Sunday, August 25, 2013

My First Half Marathon

September 2nd, 2012- Disneyland Half Marathon

With the 2013 Disneyland Half Marathon a week away, I thought I would recap last year's half marathon which was also my first ever half marathon!
On February 2nd, 2012, I made a decision that would change my life- although I did not know that at the time.  That day, I signed up for the Disneyland Half Marathon.  I also convinced my best friend to sign up with me.  Neither of us had ever run a half marathon before and I figured if we signed up together then at least we could hold each other accountable for training properly!  After I signed up, I panicked.  What was I thinking?  The farthest I had ever run was 6 miles...on a treadmill.  Oh my.  I immediately began looking up training plans and luckily the runDisney had a training plan made my Jeff Galloway.  I followed it pretty strictly and before I knew it, it was time for the race weekend!

We hit a lot of traffic driving from Las Vegas so we made it to the expo really late.  Unfortunately, most of the merchandise was already sold out.  I was so disappointed to have missed out on the "I did it!" shirt.  However, I was happy that I had pre-purchased the pin and was able to pick it up with my bib.

Race bib and pin

We were such amateurs and we did not realized how busy Downtown Disney would be.  It took forever to get food, but we finally able to get burgers at the UVA bar.  By the time we finished eating, we had to run back to the hotel to watch our alma mater in their first football game of the season.  I took this time to put the finishing touches on my costume!  I triple checked my alarm clock and then I drifted off into a peaceful slumber.

I woke up bright and early and chowed down on a banana and a granola bar.  My friend and I walked to the starting line which we found the day before while we were walking to the expo at the Disneyland Hotel.  We made it to our corral, but it was already pretty full so we were at the back.  We were both pretty nervous, but it was so neat to see everyone's costume.  I decided to go as Cinderella!  I wore a blue Nike running tank with a pale blue Sparkle Athletic skirt and white running sleeves.  I sewed on some ribbons to look like puffy sleeves and I made a black ribbon necklace and a blue headband.  I ended up losing the headband as I went through the castle though.

Pre-race jitters
We were in one of the last corrals so it was a little while before we started, but finally it was our turn.  The starting line was on Disneyland Dr. and continued down Katella until we were finally in the Parks!  Running through the Parks was an absolutely amazing experience!!  At one point we even got to run back stage.  Most of the characters had long lines and we were paranoid about getting swept so we didn't really stop for pics, but we did get a pic with one of the cars from the movie "Cars".  It was my first time seeing the new Cars Land at Disney's California Adventure and let me tell you, it was stunning!  After running through DCA, we headed over to Disneyland.  My favorite part was running through the castle.  I was a little disappointed that we didn't stop to take more pictures with characters.  I really wanted to get a picture with Cinderella, but she had a long line.  This time, I'm definitely going to slow down and take a bunch of pics with characters! 

After the Parks, we ran through the city of Anaheim.  There was one big hill when we went over an overpass, but other than that it was pretty flat.  Along the course there was quite a bit of entertainment.  There were high school marching bands and cheerleaders, dancers, girl scouts, etc.  At one point we ran past a bunch of classic cars.  One person was playing the soundtrack to "Cars" on their radio.  That was so cool.  It was so fun to wave at everyone and I was surprised at how many people turned out to spectate! 

Around mile 9, we made it to Angel Stadium.  I was so excited to run around the warning track!  I have been to many games there, but of course I've never been on the field!  At this time, I had such a runner's high and I felt like I had so much energy.  Once we exited Angel Stadium, I received a text message from my mom cheering me on.  It was such an adrenaline rush!

Before I knew it, we were heading back towards Disneyland.  At this point, we were both tired, but we pushed through.  Finally we saw the finish line.  We held hands and crossed it together!!  I ran to the first volunteer I saw and I got my medal.  It was glorious!! 

Awesome bling!
I couldn't believe that I had actually done it.  All the long hours of training in the blazing sun and all the sore muscles were totally worth it. 
We did it!!
Overall verdict:  I already told my husband this is going to be an annual vacation for us from now on.  I plan on running this race every year until my body gives out!  

Saturday, August 24, 2013

August Race #1- ET Full Moon Midnight Half Marathon

August 17th/18th, 2013- ET Full Moon Midnight Half Marathon

**Cue the X-Files theme song**

Picture this- a 10K, half marathon, full marathon, and 51K that take place on the Extraterrestrial Highway in Rachel, NV (about 2.5 hours from Las Vegas).  There are no lights...except for those coming from UFO sightings.  The race starts at midnight.  Watch out for aliens!

