TreesGreenville Turkey Day 8k 2016 Race Recap

Race #115
8k #11
TreesGreenville Turkey Day 8k #7

I hope that I am able to keep up this tradition for quite a while. I have run this race every year since I first became a runner back in 2010. It’s pretty crazy to think that I have been running for over 6 years, only 3 years away from double digits.

We headed down a little earlier this year than last since we waited until race day to pick up the packets. We had plenty of time to get everything done.

This year the organizers added a 5k. I am not sure if that actually increased the number of participants; there have always been a lot of people that run this race. In years past I have made the mistake of not lining up close enough to the start. I was not about to make that mistake again.

TreesGreenville Turkey Day 8k 2016

Almost right on time, we were off! This year, unlike others, I was able to start my Garmin only a few seconds after the countdown and “gobble” that started us off.

I was ready to run and push the pace just a little. It’s a good thing that marathon training starts in earnest now. I am definitely ready to start competitively training again, finally.

I can definitely tel that we started close enough to the front because our first mile pace was right on track with the the next three miles, no traffic slowdown.

Mile 1: 8:19

One thing I noticed fairly soon was that the course was completely different than previous years. I think that part of it is due to the construction on the Swamp Rabbit Trail which has a large portion closed. Part of the course change may have been due to the addition of the 5k. Regardless, that meant that I really had no idea what to expect to come next in the course.

TreesGreenville Turkey Day 8k 2016

The middle two and a half miles were fairly uneventful. We kept up an even pace. I felt really good. I think I started to pick up the pace towards the end of the fourth mile because I was feeling so good. I also remembered thinking when I saw the fourth mile marker that this race is far too short. I was not ready for it to end. That’s a sign that I have been running a lot of long distances lately. (I am so ready for marathon training!)

Mile 2: 8:18
Mile 3: 8:20
Mile 4: 8:07

The last mile came and so did an absolutely ridiculous hill. I saw it when we passed on the way out and knew that it would be a bit of a challenge, especially for Mom. Hills are not her strong suit, yet.

TreesGreenville Turkey Day 8k 2016

She did slow down on the hill. I kept trucking and got to the top to see her farther back than I thought. She ended up walking most of the hill. I slowed my pace and she fairly quickly caught up to me.

TreesGreenville Turkey Day 8k 2016

Then just under a half mile remained and the 5k course rejoined the 8k. I am not a fan of courses like this because when the longer and shorter races merge, usually the faster runners in the longer race have to deal with weaving around the significantly slower runners in the shorter race. This was no exception. With the large number of runners overall in the race, I knew that there would be no easy way to stay running next to Mom so I told her that because of the merge we would have to fend for ourselves at this point. She was okay with that.

We made the turn and instead of turning left onto Main Street like most of the downtown Greenville races I run we turned right. Instead of finish on a nice downhill we had to go back up the hill. Good thing I eat hills for breakfast. I kept pushing for a strong finish.

Mile 5: 7:55
Final time: 41:14

I finished feeling more than ready to really dive back into competitive training again. Bring on the marathon!

Mom finished just a little behind me in 41:51.

TreesGreenville Turkey Day 8k 2016
(She had no idea I was doing that.)

TreesGreenville Turkey Day 8k 2016

Final time: 1:48:49

That is an exact 6 minute PR.

I am still in shock over that result. Now I am beyond pumped for all the races that I have planned and pumped to return next year and see if I can get all of the miles below 10 minutes and maybe even run under 1:45.

Race Review
Registration and packet/bib pick up:
Registration was easy and so was packet/bib pick up which we did on race morning. There’s usually not much to say for this category unless something goes wrong.

Race shirt:
This race offers a no-shirt option. I don’t always choose that but when I think about the fact that I usually give the shirt away, I usually do not consider the shirt to be worth $5 so I opt for the cheaper registration.

Pre-Race/Race Morning amenities:
The race start is always packed but because all of downtown Greenville’s garages are free on Thanksgiving, it was no trouble at all finding parking. We were a little disappointed that Carolina Ale House’s indoor bathroom wasn’t open this year but they had plenty of portopotties.

Course:
I am not a fan of the updated course. In my opinion, they ran it backwards. I think it would have worked much better had everything been flip flopped. I still prefer the course from last year. Even with that, this is a good course. Downtown Greenville courses usually are.

Course support:
There are plenty of people out on the course. It is well marked. There is no chance of getting lost. Two water stops for an 8k is more than sufficient. They were well manned too.

Finish line and post-race amenities:
I was so happy to see that Spinx was sponsering this race as well. I love all of the post race refreshments that they offer. I always load up on the grapes. For this race they had a fruit tray that had grapes, two kinds of apples and some cheese.

Race photography:
I will update this portion later. I usually get my race recaps up before the photographers have a chance to edit all the pictures they take.

Social media:
I have not been on social media that much lately and when I have it has been focused on other topics. I will have to research this later.

Results:
Palmetto Timing was on hand for the race again this year. I love instantly available race results.

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Paris Mountain Road Race 20k 2016

Race #114
20k #3
Paris Mountain Road Race #5

Every year I run this race I have more than a few thoughts of “why on earth did I sign up for this?” Every year I finish the race ready and hungry for more. This year was no different.

I woke up ready for this race, ready to get out there and run. Talk about a change from last year.

Running has been going really well lately. I still wish that my total volume was back to the level that it used to be but it’s getting there. I am determined to build back up the right way so that I’m able to keep running at this level for a very long time.

I did not set any time goals for this race or even any goals about the mountain. I knew, however, that my fitness is at a much higher level overall this year than it was last year. Thus, I thought that a small PR might be within reach even though I have done absolutely no hill or speed work.

Mom came with me today but did not run the race. Instead, she ran a shorter route around the Furman campus before waiting for me to finish. Thanks to her, I was able to enjoy a ride across campus which significantly cut down the trip from packet pick up at Timmons Arena to the Shi Center.

