Friday, July 31, 2015

Color the Smokies 5K Race Recap

July 25, 2015

I ran the Beat the Band 5K the night before and this was the second race of the Sevier County race weekend special. Proceeds from the Color the Smokies 5K Color Fun Run would benefit the Sevier County Children's Shelter, an organization that supports the local juvenile system to provide a safe haven for children as a short term solution while parents or guardians are in custody.

This run started and finished at the Teaster Parking Lot behind the Island shopping center in Pigeon Forge. They gave us a bag of color with our packet and additional color could be purchased for a small charge. They did two color blasts before the 8:00 start, one at 7:40 and the other at 7:50.

Michael snapped some pictures during and after the color blasts. I had color up my nose and in my mouth.


The course was a down and back scenic route that ran alongside the creek. There were three color blasts on course, but we went through each one twice for a total of six. I took it easy on this run since it was just for fun and it wasn't chip timed. My legs felt heavy and tired from the night before. I don't see how people run back to back half marathons or a half marathon and a full the next day. I guess it's all in what your body gets used to, but I prefer a rest day before and after a race.

We didn't stick around long after the race, because I needed to get back and get showered before we headed back home.  I had a great time at this race and I'm glad I was able to participate. It was a fun way to end the trip!

Beat the Band 5K Race Recap

July 24, 2015

Michael and I spent the week in Gatlinburg. He told me that I could look for a run to do while we were there. I looked on and I came across this run and the Color the Smokies run. By the time I saw the runs the registration fees were up to $40-$45 dollars a piece. I checked the Color the Smokies Facebook page and they were offering a back to back weekend special. Both runs for $50. It was such a great deal that I just had to do both.

The first of the two runs was the Northview Academy Beat the Band 5K in Kodak, TN. The proceeds from this run would go towards purchasing new band uniforms. Being a former band member myself, I know the amount of time I spent working car washes and fundraising to raise money for our new coveralls and plumes.

I believe this was a first annual run, but I couldn't tell because it was so well organized. This run was top notch! There were right at 100 participants. Most of the participants were band members and their friends and family. I think I may have been the only person from out of town.

This run started at 8:00 at night, but the sun wouldn't set for another hour and it was still very warm out.  The course was a double loop around the parking lot. There was one major hill that we had to run up twice. Two local churches volunteered at the water stations. With the double loop, it made a total of four stops for water. The local fire department had two trucks set up and they had the hoses sprinkling water for the runners to run through as they passed. They did everything possible to keep us hydrated and cool during this race.

I went out too fast on the first mile and quickly realized that I wouldn't be able to maintain that pace when I reached the big hill the first time around. I ran halfway up before stopping to walk the rest of the way. I'm not used to this elevation back home. Just before Mile 2, I passed a few other females and was positioned second female overall. I was gaining on the first female during the final mile, but I stopped to walk the big hill the second time. I figured I could walk the hill at the same pace I could run it. I took several walk breaks on the final mile and the first female was widening her lead on me. We made one loop around the track before crossing the finish on the 50 yard line of the school's football field. They announced my name when I crossed the finish, which I thought was really cool. I don't remember having my name announced like that at a 5K.

Mile 1- 8:15
Mile 2- 9:13
Mile 3- 9:45
I finished in 27:54. The first female was really nice and congratulated me on a great run. I returned the compliment. She was a fast runner and she handled the hills like a pro.
They had the concession stand open with free popcorn and sno cones after the race. The timing crew was the quickest I've seen with tabulation. They had the results ready for the awards ceremony within 15 minutes of the last person finishing.
They awarded the top male and female finishers, which put me in first place for my age division. They also had some great door prizes from their local sponsors including hats, t-shirts, water bottles, restaurant gift certificates, and gift baskets with merchandise from the Old Mill. I received one of the gift baskets with biscuit and pancake mix, grits, and syrup. We gave it to my mother-in-law for keeping the animals while we were gone.
To close the evening, they shot off fireworks. They went all out on this run and ended the night with a bang.

