Sunday, November 23, 2014

2014 Annapolis 1/2 Marathon Race Report

Every year I tell myself I'll run a flat-ish 1/2 marathon course and really see what I can do...and somehow every time I end up running up and down hills!  I signed up for Annapolis without knowing much about it except it was cheaper than Philly, closer than Philly, and our good friend Mark lives less than a mile from the race start.  When I registered I was pretty sure it would be flat, being a coastal town and all.  After reading some race reports and hearing stories of this race from friends I knew I'd be in for some hills.  At least the hills have a way of keeping it interesting.

Some race reports and stories that I'd heard didn't have much good things to say about the course.  Long, hilly, windy, never running this race again, etc.  I decided I needed to check it out for myself.  I started the 2014 season off with a 1/2 marathon at Rock n'Roll DC (also not really flat) and wanted to close it out with one as well.  All in all this race wasn't bad.

Adam and I headed up to our friend, Mark's house on Friday afternoon.  I made a quick stop for some homeopathic cold remedies as I'd felt a tickle in my throat all day at work.  Zicam, Airborne, sore throat lozenges, etc...I was avoiding the 'good' stuff until post race as to not wreck havoc on my heart rate.  I'm pretty good at rating my RPE, but heart rate really keeps me honest during a race, especially from going out too fast, so wanted my HR to be as reliable as possible for the race.  I probably had the most expensive urine at the race on Saturday morning from the pure amount of vitamin C I took in on Friday.

After hanging out a bit with Mark, Donner, and Heather we all went out to meet up with more DC folk for dinner.  Mark lives close to just about everything, so we walked the 2 blocks to dinner...and it was super cold out.  I started my night with some hot tea to clear the sinuses and keep warm.  I knew the forecasted low of 37 for race morning was likely too good to be true.  Dinner was great and of course entertaining with the crew that accompanied us.  Adam and I headed back to the house after dinner so I could attempt to sleep some this cold bug off.

Race Morning
With a 7am race start I woke up about 2 hours before to get in a decent breakfast and slam some more immune system boosters!  I checked the weather hoping that it would be mid-30's (or warmer! ha) and found 27 degrees.  Oi, not ideal, but at least I'd been running in some colder weather to figure out if my lungs would cooperate and not go into full bronchospasm/exercise-induced asthma mode.  We were able to leave the house at 6:30 and do our warm up jog to race start, check our jackets/extra clothes, and jump in the start corral leaving us with only 3 (actually 7) minutes to wait for the starting gun.  I lined up with Mindy, said a quick hello & good luck to Katie T, and sent Adam off to the front with a good luck kiss before the starting gun.

Float Phase! Thanks for a great pic, Lee!

The Race
My hands were freezing during the first 2 miles, but as the sun came up and my body warmed up I felt great by mile 3.  The course started out fairly flat and I was able to work into my race effort.  I was really also really appreciating the ability to take a full deep breath while I was running -- in the cold!  I'm not sure this is something I've ever been able to do, until recently.  If you missed my post 'The Cold Never Bothered Me Anyway' check it out.  The course does have a very interesting intersection during mile 5 in which runner's cross over each other's paths as the volunteer's jump to the side and say 'find a way through, you can do it'!  Very interesting, it really only take a simple change of direction for the out and back/loop runners to mitigate this course issue (maybe other issues then arise).  Seems like something you'd figure out as you design the course and get athlete feed back year after year.  Once past that small obstacle we headed for the Naval Academy Bridge and the land of hills that exists beyond it.  I will say it was more hilly over there than I ever would have expected.  Once we came back across the bridge it flattened out for the last 1.5 miles back to the stadium.  Thank goodness Lee was at mile 11/12...he was probably singing Eric Church songs but I didn't stick around long enough to listen.  I felt great pretty much the entire time (yes, in spite of this illness I'm trying to kick!).  My legs were feeling it by the end, but being able to breathe makes a huge difference.  I decided to carry a small handheld bottle with me and I'm glad I did.  The aid stations had cups full of ice water and iced Gatorade, all the while ice was forming on the roads where water was spilt!  I wanted nothing cold, so my room temperature Osmo Active was perfect.  The finish is a bit anti-climactic as you run through a large parking lot for about a quarter mile before you come around to the side of the finish line and cheering fans.  I chased our friend Caroline into the finisher's chute and was happy to see I'd be finishing with a 4 minute 1/2 marathon PR.  Not too shabby for 27 degrees and sick.  I didn't look at my pace or time once during the race.  I used HR and RPE to guide my effort level, which all and all worked out pretty well.

Disregard the first 2 spikes! Static electricity!

