MRTC RRS 5 Miler #1

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This morning was the third race in the Memphis Runners Track Club Race Series, and it was my first ever 5 miler race.  And just the last two races, this morning’s race was hot and humid. But unlike the race two weeks ago, I was better prepared for the humidity this morning.  That does not mean that it was a particularly comfortable run, but I did run five strong miles and have something let in the tank for another run tonight.

The 5 miler is held at W. J. Freeman park in Bartlett so the course is not nearly as close to my house as the 5K’s are, but the parking was much better.  The course is mostly neighborhood streets with the finish coming on the walking path at the park.  And there is more shade throughout the course, which certainly helps on these humid days.

Run 365 group photo at the race

Run 365 group photo at the race

A few less runners completed the course today when compared to the 5K’s, but there still was 1,200 people running today, several of which are still aspiring to achieve Road Warrior status.  Managing the crowds early in the race is as big of a challenge as the heat and humidity for these events.  The course had several turns which led to some bottle-necking early on and towards the end, we had to dodge several of the faster finishers that thought that returning to their car via the race course was a prudent move.  It was not, but oh well.

This is the timing chip for this year's event.

This is the timing chip for this year’s event.

Best news about this morning’s race is that I set a PR with my 50:17 finish! Of course, no matter how fast I ran, it would have been a PR since this was my first attempt at a 5 mile race.  This is an odd distance, and I will not have many opportunities to beat this mark.  Maybe I can do even better in two weeks at the second MRTC RRS 5 Miler.

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MRTC Road Race Series 5K #2

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This is the timing chip for this year's event.

This is the timing chip for this year’s event.

This morning was the second race, and second 5K in the Memphis Runners Track Club Road Race Series.  And while the temperature was not quite as high as 2 weeks ago, the humidity was absolutely oppressive.  By the end of the race, I looked like I had completed a 5K in a pool, not the street.  Add this to my miscalculation not to drive to the event, but rather run/jog/walk to it, and I had a miserable morning.

I had my doubts

I had my doubts

I decided to go to the race on foot because I needed a long day according to my training plan, so I thought that adding the 2.5 miles each way to the venue plus the race, and I would almost have my mileage done.  Instead, it accelerated my sweating process, and after mile 1 of the race, the wheels fell off.  I ended up run/walking to my worst 5K finish in 3 years.  There was not a dry stitch of clothing on my body, including my shoes and socks  And I still had to get home!

This was me

This was me today.

In the end, I finished close to the same spot as I did 2 weeks ago, so I am guessing that I am not the only person that was sacked by the humidity.  I am, however, 1/5 of the way towards the coveted road warrior status, and will hopefully run stronger in 2 weeks for the first 5 mile race of the series.

Navy Ten Nautical Miler Race Recap

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Running races with unique distances and/or themes is always tempting for me.  For one, these races stand out when reflecting on other events and another reason is that your first attempt at a new distance is a guaranteed PR!  Sunday was the Navy Ten Nautical Miler race at the naval base in Millington, TN, which is just north of Memphis.  Ten nautical miles equals 11.5 miles, so the race was just short of being a half marathon, but still significantly longer than a 10K.

At first, I wished the distance was a bit longer so it would count in my Half Fanatics stats, but after the opening remarks for the race, the distance of 10 nautical miles is clearly not an arbitrary distance.  Rather, it has some significance from the Battle of Midway.  The Battle of Midway was a major victory for the US Navy in WWII, and marked the first naval defeat in almost 100 years for the Japanese Navy.  The battle was between June 4 and June 7, 1942.  And since the battle was in early June, the race is likewise held in early June, despite the heat and humidity this time of year in Memphis.  As was stated at the event, if the US Navy had won the battle in October, the race would be in October.  Thinking about the race in the context of naval history gives it new perspective.

The race organizers did an excellent job of organizing the event, from the race expo to sponsors to race day management, everything seemed to go smoothly.  I honestly did not know what to expect from the race, but they certainly know what they are doing.

