Wednesday, January 29, 2014

USAFit Half Marathon Recap!

 
On Sunday, we ran the Memorial Herman USAFit Half Marathon, which will be my last half marathon until December.  We don't normally travel to Houston for many races because generally the weather there is even more humid and warm than it is here, which makes for a rough run, and the traffic...oh my gosh, the traffic is insane.  But this race came up when our youngest runner, Love, joined our running group, and we discovered that she wasn't age-eligible to run our group's goal race, the BCS Marathon/Half Marathon.  I did a little checking around, and found out that the age limits were lower for this race; she and her mom, Becky, decided to sign up, so we did, too - we all wanted to be there when she crossed the finish line and got her first half marathon medal.

The race started at 6:30 am, with an early start at 4:30 am for marathoners who would take longer to finish.  It's billed as "Everyone's Race" and they are very encouraging of all runners/walkers, which, knowing what I do about USAFit, I would expect nothing less.  That said, it was a little weird to see the early marathoners crossing our path when we were driving to the race that morning!  Normally I'd worry that we'd missed the start, but we knew what was going on.  We were encouraged to arrive by 5:30 am.  Parking was very easy for us because we had a VIP parking flag:
And now we have a car flag souvenir from the race.

That's right, we were VIPs!  A VIP option was offered when we signed up for the race - for $10 you got close parking, a warm tent to wait in before the race, food, and a private bank of porta-potties.  I wouldn't normally have paid, but my race entry was comped because I am a USAFit organizer, so I got the entire package.  Then Amy said the warm tent sounded pretty nice for a January race, so she signed up for it, and I decided to not leave Jeff out in the cold and paid for him to be a VIP.  Was it worth it?  Absolutely - just for the no-line porta-potties!  Plus the tent had heaters, and it was wonderful to not get super cold while waiting an hour for the race to start.
 
Table with lots of food - I don't eat before I run, but I did snag a Kind bar for later, and a pair of disposable gloves that I left on the course after a few miles.

We ended up splitting into two groups - Jeff ran with Kasey, who was wanting to hit 2:30 for her race, and Love, who wanted to go a little faster than she does with her mom.  They did 5:1 intervals and they finished in 2:30!  This course had a lot of out-and-backs, so we were able to see them several times throughout the race, which was fun - lots of cheering going on.  Except that when we passed them as they were around mile 11, they all looked spent.  I wondered if it was just because they were pushing themselves, or if the course got more difficult.  I soon got my answer...

Amy and I ran with Becky.  We did our standard 1:1 intervals, but over the last couple of weeks, we've been doing them faster.  We were challenged to slow down, because we didn't want to burn too much energy during the first part of the race and have nothing left toward the end.  As it turns out, we ran the first 8 miles faster than we did at the BCS, and guess what we encountered at mile 8?  A short, steep hill, argh!  Then another, and another...and then?  We got to the turn around (where the course marshal said something like "welcome to the turnaround, now go away" - gotta love anyone who can make you laugh after you've run nearly 11 miles!) and then we got to do those hills all over again.  Spoiler alert:  We walked up them.  No shame.  Didn't care.  By that point, I'd developed blisters again and each step was painful.  Here's another spoiler alert fact:  Those shoes will NEVER do a long run again.  I'd like to say they are dead to me but they cost too much and are too new to get rid of, plus they are OK for shorter runs.  Still, once we start up with our half marathon training in July, I'll be wearing different shoes.
Good riddance, blister-shoe!  Showing my timing tag - it was a plastic card that you put on with twist-ties.  Volunteers cut it off at the finish line.

