Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Paradise Island 5K Race Recap

May 26, 2019

This was my second time running the Paradise Island 5K in Orange Beach, AL. I ran it back in 2017 just months after my knee arthroscopy. (Read my recap here)

I believe that was the inaugural year. It drew a big crowd then, but it's only gotten bigger since then. It's now part of the Run the Coast Summer Series which includes four races in the area starting in April and ending Labor Day weekend. Finishers of all four races get a jacket and a medal at the last race in series. I probably won't be able to complete the series this year due to conflicts with the 4th of July race, but maybe one day.

This race starts at the Orange Beach Sports Complex and runs along the paved Back Country Trails. I like running along the trails.

I hoped that I could improve my time from my last 5K in April. I only ran three two milers since then, so my expectations weren't very realistic. It struggled to stick with a routine of running while going to grad school. However, with graduation behind me on May 3rd, I had no excuse for not being better prepared for this race. It's just so hard when running is no longer a habit.

I took off way too fast during the first mile. I was pacing 8:45-8:50 min/mile for the first half mile or so and then I started to slow down. By the third mile I started to use my 2:00 run/:30 second walk intervals that are programmed on my Garmin.

When I made the final turn onto the soccer fields I could read 29 minutes on the clock. I wanted so badly to keep my time under 30 minutes, so I sprinted as fast as I could. I finished in 29:57.

Mile 1- 9:01
Mile 2- 9:37
Mile 3- 10:07
0.14- 1:10 (8:22 min/mi)

It was nice to see Mindy, Katie and her friend Ragan again. I chatted with them at the finish. Then, Michael and I spent the rest of the afternoon fishing.

Ragan, Me, Katie (@katieshepherd03), and Mindy (@roadrunnergirl)

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Jubilee 8K Race Recap

June 1, 2019

I put my name in a drawing for a free race entry for this race at the Montgomery Half/5K back in March, and I won! I couldn't believe it, I never win anything! I've run this race in the past when it was the Jubilee Run for Cancer benefitting the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life. This year the local running group reorganized it to support the Montgomery Police Department.

I hoped that I would be in better shape for this race. My last semester of grad school was tough, and running was put on the back burner. With graduation behind me on May 3rd I had a few weeks to prepare for this race, but I didn't. I ran a total of nine miles after graduation (three 2 mile runs and a 5K that I was also not prepared for). As much as I love running, it is hard to get back in a routine after so much time off. 

I knew this run was not going to be pretty. I knew it would be my slowest 8K race to date. I went anyway because (1) I didn't want the entry to go to waste, (2) I knew many of my friends would be there, and (3) I wanted to support the running group's efforts to reorganize this race for a good cause. 

My current 8K PR (43:35) is from this race in 2014.The 8K is not a common distance around here, so I don't get to race it very often. I knew that I wouldn't come anywhere even close to my PR at this race, but deep down I hoped to maintain 9 minute miles. That was a lofty goal! 

I took off like a flash at the start. I ran up the first hill thinking, "I've got this". My heart was beating out of my chest when I got to the top, so I stopped to walk and catch my breath. I caught my breath and starting running again. 

Then came the long climb up Dexter. I stopped to walk again. Another member of the local running group, Bridgett, asked me if I was using walk/run intervals. I replied, "I think so." I wasn't planning on it, but it was starting to look like that was my only way to get through it. I had 2:00 run/:30 walk intervals automatically set on my watch. I've maintained 9 minute miles using these intervals plenty of times before, so I decided I would use them during the race.

Climb up Dexter Ave
Alabama State Capitol Building
My first two miles went well. Despite the walk breaks I clocked 9 minute miles. I hoped I could maintain this pace.

Mile 1- 9:44
Mile 2- 9:53

Downtown Montgomery is known for its hills. I slowed down quite a bit on the rolling hills through the neighborhoods in the next two miles. Knowing that my goal was out of reach, I started to drag out my 30 second walk intervals into my run intervals. I was doing more walking than running. There's one more big hill in the last mile, but it's a long downhill stretch at the top to the finish line. I walked up the hill, but when I reached the top I ran downhill to the finish line. 

