Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Myrtle Beach Marathon Recap

I know I normally write my travel recap first for races, but I have a lot on my mind from the Myrtle Beach Marathon that I want to get down before I forget. Besides, I'm sure you all care much more about my race than my other adventures anyway!

For some ungodly reason, the race starts at 6:30 AM (right around sunrise), despite it being mid-Feburary. I'm guessing this is because the main road along the ocean gets shut down and traps everyone at the resorts.

Michael and I both had a horrible night's sleep Friday. An itemized list of the noise we endured: a family cursing at full volume running down the hall at 10 PM, the same family cursing and running at 11 PM, a toddler having a meltdown in the next room because she was up until midnight (parents, what did you think would happen?!?!), and a smoker watching videos at full volume on his phone outside the room at 1:30 AM.

Our hotel (Crown Reef Resort) was certainly Not Cheap, but a lot of the other guests seemed...out of place. I would definitely recommend staying elsewhere if you go to Myrtle Beach. I would also recommend being at least 25 so you can stay at a nicer resort. (Yes, I'm still very bitter!)

The 5 AM wake-up call came very early, considering I got probably less than six hours of sleep. I reminded myself I had no problems running Hatfield-McCoy on less than four hours last year, so I sucked it up.

Parking was free at Broadway at the Beach, and it was about a five minute walk from the start. We also could've taken a shuttle from the hotel, but we wanted the warm car to wait in, and I had read less than stellar reviews of the shuttles in prior years. It was a little tricky to find in the dark with the road closures, but it was still stress-free. There were tons of spaces, so we had no trouble parking less than 45 minutes before the start.

By the time I had finished my bagel, I realized we only had about 15 minutes until the start! We quickly packed up our stuff and headed to the start. There weren't too many people walking over, but we managed to get to the right spot. We were also able to walk right into port-a-potties and then waited in line only a few minutes before the gun.

The pacer started out way too fast, so we didn't end up running with him.
It was around 30 at the start, but I only wanted a light jacket for the race, so I brought my mylar blanket I had been saving since Maine to throw away. That was an excellent idea! They also had a big clothes drop a few miles in specially for donation, so that's an option as well.

I am sad I didn't stop for a quick picture at this point. A crescent moon was still clearly visible above the palmetto trees, and it looked exactly like the state license plate. It was pretty crowded and I didn't want to get run down. Looking back though, I wish I had hopped on the median to get the shot!

The race is a loop course but has very few turns, though there are a few short out-and-backs to add distance. We began with a long run towards the airport. It was very pleasant as soon as the sun came up. The humidity actually felt pretty nice after so many dry winter days in Michigan. I spoke briefly to a couple transplants who were worried about how cold 30 degrees would be.

We passed a band around mile six or seven playing Country Roads and sang along. I have no shame when I'm running marathons. One guy also stopped and danced along to it. I would say the race had a super fun, relaxed atmosphere - at least towards the back by me.

We then hit Ocean Blvd and ran along the strip for a very long time. Other people had complained they didn't like having the ocean blocked, but there were still quite a few spots with an unobstructed view, plus the buildings were great at sheltering us from the wind.

Being from a small town, I also thought running through "honky tonk" was pretty neat. It had that fun tourist feel without the downside of being filled with tourists. Win win, if you ask me.

My legs were feeling great at this point. My goal was to run 10:53 min/miles, and my average was just about dead on, with only quick walk breaks at water stops. At mile 12, in the honky tonk section, I put on my podcasts to get myself to mile 20. The halfers had split off at mile 11, so now the course had plenty of room and I could really get into my own groove.

Around mile 15 or 16 we entered North Myrtle Beach and ran by private homes and had more ocean views. At this point, Michael started struggling to keep pace, and he dropped back from me.

I was interested to try out my plan from Stone Bridge that worked so well and use my podcasts to zone out until mile 20. For the first time, I think I finally understood what it means when people say they "go inside" themselves for a run. I still enjoyed the course, but I was able to block out all concept of time and distance and just put one foot in front of the other. I started getting a little fatigued by mile 18, but I was able to just focus on my podcasts and keep up the pace.