I heard about this race last year and I seriously considered running it, but I wanted my first half marathon to be at Disneyland so I didn't sign up.  However, I promised myself that I would run it in 2013.  The whole premise of this race really piqued my interest!  I am a night shift nurse so I was super excited to actually run a race during my "normal" waking hours.  I ran another Calico Racing event earlier this year and they put on a great race!  Everything is well organized and the finish line parties are fantastic.  Plus, who doesn't love a little sci-fi every once in a while?

Since Rachel, NV is so far away from Las Vegas, Calico Racing chartered buses to and from the race for $30.  Well worth it in my opinion!  Most people were able to sleep during the long commutes.  I took a short nap on the way to Rachel after I ate my peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Packet pickup and the bus stop were at the Hard Rock Hotel.  I got a few weird looks because I wore my costume, but hey, it's Vegas and people should be used to seeing weird things!

Which brings me to my costume.  There was a costume contest (some people had amazing costumes!) and I had a million ideas of what I could dress up as, but I ended up going as a "Man (woman?) in Black"!  I wore my black Sparkle Athletic skirt, black Pro Compression socks, a white tank top, white Sparkle Athletic running sleeves, and a black tie.  I also wore a headlamp because we were required to have some sort of light source throughout the entire race (people carried flashlights, wore glowsticks, etc.).  All runners received a glow bracelet at the beginning of the race too.  There are no lights along the highway and it was pitch black out there.  In my opinion, it was gorgeous!  The stars were shining so brightly and I even got to see a shooting star!
Men in Black
 The buses stopped about 26 miles outside of Rachel at the famous black mailbox where many people come and gather to look for UFOs.  This was the starting line for the 51K and full marathon runners.  Most people got off the bus here to use the port-o-potties and look around.  There isn't really anything to see though.  The half marathoners and 10K runners had to get back on the bus to be shuttled to the other start lines.  The buses dropped us half marathoners off 13.1 miles away from Rachel.  I LOVE point to point races!  There was no "official" start line.  We all kind of gathered and then the race director said "go" and we were off at 12:30am!

The first six miles were tough.  There was a slight incline and then a bigger incline around miles 5/6.  Since it was so dark out, I really wasn't able to look ahead so the hills took me by surprise.  Also, it was warmer than I thought it was going to be and I ended up having to take off my sleeves.  My hydration belt, tie, and headlamp made me sweat more than usual because they were rubbing me the entire race!  Next time, I will plan that a little better. 

There was quite a lot of wildlife on the course.  At one point I heard a bunch of cows mooing and I was saw a couple of jackrabbits.  There was even a dead rattle snake on the highway!  Unfortunately, I didn't see any aliens though.  The moon and stars were the only lights out there and it was very peaceful.  I didn't hear of any alien abductions that night :)

After mile six, the course flattened out and I was able to run a lot faster.  At this time, I was in the middle of the pack.  The faster runners were so far ahead of me that I couldn't really see anyone in front of me and when I turned around to look behind me all I could see were people's glow bracelets.  This is normal for me though- I spend the majority of races by myself in the middle of the pack.  I made a killer playlist for just that reason...
Alien bling

Here's a little sampling of my playlist that night:
"E.T" by Katy Perry & Kanye West
"Bad Moon Rising" by Creedence Clearwater Revival
"Space Cowboy" by *NSYNC
"Men in Black" by Will Smith
"Intergalactic" by the Beastie Boys
"Space Jam" by Quad City DJ's
"X-Files" theme song

It was quite fitting that I finished the race listening to the "X-Files" theme song.  Although I didn't get a PR, I was still happy with my time.  The finish line was at the Little A'Le'Inn, a motel/bar/restaurant in Rachel.  They had a great buffet for the runners which was included in the race fee.  They served bacon, sausage, eggs, pancakes, cookies, muffins, fruit, veggies, coffee, BEER!, lemonade, water, Gatorade, tea, etc.  I loaded up my plate and ate my face off.  I had a "runger" like no other!  The buses back to Las Vegas were leaving every half an hour and luckily I finished eating right as one was loading up so I was able to catch a ride back without having to wait a long time.  We got back to Las Vegas right as the sun was coming up.  I was a little stiff from having to sit for 2.5 hours, but other than that I had a fantastic time and the alien head medal is adorable!  Thank you to all the volunteers and thank you to the town of Rachel!

Overall verdict:  This was a GREAT race and I look forward to running it again!!

Another "great" finish line pic...with my eyes closed

Thursday, July 4, 2013

July Race #1- Roadrunner 4th of July 5K Blast

July 4th, 2013- Roadrunner 4th of July 5K Blast!

