Pumpkinman Half Ironman Triathlon Race Report

Let’s start with a recap of how my past few months have been:

My training consisted of me spending more time complaining about how I much I dreaded swimming than actual swimming.

My biking consisted of some pathetic rides on the trainer while watching canceled scifi shoes like Terra Nova and Firefly.

My running was awesome but that’s because running is awesome.

My pre-day race routine was probably not ideal but in the grand scheme of things would not have made much of a difference.

Despite all the steps I took to fail, I did it! Yup, I’m a half iron (wo)man!

Finisah

How did it all begin? Well, almost a year ago, I decided to fork up $275 and many hours of my time to do this. I don’t know what I was expecting, I guess I had such a fun time doing a mini sprint tri that I thought I would love a longer distance.

More miles more smiles! Right? Right? right…

Plus all my cool friends were doing triathlons and I wanna be cool like my friends. All my cool friends are also running 100 milers, but that’s still a bit out of my league.

I had months, and months to prepare and yet raceday, September 7th, came in the blink of an eye. Well if that blink of an eye consisted of many months of swimming, a major bike crash that resulted in separated shoulder and a long winter of snow that refused to end.

Actually, lets get back to the race. The Pumpkinman Triathlon is a festival that consists of three events, A sprint tri on Saturday and Aqua-bike and Half Ironman Tri on Sunday.

So raceday, yea it completely sneaked up on me. My alarm was set for 5:30AM, early but tolerable. Waking up at 7AM to go to work is a nightmare, but waking up at 5:30 for a race is tolerable. I even woke up about 5 minutes before my alarm. My morning routine was short, I was already packed, so I just got dressed, fill up my water devices with water and told Tony we gotta go by 6AM.

It was about a 20 minute drive with parking. It probably took me about 10 minutes to figure out my timing chip and drag all my stuff to the transition area. Only athletes were allowed in the transition net so I my assistant ūüėČ waited for me outside.

I had about 15 minutes to set up my transition area and get into my wetsuit.

Start

But wait Liana, don’t you start at 7:21?

Yea, except the race has time cut-offs for everything. I had to pick up my timing chip by 6:30AM of race day, it was not included with our race number packets and transition area was closed by 6:45 for a mandatory national anthem and some messages that I couldn’t hear. So yea, I could have woken up even earlier but I picked sleep. So at 6:45, I was being gently told that I must depart from the transition area.

The end result?

My transition area looked like someone vomited up gear. I was so nervous that I kept rearranging all my stuff and trying to calm my breathing that I couldn’t focus and I haven’t even eaten anything yet.

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While the first 7 waves were starting, I decided to eat my white chocolate cliff bar because not having anything in my stomach would have been a huge mistake. I nibbled on my breakfast as I tried to spot the boeys and gauge just how far a .6 mile loop is.

Swimming Leg

The course is a 1.2 mile swim but it’s a double loop. So even though it’s a waved time start, your first look will always be packed.

Now I’m not going to lie, I was terrified of the swim, swimming in the Y is one thing. you can take a break every 25 yards, but with this, I wasn’t certain what I would be doing. In theory there’s kayaks and paddleboard people to the side. In theory you’re allowed to rest on those as I read in the rules. In reality, those kayak’s were close, but definitely not worth the extra 25 yard swim to rest.

I did have one new advantage. A wetsuit. My friend Lori let me borrow hers for the race (along with her trishorts). Now, I have to confess again, I actually have never, not even for a second took a practice swim in this wetsuit or any wetsuit. I was told it would be easier and I was desperately clinging onto the fact that this was true.

Start Wetsuit

My goal was to stay on the edge to avoid the more aggressive swimmers and getting kicked in the face. Because being a terrible swim and getting kicked in the face in the first mile of a 70.3 journey would probably have been terrible at best. However, I had trouble getting to the right side of the starting line and somehow ended up at the left, the inner loop.

Swimming start

I start swimming and the first thing I noticed was that my lower body just stayed up without me exerting a large amount of energy to stay buoyant. Yes, wet-suits are indeed awesome and if I ever do any distance swims, I will need to invest in one from now on. They’re awesome. Normally when I get into the warm, my lower body just sinks down so this gave me some reassurance that I just might be okay.

I did make one mistake. For the first 1/3rd of the loop, I was swimming with my head poking out because I was so nervous on the other swimmers and getting kicked. However, this completely ruined whatever form I normal have and I probably wasted a great deal of energy and time swimming like a drowning dog.

Swimming

Once, I realized that the world isn’t going to end if someone’s limb touches me, I went into a normal freestyle stroke and the rest of the 2/3rd of the first loop went great. I even continued onto the second loop without a stop. Because the second loop starts around shallow water you could in theory stretch your legs and stand up. I didn’t want to waste any time and just kept moving.

Swimming 2

There was about one instance when I wanted to take a little rest. My shoulder was starting to bother me and I was about halfway into my final loop. I was getting tired fast and at one point lost my stroke and swallowed some really nasty pond water. However, I looked at the distance between me and the kayaks and decided I’m better of swimming forward to the finish then resting. Before I knew it, I was in a shallow part where I could stand up.

Drowning Liana

I was ready to sprint through the water, until I felt like pokey on my feet. Yea, the shore of the pond is covered in mussels, so I delicately walked out of the pond and saved the sprinting for later.

Official time: 49:49 about 10 minutes faster than my training swims! (Overall 396/426) 

The hill climb sprint

So as I was getting out of the pond, I started immediately working on taking off the wetsuit

Sprint Hill

Before I could get into the transition area, I had a mini hill sprint. A volunteer was standing warning us to slow down because the area got so slippery and I guess a few people took some wicked falls. I just went on my climby way. I needed to slow down my heart rate anyways. Total time 1:46 (252/426 overall)

Sprint Hill 2

Transition 1

I don’t know exactly what took me so long, maybe it was pinning my number, changing shoes and removing the wetsuit but I spent almost 5 minutes in transition. 4:49 to be exact.