Paris Mountain Road Race 20k 2016

With nearly perfect timing, we arrived at the start with barely five minutes to wait. We did start a couple minutes late so that all runners were able to make it to the start line.

After a count down we were off!

Paris Mountain Road Race 20k 2016

Early in the first mile I started wondering why I signed up for this again and signed up last minute at that. (I have had the race on my calendar but had to wait until after payday to finalize my registration.

The first mile is fairly easy but the mountain looms. In years past, I’ve gone out too quickly. This year I stayed right no track.

Mile 1: 8:44

Then comes the mountain. This year I managed to remember that the mountain lasts for two miles not the one I had prepped myself for last year. I gave myself permission to walk but only after the first mile and then only after the next song ended and then after the next song ended.

The first mile on the mountain is not actually that bad. You can tell that you are moving uphill but the ascent is not too steep and it almost lulls you into thinking that you might be able to run all the way up the hill.

Mile 2: 9:45

I kept pushing even though all I wanted to do was walk. I thought multiple times about my motivation for signing up for this race. I hate hills, at least while I am running up them.

I made it to 1.5 miles up the mountain and had to walk. I started wondering if my rough estimation of two miles on the mountain was wrong and if it was much longer. Thankfully only a half mile remained until the summit of which the worst part is right before the summit. You’ve been running up this mountain for nearly two miles at this point and the most significant grade of ascent is right before the summit and a little bit of a break.

I walked again on this portion. It’s just so ridiculously steep. Then I saw the volunteer at the top and looked through the trees. The summit and water stop awaited. Unlike last year, I refused to be photographed at the summit while walking. (I don’t know if pictures were taken at the summit but I was definitely running.)

I grabbed Gatorade at the water stop and headed into the rest of the race.

Mile 3: 10:38 (I am absolutely shocked that this is the only mile in the entire race above 10 minutes!)

There is something remarkable that happens once you reach the summit and head down the mountain on the other side. You are filled with this amazing sense of accomplishment and power even though you have a majority of the race yet to come. This feeling can be described in no other way than a high or a thrill. This feeling is why crazy people like me keep signing up for races like this that require us to push our body to its limits and beyond.

I settled into the race and immediately started daydreaming about completing an Ironman.

Something else I learned about myself in this race? I need to incorporate some downhill running into my training. Downhill is almost more difficult than flats or hills/mountains.

Heading down the mountain actually has a couple short inclines mixed in which makes the downhill easier to handle. There is one short significantly steep section that it is almost impossible to maintain a decent pace without tripping over your own feet. I tried but then indulged and stopped holding back. My right hip/glute was not happy about that for about half a mile after that. Each time I extended my stride a little too much I could feel a pinching in the glute. That made me focus on form even more. Thankfully that discomfort was momentary and i was able to settle back in for the back half of the race.

Mile 4: 9:23 (the last time I was over 9 minutes!)
Mile 5: 8:38
Mile 6: 8:30

It was in this back half that my race was made. I focused on maintaining good form and pressing forward. I continued to avoid looking at my Garmin and trying to figure out what sort of time I would finish with or obsessing with my pace. This technique has worked well for me. I plan to keep it up if at all possible.

The back half of the race is full of rollers, the epitome of rolling hills although these usually started with a significant downhill that helped you swing back into an uphill with more incline than portions of the mountain. Thankfully these hills don’t last very long. These kinds of hills are my kind of hills. I can keep pressing when the other runners around me start to drop back. I ended up passing more than 5 or 6 people on the back half. In a race as small as this, that’s significant.

Mile 7: 8:06
Mile 8: 8:28
Mile 9: 8:08
Mile 10: 8:01

Some time after mile 10 I started glancing down at the Garmin occasionally and caught glimpses of my pace. Several times the pace was between 7:30 and 7:45. I remember telling myself that I had no business running that sort of pace. I tried to slow myself down but it is incredibly difficult. I told myself that I was going to pay the price and soon but I couldn’t get the pace down without walking. I ended up walking for a little bit but told myself to keep going. I was too close to give up now.

Mile 11: 8:45

My legs protested loudly during this last mile which is hands down my least favorite thanks to running on the shoulder of the highway for a portion. (This highway as I have mentioned before has a horrible camber.)

I kept pressing forward though. I was almost done.

Mile 12: 8:17

Just after the mile marker I indulged in a glance down at my Garmin and saw that I had a chance to finish under 1:50. That opportunity never even crossed my mind. Even though little was left in the tank I took off as fast as I could and powered through the finish finishing the last .4 in a 7:57 pace.

Paris Mountain Road Race 20k 2016
Paris Mountain Road Race 20k 2016

Final time: 1:48:49

That is an exact 6 minute PR.

I am still in shock over that result. Now I am beyond pumped for all the races that I have planned and pumped to return next year and see if I can get all of the miles below 10 minutes and maybe even run under 1:45.

Race Review
Registration and packet/bib pick up:
Registration was easy and so was packet/bib pick up which we did on race morning. I was pleased to see that there was considerably less confusion about all the organization surrounding the race, most likely because the 20k was selected this year to be the state 20k championship.

Race shirt:
The shirt this year is excellent. Unlike other Greenville Track Club races, PMRR has a good track record for excellent shirts. While I don’t think I will run in this shirt, I will definitely hold on to it to wear at other times.

Pre-Race/Race Morning amenities:
Timmons Arena is an excellent starting point for a race. We have access to the full indoor bathrooms which is always preferable. One just has to keep in mind that the start for the 20k and 10k (new this year) is all the way on the other side of the campus.

Course:
To say that this course is challenging would be a significant understatement. That’s why I love this course though. I think the challenging nature of this course should be championed even more than it is and made a major selling point of the race because there is a whole, rather large market out there of people who seek after the insane challenges. This could be a big race and a draw for the GTC if it was marketed properly. November is an excellent time of year to hold the race too. Paris Mountain is beautiful in the fall.

