Posts Tagged ‘race series’

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.

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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.

 

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!

 

I’ve got the blues. Mississippi Blues Half Marathon Report

Date: January 9, 2016

Distance: 13.12

Location: Jackson, MS

Time: 2:41:16

Denise and I had plans to run the MS/AL back-to-back races last year but, as luck would have it, we were both injured so we weren’t able to run the series. Months ago, I signed up for both races again (Mississippi Blues and First Light), expecting that 2016 would work. Unfortunately, Denise is still rehabbing and wasn’t ready for the timing of these again. As much as I hated to do these by myself, I really didn’t want to forfeit the race entry fees AGAIN, and my Mobile hotel reservation was non-refundable so I decided to go ahead and knock these out by myself. This gave me the blues.

Getting There & Race Packets–To save money, I decided to use flight benefits to fly non-rev to these races. This plan worked getting there–as long as I got a bit creative since all of the SLC-ATL flights were oversold. (On Delta, one must fly through Atlanta in order to get to Jackson). To get there, I had to fly through San Diego, then Atlanta, then Jackson. A pretty circuitous route to take, but I couldn’t see any other options. That made for a very long travel day on Friday–the day before the race–and I arrived to the race expo with only minutes to spare before they closed. Still, I got there.MississippiBlues

The race packets, by the way, were nice. Not only did they include a solid, reusable tote bag, but–in honor of the race theme–they also included a B.B. King CD and a harmonica. Nice touch and very unique as far as race packets go. The race shirts, too, were a nice long-sleeved tech material. The race medals, too, were great.

The Race–The weather forecast warned of rain and possible thunderstorms which, unfortunately, turned out to be accurate. This really gave me the blues. Luckily, I had brought a throw-away rain poncho to wear as I was waiting for the race to start so I wouldn’t be drenched and freezing before the race started. Also, about three miles in, the rain started to subside. That was great for me, but the runners completing the full marathon were not as lucky because even more forceful rain–including lightning–arrived as almost all of them were still completing the course. We were warned ahead of time of possible race delays or even a cancellation if the lightening created dangerous conditions, but luckily, the race went on as scheduled for everyone.

The course was deceptively hilly, which I wasn’t expecting. The course map showed elevation changes of about 500 feet total, throughout the course, but there was a lot more up and down than I expected. That, too, gave me the blues. My race strategy, then, was to take things really easy–particularly since my training regimen included about 10% of the long runs I SHOULD have run in preparation for the race, but didn’t. I also didn’t want to be completely spent for the next day’s race.

While I started with a very defined run/walk strategy, that went out the window about four miles in when I pretty much started walked up the hills and through the aid stations but ran when the course was flat or downhill. I really liked that the course took us through the downtown area and some nice residential areas. That’s always a great way to see the local architecture and get a feel for the city.

I finished in a fairly respectable time, considering my lack of preparation, the race day conditions, and the course. Good race–definitely recommended. I was also particularly happy about the fact that the hotel was so close to the starting/finishing locations. That’s worth a lot.

Highlights–I wouldn’t say there was a lot of crowd support at this race, but that would be expected because of the weather. The people who were out cheering the runners, though, were among the best. A few people were having all-out parties on their front lawns as they watched the runners. One group even had a bonfire going and had set up a table–similar to an aid station–that offered free beer. I passed on that offer, but was amused nonetheless. A couple of other families offered donuts to runners as they passed by. One sign read, “Sorry for all the potholes–have a donut hole.” Clever.

Travel Between Races–I could have signed up for bus service that shuttled racers between the races, but I decided I really didn’t want to have to follow other people’s travel times so I rented a car and drove the three-and-a-half hours to Mobile. I really missed Denise during this part of the weekend. She’s always a great navigator and helps me decide when to listen to the navigation instructions offered by my phone and when to ignore them. We also use that travel time to talk and catch up. I missed that. I’m also really glad I decided to drop off my car in Mobile rather than return it back to Jackson. After driving that route once, I really didn’t want to do it again the very next day.