Transition 1

The one stupid thing that I would go back on from transition 1 would be taking my camelpak. In retrospect, it was a stupid idea and I didn’t get much use of it as I thought I would. I don’t get a ranking for transition time, but I’m sure I was on the longer end.

Bike¬†Leg –

I don’t know how to describe the bike part. You know when You have a dramatic experience and you mind kind of blocks out most of the memory and it almost feels like a hazy deja vu. That would be my bike leg. I made it. I did it. But there was no savoring the moment. It was just surviving.

From the beginning, I struggled with slowing down my heart rate. My legs and my whole body was so shakey that I had trouble clipping into my pedals.

Bike Struggle

Bike Walk

Still Struggling

Nothing like a personal photographer to capture every embarrassing moment out there.

The bike leg of the race is 56 miles and just like everything else on this day, it too consists of a double loop.

I remember right from the start, it was a bumpy ride.

Literally.

Very bumpy.

Since I started towards the end of the swimming legs and I was pretty much almost the last person out of the water, I was probably a good 30 minutes behind most riders. Combine that with me being a very novice cyclists, I was in for a scary ride.

The roads were not closed, not even remotes. About 75% of the course was a bumpy granite road with potholes, large cracks and absolutely no shoulder to get you space between you and the cars.

Now my first loop was okay. Eventually, I saw other riders who were probably on their second loop as I was doing my first. It was still relatively early in the morning so there was less cars on the road. However, I don’t have a fancy bike. I have a fairly minimum not even a brand name road bike. So every crack in the concrete, yea I felt that.

After mile 18 or so, the road even got nice. It looked like a recently repaved road. There was two aids stations, one around mile 4 and one around mile 20 that I passed by. I probably had a nice 16.5 mile pace. I’m no doped up Lance Armstrong, but considering I just swam the longest and fastest distance of my, I was feeling content with my pace.

My second loop was a nightmare. I just remember being mostly alone with the except or one of two fellow cyclists. I remember constantly being absolutely terrified that I was going to get hit by a car on this narrow road. Car literally kept zooming around me because both them and I had nowhere else to go. I felted stressed and drained for about 75% of the second loop.

I also remember most of all that I’ve been wanted to pee pretty much since I started this race. I finally gave in and took a stop at mile 40. Since the one bathroom they had was occupied by someone who seemed to behaving an even worse race than I was, I took that time to calm myself down, eat two hammer gels and stretch. My quads were absolutely killing me. I’m not sure from what. The course was hilly but not that hilly and besides that my quads hurt from the moment I jumped onto the bike. Maybe I used them in swimming? Still have no clue.

Anyways, my second loop was getting slower and slower and I heard rumors that I was one of the last 20 people on the road. Yea, that was fun.

I knew I was getting close to getting timed out. Yea, that’s right, the bike leg, a leg that I thought I would have some catch up, was the leg that was slowly almost disqualifying me from the race.

Relentless forward progress, I repeated. That was all I could focus on because the least I could do was try and finish. I was going slow, but I was still moving.

Total Time: 3:49:41 Overall place 421/426 (I have never been so last place in my whole life before)

Transition 2

I went into T2 with a very bruised ego. I was falling apart. If I wasn’t so focused on finished. If I took the time and evaluated my race at that time, I would have cried. However, I tried to remained focused. My transition 2 was just as slow as transition 1. By the time I finished the bike leg of the race; I was baked. I really felt like I had no will to continue besides my own stubbornness. I changed my shoes. I opted for my Mizuno Waveriders vs. Skechers GoMebs because if the running course was anything like the biking course, major potholes and a terrible road shoulder, I wanted a little extra cushion. I even took a minute to stretch and move my Garmin from my bike mont to my arm. I took a few more Shotbloks and then when I finally felt ready, I went off for my run, knowing I was probably in almost last place.

Transition 2

Total Time – 5:03

Running Leg

So as I got to my final leg, all that was standing between me and the finish line was a small little 13.1 mile run. A half marathon as some might call it.

I started my run, just like I started my bike. With a mistake. I took my phone with me for music.¬†Yes, technically we were not allowed to have any audio on us, but I was already in last place so I didn’t feel like I had much to lose at this point. I also was partly concerned that I was already disqualified for being too slow. However, within a minute of my run, I changed my mind and passed my cellphone to Tony as I saw him at the start of my run. And off I went.

running

My first mile somehow ended up being 7:30. Considering I was barely pulling 14MPH on the bike leg, this came as a complete shock. It also made me realize that since I was no longer in fear of my life and getting run off the road by a car, I actually have a lot more left in my tank than I thought. I decided to go with all I got. It wasn’t a lot, but I went with it all.

The running course was a 3 mile loop. It was a really boring shoulder of a road that we looped around twice. The terrible part was that it was repetitive and didn’t have much shade. The positive was that, I got to see some of my friends who were hours ahead of me. ¬†The terrible part was that I was never sure if I was passing people or if those people were on their final loop and I was still many miles behind them.

The great part was that the volunteer were amazing on the running leg. They were organized and had everything I needed available. There was Hammer Gels, Salt Tabs, cold sponges, water and coke (coca cola silly, not cocaine). Although, I think I would have totally accepted cocaine at this point.

The aid stations were about every 1.5-2 miles and I made sure to make use of everyone one of them whether it was a drink, or ice or just water to dump over my head, they were there and I used them and add that to the fact that I was in full out, OMG I don’t want to finish last mode adrenaline, I kept doing the only thing I could do, run. Run fast, run smart, and just keep moving. Uphill I slowed the paced but still ran and on the downhill, I pushed up my pace.

I don’t know the exact breakdown but I probably took a water or a coke every 3 miles or so. I took a cold sponge every chance I could and stuffed one in the back of my sports bra to cool my back and one in the front to cool off my chest. I was in serious heat. It was probably around 78 degrees with not a cloud¬†in the sky. Add to the fact that I already spent 4 exhausting hours trying not to die on my bike, I was more than mildly overheated. I didn’t grab any more gels, but I did drink more than a few cups of soda and a salt tab somewhere along mile 7.

