Sunday, January 26, 2014

Key West Half Marathon

Race bib

Key West Half Marathon, my first race of 2014!  Also my first race under the guidance of my new coach, Caleb MaslandEmir surprised me with the gift of Caleb for Christmas.  He knows I really want to focus on improving my marathon time towards a BQ in the next couple years so he thought this would be very helpful for me and so far in the short time I've been working with him, it has been (more on working with coach another time). 

 Anyway Key West wasn't in the plans for 2014.  My first race and main focus for this training cycle was supposed to be the OD Marathon at the end of March.  I really want to try to take some more minutes off of my marathon time hence why Emir got me a coach for this training period.  However, I was given a sign that I interpreted to mean that we should go to Key West.  Back before we ended up deciding that the Born to Run 100K out in California would be our 10 year anniversary race, we were toying with the idea of a trip to Key West.  On April 24th, 2004 we got married on the beach in Key West so we thought it would be fitting to go there for our 10 year anniversary. 
April 24, 2004 Ft Zachary State Park Key West

January 20, 2014 Ft Zachary Key West

The problem was we couldn't find a race in Key West that seemed to do the occasion justice.  I mean there's no point unless there is a race for us to run while there  ;-)  The half just wasn't enough for us to make the trip down and we didn't know about the ultras down in the keys in February until just now at the race expo.  So in the end we decided Key West was not meant to be for our anniversary this year.  THEN it happened.  A random Sunday night I was trolling my Twitter feed and saw that #runchat was having a giveaway for the Key West Half.  Long story short, I entered and I won.  As soon as that happened I just knew we were supposed to go.  After many conversations, different scenarios of who would go we made the decision, we would go as a family.  In order to make everything more affordable we flew to Ft Lauderdale and made the drive to Key West.  It was a beautiful drive and it was great to have a car for the whole trip especially since we had the kids with us. 

sailboat races
We went down on Friday and the race wasn't until Sunday so gave me a day or so to get acclimated.  It was a huge difference from the polar vortex I have been training in at home vs the 70s and brilliant sunshine in Key West.  But I'm not complaining!  The week leading up to our trip was a bit messy.  Una had some kind of weird stomach bug where she randomly vomited numerous times over the course of a few days.  Niko woke up Monday with a horrible cough and congestion. So everyone got checked out at the doctor, Niko put on antibiotics.  I was happy figuring we got all that squared away before the trip.  Then Wednesday I started not feeling well.  I had some GI issues but still did my run.  Thursday I went in to work and had to leave at lunch, it was terrible.  I slept for four hours when I got home and obviously could not do my run (it killed me to not run!!).  While I felt better Friday and Saturday, I was just nervous overall that yes I was better but would my body be ready for a race?

Sunday morning I got myself up and ready.  I had booked a cab the night before to pick me up at 6.  Everything went well.  I did the prescribed 15 minute warm-up from coach, used the bathroom had Tailwind in my hand held and felt ready to go.  Of course being this is Key West, things are pretty laid back.  I think we started close to 15 minutes late but who cares when it's that beautiful out?!  It was pretty packed for the start and I probably should have not started as far back as I did.  I did a lot of bobbing and weaving.  Also as I had noticed in my shakeout run on Saturday and during my warm up, my Nike watch was not accurate for the first 1-2 miles.  I knew I was not going 10:00/mile but I really wasn't sure what I was actually running.  Coach had told me it was ok to go out and try for my PR if I wanted.  The goal was to run 8:05-8:10 pace for the first 10 miles and then bring it home the last 5K.  Once my watch straightened out, it indicated I was at about 8:10 overall for the first 3 or so miles.  I was feeling pretty good.  Then next few miles I began to feel a bit tired and it felt like a major strain to keep that pace up so I backed off a bit.  At that point we were running along the water with no shade and the sun was out in full force.  The halfway point was actually right in front of the place we were staying so Emir and the kids were waiting for me.  It was just purely AWESOME to see Niko's face as I ran towards them.  He was beaming with pride to watch his mommy running in a race.  I gave him a huge high five, it really boosted my morale. 