Lulu's Hot Trot for the ARC 5K Race Recap

June 20, 2015

Michael and I were spending the weekend at the beach with friends. I saw this run was taking place at Lulu's, so I signed up. Lulu's Hot Trot for the ARC  was a 5K run/ walk and 1 mile fun run to benefit the Association of Retarded Citizens of Baldwin County.

This race definitely lived up to its name, because it sure was hot! It was a down and back course that ran through the back roads of Lulu's. The sun was beating down and there was very little shade on the course. I started out with a good, consistent pace. I skipped the first two water stops. By the third mile, my mouth was starting to feel dry and it was hard to breathe. I took several walk breaks and my pace slowed significantly.

Mile 1- 8:19
Mile 2- 8:18
Mile 3- 9:53
I finished in 28:34. They had wet towels and showers at the finish line. I took advantage of both.
The post race party was great! They had homemade cookies and fresh fruit: bananas, oranges, strawberries, and blueberries. They also had red beans and rice and free beer. I was too hot to indulge in the red beans and rice, but Michael enjoyed my helping. It was a fun morning for a great cause.

Jubilee Run for Cancer 8K Race Recap

May 16, 2015

This was my second year running the Jubilee Run for Cancer. The proceeds from this run benefit the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life organization. This event is held to celebrate life, encourage survivors to continue fighting, and honor those who lost their brave battle with this disease.

I like this run for the 8K distance because it is not offered around here that often. I also like to participate in any local run that benefits cancer organizations. Cancer has impacted so many families including my own. I've lost my brother and both of my grandmothers to cancer, and my mom and grandfather are both survivors.

I was not consistent with my runs during most of April and the first half of May. I had gotten out of the habit of running early before school. Most afternoons I stayed late at school, and on the afternoons that I didn't stay late I was too tired to run. I didn't run all week leading up to this race and it wasn't the first week I skipped running completely. I realized during this race how much that time off was starting to affect me.
It was a hot, sunny day. This course was very challenging to me. It ran through downtown Montgomery and there were several hills. I wanted to do as well or better than I did at last year's race. I started out at a fast pace thinking I could maintain it like I had last year. I encountered the first hill at 1.5 miles. I started out running up it, but it wasn't long before I stopped to walk.
Mile 1- 8:52
Mile 2- 9:07

I walked every hill after the first one. Then, I ran a little and walked a little. I felt like I did when I first started running. I couldn't run longer any more than a minute or two before I felt like I needed to walk. I never got in a rhythm with my breathing and I felt winded.

Mile 3- 10:21
Mile 4- 10:00
I was struggling and I guess I wasn't hiding it very well. Just before the last mile a lady and her daughter ran past me. The lady asked me if I was ok and she offered me a Cliff Shot. I've never tried those, so I thanked her but declined her offer.  We ran out of a residential area and came back out on the main road.
There was one final hill before the down hill stretch the finish. I ran across the street and to the bottom of the hill and then proceeded to walk my way up to the top. The same lady and her daughter were right beside me and the lady said, "Don't let this old lady beat you." I don't know why that motivated me, but it did. I ran to the top of the hill and raced down the other side to the finish line.

I ran the last mile in 8:11. My finish time was 46:24, almost three minutes slower than my previous year's time. I shouldn't have expected a PR with so much time off of running. With running, like with anything in life you get out of it what you put into it. I had not devoted my time to it like I had in the past and it showed.
Mom and I participated in the one mile memorial walk after the 8K race.


When we got back the results were posted. There were several other runners who finished well ahead of me, so I wasn't expecting to place. To my surprise, I got second in my age group.


AGAPE Run for a Mom 5K Race Recap

May 9, 2015

This was my fourth year running the AGAPE Run for a Mom. This run is another favorite for my mom and me. We'll run it every year that we are able.

