Looking Back at 2014

A couple weeks ago I went to a fun running bloggers Christmas party and to introduce ourselves during the white elephant we had to say our biggest running accomplishment for 2014.

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Blogger Party Courtesy of Elizabeth’s Instagram

This really was an interesting question for me because I had a really good 2014 and didn’t really know which thing I was most proud of.

Obviously crossing the finish line of my first marathon was huge and something I’m really proud of but in all honesty I’m a much better runner now. I know I can do better at 26.2 and someday I’ll prove that. This was my answer but really I’m more proud of a few other things.

My PR in the half marathon was probably the most surprising accomplishment. Not the fact that I PRed but that I ran as fast as I did. Since I’ve already recapped that I won’t go into too much detail, but taking 25 min off my best time was so amazing! I was thinking maybe a 2:25 half but 2:20 just seemed so far away and then it just happened. I just loved everything about that experience (minus the migraine). I’m also so thankful that my parents were able to be there and cheer me on. I’m sure my mother didn’t love that I beat her PR but I know she’s proud of me and the effort I’ve put into my running this year.

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After my half marathon PR!

I rounded out November by running two more half marathons (Rock N Roll Las Vegas and ATL Thanksgiving Half). I don’t recommend doing that! But I was happy that both of those races were faster than any of my 2012/2013 halfs. I’ve gotten the half marathon tally up to 8! Definitely my favorite distance to race.

My most recent big accomplishment was a 5k PR in December. After the 3rd half I took 10 days off. I ran a couple times the week of the 5k, with a little bit of strides thrown into two 3 mile runs. I ran a small local 5k that started at a middle school and went to the ATL belt line (the beltline is this amazing trail system through Atlanta that will hopefully connect one day and be a 20 mile loop) down a little ways and then back to the school. I picked this race because it would be flat (or so I thought) and its a pretty area of town. My garmin hadn’t been working since thanksgiving (apparently I needed to download software updates) so I ended up running this race pace blind. I basically pushed myself as fast as I could and tried to keep moving. There weren’t mile markers but it was out and back (the finish was slightly different than the start) so I had a general idea where I was. We turned off the belt line and literally went up a steep hill and by this time I was dying! And when I reached the top I was rewarded with a downhill and then realized the finish was up another hill. I just kept trucking along and crossed the finish line in 28:23! My previous PR was from November 2012, 29:41, so this was a big jump for me. I had NO IDEA I was running that fast and I probably wouldn’t have run that fast if I was using my garmin.

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After my 5K PR!

On top of PRing the 5k, 13.1 and 26.2 (by default) I’ve also tried to get my eating habits under control. While I definitely wouldn’t say I eat clean, I am eating better and trying to maintain a balance. And I’m down around 28lbs and only have a few more to go to reach my goal weight. All under 6 months (1/7/15 is my 6 months with weight watchers) and I couldn’t be more proud of how 2014 has turned out for me!

I’m excited to see what 2015 has in store for me! More to come on that soon….

Thank you all for all the support this year, I’m so grateful for all the amazing people in my life!

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Area 13.1 Recap (hint hint I PRed)

On November 8th I ran my first half marathon in a year. After running 4 halfs in 2013, I spent the first half of 2014 training for my first marathon. I knew after I finished that I had to make some changes and I wanted to PR a half marathon.

I started working with Jesica again and she really pushed me to step out of what I had been doing and really go for it. And as the training cycle progressed (and my weight continued to go down) my times were getting better and better. Paces that were hard to keep for a 5k became my long run paces. And all that hard work paid off last night.

I picked my goal race based off of a couple things: date, course (flat flat flat) and location. Originally Rock N Roll Vegas was going to be my goal race but when my childhood bestfriend chose the night before as her wedding date I knew that was out (I did however still run in Vegas, just flew in the day of the race). Then I found a race the weekend before Vegas, on the trail/road that I run on all the time about 2 min from my house. It seemed perfect (other than the 5:30 pm start time) and in reality it ended up being perfect.

The race I chose was the Area 13.1, there were definitely some pluses and minuses to this race. Packet pick up was super easy, I was able to grab it the Sunday before from my local Lululemon. The race was fairly small which made race day logistics much easier.

