Tuesday, December 16, 2014

CASA Half Marathon Race Report 2014 - Going out strong!

The last few weeks have been a blur of Christmas parties, activities, work, shopping, baking and RACING!  Ordinarily I consider myself fairly organized but right now I am just taking it day by day.  I would love to write a more lengthy race report but if I do it might never happen.  (If you recall I'm still short two 10K race reports from November...)  I saw this on a friends Facebook page this morning and could really relate.  It's hard to keep up with everything going on this time of year.  I think we all feel like this around mid-December! 

One thing I did not forget?
The CASA Half Marathon in Pine Bluff, AR.  Ever since running this race last year I knew I wanted to do it again.  You just can't beat a course like this.  I knew it would be tough to beat my time from last year but I wanted to run a strong, smart race and finish the year right.

Fact: The CASA Half Marathon in Pine Bluff is the race to run if you are looking to PR in the half in or around Arkansas.  It's flat and fast- my favorite race combination.  There are no excuses! 

I met two of my local running buddies at 5:20 Saturday morning and we headed for Pine Bluff which is a little over an hour and a half away from where we live.  When we arrived we picked up our bibs and all of our race swag.  This race offers a lot for it's $50 entry fee.  Participants receive a bag, a cookbook (yes, this is the south!) and a really nice t-shirt.  In fact, the shirt was voted best Arkansas Grand Prix race shirt for 2014.  After a mile and a half warm-up it was time to head to the starting line.

The Plan:
I wanted to hold a pace in the 6:30's if possible.  (Obviously the lower the better!)  Having run a 6:40-ish watch pace in St. Jude's last weekend I thought it might be doable on an easier course.  The weather was perfect (mid to upper 40's & not windy!) so I figured I had a really good chance of running faster in Pine Bluff.  I wanted to go sub 1:27 and if possible place in the top three.  This race awards a beautiful hand crafted glass dish to the top three overall finishers, as well as overall Master's division winners.  When I saw the local competition I knew placing first or second would be really tough.  Last year's female winner set the overall course record in 1:15:27 and she was there to defend her title.  I just hoped I could finish third!

The Race:
Mi 1- 6:29.  From the start I was in fourth female.  This was a little faster than my first mile last week and I hoped it wouldn't be my fastest mile!
Mi 2- 6:37.
Mi 3- 6:37
Mi- 4- 6:38.
Mi 5- 6:36.
Mi 6- 6:31.
Mi 7- 6:52.  Yikes! Not really sure what happened this mile.  I got some water and had some gu which definitely affected my time.  It wasn't a very smooth transition but I didn't expect my time to be this much out of range.
Mi 8- 6:35.  Back on track with my pace and closing the gap between me and the third place female.
Mi 9. 6:29.  During this mile I moved into third place female.
Mi 10- 6:36.
Mi 11- 6:39.
Mi 12- 6:38. I was so tired at this point but counting down minutes.  I knew I could hold on for a few more minutes!
Mi 13- 6:26. Finish strong!
Mi 13.1- (5:41 pace).

Official Finish Time- 1:26:08 (6:35 avg.). 3rd female. So close to sub 1:26. (I blame mile 7!)  But VERY happy with this time.  It's actually my fastest half marathon time for 2014!

A little side note- the fourth place female finisher who I passed in Mile 9 just had a baby 4 months ago.  She ran a 1:27:40!! Amazing!

With Kem and Natalie
Kem won Masters and my friend Natalie placed 2nd in her AG
My CASA Half Marathon plates are proudly displayed in my kitchen! (2013 on the left and 2014 on right)

Post Race Thoughts:
I've run 6 half marathons this year and after the struggle I had with plantar fasciitis the majority of the year, I feel good about ending a little ahead of where I started. 2015 is going to be a great year!