I expected my run leg to be about 2 hours with each mile dragging on since I would probably be running 2 minutes slower than my normal pace. But I surprised myself. With each mile, I wasn’t slowing down. I kept expecting to hit a wall and having to walk like the other runners around me. Shockingly, the miles, even without any music or much entertainment were flying by. To be honest, I don’t remember what I was thinking about to pass the time, most likely not much. I was in full survival mode to run, run and be done with this race as soon as possible.

Before I knew it, I was in the final grass sprint area. I’m proud to say that as far as I’m aware not one person passed me on the run! Even if I did start almost last haha.

Finish sprint

Finish Sprint 2

Yes, I sprinted to that finish line.

Total Time – 1:47:47 Overall 89/426

Finish Line

The first thing I did after getting my medal was walk over to the massage area which I was told was already full. Made me a little cranky because when races advertise massages, they should be available to all participants not just to the top 20%. Us slowpokes pay the same race fee as the fast kids and I think we deserve the same service.

I pouted and walked to find Tony. And as you can see in my photo, I also decided that it’s too hot to continue wearing my shirt, belly fat and paleness be damned, I was overheating and needed to find shade. when we got to the eating area there wasn’t any place to sit, but there was still plenty of food left.

The race entry fee to the race gives you a turkey dinner, a la Thanksgiving style with stuffing, yams, mashed potatoes, cold slaw and all the other things I don’t normally eat because I’m just not a fan thanksgiving food. They also had a dessert area where I picked either a pumpkin whoopie pie or a brownie. I asked if I could take both and was denied.

So no massage, turkey dinner that I don’t really eat, and a dessert denial…

But then I found the beer tent with shipyard pumpkin and all became better. Although, I stilled wanted to go and take a brownie because the Pumpkin whoopie pie was pretty tasty and I kind of survive of sugar and beer.

photo 3 (1)

I let Tony have my food since it was paid for in the race fee and throwing it out would have been a waste.

Total Results and Ranking

Total Time :

Overall Place: 342/426

Gender Place: 122/180

Division Place: 10/12

My final thoughts on Pumpkinman…

I haven’t done a lot of triathlons so I’m only comparing it to running events. But overall, I found it very poor value for what it costs. I’ve gotten pretty good where the majority of my marathons cost me under $75 with the exception of Boston which is $150 and it’s Boston so I suck it up. But personally, because I don’t enjoy triathlons and because of the experience I had due to my training and experience, I thought the ¬†70.3 race was poor value for my money. I think my race fee with the something or other 1 day membership was $275 and the only thing it provided was lifeguards, kayakers and a few paddle boarders on the water. I’m not even sure if they were paid or volunteers. I know triathlons require more logistics and more insurance but I don’t know what else there is. Maybe, I’m missing something. The bike and running course was open to traffic. I saw one police detail the whole time. Everything else, from the turns to the aid table are volunteers, free labor. Yes, I know the Gatorade, the timing chip, the hammer gels cost money but I just don’t see how it adds up to the cost of the event. I’m sure if I loved swimming and biking as much as I love running, it would be totally worth it but I don’t so I’ll just have to stick to what I enjoy.

The one big thing that I would like to mention is that I thought all the volunteers were great and helpful and all the fellow race participators were great sports and very encouraging to one another.

I don’t regret participating in this race. While I can’t say I’m thrilled with my time, it was a worthy experience that I will treasure for a while. You should always tri ūüėČ everything once.

Will I ever do another one again? While I see plenty of sprint tris in my future, I don’t think I’ll do another half ironman or longer distance event again. While the actual event was sort of fun and I loved the challenge of it all, the training made me absolutely miserable. At the root of it all, I love running and having cut back on that for biking and swimming made me cranky. Also, I’m pretty sure that I’m allergic either to the Malden Y or chlorine because my skin would always burn in the pool. Regardless, I already canceled my Y membership and probably the only way I would ever sign up and train again would be if I had a training buddy for those long rides on the road that I never did or had a super flexible schedule so I could hit the pool when it was empty and get in bike rides when there was less cars out there.

TARC Summer Classic 50K Race Report

The TARC Summer Classic holds a special place in my heart as this was my first official 50k finish! I never recap it because I got busy with work and it just went into the abyss so I will have to do the justice this year.

I believe this was the third year the race was held and it’s always held around mid to end August. This year it was on Saturday August 16.  Registration is only around $25 with all fees and while you don’t get a medal, or a useless Tshirt that will end up in Goodwill, you do get a rocking, running good time!

The TARC Summer Classic consists of two races, a 50 miler and a 50k. Each year, I originally sign up for the 50 miler but as always since my summer running had been minimal, so I dropped down to the 50k.  It was a distance I knew I could handle in 13 hours even if I had to walk the course. I couldn’t make the same assumption for the 50 miler, so a week before race day I did my annual please Race Director drop my distance plea.

So the night before the race, I was actually really nervous. My longest run in two months was a road 13 miler. Since my TARC 50 DNF, I have focused all my energy into my half ironman training or at least complaining. Tony and I were originally going to get Ethiopian food but switched to Italian last second because I wanted some pasta in my tummy. Close enough?

photo 1 (15)
I packed a lot of things for the day because I wasn’t sure if my body would remember that it can run for more than two hours. I packed my trail shoes, my cushy road shoes, camelpak, water bottle handheld, change of outfit and everything in between. Luckily, I only ended up using my handheld waterbottle for the whole race.

photo 2 (14)

The race starts at 7AM with a short trail briefing at 6:45. It consists of about 3 10 mile loops and a little extra small loop for the 50K runners to get to 31 milers. I have originally planned on getting to the race start around 6:30 to have enough time to get some food in my belly but we got pulled over around a stretch of a speed trap, you know the kind that drops down randomly to 30MPH on a rural road. They let us go with a warning, but the time it took the officer to look us up and everything ended up eating away any eating cushion I had.