Course support:
The smaller nature of the race means that there, obviously, aren’t spectators lining the course. That’s totally fine. There were 4 water stops, three of which had Gatorade. (I’m not sure why one of them had only water. Maybe they forgot to get enough?) The volunteers were great both at the water stops and the ones serving as course monitors.

Finish line and post-race amenities:
I really enjoy the new finish line location, in front of McAlister Auditorium. This year’s medal is pretty snazzy too. A very large part of me hopes that this race continues to be chosen as the state’s 20k championship because that seems to help the GTC step up their game a little.

Paris Mountain Road Race 20k 2016
(This year’s medal is on the left; last year’s is on the right.)

Race photography:
I will update this portion later. I usually get my race recaps up before the photographers have a chance to edit all the pictures they take. I saw several photographers out on the course so my hopes are comparatively high.

Social media:
I do not pay as much attention to social media as I used to but I did notice that the GTC posted several more posts about the PMRR than previous years, likely because the race was chosen as the state’s 20k championship. The old Facebook page specifically for the race is still up though. I think that the board members of the GTC have been unable to find the person who used to maintain this page and thus have been unable to update or transfer management of the page. All the other social media updates have been on the GTC’s page.

Results:
I was so excited to see that Palmetto Timing was hired for this race. This meant that results were available immediately after the race. That goes a long way.

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Tryon Half Marathon 2016 Race Recap

Race #113
Half Marathon #35
NC Half Marathon #5
Tryon Half Marathon #3

I continue to love this little race although with all the life changes, I almost forgot to register.

Spinx served as a definite motivation boost heading into this one. I knew that the course is much easier, much flatter than Spinx. (I made the mistake of describing it as flat and on one of the small hills Mom made sure to point out the hill’s presence.)

We arrived with plenty of time to pick up our bib and shirt and cycle through the bathroom line twice before race start.

The weather was perfect too. (Mom would disagree with that but I love running in the cold.)

As we walked up towards the start line, I heard the race organizer on a microphone saying something about having to delay the race start a little due to a road not being blocked off yet.

Okay, no problem. This is a small, uncertified race. Totally understandable. We used the time to take a pre-race picture.

Tryon Half Marathon 2016

We ended up waiting only about two or three extra minutes before heading up onto the road to start the race.

This is when things became downright laughable. The organizer comes back on the microphone to thank us, twice, for being patient through the delay because, after all, the delay was for our safety. She then says, “Alright. We’ll just go ahead and get started. Ready! Set! Go!”

Huh? What?

There were a couple cars on the road facing all the runners about to start not to mention the abrupt nature of the start meant that most of the runners had barely time to turn towards the start line much less get ready to run.

Ellis took the below video. You can’t see everything since he was a little ways down the road but you can hear the confusion.

Tryon Half Marathon 2016

Runners in front of us stopped, were pointing at the cars, protesting and sounding just plain confused. I had my finger on my Garmin’s start button but I had no idea whether I should press it and start or wait.

Wow.

Yeah, we all headed back to the start line and she tried again. This time she was a little more successful.

Tryon Half Marathon 2016

Mom and I took off. Since we were towards the front, our pace was a little fast. Mom suggested that we find a good, comfortable pace. I agreed and started focusing on getting my perceived effort level down a little.

During the first few miles it felt a little odd to be passed by so many people. Our pace wasn’t shabby by any means. At a couple points we were running just a little sub 8 and working on getting it down to a more reasonable level. The early pace of so many people really surprised me. This is a small race and it isn’t certified. I told Mom that those people would likely pay for it later on and start coming back towards us. I was right but not as right as I had expected. We didn’t end up picking off that many people.

Mile 1: 8:26

Some point into the second mile we entered the hard packed dirt/gravel portion of the race apart from a few small portions of pavement were sprinkled throughout the remainder of the course at intersections.

Immediately I knew that I had waited just a little too long to replace my running shoes. (I need to just make myself get out there and buy them.) There weren’t many pieces of gravel but they were significant enough that each time I stepped on one I could feel it through my shoe. My Saucony Zealots already do not have a lot of extra cushioning but after 320 miles they certainly don’t.

I continued to feel absolutely great throughout the rest of the entire run. Apart from the gravel, this is the prettiest portion of the race. The course is one of the easiest and most beautiful courses I have ever run. It’s just gorgeous.

However, Mom and I did not have the opportunity to enjoy its beauty during this portion until the second time through on the way back. The reason? We spent a few miles running next to a couple I named “Chatty Cathy and Chatty Kevin.” Neither of them stopped talking for longer than 10 seconds. Do I talk during races or runs? Yes, of course. Do I talk the entire time? No. By the time we had run a mile almost neck and neck with them it had become ridiculously annoying. I could not wait to pass them and considered increasing our pace a little so that we could be free of them.

It was too early in the race to do that though so we suffered through and finally managed to break away from them just past mile 5.

Mile 2: 8:31
Mile 3: 8:36
Mile 4: 8:47
Mile 5: 8:47
Mile 6: 8:43

Starting just after mile 5 until the turn around at 6.5, I occupied myself by counting the women that went by to see which place we were in. I was disappointed to see that a woman I had noticed earlier wearing an obnoxious looking Trump headband was in 4th place. (Seriously, why would you want that man’s face on your head? Don’t answer that.)

By the time we reached the turn around, I calculated that we were 20th and 21st woman. I wanted to get us both in the top 20 if I could but not by increasing the pace just yet. “Strong and Steady” became my motto.

We stayed “strong and steady” for another few miles before I first heard Mom say something about wanting to walk for a few seconds.

Mile 7: 8:52
Mile 8: 9:02
Mile 9: 8:49
Mile 10: 8:52

Instead of saying, “sure” in response, I said “no! You can do it. Keep going!”

I had roughly calculated that if we kept our current pace, Mom might have a chance to defeat her merely two weak old PR. She told me later that she was pretty surprised and had already slowed down. She picked the pace back up though.

