Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Montgomery Half Marathon

March 12, 2015

This was my second year running the Montgomery Half Marathon. The course is challenging with no shortage of hills. I chose to do this half as the 3rd half in my streak of 4 half's in 28 days because it's so close to home.

This is a great event for the city of Montgomery. This is the second year the race has offered the full marathon in addition to the half marathon and 5K. This race attracts over 1,000 people to the city of Montgomery. The Air Force does a fantastic job volunteering on the course and directing traffic at busy intersections along with the MPD.  The course runs through many historical sites and neighborhoods. There's plenty of support on course with well stocked aid stations. The finish line is located in the Riverwalk Stadium home of the Montgomery Biscuits baseball team. The mayor of Montgomery, Todd Strange is there to congratulate the runners as they cross the finish. After the race, there's plenty of food and entertainment and post race massages.

I went by Riverwalk Stadium on Friday afternoon to pick up my race packet. There is no race day packet pick up for this race. The packet pick up was quick and easy. I went before 5:00, so most people probably hadn't left work yet. Montgomery Multisport had a booth with clearance merchandise and some race day essentials. I purchased a pair of Oofos flip flops for 10% off. I've wanted to try those for quite some time.

My college alumni Auburn Montgomery was conducting a study about distance running and flexibility. They asked me if I would like to participate. I gladly agreed. I had to complete a short survey, weigh in, and then do a sit and reach (3 x both legs, 3 x left leg, 3 x right leg). They asked me to come back after the race on Saturday to do the sit and reach again. I was curious to see the difference after the race.

Packet Pick Up at the Riverwalk Stadium

 Ready for Race Day
We arrived downtown and parked around 6:15. The race started at 7:00, so we had plenty of time. There was the threat of rain and severe weather, but it held off for the race. It was another hot, humid race.
The MPAC center where the city holds concerts was open, but surprisingly no one was hanging out inside. Most everyone was in the lobby at the Renaissance Hotel, so I had the women's bathroom all to myself. I made several trips before walking just down the block to the start line. I had the urge to go to the bathroom again, so I made one last stop by the porta potties. I'm always afraid I'll have to go on the course.

I had less than ten minutes to spare and I was hoping to visit with friends before the start. As I was making my way to the start line I heard someone holler my name. It was Tricia (MissSippiPiddlin) lined up with Holly (HoHo Runs). I met Tricia briefly at St. Jude Memphis. It's crazy that I've never formally met Holly since we live in neighboring towns and we've done several of the same races. It was nice to finally meet her.

Holly, Tricia, and me

We had a few minutes to chat and snap a quick photo. They played the National Anthem and then we took off. I had no time goals for this race because it is such a tough course. However, I would be thrilled if I beat my time from last year.

I ran with Holly and Tricia for the first few miles. We made our way out of downtown, past Oakwood Cemetery where the country legend Hank Williams Sr. is buried. The next few miles were through residential areas. Around Mile 3, we reached Oak Park with beautiful tall Oak Trees. I was trying my best to stick with Holly and Tricia, but I was starting to struggle maintaining their pace. At the water stop just outside of Oak Park, Holly took off. I told Tricia I held on as long as I could, but I wasn't going to be able to keep up with Holly.

Mile 1- 9:59
Mile 2- 10:09
Mile 3- 9:51
Mile 4- 9:53

Oakwood Cemetery

We entered Alabama State University around Mile 5. I forgot about a few inclines on the campus. I had to stop to walk several times and I lost sight of Tricia. I took this opportunity to eat my Honey Stinger waffle. When I finally reached a flat stretch I ran to catch up with Tricia.
Mile 5- 10:30

Alabama State University

 Bibb Graves Hall

Dunn Oliver Acadome

Miles 6 through 9 ran through Huntington campus and Old Cloverdale, one of the cities most beautiful neighborhoods with old, historic homes. Tricia and I both stopped to walk at the water stop on Huntington's campus, but when I took off running again she wasn't with me. There was a down and back loop around Mile 7. I saw Holly ahead of me on the turnaround and Tricia wasn't far behind me.