2014 Half Marathons
Finish Time
Little Rock Half Marathon
Germantown Half Marathon
Doc Rock Half Marathon
MidSouth Half Marathon
St. Jude Half Marathon
CASA Half Marathon

Now I'll close with some random pics from life this week:
It's gingerbread house time in first grade!

A little belated birthday/ Christmas shopping with my "running girls"
My son led the closing song at church Sunday night. I was so nervous but he did great!
John and I at an Ugly Christmas Sweater party.  Maybe someday I'll be able to convince John to dress up!

Any other CASA racers out there?

I know Heather from Where's the Beach did and she also set a 3 minute PR! Way to go Heather!
Also, Tara from Running N Reading ran CASA as well. She is getting ready for the 3 Bridges Marathon in just a few weeks! 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The St. Jude Half Marathon- 2014 Race Recap

I've always loved this quote and on Saturday I rediscovered it.

Going into this race I had no idea what to expect. I was full of doubt and uncertainty.  Not only was my plantar bothering me but my right hamstring was also having some kind of issue.  There were a few times I considered not racing but I told myself everything would feel better by the end of the week.  I had an amazing Sports Thai massage the day before I left for Memphis.  The massage combined with a full rest day really helped.

My friend Kerri and I got to the expo Friday afternoon.  It was raining pretty hard and I was thankful the rain was supposed to be gone by Saturday morning.  The St. Jude Marathon Expo is one of the better ones in my opinion.  I've been to Boston and New York's which set the bar pretty high but I would put Memphis up there as a good one. 

Our hometown marathon had a booth at the expo so of course we had to stop by!
After the expo we had dinner and went to Kerri's aunts house where we were staying.  It was a very low key and relaxing night and I was in bed by 10:30!  Saturday morning we were up and heading to the race by 6:45.  Kerri's aunt's house is only about 15 minutes from the race and we were able to find free parking about 5 blocks from the start.  The temperature around 7 am was in the mid 50's but the 15+ mph winds made it feel much cooler than that.  We jogged to the start where we met up with our friend Kem who was also running the half.  We warmed up a little more and then it was time to line up!

ready to start!

This was my second time to run through the St. Jude Elite Athlete program.  While this race does not offer any prize money it's very rewarding in a much different way.  Honestly you just have to experience it for yourself but no other race I've run has quite the same impact.  You see parents, kids, former patients all cheering and holding up signs throughout the course.  They want to give you high-fives and thank you for supporting St. Jude Hospital.  When you run through the St. Jude campus it's almost impossible not to get choked up by all the signs thanking runners for their support.  I always think that no matter how hard it feels or what I'm going through it's nothing compared to how hard those kids are fighting.

The Race
My watch average from the Midsouth Half Marathon five weeks prior to St. Jude was a 6:44.  I figured I should be a little faster after a few more weeks of training. My plan was to start in the 6:40's and maybe get some 6:30's in the mix if I felt good.

As I mentioned earlier, this race was a tough one mentally and physically.  Every time my watch beeped I assumed it would be a lot slower than it was and I was consistently surprised that I stayed in the zone.  The wind was challenging in certain sections and I was always thankful when we turned and had some relief.  Whenever we had a long straight section without wind I tried to pick up the pace a little and take full advantage of it. My heel and hamstring were cooperating with me so I needed to keep going.  Towards the end I focused on staying in the right pace range.
Mile 1

Mi 1- 6:42. 
Mi 2- 6:39.
Mi 3- 6:37.
Mi 4- 6:31.
Mi 5- 6:43.
Mi 6- 6:40.
Mi 7- 6:39.
Mi 8- 6:39.
Mi 9- 6:46.
Mi 10- 6:52.
Mi 11- 6:41.
Mi 12- 6:46.
Mi 13- 6:33.
Mi 13.3- (6:03 avg.)

Official Time: 1:27:51 (3rd female overall). Results can be found here.

After I finished I waited for my friend Kem.  (She finished 2nd overall Masters in 1:31:36). Then we grabbed our jackets from our bags.  It's crazy how quickly you can go from being just fine to incredibly COLD!  Then we found  Kerri right after she finished (1:53).

