2015 Wisconsin Marathon Race Recap

The Wisconsin Marathon took place on Saturday May 2nd, 2015  in Kenosha, Wisconsin – a town of 100,000 residents located about 45 minutes south of downtown Milwaukee and 1.5 hours north of Chicago.  Normally, I would go into a rant about my hatred of Saturday marathons (because who has time for Friday bib pick-ups) but since I was in Chicago on Friday, the drive to Kenosha afterwards worked out quite well. Being the eastcoast self centered gal that I am, I don’t know much about the midwest, or Wisconsin, besides the fact that they have cheese. Kenosha seemed like a relatively quaint town with not a lot going on, but they did have a few tasty joints to eat at, and a pretty waterfront around lake Michigan.

Although, the race was on a Saturday (with I think no number pick-up on race day), they made bib pick up super easy! I believe they had a day or 2 in both Chicago and Miwaukee if you’re in that area, or on Friday up until 7PM as the “expo.” The expo to be honest might have been the smallest I’ve seen yet in an expo attempt. It was in the of a Best Western, parking was easy since there was no one there. Number took about 30 seconds, picked up a shirt. They had local medal display sales person and a chiropractor there. They also had I believe Jesus people table next to the photobooth.

The issue with small races out in small towns is the lodging situations tend to be quite limited. Your options are, be local and drive, Best Western or a further hotel. Due to lack of options at all, we stayed at  Radisson Hotel, which cost way more than it was worth per night, and they didn’t allow me for late check out to 1PM, massive grossness. Plus, although Kenosha is not very large, they had some road constructions, so it took us always about 25 minutes to get to downtown area. But hey, at least it was near so outlets where you can buy expired Milano cookies and Ghirardelli chocolates. We did check Airbnb and most things were booked by then as well. late bird losses the better lodging options I guess.

The race started at 7AM and as much as I grumbled about the early start, it was going to be a beautiful sunny day so a 6AM start probably wouldn’t have hurt me too much either.

Unlike the wake up for Boston, it was a gorgeous day!

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So off I went to the start line, 10 minutes to 7AM. They had some roads closed, but the runner drop off area was super easy and about 2 minute walk from the start. They had a special cheese corral if you wore yellow or cheese type things. Temperature was climbing up the 50s and just waiting to burst out into the 70s.

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I thought about going straight to the front of the start line, but decided I’m no shape to play the ego game and put myself somewhere around the 4 hours marathon pace group, although if you do enough small races, the pace groups at the start are always together and just spread out naturally on their pace.

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I don’t know much about the area, but here is my concept of the course – first 10K is a circle to the right, next 10K is a circle to the left followed by a repeat to the right with an extend loop to some country roads for about 13 miles.

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A portion of the race hit up the water front with a great view and some local beautiful homes.

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And while the course for the most part is flat, I did find the bumps of up and down some small bridges and bike paths to be mildly frustrating. Luckily, the second half of the marathon was much smoother and feature some dirt roads that felt a gazillion times better on my foot.

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And although I’m not sure if the roads were ever officially closed to traffic, I don’t think I really saw more than one car.

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The my emotions and energy level seemed to bounce around the same, first 10K feeling great, second 10K feeling like crap wondering how the heck am I doing 13 miles more, nice 2nd wind for the next 10 miles and dragging myself and whatever is left of me for the final 5K.

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This same view that I passed about 4 times seemed so friendly on my 24!

I know many runners who have been injured, or had though breaks, or even just age know this feeling, but running faster and less fit than you were before is never that fun. However, at the same time, you gotta realize you’re still doing more than lots of other people can be doing, so you just gotta enjoy it!

Either way, I already adjusted my goals from the start. My goal was to break four hours. I felt like with all going well, I could do that even if I failed it two weeks ago in Boston.

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The tech shirt that came with the race bib featured the same design with a full black background.

The finish area was super chill. I was a little nervous that since it was a half marathon and a full, they would run out of food, but they did have a food ticket so I was able to grab my light beer, my wurst and a cheese sample or three. I rolled around in the grass a bit, trying to stretch before I gathered the energy to walk to the car so Tony and I can continue our trip to Milwaukee! I thought I would be really sore, but after a shower and change of clothes, I found enough energy for some sightseeing.