Anyway, the race is technically 15 miles or so outside of Boston or at least its southern point. For me it ends up being almost hour drive. Its a 10 mile look with a variety of terrain, including some great trails along the Charles River and the surrounding wetlands and views from the top of Noon Hill. Covers several sections of the Bay Circuit Trail system

My first loop, went great. I couldn’t quite remember what the course was like so I just slowly kept taking in the easy mile to bank up on some time for the climbs and this one section with turny,  dead trees that I despise. So according to official splits, my first loop was 2:06 and I felt great. I knew since I didn’t eat anything for breakfast I had to stop after my first loop and get some real food in me.

I was happy to report to myself that the course is about 80% runnable with about 10% slightly annoying and 10% really annoying rocky climbs/descends.

My second loop around mile 12-13 I took an easy dive. Yup, same spot I felt last year. I dusted myself off and moved forward. Around then, the news spread that there’s an angry nest of wasps that’s been awoken on the trail. Suddenly, I realized that on my first loop, the buzzing I heard wasn’t a giant fly, and felt freaked out all over again because I wasn’t sure where on the trail they were, just that at some point, I would have to figure out how to get around them.

Well, even with a bees ahead warning, I still ended up not seeing them until, I was smack in the middle of hearing them on my second loop. I just ran as fast as I could, almost falling on my face, but still running until the buzzing stopped.

photo 3 (10)

I finished my second loop in about 2:20, so 15 minutes slower than my first loop. Unfortunately not the plan, but I stopped to eat a PBJ sandwich, plus my wipe out and the looking out for bees but me on a slower, steadier root that was more familiar to my pace last year.

The third loop turn around was faster, I only grabbed a small piece of PBJ and just ran/walked as I ate. I knew I had to keep moving, because if I stopped, there was not getting back up. I heard that the nest of angry wasps was finally eliminated letting my head rest easy. I’m not sure if I’m allergic but I don’t want to find out. My final loop clocked in at 2:29, more steady with the time of my second loop. Also, I’m 90% sure I got lost. My Garmin clocked in around 32.5 miles versus the 31 miles. TARC races use a lot of twists and turns, and two way roots to make up the mileage so it’s easy to get turned around a bit and bank up some more miles. That being said, the course is really well marked. Whenever, I run a nonTARC race, I’m always freaking out that I’m lost because there’s always less trail markings.

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My official time is 6:54:47, giving me a lovely 3-4 minute PR with a whole lot less training. I may not be a full time trail runner, but it’s nice to remind myself that I’m stronger than I think.  9/25 Gender place and 32/73 overall place. Out of the 73 that started, I saw there was 12 DNFs and who knows how many DNSs. Since the races are so reasonable priced many people just don’t always show up if they’re under-trained.  Would I have loved another 6 hour 50K, of course, but I’ll take what I got on that day, and I’ll accept it with pride and gratitude of what my body can do.

2014 Jamestown Half Marathon Race Report

What a fun weekend!

For the most part, I am a lone weekend warrior when it comes to running and racing, but when I get to combine those moments with friends, I find them most rewarding and memorable. Quite frankly, if it was up to me, I would convert all my friends into runners! Worry not if you don’t run, I’ll still hang out!

Anyway, when we saw a Groupon for $30 for the Jamestown half marathon in the Newport, RI area, a few of my friends and I jumped right on it. Of course little research was done until we realized not only is this race starting at 6:30 AM but it’s also one of the hilliest courses in the region that is still a road race. Great way to try your first half marathon!

So with some planning, we got two nights of hotel in the most luxury level of Ramada Inn. Yuck! But we needed a place to sleep and not spend a small fortune so we put up with the outdated tiny beds and the lack of lighting in the room. We should be sleeping anyways come darkness.

The drive from Boston to Newport was anything but fast, I don’t know what happened, but the highways were backed up all the way to my house. We did eventually make it to the expo, if you can call it that, and picked up the bibs and numbers.

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The expo consisted of number pick up tables and a small area with some clearance items and socks for sale. The swag? Was a large sized gender men’s tech shirts that barely had any effort in them. They had some cute baby blue shirts next to them, but those you either had to buy or be part of the triple crown. The triple crown consists of Providence, Jamestown and Newport half marathon. Since I’ve already run the other two, I contemplating doing Newport for the heck of it all. We’ll see.

Anyways, after number pick up, we had dinner and went straight to bed in our luxury accommodations. Despite the tiny bed, I slept quite well. While I wasn’t thrilled about a 5AM wake up call, I didn’t feel completely miserable either. By 5:30 we were all out the door and getting ready to drive to Newport Grand Slots, a casino¬†whose parking lot was hosting the shuttles and parking.

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The race organizers kept repeating that we might not start on time unless we get on a 6AM shuttle to Jamestown. What we didn’t expect was that it would take about 25 minutes to get on a shuttle because there was a severe lack of buses to take us runners over. You know, if I’m standing on a line, I might as well pass a bathroom, except those were on a separate long line that we decided to skip and just wait on the shuttle line instead.

Jamestown Group Start

Since the line was barely moving, we decided it was perfect time to take some photos! Not pictured is our friend Kerwin who although was not running probably ended up walking 13 miles on his own since he woke up same time as us.

Once on the bus, the ride was about 10 minutes as well got to watch a beautiful sunrise.

Jamestown Morning

There was about 2,000 runners and for the most part, the porta potty lines were fairly short. I did appreciate the race announcer mentioning that the start is 5-10 minutes late; giving me just enough time to do a pitstop.

Afterwards it’s kiss Tony goodbye, good luck to the friends and dart my way to the start of the group.

Jamestown Start

The race start had no real corral system. Up in the front, I saw a 1:30 pacer chatting with a 2:00 pacer. However, I’m not sure if it was because a few people were still waiting for shuttles or what, but even with 2,000 runners, I didn’t feel too crowded.

For the first two miles I ran with the 1:30 pace group until the hills started to roll. That’s when I told myself to stop being stupid and to slow down to my own pace. It wasn’t the fastest, and I started to get passed by a lot of men, but it felt a lot better than trying to keep up with the lead pack.

