Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Sea Turtle Half Marathon Race Recap

February 20,2016

It was bound to happen at some point. I ran my "Best Worst" half marathon at the Sea Turtle Half this weekend. I told a friend that I ran a PW (personal worst) and he corrected me. He refers to his slowest times as his "Best Worst" times. Somehow referring to this half as my "Best Worst" makes me feel better.

I took a break from running two weeks leading up to this race because I was sick with cough and chest congestion. I got pneumonia last year after running with chest congestion, so I was not taking any chances. The smart choice would have been to sit this race out and gradually get back to running. However, I chose to go with my heart and run this race anyway. The Sea Turtle Half has been on my radar for the past two years and this was the first year that it worked out with my schedule to run it. This half was the first of 4 half's that I plan to run in 28 days in order to moon up in Half Fanatics. I felt better and my chest was clear. I didn't want to miss this race just because I hadn't ran in two weeks.

The Sea Turtle Half Marathon started across the street from the Hangout in Gulf Shores. This small, local half marathon attracted 250-300 runners. It was a flat and fast, down and back course along West Beach. On a better day, I probably could have PR'd on this course (several runners did). The temperature was in the high 60's at the start of the race and it creeped into the 70's before the end of the race. It was sunny with no shade on the course.

I had no time goal expectations for this race. I knew it wasn't likely that I would PR, but I certainly didn't expect that I would run my slowest time either. My main focus for this race was on finishing. This will be my focus on all the half's during my streak.
My stomach was upset all morning despite following my prerace fueling strategy to a T. I always have an upset stomach on race day due to nerves, but it's nothing that a couple Imodium can't fix. This morning was different. I spent a long while in the bathroom at the Hangout before walking across the street to the start line with about five minutes to spare.
The sun was beating down on me while standing in the start line. I didn't have the excited, eager feeling that I normally get when waiting to take off. The feeling I had was a feeling of dread. I wasn't motivated like I am with most races.  My mind was already convinced it wasn't going to be a good race. "It's hot." "My stomach hurts." "I haven't ran in what feels like forever." All these thoughts flooded my head as we sang the National Anthem.
The race started promptly at 7:30. The first three miles ran through residential streets of West Beach with beautiful views of the lagoon. I was maintaining sub 10 minute miles and I was feeling good.
 Mile 1- 9:22
 Mile 2- 9:46
 Mile 3- 9:55
We ran onto West Beach Blvd just past Mile 3. My pace was slowing significantly and I started taking walk breaks at every mile marker.  I felt like I was in a constant back and forth battle with the runners around me. I'd stop to walk. They'd pass me. Then, I'd pass them. I wished I could just settle into a pace and maintain it, but I felt so out of sync.
Mile 4- 10:06
Mile 5- 10:22
Mile 6- 11:02
I started to see the lead runners heading back across the street, so I knew the turn around was coming up. It seemed like an eternity before I reached the turn around. The clock read 1:07 at the halfway point. I figured if I could run about the same pace in the second half I could finish between 2:15-2:20.
There was a nice breeze on the way back. I decided to cut my music off and just enjoy the sound of the waves crashing and the breeze blowing. I felt strong during Mile 7 and starting thinking that maybe the breeze was all I needed to get back on track. Those thoughts changed when I stopped for my next walk break. Suddenly I felt a twinge in my right knee. It hurt to walk, but it hurt even worse when I tried to run. The road felt slanted, so I tried to run closer in where the road was more even. It seemed to help, but the traffic was picking up and I got nervous every time a car passed by me.
Mile 7- 11:17
Mile 8- 12:57
Mile 9- 12:39
I've never dealt with so much pain during a race. I was worried. I watched my overall pace slow with each mile.  When my pace creeped above an 11 minute mile average, I knew then that this would be my slowest half marathon.  I quit caring about my time and started focusing on finishing. The pain worsened with every mile. 
In addition to my knee pain, I was thirsty. I don't carry fluids with me because I find most race fluids are adequate. This race had 5-6 water stops approximately every two miles. They had only water, no sports drink or Gatorade. The cups were small (3 oz bath cups). I requested two cups at the last two water stations because my mouth was so dry. On a hot, sunny day like this one, they needed more water stations or bigger cups. That's my only complaint about this race.
I turned my music back on after Mile 11 and "My Body" by Young the Giant was playing. It's amazing how music can speak to you, saying all the words you need to hear at the right time. "My body tells me no, but I won't quit 'cause I want more." Each time the chorus played, my legs started pumping faster and faster. I forgot about the pain in my knee at least until the song ended.
Mile 10- 12:13
Mile 11- 13:03
A lady that I was back and forth with the entire race passed me again at the Mile 12 marker. She said, "Looking good" to me as she passed. "That's what I want you to tell me when you pass me again," she looked back and added. I caught up to her and we ran the final mile together. If it wasn't for her I don't know if I would have come in under 2:30. She was the final push I needed.
Mile 12-12:09
Mile 13- 12:38


