Sunday, February 5, 2017

Big Beach Half Marathon Race Recap

January 29, 2017

Jeff Galloway's Running School
Saturday, January 28th

I began the Big Beach Half Marathon weekend by attending Jeff Galloway's Running School at the Hangout. This was my big Christmas present from Michael. I looked forward to this day for over a month. The class was lecture and Q&A format, and it lasted three hours from 10:00-1:00. Jeff Galloway offered a wealth of knowledge about speed training, mental toughness, nutrition, the walk/run method, and many other running related topics. I look forward to incorporating his walk/run intervals into my longer runs and races to help with my overall performance and recovery time. At the end of the course, Jeff Galloway took time to sign our books and take pictures. He was a very nice, down to earth person. I am so thankful for the opportunity to meet him.

Former Olympian and founder of the Run/Walk Method Jeff Galloway

My friend Dee also attended the class. It was great to see her again.
I love meeting IG friends! It was so nice to meet Katie at Jeff Galloway's Running School. I hope to see her again soon!

After the class I picked up my race packet and checked out the discount merchandise from different vendors.

Michael and I ordered pizza for dinner that evening.  It was so chilly and windy. We didn't feel like going out anywhere. I laid out my things for race morning. I was in bed by 9:30.

Race Day
I debated running the full at Big Beach after not meeting my goal at Mobile First Light Marathon just three weeks prior. I read several blog posts about redemption races and learned that most of them rarely result in a PR. I decided it would be best to stick to the half marathon as originally planned. I experienced some knee pain at First Light, but after taking a whole week off from running and doing a few shorter runs the pain was completely gone (or so I thought). I've always followed the 26 days no racing rule after running a marathon. I've never attempted a half marathon this quickly after running a full, but I hoped that I would have a decent, pain free race.
I ran the Inaugural Big Beach Half Marathon in 2016. My only complaint last year was that the course was long (13.47 miles). I was pleased to see the half marathon course was accurate and certified for this year's race. The 2017 race is also part of the new Run the Beach Series which also includes the Sea Turtle Half and Kaiser Coastal Half. All three races are in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Participants receive a special medal and jacket after completing all three races in November. I signed up for the series on Black Friday weekend and scored this really cool medal holder.
The race started at 8:00. My mother in law's condo is just a short, five minute drive to the Hangout. Michael dropped me off around 7:30. I ran into my friend Dee before the race. She swapped to the full with her friend Penny. Dee has run a number of full marathons. She's a part of the Fifty States Club and Marathon Maniacs. I admire her strength and endurance. We took a pre-race photo. Then I wished her luck as we made our way to the start line.
Pre-race photo with Dee
I didn't have a time goal for this race, but deep down I hoped to beat last year's time (2:12:24). The weather was much cooler this year (40's and breezy) perfect for a course PR. I lined up behind the 2:00 pacer at the start line. They went over the course, played the National Athem, and we were off.
The first three miles ran along Hwy 59 and Fort Morgan Road. I stuck with the 2:00 pacer and the pace felt comfortable. I was confident that I could maintain the pace and run perhaps my second fastest half marathon. That fantasy was short lived when I lost track of the 2:00 pacer at the first water stop. I tried my best to pick up my pace to catch up to her, but no matter how hard I pushed she stayed several strides ahead of me.
Mile 1- 8:51
Mile 2- 8:53
Mile 3- 8:58
Mile 4- 9:17
Mile 5- 9:59

The photographers captured this picture of me in the first miles a few strides ahead of the 2:00 pacer. That lead was short lived.
By Mile 5 I felt a familiar twinge in my right knee. "Not again," I said to myself. I stopped off the trail to stretch. Several runners asked if I was ok. I love the support of others in the running community. My knee felt a little better after stretching, but it ached when I tried to run again. I had to resort to walking A LOT.
My friend Dee asked me if I planned to use Jeff Galloway's walk/run intervals during this race. I've never used timed intervals before and I didn't plan to try them for the first time during a race. However, at this point I was willing to try most anything to get to the finish line, so I decided to experiment with his method. I set the timer on my phone to 1:00 minute. I ran a minute, then walked a minute. The walk breaks definitely helped relieve some of the pain, but I wasn't able to run fast during my run intervals.
Mile 6- 11:31
Mile 7- 12:02
View of the Shelby Lakes from the Backcountry Trails

Most of the course ran along the paved Backcountry Trails
The half marathoners split around 7.5 miles. I couldn't be happier to make that turn. I definitely made the right decision by not attempting the full marathon. I certainly wouldn't have PR'd and I doubt that I would have even finished.

Half Marathoners keep right
The 2:15 pacer caught up to me around Mile 8. "Wouldn't it be nice if I could at least hang with him?" I thought. 2:15 isn't too far off from the 2:12 that I ran at last year's race. I increased my run/walk intervals to 2:00 run/1:00 walk in an effort to keep up with the 2:15 pacer. I was successful in my attempt until we reached the water stop around Mile 10. 
Mile 8- 11:05
Mile 9- 10:51
Mile 10- 11:59
I stopped to take a picture of the Lower Alabama Parrot Heads group who volunteered at this water station. They had a pretty awesome set up and they even handed out leis to the runners. This was the last water stop before turning directly into headwind on Beach Blvd. The wind was so strong that it blew off my headband. The 2:15 pacers were out of sight after stopping to take pictures and retrieve my headband.
Lower Alabama Parrot Heads at the water stop around Mile 10

The headwind was so rough on Beach Blvd. I gave up on trying to reach a certain finish time all together. I was on pace to run my second fastest half in the first three miles of the race and by the last three miles I was on pace for my second slowest. The pain in my knee intensified with the 2:00 run/1:00 walk intervals, so I resorted back to 1:00 run/ 1:00 walk intervals.  I originally told Michael to look for me at the finish line between the 2:00-2:15 hour mark. I texted him at this point on the course and told him I was pacing closer to 2:20.
The final 5K along Beach Blvd was rough! The dude on the bike told us to get behind a big guy to help block the wind. I didn't see a big guy to get behind and even if I did I wouldn't have been able to catch up to him. Haha!

At this point in the race I was all about taking pictures and having fun.

We crossed over to the left hand side of the road around Mile 11, one step closer to the finish line.

A woman wearing a "Cougar Runner" shirt passed me in the last mile. She seemed to be annoyed by me because I passed her several times during my run intervals. Then she would quickly speed up to pass me. I wanted to tell her that I wasn't interested in racing her, but I kept my mouth shut. She was long gone by the final turn anyway.
Mile 11- 12:05
Mile 12- 12:12
Mile 13- 12:33
The final turn was right where it should be this year. Last year, I hit the 13 Mile marker well before the final turn to the Hangout. I was so glad to be heading to the finish line. The clock read 2:22, so I sped up the best I could to cross before it reached 2:23. My official time was 2:22:41, my second slowest half marathon.
Another thing to love about this race: FREE photos!

Despite my disappointing performance and finish time, I still had a lot of fun at the Big Beach Half Marathon. This is a race that I would love to run year after year. They had an awesome post race party with live entertainment, free beer, and sandwich boxes with fruit and cookies. Michael and I didn't stick around long. I wanted to go back to the condo to shower before making the three hour drive home.

I love this year's bling!