On the Road Again…

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On the road again
Just can’t wait to get on the road again
The life I love is [running miles] with my friends
And I can’t wait to get on the road again
On the road again
Determined

Determination late in the race

It is time to start my training for the St. Jude Half Marathon once again! It has never been a secret that this is my favorite race of the year, and training for it could not have come at a better time this big guy. I am in my second week of my sluggish training, and I am already seeing some gains, albeit, they are no where near my norms. But they will get there, it may not be until the 2017 St. Jude Half Marathon, but they will get there.
Running

Running & smiling in my first 13.1!

And our way
Is on the road again
Just can’t wait to get on the road again
The life I love is [running miles] with my friends
And I can’t wait to get on the road again
On the road again
My apologies to Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson. Also, my apologies to you, my readers, for this corny post, I will see myself out…

New St. Jude Marathon Weekend Race

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2016 marks the 15th year of the St. Jude Marathon Weekend, and with it, St. Jude is introducing a new race distance! In years past, have you felt that the 5K was not challenging enough, yet the idea of the half marathon or marathon was still too daunting? Well, this year, you are in luck! St. Jude has decided to provide potential race participants with the option of running a 10K for the kids! I will still be either running the half or the full marathon, but I am excited that even more people can participate in this wonderful race weekend. More info can be found here.

2016 Germantown Half Marathon Recap

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I have written a recap for this race multiple times, and it most details rarely change from year to year. This year is no exception, so I am going to spare everyone the explicit details, and just share the swag, and give some props.

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A personal positive note, I was faster during this race than the Rebel Well Mighty Half, so that is always welcomed news! Susan also brought our son out to cheer me along the course, which is certainly a welcomed sight!

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But I said I was going to give props for this race, and so I would love to give a big shout out and congratulations to my friend, and friend of this blog to Andrew D. for crushing his first ever half marathon! He left me in the dust from the start and finished well ahead of his goal and certainly earned his successful finish!

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Swag: A-: For the third year in a row, there was a redesign of the race medal, shirt, and logo. It was another great design, and certainly trumped what was done for the race for the years prior to 2014. I still preferred the designs from 2014, but this year was still very good, even if the use of a Pegasus is a bit perplexing. They kept the long-sleeved shirt for this year’s race, and even had an option to purchase a hoodie.

Rebel Well Mighty Half Recap

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For years there had been a half marathon in Oxford, MS that Susan wanted me to participate in, but for whatever reason, my schedule never seemed to align properly with it. And when I finally decided to make it a priority to appease my Ole Miss alum wife, the race was discontinued. That is how things go I suppose. But this year Run Oxford decided to organize a half marathon to showcase their beautiful town (even non Ole Miss fans like myself can concede to this fact) and encourage healthier living. In fact, Run Oxford has organized an entire series of races for 2016, dubbed as the Inn at Ole Miss Oxford Grand Prix Race Series. You can sign up for the short or long distances, or just for individual races. I opted for the long distance, and that is how I found myself in Oxford, MS on a brisk February morning preparing to run a race in which I was not properly trained (my fault) and had no clue what to expect.

I have been to Ole Miss several times with Susan and her family for tailgating and football, as well as a few times in my younger days for some debauchery, but I have never visited to campus so early or when there seemingly was so little happening. I arrived plenty early because I was not entirely sure of where I needed to be or how easy navigation was going to be on campus. It turns out that I was overly paranoid about this fact because there was plenty of parking adjacent to the expo and finish line, and this area was also quite close to the start line as well. I did not browse the expo being that I was picking up my packet the morning of the race, but by the looks of the setup inside the indoor practice facility which housed the expo and finish line, there were a decent amount of vendors for this newly minted race.

Since I was not fully trained (a recurring theme which I am not proud about, and I have started to address) for this race, I opted to use a run walk ratio of 2.5:1. This ratio served me quite well for the first 8-9 miles, but my lack of training and mental weakness from this lack of training took over and I went into full on “how much longer is this race” mode. Nothing on my body really hurt that badly besides my ego and my confidence, but this is the bed I made for myself, so I forged through it to finish the race is a personal worst time. This performance will likely be repeated another time or two this spring as I work to reset my running, healthy living, and dedication into my daily routine.

Rebel Well Half

The positive to being slow is that it is easier to get a clean race photo!