Except for the hills from miles 8 through 11, this course was mostly flat, and we could see the finish line from a mile away.  Not sure if that was a help or a hindrance, because that mile took FOREVER to cover.  Again, I can deal with tired legs (because who wouldn't be tired after running that far?), but the blisters made the last few miles feel much worse than they needed to.  My hamstring was getting tight, but manageable.  If only my darn feet weren't hurting so much with each step!  We finally rounded the corner to the finisher chute, and as we crossed the first set of timing mats, heard our names/cities called out, which I love - makes me feel like an athlete.  Pictures:
This is cute - Becky is waving to her son on the sidelines!
Half marathon #6 (for me) is finished!
Becky, me, Amy - we made a good trio out on the race course!
Love, Becky, me, Amy, Kasey, and Jeff - team USAFit BCS!!!

Once we'd received our medals and had a chance to breathe, Jeff told us the news:  Love placed third in her age group and won an award!!!  This girl started training in June, when she was 10 years old.  She kept up her training, even knowing that she'd have to go longer than the rest of our group, before she'd get to run her first official half marathon.  She showed more strength and perseverance than a lot of adults I know (including myself), and she got a great reward as a result:
 So proud of her!!!

After we got our finisher's shirts, we went back into the VIP tent, where lucky for me, the masseuse masseur (thanks, Kim!) was available.  I asked him to work on my hamstring, and oh my, work it he did.  It was the best massage I've ever had and my hamstring felt so much better immediately.  Then he worked on my left IT band.  Ouch!  He said it was really tight, having been compensating for the injured hamstring.  Let me tell you, what he did hurt!  Jeff was watching and naturally took pictures - I think this face says it all:
 
He said I'd be bruised along the IT Band, and he wasn't kidding - I look like I've been through the wringer.  But if it helps me to get back to normal, then it was worth it.
 
Jeff and I, enjoying our last moments in the VIP tent.
The dynamic duo with our medals!

Because the race started so early, we had time to return to our hotel and shower before hitting the road.  We made our traditional post-race stop at Red Robin:
We split a strawberry shake (thanks to the talk about shakes from Becky during our run, it needed to happen), had lots of bottomless fries, and a burger.  Yummm!

The good:  The support on the course was wonderful.  Water stations about every 1.5 miles, lots of spectators and signs (we laughed because USAFit Montgomery had a couple "GO AMY" signs on the course, and as it turned out, that Amy was running intervals near us, so anytime someone would yell out "Go Amy!" our Amy accepted those cheers as well), there were random snacks offered during the race (everything from animal crackers, peanuts, Oreos, pretzels, orange slices, banana halves and candy), and there were several areas with music playing (Amy and I serenaded Becky with the "hey-hey-a-hey" chorus from the song "Shout")(I'm sure she appreciated it, especially after we sang our traditional "Whoooah, we're halfway there..." chorus at the 6.5 mile mark).  The weather was perfect - 45 degrees to start.  Couldn't have asked for a nicer day to run 13.1 miles!

The bad:  Ugh, those hills toward the end.  And after hearing about the issues a few years ago with the Rock and Roll Las Vegas race, where they used water from fire hydrants for the water stations and lots of runners ended up getting sick, I have to say I was a bit dismayed to see hoses hooked up to the fire hydrants at this race and realize that this was where our water was coming from.  At that point, I'd already had some water so just figured I'd hope for the best.  Luckily, everything was OK, but afterward, Jeff expressed the same concerns.  I wish they could get a water sponsor for the entire race (and not just the finish line) - better safe than sorry, in my opinion.

The "I've been spoiled by other races":  The bib was just a bib!  No race name on it - nothing to distinguish it from a general 5K bib.  And the first part of the race was really crowded - generally you have room to spread out once you cross the start line, but we were packed in there for quite a while.  I didn't want to start doing our intervals until we had room to walk without impeding other runners, so we ran for longer than we normally would have...not a huge deal, but you know.  Spoiled.
LOVE this Texas-shaped medal!  Plus the Lone Star spins - and on the back it says "2014 USAFit Half Marathon Finisher - Kicked Asphalt!" - you betcha we did!

36 comments:

  1. Wow, you really scored with the VIP tent, so worth the $10! So sorry you ended up with blisters, have you ever looked into ALTRAS? They have a much wider toe box than those shoes you've shown. I am going to get my IT band worked on today, it's mighty tight so I imagine I will be quite bruised too! Congrats to you and your friends for a great finish!
    PS: I do hope things go much better for RnR Vegas this year cus I am registered for that one!

