2017 Goals

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When it comes to running, the crazy things that I do are carefully planned out. No last-minute craziness here! Two years ago I set my running goals in time format: I wanted to be able to run distances that I had already run, just faster. In 2015 I set new PRs at the 5k, 10 mile, half and marathon distances, while running 237 miles further than I did in 2014. In 2016 I set out to focus more on long run training in order to tackle my first ultramarathon. My last long run before the ultra was Space Coast Marathon, where I PR’ed by 12 minutes and was able to do it with a negative split. While a successful 50-miler was the big goal for the year, I believe the marathon PR was a bonus and a direct result of the many 26-mile-plus long runs that I wrote into my training plan.

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What are your goals?

So what could I possibly have planned for 2017? I have three goals for the upcoming year, and for those who have called me crazy in the past, you’ll likely need that word three more times before you’re done reading. Santa didn’t bring much in the line of material gifts this year, but he left me a full dose of lunacy!

First up is a goal that I will start on January 7th and complete on February 5th. I am currently a member of the Half Fanatics (Saturn level) and a member of the Marathon Maniacs (Bronze level), and qualified for both simultaneously, giving me Double Agent status, level one of ten. I accomplished this two years ago by running 3 marathons and 4 half marathons in the same 90-day period. Back to my goal… I am going to be moving up to Double Agent level 3 and moving from Bronze to Gold as a Marathon Maniac by running 4 marathons and 4 half marathons within 30 days. I’ll be running the Disney Half and Full marathons (Goofy Challenge), Best Damn Race Jacksonville half, Shark Bite half, Clearwater Distance Classic marathon, Celebration marathon, Best Damn Race Safety Harbor half, and Tallahassee marathon within those 30 days.

That’s just goal #1 – there are still 11 months left in the year!

Goal #2: The race director for the Daytona 100 and Daytona 50 has announced a sister race in northern Michigan in June and I plan to do two things I have never done before. I will be going to Michigan and I’ll be running the Lighthouse 100 mile race. My goal is to finish the 100 miles of this race within the cutoff time of 30 hours. I’d love to bring that time down, but given the struggles that I faced near the end of the 50-miler earlier this month, and the fact that the Lighthouse 100 has “rolling hills” (where the Daytona 100 had max elevation of about 15 feet above sea level), I’m setting the goal 6 months out as finishing all 100 miles within the 30 hour limit. Also, at this point I have no idea if I will have a crew or will be running solo. Doing it solo will no doubt slow me down a great deal.

Have you called me crazy yet? But wait, there’s more!

Goal #3: Six months to the day after I run my second ultra and first 100-miler I’m going to run another 100-miler. I’m returning to the Daytona 100, this time to run the full 100 miles rather than the 50. Ok, so where’s the goal? In Michigan in June I plan to finish; in Florida in December I plan to finish in under 24 hours. I’m upping my finish time goal by a full six hours in six months. I plan on using the Michigan race as a learning tool to be better prepared and better trained by December.

Goal-setting is a good way for me to get the process started toward improvement. What keeps me on track is the accountability that involves my friends, family, and fellow runners. Even if you don’t know what it takes to prepare for a 100-mile race, I’ll bet you know what an excuse sounds like. If I’m throwing out excuses instead of miles, please feel free to mention it to me, however you see fit! I’m not setting big goals to try to be better than anyone, with the exception of who I am today, and that doesn’t sound crazy at all.

 

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Daytona 50 Recap

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I spent most of March and April working on heart rate training, designed to help me keep my heart rate down as I ran at comfortable speeds for longer distances. In effect, this was the beginning of my training cycle for a December race, the Daytona 50. I had previously run 6 marathons and 15 half marathons but had no idea what to expect in nearly doubling my longest run ever.

Fast forward past several months of training, back-to-back long runs, 3am alarms, on-course training, and over 1400 miles run since May 1st. On December 10th I drove to Ponce Inlet to meet up with my friend (and crew for the race) Denny Krahe. We left my car at the race finish line and drove to the start in Marineland, FL for the 11am runners meeting with race organizer and ultra-runner Dave Krupski. Besides the meeting, the final hour gave me the chance to get my final preparations ready and familiarize Denny with my plan. I was ready. At least I thought I was. Just before noon we heard the National Anthem (with an impromptu flyover from about 15 geese in a perfect V-formation) and then counted down to the start, exactly 6 hours after the 100-mile runners started their race 50 miles away in Jacksonville Beach.

