I just got back from a long four day weekend in Virginia for the Shamrock Half Marathon, which was (spoiler alert) just okay, I guess. I’d been wanting to run this race for awhile for several reasons – the course is super flat and is just an hour’s drive from my parents’ house. Plus March in Virginia Beach is usually pretty decent weather, and since I tend to run hot, I prefer something on the cool side. I spent most of the day Thursday on the road from the STL metro to Williamsburg (it’s usually an 11.5 hour drive for me, but results may vary depending on the number of highway patrol on I-64).
I headed out to VA Beach for the expo first thing Friday – I was kicking myself for overestimating how long it would take me to get to the expo, since I got there an hour before it opened, but I wasn’t the first person in line, so there’s that. Actually, the line grew seriously long in the hour I waited there for the expo to open, so I was kind of glad I got there when I did. I’d received my bib number via text message a few days earlier, so picking up my bib was a breeze. More importantly, the directions for picking up someone else’s bib were very specific and super easy to follow – I had a “permission slip” from my sister as well as a photo of her driver’s license, and was able to grab her bib hassle-free. I’m not one to spend a lot of time in expos, so did a quick walk-around (and got some serious race envy – you people who live in the VA/NC area have some great events to choose from!) before heading back to Williamsburg, trying to beat the rainy Friday afternoon traffic.
After spending a relaxing Saturday with my family, my sister and I got up early Sunday morning and headed out at 4:30 to the Beach. The race directors had provided a lot of info on race day parking, so we were able to find a space in a free lot about ten blocks from the finish line. Of course, as we were walking the twenty blocks to the start, we started joking that we might need to hail a cab for the walk back after the race. We weren’t sure about the port-o-john situation (being used to large events like Disney), so we jumped into a local hotel lobby for a quick bathroom stop, but we really didn’t need to worry. The start wasn’t very crowded at all – we were able to sneak into a port-o-john again before the start (we were standing around for about an hour). Also, no corral nazis – it was definitely a relaxed start, so even though my sister is a lot faster than me, we were able to hang out (yes I started in the wrong corral, no shame).
So. The race itself. Well, I like the course, mostly. The locals were great, and some of them had set up their own little aid stations (I’m talking about street-side mimosas at mile 11), so that was fun. The last mile or so was right along the beach, which made for a pretty (if not windy) finish. I really didn’t like miles 5-9 in Ft Story, though. Being a military brat, former Air Force officer, and current DoD employee, I’ve seen my fair share of military bases, and this one was not only boring, but fairly run-down, to be honest. The crowd support wasn’t as great as it could’ve been for this section, and since I was running without an iPod, the silence was pretty deafening.After leaving Ft Story, though, I was running/walking slow enough that I was able to start seeing the marathon leaders heading in the direction I’d just left at mile 11 (for the half marathoners, mile 14/15 for the marathoners), so that helped provide a little extra boost of energy for me. I hadn’t done a lot of running in between last month’s half and this one, and I was feeling it. Still, I finished just over 3 hours, which for me with my running ability is a middle-of-the-road half.
Overall? I had fun time; crowds were great and the race was super organized (without feeling like I was being overly controlled/directed). I enjoyed the music and bands along the course, too. I wasn’t a fan of the middle of the course, but it was definitely flat, so that was nice. The finish line party was way too crowded for me, though, so I skipped the free beer. (I know, right? Who am I? But seriously, I looked over at that tent and was all “Hell no”.) I think this is a great race for you East Coasters out there, and if I ever move back out East, I’d definitely consider running it again.
A few months ago, I postponed my marathon plans, opting to switch my registration to a half marathon instead of half-assing 26.2. And I have zero regrets about it. But I’ve started thinking about what I want to run this fall – mostly because if I want to pay a lower registration fee or possibly get in to a race by lottery, I need to decide what I want to run soon. I thought briefly about the prestige of having my first marathon being a well-known one. I mean, not New York, because despite all the bloggers I’ve read saying how much they love it, nothing about that experience sounds awesome to me. Nothing. To each his own. Chicago and Marine Corps sound better, but there’s that whole lottery thing. The biggest factor in this is that I start a part=time masters degree program this fall, and my ability to take long weekends will basically be nonexistent. And I’m not keen on the idea of hopping on a plane either the evening of or early the morning after finishing a marathon.
That leaves me with three options. One, I just don’t run a marathon. While viable, I really want to try for 26.2, so this is out. Two, I run a local marathon so I don’t have to worry about travel. I wouldn’t mind this, but the local one I’d chose is the first weekend in October, meaning I’d be logging long runs in the highest heat of summer. Still an option, but not great. Three, I find a marathon that’ll be held during the break between fall and winter semesters or during holiday break, so I have time to “recover” (aka, be lazy) after running.