Since the race was at 5:30 I had to sit around all day until it was time to run. My parents came to town with my grandmother to meet the newest member of the family. So luckily my parents were able to spectate and be there for the race. My morning started kind of strangely, I had to eat chicken and rice for breakfast. My nutrition plan for the day was to eat my typical dinner the night before a race for breakfast, so a chicken breast and 2 cups of white rice was breakfast. After that I was on a bagel and hard boiled egg diet until after the race. I ended up eating two bagels and two hard boiled eggs. I ended up with a fun sinus headache but I don’t like how I run when on my migraine medicine so decided to not take anything.

I got to the race later than I anticipated so I didn’t get in my full warm up, but did a couple minutes of jogging and did dynamic stretches until the start. I also took a salted watermelon GU about 30 min before the race.

My head was still hurting pretty good at this point and I was hoping adrenaline would kick in and make it go away. There were no corrals so I lined up towards the middle and was surprised at how many people had on long sleeves and long pants. The weather was perfect high 50s that would drop to the high 40s by the end, which for me that means a tank top and shorts.

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Right after the start
The first mile was on the road and I was trying to keep myself from going out too fast, I let people pass me because I knew if I went out to hard I would crash. The first 4 miles were pretty congested, around 1.5 you go into a narrower trail into the woods and people were walking and blocking the trail. This was my slowest mile, but after we got out of there around mile 3 I started to pick the pace back up. It was still crowded and the course was really weirdly planned out. There were a lot of random out and backs. The one around mile 3 was really confusing and kind of a mess but not nearly as bad as mile 4 back in Riverside park. They did a bad job directing runners but my parents were at this split and pointed me in the right direction.

By this point I really wanted Gatorade, they said there would be Gatorade at 4 and 7.5 but there was nothing at 4. I waited til 5 to take my gu in case Gatorade magically appeared but it didn’t. At this point I realized I was moving pretty quickly, a lot of my miles were in the high 10s, but I felt really good. My head had stopped hurting and I was just cruising. It was pitch black and I was really happy to have worn my headlamp. Around mile 5.5 the lead guy came running past (and then by me again quickly after that) and he was moving! Between 6 and 7 we hit the two “hills” of the course but they’re not too bad and I’ve run them a bunch in training runs.

I found the elusive Gatorade at mile 7.25 and was glad I did, I was starting to feel a little off and the Gatorade made me feel better within a couple minutes. Again I was cruising and was starting to really pass people. I’m usually getting passed so it was nice to be the person doing the passing. The next few miles felt the longest but my body felt good and I just kept moving. Around mile 10 I realized that I could come in around 2:25 (my garmin was short by 1/4 mile but I didn’t realize it when I was calculating) and I wanted to keep that up. I took another GU here and then kicked it up a notch. I made the final turn around and new I was about 1.9 miles from the finish. Since I run this course often I know the mileages and realized my garmin was off at mile 12. And then I did more math and realized I could beat my mom’s PR if I kept it up. I got a pretty bad shin splint but there was no way I was stopping.

Before the race I had never run longer than 12.4 without stopping, not even during marathon training. I wanted to get over that hump, even if I was running 15 min miles, I was going to keep running. Luckily I ran some faster miles and was cruising to the finish. I got a little caught up on a boardwalk piece of the trail behind a woman who was not happy when I yelled on your left and ran by her. She did the same to me about .1 from the finish but then I sprinted past her because I wasn’t going to let her finish ahead of me. I crossed the finish line at 2:20:13!! Over 25 min PR and over a minute faster than my mom’s PR.

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After the race

I never really thought this time was possible. 2:30 was my goal, but I thought 2:27ish was possible. I felt great most of this race and didn’t really have any bad miles. Mentally I was much better off than I usually am. I never hit a mental wall like I have in every other race.

I just couldn’t be happier with my performance. I worked really hard to get to this point and I’m really proud of myself for accomplishing multiple goals during this training cycle.

Hopefully my vegas recap isn’t too far off since I just finished that race this past Sunday.

Up next: Atlanta Half Marathon on thanksgiving day!