Race Etiquette/Tips–This race and the Mobile race the next day, prompted me to think a lot about how so many people have taken up running and are new to racing. I’m really happy about this because that means more and more people are seeing how enjoyable races can be. Because so many are new, however, it’s pretty clear they are still learning some generally accepted race protocols. Here’s what I wish everyone knew.

  1. Your race number goes somewhere on the FRONT of your body–not the back. It needs to be visible to race officials and photographers at all times during the race, otherwise they cannot identify you. This can be a little tricky when you dress in layers. In consideration of this, when I start with a top layer and expect to remove it at some point during the race, I will usually attach my race bib to my shorts or other race bottoms instead of my shirt.
  2. Be considerate of everyone else and keep your noise to yourself. That means: don’t have your headphones turned up so high everyone around you can identify the song and artist you are jamming out to. Even worse, don’t be that person who listens to music without headphones at all. No, we don’t all love your playlist selection. Please don’t share. Also in the “too noisy” category? Runners who wear bells on their shoes. Really? People do that? Yes. And it’s downright annoying.
  3. Not everyone likes conversation. Be mindful of the fact that while some people might appreciate your company and conversation during a race, others will find it irritating. If in doubt, ask or learn to read body language.
  4. Spectators and their pets are not there to receive unsolicited hugs or attention. For some reason, I see more and more runners who act like they are celebrities on stage–out there to greet their adoring fans–to the point where they feel a need to pet every dog they see or hug every child or person in uniform along the course in a much-too-enthusiastic way. I don’t know where this is coming from, but I’m pretty sure not all of the people (and pets) on the receiving end don’t enjoy it. A quick wave, smile, or “thank you” to volunteers along the course is a nice courtesy. An all-out hug may not be appreciated. You also don’t know how a dog might react to your invasion of his/her space.
  5. Signal your fellow runners when you are about to slow down or change course. When you stop running and decide to walk instead, remember there are people behind you still running who may trip over you or plow you over. Before you decide to abruptly change pace, move over to the side of the course and signal those behind you. The most common signal I see is a raised hand to indicate you are slowing down. To those of you who use some sort of “I’m getting out of your way and slowing down” signal–I thank you. (I know, as if I’m a fast runner and can’t possibly slow down in time). That’s rather funny.
  6. Don’t block the course. This applies to walkers who insist on walking right down the middle of the road, but even more so, this applies to pairs or groups of people. If you are walking two or three abreast, the middle of the course is NOT where you should be. In fact, some courses really aren’t good for walking in groups at all, depending on how wide the course is. Think about this when you go through aid stations too. Get your beverage and keep moving. You don’t want to make faster runners have to constantly swerve and dodge you and your pals.

Thanks for considering these etiquette tips. As more of us are sharing race courses, these are ways we can make the race experience a better one for everybody. Happy (friendly) running!

Appalachian Series, or “what kind of person uses vacation time to do this sh*t?”

Date: October 11-15, 2015

Distance: 13.1 + 13.1 +13.1 +13.1 

Location: West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolinamedal

This was the second race series I have completed with Mainly Marathons–the first one being the Independence Series this past spring. Touted as “the world’s best 5-day and 7-day multi-state races series,” I would have to say they certainly live up to that slogan.

In short, I would describe these races as being perfect for anyone who is trying to complete full marathons, half marathons, or 5K races in all fifty states–or for anyone who simply loves an excuse to travel and spend time with like-minded, friendly, race enthusiasts who care far less about finish times than they do about savoring the moment and celebrating friendships and shared experiences.

lot

First Day. Luckily, the rain quit the morning of the race and the weather stayed clear the rest of the week.

