Miami Beach Halloween Half Marathon – Race Review

At the end of October and into the first week of November, my boyfriend Ben and I took a much-needed vacation to Florida and then got on a cruise. While the cruise itself seemed to be more stressful than relaxing since we were involved with a wedding party, we are really glad to have gotten a few days beforehand in Florida to check out the National Parks.

Also while we were there, I decided to check off a state in my 50 states running goal. I ran the Miami Beach Halloween Half Marathon the morning of the day we were getting on the cruise.

The night before, I tried to relax a bit and not stress about the race the next morning. Ben was off on a bachelor party with the other groomsmen and I planned my outfit and tried to get to sleep was the band outside the window played on into the night.

I woke up for the race just shortly after the groomsmen were done with their night out.  I got dressed in my “costume,” dressing up like one of my high school runners I coach. Since I already knew I would be unable to attend State before the season even started due to the Cruise Wedding, and I told the girls team that if they qualified, I would dress like them at my race. I did as promised, braids and everything, and I think I did pretty well!

The race was set to start before the sun rose, and for good reason, as it usually gets pretty warm, even this time of the year. I hailed an Uber to go to the race while others climbed in their awaiting cars to go home. #runnerslife.  I made my way to the starting line and joined in with all the costume glad runners to wait until the whistle was blown.

Overall – 4/5 – I did enjoy this race for the most part. I could really see the locals having a blast at this event with all their friends and spectators cheering them on. A few things took away from my general experience; some race management related and some personal, as described further on. However, I did love the theme, the participation by the racers as most people dressed up, and the support along the course.

T-shirt/swag – 4/5 – The shirt was high quality and fit well. The artwork was fun, I just didn’t like the BIG plastic feeling of the sublimation. The medals were HUGE and had a unique Halloween design.

Aid Stations – 5/5 – They were great! Each one had water and Gatorade. There was one about every mile with plenty of volunteers.

Course Itself/Scenery/Difficulty  – 5/5 – The course was easy with only one tiny hill. It was fun to run along the bridge where the cruise ships were pulling right into port. After the bridge, you wound around to a concrete and boardwalk trail that was along the beach with beautiful views as the sun rose.

View of the road I ran on from the cruise ship!

Miami Beach

Expo Quality – 1/5 – If that. There was not a real big expo beforehand (like those of Rock n’ roll and such), but even at the finish line, there was barely anything except the food. Now, I didn’t go to the after party that was at the local bar, so maybe there were some booths and vendors there. For most people, this probably isn’t a low point, but I like expos and booths to see new running gadgets/trends and the local businesses.

Parking/Access – 3/5 – I stayed at a hotel right in Miami Beach. It was about two miles from the finish line and about 4 miles to the start line. They did have good instructions for parking on their website and in emails as well as a shuttle service from the finish area to the starting line (and vice-versa). I had already returned our rental car the night before (on purpose) and took an Uber to the finish area to catch the shuttle. I’m glad I did it this way because the Uber car would have gotten stuck in traffic trying to get me to the starting line.

On the bus

When the bus dropped us off, we had a tiny walk to the starting line. Now, the starting line was right outside a parking garage that was open for parking. People were warming up and waiting in the chute while cars were driving in. SUPER DANGEROUS! There were a few police officers just telling cars to turn into the garage but no other way to block cars from runners. I found it super curious the way they had an open lane of traffic next to so many racers. I know people aren’t driving fast, but still!

Race Management – 3/5 – This is where I get to be the pickiest and only because I am a race director myself and notice things that not everyone notices. In addition to the parking/access situation, there were a few other things that took away points from this rating. First, I read online and in the emails that there was a bag drop. I had brought a bag that I placed my small jacket and my cell phone in. Upon getting to the start line, I could not figure out where the bag drop was. I couldn’t even see any booths for registration tents and there were no signs or any sort of communication. I asked the DJ, other runners and the kids at the water station. No one knew. I was starting to get concerned I’d have to run with my phone with nowhere to put it (my costume shorts did not have pockets). Finally, I overheard someone say they got their bib in the parking garage. To get there, the ONLY way to get there, I had to cross traffic, while police yelled at me to stay out of the way, walking alongside driving cars pulling into the parking lot, and around the corner were the tables for registration and alas… the bag drop!