AGAPE Run for a Mom takes place each year on Mother's Day Weekend. Proceeds from this run help assist women facing crisis pregnancies and find forever homes for children. Many of the participants dedicate this run to their mothers or other special women in their lives. This race has grown over the years attracting several hundred participants.

My former co-worker and friend, Mrs. B had just started her running journey earlier this year. She ran the Joy to Life 5K in April and she was hooked. I told her about this run, and she texted me the night before to tell me that she had signed up. I saw her before the race, and she told me she was going to run this race in memory of her mom.

She had me in tears when I walked away because I can't imagine my life without my mom. My mom has always been my best friend. I tell her everything, which isn't always a good thing. I love having her to confide in and trust. Running has brought us even closer over the past few years giving us a common interest to share. She encourages me to achieve dreams I never thought possible.

It was a warm, sunny day for the race. The course runs through a residential area with beautiful houses. There's a few gradual inclines, but no major hills on this course. I started out too fast and slowed with each mile.
Mile 1- 8:03
Mile 2- 8:25
Mile 3- 8:49
My official time was 26:35, a little slower than last year but only by a few seconds.
I met my dad and Michael at the finish line and waited for my mom and Mrs. B to finish. Mrs. B came in at 29 minutes. I was so proud of her! It was only her second 5K and she ran a sub 30! It took me almost a year to do that.
My mom came in not long after Mrs. B. We enjoyed the post race food including Chick Fil A chicken biscuits. Then, we waited on door prizes and the results to be posted. It wasn't long before we noticed the crowd gathering at the results tent. I wasn't expecting to place because I was passed on the course by several women who I suspected were in my age division. I was more concerned about Mrs. B's results because I felt certain she had won her age division. We looked up her age division on the sheet and sure enough her name was first on the list. She was shocked! Tears started to fill her eyes. She cried,  "I did it for Mama! Thank you Mama!"
Her emotion was so familiar to me because I've experienced it in my runs that I've dedicated to my brother Raymond. When you run in memory of someone, their presence is with you the entire time. The smallest things become a reminder of them: a breeze, a butterfly, a person in the crowd, a song on your playlist. You feel closer to that person for a moment in time and you wish the moment would never end. It's a feeling that I have a hard time putting into words, but the best way I can describe it is uplifting and inspirational. 

I went back to check my results after congratulating Mrs.B. I was surprised to see that I also placed first in my age division. The woman who won Mom's age division ran faster than both me and Mrs.B. I've said it many times her age group is always super competitive.

Mrs. B and me with our awards

Have you ever dedicated a run to someone you love? How would you describe your experience?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Gulf Coast Half Marathon Pensacola, FL Race Recap

