Race Report: 2017 Bluff City 10k

Alternate Title: So Close!

This was the third year I’ve signed up for this race, and the second time I’ve actually ran it (last year…I uh….had too much fun the night before). It’s always right around Ro’s birthday, and it’s super convenient to our house. The course is essentially a massive loop that runs alongside our typical routes anyway, so we’re used to running on the terrain. Having just done the Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon and hitting a massive PR only two weeks ago, we didn’t have high hopes for this, though PRs were dancing in our heads.

Friday I picked up our packets, and then we headed to dinner for her birthday. Now, we usually have pasta before a race. But given it was her birthday, she wanted something fancier. So off to the Capital Grille we went. We munched on delicious seafood, crazy good steaks, a decadent dessert, a bottle of wine and some cocktails before. Absolutely delicious, but not the right meal before a race!

Saturday morning, we woke up feeling very heavy and not at all interested in eating any more food. We did the best we could and ran the mile or so to the race start.

We started a bit closer to the front than we had hoped, and right at 8AM we were off. My goal was to keep things as close to an 8 minute mile as possible, to hopefully hit a sub-50 finish time. Things were right on track for the first four miles, but then the course turned uphill for nearly an entire mile, and I started slowing down a bit. I was still keeping things close though; mile 6 was 8:11. I crossed the finish line in 50:43, so damn close!

Afterwards, I waited for Ro to finish (1:00:34! So close!), then we started walking back to the house. We stopped along the way to cheer on some other runners (did I mention the course literally runs in front of our house?) and a very dear friend.

All in all, a great race all things considered. I’m not gonna complain too much about a nearly two-minute PR, and coming just two weeks after a PR in the half; two PRs in three weeks! Not too bad!

That’s it for scheduled races until October (things tend to slow down after May here in the mid-south, given how damn hot it gets) and the MCM. Formal training for that begins in late June, though I’ll be keeping up my base workouts for the time being.

Race Report: 2017 Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon

Alternate Title: Winning Despite Conditions

Sometimes things just click. They just work right, despite the conditions, despite circumstances beyond your control, despite wondering if you can really do it. This past Saturday in Louisville, Kentucky, was one of those times. While it wasn’t an ideal situation, I somehow managed to not only hit my goal, but I blew past it. Finally a sub-2 hour half marathon! I knocked off six minutes from my PR and over nine from Little Rock. But first…

Friday: The Expo
We left Memphis early Friday morning to make the 5.5 hour drive to Louisville. We swung by the expo to pick up our packets and shirts first, as this was outside the city a bit and made the most sense. Pretty standard expo, though very confusing to find anything. We had to drive all the way around the exposition center to enter our designated gate, then no real directions from there to find the specific hall we needed. We followed what looked like runners and eventually found it. Once you got your bib and shirt, you snake your way around to the exit. Odd thing: they had TWO different gutter guard companies. At a race expo. Since, ya know, when you’re about to run a marathon or half marathon, all you can think about are ways to keep leaves out of your gutters.

Yeah I’m a turtle all right

The t-shirt was actually pretty solid. Tech, a nice gray color, and I like these types of maps that basically show the course and different highlights around it.

Pretty nice (and wrinkled!)

After that, it was time to fuel. We had a pasta buffet at a nearby hotel (not ours, but next door). It had the standard stuff, but was pretty tasty surprisingly. And of course, you gotta hydrate!

Beer: the fuel for all serious athletes

And with that, we headed off to watch TV and go to bed. The weather had looked to be warm and humid, so we didn’t think any PRs were gonna happen. Additionally, there was a very slight chance of thunderstorms overnight, but the race twitter feed assured us everything would be fine. Oops.

Saturday: The Race and The Aftermath
We woke up and started getting ready. It definitely stormed overnight, as I was awoken several times by thunder (and the loudest A/C unit ever!). We ate, got ready, and headed down to get in our corrals. We made it to the lobby before we heard that the race was delayed 30 minutes. So we chilled for 30 minutes and started heading out to the corrals again.