I was really confident I would hit my 4:45 goal until I made the turn and hit mile 19. Out of nowhere, there was a horrible, horrible headwind. A runner near me reported the forecast had said it was 20 mph, but honestly, head-on, it felt much stronger. I felt like I was running into a brick wall. I walked through more water stops at this point, so it's harder to analyze my splits, but it seems like I did an okay job of keeping up the pace.

At mile 20 I switched to the new music I bought and got ready to rock out. That is, until I came up on mile 21 and started feeling a tingling in my hands. I had a decision to make - this was clearly the sign of a rapidly approaching bonk - what should I do?

I remembered how horrible I had felt when I bonked at Sleeping Bear, so I slowed to a power walk and began stuffing Sports Beans in my mouth like it was my job. I ate and ate until the tingling went away. My stomach was pretty unhappy at that point, but the silver lining to IBS is I'm actually pretty proficient at ignoring that discomfort and carrying on. Looking at my splits, I lost only about two or three minutes there, and I'm sure I would've lost much more time if I let myself go over the edge.

I also had a crazy revelation at this point. My Garmin starts my lap pace over each mile (which I like), and there were a couple miles where the beginning was sheltered from the headwind...and I was running a sub-10 pace. What? Who was I? I'm not a runner who can run sub-10 miles in the last 10K of a marathon! But apparently I am. That was a huge moment for me. To go from not being able to run one 10 minute mile to running that pace at the end of a distance race in a couple years is a huge achievement for me!

The last few miles were on a bike path, which did offer some protection from the wind. A lot of people were beaten down at the point and walking, so I felt pretty good passing a lot of runners. Yet another thing I'm not used to! Maybe I need to give myself more credit.

The race finishes at TicketReturn.Com Field (yes, that name is super stupid). They are the farm team for the Cubs (who my parents love), but I couldn't coordinate taking my camera out for a picture at mile 26.

No pictures after mile 25!
The chute was almost .2 miles long and felt like it went on forever! I had promised myself earlier I wouldn't kick if I didn't want to, but I did try to pick it up at the very end. My legs were spent from fighting the wind, but I managed a sub-10 pace for the last bit.

Time: 4:51:07

Despite all the obstacles - a five minute PR! I was overcome with the same feelings I had after my first marathon and almost cried. It passed quickly, but it was still overwhelming. I finally accomplished a goal I've been chasing for over a year.

The chute continued for quite a ways past the finish line. I got my medal (placed around my neck!) and skipped the free picture area since I was alone. I hobbled to the food tent and was very pleased to find a police officer keeping out everyone without a bib. Considering how many people still tried to get in, they really needed someone with authority. I was super bummed the promised Krispy Kreme donuts were gone, but I got some pretzels to settle my stomach.

I retreated to a hill overlooking the chute to wait for Michael. I really wanted to walk back to the finish line to get pictures of him, but my legs just hurt to badly to contemplate moving. When I heard his name called, I did hobble back down the chute to meet him.

I picked up a few more snacks, including chocolate milk, and we found a curb to sit on. The group next to us had a Stick, and I was really tempted to ask to borrow it. My quads were so tight!

Overall, this race was awesome, and I would highly recommend it. It was well organized, and, as a Northerner, I found the course pretty scenic and interesting. The volunteers were awesome, and I never wanted for anything.

I think I needed this race to really fine tune what I learned at Stone Bridge. I need to just go inside myself from mile 8-12 until 20, then use music to power myself home. Bonks need to be addressed immediately.

Now the question is - can I gain back some of those lost minutes at Knoxville in five weeks?

Friday, February 13, 2015

Pre-race Thoughts - Myrtle Beach

My trip to Myrtle Beach has gotten off to a roaring start (knock on wood). Security was practically a walkthrough, and my luggage didn't need to be searched, even though I've crammed a space blanket in there. I even got to hear TSA discuss how someone was a "GIANT TOOL" - somehow he sent his jacket with ID through the X-ray before his boarding pass was checked.

There was also a scare last night when US Airways called saying the second leg of my flight was delayed, but then immediately called back saying it was now on time. Jokes.