That was a huge thing that made me give lower marks to the race management. Second, was just the advanced packet pick up. There were a couple of location and date options, and I chose the one that was closest to our hotel the day before the race. For a non-Miami beach resident, the traffic is HORRENDOUS. We had a hard time finding the Dick’s Sporting Goods store even with the navigation on my phone. Then once inside the store, there was no employee or race person directing us to where to get my stuff (which was way in the back of the store). I would recommend investing in a lot more signage for ALL areas of their race from packet pick up to race morning.

And the third reason I score this part pretty low is that I had emailed the race directors about a month before the race to ask a question. I never got a response and found my answer, not on the website, but searching the visitor posts section of their facebook page.

MY RACE – 3.5/5 – I’m super frustrated with my personal race. I didn’t really have any goals except, always in the back of my mind, I have a sort-of goal. You know how it is. This time, my sort-of goal was to finish around two hours. Now, I wasn’t really doing any specific half marathon training but I was running with the cross country team I coached and hiking long miles for my 10hikes.com job. I actually felt pretty fit.

I started off with a 2-hour pace group and was keeping up just fine. I felt good! I wasn’t struggling to stay with them, the pace felt great and the pace group leader was very nice. It was around mile 3 that I started noticing the dreaded chafing. Dun, dun dunnnn……..

Now, I’m aware that this does, in fact, happen in humidity. I’m not a completely naive Coloradan that’s used to the dry climate. However, I totally thought the shorts I was wearing for my “costume” were plenty long enough. Oh boy was I wrong and oh man did it HURT. I had 10 more miles. TEN.

So, I did what I could, constantly pulling down my shorts, looking completely foolish, praying that my thong wasn’t showing in the back and pretty convinced I looked like Burt in Mary Poppins.

I was altering my running form to try and avoid the chaffing (unsuccessfully). This led to really sore muscles and back for the following couple of days. I was kicking myself for my outfit and not bringing any “glide.” I was super upset that I felt so good cardio wise and couldn’t finish right with that pace group!

I managed to finish just seconds under a 2:15. Which put me at 12/59 in my age group. After checking the results, and wondering what I would have placed had it not been for the chafing, I decided not to go to the after party and called an Uber to bring me back to my hotel. No way was I walking the short two miles with caffing legs. I still have scars.

Besides all the running stuff, I think one of the most memorable parts of the race is that right after I dropped my stuff in the bag drop, I came out of the parking garage to see a HUGE cruise ship coming into port. It was looming over the bridge that the race was queuing up on. It was enormous, beautifully lit up and sure enough, I saw the words, “The Escape” painted on the side. That was the boat I was going to be getting on later! It was pretty intimidating to a newbie cruise goer that wasn’t so sure about the whole idea.

After the race and returning to my hotel room,  I showered, packed up our stuff and checked out of the hotel. We caught a ride to the cruise ship and I hobbled around the decks in my new Halloween Half T-Shirt.


Race Website

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Run Like the Wind – Pre-Race Prep

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This weekend, I’m tackling race number two for 2016. I’m also checking off state number 13 and half marathon number 13! That’s pretty awesome, but I’m not sure how the race itself will go.

On Sunday, I am taking on the trails of Ellensburg, Washington. As many times as I’ve been to Washington I have yet to run a race there.   There’s a ton of great ones, yet the timing has never worked out.

Growing up, my Mom and I went out to Washington to visit my Grandparents, Aunts, and Uncles about once a year. At the time, my Grandparents lived in Snohomish, a small town outside of Seattle. As I got older, the trips weren’t as often, but I’ve still been out there a quite a few times, visiting Ellensburg instead, when my Grandparents moved to the other side of the mountains.

