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.

 

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.

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.

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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.

Race Recap: Lighthouse Loop Half

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The fall racing season. It’s something to look forward to. When the cooler weather arrives it’s time to get the results that all of those hot summer runs were supposed to produce. For those of you who are actually experiencing fall at the end of October, I’ll bet it’s a welcome change. For those of us in Florida, fall hasn’t gotten around to showing up yet. Just knowing that, I should have made a better decision at the start of the Lighthouse Loop half marathon.

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This race started just before sunrise, about a tenth of a mile from the beach, 15 minutes or so south of Daytona Beach. With the  slight breeze that was present this could have been the perfect race morning. That is where my thoughts were when they should have been focused on the more important details. The temperature was 70 degrees with 80%-plus humidity. And that breeze? It was a headwind for the first 6 miles of this race. Since I was ignoring those pesky details I was undecided on what pace to lock into even as the Star Spangled Banner was playing. Just in front of me in the corral was the 1:40 pacer, and just behind me was the 1:45 pacer. Instead of focusing on the conditions I was thinking that if I am going to have a real shot at a BQ (3:25) next month I need to be able to nail a 1:40 half. Decision made.

When the gun went off I was right behind the 1:40 pacer and watching how effortless his strides were. I was running the fastest pace I’ve ever attempted for a half and he appeared to be coasting. When my Garmin buzzed at the one mile mark I saw that we were 2 seconds ahead of projected pace at 7:36. Nice!! And I noticed that my heart rate was at 161. I’m going to need to keep an eye on that. Mile 2 was done in 7:37. This guy is good! Heart rate is now at 178. What? How can this be? I’ve run a 10k at 7:16 pace. I should be doing better than this. For mile three I was so focused on my heart rate that I managed to fall off the pace just a bit (7:44), but now my heart rate is 183. I’m at 95% of max at mile three. I don’t get it.

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Sure the heat, humidity, and headwind probably had a lot to do with my high heart rate, but for the next 99 minutes my brain was racing faster than my legs. Maybe I didn’t train hard enough. Maybe I didn’t get enough sleep, ate the wrong foods, have too much stress, and a thousand other thoughts. I really know how to beat myself up.

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Miles 4-7 were spent accepting the fact that I was pretty much spent at the end of 5k and my times slowly got worse. 8:06, 8:31, 8:32, 8:55. The eighth mile was where I started taking walk breaks. 9:46. In the ninth mile I even took my headphones out and never put them back in. 10:07. Miles 10-12 saw more walking and steadily slower times: 10:17, 10:32, 10:51. During these three miles I was picturing the mammoth bridge that would be waiting for me in mile 13. Almost 100 feet up and 100 feet down in about six-tenths of a mile. I actually handled the bridge pretty well, completing the 13th mile in 9:16. During that last full mile I realized that I was going to be close to the two hour mark. From the 1:40 pacer to 2:00??? I found something extra for that last tenth and covered it at a 7:19 pace, finishing in 1:59:00. On the bright side, the post-race meal was awesome, thanks to Aunt Catfish’s.

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Breakfast: an orange, cooked apples, omelets, sausage, OJ, and Bud light!

This race was hard for me to take not only because I missed my goal miserably, but because I missed last year’s time on this same course by over ten minutes. Last year I was hoping for a sub-2:00 time and finished in 1:48. I feel like I have so much that my legs are capable of accomplishing, but I can’t keep my heart rate down long enough to do it. My next race is a full marathon and it’s less than 5 weeks away. That race is going to be run with a better plan than this one was.

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Race recap: Marine Corps Half Marathon Jacksonville

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The long dry spell with no races has finally ended. It seemed like a year since my last race, but it’s only been 3 months. I purposely gave  myself extra training time with no races in order to focus on my goals for this fall, and actually just added this race a couple of weeks ago. I wanted to improve on my half marathon PR in order to get a better starting corral in January for Disney Marathon weekend.

