Thursday, October 29, 2015

Race Recap - Cocoa Beach Half Marathon

So, remember how I had a great race at the UCF 5 Miler?  The Cocoa Beach Half Marathon was pretty much the exact opposite of that. That is really all you need to know, but I will bore you with the details because a 3 sentence blog post doesn't work.

The Cocoa Beach Half Marathon sounded like a great idea when we registered back in March. Plenty of time to train, some cooler weather (hopefully), a fun medal and a friend with a condo in the area. The race sold out relatively quickly and then the course map got released. The course included almost 3 miles on the beach. Not really what I was looking for, but how bad could it be...famous last words.

Fast forward through a few months of rough, but consistent training, a great last longish run and I was actually getting excited about the race. Then the Thursday before the race I woke with pain in my left foot. Not crippling pain, but enough to know something was not right. That morning I started a regiment of ice, ibuprofen and good shoes. I skipped my last shake out run with the hope it would help. I wish I could say I stayed off of it, but with a 2-year-old that just isn't possible.

Saturday night after dinner I headed out to Cocoa Beach. A good friend of mine hosted us in her parents condo for the night. We hung out, watched some football and went to bed. It was so nice being close and not having to get up until 6 a.m. on Sunday. (Another huge thanks to our hostess for driving us to the start so we didn't have to take the 5:45 a.m. slow person bus.)

We got to the start with enough time to take a look at the beach and hit the port-a-potty. Then we were off.

Sunrise on the beach

Pre-race Selfie

No too far from the start we were routed into the first the multiple parking lots that we ran around during the race. There wasn't anything special to see, just in the parking lot, to the other end, around some cones and back out. I would think there would have been a better way to get to 13.1, but who am I to judge.

The first 4 miles or so took us through a pretty residential part of Cocoa beach. Unfortunately, buildings blocked most of the beach, so there wasn't a whole lot to see. The buildings also blocked the sea breeze at point, so I started to feel the heat and humidity of the day. That cooler weather I was hoping for never showed up.

About 5 miles in we met up with our race crew for the first time. It was great to have a familiar face on the course. 

She was amazing!! (I don't have a photo of the rest of the crew)

I held my 90 sec/30 sec intervals pretty well for the first half of the race and felt good with the exception of my foot.

Past the half and still feeling pretty good

A little after mile 7, my foot started hurting a little more. We stopped at Ron Jon to take some selfies and try to distract myself. 

Miles 8 and 9 were tough. I walked more in these miles than I wanted to, but it gave me a chance to have a little fun to. (Any hope of a good time was out the window at this point.) We passed the marker for mile 9 and hit the beach. 
On the Beach

The soft sand leading down to the beach was really hard on my foot and the hard sand wasn't much better. I tried running for a bit, but it was clear that my foot didn't enjoy running on the sand. So I walked....all 2.9 miles of it. Not what I wanted to do, but at least it was kind of pretty.

The never ending beach
I came off the beach with about a mile and a half to go. My legs were dead at that point and my foot was really sore. I ended up walking most of it, but did run the last tenth of a mile. (I just couldn't walk through the finish.) My official time was 3:17:28. I have never been fast, but this race was really bad.

I almost look like I am running
For a first time race, it was okay. The course had lots of water stops and plentiful port-a-potties...both good things. They also had both bananas and Cliff Shots at various stops on the course. I didn't see a medical tent or much in the way of medical staff on the course. I would have loved some biofreeze anytime after mile 7. The course itself wasn't much to look at and the sand running blew.

At least the medal is fun
To say that I have mixed feelings about this race would be an understatement. I am super proud of my friend who completed his first half marathon, extremely thankful for the friends who ran with me and supported me on the course, and overall satisfied with my training. (I am less sore after this half than ever before.) With all that said, this race was not my favorite and a huge personal worst. I guess you live and learn. Next time wait until the course map is released to register.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Tips for Running Your First Half-Marathon

Tomorrow I will be running the Coca Beach Half Marathon. This will be my sixth half-marathon. What started as a bucket list item has turned into something I love.

The most exciting thing about this race is that I suckered persuaded a friend to do his very first half marathon. I have been sharing these tips with him over the past couple of months and figured I would share them with you too.

Find a Training Plan

A good training plan is key to having a successful race. When looking at plans look at the volume of running in the plan, the suggested cross training and the time you have available. I am a huge fan of the Jeff Galloway training plans and have used these (or a variation on them) for all my races.

Figure Out Your Nutrition

This is one of the hardest parts of training and is different for everyone. I have tried just about every product on the market and know what works for me. Unfortunately, that doesn't necessarily translate to others. Honey Stinger Chews are one of my favorites, but they are often more expensive than other options. 

After much trial and error I will normally do toast and peanut butter before and race and then something about every 45 minutes. 

Get Fitted for Shoes

Do this early. The right shoes make a world of difference in both training and racing. This is another area where what works for me, won't necessarily work for you, but find a good local running store and they can help you out. Manufacturers also change their shoes over time, so the model you are running in and the current model may be very different.

