Also known as entry for Run Day – Week 14/23.
Whew – only took me a week and a half to recover and find some time to sit down and collect my thoughts on a wonderful race and an even more meaningful week spent with dear friends.
my racing pals in town from Arkansas
THE RACE REVIEW
This year was the inaugural event. I was truly surprised with the organization and local support given to this event.
The Expo - We hit it on Friday afternoon. There were lines and crowds, but it all moved rather quickly. Race goody bags included a tech t-shirt, sunscreen, and a nylon drawstring bag. As we walked around we were handed lots of free treats - packets of Exedrin, re-usable water bottles, sunscreen, and my favorite – at least $30 worth of Lancome makeup. I didn’t even take it personally that they gave Caitlyn lip gloss and gave me wrinkle cream. (okay, maybe it smarted a bit, but the free eyeliner made up for my pain.) The only thing missing from the expo? A vendor selling race supplies – gels, drink powders, body glide, etc. Especially since so many people traveled to this race, if they didn’t bring their own supplies, they would have been out of luck, or scrambling around town trying to find a sporting goods store. (Local San Juan tri and bike shops – take note – and get a booth for 2012)
The Course – Hard, but enjoyable. One might think that a beach front race would be flat, but they couldn’t be more wrong. The race was hilly (and due to the local climate – Hot and Humid.) I enjoyed all of the twists and turns, it kept the course interesting and any boredom at bay. The only complaint would be the few sections that crossed over the cobblestones of Old San Juan, which where very slick from the early morning rain. While some of the run was on highway, not offering too much to look at, other portions were very beautiful.
view of El Morro after mile 1
Crowd Support - OUTSTANDING! There were loud cheers and lots of upbeat music. Every aid station had plenty of water and Gatorade, as well as lots of people volunteering. Not to brag, but I had the best support crew and personal photographers on the course.
this bunch arose at 4:15 am
The Bling - Just before the finish line, runners were handed a pink boa and a tiara. The Medals (which were presented by young, muscular, shirtless men – think Abercrombie, the Puerto Rico version) were very impressive – big and bedazzled.
The Host Hotel – While I didn’t personally stay here (my home is just a few miles away) it was a beautiful location and facility. The pools and lagoon offered a tranquil setting for beach yoga, and the hot tubs were great for achy muscles. The expo was on site and the start and finish were just a few minutes walk. The only downside was that the only inexpensive food options were Starbucks or Subway, all the other restaurants offered fancy, expensive fare.
There were many years that I would have been mortified by my time. I wouldn’t have shared it, especially not publicly like this. I mean, I have friends who run full marathons faster than my half time. Geez - 2 years ago I ran almost an hour faster than this half time. I suppose that sometimes you have to be taken far onto the other side to appreciate what you have.
Seven or eight months ago I was barely walking a mile or two. My fingers and toes felt as if they had been broken. Daily chores of opening a can, writing a letter or carrying a coffee mug across the room without dropping it were challenging. The stresses associated with moving and the increased sun exposure here in our tropical home, had my Lupus flaring. I was miserable. I had given up all thoughts of running. As the months went on and my symptoms improved I was ready to start setting some new goals.
As you have read over the months, I have slowly worked my way up to double-digit runs.
I enjoyed the race for everything that it was. A celebration of women and their accomplishments. A celebration of friendship. A celebration of strength and stamina. I never once felt defeated. I felt lucky.
My pre-race included a few short runs during the week – 2 or 3 miles each. Pre-race hydration at the Bacardi Rum Factory on Friday. A walking tour of El San Juan on Saturday (not always the wisest move the day before a race, but we were trying to fit a lot of fun into this San Juan visit.)
And then I did a few things that I NEVER do during a distance race. My regular running friends may want to look away, as I broke many, many rules.
1) I wore new shoes. Not just a new version of my usual shoes – but a new brand, and style. Here was my thought process. I was having Plantar Fasciitis issues. I think the shoes I have been wearing and training in are not working for me. I could see the treads on the bottom were wearing unevenly. So I got shoes with different support in them. I KNEW that my feet would hurt if I wore my regular shoes. So the worst thing that would happen if I wore new shoes? My feet would hurt. What did I have to lose? In the end, I still had foot pain, but it did not get worse as the miles wore on. I ended up with 2 blisters. I think I won out on this risk – BUT I DO NOT SUGGEST THIS.
