January 24, 2012

Ocala Marathon January 22, 2012

This race was a tiny little thing. Between the three events (5K, half and full) there were between 600 and 700 people (according to a volunteer). That number included almost 200 marathoners, so definitely not a giant crowd. The course was a 13-mile double loop through some amazingly scenic horse farms. Think horses staring at you while running (instead of people) and Spanish moss dangling above your head as you run under a full canopy of oak trees. Sigh, it was beautiful. I mostly enjoyed the scenery on the first loop through because on my second time around the weather started to boil up. My mom told me it was 81 degrees according to her thermometer when I finished, but weather.com swears it was only 79. I'm sticking with my mom on this one. When I left my Spanish moss canopy, it was blazing.

Even the main roads we ran weren't too shabby.

From the beginning, the organizers, volunteers, and other racers were super friendly. The packet pick-up on Saturday was in the local mall. It was a tiny bit hard to locate once you entered the mall, but when I finally weaved through all of the mall kiosks to find it, I was glad to see some really great deals on merchandise. A running store from Jacksonville, FL, had come down with a couple racks of race gear and shoes. All race gear was $10, and all shoes were $30. The Puma shirt I wore in the race was from the $10 rack. It matched my socks better, and I'm a sucker for matching in sporting events. There were only two other booths at the expo, so if it wasn't for the sale rack, I would have been in and out in ten seconds.

$10 sale. Those Asics tights are so soft!

Expo swag. That Chaquita banana sweat band is making it into the regular rotation.

The night before the race I ate at Olive Garden. I love and hate Olive Garden. Their breadsticks and chicken gnocchi soup are delicious, but I ordered a TINY plate of linguine marinara that cost $11. What?!! It was similar to a child's portion, or smaller. I definitely didn't leave hungry after pounding five breadsticks, but who charges $11 for meatless pasta that doesn't even come close to filling the plate on which it was served. Blech. Also I think I paid for it with digestion issues during the race the next day. The breadsticks were probably a little greasier than I thought and the soup not as smooth digesting as I thought it would be. Next year, I might splurge on the $15 race-sponsored pasta dinner.

Race night I went to bed at 12. Not on purpose, but it was just what time I got to bed after visiting with family and friends, laying out all of my clothes (and OCD touching everything 20 times to make sure it was still there), and taking a shower. Luckily I was exhausted from a late night of friends and karaoke the night before so I actually fell asleep for five hours. Usually I can't sleep the night before a race, so five hours was kind of an accomplishment. I wish it had been more, but I felt refreshed when I woke up.

I took my Steaz experimental, and surprisingly not disgusting, all-natural energy shot first thing, and in case you are into knowing, the Steaz and a glass of water helped me take care of some business in the bathroom. Awesome, I thought I would be set in that area, so I took to getting dressed and doing my hair. In real life, I rarely even brush my hair, but on race day, I have somehow happened upon this massive (for me) hair ritual of combing and parting and twisting and cinching my hair into double buns that don't budge. I hate to feel my hair on my back and shoulders, and any other way I fix it, it gets tangled and knotted. Plus, double buns reminds me of Baby Stout, and I like to think I'm carrying a little piece of sisterly love with me onto the course.

Outfit is Puma shirt, Nike skirt, Pro compression socks, Karhu Strong2 Fulcrum Ride shoes, Lululemon Energy sports bra, Endorphin Warrior bracelet, and twelve Goody black hair ties. 

I left the house around 6:20 and got to the mall parking lot/start line in plenty of time to use the porta-potty, check in my warm gear, and walk around aimlessly and meet people before the 7 a.m. start, which actually ended up being a 7:03 start. There was supposed to be a 6:45 warm up, but that didn't happen, unless you count walking to the start line as a warm-up. This was definitely one of the friendliest races I've attended. The difference being that once you met someone, you were guaranteed to see them again at the start line, at a turn around point in the race, at the finish line, or at a store later in the day. By the end of all that, you feel like you are legit friends, and you are really happy for them to do well and cross the finish line strong. We did one little jog up and turn around during our race, and it was cool to cheer on all of the people I met as we passed each other on that jog back. Slightly more meaningful than a random stranger cheering you on from the roadside, which is good because there were very few spectators. One guy sat in his truck bed at the end of his driveway texting in between cheering for people. Then there was the one guy who was driving by with a cowbell occasionally. Sometimes he would be standing on the side of the road cheering too. I think he must have been following his wife or girlfriend on the course. She must have been right behind me because he always looked poised and waiting for action when I saw him.

My cheering squad in Alabama.

Also a motivational maze that he said I could complete while running. He really has high expectations of my brain function while running. 

You can see in the map (below) the little tail at the bottom was the out and back and the middle is a loop we completed twice. There were rolling and regular hills for a total climb of 2,228 ft. (according to Runkeeper). Which is about 800 more than my race in Savannah. Usually Florida is pretty flat, so the hills were a bit more than I was expecting, but not too much more than I normally train on during my long runs in Birmingham, a pretty hilly city.


Here are the actual numbers from the race. Runkeeper clocked me running 27.25. Not sure how that happens, but whatever.

Mile 1 8:34

Feeling great. The start wasn't too crowded, and I barely had to do any weaving. The temperature was perfect.

Mile 2 7:55
Mile 3 8:11

Trying to run where I feel comfortable. Not listening to music, enjoying the scenery. The fog floating around the horse fields felt very magical and Moorish (just go with it -- they have foggy fields in Spain right?).

Mile 4 8:28

First big hill. Coming around some people on the climb. Eat an orange slice from the aid station, and the acidity makes me feel like vomiting. Gross. No more oranges for this course.

Mile 5 7:52
Mile 6 7:19

Netting downhill in this segment. The first half marathoner zoomed by at this point. Was wondering where this dude came from, then he hit the turn around, and I realized that he was wearing a half marathon bib. Wow, he was impressively speedy.

