Sunday, November 27, 2016

Shrimp Festival 10K Race Recap

October 15, 2016

The National Shrimp Festival is held each year in October on the white, sandy beaches of Gulf Shores, AL. The festival offers live music, seafood, arts and crafts exhibits, sand sculpture contests, a golf tournament, and a 5K/10K run. Everyone should attend the festival at least once in their lifetime. There's plenty to see and do, and it's great fun for all.

The Shrimp Festival 5K/10K starts at the Orange Beach Sports Complex. The course runs along the paved Backcountry Trails. The race attracts several hundred participants. All net proceeds of the run are donated to Coastal Baldwin Education Enrichment Foundation, benefitting the local Gulf Shores & Orange Beach public schools.

I was excited to see Kristin (BamaGirlRuns) before the start of the race. I met Kristin last November at the Magic City Half Marathon. I saw that she was running the 10K through her posts on Instagram. I looked forward to seeing her again. We talked about her training for the NYC Marathon and her plans to run Disney again. I told her that I hoped to run the Mercedes Half Marathon in her hometown in 2017. It's amazing how comfortable our conversation flowed even though this was only our second time seeing each other. It's like we've known each other forever. I love that about the running community.

This was my fourth year participating in the Shrimp Festival 10K. I've placed in my age division the past two years (3rd in 2014 and 2nd in 2015). This year my sights were set on a 1st place finish in my age division, but I knew it wouldn't come easy. Previous first place finishers ran the 10K in 51 and 52 minutes. My best time was 53:19.

I took off running a sub 8 minute pace, but I knew I couldn't maintain it. I tried my best to back off and settle into a more conservative pace. That pace was between 8:00-8:05 minute miles. I was still concerned that it was too fast, but it felt comfortable. I was going to try to maintain it as long as I could.

Mile 1- 8:03
Mile 2- 8:10

Mile 3 would be my slowest mile of the race. I stopped for water and took a walk break. I knew from previous years that there wouldn't be another water stop until Mile 5. At this point in the race thoughts of a PR entered my mind. I always slow down in the final miles of this race. Not this year, this year I was going to push.

Mile 3- 8:23

Up ahead I saw two women who looked like they might be in my age division. I wanted to push, but not too hard too soon. My mantra for the final miles was "My race, my pace." I reminded myself to first focus on the PR, it would happen if I maintained pace. I tried to keep that focus, but I couldn't help but notice I was closing the gap on the two women ahead of me.

Mile 4- 8:17

Just past mile 4 one of the two women stopped to walk. She hung her head and put her hands on her hips. She looked worn down at this point. I passed her, but as soon as I did she started running again. "Just keep a steady pace. My race, my pace." I kept repeating my mantra over and over again in my head. I was worried if I couldn't get ahead of these two women, my hopes of an age group placement would be over. I tried to maintain focus on getting that PR. I would be thrilled if I could do just that.

Mile 5- 8:20

I peaked behind me at the final water stop. I widened the gap between myself and the woman I passed earlier. I didn't stop for water because I was closing the gap on the other woman ahead of me. I didn't want to pass her too soon and have a target on my back going into the final stretch. We went over one of the wooden bridges around 5.5 miles. She must have heard my footsteps behind her because she looked over her shoulder at me and picked up her pace.

Mile 6- 8:19

We were neck and neck going into the final stretch to the finish. My heart was beating out of my chest. "What is she going to do?" "Is she going to surge past me?" "I want to surge, but not too soon." All these thoughts were flooding my mind. One of us had to make a move. I pumped my arms and pushed as hard as I possibly could to the finish line. I still worried that she would pass me at any moment, but she didn't. I did it!

Final 0.25 Miles- 1:54 (7:50 avg pace)

I finished in 51:26, a PR by almost 2 minutes. It turns out I was right about the two women on the course. They were in my age group. I really had to push for that first place finish. This was the closest race I've ever encountered with other women in my age division. They were fierce competitors and afterwards we congratulated each other on a great race.

    We finished 30th, 31st, and 32nd overall.
That's how close the competition was in my age division this year.

They gave out glasses this year instead of medals. They also gave the 1st place finisher in each age group a nice bag with the Shrimp Festival logo and this year's Shrimp Festival hat and poster. They normally save these bags for the overall finishers, so that was a nice surprise. This is my favorite 10K race. I hope to continue to run it year after year. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

AUM Warhawk Challenge Race Recap

October 8, 2016

The AUM Warhawk Challenge is a four mile run along the beautiful, gently rolling fitness trail at Auburn University at Montgomery.  This course is the only trail run in the city limits of Montgomery.
The start/ finish line is located at the AUM Baseball Complex. 

