Palmetto Bluff Half Marathon Race Report

This was a fun racecation.  My husband and I decided to do a weekend getaway that would involve warmer climate and a race for me.  This winter has been absolutely brutal, not that we knew that was going to be the case when we originally planned the trip, but it worked out well.  Basically, he gave me a weekend that he would be available, and he said, find a race you want to do.  Basically, I only found 2 realistic options — a race near Las Vegas, and the Palmetto Bluff  Half Marathon in Bluffton, SC, near Hilton Head.  Perfect.
 
It was really cold and nasty when we left NJ on Friday, but when we arrived in SC it was also cold and nasty — drizzling with temperatures in the high 40s.  We went for a walk on the beach anyway.
 

The next morning dawned sunny and beautiful.  Temperatures rose into the high 60s/low 70s, and we spent a lot of time walking on the beach and hanging out by the pool.  We drove to packet pickup and then had a nice sushi dinner.  Unfortunately, that evening my stomach wasn’t behaving, and we were both worried that I wouldn’t be able to race the next day.

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Packet pick up

 

Fortunately, when I awakened Sunday morning my stomach was fine.  We drove the 45 minutes to the race site which was at Palmetto Bluff Resort.  We were able to drive on part of the race course, so I had a good idea of what to expect — beautiful trees, flat, scenic.
 
Before the race, I prepared my bottles with coconut water and put my baby food pouches in my fuel belt.  All set. My husband said he was going to go to the other side of the starting line to try to get photos.
 
Soon after starting, I realized that my fuel belt was going to be a problem.  It’s Velcro, and I had tightened it as much as I could and had secured the extra part of the strap with a safety pin, but I kept having trouble with my bottles coming out and the whole thing riding up and down.  It wouldn’t stay put as it usually would.  I guess it’s old now, and it probably is more stretched out since I’ve been running with more layers than usual this winter due to extreme cold.  One lady recommended that I hand off the bottles to a volunteer to pick up later, but I wanted my coconut water. I stopped just before mile 2 and tried to readjust the belt, but it didn’t work. I ended up putting one bottle in my top between the top and the sports bra, and the other bottle seemed to stay put in the fuel belt.  Not attractive, but whatever works.
 
Unfortunately, somewhere during having to stop several times to pick up dropped bottles and stopping to readjust my belt, I realized that I had accidentally stopped my Garmin.  It was at 1.88 miles, and I had already well passed the 2 mile mark.  I restarted it but had to wait until the next mile marker to see how far behind I was. 
 
I was already off to a rocky start.  Not really, actually — I happened to be running the pace I wanted to pretty easily.  Despite the fact that I had not been able to train well this winter due to the bad weather, I was on pace for a PR.
 
Eventually (somewhere around mile 5 maybe) I was fortunate enough to end up running with a group that were keeping the pace that I wanted to keep.  The group consisted of a guy and 3 women.  One of the women had just moved to SC from NJ so we had something else in common!  It was fun running together and it took my mind off the fact that my lack of training should be catching up. 
 
One of the women commented that she really liked my running skirt, that it was cute and flirty.  She said that she wouldn’t comment on my “jugs”, referring to my prominent water bottle sticking out of my top.  Ha ha!
 
One of the things we talked about was what we were most looking forward to at the end of the race.  The guy said he was looking forward to the finish line.  I said I was looking forward to the BBQ.  One woman said she was looking forward to earning the finisher’s medal.
 
We were cruising along and entered the little village right around the 10 mile mark.  There were homes, shops, and restaurants, and there were quite a few spectators out cheering us on.  We came upon our first “hill”, a little bridge going over a stream, and we joked about the huge hill.  One of our group commented that we had a great group with a great vibe going on.  Spectators were cheering and waving to us all when we came to the second big “hill”, another bridge.  This one was a metal grid bridge, the type that I hate driving or running on because they tend to be very slippery.  Just as I was telling myself to be careful, one of the women in our group goes down hard.  We all swarm to her an ask her if she’s OK, but it was obvious that she wasn’t.  Her face was bleeding from a couple of gashes sustained from her glasses cutting her face when she fell.  You know the split second feeling of “what do I do” when there’s a crisis?  My first thought was to get help, and I knew there was a volunteer that we had passed not long before.  I ran backwards to find the volunteer; another of our group ran forward to find a volunteer; and 2 stayed with the injured runner as she was very upset (as anyone would be).
 
The volunteers came, and after asking the injured runner if she was OK and wanted to keep running, realized that she definitely needed medical attention.  The rest of us were at a loss as to what to do as other runners streamed past us, and as the volunteers led the injured woman away.  Unfortunately, this was the first half marathon for the woman who fell, as bad luck would have it.  That knowledge made me feel sick to my stomach — such a shame that she was the one who got injured (I REALLY hope that this does not turn her off to half marathons).  We took off running again, but it wasn’t the same.  The 2 SC friends seemed to be on a mission to finish the race for their friend, and I couldn’t keep up.  The other NJ woman was right behind me. 
 
