Islamorada Half Marathon

I signed up for the Islamorada Half Marathon back in June with the intention of it being my first post-Chicago Marathon race. On last-minute race registration whims, however, I did the Miami Beach Halloween Half Marathon and the Turkey Trok 10K before the Islamorada Half.

Part of what drew me to the race was that it was in Islamorada - a group of Florida Keys islands that are a 90-minute drive from Miami - and thought it would be fun to make race weekend a mini family getaway. I planned on running this race in 2017, but Hurricane Irma hit and caused a change of dates for the race that made it impossible for me to participate. Looking back, I’m happy I didn’t run this race in 2017 because my mental space post-Chicago Marathon 2017 wasn’t all that positive and I needed all the time I could get to reset and refocus.

Islamorada hotel views.

Islamorada hotel views.

This year, Chicago was what it was and I learned what I needed to learn about myself and the 26.2 distance. This means is that I learned (really, I remembered) that 13.1 is my favorite distance; it’s long enough to be challenging, but also short enough to not fully drain me of all energy.

This lesson was in full effect during the Islamorada Half Marathon as I talked with friends before the race and experienced the truth of it during the run itself. I love 13.1, but some days it’s a challenging distance and race day was one of those days.

I went into the race a little nervous as I’m working on improving my running form and I haven’t run this long since I started making changes to my form. In general, running has felt “off” lately because changes to my running form have left me feeling like I’m just getting into running and learning how running and different paces feel in my body. Also, I’m always nervous before races when I’m waiting around in the starting line area.

Start and finish line.

Start and finish line.

The first 10K of the race felt great, but then my stomach started bothering me so I made a bathroom stop before mile 7. I was able to get back into the race and pace, but the course has very little coverage and the sun was fully out. The last 5K felt like a true battle of Me-versus-the Sun and I didn’t feel strong enough to sustain my pace. To get through those miles I went into my version of the run-walk-run method where I ran for 200 steps and walked for 50 steps. Counting helped distract my mind from the sun and walking helped my body feel less heated.

During those last miles I tried to keep up with a runner who was also making stops. When she passed and then stopped close to the 13 mile mark, I ran up to her and told her we would be finishing together; no more stopping until we finished and could stop for good. That last .20 was probably the longest-feeling and, yet, strongest-feeling stretch of the entire race. Thank you runner for keeping me moving forward and for helping me finish.

Lots of medals were earned!

Lots of medals were earned!

I finished the race, which was my 33rd half marathon, in 2:01:31. I am incredibly happy with this time because (1) it means I finished a half marathon, (2) I did 13.1 miles with form in mind the whole time, (3) finishing in two hours was my time goal for the race, and (4) I feel like my goal pace for my goal race is within reach (if weather cooperates a little more).

All the smiles and beers post-race.

All the smiles and beers post-race.

Things I liked about the race: Location! Islamorada is beautiful. The course is flat and has some breathtaking water views. Packet pick-up at Robbie’s was fast and gave us a great excuse for having lunch at Robbie’s. The swag was worth the race registration: cool shirt and even cooler hat. There were a fair amount of runners so I never felt alone on the course and, had the weather been different, I think this race would have been a perfect PR-making race. There was plenty of water and gatorade on the course. Start- and finish-lines were in the same place and there was free beer at the finish line!

IMG_3825.jpg

Things I didn’t like about the race: There wasn’t much shade on the course, but I can’t blame the sun for coming out. There also weren’t many porta potties on the course. There was shuttle service from the parking lot to the start/finish area; the shuttle back to the parking lot had different pick-up/drop-off locations, which caused some confusion.

All in all, a fun race that I would do again (with many more prayers to the weather gods).

IMG_3809.jpg

Next up for me is the iRun x lululemon 5K, Miami Half Marathon, Disney’s Princess Half Marathon, and 305 Half Marathon.

Turkey Trot 2018

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year because it’s about food, loved ones, and gratitude. This year things were switched up a bit in my household; this allowed me to get a later start in the kitchen and created an opportunity for me to participate in Turkey Trot Miami on Thursday morning. I decided to go for the 10K because 10Ks are more fun than 5Ks, right?