Post Race Thoughts

This sums it up!

SUB 4!!

I also had two clients I coach who ran the full marathon there this year.  Both ran through the St. Jude Heroes program and each raised over $2,000 for St. Jude kids!! They also set PR's AND broke 4 hours! I'm so proud of these ladies!
Lucinda (left) ran a 10 min PR- 3:57:25!
Elizabeth ran a 7 minute PR- 3:55:08!

What's Next?
Believe it or not I have one more race of my fall racing season.  I know my body (and my poor foot) needs a break so after Saturday I am taking a solid 1-2 weeks off running which is going to be really hard.  On Saturday is the CASA Half Marathon in Pine Bluff.  It's the flattest and fastest half marathon in Arkansas.  It is also the last race on the Arkansas Grand Prix schedule for the year. 

Any other SJ racers out there?  How did you do?  Favorite race moments?  

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Around the House

It's ironic how so much can change in one short year.  Last December I was in the best racing condition of my life.  I ran my fastest half and was getting ready for my first sub-3 hour marathon.  It's hard not to compare that to where I am now.  I know I shouldn't.  I am grateful to be running again but I have to admit that this week has been hard.  Since Saturday's 10k my plantar fasciitis has flared up a little so I've been taking it easy this week.  I've cut my mileage in half and have added a few days of biking into the mix.  I am two days away from running the St. Jude Half Marathon. I really don't know what to expect on Saturday morning.  I would like it to be better than the Midsouth Half Marathon I ran five weeks ago but who knows.  I'm sure this has everything to do with me going a little race crazy the past few weeks.  I think I just need a couple of days off which I will take after Saturday's race.

Fortunately, there is a lot going on between holiday parties, Christmas shopping, cooking and my kids schedules so I'm not really missing my higher mileage running weeks.  One thing we did last week that I loved was setting up our first race tree.

The Tree
I saw this on Facebook a few years ago and loved the idea.  My in-laws gave us their old Christmas tree this year since they just bought a new one.  We put up our usual family tree in the living room and we put this one in our front office room.  It's funny because you know the nostalgic feelings you get when you put up certain ornaments each year?  Well, you get the same feelings when you hang up a race medal.  At least I do! Immediately your mind goes back to that specific race and you remember what you went through and how hard you worked for that medal.  John was proud contribute a medal he had been saving in his drawer from a half marathon he did a few years ago.  My kids also contributed some medals from races they had run this year.  The racing tree is definitely a new Christmas tradition for our family.

The Baking
Yes, it wouldn't be that time of year without all the goodies... The day before Thanksgiving kicks off our holiday baking every year.

Delicious Banana Bread- always sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on top before you bake.  Makes the best crust!
Chocolate pecan pie

Making Red Velvet Cake Balls

The Gingerbread House
Several years ago I started buying a gingerbread house kit at WalMart and it has become a little holiday tradition.  Last year we did a gingerbread AND a chocolate one (which was really good!) but I haven't seen the chocolate one out yet.  This year we bought a gingerbread Christmas village set.  Smaller and tinier pieces to put together- not my favorite but the girls enjoyed it.  As you can see Ashton enjoyed snacking on it too.

He was just too cute to crop out of this picture!

The Kids
This time of the year is a lot of fun with little ones.  Mine are all old enough now that they know what is going on but they are not too old for Santa.  My oldest is 10 and is the only one in on the behind the scenes holiday stuff.  She helps me with Elfin, our Elf on the Shelf.  Abi loves to hide it for me at night when the others go to bed- or early in the morning if I forget to move it at night!

