Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Mississippi Gulf Coast Half Marathon Race Recap

 December 9, 2018

The Mississippi Gulf Coast Half Marathon was my first Mississippi race. Many of my friends were planning to run this race. It looked like a lot of fun, so I decided to sign up. Biloxi is about a 3 1/2 hour drive from home. The half was on a Sunday, so Michael and I drove over Saturday morning. We stayed at the Beau Rivage which was directly across the street from packet pick-up and the finish line at the MGM Ball Park. It was nicely decorated for Christmas.

It rained all day Saturday. We checked in the hotel and walked over to packet pick-up which was held inside a big tent. I really like the "swag" for this race. Participants got a cute race themed draw string bag with zipper compartments. The t-shirt and medal were nice too. The race theme is "Soak Up the Run". Other race merchandise was available to purchase. I bought a tank top and Boco Gear Visor.

We spent most of afternoon resting in our room. We watched the Heisman trophy presentation. This was the year Kyler Murray won. We were pulling for  Bama's quarterback Tua Tugovailoa. After the trophy presentation we went downstairs for dinner. We didn't want to get out in the cold and rain to go anywhere. I just ordered a pizza from a bistro at the hotel. It wasn't the best. The sandwiches we had at lunch from the bistro were better. Afterwards I laid out my things for race morning and settled in for the night.

This is a point to point race. The half marathoners start in Gulfport and finish at the MGM Stadium. There was a shuttle bus across the street from the Beau Rivage hotel on race morning to take runners to the start line. I caught the shuttle around 6:00 or 6:15. 

There was a long line for the porta potties at the start line and I feared that I wouldn't be able to go one last time before the race started at 7:00. Luckily I got in and out with about five minutes to spare. I saw most of my friends at the start line. We were able to get a quick picture.

The weather was high 40's and cloudy with periods of light rain. I slacked off with my training for this race, so I didn't have high expectations. My longest run was a ten mile race three weeks before race day. Based on the ten miler I thought I was capable of a 2:10-2:15 finish. I planned to have fun and take pictures on the course.

Run Forrest Run!

Most of the course ran alongside the bay. It is a flat, fast course. It was a little crowded for the first few miles, but there was plenty of room to get around people. I ran for the first 3-4 miles to get out of the crowd. Then I started using run/walk intervals. There were lots of fun photo ops on the course. 

Ainsley's Angels on course in front of the Beauvoir, the Jefferson Davis Home

My left knee started hurting around the half way point. My right knee has always been the one to give me problems and it didn't really bother me after my surgery. I blamed it on the cambered roads. I tried to run in the middle of the road during my run intervals and get over during my walk intervals to let others pass. 

We approached the lighthouse in town between miles 10-11. Then came an interesting change in elevation. After 10 or so miles of pancake flat roads we climbed up the I-110 corridor. We passed the backside of the MGM Stadium where other runners had already finished and were celebrating. I was really starting to wear down mentally and physically at this point. I walked a lot during the last three miles. We climbed up one side of the road, turned, and ran back down the other side toward the stadium.

I saw Michael outside of the stadium as I made my final turn toward the finish. I finished in 2:17:59.


Another perk of this race was free race photos. Although mine were not that great 😄

Mile 1- 9:39
Mile 2- 9:34
Mile 3- 9:44
Mile 4- 10:19
Mile 5- 9:48
Mile 6- 10:12
Mile 7- 10:33
Mile 8- 10:34
Mile 9- 10:25
Mile 10- 10:57
Mile 11- 11:22
Mile 12- 11:32
Mile 13- 11:16
.20 Miles- 10:32

We hung out at the finish line for about thirty to forty-five minutes. I enjoyed chatting with friends and taking some post race pics. Des Linden was going to hand out medals to the marathon finishers later. It would have been awesome to meet her. 

Biloxi Shuckers Mascot

It was great to see Rick and Jodi at the finish line.
They flew past me on the course. I think Jodi PR'd this race.

Me and Valerie

Jenny, Valerie, Me, and Katie

This race was a lot of fun. I enjoyed everything about it: the cute "swag", the flat course with the exception of the last few miles, and the awesome post-race party. I would love to run it again one day.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Kaiser Coastal Half Marathon Race Recap

November 30, 2019

Michael signed me up for the Run the Beach Series for my birthday. I was supposed to run the series in 2017, but I was only able to complete one of the three half marathons due to my knee injury and surgery. The past two years I talked about signing up for the series again and finishing what I started.