Jamestown tomtom1

By 6:40 am, the weather was already 65 and it felt humid and sunny to me. Luckily on the course we did hit a lot of nice patches on shade. At times, I did go outside the cones when I saw no incoming traffic because quite frankly I rather run a longer distance with shade, then be exposed to the sunlight.

jamestown map

As you can see from the map, the course goes around the island with lots of rolling hills to keep your heart rate racing. For the first time in a while, I was actually feeling awesome during the race and ended up focusing on running instead of photographs.

I do remember that the hill at mile 5-6 got the best of me and  I had to take a short walk break. My calves were burning!

Jamestown tomtom2

I think I’m trying to run away from this sweat shirtless dude?

As difficult as hills may be, I really do enjoy the hillier courses. Going up might really suck, but I love passing others on the down side of the hill.

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For a while, I was worried the course was short. My garmin was always about .07 of a mile shorter than the mile marker. Clearly, it stopped being an issue when the final mile refused to end and Garmy clocked me in at 13.18 miles. 1:37:18, not a PR, but I was very excited by my time with how the weather was and the rolling hills.

Jamestown Splits

Overall, I feel pretty happy with my race strategy and results. I wanted to reach 1:40 with a plan that my second half of the race would be a bit slower with the heat. However, I was lucky enough to be able to hold onto my pace despite the feel of the hills. I think trying to be more realistic about my goal pace and running a little slower than I normally would for the first half helped me a lot in keeping up with my pace.

After crossing the finish line, I tried to get an icepack for my tendon but the chemical ice wouldn’t get cold enough so I just gave up and went to go cheer on my friends.

JamesTown Half Marathon 5

I loved watching all my friends sprint to the finish line. Unfortunately everyone was running so fast that my IPhone wasn’t fast enough to get photos.

At the finish line they had some bread rolls from a local bakery, cliff bars, water and Gatorade. Enough to get you by, but not a breakfast replacement.

The shuttles to get you back to your car however were not pleasant.

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After watching everyone finish the race, we took ourselves to the long unshaded shuttle line where we stood for about 30 minutes. Sweating, hungry, dehydrated but proud and excited with our accomplishments for the day.

Jamestown Group Photo Finish

My friends app showed that I was 3rd place in my age group so I went by the prize packs to see if I would get anything fun. Turns out that because the first two ladies were overall winners, I was actually first in my age group and I got a pretty awesome prize box!

These are the contents of my race pack that I won. I’m very excited for the car cover seat! Tony doesn’t like it when I get my sweat all over our glamorous Prius.¬†Although I really wish I could

The box is really cool though and will now be where I store all my Gus at home.

James Town Prize Pack

Total Time 1:37:18

Average Pace 7:26

Division Place 3/324

Gender Place 9/984

Overall Place 70/1632

First place woman ran the course in 1:19 and finished second place overall! Feeling very proud of the fast ladies on the course!

Pros

Scenic Course – Really beautiful course

Hills – If you love running on rolling hills, this is a fun one

Free photos – I get to share some of these thanks to TomTom sponsoring the race course photos. Always cool!

Cons

Roads Not closed – They use a cone system to give runners a shoulder of the road, but this barely fit anyone single file. Furthermore, I heard from friends that it was hard to pass anyone or speed up because if you got out of the cone area, the cops were yelling at the runners. I didn’t have this issue in the front, but I wasn’t passing too many people either.

Last Mile Might be long – I don’t know if it’s true, but my Garmin and a few others clocked in the final 1.1 miles at 1.3 and that’s within the cone space.

Shuttles – Terrible, the stress of getting to the starting line and the annoyance of waiting for 35 minutes to get back to your car.

Hills – If you don’t like running hilly courses, this might not be for you

No Post Race Hang out area- Unlike other races, there’s not really a great hang out vibe. You grab you banana, some cliff bars and get in line to wait for the shuttle.

Conclusion

Although I’m listing a lot more cons than pros, I think the scenic course really makes up for all the shuttle and cheapness of race organizers issues. Had I paid the full price, I probably would be annoyed at how cheap everything felt, but for the price we all paid, I really can’t complain. It was a blast and great morning run while in Newport.

JP Morgan Corporatte Challenge Race Recap

There are 5ks, 10ks, and even 5 milers at times. These are the distances I’m used to. However, the JP Morgan corporate challenge is none of these. ¬†Instead they decided to be a unique 3.5 mile race where instead of feeling like you want to die at .1 miles, you get to do it for half a mile instead!

It’s a race where us suits remove the Brooks brothers in exchange for just regulars Brooks, Mizunos, or Skechers for me.

That’s right, this was the official debut race for my Skechers GOMeb Speed 2! I was nervous and excited since I haven’t raced in flats for 3 years (I hated Mizuno Ronin because I kept feeling like my toe would pierce the fabric). Luckily if there’s one thing that I can’t complain about, it’s my Skechers!

So to participate in the race, you must work for a company that signs up to participate. Mine had a¬†team of 30 men and 30 women. ¬†Since we have over 700 people on the office, it’s done via lottery and after 4 years of trying, I finally got in! I know, I’m the biggest running addict in the firm, I feel like my entry should almost be guaranteed!

So I went into the week with a plan
Monday – run 10 marathon pace + 8 slower miles
Tuesday – rest
Wednesday – 4 miles easy
Thursday – race

Only there’s one problem with all this. As I’m sitting on the training getting excited for my first rest day in two weeks, I see a tweet about the Jp corporate challenge being today (Tuesday).

Ooops!!

Well luckily, I have not one, not two, but threw pairs of running shoes and plenty of running outfits because when you runmute and want to avoid carrying things, you just hoard stuff in the day before.

photo (2)
So I had the clothes, and all I was missing was my Garmin that I left at home to charge and a fresh set of legs.

So the race is at 7:15 pm which is my dinner time. I knew that this is a good time to get a big lunch so me and Tony went to Piccos.

photo 1 (3)

Why two people need a large? Because you get twice the value? I don’t know, boys eat a lot of pizza I guess.