Course: A-: There were hills because running a race of any distance in Oxford will have hills. It cannot be avoided. The race organizers did do a great job of trying to minimize the impact of the hills, and tried valiantly to incorporate the biggest hills early in the race. This was appreciated by all of us runners. The course went throughout Ole Miss’ campus, Downtown Oxford, and several residential neighborhoods, ending in the Manning Center (name of the indoor practice facility). Finishing inside was a great idea for a February race, even though on this particular race day, it was not needed due to the unseasonably warm weather. The Ole Miss cheerleaders cheering you to the finish was a nice touch as well.

My only complaint about the course is that the Oxford Police Department were moving us off the road and onto the sidewalks by 8:30 am, even though not all of the roads had sidewalks to utilize. The race started at 7:00 am and the roads were supposed to be closed/reserved until 10:30 am. I guess the small number of runners expedited the urgency to fully reopen the roads.

Mighty Half

Mighty Half 2016 Finisher’s Medal

Swag: A-: The race shirt was a full zipped hoodie which is awesome, even if they gave me the wrong size, and the race medal was nice looking, even if it was not revolutionary. There was no beer after the race, but there was plenty of chocolate milk, water, and refreshments to recover with. Also, they provided free race photos, which is always great.

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Mighty Half 2016 Swag

Overall: A-: This was a fun and well-organized event. I am curious to see if this race does become an annual event, and how many more runners chose this race in the future. If it is offered and I am available to run it, I will return to this race. If for no other reason than having a very attainable personal best finishing time for the course!

 

2015 St. Jude Memphis Half Marathon Recap

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Man was I sloooooowwwww during this race, and I did not care one bit. I had other priorities this fall and hence, I did a poor job of training. The name of the game on this particular race morning was finish, and I did just that, so it was deemed a success. Especially because of my awesome cheering section, including the newest and youngest member of the family.

 

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2015 St. Jude Half Marathon Finisher’s Medal

I love this race, raising money for the kids of St. Jude, and remembering what I can accomplish when I put my mind to it. This race always is rewarding for me, even when it is not a success in terms of my finishing time. With Susan’s pregnancy and the the birth of our son, my training was virtually nonexistent. I would go for a run here and there, or do a quick workout at the house, but I by no means followed a set schedule and my mileage was not ramped up near where it should have been. Therefore, this event became one in which crossing the finish line was all a cared about and even though my running watch was still going (I mean, I need to track those stats!), it was not something I was using to gauge my success.

 

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Greatest cheering section ever!

It several ways, this was the perfect year for me to have my slowest race of all-time. There was a new course to enjoy (I love the changes), I saw more friends along the course than all of my previous years combined, and my newest family member made his public debut to cheer me along the way.

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Heroes swag

Another positive about the 2015 race for me was that it was my highest fundraising total for the kids of St. Jude ever! Thanks to several generous donors, including multiple readers of this blog, I was able to raise $1,000 for the kids of St. Jude, which was twice the total of my goal! Thank you to everyone that donated!

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2015 St. Jude Half Marathon swag

No need to go through all of my usual grading for this event, but I will just mention a couple of things. The Heroes singlets are still tiny, so if you run as a Hero, order accordingly. I remembered to go up a size in the shirt this year, so I can actually wear it, especially since the shirts ran bigger anyway this year. The medal had an extra bling factor and incorporated the Memphis skyline and St. Jude’s campus again this year. And the course being reworked to avoid Overton Park and instead use Madison Ave. was an outstanding change. It allowed for more spectators, better crowd management along the route (both spectators and runners), and had less debris to avoid along the way. I am not sure why the change was made (Overton Park had been having some challenges with park usage and conservation recently), but I fully support it being a permanent change.

In 2016, this will again be my race to cap off the year, and hopefully I will be fully trained for it and I will be closer to chasing down a PR than a PW.

2016 Goals and Expectations

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2016 is going to be all about getting back to basics, and being the best Kyle that I can be. Top of the list will of course be the best father as possible, and every choice in which I make must factor my son and how it will impact him into it. That being said, this list is what I am aiming to do in 2016 to better myself and my community.

It's all about this guy now

It’s all about this guy now

  1. Embrace my spirituality. I have gotten so far away from this over the past few years that I am not sure where to even begin, but I am going to give it my best shot.
  2. Read for a minimum of 1 hour everyday. This does not mean playing on Facebook and Twitter for an hour, but reading actual books, magazine articles, and items of significance to expand my knowledge.
  3.  Be active for at least 30 minutes everyday. To say that I have gotten lazy would be a drastic understatement. Yes, I have had quite a bit going on, but I need to a handle on it. I do not want to return to the 300+ club again.