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    1. One of these days I'm going to try on a pair of Hoka One One's - they look incredibly goofy but everyone I know who has run in them LOVE them. So we'll see...is it wrong that I want my feet to feel like they're walking on marshmallows? ;)

      I think RnR Vegas got their act together after that water debacle. You should have a great race!

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  2. hows the hamstring and IT band now?
    I always hated how it would feel soooo much worse right after massage (next day) but THEN rebound.

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  3. Ewww, gross! I didn't realized the water source was a fire hydrant.

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    1. Yeah, I didn't want to say anything while we were on the course. No need to make you stressed over it if you didn't have to be. :)

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  4. I think all things considered the pro's are much more that the no's. I think you did great and you look like you are having so much fun, well except that one of you at the massage (am giggling about that).

    Great job, congrats on a great finish and ending of a long but very great season for you.

    Now ... what's next?

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    1. Oh absolutely, the pro's definitely outweighed the no's - it's a good race and I'd recommend it to anyone.

      What's next? REST! Haha. And some fun running. Short and sweet. :)

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  5. This looks like a fantastic experience! First of all you've done 6 half marathons which is just crazy, seriously! It's beyond me that that's even doable so YAY for you! And that picture of you with the masseuse, priceless! Glad he helped you!

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    1. I cracked up when I saw the pictures afterward, but that face is a very accurate representation of the pain he was inflicting on my IT band! Worth it, though.

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  6. So much to love about this, but I especially love Love's run and prize! So happy that her hard work paid off that way.

    Do you know in all the races I've run over the years, I've NEVER had a bib with my name on it? Not even when I ran the Marine Corps Marathon (twice) did they put the names on the bibs.

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    1. It wasn't that our own names weren't on the bibs, it was that the bibs were just standard bibs - they had the name of a running store on them, not the race. Usually marathon/half bibs at least have that info, plus the date on them (at least the other five that I've done have had it).

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  7. As always, I love the race reports! Man, that VIP tent was totally worth the price, don't you think--a free massage afterwards?!

    I just love how your running club is such a supportive community that some of you would sign up for a race just to support a little girl. That is really really nice.

    I love the pic of Becky waving to her son--a classic. Even though you can't see his face, you can see his intent by his posture.

    Man, that is a total bummer, having a new pair of expensive shoes that causes blisters. I wonder if you took them into the shoe store---could they modify them for you? Not that you'd want to give them another chance to blister you while testing them out...

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    1. Yes, that VIP tent was absolutely worth it! You are supposed to tip the masseuse afterward, but still, it was quite the deal.

      And that's the thing with these shoes - I have negative connotations attached to them at this point. They've caused me so much pain that I really don't want to work with them anymore (although logically I know they'll be OK for 3-5 mile runs, so I'll keep them for that). But there's no way I'd ever attempt another long run in them...they've burned me too many times now! Bad Brooks. :(

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  8. Congrats to Love! That is so great, winning an award on her first time out.
    The Texas state medal is the best, I would come run this race just for the medal if I hadn't already done Texas.
    (Your masseuse is a masseur, since he's a dude. Yep, 3 years of high school French and this is the only time I get to use it)
    And, congrats to you on #6!! I'm sure you are already body gliding your toes/feet to prevent blisters, so I don't know what to tell you about that. Your shoes are so pretty too! Oh well.

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    1. OK, that's funny - I didn't take French until college and the male/female didn't even occur to me. I can, however, correctly pronounce "chaise longue" so there's that? ;)

      I've Body Glided, Aquaphored and moleskinned the heck out of my feet/toes. The shoes are cursed.

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  9. I always love your race recaps Shelley - it inspires me to sign up for a race in 2014! Love all the support you got - and I love that Love got an award - if that doesn't push her to become a lifelong runner, I don't know what will!