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The 2016 Daytona 50 is under way!

About 0.02 miles into the race I realized that I had everything I needed EXCEPT my nutrition items for the first 11 miles. I had left those items in the cooler in Denny’s van. Lucky for me the very start of the race circled the parking lot so when I got close I dropped out of line and ran to the van to get my food. We’re off to a smashing start! I settled in and headed into the wind for a little less than a mile to the turnaround point, gave Dave a high-five and headed south for the next 47 miles. It didn’t take long to shake the crazy start, and I just stayed at a pace that felt comfortable. I did vary from my training pattern in the first 11 miles because I skipped my every-other mile walk breaks for 1 minute. I was running at a good heart rate (130-135) but my pace was slightly faster than I planned.

After about 3 miles I saw Denny next to the sidewalk trying to get my attention. I didn’t expect to see him until the first aid station around mile 11. While driving by he had noticed that I put my sunglasses on top of my head and was there to swap out the glasses for my hat that I had kept in the van. Awesome idea! Wait, if he could pick up on simple clues like this I think I’m in good hands for the rest of the race. I stayed pretty steady with my pace, liquid and food intake through the first aid station, hitting ten miles in 1:40:03, right at 10 minutes per mile and about 5 minutes ahead of expectation. I gave the credit to the tailwind. Denny was waiting for me with a fresh Gatorade bottle and a fresh Propel water bottle for my hydration belt, as well as a quarter of a PBJ sandwich. I told him I was good and was quickly on my way, hardly even breaking stride.

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From the aid station we had to cross A1A as the Flagler Beach to Marineland Trail (pronounced sidewalk) continued from this point on the inland side of A1A. The next aid station was about 9 miles away and I had everything I needed with me so I had told Denny to meet me at that aid station. Here I returned to my tried and true run/walk plan of walking for a minute to start each mile. At around mile 17 I saw my dad standing next to where we were running and stopped to say hi for a few seconds. From the start through the second aid station that was my slowest mile because of the stop, but still under 11 minutes. I was feeling strong and running ahead of expectations. That can’t be good.

The second aid station had a timing mat and was somewhere around mile 19.5-20. I crossed the mat at 3:15:12 and quickly caught up with Denny. I swapped bottles, grabbed a sandwich and fresh bags of jelly beans and Combos, plus a small cup of Coke from Dave’s wife Alex who was (wo)manning the aid station. I told Denny that my back had started to tighten up a little and that I needed to catch up with him at some point before the next aid station because I would need my nighttime gear. We agreed on meeting 5 miles down the road and I was off once again. My legs felt good but I knew my back would present an issue before long. Still, I kept to my plan of walking for a minute of each mile and kept a pace of just under 11:00 per mile until I crossed mile 25 in 4:20 and met up with Denny soon after. It wasn’t time for the night gear yet so he gave me fresh bottles and a sandwich and we agreed to meet around 5pm. During mile 27 I started adding additional walk breaks as I was having more back problems and some unsettled stomach concerns just to add to the drama. At some point during mile 28 I saw Denny again and he helped me put on my reflective vest equipped with blinky lights and handed me my headlamp. I went on my way, planning to meet him again at the third aid station, still 3 miles away.

Not long after leaving Denny I found a gas station and headed for their bathroom hoping to fix my uneasy stomach. Mission unsuccessful. I decided to cut back on the liquids and stop eating sugar for a while, thinking I might give my stomach a chance to settle itself. I pulled into the next aid station in Ormond Beach just before mile 31 and took off my hydration belt and tossed my headphones into the van. Perhaps losing the belt would ease the pressure on my back. I wouldn’t be needing the headphones in a few miles because Denny was getting ready to park the van and pace me to the finish. I had a mini orange from the aid station selections and headed back out on the course after crossing A1A for the final time, now carrying my belt bottles. The plan was to make it to mile 35, resupply with Denny and then have him join me running. My pace was now in the 14:00-14:20 range so he had plenty of time to get ready.