Visiting my grandparents as a kid. That's at Mount Saint Helens

Visiting my grandparents as a kid. That’s at Mount Saint Helen’s

Last year, if you remember I went out there sometime at the end of the summer to see my family. This time, my visit comes in conjunction with my Grandpa’s  memorial service. My Grandpa passed away at the end of last year.  We decided to hold the memorial service until his birthday so that it would not coincide with the holidays and give people time to plan the trip.

Knowing when I’d be traveling, I looked for a race in Washington. Bingo, I found one the weekend before, in the same town my Grandparents live in! The Run Like the Wind Running Festival is actually in Ellensburg, WA. It was a sign; I just had to do it! My Grandpa wasn’t a runner (that I know of) but running is my way to cope with life so I’m running this race in his honor. It might not mean much to any one else, but that’s how I can process him being gone and remember him.

My Grandpa and I were buds! I'm a lot like him now as I've gotten older!

My Grandpa and I were buds! I’m a lot like him now as I’ve gotten older.

My boyfriend is joining me, along with one of his friends. We have taken this week off from work to make it all around trip. I will fly out while Ben and his friend drive out. This whole trip will consist of me running a race, Ben and his friend climbing Mt. Rainier, family time, Grandpa’s memorial service and a road trip back to Colorado.  Knocking off a lot of things with one stone!

The Race Prep:

They call this a trail running festival. We’ll see how their trail race compares to those out here in Colorado. 😉 The course description says there’s still about 10% on the road so I’m not sure if my Roost MUT Team (the Mountain and Ultra race team I am on) will be impressed our not. Either way, trail race or not, it looks like a fun event..and hard!

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The race is hosted on the Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility, hence the name Run Like the Wind. The trail description says you wind through the facility and get to run right next to the turbines! Cool, huh!? They also “promise” gorgeous views! Don’t worry, I’ll be running with my camera (mainly so I have a phone for when I die on the course).

I’m really excited about the course, even if it is hard, because it looks really cool judging from the description and the pictures on Facebook. I’m also really excited about the finish line for a few reasons:

1. I’ll be done with another state checked off.

2. There’s beer, a band and a wide array of finisher’s food!

3. The finisher’s medal looks SWEET!

4. My Grandma and Uncle will be waiting for me! That’s a new experience for me!

Now, just have to get through the actual 13.1 miles…

5d29f3393a55ec10c8982120a306e32f_1aj5The Actual Race Prep:

So… my training hasn’t been that great. Actually it’s been pretty awful. In fact, it’s pretty nonexistent. Don’t judge me. I’ve been lucky to get in three days a week of running and my longest run was about 8 or 9 miles, about a month ago. This is has been a lot to do with my schedule (working four jobs) and a couple of teams I have joined (my running team has obligations and I joined a volleyball league).

The lack of training is largely due to me being exhausted from doing all that. To be completely fair, if I was slightly more motivated, I’m sure I could have squeezed a full-fledged training program in there, but  that would have meant me being  even more exhausted (if that’s even possible) and less time to spend with my boyfriend.

I’m not here to play the “I’m busier than you game.” It is what it is.

The good thing: I did get in a 2 hour run (only 7.5 miles but on an intense trail) about two weeks ago. Take that however you want.

My plan:

Since I’ll be lucky if I have any sort of long distance endurance built up, I plan on taking it easy. My goal is to JUST FINISH. Oh, it’s going to hard to not go out strong in the beginning. There’s alway that little competitive me in the back of my head urging me to burn myself out, but I’m going to have to duck tape that little competitive me’s mouth shut.

I’m not going to like time. It’s going be painfully slow. I’m going to cringe when I see it. It’ll most likely be the slowest I have ever been.

But I’m going to have to just accept it.

I plan on going out at a nice steady pace; maybe even taking a one to two-minute walking break every mile. That way I don’t completely exhausted myself, or injure myself, before I’m walking the whole second half of the race!

