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.

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Breakaway Bardog 5K

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My goal of running a race in each month of 2013 has now officially eclipsed the eight month plateau!  The eighth month of racing was realized when I ran in the fourth annual Breakaway Bardog 5K in downtown Memphis yesterday morning.  This was my first time to attempt this race and I was pleasantly surprised by the event.  The event is not hosted by the major race promoter in the area, and being that it is only in its fourth year of existence, the event logistics went rather smoothly.  The only real issue was at packet pickup.  Most races you can walk in, pick up your packet, and leave.  For this race, however, it took a little over twenty minutes to get my bib and swag.  I am purely speculating here, but my assumption is by hosting the event internally, with some assistance from the Memphis Runners Track Club for timing and course layout, the event is able to donate more money to St. Jude, which is definitely worth a little bit of a wait.  Also, I do know that this year’s race was the largest yet, so with a boost in participants, a little bit of a learning curve is to be expected.

The weather certainly was better than expected for the third Sunday in August.  While the humidity was at 90%, the temperature was only 72, and the dew point was actually under 70, making the race much more pleasant than August average of 91 degrees!  The morning was also overcast, so there was no battling the sun during the run either.  I know several people set PR’s yesterday.  I was not one of these people, but I did, however, have my best time since February!  I finished the race in 28:12, and more importantly, felt that I could keep going at that pace for a couple more miles.

The race is held in conjunction with Bardog’s anniversary party, so race participants are encouraged to stay after the race for an after party.  There was beer, live music, and food in copious amounts.  The finish line funneled you into alley beside Bardog.  First, there was water available, then beer, then sliders, then peanut butter and banana sliders, then chicken salad sliders,  fruit, and then more beer.  Having multiple beer locations is always a prudent move for a race, especially a race at a bar!  And since this was an event hosted by a bar, participants were treated to beer a few notches above Bud Light or Miller Lite.  There was multiple brews from Yazoo Brewing, some Yuengling, Fat Tire, and many other beers that were much appreciated by the majority of the runners.  I will say that I am thankful that I got my wristband prior to the race because that line was insane after the race.  I had a couple of beers and sliders before heading home, but if I would have had a DD, I am certain that I could have been persuaded to stay down there for a little while longer!  The post race party lasted until 11 am, and that point, the anniversary street party began.  There was a world beer tour tent with about fifteen beers to try, and well as food and drinks to be purchased, a dunk tank, more live music, and a meatball eating contest.  Proceeds from all of the events were going to St. Jude.  I am very interested to see what the final donation total will be.

Course: A: It incorporated quite a bit of your standard downtown Memphis running course with one exception, no Beale St.  Most races have you run up the hill on Beale before turning to the finish line.  This race, however, had you stay on Riverfront for a couple more blocks and then turn up the hill onto Monroe where we ran past the front of Bardog, turned onto Main until Union, then turned onto Union to finish at the alley connecting Union and Monroe, which is where the after party was.  And for all of you readers that are unfamiliar with Memphis, the city resides on the fourth Chickasaw Bluff which separates the city from the Mississippi River,  This bluff makes for a very steep ascent on downtown runs.  Riverside Drive is the street basically at the same level of the Mississippi.

This was my race swag.

This was my race swag.

Swag: A: The food and beer selection was awesome, which is to be expected with Bardog.  The opportunity for the after party was also great, but I do hope that people went home to shower before the majority of the festivities.  The race shirts were super soft tees, which means it is a shirt that I will actually where again in public, which I did yesterday afternoon.  Seriously, all races should be forced to give super soft tees or tech shirts.  No one wants a plain, scratchy white tee-shirt anymore.  I also received a pair of Brooks shoe laces, a coupon to Aldo’s Pizza Pies (a sister restaurant to Bardog), a Bardog wooden nickel for a PBR, a free ticket to that evening’s Redbirds game, and a beer mug since I was one of the first 350 people to register for the race.  Some of the participants also got Believe Memphis headbands, St. Jude sunglasses and koozies, and different race advertisements.  I noticed that some people were upset on Facebook that they did not get the full allotment of swag.  There are much better things to get worked up about than that.  Oh well.

Overall: A: I am very glad that I chose this race over the Elvis Presley 5K that was held on Saturday.  I know that the events are held in such a manner that I could have run in both, but I was never going to do that, so I am glad that I chose this one.  I will certainly be making a return visit for next year’s race.

And on a nerdy side note, I wore my Batman Under Armour shirt for this race.  I had several people comment on it and I even saw another runner with one on as well.

Mid-Week Review

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Back in March, I did a post about the Alter Ego line of clothing from Under Armour.  You can have a refresher here, or the Cliff Notes version is the line is workout clothing inspired by superheroes.  The nerd in me was very excited about these shirts, but being of the larger persuasion and these shirts being base layer compression shirts, it did not look like I was going to get one.  Well, a random trip to the local Dick’s Sporting Goods changed that for me.  I was shopping with Susan and Dick’s was next door so I hopped in for a second.  And as I walked in, I noticed the Alter Ego display.  I stopped to look for a second and noticed two things.  One was that the compression shirts are tiny.  I seriously though I was in the children’s section!  Also, I saw a Batman shirt that said that said “loose fit” on it!  This could not be right, and I had to double check the tag.  Yep, “loose fit” just like my other Under Amour shirts!  I decided to try the shirt on, just in case, and it was a perfect fit!  So I now own a Batman Under Armour shirt!  I am such a nerd.  Maybe they will release the other superheroes in the “loose fit” as well.