I continued to feel good. That includes the usual aches and pains that come from sore muscles in the final miles of a race.

Mom asked just two more times to walk, both in the final two miles. The first time wasn’t really asking to walk. Instead she said something to the effect that she thought that she might need to walk. We were so close. I told her that she didn’t need to.

The other came within the final half mile. She asked and then slowed to a walk. I shouted back encouragement for her to keep going. A spectator even joined in. (I think he had finished the same race a little earlier.)

She picked up her pace and followed me in.

Mile 11: 8:47
Mile 12: 8:58
Mile 13: 8:36

Before I talk about the finish, I have to talk about what happened when we were on the road back at mile 12. I have never been so irritated and terrified at the same time.

Since this is a small race, the roads are not closed to car traffic. That’s understandable. There were cops monitoring traffic and letting cars go between runners. In my opinion, they were letting far too many cars in between each runner.

There was a woman just ahead of us that I was trying to pick off. The cop let three cars go between us. We were following those cars who were driving slowly behind the runner. That was a bit nerve-wracking because I was trying to figure out how we would pass those cars if we needed to to keep our pace going.

Then came the part that ticked me off the most. The cop let a couple cars go between us and the runners behind us. Okay, fine. The problem? The woman driving the car behind us was beyond rude and completely unsafe.

Mom and I were running side by side since we were effectively boxed in between cars. That definitely made me feel nervous. Then the woman behind us started creeping up way closer than she should have been. I kept glancing back because it felt like she was going to hit us.

Then one of the cars in front of us turned off the road into a parking lot and the other two cars passed the runner in front of us who had moved as far to the side of the two lane road as she could. The lady behind us took that as her cue to intimidate us into getting off the road. She sped up!

My heart leapt into my throat. I screamed at the woman, even though she couldn’t hear me. I sped up a little myself and got onto the white line on the side of the road. Keep in mind, there was little to no shoulder. As soon as both Mom and I were hugging the side of the road as closely as we could, the woman sped past us.

I have witnessed some idiotic driver decisions while I was running, many of which involved my personal safety. However, this topped the cake.

What on earth makes it okay for someone to intimidate another person just because that first person has a two ton vehicle and, apparently, a place to be?

Chill, people. Chill.

That certainly got my heart pounding.

Back to the finish…

With about half a mile to go, we made the turn back onto the trails of the park where the race started and finished. This was where Mom said one last time – and even slowed down to walk – that she needed to walk. I kept going and shouted back at her that she could do it, less than a half mile left. There was a spectator, an earlier finisher of the race, who chimed in as well and told her not to stop.

We saw Ellis on a little bridge up ahead. I kept calling back encouraging words to Mom. She could do this. Ellis took some pictures of us and then ran a little ways with Mom who was behind me at this point.

I took off, hoping to finish strong. It was when we entered the “track” portion just before the finish line that I saw that woman from earlier that I had been chasing. The temptation was too strong. I poured on the speed, rounded the curve and started to pass her.

After I passed her I could hear her footsteps start to increase. Oh, no you don’t. I was already running as fast as I thought I could at that point but I somehow dug out even more and put her away finishing strong.

After we finished we both acknowledged and thanked each other for the competitive push.

I finished in 1:56:05 and Mom finished 20 seconds later in 1:56:26. It wasn’t another PR but it was a solid effort that on a certified course would have netted her a second PR in two weeks.

Race Review

Registration and packet/bib pick up:
Registration was easy and so was packet/bib pick up which we did on race morning.

Race shirt:
I have liked their shirts in the past. While the design is still good, this year’s shirt is not a technical shirt, just a unisex cotton shirt. I really liked the color and though it would still be a nice shirt. Unfortunately, the fit is awkward. I am not keeping the shirt.

Pre-Race/Race Morning amenities:
It’s a small race. The amenities are as to be expected. I was a little annoyed when we picked up our packet because the volunteer would not let us use the bathroom that both Mom and I knew was in that building. We used it last year. Instead, our options were the portopoties or the bathrooms by the small baseball field which are barely a step above portopoties. I’m not sure why the race organizer decided to make this other bathroom off limits but that was a disappointment.

Course:
This course is beautiful and easy. It is not completely flat. However, the hills are minimal and so is any incline or decline. It is hard packed dirt for most of the way with some gravel so my recommendation would be to wear shoes with a little more cushioning so that you don’t feel the individual gravel.

Course support:
Course support was awesome as well. This rural race means that spectators are at a minimum. I don’t mind that. While having cheering on the sidelines is fun, it is not make or break for me. There were plenty of water stops – more than double what Spinx has. Each volunteer had some water and Gatorade and all of them made it abundantly clear which liquid they were holding.

Finish line and post-race amenities:
The finish line is fun. The post-race amenities are what make this race. The local community comes together and provides a full breakfast for race participants including donuts, muffins, breakfast casseroles, Chobani Greek yogurt, oatmeal, orange juice, coffee and probably plenty of other things that I have forgotten about or did not see.

Race photography:
I will update this portion a little later. Since this is a smaller race, this will likely be delayed.

Social media:
I have no idea how the social media was managed for this race. Social media has been one of the things that I have been weaning myself off of so I have to admit that I did not pay any attention to this.

Results:
As of 2:30pm Saturday, the results have not yet been posted. This is a race that is timed by John Lehman. I have the upmost respect for Mr. Lehman when it comes to race organization. All of my favorite GTC races are organized him. When it comes to timing through, the length of time that it takes to get results posted is significantly faster than the latest and fairly affordable technology can achieve. However, he offers a service for a low fee so most smaller races turn to him instead of palmetto timing, another local Greenville timing company.