The mile 35 meetup went as planned and he dropped off the bottles I had, handed me a sandwich, and we were off. We had about 3.5 miles to go on A1A before we started the first beach segment. It was good to have conversation, but these first couple of miles with my pacer is where I dipped into the dark area of uncertainty. I’ve never run 32 miles before and now I’m past 35, so how far can I actually go? Maybe I can make it to 50, but maybe I can’t. I even had a thought of “maybe I don’t want to,” but I knew that there were a handful of people tracking my progress and cheering me on and I really hate the thought of letting other people down so I pushed through.

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We stayed around 15:00 miles from mile 35 through the final aid station at mile 43 where we left the beach and returned to the roads. All that we had left was about 3.5 miles south, a mile around the lighthouse, and then 2 miles on the beach heading north to the finish line. I was feeling more comfortable about finishing, but not yet convinced it would happen. We stayed at the aid station for about 3 minutes. I didn’t get any food, but they had Mountain Dew! A shot of that and we were off. It was now about 8:40 and I was gaining on 9 hours running. I’d never done 6 hours before so I was testing myself pretty well. We came across a couple of people in front of their homes offering us water bottles, which was quite nice to see. One asked us, “How many more of you are there?” I told him that there might be another 150-200 (including the 100-milers), but that some might not be around until tomorrow morning. By his reaction I knew he wasn’t expecting that answer!

Around 9:30 we first saw the lighthouse up close. At this point I knew that I could finish, I just didn’t know if I could continue to hold the blazing 15:20 pace that we were putting down. Denny stopped at one point to top off my bottles (he was carrying extra liquids in his back pack) and he quickly caught up to me. He also mentioned from time to time that he had extra Combos and I should be eating. I didn’t feel like eating but knew I needed the calories. Mile 48 brought us back onto the beach for the home stretch.

Since it was just after 10pm we could only see lights here and there along the beach but couldn’t tell where the finish was. We knew it was in front of us somewhere. After a half mile I saw a red light and announced that the red light might be the clock at the finish. When Denny agreed that it could be I got an energy boost and our running segments got a little longer and a little faster. I started getting butterflies in my stomach because I was nearly done with a 50 freaking mile race! Denny looked at his watch and realized that 10:30 was a possibility for my finish time if we picked it up a little. He said, “Stay with me and you’ll make it” and was I just out of it enough to go along with whatever he said. The 50th mile was faster than any mile I had run in the past 5 hours! I crossed the finish line in 10:30:15 and was greeted and given my finisher’s medal by Alex Krupski. I was slightly disappointed that I failed to meet my best-case scenario goal of 10 hours, mostly because I didn’t follow my own plan, but I was overall thrilled that I finished and overcame my obstacles.

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Without the help of Denny Krahe I can’t say for sure that I would have finished this race. I can say that I would not have finished it in the same time or condition that I did. Thank you Denny for giving up your day with your family, driving my supplies around, making the stops quick and easy, and, of course, pacing me when I needed it most. Thanks also to Dave and Alex for putting the race and training runs together. Also, a big thank you to the volunteers and others that helped make this race a reality, and the amazing experience that it was. I’m no world-class ultra runner but I finished what I started – I am an Ultra Runner!

 

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The morning after, sunrise at Ponce Inlet, FL

 

Star Wars Weekend – Part 2

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With Saturday’s Tie Fighter 10k complete, including waiting for the bus back to EPCOT (which took me longer than it took to run the 10k), the next step was to prepare for Sunday’s Dark Side half marathon and the completion of the Dark Side Challenge. A nap, some stretching, setting out everything for the morning, a safe dinner, and setting my alarm for 2:30am pretty much filled out the day – and I even managed to get a few hours of decent sleep, a rarity for me before Disney races.

