Race Report- Rocket City Marathon

This weekend was the Rocket City Marathon in Huntsville, Alabama.  My last marathon was over 5 years ago, so I really felt like I was training for my first marathon all over again.  Leading up to the race, the forecast looked amazing, 40s for the start, about a high of 60 for the day.  As the big day neared, each new forecast showed dropping temperatures.  I was really counting on wearing a tank top and shorts, the tank top would allow me to stash my gels and other nutrition in the pockets.   As I studied the forecast the night before I was completely torn.  Start temp would feel like 31 and finish temp would feel like 53.  Too cold at the start for the tank and shorts I hoped for, too hot at finish for the other option I had that was capris and a thermal long sleeve.  I decided to wear my throw-away long sleeve over the tank and shorts and planned to shed that layer as I warmed up (never happened!)

Earlier in the week I had participated in a contest at my local running store, Runwell and ended up getting a new belt that holds all of your nutrition.  It is called a FlipBelt.  I decided to give it a shot race morning, despite never having run with it.  In my first steps of running I immediately wished I had tried it out before hand.  The first two miles the belt was bouncing all over the place and I was trying to figure out how to get everything out of my belt, pin my bib on my clothes all without losing any time.  Eventually I adjusted my shirt enough underneath the belt that the bouncing stopped and it ended up being pretty useful.  I’ll run with it again, but definitely needed some testing out before the race.

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Mile 1, high fiving my family for the first time in the race.
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Mile 1 again

My kids participated in the Rocket City Kids Marathon.  They ran 25.2 practice miles from September to race weekend.  Then on Saturday, they ran their final mile as a race.  Their finish line was the same as mine, just a few hours before.  My only complaint was that their race was during mine so I wasn’t able to see it.  The pictures that my husband and parents took indicate that both did great and had fun.  And even more fun, they both said PRs for their fastest mile!

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My plan was to run the first 6 miles of my race at about a 9:40 pace, then begin to pick up the pace slowly.  For the most part it went pretty well.  A few favorites from these miles: A sign that read “In Dog Miles You’re Almost Done”, and a spirit station in a neighborhood that was serving cold beer at about mile 7 or 8.  There were cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon and a sign that read “Elite Aid Station”.  I almost wished I wasn’t going for a time goal, not to stop to drink the PBR, but to take a picture of the sign.  But I kept moving on.  There was a porta potty at about mile 9 that I planned to stop at.  I spent most of that mile debating whether it was smart to push the pace to buy time for the wasted time at the porta potty or if I should just hold pace and make sure I had enough for the later miles.  I ended up convincing myself that I could push the pace and anyone I passed, I would be getting to the porta-potty before them so I could be buying minutes with each person I passed, hahaha.  When I got to the porta potty there was only one….There was one person in line ahead of me waiting.  Although it seemed like an eternity, it wasn’t a horribly long stop and I continued on.  When I first looked down at my watch after the stop it said my lap pace was 17:46.  I tried to convince myself not to try to make up the time all at once.

Split       Time      Cumulative Time   Moving Time    Distance  Elev Gain   Elev Loss    Avg. Pace    Avg. Moving Pace

1 9:31.4 9:31.4 9:33 1.00 36 30 9:32 9:33
2 9:36.7 19:08 9:35 1.00 43 26 9:37 9:35
3 9:37.2 28:45 9:38 1.00 30 43 9:37 9:38
4 9:46.6 38:32 9:46 1.00 13 0 9:47 9:46
5 9:40.4 48:12 9:41 1.00 56 33 9:40 9:41
6 9:28.4 57:41 9:28 1.00 49 23 9:28 9:28
7 9:19.6 1:07:00 9:04 1.00 16 59 9:20 9:04
8 9:31.5 1:16:32 9:31 1.00 36 23 9:32 9:31
9 9:39.4 1:26:11 9:00 1.00 7 13 9:40 9:00
10 11:12 1:37:23 9:04 1.00 30 49 11:12 9:04
11 9:29.3 1:46:53 9:29 1.00 46 59 9:29 9:29
12 9:21.8 1:56:14 9:22 1.00 0 16 9:22 9:22
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Smiling and feeling good at the 13 mile mark.