With the wind knocked out of my sails, it was a struggle to finish the race.  Yes, I would finish, but my feet really started hurting, and I just kept telling myself, only X amount to go. 
 
Without reliable Garmin data due to the Garmin being turned off, and with fuzzy race math which often happens late in the race, I couldn’t calculate what my finish time might be, or what I needed to do to make it better.  I just willed myself forward.
 

Eventually, I could hear the music from the finisher area and knew the end was near.  I rounded a corner and could see the finish arch.  As I scanned the crowd to find my husband, I willed myself forward.  Finally I saw him and smiled and looked all happy for the camera.  To my credit, you can’t tell from the photos that my feet were in pain and I was just done.  As I glanced at the finish clock, seeing that I was finishing in 1:57 and change was a surprise (official finish time was 1:57:28).  Not a bad finish considering lack of training and the incidents during the race.

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 Heading toward the finish line

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My new favorite race photo…running toward a finish line that says “start”

I received my finisher medal and water bottle, then headed over to meet my husband so I could have some of that BBQ.  While we were in line for BBQ we were talking with a man behind us who happened to have grown up in the neighboring town to where we live now — small world.

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BBQ and a finisher medal — what more could a runner want?

The BBQ and music were great, and after we were done, we started to walk toward the parking area.  Then I spotted my running group — the NJ woman and the 2 SC runners.  I asked about the status of their injured friend, and they didn’t know for sure but thought she had been taken to the hospital for stitches.  We talked for awhile about the race and about other races, then wished each other well and headed our separate ways.

 
Overall, this was a well-organized race on a beautiful course.  It’s a shame that a runner was injured, but otherwise I had a great experience.  My husband and I spent the rest of the day walking on the beach and relaxing by the pool.  Plus, I feel great about the start to the race season and feel confident that with decent training, I can shatter my half marathon PR this year.
 
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Summer Breeze half Marathon Race Report

The whole concept of our family vacation this year was to include something that is important/enjoyable to each person in our family.  My husband and son are huge baseball fanatics and have a goal of visiting all 30 Major League Baseball parks.  My daughter is very interested in anything to do with the performing arts.  The kids and I love the beach/ocean.  And of course I love running.
 
So we settled on California, specifically Los Angeles, San Francisco/Oakland, and Santa Barbara!  There’s Hollywood, there are plenty of baseball parks, miles and miles of beaches, and there happened to be a half marathon near Oakland, CA.  Perfect!
 
We spent several days in LA doing all the touristy Hollywood stuff and had a great time.  Then we took a leisurely (long) drive up to San Francisco, stopping a few times to see different beaches along the way.  We even saw sea lions!  Of course, at one of our stops I accidentally shut the car door on my right foot….figures, the day before my race…..
 
We arrived in San Francisco in the evening and it was cold!  After dinner, I got all my race stuff out and everything that we would need for the baseball game after the race and tried to go to sleep.
 
After getting up early and going down to breakfast as soon as the hotel buffet opened at 6 am, we hit the road for San Leandro (near Oakland).  Generally, I like to be really early to races, and since it’s usually just myself going to the race, it isn’t a big deal.  But I felt guilty about dragging the whole family out too early (plus breakfast buffet wasn’t open until 6 am anyway) so I swallowed my anxiety and said it was OK if we got there by 7:15 for the 8 am start. 
 
Things to freak out about:  (a) I didn’t have my normal pre-race breakfast of sweet potato and scrambled eggs — there were scrambled eggs, but I had fruit instead; (b) hubby announces on the way that we need to get gas for the car or we might not make it to the Oakland A’s game after the race; (c) will the packet pickup and bathroom lines be long? (d) did I forget anything?
 
We arrived at the race site about 7:10, parked the car, and followed the crowd over to the race start area.  I got in line for packet pickup, then got into the next line for goody-bag/shirt pickup.  While in line, hubby and kids helped me fill my hydration bottles with coconut water (my kids think that’s gross), removed my jeans & sweatshirt to reveal the runner beneath, and pinned on my bib.  I decided to pass on the arm warmers since I underestimate how hot I get and didn’t want something extra to carry around during the race.  Everyone helped me carry stuff over to the portapotty area which fortunately was not yet crowded.
 
We passed by 2 photo back drops — one for the race and the other for age group winners.  I joked that I wouldn’t need the age group winner back drop, and hubby replied, “I don’t know, I’ve been looking around at the other runners and I think this might be your day.”  I translated that as, “I am a non-runner who loves you and thinks you’re awesome and am being supportive.”
 