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I was out the door before 3am and parked at EPCOT by 3:30. Before heading to my corral I met up with Billy, Janine, Gelcys and Alpha. I was prepared to run with Gelcys if she felt like she needed extra company, but she felt good running with Janine and Alpha so I headed up to corral A, getting there at 4:55. The race started at 5:00 so that might have been cutting it close 😉

The advantage of starting at the back of corral A is that the really fast runners are gone before I ever see them so I’m not tempted to start out at a faster pace than I should. Once the fireworks went off and we started our 13.1 miles of Star Wars fun, I kept an eye on my Garmin looking for a heart rate of about 150. The plan was to stay at 150 for the first half and then adjust my pace based on how I felt at that point. I don’t know why I make plans – I never stick to them. My heart rate stayed in the low 150s for the first two miles, and by mile 3 I was up to 160. The first two miles got us into EPCOT, around World Showcase and out to the Boardwalk area, and I was running at paces of 9:27 and 9:04.

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Mile 3 on the Boardwalk

From the Boardwalk area we ran to, into and out of Hollywood Studios for miles 3 and 4. This was pretty close to the 10k course, though we did take a left halfway up Hollywood Boulevard and ran around Echo Lake, a part of the park that I’ve never run through before. I finished mile 3 in 8:46 and realized that was too quick so I slowed down to 9:22 for mile 4. Heart rate was at 160 for miles 3 and 4, well above what I wanted but I didn’t want to slow down to over 10:00 per mile so I stayed with it.

Miles 5-7 took us on the road to Animal Kingdom, so not much exciting going on. Except for those giant HD screens playing clips from various Star Wars movies. I think that all half and full marathons should show movies along the course, just for distraction purposes. Speaking of distractions, let’s get back to the recap. I ran miles 5-7 in 9:06, 8:40, and 8:56, which shows that my pace was up and down. However, my heart rate was 161, 163, and 163 for those miles and that’s what I was paying attention to. I also crossed the halfway point of the race in about 58:30, including a bathroom stop, so I felt good about finishing in under two hours.

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These are not the Stormtroopers I was looking for

The eighth mile took us all around the Animal Kingdom parking lot and to the point where we were to enter the park. Again, not great on the scenery, but good for staying steady. Mile 8 done in 8:52 and still at 163bpm. Most of mile 9 was inside Animal Kingdom, and here’s where I made my one character photo stop. I mean, how often do you see Stormtroopers on the course? Picture done and I’m off and running, deciding that it was late enough in the race where I could start picking up the pace. I hit the end of mile 9 in 9:06 (including the photo stop) with my heart rate up to 167.

Miles 10, 11, and most of 12 took us back on the road, this time we were headed to ESPN Wide World of Sports. Once again there were huge movie screens along the way, bringing a smile to my face each time I saw the light side battling the dark side. I bumped my pace up to 8:46 for mile ten, but fell off slightly with 8:54 for mile 11 and 9:09 for mile 12. I was starting to feel pretty spent, but kept my heart rate at 167 for all three of these miles. with 1.1 miles left it was time to give it whatever I had left no matter how I felt.

Just before the end of mile 12 we turned onto the dirt road that lead us into the ESPNWWOS complex. Now into the 13th mile I noticed something else that made me feel really good, even special. The sun was about to come up. I’d always started Disney races in a corral far enough back where I ran a decent portion of the race in daylight. The sun in Florida gets hot, fast so I was glad I’d be done by sunrise (even though I wasn’t feeling particularly fast at that moment). Mile 13 saw my pace improve to 8:30 and my heart rate jump up to 175. Now I see the finish line and it’s time for the last burst of speed.

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Medals for the half and Dark Side Challenge

For the last tenth I managed a 7:20 pace and 184BPM average. Yeah, that was pretty much everything I had. I really haven’t been doing much training for the past couple of months. More like going through the motions. But, I did manage my first Disney half under two hours (1:58:26), so I had reason to celebrate. Besides, Carissa called my name out as I crossed the finish line, another first. I got my medal, some water, Powerade, and the standard issue RunDisney food box + banana, then headed for the challenge tent. They look up your picture (taken at packet pickup) to verify who you are and make sure that you finished the first race of the challenge, and then give you your challenge medal.

 

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Darth Maul looking a little scary

After completing the half mile long finisher’s chute and getting a photo taken I headed to the next parking lot where they had a few more photo opportunities. I knew that the lines for these photos would continue to grow as more runners crossed the finish line so I waited for a couple of pictures while the lines were relatively short. I then returned to the bleachers near the finish line to wait for Gelcys, Alpha, and Janine to finish. While sitting there I heard one of the announcers call out someone’s name and congratulate them for completing their 250th half marathon. Now there’s an accomplishment! Let’s see, another 234 to go and I’ll be there too.