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Spinx Run Fest Half Marathon 2016 Race Recap

Race #112
Half Marathon #34
SC Half Marathon #26
Spinx Run Fest Half Marathon #3

It has been quite a while since I have written here. As I mentioned before, teaching takes up a large majority of my time. For that reason, I had to look at my normal routine and cut the extra things that I was doing just because I had gotten into a habit of doing them. One of the things that got cut was the weekly recaps. Another thing that fell a bit by the wayside? Racing. I did “race” once in September. (There is no way I am letting a month pass without pinning on a bib.) That race was the Race for the Cure which I walked with my dad and a few other people in honor of my grandmother who celebrated 10 years cancer free.

Back to the race…

When I first registered for this race, I thought that it would be really cool to do the marathon relay with Mom. She was on board as well. That was back before I got a new job that involves copious amounts of work on the weekends. I started to become concerned about the amount of time the marathon relay would suck out of my Saturday. Additionally, I really enjoy running with Mom. I always thought that I was a solo runner. Turns out, I just needed to find the right running partner.

I thought about suggesting a switch to the half for a while before I finally mentioned it to Mom on Monday. She had said something about needing to work on getting her head in the game since she would have to run the race by herself. That answers that question. One easy switch later at packet pick up and we were all set to run the half.

Our build up to this run was less than stellar. I have still been working on building up after the injury that just kept lingering. Turns out, fixing a problem that’s existed for a few years, might take a little time. Things are feeling good now though. That being said, our longest long run before the race was just last week at 11 miles. This race was only my third double digit run since July.

I set no goals other than to run strong and focus on form. I also, once again, avoided looking at my Garmin throughout the race. Pace was not at the forefront of my mind. Instead we ran based on effort.

The race started on the other side of the stadium this year. As we approached the stadium I thought that was odd. However, once we entered the stadium and I saw the construction area on the opposite side of the stadium, I realized that this change was likely prompted by the construction.

Spinx Run Fest Half Marathon 2016
Ready to start?

Spinx Run Fest Half Marathon 2016
Oh wait. Now we’re ready.

A minute or two after 7:45 we were off.

With the half marathoners and 10k runners starting at the same time, the start was quite congested. We couldn’t even really start walking until a few steps beyond the start line. Thankfully we had positioned ourself close enough to the start that the congestion dissipated fairly quickly.

I felt really good when we started, strong and confident. I even started my formerly usual daydreaming about future athletic exploits. (The thing I keep imagining is an Ironman but who knows when I’ll be able to find the time for that.)

Mile 1: 9:23

One thing I knew from a quick glance at the course map in the truck on the way to the start was that this course was completely different from when I ran it two years go. That course was significantly different than the first time I ran the course four years before that. Of the three courses I have run, this one is hands down my absolute favorite.

I love how the organizers made a concerted effort to connect with the community. I don’t know how the process worked but many of the houses had large white signs in their yard proclaiming that they were “Spinx Run Fest Fans!” Most of these yards also held the occupants of the house who were out cheering for the runners. That reminded me of my favorite marathon, Twin Cities.

Also in this section, my favorite race sign: “Run like it’s November 9th.”

These houses were amazing and most were completely decked out for Halloween. I had to admit that the frugal weirdo in me spent some time fixated on how much all of those decorations cost and how much some of those houses might possibly cost. I fully claim my weirdness.

Mom and I settled into a pretty good rhythm and kept rolling through all the rolling hills. This course is most certainly not easy but I absolutely love it.

Mile 2: 8:20
Mile 3: 8:38
Mile 4: 8:27
Mile 5: 8:38
Mile 6: 8:34
Mile 7: 8:26

Somewhere between miles 5-7 we left the neighborhoods and entered Cleveland Park and a bit of the Swamp Rabbit Trail. I realize that’s a wide margin but I was not really paying attention to the mile markers. That’s big for me.

Also some time in that section, Mom said that she was probably going to need me to stick with her and not go on ahead towards the end. I had already planned to run the whole thing with her anyway. She struggled a bit mentally but that’s the brilliant thing about running with someone. You don’t have to do it alone.

Some time after mile 7 Mom got a massive side stitch. I had one just like it a couple weeks ago. They are no fun. These aren’t the tiny ones that you can just breathe through for a hundred yards or so. These are the ones that feel like a knife is stabbing you in the abdomen with every step. I haven’t had one of those for years and have no idea what brought it on. I know it sounds weird, but I’m thankful I had one so recently so I could better empathize with Mom.

We had to walk a couple times but then spent the next mile running through the side stitch to gradually work it out. I remember it taking about a mile to get rid of mine as well.

Mile 8: 8:28
Mile 9: 9:29

I continued to feel great if not a bit sweatier than I expected to be. The weather was almost perfect for this race.

Mile 10: 8:56

While I continued to feel strong, Mom struggled a bit mentally with the run. I know how much these long runs and races can mess with your mind and how easy it is to let the negative thoughts overwhelm. I succumbed to that more than a few times in the past.

Today, I wanted to do whatever I could, share whatever helpful mantras I could, to help Mom make it the remaining few miles to the finish line. It’s an aspect of our running together that I absolutely love.

We had a few rough patches over the remaining miles but I knew we would make it to the finish line very close to a PR for Mom if not in an almost guaranteed PR time for her.

Mile 11: 9:16
Mile 12: 9:08

Then came the last mile. My legs were definitely letting me know that this was longer and harder than I had made them work in a while. At the same time, I knew that the end was just around the corner.

Mom was struggling too. We walked a few steps at the start of the last mile but then kept running. In my head I made the decision to keep running through that last mile. Most of the time I don’t put the pressure on her to keep running. In the last mile? She wasn’t going to walk again in the last mile.

As we started up the final hill before we turned left at the stadium, she said that she needed to walk again and even dropped back and walked a few steps. I slowed down a little but called back to her encouraging words something to the effect of “You’ve got this. Don’t stop. Keep going.” (I don’t remember exactly what I said.)

Mom started running again. We made our way to the top of the hill, turned left and I could tell that something had shifted for Mom. She was now close enough that there was no way she was going to give up before the finish.