I wasn’t very hungry, but I was worried about not eating anything since noon so I had some M&Ms and soda. Running ultras has made me really crave soda every time I run, even if it’s just a few miles.

jpmorgancorporate challenge 2

So the race starts in the Commons and people like to get there really early and just wait. Instead I went to go visit a friend and heading into the area around 7.

jpmorgancorporate challenge 3
Here’s the trick, if you walk up Beacon instead of comm ave or Boylston, the side is empty and it’s really easy to jump straight into the front .

Which is what I did and then immediately sat down for the next 15 minutes. My legs were still tired from Monday so standing for 15 minutes was not in my interest. So I watched the empty street ahead of me. 

jpmorgancorporate challenge 4

The first two minutes of the race are some of the scariest moments of my life. The race is packed, it’s about 12,000 individuals crowded into a small space with no real corral system so when the gun goes off, all these angsty, cubical dwellers take all there pent up rage and instead of saving it for a finishing kick, they start kicking in the first 100 meters of the race. It’s terrifying and this is the only race I see that at as men will push and shove anything out of there way just to fade out into a slower pace 2 minutes later.

The course itself is easy. After making two turns around the Boston Public Garden, it goes up Commonwealth Avenue until Kenmore Square and then comes back down Commonwealth Avenue with two more turns by the Garden.

jpmorgancorporate challengeThe course is flat with the exception of one small up and down ramp. There was a slight headwind in one direction that became a tailwind on the second direction. What really confused me were the mile markers. They were off by about a third of a mile and since I wasn’t running with headphones or my Garmin, I felt so confused with my effort and what I thought was my pace.

When I saw that I was a mile 3 (which turns out to be more like 3.3), at about 22 minutes into the race, I mentally gave up on the race a little bit. I definitely could have kicked harder but part of me wasn’t in the mood.

photo 4

After I crossed the finish line and saw my runkeeper splits, I’m not gonna lie I had a mini Shalane style fit on the grass. But once I snapped out of it and told myself to suck it up, I went ahead and grabbed some free Chia Bars, Yasso Greek froyo, core power and some ice tea mix. It always amazes me how the finish lines of 5Ks have more foods than some marathons.

Official Time – 23:07

Place – 356/10,001

Gender – 27/5,001

While I still feel frustrated about mixing up the race day, I’m happy that I was able to keep the pace I did on tired legs. If I could get over my own mental hump, I think I have a half marathon PR in my future.

Vermont City Marathon Race Report

Hi! I know it’s been a while. I’ve been traveling a bit, and at home I’ve been having some spotty wifi. Thanks Verizon Fios! Glad I’m paying you all $$$ to get limited wifi. Anyways end rant

It’s been two marathons and two weeks since my last update. I know I’m still behind on many race recaps, but I’ll follow a LIFO (last in, first out) approach to races because I rather have one fresh great recap and two slightly hazy memories than three hazy race recaps.

I’ve had Vermont City marathon on my calender since Christmas because¬†it was one of my gifts. I was planning on making it a peak race and a PR race, but then I got into a dangerous world of weekly marathons. And while I still believe high mileage is the key to PRs (for me), high racing events takes a wear mentally and physically on me. What also didn’t help was that after my 50K, I was having some runner knee issues and pretty much took two weeks off running. Problem with the two week break is that I went straight into a marathon, a hilly one in Olympia, just to take a few days off again before going into Vermont. Needless to say, don’t do that if you’re looking for a PR.

So in three weeks, I covered about 80 miles, with three of them being marathons, two of them being very ugly time wise for me. I’ll get more into the race later.

Race Expo

So the first thing that makes Vermont City marathon so awesome is how late their expo is open. On the day before the race, I had until 7:00PM to grab my bib and they also offered race day pick up. Since, I no longer make a full weekend out of races, and sometimes traffic is a complete bummer, the later expo time was a huge plus to me. I went into the expo Saturday around 5:50PM and saw the usual expo stands, some food samples and the usual running expo fun. I didn’t linger too long, because Tony and I had an evening boat ride, but I was able to grab all our numbers and shirts and quickly scan over the booths within 5 minutes.

The swag back consisted of a chap stick, chocolate, soap (but only in one bag?), natural apple sauce, a cap, and our shirts. When I went to grab Tony’s shirt, they did run out of men’s mediums, but since he wasn’t running due to injury, I just grabbed a second women’s small for myself.

vermont shirt

I usually donate my race shirts, but between the memories and how soft it is, I’m keeping two of them!

Race Day

So we had our first AirBnB fail. We had a lovely studio on church street that got canceled a week before. My theory was the dude was airbnbing his place and when the landlord found out, he got kicked out. Being memorial day weekend, with a huge marathon, our lodging options were pretty depressing. We decided to camp at North Beach campground since our alternative of paying $250 a night for the Days Inn was not going to cut it. North beach is what they call an “Urban campground” basically you’re on top of each other in a dirt parking lot. Whatever, the weather was nice and we have a great looking tent.

Vermont Camping

I actually slept better than usual with the exception of an annoying group of women in tent next to us slamming car doors at midnight! Come on! They continued to annoy me with an early wake up call of door slamming as well. If I was a monkey, I would have thrown my feces at them. Instead, I grumbled and tried to assemble myself together.

The good part ¬†of camping vs. hotel room, is that once you’re awake, it’s not really that comfortable lingering in a tent, so you get dressed and get going. I usually eat toast and peanut butter but since we had dinner at 9PM, I still felt insanely full so I just opted for peanut butter in one of those single serving JIFF things in the 3 minutes it took us to drive from the camp site to the race start.

vermont marathon start

I lost track of what number marathon this is, but every race day always feels like my first =)

The Course

When I first studied the course map, I found it a bit confusing and intimidating. I think since more than 5,000 of the 8,000 runners were participating in a 2-3 person relay, the design was so for the most part everyone can start and finish in the same area.

vermont map

I ran as a relay of one, but it seem like a great way to make team work a dream work.

vermont marathon course fog

The gun went off and I knew right away this wasn’t going to turn into a fast one. My legs felt dead and sun was already breaking through the humidity and fog. I think it was around 60 degrees. However, I loved watching the fog, and it was going to be a beautiful day.

vermont marathon course

I reached the halfway point around 1:55. At this point my strategy was to hang easy and steady. Slow running was better than slow walking.