 

 

I am quite impressed with the amount of detail that RunDisney put into this weekend, and the medals are spectacular. I’m thankful that I was able to start in the A corral and run in relatively light traffic for most of the race. I’m also quite amazed that Gelcys was able to push through the pain that she experienced during these last 22.4 miles and finish all three races with a smile on her face. Now that my racing season is in the books, it’s time to switch gears, do a few weeks of easy runs to complete my heart rate training, and then it’s time to start running some big miles! It’s ultra time before this year is done.

Star Wars Weekend – part 1

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What do you get when you combine three of your favorite things into one activity? For some it’s an all-you-can-eat buffet, but for me it’s a RunDisney weekend with a Star Wars theme. Picture running through three of the Disney World parks and seeing Star Wars characters along the course AND scenes from the Star Wars movies on giant HD screens on the side of the road as you run between parks. Add to that the couple thousand runners dressed in Star Wars costumes, some amazing medals and some of the best running friends that you could ask for and this weekend was more than just OK.

 

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The Dark Side Star Wars Weekend

The weekend started with the expo, of course, but for me the expo was a quick packet pickup after work just before the expo closed. I would imagine that the expo was a complete madhouse Thursday morning though. I did get to see Jeff Galloway and shake his hand so there’s a bit of inspiration to start the weekend with.

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Starting in corral A is now a goal achieved!

Fast forward to Saturday morning, also known as Friday night to many of you since the alarm went off while it was still Friday on the west coast. Around 3:20 I was off to EPCOT for the start of the Tie Fighter 10k. With the security check, over 12,000 runners, the typical Disney 20 minute walk to the start corrals and the 5:30 start, I actually felt like I was running late when I parked my car at 4am. I made it to corral A by the start of the race, though I was starting in the back of the corral. After some words about the “training mission” that we were about to endure from a couple of Stormtroopers (this was the Dark Side weekend), the fireworks went off and the race was under way. My goal for the race was to grab a PR, though I knew I had not been training for a speedy race so I might need to revise that goal.

The first mile basically took us around the edge of EPCOT and backstage so we could enter the park near Mexico. Unlike any other RunDisney race I’ve done before, we took a right and ran through Mexico and across the front of World Showcase Lagoon, through Canada and the UK. Usually the trip through EPCOT involves running through the back side of the lagoon and through all of the other countries. For my first mile I ran by heart rate, wanting to stay around 150 bpm so I didn’t burn up too quickly. Mile 1: 9:07.

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The 10k shirt is definitely a winner!

The second and third miles took us into the Boardwalk area and down the path to Hollywood Studios. I’ve also run on this path twice during mile 25 of the marathon, so this is the first time I was actually able to *run* the path, as opposed to run/walking the path. Minor accomplishment! Hollywood Studios was a nice minute or two, but with half the park under construction, it’s about the best we could ask for. Plus, the route took us through the Fantasmic! area, which I don’t remember ever running through before. By now we’ve finished three miles and my pace has increased with mile 2 in 8:33 and mile 3 in 8:27.

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My overall physical state was telling me at this point that I would be able to keep a decent pace for the last half, but a PR was not going to happen. I wasn’t even running at the pace I’d need yet, plus I had about 3 minutes to make up. Yeah, let’s just enjoy the run and save something for tomorrow’s half. The majority of the second half of the race was on the road so it was less than exciting, although there were a couple of those giant screens playing some scenes from Star Wars movies. I finished mile 4 in 8:13 and mile 5 in 8:24, with my heart rate now in the low 180’s.

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Mile six is where we arrived at the ESPN compound via dirt road/faux trail. I was fighting to keep the pace that I had been holding and getting a bit discouraged because I shouldn’t be fighting this hard to keep this pace – I’ve run over a minute faster per mile for this distance more than once. Anyway, after a much shorter tour of the ESPN area than the marathon offers (thank goodness) we finally found the finish line. I ran mile 6 in 8:19 and the final stretch in a 7:50 pace, crossing the finish line in 53:06.