Spinx Run Fest Half Marathon 2016

We turned onto the track. I told her “No holds barred, now!” and took off. I wanted to pass as many people as I could in the final few meters. As I increased the pace, made the final turn and headed towards home I could hardly believe how fast I was going.

There was one more woman in front of me before the finish but I didn’t start the sprint in time. I finished one second behind her. Of course, she was in my age group.πŸ™‚

Mile 13:> 8:50

Right as I crossed the finish line my Garmin put up the split for mile 13. I know that I pressed the stop button but I suppose that it doesn’t work if it’s on the split stat screen. I discovered a few minutes later that it hadn’t stopped. I got the time figured out though.

Final time: 1:54:39

I am absolutely thrilled with this race time. I love the half marathon. I really love the challenge it poses.

Mom finished about 9 seconds behind me in a time of 1:54:47, a new 30 second PR! I knew she could do it!

Spinx Run Fest Half Marathon 2016

Race Review

Registration and packet/bib pick up:
Registration through go-green was painless and easy as always. Race transfer went smoothly as well. Mom and Ellis picked up the bibs and shirts so it’s hard for me to review that.

Race shirt:
I do not like these shirts at all. The main problem that I have with these shirts is that they are white and almost completely see through. That may work for guys but about half of the people who ran the race were women, some of whom may not want their sports bras to be seen when they run. (Yes, this is exactly what I wrote in the review of my last race but it’s still valid.)

Pre-Race/Race Morning amenities:
As I mentioned earlier, the staging of the start was different than in years past due to the construction changes going on at Flour Field. Other than that, it is a fabulous set up. There are three inside bathrooms to choose from.

Course:
The half marathon course is absolutely fantastic. Please GTC, change absolutely nothing about the half marathon course. For all the turns and hills, the course support and scenery were well worth it. There was constantly something to look at and engage my mind so that the time passed faster.
The marathon course? No, I did not run the marathon but I did look at the course map this morning when I was reading the last minute details. The entire course save a mile at the start and finish is on the Swamp Rabbit Trail. Really? I remember when I ran the marathon. (In fact, I ran the marathon 5 years ago today!!) The portion on the SRT was the lowest point for me. I stand by my opinion that it is a great resource but should not be used for an entire marathon course.
(I do not know anything about this year’s 10k course or the 5k course.)

Course support:
If I had to point out one negative thing about the half marathon, it would be the number of water stops. This seems to be a common problem for GTC races. I think it may be due to the difficulty they have in recruiting volunteers. That’s unfortunate.
The half marathon had a total of 3 water stops. The first water stop did not come until mile 4 or 5. I’ve learned my lesson and now always carry my own water but if Gatorade is offered, I will partake.
While the number of water stops was lacking, the volunteer support at these water stops was absolutely fabulous. My favorite was the one that came around mile 11. I think the course goes behind a school and a plethora of the students were out manning the water stop. They formed a tunnel of cheers and shouts of “water!” and “Gatorade!” Mom and I both smiled so big. So awesome.
One other note about marathon course support. I as I read the “Last Minute Details,” I noticed a point that stated “B.Y.O.G: Bring Your Own Gels.” Spinx Run Fest would not be providing and gels or other fuel on the course. I honestly have no idea why not. Yes, most marathoners bring their own. However, there has been more than a few times where I either forgot my fuel, dropped some or ran out and was thankful to partake in the “free” fuel provided by the race. I think some of their money would have been better allocated to buying a few boxes of gel/chews instead of boxes and boxes of glasses.

Finish line and post-race amenities:
As an avid baseball fan, I have always loved the finish on Fluor Field. There is nothing better than racing around the warning track and finishing by crossing home plate.
The food was plentiful as well. I helped myself to four cups of grapes. I have a problem.πŸ™‚
Due to the construction it was in a different area that did not flow quite as well. However, I’m sure that things will be back to normal next year.

Race photography:
There were photos taken by Pace Magazine, as usual. I continue to be incredibly grateful for this free service that this free local running magazine provides. I also continue to think that the GTC relies too heavily on this free service to provide race photography. For most of its smaller races, this is the only photography provided. Since Spinx is the marquee race of the GTC’s event calendar, there were other photographers. However, this photographer was stationed behind the finish line which results in most of the shots being of runners walking or about to collapse in exhaustion, not the final sprint. Also, all half marathoners who finished between 1:37 and 2:37 have no finish line photos. I do not know the reason for this. Since Mom and I fall into this group, we have only the two photos from Pace Magazine.

Social media:
I have no idea how the social media was managed for this race. Social media has been one of the things that I have been weaning myself off of so I have to admit that I did not pay any attention to this. I did pay a little bit more attention after the race as I went back to the Facebook pages (both of the GTC and the specific event page for Spinx Run Fest) to look for pictures. As has been the case in the past, the only post on race day was posted early in the morning. While not everyone can be as good as the Tobacco Road Marathon, I don’t think it would be too much to ask for the social media coordinator (if they even have that position) to make post throughout the day at least acknowledging the winners of each race.

Results:
I love when a race director uses racemine because the results are available almost instantly. It is so easy to find official times and stats. Speaking of which, Mom snagged second in her age group! I was 15th although if I had run my PR time I would have made it onto the podium in third.

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Julie Valentine Run2Overcome 10k 2016

Race #111
10k #9
Julie Valentine Run2Overcome 10k #3

It’s been about a month since I posted. Life has changed just a little since then. I find myself heading back into the classroom, this time as a teacher once again. As such, my blogging habits will change. I will no longer post weekly training recaps but I will continue to write race recaps. Things may change at a later date but the race recaps are not going away.

As I have spent this summer working on functional training and finally getting rid of the nagging injuries/imbalances instead of shorter distance speedwork, a PR attempt was not in the picture. I did harbor hopes of pacing Mom to a sub 50 minute finish so that we could both register in the time-qualifying section for Cooper River and not in the “everybody-else” section.