The entire race series–all seven days–also included the states of Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama. Fortunately, I had already completed races in GA and TN, and I plan to finish Alabama this coming January so I got to skip out on those. Plenty of other runners, however, savored all seven days of full marathons. Being around these folks makes me feel a bit like a slacker since I only did the half distance and I only did four of them.

West Virginia and Virginia

Nonetheless, for me that was plenty challenging. The first two races were both held in Bluefield, WV/VA–two consecutive days of running the same, hilly course. They counted as two separate states, however, because day one started in WV and day two started in VA. The park where we ran conveniently crossed the state border. I wasn’t sure how I would like running the same course two days in a row, but it was beautiful and that made it enjoyable. It was also, however, humid and hilly, and I think the hills contributed to me hurting my knee during the first day, despite my efforts to run much slower than normal (2:56:30). The knee thing surprised me since that was a completely new injury–one of the ligaments or tendons behind my knee on the outer edge started hurting quite a bit near the end.trail

My sore knee meant that I pretty much walked the entire second day (3:41:21) and hoped my ability to skip day three of the series (TN) would allow me to be good to go for day four after rest, ice, and ibuprofen.

Despite my sore knee being a bummer, day two brought me a very good present–my husband was able to fly out and join me for the rest of the week. I was really happy he was able to do that so he could see first-hand what these races are like and so we could spend some rare time together. His job requires constant travel so we really appreciate the times we are able to be together. Plus, I’m not gonna lie–having someone else to drive the 2-3 hours between races was a godsend.

The first evening he arrived, we even enjoyed a great “date night” with a fabulous dinner and movie in Morganton, NC. That made this week feel much more like a vacation.

North Carolina

As hoped, my knee felt much better by race #3. I was also pleasantly surprised that my ankle wasn’t giving me any grief, as that tends to be my nagging sore spot when I increase mileage. Day three, again, brought beautiful weather–sunny skies and no wind. This course, too, was very nice. All of the courses in this series were held at local parks with nicely paved running paths. Still, I took things easy (2:51:14), and even walked the entire last lap (about two miles) with my husband. That was really nice to be able to do. shirt

South Carolina

My last day was my favorite day. The course was easier and I felt really good. Still, after having run three previous races, my time was slower than usual, but I ended up finishing with my fastest time of the series: 2:43:25. For me, I’ve found that some combination of running and walking was best–particularly since I was having knee troubles earlier in the week. For this race, I ran .4, then walked .1 and kept up that pattern pretty much the whole way. It worked because I was able to finish without hurting, was satisfied with my time, and even had none of the usual quad soreness that I often get the next morning following any race. Success.

On a side note, congratulations to Mainly Marathons–this raced marked the 100th race of the races they have put on as part of a race series (they started these three years ago).

About out and backs. All of the races with Mainly Marathons are out-and-backs. At first, I thought, “how boring to run the same loop six or seven times.” What I have found, however, is the benefits of this set up far outweigh the negatives. Having a centralized check in point allows for a “base camp” at the start and finish. Base camp is where the timers are, where the water table is (you provide your own water bottle and they fill it up for you with your choice of water or Gatorade), where you can stash your gear (my outer layer almost always comes off about 1-2 miles in), and–perhaps most notably–it’s where the food truck is. An out-and-back course also means no one ever feels as though they are in last place and you get to see the same friendly, familiar faces time and time again and lots of nods, smiles, and “great jobs” are exchanged between runners throughout the race.

Oh, and the food. I wrote about my food amazement when I described the Independence series–the variety of food available to the runners is second to none. Thanks to Mainly Marathons, I’ve found that one of my favorite mid-race snacks is a quarter-sized peanut butter and jelly sandwich made with cinnamon raisin bread. And, awesome post-run fuel might include homemade blueberry pancakes, banana bread, brownies, quesadillas, or gourmet-styled grilled cheese sandwiches. Those offerings are in addition to chips, candies, and a plethora of other options.

