Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Rock & Roll Half Marathon Recap

Caught by the paparazzi!
The night before my race mornings begin something like this: go to bed around 10 pm,  wake up five times before my alarm goes off, and go pee at least 4 times through the night. Then in the morning I lay in bed and check FB, eventually drag myself out of bed wondering why I even signed up for this, brush my teeth and wash my face, make my coffee after getting dressed, pack up for the trip still wondering why I registered for this, eat something small, and with everything in hand try to quietly stumble out the door. Only in those instances, the night before and morning of the race, do I wonder WHY!

Sometimes I catch myself wondering why I continue to run the races somewhere between the middle and end of the race, but at Rock & Roll I did not. I love running in downtown St, Petersburg, FL. Remember when you were a child and your parent(s) would get crazy if you went out in the road. Now, I get to run in the roads and my Mom, family, and friends even cheer me on! Once my potty issues were resolved I made my way to the start line with some amazing Suncoast Strider athletes, many with a PR (personal record) in mind. The St Pete Rock & Roll half had no hairpin turns, had a few corners, and only a couple bumps in the road. We ran a PR style course.

With 4000+ runners and walkers there were enough corrals to reach the Gulf of Mexico, but I started in #2 with a few of my closest Strider friends. We all chit chatted about our aspirations for the course, mine being that if I felt good then I would try for a sub-1:50 (a PR). Part of me wanted to try and stick with my buddies, like any other running day, but this was not what happened out on those streets.

My decision to make sure I warmed up and to run a moderate paced race was exactly what my body needed last Sunday. It took about a mile to warm up my right hammy, which seemed to not want to be active at all. I was able to motivate others along the course, which in turns motivates me. Do you think about something while you run, bike, or exercise? I do not and never have been able to focus on anything long enough to justify it as thinking. Every once in a while I have a passing thought of something or someone - mostly someone, but for the majority of the time I am out there breathing heavily, throwing one foot in front of the other, my mind is quiet - listening for that still, small voice. This is how I spent about 1:40 of my race, completely enjoying the scenery and music.

Music is a language of the soul, which is something my Dad always reminded me. Every stage played music I knew, taking me back to different points in my life. I went through the rolodex of memories of my Mom raising nine children on her own, my Dad guiding me through difficult life events, my only sister not knowing she was as beautiful as she always has been, a few of my brothers battling for the position of patriarch and other brothers being playful siblings, my own children unconditionally loving me, and my husband and his sometimes overbearing work ethic. Don't you love how music can bring about appreciation for our past?

My brother & I after his finish!
After I finished the race in 1:51:13 I turned back before leaving the finish line shoot to look for friends. Knowing my friends were still out on the course kept me there and provoked some cheering out of me. I worried about my friend Christina and waited for her, meeting her at the line I grabbed the medal from the volunteer and put it around my friend's neck to let her know how much I admired what she just did. She struggled and pushed through a race that was not ideal in her mind. After making sure she made it to the "S" reunion area I went back for my brother Aaron. He turned the corner at about 1/3 of a mile out, stopped to stretch his legs and saw me. His legs were tightening up, but I told him he could do it and to just put one foot in front of the other. He kept moving but wanting to stop. He explained the pain as a million screaming babies. Continuing to tell him not to stop we ran through the finish line. I was so excited that I do not even remember what his time was, but found out later that he made a 7 minutes and 7 second PR for his half marathon. WOW!!

I know some people would think that the free Sean Kingston concert could be the highlight of the morning, but for me it was not as important as being there for my family and friends on the streets of St Pete. After the running, cheering, and dancing I NEVER wonder why I get myself into all of this.

Christina, Me, and Kim..the three amigas!!

"Remember the feeling you get from a good run is far better than the feeling you get from sitting around wishing you were running." 
-Sarah Condor

Thank you to my family and Strider friends for making life more enjoyable!!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Best Damn Recap

Best Damn mismatched gloves
I noticed that there were a lot of bloggers and Striders running this race only after I finished. I must have been in la-la land during the week approaching this adventure. I have a habit of not researching the race course - I have my brother Aaron for that. He likes to dump things on my like "This course has hills!" with a roll of the eyes. Had he not mentioned this little known fact to me I may have bolted off the line and beat my legs to death within 2 miles. Thank you Aaron for saving me 11 miles of agony.

My daughter, a Strider runner and cheer professional (lol), decided at the last minute (5:25 a.m.) not to come with me, which allowed me to jam to whatever I "damn" well pleased on the way to Safety Harbor Resort & Spa. Picked up my packet after some circling for a parking space. Warm up job to get my bib & chip, found a few friends and chatted about our strategies, and used the potty too many times to count.

The Best Damn first half of the year for me - my goal is to run 13 half marathon during 2013, which is also being done by a few friends. It is not too late to start this journey for any who finds themselves called to join. The more the merrier! All set to take off, Christina, Josh, and I started slow to warm up the muscles. There are some races that will put you in a stupor in the first 4 miles and this one - with all its hills - was attempting to pull me down. All three of us began to struggle by the third mile. Little complaints began to pop up over and above Josh's whining about not being able to work his Garmin like a teenage girl. Haha. We were constantly questioned about our pace, because HE wanted to try for a PR - ON HILLS!

When we came upon the four mile marker I thought, 'No way we have ONLY run four miles!' and wanted to turn around right there. Sometimes you find yourself running with others who may be struggling, as well as yourself, and you can make one of two choices: get pulled down and feel terrible for the next couple hours - OR - you can decide that you are stronger than that and pull your torso upright, take a deep breath, and think this is going to be an Awesome training run. I chose the latter. I kept me eye on the pace to stay under 2 hours for my friends, called Christina's name multiple times, and threw pace times at Josh to keep him subdued. Through the woods and over the hills we went on our journey.

The scenery on the course was beautiful and challenging, the volunteers were blessings (even those who needed more at their water stations), and I spent just under two hours with a few of my closest friends along Tampa Bay. After the last water stop I lost sight of my running buddies, but knew they were close behind me. and coming up to the turn for the finish line sprint, I had the joy (as can be seen in the pic above) of being cheered on by my Strider family and my sister. There is something invigorating about having people yelling at you like you can understand what they are saying, other than to GOOOO!

I bolted and as I entered the shoot I hear a man's voice say my name. I turned and saw one of my many older brothers (Eric) standing next to my Mom yelling at me to run faster. Oh the joy and what a perfect way to end 13.11 awesome miles in 1:52. I turned and waited for my friends to congratulate them on a stellar performance. They pushed through despite the hills and the physical and mental struggles they encountered. Despite not getting a PR, we all pushed through those tough spots and made that CHOICE to continue and give it our all until we crossed that blue mat with our arms raised high in triumph!!

Shawn, Rachel (sis), Me, Amber, and Aaron (brother)
The food and after party was spectacular. Being vegetarian/vegan there are usually not many foods I will consume at post race parties. I do make off with loads of bananas though. The Best Damn after party served Jimmy Johns vegetarian sandwiches and I thought, 'Oh man, this has to be the best post race spread I have seen since becoming vegetarian!' I usually eat a lot of fruit right after and then go home starving. Only one thing that was missing at The Best Damn race - my husband and kids!!

My challenge to you is to analyze your choices, make it, and ACT right away. It is how I was able to have a Best Damn run with some Damn good friends!! We are stronger than we think we are!!

Next on my schedule is the Rock & Roll half this coming Sunday in downtown St Pete - another place I love to run...stay tuned for what I hope to be a spectacular race!