2)I changed my eating/diet for the 2 weeks leading into the race. Dramatically. I will save this entire eating experiment for a post of its own, but to sum up, I have given up many foods in an effort to decrease the inflammation of the autoimmune diseases in my body. I am trying to impact my over-all health and decrease pain through lifestyle rather than additional medications. (The jury is still out if it is working or not.) The problem is that the foods removed from my diet, left only fruits and vegetables (no potatoes or beans) as my sources of carbs. I also removed all added sugar. This backfired in 2 ways. I don’t think I had enough stored energy for 13 miles. My shorter workouts have been great, but I really fizzled out over the long haul. I also got very sick to my stomach from the gels and Gatorade. I didn’t tolerate the intense sugar very well.
3) I didn’t have a plan. I always have a system of running / walk breaks / nutrition mapped out in my head before every race, especially longer ones. I started off with my friend Debbie – thinking I would run and chat with her and see how it went. A few steps into the race she dropped her water bottle and tried to retrieve it. I jumped to the side to wait for her. And there it fell apart. She went by me, but I didn’t see her. I spent the first 4ish miles sprinting ahead to see if she got ahead of me, and then standing around each water stop to let her catch up. This sprint, stop, sprint, stop, was not productive. I never did find my dark-haired friend dressed in black and pink in this Puerto Rican all women’s race – I thought I found her dozens of times – but no such luck. I never really got my rhythm during the race. Throwing on my iPod around mile 6 helped me out. But, I will never go into a race without a plan again. I prefer to feel in control rather than feeling like fatigue, thirst or pain are setting the pace.
What went right? My brain. I was in a good place.
The starting line was energetic. We were sprinkled with a tropical rain. And then the sun rose behind us as we ventured up the hills of San Juan.
Running through Old San Juan reminded me of my many visitors over the last 10 months. I have loved exploring this city with so many friends and family.
Heading back toward the start at mile 5 I knew my gang would be waiting for me. There’s nothing like hearing “I see mom!” to put some spring in your step.
Usually I would dread highway running, but I was actually amused. First I had some rocking tunes on my daughter’s shuffle – so glad she has eclectic musical taste. During miles 6-10 I was the Dancing Queen, I did the Mambo #5, I was Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile, I had Two Pina Coladas, one for each hand and MC Hammer Could not touch this! And, besides my fun run / walk / dance… the thoughts that had me chuckling were how often I drive these same roads, and curse the traffic. Swearing that I could run faster than driving. And there I was, running instead of driving. It was soooo much better than traffic!
At mile 9 I hit familiar territory. The local hospital. I spent a lot of time in this part of town during my husband’s recent surgery. I gave thanks for his health. I reflected on my own. There is nothing more valuable.
The last few miles should have been the hardest. But I took a walk down memory lane. As my Garmin hit 1:57 – my half marathon PR – I reminisced about that race. How strong I felt that day, the thrill of finally going under 2 hours, the friends that ran by my side. Then as the clock ticked away, I remembered 2:01, 2:04, 2:10, 2:16……. On and on I remembered my first half, and my races through Walt Disney World, and Little Rock, and New York City…. The minutes and miles flew by.
14 half marathon memories later and I was right back where I started. I had my children running by my side, a pink boa stuck to my sweaty shoulders and a tiara tangled in my wind-blown curls. The finish line rewarded with a shiny medal and a glass of champagne. PERFECT!
So – there you have it, I had a pretty lousy day physically, but a wonderful day mentally. It was my first race in 9 months. I loved being back in the company of other runners. As long at the Air Force keeps us here through 2013, and my body continues to cooperate, I will be found on the DIVA starting line on 11-11-12!
And if all my descriptions of a well organized race, fun course and beautiful setting are not enough to convince you to join me next year, maybe this will:
5k winner at the award presentation