Mile 3-10:18
Mile 4-11:05
Mile 5-10:30

I finished in 51:35 (my slowest 8K to date). I was disappointed, but I also realized that I haven't put it the work to achieve faster times. I stuck around at the finish to visit with friends. When the results were posted I was surprised that I got 1st place in my age group. I guess that's a perk of smaller, local races. 

The age group awards were really nice!

River Region Runners

Firecracker 5K Race Recap

June 29, 2019

Michael and I spent a week in Gulf Shores, AL from June 20-30th. I checked several running sites to see if there were any runs in the area while we were down there, and this was the closest one. Pensacola is only about 45 minutes to an hour from Gulf Shores. I've run several runs in the area. The Ronald McDonald House Firecracker 5K was actually one that I've wanted to run for some time now. I've seen several of my Instagram friends from the area participate in past years. Proceeds from the race benefitted the Ronald McDonald House Charity of Northwest Florida.

I participated in the Streaking with the Cool Kids Run streak from June 1-30th to try to get back in a routine of running again. Many of my days consisted of 1.5 milers, but the streak motivated me to get out the door on days when I would rather stay on the couch. My last two 5K's weren't great. I did good to finish just under 30 minutes. I hoped that my consistency would pay off during this race.

I really enjoyed this course. We started at Seville Quarter, ran in front of the Pensacola Blue Wahoo's Stadium, looped around the Palafox Pier overlooking the water, and then made our way back to the quarter.

I maintained a pretty consistent pace. I walked briefly through both water stations, but other than that I ran the entire time. It was typical June weather for the south (hot and humid) so I didn't turn down the water. I felt stronger in this race than I've felt in a while. I finished in 27:31. It's not my best 5K, but I'm proud of it.

Mile 1-8:49
Mile 2-8:50
Mile 3-9:01
0.11-0:54 (8:02 min/mi)

They had cold, wet towels at the finish line and lots of refreshments. The watermelon was really good! We didn't stick around long because we wanted to get back and go fishing. 

Friday, January 4, 2019

Capitol 10 Miler Race Recap

November 17, 2018

It's been three years since I last ran the Capitol 10 Miler in downtown Montgomery, AL. I had a 10 mile long run on the training plan for the Mississippi Gulf Coast Half. I decided to sign up and treat this as a training run with a finisher's medal.

This year's race didn't draw the crowd that it has in the past years. There were 377 finishers in the 10 Miler versus 580 in 2015. They added the local Turkey Burner 5K to this year's event and partnered with Girls on the Run for the group's celebratory race. Proceeds benefitted the Alabama State Trooper Association, Centerpoint Fellowship, the Montgomery Area Food Bank, and Girls on the Run.

I didn't have any time goals for this race. I knew I wouldn't come close to my time of 1:34:11 in 2015. I hoped to maintain 10 minute miles and finish between 1:40-1:45. I was treating it as a training run after all, and deep down I didn't think I was capable of a better time.

I ran into several friends at the start line. The only friend I managed to get a picture with was Dee (deerenn). We met at the Montgomery Half several years ago, and it is always great to see her at local races.

Me and Dee (deerenn) rocking our Goodr glasses
It was a little chilly at the start, 39 degrees and cloudy. It warmed up quickly once the sun came out. They went over a few announcements, played the national anthem, and we were off promptly at 7:30.

The first two miles ran through mostly residential areas. We turned into Oak Park around 2.5 miles. We ran almost a mile through the park before turning onto Forest Avenue. I took a brief walk break through the first water station, but overall I was maintaining a consistent pace.

Mile 1- 9:16
Mile 2- 9:10
Mile 3- 9:07 

Oak Park entrance
Part of Forest Avenue ran over interstate I85 and there was a view of the Alabama State Hornets football stadium in the distance.

Alabama State Hornets football stadium
The next few miles were mostly through residential areas including Bankhead and Old Cloverdale with beautiful old historic homes. I ate a Honey Stinger waffle at the halfway point and walked through a few water stations. My pace was slowing down, but I was still clocking sub 10 minute miles.

Mile 4- 9:40
Mile 5- 9:27
Mile 6- 9:34
Mile 7- 9:54

I was really starting to wear down by mile 8. There were more rolling hills in the final miles of this course. I started using the 2:00 run/ 30 sec walk intervals that were already set on my watch. We passed by the Fitzgerald Home on Felder Ave just past mile 8.

