Walt Disney World Marathon Recap

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Now that is a way to start a race!

Now that is a way to start a race!

On Sunday, after months of preparation and dedication, I ran in my first ever marathon, the Walt Disney World Marathon.  This is a wildly popular event, with over 25,000 registered participants for the marathon alone this year!  Add in the other three races of the weekend and there were over 45,000 participants in the running events at Walt Disney World!  Several of these runners were completing either Goofy’s Race and a Half, which entails running the half marathon and full marathon, and Dopey’s Challenge which entails running all four of the races on consecutive days!  As cool as those events are, and as much bling as you can earn from them, I did not participate in either one because this weekend was about completing my first marathon and I did not want to cheapen that accomplishment in any way.  Furthermore, I now have a next step, if I chose to take it, to strive towards in future years.

Often, Disney is associated with the premium price tag that one must pay for the privilege of visiting a park, buying merchandise, or even participating in a race.  But the company does pay attention to the details and very rarely disappoints in the desired quality.  The WDW Marathon Weekend was no exception.  Yes, there were some areas that could, and should be improved upon in the future, but overall, the entire event was ran quite well.

The Expo: The expo was not nearly the nightmare that I was dreading.  This year, vendors and packet pickups were distributed between three buildings at ESPN Wide World of Sports, helping with traffic flow and congestion within the expo.  There were signs everywhere directly participants where to go, and I did not have to wait very long in my line for my bib or race shirt.  There were also multiple areas dedicated to runDisney merchandise (because this is Disney and they do know how to turn a profit), which made it easier for runners to buy commemorative items and souvenirs from the various events.  I could not say no and left the merchandise booth lighter in the wallet, but with two new shirts, a commemorative pin, and decal for my truck.  I honestly could have spent more, but I did a good job of sticking to my budget.  And honestly, there really is not a thing that I passed on buying that I regret today.

A big-ticket item at the expo was the release of this year’s runDisney New Balance shoes.  I get the appeal in the shoes, but maybe not the $400 price tag for them on eBay, but the particular models of the shoes do not treat supinators well, so I did not have to worry about fighting for shoes for Susan or myself.  I will say that I know of several people who waited for over six hours to get shoes on Wednesday!  And this wait time was with Disney having a pager system for people buying shoes! Absurd!

Every running vendor imaginable was at the expo, and there samples galore.  I went to the expo twice, once on Thursday when we arrived, and once on Saturday since I forgot some race fuel and needed something before mile 11 on race day.  Both days the crowds were very similar, with the KT Tape booth and the runDisney booths being the busiest by far.  I did not buy anything besides some Sport Beans from other vendors, but I did enjoy browsing around  We were also able to register Susan, Susan, and Richard (the last two are my best friend’s parents who came to support me) for the Chear Squad gold level at the expo.

Chear Squad swag

Chear Squad swag

Chear Squad: Chear Squad is an excellent example of how Disney can turn everything into a profit.  Disney actually sells cheering opportunities for friends and families of runners!  It sounds a bit greedy, but with limited space and 25,000 runners, there actually was some value to it.  Without Chear Squad, Susan would not of seen me cross the finish line.  And that was worth the $65 price tag to her alone.  There were other Chear Squad viewing options along the course, but travel to them were next to impossible, and I imagine very few people could make it to multiple locations during the event and actually see their runner.  Susan gave up trying and just waited at the finish to see me.  Chear Squad members in the silver and above packages also get a swag bag with a waterproof blanket, t-shirt, and Mickey clappers.  Susan was glad that she registered for Chear Squad, but thought that Disney should have made better arrangements for travel between viewing locations and should have had someone dry off the bleachers in the viewing areas since it rained the night before.  If you are going to charge for seats, they should be somewhat accommodating.

Transportation:  This was the biggest catastrophe of the entire event.  Susan and I always stay on property when we go to Disney, and there is an internal shuttle service for guests to the parks, resorts, and shops.  And on race weekend, there were special shuttles to and from the expo.  This worked well for the most part.  What did not was race day transportation.  I was on my bus to the race by 4:00 am.  I was staying at Caribbean Beach, which is near Epcot.  I did not arrive to Epcot until 5:07 am!  And once you are dropped off, you walk across two of Epcot’s parking lots to a security check then to bag check then the porta potties (if you need them) then have a hike down a service road to the corrals.  This was nearly a twenty-minute process, so needless to say, there was no pre-race restroom break.

Also, there was no transportation for resort guests between 5:00 am and 7:00 am, so Chear Squad participants were left to fend for themselves.  Susan was able to catch a bus for last second runners, or otherwise she would have missed the first half of the race!  A little clearer communication on when and where she needed to be would have been helpful.  For future reference, spectators and runners should leave their on Disney property hotel by 3:00 am to accommodate for the transportation issues.

Running through Mexico

Running through Mexico

The Race:  The race itself was ran about as smoothly as possible.  The course was clearly marked, corrals were organized and entry closely monitored, there were frequent medical tents and water stops, refueling stations, and entertainment.  Bathrooms on the course were frequent, but there never was many in one location.  Corrals were released every three minutes and congestion on the course was not nearly as bad as you would expect for a race of this size.  I know some people thought the first few miles were too congested, but what race does not have that issue?  There was a constant stream of runners for all 26.2 miles, and it never seemed to be overwhelming at any of the water stations, of which there were twenty-one.  Apparently, the medical tents ran out of Biofreeze later in the race, but that is just what I have heard.  Bag check might have been the most efficiently ran aspect of any race that I have ever participated in.  Locations were separated by last name, so if your last name started with A or B, you went to one tent, C-E, to another, and so on.  You were provided a sticker with your bib number and last initial which was used to organize the bags.  Dropping my bag off and picking it up took about a combined forty-five seconds.

