ROCK ‘N’ ROLL VIRGINIA BEACH HALF MARATHON 2014

Rock-n-Roll-Virginia-Beach-06

It’s been four weeks since I ran RnR Virginia Beach but I have regained my running mojo and have such fond memories of the race that I decided to post this delayed recap. Besides, the fact that I left the State to get there makes it noteworthy. Everyone has an opinion about the Rock ‘n’ Roll race series and I won’t get into all of that but I will say that I have enjoyed the three races that I have run with them.

Now, the disclaimer that should have been posted about the race was that if you were driving in from out of town you should be aware that there was a possibility that you would have to cross this bad boy.

cbbt-300x200

That’s the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel aka The Beast Bridge. It is 20 miles long and turns into an underwater tunnel at two points. At a certain point you can’t see any land while on the bridge. Actually, it is possible that land was visible behind me but I’m no fool. I was not about to take my eyes off the piece of thread in front of me that was posing as a bridge. No siree bob. Turns out the Beast Bridge route shaved 90 minutes off my drive from New York to Virginia Beach and I desperately needed that time because I barely made the 5:00 p.m. packet pick-up at the expo … and a fine expo it was. After picking up my bib and a pair of compression sleeves, I rushed on over to The Yard House to have dinner with members of the National Black Marathon Association. I had a great time meeting fellow runners and indulging in some unnecessary tasty carb loading.

Dinner with NBNA
Dinner with NBNA –  I’m in the back but I promise I was there

Since the hotel prices were inflated due to Labor Day weekend and probably the race, I chose to stay in Chesapeake. Besides, the only two hotels (um, cough cough … motels) on the Boardwalk that weren’t sold out resembled overpriced dingy tenements. The good news is that plenty of complementary shuttle buses were provided at the Farm Bureau Live Amphitheater to transport the runners to and from the race start and finish. That worked out beautifully.

Onward to the race. After arriving at the at the start location, I saw that there had been food provided. I had already fueled but thought that was a nice option. It was warm for a 7:00 a.m. start but I deliberately had not checked the weather because I heard the race was typically hot and I didn’t want to psych myself out. There was a large contingency from Black Girls Run! and Half Fanatics and so I took pictures with them and started the race with Tammy and Loretta, two awesome BGR! members from Greensboro, NC.

I Love BGR

By the end of mile one I was sweating like a pig. I’m not even sure if pigs sweat. Anyway, I was drenched and at that point realized that it was super humid.

Do pigs even sweat?
Do pigs even sweat?

Despite the heat and humidity, I was feeling pretty good and was enjoying the bands playing along the way. The race was still very congested at mile 3 and I lost my buddies at the water station. After mile 4 a band was rocking out to Michael Jackson’s Bad and not too long after that the spectators started cheering so hard that I ran a little taller. Just as I was beginning to think I was a rockstar, I realized that the crowd, as well as other runners, were actually cheering for the front runners who were on their way back to the finish line … nice. No really, good for them. So I plugged on and it got hotter and hotter. Hats off to Competitor for being prepared though. All of the water stations were where they were supposed to be and there was a wet sponge station and some sort of misting device to run through. Of course I ran around it because I didn’t realize what it was until it was too late. There were also local people along the race course who were spraying the runners with water. Bless their hearts. I was trucking along until around mile 11 when I realized that if I sped up a little, I could actually blast my PR by a few minutes.

Tick, Tick, Tick
Tick, Tick, Tick

So now I’m running faster than I should be considering the weather conditions and I realize that it is blazing hot. At some point I zoned out and by the time I completed mile 12 and looked at my watch, it became apparent that I really hadn’t been running that fast at all. The PR was slipping away so I stepped it up and kept a watchful eye on my watch. It was looking attainable again but then a steep hill in the form of a ramp appeared. The nerve!!! I suddenly recalled that we climbed a hill in the first mile and since this was an out and back course, I should have been expecting it. I zipped by bunch of runners who opted to walk the hill. Walking it was probably the smart thing to do but I was on a mission. With the hill conquered, my new problem was that my watch was ahead of the course. It was telling me that I had already run 13 miles but the 13 mile course marker was nowhere to be seen. I hate that but really it happens all the time. Soon, I find myself on the Boardwalk. Awesomeness, the race is coming to a close. But wait, I can’t see the finish line. Just how long is this Boardwalk and do we have to run the entire thing????