Auburn Montgomery is my college alma mater, although we were the Senator's when I graduated. I've always wanted to run this race, but it's conflicted with other races and marathon training in the past. The race directors moved it back a few weeks this year, so it finally worked out where I could run it.

I've never run a trail race. I've run plenty of races along the paved Back Country trails in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, AL, but that doesn't really qualify as a trail run. I've also only run two 4 mile races, my current PR is 33 minutes flat. I didn't really know what to expect for this race. I figured my time wouldn't be as fast as my previous 4 mile road races. I was really concerned about watching my footing and ensuring that I didn't trip and fall.

The trails weren't as rough as I anticipated. The path was well traveled and free from twigs and debris. I tried to hold pace with the first overall female in hopes to eventually take the lead, but she proved too fast for me. I was beginning to wear down at the halfway point. I started to notice the "gently rolling" hills on the course. I stopped to walk up one of the hills in the third mile. I later regretted walking when I noticed how close I was to a PR. I picked up the pace in the final mile, but it wasn't enough.

Mile 1- 8:18
Mile 2- 8:32
Mile 3- 9:15
Mile 4- 8:25

I crossed the finish line in 33:45. I was second overall female. They awarded the first overall male and female, then the top overall finishers in each age group. I placed 1st in the 25-29 year age division. After looking back at the results, it turns out I was the only female in my age division.

AGAPE Run for a Mom 5K Race Recap

May 7, 2016

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.

This was my fifth year participating in this race with my mom. Mom took a break from running after the St.Jude Half Marathon in December. She was still experiencing a lot of pain in her hips. She had several follow up appointments with orthopedics and was doing physical therapy. She was cleared to walk and run slowly for short intervals.

Mom wanted to sit this race out because she knew she wouldn't do as well as she had in year's past. I didn't want to break our annual tradition. I was able to convince her to walk it with me. Four years ago my mom held back with me for this race. This was only my 3rd 5K and she helped me pace to meet my goal of running a 5K without stopping. This race wasn't about time goals or age group placements. It was about spending quality time with my mom.

Mom and I walked and talked the entire time. It reminded me of when we used to do loops around the neighborhood together when I was younger. I really enjoyed our conversation. Crossing the finish line together meant more to me than any age group award.

I have my mom to thank for instilling my love for running. I doubt she expected me to go this far with running when she asked me to do my first 5K for her birthday in March 2012. Mom and I have always had an unbreakable bond. I never imagined our bond could grow any stronger until she introduced me to running.

In the beginning we did every race together. We began training for our first half marathon together. We met halfway to complete long runs on early summer mornings. We lifted each other up when our first half marathon was cancelled. We went on to finish our first half marathon two months after that cancellation. Mom helped me pace conservatively for the first half of my first full marathon. Turns out I helped her reach a sub 2:30 half marathon that day. We qualified for half fanatics together. We teamed up to run with Ainsley's Angels. We've had a lot of unforgettable experiences through running. We've been there for each other on the good,  the bad, and the ugly races.

This was our last race together. A lot has happened since this race in May that has kept my mom from running. I hope that my mom will return to running once things settle down. However, I want her to do what she feels is best for her. I don't want her to continue to run if she is in pain and cannot enjoy it.

I miss my running partner, but I know that she wants me to continue without her for now. My mom has always been there to support and encourage my aspirations. I trust and confide in her with anything and almost everything. She's not just my Mom, she's my best friend.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Go, Send, or Disobey 5K Race Recap

July 30, 2016

For the past few years, Gracepoint Community Church has hosted a 5K to help raise funds for missions. This year's Go, Send, or Disobey 5K would benefit a young girl's nine month mission trip to South Africa.

I only learned of this 5K the night before when our school secretary posted the link to her Facebook page. I did this race (formerly known as Miles for Missions) in 2013. I'll never forget it because it was my first time running a sub 30 minute 5K. I hadn't run a race since May, so I decided to race day register for this one.

There wasn't a huge turnout like I remembered in 2013. There were 30-40 runners total. I don't think it was advertised as well as it was in year's past. The race started and finished at Gold Star Park. The course ran through residential areas and downtown Wetumpka. I've run several races through downtown Wetumpka, so I was familiar with this course.

Every race that I've run in downtown Wetumpka goes over the river bridge in the beginning of the race. It's almost impossible to pass anyone and it makes it difficult to get in a rhythm. I held back and waited until I got past the bridge to pick up the pace.

It wasn't long before I was positioned in the top five runners. I was trailing a young teenage girl who I figured would easily take first overall female. She was maintaining a steady pace and she looked strong. To my surprise the first female stopped to walk around a mile and a half into the race.  I knew this was my opportunity to take the lead.