My family did a really good job of navigating the course and were able to see me at mile 1, 13, 17, 20 and the finish.  At each of those places, the kids were ready to give high fives and I certainly wasn’t going to miss that.  The miles in between 17 and 20 were my favorite.  We got to run through the Space and Rocket Center, under and around rockets, then through the Botanical Gardens.  Lots of scenery and I was continuing to feel great.

One really cool picture from the day is this one.  As a 90s kid, I have passed along an appreciation of great movies like Mighty Ducks to my children.  They recognized right away that we were in a Flying V formation here (thankfully I was in the front, ha!)

flying v

Split       Time      Cumulative Time   Moving Time    Distance  Elev Gain   Elev Loss    Avg. Pace    Avg. Moving Pace

13 9:18.2 2:05:33 9:18 1.00 7 23 9:18 9:18
14 9:22.4 2:14:55 9:22 1.00 7 23 9:22 9:22
15 9:38.2 2:24:33 9:38 1.00 23 7 9:38 9:38
16 9:37.1 2:34:10 9:37 1.00 39 16 9:37 9:37
17 9:10.4 2:43:21 9:11 1.00 36 59 9:10 9:11
18 9:25.9 2:52:47 9:23 1.00 46 16 9:26 9:23
19 9:07.6 3:01:54 9:07 1.00 36 46 9:08 9:07
20 9:27.5 3:11:22 9:28 1.00 59 49 9:27 9:28
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Mile 20
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Mile 20

At this point I began to notice quite a few people walking, especially on hills and realized I was still feeling pretty good.  I tried to keep the mile splits pretty consistent, continue on with my nutrition and keep hanging on to what I had done so far.  A number of spectators were commenting that I looked strong, looked like I was having fun, etc.  I really debated whether or not I could make it to the finish without a second porta potty stop, but kept imagining myself exploding at mile 26 or something.  When I spotted a porta potty at mile 23 with no one there, I decided a quick stop would allow me to focus on holding the pace study for the rest of the race.  I began to struggle after the stop and just felt tired.  Looking back I’m not sure if I needed another gel or just wouldn’t have stopped.  The spirit stations in these miles were really great and definitely kept me going.  Kept working my way through the miles and still was passing everyone.  I’m pretty sure that no one passed me from mile 17 on.  I’m pretty happy with that.  Saw my family again at mile 26, knew I was finishing out a great race.

Mile 26
Mile 26

Split       Time      Cumulative Time   Moving Time    Distance  Elev Gain   Elev Loss    Avg. Pace    Avg. Moving Pace

21 9:21.6 3:20:43 9:21 1.00 39 30 9:22 9:21
22 9:17.0 3:30:00 9:17 1.00 30 39 9:17 9:17
23 9:58.8 3:39:59 9:26 1.00 23 23 9:59 9:26
24 9:22.7 3:49:22 9:22 1.00 10 36 9:23 9:22
25 9:37.9 3:59:00 9:38 1.00 23 20 9:38 9:38
26 9:24.8 4:08:24 9:25 1.00 7 0 9:25 9:25
27 4:08.3 4:12:33 3:59 0.44 13 16 9:20 8:59
Summary 4:12:33 4:12:33 4:08:43 26.44 758 778 9:33 9:24
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Finish line!
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Finish line!
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Heck yeah I rang the PR Gong!

Grading Scale:

Training: B.  While my long runs were good and I think really helped me to have a much better race experience than my past marathons, I did not keep up with what I needed to do during the week.  Next time around I want to include a track workout and tempo each week.

Nutrition: A.  Really happy with how this aspect of my race went.  Gel or chews every 45 minutes is my magic formula.

Race course: A+.  I was pretty nervous about the elevation gain advertised on this course as I live in a pretty flat area.  I was pleasantly surprised that the hills were not an issue for me at all.  None seemed too tough, but it was enough to keep the course from being boring.  Lots of cool neighborhoods, the Space and Rocket Center, Botanical Gardens, and the fact that my family could get around enough to see me so many times.