Weather for the race was not nearly as unbearable as last year’s event.  Temperatures were mild, with the temperature at the race start was 62 degrees, but the humidity was at 100% and the dew point was very high as well.  I was drenched by mile three, but thank goodness that these numbers dropped throughout the race.  By the end of the run, the weather was nearly perfect.  I did forget to wear sunscreen, so I had an interesting tan line from my GoPro camera strap, however.

Getting my second or maybe even my third wind in Morocco

Getting my second or maybe even my third wind in Germany

The Course: It is mostly flat, road with the only real inclines on the exit ramps for the parks and the entrance to the Walt Disney World Speedway.  There are a couple of narrow spots on the course, but the traffic in those areas was manageable.   One of the big draws of the race is that runners get to run through all four Disney parks.  And while this is true, the bulk of the miles still come outside of the parks.  You also run through ESPN Wide World of Sports and the Walt Disney World Speedway.  On the stretches of road outside of the parks, Disney has numerous marching bands, DJ’s, and character meet and greets to keep you occupied.  Captain Jack Sparrow, Lilo and Stitch, Jack Skellington Sally, Royal Mickey and Minnie, Pluto, Buzz Lightyear, White Rabbit, Rapunzel and Flynn Rider, Christmas parade reindeer, King Louie, the gravediggers from Haunted Mansion, Dopey, Wreck It Ralph, Belle, Mulan, a green toy army man, and Duffy were the characters that I remember.  The line for most of the character meets was insane, so to take a picture, you were definitely would sacrifice some time.  My favorite portion of the course was the last three or four miles.  Once you entered Hollywood Studios, you had no more lulls.  You ran through Hollywood Studios to Disney’s Boardwalk to the World Showcase in Epcot to the finish line.  My pace picked up over these last couple of miles and there were several good photos captured over these miles, including one of me high fiving Mickey at the finish!

High fiving Mickey at the finish line

High fiving Mickey at the finish line

My Experience:  This was my first marathon and I really think that I chose well on the location.  I was quite nervous about how my body would react to the event.  I chose the WDW Marathon since it would distract me and help keep the negative thoughts at a minimum.  For the most part, this strategy worked.  I hurt my toe around mile 8 and had to fight that for the rest of the race.  Looking at my splits, you can definitely see a rapid drop-off from the point of the injury.  I am not sure what happened, but the pain was intense for the entire day and is still a little sore.  I do not think it is anything major, but I will monitor it for a couple of weeks to make sure.

The calm after the marathon storm

The calm after the marathon storm

If you were to ask me today if I want to do another marathon, I would probably say no, the half marathon is the distance for me.  Ask me in a couple of weeks, and I would say that it would be something that I would consider.  Ask me in a couple of months, and I would say something along the lines of, “Sure, I know that I can handle the mileage and I need to lower my time.”  So we shall see if I attempt another marathon, but as of today, I am just basking in the glory of knowing that I was able to complete this task and live to tell about it!

My five-hour race in just 7:48!  Obviously, my marathon video has been edited down.  So much of it is such me plodding down a highway, and who really wants to watch that?  I will also be doing a recap of the other part of this trip, vacationing at Disney, but for now, I shall leave you with my overall grades of the event.

2014 WDW Marathon Medal

2014 WDW Marathon Medal

Swag: A+: Good looking tech shirt, amazing medal, plenty of support along the route.  Prior to the race, I was a little bummed that this year’s medal for the WDW Marathon was not as cool as last year’s.  But the more that I think about it, I really do think that this medal is on par with last year’s.  Maybe that is just my enthusiasm talking, but it is definitely my favorite medal.

Shirts & other items from WDW Marathon

Shirts & other items from WDW Marathon

Course: A: There was plenty going on to distract runners and incorporating all four Disney parks was fantastic.  Runners ran through Cinderella’s Castle, on a race track, through Asia, through Champion Stadium, Downtown Hollywood, across the boardwalk, and through the World Showcase.

Prost from Germany after the race for some beers

Prost from Germany after the race for some beers

Overall: A: Great race that despite a premium charge, it feels like I got good value for my money.

One Year of Blogging

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Today marks the one year anniversary of me starting this blog.  Over the year, this blog has taken shape and I have learned quite a bit about running, gear, and gained valuable insight into my running ability.  This blog originally was started to hold me accountable for my 2013 goal of running at least one race in each month of the year, and continued to evolve from there.  I had some posts that I thought were great, some that were not that great, and a reference to help improving my running.  I would like to sincerely thank each and every one of my subscribers because without you, this would just be a personal journal and an odd one at that.  And since today is the one year mark since I launched this blog, I thought that I would look at some of the posts and stats from this first year.

tumblr_m61uyec7p31rqfhi2o1_500Most Popular Posts: My most visited page was obviously my home page, but besides that, my three most popular posts were as follows:

  1. Platinum Sombrero Virtual 5K – this is the page for my virtual 5K that I used as a fundraiser for St. Jude.
  2. Warrior Dash Mississippi 2013 – this is my wrap-up post from my first Warrior Dash event back in April.
  3. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Cancun, Mexico 2013 – recap of Susan and I’s Mexican vacation from the summer which focuses on what we did and how I kept my running streak in tact while on vacation.
This is the first race photo that I have actually purchased.