Getting to the start was a little precarious. Packet pick up is on one end of Cleveland Park down by the Zoo while the start is all the way on the other end of the park over half a mile a way. For the second year in a row we forgot and got in a nice little warm up while managing to make the start with ten seconds to spare.

I threw out the time-goal quickly. The weather this summer has been ridiculous. I know I saw that every year but I’m pretty sure it gets more ridiculous every year. The humidity has been off the charts. That combined with the hilly course makes this a challenging race in which to try to PR.

Instead I chose to focus on form and making sure that we didn’t go out so fast that we would crash and burn once the humidity and hills took their toll.

Mile 1: 8:37

The rest of the race became a matter of just hanging in there, completing a solid run at a pace just slightly faster than regular runs.

Mile 2: 8:19
Mile 3: 8:36

Shortly after the halfway mark Mom asked for me to start talking to her; she was losing steam. At that point the goal shifted to sticking with Mom and encouraging her to keep up the pace. She could do it. I knew it and wanted to make sure that she did too.

We ended up taking a few walk breaks in the final half. Now, when I saw walk break, I mean more of a momentary slow down in pace usually lasting about 10-15 seconds. Not too shabby. It was just long enough for Mom to get her breathing back under control. Those hills are no joke.

Mile 4: 8:33
Mile 5: 8:51

In the final mile I wanted to make sure that Mom was able to finish without having to stop to walk. We got about to the halfway point and she told me that she was going to have to walk. I tried to encourage her to keep going but she told me to go ahead.

She must not have walked for long because she ended up finishing not that long behind me. I kept going, pressing forward. I could do anything for half a mile, right?

My legs definitely had it in them to go faster but at the same time, the humidity had been pretty draining. (You know when the sweat starts dripping off you just after mile one that the rest of the run is not going to be that pretty.) I thought about pulling back but I was so close to the finish. I could push through the hurt and really make it count.

Just before we turned into Cleveland Park, Ellis was waiting to take pictures. He managed to find the shutter button and not Siri this time.πŸ™‚

Julie Valentine Run2Overcome 10k 2016

Julie Valentine Run2Overcome 10k 2016

Mile 6: 7:45

I pushed through to the end and managed to finish under 52 minutes. That’s 4 minutes slower than last year but since I wasn’t trying to push the pace, I’ll take that. I ran a smart race, enjoyed myself and did not crash and burn.

Mom came in forty seconds later. Despite the walk breaks, she finished 12 seconds faster than last year! (52:32)

Julie Valentine Run2Overcome 10k 2016

Julie Valentine Run2Overcome 10k 2016
(I need to work on my posture. So much slouching!)

I am ready for a break in the humidity. That’s for sure.

All in all, another good race. As difficult as this race is, I will be back as many times as I possibly can.

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Red, White, and Blue Shoes 5k 2016 – Race Recap

Race #110
5k #43
Red, White, and Blue Shoes 5k #6

I came away from this race disappointed with my performance. After taking some time to revaluate, I can look at my performance and see where I still need to improve. I’m also beginning to think that my PR performance from 2014 is a bit of a fluke. I haven’t broken 22 minutes since then. I think I want to try; I’ll just have to start trying to fit in some track work and other short speedwork before I try again. I also might want to pick a race that’s not in the middle of summer.

Heading into this race I decided to focus once more just on form and not look at my watch at all. I also knew that I wanted to run fast, whatever that meant.

We arrived with just enough time before the start.

Red, White and Blue Shoes 5k 2016

Red, White and Blue Shoes 5k 2016

Red, White and Blue Shoes 5k 2016

I managed to squeeze in fairly close to the front and didn’t have any trampling issues this year, thankfully. It still is crazy crowded though. I’m not a fan but since I’ve decided to try for the Peachtree Road Race next year, I should probably get used to it.πŸ™‚

The weather was not my friend today. I think it was only marginally better than Atlanta where they ended up putting the weather alert up to red.

I had no idea how fast I was running but only a short ways into the race I could already feel the sweat pouring off me. It made me wonder if I would be able to keep it up for the rest of the day.

Fitness-wise I felt great but the heat definitely started to get to me mentally.

Mile 1: 7:04.5
(I don’t normally break it down to the tenths but that comes into play a little later.)

The next mile brought on the suffering. I felt drained and had no idea how I would possibly be able to make it through all three miles. I started to bribe myself with a short walk at mile 3. After all, this wasn’t an A race or anything.

Mental fitness is definitely something that I need to work on. It’s been a while since I’ve really pushed myself in a workout or race and I miss it. Like all parts of fitness, if you don’t use it, you lose it.

Mile 2: 7:04.6
Those splits. Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever had splits that nearly identical before. If I had kept that up for the last mile, I just might have gotten a PR and I definitely would have broken 22 minutes.

After I walked at the 2 mile mark, it was definitely easy to give in again. I started running about 30 seconds later and then had the hill behind McCalister and started thinking about walking again at the half mile mark. I should have pushed through. I really should have. It’s a 5k. There’s going to be pain. I definitely do not remember much about that mile except for the fact that I hated it.

Mile 3: 8:00

I made the turn to head downhill before the final turn into the stadium and tried to pour on a sprint. I got a little bit of it (average 6:30 for the last .1)

Final time: 22:49

I have to admit that I was disappointed with the time, mainly because I gave in and let myself walk. I can do better than that. I was also disappointed because instead of getting pictures, Ellis accidentally got Siri. (We’ve all done it.) I was upset then but some time away has helped me put it in perspective. I ran my fastest 5k time this year on a ridiculously hot and humid day with very little specific short speedwork.

Race Review

Registration and packet/bib pick up:
Registration through go-green was painless and easy as always. Mom and Ellis picked up the bibs and shirts so it’s hard for me to review that.

