kait and Keil plan to run Hawaii with me in January, so I’m really looking forward to that.

Denise was also able to run this race, and that made it even more meaningful. This was her 47th race, but her race calendar allows us to run Hawaii together as our 50th state. After working towards this goal for ten years, it’s so nice to see our plans come together.

I wish we would have had more time to spend in Alaska. On Friday, we barely had time to fly in, get over to the convention center and pick up our packets (then buy Kait a new pair of running shoes since she forgot to pack the ones she had been training in–oops), and grab dinner. The next morning was the race, we showered and grabbed food, then all flew out SUPER early on Sunday morning.

 

SkinnyRavenKaitcropped

Kait

On the plus side, Orlando and I can now able to say that we have been to all fifty states in the country. He was able to accomplish that thanks to his extensive traveling as an airline pilot, and I can thank my 50-states half marathon goal for being the reason I have visited so many states.

While staying in Anchorage, we used airbnb for the first time and couldn’t have been happier. Renting a house for the whole group of us was a lot cheaper that it would have been to get hotel rooms plus it allowed us to have more shared space and kitchen facilities–I would definitely consider that option again in the future.

The race itself was a mostly flat out-and-back course and, despite my irritation that it was raining the whole entire race, I actually ended up enjoying it. The 60-degree temperature with very light rain made for very enjoyable conditions–not too hot and not too cold. The water stations were plentiful, the crowd support was good, I loved the race medals, and the only complaint I would have has to do with the width of the running path in some portions of the course. Because it was an out-and-back, it got a bit crowded at some points. All-in-all, though, it was great and one I would definitely recommend.

Next up: Hawaii in January! Can’t wait.

 

SkinnyRavenStart

Race start. Kait, Keil, and I are at the far right.

 

2016 Missoula Half Marathon

Date: July 10, 2016shirt

Distance: 13.1

Time: 4:06:24

Where do I start?

In 2006 when Angie told me she had cancer? In 2009 when she convinced a bunch of us to complete our first full marathon in Portland? In 2014 when we completed the Missoula Half marathon together? In 2015 when we walked a 5K in Missoula wearing shirts that said “F-you, cancer?” Or do I just go straight to the day when Angie told Todd & Jen she wouldn’t be doing this year’s half marathon with us and two days later passed away?

There’s no good way to start any story than ends in utter sadness, but this is also a story of enduring friendships and the close bonds people can share when they come together in love and support.

I got to be with Angie for three Portland races–in 2009, 2010, and in 2011. For awhile, a group of us were using the Portland race as an annual reason to get together. For Ang, it was also a way to express physical strength despite living with cancer. We all looked forward to those race weekends and the time we got to spend together. In truth, these were all her idea and I’m so glad she made our gatherings happen.

A group of us also completed the Missoula Half in 2014 and celebrated the fact that Jen qualified for the Boston Marathon during that race. That was an amazing day.

When Ang asked some of us to join her for a 5K race in Missoula last October, we were happy to use that as a reason to see each other and offer Angie additional support. That’s when things definitely took a turn, however.

Following that race, we went to lunch and began talking about the next race we would sign up for. Jen, Heather, Holly, and I readily agreed to sign up for the Missoula Half–scheduled nine months later. Angie expressed some hesitation, though, and poignantly said she would join us, “If I’m still around.” None of us really knew what to say and I remember that we all did our best to keep the mood as lighthearted as we could. None of us wanted to face the reality that there might be a time when Angie was gone. This was also the first time Angie ever expressed hesitation about an upcoming race.

Over the next several months as the Missoula Half drew near, Angie’s health deteriorated as her medications lost their effectiveness and particularly after she was told she wasn’t healthy enough to participate in an experimental trial for new medication.rocks

On April 27th, Angie sent me the saddest text I’ve ever gotten after I asked how her appointment with her specialist went. She responded, “Thank you. I’m avoiding updating you guys. There’s officially nothing left to do.”

We talked by phone following that and I simply tried to wrap my head around the news over the next several days.

Two days later, because I had no words, I reached out with simply a heart-symbol text. Her response was, “xoxoxo!

She passed away eleven days later, on May 10th.

I was shocked at how fast she left us. I thought I would be able to see her and tell her goodbye in person. Instead, I will have to be satisfied with the texts, calls, and Facebook posts we shared in those remaining days. Too sudden. Too soon. Too heartbreaking.

Angie’s family honored her wishes and did not hold a formal memorial service or funeral so Todd, Jennifer, Holly, Heather, Debi, and I determined that the Missoula Half would become our way to gather, pay tribute to Angie, and serve as our own sort of memorial.

We met up on Saturday, picked up race packets–including Angie’s–and spent the rest of the day together just talking and sharing stories. Deb and I had also scheduled an appointment to get tattoos. We made sure to schedule with the same tattoo artist that Angie had used when she got her ankle tattoo a few years ago.

bothtattos

Deb’s (left) and mine (right)

It was easy for me to decide what to get–the xoxoxo text Ang had sent me.

