Tag Archives: half marathon

Breaking Two Hours

For months, I’ve been teetering just above the two hour half marathon mark, but it has continued to elude me. Until now.

Let March 31, 2012 go down in the history books as the day I broke through the 2 hour time barrier, finishing the Viking Half Marathon in 1:59:44. That averages out to a 9:08 mile, which may not sound terribly impressive, but my battered left hip and black toenails beg to differ. That’s roughly 17 minutes faster than the first half marathon I completed 3.5 years ago, and 15 seconds faster than my goal. As long as my official race time started with a 1, I didn’t care what the remaining digits were. And numbers aside, from an emotional standpoint it was one of the most meaningful races I’ve ever run.

Meaningful, because I was accompanied by a devoted pit crew. Two of my dear friends, Kim and Cristen, joined me on the trip solely to see that I accomplished this goal. It is not lost on me that these ladies essentially gave up their Friday nights, their Saturday mornings, and their own shots at a PR all to support my endeavor. They ran beside me, offering me pace updates and encouragement at regular intervals, and I absolutely could not have done it without them. I am so blessed to have friends who care enough about my goals to make them their own. What a rare act of sacrifice in a world so consumed with self.

We left town at 5am and passed the two hour drive to Greenwood, Mississippi with plentiful conversation. Upon arrival in the Delta, we gathered our race packets, stretched our tight muscles, discussed strategy, then situated ourselves at the start line. The second the gun announced go time, we hit the ground running. We ran the first half of the race a little ahead of pace, and I was feeling great. I often enjoy chatting during my long runs, but on this particular day it was all business. I was in the zone. I bounded along, admiring the overhanging canopy of trees, a lone bird sitting atop a telephone wire, the warm sunshine cut by an occasional breeze.

At mile 6, one of my pacers fell off with a piriformis ache. Kim passed me her Garmin and insisted that we press forward. And then there were two. Cristen and I continued onwards, but my spryness was fading. While the roads we ran were scenic, I no longer noticed. By mile 9, we were both hurting, and 10 and 11 seemed endless. Other than the occasional coaching tip and inspiring word, there wasn’t much room for conversation; we were more focused on staying upright and breathing at this point. At mile 12, my partner stopped for a quick walking break and sent me ahead to tackle the beast on my own.

One mile to go, and it was just me and God. I wanted nothing more than to lay down in the green grass, but that’s no way to run a sub 2 hour half, so I refrained. I ate a well-timed orange slice and hunkered down. Each step was a struggle. I prayed for wings like eagles, for God’s strength to carry me those last dreadful meters, and He showed up. Each trudging step moved me a little closer, and I eventually found myself approaching the most glorious, magical, welcome sight – the finish line. Even at this point, even with only a few steps left, I didn’t know with certainty that I would make it. It wasn’t until I literally stepped foot across the threshold that I knew my efforts had paid off.

And just like that, less than two hours later, I was done. I crossed that line with seconds to spare, fell into Kim’s congratulatory hug, and then went straight for the water jugs. It took a while to really sink in that we had accomplished what we set out to do, and oh, what a sweet, sweet victory it was.

 

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50 Half Marathons in 50 States

Today is the day I go public with my latest endeavor, and that is to run a half marathon in every state. Fifty half marathons in fifty states before I’m fifty years old. It’s lofty, sure, but not insurmountable.

I have heard of the concept before, but never had I thought to consider it as an option for myself. Until recently, that is. My interest came about by accident, really. I was searching the internet for some non-running-related information about a particular locale and landed on an alphabetical listing of all the U.S. states. Coincidentally, my half marathon training spreadsheet also happened to be open on my desktop. I saw the two side by side, and it just clicked. I love running and I love traveling; merge the two together, and you have the birth of a new goal.

I’m not attacking this venture with a vengeance and trying to accomplish it in a speedy rampage. Instead, I plan on knocking off the states at my leisure and when opportunities present themselves. The feat will surely take several years, and I am 100% comfortable with that.

