Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Hershey Half Marathon 2014 Recap, Part 1

People say that the third time’s the charm…and I might agree with them, with some reservations.  On Sunday, I ran my third consecutive Hershey Half Marathon.  It was sweet indeed, as far as my performance went.  In terms of race organization, it was a tad sour.

In past years, I’ve delighted in Hershey’s easy breezy packet pickups, even if the so-called “expo” element of the half leaves something to be desired.  This year, however, was different.  For some strange reason, the Chocolate World parking lot (my normal packet pickup parking area) was closed, and so we were forced to join the Hersheypark traffic going through the Entertainment Complex.  Chaos ensued.

Cars were bumper to bumper, and the hyper Hershey security team did nothing to calm nerves.  Exiting traffic from the Giant Center was being directed in front of the incoming traffic for the Entertainment Complex, which caused major tie-ups.  Screaming, honking and apocalyptic outbursts ensued from Central PA’s irritated suburban drivers (I would like to dump all these people on my city block during a simultaneous commuting hour/ambulance incoming and see just how they deal).  It was truly horrific.  

At packet pickup itself, the tension was still high among participants, but the actual deed of grabbing my bib and t-shirt was straightforward (you know, after my family spent 30 minutes maneuvering past irate drivers and searching for an elusive parking space).  Thanks to the morning madness, we decided not to brave entry at the park on Saturday (two tickets to Halloween in Hershey are included as part of the race fee).

The bedlam continued into race morning.  I woke up at my usual Hershey time (5:15) and was on site by 6:45 am.  Around 7:10 am, I got into line for the porta potties, thinking from my past experiences with Hershey races that that would leave more than enough time to be at the start by 7:30.  Bizarrely, Hershey thought it would be a wise idea to move all of the porta potties into a newly-gated participant area (previously they had a long line of stalls in the parking lot to alleviate congestion near the stadium restrooms).  Furthermore, there was only one entrance for the participant area, and it was on the far side of the stadium, making entry horribly inconvenient for anybody who didn’t park in the Entertainment Complex (and we heard from those people who did park in the designated areas that traffic was nightmarish again on race morning, forcing many runners to ditch their families at the curb in order to get to the start in time).

The forecast had called for yucky weather (46 degrees, overcast and windy), and just for fun, it started to lightly rain as us runners all assembled.  Thankfully, the rain was just a tease.

I was in line up until 7:28 am, and I had to fight my way through the crowd to reach my mom and ditch my warmup clothes before the starting gun.  I didn’t have time to start my Gamin in advanced like a normally do, and as it searched for a signal, I was afraid I was going to get stuck at the very back of the pack.  Mercifully my watch locked in on a satellite right as I was directing myself over the starting mat.

I was hoping the race itself wouldn’t be as frenzied as the pre-race episodes!

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my race recap, including my finish time and overall race grades, tomorrow evening.

~Tomato Face

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Marathon Monday: 2014 Fall Marathon Training Week 13

I know, I know.  It is no longer Monday.  But I still wanted to recap my past week of training, even though it was a slacker-iffic one.

Monday:  Rest day

To summarize this entire post: rest was the theme of the week.

Tuesday:  Running, easy, 4.01 miles @ 9:40 minute mile pace—38:44 minutes

My journal notes from this run read “Good lord, was this rough… achy, weak.  Struggle.”

Yeah, it was THAT good.

Part of my problem with Tuesday’s workout was mental.  I was starting to get anticipatory anxiety about the half marathon.  I wasn’t worried about my time or finishing, but I was disturbed by my various aches and pains that suddenly manifested.  It seemed my body (and mind) were conspiring against my attempts at a calm state pre-race.

Wednesday:  Rest day

I was originally supposed to run on Wednesday, but after Tuesday’s hot mess of a run, I just wasn’t feeling it.  

Thursday:  Running, easy, 6.40 miles @ 9:33 minute mile pace—1:01:06 hours

Although I still was suffering from a sore knee and tight leg muscles, I was much more relaxed in this last workout before my race.  I was super excited to be going home for the weekend and I was jazzed about returning to the Hershey course, so that contributed to my overall happy mood.  As I said earlier, attitude is everything!

Friday:  Rest day

Saturday:  Rest day

Packet pickup on Saturday was a nightmare (I shall elaborate in my race recap).  I shook off the horror of that experience by carb loading Saturday night with spinach ravioli and watching my fave, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.  

Sunday:  Race day!!! Running, 13.1 miles

My mini taper came to an end with Sunday’s race.  It was cold and it was blustery, but I was glad it wasn’t 90 degrees and/or rainy.  Stay tuned for my recap tomorrow and Thursday!

This upcoming week I dip my toes back into pre-mini taper mileage with one of my last long runs (possibly a 20 miler!!!) before the marathon.  Eek, I can’t believe I’m down to the final few weeks of training!

~Tomato Face

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Why I’m not worried before my big race

Lately around the running blogosphere, I’ve been seeing a lot of negativity.  So many runners seem to be in a constant battle, putting so much pressure upon themselves to set PRs and complete new distances.  I’ve heard of runners quitting races because they weren’t hitting their time goals, or complaining nonstop through weeks and weeks of training yet vowing to run their race anyway for who knows what reason.

My question is why?

Do I complain about running?  Hell yeah.  Does running make me grumpy and tired and sore sometimes?  Hell yeah x 2.  Do I occasionally think about all the free time I would have if I quit it?  What sane person wouldn’t?

But ultimately, despite the blisters and the black toenails and the occasional blown time goals and the hours of training, I still love running.  It keeps me balanced in this crazy world.  No matter how much I might think I’ve leveled off at certain points, I find myself constantly pushing past what I thought were my limits.  Running gives me something to look forward to and to be proud of.

And I’ve learned firsthand that putting pressure upon myself doesn’t lead to the greatest outcomes.  When I ran Rock ‘N’ Roll in 2013, I convinced myself that OMG I MUST PR AND I MUST DEFINE MY ENTIRE TRAINING SEASON BY THIS ONE RACE.

Well, we all know how that went (not only did I fail to meet my pace expectations, but I hated every minute of that race).  I was darn stupid for doing that to myself.

The races and regular ol’ runs where I have done best have been the ones where I just let myself be.  Yes, it’s great to strive for goals (I certainly have some going into Hershey), but attitude is the most important thing in all of this.

I really want that sub-2:00:00 in Sunday’s race, but more than anything, I want to enjoy my run.  I’m going to soak in the (most likely really cold) crisp fall air and sunshine, and I’m going to delight in the fact that, hey, I’m achieving what used to be my impossible.  If I don’t make that sub-2:00:00, it won’t be the end of the world.

And yes, I’m still getting the normal pre-race jitters.  Did I train enough?  Should I have practiced on more hills?  How am I going to carry water?  Should I dress warm or cool?  Where will I meet my family on the course?

Every time this anxiety flutters to the surface, I shake it off.  Because, just like the song says, it’s gonna be alright.

I honestly can’t wait for this weekend.

~Tomato Face