Race #12: The Scream

I scream, you scream, we all scream… about inaccurate mile marker placements! Last Saturday I ran The Scream half marathon which is a downhill race which features just over 2300′ of descent. 

I knew going into the this that it was going to be a rough race, but there was no elevation map to show exactly what I was getting into. While the majority of the race is downhill there are some fairly significant hills to deal with which I definitely wasn’t expecting! The first two miles were on a paved road and then we headed onto the fire road which would be the rest of our race course. By around mile 4, I noticed that my Garmin was significantly off compared to the mile markers (by around .4 or .5 miles). Since I was consistently off by that far, I decided I should stick with the course mile markers – we were in the woods and the road had a lot of switchbacks, so I assumed the Garmin just missed some mileage somewhere (see my notes about the Pittsburgh Marathon where it clocked me at 26.75 miles) – so, on I went comparing my clock time to the course mile markers.

  • Mile 1 – 9:10, starting elevation 3808′
  • Mile 2 – 9:17, -3′
  • Mile 3 – 9:06, -156′
  • Mile 4 – 8:43, -210′
  • Mile 5 – 9:35, -354′
  • Mile 6 – 9:08, -177′
  • Mile 7 – 10:21, -96′
  • Mile 8 – 8:47, – 395′
  • Mile 9 – 10:43, -79′
  • Mile 10 – 9:13, -421′
  • Mile 11 – 9:40, -288′
  • Mile 12 – 10:33, -80′
  • Mile 13 – 8:40, -42′ ending elevation: 2301′

I started to struggle a little bit between miles 8-10 because of how steep the descent was. Since we were on a gravel / dirt road, it was only flat in the middle and I know I spent time in the first half of the race running on the incline, so my IT band started to act up a bit by mile 10. By mile 12, I knew I had to get rid of my walk breaks or I wouldn’t be able to finish the race running – it was getting harder and harder to start back up again after my walk breaks without a lot of pain in my knee, so I decided that for the last mile I would just keep running, even if I had to go a little slower. At the mile 12 marker, I was 1:20 ahead of my pace chart, so that gave me almost 10:30 minutes to do 1.1 miles which I figured was very achievable, even if I was slowing down a bit. Instead, as I was coming closer and closer to the 2-hour mark, I didn’t see any sign of the finish – instead, I saw another incline. I kept running and running and running, getting more and more deflated by the fact that not only was I running longer than the 1 mile that I was supposed to have to go, but I was also going to miss the 2 hour mark. Finally, I came around a corner and saw the buses and the 13 mile marker followed quickly by the finish line. 


  • Downhill running means if you’re in half marathon shape, you’ll pretty easily PR. 
  • The middle of the mountains in July = good running weather. Even with the rain we had, once we got into the woods, we were sheltered from most of it so it was pleasant running weather.
  • Aid stations were spaced out well – one every 2 miles. The stops included water and Gatorade most of the time as well as GU and pretzels at a couple of them. 
  • Small runner pool of only 350 people, so there’s not a huge crowd to deal with.
  • Free lunch offered at the end of the race (at the area where everyone parked their cars).


  • Having mile markers consistently .5 off throughout the race only to make the final mile 1.5 miles is unacceptable. After talking with someone who ran the race last year, this was an issue last year too which makes it even more unacceptable.
  • Parking / transportation: the place you have to park is a 45 minute bus ride from the start line (they say 30 minutes by car), there’s very limited parking at the start and nonexistent parking at the finish line. The finish line bus shuttles took over an hour to pick us up because all 5 of them (for 350+ runners and spectators) left at once and it’s over a 20 minute ride from the finish back to the parking.
  • No food at the finish. Apparently there were bananas, but only enough for 100 people (for a 350 runner pool). Combine that with the transportation issue mentioned above = no food for almost 2 hours after finishing the race.
  • You will be sore! I’ve had issues with my IT bands in the past, especially when I run fast for long distances, but that soreness only lasted the rest of the day while my quads took at least 3 days to start to feel better. 
I’m glad I did this race, and I PR’d by 11:13 with an official time of 2:03:03. Having said that, I don’t think I’ll be back in 2015. I may consider this race again if I can’t break 2 hours in another race and I decide that’s a goal I want to pursue, but because of the stress it put on my body, I need to make sure that I can do this race and then take a week or so off. Plus, I will make sure not to pay any attention to mile markers on the course this time!