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The Final Verdict on Wisconsin Marathon B+ (7/10)

Pros

  • Friendly volunteers and crowd with lots of funny little signs to make you smile on the route. They might not have the same level of spectators as a big city marathon, but the spirit of the whole race, volunteers, and locals made up for it

  • Empty roads, I don’t think the roads were officially closed for the whole races, but I found the few drivers I saw super supportive.

  • 3,000 runners, I think a few K runners is my favorite amount of runners for a race. I just really hate being packed in with other runners, but at the same time I don’t want to feel alone and lost. I found that these type of events with about 3 thousand runners always feels the best for me.

  • Well organized event – race started on time, number pick up was easy, parking was easy, food available at the end, enough water stops.

  • Flat – although bumping in the start, is a pretty flat course.

  • Close to Chicago and Milwaukee, two fun places to visit

  • Fairly affordable – Race day fee was $90, but if you signed up early it was $70. Not a bad per mile rate when you come to what you pay for a Competitor group event.

Cons

  • Limited lodging options. I heard there was VIP lodging at the host hotel, but it sold out by January for a May Event

  • Repetitive first half with a lot of turns. My garmin distance was a little bit off and while i don’t think the course was definitely long, the turns of back and forth in the first 13 miles were draining. I think we also repeated some areas multiple times in circles.

  • Small crowds

  • Rough roads at times – Wisconsin struggles with the same problem New England does. After a long winter, the roads get a bit, okay more than a bit roughed up.

  • More cheese – I kinda was hoping there would be some cheese at water stops haha

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Getting Over Rock & Blog Rejection

So last night many running bloggers around the world or maybe just US opened up their email and either got great news

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or my news

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And I have to confess…

I got really upset.

I love running, aside from cats, it’s my favorite thing in the world.

And while I may not be the greatest writer, photographer, and that advance of a recipe writer, the one thing I’m great at is getting excited about running, inspiring others and talking my face on in regards to marathons and running. So of course the rejection kinda hit a nerve that has not been hit in a while. The older I get, the tougher I get, but every once in a while I can still get sensitive.

Then I went to bed, okay correction, drank a glass of wine and then went to bed. I slept on it and got over myself.

I realized that this rejection is actually for the best. As far as running goes, the races and events I love participating in are local. Large national level events are not my thing. In fact, while running Rock N Roll New Orleans, I thought to myself that this might be my last Rock N Roll event. I find them impersonal, cookie cutter and only appeal is that it’s in destinations I want to visit. I hate running in packed courses. Running with 30,000 other runners is not appealing to me personally. While I love running Boston and I plan on running it for as many years as the BAA accepts me in, it is pretty much the only large scale marathon that I ever wanted to repeat. The races that tend to stick with more are the smaller Adirondack, or Vermont City ones. The race directors are generally local to the area, the pricing is more fair and reasonable and has more local flavor as you go place to place.

So yes, while I would have loved to run in Rock n Roll Denver & Vegas marathons, it’s not at the top of my marathon bucket list. I’m happy for my friends who got accepted and am excited for their 2015 races. However, it’s time to start knocking out more of the 50 states and hitting up my bucket list.

So here I am, making a virtual toast to staying true to myself and not trying to be anything else. This is my hobby, this is my passion, and I should stay true to myself and run to the beat of my own running path and no one else’s.

And no, needless to say, I am not adding myself to the wait-list or applying next year.

What’s your favorite marathon? I’m looking specifically for things not on in the North East so I can knock out more states. Currently I got Fargo and maybe Chicago. 

Back to Back 50 miler weekends

Okay first things, I need to pimp myself. I applied to be a Rock and Blog ambassador with the Rock N Roll marathon group. And I’m trying for some brownie points, so if you have twitter and can retweet this little message that would be great!

I got a question the other day asking what I did between my double marathons and my first 50 miler as I had less than two weeks in between. Since I haven’t been best in doing weekly workout recap posts, I figured this would be a great excuse to do one.

The short answer… not much!

So let’s start from the start… one weekend, I achieved probably one of my biggest running accomplishments to date. I ran two marathons back to back in an almost equal BQ time. 3:31:31 & 3:31:40. Now my marathon PR is sub 3:22 so two run two marathons back to back less than 10 minutes from said PR was unexpected. I’m still in shock and I’ll probably write a post what I did to train eventually since it might help other runners who like me have trouble getting in their 20 + milers some weeks.

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After basking in my glow of running and realizing how much I love the marathon distance on roads… I relaxed for a few days.