In previous years the Kaiser Coastal Half was the final race in the series. However, this year they rearranged the order of the events making this half the first race, Big Beach in January the second race, and Sea Turtle in February the third and final race of the series. I like this arrangement better because there isn't a nine month wait between races. 

Orange Beach is a little over a three hour drive from our hometown. We drove down after lunch on Thanksgiving Day. Michael wanted to go straight home after the race to make it back in time to watch the Iron Bowl game. The Iron Bowl is a big deal for Alabama and Auburn football fans. (Hence my race day attire 😉) Roll Tide! 

Alabama weather is so unpredictable. I ordered some capris to wear for this race, but it ended up being too hot. It was 66 and sunny at the start of the race and nearly 80 degrees by the time I finished. 

This race starts and ends at the Orange Beach Sports Complex. The course is mostly along the paved Back Country Trails. However, there is about a mile long stretch along Beach Road around the halfway point. There were close to 300 runners for the half marathon. There was a 5K race as well. 

I ran into my friend Krystal at the start line. She was signed up for the Run the Beach series too.

I didn't have a specific time goal for this race, but I hoped to improve my time from the Iron Horse Half in September. I thought I had a good chance to better my time since this was a flat, fast course. I didn't take the heat and humidity into account.

Krystal and I ran together for most of this race. I planned to run the first few miles to get out of the crowd and start my run/walk intervals after the 5K point. Big Mistake! We started out entirely too fast and I was already worn down by the time I started my intervals. 

   Thank you StreetSafari for the free race photos! They captured this photo of me early in the race before the wheels fell off.

It warmed up quickly. There was little to no shade for most of the race. I'd say miles 5 to 10 were full sun. I was so glad that I decided against the capris. 

I was really slowing down by the time we reached Beach Road near the halfway point. I extended my walk breaks into my run intervals. I was starting to clock 11 minute miles. I put all time goals aside at that point. I just wanted to finish.

Krystal was starting to pull away and I told her to go on without me. I didn't want to slow her down. Eventually Krystal was out of sight. I was happy for her. 


With a little over a mile to go I saw Krystal stopping to stretch up ahead. I eventually caught up to her. Her lower legs and feet were starting to cramp up. I felt bad for her because she was running so strong up to that point. She asked the next aid station for some mustard, but they didn't have any. We stuck together for the remainder of the race. As we made the final turn to the finish line we agreed to run the rest of the way.

Photo credit: StreetSafari Photos

 Photo credit: StreetSafari Photos

We finished in 2:21:25. 

Mile 1- 8:47
Mile 2- 8:53
Mile 3- 9:29
Mile 4- 9:53
Mile 5- 11:05
Mile 6- 10:26
Mile 7- 11:32
Mile 8- 11:20
Mile 9- 11:03
Mile 10- 11:30 
Mile 11- 11:55
Mile 12- 11:32
Mile 13- 11:56
0.21 Miles- 10:41

I was disappointed in my time. However, it was motivation to work hard to improve at Big Beach in January. I also hoped the weather would be cooler by then.


Besides the unseasonably hot temperatures, I really enjoyed this race. I would love to run it again one day. The post-race food looked good, but Michael and I didn't have time to stick around. I took a few post-race photos, said good-bye to Krystal, and we hit the road. 

We stopped at a drive-thru for lunch and pulled in the drive way at home just in time for kick off at 2:30. Unfortunately Alabama lost by a field goal. The final score was 48-45.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Iron Horse Half Marathon Race Recap

September 22, 2019

My friend Valerie mentioned this race to me in January. She has a 50 states goal. I don't have a 50 states goal, but I would love to run the southern states. The Iron Horse Half Marathon was my first Kentucky race. Kentucky was so much prettier than I imagined. I would love to run another race there one day.

The Weekend

Kentucky is about a seven hour drive from my hometown in Alabama. Michael and I took off work to travel on Friday. We arrived in Kentucky late Friday afternoon. We went straight to packet pick-up at John's Run Walk Shop in Lexington, KY. Packet pick up was quick and easy. We caught it at a good time. The race was on Sunday, so I figured most people would get their packets on Saturday.