This is the first race photo that I have actually purchased.

How People Find My Posts: WordPress provides stats about how people stumble across posts on your site, whether it be from Facebook, Twitter, emails, or search engines.  And if someone comes to your page via a search engine, they provide the search term used to find your post.  Often, these search terms are quite random and even absurd.  The following are some of the most random:

  1. Adult Race Car Bed – I have no clue
  2. Susan Guess Inside Out & Me Too Shoes Susan – random juxtaposition of words in various posts on this site
  3. Got My Period on Warrior Dash Day – ummmm
  4. Nutrition Month Sumbrero Design – no clue what this person was actually looking for
  5. Warrior Dash Chair Run – I am unaware of this obstacle, but I have generated several search results via people looking for Warrior Dash information, so that is a positive.
This is my medal rack thus far - it was a busy year

This is my medal rack thus far – it was a busy year

Country Breakdown: WordPress also provides breakdowns of where site visitors are from.  This is a very neat site feature and some of the countries seem made up to me.  For example, Brunei Darussalam cannot be a real place (it is on the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia).  The rest of the country stats are kind of boring with the United States being first, Canada second, United Kingdom third, and Mexico fourth.

2013: Year in Review

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2013 was a busy year with quite a bit of running and several new experiences.  After this morning’s run, I have logged 835.12 miles total for the year and participated in 29 total events this year!  And I did all of this despite being injured for a portion of the year, and also battling a very hot summer here in Memphis.  I earned some great bling, tried new races, and achieved multiple PR’s.  I also hosted my first event, the Platinum Sombrero 5K, which helped me raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and gain a couple of new friends from the endeavor as well.  This post, if I write in great detail about each event and experience would be several thousand words long, and I am not going to do that to you.  Rather, I am going to do more of a Cliff’s Notes version of the year here with a monthly breakdown.  For in-depth descriptions of my races from the year, you may visit the 2013 page in my blog and click on each race recap.  Enjoy!

This is every race shirt that I received in 2013!

This is every race shirt that I received in 2013!

January: 1 Race (Virtual 5K), 81.59 Miles.  The year started off with my first virtual 5K.  It was the Resolution Run and the proceeds went to the Hole in the Wall Gang and started my year off right.  I ran no local races since I could not work them into my schedule, but I did run a race.

This was one of the better medals that I received in 2013.

This was one of the better medals that I received in 2013.

February: 2 Races (1 Virtual 5K & My 1st 10K), 65.52 Miles.  I started February with another virtual 5K, the Chilly Cheeks 5K.  This event actually netted me a PR at the 5K distance with an elapsed time of 26:30.  Of course, this is an unofficial time, so hopefully I will eclipse that time in an event this year to remove any ambiguity.  My 10K was the Move It Memphis 10K, and since this was my first 10K, it was an automatic PR.  It was a great event and one that I will run again in the future, just not this year since I have another event happening this weekend in 2014.

Approaching the finish at the Move It Memphis 10K

Approaching the finish at the Move It Memphis 10K

March: 1 Race (HalfMarathon 5K), 18.61 Miles.  This is the month that I was diagnosed with peroneal tendonitis in my right foot.  This occurred two weeks before I was supposed to run in the Germantown Half Marathon, so obviously that did not happen.  I did, however, walk the 5K associated with the event in my walking boot.  This caused a few second takes as I limped through the course.

This is me limping through the course in my walking boot.

This is me limping through the course in my walking boot.

April: 2 Races (1 5K & My First Mud Run), 34.64 Miles.  I was making the slow recovery from my injury throughout the month, but I was able to run a 5K, the FedEx St. Jude Classic Fairway 5K, hosted at TPC Southwind here in Memphis as well as my first Warrior Dash.  Warrior Dash was quite a bit of fun, and a nice diversion from your typical race.  Both events showed a nice bounce back for me from my injury.

This is the first race photo that I have actually purchased.

This is the first race photo that I have actually purchased.

May: 2 Races (1 Virtual 5K, 1 4 Miler), 49.71 Miles.  My virtual run was the May the Fourth Be With You 5K, which I obviously ran on May 4.  The nerd in me made me run this race.  My 4 miler was the Zoom Through the Zoo event, which benefits the wonderful zoo here in Memphis.  It was not my favorite event, but it did lead me to begin using Lock Laces, which was a positive development for my running.  Susan and I also traveled to Arlington, TX for her graduation from graduate school.  It was a great trip and I got some In-N-Out Burger from it as well!

May the Fourth Medal

May the Fourth Medal

June: 2 Races (1 5K & A Virtual Week Long Marathon), 75.56.  My 5K was the third race in the M-Town Series (I did not run in the second one due to travel) called the Gibson 5K.  It was a hot run, but it was worth it.  The virtual marathon was for the One Fund for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing and required that participants run 26.2 miles over the course of the week.  It was a nice training tool for me and benefited a great cause.  I also spent a week Cancun, Mexico, which is always a great thing.  And I even kept my running streak active for the entire week that I was there.

Photo cred to my sister-in-law for the pic of the week

Photo cred to my sister-in-law for the pic of the week

July: 4 Races (1 5K, 2 Virtual 5K’s, including my 1st hosted event, & 1 virtual 10K), 89.33.  This was the most running that I had ever done in a month up to this point, and I earned quite a few good-looking medals.  I ran in the Stars and Stripes 5K here in Memphis, the Captain America 5K, First Avenger 10K, and Platinum Sombrero 5K.  All three of the virtual runs benefited St. Jude and my personal event netted $734 for St. Jude!