So. I narrowed it down to two choices I could live with. An early November marathon on the east coast or a mid-December marathon in southwestern Missouri. November is a run I’ve always wanted to do and looks like fun, plus its at the beginning weekend of my fall break, meaning I’d have a full seven days to relax before it’s back to work and school. BUT. I’d have to travel out east and deal with hotels … and then there’s the racecourse, which is point-to-point and has a significant incline at MILE 23 like an ASSHOLE. December is a run I just found out searching “marathons by weekend” on runningintheusa.com (which is a pretty decent search tool). It’s a three hour drive for me, so no big shakes, and is the weekend before my two week holiday break, so I could get fat over Christmas guilt-free (that’s how that works, right?). However, it’s a smallish race, so even though it’s Boston-certified, it doesn’t have that “name factor” … and the course is a loop. A 3.275mi loop. So I’d have to go round-and-round 8 times.
I’m kind of torn. Both races have low entry fees, which is fine. Looking at training, I’d be hitting my longest runs either early October or mid November, and there’s a big difference in that weather. Then again, racing in November could be a whole different ballgame than December – while that coastal weather out east is fairly predictable, you just never know about late Fall/early Winter in the Midwest. The big thing about the December run is that the training will fit nicely with some half marathons I’d like to use as longer runs. I wouldn’t have much opportunity to do that for the November run.
Right now the training plan I’d like to use (as well as my early summer plans) favors the December marathon. Fortunately, I’m not facing any registration price increases for either race for the next few months, so I don’t need to make this decision right away.
Then again, reading all I’ve just written here, I know which way I’m leaning.
As always, I had an amazing time at Disney’s Princess Half Marathon. This is my fourth year straight of participating, and while I had myself convinced beforehand that it’d be the last, I won’t promise that. While it’s expensive to spend a few days down at Disney World, the experiences I have there and the desperate need I always feel to go somewhere warm in the month of February … well, it’s worth it. Maybe I won’t spend quite so many days next year, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be there.
I flew in to Orlando around lunchtime on Thursday the 19th and had amazing luck. Since I was staying at a Disney World resort, I was able to take their “Magic Express” bus from the airport to my hotel for free. The past three years, I’ve stayed at the Boardwalk, which I love and highly recommend. It has a wonderful feel, opens up right onto a Boardwalk reminiscent of Jersey (without those MTV idiots), and is within easy walking distance to EPCOT. Even though it wasn’t yet 12pm, I decided to check in so I could leave my luggage with staff and head to the expo – well, lo and behold, my room was ready! Normally, that’s when I’d change into shorts and a t-shirt after having traveled from frozen St Louis, but it was in the low 30s in Orlando, so no luck there. I headed out to catch the bus to the expo (another perk of a Disney resort stay) over at ESPN Wide World of Sports. It was hellishly crowded when I got there, but the same flow of traffic as past years, so while I had to weave in and out of people, I knew where I was going. I always do a once-over at the expo stalls, but there’s just so many people there, I never buy anything (which is probably for the best). I took the bus back to my hotel, dropped off my bibs/t-shirt, then hopped on Disney resort transportation to Downtown Disney. As part of my resort stay, I’d also booked a 4-day park hopper ticket for the Disney World parks, but I’d be using that Fri-Mon – Downtown isn’t a park, but has a fun Disney vibe. Plus I was going to meet up with the rest of my friends/family there – all 8 of them! We had reservations at Ragland Road Irish Pub for dinner (any party larger than 2 anywhere at Disney and your best bet is to make dining reservations WELL in advance) and lucked out with some Irish jig dancers for entertainment. The food was great and service spot-on – totally recommend!
Friday was the 5k run – me, three other adults, and my niece were running it. The plan was to stick with my 9-year old niece, no matter if she walked – but she didn’t! She had a solid slow pace going and soldiered through the frozen Frozen run. Yes, it was a Frozen theme, and yes, it was totally freezing! With a real-feel temp in the high 20s at the start, it wasn’t just “Florida cold”, it was actually cold. The first part of the run was in EPCOT backlots, but that part passed quickly – then we ran though EPCOT’s World Showcase and Future World. Even though it was untimed, we all had a lot of fun. Later that day we had brunch with the princesses (if you have kids, do this – it’s like 5 character meet opportunities at once) and headed to Hollywood Studios. Dinner was at La Hacienda in EPCOT – service was not that great (be prepared to spend a lot of time waiting), but food was excellent.
Saturday was the 10k – I wasn’t running this one, but a member of our party was, so I headed out to the Boardwalk to watch the runners. Yes, the 10K route takes you around the Boardwalk, which looks super fun. I might consider this event next year.
We spent the day at Magic Kingdom, where I convinced folks to a bunch of baby rides like the spinning teacups with me because a) I am a wuss and b) I’d never been on those quintessential rides like teacups or Haunted Mansion. Highlight of the day was lucking into some prime spectating spots for the Main Street Parade.