IMG_3264.PNG

Packet pick-up was straightforward, although there was a bit of a line when I went around 1:00pm on the Wednesday before the race. There were start line corrals that required a colored wrist band for entrance and I was worried that because I registered late, I would have a later start. Thanks to prior registrations for other Chronotrack/Athlinks races, however, I was automatically given a wristband for corral B (8:30 to 10:30 pace per mile).

The race location at Tropical Park is close to my house so I thought an hour was enough time to get to the race parking lot. I was wrong as traffic was so backed up I worried I wouldn’t make it to the start line in time and ended up parking at a shopping center that was about a 10-minute walk away. To give you an idea for how bad the traffic was, a decision was made to delay the start time from 7:00am to 7:15am to give people more time to park and pick up bibs.

IMG_3233.jpg

I went into the race not feeling too well to my stomach and mindful of changes I need to make to my running form (thanks Jaguar Therapeutics!). First two miles felt strong, but way too fast for what I wanted to put out there that day. I slowed it down A LOT for miles three and four and then got a killer side stitch that hung out with me from miles 4.7 to 6.2.

There was a point - soon after the 5K course split from the 10K course - that I thought, “I would be really good if the race was done; I should have just signed up for the 5K.” I did what I always do when thoughts like this creep in and focused on putting one foot in front of the other. I was very happy when I finished, even if my finish line picture tells a different story.

IMG_3266.JPG

All in all, Turkey Trot Miami was a fun race. I wish parking would have been a little smoother and that the tent with Tito’s Vodka and cider was better announced (there was no signage that I could see), but it was great to finally do a race that had been on my bucket list for six years. Plus, I got to see and hang out with some of my favorite runners after the race.

IMG_3235.jpg

Next up for me is the Islamorada Half Marathon on December 9th. This half will be my 33rd and I’m looking forward to having lots of fun running my favorite distance.

Interested in reading more about my running adventures? Read my Chicago Marathon 2018 recap and my Miami Beach Halloween Half recap.

Miami Beach Halloween Half Marathon

I signed up for the Miami Beach Halloween Half Marathon on the Wednesday before the race. I hadn’t planned on running a double-digit run three weeks after the Chicago Marathon, but running is where I find comfort and strength and, after a tough week, a long run was needed to get a handle on life. Not only would I have 13.1 miles to myself, but I would also get a pretty cool medal at the end.

IMG_2329.jpg

The longest I had run between Chicago and this race was six miles, but I went into the race feeling confident that I could do the distance: if I can do 26.2, then surely I can do 13.1, right?Plus, the half marathon distance is my favorite distance, so I was pretty excited.

Packet pick-up was fairly smooth as it was just standing in line to get your bib and race shirt. Race morning was pretty smooth too with easily accessible parking close to the start line and plenty of bathrooms. There was, however, a change in the course this year with the start- and finish-line both at South Pointe Park instead of starting at Jungle Island and finishing at South Pointe Park. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love running on the beach boardwalk because the views and atmosphere are incredible, but part of the course had a lot of turns and there were two two-mile stretches in the second half of the race with no water support.

IMG_2324.jpg

My goal for the race was to "SLOW DOWN and enjoy the run.” This race wasn’t about time for me, but about finding gratitude for the ability to move and the ability to have that time to myself to do what I love. With that being said and because people do like to know numbers, I finished the half marathon (#32 lifetime half marathon!) in 2:06.48 (9:41 avg per mile). I felt amazing when I finished because I felt strong and solid the entire race.

Would I run the race again? Considering this is my second time running it, the answer is yes. I love creative medals and this race always has one of the coolest medals for its participants.

333E1A87-120C-4692-82D0-7B0CE590E30D.JPG

The Miami Beach Halloween Half Marathon was all about intentionally slowing down, taking it all in, and reminding myself that sometimes all you truly need to do is keep moving forward.

Next up for me is the Islamorada Half Marathon on December 9th! Anyone else running that race?

Interested in reading more about my running adventures? Read my Chicago Marathon 2018 recap.