Mile 6- 10:10
Mile 7- 10:15
Mile 8- 10:14
Mile 9- 10:14

Running through Old Cloverdale

We came to Perry Street Hill just past Mile 10. This is the longest, toughest climb on the course. Last year there was an awesome drum line playing to help motivate us. This year there were a few spectators with signs, but that's about it. I was on pace for a 2:12-2:15 finish, a big course PR, but I gave in at this point in the race and walked. There were a few smaller hills after the Perry Street Hill and I walked those too.

Mile 10- 10:42
Mile 11- 11:53

 Perry Street Hill
We reached the Alabama State Capitol building just past Mile 11. This is one of my favorites parts on the course because I can fly down the long down hill stretch on Dexter Avenue as I near the final miles.
Mile 12- 10:32

Alabama State Capitol Building

At 12.5 miles, we reached the split where to full marathoners kept going. Last year, there were a handful of people who split off. I didn't see anyone go the full route this year when I reached the split. I was so glad to be heading to the finish line.

In the final turns to the finish line

We ran past the Riverfront sign in the last mile

 The front of Riverwalk Stadium...almost there!

My Garmin read 2:15 and some seconds before making the final turn into the stadium. If I sprinted to the finish I could beat last year's time if only by a minute. To my surprise I saw Holly up ahead coming across the finish. I didn't see her in the last miles on the course and I assumed she already finished. I clocked my last mile in 10:14. My official time was 2:16:09, a minute and a half faster than last year's time. I'll take it!

Holly and I receiving our medals at the finish

The volunteer photographers did an outstanding job with pictures this year.
Thanks for the free photos!

It wasn't long before Tricia came across the finish line. We may not have stuck together on the course, but we all finished within minutes of each other. We visited for a short time after we finished. I had a great time running with these ladies. I was so glad Tricia could come run in Montgomery. I need to make my way to her home state of Mississippi soon.

Tricia, Me, and Holly at the finish

I also ran into my friend Dee at the finish line. I missed her at the beginning of the race. It was so good to see her again. It's hard to believe my mom and I met her at this race a year ago. Time flies!

Me and Dee

I didn't stick around long after the race, but I did manage to stop back by the Auburn Montgomery tent to do the sit and reach again as part of their study. It was a struggle after running 13.1 miles. I didn't reach nearly as far as I did the night before the race. They said they would e-mail me the results of their study. I'm curious to read about their findings.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Tuscaloosa Half Marathon Race Recap

March 5, 2016

I wanted to run the Tuscaloosa Half Marathon last year, but it didn't work out with my schedule. I was so excited for the opportunity to run it this year. This was my 2nd half in my streak of 4 half's in 28 days.

I made the trip to Tuscaloosa with my parents. My dad never passes up a chance to go to Tuscaloosa. We made the two hour drive after I got out of school on Friday afternoon. We stayed at the Springhill Suites just minutes from downtown. It was convenient to packet pick-up and the start/finish line at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater.

Packet pick-up and the expo was held in a large tent in the parking lot across from the Amphitheater. It was quick and easy. They had clearance merchandise from a local running store. I splurged on long sleeved, half zip running shirt with the Tuscaloosa Half logo and a pair of Tasc running shorts.

While I was browsing, Mom and Dad began debating on whether to sign up for the 5K. The more they talked I could sense the excitement in Mom's voice. She hasn't raced since St.Jude because she's still recovering from her hip injury. She's doing physical therapy and just got clearance from her doctor to begin easing back into walking and running slowly. Mom had tennis shoes, but she didn't pack any running clothes. Dad didn't have running clothes or tennis shoes. It didn't take much encouraging before they made their way to the registration table.

We grabbed a quick bite to eat at McAlister's deli just outside of downtown. All the restaurants were packed downtown and we still had to make a trip to Academy Sports for some running gear for Mom and Dad. Mom bought a t-shirt and capris and dad picked up some shorts and a pair of Asics for only $39.They were all set for race day.

We settled back into the hotel and I laid out my gear for race day. I had to represent the Tide at the Tuscaloosa Half.

We made the short drive downtown around 6:00. The half marathon started at 7:00 and the 5K started around 7:30. There was plenty of parking across from the amphitheater. The bathrooms were open inside the amphitheater, but there were also porta potties outside near the start line. It was cooler on race morning than I anticipated. I hung out with mom inside the bathrooms for a while because it was warm and there was no line. As usual my nerves were getting the best of me and I still had to use the porta potty before lining up at the start line.