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    1. You should do a race this year - you are getting so fast with your gym 5Ks!

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  10. It is all about the medal, isn't it? That is what they seem to promote at the big race expos..."Come and run our race and get this bling!" And it works! A cool medal can help decide between two races!

    Congrats to Love on completing her first half! Quite an accomplishment for anyone, but I am so impressed when I see kids with the dedication to stick to a training program, putting in long runs when they could be just hanging out with their friends.

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    1. LOL, you are right about the medal pushing. I'm always jealous of our Dutch friend Fran - they get medals for doing 5Ks in Holland!

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  11. Red Robin!

    Sorry, got excited!

    Congrats on the race! What a cool medal! Are your blisters gone, now? And WTG, Love, for placing! :)

    I am doing my first Texas race this weekend! Woo hoo!

    The water thing might worry me too. Ha, nah, who am I kidding? I have been so thirsty before I've considered drinking out of a lake :)

    I love that they let people start early and were so accommodating, especially with the VIP package!

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    1. Woohoo, a Texas race! Weather should be great for it - hope you have a blast!

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  12. Your face on that massage table! Ow!!!! I feel bad for your poor feet. You think after all this time of footwear that shoes would not give blisters.

    I had my name called out once in a race as I crossed the finish line. Totally unexpected and I thought something was wrong at first! Like "Would Lori Kimble please report to your car immediately" LOL

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    1. I'm ticked about the blisters because this is such a sudden issue for me...after years of running. No rhyme or reason for them at this point.

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  13. Hills in Sugar Land? Oh that would just make me mad (kinda). Glad you had a good time, sorry about the blisters, and congrats to Love for placing in her age group. I'd be worried about the hydrant water too. They are supposed to be flushed first before it can be drinking water, right? Odd that they don't have a water sponsor. Hopefully next year everything will run smooth. Great job!!!!

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    1. I know, right?! They were short steep bridges - hard to describe, but not nice to encounter toward the last part of a long race!

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  14. Your face on that massage table - priceless! I have to admit, the only times I've used my Lamaze breathing outside of childbirth has been when the physical therapist would dig his elbow into those tight IT bands - ouch!!

    Sorry to hear about your shoes and the continuing blister problem. I bought a pair of really lightweight Sauconys (I've been wearing the brand for years) for running and the sales guy said "you're going to use these for running?" I figured I'd show him! Guess what? They're my biking shoes now - caused all sorts of foot pain :-( Shoulda swallowed my pride and listened to the guy!

    Congrats to Love! I can't imaging what my life would have been like so far had I been distance running since age 10 - she's amazing!

    WTG on half #6 Shelley!

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    1. I didn't last long when he was working on my IT band...that was really painful!

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  15. Sounds like it was a good experience! And how fun to be able to run her first half with her....and watch her place! :-)

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    1. It WAS really great to see Love do so well. :)

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  16. Way to go Shelley! Another one in the books! You never cease to amaze me!

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  17. YAY YOU SHELLEY!!!!!!!!!!!!! You continue to inspire!~

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  18. Congrats on a great race! Sorry you got blisters during your run. They really do make running difficult and painful. Also high fives to Love for placing third in her age group on her first race! That's impressive. Paying a little extra for VIP status is well worth it. I did that once at the St. Louis Rock and a Roll half marathon with Brooks Shoes and it was wonderful. I would do it again if I had the chance.

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  19. Good job and congrats to Love!! How awesome!!!

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  20. It's so cool that you all did this race to support Love! And that is seriously impressive that someone so young could work so hard and stick to her training, and even place in her first half! I don't even remember what I was doing when I was 10, but it wasn't anything nearly that cool :)

    I'd love to have VIP status, but as you can probably imagine, it's a little more expensive than $10 at Chicago races! We have a big one in March that has like 50,000 runners, VIP would be great for the private porta-potties alone!

    Sorry about those hills and the blisters, but congrats on a good race anyway! :)

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