A storm’s a’brewin’

We didn’t even make it around the block before we saw a tweet that it was delayed another 30 minutes. So back into the hotel we went. And after 20 minutes, they announced ANOTHER 30 minute delay. What was supposed to be a 7:30AM start was now pushed to 9AM. Which meant that we would be running in a hotter part of the day. Which meant those in the later corrals running the full likely were screwed if the race couldn’t keep the course open for the allowable time (note: they did not). Finally, at 9:10 or so, the race began and we were off!

The look of pure humidity

The race was very crowded for the first two miles or so, before it opened up. It took me until mile 3 to start getting close to 9:00/mile pace. The humidity wasn’t too bad surprisingly, and the clouds definitely kept the temps cool. I made the right choice in clothes for once!

The course

You run a bit downtown, then straight out towards Churchill Downs, the famous horse racing venue. You run on the inside portion of it, then the half and full marathons split, with the half (or miniMarathon as they call it) heading back up towards downtown. It was here, starting at mile 8.5, that it was basically uphill the whole way home. I was holding a good pace between 8:30-8:50 for most of it, which was awesome! I was alternating between water and powerade at each aid station, and took some Gu blocks at mile six.

I kept doing mental math the whole time, and when I hit mile 11 I knew I had my goal in sight. I managed to keep the pace until the very end, pumped my fists as I crossed and couldn’t believe I had hit 1:55:40. My goal coming in was simply to beat two hours, and I destroyed that goal. I was so thrilled with my performance!

Afterwards, I waited for Ro to finish, we took our official finisher photos, grabbed some waters and food and headed straight to the hotel. Sure, we were tired (she got a PR by two minutes!), but we had brunch to get to!

The best way to refuel!

After this, I felt human again

After food, it was time to do what they do best in Kentucky: bourbon! We went straight to the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience to take our tour and taste some delicious bourbon! It was awesome!

So good!

After that, we hopped around a bit more to check out other spots, had a yummy dinner, then went back to the hotel to finally crash. We both slept very well that night, then headed back to Memphis in the morning. That was not a fun drive.

All in all, it was a fantastic race weekend. We both PR’d and I managed to crush my goal and FINALLY get a sub-2, something I’ve tried unsuccessfully to do for several years now. Just goes to show that the work I’ve been putting in has made massive improvements. Now I just need to keep it up for MCM in October!

So What Race Am I Training For?

Happy Sunday! Yesterday I got in a great run, and then went to a friend’s wedding. There was much dancing and revelry.

My training plan called for a 5k time trial run. My McMillan pace was 8:12, which I’ve hit before but not for awhile. My plan was to run to Mud Island, about a mile and a half away, do my 5k on the Mississippi River Greenbelt path (which is flat and devoid of cars). My cool-down would be running back from the island. So how did I do?

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 3.05.47 PM

In short: I nailed it! My 5k pace was 8:08/mile, which was perfect. I felt pretty winded at the end, but I was happy with my effort. Odd thing I noticed: I started at one end of the path, ran to the end, turned around and ran right back to my starting point. Not quite sure how my elevation gain/loss numbers are different, considering it is the exact same path. Odd.

After resting for a minute or two, I headed back over the bridge and up the street back to my apartment. My pace was noticeably slower here, as it’s entirely uphill and the bridge is kind of a killer. I also didn’t run around the block and back to my apartment, which is why it was a shorter distance back then out. When I got home, I made a shake and relaxed for a bit, before getting ready for the wedding.