Finish L[ne
Finish Line
I finally see the finish line in the distance. I barrel towards the arch but it just doesn’t seem to be getting any closer. My watch tells me I’m moving at a nice clip but if I don’t get there soon the PR is gone. And that wouldn’t be the worst thing but to get so close and miss is the worst thing, so I keep at it. The elusive finish line starts to get bigger. I am so close. Now I throw whatever decent running form I had left out the window. I am taking giant steps and I’m pumping my arms to get to the finish. I cross the line and PR by exactly one minute.

Every now and then I turn into a White Russian man
Every now and then I turn into a White Russian man

Now, all I want to do is lay down on the Boardwalk but my legs feel like lead and I know I have to keep moving. So I keep walking. There are lots of giveaways and I’m picking up my chocolate milk, Gatorade, apple, chip and the like but I am feeling uncomfortable and super cranky. It suddenly becomes too much for me to walk and carry all of my goodies. So I start looking for a bag to put them in. Apparently, a vendor was giving away orange tote bags but it must have been located a mile down the Boardwalk because I never reached it. After carrying on about needing a plastic bag, a nice volunteer found me a massive plastic bag. I was satisfied until the unfortunate thing happened. I saw a Dairy Queen right as I was leaving the Boardwalk. I haven’t been within 100 feet of a Dairy Queen in over 15 years and miraculously there was an empty table right next to it. But I was so cranky and afraid to stop and sit that I felt compelled to keep moving. I felt like the man in the picture below. I was angry at Dairy Queen for being there.

Man attacking Dairy Queen
Man attacking the Dairy Queen

I finally made it to the air conditioned shuttle and took my well earned seat. Surprisingly, after an ice bath and a few minutes in my compression sleeves, I was feeling good enough to jump in the car to travel to my next destination, which was Georgia.

Race Shirt and Medal
Race Shirt and Medal

All in all it was a great experience even though the course wasn’t the most inspiring. The medal pictured above is really nice and doubles as a bottle opener. Although I wasn’t able to participate, runners were able to compete in a One Mile Run on the Beach the day before the Half Marathon. The One Miler came with its own medal and those who did both races received a third medal. So it was a potential bling bonanza. Competitor gets a thumbs up on this one.

Advertisements

TRENTON DOUBLE CROSS HALF MARATHON RECAP

trenton-half-logo

It’s been a long time since I have posted. I have run a few good races since my last post. Last month I did the Rock n Roll Brooklyn 10K but I will admit that my running has fallen by the wayside a little. Now, today marked the second year of the Trenton Double Cross Half Marathon. I had been looking forward to this race for a long time as it was recommended by Black Girls Run (BGR) AND because BGR was providing a special finisher medal to its members. So this race was a bona fide twofer bling fest. However, my training was hampered by my busy schedule and my last couple of runs did not look too promising. But I was determine to see this one through.

In addition to my running woes, there were a few things that gave me pause about how the race was going to go. First I realized late in the game that there was an actual host hotel that I was not staying in. I did seek out that information on the race website prior to booking a room at the Comfort Inn in Morrisville, PA. Apparently, the race coordinators added this information later. So my travel buddy and I wound up having to drive over to the host hotel to catch the shuttle bus to the race. Then after arriving a the hotel, I realized that I had left my watch at the Comfort Inn. Yikes. I NEVER run any race without my Garmin, much less a half marathon. I was completely freaked out and annoyed because if I was staying at the host hotel I would be able to retrieve my watch by just jumping on an elevator. The third problem was the shuttle buses, they seemed to have just one shuttle bus to take runners to the race location. This cause a little tension because there were hundreds of runners trying to get on one yellow school bus. And finally, I brought my “stomach medicine” to race and then forgot to take it. There will be no further exploration of that topic.

sad face

Anyway, we got to the race and lined up. It was freezing … well, almost. It was 33 degrees. As I was positioning myself at the start, I saw the five year old boy that was going to be running the half marathon. He had been getting a lot of press as he would be the youngest person to complete a Half. I was genuinely excited for the lad but not thrilled at the thought of being bested by a five year old. I moved further down in the starting chute and was happy to not have to look at boy wonder anymore. The anthem was sung by a Tony Bennett-esque man. He did a good job and then we were off.

trenton start

I was obsessing about starting too fast because I had no idea what my pace was. Early in the race I ran into Lisa from my BGR group and we ran together for about six or seven miles. She lives by the watch too and helped me with my pace. Also, I didn’t see a bunch of mile markers and had no idea how far we had run. When I finally asked Lisa what mile we were at in race, she said, “Five.” FIVE???? FIVE measly miles!!!! I was hoping she was going to say Eight. At that point we had passed many water stations and I figured were further along. Kudos to Trenton, I have never been so hydrated in my entire life.