I'm supposed to start boarding in about 40 minutes, but considering our plane is still not here...I thought I would whip out a quick post. (ETA - plane has arrived while I've been editing the post!) I had planned to do this last night, but I was too busy spending quality time with my parents. (And big shout-out to my dad for interrupting his work this morning to drop me off at the airport!)

I've struggled a bit with what I want to cover in this post. It would be easy to accidently turn it into a review of Run Less Run Faster. That post is definitely on my to do list, but I want this to be a more simple reflection on what happened and what I hope to have happen tomorrow.

I've talked about my injury on the blog (and in person) until I was blue in the face, and everyone reading/listening was probably ready to injure me further to make me shut up already. It certainly didn't feel like it at the time, but the injury was probably very good for me. I've always struggled to skip runs, even if it's for an extremely good reason, but now I feel like I have a more laid back approach. This is obviously a work in progress, but I'm making steps in the right direction.

I did lose some endurance during the lay-off, but my cardio capacity seems to be right where I want it. This is what I typically struggle with: I'm okay to suck it up buttercup when my legs hurt, but the minute I start sucking wind, I'm done. The race tomorrow is obviously not a sprint (thank God), but I'm glad my lungs are prepped for the challenge, nonetheless.

Image result for puking while running
I just truly don't understand people who feel this way.
I am a little nervous about how my legs will hold up. My long runs following my break weren't exactly stellar, but my 13 miler at MP two weeks ago was awesome. I'm hoping running on snow-free streets, in the sun, in ideal temperatures will be just the boost I need to outperform my training runs.

The plan at the moment is to run with the 4:45 pace group. I had been planning to run a 4:30ish before, so I feel like scaling back five minutes per week of injury is a reasonable adjustment. This will also be my first time running with a pace group, but I hope it's a good experience. While my Garmin can be programmed as a pacing crutch, which I love, I hope having a leader to stick with will keep me motivated. Maybe I'll even make some new friends!

All the tracking for the race is via the Myrtle Beach Marathon app. I think I set it up correctly to have my splits auto-posted to Twitter. (Follow me @myeagerfeet.) If not, you can always download the app and track me that way. My bib number is 696. It's such a boost to know people are tracking my progress when I hit timing mats! But the race does start at 6:30 AM, so no judging if sleep through most of it.

There is also a live stream at mile eight, which really makes no sense to me. I'm definitely on the slower end of the spectrum, but it's going to be right around 8 AM when I get there. If I were fast or people tracking me were not in the Eastern time zone, this would useless. But it's there if you're interested.

Good luck to everyone else racing this weekend!

(And good luck to everyone staying warm!)

Weekend Recap - Illinois vs MSU Basketball

Hopefully when you're reading this, I am waiting at the airport for my plane off to warm, sunny Myrtle Beach. I know this should've gotten up sooner, but I had other things to write about first!

Both my parents went to Illinois for college, and they have some how have remained die-hard Illini fans, despite their teams being pretty atrocious pretty much all of the time. I vaguely remember their basketball team was good when I was little, but that's about it. (Don't even get started on football!)

Every year when football and basketball schedules come out, the first thing we check is whether MSU will be hosting Illinois. Sadly we haven't hosted them in football since my freshman year of college (and Eager Feet Dad was already on a trip that weekend!), but we've had better luck with basketball. This year we got super lucky with MSU hosting Illinois on a Saturday afternoon.

East Lansing is only about an hour and a half from me, so I didn't even have to get up super early! I ended up meeting my parents at a Meijer parking lot and leaving my car there, so we only had to pay to park one car. (Shh, don't tell!)

I hadn't been back to campus since the football game at the end of August, so it was fun to be back. I had tried to think of a way to fit a run in on my favorite campus route, but there's no showers accessible anywhere without a student ID. I even thought about running after the game, but I didn't know where I'd put my stuff after changing.

The lots near the Breslin were all full an hour before game time, so we ended up parking by the football stadium. My parents are relatively familiar with campus, but mostly with the roads, whereas I'm almost useless in the car but can get us anywhere on foot.