On Monday and Tuesday, I did a mix of nothing, eating and more nothing. I went to work and did a little bit of more nothing. Do you realize how many TV shows I could be watching if I didn’t run… a ton. I hate taking two rest days back to back, but I got caught up in work and life things and decided that I needed to give my body recovery time.

Wednesday, I finally gave my body a run. 9.1 Miles. It ended up being an 8:09 pace… which for me after two days of rest, felt harder than usual.

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Thursday-Monday... I went on vacation… and I packed my running shoes and my running clothes… and I never unpacked them until I got home. Yes, I could have found time for at least a 30 minute run, but I decided to take my vacation as a vacation from literally everything. I don’t think I’ve ever done such a great job of nothing doing much.

Vacation Recap to Jamaica is up! 

I returned home on Monday at midnight and at 6AM Tuesday, I woke up, excited to be back in the Fall weather and went for a run.

Tuesday – I went for the same 9.1 mile run, I went before Jamaica, only this time, my pace was 7:51 while keeping it easy. Same path, same annoying car lights, same time. Looks like vacation and rest healed me up.

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Wednesday – 6.33  miles 7:38 pace on a treadmill

Thursday 5 miles 7:13 pace on a treadmill

Friday – Rest day

And of course Friday is some carboloading with this baller pizza we made at home.

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It’s an ugly photo, but it was delicious. Taco seasoned ground turkey and extra sauce!

As I went from two major endurance weekends, I skipped all strength workouts. I would have loved to attend my favorite tabata class, or do a Jillian Michaels DVD, but my muscles take forever to recover and I’m usually sore for days. So I decided, to sacrifice my muscles and avoid any strength workout that would tempt me. It just takes too big of a toll on my body and I wanted to save my strength for recovery.

Saturday – 9 hours 48 minutes Ghost Train 50 Miler… recap to come! Maybe next week.

Before every race, I like to take a full rest day. I don’t know if there’s physically benefits of taking a rest day vs doing a 2 mile shake up run that some people like. However, personally, skipping that day, helps me out mentally. It prepares me to be excited to run on race day, instead of feeling repetitive. I also try to run at least 20 miles the week of my race. I tried a complete taper of where I run a handful of miles the week of a race and it just makes me feel sluggish.

So there, my recipes of what I did. Maybe this will work for me tomorrow as I attempt on another 50 miler… Stonecat… I can’t make any big promises… but I can only try.

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Tell me what your weekend plans are. I have a race Saturday and Sunday night I’m going to a birthday party

Newport Marathon Race Report

Newport marathon… my second marathon in 36 hours, part of my crazy back to back marathon plan that started with Hartford, another notch on my 50 states belt. Why did I sign up for Newport? I already had Rhode Island as a state (times 2) and I’m not really thrilled with the race organizers that put on the event.

Well, I picked Newport because it’s relatively close to home (90 minutes with small traffic) and I wanted to force myself into some double long runs. And to be honest, the third and main reason is my ego. It’s the third race in the Triple Crown series that I have partly participated in this year. It consists of three races, Providence, Jamestown and Newport. It’s actually a half marathon series since Jamestown doesn’t have a full, but Providence and Newport those. To still participate, they take our first half split.

I wasn’t planning on competing as my Providence time wasn’t anything exciting after coming off Boston and a 50K the weeks before. Jamestown; however, came with a better time and when I checked the standings after the first two races, I realized I was in the standing if I can hold up in Newport. Now, I am not an elite runner, and the best I usually hope for is an age group in local races where the more competitive runners with more talent and discipline are racing elsewhere. So when I see a chance for extra bling and a new trinket with my name on my fireplace, I kind of want it. Sometimes, we all need our pats on the head, and running local road races is mine. Sometimes I get lucky, sometimes I run well, and sometimes I just have terrible runs.

Although, this desire for some extra bling, clearly wasn’t as important to me as my double long run goal, because otherwise, I wouldn’t have threatened my standings with a marathon the day before.

So right after I signed up for Hartford at the end of September, within 30 seconds I signed up for Newport. Registration was similarly around $100 and probably could have been a bit cheaper if I signed up a few months ahead like I usually do. Jamestown and Providence were much cheaper but way less scenic.

I was familiar with the course since I ran the half (after dropping from the full) two years ago when I started my marathon addiction. It was even my half marathon PR for a while, so I was excited to return to the course and see how it feels as a smarter, older, more experienced runner.