Drank so much I turned into a cute White man
Drank so much I turned into a cute White man

Alright, that’s not really me. Now, if you are wondering why the race is called “double cross” it’s because the race starts in Trenton at the Arm and Hammer Stadium and then crosses (by bridge) into Morrisville, Pennsylvania and then it goes back to Trenton (by another bridge). The bridges were a little tough because the surfaces are uneven metal grates. By the time we got to the second bridge, most of the runners (including me) opted to run on the paved pedestrian walkway. Things were moving right along until mile 8, when I saw him. That five year old whizzed right past me at the water station. I had a near melt down. Lisa had to near slap me back into reality. I continued to run but was starting to feel really sluggish. It didn’t help that we entered a park with a brutal hill. At this point I knew I couldn’t keep up with Lisa and just slowed it down a little. At mile 9 I gained my second wind. Oh yeah, I felt like I was really moving but I didn’t know for sure without my watch. I was right behind the little tyke. He looked so cute and strong. He was holding a woman’s hand (maybe his mother) and was doing his thing. I noticed that they didn’t seem to stop at the water stations. The woman had a hydration belt and they were most likely self fueling. I felt a little bad for trying to compete against a small child … BUT NOT THAT BAD!!! See yah kiddo. I passed him at around mile 9.5. My second wind left me at around mile 12. Which was the last mile marker on the course. This drove me near crazy because I had no idea how close I was to the finish. At one point, right at the stadium parking lot, the spectators were lined up and cheering. Believing I was right around the corner from the finish line, I sped up and began high fiving all the spectators. BRING ON MY MEDALS!!! I turned the corner and think I really heard a needle scratch a record. THERE WAS NO FINISH IN SIGHT. Disappointment does not begin to describe my feeling at that moment. Eventually I entered the actual stadium. There were tons of spectators there and high energy but I still couldn’t see the finish line. When I finally saw it, I was so excited but couldn’t muster up a sprint to the finish. Other runners were flying by me but I didn’t even care. I trotted on through that finish line. The announcer proclaimed my finish. This was a really nice touch as this was a large race but they still managed to announce everyone as they crossed the finish line.

The Baseball Stadium Where the Race Ended
The Baseball Stadium Where the Race Ended

As I was looking at the stadium steps that I was going to have to walk up after running 13 miles, the crowd erupted. Five year old Anthony Russo had just crossed the finish line as the youngest person to complete a Half Marathon. AMAZING. And here’s the kicker, he beat me. When I checked the race results, his time was around a minute faster than my 2:23:11. Apparently, I crossed the start line way ahead of him. GOOD FOR ANTHONY!!!

011

This was a good race and I wouldn’t mind doing it again. I feel it will just get better since it’s only in its second year. I have to give a special shout out to the Comfort Inn in Morrisville because they were really cool about extending our checkout time so we could get ourselves together before hitting the road. Also, Andrea, my partner in crime on this running mission, gets a shout out for rubbing and stretching legs after they both cramped up as I unsuccessfully tried to get out of the car after driving back to New York. She endured my screams of pain really well. With that said … WHEN’S THE NEXT RACE!?!

Brooklyn Half Marathon 2013 Recap

nyrr_bkhalf13_webbanner_2
The plan was for the Zooma Annapolis Half Marathon on June 1st to be my next big event. But, since I had already completed my 12 mile long run, I decided that I might as well run the Brooklyn Half as a training run in lieu of the 14 mile long run on my schedule. So I registered for it two weeks before the race. It had previously sold out in one day but New York Road Runners reopened registration and began marketing it as a marquee race. As the race approached I started to get nervous about it, especially because I struggled through a 10K the week before and because it would only be my second half marathon.

Before I knew it, race morning was here. The plan was to take my time, try out my strawberry flavored Chomps and new playlist and have fun. The course ran from the Brooklyn Museum on the corner of Eastern Parkway and Washington Avenue, around Prospect Park, down Ocean Parkway and finished on the Coney Island Boardwalk. My main concern was getting through the Prospect Park portion of the race. I am fast learning that the word “Park” is racing code for “Hills” and we know how I feel about those.

After the hubbster dropped me off, I went off to find bag check and my corral. There were people everywhere. This race was massive but the sun was shining and there was a great energy. When I finally made it to my corral, which seemed to be a mile away from anything constructive, I decided to line up for … Oh Yeah … the Porta Potty. Since I had tried to hydrate like a champ the day before and had been sipping water all morning, this visit was not negotiable. For security purposes, the Potties were inside the corrals. Let me tell you, my corral time was not the most pleasant experience as those throne rooms were stinking up the joint. We were lined up with our shirts over our noses. I got in and out as fast as I could and prayed that would be my only visitation for the day. Oh and here’s a tip. Always, carry a few squares of toilet paper with you. A guy who was two people ahead of me announced that our Porta Potty had no toilet paper and proceeded to look panicked. I had my little stash but started to fret because a man needing toilet paper means only one thing … enough about THAT.