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As I prepared for the race, I was very concerned with the heat and humidity that I would have to endure.  Especially after the West Tennessee Warrior Run two weeks ago and the brutal temperatures throughout the prior week.  And then, there were several thunderstorms over the weekend, so the chances of terrible weather seemed like a certainty for the event.  Luckily, we dodged a major bullet with the weather.  The temperature started at 70 and was only 75 when I crossed the finish line!  And throughout the course, the humidity decreased from 100% to 86%, and the dew point dropped 6 degrees as well!  This, coupled with the fact that the sun remained behind the clouds for the majority of the morning, led to a much more pleasant run than expected.

About halfway through the race, another runner approached me and asked if I had run in the Germantown Half Marathon.  After I affirmed that I had, he told me that he thought it was me, and that I was running much better at this race than that one.  He went on to tell me to keep at it and we parted ways.  I ended up finishing the race ahead of him and while refueling he approached me another time to congratulate me on a strong run and reaffirm the improvement that I had made since March.  It was a nice gesture, I thought, and I certainly ran a much stronger race here than in Germantown.  In fact, if this race was the 1.6 miles longer, I would have finished within a couple of minutes of a PR!  I guess my runs in the extreme humidity the last couple of weeks really helped!

All kinds of swag

All kinds of swag

Swag: A+:  This race provided one of the better goody bags that I have ever received.  All runners received a good-looking tech shirt, hot/cold race logo pack, financial book, race decal, KT Tape sample, race logo plastic cup, as well as some other promotional items and race literature.  Finishers received a fantastic finisher medal that was a heavy-duty anchor on a navy and gold cord.  It is an awesome finisher’s medal and certainly stands out on my wall.

Excellent finisher's medal

Excellent finisher’s medal

Course: B+: Mostly flat course with some rolling hills that serpentines through the naval base and a brief stretch of country road.  There were water stops at each nautical mile and good crowd support along the way.  From the guys handing out cold beer at nautical mile six and the kids with Super Soakers spraying runners right before nautical mile 7, the spectators helped make the race even better.  Also, all the yells for my new Green Lantern tech shirt were appreciated.  The only downside was that the course between nautical miles 7.5 and 9 incorporated a track around the barracks/family living units on base.  It was a boring stretch of the course.

Overall: A:  Great race, with lots of support and excellent swag.  I love that there is a reason why they host the event and amount of support from the community as well as the naval sailors and officers.  This is a must run the race for those in the Memphis area, and it will certainly be one that I return to in the future.  And I am certain that next the weather will be brutal, but I am still looking forward to getting another anchor medal!

West Tennessee Warrior Run Recap

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Saturday was the West Tennessee Warrior Run in small town Gadsden, TN.  An acquaintance turned my onto this race, and since it was within driving distance for me, I decided what the hell. This was my tenth half marathon and fifth thus far in 2014 (since March 16 actually).  It leveled me up in the Half Fanatics and I earned every bit of the milestone with the heat and hills.

As seen on the course...new and used cows

As seen on the course…new and used cows

The race started at 8 am, which is a tad late for May in the south.  The first hour of the race was comfortable, but then the clouds dissipated and the heat set in.  And my running splits reflected this heat wave.  Miles 1-7 were very consistent and strong. I was not on pace for a PR, but it was going to be a solid race.  But then I succumbed to the heat and my pace fell way off.  Mile 12 was absolutely brutal and by the end, I crossed the finish line with a personal worst time.  But I finished, and now I am in double digits for half marathons completed.

West Tennessee Warrior Run Swag

West Tennessee Warrior Run Swag

This was by far the smallest race that I have participated in with only 46 runners.  This was the first year for this event, with the proceeds going to the Crockett County Christmas Store which provides Christmas presents for underprivileged area children.  It is a great cause, and even though this was a rough race with generic swag, I was happy to run and support this cause.  Consider this a training run for a cause.