Giving my buddy a high five!

 The turn around was a little past the halfway so I turned around and got to pass them a second time which was great.  At halfway I think I was at about 54-55 minutes, so in my head I was like ok that's good, I'm on target as far as even if I just do another 54 minutes for the second half I could make my PR.  Then mile 7 hit.  There was a small puking incident.  I don't know if it was related to being sick that week, just pushing myself too hard(turns out a few days later when I was able to get my splits, my first two miles were 7:50s which is definitely too fast for me to start with) or racing in temps that were 40-50 degrees warmer than what I was training in at home.  After that I totally bonked.  I turned my watch to elapsed time so I wouldn't see the pace anymore.  I felt terrible and know that I was not running anywhere close to fast enough to make my PR.  While disappointing, at the same time the race was so much fun and at that point I decided to just try to enjoy it and take it all in.  Despite the "altered" course due to construction, it's beautiful.  Not only scenic by the water but past major landmarks like the Southernmost point and through historic downtown.  There were so many enthusiastic volunteers along the course and more than enough aide stations.  Considering the race started at 7 on a Sunday in Key West, there were more people than I expected out and cheering which was awesome. I even had a conversation with a nice man from Roanoke Virginia.  He saw I was wearing my Blue Ridge shirt and started talking to me.  He was so nice that he was giving me a discount code for the Blue Ridge Marathon!  I did thank him and explain that I was already going as a blogger but looked forward to seeing him there.  Eventually I made it to the finish.  I stopped my watch and was shocked to see 1:55.  I seriously thought based on how I felt I was running the last 5 miles or so that I totally was going to go over 2:00 hours.  While not a PR, considering how I totally bonked I'll take a time that was only a little over 5 minutes off my PR from October and better than any of my half marathons in 2012. 

enjoying a beverage
So happy to have this boy with me!
the whole fam!

Despite my personal no exactly what I hoped for performance, the race was awesome.  Such a beautiful course which will only get better when the construction on route 1 is completed, so many friendly people and for a change I got to have my family there on the course.  The race shirt and medal (which actually I can use as a wine stopper) are so unique and among the best I've gotten so far.  Of course the finish was just outstanding.  Not only because of the large crowd of people and music but because of the unlimited free beer, mimosas, bloody marys, screwdrivers. and of course food.  It was a huge party!  The four of us hung out there for a while eating, drinking, meeting new people, enjoying the weather.  It's definitely up there on my favorite post race celebrations.  I would definitely love to make coming down for the race a tradition, if I could afford it, but I have a feeling we will be back at the very least in another ten years to celebrate especially with the addition of a full marathon starting 2015.

My new wine stopper
 So while it wasn't my best race performance, I'm so glad I got a chance to run this race.  Key West is a very special place to Emir and I.  And now running is also a very special thing to both of us.  To be able to go down with our kids and both get to do runs down there was great (even though Emir didn't race he still got an 18 miler in).  Even more wonderful was the just absolutely fantastic time we had while staying in Key West.  We took the trolley tour, saw many historic landmarks, rode bikes around the island and of course spent time at the exact beach Emir and I got married at in Ft Zachary State Park.  I'm so happy we decided to take the kids, they had an absolute ball.  It was melting my heart to hear Niko saying how much fun he was having and that he "loved seeing where mommy and daddy got married before I was born."  It was really our first "real" family vacation aside from our annual visit to Bosnia and Croatia to visit Emir's family.  I had no idea how wonderful it was going to be to watch the kids have so much fun, can't wait to be able to do it again!

Next up for me is to let coach do his work and train me hard to be ready for the OD Marathon which isn't until March 30th.  Until then look for a review on some new Icebugs I'm testing out and updates on training with coach.  I'm looking forward to seeing what I can do! 



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