It was perfect not only because it was her way of expressing love (hugs and kisses symbols), but it also fits because X in Roman numerals represents the number ten. Angie passed away on May 10th, she had cancer for ten years, the Missoula race was celebrating its ten-year anniversary (on the tenth), and even one of the Portland races I ran with Angie was held on 10-10-10. To our surprise, the number ten also kept showing up throughout the weekend.

Even Angie’s race bib ended in the number 10.

angie'sbib

Angie’s race bib

Most importantly, my tattoo will be a constant reminder that I should show love in everything I do and it will remind me of all the love she brought into my life.

The morning of the race, we all made our way to the starting line as fireworks were cheerfully marking the start of the race and the sun was rising. I shed a few tears at the start–missing the fact that Angie wasn’t with us like she had been the last time we were gathered at the start of the Missoula race–but went on to thoroughly enjoy the race experience. We all walked and talked the whole way–marveling at the fact that it didn’t rain through the whole race, despite the forecast promising it would and despite the fact that later in the day and well into the next morning, it rained HARD.

The best part of the race was crossing the finish line, hand-in-hand with our whole group. And, because we carried Angie’s race bib and timing chip with us, the race announcer exclaimed that, “Heather, Todd, Jennifer, Holly, Debi, Gail, and Angie are all crossing the finish line together!” Angie was truly with us and we completed the race for her, just as Todd and Jen promised her we would.walkingacrossfinish

Yeah. Tears flowed then too.

After the race, we grabbed pizza and ice cream from two of Angie’s favorite restaurants and spent more time with each other as we decorated river rocks and shared stories.

This race weekend is over, but we can’t let this be the last time we all get together. Angie brought us together and we look forward to supporting each other through whatever life has in store for us next.

Thank you, Ang. You are truly loved and you will never be forgotten. We do, however, miss you terribly. xoxoxo!

 

 

New England Series

Date: May 15-21, 2016

Distances: 13.1 + 13.1 +13.1 +13.1 

Times: 2:43:52, 2:45:43, 2:45:06, 2:41:28

Locations: Greenfield, New Hampshire; Springfield, Vermont; Northfield, Massachusetts: and Simsbury, Connecticut

This is a very difficult post to write because I ran these races only a week after one of my closest friends passed away. It goes without saying, she was on my mind and in my heart the entire trip. Still is.

Love you and miss you, Ang.

________________________________

About the race series.

Thanks to Mainly Marathons, and their New England Series, I was able to efficiently complete four races in one week. The whole series includes seven races in seven days, but I only needed to do the races on days 2, 3, 4, and 6 to complete states I still needed.

I’ve written about Mainly Marathons in the past and they continue to be great races. Previously, I did the Independence Series and the Appalachian Series and became hooked. These are small races–only about 100 to 200 people have run the ones I have done–and it’s easy to get to know everyone participating. The races include full marathons, half marathons, 5Ks, and this year they’ve even added 30Ks for those who don’t think running full marathons on seven consecutive days is enough of a challenge. Crazy, for sure.

I was really lucky that Orlando got to join me since Denise had already done these states when they held the series last October. Orlando served as my cheerleader, driver, and–on day five when I didn’t have to race–my tour guide.

Instead of taking full advantage of a rest day and using day five of the series to REST, we

Empire State

View from top of Empire State Bldg.

decided to be adventurous and take the train into New York City for the day. I’m so glad we did! Orlando lived in NYC for a year so he knew how to make the best use of our limited time. It was a whirlwind of a day that I won’t ever forget. It started with getting up at 4:30 a.m. (just like on the races days) and driving to Hartford, CT to take the train to Penn Station in Manhattan. From there, we walked to the Empire State Building, down Broadway, through Times Square, and to Central Park (with an obligatory pizza stop thrown in along the way). From there, we took the subway to Battery Park to see the Statue of Liberty, the World Trade Center Memorial, and Brooklyn Bridge. Down there, we enjoyed a hot dog from one of the street vendors and still had time to catch the subway back to Hell’s Kitchen near Penn Station and meet a friend for dinner. After that, we were back on the train at 6:30 and in bed back in Connecticut at about 10:30 p.m.

Full day, with almost as many miles logged as a half marathon, and oh, so worth it.

Each of the race days were clear and dry and the only cold day was in New Hampshire. Best of all, I am injury-free and not even sore after logging over 62 miles for the week. Yay.

Only two more states to go. I never thought I would say that.

 

Run the Bluegrass in Lexington, Kentucky

Date: April 2, 2016

Distance: 13.16

Location: Lexington, KY

Time: 2:38:40

What a great race weekend. Denise joined me on this one, and I’m so glad. We had a really great time and it was nice to have someone to hang out with. This state marked her 42nd and my 44th–we can see the end!