Have you ever run a downhill half marathon? If you’re Garmin starts showing way off from the course mile markers, which do you rely on?

Race #11: The Bear

This was my third year running the Bear and I really wanted to break an hour, last year I ran it in 1:05:05 and my first year I ran it in 1:01:27, so I knew I would be close. But, I didn’t exactly train for the over 1500′ elevation gain with all of my other races this year, so by the time I got to mile 4, I had pretty much written off being able to finish in under an hour. This gave me a good excuse to take a few pictures while I was running, which is definitely not something I’ve done the past two years. My Garmin actually had the elevation gain as 1732′ (and an elevation loss of 97′), so I’ll be using those elevation numbers for the mile recaps below.

  • Mile 1: 11:05 – right off the starting line, we started climbing. Elevation gain: 353′
  • Mile 2 – 11:42 – more climbing. Most of the first 3 miles are on gravel roads which include some switchbacks. Elevation gain: 178′
  • Mile 3 – 10:53 – the only flat part of this course comes in this mile, partially on the gravel road and then again when you go around the track at McRae Meadows, through the Highland Games campground. At this point, you can see the top of Grandfather Mountain and realize how much farther you still have to go! Elevation gain: 182′
  • Mile 4 – 13:21 – immediately follow the easy track portion, you climb a large grassy hill and start going up the entrance road to Grandfather Mountain. At the second water stop before you get too far into mile 4, you get another glimpse of the top of the mountain (2nd picture on the left below). Elevation gain: 553′
  • Mile 5 – 14:29 – the worst part of the climb is at the end when you can see all of the switchbacks you still have to climb and right before the finish is a super steep portion. Elevation gain: 375′
As I was making my way around the next-to-last switchback, I looked at my watch and realized there was still a possibility that I could get to the finish in under an hour. My legs were dead, but I continued my plan to walk around the corners of the switchbacks and then try to run as fast as possible on the straight stretches. My official time came in at 57:54 – a full 2 minutes under an hour!

Now, my Garmin only had the distance at 4.75 miles, with a pace of 12:11 / mile, but my official pace based on the 5 miles was 11:35. So, at least I have an excuse for thinking that I wouldn’t make it under an hour if I kept my pace (5 miles at 12:11 pace would finish in 1:00:55). 

One of my awesome friends came with me to the race and met me at the top. Since he was able to drive onto the property, once I finished, we walked back to his car and got to take some more great pictures as the sun set over the mountains. 

Once we made it to his car, we easily made it off the mountain, which was much nicer than having to wait for the buses / U-haul truck / photographer’s car / however else you can make your way down the hill. We even picked up a couple of hitchhikers who were making their way down the road and took them down to Linville so they didn’t have to walk the 5 miles on their own.

I felt miserable during a lot of the race, but once I finished and got to see the great scenery at the top, I started to forget about all of that… so maybe I’ll do it again next year!

Have you ever run an uphill race? 

Race #10: Ridiculous Obstacle Challenge (ROC) Race

I did the ROC race last year and had a lot of fun, but as with most obstacle challenges, the entry fee is quite steep, so I did a little research and found out that if you do a volunteer shift for the race, you could run the course after you finished for $5! That’s definitely a win in my book. 

Race morning came and I had volunteered for the 6:00 am to noon time slot so that I could work during the race and then run it as soon as I finished. What I didn’t think about when I registered for my time was that meant I would need to leave my house by 5:00am! I got up around 4:30 and was slow moving, but I got on the road and was headed up to Concord to meet up with our group by 5:45. As I followed my phone to the address given to the volunteers by email the week of the race, I quickly realized that I was in the wrong place… there was no one around! Luckily, I came across a security guard who was able to tell me that the ROC event was not at the Concord Motor Speedway (the address we were given), but at the zMAX Dragway. Technically, the location was listed as the Concord Motor Speedway – zMAX Dragway, but the address given to the volunteers was definitely not the right one. The web page had the correct address listed for participants, so hopefully not too many people ended up at the wrong place. 