ZOOMA Amelia Island Half Marathon Recap

My 2nd half marathon was only 6 weeks after my first. I just felt burnt out after the first and struggled to get all my training runs in. I usually got them in, but they weren’t always pretty and they weren’t always the distance they were scheduled to be. I managed to get in a 10 miler, but my 12 miler did not go well. The 12 miler sucked (and ended up being 8 miles with walking) because I apparently I had strep throat and didn’t know it. I went to the doctor the Thursday before my Sunday run, but she said my strep test was negative. On Monday morning I found out I did had strep throat. I had less than two weeks until the half marathon and I couldn’t get any good runs in. I took it pretty easy to try to get better. I had one good shake out run before the race, I was done with antibiotics and it was time to head to Florida for the ZOOMA Amelia Island half marathon.

This race was special for me because I was getting to run it with my mom. I didn’t set high expectations since my training was sub par and I had been pretty sick leading up to the race. I was just going to go at a pace that felt comfortable and would try to push it when necessary. The race took place at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, which is one of my favorite places. I used to work for Ritz for 5 years and I’ve been to this property at least 10 times. I used to stay there for only $50 a night and I definitely miss that rate, but I was able to get the friends and family rate for this weekend, which was $125 and more than $100 less than the group rate that ZOOMA had secured for the weekend (this girl LOVES a good deal). My parents and I arrived at the resort a little after 4pm. We checked right into our room, you can see the view from the balcony here…

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After the bellman brought our bags up we headed down to the packet pick up and expo. Since this was a small boutique type race, it was very quick to get our race bibs and swag bag. We checked out a couple vendors, my mom really likes Muscle Milk, who is a big sponsor for the ZOOMA events. After checking out the expo we went over to the concierge to find a restaurant for dinner. We made an early reservation at Ciao, an Italian restaurant on Center St. (the main downtown street) in Fernandina Beach. We showed up early and were seated quickly. I’m so glad we got there early, within 20 minutes the restaurant was full and there was a wait. My mom and I both enjoyed our pasta dishes. We also snuck in some Dairy Queen at my dad’s request (the man loves his ice cream). We headed back to the hotel for an early bed time.

The race course was a point to point that started in Downtown Fernandina Beach, went through Fort Clinch State Park and along A1A back to the Ritz. Shuttles were available to those staying at the Ritz at 7 am so we all jumped on that. My dad is the ultimate spectator/bag holder. He rode the shuttle with us and took back whatever clothes and such. He was told he would be able to take the shuttle back, but the drivers got all weird about it that morning. He ended up finding a guy who had driven there and was going back to the hotel, so he asked him for a ride (my dad has no problem asking these things of complete strangers).

The shuttles got us to the start early and since it was a little cold and windy that morning, a lot of us were huddled behind a building waiting for the race to start. I was bundled up and wasn’t planning on wearing anything more than a t shirt, shorts (with a team sparkle skirt over it) and procompression socks. I ended up adding arm warmers because of the wind. Check out a few shots before the race….

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Love my Nuun tat and Team Sparkle Skirt

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Heading to the start

This race was small with around 400 people (mostly women) running. I really loved that Zooma had pacers even with a small field of runners. Everything was well organized. There weren’t really corrals but they didn’t need them.

They called the start and my mom and I wanted to stay around 11:30 pace as long as we could. I wasn’t sure how I would do with being sick the two weeks before the race. We made it almost to mile 3 before we had to slow down a little bit. I took my arm warmers off at this point too. By now we were in the state park which was really pretty. I took my first gu after mile 3. I think this made my stomach not so happy. Around mile 5 I saw one of my fav bloggers, Julie, from Peanut Butter Fingers finishing the out and back portion. Not far behind her was Presley from Run Pretty, who luckily yelled my name so I could say hi 🙂

Around miles 6-7 I was starting to get dizzy and light headed. At that point I knew it was not going to be a good race. I had to start the run/walk and felt so bad that I had to slow down my mom. I tried to walk 0.1 mile run the rest. This continued for the rest of the race. I knew this was my lingering sickness and not the same cramping issues I had in Vegas. I did the best I could and really was wishing I could do better. My mom pushed me to keep running and I did what I could.