Last year, I ran the inaugural Roadrunner 4th of July 5K Blast.  It was not my first race, but it was my first 5K so I have a special place in my heart for it.  When it was time to sign up again, I jumped on it!  This year I was going to be prepared with an awesome costume.  I ordered the special edition red, white, and blue USA Pro Compression socks and of course, I had a matching Sparkle Athletic skirt.  I cannot run a race without my sparkle!  The hardest part was deciding whether to wear the blue or red skirt.

Last year!
 Unfortunately, 3 days before the race, it was cancelled due to excessive heat.  It was supposed to be something like 110 degrees on the 4th of July and although this was an evening race, it was not going to cool off in time.  I was devastated!  The race director decided to give us a "free" entry into any other event put on by the company.  Luckily, I run almost all of their events so I wasn't too upset that my race fee wasn't going to be refunded.  I put it towards a Halloween half marathon in October so I'm pretty excited about that!

Even though I couldn't run that day, I still dressed up!
All dressed up with nowhere to run!
Happy 4th of July everyone!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

April Race #2- Bubble Run 5K

April 27th, 2013- Bubble Run 5K

Let me preface this post by stating that I really do not like running 5Ks.  My favorite distance is 13.1.  However, when my colleague asked me to run a 5K with her, I immediately said yes.  I had just started a new job and I was excited to make new running friends!  We signed up for the Bubble Run.  It's like the other "color runs" except this was with colored bubbles.  Other than that, I really didn't know what I was getting myself into.  It was a little pricier than I usually like to pay for 5Ks, but it was on Fremont Street here in Las Vegas and I thought it would be an exciting course.  We signed up months in advance and we got a discount because we signed up as a team. 

Red flag #1- Packet pickup.  Apparently there was an email with a website that gave directions.  I didn't get that email so I missed packet pickup the day before the race.  I was freaking out until I learned that they also had packet pickup the day of the race.  On race day, I decided to get there super early and good thing I did because there was a HUGE line for packet pickup.  I talked to a bunch of people in line and no one there had gotten the email either....interesting.  Luckily, they were super organized and the line went really fast.  The swag was pretty cool- a nice white t-shirt (to get dirty/colorful!) and a sweatband.  Race bibs were just given out randomly- they weren't personalized and there were no corrals.  I didn't really think that was a bad thing...until later.
Clean!  Pre-Race Smiles
I met up with my friends and we got a few pre-race pics. We were hoping to be super colorful afterwards!  We headed over to the start line and there was a huge crowd already.  Supposedly there were 6000+ people registered.  Wow!

Red flag #2- The race had a late start time.  By 9am it's pretty hot here in Vegas, but I figured I'd be done no later than 9:40am so I wasn't too worried.  However, it was really hot out that day and I didn't bring any water because there were going to be water stations on the course and it was only a 5K.  Bad idea.  We were at the start line about 20 minutes early and there was no shade whatsoever.  Plus, we were crammed into a little tiny space with 6000 other people.  I quickly realized that 90% of these people were not planning on actually running this race.

I was hoping to be more colorful...
 Red flag #3- Finally it was time for the race to start.  They then announced that they would be letting waves of 100 people go every 10 minutes.  What.  There were 6000+ people there.  Doing the math, at that rate it was only 600 people per hour.  It was hot, people were getting restless, and the time was dragging on.  We waited for an hour before we were able to run.  I had planned to be done and home by that time!!  People were finishing before 90% of the racers had even started!  I think they must have changed that plan pretty quickly, but it must have been done after we had already started.  The first mile was spent dodging groups of people walking side by side.  I'm talking like groups of 4 or more walking together, arms linked, blocking the whole path.  It was annoying.  It seemed like we were the only ones running.

That's the extent of our bubbles...
It's Vegas, baby!
There were 4 bubble stations each with different colors- pink, yellow, blue, and green.  By the time we got to most of the stations, they were running out of bubbles and we hardly got to run through any.  It was disappointing.  At the end, I hardly had any color on me.  My Sparkle Athletic skirt did get a little bit of yellow color on it, but it washed out pretty easily with just water.  The course was through a bunch of neighborhoods.  Nothing much to see for most of it.  Towards the end though we did get to run past a bunch of wedding chapels and the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop (from the show "Pawn Stars").  The finish line was on Fremont Street and that's where we got to see a lot of bubbles (they weren't colored).  They had a bunch of snacks and cold water at the finish line which I greatly appreciated.  Other than that though, I was pretty disappointed with the race.  It was not timed so I have no idea how fast we ran, but I had fun with my friends and I guess that's all that matters.