While the drive from the Breslin to the stadium lot was long, the walk was short. My parents didn't realize this at first and kept insisting we hustle to the stadium as fast as possible, even though we had 45 minutes until tip. I didn't understand but went along with it, but it was funny when we got there, and they were like, hey, how'd that happen so fast? Spartan magic, my friends. Then my dad asked me who the statue out front was, and a piece of my soul died. (Hint: it's Magic Johnson.)

My parents bought the tickets on Stub Hub and must have splurged, because we got seats in the upper bowl with real backs! Normally we purposely buy tickets for the top row of the upper bowl (which is bleachers) so that we can lean against the wall. Man, my weekend recaps are just dropping life hacks left and right!

Empty arena before game time. Sadly, lots of seats remained unfilled even after tip off.
Michael was supposed to come but got an awful cold that resulted in him having to take three sick days. He was feeling marginally better, but he decided to keep himself quarantined. This meant we had a nice extra seat for our coats. I also could sit between my parents and catch up with both of them.

The warm-up music definitely caters to the players, so it features a lot of heavy rap. I think it wore on my mom a bit, and she was glad when it was over. My favorite part of the pre-game is the MSU video beforehand. They update it every year, but keep the same song and a few of the same iconic clips. It's pretty easy to make me tear up, and this video always gets me, as lame as that sounds. Honestly, my favorite part of sports seasons as a student was seeing the preview video at the first game.

I'll spare you the gory details, but MSU looked pretty sad. We missed lots of easy shots, but we went into the final minute, down two, with three free throws and possession (from a technical), and we still managed to lose by five. I wasn't even sad - if you can't win with those circumstances, you don't deserve to win at all. Even my parents were in shock. I'm only a little worried now since some projections show us out of March Madness. Inconceivable!

Here's a happy picture from halftime.
There was the cutest little girl in front of us that made up for the sting a bit. I despised sports when I was little (please note the only college games I saw were Illinois vs Michigan, so obviously not exciting!), and the kid in front of us was like a blast from the past. Before the game even started, she had curled up for a nap in her seat. When the clock hit two minutes left, she immediately bundled herself up in preparation for departure. She could hardly sit still when two game minutes turned into about ten real minutes. I felt her pain!

After the horror was over, food was our first priority. We ended up going to Grand Traverse Pie Co, and I got their french dip. I'm not a big salad person, but my dad's cherry chicken salad actually looked amazing. I'll have to try it next time.

We then made a quick pit stop to try to find Spartan kleenex for my mom's boss. Yes, you can get just about anything collegiately branded! Even the campus bookstore didn't have any - they must only make them at going back to school time. I'm shocked, I figure that's a branded item that must print money.

Following that failure was my favorite stop of the day - the Dairy Store! MSU has it's own herd of cows and manufactures its own dairy products on campus, including ice cream in tons of different flavors. It is pretty much the best ever. I'm glad I didn't discover how good their milkshakes were until the summer before my senior year, or I'd be 1200 pounds.

Vanilla is the only way to go.
And yes, I am sitting in a stairwell in that picture. My dad insisted we go to the "real" Dairy Store (there's also a smaller branch in the Union), and the line took about 30 minutes to get through, plus there were no tables open. Most of the rooms in the building are food labs, and therefore kept locked, so we found these stairs leading only to a locked door and hunkered down there.

I then I had to laugh when we went to use the bathroom before going back to my car. Apparently the one person bathroom in the dairy building randomly has tons of lockers! I'm totally keeping this in mind for future campus visits when I want to run. I easily could have changed there and locked my other stuff up while I ran. So random.

I'm glad I was able to make it to a basketball game this year, and it was really fun to catch up with my parents. When I went back in August for the football game, it was so very bittersweet knowing my time as a student was over, but the ache is easing a lot now. I see a few more Dairy Store visits in my future!

Did you like watching sports as a kid?
What's your favorite brand of ice cream?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Belated Weekend Recap - Snow Tubing

I know it seems a bit silly to recap a weekend that happened a few weeks ago, but I really want to have all my "adventures" documented on my blog so I can do a cool year in review like all the other kids in December. I thought about combining this with last weekend's recap, but I decided to leave them separate, for that same reason.

The day started out with me getting up early-ish to run. This is always something I want to do, but it's so nice, especially in the winter, to doze back off in my blanket nest on Saturday mornings instead of getting up. But I made it out the door before 10 AM. Baby steps.