As I approached the finish line, people were cheering "Under 2:30! Way to go!" I remembered my first half when I crushed my goal of 2:30 finishing in 2:21. That was my slowest time to date, but a time that still thrilled me because it was my first. My official time was 2:29:26. Once again I was celebrating an under 2:30 time.
Yes, I was celebrating! The feeling I had after this race was not one of disappointment, but pure joy. After two weeks of being sick, it was nice to feel well enough to run again. I took time to enjoy the  spectacular views, the smell of the salty air, and the sound of the waves crashing. I finally got to run the race that I looked forward to for two years and there was nothing disappointing about it.
I'm not going to lie, my right knee ached after this race. My knees rarely bother me. I honestly believe it was the slanted road after the turn around. The lady I ran with in the final mile complained her knee was aching too and the road felt slanted. I'm hoping that's it and it's not something more serious.

Have you ever experienced something unexpected during a race and had to adjust your goals? Have you ever had someone encourage you to push through in the final miles of a race?


Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sweaty Bands Blog Review & Giveaway

Disclaimer- This review and giveaway is not endorsed by Sweaty Bands. The opinions in this post are 100% my own.
I was recently selected as a Sweaty Bands Ambassador. I want to share my love for Sweaty Bands with my readers. I figured what better time to share the love than Valentine's Day! Here's five reasons why I love Sweaty Bands.
I started running almost four years ago. I tried multiple headbands that all advertised that they don't slip, but none of them worked for me. I purchased my first Sweaty Band in 2013, and I've been in love ever since then. Sweaty Bands are perfect for anyone with an active lifestyle. They keep your hair pulled back and the sweat out of your eyes whether your running a marathon, cycling indoors, or lifting weights in the gym.
2. They offer so many styles and colors!
Sweaty Bands offers so many styles and colors to coordinate with any outfit. They also offer cute seasonal headbands for your local Sweetheart Run, Turkey Trot, or Jingle Bell Run. The toughest decision is choosing which Sweaty Band to wear next.
3. They're not just for working out.
Sweaty Bands aren't limited to running or working out. They offer thin width headbands and chic styles that are perfect for any occasion. You can dress them up for date night. You can wear them casually while shopping or cleaning house.
4. You can customize your own Sweaty Band!
My husband recently customized a Sweaty Band with my blog logo for Christmas. He was pleased with the communication he received while designing my Sweaty Band. They worked with him to make sure every detail was perfect! I love it! You can customize Sweaty Bands for your local running club or to raise money for your school or local charity.

5. They support charities that mean the most to me.

Sweaty Bands support charities such as St.Jude Children's Research Hospital. I always look forward to purchasing new St.Jude Sweaty Bands at the St.Jude Memphis Marathon expo each December.
Are you a fan of Sweaty Bands, too? Want to try Sweaty Bands for the first time? Here's a giveaway for you. I'm giving away a maroon chevron print Sweaty Band. You can enter using the Rafflecoptor link below. One lucky winner will be selected on Sunday, February 21st.

a Rafflecopter giveaway Wait there's more! As a Sweaty Band Ambassador, I can help you save 15% off your entire purchase when you use my friend referral link. Click here to save.
Disclaimer: When you use my referral link I make a commission from your purchase.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Big Beach Half Marathon

January 31, 2016

I saw the Inaugural Big Beach Marathon advertised on Facebook this past fall and I knew immediately that I wanted to run it. I love vacationing and running in Gulf Shores. After missing my goal of a 4:40 full marathon at St.Jude, I began debating whether to sign up for the full marathon at this race. I knew it would be a flat, fast course. I was worried that it wasn't enough recovery time and I knew I couldn't fit in any more solid training in just over a month. I also worried about running the full at an inaugural race. All things considered, I decided to run the half and I am so glad I did.