But, I figured out where to park (super close to the volunteer tent and start line) and made my way over to where the other volunteers were congregating. The volunteers were told to be there 15 minutes before our scheduled start time, so there were about 20 of us waiting in line by 5:45… and waiting… and waiting. There were ROC officials at the volunteer tent, but they weren’t ready for us yet, so we just stood around until we could sign the paperwork and pick up our water and snacks for the day. We got started through the line a little after 6:00, but our t-shirts weren’t ready, so we had more waiting to do. They got the t-shirts delivered and started handing them out to everyone and told us we had 5 minutes to go change and get back for our assignments for the day. When we got back, some people were given assignments (mostly bag check and registration), but the rest of us continued to wait around. I’m not sure what time we actually got our assignments, but those of us who were working the obstacles stood around for about 2 hours before being transported / told where to go. The first wave of runners started at 8:00 and we didn’t leave the volunteer tent until 7:45! Needless to say, we were all getting very restless having no idea what was going on and being told to arrive well before the workers were even ready for us.

I ended up working on the very last obstacle, the World’s Largest Inflatable Slide and I was the one at the top of the slide hosing it down and telling people when to go. Since I was on the last obstacle, it took about 25-30 minutes for the fastest runners to reach us. By around 9:15, the waves of people became more consistent and it was a ton of fun seeing everyone come through in their costumes and trying to convince people that it wasn’t nearly as scary as it looked. Standing on top of a giant inflatable slide was definitely a leg workout as well as a challenge in balancing. Every time someone started climbing up the stairs, it would shake the whole slide and then when people would jump at the top of the slide, I really had to concentrate on not falling over! 

Eventually, I got a quick break for lunch and then headed back up to the top of the obstacle to finish out my shift. Around 11:45, I was replaced by another volunteer who was working the afternoon shift and I headed back to the volunteer tent to check out and get my wrist band so that I could run the course myself. I made it in time for the noon wave and got up close to the start of the pack of runners – as with any obstacle course, there’s always some that will have a back-up of people waiting to complete the obstacle, so I wanted to get ahead of as many people as possible for as long as I could.

I started off pretty strong, but it was definitely tough running down the long dragway strip in the middle of the day. There weren’t too many people from my heat in front of me, so I kept going as fast as I could and made it to the Gorilla Bars, which I was able to make the whole way across without falling – I was impressed with this since my arms were still a little sore from kickboxing and bowling Thursday night. After that was the World’s Largest Moon Bounce and the Get It Up (And Over) walls and then the one obstacle I failed miserably at: The Jump Balls! Luckily, after that, it was pretty smooth sailing and I was keeping up with a couple of guys through the next few obstacles (Foam of Fury and The Drop), but everybody got stuck at the Tarzan Swing where there was a huge line of people waiting to get across. It took over 5 minutes to get to the front of the line, but the obstacle itself was pretty quick, just having to hold onto the rope to swing across a short padded area. Next up was another new obstacle which was called The Sweeper – the idea was the you would run across the plastic tube and duck under the rotating sweeper before moving on to the other side. I made my first duck, but it was slippery, so I had to just crawl to the other side instead of standing up and continuing my run. This year was my redemption year for the Wrecking Ball obstacle – last year I fell off after about 2 steps because I lost my balance on the tube without even getting close to the wrecking balls, but this year I made it the whole way across! The next obstacle was another new one called Cool Runnings which was basically a water slide you went down on inner tubes and ended up in a couple feet of water. I picked up some really good speed on this obstacle and ended up almost taking out the person in front of me as I barreled into the pool at the end. On the home stretch, we had to go through the Tire Mile and then I was back where I started the day at the World’s Largest Inflatable Slide.

Overall, I think it was a good experience, even if I was annoyed at how the day started out. Have you ever volunteered for a race to get discounted or free entry? How was your experience?

Race #9: Ragnar Trail Relay – WV part II

Yesterday, I described some of the challenges we had on Friday with the rain and mud, but Saturday morning, the sun came out and while it still wasn’t very warm with the wind, it was much nicer than Friday afternoon / night. 

While I was sleeping, the team continued running and because of the trail conditions, we slowly became farther and farther behind our projected pace. Originally, we were planning to be finished by around 11:00am, but by 8:00am, we knew that number was way off. As I woke up, our team was discussing the possibility of doubling up our runners so that for each leg (red, yellow, green), two people from the team would run at the same time with the only stipulation being that the two people had to run together. Our captain went to talk to the race officials to see if we would be able to do that. Unfortunately, because runner #2 was out on the course (on the toughest leg), we were told that we were unable to double-up. At the time, only those teams who hadn’t started their last legs yet (i.e. were at runner #8 or less on their second leg) were allowed to double-up. 