I held about 8:12 average pace for the first 10 miles and then went through some major struggles as my body wasn’t used to running distance any more. I slowed to an average pace of about 10 minute miles for the rest of the race.

Somewhere between mile 8 and 26.2 we started going on and off this beautiful bikepath. While normally I would get cranky since I find them narrow and crowded,  this beautiful view of lake Champlain was only really accessible with the bike path so I loved it.

vermont hill

While the course has mild inclines and declines, there is technically one “hill” that goes on for about a mile. The photo doesn’t do exact justice, but it’s definitely a killer after mile 15. What’s cool is that they line it with Taiko drums!

drums

Totally loving how some of the drummers are rocking their bibs because they just ran part of the relay!

So I would like to say I ran the whole hill like everyone around me, but I didn’t! Instead, I took my time, and when I got to the end of it, I was rewarded with a downhill that I got to run on instead!!! One day I want to eat hills for breakfast, but not today.

vermont elevation

If I look at the elevation, it looks like there’s two hills, but I really don’t remember the one around mile 7-9.

vermont Residentual

Somewhere around mile 18 or 19 we ran through this little residential neighborhood where the roads sucked but everyone was all out and about with little kids cheering and make shift aid tables of fig newtons and watermelon and beads. I by passed the food but accepted some beads from a little girl and glammed myself up a bit for the final 7 miles.

If,  I had to guess, I would say I was feeling my best in the final 10K. Yes it was hot, yes I was barely breaking under 10 minute pace, but at this point nothing was bothering me. I had the finish line in sight and I found a nice dirt path on the side of the bike path that seemed to be agreeing with my legs a little more and I had this in my mouth

vermont icee

Or maybe I was so heat stroke, that I was in a new state of unawareness. Either way, I’d like to think I finished with a kick!

Finish Area

I guess if I had one complaint, it would be the finish area. I know they’re limited to the park, but I found it hard to navigate to the family meeting area due to the barricades they set up for crowd control. Maybe it was worse without them, but I got trapped in between crowds and couldn’t exit for a little while. I didn’t see much food, but it was hard to get around so maybe I just missed it. I grabbed a banana, a water and gave up trying to find the family meeting area and instead found a parking lot to meet up at instead.

The Runners, Spectators, Volunteers

What makes this race such a blast are all the participants from the runners, to the spectators to the volunteers. I think well more than half the runners around me where in the relay. This kept the course energetic and exciting, but also crowded. Despite that, I was felt pushed, spitted on, or any of the other annoyance I find sometimes when different distances are mixed in. The volunteers were all excited to be there. Sometimes when talking to random folks outside the race around Burlington, everyone loved to share their day whether they ran, screamed, volunteered and anything in between.

It was truly an event that everyone was participating in. It wasn’t Boston, but the excitement I felt around me, it might as well been.

vemront medal

Final Thoughts

I can’t say I feel truly happy with my time, but I don’t have anything to complain of either. It was such a beautiful day and I was doing one of favorite things in the world, running.

Plus how neat is this little infographic

Vermont Results

2014 Cox Providence Rhode Marathon Race Recap

The 2014 Cox Providence Rhode Marathon was held on May 4th, 2014. For the third weekend in a row I was running a back to back 5K race with a marathon or 50K race. Needless to say, it was all starting to catch up to me.

The full marathon started at 7:30AM and the half marathon at 8AM. Unlike 2013, this year my friend and I drove up the morning of the race. A 5:30AM wake up call was unpleasant, but the traffic-free drive was a lot better than the one I took mid day last year (at least as a passenger for me it was). I’m not sure what the original race registration fees were, but about a week before the race, a $25 off code was emailed out and I jumped on it Tuesday night so it was $75 for me. I can’t say no to a bargain ;). I wasn’t planning on running a marathon this weekend, but figured why not go for it.

Aside from some parking confusion (since the roads were closed around the starting area), number pick up was easy. Similarly to last year, they were out of my shirt¬†size, so I just grabbed my bib, wished my friend running the half and bolted to the finish line. Except an hour drive and over hydration made me realize my bladder was a bit full. I looked at the bathroom lines and decided it wasn’t worth the wait and bolted to the starting line. And then I waited and waited and to no surprise, the race started about 10-15 minutes late. It wasn’t really a big deal for me since I had no expectations and the weather was warm, but I could see how in colder weather I would have been more cranky about a delayed start.

Once we started, I was feeling great. There was a light breeze and it was about 60 degrees. Last year, I played smart. Because I was running on tired legs (20 miles the day before), I started conservatively and kept a relatively steady pace. This year, I seemed to have forgotten my wisdom and busted out into 7-7:15 minute miles for the first 10K of the race. By the time the 10 mile marker arrived, I was running with the 3:15 pace group like an idiot because I was quickly beginning to fade.

Mile 10-17 were some of my least favorite miles. I was quickly losing speed, feeling hot and tired at the same time and very well aware of it. The water stations seemed to barely exist and what seemed flat on the elevation table and my 2013 memory, seemed to be a little bit more hillier. I’ve been taking salt tabs every 70 minutes but around mile 17, I decided to eat one of my hammer gels only to realize there was no water stop for the next two miles. Gross.

Mile 18-26 were physically the hardest miles of the race. At this point the wind picked up to 25 MPH with gusts up to 35 MPH directly against the runners. At some point I felt like I was running in place. However, mentally, I would say I was in a much better mood than the 2nd third of the race. With less than 10 miles to go, I felt assurance that it will soon be over. I also pulled up some Nashville soundtrack songs and rocked out to myself in some slow and steady but happy pace.

When I started this race, I was hoping to run a BQ time, a sub 3:35. It wouldn’t be a PR, but I like to make an effort if I’m paying the race fee. Last year, I ran a 3:41 so anything below would be a course PR. With two miles left in the race, and the wind stronger than ever, I realized there was a very small chance of me making my cut-off. It sucked, but I accepted and took pride that if I keep running, I can PR on the course.