After finishing Hartford, my main objective was recovery. Tony and I walked around a little bit so I could stretch my legs and then headed to Newport. We took some really lovely smaller roads from Connecticut to Rhode Island that really showcased why New England at times is beautiful (when it’s not negative 50 wind chill and snowing for months).

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Although the race did have race day bib pick up, I wanted to minimize some of the race morning stress and get my number in advance. The expo was a pop up tent in a parking lot of the beach with some small local vendors. The shirts, terrible unisex boring designs like my Jamestown and Providence were. It’s a free for all when you pick your size, but they did have multiple color options. I guess if you’re a guy, or love running in oversize shirts, they may work. Sometimes, I wish women had the option to pass on the short and save 5 bucks instead since they’re clearly designed for dudes only. But aside from the short meh mehs, the line to pick up my number was quick (the line for half marathon was long) and the bag that came with it included some yummy snacks of dried cranberries, and nut mixes. I do always appreciate free snacks/swag.

After grabbing my number, we headed to my friend Anj’s house, about 30 minutes away. She volunteered to be our host for the Newport race. We relaxed a little bit in her warm house as I hung up my soaking shoes to dry. Yea, next time I run a double marathon, I might want to pack double the shoes. Showered, warmed up with hot chocolate (which is the true recovery drink) and turned into a functional human again. I’m always a little terrified of showering after a rainy race because I never know where I might have chafed, but lucky for me, no pain!

We grabbed dinner at a local spot nearby Pop’s that served a mix of pasta, pizza and Mexican and yet was amazing.

I started with the soup as this was my first real meal of the day post marathon. I know… recovery fail unless you count tomato soup and half a grilled cheese a meal. Then, I moved onto the chimichanga until I was happily stuffed.

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It was a food coma and I passed out into sleep somewhere around 9:30. I did take two ibuprofen even though, I usually never ever take anti-inflammatory meds post running, because I want my body to heal and adapt on its own. However, this was a special case, and I didn’t care how my body did it, as long as the inflammation, if any, went down.

The race started at 7:30 so my plan was a 6AM wake up with a 6:40 departure. The marathon and half marathon started 30 minutes apart and I knew there were a little less than 1,000 marathon runners with no road closures so I felt fairly comfortable in being able to get to the starting line. The other thing is that these races for some reason always start 10 to 20 minutes late so I didn’t really expect a time start as running Newport once, Providence twice and Jamestown once.

But instead, my early bedtime caused me to wake up at 5:30 fully rested. So I had time to enjoy some coffee and gluten-free brownies. Anj picked up some baked goods from Pumpkinpoolaza at RISD, cause she is the best host ever.  I don’t really eat real food pre-race as much as I just add calories, sugar and caffeine and hope for optimal results. For the most part, this works better for me than a steady meal of peanut butter and bread I used to have and then taste my whole run. And I’m not anti-gluten, but these were pretty amazing. I took a piece to enjoy post race as well!

Anyways, I get to the race start around 7:20. The weather is in about the 40s and expected to climb up to 60 with clear bright sunny skies. I’m wearing capris, a short sleeve, a long sleeve throwaway from the nightmare that was Hyannis marathon (although I did like the shirt) and a pair of throwaway gloves. This wasn’t exactly the plan of my outfit, but I realized I forgot a second running skirt outfit and so decided to go with this plan B as I was feeling a little too cold for the booty shorts I had as plan C. Yes, next time I plan on doing a double marathon weekend away from home, I’ll try not to pack the morning of.

As the marathoners gather around to shiver in a tighter circle, our watches hit 7:30 and no start time, 7:40 and no start time. Boy am I happy I decided to take a throwaway long sleeve this time and the gloves, I may never do another fall race without gloves again. They add this extra layer of comfort and warmth that can’t be replaced.