    I do not want to return to this form again

    I do not want to return to this form again

  4. Eat better. This goes hand and hand with my weight and laziness, but I need to do a better job of saying no to fast food and junk. I should completely abstain from these items, but I am going to allow an occasional (not daily) Chik-Fil-A trip or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup without brandishing too much guilt.
  5. Run locally. I have complained about the lack of races here in Memphis, but in 2016, there appears to be several new options for the 13.1 distance and beyond, so I am going to so my part and participate (I’ve already added the Mainly Marathons and Race 13.1 events in April, and I will be registering for the Great American River Run in May as well).
  6. Run more often. 1,000 miles is the goal for 2016. Getting and staying trained for my race calendar is lumped into this goal as well.

    Log 1,000 miles

    Log 1,000 miles

  7. PR at least 1 race. I do not care the distance, but I want to best my time for at least 1 distance in which I have previously run (no loopholes here) in 2016.
  8. Get more involved in my community. I work for a nonprofit and I do the Heroes thing for St. Jude, but I am currently looking to do more, and one area that I am actively pursuing is joining the board of directors for a nonprofit. I have applied to one board, but since doing so I have discovered more about the organization and decided that it is not an appropriate fit for me.
  9. Go to Opening Day 2016. A tradition I want to do with my son is to attend Opening Day for the Atlanta Braves with him every year. I have already purchased our tickets, and we will be there 3 months today to cheer the Braves on against the Washington Nationals!The Chop

So there you have it, my short, but lofty goal list for 2016 to be a better me. This list is very attainable, and unless some unforeseen circumstances arise, I should be able to check each one of these off by December.

2015 Country Music Half Marathon

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Another half marathon, regardless of how slow I ran it (it is now my personal worst finish, but we will examine this in a later post), is in the books. Saturday marked my second consecutive year of surviving the hills of Nashville in the late April humidity. The weather could have been worse, the predicted storms could have come through, ravishing the course and participants, but luckily all we had to endure was humidity at the start, and actually was blessed with a reprieve from the sun beating us down along the course. The temperature remained relatively cool, especially for late April in the south.

2015 Country Music Half Marathon Finisher's Medal

2015 Country Music Half Marathon Finisher’s Medal

There were over 30,000 participants for the day’s activities, and while at times, it certainly felt like you were around 30,000 other people, the event does a good job of managing the masses. There is plenty of parking at LP Field, especially if you arrive early, which is something I always try to do. Traffic is a beast, but that cannot be avoided in Nashville. The city is designed in such a way that traffic delays are unavoidable, especially during major events. If you have some knowledge of the side streets, you can circumvent some of the delays, which will certainly help your stress level. The event had 43 starting corrals to spread us out along the course, which certainly helped with the early congestion in the race. I was in corral 19 which meant I started about 35 minutes after the elite runners. The standing and waiting for your race to begin is not ideal, but it certainly beats trying to funnel 30,000+ people along city streets and through water stations. I cannot even imagine the chaos that would ensue without the wave start!

An area that the event could improve its crowd management is with the porta-potties, beer ID check, and post race refreshments. On my walk from the parking lot to my starting corral, I only saw four clusters of less than 20 porta-potties within each cluster. For 30,000+ people, this can create some issues. Especially when units begin to run out of toilet paper, which happened around 6:15 for the units closest to the parking lot. To get your ID checked for the post race beer, you had to stand in a long line at the expo. Maybe checking ID’s at the bib pickup location could help? I do not know for sure, but several people skipped the ID tent because they did not want to wait in line for their 21 and over bracelet. The finish line was a huge cluster. People were trying to stretch, refuel, and meet up with their families in a very finite space that was constantly adding new people to it. It felt like runners were being herded like cattle from receiving our medals to the various refueling options, around the corner to the beer tents. Honestly, the process would have probably worked better if the race could have used the facilities inside LP Field, not just around it.

Yep, my iPhone equated the hills to roughly 54 flights of stairs. My Fitbit placed the hills at over 60 flights of stairs.

Yep, my iPhone equated the hills to roughly 54 flights of stairs. My Fitbit placed the hills at over 60 flights of stairs.

Course: B: It was hilly, but we knew that going into the event. There were bands throughout the course and quite a bit of crowd support. Water stops were frequent and there was GU at mile 11, which is where the marathon and half marathon split up. The wave start helps to maintain the crowd considerably along the course, with only minor issues when the course goes through a residential neighborhood towards the middle. The course incorporates music row and downtown, which are areas everyone wants to see in Nashville.