I’ve outlined a handful of guidelines, just to give myself some parameters to work within:

  1. Each race must be 13.1 miles at minimum; however, races above this mileage are accepted and encouraged. So long as you have completed at least a 13.1 mile race in a particular state, you have satisfied your requirement for said state.
  2. The race must be an official event, meaning that it was publicly announced in some form of media, such as a newspaper, website, magazine, running publication, or race brochure and of which official verifiable results are maintained and/or published to the general public. Translation: a solo long run isn’t going to cut it.
  3. The race must be completed without interruption. As challenging as they are, relay races that break your running stints into smaller increments do not count.
  4. You must officially complete the race. Gotta make it across the finish line. Note that you must be officially signed up for a race in order to officially complete it. No banditting, please.
  5. Running a race that crosses borders of more than one state will count as satisfying only one state requirement.  It’s flexible though; you pick whether it’s the location where the event started or finished.

There, I believe I’ve covered all the main points.

Anybody who would like to play along with me, by all means, join in on the action. I would love for my running buddies to accompany me on races across the country both near and far. You can adopt my very official regulations, or create your own more suitable to your taste. It’s your goal, after all.

Let’s do this.

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Foot Traffic Flat Half Marathon

Our third day in Portland, the morning of my half marathon, started with a 4am wakeup call. I know I haven’t shared days one and two with you yet, but for reasons unknown this is the first one I started writing about, so we’ll just pick up smack dab in the middle of our trip.

We shuttled 15 minutes north of Portland to Sauvie Island, then entertained ourselves with various island attractions until the Foot Traffic Flat Half Marathon started. At 6:45am, the race began, and I was off. The course followed a two-lane country road looping around the island’s picturesque farmland, and I lost myself in the scenery. About halfway through the race, it occurred to me that I might have a shot at running a personal best. I wasn’t positive, but I knew that if it was going to happen, I’d need to kick it up a notch. I hate it when I get ideas like this in my head.

But run harder, I did. I continued along sans headphones until mile 10 (poor planning, lack of battery), and the course was secluded and laid out in such a way that there were virtually no cheerleaders along the route. Luckily, I had Jax texting me a steady stream of encouragement to carry me through. Our conversation went as follows:

Jax @ 7:18am: How are you feeling? About 3 in?

Mel @ 7:20am: Feeling all right, hoping to get into my groove soon. 26 minutes in. Not sure where. You having a dance party?

Jax @ 7:23am: Solo ravin to some Daft Punk. You’re doing great babe, love you. You’ll get that groove.

Mel @ 7:31am: 36.43, 4 miles

Jax @ 7:49am: Awesome babe. Go you!

Mel @ 7:50am: 55 min 6 miles

Jax @ 7:51am: You’re doing it! Almost half there!

Mel @ 8:08am: 5 miles to go

Jax @ 8:09am: Do it for America!

Jax @8:09am: Keep it up!

Jax @ 8:25am: Almost there baby! Doing great!

Mel @ 8:26am: Ten

Jax @ 8:38am: Finish strong babe! You got this!

We had a good laugh over the fact that my texts got shorter and more cryptic the further I got into the race. I chalk it up to numb fingers, and to the reality that I was doing everything I could to simply stay upright and keep moving forward, let alone type detailed messages on a small keypad. While I got the PR I was looking for, the increased effort made the second half of my run a lot more uncomfortable than I would have liked. I’ve decided that running with a specific time goal is my least favorite way to run; I’d much prefer to just run naturally and enjoy the event and let the numbers work themselves out. Unfortunately, now that I’ve earned a 2:00:12, I have a feeling the achiever in me is going to attempt to shave 13 seconds off my next half marathon finishing time….

Though I must say, once I got over the dizziness, finishing with a personal best felt nice, and I got my first official race picture with the boyfriend:

That, and the finisher medals were made from recycled bicycle chains in Oregon and almost as sweet as the island-fresh homemade strawberry shortcake we chowed down on as a post-race treat.