As with last time, I embarked on this trip with the illusion of being able to easily drop a couple of pounds due to all the running I would be doing. Instead, these races make it quite possible to more than make up for your calorie burn. (Plus the post race burgers, Mexican food, and beers I indulged in didn’t help either). Oh, well. Vacation, right?

Inspirations. Another reason I like these races has to do with the people who manage them (the support crew is awesome) as are the people who run them. I’m particularly impressed with the folks who complete full marathons (26.2 miles) every day of the series–some who even do it in under four hours each day–while smiling and encouraging others along the way (thanks, Vincent).

I was also lucky to have met Sharon. Sharon and I shared a shuttle to the airport as we were picking up our rental cars prior to day one of the series. I learned that Sharon–who is in her seventies–has run full marathons on all seven continents and has almost reached her goal of completing full marathons in all fifty states–for the sixth time. The SIXTH time! 

Amazingly, there are others like Sharon. A lot of people drawn to these races have clearly been running almost their whole lives. I’m sure, like Vincent and Sharon, there are many more stories of similar accomplishments, based on the number of “seasoned” runners along the course who delight in talking about running. As I passed groups of people talking, I could hear they were almost always sharing running stories and talking about future race plans. That made me smile.

I’m much closer now. My goal to complete a half marathon in all fifty states is now even more within reach–only nine more states to go. Compared to Vincent and Sharon and the many others like them, however, I’m reminded that my goal is easy compared to what they have accomplished. I’m both inspired and humbled by them and the many others who shared their encouraging words with me this week. They have no idea how much their “Looking strong,” “Keep it up,” and “Good going” comments meant.

Perfectly stated.

Perfectly stated.

Missing my running pal. I missed my running partner, Denise, during this series. We ran the Independence Series together (and most of our other previous races as well), but the timing for her didn’t work out with this one. I’ll also need to catch up on four of the New England states without her this coming spring as she was able to do the New England Series this past August and I wasn’t able to tag along for that one. The New England Series will take place again this coming May.

Why do this? Not everyone will understand why I enjoy racing or why anyone would spend an entire week of vacation time to put themselves through a bit of pain, a lot of driving, a string of cheap hotels, and early morning wake up calls. For me, it has everything to do with the satisfaction I get from accomplishing goals, feeling stronger, and getting to hang out like-minded, positive people. We are all out there running (or walking) at our own pace without regard to finish times or prize money. We are there for the community, the excuse to travel to places we would otherwise never see, and we are out there running because we can.

Mainly Marathons Independence Series-Day #4 in Clinton, New Jersey

Date: May 2, 2015

Distance: 13.51

Time: 2:50:40

Today wrapped up the Independence Series for us, although several other runners will finish off the whole series of five races with a run in New York tomorrow. As for me, I am pretty glad I don’t have to get up at 4:15 a.m. for a fifth day in a row, and my quads will thank me as well. Thank goodness we’ve already run a race in New York state and get to sleep in tomorrow before heading to the airport.

I really had no idea what to expect with a Mainly Marathons race series experience, but now can highly recommend it. The race organizers and volunteers are amazing and the runners are both inspiring and encouraging. At a large, traditional race, cheering spectators might line the streets with clever signs.

These are the kinds of spectators you might find at a Mainly Marathons race. (Picture taken by a race participant during the Pennsylvania race).

These are the kinds of spectators you might find at a Mainly Marathons race. (Picture taken by a race participant during the Pennsylvania race).

In the case of these races, there are few or no spectators, but almost every runner along the course will greet you with a “great job” or “looking strong” comment–very often including your name as it is included on your race bib. After several miles with almost the same group of people each day, it becomes easy to learn many people’s names.

Then, there are the race volunteers. Without exception, the women at the timing table, the great folks at the beverage table, and the amazing food table folks and chef were always up for a chat and words of encouragement. It really made for the most supportive, encouraging, and inspiring race experience I’ve ever been a part of.