Body Glide is your Friend 

Unless you don't sweat or no part of your clothing or body rubs another part (and in that case can I be you?), you will want to pick up some Body Glide. Chaffing is no fun, but it happens to just about everyone. A good coating of Body Glide will make that first post run shower a little less painful.

Cotton is Evil

I know...races are expensive and you don't really want to spend money on expensive running gear. You can find relatively inexpensive running or workout gear at a number of places (Kohls and Old Navy are some of my favorites). Your skin and body will appreciate being able to breath.

Train Consistently

This is a big one. I have run halfs with training that was spotty at best and halfs where my training has been consistent. The ones with consistent training were far more enjoyable. While life happens, this is why picking a training plan that works with your schedule is so important.

The more I think about these, they really apply to pretty much any distance. What advice would you share with those running a half marathon for the first time?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Race Recap - UCF 5 Miler

This was the race I wasn't going to run this year. I had a bazillion excuses...It was a week before my half marathon, last year's course was short and not clearly marked (leading to the UCF 4.5 miler), training was going slowly, we had a bunch of work being done at the house....

Then I saw an ad for the race during a UCF football game a couple weeks ago. A new course that goes through the stadium (getting interested), a "free" ticket to a game we needed an extra ticket for (getting more interested), and a medal (sold). I am sucker for bling, especially if it is tied to one of my almamaters. Now that it is over, I am so glad I signed up because this race was a huge win for me.

The two weeks leading up to the race were crazy. We had the whole house painted, new carpet put in our hallway and 3 of our 4 bedrooms and new furniture delivered. I got my runs in, but the only cross training I was doing was moving furniture around in circles so the various contractors could do what they needed to do.

Sunday morning was race day. My alarm went off at 5:35 a.m. I hit snooze once and then rolled out of bed. I wasn't out of bed long when I heard "Dayyeee, Moyyeee" coming from E's room. (At least I didn't have to wake her up...then again, that is not usually our issue. Someday she will sleep through the night again.)

We were out the door by 6:30 a.m. It was a short drive to campus and a quick walk to OIA plaza. E kept asking if we were going to see feetball (yeah, it is as cute as it sounds). She was excited when we told her she was going to get a chance to run.

We got to the race nice and early. I hit up the bathroom and my husband registered E for the kids races. Then we hung out and watched the start of the 2 miler. E loved the band, but was scared of the tuba.
It was a beautiful day for a run
A little before 8 a.m. I headed to the start line. I got my watch and music ready to go and waited for the start. At this point I was a little nervous. I can't really tell you why, but I had some butterflies.

The gun went of and the heard of us moved forward. I was toward the back, so it always takes a bit to get to the start line. Once we hit the line, the crowds thinned out a bit so you could run pretty comfortably. We headed out and around the stadium. Watching the sunrise over the stadium was pretty cool.

Good morning Brighthouse Stadium

The first mile felt pretty good. When I hit the mile marker, I realized I was going faster than I intended and faster than I had been in training. I made a mental note to take things down a notch so that I didn't die after 3 miles. Mile 2 took us through some of the older parts of campus. Mile 2 was a little slower (but still faster than I intended), but I was feeling good, so I didn't change anything.

So pretty
Mile 3 took us through some of the more boring parts of campus. I was still feeling really good at after mile 3, so I stepped it up a bit. Mile 4 wound us around through Memory Mall and back toward the stadium. (It is amazing how much easier Memory Mall is to navigate when you are not trying to push a stroller through throngs of tailgaters.)

Mile 5 was the march to the stadiums and I was still feeling good (score). We headed back toward the athletic fields. First it was a lap around the warning track of the baseball stadium. Then across the plaza and into the football stadium where Nitro was cheering us on. A quick lap around the field and it was out of the stadium with a tenth of a mile to the finish. I really picked it up here and actually passed someone (that never happens).

My final time was 61:51 (12:22/mile). I am super happy with that. I was only 2 minutes slower than last year's 4.5 mile course and I shaved 4 minutes of my 2012 time. The biggest bonus is that it was faster than anything I have run during training.

We hung out for the kids run. E did amazing and loved that she got a ribbon. Now that I have a little one, the kids races are a huge bonus to Track Shack events. 

Enjoying the sweetness of a great race
I am hoping I have found my groove and there will be good things at the Cocoa Beach Half this weekend.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

3 Years Later - I Had a Miscarriage

It has been a little over 3 years since my life changed forever. Some of you who have been reading for a while or know me in real life know that I miscarried my first pregnancy. I shared the experience on the blog.

At the time it felt like our world had shattered. The excitement and anticipation turned to anxiety and wonder. Slowly, we put the pieces back together. It helped that we were very blessed to have a relatively easy and successful second pregnancy. E is the perfect addition to our family and I couldn't imagine life without her.