Race support: A+.  I’ve never done such a well run race of any distance.  This race thought of everything.  Course marshals at every intersection directing traffic, residents out in their yards cheering for you, playing music.  Bands along the course.  A spirit station at least every mile.  I can’t think of a single thing I would change.

Race performance: A-.  I’ve never not blown up in a marathon so was scared to push the pace.  Next time I will be a bit more aggressive with my pacing plan.  I didn’t finish feeling like I left a ton out there, but I think I could have done a bit more.  Still, a 30 minute PR is a pretty great way to close out my 2014 racing!

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Race Report- My first triathlon

In January, a race management company I had recently raced with announced a new race for 2014, their first half-distance triathlon would be held in October, less than an hour from my house.  I had been wanting to do a triathlon and decided to just go for it and sign up.   I later learned that most people go for shorter distance for their first race.

Throughout the spring I focused on running, including my first ever running streak for the month of April.  By May, it was time to start triathlon training.  This coincided with my anniversary of owning a road bike for one year.  The first weeks of triathlon training left me pretty tired, but I was (mostly) enjoying the new challenge.  As a kid, I had done swim team, where I was proficient at best.  I did not win races, I did not swim in the fast lane.  I had the basics.  My first swim workouts left me perplexed.  How could I run for multiple hours at a time with little difficulty, but swimming just two laps of the pool had me huffing and puffing with no house to blow down?!?!?  After just a few weeks, I learned to regulate my breathing in the water and continued to increase my distances.  As a relatively new cyclist, I enjoyed significant improvement in that sport as well.  I also found that I really looked forward to the rides around small country roads surrounding my house, discovering roads or appreciating scenery I never had before.  It is safe to say, I was quickly learning to love triathlon training.

Through the summer I got in most of the prescribed workouts, read obsessively about triathlons, gear, advice, etc and planned my race schedule.

I decided that a practice triathlon would be a good idea before my ‘A’ race.  Luckily that same race management company was hosting a triathlon 3 weeks before the big event, either sprint or olympic distance.  Better get as close to the goal distance as possible, Olympic distance- here I come!

Then this horrible thing happened, summer ended!  Back to work for this teacher, two new classes to prepare for each day and an increase in my kids’ activities.  My training was not what it had been and not what I would like it to be, but I tried to at least maintain the progress I had made over the summer.

Olympic tri weekend began with my first open water swim to practice during packet pickup.  It wasn’t as bad as expected and I quickly determined that the wetsuit may be the best purchase I ever made.

Saturday evening- drive back home and begin to get nervous.  Turns out there is a lot more preparation involved in a triathlon than running races.  My garage became the stage to set up each transition.  I probably spent a solid hour packing and checking my belongings.

Sunday morning- Wake up at 5:00 A.M.  Thankfully this is a local race, I can’t imagine waking up earlier than this.  Also, according to accuweather on my phone the current temperature is 41 degrees.  What was I thinking!!!!!

5:45 A.M.- leave the house with a packed car!  My husband and a friend who was also doing her first triathlon and I chatted nervously on the drive.

6:30 A.M.- Arrive and figure out how to carry all of our gear from the car to transition area.  So thankful for my husband to help out at this point!  Also wondering how seasoned triathletes streamline this process.

Set up transition area, have a stranger write in sharpie on me and figure out a way to wiggle into my wetsuit.

7:15- Head down to water.  Nervously do arm swings ala Michael Phelps in Beijing and wade into the water.

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That’s right, the air is so cold that steam is coming off of the lake.
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The only picture of me in the water. I’m in the Zoot wetsuit. There were exactly two people in wetsuits with turquoise writing on them, which one do you think my husband photographed?