Would I do another series? Oh, yeah. Especially now that I know what to expect. Advice I would give to anyone considering a similar race experience? It’s a good idea to pace yourself and not go all out the first or second days, drink lots of water, get lots of sleep, don’t take yourself too seriously, and you might be surprised to find out that day four is easier than day three. In these races, it’s not about the finish time, it’s about the experience.

Mainly Marathons Independence Series Day #3-Daniel Boone’s Homestead in Birdsboro, PA

FB_20150501_18_01_32_Saved_PictureDate: May 1, 2015

Distance: 13.27

Time: 2:57:21

Today’s theme? Pain! We were pretty sure doing consecutive races four days in a row would be challenging and today proved our predictions were correct. Quads hurt, and we mainly “shuffled” through. Actually, I’m amazed we both finished in under 3 hours as sore as we felt. I really hope tomorrow is not worse.

The course today was my favorite by far. We ran an 8-loop out-and-back course on the Daniel Boone homestead. It was picturesque–old buildings on the property, a covered bridge, lots of fields, trees, and even included a small herd of sheep. The beginning of the course started with a paved downhill stretch, followed by alternate stretches of gravel and dirt. I liked that the course was spacious and we didn’t feel too crowded like the courses on the previous two days where there were some stretches that barely allowed for two people side by side.

The skies were overcast and today was a bit chilly, but we were lucky to avoid the rain that arrived later in the afternoon. By the time it started raining, Denise and I had already packed up, checked out of our hotel, and were on the road towards New Jersey.

WP_20150501_001

Sunrise at the start of the race.

Again, I am humbled by the number of people running the full marathon all five days. I wonder how they are feeling right now.

As for us, we have had a pretty regular routine–after the race we shower, Denise takes an ice bath (great idea, but I’m a wimp), we pack up, hit the road to the next destination, check into our hotel, eat an early dinner, and are in bed by 6 or 7 p.m. Seriously. These 4:15 a.m. wake up calls followed by 13.1 mile runs are killing us.

Really hoping tomorrow isn’t too painful…

Mainly Marathons Independence Series Day #2-Lums Pond State Park in Bear, DE

Date: April 30, 2015

Distance: 13.04

Time: 2:56:36

We enjoyed perfect running weather for day #2 of this series,FB_20150430_21_34_54_Saved_Picture and today’s course was great. The race was held at a camping area and the course took runners over a grassy field that, evidently, is used as a cricket field, followed by a nice tree-lined dirt trail, followed by a paved running path. Again, like all of these races, the course was an out-and-back. This time, our turnaround distance was shorter, so we had to complete ten loops rather than yesterday’s seven.

As in yesterday’s race, Denise finished before I did, and she was looking particularly strong today. My strategy, as suggested by her, was to walk a tenth of a mile both at the aid station and at the turnaround. That seemed to work perfectly for me. I took the added precaution of also mostly walking the second-to-last loop and walking all of the last loop. Still trying to conserve my muscles, knowing that we still have two races to complete.

Yet another loss. I haven’t talked about this yet, because I’ve been so upset about it,  but last Sunday, a very dear co-worker of mine passed away unexpectedly. A lot is going on back home with services planned for Saturday, and lots of close friends grieving this horrible loss. My first impulse, when I heard the news, was to cancel this trip. I just didn’t see how I could still go away. Plus, I will miss the funeral.

After a lot of deliberation and the support and encouragement of my boss, other co-workers, and friends, I made the decision to stick with my plans and continue with the trip. Spending time with Denise and putting in all of this mileage is one way I can cope with yet another loss.

As I was running today I decided to listen to music. During the middle of the race, a song came on that was a perfect tribute to my co-worker, Bill. My thoughts, of course, have been with Bill and his family this whole week. Today, in particular, he was with me while I listened to that song and my feet rhythmically hit the ground, propelling me forward one step at a time.

Running, as always, is the perfect metaphor for life. I especially felt that today. There are many times in life when we must endure and we must keep moving forward.