"Riding ponies" in the living room
Tis the season for Christmas parties...
This time of the year gets pretty busy with food, friends and parties! We have a few big ones coming up but this week was the kick-off with my Bunko Christmas party.  Someone had the great idea to have a scarf exchange instead of our usual ornament exchange.  Loved it!
A Christmas Scarf Exchange

My youngest daughter was invited to a Christmas painting party this week.  She had the best time and I loved the picture she brought home.  She has it hanging proudly in her bedroom.

my little artist
Santa came to visit too!
The finished painting!

So there you have it...  More to come, along with two 10k race reports (if I ever get around to finishing them) and hopefully a good half marathon experience on Saturday!

I hope you have a wonderful week and enjoy this time of year with your friends and loved ones!!

Monday, December 1, 2014

My Birthday, the Great Duck 10K Race Recap AND a BIG Announcement!

Hello! Has it really been 2 weeks?! So much going on and so little time to write about it...

Happy December!

First, yes, I did have a birthday and I did something I've never done before on my birthday- I ran a race! I always make it a point to run on my birthday but believe it or not I have never run a race on it.  There's a big difference! Several months ago when I realized my birthday was on a Saturday I had hopes of finding a good birthday race.  Originally I had hoped to run in the Mississippi Coast Marathon or Half Marathon and it would have been great to meet up with Gracie but because of plantar fasciitis my fall racing plans changed. 

On Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving I decided to look on Arkansas Runner to see if there were any races nearby.  I really love this site because it is kept up to date and just about every race in Arkansas is posted here.  Sure enough there was a race on Saturday, November 29th- in Stuttgart, Arkansas.  Where is Stuttgart?  Good question! We'd never been there before and it really is in the middle of nowhere.  But then, that describes most towns in Arkansas!  I looked it up on mapquest and it said an hour and twenty minutes away.

I was a little hesitant to register because I have raced A LOT lately (shhh- almost every weekend the past two months) and I didn't want to push it although I probably past that point a few races ago!  I know I married a man who knows me well because when I mentioned it to John he didn't even hesitate.  He just said, "If that's what you want to do on your birthday we can." I thought and prayed about it.  The bottom line is that I really love racing- in fact, it's my favorite part of running- and there is a lot about running that I love.  My in-laws kept the kids Friday night so we could go on a date.  This also meant Saturday morning we could leave early and not have to wake up 14 children.  Well, just 4 but you know what I mean!

Saturday morning got off to an early start.  My dad called at 4:44 to wish me a happy birthday.  He does this every year.  I was born at 4:44 am and when I was young and still living at home he would always wake me up to be the first one to tell me happy birthday.  Once I started college he would call me at 4:44 and has done so ever since.  It's early but I've always gone right back to sleep- except this year!

John and I were on the road by 5:40.  As I mentioned earlier, Stuttgart is in the middle of nowhere (big rice and duck country) so the drive there was dark with several windy country roads. I knew from the start that it would be a very memorable birthday.  We got to Stuttgart just after 7 and I had plenty of time to register, use the restroom and warm-up.  The weather was in the mid 50's but WINDY.  I am not a fan of running in 14+ mph winds so I was hoping we would change direction enough to find some relief.

My plan for the race was to try to do a little better than my recent 10k's.  This was my third 10k in three weeks- yes, I am WAY behind on race reports but I WILL get them up this week.  My 10K PR average on my watch was from this spring with a 6:05.  I am not there right now but have run a 6:23 and a 6:30 average recently on two very different courses.  The Great Duck 10K race website described this course as flat and fast. These are by far my favorite adjectives when reading a course description!

The Race

Mi 1- 6:21.  From the start I knew I was 1st female and 6th overall.  By the end of the first mile I was fourth overall.  We were running completely against the wind which made it very challenging but I was thankful that on the way back I would have a nice tailwind.

Mi 2- 6:26. We had about 5 minutes relief from the wind during this mile when we briefly changed direction but then we headed south again against the wind so I went back to counting down the time until we turned.  I didn't know the course but I knew we had to turn around at some point to head back to the finish. I focused on catching the guy in front of me.