Then came the surprise last 0.7 mile of the race, it was on the beach, as in ON THE EFFING SAND. I had no idea that was happening and needless to say there were MANY curse words coming from this girl. I ran most of it until we got to the sand that looked like it would break an ankle. The finish line was soon after that and my mom and I grabbed hands and ran across the finish line with our arms raised.

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Half #2 Complete!

My time was slower than Vegas but I went into this with low expectations. I knew I wasn’t 100% after being sick. And then I got sick the next day and ended up on antibiotics again. I was pretty much sick the entire month of January.

After the race we went to the after party. Zooma does a great job with this and had massages, wine and a lot of vendors. My knee was really hurting at this point and my dad went to find me ice. The lovely Tricia from Zooma wanted a pic of my skirt so my mom and I stopped for this photo….

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Can you tell it was windy by my hair? Photo courtesy of ZOOMA Facebook Page

We skipped the massages there since we made appointments in the spa for that afternoon.

Overall this was a great race. It was well organized and in a beautiful location. I would definitely recommend this race for a racecation!

I’ve switched up some stuff in the last month so more on that soon!

I did it!

Well I’m officially a half-marathoner, it was a crazy 11 months of blood, sweat, tears and blisters. I definitely needed time to fully digest my thoughts after the race. Let’s just say the race didn’t go as planned, at all. For the 3 days after the race I was definitely throwing a pity party for 1 and really wouldn’t listen otherwise to what anyone said. But let’s go back to the beginning…

My first half marathon was the Rock N Roll Vegas Strip at Night. The race was on Sunday night and I decided to head to Vegas Thursday morning to get adjusted to the time zone and have quality time with some of my favorite people. Vegas really has a special place in my heart and was the perfect location for a racecation for me. I was able to get the employee rate at The Palazzo and had an unbelievable suite (which is just their regular room and I’m a hotel snob after working 5 years with Ritz-Carlton). I had a great trip and here are some of the non race pics…

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Katie and I in our race shirts after the Expo

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The last $88 I needed to exceed my fundraising goal of $2,700!!

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Hanging out at Bally’s with Brandon and crew

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Spent Saturday with this lil cutie, Madeline.

Okay I guess I will finally tell you about the race. I’ve really been putting this off. I actually would barely talk about the race the first couple days, mainly because I just wanted to cry at the thought of reliving it and I was just so disappointed.

Race started out with a breakfast I knew would work for me…

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a waffle and almond butter, just like I had for my 12 miler. I couldn’t sit still in my hotel room and the race wasn’t until 4:30 pm. I decided to head to one of the outlet malls to go to a couple stores and just get out of my room before I went stir crazy. After an hour at the outlet mall I grabbed a sub at subway (another pre-tested meal) and headed back to my hotel room. I had just the right amount of time to eat, get ready and not be stressed out. I laid out my race outfit when I got to Vegas so everything was ready to go. I got dressed and snapped a self pic…

selfpicbeforeraceA gear post will be coming soon!

Then I headed to meet up with Carmen and the rest of my Team Challenge teammates. We took a pic…

MeCarmenCarmen and I before the race. I couldn’t have made it through this without her!

Then headed off to the start line. Team Challenge arranged transportation for us to the start and luckily my teammate Rachel has run a few halves before was giving me tips and helping ease my nerves as we headed to the start. The busing was so helpful and we were dropped off right at the start. We headed to the Team Challenge area to check our bags, Carmen and I hit the porta potty one last time, and it was time to warm up. Our coaches Joe and Max lead us in a bunch of exercises and then it was off to the corrals. Luckily 4 of my teammates were in my corral and best of all my BFF, Katie was waiting for me there since my cell service wasn’t working with 20,000 people in one place.

BeforeraceBefore the race

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Katie and I before the race. I miss her so much already, but don’t worry we’re already planning our next race together!

And then she was off to one of the earlier corrals since she’s quite a bit faster than me. As the race started, they were doing around 1.5 minute wave start between the corrals. So I didn’t start for a while, during this time the wind really started picking up and I had lost all the energy I had earlier in the day. Night races are just so different. It was finally time for my corral to go, I started my playlist (which was in shuffle mode) and Clique (Jay Z/Kanye rap song) came on. It was exactly what I needed to get my energy back up, then we were off.