Cox Marathon Results

Time: 3:36:08

Place: 223/1372

Gender: 48/657

Division: 26/213

I came in a little over a minute too long of my goal but so happy to be out of the wind.

They had sandwiches at the end of the finish line, but it was in the runners only area and with me trying to hold a water bottle, trying to hold onto a sandwich was getting too complicated so I just passed on and went to look for my friend who ran the half marathon.

Cox Marathon

I was pleasantly surprised that the medal design was a little bit different from last year’s!

photo (12)

After cheering on more friends of friends, we went to the beer garden and enjoyed our midday Narragansett because nothing like beer on an empty stomach post marathon =).

Don’t worry, after resting in the sun, we did eventually walk over to Federal Hill for a very late brunch.

Cox Marathon Refuel

Julian’s had a little bit of a wait (40 minutes) but the food didn’t disappoint. I got a tofu/spinach/cauliflower scramble with a side of spinach and blue cheese ash that was good to the last bite. I was famished at this point.

To Summarize Pros & Cons of the Cox Providence Rhode Marathon

Pros

  • Flat(ish) course – There’s some hills but more than half of the miles is on a fairly flat road
  • Post race sandwiches
  • Separate medal designs for the half and full marathon
  • Day of race bib pick-up
  • Gu available at several aid stations

Cons

  • Sporadic water stations, sometime it was a mile apart, sometimes I swear I ran 5 miles without water
  • Confused volunteers, for example although a gel was available at a few stations, many of the volunteers had them in a box off to the side and many runners missed them
  • Shortage on t-shirt sizes – don’t ask me my size, if I am not getting it!
  • Roads open to cars – Parts of the course was on a bike path and some on the roads, most were open to traffic
  • Construction along the course- there were several piles of dirt along the course that blew into my face and mouth with the wind. I probably wasn’t very hungry after the race because I had quite a few mouthfuls of dirty!

Conclusion 

To be honest, this is one of my least favorite marathon courses. While I am really grateful to the volunteers, I don’t think they were well organized and the water stations and support wasn’t the best. I also think it’s a pretty expensive race (over $100 at full price) for a course that doesn’t close the roads, with boring shirt designs (same every year) that are not even in the correct size you request when registering.

As far as this race goes, I find the half marathon route a lot prettier, it’s hillier, but it’s prettier. The only advantage to do the marathon is an excuse to visit Providence, or if you’re trying to find a Spring BQ opportunity in the area, this is an easier course than most. Otherwise, if you’re trying to do 50 states and need Rhode Island, I prefer the Newport marathon in the fall instead.

Race Against Extinction 5K Race Report

As racing season is in full spring (pun intended), I’m slowly trying to catch up on all the race recaps. I got through Boston, and the TARC 50K, now I just owe you a Spring Classic 5K, a MEA 5K, Providence marathon and a small little race called the Georgia Marathon from way back in March.

The Boston Race Against Extinction 5K was held on Saturday, 11AM, on April 19th in Artesani Park just off the Charles River in the Boston/Brighton/Cambridge area. Proceeds will be donated to the World Wildlife Fund.¬†I don’t recall¬†what race registration was because I was lucky enough to win an entry from The Perfect Fuel Chocolate, a local Boston company!

The 5K welcomed everyone from Cheetahs (experienced and first-time runners), Tortoises (walkers), Gazelles (inline skaters), Kangaroos (parents with strollers), Wolf Packs (runners or walkers with their pets)! and Sloths (those who cannot or will not be running, skating, walking or moving in general on April 19th but would like to support and help protect their fellow species!).

I wasn’t too sure how I would get there from Malden, but I found a bus that went from Sullivan square to Cleveland circle passing by Artseani Park (just a little tip for my fellow Northbound orange line friends). I gave myself about an hour to get there, but it only took about 30 minutes so after getting my bib number I met Miles and Nicholas (whom I actually met the week before at Yukan races) and fueled up on some chocolate pre-race.

Mark and Nick Perfect Fuel

and before I knew it, it was race time! The course was flat along the paved path around the river. I started out in my usual pattern way too fast and started to feel like lead by mile 3. It’s a good thing 5Ks are only 3 miles because if I had to run another mile, I would have thrown up.

photo 1 (14)As I was wrapping up the final mile, I saw Miles leaping forward as the green man. Having someone dash by you, only reminds you just how relative speed is. Luckily, only gender that dashed past me, was male and I got to win first place female! No tape to break sadly but I got to take this wonderful present home.

photo 2 (1)

My time for the 3.1 miles was 21:28 with a 7th place overall finish.

photo 1 (1)

I did feel a little disappointed about being 15 seconds slower per mile than my more recent 5Ks but I think a part of me tried to keep the race a little easy because I didn’t want to burn myself out in 3 miles, 2 days before the Boston Marathon.

Race WinnersFinish line photo with Miles (21:11), Ben (20:51) and second place female Rebecca (20:54)

There was no medal for finishing but I couldn’t believe all the finishing swag.

photo 3 (9)

photo 2 (13)

There was also a cap and a water bottle that I didn’t take because I already have a plenty of each at home.

I wasn’t very hungry post race since I had a fairly large breakfast (not sure why, but I fueled like I was running a marathon, two hefty toasts with a generous cover of peanut butter). However they had plenty of coconut water, protein shakes, bagels, cream cheese, chips, cookies and anything else you want post race.

So to summarize:

Pros

  • Flat Course
  • Best 5K swag ever
  • Great charity and overall vibe
  • Well marked and traffic free
  • 11AM start (I’m really not a morning person)
  • Plenty of parking
  • Plenty post race fuel

Cons

  • On an open bike path so you’re swirling around bikers, joggers, walkers and everyone else since the path is not closed off for race only
  • Limited public transportation to the race start

Overall it was a great race and a great alternative the BAA 5K if you’re looking for a final shake out before the Boston Marathon.