Tuesday, January 27, 2015

RnR New Orleans Half Marathon Race Report!

Last year several of my running friends ran the RnR NOLA Half Marathon and Marathon. When they asked me if I wanted to join them I was very interested because I'd heard about what a great course both races were. Believe it or not, I'd never run a Rock and Roll series yet and I thought this would be a good one to do since so many of my friends were running in it.  I looked into running it through the Competitor RnR Elite Athlete program. (To earn a comped entry into the New Orleans Marathon or Half I needed to have a sub 2:59:00. My 2:58:56 from the Poconos Marathon barely made the cut but it was enough!) I originally registered for the full but by mid fall I realized I would not be ready. My recovery from plantar fasciitis was taking a lot longer than I'd anticipated so I emailed the elite coordinator at Competitor and asked if they could switch me to the half. No problem!
The week before the race:
The weekend before the NOLA Half I had my first 20 mile run in the Little Rock training cycle. No, this was not ideal but I really needed to get in this 20. My LRM training was cutting it close as it was so I couldn't postpone it any longer.

A few hours before the run my 8 year-old son woke me up and said he had thrown up. I cleaned him up and went back to bed but there wasn't a lot of restful sleep after that. Minutes before I left for my run I realized I needed to clean up the bathroom area where he had been sick. I debated on skipping the run all together and staying home but my son was back asleep and my husband encouraged me to go ahead and get my long run done.  The run itself went well. I ran 20 miles with about 12 at goal marathon pace (sub 6:50). 
The rest of the day I was feeling really drained and not very hungry. By Saturday night I was feeling awful.  Then I started throwing up. For the next few days I had the worst virus I have ever had.

Wednesday was the first day I felt almost back to normal. I wasn't sure if I should still race. I decided to go to the doctor to make sure everything was all right- and I wasn't contagious.  My doctor was optimistic and said that as long as I continued to improve I should be fine.  On Friday morning I left for New Orleans. The race was Sunday so I was hopeful that I would be feeling stronger (and ready to race) by then. 

It's about an eight hour drive from my house to New Orleans. I went with a group of runners from around where I live. There were 10 of us all together. Great girls trip!!

Friday night we are a late dinner at the Ernst Cafe. It's a great little diner with a lot of local flavor.

Saturday morning Natalie (one of the ladies in my group) and I went for a little shake-out jog. Our hotel was right on the River Walk so we started there and then headed downtown. This was my first time to New Orleans and I was so impressed! The city has so much personality and life. I love getting to explore new cities by running through them!
We saw so many other runners an walkers out on the Riverwalk
After our jog we cleaned up and headed to the RnR NOLA Fitness Expo. Our hotel was conveniently located within a half mile of the start and near the expo too so we walked EVERYWHERE Saturday.
After the expo we ate at another great local restaurant- Pierre Maspero's.  

Then we walked towards the French Quarters.  We headed towards Cafe Du Monde and saw many sites along the way.

Beignet Time!
So good and way too much sugar!!
After a delicious beignet at Cafe Du Monde we headed further down to the French market. I bought a few souvenirs for John and the kids.

Before we knew it we were exhausted and it was almost dinner time. By the time we made it back to the hotel my ap on my phone said that I had clocked in over 13 miles for the day! (Four miles from my morning run and then nine miles from walking all over the city all day.) Yikes! I didn't mean to overdo it on the walking but there was just so much to do and see!

Then, before dinner one of my college teammates stopped by our room to visit for a few minutes. I had not seen Janet in years but she has done very well for herself! In 2012 she placed 5th in the U.S. Olympic Trials Qualifying Marathon with a time of 2:29:45.  She ran in the 10,000 m in the Olympics that summer for the U.S. finishing 12th. She actually just ran in the 2015 USA Half Marathon Championship in Houston last weekend and finished 3rd (1:10:46).  Janet was in town to run the NOLA Half as well.  

Janet is so sweet and humble. She wanted to hear all about everyone else. I'm so glad we were able to visit with her.  After our time with Janet we headed to the Foot Court in the mall under the River Walk for dinner. After dinner and a trip to the Gap we went back to our room to get ready for the race.

I did not sleep very well Saturday night. Between race nerves and knowing I overdid it on the waking I was not feeling very confident.  The race started at 7:30 so we left our hotel by 6:45 and jogged to the start.  