After a short mid-afternoon nap, we had dinner reservations at the Swan resort’s Il Mulino restaurant for some carb-loading. The service there was beyond excellent and the food amazing.
So. Sunday. The half marathon.
We had perfect weather – high 50s to low 60s, clear, low humidity. I kept a slow and steady pace, just running to have fun and finish strong – and I did! There’s an uphill ramp just after mile 10 that I walked and will forever be my nemesis, so that part kind of sucked. And I couldn’t find a port-o-john without a line until mile 11.5 (and when I say lines, I mean 20 people deep lines) so that was a touch uncomfortable. I finished in 2:56:07, so about 5min slower than my October half. I can’t be too disappointed though, considering I’d spent the two days before on my feet walking around the Parks, which I’m sure didn’t really help me in the long run.
The rest of Sunday and Monday was spent at EPCOT – traditionally, we “drink around the world”, but I think we passed over Japan this year. So: fail. Still, I do love me some World Showcase and spend as much time there as I can. We ate at a few favorite places – Rose and Crown, Spice Road Table, and Le Cellier – spectacular as always.
Yeah, after reviewing all this, I’ll be back next year. A few hints for you, if you’ve never done a Disney race:
– You need to be ON POINT with registration. If it opens up online at noon on Tuesday, be ready at noon on Tuesday. The events sell out notoriously quickly.
– Stay at a Disney resort. Yes, it’s more expensive, but the ease of transportation to/from airport, expo, and race is all worth it.
– Wear a costume. It may seem silly, but you’ll feel left out if you don’t. Trust me.
– Consider visiting parks after your race. I walked around a little too much in the days beforehand this year.
In my last post (like, a month ago, lol), I wasn’t sure if running a marathon in March would be in the cards for me. I’d run consistently over the fall, with a solid half marathon effort in October. I decided to participate in a winter running “streak”, running at least (and in most cases) a mile a day every day from Thanksgiving to New Years Day. And that honestly really helped keep things in check over the holidays, I might add. I highly recommend it. BUT. I also made sure to take an honest look at where I am now and whether or not a marathon in March would be advisable. Looking at my current fitness and slow turtle running, I would probably see myself finishing in the 6 hour range. Which, you know, there’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s one thing to run that distance as a matter of FOMO, put the 26.2 sticker on your car, and say you did it … and it’s quite another thing to be adequately prepared and run it well, heathy, and smart. And I’m pretty sure if I were to run a marathon in March it would be for the former and not the latter. I don’t think that’s the right answer for me.
So what’s on the table, then, for Spring 2015? Well, pun intended, it’s all about that base … building a solid base of running, that is. In February, I’m running the 5K and half marathon as part of Disney World’s Princess weekend. It’ll be my fourth consecutive year at this event – and likely my last – just because of how expensive it’s become. But I have a good contingent of family joining me to make it a fun run-cation, so I can’t complain. March brings the Anthem Half Marathon in Virginia Beach, which provides an excuse for a “spring break” trip. And there’s a possibility I might take on the Go! St Louis Half marathon, depending on how the other two go. What I really want to focus on this Spring is a consistency of effort, making distance running a routine. I’d also like to try and work in some shorter, local, weekend races depending on the weather and my schedule (I’m still a cold weather running wimp, no shame).
At the end of the day, I still think a marathon for 2015 is still in the cards. But I think pushing this goal to the Fall is much more practical, given my fitness right now. I have a few options I’m considering, but I don’t think I’m going to make any grand decisions for another month or two. Nothing too big, too logistically difficult, too expensive, etc. And considering I’m starting a Masters degree program this fall, I really need it to work with the academic calendar. So we’ll see.
I’m excited to see how this Spring goes!
So this morning I showed up for the St. Louis Hot Chocolate 15K. I was super excited for this event – wanted to run it last year, but DNS’ed due to arctic temps and snow mixture on the ground. My own choice, I know, but we all have our standards, right? Anyways, I showed up this morning for the 15K, though I waited until the last minute to check the elevation chart and then kinda wished I hadn’t seen it at all. Spoiler alert: downtown STL is hilly, yo. There’s also a 5K event, and they would be running with the 15K runners until a splitoff right before the 3mi point. So I figured we’d see how I felt. And of course, when I reached that point, I took the shorter path. It wasn’t that the hills were unreasonably ridiculous – I was doing a decent job of chugging the uphills and coasting the downhills. My mile splits were well within my normal range. I wasn’t totally out of breath. Nothing hurt. I was a little warm, but that was just because the 45F temps made me choose a long sleeve shirt even though I had a feeling that once I started running, I’d want to be wearing a short sleeve shirt.