I spotted a 3:30 pacer and decided I would stick with him through the first half of the marathon and then see where I am. The race finally starts and maybe it’s those glutton free brownies of pure oil and sugar, but I feel amazing. I am filled with adrenaline and I decide to just run with it. This is my final race and I decide to make the most of my energy for the first half. In the back of my mind, I always knew that I would run the first half too fast and pay for it in the second half and I was okay with it. I just didn’t know how fast I would run. As I complete the first 10K and about a quarter into the overall race, I realize, I’m running sub 7 minute miles. After an hour at this place, I do start slowing down a little bit but for the most part I feel amazing. I don’t know for sure, but it felt like the whole first half was flat and the barely any wind to push me back. Even those 4 miles along ocean drive, I barely feel any push back. Before I know it, somewhere around mile 7, I start taking the lead and everyone is screaming first woman as I pass by them. I know I’m running too fast, too hard and probably too dumb for a girl on mile 34 of her weekend and almost 20 miles left in the overall run. However, I’ve never run the lead of the marathon and all this excitement is just fuel for my adrenaline. There’s smart runners and there’s passion runners and the elites have both, for me, my best performance isn’t always my ideal splits and running smart races, it’s usually the ones where the excitement takes over. Around the 10 mile mark, or maybe 11 mile mark, the lead girl takes back her place and I happily slide into a slower second place. As the final 2-3 miles runs along the avenue of mansions. Normally, I would take the time to admire and stare around, but I have a race to run and I just focus on the 13.1 checkpoint.

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The race provides free photos and that’s great an all, unfortunately, I seem to be making this face a lot as I get closer to the 13.1 checkpoint

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Anyways, after the 13.1 mile check point I slow down a bit to maybe 7:30 and those last me a few miles, but as the miles go by, my quads are starting to feel more and more sore. I don’t know if its because Hartford or the fast half, but I’m suddenly feeling the prior miles in my legs. I slow down to an 8 minute mile and that lasts me for about a mile before I’m starting to really not want to run.

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Around the final 7-8 miles the struggles hit full on. The course gets a little more boring with a little out and back loopy doo. Every little bump in the road felt like a mountain to climb. If you follow me on social media, you might have noticed the increase in tweets. It’s how I get myself through hard finishes. I distract myself a little bit. The final 10K was an ultimate ultra style finish. I would powerwalk and text every mile or so to recovery and run another mile or half a mile before taking a few seconds to walk. It wasn’t an ultimate way to finish, but it got my across the finish line. The final hill to the finish line is on Purgatory street… what a name.

And as I start to dash to the finish line, I don’t quite have the same kick as I did yesterday, but it’s still there, kicking. I forget the pain, the aches and complaints of the past miles and just remember the joy of why I run.

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My hair was on a marathon of its own!

After the finish line, I grabbed two slices of pizza and ate as one. The one problem with taking walks in a run is that it makes you realize that you are hungry!

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The weather did reach a lovely low 60s and as you know, here in New England, that screams beach weather!

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Did I mention that I really love how scenic the course is and this is what you get to enjoy at the finish line.

Pros

  • GORGEOUS COURSE! Okay, so here in the northeast even if advertised, we rarely get good ocean front view for races. This one delivers on its promise. The ocean drive run gets a little windy, but nothing feels more epic than running against the wind with the ocean on your side

  • Pizza and beer post race, they had plenty left even for the marathoners!

  • Part of the triple crown series

  • Great volunteers and just overall great happy vibe on the race source

  • Pacers if you’re into using them

Cons

  • Support and crowds get a little more skimp in the second half

  • Roads are not closed – it’s a small marathon so understandable, but I think things get a little packed if you’re more of an average pace runner in the first half

  • Cheap unisex shirts – maybe they work for men, but I don’t even bother getting mine or I donate them

  • Delayed race start

Overall, despite the cons of this race, I think the gorgeous course makes up for it all. It is a fairly local race and they do a nice enough job that if I lived just a little bit closer I would run the course more often. At least for the half. Maybe even the full!

Total Time: 3:31:40

Overall Place: 70/807

Gender Place: 13/385

I have to admit, aside from the fact that I ran two very different races, I finished only 9 seconds apart. Hartford, although rainy was an almost perfect steady effort, while Newport was a more win, crash and burn type of event where I barely know how I got myself across the finish line. A perfect double if you ask me.

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And in case you’re wondering, I am happy to report, I did win the triple crown for overall female winner! Can’t wait for my trophy!

Hartford Marathon Race Report

To start recapping the story of Hartford and Newport, I must first start in why I would sign up for two marathons in a row. No, I didn’t bump my head on a recent run. Although if you seen my instagram lately, I did come pretty close! My poor knees =(.