Finalized race medal for the Platinum Sombrero 5K

Finalized race medal for the Platinum Sombrero 5K

August: 3 Races (1 5K, 1 Virtual 5K, 1 Virtual Half Marathon), 77.11.  The hottest month of the year and I was thankful for the taper that came before the Tupelo 14.2 in September.  My 5K was the Bardog 5K here in Memphis, the virtual 5K was the Jedi Challenge (another Star Wars run?), and the virtual half marathon was The Walking Dead 13.1, which had a neat, but small medal.  I used the virtual half as my last long training run before my taper.  Susan and I also discovered the greatness that is the Memphis Farmers Market, which became a weekend staple for us throughout the rest of the year.  And I returned to the University of Memphis to obtain my MPA.

A great place to spend a Saturday morning.

A great place to spend a Saturday morning.

September: 3 Races (1 14.2 Miler, 1 4 Miler, 1 Virtual Half Marathon), 82.37 Miles.  The first day of the month saw me run the longest distance of my career up to that point in the very hot and humid Tupelo 14.2 Miler.  The event is known for their medals, and they did not disappoint again this year.  My four miler was the Cooper Young Festival 4 Miler, which saw me shave over four minutes off of my PR for the distance and my virtual half, the Heroes in a Half Shell Challenge (Teenage Ninja Turtles theme) was another great training run excuse.

Awesome finisher's medal

Awesome finisher’s medal

October: 4 Races (1 4K, 2 5K’s, 1 Half Marathon), 80.09 Miles.  I ran two events in one day, the Tap N Run Memphis event and Zombie Hunt 5K, both in the Memphis area, but with drastically different weather events.  The first race was very hot and the second one saw some rain.  The half marathon was the 4 Bridges Half Marathon in Chattanooga, TN, and despite a chip malfunction, I set a PR but nearly five minutes!  It was a fun event and the trip out-of-town served as a nice anniversary trip for Susan and me.  I ended the month with my first ever Color Run, an event in which I was an ambassador.

4 Bridges Medal

4 Bridges Medal

November: 3 Races (2 5K’s & 1 Half Marathon), 100.54 Miles.  I ran all three races over the first three days of the month, which is a great test of endurance.  My first 5K was my fourth True Blue 5K at the University of Memphis, which is my anniversary run, the half marathon was the Midsouth Championship Half Marathon in Wynne, AR, and the second 5K was the SCS Race For Education here in Memphis, but was actually just short of a 5K.  The half marathon was the cheapest ($27) that I have ever run, and was my second fastest half marathon ever!  Plus, Susan and Beau surprised me at the finish line.  This race qualified me for Neptune status in the Half Fanatics, which was cool.  November also saw another addition to our family when Susan and I adopted Molly.

Post race w/ Beau

Post race w/ Beau

Meet Molly

Meet Molly

December: 2 Races [1 Half Marathon (Canceled, But I Ran Anyway) & 1 4K], 80.05 Miles.  December was supposed to see me run my third consecutive St. Jude Memphis Half Marathon, but due to the cold and ice, the event was canceled.  I decided to run the event anyway, as did several other fellow runners throughout Memphis.  I ran in the Starry 4K a couple of days ago just to guarantee my monthly race running streak.  My first semester in grad school ended with a 4.0 and I am now ending the month with my taper for the WDW Marathon.

This was me as I was about to head out for my 13.1!

This was me as I was about to head out for my 13.1!

All and all, 2013 was a very eventful year, both for my running and life in general.  I am looking forward to next year being an even bigger and more eventful year.

Starry 4K Race Recap

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Last night marked the final race of my 2013 campaign.  I ran in the Starry 4K at Shelby Farms here in Memphis.  The race took place in Starry Nights, an outdoor Christmas light display that occurs every year.  The race was originally not on my race calendar but due to the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend cancellation, I decided to run in the event to ensure completion of my 2013 goal of running in a race each month of this year.

This is the look you get when someone take your picture & you're not sure who it is.

This is the look you get when someone takes your picture & you’re not sure who it is.

This race was bigger than I expected with over 1,700 participants.  I knew a few people there, including the parents of a couple of Susan’s students and they are the ones that provided the pictures used in this post.  The forecast was calling for 57 degrees at the race start, but it was actually 45, windy, and a constant drizzle.  It was colder than expected, but some of the other runners were dressed like it was 6 below.  There were people in three and four layers, and I was one of three people there in short sleeves.  I am not sure who was the bigger idiot, me or the people dressed for a blizzard.

One of Susan's favorite parents

Courtney, one of Susan’s favorite parents/friend pre-race.

The race was only a 4K, but it was still a great way to cap off my year.  The race cost was $20, which is what it would cost to drive through Starry Nights, so there was decent value there.  Plus, looking at the lights as I raced by was a nice touch to the run.  It was great to actually have a race held in Memphis in December since the previous two, the St. Jude Marathon and Ugly Sweater Run were both canceled due to inclement weather.  I actually have a few seconds of a video of my run courtesy of Andrew, the husband of the lady in the photo above.

Course: A-: Great concept to run through the lights of Starry Nights in Shelby Farms.  The path was mostly the road through the park with a slight diversion onto a running path to loop back to the visitor’s center.  Shelby Farms, as described by the boyfriend of a friend, “is the only place in Memphis where race and crime don’t matter.”  Proceeds for this race benefit the park, so that is great.  The only way the course would have been better if it would have been a full 5K course.