In the meantime, one of my teammates asked me to switch legs with him since he was battling a knee injury and my last leg was going to be the shortest loop and his was going to be the longest loop. I willingly agreed to switch since originally I was thinking of running that leg with him depending on how I felt after my second leg so that I could end up running all 3 legs and I was well rested since I didn’t get to run Friday afternoon. What I didn’t know was that our runner who was currently running the hardest loop was also battling an injury and had thought about asking me to switch with her if runner #8 hadn’t. Luckily, she was a major trooper and made it through her leg, despite having to walk a majority of it due to her hip injury. 

As our #3 runner went out onto the course, the course officials gave us the green light to start doubling-up on our runners. The runner who switched with me immediately went out to catch up with our runner who was on the course and the rest of us started packing up the campsite so that once we finished we could head out (and get warm & dry!). 

Leg #3 – Green Loop Red Loop
I ran with our captain for the last loop and we were both amazed at how difficult the course was in terms of hills and major rocks to climb up, over and between. I am definitely thankful that I didn’t have to run that loop in the dark! 

  • Mile 1 – 15:23
  • Mile 2 – 18:27
  • Mile 3 – 17:48
  • Mile 4 – 19:05
  • Mile 5 – 17:07
  • Mile 6 – 19:36
  • Last .47 – 19:39
I still felt pretty good after finishing that loop, but I know all of my teammates were hurting from the 3 (or more) loops that they did. The other person whose loop got skipped Friday afternoon ran twice overnight to pace / try keep up with two of the other women on our team. 

I was able to take some pictures on the last trail since we definitely had to do some walking and after seeing other people’s pictures from the other trails, I definitely wish I would’ve run the Yellow loop in the daylight. The photos of the trail below are from the Red loop and the finish line and, of course, the swag!

As in the Key West relay, Ragnar provided free race photos. The Trail Lunatics survived!
I’m not sure how I feel about this race… I enjoyed the trails that I was able to do, but I’m really disappointed that I didn’t get to do all 3 legs. Now, I think the Ragnar officials definitely made the right decision to stop us for a couple hours as the storm came through, and I understand that, like any race, there’s a time limit, so at some point runners would definitely have to be skipped. I will also take blame for not going off and running the other loop on my own – I spent a lot of my “free time” catching up on the sleep I didn’t get in the week leading up to the race.I am also disappointed at the fact that it seems like there was only a photographer during the day on Friday and I didn’t see one on the course on Saturday, nor did I hear my teammates who ran the other loops talk about seeing one. Overall, I’m not sure I’ll do another trail relay race – I think our team was well prepared for the conditions that were thrown to us and we survived better than a lot of teams – but there’s only so much you can do with mud and rain and everyone ended up cold and wet. However, I will say that after this race, I’m definitely interested in trying out other trail races, so I’ll be keeping an eye out for one later this year.

Did you do the Ragnar Trail WV? Have you ever done other trail races?

Race #9: Ragnar Trail Relay – WV part I

I wanted to start out this post by explaining a bit of the travel craziness that led up to my participating in this event… As I mentioned here, I was in San Antonio, TX a week before this race started and I spent the entire week working 14+ hour days at a conference for work, with only a couple of nights of more than 5 hours of sleep. On Thursday (June 12), I left San Antonio to travel back east to get to Bruceton Mills, WV by Friday morning to set up our team camp site and watch our team start the race at 11:30am. Those of you on the east coast know that last week was very rainy throughout the week and Thursday included some nasty thunderstorms which reached the whole way to Dallas where my connecting flight was. Luckily, my flight out of San Antonio was only delayed for about 30 minutes, but those who were trying to reach Dallas earlier in the day were on a perpetual delay as the storms hit Dallas. By the time I got to Dallas, my flight to Pittsburgh had an hour delay, which quickly turned into a two hour delay. Did I mention that I didn’t leave San Antonio until 6:30pm? I didn’t board the flight to Pittsburgh until about 10:30pm, we finally arrived about 2:00am and I got to my hotel in Washington, PA about an hour later. My plan was to get on the road by 8:00am so that I could get to the camp site by about 9:30 and I was only about a 30 minutes off, but considering I got about 4 hours of sleep, I’d say that was pretty good!

