Uncategorized

Tomoka Half Marathon – March 24, 2018

Who decides, out of nowhere, to run 13.1 miles for fun?

Normal people don’t do that.  I know, because I used to be normal.  I would see people all hot and sweaty, running through town in the middle of summer.  In the rain.  In the cold.  In the dark. Normal people would be at home, on a comfy sofa.  Not sweating.

One day, I casually mentioned that I might like to do a half marathon as part of my “I’m Turning 50” bucket list.  Big mistake.  Huge.  Everyone started posting links to half marathons and tagging me.  Oh, and Spartan races too.  Spartans?  Really?  Do I look like I need to be committed?  If I ever post that I have signed up for a Spartan, that is your signal that I am being held against my will and need help.

So our friend Lisa G. posts a link to the Tomoka half marathon.  Price is reasonable and it’s not too far away.  The course looks really pretty.  Oh, did I mention there was a bridge?  And you have to go over it twice?

Dark Kermit Tomoka Half

We hemmed and hawed and finally registered.  And then reality hit.  In four weeks we were doing a half marathon.  Um, WTH?

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On the road again…

It turned out that getting there was as much of an ordeal as the race itself.  We took the wrong exit in Jacksonville and found ourselves in a sketchy Burger King that couldn’t serve food.  How does that even happen? Apparently their systems were down, and without technology you’re not getting a Whopper.  Or even a drink.  But it did remove the guilt we may have felt for using their restrooms and not buying any food. Thankfully there was a Mickey D’s nearby so someone-named-Lisa-that’s-not-me could get her caffeine fix.

Back on the road, we found the right exit and were heading for Daytona.  We cruised along, 80s music blasting and coffee flowing.  Life was good.  We had 2.5 hours until packet pick-up ended.  And then it happened.  Traffic slowed to a crawl, and then stopped all together.

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Going nowhere fast.

This was not good.  SO not good.  We inched along.  I could run faster than we were driving, for crying out loud.  The lady in the car next to us was making all kinds of crazy gestures.  She was over it.  We all were over it.

We waited.  And waited.

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Need some wax?  I know a guy.

Finally, things began to move.  Once we got moving again our ETA for pick-up was 5:30.  We pulled it off with 25 minutes to spare! From there it was on to the hotel and the Great Unloading began.

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Look closely.  Jimmy Hoffa is in there somewhere.

Funny thing about runners.  We have a lot of gear.  Before I got into this I thought all you needed was a pair of shoes.  But I’m complicated.  I need options.  We were gone for just over 24 hours.  I brought three pairs of shoes, at least three complete outfits – not counting what I was wearing to the race – and more technology that NASA used to put a man on the moon.  (As if that weren’t enough I came home with seven new shirts, eight pairs of socks, two bras, and a hat. SMH…)

Fortunately, Lisa G. has a “three body trunk” so there was plenty of room for everyone to stash their luggage.  And yes, it’s comforting to know that you have friends who measure trunk capacity in the same terms you do.

With bibs in hand and gear stashed, it was time to find some grub.  After striking out a few times, we came across a place called Charlie Horse.  It was FABULOUS!  I already want to go back and eat there again.  If you’re ever in Ormond Beach, you need to go.  The seafood was amazing.  Heck with carb-loading the night before a run…

Back at the hotel, it was time to get it together.  The shuttle left at 5:30 (OMG…), which meant we got up around 4:45.  AM.  Before the sun even thought about coming up.

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Yeah…Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam are in the house.  Totally.

And before we had time to think about what we were doing, we were on the shuttle heading to the race.  The moment we had dreaded and looked forward to was here.  Before we left on Friday I posted a quick picture on my Instagram feed with my time predictions.  I had no idea what to expect.  My friends told me about hitting the wall at mile 10 or 11.  There was the bridge to think about – twice – and my worry that I wouldn’t be able to keep up my intervals for 13.1 miles.