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Quite possibly the coolest medal I’ve earned

I definitely was not impressed with my time, or the fact that earning that time got my heart rate up to 193 bpm. I really have allowed myself to get in worse shape than I was aware of, but that’s the topic of another post on another day. Overall I was that 406th finisher of the Tie Fighter 10k, and with 12,169 finishers, I felt a little better about my time.

Racing season is coming to a close

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As much of the northern half of the country is looking forward to the warmer weather and the beginning of racing season, highlighted with next Monday’s Boston Marathon, those of us in the sunshine state are saying goodbye to racing season. Yes, there are a few races available May through September, but not many comparatively, especially if you’re looking for distances from half marathon through ultra. Overnight lows of 70 degrees-plus for 3-4 months straight pretty much eliminate the possibility of long, competitive runs.

As I look back on the past six months I see a number of highlights, and overall a season that I am happy with. My first race of the season was the Marine Corps Half Marathon in Jacksonville, FL where I posted my current PR for the 13.1 distance. I had set a goal time of 1:45 but finished in 1:48:19, beating my previous PR by just 38 seconds. Still, it’s a PR and a great start to the season.

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Marine Corps Half finish line

October’s other race was my second running of the Lighthouse Loop Half in Port Orange, FL. Severe anxiety and stress joined me at the starting line that morning, and after three miles at a pace that would have given me that 1:45 time my heart rate was over 185. I backed it down, took some walk breaks, and finished in 1:59:00.

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Lighthouse Loop Half bling!

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Space Shuttle medal #2 from Space Coast marathon

Thanksgiving weekend I ran my fourth marathon and grabbed my second PR on the Space Coast Marathon course (first was my first ever marathon, but still). I bettered my 2014 time by 16 minutes, but still did not have a good handle on the 26.2 distance. Even with 20 and 22 mile training runs, getting past 17 miles in the race is something I struggle with, and have always gone to walk/run by that point, if not before. Goal number one for the remainder of 2016 is to become better at the 20 to 26 mile distance. I will run a marathon without stopping to walk. If I can’t then that 50-mile race will be a long December day.

 

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Finishing marathon #5 in Cape Coral

2 weeks later I drove to Cape Coral, FL for another marathon, hoping for the nice cool weather we had race morning the previous year. At the start of the race it was 66 degrees, but by the finish we were in the low 80s. This definitely did not feel like December! The paramedics were treating runners just past the finish line by the time I got there. Again my first 17 miles went pretty well, but at that point I switched to a 1/1 walk/run and finished in 4:50.

 

 

 

 

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Disney bling! Everyone needs some of this.

January brought me two races, both at Disney World and both in the same weekend. I elected to “only” do the Goofy Challenge this year, where last year I finished the Dopey Challenge. My plan was to run a steady half between 9:30 and 10:00 per mile in order to save something for the full the next day. Mission accomplished on the half (2:07:14) with very even splits. The full, however was the most difficult of the six marathons that I’ve done. On that race day the run/walk intervals started as we were leaving Animal Kingdom, or around mile 13.5 for those of you not lucky enough to have run this course. Goal time: 4:30, actual time: 4:57. Still, it’s six marathons attempted and six completed.

KIMG0763February brought me a couple of races, starting with Best Damn Race in Safety Harbor, FL. Beautiful morning for a race and I finished about 66 seconds behind my 13.1 PR. Happy day! The next day I ran a virtual 10k with a couple of friends. We completed our 6.2 miles at Disney’s Boardwalk area (hotel area between Hollywood Studios and Epcot). The pace was nice and easy which was fine with me!

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Best Damn Race Orlando with Joy

Two more races during March: First was Best Damn Race Orlando half marathon which I ran with a friend. She was recovering from strep throat so the goal was to finish. Mission accomplished. Later in March I ran my first relay event – the Sarasota Half with another friend. I was somewhat disappointed with my time for the 6.9 miles that I completed, but I achieved two PR’s that day. My first relay half (automatic PR) was done in 1:57:08. I also achieved a heart rate PR – when we sprinted for the finish I hit 196 bpm, breaking my assumed max HR of 192.