The Finish Line
Overall verdict: One and done.  Never again.
"Good Clean Run"

Sunday, April 14, 2013

April Race #1- Summerlin Half Marathon

April 14th, 2013- Summerlin Half Marathon

I was really excited for this race because it's so close to my house and I wouldn't have to drive very far.  The weather was gorgeous!  I was afraid that it was going to be too cold, but it was 59 degrees at the start and was 64 degrees at the finish- perfect race weather!  The race started at the JW Marriott in Summerlin.  They had a DJ and a food truck there.  We were supposed to start in corrals, but I could never find the markings for the corrals so everyone just basically lined up and they let us go in 3 waves.  Unfortunately, I was in the last wave, but it turned out to be ok because I only had to dodge the walkers for the first half mile.  I was very surprised at how many hills there are in Summerlin.  I thought it was supposed to be a flat course with only a few hills, but it seemed like it was all a gradual uphill for the first 8 miles!  Nothing like the Red Rock hills, but there was a definite grade on the course.  I couldn't wait for the uphill portion to end!  We had to go over an overpass around mile 5 and then at mile 10 there was a HUGE hill (more of a mountain in my opinion).  As soon as I turned the corner and saw it, I couldn't believe how steep it was.  Right at that time one of my favorite running songs came on- Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger".  How appropriate.  It gave me the motivation that I needed so I sprinted up the hill.  The volunteer at the top cheered me on and said "you killed that hill!".  It was such a great feeling!  After that, the rest of the course was downhill or flat.  It was very enjoyable from that point on. 

The course itself was nice.  It was very well marked with lots of volunteers cheering people on and directing runners in the right direction.  There were lots of trees and shade which I appreciate.  They had police officers controlling the traffic which was great because Las Vegas drivers are awful.  Half of the refreshment stations had just water and the other half had both water and Gatorade (Lemon Lime Gatorade- my fave!).  At the finish line, they had a great spread of food including fruit, muffins, ice cold water and Gatorade, and cookies.  The mini blueberry muffins were delicious.

I wore my new turquoise Team Sparkle skirt and got a ton of compliments!  I'll definitely have to rock that color again soon.

The best part of the race in my opinion is when I was sprinting toward the finish line when I realized that I would be getting a new PR by about 9 minutes!  I was ecstatic!!

Overall verdict: I would definitely run this race again.  The weather was perfect, the course was great, and it was very well organized.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

March Race #4- Laughlin Half Marathon

March 30th, 2013- Laughlin Half Marathon

My last race for the month of March.  I was glad to have a week off between races because my ankle was still tender from the Hoover Dam half.  I kept it wrapped and it seemed to be back to normal by the time this race was to begin so I wasn't worried.  My husband and I had planned to drive down to Laughlin and spend the weekend there, but alas, his work always gets in the way.  Instead, I made the 2 hour drive by myself.  It was quite lonely.  So lonely that I was "forced" to sing songs from "The Little Mermaid" when my radio stopped working  :)  Once I arrived, I was delighted to see that it was slightly overcast.  I had been worried since the forecast called for temps in the low 90s. 

Colorado River
I went into this race knowing it was a trail run.  I was hoping that it wouldn't be a disaster like my last trail run.  Before the start of the race, I checked out the trail and was happy to see that it was packed dirt rather than loose gravel like in the Hoover Dam race.  My other concern for this race was nutrition.  Being a nurse, I don't always have time to each lunch while at work.  I had hardly eaten anything at all in the days leading up the race and the night before the race, I was too nervous to eat much of anything.  I forced myself to eat an egg and some string cheese, but I knew that wouldn't sustain me for long.   Luckily when I picked up my race bag, there were some awesome Clif Bars and treats!  I scarfed those down quickly.  Since this was such a small race, nearly everyone commented on my purple Team Sparkle skirt.  I really stood out in the crowd which wasn't my intention, but I love dressing up for races!  The race itself was pretty uneventful.  We ran a little over 6 miles then turned around and came back.  About 75% of the race was along the river which was pretty neat in my opinion.  The entire course was completely flat with no hills at all.  There were water stations every few miles stocked with plenty of water and lemon-lime Gatorade.  I always appreciate lemon-lime Gatorade because it's my favorite.  My ankle started throbbing around mile 6 and by mile 8 I was completely out of energy.  I ate 2 granola bars during the course of the race, but they weren't enough to get me through to the end.  I had an incredible runner's high from mile 1-8, but then I hit the dreaded wall and I had to walk a couple of times.  I know this was because I hadn't gotten the proper nutrition before the race.  By the end of the race, I was literally hobbling because my ankle hurt so much.  You can see it in the race pictures- I have a pained look in all my race pics towards the end.  Nonetheless, I finished the race!  The sun was really hot by the end and I wished I had been able to find my sunglasses before I left.  At the end of the race they had plenty of water, fruit, bagels, and cream cheese left for everyone.  Also, they gave each runner a little card at the end that had your stats.  It's the first time I had ever seen something like that and it was really cool to get the results so quickly!