There’s no sense in hurting myself just to get a good time. I can still get a new state, sweet medal by taking it easy and just finishing. I’m not going to drop down to a shorter distance because, frankly, I want a medal from the state of Washington!

At least I’ll come away with good pictures!

So if you would like to follow my clumsy journey in Washington, follow me on Instagram or Twitter. I’ll be sure to bring you up to date info of my race! 🙂

Your turn: Would you do this race, given a lack of training, to reach a goal (racing all the states)? Or are you super competitive and if you can’t do well, drop out?

Pissed at Mother Nature (Places to Run – Marshal Mesa Loop)

Have you ever been pissed at mother nature?

Like, legitimately mad at her?

As if she were a real person?

I have.

I was yesterday.

The only other time I was that angry at mother nature was back when I hiked Long’s Peak.

I’ve been trying to break out of my comfort zone and try new trails….mostly to easy the pressure on my joints (versus concrete) and to add variety to my running.

Yesterday, I drove a little ways because I was told of a tail system close to Boulder that had a 15 mile loop AND a 3 mile loop…exactly what I needed for my 18 miler.

Trailhead

Trailhead

It was a trail called the Marshall Mesa Loop. Well, that’s the actual name of the 3 mile loop. The 15 mile loop is a series of different trails all connected.

Trail with numbers

 

Here’s what my run consisted of:

1. Start. Great day for a hike! The sun is out! It’s not too hot but I can run in a tank top and short. I got all the stuff I needed in my CamelPak and started down the trail after talking to a biker about the route

2. I’m horrible at directions. I almost turned right and went up the 3 mile loop first. I was planning on the 3 mile loop after the run…yeah….that didn’t happen.

3. I thought my friend said it wasn’t that hilly! I mostly repeated “you can do it” over and over in my head like the train from Dumbo. That and telling myself the hills were good prep for the upcoming Horsetooth half.

4. This is about when the wind started up, as I was going up hill….but in my head I was thinking, “oh maybe it’s just this side of the trail and it will die down as I get around the curve.” Boy was a I dead wrong.

5. This is where the wind was so strong I had to walk. I was about half way, so I decided to take the time to have a snack. An interesting thing happened regarding my refueling. Normally I can eat pretty much anything (type of food wise) while on a run. This time, nothing seemed palatable except water. I forced myself to eat half a granola bar. I guess it’s time to start switching to gels or something.

6. I had tried running again but the wind was so strong that walking was taking a forceful effort. From here to about point 8, I was running off and on. Mostly running on the downhills because that was the only way possible with the head on wind.

7. No joke I was cursing at the wind and mother nature herself. And I don’t write that to make my writing entertaining. I literally was talking….OUT LOUD… cursing the wind. It was SO STRONG! At one point, some bikers had teased me as a runner: “That wind it really out to get you, huh?” I tried laughing and explained how frustrated I was. They assured me it was ONLY 3 more miles to the end. Normally 3 miles doesn’t sound that long. This time, I couldn’t fathom another step.

8. FINALLY the wind was not head on….just at my side. Causing me to kick myself with almost every step. But I was able to run all the way back to the trailhead.

9. One last head-on wind spot. But I showed mother nature who was boss. I kept running; shielding my eyes from the dust clouds.

The last little bit of the run was a fun back and forth downhill. I discovered that the wind was at the trailhead as well, leading me to believe that it wasn’t just that side of the trail that was windy. I also found a lot of people just starting their run and shook my head at them as if they were crazy.

I didn’t make it to 18 miles, just 15.6, but I feel like my battle with mother nature makes up for that.

Overall, the trail itself was great. Just the right about of hills to challenge me. Just the right about of rocks to navigate and have fun around without being too technical. Great views of the flatirons, windmills, and surrounding cities and suburbs. I guess I’ll have to give it another try…when the wind ISN’T blowing. Even though there where times that I was completely exhausted and seriously contemplated hitch hiking back to my car (yes, this thought actually did cross my mind), I felt good at the end. I felt strong, powerful and accomplished.

Me vs. Mother nature. Who was the victor?