Mile 8-10:32

F.Scott Fitzgerald's (author of The Great Gatsby) home
We ran past Alabama State University behind the football stadium. Then, we ran back up several more rolling hills, including the worst one on the course: the Hall Street Hill, before turning towards the finish at 9.5 miles.

Mile 9-10:22

Alabama State Hornets football stadium

The photographer may have caught me looking strong, but I was not feeling it with a mile left to go.

I walked up Hall Street Hill, but then I ran the remainder of the way to the finish. I saw my time on my Garmin creeping closer to 1:40, and I wanted to try my best to stay under that time. Even though my original plan was to finish between 1:40-1:45, my plans changed in the final minutes of this race when I realized I was capable of finishing faster.

Mile 10-10:14

My Garmin hit the 10 mile mark before I rounded the corner the the finish line. I don't argue with a certified course. I know it must have a been a result of me not running the tangents. When I saw the time on the clock hit 1:38, I suddenly felt rushed to get across. I sprinted the rest of the way to finish in 1:38:53. I ran the last stretch in an 8:24 pace. Where was that speed during the race?

Mile 0.12- 1:01 (8:24 pace)

I look tired at the finish line.
I was pleased with my performance and my runner's high lasted for the remainder of the weekend.  I wasn't very consistent with following the training plan for my upcoming half. I didn't think I was capable of maintaining a sub 10:00 minute pace over 10 miles due to lack of training.

I ran into Holly (hohoruns) at the finish line. We've done several local runs together and we both enjoy blogging. Although she keeps up with it better than I do. It was great to see her again.

Post-race photo with Holly (hohoruns)
I didn't stick around long after the race. I wanted to get home in time to watch the Bama game. Overall, this is a well organized race through historic downtown Montgomery. I would definitely run it again.

Alabama State Capitol Building
I love the finisher's medal!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Flora-Bama Make it to the Line 4 Mile Run Race Recap

December 29, 2018

This was my third time running the Flora-Bama Make it to the Line Run. I can't believe it's been four year since I last ran this race. Michael and I always go to the beach for our anniversary. This race usually falls on the same weekend, but it was earlier in 2015 and 2016. I thought about running it in 2017, but I wasn't prepared and I worried too much about my finish time. To be honest I was a little worried about it this year, but I finally talked myself into signing up just two days before the race. It's always a lot of fun and I would at least walk away with a cool t-shirt.

Post-race break in the rain
It rained the entire time we were at the beach. Race morning was no exception. Everyone stayed under cover inside the Flora-Bama until they announced it was time to make our way to the start line. The rain actually started slacking off during announcements and the National Anthem. By the time the race started, it had almost completely stopped.

There were about 400 participants between the 4 Mile Run, 4 Mile Walk, and 1 Mile Fun Run. The proceeds from this year's event benefitted the Secret Santa program to help local families in need with gifts at Christmas, clothing, food, etc.

I had no real time goal for this race. Deep down I hoped I could at least maintain a 9:00 min per mile pace and finish under 40 minutes. I knew I wouldn't come anywhere close to my current 4 mile PR of 33 minutes flat.

I had my 2:00 run/30 second walk intervals set on my watch, but I only planned to use them if needed. I wanted to see how far I could run without stopping. This is a flat, fast, down and back course along Perdido Beach Blvd.

I was shocked to run my first two miles under nine minutes. I walked briefly through the first water station at the halfway point. I knew the last two miles would be in the headwind, so it would be harder to maintain my pace.

My effort felt the same, but when I looked at my Garmin I could see my pace creeping over nine minutes. I wanted to give in and start walking, but I knew I would be disappointed if I did. I just tried my best to keep pushing.

I did stop to walk briefly through the last water stop with a mile left to go. I noticed my overall pace on my Garmin was still in the 8:50's. If I didn't walk anymore I could possibly finish under 36 minutes.

As I neared the finish line, I could read 35 minutes on the time clock. I sprinted as fast as I could to make it across before it changed to 36.  I finished in 35:45. While this was nowhere near my current PR, I was so proud of my performance. This was a time that I haven't seen in a long time, a time that I've felt like I wasn't capable of running anymore.