April 12, 2015
I had four weeks to prepare for this race after the Montgomery Half. I lost a lot of valuable training time while I was sick for three weeks in March. I hoped to get back on schedule and regain some fitness and speed. I did three long runs of 8, 10, and 11 miles on the three weekends before this race.
This is the second half marathon in the Gulf Coast Half Marathon series. The race is capped at 2,500 participants. It is a flat, fast course which runs along the beach. My current PR is from the Gulf Coast Half in Pensacola. I was really hoping for a new PR this year. Deep down I really wanted a sub 2:00, but I knew that probably wouldn't happen with so much training lost.
This race was on a Sunday, so we got up Saturday morning to make the drive down to Pensacola Beach. It took about four hours to get there from here. Our first stop was in downtown Pensacola at Running Wild to pick up our packets. Packet pick-up was quick and easy. They had a small expo at the store with sales on clothing, shoes, and running accessories. They had some great deals on shorts, but there weren't many left in my size. My mom got a few new running tops.
After getting our packets, we made the short drive to Pensacola Beach. It's a small peninsula outside of downtown Pensacola. We stayed at the Hampton Inn located right next to the Casino Beach public parking lot, where the race would start. It was so convenient being right next to the start at last year's race. We got a room with a balcony overlooking the water at a better rate this year since we booked early.
We ate lunch at Crabs, We Got Em located right next to the hotel. After lunch our room was ready for check in. We got unloaded, and Dad wanted to rest a while. Mom and I didn't want to nap and not sleep well later that night, so we walked around the boardwalk shops across the street. When we got back we sat on the balcony overlooking the water. People were setting up chairs for a wedding. I love beach weddings. We watched the whole thing from our balcony.
Later that evening, we went back to the boardwalk to find something to eat for supper. We settled on a pizza place. I don't remember the name, but it was delicious. Then, we played putt putt at the small course by the hotel. We went back to the hotel afterwards to get settled in for the night.
Mom and I applied for Half Fanatics the afternoon after the Montgomery Half. We were accepted that same day. We ordered our race singlets and even had time to get our numbers monogrammed on them before this race. I was so excited for my first race as a half fanatic!
I wore the singlet on a shorter run and it felt fine for the race. I ordered the skirt from Running Skirts and it didn't arrive until Thursday afternoon. I debated whether to break the rule of nothing new on race day. It matched my singlet perfectly! I ran in the same brand Running Skirt before, but not for anything longer than a 5K. It was fine for the 5K, maybe it would be fine for this half.
Saturday was beautiful, but Sunday's forecast showed rain. I checked the forecast 100 times, hoping it would move quickly and be gone for the race or that it would come later than expected. When I got up that morning I could hear the rain beating down on the roof top. It was going to be a wet race!
Mom and I made our way to the start line around 6:30. The race started at 7:00. My dad snapped a few pictures of us at the start. The Half Fanatic gear was a great conversation starter, and we met some other half fanatics while we were waiting for the start. We didn't get a group photo, which was a little disappointing. I got a lot of attention on the course, people cheered "Go Half Fanatic!" This is the main reason why I wanted to be a part of this group for instant camaraderie and support of fellow runners.

The start line, all the other runners were taking cover under the pavilion
We caught a break in the rain for this picture, but it didn't last long.
There are no official corrals at this race, but the paces are marked at the start line. Runners position themselves in the most appropriate pace group. I lined up in the 9:00 min mile group. The race director went over the course information. They played the National Anthem and then we were off.

Me at the start of the race

Mom at the start of the race

I went out too fast at last year's race and my pace slowed during the second half. My plan for this race was to try to clock each mile at a 9:00 min mile pace and speed up in the final miles if I felt good.

The first four miles were through residential and vacation homes. The rain was steadily coming down and I kept wringing the water out of my skirt. I started to think the skirt wasn't the best choice for the conditions. It was holding the water, clinging to me, and feeling heavier by the minute. I was keeping a steady pace like I planned, clocking each mile under 9:30.

Mile 1- 9:15
Mile 2- 9:13
Mile 3- 9:25
Mile 4- 9:11

Just before Mile 5 we ran back onto the main road Via De Luna Drive. The next three miles ran alongside the beach, but there wasn't much of a view of the water. There was a strong headwind, which made it difficult to maintain my pace. I walked some at Mile 6 to eat my Honey Stinger waffle. That was the first mile I clocked at a 10:00 min pace. I knew I couldn't afford too many miles at that pace if I wanted to PR. I tried to push through the headwind and pick up my pace on the next two miles.

Mile 5- 9:40
  Mile 6- 10:06
Mile 7- 9:44
Mile 8- 9:48
We tuned around at Mile 8 and my overall pace was around 9:25. I thought if I can only maintain this pace I can PR by a few minutes. I was out of the headwind which should have made it much easier to pick up speed. The rain had slowed to a light drizzle by this point and the air was thick and muggy, which made it hard to breathe. I would have rather dealt with the rain.
My feet were moving, but not very fast as I watched seconds add to the overall pace on my Garmin. I clocked Mile 9 in 11:13. Why when I hadn't stopped to walk? I don't know what it is about this race, but just like the year before I started to fall apart mentally on this back route. I walked a lot in the next few miles. 
Mile 9- 11:13
Mile 10- 11:16
Mile 11-11:09
We ran through another residential area the final miles of the race. Just past Mile 12, we were back out on the main road. I ran the final stretch to the finish.
Mile 12- 10:56
Mile 13- 10:42 