Once we shuttled back, Jax and I located a carton of chocolate milk (like the kind you drank in elementary school) to tide me over until lunch, and then we took a nice stroll through Portland’s Alphabet District. Because more time on my feet was exactly what I needed at this point. After a short power nap, we decided that we wanted to spend our Fourth of July on the west coast, and that is exactly what we did.

Stay tuned for some Cannon Beach action!

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Half Marathoning in Costa Rica

The Gatorade Tamarindo Beach Half Marathon started at 5 am, so Mere and I woke around 4 am thinking that would give us plenty of time to get warmed up and eat before the race. This didn’t go quite as planned, and we did little of either, but somehow still managed to make it to the starting line with minutes to spare. We accidentally started with either the 10k-ers or the full marathoners, we couldn’t really tell which because everything was in Spanish, but we knew enough to surmise that we were in the wrong place. But that is neither here nor there.

It was dark when the race started, but the sun began to rise early into the run, and it was just gorgeous. The scenery was beyond breathtaking, with lush greenery surrounding us and misty mountains rising in the distance. We didn’t wear headphones because we wanted to fully take in the sights and sounds around us; howler monkeys hooted in the background, and locals lined the streets cheering “Vaminos, vaminos!”

By the grace of God, I had an incredibly strong run. I was all but unaware that my legs were moving, I was so mesmerized by the beauty around me. It also helped that there were very few mile markers, so we never had a solid sense of how far we had come or how much distance we had left to cover. I actually found myself feeling sad that the run was going by so quickly and wishing it wouldn’t end. I didn’t want to stop when it was over; I felt like I could run forever out there.

Unfortunately, Mere got a gnarly blister around mile 9, and since we had promised to finish the race together, that slowed us up a bit and my finishing time wasn’t reflective of how great I felt during the race. Our clock time means little though; the important thing is that we ran a half marathon in Costa Rica, and it was one of my favorite life experiences. Here I am being a sweaty mess just after crossing the finish line:

Because we are insane, we hit the beach for another surfing lesson almost immediately after receiving our medals. Don’t ask me where this energy came from, because it is unexplainable. All I know is that we had four days in Costa Rica, and we were determined to do everything we possibly could (except sleep). We surfed for an hour, then got hour-long full body massages on the beach. Bliss. After being sufficiently relaxed and kneaded to the sound of crashing waves, it was time for our snorkeling tour. Stay tuned.

P.S. If you want to read more about my experience during the actual run, I invite you to check out my Race Recaps tab, where I share a chronological assessment of the various races I participate in.

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Costa Rica Bound

In exactly one week from today, I will be boarding a plane to paradise with my good friend Mere. Costa Rica, more specifically, but it’s practically the same thing, so I use the words interchangeably.

I am SO EXCITED to embark on this adventure to arguably the happiest and greenest country in the world, which also happens to be the site of my next half marathon, the Gatorade Tamarindo Beach Half Marathon. I have been diligently training over the past eleven weeks, loosely following Hal Hidgon’s training prescription. I say loosely, because my life doesn’t operate according to any semblance of routine. My days, while well-planned in an effort to maximize productivity and activity, are always different. Some days I would wake up early to run before heading to the office, others I would run trails after work, and still others I would opt for the treadmill and bootcamp classes. My runs were scheduled and rearranged to accommodate evening and travel plans, but somehow, amidst all the chaos, training ensued, and I gradually increased my endurance and speed. Training is now close to culmination, and tomorrow night, Mere and I will tackle our last long run – ten miles – before race day.

Back to Costa Rica, and how this whole adventure developed. Since the beginning of our friendship, Mere and I have spent many hours discussing our dreams, and we dream big, and all over the map. A couple years ago when I was working at the florist, we had great plans to take on Europe, foiled only by the fact that I landed a great job that I just couldn’t pass up. Darn the economy! Maybe one day, Mere! Fast forward to this year, where we entertained many different ideas before stumbling across this amazing opportunity in Costa Rica. It wasn’t until I purchased the plane tickets that I believed we were actually going, and I still don’t think I’ve fully grasped the excitement of it all.

Somebody pinch me.

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