We went over to the water to take photos — it happened to be our 17th wedding anniversary!
 
The family wished me luck and left me at the starting area while they walked to find a suitable spot on the race course to spectate and take photos.
 
After the usual race announcements and all, the horn sounded and we were off!  As usual, it was crowded at the beginning yet difficult to hold back from going too fast.  My strategy was to hold back the first half of the race then open the throttle the 2nd half.
 
Around the first mile marker I saw the family!  They took some photos and cheered.  I told them I’d see them in less than 2 hours.
 
It was REALLY hard to hold back as I saw runners passing me early in the race.  I kept repeating to myself, “my race, my pace” and reminding myself that I’d probably be seeing some of these people again later in the race as they burned out while I still had energy stores (ha ha, that’s the theory, right?).
 
Our route was an out and back along a narrow mostly crushed stone path by the bay.  Unfortunately (or fortunately perhaps) it was cloudy, there was a breeze, and the temperature was in the upper 50s.  Actually, perfect running weather, especially for someone who was used to running in the heat and humidity of New Jersey summer.
 
I locked onto an older guy who was running ahead of me and ended up passing him around mile 4 on a wooden bridge.  Ahead of him were a couple of girls in acid green shirts, and a woman in a pink shirt who I figured to be in my age group.  They were targets, but I didn’t allow myself to speed up to pass them — if I passed them while holding steady, that would be great.  And I did.  We started seeing the leaders coming back toward us, and I’d yell out “good job” for about the first 30 or so.  I started counting the women to get an idea of what place I was in amongst women.  Most of them looked young……really young……
 
At about mile 6 I pulled out the raisins and started the awkwardness that is running/chewing/breathing all at the same time.  I’m pretty sure now that I should be fueling sooner in the race though.
 
When I hit the halfway mark I knew I was in about 55th place for female runners.  I checked my Garmin and it showed 58:19. Fuzzy race-brain math led me to believe that with negative splits my A goal of a PR was possible or at least my B goal of a sub-1:57 was possible.  That’s when I allowed myself to drop the hammer.
 
There was an Asian woman in a blue shirt running ahead of me at a good pace, so I decided to follow her pace so I wouldn’t have to think.  This may or may not have been a great strategy but at the time I thought she was going to be holding 8:45 or so.
 
Also, there was a guy (probably around my age though I’m so bad at judging ages) who kept changing positions with me.  Sometimes I’d pass him, sometimes he’d pass me.  The first time I passed him he said I was looking good and had a good pace and I thanked him and told him he did too.
 
Miles 7-9.5 were kind of a blur with hanging in there with the Asian woman and the guy.  We passed a few people in the process.
 
But then I started feeling kind of crappy.  Not terrible, just not as strong.  I wondered if I’d hit the wall since vacation doesn’t really lend itself to typical diet.  Still, I was determined to zone out and stay with my new race running buddies.  My goal was just to hang on and ignore the crappy feeling (though I did start to wonder how I was going to manage 26.2 miles in a couple of months).
 
Around mile 11 I passed the guy for the last time and he shouted to me, “Go get’em!” and I vowed that I would indeed get’em.  Blue-shirted Asian lady was still ahead of me and ahead of her was a woman in a gray tank top.  I figured both were in my age group and vowed to hang with them.  Blue shirt and I got closer and closer to gray shirt and I felt comfortable with that.  I was hoping to be able to blow by them at the end.
 
At mile 12 I could see my family in the distance, and I started waving so they wouldn’t miss me.  Of course, I’d chosen my shirt so that it would be bright and distinctive to ensure they wouldn’t miss me.  I passed them with a huge smile as they cheered and my husband said, “Wow, you’re running a great pace and looking good!”  I thought, well, duh, I’ve been training.  Later it occurred to me that he has only attended a couple of my distance races and in both I was doing the death march at the end, so I guess I looked way better than he expected.
 
Then it happened.  The foot that I had accidentally closed the car door on the day before started cramping charley-horse style.  It felt like my toes were trying to curl themselves under my foot.  At least I only had about a mile to go and having given birth to 2 kids I am able to withstand a fair amount of pain.
 
I knew that a PR was out of reach, but my B goal was within reach if I could ignore the pain and run strong to the finish.  I watched the 2 ladies ahead of me move farther out of reach, but I also knew that I could come in under my goal.  I pushed hard and crossed the finish line, feeling dizzy and pukey as I pressed “stop” on my Garmin.  Garmin read 1:56:34 (official time was 1:56:31).  As I tried to catch my breath and quell the dizzy and pukey feelings, I started to get choked up — no, not with puke, but with emotion.
 
