Sunday, February 3, 2013

My Best Damn PR

MAN! Where do I start? I have had quite a day at the Best Damn Race. This is going to be a long super ( as in TMI kind) detailed so when I look back years from now and re-read when I accomplished my first big running goal, I won't forget anything good or bad.

Pre-cursor: I have been training for 6 weeks for a sub-2 hour half marathon. It was either going to happen this weekend or next weekend. I planned to run races both weekends and just see how I felt the first race and if I sucked - the second race was no questions the race I pushed for it. (Crazy right?) I know to a lot of people think that 6 weeks isn't nearly enough time, and I questioned it myself, but after running 2 half marathons within 14 days without training at all (Literally- 2 weeks prior I was still in physical therapy and squeaked out with a 2:06:58 at WHM) last November. I figured what the hey, I can do this, if I do it right. I'll share my mini plan in another post.

Everyone likes to read about what to eat before a race - I'm just gonna say, some foods don't work for everyone. I LOVE pizza. I mean loooveeeee. We have some kind of foodie love affair going on, but I will straight up never eat it again as pre-race fuel. Remember this beautiful piece of whole wheat crusted, jalapeno chicken sausage, and green bell pepper pizza I posted last night? It was really yummy.

Well, I got to see that pizza again 3x before the race (and 1x during) in the most undesirable of fashions.(eww - yep lots of poop talk!) Something was already off with my tummy this past week (TUMS = candy kind of week) and truth be told my nervousness might have contributed, but I was hoping that I'd forget about the rumbles. Curses, IBS. Curses.

Friday night - headed to bed around 10:30pm. The race didn't start until 7:15a, so I was pretty thankful that I didn't have to wake up as early. Turns out I would anyway - I woke up at 3:48am, sat straight up and freaked out because I thought I overslept. It took me a good 20 minutes to calm my heart rate and get back to sleep, but when my alarm actually did go off at 5:15a, I was half way out of the bed before it finished going off.

For those of you interested, here is my outfit:
Moving Comfort Vixen bra
Balega hidden comfort socks
Nike Women's Fast Pace tank (similar)
Marika Tek capris (TjMaxx find)
Asics Kayano 18s

I ate my usual piece of peanut butter toast, ate 1 Gu Chomp, and headed out the door around 5:45a. The temp was 45F out and I worried about not having arm sleeves or calf sleeves. (On the wish list - black Zensah ones, please ;))

It didn't take me near as long as I thought it would to get from my house to Safety Harbor Marina - only 30 minutes? Traffic was light and parking was easy. Safety Harbor is such a neat little place! A mix between a small quaint downtown of shops and eateries and lots of unique homes - with the occasional mansion thrown in. I can't wait to go visit there again on a non-race day and check out the shops - especially the Pick Your Poison Cupcake(& wine/liquor) Cafe.

When I arrived, I picked up my race packet (very well organized from my experience- thank you Brad!)  and went ahead and put my bib and timing chip on and put my things in gear check. Right then Diana came up and said hi with her friend "Mrs. Fit". I was actually super glad that I found someone I knew (or that they found me), since this was my very first race to attend alone. I was also nervous that I wouldn't be able to find a pace group (if there even was one) or someone running a similar pace to mine to keep my eye on. We walked over to where I knew Beth was sorting the finisher medals and found Steph(volunteering) and Meghann!

We four walked over to the Resort and Spa where all the half marathon runners were huddled in the lobby to warm up before going back out in the cold.


It was then that Meghann told me she didn't have a PR goal in mind and that she didn't mind pacing me if I really wanted to sub-2 today.  I was pretty sure an angel halo just came out of Meghann's head (& not that super cute owl BAMRBand) because I was so excited (although equally scared that I wouldn't have a great race because I just committed myself to a PR kind of run).

Shortly after this picture above, we all filed out of the lobby and to the starting line. The best damn version of the National Anthem I have heard live was sung and we were off!

click to make me bigger!
The sun was just beginning to come up over Tampa and it was so so scenic.  Meghann amazes me with her ability to run at a super quick pace with ipod, phone, full size camera, fuel, spi belt, and a Garmin. I can barely carry those walking, much less running. I was glad she did though, because she took some great on course pictures. All I had was my Garmin and my Chomps and that was more than enough to annoy me. I've decided I like running sans iPod during races.

The first mile was right along the water giving us spectacular views. If you look on the right side of the tree- those little bumps on top of the water is downtown Tampa. This part of the course was a super flat and easy out and back. Meghann had some issues with her timing chip and laces and stopped to re-tie them. Diana and I kept our pace while she caught up. Ms. Fit was long gone into the distance with her warp speed.