To be honest, I’ve wanted to run doubles for a while, but it always seemed silly to go through the logistics of travel and cost and not really be able to devote full power and energy into a race. Finally, I decided October, a few weeks away from Stonecat (my official 50 miler) and Ghost Train (A timed event where if weather is tolerable, I would like to break 50) was perfect timing.  It’s just two back to back training runs used for a ultimate goal. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

Not the fact that I wanted to see if I could push my endurance to another level. Something I’ve been questioning as I failed a few attempts at a 50 miler. Am I the problem, is my terrain the problem, or is it all just a mental game. I still didn’t know the answer, but I knew that in the comfort of a marathon, the support, the familiar terrain and just the stubbornness that hits me when my feet hit the pavement, I knew that I would succeed, maybe not fast, but I would finally hit my threshold of getting 50 miles in a two days.

So back to Hartford, I signed up the race sometime mid to end of September. While the cost wasn’t completely tragic, around $100 versus I think 80 or so for earlier registration, I did miss out on some conveniences. If I registered before September, I could have had my packet mailed to me (for a cost of course), and I could have had a seeded corral start (not that it ended up mattering).

The expo was a Saturday race. I know, you don’t see that happening too often in large scale marathons. And like my other Saturday race that I’ve done, they don’t do same day packet pick up. That means there’s only a few ways of getting your packet. Paying them more $$$$$ to mail you a number, which I couldn’t do since I signed up too late, taking a vacation day and driving up early, or having a friend pick it up for you with a signed waiver and copy of your photo ID. Luckily, a friend of mine was also running so I went with my final option. Although, I didn’t go to the expo, from the photos I saw, it seemed to be a fun time.

And so Friday began once of the longest (non-snow related) drives of my life. Tony and I left work around 5:30 and my Google Maps was still saying it was about 2:20 to go from Boston to Hartford. I figured we get my number from my friend and have some dinner.

Yes, I’m a late dinner marathoner. Here’s my theory. If I eat late, I’m not starving in the morning and I don’t have to wake up early to eat and then digest. So far it works far better than the 5PM dinner idea where I go to bed hungry by 10 and starving at the sound of my alarm.

Anyways, it gets to 7:30 and we barely have left Boston. We’re about 20 miles out of town, in a gridlock. I guess Columbus Day weekend Friday is the worst travel day of the year, worse than Thanksgiving. Considering Tony and I have never worked for a place that had Columbus Day off, we were like… seriously? I’ll avoid the rant about what a terrible person Columbus was and let you enjoy your day of if you get one.

So yea, we gave up; the next exit was about 9 miles away, which probably meant another hour, so we hit one of those highway food courts. I really hate eating at highway food courts. They’re sort of like mall courts only dirtier and have you trapped on a pike because you really don’t feel like paying the toll twice. However, they rig the prices up 30% and somehow everything tastes more stale and oily than a regular chain off the highway would.

I’ve been craving pizza for a while now, so we hit up Pappa John’s and got a whole pie because I was starting to get really hungry. I don’t remember what my lunch was if any, but it couldn’t have been very exciting because at this rate I contemplated getting two pies for two people.

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Anyways, we eat and try to wait out some traffic, but nothing seems better 30 minutes later so we move on and eventually make our way into Hartford, where I get my number from Lori and we head north another 15 minutes to our hotel. Upon my number, I immediately inspected my swag and was really excited about the long sleeve shirt that came with the race packet.

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Our hotel north of Hartford was nothing exciting, it was somewhere between a motel 6 and a Holiday Inn; comfortable enough to sleep but not enough to keep you from not wanting to get up when your alarm goes off.

6:30 AM for an 8AM start. 45 minutes for me and Tony to get ready, maybe nibble at some bread at the hotel breakfast, drive 15 minutes to Hartford Downtown and be ready to start by 7:45…

All plans have good intentions and although I’ve done countless races, and I should know better… I don’t.

I will take an extra 30 minutes of sleep over a stress free race morning.

Yes, they closed all the exits off the highway and then all the roads leading up to 2 miles to the race start area.

And it’s raining so I’m really in no mood to add an extra 2 miles to my 26.2ish (I ain’t no pro). We circle around with several other cars that are probably in the same, oh shit, I should have woken up earlier problem. There’s police detail, but the weather is miserable and most seem to be hiding inside their squad car and we’re at a loss of where to go. We see another car sneaking through the police barricades via Walgreen and etc. parking lots and Tony follows to get me closer to the start. When I’m a few blocks away and it doesn’t look like we can get any closer, I kiss goodbye and off I head out, hoping the starting line is somewhere nearby.