It dawned on me that I had just pulled off my 3rd best ever half marathon finish time, and my best half marathon finish since 2010.  I pulled out my cell phone and called my husband and related what had just happened and that I’d meet them in the food area.  The 3 of them were making their way to the finish area and would meet me soon.
 
After hugs & congrats from hubby (he doesn’t care if I’m gross and sweaty but the kids wouldn’t come near me) we decided that we’d be able to drive to the hotel for me to take a speedy shower before heading to the Oakland A’s game.  So we took off and didn’t hang around for race results or awards.
 
My foot continued to feel crampy but was easing up a bit.  Normally I would take off my shoes after a race, but I was afraid that my toes would actually curl under without the shoe.  After a couple of hours, my foot was better.
 
I asked what the 3 of them had done for 2 hours while they were waiting for me, and they said they had fun cheering for the half marathon, 10K, and 5K participants.  They were particularly inspired by one woman who was running her first 5K.  The first time she passed them, she said it was the farthest she had ever run, and they told her to keep it up.  As she came back, they told her, “RIGHT NOW is the farthest you’ve ever run!” and apparently she was overwhelmed with emotion.  How awesome!!!!!
 
They also relayed how some people were happy to have people cheering for them while others ignored it.  As this course didn’t lend itself to having easy access for spectators I would have thought that more people would have appreciated the cheers!
 
We had a good time at the Oakland A’s game and headed back to the hotel.  I kept checking my phone for race results, and finally they were posted.  I went first to Age Group results and almost fell over!  I had placed 3rd in the 40-44 age group!  I told my family (I think my comment was something like, “OMG no freakin’ way, I placed in my age group!”), and my husband said, “See, I told you so!”  I asked him how he had come to that conclusion, and his response was, “I didn’t see that many women who looked like they were your age and as fit as you.”  It was surprising to me how many younger people ran the race.  In NJ there are few people in the 20-29 age group but lots and lots in the 30-39, 40-49, and 50-59 age groups.    I guess in Oakland the older ladies are doing things other than road races.
 
I have to say, this makes me feel good about my marathon training.  Third best half marathon finish time ever, best in 3 years, and an AG award to boot!
 
(I’ll post pictures later — having technical difficulties)

Carb Loading and a Cold

I have the Allstate 13.1 NYC (half marathon) tomorrow morning, and I’m probably more ill-prepared for this half marathon than I have ever been for a half marathon.  For several years, I’ve taken for granted that my training was such that I could run a half marathon on any given day.  Well, apparently this winter I neglected to do as much long-running as usual.  Oh well!

My plan for the week was to do the usual running on Tuesday and Thursday, go to the gym Monday and Wednesday, and do my Wendler 5/3/1 weight training on Monday and Wednesday so that all potential heavy lifting (i.e., killing of legs) would be done in time for recovery.  I had planned Friday to be a rest day.  Also, I was planning to start carb-loading a little on Wednesday and full-force on Thursday and Friday.

Wednesday morning, I woke up with a sore throat and a runny nose.  Great.  I went to the gym and did the Wendler for deadlifts and bench press on Wednesday night, and my symptoms weren’t so bad.  But I slept horribly Wednesday night and ended up running 4 miles Thursday morning with my friend, but honestly, if I hadn’t had a date set up with  my friend, I would have stayed in bed.  Thursday my cold symptoms were bad, and I was miserable all day.  It felt like a wet sponge had been stuffed into my head.  Fortunately, there were no chest symptoms, so that means running is still a possibility.  Friday morning, I woke up and things were a bit better, though I’m still pretty congested.

Carb-loading is more challenging when you don’t eat empty grain calories anymore.  Back when I was a non-paleo runner, I could just eat a ton of pasta or whatever.  Now, my high-carb choices are limited to sweet potatoes, bananas, fruits (fresh or dried) and squashes.  I typically eat an average of 100 g of carb per day, and on long-run days I might eat 150 g.  Now I’m trying to get up to about 250 g to 300 g before the race.  Not easy!  But I think my performance for longer distances suffers when I don’t take in enough carbs.  And I also am planning to eat raisins during the race too since I don’t like fake stuff like gels and typical running-performance carbs.

We’ll see how it goes, but I don’t have high hopes for a rip-roaring performance tomorrow.  Plus, it’s supposed to be cold — like 30 degrees at race start.  Guess I’ll have to dress warmly, and more clothes = more weight.  Here’s hoping that the cold symptoms are mostly done by tomorrow morning!

Now for fun — is this breakfast, lunch, or dinner? (2 beef with onion hamburger patties, a couple of tablespoons of organic salsa, 1/2 sliced avocado, steamed broccoli, and one kiwi, green tea)

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The answer:  It was lunch one day, breakfast another day, could be dinner any day.  That’s the great thing about paleo — it’s all just food to be enjoyed at any meal!