I love the way they announce your name over the PA system as you cross the finish line. I was so relieved to be finished. My finish time was 2:12:55, exactly six minutes slower than last year's time. I had been looking forward to this race for so long thinking it would be a new PR for me. I was disappointed in the outcome of the race, but I still had a great time. What's better than running at the beach?
I couldn't wait to take my shoes off. My feet felt mushy and I was starting to get blisters again. The inside of my thighs were burning. The built in shorts on my skirt rubbed me the entire time and I had some major chaffing despite rubbing Vaseline on my legs prior to the race. I've learned my lesson: I will never wear anything new on race day. From now on when running longer distances, I will choose comfort over style.
Mom had a good run. She'd been really consistent with her times finishing around 2:35 again. I was really proud of her. She's shaved 15-20 minutes off of her first half marathon time.


The finish line was in front of Flounder's where the post race party was held. They had fruit, cookies, red beans and rice, and free beer. The food line was really crowded and cramped inside the restaurant. Mom and I took turns going in to get our food, so we could secure our spot outside. We stuck around the post race for almost an hour before going back to the hotel to get showered and head home. I couldn't wait to get in dry clothes.


Besides the beautiful locations of the runs in the Gulf Coast Series, I also love this series for the awesome medals which double as a bottle opener and the cute, super soft, and comfy t-shirts. I cannot wait to run the third race in this series this October in Mandeville, LA.

Montgomery Half Marathon Race Recap

March 14, 2015

I took a break all week from running after learning I had walking pneumonia. Towards the end of the week, the pain in my chest was almost completely gone. I had come too far to sit this race out. I really wanted to qualify for Half Fanatics, and today was the day. All I had to do was finish the race.

The Montgomery Marathon was a major event for the city of Montgomery. It was the first year they've offered the full distance. The race was televised and a Boston Qualifier with a $10,000 cash purse. The proceeds from this race would go to three beneficiaries: Child Protect, American Red Cross, and E.A.T South. There were well over 1,000 participants between the half and full marathon, 5K, and 1 Mile divisions.
The elites at the start line
The Mayor of Montgomery, Todd Strange announced the start of the race and was at the finish line congratulating the runners
At the start line, Mom and I saw a woman dressed in her half fanatic gear. We struck up a conversation with her and told her we hoped this would be our qualifying race. Her name was Deanna and she's from the area. She was nice and encouraging to my mom and me. We became friends on Facebook. Since March she's completed three half marathons in one weekend and her first and second full marathons on back to back weekends. She's earned Double Agent status, which means she's a Half Fanatic/ Marathon Maniac. Go Deanna!

Mom and I with Deanna

I also saw my friend Paula at the start line. We kept in touch through Facebook chats, but we hadn't seen each other since the Flora Bama run in December. Paula finished her first full marathon at the Louisiana Marathon in January. She had traveled to some great races in the past few months, while I did more of the local runs. Her husband, Mark was running his first full marathon at this race. Paula was running the half, and she planned to pace him part of the way. Paula and I run about the same pace. I would have loved to run with her, but I knew I needed to take it easy.