West Tennessee Warrior Run Medal

West Tennessee Warrior Run Medal

Every medal you get cannot be the best you have ever gotten.  I am running in two half marathons later this year in which I will not even get a medal.  However, the theme of the race could have produced a great medal, especially with the race falling on Memorial Day Weekend.  Oh well.

Doc Rock Half Recap

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Saturday was the Doc Rock Half Marathon and Run in Jonesboro, AR, and it was my second half marathon for the month of April.  This was the first time that I attempted to run half marathons in consecutive weeks, but I felt confident that it would go well.  Boy, how wrong was I!  I think my training and recovery are not fully to blame, but I still finished, so there is that.

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I showed up early for the event, which I am prone to do, and picked up my race packet without incident.  The race and health expo was held at the Convocation Center at Arkansas State University, and appears to be quite a big deal for the community.  Since the expo was not open, I just returned to my truck to wait for more people to show up and the race to start.

The race started promptly at 7:30 am and with under 300 half marathon runners, it was the smallest half marathon that I have been associated with thus far.  With the small number of runners, and wide course, there actually were no issues with crowding on the course, even at the start.  Of course, with an open course, you have to fight the urge to run up front with the faster runners.  As the race began, I noticed two things.  One, it was a little warmer than I was expecting.  In fact, Saturday turned out to be the warmest day of 2014 thus far.  And two, there were more hills than I anticipated.  The website for the race did show some hills, but after Whiskey Hill last week, I did not think this week would be any worse.  Wrong!

The constant up and down of the hills along with temperatures over 20 degrees warmer than any of my 2014 runs led to a very poor run by myself.  I was pouring sweat from mile 1 and there never seemed to be a reprieve from the sun.  I have run in warmer conditions than this several times before, but it kicked my ass on Saturday.  And as I climbed each hill, and sweated even more heavily, my mental resolve began to dip.  I was not in the best of places by mile 10, but I eventually fought through this to finish the race.  The only problem is when the race was supposed to be finished, it was not.  My GPS usually differs slightly from the course, usually for passing people, water stops, and the such.  By the end of a race, I have seen variations up to .14 over the posted mileage.  No big deal, I anticipate these variations.  Except on Saturday, my variation was .48 and the finish line was still not in plain sight!

In the end, the course ran a full half a mile long according to every person I spoke with.  Even worse was that this half a mile was unnecessary since the finish took runners around the entire Convocation Center to finish at the north entrance.  If the race would have eliminated the trip around the building, the mileage would have been closer to 13.1, and one last hill would have been avoided.  The girl who finished when I did was much angrier about this course issue than I was, but that half a mile discrepancy led to my slowest half marathon by over 6:00!  If the course would have been correct, I would have been close to my slowest race, but not that slow.  But I finished, and that is always the goal.

Course: C: Lots of hills, not much scenery, and half a mile too long.  The volunteers and support staff were wonderful and they could not control the heat.  Every mile had a water stop, which came in handy as the race progressed.  One of the race timers told me after the race that they had people switch from the half to the 5K due to the unexpected heat wave.

Soft hoodie and a solid medal

Soft hoodie and a solid medal

Swag: B+: The race shirt for this event was a hooded sweatshirt, which is different from any race that I have participated in thus far.  From my talks with some of the race officials, the shirt was decided upon because this event is often very cool, like last year.  It is funny that I was given a hoodie for a race held on the hottest day of the year.  Of course, it was 32 degrees this morning, so the hoodie would be perfect today!  All finishers received a good-looking medal.  The medal is fine, it just happens to follow two great medals, so it cannot compare to the Germantown Half or Oak Barrel Half medals.  The medal was the same as last year’s event, just with an updated event date.