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Sarasota Half Relay with my teammate Krissy

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UCF Storm the Campus AG award plus U, C, and F medals

April will finish with 3 races, although only one is complete. The third annual Storm the Campus 10 miler was my 50th race since my first race on November 1, 2013. I was trying to break 1:20 for ten miles, but finished in 1:22:20, good enough for second place in my AG. Races 2 and 3 for the month will be this weekend as RunDisney heads back to the parks in Orlando for the inaugural Star Wars Dark Side weekend. I’ll be running the 10k on Saturday and the half on Sunday. Can’t wait to run in the parks again!

After the Star Wars races this weekend I’ll be doing 6 weeks of heart rate training, where none of my runs will take me above 140 bpm. I’ll also be increasing my weekly mileage slightly from about 33 to around 40. After that I’ll continue to increase my weekly mileage and my long runs throughout the summer, peaking at 58 miles per week in 4 runs per week by mid-November. After a 3 week taper I’m running my first ultra, a 50-mile oceanside run from St. Augustine to Ponce Inlet on the east coast of Florida. Yes, I have a goal time already for this and no, I’m not ready to share it yet, but you can bet it’s not what you’d expect for a first time ultramarathoner.

Best of luck to all of you as you enter your racing or training season. There are plenty of PR’s still to be had out there – grab yours!

 

March Recap

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The month of March was less than eventful, but it continued my streak of months with at least 100 miles run, so we’ll call it a win. I finished the month with only 19 days in which I ran and 110 miles, making it my 13th month in a row over the century mark. That is an achievement that I am quite proud of because it indicates two key elements that are necessary in order to improve: Consistency and remaining healthy.

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Finishing Best Damn Race Orlando with Joy

In the first part of the month I was in two races, both half marathons. The first I ran with a friend and we just enjoyed the race and the time spent together talking. The second half was actually a relay where Krissy ran the first 10k before I ran about 6.8. We then ran the last tenth of a mile together, finishing in about 1:57.

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Krissy and I finishing the Sarasota Half Relay with big air!

The remainder of my miles were done training style, including the two weeks that I tried out the heart rate training. I chose to stop the heart rate training so I could get a couple of higher intensity runs in before my race on April 3rd. Initially I was seeing some great improvements with the heart rate training, but then I saw things getting slightly worse and started looking for reasons for both. The one factor that I believe had the most effect on my heart rate numbers was the weather. Cooler runs (20-25 degrees) lined up with my best heart rates and the warmer runs lined up with the higher numbers. I still believe that there is improvement to be had and by the time I return to the HR training in three weeks our weather will be steady enough that there won’t be any threat of cooler weather.

Plans for April include a little speed work in the first two weeks so I can chase a 10k PR at Disney, running the 10k and half on Star Wars weekend, and then saying goodbye to racing for a few months and focus on distance training. I’ll start with 6 weeks of HR training and then I’ll start building up to high mileage weeks as part of marathon (November) and ultra (December) training. It’s just about time to get really comfortable being uncomfortable. Thanks for reading. I’ll be posting my Storm the Campus recap as soon as the photos become available.

Getting Goofy With It

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Last weekend I had the chance to run at Walt Disney World again, and like each time before I was consumed with anticipation. Disney World has always been a special place to me and having the chance to run races there makes it that much more special. This year I took a step back from the Dopey Challenge that I ran last year and opted for “just” the Goofy Challenge. For those unfamiliar with these challenges, the Dopey Challenge is a 5k on Thursday, 10k on Friday, half marathon on Saturday, and marathon on Sunday for a total of 48.6 miles. The Goofy Challenge consists of only the half and marathon for 39.3 miles.

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Epcot entrance at 3:45am

I went for packet pickup on Wednesday after work, but pretty much breezed past the expo, except for meeting up with my friend Megan who was working in one of the booths. Next up in my preparation was Friday evening. While I was putting my bib on my race shirt and getting my gear ready, my daughter was making a sign. She had decided that Saturday’s half was a good time for her to make her first cheering appearance. So when 3:15am came we were both ready to leave for EPCOT. Her plan was to take the monorails from EPCOT to the Magic Kingdom and then find a good spot on Main Street. Mission accomplished as she ended up at the end of Main Street just before the bridge to Tomorrowland, an easy place to find her. While she was settling in there I made the 20 minute walk to the starting corrals and then waited for the start of the race. Right at 5:30am the wheelchair competitors were off, followed closely by corral A, then B, and by 5:35 the 500 or so runners with me in corral C were watching the fireworks go up, signaling for us to go! The WDW Half Marathon was underway.

