Monday, February 23, 2015

Holloway Half Marathon Race Report

My husband and I had planned a trip to Clearwater Beach, Florida to help lift our spirits this winter. It ended up being an awesome vacation with perfect running temps. We decided a week or two before getting there to sign up for a cross-country style half marathon at a park about an hour east called Holloway Park. It was the inaugural race so we didn't know what to expect, but it turned out to be a great experience!

We got up around 5:30 am to eat and get dressed as we planned to leave by 6:15 for the drive to Lakeland, which is about 30-45 minutes west of Tampa. It was an easy drive and when we got there we picked up our packets and headed back to the car to stay warm. It was actually pretty cool that morning around 49 degrees, which for FL folks is freezing. I debated racing in something warmer than shorts and a singlet but for a northerner, I was afraid of overheating. Steve and I did a little warm up and I decided I would be fine in the singlet.

Steve leading the pack, me a few back!
The race started at 8 am. We lined up a few minutes before in the field to listen to race announcements about the course and we were off. FAST! Of course my husband Steve was out in front, which is pretty normal for him. I didn't want to pace tool closely to him but the beginning pace was pretty fast considering it was a cross country course and I was in the lead for the ladies, which is always fun. I tried to be mindful of my breathing and focus on the twists and turns of the course.

The first few miles the ground was dew-covered but the sun quickly heated things up and by a few miles in I could feel the heat and I was ready to hit to aid station for a drink. It was nice to be see the sun shining and the peaceful surroundings, which consisted of grass, marsh, sand, twists and turns, woods and a few hills. The course was pretty easy to follow but at times it just felt as if I was running through a maze. Around the halfway point I started to feel like I was laboring a little more. I was still in first place and had no idea how strong the other female runners were so I tried my best to maintain a good cadence and focus on staying steady.

enjoying the sunshine!
Around mile 7 or 8 before the aid station I got a little discombobulated with following the signage and two women that were running together moved ahead of me. Knowing I was now in third and beginning to cramp from the heat, I felt a little disappointed but I just kept moving forward. A couple miles later around 11 or so another woman passed me. I was not very happy but the cramping just wouldn't allow me to get the speed I wanted so I had slowed my pace down. I held on and thought about getting to the finish as quickly as possible so I could cool down, get something to eat and see how Steve's race went.

Coming in for the finish & those strawberries!
The finish felt long to me because my Garmin said the course was long and I just wanted to get there. Once you come out of the woods into the field you have to run up and around to the finish. Steve was there yelling for me and taking pictures and I was definitely happy to be done - especially because they had fresh organic strawberries at the finish and I must have had a couple dozen. My time of 1:49 was a little slower than I planned but it is a cross country course and with the overheating I was a few minutes behind my goal of 1:45. The race gave really cool handmade commemorative mugs to all the finishers. Steve and I also got medals since we both won our age groups! I came in 1st in 35-39 and 4th female and Steve came in 2nd overall and 1st in the 45-49AG. All in all we both had a good experience and would definitely do this race again if we're back in the area!

I don't know if racing back to back half marathons helped or hurt me with this race but with the Green Jewel 50K and Toledo and Cleveland Marathon quickly approaching, I need to get the experience under my belt! Next up is the Green Jewel 50K March 7th!

Below are some photos including the finisher mug, medals and some shots from the course, which was truly scenic and beautiful!

The finisher mug!

The AG winner medals

A lot of the course looked like this

Friday, February 20, 2015

Run for Regis Trail Half Marathon Race Report

Race season officially started this year on January 31st at Run For Regis. I think this is the earliest that I've ever started my season. Although with the conditions many people don't consider it a race but rather a "fun" run. My plan was to push myself as hard as I could that day given the conditions and that's how it went. Really it goes like this with most trail races - especially in the winter when terrain can vary greatly and footing is tricky!

It was a cold start with temps in the single digits so I opted for some extra warm gear such as my balakalava and heavy duty winter gloves, two pairs of Smartwool socks and had plenty of layers on to keep me warm.

The race takes place in the gorgeous Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) and includes a half marathon, 50K as well as other non-traditional distance options like 18 or 22 miles. Packet pickup is inside at the Ledges Shelter where they had the fireplaces going. My first impression after picking up our swag was a good one. They gave out some awesome stuff! The 50K runners started at 7:30 and the half marathoners started at 9am. I enjoyed the later start since we had a 50-minute drive. Steve and I got to see some of our friends and get in a little warm up before the start,

The Start:

Hubby in the front at the start!
The start is just out in front of the shelter as is the checkpoint and finish. We lined up. I told my speedy husband to line up in the front and I was back a few rows. It was slower going than some race starts due to the sloppy uneven snow in the fields leading to the Ledges Trail. Once you get on the trail the snow is mostly packed and a little easier to run on. Not too far in you encounter a nice, steep set of stairs that will get the heart going a little. Then it's little ups and downs and twists and turns as with most trail races.

I felt pretty good through the first aid station, which was around 5 miles. It was so cold that my gels had frozen but I was able to get one down and take a quick drink before heading back into the woods. I feel like I started to labor more as time went on and there were not many people around. I wasn't sure where I was place wise, I just knew at least a few of the usual speed demons like Janet Edwards and her sister Lisa were ahead of me.

bringing it home!
Around mile 8 we headed back to the Ledges to the start and went over the mat for timing as well as being able to get a drink and more gels. I grabbed one to bring with me. The second loop was definitely the more challenging loop as we were running the ledges, which are full of uneven rocks and some hills. It is probably the most beautiful and challenging part of the course - especially heading back in. I definitely felt fatigued heading into the last mile but was able to finish strong with a smile on my face. Not a terrific time at 2:16 ish but I survived it and came in 5th female, which I was happy with. They don't give awards to the age groupers but even if they did I was 4th in my AG - Oye! 35-39 is a tough group of women! Steve ended up finishing 2nd male with a pretty solid time. He has really been running strong the last couple years and it's definitely motivating me to push myself more because at this rate I'll never catch him!

After the race I was freezing! I stopped to get a drink and some snacks and hug my love. I Chatted with some of my friends and then headed to the heated restrooms to change into my dry clothes. After that we headed over with a group of friends to the Winking Lizard in Peninsula for some hard-earned food & hoppy beers!

I definitely will do this race again. Maybe someday I'll even tackle the 50K as I had originally planned. But on this day, I was glad to be finished after 13! The next day we were off to sunny Clearwater Beach, FL and getting ready to race again the following Saturday at a cross country race in warmer temps. That will be my next post!

Below are a couple more photos from the course from the photographer. It truly is beautiful to run here at anytime of the year!