7:30- Race start!  I navigated my way to the edge and began swimming.  The fear of veering off course was much more significant than bumping into people or drowning, so I settled into breathing every other stroke, even though most of my swims I breathed every four strokes.  I wasn’t panicking, but I knew this wouldn’t be my favorite leg of the race.  Like in Finding Nemo, just keep swimming!  Then this funny thing happened, I kept passing people.  As I made my way past buoys, I realized I felt like the swim was going pretty well.  Even though I swore that the swim was going to be at an easy pace, passing people was a big ego boost that I didn’t want to let go, so I tried to find a balance between controlling my breathing and effort and still staying competitive with those around me and not losing any places.  Getting close to shore, I remind myself that I read to swim as far as possible before standing up.

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My husband took pictures of someone wearing a very similar wetsuit to mine, ha!!!

Out of the water and crossing the timing mat at Swim:

.9 miles
30:25:85.  Pace of 32:42/mile.  5th in AG
T1- Longer run from water to transition area than I would have liked.  Also, whose idea was it to have us run up a flight of stairs at this point?   tri 3 tri 4 tri 5 tri 6 tri 7
T1: 3:31:40, 5th in AG
Bike:
For a couple months I had been dreaming of getting a new bike, even making visits to the bike store “just to look”.  Two days before my first triathlon, the local bike store posted that “my” bike was on sale!!  I convinced my husband that we should go, just to look.  I even concocted a story about how I was leaving my purse in the car so that I couldn’t buy it (never mind the fact that I brought bike shorts and bike shoes so I could properly try it out).  James knew all along what I was doing and was wonderfully supportive all the way through.  Long story short, I upgraded my bike the day before my first triathlon.  New seat, new aero bars, new computer.
All of this was really great, except for a couple things.  My computer was not yet functional, customer support wasn’t open until Monday morning so I would be riding without knowing my speed or anything else.  Then,  a few miles into the ride, I noticed a sound.  I kept looking down to see if I had a flat or could see anything wrong without success.  So I just kept riding.
The bike was humbling.  Where the swim made me feel like a rockstar because I did better than expected, the bike was eye opening at the number of people passing me.  I would later learn that my front brake was rubbing on the tire the whole race, so I’m sure that had an effect, but there were a LOT of people who were much stronger on the bike than me.
Regardless, I finished feeling pretty good physically.  I had managed to eat a Bonk Breaker (YUM!) and drink an entire bottle of water and cherry limeade flavored Nuun.  Both had me feeling pretty good by the end of the bike.
Bike: 24.8 miles
1:26:40.7.  Pace of 17.29 mph…..bummed with this….wonder what it would have been with a computer and front brake not sticking….  5th in AG.
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T2:
2:02:55, 7th in AG
Run:
Ok, what is wrong with my legs at this point?  They feel like lead.

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The first half mile had me questioning not only this race, but also my ‘A’ race in just three weeks.  I really had no clue how at that point I would run 6.2 miles when it felt like I was running through wet cement.
Then I looked down at my watch, funny thing happened, I wasn’t really going that slow.  My breathing was far harder than it should have been for that pace, but it was within my expected range.  Eventually my legs recovered and for the most part it felt like a normal run.  And then I entered hill country.  I didn’t remember reading anything about hills on the run course, a number of people around me were commenting on the same thing, but we all continued to suffer together.
One big hill at about the 4.5 mile mark was the last straw for me.  After many more hills than I anticipated or trained for, I was toast.  I’m sure that I killed my pace on that hill, it felt like I was barely moving.
Eventually I make my way back to the finish only to learn that I have to turn another corner and finish uphill!
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Uphill finish. Cruel.

At this point I heard my husband and my friend cheering for me and knew I had to finish strong, and made it in just under the 3 hour mark!!

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Run: 6.2 miles
56:17:75.  Pace of 9:05/mile.  6th in AG.  (Realized a few days later that this was a new 10K PR for me by about 40 seconds.
OVERALL:
2:58:58.  4th in AG.  83rd overall.
Thoughts on the tri- great experience, happy with the overall race.  How on earth do I double these distances in 3 weeks time?  I feel like I maxed out at this race.  Regardless, I learned a lot and am looking forward to many more triathlons in my future!