Let’s get camping!
I was able to drop off my supplies with my teammates and then get my car parked (several miles away) and jumped onto a shuttle to get back up to the main camp ground. By the time I got back up to the rest of my team and we did our introductions, it was time for us to go to the safety briefing and get our first runner on the course. Each runner had to run the three loops and we just rotated through them throughout the race. I was scheduled to be runner #6 which meant I would run the hardest course (Red) first. I really liked the way my race legs were planned, running the longest course first, the easiest course last and the middle course in the middle of the night. As our team started, we were able to talk about each of the legs and try to get an idea of what they would look like when it was our turn to run them. 

Leg #1 – Red Loop
As I was heading toward the transition area to meet runner #5, the clouds which had been hanging around the periphery of the woods started to look more ominous and it shortly began to rain. As I was standing around, starting to get cold, I wondered if I should go back to the camp site and grab a long sleeve shirt… about this time, the wind started to pick up and the tents in the village started blowing around and some started to lose their tops and we could see tents that were struggling to stay upright. My teammate who came with me to the start line decided to head back to our camp site to make sure that everything was staying put. I told him I would be fine and I would meet our incoming runner who was still out on the course. A few minutes later, we saw our first lightning strike and the race coordinators came over the speakers to let us know there would be a one hour delay for every team once the runners who were currently on the course made it back to the transition area AND that we would skip the next leg so that we could stay on track with timing. Unfortunately for me, that meant that my first leg just got eliminated! 

Once my teammate came in, we both headed back to our camp to see how our camp site was faring in the storm. Luckily, our teammates were able to hold down the fort (literally holding down the 10′ x 10′ tarps!) and all of our tents also survived the wind. Other teams were not so lucky, with many tents, supplies and decorations blowing everywhere. The aftermath of the storm left many teams under water and everyone hoping for sunshine to warm up and dry out everything.

So, no running on Friday the 13th for me. We ended up having a 2 hour delay with 2 runners being skipped because of the lightning. Once it stopped storming, everyone had even more mud to deal with on the trails and throughout the campground. 

Leg #2 – Yellow Loop
Originally, I was scheduled to start my leg around midnight, but with the extra rain we got in the afternoon, everyone had to slow down on the trails and, of course, this was exacerbated by the dark. I ended up starting my run around 2:30am. By the time I ran this course, several of my team members had already run it, so they were able to give me some hints at what to watch out for – the first couple of miles were really muddy and technical with rocks and some drop-offs, but after that, it was flatter and a more packed down trail. 

  • Mile 1 – 15:19
  • Mile 2 – 16:03
  • Mile 3 – 15:14
  • Mile 4 – 12:23
  • Last .45 – 14:16 
My last .45 was probably a bit shorter than what I have listed because I forgot to turn off my Garmin when I finished and ended up walking around a little bit before I remembered to hit the button, but it’s close enough.

The beginning of the run was definitely harder than I was expecting and was making me re-think the whole trail running thing, but after I got through the first mile, I felt much better and after looking at the elevation profile again, I can see why I struggled a bit (beyond the obvious mud and darkness). I was able to pick up some speed after mile 2 when I stopped having to climb over random rocks and watch out for the 3 foot drops, but I think I could have gone even faster if I could’ve seen where I was going! I finished in a little over an hour (1:05:23 on my Garmin) and then headed back to camp to get some sleep. 

In the morning, I wandered around the campground some more to check out the other team’s sites and see how bad the water / mud had gotten for the other teams. 

Tune in tomorrow for part II! 

Race #8: Mobile Loaves & Fishes 5k

This was my best “5k” time ever! I officially finished in 22:48 which would be a PR by 3:08, except the race was short half a mile! Luckily, I had my Garmin on, so I knew that it was off, but it’s still nice to have an official time in the 22’s! Given my pace, I think I would have finished somewhere around 27 minutes, so not my best, but not bad given my focus on longer races more recently.

The race was held in McAllister Park near the San Antonio airport and it was a nice course, with the race starting at 8:30am. I have a feeling that either the group was not able to use some of the paths that they originally had planned to use or we all missed a turn somewhere that we should have taken. Either way, I enjoyed the course – it was through various parts of the park trails, so a lot of it was shaded, which was really nice considering it was in the high 70’s at 8:30am! 