Swag from the Starry 4K

Swag from the Starry 4K

Swag: C: Decent looking shirt that fits well and actually glows in the dark.  Everything else was not great.  A glow stick and some 2014 glasses were fun items I guess.

Overall: B: Fun, quick race that benefits Shelby Farms and was very family friendly.  The vast majority of people running the event seemed to have a great time and the race ran smoothly.

Race For Education Recap

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My third race of the weekend was the Race For Education held in East Memphis.  Proceeds for the event were donated to Shelby County Schools and since Susan is a school teacher, running this event seemed appropriate.  Supposedly if you registered as a runner for a specific school, that school received a direct contribution from the race.  I hope that is the case.

Shelby County Schools need your help!

Shelby County Schools need your help!

The race was a three miler and after a 5K and half marathon, I was just planning on completing the race vertically.  I know others have run in events like the Goofy Challenge, but this was my first experience with events on three consecutive days.  My legs were sore, but I was able to run a very strong race.  In fact, if this race would have been a certified 5K, it would have been very close to a PR!  My official time was 26:57, which I thought was great for running on stiff and sore legs.  After the event, I told Susan that I wanted to find another 5K soon so I could go out it 100% to see if I could eclipse my PR.  We shall see.

Race for Education Swag

Race for Education Swag

Swag: C-: I will bump this some once there is some proof of donation to Susan’s school, but for now, it is a D since all we got was a t-shirt that was nowhere near the best race shirt that I have gotten.  There was plenty of bananas, oranges, and bottles of water post race for many more runners than were registered.  Also, I had my lowest bib number ever with a 3, which was the product of being the third registrant for the event.

Course: B: Solid, but hilly course that went through some commercial and residential areas.  It was a three mile course with chip timing and plenty of shade for a mid-afternoon race.  The biggest issue was that participants in the fun run that followed the actual race blended in with the racers which led to a little bit of chaos from the start.

Overall: B: I’m all for helping the school system and doing it with a run is a bonus.  I will be very interested to see what happens with this event next year after the school system splits once again.

 

Midsouth Championship Half Marathon Recap

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This was the second of three races that I ran over the first weekend of November.  This was the first time that I have run in this event, which was my third half marathon since September 1, and second in thirteen days.  This also marks my third state to run a half marathon both all time and since September 1.  It is amazing to think that I have been able to do this.  Even more unbelievable is the fact that the last half marathons that I have run have been my fastest two!  And to be honest, I did not know what to expect from this small town half marathon, but I must say that I was pleasantly surprised.

The race is held at Wynne High School in Wynne, AR, which is about an hour from Memphis, which is one of the reasons that I signed up for the race.  I would not have to get a hotel room and I could just wake up early and travel to the race.  Also, the registration fee was only $27, which is by far the cheapest half marathon registration that I will ever find.  I have run 5K’s that have charged more than this!

Heading towards the finish

Heading towards the finish

I woke up and headed out to the race at 6:00 am.  I wanted to get to the event early since I was not able to go to the early packet pickup on Friday afternoon.  As I headed out, I pulled up the directions and realized that the race was a little further away than I expected, so my anxiety accelerated a little bit.  And my anxiety did not subside when several notices about road construction were posted on I-40.  Luckily, traffic was not bad this early in the morning, and I was actually able to make great time on my way to the race.

Much like the 4 Bridges event, this one race was quite cold with the temperature at 45 degrees when I got out of the truck.  At least I had a hoodie this time and was much better suited to battle the cold.  The line for the packet pickup was not too bad, and waiting until the hour before the race was not a detriment to my race.  A bonus to having the event at the local high school and the fact that the race was not huge was that participants could use the schools bathrooms with little to no lines.  Yep, a half marathon with indoor bathrooms and small lines!  There were also several port a potties, but most of us did not need visit these since we had the indoor options.

Someone was happy to see me!

Someone was happy to see me!

This was supposed to be my first half marathon without Susan.  At the St. Jude Half Marathons, she can drive around the course with her dad, a retired cop, to see me at various points.  Our hotel for the Tupelo 14.2 had a shuttle, so Susan did not have to leave with me at 4:00 am.  At 4 Bridges she had the ability to stay at her sister’s apartment near the finish line until I was close.  With this event, there was no such luxury, so I was prepared to run it alone.  However, as I was approaching the finish line, I saw Susan with our dog Beau!  It was a great to see them and completely unexpected.  She apparently was sad that she was not going to be there with me so she decided to head over to the race.  It was definitely a welcomed site.

I did not know how well I was going to run the event provided that I had run a race the night before, but I did not have any issues during my run.  I started strong, and a little faster than ideal, but I was able to get it under control before it detracted from my entire race.  After about five miles, I knew that I had a shot at my second straight PR, but I was not going to get ahead of myself.  I was simply going to run the best race that I possibly could.  I ended up with my second fastest race ever, which is not too shabby.  In fact, my last mile was my fastest of the entire race!  I was able to run mile thirteen at a pace of 8:55, which was my sixth sub 10:00 mile!  Miles eight, ten, and eleven were my weakest, but the were in the 10:00 range.

Midsouth Championship swag

Midsouth Championship swag

Swag: B+: All participants got a long-sleeved t-shirt that was very soft, some coupons, a shaving cream sample, and a medal that was a vast improvement over last year’s race according to a Google image search.  I was very happy with this year’s medal, a very colorful metal medal with some trees cut out of it.  From some of my conversations with race volunteers, they really hoped us runners could enjoy the trees changing colors along the course.  This was the inspiration behind their run.  There were aid stations at every mile with water and Gatorade, and on the way back, the stations also had bananas, orange slices, and pretzel sticks.  The post race meal was BBQ and ribs with all of the trimmings, but it was to be served at 11:00 am, and I did not want Susan and Beau to wait that long.  Too bad because it smelled outstanding.