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Each corral gets their own fireworks when it’s GO time!

For the first eight minutes I watched my heart rate spike as high as 178 but then settle in to the 150s for a half mile, then low 140s. This was a good place to land considering I had been training less than I wanted to after my two recent marathons. The first five miles took us down the road toward the Magic Kingdom, through the MK toll plaza and parking lot, past the Transportation and Ticket Center and the Contemporary Resort. In the sixth mile we entered Main Street in the Magic Kingdom, where I remembered to look for my daughter. I found her right where she said she’d be and she quickly flipped her sign around from the side that said “Motivational Sign” to “Go Daddy Go”. She yelled some encouragement and I quickly made my way into Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, through Cinderella’s Castle, through Liberty Square and Frontierland, and out of the park.

The next 6 miles take runners from the back of the Magic Kingdom past the Grand Floridian and Polynesian Resorts, over a couple of bridges, and to a side entrance into EPCOT. The last mile or so took us through the Future World portion of EPCOT, past Spaceship Earth (AKA giant golf ball), and out into the parking lot for the finish. Knowing that I still had 26.2 miles to run the next day I did not push the pace at all, though I did speed up for the last half mile or so. My splits were right about where I planned them to be: 30:37 for 5k (9:52 pace), 1:01:11 for 10k (9:51 pace), and 2:07:14 at the finish (9:43 pace). I did not feel any aches and pains in my legs, though the bottoms of my feet were still sore from the previous two marathons. My feet would be my only question going into day 2 of the Goofy Challenge.

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Half marathon is done – shiny new Donald bling!

Between races I met up with Steph who was working at the expo. I also met up with Gelcys and a bunch of other runners at Disney Springs before enjoying a quiet evening at home. Before I knew it, my 2:45am alarm was going off. Soon I was headed back to EPCOT, this time without my daughter. The car ride, parking, bag check, walking to the corral, and waiting – pretty much the same routine as the day before. We did get started a few minutes later on Sunday, with corral C not entering the course until 5:42. Although I had done a bunch of training to make a run at a sub-4:00 marathon, this was not going to be the day because I knew it would be a mistake to even try. I set off at around 10:00 per mile with the first 8.5 miles being pretty much the same as the half marathon course, though there were a couple of different turns inside the Magic Kingdom. We ran right past where the WDW Speedway used to be. In previous years the marathon included a lap around the track, but this past fall the speedway was taken out.

My official splits had me at 50:43 for 5 miles (10:09 pace) and 1:41:34 at 10 miles (10:10 pace) so I was pretty much just running along at my easy, long run pace. Miles 8.5 through 12 were uneventful on the road to Animal Kingdom. In and out of Animal Kingdom brought me to the halfway point in 2:12:55 (10:09 pace). This is where my race started to unfold. I stopped to walk for a minute, then back to running. Six minutes later I walked again followed by ten minutes of running. I was just past halfway and had already taken a series of walk breaks. I continued to walk/run all the way to and through ESPN Wide World of Sports and then back to Hollywood Studios. I passed the 20 mile split at 3:38:27 (10:56 pace) and at that point was just hoping that I could hold on to beat my slowest marathon time to date.

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Goofy Challenge, Marathon, and Half medals

Around the end of mile 23 we headed into Hollywood Studios for about a mile then it was along the boardwalk back to EPCOT, around World Showcase, back through Future World and out to the parking lot for the finish line. I was not able to stay below my previous slowest marathon time of 4:53:47. I finished in 4:57:00 after a second half in 2:44:05. Needless to say I was disappointed, especially considering that I finished better a year ago while completing Dopey AND had a long marathon training season this past year. Someday I’m going to figure this marathon thing out!

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Another RunDisney race weekend comes to a close.