 Mom and Dad ready for the 5K

 Brr...I was freezing!
I wished Mom and Dad good luck on the 5K before lining up at the start line. I looked all around for my friend Dee from back home. I finally spotted her lined up ahead of me. We chatted for a few minutes and took our usual pre race selfie.  The race directors went over the course. They played the National Anthem. Then, we were off. I got a high five from Alabama's mascot, Big Al  as I ran through the start line.

Dee and I at the start line
My hands were freezing the first few miles. I saw someone tossed some gloves to the side and I actually considered picking them up for myself but I passed. The first three miles ran along Jack Warner parkway with nice views of the riverwalk. My first two miles were even paced, but a few hills creeped up which slowed me down in the next two miles.
I ran into Vera and Kylie from Ainsley's Angels on the course around mile 4. You may remember Mom and I ran with Kylie at Ryan's Run in November. This was Kylie's 3rd time running the Tuscaloosa Half Marathon. I talked with Vera while I walked up the biggest hill on the course. Kylie and her running partner took off ahead of us. 
Mile 1- 9:25
Mile 2- 9:27
Mile 3- 10:09
Mile 4- 11:12
We neared the campus around Mile 5. We ran past some fraternity houses on the right and the Million Dollar Band practice field on the left. I was so excited to finally reach the campus. Spectators were cheering Roll Tide when they saw me in my Bama gear. We passed Denny Chimes and the President's Mansion at Mile 6 on the course. The chimes were ringing when I ran past.
Mile 6 through 8 were down and back, so we saw all the best sites twice including Bryant Denny Stadium home of the Crimson Tide. I stopped to take pictures through the campus.
Mile 5- 9:38
Mile 6- 9:41
Mile 7- 10:05
Mile 8- 10:01


Denny Chimes

University of Alabama's President's Mansion

Bryant Denny Stadium
We passed the Sewell-Thomas Stadium, home of the Crimson Tide baseball team and Coleman Coliseum, where the basketball games and gymnastics competitions are held. Then, we made our way towards Bryant Drive along the back of Bryant Denny Stadium. We passed Rama Jama's located across from the stadium. This place is packed on game day. Their burgers are yummy!

Sewell-Thomas Stadium

Coleman Coliseum

 Rama Jama's
The next mile ran through residential areas with nice older homes. There were some spectators in their front yards cheering for us as we ran past. My legs were starting to feel tired and I took several walk breaks at the point in the race. We made our way back towards downtown through Government Plaza around Mile 11. The crowd support picked up again. There was a drum line from a local school playing on a street corner. I was happy to be near the finish.
Mile 9- 9:58
Mile 10- 10:15
Mile 11- 10:20

As we neared Mile 12, volunteers warned of the steep downhill ahead and told us to be careful. I looked at it as an opportunity to pick up pace in the final mile. Boy was I wrong! About halfway down, the pounding on my knees was unbearable. The hill was so steep I couldn't safely slow my momentum unless I stopped to walk, so that's what I did.
We crossed the street and ran the final half mile on the sidewalks in Tuscaloosa River Walk park. There was a nice view of the waterfront.  I sprinted when I made the final turn to the finish line. My official time was 2:12:50.
Mile 12-10:10
Mile 13- 10:15

The sun was out in full force when I finished. Even though I was freezing at the start of the race, I was glad I was wearing shorts at the finish. They had a nice post race party with live music and plenty of food and drinks. Some Alabama football players even came out to support this race.
I wanted to get a print out of my official result before we left. Dad asked me to check his and mom's result too. When she printed theirs, we noticed Dad placed first in his age division for the 5K. Mom and I were so proud of him. The awards were just getting ready to begin, so we stuck around for dad to get his medal. It's a good thing he signed up for the 5K after all.

I was so glad I got to spend the weekend with mom and dad. We had an awesome time! This is my new favorite half marathon. I loved running through the campus! Everything was so well organized from start to finish. The t-shirt and medal were also very nice.

The medal was engraved:
"Be strong when you are weak. Be brave when you are scared. Be humble when you are victorious."