Half #7 Done!
Overall verdict: I would probably do this one again because I liked running along the river and it was a really small race.  No crowds and no running into people!  I had plenty of room.  Also, I appreciated getting the results so quickly.

March Race #3- Six Tunnels to Hoover Dam St. Patrick's Day Run

March 16th, 2013- Six Tunnels to Hoover Dam St. Patrick's Day Run

Ok so technically this wasn't ON St. Patrick's Day, but since it was the day before, I still wore green.  I signed up for this race last minute because I was still on a runner's high from the Red Rock half.  Literally I came home from the Red Rock race and signed up for this one while I still had my running shoes on.  My mom's birthday is on St. Patrick's Day so I wanted to run this one for her.  For some reason I thought this was a road race, but it turns out it was half road/half trail AND it was an out and back race times two.  I seriously dislike those kinds of races.  This is what I get for not doing research before registering.  This race started at the Hacienda Hotel and Casino near the Nevada/Arizona state line.  Actually, I missed the turn for the parking lot and ended up in Arizona.  Whoops.  Before the race, several emails had been sent out stating that we would not be allowed to park in the hotel parking lot and that we had to park in the dirt lot across the street.  Being the rule-follower that I am, I did as was told and parked across the highway in the dirt lot.  I think I was only 1 of 10 people who actually did that.  EVERYONE parked in the hotel parking lot.  They also failed to mention that there was no cross walk to get to the start line.  Meaning that I had to cross a 4 lane highway on my own.  Since I was wearing green, I felt like Frogger trying to dodge cars to get across the highway.  I was not impressed.  Next, it was a half mile hike through the desert to the start line.  The view of Lake Mead from the start line was pretty cool.
Lake Mead
Since I hadn't picked up my race packet I had to get there early.  I was afraid that I would have to hike a half mile back to my car to put my race bag there, but luckily there was an unofficial bag check.  Almost everyone there was wearing green and there was even a guy wearing a kilt and playing the bagpipes!  Here's my outfit:
My Festive Costume
Pretty soon it was time to line up for the race.  The first part of the race was a road race.  We ran a little over 3 miles then turned around and ran back to the start line.  There were a few hills, but nothing like the Red Rock race.  I loved the views and the weather was pretty good.  Once we got back to the start line, we ran through it and the race became a trail race.  I should preface this by stating that I am NOT a trail runner.  I don't train on trails and I've never really run on trails.  I wasn't wearing the correct shoes and I was not prepared for this.  Almost immediately, I rolled my ankle.  Oh boy.  Unfortunately, the trail wasn't an even surface.  It was more like loose gravel than packed dirt which is why I kept slipping and couldn't run very fast.  This race was called Six Tunnels to the Hoover Dam because we actually did run through six tunnels.  It was so nice and cool in the tunnels that I didn't want to go back into the sun.  It was getting really hot out there and the sun was just beating down on me.  The views of the lake were cool, but I was too busy concentrating on not rolling my ankle again to really enjoy them.  I finally reached the end of the trail to turn around.  The last few miles were incredibly hilly.  I was tired and my ankle was hurting.  In order to see the view of the Hoover Dam there was a GIANT hill.  It was brutal.  I saw a lot of runners that didn't even go up the hill.  I was so mad.  No one was there to make sure that they ran the entire course.
The Dam View
After that, I just wanted to finish.  I was so tired and hot.  Then I rolled my ankle AGAIN!  It hurt so bad, but I really wanted to just be done so I pushed through the pain and kept running.  I couldn't wait to reach the finish line, but first I wanted water.  I was crushed to see that they had run out of water at the last water station.  Thankfully some UNLV ROTC volunteers were handing out water bottles towards the end.  I finally reached the finish line and got my medal.  It wasn't my fastest half ever, but it wasn't my slowest either.  I quickly high-tailed it to the nearest patch of shade and collapsed to the ground.  The heat was unbearable.  I was sad to see most of the snacks were already gone by the time I finished.  The half mile hike back to the car was awful.  I was hot, thirsty, and my ankle was throbbing.  Overall verdict: I probably wouldn't do this one again.  I'm not a trail runner so I wasn't prepared.  Those runners who are trail runners would probably enjoy this though!
So happy to be home!