The multiple out and back designs offered ample chances to cheer for friends, which was great.  The race course itself was gorgeous, we got to run through the quaint downtown of Annapolis, around the hills of Annapolis and into the sunshine as it came up over the water.  The course was almost spot on distance wise - maybe a tad long, but nothing like the years before where it was 13.4 miles.  I didn't love the hills while I was running up them, but they really weren't that bad.
Myself, Mindy and Caroline post race

This race is somewhat known for its post race festivities.  Finishers all get a nice half-zip (complete with thumb holes!).  There is hot tomato bisque soup, all you can eat oysters, and all you can drink beer,  along with some staples like bananas and bagels.  There was a great folk band playing, Dublin Five, and the tent was heated!  We hung out for a little while as all of our friends met up and enjoyed the band for a bit before heading back to the house to get cleaned up for a day on the town.  Annapolis was great because there are plenty of local brunch/lunch places and once the sun was shining it was pretty nice to walk around outside during our brief tour of The Academy a la Mark.

DC Tri Crew and Friends!

So...would I do this race again?  Yes, it's convenient, cheaper than most 1/2's and Annapolis is a great town to spend the day in (probably better when you're not sick).  The drive from DC on race day also isn't bad at all, so it doesn't require an overnight stay.

First off thank you to Mark and Donner for being awesome hosts.  Thank you to the DC Tri group and friends (Caroline, Andy, Heather) who made the weekend even better.  Thank you to sponsors Snapple/DC Tri, Osmo Nutrition, RosePT and Louis Garneau that kept me moving instead of freezing! Thank you and congrats to Adam for always being supportive and super fast!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Cold Never Bothered Me Anyway...

I wish I could say this were true, but by the time I was a senior in high school I knew I needed to head south.  After many cold and snowy soccer games in Michigan I had no desire to stick around for 4 more years.  I was stubborn and rarely wore long sleeves under my jersey, never wore tights, and would only occasionally wear gloves.  In August of 2005 I was leaving a beautiful Michigan summer for the hot and humid shores of Beautiful Eagle Creek in Statesboro, Georgia.

Practice Fields on Eagle Creek
I quickly adjusted to the heat and humidity.  I wore jeans to the first day of class as a freshman -- I was sweating before I got halfway to class -- I don't think I wore jeans to class for the next four years.  What used to seem warm for a winter game or practice would soon become what I thought was 'freezing'.  I was hopeful there would be no more training sessions with snowmen as spectators.

It didn't snow once while I was in Statesboro.  The temperatures were mild in the winter and the coldest days we had to deal with while in season were during our away games in Boone, North Carolina.  I never once needed long sleeves, gloves or a headband during game day.  The only white stuff on your uniform after a game was the salt that you had sweated out on it.  Most days were sunny and gorgeous.  

The truth was...I hated the cold.  I'm not sure I really knew it at the time, I just knew I performed better when it wasn't cold.  Any training session we had in the cold I'd cough and have trouble breathing - but since this only happened a few times per year, if that, I just blamed it on coming down with a cold.  Since leaving Statesboro for Washington DC, I've had my fair share of snowdays and cold weather.   I've also had the opportunity to use a treadmill or indoor bike trainer in any instance when I don't want to brave the cold or snow.  There were plenty of times when DC was snow covered and the sun was shining that I put on my running shoes and took in the sights.  I didn't pay attention to heart rate, pace, or any piece of data for that matter.  I simply enjoyed the run and took photo ops when I wanted to.


This year has been my first year of training while consistently using my heart rate monitor and Garmin.  I've watched myself become a faster more efficient runner.  I've learned about heart training methods and the purpose behind them.  I recently had a couple great training cycles and races at Ironman Lake Placid and IM 70.3 Augusta, but when it came time to start a short training cycle to wrap the season up with a 1/2 marathon it appeared everything was gone.  I could barely make it a mile without wheezing and coughing.  My pace across all my zones dropped...and it would continuously drop as I brought my heart rate up throughout a run.  I gave myself a couple weeks, looked at everything I was doing outside of training and couldn't pinpoint a thing...other than cold weather.  I'd have a couple great midweek runs when I ran after work - while the sun was shining and the temps were hitting the 50s and 60s, but anything early in the morning or in the cold and windy weather was brutal.  I quickly enlisted the help of my doctor, ruled out some more serious possibilities, and moved forward with the most likely explanation -- exercise induced asthma (exacerbated by cold air)'ve got to be kidding me...

As nice as it would be to pick up and head to sunny Florida or Arizona, I'm loving life in DC.  So I'm figuring out why my body freaks out in the cold.  I've got some solutions and ideas that I've tried out this past week and I'm actually now looking forward the TCS Annapolis 1/2 Marathon next Saturday.   In some ways running with lungs that were shutting down in the cold was kind of like training at altitude.  The thought of running horribly slow, while coughing and wheezing my way through 13.1 miles had me considering sherpa duties for a few days (and hoping I wouldn't be confined to the treadmill for the majority of my first training block in 2015).

Here's to one more 2015 race and the fast approaching off-season!

The best part of life is not just surviving, but thriving with passion and compassion and
humor and style and generosity and kindness. - Maya Angelou