Mi 3- 6:35.  This was definitely my worst mile.  There was a terrible headwind the entire time and it was exhausting mentally and physically.

5k- 20:04. I was really hoping this would be sub 20 minutes.  I wanted to run a sub 40-minute 10k and it might be tough to negative split- especially if the race went a little longer on my watch.  Fortunately around this time we turned so I did not have the wind pounding against my face! I ran along-side another local runner I know and I decided I would try to stay with him.

Mi 4- 6:25.  During this mile I felt like I finally found my pace and was feeling better.  I told myself I could do this and that I was feeling good.

Mi 5- 6:18.  Heading back with the wind behind us was the best.  It felt like a completely different race.  I felt so much stronger and more in control than I did in the first half.

Mi 6- 6:11.  I pulled ahead of the guy I had been pacing with and pushed the pace a little.  I was too tired to do the mental math but I knew going sub 40 would be close.  It might come down to a few seconds so I needed to push it.

Mi 6.25- 1:26 (5:40 pace).  I was passing a lot of 5k runners who were also finishing around this time.  I'm not going to lie- it felt good sprinting in to the finish.

Official Finish Time- 39:44 (1st female overall/ 3rd overall).  Official results can be found here.
My watch average was a 6:21 which is an improvement!

Then I went on a 4 mile cool-down.  I would have liked to have run even longer since I have a half coming up and I haven't run more than 12 miles in a few weeks but it is what it is.  I am not in a typical training cycle right now at all.  My foot is just not ready yet.

It turns out this race only has one overall winner category male and female and the rest are age group awards. I won a watch from a local jewelry store for coming in first place!  This made this birthday race even more special!
First place male and female 10K runners won watches.  First place male and female 5K runners won duck calls.
Only in Arkansas- this was actually the company that donated the watches! We saw this sign all over town.

There was a big duck festival taking place after the awards we headed home to pick up the kids. 
So thankful for this man who supports what I love to do!

Post Race Thoughts
This was a race I will always remember.  I don't know when or if I will have the opportunity to race again on my birthday but I would definitely recommend it. I'm not where I want to be race-wise (sorry, I know this may sound like a broken record) but I know it's just going to take a while.  I'm trying to appreciate the progress I've made since this summer.  It felt good to finish strong.

BIG Announcement
And now for the big announcement... It's probably no surprise that I am a huge advocate of family fitness, especially when it comes to kids and running.  I've been coordinating our local family track nights since 2009 where we have running events for kids age 1-12 from the 50m through the mile.  I have spoken to running clubs about kids running and I often run with my own children at home and in races.  I am very blessed to have a good friend (also a mother runner) who feels passionately about this subject as well.  She is Amanda from Runninghood and I couldn't have found a more creative and talented partner to team up with for this project.  We have been doing a lot of research and writing on this subject and will soon launch a new site/ blog: Run With Me Kids. 

Run With Me Kids will be a site that offers community, guidance, information and inspiration about making running (and fitness) fun for kids while fostering family relationship and helping kids build healthy habits for living.  Our site will include stories from the community (YOU) about family running experiences as well as posts about running, fitness, parenting, healthy living, and more. For now, you can follow and read more about us on RunwithmeKids Instagram, Run with Me Kids Facebook, and RunwithmeKids Twitter.  The website is coming soon! If you ever blog about kids and running or a race you've done with your kids feel free to share a link on this Facebook page.  We will also promote it on twitter and our blog once it's up and running.

Find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!
I will close with some pictures from my birthday including the cutest cards ever.  I LOVE the ages my kids are right now.  Sure, I'm curious about how life will be down the road and I am looking forward to many things to come but I can honestly say I am enjoying this phase of our family.  The kids are young but not too young if you know what I mean!


Two more 10K race reports coming soon!! I promise!

Any other birthday racers out there? 

Has anyone ever been to Stuttgart, AR before?  
Apparently it is the duck AND rice capital of the world! :-)