Mile 1- 8:53
Mile 2- 8:52
Mile 3- 9:12
Mile 4- 9:13

The Its Your Race timing crew did an awesome job timing this race. My results were ready to print almost immediately after I finished. I typed in my bib number and printed my results. I was really surprised to see that I placed 1st in my age division.

Michael and I stuck around for the post-race festivities and awards. They had free beer, pasta salad, red beans and rice, and wraps. They also had free massages, but I didn't get one.

Age Group Winners 30-34 (Yes, there were more than two of us in our division.)

I love the Tervis Tumblers this year!
This run is always a lot of fun. I hope it won't be another four years before I run it again.

Fiesta of Flags 10K Race Recap

May 5, 2018

Fiesta of Flags was another bucket list race that I checked off this year. I slacked off after my half in April and I only ran two times before this race. I debated for the longest whether to run the 5K or the 10K, but I finally settled on the 10K strictly because of the finisher's medal. I knew I was unprepared for the 10K, but I hoped I still had endurance left from my half less than a month ago. I wanted to finish under an hour.

Michael and I stayed at our family's condo in Gulf Shores, AL. Pensacola is about 45 minutes to an hour from there. The race started at 7:30. I was worried about race day logistics. I've never run a race that started and finished in two different locations. We left the condo by 5:00 to make sure that we had plenty of time to find parking, get my packet, and catch the shuttle to the start line.

There was plenty of parking at the Downtown Pensacola Parking area when we arrived. Packet pick-up was a breeze. I had some time to spare before catching the shuttle to the 10K start line at Pensacola State College. There were only porta-potties, but I made sure to use one while I was waiting for the shuttle. I didn't know what the bathroom situation would be at the start line.

The bus ride felt like it took forever, and I wondered if I made the right decision to run the 10K. There was a good crowd of runners already at the college when we arrived. I was hoping the buildings on campus would be open, so I could use a real bathroom before the race. Several runners were tugging on the doors to no avail. There were some porta-potties available, so I decided I should probably go one more time.

I ran into Kari (1beachteacher) at the start line. I met her at the Pensacola Half Marathon a few years ago. We talked about teaching and our upcoming races. It was great to see her again!

Me with Kari (1beachteacher)

Start line selfie

There were close to 1,000 participants between the 10K, 5K Run, and 5K walk. It was a typical day in May for the gulf coast...HOT! The sun was out in full force, and I could feel it beating down on me while waiting at the start line. It was 73 degrees, but it was only going to get warmer. They went over a few announcements, played the national anthem, and we were off.

I figured that I would run as much as I could before using my run/walk intervals. We reached a good size hill around mile 2. It reminded me of the hill at mile 8 in the Pensacola Half, and I assumed it was the same one. I didn't handle it as well as I did back then. I walked most of it to the top. Then I resumed running. After the hill, we were rewarded with a flat stretch along the beautiful canopy lined streets.

Beautiful canopy lined streets

I was pacing pretty steady for the first half. My wheels came off when we passed by the 5K start line. I was really starting to tire out and the heat was getting to me. I started using 2:00 run/ 30 second walk intervals at this point.

This was painted on the side of a building at the half-way point
We encountered another hill going over an overpass during mile 5. I walked the entire way up and clocked my slowest mile. We turned onto Palafox shortly after the climb. There were a lot of spectators in the downtown area cheering for us. This stretch reminded me of the final half mile during the Pensacola Half when I picked up speed because I didn't want to lose precious seconds
off my current PR.This race was a different scene. Even though the end was near, I was losing steam and having a hard time pushing myself knowing my goal of a sub 60 minute finish was out of reach.

I was still walking when the finish line at Seville Square came into view. Two women came up behind me and said, "Come on, we're almost there" as they passed me. There were so many spectators and people taking pictures. I didn't want to be seen walking this close to the finish, so I ran the remainder of the way. I finished in 1:02:12, one of my slowest 10K's to date. A part of me was disappointed, but I knew that my lack of consistency was to blame. I still had fun which is what matters most.