Mile 1 9:09

Miles 2-7 wound us all around the neighborhoods of Safety Harbor. There were a few up hills, then it would even out -then uphill again - this happened quite a few times, but no major hills that made me want to punch Beth yet since she told me there were "only a couple teensy rolling ones. But I was getting squinty eyed thinking about it.

Just want to mention there were the best damn volunteers on this course. They were so friendly giving words of encouragement. I've decided that cow bells on a race course are the most fun thing ever. Next race I spectate, I will be that annoying person ringing the hell out of it. I took a Gu at Mile 4 - not feeling like I needed one, but usually once you feel like you do - it's too late.

Mile 2 8:46
Mile 3 8:40
Mile 4 8:22
Mile 5 8:22
Mile 6 8:35

I felt super strong through these miles, but knew if I wanted to keep my strength and make it through my Mile 9 wall, I needed to reign back a little on my pace. I have been running my 5 mile mid week runs around a 8:20-8:40 pace, but I didn't know if I was going to be able to hold on to that for another 8 miles.

Around mile 7 we had a bigger hill and then entered the Ream Wilson Trail. Up to this point I only took water at the stop before mile 3, before 5, and then right after 6 I committed a heinous crime. I accidentally grabbed Gatorade - the worst flavor in the world = lemon lime, and took a fatal swig.

NOOOOOOOOOOO! In my head I had a head spinning Gasparilla 2012 (my first half marathon) Mile 11.5 flashbacks. (It doesn't agree with me at all - and probably not my already angry belly). I immediately told Meghann of impending doom.

Mile 7 8:40

Somewhere right before mile 8 I took my second Gu and gave one to Meghann. This part of the trail was really nice, with a nice section of over water bridges that was flat and not slippery (it was a type of manufactured material and not wood which I was thankful for), but the trail had more rolling hills - including ones at a 10% grade. Fun to run down, but my heart did a little flip flop when the thought of having to run back up the 10% grade hills hit me.... oh wait... that was my stomach.

Uh oh spaghettiOs!

I was really starting to feel my stomach rise up in revolt when the heavens parted and I saw these two magnificent gray beauties.


Dignity or PR?...ignore it - it'll go away!....Dignity or PR? UGHHH.
I stopped. I had to. yuck yuck yuck I am a germ-o-phobe.

Pizza? Gatorade? Maybe the Gu Chomps didn't agree with that mix today? Hard to pinpoint a specific, but overall my belly just wasn't good.

Anyway, after my 45 SECOND potty break - FORTY FIVE SECONDS- (Seriously. I guess I have no more excuses about taking a long time in the bathroom any longer do I?) I still managed to make this mile consistent.

Mile 8 8:35

Feeling a little better, we headed around the rest of the trail - it is a really nice trail, but I battled a little allergies including an almost nosebleed which thankfully went away after a drop and I blew some snot rockets on that narrow bridge - sorry peeps behind me, I hope you were watching! I think I told Meghann sorry about 20 times. Running is gross. And very unladylike and I'm a gross runner.

BTW - Kat I'm wearing a partially pink shirt. Aren't you proud of me?


I was still feeling pretty good as I approached my usual 'wall'. Meghann knew exactly what to say at the right time I was starting to feel the hills - even the little ones - in my legs. They were feeling like concrete blocks and even though  my breathing was fantastic, my muscles weren't keeping up their end of the bargain completely. I stopped to walk for 20 seconds or so and then picked it back up at the same pace as before. Crazy how that 20 seconds helps - my wall made itself apparent in my time for the mile, but I was determined to not let it get me down.

Mile 9 9:33

I thought we were almost out of the park and that we would go back the way we came - completely down hill, but that wasn't the case. Our trail kept going straight and took us slightly downhill back out to the main road by the water.  Meghann brought up breakfast and pancakes and we exchanged our favorite post race foods and decided we'd go get it when we were done.  I asked her what I would need to do to make sure I still met a sub-2 goal a couple of times - I'm terrible at math and splits are the worst.

Mile 10 8:48

Once we were back on the main road we turned right and headed for another out and back. At the turnaround, we were faced into a light headwind and a slightly uphill journey the entire way to the finish. The wind felt pretty good once I was used to the resistance. I was definitely trying to keep my pace, although I knew there was more in there, I hadn't quite figured out how to get past my mental self to grab hold of it. My stomach decided to act up a little and be slightly iffy - but there were definitely no port-o-lets around at this point. I did start picking a couple people off here and there, maybe because of the 75 port-o-lets I knew were waiting at the finish line, maybe because I'm competetive a little - passing guys gave me a little confidence boost.