This medal is good, can't compete with Germantown or Oak Barrel

This medal is good, can’t compete with Germantown or Oak Barrel

Overall: C+: I wanted to like this event more than I actually did.  It is for a great cause and has some amazing volunteers and support staff.  I may revisit this post in a couple of months and see if this score is reflective of the actual event and not the way the heat zapped me on race day.  All of the activities associated with the event attract the community, so it was odd that the half marathon is not better attended than it was.  Of course, the hills and long course may contribute to this.  And I am certain that the warmer than expected temperatures deterred some of the usual race day registrations for an event like this.  Also, the Youth Villages 10 Miler was held in Memphis on Saturday, so that event certainly took runners away from Doc Rock.

One major silver lining from this event is that I am now a little bit better prepared for the Country Music Half Marathon at the end of the month.  I know that it will be hot and hilly at that event, so getting in a run just that a couple weeks prior should be beneficial.

Thank you letter and bonus swag from Doc Rock

Thank you letter and bonus swag from Doc Rock

Update 5.19.14: Since posting this recap and discussing it with others, there has been more information made available.  The race organizers mailed out thank you letters to all the runners as well as a Doc Rock 13.1 decal!  In the thank you letter, there was one piece of interesting information shared.  Apparently next year’s event will have a new course, which must be in response to the course being a little long the last two years.  This was a very nice touch from race organizers.

Week in Review

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This was my second week of grad school and the first week after the Tupelo 14.2, so I am getting back into my fall routine, even if the weather is not.  And I am going to go ahead and say that I am already over the required reading for my classes.

Accomplished!

Accomplished!

Monday: It was Labor Day, and a recovery day.  I went to the gym and rode the bike for about 45 minutes.  It was great to do a little bit of something to help my legs feel a little bit better after the race.  I spent the bulk of my time reading text books, so there was nothing exciting happening on my day off.

Tuesday: I woke up at 5:30 am to get in my run and completed 3.5 miles at an easy pace.  The Jeff Galloway training plan for the Walt Disney World Marathon calls for two 30 minute runs during the week and one longer run on the weekend.  I am used to running 45 minutes to an hour on my shorter run, so we will see what happens.  Work was terrible, because missing a day of court leads to a backlog of new arrests and violations.  Afterwards, I went straight to class to endure three hours of being one of the four people in class that had read the text.  That makes class discussion a little tedious.

Wednesday: I was lazy and did no workout.  I did have another grad school class and was released twenty minutes early, so that was a positive.

Thursday: Another early morning run, but this one was a little bit longer and I completed just over four miles.  Work was busy, but uneventful, and I do not have class on Thursday nights, so I use it as a study night.  Also, this week marks the beginning of the NFL season, so after the never ending weather delay, I watched Peyton destroy the Super Bowl champs.

Friday: No run, but I did some TRX at the house.  It was a typical all around routine and was a reminder to keep focused on my other fitness needs besides running.  I also launched my second virtual race, the Festivus 5K (register here), which is a virtual run with a Seinfeld theme that benefits St. Jude.

This is the proof for the race medal

This is the proof for the race medal

Saturday: I picked up the Galloway training plan in progress this week, which meant that I was scheduled to run eleven miles.  I usually run a much shorter distance the week after a race, but with the marathon being my ultimate goal, and the fact that I still have three more half marathons this fall, I made sure to run the eleven miles.  It was not my best run, and by the end of the run, it was very hot and humid here in Memphis.  My time was atrocious, but I completed all eleven miles, so it was still a success.

Sunday: I woke up with the goal of finishing the rough draft of my first paper (due on Wednesday) and that is exactly what I did, albeit after a couple of hours.  I ended up missing the first hour of the early NFL games and the Braves game, but class comes first I suppose.  I might work in some core exercises this evening, but with the Sunday night game and a new episode of Breaking Bad, as well as my DVR finally recording It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and The League today, I have some TV watching to juggle with studying and working out.