It was a small race, with only 88 timed finishers (you could choose not to get timed if you didn’t want to). I started out near the front of the pack and was able to count how many women were in front of me / passed me throughout the race. I held the #7 female spot for a while, but somewhere between 1.5 – 2 miles, I was passed by 2 more women, so I ended up as the #9 female, but I was hoping that since there were only 8 women in front of me, I could potentially place in my age group. I ended up finishing #4 in my age group and I wasn’t even close to the woman who came in at #3 – she finished almost 3 minutes ahead of me! So, out of the 8 women in front of me, 3 were in my age group.

Overall, I liked this race and it was fun to do a small race, even if it was short – apparently not everything is bigger in Texas!

Have you ever done a race in Texas or have a race come up short on distance?

Race #7: Run! Ballantyne 10k

I wasn’t sure how this race would go. I haven’t done a 10k race since last November at the James Island Connector (when I was pacing one of my friends in her first 10k) and my fastest 10k was in April 2012 when I almost broke an hour (1:00:30), so I really didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t do any running between my marathon and this race and only played soccer 3 times. This either meant I would be very rested or completely unprepared. My goal was to run 4 and walk 1 which I thought might be a bit of a stretch since I’ve been training at 2:1 intervals for the last 6 months or so, but I decided I would just go with the flow and see how I felt.

I was happily surprised at how good I felt as I began running and just kept running. In the back of my head, I wanted to break an hour since I’ve gotten so close, but I didn’t want to put too much on that goal and end up disappointed. Of course, I forgot to get my Garmin started early enough, so the race started without my watch starting. My official time was 58:24 and my Garmin hit 6.2 right after I crossed the finish line (57:37 on my Garmin), so I’m guessing I missed a couple tenths of a mile at the beginning. Below is my best guess at splits:

  • Mile 1 – 9:25
  • Mile 2 – 9:21
  • Mile 3 – 9:32
  • Mile 4 – 9:41
  • Mile 5 – 9:23
  • Mile 6 – 9:30
  • Last .2 – 7:40
It was fun to try this distance again and I might have to add another one this year to see if I can get any faster if I actually train for this distance. 

What’s your training plan for a 10k? 

    Pittsburgh Marathon by the numbers

    One of the really cool things that runners got access to after the race was RunPix, which gave a breakdown of all kinds of stats for the individual runner.

    Where was I?
    • When the overall winner finished: between miles 8-9
    • When the female winner finished: close to mile 10
    • When my division winner finished: between miles 10-11
    Results compared to:
    • The entire field: 4121st place, 90% of people finished ahead of me, 437 people finished behind me
    • All women: 1558th place, 87% of women finished ahead of me, 237 women finished behind me
    • My division (women 30-34): 265th place, 83% of women finished ahead of me, 52 women finished behind me
    • Men: I finished ahead of about 7% of men runners! 
    Kills (number of runners passed)
    • Over the first 20 miles: I passed 152 runners and got passed by 99 people
    • Over the last 6.2 miles: I passed 49 runners and got passed by 15 people
    • Overall kills: 201
    • Net kills: 87
    Mile splits – I’m not sure where my Garmin started to get off from the official mile markers, so I included the official splits where they correspond.
    • Mile 1 – 12:31
    • Mile 2 – 11:49
    • Mile 3 – 12:10
    • Mile 4 – 11:55
    • Mile 5 – 10:48
    • Mile 6 – 11:25 (official 10k time: 1:13:40, 11:51 pace)
    • Mile 7 – 11:19
    • Mile 8 – 11:04
    • Mile 9 – 12:40 (bathroom break #1, I took 4-5 bathroom breaks, but I don’t remember when any of the others were)
    • Mile 10 – 11:40
    • Mile 11 – 11:31
    • Mile 12 – 11:38
    • Mile 13 – 12:00 (official half marathon time: 2:37:04, 11:58 pace)
    • Mile 14 – 12:40
    • Mile 15 – 11:30 (official 15.4 miles time: 3:05:30, 12:02 pace)
    • Mile 16 – 12:21 
    • Mile 17 – 11:52
    • Mile 18 – 12:36
    • Mile 19 – 11:52
    • Mile 20 – 15:00 (official 20 mile time: 4:04:55, 12:14 pace)
    • Mile 21 – 14:16
    • Mile 22 – 13:07
    • Mile 23 – 13:14
    • Mile 24 – 12:52
    • Mile 25 – 14:13
    • Mile 26 – 12:56
    • Last .76 – 9:69 (official marathon time: 5:28:33, 12:31 pace)
    Overall Garmin pace: 12:17

    Lots of numbers to crunch, but I really like all the fun stuff they shared! Have you ever had a race share this much info with you?