Mile 1- 9:19
Mile 2- 9:35
Mile 3- 9:15
Mile 4- 10:16
Mile 5- 10:54
Mile 6- 10:34
Mile 0.25- 2:24 (9:38 Pace)

Michael and I enjoyed the post-race festivities at Seville Square. They had free beer, pizza, and Jimmy John's sub sandwiches.

I love the finisher's medal!
This was another great race that lived up to it's reputation. I hope to run it again one day.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Azalea Trail Run 10K Race Recap

March 24, 2018

I've always wanted to run the Azalea Trail 10K in Mobile, AL. It finally worked out with my schedule to do it this year. We went to the beach for my Spring Break. Mobile is about an hour drive from my family's condo in Gulf Shores. The race started at  8:00, but I wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to find the Civic Center, park, and get my packet. We left between 5:30-6:00 on race morning. We had no trouble finding the Civic Center and there were plenty of places to park. However, it got crowded quickly.

I got my packet and browsed the small expo. I racked up at a local running store's booth. I got my first pair of Goodr sunglasses (which I wore for the race), a $98 Nike jacket for $23, Balega socks (buy 3, get 1 free), and a Brooks Run Happy tank.

Goodies from the expo

This is the largest 10K race that I've ever run. There were around 2,600 finishers in the 5K, 10K, and fun run combined. The race also attracts several elite runners. The race started near the Civic Center on the corner of Claiborne and Canal St. It was mass chaos at the start line. Police officers were yelling at the runners to stay on the sidewalk as cars were trying to get through the open course. I don't know how I ran into my friend West from back home in the crowd of people. He was running the 5K. We got a quick selfie before I lined up with the 10K runners. They made a few announcements, played the national anthem, and then we were off (right on time).

Me with my friend West

Start line selfie
I haven't run a 10K since the Shrimp Festival 10K in October 2016 when I ran my current PR (51:26). I knew I wouldn't run even close to that time at this race, but I was hoping to finish under an hour.  I planned to use 2:00 run/30 sec walk intervals in preparation for my upcoming half marathon.

The first mile was so crowded. I spend most of it weaving in and out of runners and trying to establish a comfortable pace. I didn't stop to walk at all during the first mile because I worried that I might get run over.

There were several Azalea Trail Maids on the course.
We turned onto Dauphin Street just before the first mile marker and ran straight along it for the next two miles. I loved looking at the beautiful historic homes and the azaleas in bloom. However, I started having flashbacks of the final miles of the First Light Marathon as I felt a slight twinge in my knee from the cambered roads. This didn't stop my from running a comfortable, steady pace.

I planned to use run/walk intervals before this point, but there was still a crowd of people around me when I reached the Mile 3 marker. I only stopped to walk briefly through the water stations.  I reached the third mile in 28:06, and I knew I didn't have much time to spare if I wanted to finish under an hour.

The crowd of runners at the Mile 3 marker

We turned onto Government Street around Mile 4. I could feel myself slowing down, and I considered using my run/walk intervals for the remainder of the race. I knew I didn't have much time to spare, and I would be disappointed if I missed a sub 60 by only a minute or two. As much as I felt like walking, I kept pushing.

The last mile was my fastest as I could sense my time creeping closer to an hour. I could see 57 minutes on the clock as I neared the finish line. I wanted to cross it before it reached 58 minutes. I crossed it in 57:40. While this was nowhere near my PR, I was so proud of my performance.

Mile 1- 9:32
Mile 2- 9:12
Mile 3- 9:08
Mile 4- 9:29
Mile 5- 9:14
Mile 6- 9:02
Mile .26- 2:03, 7:54/pace

There was a long corral of runners at the finish line to get timing chips removed. I thought we were supposed to get a commemorative coin, but I never saw any. Several other people were asking about them too. I finally found Michael in the crowd and we walked down the block to the Civic Center for the post-race party.

They had free beer, red beans and rice, and fruit at the post-race party. I was surprised to see my friend Andy from back home in the crowd. She's on the master's swim team with me. I missed the last few practices, so I had no idea she was running this race with her daughter. It was great to see her.

Me with my friend Andy 

We didn't stick around long after the race because we wanted to get back and enjoy some more time at the beach before heading home on Sunday. This race definitely lived up to its reputation and I would love to run it again sometime.