Midsouth Championship Medal

Midsouth Championship Medal

Course: B+: It was on out and back course, starting by the high school, following some country roads, and finishing on the football field.  For University of Memphis fans, this was the football field that DeAngelo Williams played on in high school before breaking NCAA records at Memphis. The only downside was the cumulative mile along US 64 where we had to run on the should of the road as semis came down the highway.  This was a tight squeeze for runners going both ways, but no one had an issue with it to my knowledge.  And when we crossed the highway, there were cops directly traffic to help protect the runners.

Post race w/ my Beau

Post race w/ my Beau

Overall: A-: This was a well-organized event with some of the friendless volunteers that I have ever encountered.  The event was an insane value for $27 and well worth the trip over the river.  I would certainly be open to running this event again in the future.  This entire event reminded me of my rural West Tennessee hometown and that was a good thing.  Also, it does not hurt that this was my second fastest half marathon ever with an official finish time of 2:12:45!  So in the last thirteen days I have bested my previous best time by four plus minutes twice!  Is it the shoes?  This is a throw back to NBA Jam.

Rocking rash? This does not sound appetizing!

Rocking rash? This does not sound appetizing!

On the way home, we stopped at Tropical Smoothie Cafe for a quick bite to eat and a smoothie.  This trip only warrants a mention because of what was written on Susan’s smoothie.  She ordered a Rocking Raspberry, which was abbreviated to read Rocking Rash, or at least it looks like that to me!

True Blue 5K Recap

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This was the fourth consecutive year that I have run in this event, and this year was just as good as previous years.  The event always takes place on the first Friday in November, and is used as a fundraiser for the Young Alumni Committee of the University of Memphis.  Four years ago, this was my first ever run, and now I try to schedule it every year.  Kind of like an anniversary I suppose.

This year’s event was the first of three consecutive days of races for me, and I had intended on running it at an easy pace.  The problem is that I tend to be terrible at taking it easy during an event.  Throughout the event, I was trying to slow down, but I still ended up running the event in 29:01, which is still one of my faster 5K times to date. But, I do not empty the tank and flat at sprint at any point, so maybe I did not expend too much effort.

This was me run/walking towards my 1st 5K at the True Blue 2010

This was me run/walking towards my 1st 5K at the True Blue 2010

The attendance for the race this year was down considerably from 2012.  It was the home opener for the Grizzles, so maybe that was a reason.  Also, I’m sure having a 7pm start on a Friday night also costs the event a few runners, but I hope they never change that aspect.  There are so few races in that time slot here that it helps this race stand out and in early November, this time slot helps lead to some PR’s.  I have personally PR’d the course twice, and might have again this year if I would have been going 100% for the entire race.  The race has great, long-sleeved shirts, and you see them all over town, a fact that the organizers are very proud of.  However, the shirts do not really change from year to year, so repeat runners have multiples of the same shirt in their closets.  This was combated by changing the race shirt color year to year.  My first year it was blue, second black, and third dark grey.  This year they went back to black, so I have two shirts that are basically the exact same.  I was kind of hoping for a repeat in blue, if they were going to repeat, since it is my most worn out of the three shirts.  Oh well, I wore the new shirt last night.

True Blue Swag

True Blue Swag w/ my old shirt thrown in to show the front and back of the shirt.

Swag: A: Great shirt that gets quite a bit of use from this runner, a Nike backpack, several coupons, and a great spread after the race.  These are consistent every year and have spoiled me for other 5K races.

Course: A+: I love that it runs around campus, including my old fraternity house.  For alumni returning to campus, it is a nice way to see what has changed since graduation.  It also is not too hilly of a course and is plenty wide to accommodate runners.  Runners finish in a giant inflatable tiger head on the Alumni Mall.

Overall: A+: I will always be partial to this race due to its significance in my weight loss and running.  It is always organized well and provides good value for the runner.  It I ever moved away, it would be a 5K that actually tempted me to visit specifically for.

The Color Run Memphis Recap

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Back in July, I was given an entry into The Color Run Memphis and last weekend is when that event was held.  This is my first time to run in The Color Run or any of the color themed races that have become all the rage over the past couple of years.  I was registered for last year’s Color Run in Memphis, but a scheduling conflict caused me to miss the event.

The Color Run

The Color Run

The Memphis event was held at Tiger Lane which is the tailgating area adjacent to the Liberty Bowl.  It was a colder than expected morning, so I opted to wear my hoodie under my shirt.  Of course, I did not make this determination until after I arrived at the event.  I did not wear my Nike+ watch because I did not want it to be destroyed in the color stations, and since this was a untimed event, I have no clue how fast I completed the run.  The event is a 5K with four color stations throughout the race.  At each color station, you are covered with dyed corn starch.  After the race is over, you can go to the festival area for the Finish Festival, which is several runners throwing their color packets into the air.  This phenomenon leads to a gigantic cloud that you cannot see through.  The colors tend to blend together and the entire cloud ends up being black in color.  Most people come out of the cloud with color on their teeth and coughing a little bit.  The cloud and my asthma did not get along very well.  At the start of the race, everyone meets in the festival area where the MC/DJ hypes the crowd, gives out promotional items, and the crowd does some warmups.  When it was time to start, everyone participated in a giant conga line to the starting corral.  In the corral, there was more music, hyping, and swag giveaways.  With 5,000 runners, the wise choice of staggering the start was made, so every few minutes another group of runners were sent off.  And despite this being an untimed event, participants were still encouraged to run on the left and walk on the right, which was appreciated.