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Even if I had to walk it all, I was going to finish.  Of that I was certain. I halfway thought I could finish somewhere between 3:30:00 and 3:15:00.  My pace at Gate was 14:20, so it was possible.

We started in the dark.  It’s a weird feeling, running over a bridge in the dark.  There’s a definite advantage in not being able to see how high up you are, especially if heights make you nervous.  The cars stopped in the other lane clapped and cheered as we went by and I waved to a few of them.  Joey and I were using different run/walk intervals, so we would catch up with each other at random points.  We were evenly paced until the  three mile mark, and then I slowly started to pull away from him.

There were water stops a’plenty, and I took advantage of every one.  The volunteers were all encouraging and supportive.  The sun began to rise and I stopped and looked back toward the bridge for a quick shot.

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But there was no time to linger.  I had ten long miles ahead of me.  The run/walk intervals clicked along, and at every mile marker the Race Joy app chimed in and let me know where I was.  This was my first time using Race Joy, and I really enjoyed it.  We were able to track each other’s progress during the race and would get a text message when we hit a mile marker.  After a certain point, I think it was mile two, it started to announce our estimated completion time – 3:01:50.  I shook my head.  “There’s no way,” I thought to myself.

The road went on.  And on.  There was a long straightaway from the bridge to the state park entrance, probably a good 3+ miles or more.  Finally, I made the turn into the park.  There were several runners coming out and heading back to the finish line.  “You’re almost there!” called one of the volunteers.  “Liar!” I yelled back, laughing.  She waved back.

Once inside the park, the paved road gave way to dirt.  There was an aid station ahead fully stocked with drinks, gels, and bananas.  As I came around a bend in the road, I looked up and saw him:  it was Elvis!  We saw him at Gate and now he was here, decked out in his white Vegas jumpsuit!  I tried to get a picture, but it was like trying to photograph Bigfoot.  Come to think of it, you never see Elvis and Bigfoot at the same time…

Not long after the King passed me by, Lisa G. was running toward me. She gave me a huge hug and I was back on my way.  The turnaround point was at mile 7 and there was supposed to be a statue of Chief Tomoka there, and a good spot for a selfie.  He was there, but too far away for a selfie.  Instead I found a pretty tree with the sun coming up behind it.  Sorry Chief.

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Mile nine came up just as I was leaving the state park.  My hip flexors and knees were beginning to ache a little,  and my friends’ warnings about hitting the wall echoed in my head.  I brushed them aside and turned up the music.  Once again Tom Petty came to the rescue.  The Race Joy app was consistently telling me that I would finish close to the three hour mark, and I was consistently telling myself it was a big fat liar.  I still had the bridge to deal with, and I had no idea how I would feel at mile twelve.

I didn’t hit the wall at mile ten, but delirium set in for a few minutes.  I imagined that I was at mile nine, heading toward mile ten.  In reality, I was at mile ten going in to mile eleven.  A brief wave of disappointment washed over me.  I was over it and wanted to be finished.  Thirteen miles was just too much.  But a soft, electronic voice whispered in my ear and told me that I was at mile eleven with estimated completion time of 3:00:33.  Yeah baby!

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Two more miles were all that separated me from the finish line.  I forgot about my hips and knees.  I passed people.  I had to go off the road and into the grass to do it, but I passed them.  Runkeeper was set to update my distance and pace at each quarter mile.  My pace had been 13:50 for so long that I thought something had gone wrong, so I opened the app on my phone for a few seconds to watch the clock.  There was no mistake – I really was that consistent.  Holy cow…I just might pull this off!

Just before mile twelve there was a beer stop.  An amazing bunch of guys from a local mechanic’s shop were passing out paper cups of beer.  Ben Franklin allegedly said that beer was proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.  At that moment I was ecstatic and I told one of the guys that I thought I loved him.  He laughed.  I had never been more serious in my life.