It was even nicer than I expected being out in the morning. Lots of other runners were out (who knew!), so it was nice to feel like I was communing with them. Even if I didn't actually make any eye contact because that's awkward.

It also beautiful out, with sunny skies and no wind. It was almost 40 degrees by the time I finished! I meant to take a picture of my run, but I was too lazy to dig my phone out. Suffice it to say, it was a very refreshing final long run.

As soon as I got back, I shoveled some food into my face and headed over to my coworker's to meet up for tubing. We had invited a larger group, but it ended up being me, L (same one I ran the Scrumpy Skedaddle with), L's brother, and T, another coworker.

The closest place to us to snow tube is Snow Snake, just north of Clare. For any non-Michiganders reading this, we consider this the beginnings of "Up North." I sort of live on the border, so it's easy for me to cross over. It was an easy 35 minute or so drive up to Snow Snake. (Easy because L drove and I could continue, ahem, refueling along the way.)

An aside here, but it was so funny when I told people I was tubing the upcoming weekend. Almost every person asks me if I meant snow tubing. There is a place to go river tubing nearby as well, but I hardly think that's likely in January!

When we arrived, we were initially a little unsure about the tubing runs. From the parking lot, it looked like grass was poking through at the bottom of the runs. We watched some people go down though, and they didn't seem bothered by it, so we went for it, all except for L's brother. I think the only thing he won't complain about is drinking, so we sent him off to the lodge, and the three of us got our tags.

It was a funny role reversal, after helping L get into running, I flailed around with my jacket tag completely clueless. She was on her high school's ski team, and still skis regularly, so she very helpfully showed me the ropes.

Snow Snake's tow rope was very nice, in that attendants hooked and unhooked your tube. I went tubing once as a kid, and you were responsible for unclipping yourself. That's way too much pressure for me! Up we went to check out our options.

Awkward tow rope selfie.
Snow Snake had four different runs, and we ended up trying them all. A few we did multiple times, based on how short the lines were. We had only paid for one hour of tubing (a bummer that they don't give a discount for two hours!), so we wanted to maximize our time.

The three of us were allowed to go down as a group every time, which was a lot of fun. I almost lost my privileges though after accidentally dropping L's feet one time, and she almost sailed over the snow barrier from the momentum.

That run sounded so gentle. Lies, all lies.
There was a worker manning the top of each run, so the crowd was controlled. It was so nice not worrying if someone would come smash into you from behind! Much better than sledding as a kid. They would also spin you if you wanted. We were too chicken the first time, but the guy spun us anyway (gently), and after that we got over our fear.

Another tow rope picture, but you can see how steep the runs were!
We also discovered on our first run that what we thought was grass was actually hay. Because of refreezing happening that week prior, the bottom of the runs had turned to ice. Without the grass, our combined weight would have easily sent us flying when we got to the bottom. We tried to convince L's brother to join us again, but he was happy with his beers, I guess.

Gosh, winter boots are hideous!

The nice weather persisted for us in the afternoon. I usually run quite cold, but other than the very tips of my toes at the end, I was perfectly comfortable. Dunham's had actually run out of snow pants when I shopped the night before, so the only water repellent pants I had were my rain pants. I felt like a super dork, but they sealed around my boots well, and I stayed warm and dry! Now there's a life hack if I've ever heard one.

When our hour was up, we headed in to join L's brother at the lodge. It was pretty cramped, but we managed to snag a table in the bar area. I stuck to hot cocoa (which ended up being disappointing), but it was nice to warm up a bit and chat.

I'm so glad we found time that worked to go. L and T are hilarious, and it was awesome to go tubing with them. I think the runs I did when I was younger were more intense (I seem to remember us going over barricades and falling out of tubes), but this was a blast. I have a tendency to fall off sleds, so tubing is the perfect activity for me.

Maybe if the snow sticks around I will go again!

Have you ever been snow tubing?
What's your favorite winter activity?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Run Less Run Faster: Weeks Fourteen & Fifteen

So I dropped off the blog world for awhile. Oops.