I thought that once we had E I might feel like that first baby was less important or I wouldn't really think about it. Keeping up with an infant and now a busy toddler has means that my experience with Baby 1 isn't always on my mind like it was for a while, but it never goes away. It changed me and will always be a part of who I am.

When I had my miscarriage, I felt guilty and broken. It was very hard to accept that it could just happen. (A quick look at the stats tells me how frighteningly common miscarriage is, but there is nothing common about experience). As I have shared my story over the year, I was amazed at how many people had been through it too. But no one really talks about it.

Over the past three years one of the biggest things I have noticed is more conversation about the subject. People are using social channels to share their miscarriage experience. There are projects such as the documentary Don't Talk About the Baby working to broaden the conversation, articles and opinion pieces in major media publications, and others with a megaphone sharing the experience. If I could prevent anyone from enduring that kind of pain, I would, but until then, it is comforting to know I am not alone.

Light a candle and say a prayer
October 15, today, is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. I am going to take a moment to think about my lost baby. I challenge you to take a moment to think about your friends and family who have had a loss or are struggling to have a family.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Adventures in Parenting - The Crayola Experience

We took our first trip to The Crayola Experience in July. It was a rainy Saturday afternoon. Needless to say, the place was packed. There were lines for just about everything and so many kids on the play structures that I was nervous letting Ellie play. (A little too much Lord of the Flies for my taste.) I could see that there was a lot of potential for fun, but if it was always packed, it wasn't worth going.

We bough annual passes when we went in July. Yes, I bought a pass before walking through the door, but it was like $10 more than a single day ticket and I had heard good things. This past weekend we decided to give it another shot.

This time our plan was to go early on a Sunday. Since E is normally up before 7 a.m., getting places early isn't really a problem. We made a short stop at Trader Joes (where I bought all the pumpkin things) and still got there right around 10 a.m. when they opened.

I have to say the difference between this time and the last time we went was night and day. Everything was working and nothing had a line. E got to create both a ring crayon and a race car crayon because she wanted both. Last time it took 45 minutes to do one. (We took turns waiting in line and toddler wrangling.) We did spin art, played in the chalk/white board area and colored. 

Making Spin Art with Daddy

Watching a regular crayon turn into a ring crayon

Making a Masterpiece

You mean it is okay to color on the wall?

Then E wanted to go play. To her this meant the two giant play structures that they have at The Crayola Experience. One is designed for little ones and she had a great time with that and the giant Light Bright located in the same area. 

Enjoying the toddler size play structure
Then she saw the other saw the other play structure and set her toddler sights on that. As anyone with a 2 year old knows, once they get fixated on something you have two choices--let them go do it or ride out a tantrum. It wasn't something all that dangerous and the place was still so we let her go.

"I want to play that." I don't care that I am 2 and it is giant.

She did a great job climbing to the top and moving across on the rope bridge. After a couple of passes on the rope bridge, she decided she was done. Unfortunately, she couldn't figure out how to get down or exactly where we were (right below her). So she started screaming "mommy" from the top of her lungs. So I kicked off my shoes, channeled my inner child and started climbing. While the structure is pretty big, it isn't designed for a 5'7" adult. In the short time it took me to get to the top, E was crying so hard tears were dropping through the rope bridge where she was stuck. I felt so bad for her, but we climbed down and a few minutes later she was fine.

We played some more. Including dancing on a screen with some crayons and doing some more coloring. Then someone started getting hungry and tired (it may have been Mommy), so we grabbed some lunch at the mall and came home. E was asleep before we were out of the parking lot.

Dance Break

This was a much better experience than our first one. Going early and on a Sunday was a huge bonus and meant that E could do everything without waiting. We can't really do waiting right now, so that was really good. They also had some fun Halloween Activities including a scavenger hunt, painting pumpkins and treat stations. 

Halloween Fun
After this trip, I am happy we have annual passes.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

My Next Step - Owning It

Over the weekend I attended FLBlogCon. The theme for this years conference was "The Next Step." I spent the day learning tons from other bloggers and meeting lots of amazing people. It also got me thinking about my own next step.

When I started this blog a little over 4 years ago, I didn't really tell many people about it. Those of you who follow me on Twitter and a few close friends were really the only ones I shared the blog with. Then I started commenting on other blogs and expanding my network that way. I have met some of the coolest people through blogging. 

Very recently I added my blog to Instagram and Pinterest, but it has been subtle. I still hadn't really shared it with my closest circle, my friends and family on Facebook. It is a little counterintuitive, but I am always most nervous sharing things with those closest to me. I value their opinions and don't want to let them down.

Over the past few years, life has been crazy and at times kept me away from blogging for longer than I would have liked. There have been several times when I thought about shutting the site down, but I couldn't ever pull the trigger. So, for my next step, I am no longer going to keep the blog in the background, but really own it instead.

Now I am fearlessly sharing that in addition to the many other hats I wear, I am a blogger.