Mile 11 8:49

This was the most boring part of the course. Only 2.1 miles left, not too much going on. No spectators, and nothing but road to look at, but it was still nice and peaceful. I think I walked another 20 seconds up a small hill somewhere in this mile. Throughout the race I thought it was so nice that a lot of other runners recognized Meghann's Meals and Miles shirt and that she wasn't shy to dish out any compliments or hi's to people. It perked me up everytime! It was a nice reminder for me to start doing that myself. I kind of just got in the zone at this point and noticed how loud and scary the tall guy behind us was breathing.

Mile 12 8:50

With one mile left, I was really trying hard to keep my heavy legs from taking over. So far I was winning. When there was only 3/4th of the last mile left, I began to hear the echo of the announcer. This made me really happy. We started seeing other runners going out for their cooldown walks/jogs and more spectators cheering. One lady passed me, and it irked me - I hung on to her and we chatted a little bit about why she was in such a hurry to catch up with her training partner.

Mile 13.1 8:46

I decided my best policy would be to stick with her - I knew Meghann could definitely keep up if not pass me, and then just gun it for the last .25 mile. I did just that with a best max of 5:27min/mi.

I have no idea where these last ditch sprints come from, but I get them every race.

OFFICIAL TIME: 1:54:56 Total finishers: 677

I passed the finish line and I was in a state of shock!

Steph came up to give me my medal and a hug. I saw another friend Caribbean Steve from the Brandon Running group who congratulated me, and then of course I had to give Beth her *chest bump* and an accusatory look for fibbing a little about the hills.

 mmm hmmm....

Meghann came in seconds behind me, and Diana right behind her. Mrs. Fit was already waiting with a warp speed time of 1:4x(something I don't remember).

I can't see a damn thing.

I turned around and gave Meghann a huge hug because without her support and pushing me, I knew I wouldn't have PR'd at all, especially by as much! She is an excellent pacer and super fun to be around the entire race. Spending 2 hours with someone literally right next you during a tough challenge can say a lot about a persona and patience! :)

We saw a few more people we knew - Jessica, Meghan M., and then headed out for breakfast after searching for a nearby spot via Yelp.

We did grab a couple of bites from the post race food tent while looking around - I ate 1 small piece of cheese pizza (wtf is wrong with me!? I am begger for punishment) and an orange slice.

We went to a place called Paradise Grill. The menu was typical diner style fare, but they didn't have real bacon. Kind of odd, but they did have country ham and turkey bacon. I'd never had turkey bacon before - so I decided to try it along with my banana walnut pancakes.

Sorry healthy friends, but no. Nasty. Give me some dirty fatty pig bacon! I let Meghann take this home to her cute puppy Maddie as a treat. I ate about 1-1/4 of my pancakes.

Meghann - thank you so much for surprise pacing me to a number I totally didn't expect. She also wrote a great review of the race and morning as well! Go read:

I had to work until midnight after the race, so no relishing in PR glory for me. But when I came home - this was waiting for me!


It is now 15 hours post race and my stomach has put itself back in order for the most part and I have minimal aches/pains. Got a pretty nasty blister on one foot in the same place I always get one, and my hip/bursitis is a little cranky, but nothing major.

My half marathon breakdown:
  • Gasparilla - March 2012 - 2:17 (1st half! minimal training -6mi max. I didn't even know what a pace or how long a half was) 
  • <hip injury Aug-October - no running at all>
  • WHM - Nov 2012 - 2:06 (Ran 5 mi then ran the race 2 wks out of PT)
  • Brandon Half - Dec 2012 - 2:08 (walked a whole lot)
  • Best Damn Race - Feb 2013 - 1:54 (trained for 6 weeks)

In less than 12 months, I managed to shave 23 minutes off my half marathon time with some seriously wacko lack of training.

I am hoping that throughout 2013 I avoid injury and I'm able to train consistently for MCM and bring in some even nicer PR's in the winter.

Throughout the past 6 training weeks, I wondered if I'd cry when (if ever) I hit my sub-2 goal. And I didn't. I think I was just in shock that I actually did it that I didn't really know what to do.


This race was awesome. Nick and team did an amazing job organizing, putting it together, and making the entire experience overall FUN. Definitely lives up to the name - Best Damn Race. It gave me the Best Damn Time for a half marathon (so far) and allowed me to write the best damn post about it all!

How did you react when you hit a major running goal  - cry? do a dance? fall over in the grass and puke?
What is next for your race schedule?

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