And then I was there, at the bottom of the bridge.  As much as I wanted to I knew I didn’t have enough left to run the whole thing.  So I did intervals on the way up.  When I got to the top I looked out over the water.  “It’s now or never,” I thought.  I couldn’t run up but I darn sure could run down.  All the way to the bottom and around the corner.  It was a slow, ugly run.  I caught up to a couple of young women and we ran under the bridge together.  Then it was a slow uphill turn to the left.  There was a wonderful older gentlemen standing near the sidewalk cheering us on, and he came over and high-fived us as we passed.  One more turn and there was the finish line.

I had all but ignored the timing apps, but as I crossed the line Race Joy announced that I finished at 3:02:52.  I looked up and there was Lisa G. holding my medal!  I have never been so happy to see that crazy, coffee-addicted woman in my life.

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Courtesy of Lisa G.

We checked Race Joy and saw that Joey was on the bridge. The volunteers at the finish ine were absolute sweethearts and let me give Joey his medal.  He came in at 3:15:10, a good fifteen minutes ahead of his goal.

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Courtesy of Lisa G.

Two days later I’m still a little in awe of the whole thing.  I’d be lying if I said I haven’t started looking for another half to do sometime this year.  But not just yet.  There’s a mountain of laundry calling my name and our running clothes should be classified as biohazards.

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But we did it!

 

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The Details:

  • Overall time: 3:02:52
  • Average pace: 13:57/mile

Splits:

  • Mile one: 14:05
  • Mile two: 14:15
  • Mile three: 13:45
  • Mile four: 13:49
  • Mile five: 13:42
  • Mile six: 13:49
  • Mile seven: 13:54
  • Mile eight: 13:48
  • Mile nine: 13:33
  • Mile ten: 13:39
  • Mile eleven: 13:39
  • Mile twelve: 14:18
  • Mile thirteen: 14:24

The Playlist:

Black Dog (Led Zeppelin), Talk of the Town (The Pretenders), Kyrie (Mr. Mister), Time Stand Still (Rush featuring Aimee Mann), Ramble On (Led Zeppelin), Higher Love (Steve Winwood), The Chauffeur (Duran Duran), Wishing – If I Had A Photograph of You (Flock of Seagulls), Mrs. Robinson (Simon & Garfunkel), Little by Little (Robert Plant), Crazy Little Thing Called Love (Queen), Hey Jealousy (Gin Blossoms), Let’s Go Crazy (Prince), Nothin’ At All (Heart), Fat Bottomed Girls (Queen), Layla (Eric Clapton/Derek & The Dominos), Can’t Stop This Thing We Started (Bryan Adams), Stand Back (Stevie Nicks), Whole Lotta Love (Led Zeppelin), Heat of the Moment (Asia), Misty Mountain Hop (Led Zeppelin), Desert Rose (Sting), Games Without Frontiers (Peter Gabriel), I Would Die 4 U (Prince), Solsbury Hill (Peter Gabriel), Call Me (Blondie), Your Love (The Outfield), You Wreck Me (Tom Petty), Can’t Stand Losing You (The Police), Only Time Will Tell (Asia), Now It’s My Turn (Berlin), Take Me To Heart (Quarterflash), Little Red Corvette (Prince), Don’t Box Me In (Stewart Copeland), Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic (The Police), Immigrant Song (Led Zeppelin), Into The Groove (Madonna), Zombie Zoo (Tom Petty), Our Lips Are Sealed (The Go-go’s) New York Groove (Ace Frehley), Radar Love (Golden Earring)

 

 

Running, Uncategorized

March 10, 2018 – Gate River Run 15K

A couple of weekends ago we did a little run in Jacksonville.  Nothing big, just 15K.  A few people were there with us.  You may have heard of it – the Gate River Run.  Twelve thousand or so of our closest friends and a 9.3 mile street party.  You want a mimosa at 8:45am?  Mile three has ‘em.  Rice Krispie treat?  Mile seven just before you make that final turn for the bridge.

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THAT kind of party.

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I don’t even know how this happened.