After warming up it was time to get this show on the road! Weather was in the low 40's but sunny- perfect!

The Race:
My "A" goal was to go sub 1:26 but I had a feeling that would be tough since I'd been sick earlier and my training had been thrown off. Still, I tried to be optimistic. Maybe the rest and running break had been good for me...

My watch pace from the CASA Half in December was 6:35 so I thought I would shoot for the 6:30 range again. 

Mi 1- 6:33. Right where I wanted to be but could I maintain it?
Mi 2- 6:39. I hoped this would be my slowest mile.  It wasn't.
Mi 3- 6:36
Mi 4- 6:35. Around this mile I heard someone yell, "Go Tia!" Who knew me in New Orleans?! I looked up and it was Gracie from Complicated Day! Gracie is an awesome blogger and talented runner who has been sidelined with some injuries. She is lives in New Orleans and had come out to cheer and take pictures! It was great to see her!
Mi 5- 6:32. I tried to stick with another female "Leah" who was very friendly I met as we were running along-side each other. She said she was sticking to 6:30 and she sounded like she wanted to pace together which would have been great if I'd had the energy/ discipline to stick with it. 
Mi 6- 6:33. Saw Gracie on the back stretch of the out and back! I was wishing this was the end of the race but I wasn't even halfway through yet! Just trying to stay on pace.

Thanks for the pictures Gracie!!

Mi 7- 6:40. I finished off my gu and fell back from Leah during this mile. She was trying to encourage me but I just couldn't keep up.
Mi 8- 6:42
Mi 9- 6:49. From this point on I switched to survival mode and lost it on my pace. I was running more marathon than half marathon pace and it had me seriously doubting my ability to run LRM in March.
Mi 10- 6:49.

Mi 11- 6:57
Mi 12- 7:01. Not good. Guys were passing me. I kept waiting for a female to catch up but surprisingly none did.
Mi 13- 6:45. I saw a female up ahead I tried to catch. It turned out to be a relay runner but it helped get me in gear!

Mi 13.14- 0:51 (6:21 avg.)

Official Time- 1:28:08 (12th female/ 1st in AG)

Once I finished I waited for s few minutes for my friend Natalie who I knew would be finishing soon. She set a 30+ second PR and finished with a 1:31!  

Natalie and I at the finish
Then we cooled down before meeting up with the rest of our group. Several in our group set PR's. I cannot emphasize enough how awesome the course is! It is very flat and there are a lot of spectators and bands along the way.  

Post Race Thoughts:
I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little disappointed in my performance. Yes, I fell apart at the end but considering it was days after the one of the worst viruses I ever had I'm not going to dwell on it. I still have a lot of work to do. On the plus side, my foot did great! It felt PERECT all weekend and never bothered me during or after the race. This is a huge victory in itself.

The weekend was very memorable and I had a lot of fun with my running friends!  I loved exploring the city Saturday and getting to experience NOLA together. 

Kerri's "Selfie stick" came in handy this weekend!
I would strongly recommend this race... It's a fast race in a fun city! I will definitely be back! 

Have you ever run RnR NOLA?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Why YOU Should Run in the Arkansas Grand Prix Series

If you like to run and you live in Arkansas then this post is for you. 

For years I heard about something called the Grand Prix Series but I had no idea what it meant or what you had to do to be in it.  Most of the time when I heard the words "Grand Prix" my initial thoughts involved Mario cart or race cars.  What was the big deal?  I liked to run and I considered myself a fairly competitive runner so why should I join a running series?

Last year I decided to bite the bullet and see what all the hype was about for myself.  I knew it had something to do with running certain races and trying to earn points for them based on finishing place.  I did a little reading on the Arkansas Grand Prix website and here are a few basic things you need to know about competing in the AR Grand Prix series:
  • You need to be a member of an Arkansas RRCA (Road Runner's Club of America) running club to participate.
  • You need to run in at least 5 of the 20 races on the yearly Grand Prix racing calendar.
  • Your score from your 5 best championship races (there are 10 championship races total) and your 5 best non-championship races (there are 10 non-championship races total) make up your total number of points for the year. (You get a certain number of points depending on how you place compared to other GP runners overall or in your age group.)