I picked up the pace for the remainder of the first and second mile. There was a steady incline in the final mile before making my way back towards downtown. I had a strong lead at this point, so I decided to walk it up. Going back over the bridge was another noticeable incline, but I didn't want to waste any more time by walking. I pushed through it. I ran past some shops downtown before making the final turn under the bridge towards the finish. I dodged a few geese on the sidewalk before crossing the finish. I could hear them honking in the background as the race director announced, "First overall female."

 Mile 1- 8:27
Mile 2- 8:20
Mile 3- 8:45
My official time was 25:53. I was the second overall finisher.

Three years ago, I had only seconds to spare when I met my goal of a sub 30 5K. I never would have imagined I'd improve this much. This wasn't my fastest 5K and my time would be nowhere near fast enough to place first overall female at a larger 5K. However, that didn't stop me from being proud of my accomplishment. Running has taught me to expect more from myself than I've ever thought possible. There's always room for improvement. I strive to become better every day, not just with running but in all aspects of my life.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Jubilee Run for Cancer 8K Race Recap

May 21, 2016

This was my third 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 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. My mom and grandfather are both survivors. Two months after this race my dad was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Fortunately, it was detected in the early stage. He recently completed his chemo and radiation treatments and will undergo surgery in January 2017.

I pray that one day cancer will cease to exist. In the meantime, I will do my part to support charities such as the American Cancer Society that help families affected by this terrible disease.

This run begins and ends at Old Alabama Town. It runs through portions of downtown Montgomery and through historical residential areas. It's a challenging course with no shortage of hills. It has been incredibly hot in the past, but this year it was overcast and breezy.

I saw my friend Valerie at the start of the race. Although she's run several races, this was her first time running the 8K distance which meant it was an automatic PR for her. I was hoping for a course PR. My current 8K PR (43:35) was from this race in 2014.

There were two hills in the first mile of this race. The first up Madison Ave followed by a long gradual incline up Dexter Ave towards the state capitol. I was settling into a comfortable sub 9:00 minute pace and I was hoping I could maintain it.

The climb up Dexter Ave towards the State Capitol
I encountered another hill somewhere between Miles 2 and 3. I was determined not to walk it. I knew I needed all sub 9:00 minute miles to beat my current 8K PR.

Another hill between Miles 2 and 3
I ran to the top, but my pace was slowing.
Mile 1- 8:33
Mile 2- 8:44
Mile 3- 8:57
The hills were beginning to take their toll on me. I could feel my pace slowing with every mile. I stopped to walk at the second water stop and I had a tough time getting back into the rhythm after that. I clocked Mile 4 above a 9 minute pace. I thought a course PR was out of the question at that point.
  Mile 4- 9:16
The final stretch of the race ran past Oakwood Cemetery and up Columbus Street (the biggest hill of the entire race). I was feeling defeated at this point. My hopes of a new course PR were diminished after seeing the last mile I clocked over nine minutes. I walked the majority of this hill.
The final hill of the race

Near the top I looked at my Garmin and realized I was closer to a course PR than I thought. I was only paying attention to my mile splits and not my overall time. If I pushed I could beat my time if only by a few seconds. I took advantage of the downhill stretch to the finish and picked up my pace.
Mile 0.98-8:09

I crossed the finish line in 43:43. I came so close, only eight seconds from my current PR. I was kicking myself for walking so much in the final miles.
I enjoyed catching up with Valerie (icecreamrunner) after the race while we waited on the results to be tabulated. They posted our results before the awards ceremony. We were both excited to place in our age groups.  I placed 1st in my age group and Valerie placed 2nd in hers.


This is one of my favorite local races and I will run it every year that I am able. My PR from 2014 still stands. Hopefully, 2017 will be my year to PR this distance.

CCAD Run for Autism 5K Race Recap

April 23, 2016

This was my third year running the CCAD Run for Autism. This run benefits the Center for Child and Adolescent Development, a private nonprofit corporation that provides diagnostic and intervention services to children from birth to 18 years of age who reside in central and southern Alabama who are present with, or are at risk for, developmental delays, autistic spectrum disorders, behavioral, emotional, mental, or learning disorders or other disabilities.

This run was held in June, but it was moved to April in 2015 to coincide with Autism Awareness month. I wasn't able to run it in 2015 because it conflicted with the Gulf Coast Half Marathon. I was happy to have the opportunity to run it again. Several of my students have benefitted from this organization through autism evaluations and related services such as speech therapy. I dedicated this run to my students.