So I find a starting line… I’m getting ready to wiggle my way in when I hear something about a 5K and I dumbly remember, there are TWO starting lines.

Yes, my dumb wet butt almost started the race in the wrong line.

I quickly, turn away from that started and tried to find people whose bibs matched mine. Luckily, it was nearby and the race already started so I tried to make the best of it.

I don’t know how many people run Hartford between the full and the half marathon, but I know they take up the whole road. I’m not sure how many minutes we’re into the race, it’s raining, so my cell phone is safely stashed in a ziplock in my rain gear I decided to test out. Thank you Adidas outlet $15! I’m not fully sure how late I am, but I could tell by the large mob of people in the front, it must have been a few minutes at least. I tried to make the best of it, and make wave through the people, on the sides, maybe a sidewalk but I’m at a dead end of walking trashbags.

I know, I really try not to judge and I have incredibly respect for all sorts of runners, but theirs is nothing more frustrating than wanting to move forward and being stuck behind a group of women walking at the start of a race. Yes, I know, it’s my fault for getting there late.

I’m pretty much kicking myself and then reminding myself that it’s good I’m being forced to take it slow. After all, I have another marathon in less than 24 hours I should worry about. But if there’s one thing I really hate, it’s running in the rain.

I have run and completed more marathons than I’d like in countless degrees of rain from freezing to heat-wave). If I’m racing, there’s a high chance of precipitation. It’s just how it works. The amount of training runs on my own accord that I have done in the rain? ZERO and I will probably keep it that way. I hate running in the rain. I’ll swim in the rain, maybe even dance in the rain, but I am not running in the rain unless I absolutely have to because I paid to run on that day.

So, I try to make my way through as my current running pace my Garmin is currently having me at a 11 minute per mile on a downhill is driving me crazy. I was starting to feel really wet and really cold. I needed to find space and at least get into a 9 minute jog. Unfortunately, the sidewalk in downtown Hartford is about as pleasant at Providence. And after my faceplant on the pavement a week ago, I try my best to avoid the obstacles.

And then, like a beacon of heavenly light, a few miles in, the half and the marathon course split up. I give praise to one god, or another, or whoever will listen to me. Because finally I have room! What can I say, I love road races, but I’m a claustrophobic at times.

I decided to cover up my Garmin in rain jacket and just run at a comfortable steady pace as if I was doing a regular long time. I pretty much keep my Garmin cover for the next 10 miles or so. I decided that I wouldn’t allow myself a peak until I hit the halfway point.

I slowly started catching up on the pace groups. 4:30 first, 4:00, 3:45, and eventually the 3:30 group where I told myself to slow down. I know that 3:35 is about an 8:11 pace and with the slow/late start, I knew I must have clocked in some sub 8 miles. So it was time to relax more. I had a slow week of running as I tried to adjust to my new work schedule and I knew, the ease of running I was feeling, was the feel of a taper. Nice, but I needed to not use it all up in Day 1 of the weekend.

So 3:30s and I hung out for a good while. I tried my best to stay just in front of them, but still keep them in my sight. I don’t generally like to run in pace groups, because I find them crowded and I like being a lone soldier on the road. Maybe a buddy or two, but otherwise, I don’t like staying in a pack. Also, I’m pretty sure someone in that group crapped themselves around mile 8. I felt sorry for the dude, but not enough to keep smelling it. I’m like a pregnant woman when I run. Any smell can set me off into a gag reflex.

The course for the first 14 miles or so was an interesting mix. We hit the downtown area, some industrial parks and what looked like a really nice running path along a river.  In between that we went up and down highway ramps to go from place to place, but It kind of felt like we were running a circle a bit. There were no real hills, but the highway ramps did start to feel tiring after a bit. I’m sure there were more interesting things to take note of, in fact, the race organizers provide you a very nice long list of things to look out for at every mile, but with the rain and my visor on, I just focused on moving forward and keeping my rain out of my eyes.

The second part of the race was an out and back suburban road. While, I normally find a little boring, it was nice to get even more robotic into my run. There was no, twists, turns, curbs to look out for. I can just run forward, find a turnaround point and run back. It was really cool to see the elite runners run on their way back. First ran the men, then a woman, then some more men. Elite runners always look so elegant. I don’t know how when I run, I always look like an orangutan. My hair is always sticking out at all ends, and the sides of thigh jiggling. I may be able to get faster, but I don’t think I’ll ever get to be a Runners World model. O well, such is life.