After the run

After the run

The race seems to be geared more to first time and non-competitive runners, which I am certain helps with participation.  The vast majority of the music played was not my preference (think Miley Cyrus and Pink), but several of the participants seemed to enjoy it.  The event is geared much more to group participation and people into the poppy genre of music and entertainment.  I ran into a friend from high school and his wife, and she absolutely loved the event.  She went to the Finish Festival multiple times and I am certain that she will participate again.

Course: A: It was a great 5K course, closely mimicking the Stars and Stripes 5K from July.  The color stations were spaced far enough apart to avoid bottlenecking, and they had an aid station as well.

The Color Run Swag

The Color Run Swag

Swag: B: All runners were given a t-shirt, temporary tattoos, color packets, and a headband.  At the event, backpack, fanny packs, sunglasses, beach balls, and socks were given out to random race participants.  I will say that this year’s shirt was much better than last year’s, both in looks and comfort.  In fact, since the shirt was so much better this year, I decided to wear last year’s event shirt so if I wanted to toss it after the event, I could.  On the course, bottled water was handed out, which was smart with all the color flying around.  At the end of the race, KIND bars were handed out.

Overall: B+: The event is well-organized and has a very positive atmosphere.  Participant enjoyment is very important to the organizers.  This is an amazing event for a first time runner or someone wanting a race free from worrying about pace.  Several people had iPhones or GPS watches with them, but I would not recommend carrying these items during the run unless you want them covered with color.

I would probably run this event again, but only if it was with a group of other runners.

I was given this entry into The Color Run, but this in no way influenced my review or enjoyment of the race.  Honestly, if I were not given the entry to the event, I was going to register for it anyway.

4 Bridges Half Recap Addendum

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The following story was supposed to be included in my 4 Bridges Half Marathon recap, found here, but I completely forgot to include it.  I guess I was tired last night.

4 Bridges Medal

4 Bridges Medal

So after the race, my stretching, getting my time, and some refueling, Susan and I started to head towards her car which was parked approximately a mile away, maybe a little further.  Parking is a travesty in Chattanooga.  There probably is one parking space for every 30 residents downtown.  There are a few parking garages, all of which have had at least one rape in them in the last three years according to my sister-in-law.  There is a one way street with angled parking spots for cars coming in the opposite direction!  So, needless to say I thought it was very fortunate that Susan found a spot this close.  So as we were approaching her car, a Buick Enclave (this is important in a second), three fellow race participants approached us.

It was a male and two females, and they proceeded to tell me that they were lost and looking for the Chattanooga Choo Choo.  The Choo Choo was one of the shuttle locations, but no directions were given on how the shuttle was going to return patrons to their cars post race!  So these three individuals had been wondering around, trying to find the shuttle location or the Choo Choo.  I told them that I was from Memphis and had no clue had to get there, but that Susan and I would help them if we could.  We decided that since we all had iPhones that we could find the directions so we head towards Susan’s car for the minor detour.  I throw my race stuff in the back hatch and we determine that it is about a two and half mile straight shot up the road we are on.  As we drive off we talk about how the race went and what brought us to it this year and so on.  They were all students of Lee University in nearby Cleveland, TN, and the guy is considering running his first full marathon at the Country Music Marathon in Nashville in April.  It was at this point that he noticed that our back hatch was still open!  Yep, five people, including the driver, had gone half a mile without noticing that the entire rear of the car was wide open!  Of course, once we noticed this we were in heavy traffic on a bridge, so there was no pulling to the shoulder to shut it.  We had to continue a little further until we could pull over.  Oddly, not a single passing car honked, pointed to the open hatch, or tried to communicate anything to us about the hatch being open.  When we able to pull over, I noticed the problem, my water bottle had rolled down into the clasp, so every time the hatch came down, it could not lock, and would open back up.  Luckily, none of our stuff that was in the back hatch flew out on the road, I guess that was the good karma of helping out some fellow runners!

Sadly, we didn’t think of getting a picture with our additional passengers until after we parted ways, but we all still have this random story.

4 Bridges Half Marathon Recap & PR

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Finish

Finish

I ran in the 4 Bridges Half Marathon in Chattanooga over the weekend.  This was the first time that I have run in this event and since the weekend coincided with my anniversary, we incorporated the race weekend into our anniversary trip as well.  This was the first time I had been to Chattanooga for more than a night since I was a young child, so I honestly did not remember much about the city.  After spending an extended weekend there, I can see why my sister-in-law loves the city so much.  Chattanooga is very scenic, with the Tennessee River running through the middle of it and surrounded by mountains.  There is a great mix of modern and retro architecture, and actually a growing culinary scene much like the ones in Memphis and Nashville.  When I go out-of-town, I try to eat at local places, and this weekend netted a few amazing options.  After packet pickup and expo, which was held in one of the several parks in town, we went to a hot dog place called Good Dog.  It was excellent, even if it isn’t the healthiest of meals.  I went with the BLT Dog, which is exactly what it sounds like.  After lunch, we checked into our hotel for the weekend, the Mayor’s Mansion, a fantastic bed and breakfast that was built-in 1883 and is just off of the UTC campus.  It was definitely a better place to stay than the Holiday Inn.  There was quite a bit of character throughout the building, and the service was top-notch.  Originally, we booked the Cumberland Suite, but my mother-in-law upgraded us to the Laurel Falls Suite.  Honestly, from the pictures, I was not crazy about the new room, but the pictures did not do the room justice.  Yes, these curtains and wallpaper on the ceiling are weird, but it did kind of work.  And the bathroom was as large as the rest of the room, including a gigantic tub that was great to soak in after the race.