After packet pick-up we checked in our hotel. We stayed at the Fairfield Inn in Frankfort which was about a ten minute drive to the start line in downtown Midway. Midway is a small town between Frankfort and Lexington. Other than a few Airbnb's there weren't many lodging options in Midway.



Michael and I only had time to tour one distillery this trip. We wanted to watch the Alabama vs Southern Miss game at 11:00. Most of the distilleries closed around 4:00-5:00, so we didn't have time to visit any after the game was over.

We got up early Saturday morning to tour the Buffalo Trace Distillery Buffalo Trace is where the finest Kentucky bourbons are made. The grounds were so pretty. We went in one of the warehouses where barrels were being stored/aged. Then we went in the bottling room where workers were preparing hundreds of bottles of Buffalo Trace Bourbon. The smell of alcohol was really strong in the bottling room. I don't know how the workers can work in there all day, but I guess they get used to it after a while.

Bottling Buffalo Trace Bourbon

Pappy Collection

We left the distillery in just enough time to run through the drive-thru at Dairy Queen near the hotel before the game. Alabama handled Southern Miss with a final score of 49-7. After the game we stopped at several liquor stores around town in search of rare bourbon. For a state known for its distilleries, the bourbon selection in Kentucky was a big disappointment for Michael. 

On our way to dinner we passed by Liberty Elementary School. An ordinary elementary school to some, but as an educator I immediately recognized it as the school where comedian Gerry Brooks was once a Principal. I love his humor! I got a picture of the school while stopped at a red light. This was the highlight of my evening!

We ate at a Johnny Carino's Italian Restaurant in Lexington before heading back to the hotel. I laid out my things for race morning and got to bed at a decent time.

Race Day

Valerie and her husband Paul were staying at the same hotel. They were kind to let me ride with them to the start line on race morning. Michael slept in, but he met me later at the finish line. The race was scheduled to start at 7:00. They moved the start time up from 7:30 because this year's race coincided with the Midway Fall Festival in town. 

There was plenty of parking in a field near the start line. It was pitch black as the time neared 7:00. The race directors made a last minute decision to delay the start until 7:15 when the sun was beginning to come up.  I'm glad they made that decision because I was beginning to worry about starting in the dark.

The photographer got a shot of Valerie and me at the start of the race. She was way ahead of me the remainder of the race.
It was a little chilly at the start, but it warmed up quickly. It was 66 degrees and sunny for most of the race. This was a figure eight course alongside farm houses and horse pastures. The first down and back  stretch (Miles 1-7) consisted of mostly gently rolling hills and some flat stretches. The last down and back stretch (Miles 8-13) was more a bit more challenging with bigger hills and less flat stretches.


I used 2:00 run x :30 second walk intervals for the first half of the race. When I reached the more challenging hills in the second half of the course I walked up hill and ran down hill. It was really difficult to stick with my original run/walk strategy.


I didn't have a time goal for this race. I planned to enjoy the scenery and take pictures on the course. It was so amazing watching the horses run in the pastures alongside us with their manes blowing in the breeze. 


The course seemed to level out around 12.5 miles and I planned to run the remainder of the race. There was a surprise hill at the end of the race before making the final turn toward the finish line. It wasn't a long hill but it was really steep. One of the volunteers on the course said, "Come on you got this, It's the last hill." I laughed as I walked up.

I finished in 2:19:56. 

Mile 1- 9:47
Mile 2- 9:52
Mile 3- 9:43
Mile 4- 9:30
Mile 5- 10:34
Mile 6- 11:14
Mile 7- 10:07
Mile 8- 10:42
Mile 9- 11:49
Mile 10- 10:43
Mile 11- 11:27
Mile 12- 11:33
Mile 13- 10:51
0.19 Miles- 10:57/pace

It was pretty congested at the finish line, but it didn't take long to spot Michael in the crowd. He was standing with Valerie, Paul, and their son.  We got a couple of post-race pictures then said our goodbyes.

Valerie and Paul were going to walk around the festival in town before heading home. I would have loved to look around, but Michael and I both had to go back to work the next day. We went back to the hotel so I could shower quickly before hitting the road. 


I loved this race and would run it again if the opportunity arose. If you're looking for a Kentucky race I would highly recommend the Iron Horse Half Marathon. The course was challenging, but the scenery was well worth it.