We hit mile 20 and I realize, I’m currently running a sub 3:30, maybe 3:25 marathon. Which is probably a very bad idea and I decide now is a good time to walk. I try my best to slow down but the rain seems to only fall harder. I decide to work my best on a run/walk combo at every mile marker. I figured if I turn this into a 20 miler and a 10K easy run, I had hopes of having a strong half marathon at Newport the next day and I thought this would work. Trying to take an easy slow run when it’s miserable outside and you just want to be finish is definitely a mental strength I did not half. The walk breaks at every mile helped, but it was hard to keep walking when the other side of the road runners were cheering you on. So I ran more than I should have and before I knew it, I was in the final two miles. I was closing in on the downtown area finish line, and the crowds of cheering people seemed to get louder. And as I got into the final mile of the race, I forgot all about my walk break and got lost in the cheer and excitement of a crowd and the joy that as soon as I crossed that finish line, I can seek out dry clothes and warmth.

Hartford Marathon (6)

I found Tony, my loyal cheerleader and crew waiting for me at the finish line as I walked trembling shaking, from the coldness that hits me when I stop running. In the car we cranked up the heat and I began my routine of changing in a car that I’m a pro at by now post races. And I continued by putting on every layer I had with me because I packed like a child the night before bringing everything and nothing I actually needed. Why yes, I am wearing 4 cotton long sleeves and no coasts. It’s the new classy.

Hartford Marathon (4)

After getting dry, we walked back to the festival. I think the award ceremony probably already happened and I went in search of the food. The food tent at first felt disappointing. They had a cup of those scary preserved fruit, a banana, tomato soup and cold grilled cheese sandwiches. I really wanted some chicken noodle or clam chowder. Luckily, no one minded me taking extra cups of coup and by my third cup; I was starting to feel a bit happier and even wholeheartedly enjoyed my cold grilled cheese.

There was a hot dog stand too, that made my day, even though normally I don’t even go near a hot dog. However, when you’re hungry and you just ran a marathon, you can eat all the crap you want.

Hartford Marathon (1)

And of course nothing tastes better than a pumpkin beer; no matter how wet it got out there.

Hartford Marathon (3)

Overall, I had a great time at Hartford and if you’re looking for a race to knock off Connecticut for a state, or just something nearby if you’re from the area, this is a good one!

Pros

  • Volunteers are amazing. Seriously, the only thing I could imagine that’s worse about running in the rain is standing at an aid station in the rain. My most respect to you guys and gals!
  • Music, bands, bagpipe players! It was a shame the weather was so terrible, because I could tell in sunny weather this would have been a giant party
  • The race is really well organized, it started on time, aid stations well stocked and after party village from the food and beer tent seemed in top shape.
  • Relatively flat course, particularly the second half
  • Halloween candy aid station, yes
  • Well at first I didn’t get it, the tomato soup/grilled cheese combo really was comforting
  • Harpoon beer! I like Harpoon as a beer and sometimes I find beer really refreshing after an endurance event. Just not shitty beer.
  • Pretty nice long sleeve shirts, really loving mine

Cons

  • You need to get to the start early since the roads close and unless you’re in a race hotel there’s no way to get there without a car.
  • No day of packet pickups for race numbers which means either paying extra if you register early, having a nice friend whose there early, or taking a day off from work (if you work Fridays).
  • Full marathon and Half marathon starts at the same time causing mass congestions if you want to run your own pace and not the mass pace
  • There’s parts of the course where it’s just the marathon on a bike path that I felt were pretty tight and crowded spots as well. Luckily, I wasn’t racing.
  • Hartford is not a very exciting place to visit, sorry, but its two hours from Boston and two hours from NY so all the fun tends to go elsewhere. So, I wouldn’t really say it’s the best destination race unless you’re on route to somewhere else; but it is a great Connecticut fall race if you’re in the market for one.

Total Time: 3:31:31

Overall Place: 376/2419

Gender Place: 70/1070

I feel pretty happy that I was able to run a BQ on a fairly steady pace. I think with the exception of my first few crazy miles and my last 10K that I tried to slow down in, I ran a fairly steady race with no wall besides the I really wish it would stop raining already wall.

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.