Tupelo 14.2 Recap

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Yesterday I ran my third ever half marathon!  Well, actually, it was a touch longer than a half marathon, but I am still going to count the race in that category regardless.  The event was the Tupelo Marathon and 14.2 Miler that is held annually on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, which happens to coincide with some races with a little more notoriety, namely the Disneyland Half Marathon and the Rock ‘N Roll Virgina Beach Half Marathon.  While there were thousands of people competing at these events, I was in a small town in Mississippi with 676 other racers, battling the heat and humidity in a race that you probably have not heard about.

Race logo taken from my bib

Race logo taken from my bib

When I discovered this race, I knew that I wanted to run it for several reasons.  One, Tupelo is only an hour and a half from Memphis, so travel was a piece of cake.  Two, after getting hurt, I needed a redemption race to fill the void of missing the Germantown Half Marathon.  Three, where else could I run a race of 14.2 miles?  FYI, the distance of 14.2 miles is not just an arbitrary number to be different, but a necessity in the area that the race is run.  The full marathon is an out and back course, but where the race halfway point occurs is in the middle of a country street, nowhere near a suitable finish line.  The start/finish line for the event happens to be another 1.1 miles away, so that is tacked onto the race.  And since this is the only race of 14.2 that I have found or competed in, just finishing the race netted me a PR!

Susan and I drove up on Saturday afternoon because we both agreed it would be foolish for me to make the drive in the morning prior to the event.  Besides some construction on Highway 78 in New Albany, MS, the drive was quite pleasant.  Susan swears that as we got into Tupelo that she saw a goat in a dog kennel on the back of a car, but I could not confirm it.  Once in Tupelo, we went straight to packet pickup at a place I assumed was an ATV dealership by its name, but it turned out to be a running store.  The place was packed, but the race packet process was quite organized.  I was in and out of the place in under two minutes.  If the place was not so packed, I may have poked around the store a little bit, maybe even inquiring about a 14.2 sticker, but it I instead just headed back to the car.  We checked into our hotel, the Best Western Plus, which was one of the two race hotels and we were pleasantly surprised by how nice and updated the place was.  I have stayed in much worse hotels in bigger cities for a higher price with no HD TV.  The hotel was even running a shuttle to and from the race the following morning and hosting a breakfast for the runners at 3:30 am, both of which were much appreciated.  Our room was little noisy due to a combination of the road sounding like a drag strip all night and some random clicking from the bathroom that sounded like a mechanical cricket.

The shuttle process, sadly, did cause some of the racers some panic.  The driver was given bad directions and the shuttle that was slated to run every fifteen minutes was running every thirty minutes!  We finally got to the race location at 4:40 am, and of course I had to visit the head.  I stood in line for a port-a-potty for twelve minutes, but was able to take care of business and get to the starting line about a block away with a couple of minutes to spare.

There is a substantial drawback to the race and that is the weather.  Mississippi on Labor Day weekend is not known for being very temperate.  And this year was no different.  The race starts at 5:00 am to miss some of the heat, but the temperature was 76 degrees yesterday morning and hit 80 degrees before I crossed the finish line.  Couple that with 87% humidity and a dew point north of 71 degrees, and you have a challenging race.  Also, there was absolutely zero breeze all morning, so we were running in thick, moist, stagnant air.

When the race starts, it is still dark outside, and it stays that way for about another hour.  Several runners had on headlamps and glow sticks.  I did not, but I was able to follow the masses without any major incident.  It reminded me of back home when we were running down these country roads and I could smell freshly cut hay and hear cattle moving about.  Each mile was marked with a sign and a glow stick, and since it was dark, I did not even bother looking at my Nike+ watch, which is a bad habit that I have.  It was mile seven (for me) before I noticed the sun over the horizon.