Last year was our first experience at Gate, and we had a blast!  As we limped back to the hotel we were already planning our strategy for next time.  We stumbled into the lobby and saw one of the elite runners – we think it was Sam Chelanga – standing there, fresh as a daisy in a nice suit wearing his elite singlet and a medal the size of a dinner plate.  No doubt he finished while we were crossing the first bridge!  He pointed to the medals hanging around our tired and sweaty necks.  “Good job,” he said, smiling.  We nodded and said “thank you.”  I would have asked to take a picture with him, but we looked like the sweat monsters from Hades by then.

Which brings us to this year.  We’re pros now.  We’ve got the Hokas and the Camelbaks, the tech shirts and compression shorts.  It’s on like Donkey Kong.  Our strategy this year was to start at the end of wave 3, putting us ahead of the walkers but far enough back that our intervals didn’t interfere with anyone.  Usually when we run out-of-town we follow the Lost philosophy: live together, die alone.  (You watched Lost, didn’t you?  Didn’t you???)  Chehaw was the first time we split up during a race.  We decided that if one of us felt like they were faster/stronger than the other we would do our own thing.

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Starting in wave 3 was genius, if I do say so.  I have nothing against walkers and slower runners – I still consider myself a slow runner.  However, there is a tendency to spread out and take up as much real estate as possible, which makes passing difficult.  When the road narrows it’s even more awkward and it’s easy for your intervals to get out of whack.

The first bridge came up early in the race and was a piece of cake this time around.  I learned a valuable lesson last year: don’t look down.  The blue bridge is all metal and if you look down you can see the water.  Plus it’s a lot easier to see how high up you are.  And then there is my irrational fear that my toes will get caught in the metal grating and I will trip.  Because I’m clumsy like that.

Keeping my eyes straight ahead, we ran over the blue bridge. Wait, what? The whole thing?  Yep, the whole thing.  How did that happen?  Being 41 pounds lighter (me) and 25 pounds lighter (Joey) than last year and a lot of hard work.  That’s how it happened.  As we made our way along the “downhill” side of the bridge we looked at each other. We weren’t red-faced and gasping for breath. It was almost, dare I say it, fun.  Who knew?

 

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Making our way between miles two and three, we hit a water stop and gave a round of applause to the bands keeping us entertained.  The first time check was coming up at the 5K mark.  Considering the course and crowds we were pretty pleased with our first check-in: 44:03.

But the crowds.  Oh my, the crowds.  You remember the story in the Bible about Moses parting the Red Sea?  Well, we had our own Moses moment.  Joey, being bigger and much more intimidating than me, parted a sea of sweaty, smelly Spandex.  I followed in his wake, in awe of the volume of people. There were short people and tall people.  Like, crazy tall people.  Lurch from the Addams Family tall.  I swear I saw a guy whose legs were longer than my entire body.

Finally things cleared out a little bit and we passed through a little bo-ho business district, full of supporters lining the streets. Then it was on to San Marco.  The St. John’s River was to our right and we were surrounded by gorgeous old homes.  The streets began to narrow and were full of twists and turns.  Residents sat in their front yards, passing out drinks and food.  Our pace slowed, due to the crowds and my need to critique each and every house we passed (hate it…love it…nice but wouldn’t want to live in it….OMG I need to win the lottery to buy that).  You know how it is.

The houses slowly changed, morphing from those that looked like they belonged on the Kennedy-compound to something us mere mortals would live in.  Gradually the neighborhood shifted back into a business district.  As we approached one of the larger intersections, we saw the traffic backed up for miles.  I felt a little sorry for the people who were caught unawares and were wondering how long they were going to be stuck.  A long time, buddy.  A long time indeed.

The second 5K checkpoint was just around the corner.  Despite my rubbernecking in San Marco our time was within 34 seconds of the first 5K, 44:37.  Not too shabby!  But it felt like we were starting to hit the wall.  Joey had muscle cramps in his calves last year crossing the Hart Bridge, so he loaded up with pickle juice and tried to stay hydrated this time around.  But it wasn’t enough.  At mile seven he told me to go and wait at the finish line for him.  I felt bad – this was supposed to be a joint effort – but I was really hoping for a finish as close to two hours as possible.