Race shirt:
I do not like these shirts at all. The one positive is that they seem to have gotten away from the Leslie Jordan tech ts. I have never liked those. The main problem that I have with these shirts is that they are white and almost completely see through. That may work for guys but about half of the people who ran the race were women, some of whom may not want their sports bras to be seen when they run.

Pre-Race/Race Morning amenities:
One really nice thing about the Furman staging of the race is the availability of indoor bathrooms. That is always appreciated.

Course:
This is a PR-able Furman course. If only they would use it in weather than doesn’t practically sweat you to death. It is fairly flat. There were plenty of course monitors. Furman University is beautiful setting for a race.

Course support:
I did not grab water at the one water stop positioned halfway through the race. Plenty of other people did, a lot of them throwing the water over their head in an effort to cool themselves off. For a 5k, one water stop is plenty.

Finish line and post-race amenities:
I love the finish on the football field. It’s a great spectator area with plenty of room for post-race festivities like a pie eating contest and foam pit and other things that I did not participate in. This race offers a lot.

Race photography:
I am sure that there were pictures taken at this event. At the time of initial publishing of this post, they had not been posted yet. However, I try to get my posts written as soon as possible after I run so that I forget as little as possible.:) I will update this section as soon as the pictures are posted. (Yes, this is exactly what I wrote for Sunrise. Still applies.)

Social media:
The GTC had several posts leading up to the race and a few on race day but as of 2:30pm on race day only three posts were on the page for the race: one about race day being here and two videos of the pie-eating contest. This is definitely a step up from the past but there’s still room for improvement.

Results:
A running friend of mind suggested this after reading my Sunrise 8k review. I think it’s a great idea and plan to incorporate it in subsequent reviews.
I love when a race director uses racemine because the results are available almost instantly. As soon as I climbed the stairs out of the stadium I looked up the results and could see that I had finished 5th in my age group and Mom had snagged 3rd Grand Masters. This is much appreciated.

I really love running this race on my birthday but will probably take a break from it next year to head down to Atlanta for the Peachtree Road Race 10k.

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Functional Training Week 4 Training Recap

This week showed me that I still have work to do to bring my fitness and body back up to peak racing shape. I say “back to” but in reality this may actually be the first time I’ve been in optimal peak racing shape thanks to the functional training.

Monday, June 20, 2016
I think my new easy pace is around 8:55-9:15. I am definitely not complaining. It does get difficult at times to remember the three tips for for so I’ll catch myself from time to time. Around the 45 minute mark my legs started to feel tired, fatigued. Thankfully (sarcasm alert) we had be biggest hill of our route right then. It actually did help me regain focus. Other than slight fatigue, I felt really good. I am contemplating chasing a birthday PR in two weeks.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016
I really enjoyed this ride. Everything seemed to come together and cooperate apart from the gym which insists for some reason on keeping it stuffy. Apparently they enjoy promoting heat stroke in their patrons. (I’m exaggerating but only slightly. 😊)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016
This run was crazy hard and I loved it. The pace on the first two tempo intervals turned out to be a little too tough for me to complete all four intervals at that pace. I had to go down about ten seconds. It is so much fun to push myself but also a little bit of a reality check. A birthday 5k PR might be a bit out of my teach. I also seems to have aggravated my left glute/IT band which had been bothering me a couple weeks ago. My trainer thinks that it’s likely due to the fact that my other muscles/body parts – in this case my IT Band – are compensating for the job that my glutes still aren’t doing. It’s comforting to have a game plan for fixing this.

Thursday, June 23, 2016
I think whatever that speed work triggered also made my lower back sore (this all feels reminiscent of where I was a few weeks ago so…that makes me feel like I’ve made almost zero progress) so I made sure to maintain good form in every exercise that we did. I also pushed myself as much as I could in each one. If it’s not at least a little bit hard, I’m not going to see any progress.

Friday, June 24, 2016
I wasn’t in the mood to have to rush to get ready for work so I shortened the run a bit. I’m also working on not obsessing about what I’m pretty sure is psychosematic “something” in my right calf/ankle. This run went really well. My form felt great. Everything felt good except for the gym keeping the inside temperature way too warm still. This was a good run.

Saturday, June 25, 2016
I had grand plans to get in 90 minutes on this run. (I realize that saying “grand” to refer to 90 minutes seems like a bit of overkill but on a day like this ended up being, it’s appropriate.) Fitness-wise, I felt great. It no longer feels as difficult to maintain the form tips I’ve been working on (lean forward, arms at 90, feet beneath me). The first twenty minutes or so felt pretty good. The temps were already creeping way too high. We learned our lesson. We can’t get started as late as we did if we want to get in long runs this summer. I felt decent until around thirty minutes in when we happened to be heading up a hill. The switch flipped and suddenly I felt like scrapping the whole run. Now my focus shifted to making it back to the start. I knew right then that adding a second out and back to make it to 90 minutes would be foolish. Somehow we made it back to the start. When we were about five minutes from being done Mom told me she was just going to walk the rest of the way back and I could go ahead. I kept plugging away with the plan to turn around when I got to the end of the sidewalk and then run until I met up with her. I should have known that Mom wouldn’t end up walking the rest of the route. She told me that when she looked at her watch she told herself that she could keep it up for five more minutes so we both ended up finishing about together. In the end, even with the walk breaks, we managed to snag a sub 9 minute pace (8:56). During the run I briefly considered whether I would have been able to make it longer if I had slowed my pace but I don’t think I would have. My effort level stayed easy thus confirming to me that my new easy pace is right around the 9 minute mark. The only thing that a slower pace would have done would have had me getting less distance. While I would have preferred to get in more distance, I am very pleased with this run. We made good calls all around and maintained a pretty good pace while we were at it.

Sunday, June 26, 2016
It definitely was the heat Saturday that kept me from running farther. I woke feeling great but made sure to stretch and complete ft (functional training) exercises as prescribed. Since I push hard on just about every other day in the week, I make a conscious effort to treat Sunday as a complete rest day.

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