This race offered packet pick up on Saturday and Sunday before the start of the race. I picked up my packet late Saturday afternoon. Packet pick up was very quick and easy. They had a small expo with running clothes and accessories.

It was in the mid 60's with 100% humidity on race morning. I opted to wear running capris and a t-shirt, which I immediately regretted. I really wish I had worn shorts.  The race started and ended at the Hangout. The half marathon started at 8:00 and the full marathon at 8:05.

I ran into my friend Dee at the start of the race. She was running the half marathon as well. This was half marathon #40 something for her. She's well on her way to her goal of 100 half marathons. She is also attempting to run a half in all 50 states as part of the Fifty States Club. Currently she's ran in 19 states. I'm so glad I met Dee at a local half almost a year ago. Her journey is incredible and inspiring to me.

Dee and I lined up at the start together. We chatted until the gun fired. Then we wished each other a great race and we took off.

My focus of this past month was mainly on recovering from my marathon. I'm slowing building my mileage back to 20-25 miles per week. I only managed three long runs of 6,8, and 10 miles prior to this race. I didn't have high expectations for a PR with so little training, but I hoped to maintain a sub 10:00 pace and finish in 2:10 or faster.

The first two miles ran through side streets leading to Fort Morgan Road and the paved trails of the State Park. I was maintaining a steady pace and the 2:00 pacer was in sight.  I focused on trying to catch up to them.

Mile 1- 9:09
Mile 2- 9:08
Miles 3 through 10 ran through the paved, tree lined trails. The trails were windy and rolling. There were water stations approximately every two miles. They were well stocked with water and Gatorade. There weren't many spectators along the trails. It was a quiet, but very scenic run.
My pace was slowing and I began taking frequent walk breaks. By Mile 6 the 2:00 pacer was out of sight. I walked a lot during the sixth mile to eat my Honey Stinger waffle. My goal of 2:10 was still possible and I wasn't giving up yet.
Mile 3- 9:29
Mile 4- 9:14
Mile 5- 9:49
  Mile 6- 10:16
The full marathoners split off around Mile 8 and all I could think was, "Not today." The humidity was really starting to get to me. I was so glad I was over half way to the finish. I caught glimpses of the Shelby Lakes in the final miles before exiting the trails onto Perdido Beach Blvd around mile 10.
Mile 7- 9:52
  Mile 8- 10:34
Mile 9- 9:53
The final three miles ran along Perdido Beach Blvd back towards the Hangout. This road runs along the beach, but there wasn't much view of the water for the dunes. There was a nice breeze, which helped somewhat with the humidity.
Mile 10- 10:33
Mile 11- 10:34
Mile 12- 10:20
I hit every mile marker right on the dot according to my Garmin, so I wasn't expecting the course to run long. After I passed the Mile 12 marker, I picked up speed to try to reach the finish in my 2:10 time goal. My Garmin read 13 miles long before I reached the mile marker.
Mile 13-9:40
13.1, 13.2, 13.3, where is the finish line?!?! My goal of 2:10 wasn't going to happen. I crossed the finish with an official time of 2:12:24.

I typically don't argue that the course was long because I have some understanding about tangents. I know I'm no expert at running tangents, so if my Garmin read long I assume I didn't run the course as it was measured. However, this half marathon course was actually long (13.47 miles). It says so on their official site. They certified the full marathon so it could be an official Boston qualifier, but they didn't certify the half marathon course. This is my only complaint about this race.
I didn't stick around long after the race because we had to make the 3 1/2 hour drive home. I took a boxed lunch with me. It had a deli sandwich, chips, a fruit cup, and a cookie. It was light, but very filling. They also had beer and post race entertainment.


I was very impressed with this inaugural race. It was well organized from start to finish. There were plenty of volunteers on the course at aid stations and directing the route. The police directed traffic at the major intersections at the beginning of the race and on Perdido Beach Blvd. From the short time I stuck around, I thought the post race food and entertainment was top notch. You can't beat the race venue at the Hangout. I love the t-shirt and medal. I would definitely run it again!

Have you ever ran an inaugural race? Did it go smoothly?

I'm linking up with Holly and Tricia for the Weekly Wrap to bring you this race recap.