Mile 7 8:16

Reaching our out and back and getting a boost on the uphill from seeing familiar faces coming down the other side.

Mile 8 8:10
Mile 9 7:47
Mile 10 7:21

Still feeling really great. Swearing to myself that I won't run in an uncomfortable zone so that I have energy for later. Take my first GU from my pocket. Grab some Hammer gel for later.

Mile 11 9:13

We merge paths with the half marathoners again. A little more weaving. This is where I start using my mantra, "This is your race." Trying not to get caught up in what other runners or doing, fast or slow. Just trying to stare straight ahead so that I don't get distracted by what other people are doing.

Mile 12 8:33
Mile 13 8:41
Mile 14 9:47

This is where we lose our sweet shading and get into the hot, hot sun. Also I took a bathroom break just after the halfway point. Stomach was starting to cramp, but no relief at this potty break. Didn't want to waste more time trying to clear the intestines, so I took off. Downed a powdered Crystal Light Energy shot with Gatorade. In case you're wondering, really disgusting combo. Official clock read 1:50 as I passed the half. Took a Hammer gel at around 14. Really liked how smoothly they went down.

Mile 15 8:31
Mile 16 9:11
Mile 17 8:47

Cleared from the half marathoners for a moment. Starting to repeat our original loop. Not as magical this time around. No fog and Moors, and it's getting hotter. Still feeling strong. Still running according to how I feel, and I'm telling myself that mile 18 is halfway. Somewhere in here my number started to rip off. Weird that safety pins ripped through the paper. One side popped, and then the next side popped about a mile later. Never had that happen before.

Mile 18 9:04
Mile 19 9:21

Made it up the biggest hill for the second time around. Felt tough but didn't stop until walking through the water stop to get a drink and take another Hammer gel.

Mile 20 9:42
Mile 21 8:24
Mile 22 9:43

Starting to dream about porta-potties. Having intermittent intestinal cramps and trying to decide if it's a false alarm again or if I really need to stop. I'm so close that I hate to stop, so I pass several porta-potties trying to decide what to do.

Mile 23 9:49
Mile 24 9:57

Back in the even hotter sun. Definitely slowing down with the intestinal cramps, but my legs still feel strong. May have taken another Hammer gel in here somewhere. Still thinking of sub-4 time. I pass one of the remaining walking half marathoners, and I think she talks to me to encourage me. Sorry, I was trying so hard not to poop my pants that I didn't respond. I bet it would have been inspirational. All I'm thinking is, "No stopping. I'm so close, so close, so close."

Mile 25 12:12

Not close enough. Luckily there was a porta-potty right at the moment it was completely necessary. You know you are desperate when you risk sitting on a bare porta-potty seat. Biggest sacrifice of the race. Totally worth it. Tried to make it quick, but some things just take a minute. Very thankful for a small race where you can find a porta-potty without a line and WITH toilet paper.

The potty that saved me. 

Mile 26 9:33
Mile 27 10:04

That last hill to the finish line in the full sun felt like Mt. Everest. At this point, I've lost a little oomph because I know that my intestines put me off track, but I'm amazed that my legs are not stopping. During my last race, I could not physically run because of cramping. No cramping this race! Major achievement. Keep skipping songs to try and find a great finish song. Ended up on "Thunderstruck" by ACDC. I loved that as my finish song. All of my thoughts of time have left my head, and I'm just thinking, "Finish, finish, finish."

My times are a little off because I forgot to shut down Runkeeper at the end of the race. It logged 4:15 and 27.25, so there was a whole other Mile 28 59:28. These are the days that I dream of having a Garmin. What would accuracy feel like in running?

I was excited for the PR, but slightly bummed about not sub-4-ing. For the top three finishers (I was 4th) in each age group, this race has awesome custom horse trophies, designed to mimic giant painted horses throughout the town (see example below), so now I feel determined to come back next year and try again. In looking at the stats from last year, only one person competed in my age group. This year there were nine. Slightly more competition, but I'm not above winning because I'm the only one competing, especially when it involves a colorful horse trophy.


Also, I feel great about how my legs felt at the end. I went in with the idea that I would walk through aid stations to maintain hydration, so I did that. There were stops every one to two miles. I wish that I could figure out a way to drink and run, other than carry my water on my person in bottles. I tried pinching the cup together in the middle to prevent sloshing out, but it didn't seem to solve the problem. It's just so hard to stop moving your legs and then start them again, so I wish there was another way. But other than the water stops and the two bathroom stops, my legs didn't stop moving. There was virtually no cramping and no injury or sore spots during the race. This was a major improvement from my last race, where my legs were very unhappy, especially my calves.

Here is the other amazing part. My feet feel like nothing happened to them. No soreness at all after the run. None. Zero. Amazing. My quads are the most sore part of me, maybe from the hills, so walking down stairs is killer. Up is OK. I loved the Pro compression socks that I wore during the race. The foot was fitted and thin, so no blisters or lost toenails this time around! After the race, I popped on a clean pair of CEP compression socks, and now my calves feel totally fine. I guess I need some full body compression gear so that the rest of me can catch up with my great feeling calves and feet.

My finish-line photographer! Thanks, Aimee!

It's a challenge to get hugs from non-sweaty people after a race.

The bling

Also, I'm really thinking that having a Garmin or Nike GPS would help even out my times. Now that I have a little bit better idea of what I am capable and where I am weak (at the end!), I'd like to try and even out my splits and just go faster in general. Seeing what I'm doing on the watch might give me that extra little kick, especially at the end.

What's your favorite GPS watch, or do you run without one? 

Do you prefer small or large races?

What do you do to keep from having intestinal issues during a race?

Serious question here!