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Howitzers at the finish line!

The day before the Marine Corps Half, my daughter and I jumped in the car for the three hour drive up to Jacksonville. I spent a little time in town picking up my race packet and finding the area where the race was to be held. Then another hour drive back to my dad’s house where we were spending the night. At 4:30am race morning I was up and was out the door before 5:00, heading back up I-95 to Jax. Parking was set up at the stadium where the Jacksonville Jaguars play and the start line was right across the street. I was parked and geared up by 6:15, leaving plenty of time for a bathroom stop and a short warm-up run. At 6:30 I took my Generation U-CAN and reviewed my plan for the day – it’s so nice to have a little extra time before the start! Race day was also just a tad cooler than it has been around here. Only 67 degrees!

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Just before 7am we got the announcements, the presentation of the Colors, and National Anthem. We were also introduced to one of the runners in the half marathon who, two years ago suffered a heart attack in this same race. He was back to finish what he had started. The wheelchair participants started off and about a minute later the sound of heavy artillery had the rest of us on our way. The first mile of the race included 1181 5k runners as well as 1743 half marathoners! Near the end of the first mile the 5k group continued straight and the half marathoners turned left over the John T. Alsop Jr bridge, took a couple of side streets, then crossed the Acosta bridge. These bridges cross the St. John’s River and each one had more elevation change than I am used to seeing in a full marathon. My time after two miles was 16:03, right on the pace that I wanted, but perhaps a little too quick considering those bridges.

Now that we’ve completed two miles, the course took us parallel to the river for about 4.5 miles where we made a mile-long turnaround through a quiet neighborhood. When I reached 5.3 miles into the race I was passed (in the opposite direction) by the leader, Fredison Costa. The same Fredison Costa that is making a habit of winning the Disney Marathon and has won several races that I have been in. He was at 8.3 miles when I passed him, already 3 miles ahead of me! By the time I returned to that spot, 8.3 miles into the race, I was still holding an 8:06 pace, within striking distance of the 1:45 finish time that was my secondary goal (primary goal was a PR). Mile 9 completed in 8:10. Mile 10 was done in 8:18. Only 5k to go but I was feeling like my best miles were behind me.

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Over the last 5k I used every trick I could think of to keep myself as close to my goal pace as I could. I was slowly catching people in front of me. I couldn’t let the spectators see me struggle. That quarter mile was 2:00, right on target, one more quarter mile, keep going. In the 11th mile we were running on the waterfront path and climbed a section that went over the water and a set of railroad tracks. I would guess we were about 40-50 feet up, but my Garmin registered zero elevation change. 11th mile complete in 8:39. Now my heart rate was up over 180 and my quads were screaming. I finished the 12th mile in 8:57. At this point I knew I had to pick up the pace some or I would miss my PR. I had just under 10 minutes left to finish if I was going to see that PR.

Marine Corps finish

Definitely a cool sight!

Mile 13 was a little better at 8:36 and then I took the final turn and used everything that I had left. The “finish” line sign was held up by two Howitzers with their guns pointed to the sky, a nice touch and great reminder of the strength of the Marines. My official time was 1:48:19, beating my 11-month-old PR by 38 seconds. Most likely this isn’t enough of an improvement to change my starting corral for Disney, but it felt good to get a PR, especially since the temperature was only about 5 degrees cooler than most of my summer outdoor runs. When it cools off and I get on a flatter course…. look out!

Marine Corps Bling

Officially, I placed 211th out of 1743 finishers, 167th of 846 men, and 22nd of 94 in my age group with an 8:16 pace. Not quite what I was hoping for but a PR serves as motivation to keep improving. Oh, and Fredison Costa? Yeah, he finished the half first in 1:08:30, an average of 5:14 per mile. Dude’s got wheels! A big thank you to the organizers and volunteers for this race. As far as I could tell everything went off without a hitch. I’m sure I’ll be back someday, but I’ll get some hill training in first!

Marine Corps