2015 shirt, bib, and medal

2015 shirt, bib, and medal

Swag: A-: I like the medal, the shirt is good, but not great, and the post race refueling was plentiful. Rock ‘n Roll events are expensive, so it is nice to know that you got your money’s worth once you finish the event.

Nashville is known for its hot chicken, so of course that is how I refueled after the race!

Nashville is known for its hot chicken, so of course that is how I refueled after the race! This meal was consumed at Hattie B’s Hot Chicken. It was excellent.

Overall: A: Managing an event for 30,000+ people is not easy. There are going to be complications to address. Lines will be long, the crowds will be dense. The expo was a great example of this. There were numerous vendors there, but getting to each one could be a chore. I loved the expo, and I scored a few much-needed running items on the cheap. I really do enjoy this race, even though it is a challenge for those of us flatlanders that get kicked in the teeth by the hills. I have run in this event before, and I will run in it again. And maybe next year, I will be closer to my 2014 results, and not this year’s disappointing finish.

And on a side note, if you like fried chicken and spicy flavorings, Nashville has you covered. I loved the hot chicken at Hattie B’s, and will also be making a return trip there in the future!

I am a Rock ‘n Blog Ambassador for 2015 and I ran this race as such. It in no way skewed or influenced my reflections of this event (you can check last year’s review for that confirmation). All views and opinions within this blog are my own. 

2015 Murray Half Marathon Recap

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Last weekend I was able to run a half marathon in a town about as close as possible to my hometown, which was great. I was able to stay with my parents, have a home-cooked meal, and relax in a house rather than a hotel. The race also happened to be in Kentucky, which enabled me to cross off another state in my running journey, which is now at six states for the half marathon distance.

Start line before the race began

Start line before the race began

Going into this race, I had no idea what to expect. It was a small town race in its fifth year of existence, with under 1,000 registered runners. It could be great, it could be terrible, and it could be something in between. You never know what the crowd support will be like and how capable the RD will be (this can be true at big races, as well). After running the race, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by the crowd support. There was a spirit competition for supports at the water stops and other areas across the course, several locals were about to cheer us along, and the race went along smoothly.

Soem of the Murray Spirit Teams

Some of the Murray Spirit Teams

The weather started cool, and warmed throughout the morning. The early fear was that there were going to be storms on race morning, but those fears were unfounded. The sun was out for the entire race, which actually began to take its toll on me. As the miles racked up, so did the humidity and sunshine, and my mental state did not endure. This mental deterioration also accompanied the course going primarily rural. But I finished the race, and that was the goal!

Course: B+: The course was a combination of residential and rural, with crowd support along the entire course. There were plenty of water stops, and even Cliff Blocks at some of the water stations. There was no bottle-necking along the course, even at the start and the out and back stretch through a local park. There were more hills than I expected, and as my mental state waned, it felt as if we were only going uphill (which I know is not true, but it did feel that way).

2015 Murray Half Marathon Finisher's Medal

2015 Murray Half Marathon Finisher’s Medal

Swag: A: The medal has a classic look, with a design on both sides. The shirt was made from technical material and the design plays well on both the shirt and medal. The bibs had the runners’ full names and hometown on them, which was a first for me. Several races will have your first name or nickname, but not a full name. The expo was small, but was packed with vendors. The goody bag had several samples, including a free car wash and multiple pain relief remedies.

2015 bib, shirt, and medal for the Murray Half Marathon

2015 bib, shirt, and medal for the Murray Half Marathon

Overall: A-: Great race, with plenty of support. The post race was fun, with plenty of items. Parking was tight near the start line, but runners could use the parking lot at the football stadium for Murray State University and be shuttled to and from the race. The only issue with the shuttle was that the pickup location was not clearly marked, so several us missed the first pickup. The race also had chip timing rather than gun timing, which is not a given for a small town race.

I would do this event again in the future, even if it was not so close to my parents’ house.

2015 Germantown Half Marathon Review

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This is not my first time running in this event, and it will not be my last. I have reviewed the race a couple of times now, and I find it redundant to do a full review each year as long as the organizers and course remain constant, which they did for this year. Instead, I am going to talk about this day in particular and the 2015 version of the race medal and swag.

Susan captured this pic of me running along the course

Susan captured this pic of me running along the course

What a difference a day makes for the weather! After the rain that never seemed to end, this race day ended up beautiful. The day started chilly, but warmed up as the day progressed. Sunday ended up being the best day of the year thus far, even if it did not feel that way in the second half of the race. After months of freezing temps, the mid-60’s felt like a heat wave and hammered me on the run. It did feel great to be in the sun and to not be bundled up after the race.