I just had some Real Life stuff to deal with, so I took advantage of taper to get things done. In the end, I neglected a few workouts, but I felt much less stressed and overwhelmed. There's no way I could've done that before my injury, so I'm glad to see the lessons I learned during my off time actually stuck for once.

I have a few posts I want to get written before I leave for Myrtle Beach (three days!!), so hopefully I will have more to say this week. Before, you know, spending no time on my computer to maximize my time in the sun. I'm so sick of the cold and all this snow, it is unreal.

I'm a little bummed Sunday is only supposed to be 39, but that's 30 degrees warmer than the real feel temp yesterday.... (But it is hilarious to watch the Southern runners freaking out about what to wear on race day with a high of 50. Apparently that is freezing.)

Anyway, let's look back on the last two weeks of taper. They haven't been nearly as horrendous as I thought.

Monday, January 26
1350 yd swim

This was a repeat of a ladder swim I did a few weeks ago. It was still hard, but I felt much stronger and more confident than before. I'm surprised how much my swimming has improved on just two days a week.

Tuesday, January 27
lunch - lift
PM - 7 mi easy

There was a guy wandering around the weight area without shoes on. (He did have socks on, thank God.) Apparently he does this because he has a bad back. To each their own, but he then started doing what I can describe as proselytizing, trying to convince other dudes to take their shoes off. How about we remember we're all adults and should therefore wear shoes in public.

Even these are better than nothing!
Wednesday, January 28
1350 yd swim

Thursday, January 29
lunch - lift
PM - 3 mi easy

I was supposed to do a seven mile tempo run, but the winds were totally ferocious, so I called it a day at three miles. When I retraced my route home, my footprints about a mile back had already been obliterated by the drifts. It sucked.

Friday, January 30

Saturday, January 31
13 mi long (10:55 min/mile)

I did this run at MP+2, and I felt great at the end. I was a little bored (there is only one path in the whole town plowed, so I've just been running laps on it), but I felt strong. I know the second 13 miles of a marathon feel much longer than the first, but the fact I was able to have a quick snack and carry on with my day is a good sign.

Try to run the whole thing with your ego and see how long it takes to bonk!
Sunday, February 1

Run Miles: 23.2
Swim Miles: 1.5
Lifting Time: 41 mins
Total Time: 6:08

Monday, February 2
750 yd swim

Tuesday, February 3
6.5 mi easy

I almost skipped this run because it was snowing, but it was relatively warm, and the falling snow was incredibly quiet and peaceful. The accumulation got a little much to run through by the end, but the first miles made up for it. Still done with snow though.

Wednesday, February 4
750 yd swim

It felt weird hopping the pool for the last time for a couple weeks. Weird, but nice.

Thursday, February 5

It was bitterly bitterly cold, and I was feeling overwhelmed by life stuff, so I skipped my run to do other productive things. I set an alarm for the time my run would take, and I got a lot accomplished in that window. Plus I could feel my face the whole time. Bonus.

Friday, February 6

Saturday, February 7

I went to East Lansing for the MSU/Illinois game with my parents and had a blast. (Even though we lost.)

Sunday, February 8

I was supposed to do one final long run, but as I was getting my running clothes on, it started snowing. We ended up getting four or five inches (not in the forecast at all), so I wimped out. Lazy, maybe, but I'm just so burnt out on this weather. I'm sure I'll come back refocused after some warm South Carolina days.

Run Miles: 6.5
Swim Miles: .9
Total Time: 2:03

I know I've mentioned it in other posts, but I've never had a true taper before. I've always been sick and/or injured in the two weeks leading up to a race, so I've always just been off running entirely. I expected taper to be harder than it is. It's certainly not the most fun thing ever, but I have other things I need and want to do outside running (gasp of horror), and combined with this horrible weather, it's been good to step back a bit. Plus, knowing I could run more if I chose makes it all the more bearable.

And the best part is I don't even feel guilty or mad at myself about it! I'm finally make the best choices for me, rather than just slavishly following a training plan. I am a tiny bit concerned that I'm sliding down a slippery slope of skipping workouts, but I'm sure a break from the winter blahs will be a good cure-all. 

And only 38 days until glorious, glorious spring arrives!