Runkeeper and my new-to-me Apple Watch apparently had some sort of falling out during the race.  I don’t know who said what to whom, but it was clear they weren’t speaking to each other at that point.  Which meant no data – and goodness knows I love some running data.  Mumbling obscenities to myself, because right then it seemed like the appropriate thing to do, I hit the 80s playlist in iTunes and decided to handle my business.  The entrance to the bridge was just around the corner and my two-hour goal was looking pretty far out of reach.

I missed Joey and at some point probably should have looked back to check on him.  But Madonna and I were getting into the groove by then.  That long, gradual turn to the bridge was at hand, and as I rounded the corner I saw the Green Monster looming in front of me.  Since the Runkeeper/Apple Watch debacle I’d been counting out my run/walk intervals in my head. I’m no stranger to talking to myself and as I started the climb to the bridge Me and Also Me struck up a conversation, kinda like the Kermit/Dark Kermit meme. Me: Hey, so what if we run/jog all the way across the bridge? Also Me: Are you nuts? It’s almost ¾ of a mile. Me: So? Also Me: Whatever. You go on with your bad self. See if I care.

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What did I have to lose? Worst case scenario, I would end up walking. Or possibly hanging out with some potentially attractive paramedics.  I had the emergency number in my phone, all ready to go.

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I paused for a quick selfie (because nothing really happens if you don’t get a selfie).  As soon as I passed under the first green truss I began to run.  I say “run” but it was a slow trot.  However, it wasn’t walking.  The bridge was rising in front of me as I began to pass the walkers.  The 8.3 mile marker fluttered in the breeze.  One mile left.  In the distance I saw Everbank Field and the crowd of people approaching the finish line.  “I can do this,” I thought to myself.

Eventually the bridge leveled out and I was able to increase my pace ever so slightly.  Less than a mile now.  Just keep going.  I pulled out my ear buds for another selfie at the top of the bridge.  I was halfway there.  The worst part was over, everything was downhill from here to the finish line.  I passed between a group of three or four ladies who were walking.  As I slowly pulled away I heard one of them say “look at her! She’s still running and doesn’t even look tired. Are her heels even touching the ground?” Day officially made.  Me, who used to lumber along like an injured water buffalo.  I couldn’t slow down after that, even if I wanted to!

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I passed under the last metal truss.  Goal achieved!  I hit the final water stop and slowed down to a walk just long enough to take a drink.  Faster runners began to pass me as we came down the final stretch behind the stadium.  Less than .25 mile was between me and the finish line.  My two-hour goal had passed, but I was well ahead of my time from last year.

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I was swept up in a crowd of people and all of a sudden it was over.  There was my sweaty, happy face on the Jumbo-tron as I approached the finish line.  2:13:17. My last 5K time was 44:38, one second slower than the previous.  Overall pace was 14:17 and my last mile was 13:25.  I finished fourteen minutes ahead of last year!

A volunteer shoved a bottle of cold water in my hand.  I was unaware that I had reached out for it.  I looked around for a place to stop and catch my breath, and was ushered through a gate by another volunteer who handed me my finisher’s medal.  I tried to go back toward the finish line to look for Joey, but was told I had to wait behind the barricade for him.  He appeared out of nowhere, in a group of people who crossed the line a few minutes behind me.

Another 15K in the books and it was time to celebrate.  I left Joey in the beer line while I did a quick run through the expo.  He found me a few minutes later, a beer in each hand.  He was in his happy place.   After paying for a couple of tech shirts and a 15K magnet it was time to go.  The walk from the expo to the car was slow and peaceful and the parking area was almost deserted.  I felt the first tingle of a sunburn as I leaned back against the car seat. Joey and I looked at each other and smiled.  We were tired and sweaty, and if I’m honest, a little stinky.  All was right with the world.

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