No, the reason I veered right instead of left was because I really just didn’t want to run another 10K. It wasn’t a bad attitude, nothing like I hated the run. I was just … kind of … just … done. It’s hard to explain. I peeled off again right before the actual finishers chute, on the off chance that my 15K bib would throw off the legitimate results, walked over for some hot chocolate, and then hiked back to my car. No regrets at all.
However, this is making me rethink my goal of a marathon in March. I’m worried that 1) I don;t have a good running base and 2) I don’t really have the right attitude to stick with the longer runs. I’m not making any immediate calls, but I need to really self-examine my motivation and follow-through for this goal. I’m running a half marathon in February, a distance with which I’m familiar and comfortable, so there’s that. But I really need to explore this marathon plan, regroup, and refocus. So. Stuff to think about over the holidays, I guess.
I wanted to get some running in this weekend, what with mild temps in the 50s currently happening, but I’ve been dealing with a knee-to-shoulder case of contact dermatitis (read: rash) which is not at all uncomfortable or gross-looking. And by “not at all”, I mean all-consumingly. This super-fun issue started up last weekend, and after self-medicating with hydrocortisone cream and OTC benedryl for a few days with no success, I finally went to see a doctor (or nurse practitioner, as it were, because God forbid you see an actual MD for anything less than surgery these days) on Thursday. I got hooked up with some better drugs, though I still have no idea what caused it in the first place. (Definitely not bedbugs, haven’t changed my soap routine at all, and I already use a perfume- and dye-free detergent, so … yeah. Unsure. But I’ve basically rewashed everything I own that can be washed and am moisturizing like it’s nobody’s business. Good times.) So the good news is that my skin issues are looking and feeling much better. The bad news is that at least one of these pills I’m taking is getting me medicine drunk like whoa. I managed to leave the office early on Friday for a Thanksgiving-themed 5k that was being held on base during lunch, which was super fun, but I felt really lightheaded afterwards. Fortunately, I’m supposed to taper off these pills the next few days, so I just have to power through.
But on to happier subjects …
With the change in weather, I’ve also shook up my normal routine. During the summer, I was all about waking my tail up an insane hours of the morning in order to hit the treadmill during the cooler hours of the day and not die of heatstroke. But now! Now, I can run outside and not look like I’m about to keel over. Last month I switched to running when I get off work – which is around 2pm, normally the hottest part of the day. So you kind of see why I couldn’t really run then during the summer. But I switched up during peak leaf week in October, which made for some really fantastic running, and now I’m used to getting some quality miles in after sitting at my desk for 7-8 hours. Plus it’s nice to get out, get some fresh and and Vitamin D this time of year – every little bit helps. I’m lucky that the military base I work on has a running trail around the installation – it’s a 6.5mi rubberized track that’s marked every quarter-mile and incredibly well-maintained. I don’t have to worry about dodging traffic when I run it and, most importantly, I couldn’t feel safer. So I’m able to do out-and-back shorter runs or full loops for longer runs, depending on what’s on tab for the day.
I also have no shame in saying that I put up my Christmas decorations last weekend while full of medication and self-pity. Sorry not sorry. I fully embrace stretching out the holiday season as long as possible, though I do try to give a week’s berth in between Halloween and Christmas decorations. So there’s that. I’m also having great luck – found the perfect Christmas cards and my gift shopping is 99.9% done (I might have to get some extra stuff for my niece and nephew, just because). Internet shopping FTW. I’m currently obsessed with cookie-baking (’tis the season) and Starbucks Christmas blend. Oh! AND! I have tickets to see both Mannheim Steamroller and a production of A Christmas Carol next month (separate nights) and this makes me deliriously happy. Tack on an upcoming Santa 5K on base as well as the Hot Chocolate 15K in St Louis, and it’s scraping up to be the hap’, hap’, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny (censored) Kaye!
Most days I feel so young, it’s hard to believe that I spent nearly ten years on active duty. Coming from a military family, I had no qualms about joining ROTC in college and beginning a career as an officer upon graduation. Hell, having a job right outside of college is a darn luxury, and I knew my political science degree wouldn’t be good for much else. My decision didn’t falter during my junior year, when the towers fell – in fact, it strengthened. I graduated college and entered the military knowing we were sending people to several countries halfway across the world – that sense of purpose acting as a unifying and driving factor for me and my colleagues. I actually spent my first year of active duty in another schoolhouse before arriving at my first base. I deployed first, for four months, in early ’06 and liked it so much, I volunteered to go out again in ’07 – for the entire year. It was the worst of times for the war, but the best of times for job experience and learning on the fly. I didn’t go back out again until 6 months in ’09, returning from what would ultimately be my final deployment almost five years ago this week. Being in the military allowed me the experience of traveling to Europe, Asia, and Africa, of supporting not just combat operations but also humanitarian and relief efforts. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some amazing people, capable of so much in this world.