So, what race am I training for? On April 12th, I’ll run the Go! St. Louis half marathon. I’ve never ran it before, and I’ve never done a race in Missouri, so I’m looking forward to it. Ro is running it too, as is another friend of ours, so we’re making a weekend out of it. Head up Friday and get our packets, then be tourists on Saturday and enjoy the city. Do the race, get cleaned up and then drive back to Memphis on Sunday. It should be a fun little weekend, and I’m looking forward to exploring St. Louis a bit. I’ve only been once, for a few hours at a wedding. I left immediately after the reception and drove back. This time I’ll have a full day to go to the Annheiser-Busch brewery and take the tour, see the Arch, etc.

In the lead-up, I probably will run a local 10k that starts and finishes at my front door. I ran it last year when it was in early February, but this year they moved it to mid-March. I remember it being absolutely freezing last year, like 19 degrees. Mid-March should be a tad warmer than that.

2014 Year In Review

My 2014 season swag!

My 2014 season swag!

Sorry for lack of updates the past two weeks or so. There were citizenship parties, Christmas parties, a long drive home to Ohio, a week of playing with the nephews and hanging out with my family and friends, and a bout of the flu.

As we come to a close on 2014, I felt it would be a good idea to look back and see what I accomplished over the past 12 months. So let’s dive right into it!

Running

  • Total Runs: 142
  • Total Distance: 809.73 miles
  • Total Time: 134:32:58
  • Favorite running place: along the Mississippi

    Favorite running place: along the Mississippi

    Overall I’m pretty happy with my progress here. In 2013 I ran 150 times, for 725 miles, so both my pace and my distance increased year over year. I felt I did a better job of maintaining my running throughout the year, though I still had the all-too-familiar May and June dip in mileage (festival season in May, plus traveling for vacations). I missed my 1000 mile goal (again), so I know where I need to improve to achieve that.

    In terms or racing, I completed a 5k, 5 miler, 10k, two half marathons, a full marathon, a sprint triathlon and a 4 mile turkey trot. That is by far the most I have raced in a year. I also set a PR in the half marathon (2:01:55) at the Germantown half marathon, which was awesome.

    Biking

  • Total Rides: 38
  • Total Distance: 458.28 miles
  • Total Time: 26:09:14
  • First bike ride downtown!

    First bike ride downtown!

    Considering I started 2014 without owning a bike, and having not ridden a bike outside in years, I consider this an accomplishment. I got my bike in April, and once I hit marathon training in July I basically stopped riding, so this was pretty good. I plan to spend a lot of time on the trainer this winter, and to ride more outside once the weather warms up. I really need to get comfortable in traffic. There’s just no comparison to riding outside.

    I’ve gotten the Garmin Edge 510 and cycling shoes for Christmas, so I’m all set with goodies to help. Really looking forward to increasing my bike mileage in 2015!

    Swimming

  • Total Rides: 36
  • Total Distance: 18.87 miles
  • Total Time: 19:00:11
  • This may seem like a low total, but I am thrilled. Why? Because I finally learned to truly swim freestyle! I went from not being able to put my head underwater, to being able to swim 1000 yards without stopping. I still need to learn flip-turns, but baby steps. I am very proud of my progress with swimming. Not so much with my open-water experience, however. That’s another area I really need to work on next year. We have planned a few trips to the nearest swimming holes for when spring and summer hits, so hopefully my winter in the pool will pay off.

    Favorites

  • New Race: – awesome 5 mile race that goes over a variety of terrain, low key but fun
  • Result: Germantown Half Marathon – Set a PR by over 11 minutes, with a 2:01:55. Sure, I came up 1:55 short of my goal, but considering this was the day after the downtown St. Patrick’s Day festivities, and it was raining, I’m amazed at how well I did.
  • Old Race: Bardog 5k – I’ve done it four times now, and will always do it so long as I’m in Memphis. It benefits a great cause (St. Jude), it has great support, all my friends run it, and it has the best post-race party ever.
  • Accomplishment: Memphis in May Sprint Triathlon – I had always wanted to do one, and I did it! I almost drowned, I came in way too close to dead last, but I did it!