Laurel Falls Honeymoon Suite

Laurel Falls Honeymoon Suite

Sadly, I did not pack well for this race since the weather I was expecting turned out to be ten degrees cooler than I anticipated.  Also, I was mistaken on the time for the start of the race.  I do not know why, but I thought the race started at 8:00 am, but it was actually 7:00 am.  I guess that I saw the start time, and automatically assumed that it was in central standard time.  Of course, the 7:00 am start meant that the race was beginning in the dark.  But, since the temperature was expected to be 40, and I would be starting before the sunrise, I needed to find something to keep me warm.  Sadly, this realization came to me rather late on Saturday night, so a trip to Wal-Mart was my only option.  This impromptu trip netted me some hand warmers, body warmers, and a Ninja Turtle winter hat, because when you come across a TMNT hat with a built-in mask, you buy it.  The hat actually was warm, and the hand warmers certainly served their purpose, but the body warmers were worthless.  After an hour of waiting for them to finally heat up, I just discarded them.

1 hour before the race w/ my TMNT hat

1 hour before the race w/ my TMNT hat

There were no staggered corral starts for this race, but rather signs and pacers posted with expected finish times for people to line up according to.  There were 1,200 registered runners for the half marathon, and probably close to the same in the marathon.  The 5K runners started after all of the half and full marathoners left.  I love how the concept for this race is to incorporate the several bridges in Chattanooga.  As the name suggests, there were four in the half marathon.  Within the first half mile, we were already running across one and since it was still dark, there was a great view of the downtown lit up.  Both races followed the same course for the first ten miles before the marathoners split away.  The race started in Renaissance Park and ended in Coolidge Park, which I honestly thought was the same park.  By the time we reached mile three, the racers were separating and hitting their desired pace.  The course went by the minor league baseball stadium, Tennessee Aquarium, UTC, and several other local landmarks.  The city is beautiful, but has a significant graffiti problem.  Everywhere we went the entire weekend, there was something tagged.  The race course was no different.

Heading to the finish

Heading to the finish

I did not look at my Nike+ watch until mile three, and I was plugging along at a very steady pace.  The cooler weather was definitely helping me maintain a steady pace.  The second bridge came at mile five, and it was here that I started to think that I might have a shot at eclipsing my PR.  I was running ahead of my expected pace and feeling great.  This and a turn downhill led to my fastest mile of the entire race.  Mile 6 was ran mostly on a running trail through a park, with a part of the course ran across the grass.  After exiting the park, it was time for more streets and another bridge.  Miles 7 and 8 were a steady incline, that I was able to maintain my pace on, including a negative split on mile 8.  Mile 9 was the longest straight shot of the course, and as the two races separated, we looped back on another running trail along the Tennessee River.  This lasted until the mountain that was mile 12.  I actually had an average pace under ten minutes after nine miles, but I gave away a good chunk of that time in mile 12.  The last mile took us racers across the pedestrian bridge into Coolidge Park.  That bridge was very cool and enabled us to have a little bit of a downhill jaunt to the finish line.

I finished the race in 2:11:09 according to my Nike+ watch, which was a PR by 5:17!  Of course, this was not an official time, so I was very eager to see what my official time would be.  After waiting in a ridiculously long line for my time, I noticed that my time read gun time and was over a minute slower than my Nike+ watch.  I was curious about this, but thought that it would be sorted out once times because official.  It was then that I noticed that I had a chip malfunction.  My chip time was 0:00:00, which was a little off.  This was quite a bummer!  I ran a great race, and now I am saddled with a gun time rather than a chip time.  But at least the gun time was still a significant PR at 2:12:16.  I know how well that I ran this race, and it was a PR, on a very hilly course, so that is definitely a positive!  Plus, even the gun time should be good enough to bump me up a corral at the WDW Marathon in January if the corrals are similar to what they were last year.

Course: A: The multiple parks, four bridges, several landmarks, and mix of grass, road, running trails, and stairs, yes, there were a few stair towards the end, made for a very interesting course.  The course was very hilly, as was to be expected, and did a great job of showing off the city.

4 Bridges Swag

4 Bridges Swag

Swag: A: There was  some great swag in this race.  I got a good-looking tech shirt, panoramic poster of Chattanooga, and a good medal, even if last year’s medal was even better.  Also, at the end of the race, reusable water bottles were distributed instead of disposable plastic bottles, which was an awesome touch.  Food at the end of the race was in a prepackaged box and there was also a table of fruit for runners as well.

4 Bridges Medal

4 Bridges Medal

Overall: A-: Great swag and neat course, but there was some organization and communication issues with this event, which were the only blemishes that I noticed.  I emailed the race director on Monday and as of Thursday night, I have not heard back from him.  There were several friendly volunteers, plenty of aid stations, and a great vibe.  Plus, I did PR, so that is always a good thing.

I am not sure want the protocol is, but I am claiming my Nike+ time as my PR time for a couple of reasons.  One, I started in the ten minute pace group, so I certainly did not cross the start line as soon as the race opened.  Two, it gives me more of a goal to strive towards in future runs and PR attempts.

I will post more about our trip on a later date.  I have a midterm to study for and paper to start.