Determination late in the race

Determination late in the race

By using a run walk ratio for the Andrew Jackson Half Marathon on Saturday, and then again for this race on Sunday, I was able to actually finish this race, and the more difficult course four minutes faster than the day before! I was very pleased with my efforts during the race and even though this was much slower than last year’s event, I think that I am returning to a good place with my running.

2015 Germantown Half Marathon finisher's medal

2015 Germantown Half Marathon finisher’s medal

Swag: B+: For the second year in a row, there was a redesign of the race medal, shirt, and logo. It was another great design, and certainly trumped what was done for the race for the years prior to 2014. I preferred the designs from 2014, but this year was still very good. I love that this year they made a long-sleeved shirt for the race, even if they keep you guessing on the proper size to order with the constant changing of shirt brands and types. For anyone that is a repeat participant in an event, it is nice to have a variety of shorts for an event, and in this capacity, this race is succeeding.

2015 Germantown Half swag

2015 Germantown Half swag

The race organizers also did something great for the race participants. There was a large number of late registrations, and rather than having a medal shortage fiasco like a couple of years ago, they were proactive in their approach. They emailed everyone, letting them know that if you registered after a certain date, you would not get a medal on race day, but rather you would have one sent to you when the second batch were finished. To determine how to distribute the medals for the races, they color coordinated race bibs. If you had a green bib, you got a medal. A white bib meant that you did not. It worked great from what I could see after I finished.

2015 Andrew Jackson Half Marathon Review

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Saturday I took the hour drive up Interstate 40 to Jackson, TN to tackle my first of two half marathons for the weekend at the Andrew Jackson Half Marathon. This race is a smaller race, and offers a marathon, half marathon, and 5K with staggered start times for each event. There really was not an expo, just a registration and packet pickup at one of the gyms on the Union University campus.

The day did not start off great with the week-long rain still lingering for most of the morning. It was not as heavy of a rain as the rest of the week, but it just exasperated the amount of liquid along the course. It also marked my third half marathon of 2015 in which the weather was not great. This is a risk you run with spring events. We all know the possibilities, and signing up early to save some cash will limit our ability to cherry-pick races according to weather.

Being that this race was going to be my first of two half marathons for the weekend, I decided to take it easy along the course. I even violated a cardinal rule for running by trying something new on race day. Of course, my something new was not new shoes, apparel, or fueling, but rather new pacing. I decided to try incorporating a run walk ratio for the race. I assumed that using a pre-planned run walk regiment would help preserve my legs for the following day’s race, and it would help curb my instinct to push it hard, especially early in the event. The run walk ratio was a successful strategy for this event for me. I was sore after the event, but not as much so as I would have been if I would have used my same race strategy. Of course, my finish time was not spectacular, but this weekend was much more about completing the events, not a PR.

Andrew Jackson Half Marathon finisher's medal

Andrew Jackson Half Marathon finisher’s medal

Course: B-: The word that best describes this course is boring. It was a mix of rural and residential streets with sparse crowds throughout. The volunteers were fantastic, and there were an adequate amount of water stations along the course. There were some moderate, rolling hills and the course was open to traffic. Race organizers did a great job of stopping traffic for runners to cross, but with the standing water along the course, some areas got a little tight with motorists and runners. The crowd at the finish was great and encouraging, so that certainly is a positive from the race.

Andrew Jackson Half race shirt, bib, and medal

Andrew Jackson Half race shirt, bib, and medal

Swag: B-: Tech shirt and medal constitutes the swag for this race. The post race spread consisted of bananas, orange slices, and bagels. The medal has been polarizing for the people who have seen it on my social media outlets. Personally, I like the idea they were going for, and for a presidential nerd, it is fantastic. The medal, however, looks a bit off. Susan finds the medal creepy. It looks like one of the following three things: 1) a Michael Myers mask, 2) Andrew Jackson wearing an Andrew Jackson mask, or 3) or Christopher Walken dressed as Andrew Jackson. Judge for yourself.

Overall: B-: It is a small race that is well-organized and for a great cause (raises money for the prevention of child abuse and neglect). For future events, organizers should work for a bigger post race spread. They had a dinner the night before the race, which would be great for people staying in the Jackson, TN area, but something post race would be great as well. I hope that they keep pushing the envelope with the use of Andrew Jackson. Think the Lincoln Presidential Marathon which has had medals look like pennies, $5 bills, and race shirts have shown Abe in various running situations. Have some fun with it!

I would probably run this race again being that it is so close to Memphis.