Batman Under Armour

Batman Under Armour

Last week I bought my first pair of shoes from Kindrunner and the experience was very simple.  Today I am returning a pair of old shoes that will become $10 in Kindness Cash.  It is kind of a bittersweet moment since the shoes that I am returning are the ones I ran my first half marathon in.  But I cannot wear the shoes anymore and someone needs to get some use out of them, so sending them to Soles 4 Souls in a positive outcome for these shoes.  It is ironic that these shoes that I randomly bought with no knowledge of my gait, running mechanics, or shoe life held up for over a year and 700 plus miles without incident.  And now that I know this stuff, I have had some injury issues with shoes closely fitted for my feet with very strict mile management.  It is funny how that happens.

Kindrunner donation

Kindrunner donation

And speaking of my new shoes from Kindrunner, I made a rookie mistake over the weekend.  I was so eager to wear my new shoes that I did not properly break them in before taking them out for a long run.  I ran ten plus miles on the Greenline last Sunday and this run resulted in blisters on both of my big toes!  Thankfully these blisters were not a lingering issue this week.

I am also going to be trying something new with my runs and workouts over the next few weeks.  I almost exclusively listen to music on my runs, so I am exploring some podcasts to listen to, as well as an audiobook to utilize during my runs.  I will also try to watch some Braves games on the treadmill at the gym when the opportunity presents itself.  Last night was my first run listening to a podcast and it went well.  I had no problems staying motivated on the run, and it provided the distraction that I sometimes need on my runs.  I am still browsing audiobooks and honestly did not realize how expensive that they are.  I read several non-fiction books, and I am a little wary of running to an audiobook of a non-fiction book.  We shall see.

Today is the longest sports day of the year since it is the only day of the year that there are no activities from any of the major four American sports leagues.  What sets today apart from the past two days is that Monday has the Home Run Derby and Tuesday has the MLB All Star Game.  Even worse for Atlanta Braves fans is the fact that the team is also off tomorrow, so there is a four day sports void for us.  ESPN puts their annual sports awards show, The ESPY Awards, on Wednesday to help fill the void, but no one really cares about that.  The USA and Costa Rica game that was played last night would have been perfect in prime time tonight.

Update: I just read an article on Deadspin talking about the ESPYs, the hatred for the event, and the colossal waste of money the awards show really is.  You can read the article for yourself here.

Nerds

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I realize that I probably fit at least some of the stereotypes of being a nerd, especially in high school.  I made good grades, I didn’t get sent to the principal’s office for misbehaving, I was an officer in several school clubs (including Math Club), I liked comic books later in life than normal people do, wore some very nerdy glasses (I didn’t get the requisite nerd inhaler until last summer), and so on.  I also, however, played high school football, really enjoyed the weekend house parties (maybe a little too much), and dressed like the vast majority of my school.  I say all of this to get to my point that there is more of a crossover in the jock/nerd communities than most people believe.  Look at comic book movies, for instance.  If only forty year old virgins living in their mom’s basement and providing tech support online watched these movies, the genre would be dead by now.  Movies like The Dark Knight and The Avengers appealed to much greater portion of the population, even if “nerds” are the ones straddled with the label of liking comic books.  Or take the runaway success of The Walking Dead on TV.  These numbers show that jocks, soccer moms, nerds, and the whole lot of our population have much more similar taste in entertainment than society is led to believe.

I mean, even sports are being inundated with a nerd revolution.  Baseball has the Moneyball movement and sabermetrics which leads to some very heated debates about the sport and how to play.  Last years AL MVP vote is a prime example of the level of viciousness these debates can climb to.  Fans are split on the validity of a player’s batting average and RBI totals.  On base and slugging percentages are becoming the vogue stat.   NBA teams, such as my Memphis Grizzlies, are hiring more and more front office executives from outside the realm of former basketball players and coaches.  Football teams are analyzing numbers to a degree that would have been mocked ten years ago.

Which one is a bigger nerd?

Which one is a bigger nerd?

Under Armour is now embracing this new found acceptance of nerds, as well as recognizing that many high school nerds have grown up to be fitness warriors.  A friend of mine posted on Facebook yesterday a link to Under Armour’s Alter Ego line of workout clothes.  Basically, it is Under Armour’s compression gear with superhero insignia printed on them.  When I first saw them, I thought, “Damn, I had that idea!”  And that is true, a few months back, after completing a long run, I told Susan that a company should make tech shirts and other workout gear with superhero insignia because I thought it would sell quite well.  She laughed, called me a dork, and we went about my day.  And now Under Armour has introduced this Alter Ego, which is a great name, line of clothing.  MY second thought was “Damn, why does it have to be compression wear?”  Compression shirts and fat guys do not mesh very well.  I get the usefulness of compression, it just is something I normally steer clear of, both for my self image as well as out of respect for others.  I may have to make an exception in this case.