    So there you have it, my 2014 year in review. It was a great year, with a lot of accomplishments. I’m proud of my progress, and I know I can do better. Onto 2015!

  • Race Recap: 2014 St. Jude Memphis Half-Marathon

    The short version: I finished (2:27:05)

    IMG_1491

    The long version:

    As I wrote the other day, the St. Jude Memphis Marathon weekend is great. It raises money for an extraordinarily awesome cause, and it’s right in my backyard. Seriously, the start and finish are two blocks from my apartment. Compared to the logistical nightmare that was NYC, this was a cakewalk.

    However, I hadn’t trained for this. I ran only a few times, for limited mileage, since I got back from NYC. My mind wasn’t ready to run again, and I’m not sure my body recovered. But I signed up for it and didn’t want to punk out. I adjusted my expectations and made it my goal just to finish.

    I picked up my packet on Thursday after work. The convention center is right down the street, so it was a short walk. There was no security line wrapping around the block, no massive crowds of people to fight through, no annoyances. Easy peasy, in and out in five minutes.

    Saturday morning I woke up and had my typical oatmeal and Gatorade. I was still feeling a bit sick from dinner Thursday night. Instead of carb-loading, I protein-loaded at a Brazilian steakhouse for a friend’s birthday. I didn’t know meat sweats could last for two days…I was still feeling it a bit that morning. With the start right outside, I left my apartment at 7:25 for an 8AM start. It was awesome. Compare that to New York, where I left my hotel at 6:30AM for a 10:25AM start.

    IMG_1490

    It was a bit chilly out. I had been debating which long-sleeve shirt to wear, opting for my NYC one. That morning, however, turned out to be pretty windy, so I switched to a short-sleeve shirt with my NYC quarter-zip on top. Plus, as always, my Chicago Cubs hat. I got a bit warm, but it worked well. I placed myself in a coral with Ro and some of our friends, aiming for around 10:30-11:00 pace. The race started right on time, and we crossed the start at 8:16. Game on!

    Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 2.11.10 PM

    The first five miles take place downtown, with mile 4 being on the campus of St. Jude itself. This is where most of the crowd support is. Bands, people cheering, it’s all pretty nice. Going through St. Jude is always emotional, as patients and their families are out cheering for you. If you look up, you can see young patients waving and cheering from their windows. It’s awesome. I kept things pretty well in check throughout this point, knowing that miles 5-12 are, shall we say, boring.

    When you hit mile 8, you enter Overton Park and begin the climb. The path is narrow, there is no support in the woods, and you are the furthest point from the finish. It’s a bit depressing, to be honest. You are in the park until 9.5, when you get to Poplar Ave. And then you climb some more. I don’t get when people say this is a flat race. It’s not. Sure, it’s not a high amount of gain, but you feel it. Along Poplar, this is when people start walking. I made it to mile 10.5 before I started with a walk break for about 5 minutes. I picked it back up before taking another walk break during mile 11.5-12.5 or so. Once you go down Union Ave., the half splits from the full marathon and we head for home. The finish is at the ballpark, which is great. I smiled and raised my hands in triumph.

    Post race, this year there were some issues. Two years ago, I basically walked out of the park after being handed a bag of food/drinks, much like MCM and NYC did it. This year, you had to wait in a series of lines to get out. First, a clear plastic bag to hold your stuff. Then PowerAde. Then water. Then fruit cups. Then real fruit. Then cookies. Then pizza. Then Soup. Then donuts. THEN you got to fight through crowds to actually get out of the park. It took me an hour to get out, which is nuts. And there is NOTHING worse than having to stand in line when you are tired and cold. My legs were hurting bad.

    Anyway, I grabbed some pizza with Ro and we walked home. After some stretching and showers, we took a nap. All in all, it was a good race, just different compared to MCM and NYC. It feels tiny by comparison, and not as well supported. But I know that’s just in my head, because this city gets behind it in a big way.

    And with that, my 2014 season is officially done. Thanks!