Me and Paula
Race morning was muggy and humid. There was light drizzle in the air, but it wasn't supposed to rain that day. The course was hilly, which is to be expected with any run through downtown Montgomery. I wouldn't have dreamed of a PR on this course even if I felt at my best.
 Our local news van filming the elites
 The crowd at the start of the race.
This was one of many drum lines on course. They were awesome!
The first mile was congested, and I did a lot of weaving in and out of the crowd. We ran outside of downtown past Oakwood Cemetery, where the country legend Hank Williams Sr. is buried. The next miles were through a residential area. Around Mile 3, we ran through Oak Park lined with beautiful tall oak trees. After leaving Oak Park, we entered the campus of the Alabama State Hornets. I was feeling great, clocking each mile under 10 minutes.
Mile 1- 9:47
Mile 2- 9:42
Mile 3- 9:35
Mile 4- 9:23
Mile 5- 9:43
Mile 6- 9:51
Miles 6 through 9 took us through the Huntington campus and Old Cloverdale, one of the city's most beautiful neighborhoods with old historic homes. Just past mile 6, I slowed to a walk to eat my Honey Stinger waffle. When I started to run again, I felt the ball of my foot rubbing and stinging. I knew a blister was forming. I've never had problems with blisters during a race. I wasn't wearing new socks or shoes, and I even rubbed my feet down with Vaseline prior to the start. I thought my chest pains would be a problem during this race. Just when I felt like I was getting over that, a new problem arose.
Once I was aware the blister was there, I couldn't keep my mind off of it and the pain was getting worse. I walked a lot! My pace slowed significantly, but I didn't care anymore. "All I have to do is finish," I kept telling myself. I wasn't expecting do that well at this race with being sick for almost three weeks, so while it was disappointing it wasn't all that surprising.
We came to the Perry Street Hill around Mile 10. The drum line at this hill sounded incredible. It was very motivating, although I still walked most of the way up. I don't think I could have ran up the hill any faster than I walked. We made our way back through downtown in the final miles. There was a long down hill stretch on Dexter Ave in front of the Alabama State Capitol building. I took advantage of this opportunity to pick up speed for the final mile. At the 12.5 mile marker the full marathoners split. I was so glad I was headed towards the finish. We ran past the train shed right outside Riverwalk Stadium. Then, we took a left in front of the stadium and another left into the stadium. I was so glad to see the finish line up ahead. I heard my dad holler for me as I was entering the stadium. He was in the stands right above me, and he snapped a few pictures.
You can see how my pace slowed in the second half of the race.

                                                                     Mile 7- 10:14
Mile 8- 10:54
Mile 9- 11:43
Mile 10- 11:21
Mile 11- 11:32
Mile 12- 10:57
Mile 13- 10:12
My finish time was 2:17:40. It was not by best time, but I wasn't disappointed given the circumstances. I was just glad I was able to run, and I couldn't wait to get home to apply for Half Fanatics.

I met my dad in the stands and we waited to cheer my mom across the line. I had to take my shoes and socks off while I waited. I wish I had brought flip flops to change into after the race.

Mom coming through the stadium towards the finish

We enjoyed the post race festivities at the Riverwalk Stadium. They had a band, great food, and free beer. We stuck around for a few hours because my dad wanted to see some of his friends from work finish the full marathon. I visited with Paula while she waited for Mark to finish. We talked about upcoming races that we would like to run.

Mom and I with Big Mo, the Montgomery Biscuit's baseball team mascot

Hyundai Hope on Wheels helped sponsor this run
It was almost lunch time when my dad's friends finished the full marathon. The sun was out in full force by then and it was getting hot. He congratulated them before we left the post race fun. On our way out of the stadium marathoners were steadily finishing the race.
We stopped in at Dreamland BBQ right across from the stadium for lunch. I could fill up on the fresh white bread alone dipped in that BBQ sauce. Yum! As we were leaving Dreamland, we saw a woman hobbling the final stretch to the finish. She would have been on course seven hours at this point. It was her first marathon and we cheered for her.
"If you're losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon." Katherine Switzer
This quote is one of my favorites and it's so true.  Marathoners, whether elite or beginners, no matter fast or slow, are the some of the most determined and resilient people. Front of the pack, middle of the pack, back of the pack in the end it doesn't matter when you finished. What matters is that you finished. In the marathon, everyone's journey is different but we're all running towards the same destination: the finish line.