Last year the city I live in didn't have its own team so I joined up with the nearest team- the Cabot Cruisers.  They were always very friendly and included me in all club correspondence, pre-race club pictures and would cheer and encourage me during races.  I cannot say enough good things about this club.  
With some of the Cabot Cruisers and I before the River Trail 15K

My goal for my first year in the Grand Prix was to run in ten races.  I wanted to have five championship races and five non-championship races.  Unfortunately, I struggled with plantar fasciitis the better part of the year and didn't quite make my goal but I came very close.  I ended the year with a total of nine Grand Prix races: four championship and five non-championship races. 

My city now has an official RRCA club and I am looking forward to being able to race and compete as a member of the Searcy Rush in 2015.  Once again my goal will be able to run in at least ten GP races this year.  Running in the Arkansas Grand Prix has truly changed the way I view local racing and has added a new sense of purpose, competition and excitement to my racing schedule.

You might be asking yourself, why should I run in the Grand Prix series?  Below are just a few reasons that come to mind:

1.  To support and promote running in your local community.  I like traveling to big and exciting races just as much as the next runner but there's something special about getting to know local runners and competing with them in various racing distances month after month.  Most of the times the money generated from these local races goes to support local causes and it's one of the best ways to get involved and give back to the community.  I've also been able to travel to some new places and experience them in a different way. When I think of Benton, Arkansas now I think about a challenging 20k and how it was the turning point in my training last fall.  Hot Springs isn't just a vacation getaway anymore- it's a 10k and Pine Bluff is home to the fastest half marathon in the state.  When I think of these cities I am glad I was able to experience them as a runner.
Benton 20k- Photo Courtesy of David Meroney

2.  It's close to home, affordable and family friendly!  With races all over the state you can look at the calendar and choose one nearby so traveling to and from the race doesn't tie up the entire day.  Many times we've made it a family event.  When you race often (like I do) registration fees add up quickly.  One of my favorite things about the Grand Prix Series is the price of the races. Some of the GP races offer youth runner or family rates which is very nice since my kids are starting to enjoy racing.  Grand Prix race entry fees tend to range from $15-35 dollars. (With $35 being for the full or half marathon distance.)  This is much better than some of the registration prices for other races.
My daughter and I after the Capital City 10K
My younger 3 children ran in the free Kids Dash after the 10k

3.  To get to know other runners.  I used to feel like I was often alone when it came to racing.  Occasionally someone I knew would race with me but many times I would head to the starting line of a race not knowing a soul.  This past year I have been able to get to know many other local area runners.  We don't train together but it's always comforting to see a familiar face to help ease some of the pre-race jitters. There are a few runners that I have an idea how they typically finish (time-wise) so it gives me a good idea of how to pace and position myself in a race.

Ron crushes me every time but I've learned from racing him.
So glad I've been able to get to know Beverly through running.  We catch up whenever I see her at a race.

4.  To push yourself and grow as a runner.  So many times runners get stuck in a rut training for the same distance year after year.  The Grand Prix racing calendar offers a little bit of everything.  There's the famous Go Mile! one mile race in Little Rock in June and a full marathon in Wynne in November.  The other 18 races on the calendar are a mixture of every racing distance in between!  I used to hate the 10k distance but the Capital City Classic 10k in Little Rock completely changed the way I run them now.  Yes, I still love the marathon distance but racing some of these shorter distances has made me a better runner.

There's nothing quite like sprinting an all-out mile!

5.  To place and earn points. We all know that runners are competitive people. If there's a game or contest involved we are there!  Points are tallied after every Grand Prix race.  By running in Grand Prix races you can earn points individually as well as towards your club team's score.  There are team awards, overall awards, age group awards and there's even an award for those who participate in all 20 Grand Prix races! 
2014 Grand Prix Iron Runners. Photo courtesy of Arkansas Grand Prix

It's a new year and the 2015 Arkansas Grand Prix Series calendar is ready and posted.  If you are on the fence about joining I would urge you to give it a try.  Registration for the year is $15 for an adult and $10 for youth runners 18 and younger.  More information can be found on the Arkansas RRCA website.