I met another local runner Billie while picking up my packet. She followed my posts on my Facebook page. It was nice to finally put a face with a name. I also met a sweet lady whose son was diagnosed with autism. She was wearing the same Sweaty Band for autism awareness. I spoke to Holly (HoHo Runs) before the race, but I was conversing with the lady that I just met about her son and my students. We would have time to chat after the race.

My last 5K was in January, so I didn't know what to expect for this race. My previous time on this course was 27:17 in Summer 2014. I wanted to beat that time for a course PR. I also felt pretty confident that I could place in my age group. They awarded three deep and it didn't look like there were many runners around my age. I really wanted another bobble head trophy. They are my favorite!

I started out entirely too fast. For the majority of the first mile I was positioned first overall female. I started to imagine how awesome it would be if I could hold on to that position. I've never finished first overall female before, maybe today was the day. That vision was short lived when I was passed by another female runner just before the first mile marker. I tried to pump my legs faster to hold pace with her, but after a few short turns she was out of sight.

Mile 1- 7:58

First overall female was out of the question, but I was going to try my best to hold onto second. I looked back on one of the turns and noticed there was another female gaining on me. She was closing the gap and just past the mile 2 marker we were neck and neck. There was a water stop here. I was praying she would stop, but she didn't. The final mile was going to be a race to the finish.

Mile 2-8:38

I remembered there was an incline around 2.5 miles with a long downhill stretch to the finish. We were still neck and neck. I knew I had to push up that hill. I couldn't afford to walk. As I approached the hill I noticed the other female runner hang her head and start to walk. This was my opportunity to close the gap. I pumped my arms and took  the hill in stride. "It's all downhill from here," I said to myself. I picked up speed on the long downhill stretch to the finish. I widened the gap enough that I wasn't worried about being passed in the final seconds of the race. "Second overall female," I heard to race director announce as I crossed the finish. The third overall female was 35 seconds behind. I congratulated her on a great race when she crossed the finish.

Mile 3- 8:44

My chip time was 26:32, a course PR. I enjoyed talking to Holly while we waited on the results to be tabulated. They awarded the top three overall females and then three deep in the age groups. Turns out all three of us were in the 21-30 age group. I was so excited to take home another bobble head trophy.

Holly placed 2nd in her age group.

I will participate in this run every year that I am able. It's always well organized and it's for a wonderful cause. 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Pancake Run for Missions 5K Race Recap

May 14, 2016

This was the 25th Annual Pancake Run for Missions 5K. The course ran through Old Cloverdale, one of Montgomery's most scenic neighborhoods. Proceeds from the race went towards missions for the First United Methodist Church of Montgomery.

I've always wanted to do this run, but it has conflicted with the Mother's Day Run in year's past. This year it was held the weekend after, so I was excited to finally have the opportunity to run it.

It was only May, but we were already experiencing summer like temps. Fortunately, it was cooler this race morning. I understand it's been much hotter in previous years for this race.

I started out way too fast as usual. I have trouble holding back for shorter races like the 5K. I was running a sub 7:30 pace, which I knew I couldn't maintain. I had to remind myself to dial back and settle into a more manageable pace.

Mile 1-8:06

I stopped for water at the halfway point. I don't always need water for a 5K, but my mouth was feeling dry. I was passed by several runners at the water stop. I wasn't able to pick up the pace after stopping for water. I clocked Mile 2 much slower than the first one.

Mile 2-8:44
I noticed some female runners gaining on me when I made the final turn into the park. I worried that they might be in my age group. I picked up the pace on the loop around towards the finish line. I managed to finish ahead of them. I hate being passed in the final seconds of a race.
Mile 3- 8:29
I finished in 26:05. After crossing the finish line, Michael and I went inside to enjoy the pancake breakfast. They had a nice spread for the runners with plenty of pancakes, sausage, and orange juice. Additional pancake breakfasts were available to family members for a $5 donation.
It took a while for the results to be tabulated. The suspense was killing me. I didn't know if I had done well enough to place in my age group. I really wanted a trophy. I enjoyed conversation with my friend Valerie (icecreamrunner) and other runners at our table. I could tell Valerie was thinking the same thing about the results. She kept asking if they were posted anywhere.

Finally the wait was over, the results were in. I was so excited to hear my name announced. I placed 2nd in my age group.

My friend Valerie placed 1st in her age group.

I really enjoyed this race. I would definitely run it again as long as it doesn't conflict with the Mother's Day run that my mom and I do every year.  It was well organized. The course was nice. I enjoyed looking at all the historic homes. The pancake breakfast was pretty tasty and it was great to sit and visit with other runners while the results were being tabulated. I love the trophies! It's not that often that races hand out trophies for age group awards. I was pleased that I did well enough to earn one.