Friday was an all-day travel day. Both of us had two flight legs to meet up in Cincinnati where we rented a car and drove the almost one-and-a-half hours to Lexington.

The packet pickup was located where the race would begin and end–the Keeneland Race Track. The expo was filled with all sorts of running swag and some nice local features such as Buffalo Trace Bourbon and bourbon-flavored coffees. Yes, bourbon is definitely a “thing” in Kentucky and it became a continual theme throughout the entire weekend. We were even surprised to be greeted in our hotel lobby, upon check in, with free drinks–bourbon and ginger ale. Later, we also sampled what is probably now considered the best dessert I have ever tasted: Kentucky Butter Cake with Bourbon Sauce. Check out a food review here. Evidently, I’m not alone in my appreciation for the culinary delight.

BourbonCake

Perhaps the best dessert you will ever try.

The race is listed as “one of America’s standout must-run half marathons,” according to Runner’s World magazine, and I can see why. The location was worth visiting, the course was picturesque, and runners enjoyed one of the best post-race food options I’ve ever seen. Overall, too, the race was incredibly well organized and was not too big.

Course: The course, referred to as “technical” by some online postings I read before the race, was very hilly. There was no huge overall elevation gain, but the course consisted of a series of many small hills throughout the entire course. If someone was not used to running on hills, they would certainly feel it in their quads the next day. Luckily for me, I’ve been running primarily outdoors and on hills. My ten-mile training run probably really helped–I did that one in Emigration Canyon two weeks before the race and that consisted of five miles up hill and five miles back down with a 700+ foot elevation gain. Also, all of the awkward poses I’ve been consistently doing in my yoga classes have helped build my quads as well. Gotta keep that up.

As promised, the course was scenic as it looped through a series of estates with stately houses and expansive horse pastures. Had the trees been in full foliage, the course would have been particularly beautiful. The beauty of the course, I think, mostly made up for the fact that the first seven or eight miles of the race were incredibly crowded as runners were squeezed together on narrow roads. No car traffic, though, so that was good.

Medal and Shirt: I’m pretty sure the race medal is the heaviest one of now possess. I like bluegrassthe design of both the medal and the shirt. The shirts are black, cotton, long-sleeved hoodies–the kind of shirt I’ll likely wear on many weekend days.

Post-race food: Yes, for me, it’s all about the food and this race did not disappoint. After crossing the finish line and receiving our medals, runners were handed water bottles, bananas, chocolate milk, and sacks filled with a granola bar, fruit snacks, a bag of chips, and a candy bar. As we meandered along towards the free beer and pizza stations, we were also invited to have maple, cream-filled donuts. So, in essence, the 1200 calories we had just burned were immediately consumed within fifteen minutes of finishing the race.

Weather: On the bright side, we didn’t contend with rain, sleet, or snow like runners in some northeast races did during the same weekend, but the winds really picked up during the second half of the race and that made the cool temperatures feel downright cold. That prompted us to leave the race as quickly as we could to get back to our hotel for hot showers and dry clothes.

Post-race relaxation: In keeping with the bourbon theme, we took advantage of our hotel’s sampling offer after the race and tried three very different types of bourbon along with a great post-race meal. We were able to relax all afternoon and evening and enjoyed sleeping in the next morning as well. Love it when we have late-departing fights.We both made it home without any glitches, and feel satisfied having removed one more state off our lists.

Next Up: Next up for me? Four races in the Mainly Marathons New England series next month. After that, I’ll be incredibly happy to have all 48 contiguous states completed. Then I’ll get to join Denise again in Alaska in August and Hawaii in January as we complete our decade-long goal to complete half marathons in all fifty states. Can’t wait.

First Light Half Marathon in Mobile, AL

Date: January 10, 2016

Distance: 13.22

Location: Mobile, AL

Time: 2:24:09

I loved this race! The city of Mobile has a cool vibe, and the course began and ended downtown and extended into several AlabamaShirt&medalshistoric, residential districts along tree-lined streets. The weather was nice and cool with no wind and the course was flat–that allowed me to finish in a must faster time than I expected. As noted in the MS race report, I really hadn’t been training like I should have.

I guess the walking and Bikram yoga classes got me through. The infrequent, short training runs I completed in the weeks leading up to the race certainly had nothing to do with it!

The location was great, the course support was great, I liked the shirts, and I liked that this race did so much to support a local non-profit organization dedicated to supporting people with intellectual disabilities: http://www.larchemobile.org/ In fact, the race medals are created by members of that community each year, as were the plaques they gave out to those of us who ran both the Mississippi Blues and First Light races.

As much as I didn’t like running these races alone–and I had quite an ordeal getting home using flight benefits (I ended up having to purchase a ticket), I’m really glad to be that much closer to the end goal. The Alabama race marked #43, and I have a clear plan ahead for knocking out the rest. The end is in sight!