Finish line

Finish line

I was able to maintain my speed well early in the race, and I had negative splits at miles seven, nine, and eleven, with miles four and five being virtually identical.  I think that is no coincidence that these miles coincided with the water stations.  Sadly, the last water station, at mile thirteen, did not possess the same luck for me.  I almost skipped the water there, but I knew that it was hot and decided at the last second to grab some.  A quarter of a mile later, I thought I was dying.  I felt that I was going to puke and had to walk for a second to compose myself.  My last mile was my slowest of the race by a considerable margin and once I finished, I could not understand what happened.  My legs felt good, I was running comfortably, but once I entered uncharted territory, my body immediately freaked out.  But I did finish, and I am still here to talk about it, so those are two victories in my book.  Also, I did PR since this was my first, and thus, fastest race of 14.2 miles!  The race did not have starting mats, so my gun time was 2:35:42 while my Nike+ time was 2:35:04.  Susan was at the finish line, and despite the fact there were not many spectators there, I did not see her.  I was focused on finishing and getting my medal.

Awesome finisher's medal

Awesome finisher’s medal

Medal: A+:  This is probably my favorite race medal that I have gotten thus far in my running career.  It was modeled after the iconic Boston Marathon medals, with the marathon medals being the Boston colors of blue and yellow.  The 14.2 medal was pink and white.  I meant to take a picture of the full marathon medal so I could put it side by side with a Boston medal, but from looking at my 14.2 medal, you will get the idea.  The medal is also the largest one that I have ever received.  The last couple of years, the 14.2 medal was just a portion of the full marathon medal, but I am thankful that this was not the case this year.

Back of the medal

Back of the medal

Swag: D: I usually include the medal in here, but I wanted to make it clear how much I loved my medal, and really got little else of value.  The website advertised “Long sleeve tie-dyed shirts, award-winning medals, and secret stuff we only share with our entrants.”  The shirt logo is great, but is tie-dyed in such a manner that it looks like there are reverse elbow pads on the sleeves.  I will still where it much more than a plain white race tee, that is for sure.  However, the “secret stuff” was so secret that I never saw it.  I just got some materials from the Tupelo Chamber of Commerce, all of which features Elvis since he was born in Tupelo, and an ad for another local race.  That was it.  Post race, there was plenty of water, powerade, and coke products, along with oranges, bananas, and cookies.  As I was getting on the shuttle, which was about three and a half hours after the race start, they were putting out some more food, but I have no clue what it was.

Race swag

Race swag

Course: B-: It was all country roads and the rolling hills were a little steeper than advertised.  The highest point was advertised as 351 feet, but that was about 100 shy of the truth. The course was open to traffic, and this only became an issue after 7:00 am.  In fact, after the race, a fellow racer told me that I should have been running on the other side of the road because I was holding up traffic, even when there was only one car on the road.  Maybe I was in the wrong, but I was on the shoulder, following the crowd in front of me, and running in the same lane as the majority of participants had for the race up to that point.  I need to learn the rules on this so I know I am doing what is proper and safe.

Overall: B: The race relies heavily on having great medals, low numbers, and a unique course.  I am not opposed to running this race again, but hopefully not next year since my goal is to complete the Coast to Coast Disney Challenge next year during this weekend.  But 2015 is a strong possibility.

Accomplished!

Accomplished!

I did take away a couple more learning moments from this race.  First, this race was good practice for the early start at Disney in January.  I now know a little bit more about what I need to do the night before the race.  Second, I need a new place to hang my bibs during a race.  The race claimed my Batman Under Armour shirt as a casualty.  One of the safety pins ripped a small hole in the shirt.  And third, when I go out-of-town for a race, I need to wear race gear, lots of race gear.  I was the only participant not sporting gear from previous events or runs on Saturday.  Come October in Chattanooga, I need to step my game up!  Maybe my Tupelo shirt will make the trip.

Now I see why Batman goes through so many bat suits!

Now I see why Batman goes through so many bat suits!

Also, I love the race slogan “Trample the weak, hurdle the dead.”  That slogan with the medals, shirts, skull and crossbones, and the tie-dye makes for a great race vibe.