*This post was not sponsored in any way by the Arkansas RRCA.  I've had several questions about it from local and non-local runners on my blog so I thought it might be helpful to write about it here.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Best and Worst of 2014 {...30 races later!}

Yes, it's time for my annual year of running review.  It's really hard to sum up an entire year of running in one post but that's what we do at the end of December, right?  I like to break down the good and the bad in one post.  Don't worry- not every race performance is mentioned.  That would be a really long post.  While much of the year was dominated by plantar fasciitis I still managed to get in an alarmingly high number of races.  Yes, this actually may have helped contribute to this pesky injury and why it lasted so long!

By the Numbers:

Total Miles Run: 2,228

Most miles in one month? 281 (April)

Least miles in one month? 72 (July)

Total Miles Biked: 582

Total Number of Races: 30

Number of races one or more of my kids ran in as well: 14

Most raced event? 5K with 12 total (all time high)

Most races in one month? 6 (March)

States raced in: 4 (Arkansas, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee)

PR's set: 3 (10k, 20k, Marathon)

Number of double headers (2 races on same day): 2
Number of Marathons:

The Best and the Worst:

Best Race Performance-  Capital City Classic 10k in April

I ran a smart, strong, consistent race. And yes, maybe I'm biased because this is my favorite race in Arkansas. 

Worst Race Performance-  Arkansas 20k in September

The hills and heat combined with being extremely out of racing shape led to a very rough last 5k.  The end of this 12.4 mile race felt like I was trying to finish a marathon.

Most Fun Racing- Bison Invitational 5k in March  
my kids watching me... at a college track meet!
This race was like stepping into a time machine.  A college racing time machine.  I loved it!

Most Painful- Fast Firecracker 5K in July
every. step. hurt.
This race was the low point for my plantar fasciitis.  I knew as I limped away from the finish line that I needed some solid rest to heal my foot!

Best Teamwork- Women Run Arkansas 5k in May

I loved this Mother-Daughter race with Abi!

Worst Teamwork- Wildcat Mile in August

Running and parenting have their challenges too.  This one mile race I did with Abi was one of those times.  Lots of lessons learned from this one.

Best Race Finish- Arkansas Race for the Cure in October

I think I had the best kick of my life and was not about to get passed at the finish!

Best Finish Honorable Mention- Little Rock Half Marathon in March

I had another female right behind me the entire race and I knew it.  It was very exhausting mentally and physically but I picked it up the last mile and finished 10 seconds ahead of her and was able to place in the top three.  (Top 3 = a little prize $$)

Worst Race Finish- Poconos Marathon in May
The girl that passed me at the end is on the far left!
I loved many things about this race but getting passed at mile 26 was not one of them.  The top 3 finishers won prize money and I finished 4th.  We were all within seconds of each other!  After racing for almost 3 hours it was crazy how it all came down to the very end when I had nothing left.

Worst Finish Honorable Mention- River Trail 15K in February
Smiling on the outside but kicking myself on the inside

I missed going sub 60 (and the 60 minute club) by 5 seconds!

Best Race Picture- Capital City Classic Kids Dash in April
It doesn't get any cuter than this!

Worst Race Picture- Go Mile National RRCA 1 Mile Championship in June
Oh, the pain of racing all out for one mile!
First Birthday Race Ever- Great Duck 10K in Stuttgart, AR (November 29)

I've always wanted to run a race on my birthday and this year it happened!  Winning a gold watch was a very nice birthday bonus too!

Worst Injury: This year's worst injury was Plantar Fasciitis
This summer and fall there was a lot of resting, rehabbing and re-training.  While it's not 100% gone it's MUCH better than it was.  I actually have runs when it doesn't bother me at all and I don't even think about it!

Lots of biking and swimming in the summer of 2014
I used the Alter-g treadmill at physical therapy several times as well
Proud physical therapy graduate in September!
Best Running Friends
I've also made some new running friends this year... I am very thankful for these ladies!

Ok, I've been running with this group of ladies for a few few years but I'm still very thankful for them!!

Best Support:
My family, particularly my husband, is my rock.  They support, encourage, motivate, and believe in me.  I know I pushed the envelope with 30 races this year and I'm thankful that my husband was on board.  He came to many of my races and we often made it a family thing.

That's a wrap!  Looking forward to 2015.

Happy New Year and thanks for reading this mom's blog from Arkansas! :-)