There were two starting waves. I was in the second wave and we started 35 minutes after wave one. There were so many people it still seemed to take forever to get to the start after our gun went off. When we finally crossed the start, I realized that my corral mates were near sprinting and I was running right along with them. I slowed down and tried to keep a responsible pace but I was still running faster than I planned. Then we turned onto Flatbush Avenue and headed up to Grand Army plaza. Now I have driven this road countless times and never once noticed that there was a steady incline. Well my legs certainly took notice now. Check it out.

The Run Up and Down Flatbush Avenue
The Run Up and Down Flatbush Avenue

As we approached Grand Army Plaza Sylvester’s “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” gave me an extra push as did the cheerleaders at the Plaza. A couple of the male cheerleaders were emanating a Studio 54 vibe while Sylvester was singing in my ear. This was a great moment and I waved and whoo-hooed at the cheerleaders. Good times. Before I knew it mile three was done.

We entered the park at around mile three and a half and yes there were hills. There was one particularly menacing hill that just kept winding and bending so you couldn’t see an end in sight. Anyway, when I hit mile four a bunch of guys from a local running club started chanting “four down and nine to go” and that army thing “I don’t know but I’ve been told … sound off, one two …” Then they broke off and started running really fast in between the runners encouraging everyone. It was a wonderful distraction. The next memorable moment came at about mile five and a half. I ran into a guy who was singing Sheila E’s “Glamorous Life” obnoxiously loud. Awesome. I sang with him for a little while, “Without love, it aint much, it aint much.” He had the nerve to look at me like I was crazy. More good times. At mile seven and a half, I ran out of the park in a blaze of glory. Ding dong, the park was done.
Parkway

The picture above shows runners on the entrance ramp to Fort Hamilton Parkway (at least I think that’s where we were). It was pretty cool to see a Brooklyn Parkway with no traffic. I couldn’t wait to get on it. By this time, the sun was no longer shining. It was cloudy and nice and cool. In a blink, I was on Ocean Parkway. I remember looking up and seeing the sign for Avenue C. I realized that I was starting to feel a little tired.

At mile eight, they were handing out Gu at the hydration station. I had one of my Chomps instead and washed it down with a good helping of water. There were 11 fluid stations and I hydrated at all but two of them. After the Gu station, the ground was sticky for a while. So in addition to being tired I had to peel my feet off the ground. Ew. When I passed Avenue G, I thought, “Well at least I’m getting somewhere.” Then of course I realized that I was getting nowhere because the next street was not Avenue H. It was some arbitrary randomly named street. I was annoyed. It felt like forever before I got to Avenue H. I decided “H” was for Hallelujah! At mile nine I was really tired and my legs felt heavy. Ugh. Then, BOOM! Like a mirage there appeared four or five Black Girls Run members on the side of the course. I didn’t know them but they cheered for me like there was no tomorrow. BGR rocks. I got my second wind. I was having a good ole time as I passed mile ten and headed towards eleven. But as I approached the mile 11 hydration station I was near limping. My left glute (or some muscle back there) was killing me and a toe on my left foot was hurting. Bad times. But at this point I had only two miles to go and so I kept at it. At mile 12, I stopped at the hydration station, I did the grab and run through the others. I made sure I got a good drink of Gatorade and Water because it was the last fluid station before the finish line.

soon after, I recall seeing the 800 meter mark and decided that I hate the fact that they feel the need to place a marker there. It’s just too far away to get excited about almost finishing. I decided to save my excitement for the 400 meter mark and I was completely psyched when I saw it. I got a little extra pep in my step. It was the equivalent of one lap around the track and I could do that. Soon I was on the boardwalk where there was a nice crowd of spectators and could see the finish line. Check out the boardwalk. Boardwalk

What a cool finish. I crossed the line and sought out my medal because after all, it’s all about the bling.
Finisher's Medal

I wound up running the race harder than I should have, considering it was supposed to be a training run. But a race is a race, right? I was pleased with my time of 2:21:07. This was my second half marathon and I ran a PR. So I was feeling really pleased with myself until I had started to walk down the steps to exit the boardwalk. It was bad folks, I let out quite the yelp. Holy soreness!!!