    Race #6: Pittsburgh Marathon

    There are so many things to write about my first marathon experience and I’m still trying to get my head wrapped around everything. I have lots of pictures from the first half of the race and a couple from the second half (my focus was clearly elsewhere!) as well as a few that my mom was able to get of me while I was running. 

    Overall, I’ll say that this run was worse than any of my training runs – I had some digestive issues during the race, so I ended up eating all of my peanut butter crackers pretty early and didn’t use as many GU packets as I normally do. There were lots of on-course food options, but since I didn’t train with PowerBars, I didn’t want to risk trying them for the first time when I was already nauseous. I did grab a pretzel that someone was handing out somewhere after 20 miles, but it tasted sweet, which is not what I was expecting, so I only ate about a bite of it. 

    There were almost 20,000 people running the half marathon and the marathon on Sunday, so it took about 35 minutes from the actual start of the race before I was able to cross the starting line. It was overcast and started to sprinkle a little bit while we were waiting, but the temperature was in the 50’s, so it really was perfect running weather. I lined up near the 12:00 / mile sign, but since there were so many people (and I was in the last corral), I knew that the first couple of miles would be crowded. I adjusted my run walk ratio (2 minutes running, 1 minute walking) slightly at the beginning just to be able to get around people and not stop in front of a bunch of people who were trying to run past me, but I kept it within 30 seconds of what I was supposed to be doing and I figured the crowds would help keep me from going out too fast.

    The reason I wanted to do this race as my first marathon was two-fold. One, I loved going across all of the bridges last year in the half marathon and I wanted to take some time to get pictures of the great views of the city as I ran it this time (bonus reason to do a walk-run ratio!). Even though it was overcast, I was still able to get some great pictures of the city and you can really get a perspective of how far you’ve run when you look back towards downtown. The finish line party was held near the fountain that’s in the two bottom pictures.

    The second reason I wanted to do the marathon is because the marathon course takes you through part of the University of Pittsburgh’s campus and since I spent 4 years there, I really wanted to run through my old stomping grounds. The bad news is that the worst hill of the entire race is leading up into Oakland!

    But, as you crest the hill, you can see Pitt’s iconic Cathedral of Learning and you know that (for the most part) the hills are done and you’ll have a pretty flat course until starting the decent back to downtown.

    I was still feeling pretty good when I hit Oakland and started towards Squirrel Hill, but I started to feel some twinges in my left knee because of my IT band and I was still fighting with nausea. I did get a boost from one of my high school friends who came out to cheer me on between miles 14-15, but after that is when the doubt started to creep in. I tried to keep my 2:1 ratio, though there were definitely a few more walk breaks thrown into some of the miles. After looking at my splits, I didn’t break down as early as I thought I had. As I was running the race, I felt like I had started to slow down a lot around mile 14 or 15, but my splits don’t tell the same story. I kept up my pace (though it varied quite a bit between 11:30 and 12:30) until mile 20. Miles 20 – 25, the wheels really fell off and I only had 1 mile that was less than a 13:00 pace, but as I got through the major downhill section to get back to the flatter downtown portion, I knew I only had a couple miles left and I finally started to feel good and no longer nauseous. 

    I completely missed the 23 mile marker sign, but I knew based on my Garmin that I had passed it and I think after I saw the 24 mile marker (and verified that’s actually what it said), I knew I only had a couple of miles to go and that I could finish the race! For some reason, my Garmin was quite a bit off of the mile markers (my Garmin said I went 26.76 miles total), but somewhere between the 24-25 mile marker, I decided I would just run as long as I could and then take a walk break as needed. At that point, my left hip was really sore (but no more pain from my IT band near my knee) and my right hamstring decided it was going to try to seize up every 5 minutes or so. I also heard a pacer behind me yelling about coming in under the 5:30 mark and I definitely didn’t want them to pass me, so I just ran until I thought my hamstring was going to cramp, then I’d stop for a few seconds to stretch it out and start running again. 