Photo from underarmour.com

Photo from underarmour.com

The Batman one is fantastic, as is the Superman and Captain America ones.  I am not a huge fan of the Hulk or Iron Man ones.  I can only imagine that a Flash one would sell well, as would any referencing the X-Men or Green Lantern.  Also, a Punisher one would sell well, even to people who had no clue who the Punisher.  If anyone at Under Armour would like to know what a member of the plus sized gym community thinks of these, a couple of them can be sent to me in Memphis for some beta testing and product reviews, size XL, please…

Gear

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Every runner knows that you can’t achieve your goals without the proper gear, so here is some of my equipment that I use for every run.  I guess I should mention that all of these items have been purchased from retail vendors and I do not get compensated in any way to plug these items; they are just what I currently like to use.

When you run long distances, you tend to have to shop for shoes quite often.  Most runners get 400-500 miles from a pair of shoes (according to info I found) and having a backup plan is a good, but expensive idea.  I tend to overpronate when I run, so I went shopping for a pair of shoes that helped with this running style.  After some extensive research, I settled on the Nike+ Zoom Vomero 7.  It is a light shoe with great cushioning and numerous color options.  I chose the gray/orange combo against the protests of my wife.  I also have an old pair of Asics that I wear in muddy trail runs and a pair of Nike+ Livestrong shoes that I occasionally use, but the Vomero 7’s are my curreny and primary running shoe.

nike_zoom_vomero_7_road_running_shoes_mens

For my most recent birthday, my wife got me the Nike+ Sportswatch GPS with Nike+ Sensor.  The GPS is powered by TomTom and it is very easy to upload data from the watch to my computer.  Whenever and wherever I run, I can record data with this watch.  The watch utilizes its GPS function when I’m running outdoors and the sensor (which slips into the shoe of my shoes) works perfectly when I decide to use the treadmill.  The watch tells me my current pace, average pace, distance traveled, calories burned, Nikefuel earned, time elapsed, and current time.  If I don’t run for a few days, the alarm goes off as a gentle reminder to get back out there.  After uploading the data to my computer, the Nike+ website will track my runs so I can see my progress or regression, as well as keep track of my weekly, monthly, and yearly miles.  I also can add notes about the weather, which shoes I wore, how I felt post race, and any notes I might want to write to refer to at a later date.  My personal records and trends are just a click away, as is my routes.  This is the perfect device for any runner, especially a nerdy runner like me.

nike tomtom watch

I wear numerous brands of tech shirts and shorts, and I really can’t tell much of a difference in any of them.  My Nike shirts seem to be a touch bigger than the others, but not enough that I need to buy a different size than the other shirts.  Being a heavy sweater, and bald, I need to wear a hat while I run.  The problem is, every hat will be sweated through between miles 3 and 4, regardless of the temperature.  I will say though, my Under Armour hat dries quicker than my Nike dri-fit hat, so I do prefer to wear the Under Armour one.   I don’t have any specialty running socks that I use, but I may investigate those this year.

I use the Yurbuds Inspire earbuds and they are excellent against sweat and the weather.  The company claims that they are guaranteed not to fall out, but that is not quite 100% true.  You must find the proper size to wear and insert them into your ears utilizing the proper technique.  Yurbuds has great customer service and is very dedicated to getting customers into the proper head gear.  I had a size 5, but after consulting with them, it was determined that I needed a specialty size 4.  They exchanged my earbuds free off charge, even though I was well beyond the warranty exchange period.  My Yurbuds do stay in my ears better than any other product that I have tried, but I have had an issue or two with them falling out when I get extremely sweaty.

I carry my iPhone with me when a run and use an Armpocket XTREME i-30 to hold it.  I chose this product because I’m asthmatic and it can hold my phone, inhaler, gels/GU’s, and keys.  It is comfortable and keeps my stuff dry, but it was not designed for the iPhone 5.  When I had my iPhone 4, the phone fit perfectly and I could store everything with no issues, but now, the headphone jack juts out a little bit.  It isn’t that big of a deal, just a minor inconvenience.  The printing on the product is reflective and once I put on the arm band, it never moves.

WebBlackXtremeSGS111

On my longer runs, I use a Camelback pack for my water.  I went with the 70 ounce version that is used by the military basically because it is what I already had.I’m sure wearing a backpack full of water isn’t for everyone, but I do prefer it to carrying a water bottle.

I don’t always carry my id on me, even though I easy could in the Armpocket, but I do always wear my RoadID bracelet.  It has my name, brief medical info, and emergency contacts on it, as well as a short inspiration quote on it.  This is great info to share in case of emergency, especially for someone with a severe allergy, asthma, or contagious disease.  I went with the RoadID elite and I actually wear it all day.  It has a black, silicone band with a metal watch like buckle and a metal information plate.