The first mile was into the wind and I had to weave to get through people, I probably did the first mile in 11 min miles (my goal was to do 11:27 miles). Since this part was going south on the strip away from the hotels there weren’t buildings to block the wind and it was whipping. I never thought I would get to the Welcome to Vegas sign so we could turn around and have the wind at our back. It was probably only that first mile but it felt like 10. The wind was blowing pretty hard and gusting a lot at my back and literally pushing me forward. At one point it picked up one of my legs and slammed it into the other. I was going fast for me at this point and ran the next two or three miles at 10:30 pace. This is where I made the mistake of going too fast too early. I felt good at the time, but by the time I was at mile 7 I was not feeling great. My calves were tight and my left ankle just hurt. It was my left ankle that hit my right leg so I think that may have been part of it. I slowed down a little bit at this point, I even cheered for a friend that was finishing under 1:30 that I saw go by the other way (by cheer I mean yelled his name as I kept running). It was pretty cool to be on the strip. I think I was so focused on surviving that I didn’t look up and enjoy the sites as much as I would have liked.

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Feeling good the first half of the race

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Still feeling good

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Even posed for a pic while running

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And this is where it all goes downhill

Once we got into the ugly area of Vegas between the strip and old Vegas I was over it all. I wasn’t sure how much longer I was going to be able to run or if I was even going to finish the race. Miles 8-10 were going through old Vegas and random neighborhoods that were not in a nice area of town. At mile 10 I was over it and in so much pain. I finally gave into walking around mile 10, at this point I was mentally just DONE. I started texting my mom telling her I wasn’t going to finish and that I was dying. My poor mother was 3 hours ahead and staying up to see how I did. She sent me encouraging texts to help keep me going. Around this time I got a text that Katie was finished. I started texting her that I didn’t know if I’d make it to the finish and that I might have to go to the medical tent. I was fully in drama queen mode. Although for a while I really thought I was going to end up in the medical tent. I ended up doing a little running and walking as much as I could. At mile 11.5 I decided I wanted to run the rest of the way. I made it half a mile before I had the most debilitating cramps I’ve ever had right above my knee. I’ve never had a pain there before and it was extremely painful. I kept walking, but I must have looked really pathetic because two people running came over and asked if I was okay. I thanked them and told them to keep running their race, that I would be okay. At mile 12.5 I was determined to run the rest of the race without stopping. I put my head down and just kept going. My legs started cramping but I pushed through it and made it across the finish line.

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Walking and crying, yes there were tears and no they were not happy ones

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I think hot is the only word that comes to mind when I see this pic. Also my legs could barely move.

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And how do I not share this gem? Eyes closed and totally EXHAUSTED

My time was 2:45:19. I was severely disappointed. And it’s not about the time, it’s about the walking. If I had run the whole race I would have been ecstatic and proud, but the walking really just bothered me. It took me three days of just being bummed before I could even be happy about the race. But after some prodding by the most important people in my life I realized that I’m not being fair to everyone who supported me in this race, donated to my fundraiser, and listened to me talk about running for months. I needed to be proud of my accomplishment and learn from it. So I am, I’m a proud half-marathoner who raised $2,700.37 for a great cause, the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. Never in my life would I think I would be able to raise that much money for something.  And that’s something to be proud of. I’m looking forward to the my next race and applying what I learned from the first one. When I started this blog I wasn’t even working out, a year ago I hadn’t started running. Now I’m a half-marathoner with my next race less than 6 weeks away. So much changes in a year.

My next race is going to be a fun one with my mom. I can’t wait to run my 2nd half marathon while my mom runs her 4th, while my Dad cheers us on. Running has given me something else to share with my mom and I couldn’t be happier about that! So after a week and a half of minimal running it’s time to get back on my running game. I even have a running date with my Team Challenge buddy Carmen on Saturday!

Thanks for the race photos marathonfoto.com! If only you had reasonable prices so I could purchase them instead of $40 for one pic or $70 for all of them.