    I saw the sign for the 1/2 mile to go marker and tried to pick up the pace a bit, but I quickly realized that 1/2 mile wasn’t even close! I don’t know exactly how much farther the finish line was, but it took quite awhile to even see the 26 mile marker. I’m pretty confident that the sign wasn’t in the right spot, but considering my Garmin had me finishing at 26.76 miles, who knows! I finished that last .76 miles in under 10 minutes, accepted my Runner of Steel medal and headed through the finisher’s chute to get some food and check out the finish line party. 
    I was very impressed at the amount of food that was left when I arrived – the finish line party was supposed to go until 2:00 but there was a ton of bananas, water, bagels and, of course, Smiley cookies. I will say that I was disappointed that a lot of the vendors were already gone by the time I made it to the finish line party (even though it was only 1:30 and there were lots of people still running the race when I finished). Luckily, the medal engravers were still there and I was able to get my name and official time put on the back of my medal. 

    My official time was 5:28:34, which is slower than I had hoped to finish, but I finished and was very happy to beat the 5:30 pacer after I heard him coming up from behind me with a little less than 2 miles to go. Even though it wasn’t how I had hoped (or expected) my day to go, it was a great experience and I haven’t completely written off doing another one in the future, though I’m definitely not ready to sign up yet either!

    Check back tomorrow for a recap of the marathon by the numbers.

    Race #5: Charlotte RaceFest half marathon

    Today was the big day that I was worried about when I first started this training plan. The plan was to run 5-7 miles before the race then complete the half marathon and finish up with a 3-5 mile run home. Last night I checked out the potential routes and the fastest route home was about 3.5 miles, so I knew I needed to get in about 6.5 miles before the race started. I decided to get up around 5:00 in order to get out of the house by 5:30 – that gave me 1.5 hours to get my miles in before meeting up with the rest of the team and get to the start line by 7:30. 

    Side note – the dogs stayed in doggie daycare Thursday morning to Friday afternoon and were dead to the world Friday night. I let them outside this morning when I got up and as soon as they came inside, they went straight back to bed!

    My route took me 6.5 miles from my house to the start line, then through the half marathon course, and finally 4 miles back home. I knew the route would be hilly, but the half marathon course was tough (miles 6.5 – about mile 20 below)! 

    Mile 1 – 11:40
    Mile 2 – 11:26
    Mile 3 – 11:25
    Mile 4 – 11:42
    Mile 5 – 11:05
    Mile 6 – 11:19

    Average pace 11:26

    The first mile was pretty rough, but then I got into the groove of things. It was really nice  out and there wasn’t much traffic on the road, so I put on some music and just jammed out while running down the road in the dark! By the time I got to the start of the race, the sun was starting to come up and there were some beautiful pinks highlighting the sky.
    Mile 7 – 12:25
    Mile 8 – 11:28
    Mile 9 – 11:36
    Mile 10 – 11:18
    Mile 11 – 10:47
    Mile 12 – 10:37

    Average pace 11:22

    The start of the race was really crowded, so my first mile was slower than I had hoped, but I really just ran by feel again, so as I started to do the math in my head about how fast I was running, I was really surprised to be so much faster than my expected 12 minute  per mile pace.

    Mile 13 – 11:08
    Mile 14 – 11:43
    Mile 15 – 10:36
    Mile 16 – 11:02
    Mile 17 – 11:53
    Mile 18 – 11:34

    Average pace 11:19

    I finished the half marathon right around mile 20 and while I didn’t spend too much time at the post-race party, I definitely felt my legs tighten up from even that little bit of stopping to talk with a friend. I also had to spend a little bit of time waiting for stoplights once I started my trek back home. During one of my breaks, I stretched out my calves and that stopped them from completely cramping up. 

    Mile 19 – 11:25
    Mile 20 – 11:20
    Mile 21 – 11:24
    Mile 22 – 13:08
    Mile 23 – 13:04
    Last .51 – 11:54

    Average pace 12:02

    Official time: 2:28:11
    Overall pace 11:32

    I crossed the finish line with the clock showing just around 2:30, so I knew I had run much faster than my half marathon 2 weeks ago. I definitely wasn’t expecting to run that fast, and I paid for it the last few miles with cramping and IT band issues. The lesson learned from this is that I shouldn’t stop for any amount of time during my marathon and that I really need to be aware of my speed during the first half of the race even if I’m feeling good. 

    Did you race this weekend?