Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Monster Dash Half Marathon 2013 (On Fire in a Tiny Trash Bag)

Monster Dash Half Marathon - Minneapolis, Minnesota (13.1 miles)
2:14:35 PR - maybe?!
Average Pace 10:17/mile

Well, I was going to hold this recap until the official race photographers posted their course shots, but after seeing how many photos I already have... screw it!  If I get more cool photos later, I'll do a follow up post with action shots.  Enjoy!


Ok, ok - let's just start this recap by clearing the air.

Yes, I ran 2 half marathons in less than 6 days - I finished Mankato just before noon on Sunday, October 20th, and started this race at 8:30"ish" on Saturday, October 26th.  (More on the "ish" in a bit.)

No, I don't recommend that most runners attempt this...  unless you've got enough mileage in that it's easy for you to do, which I did. 

And also, following a training program like this is no different than doing an extended training plan for a full marathon, so I thought it might be interesting to try and see how my body handled running higher miles back to back.  Apparently, it went ok.

With the above statement, I feel like I've put in a responsible qualifier for this recap.  I'll end this premise with a:

"Run smart, my friends!"


Alright.  Down to business.

Let's start by talking about the race and my history with it.  First of all, for those of you who don't know, Monster Dash 2012 was my first ever half marathon.  Remember this costume?

Yes, I ran a half marathon in that.  Yes, I learned a hard lesson about furry, hot costumes with very warm head pieces.  Let's just say unless it's sub zero outside, I'll never be running in that hat again.

Anyway!  By running the Monster Dash Half again in 2013, I celebrated my 1 year anniversary in the half distance.  And my progress has been amazing!  Check it out:

Monster Dash Half 2012 - 2:43:41
Minnetonka Half 2013 - 2:43:29
Chicago Half 2013 - 2:28:04
Mankato Half 2013 - 2:15:03

Not to toot my own horn, but I've shaved just under half an hour off my half marathon time in a year.  That's the equivalent of running about 2 minutes faster per mile.  Granted, some of that speed is due to mastering running the entire distance (versus bonking and walking the last 2+ miles).  But, regardless, progress is progress!

Also, as it stands, I think I managed to PR on my back to back half marathon weekends.  There was some issue with "electrical interference" for my chip start time, but by estimating my start time based on my GPS and my friend's registered chip time (who started mere seconds behind me), it appears I may have PR'd for a second weekend in a row!  I'm literally on fire.

I guess that means I picked a good costume for this year's race?

And since you can't see it well in that photo, check out this close up shot:

Which means, I have one question for you:

Yeah, I'm a dork. 

But whatever, I thought it was a cool concept.  I mean, I'm supposed to look like I'm running so fast that flames are shooting off my back... cool, right?  Let's just not talk about all the test "runs" I did in my upstairs loft at home, with my husband watching, and the lights on at night (which means I'm sure the whole neighborhood saw me running a 10' distance back and forth in our balcony window, for two nights in a row). 

And thanks to my sister, who pointed out that my husband likely continued to say the "flames" weren't flapping just to encourage me to keep running around.

Actually, double thanks to my sister for comparing me to her 5 year old, who likes to run around their kitchen island with a superhero cape on and ask if the cape is flapping because he's running so fast.

Ugh.  I get dumber every day.  I'm now on the same level as a 5 year old.  At least I'm having fun, I guess?

Moving on... let's talk about race day.

A handful of us from the gym had talked about carpooling for this race, so we met up at the gym and piled into one car.  After we all got situated, off to St. Paul we went.

Upon arrival, we took a few group shots before heading to the start line:

Wow, what a group of hot ladies!  So hot that one is actually on fire.  *Ba-da-bing!*

What you don't see in the first of the two pictures is that I am holding a banana peel in one hand and a trash bag in the other.  On our walk to the start, I tossed the peel and proceeded to put on the trash bag as a temporary windbreaker.

Oh, yes.  Another interesting lesson was learned by Natalie on that walk... apparently other racers don't use a tall kitchen trash bag as a race day windbreaker, unlike me who did not realize the difference.  (Of course you're welcome to also use a tall kitchen bag if you want your costume to look like you're a caterpillar in a cocoon.) 

Simply put, the bag was a wee bit snug. 

Let's just say my walk mantra was "Don't trip, because you can't catch yourself!".

Sigh.  I'm always good to be the butt of everyone else's jokes.  At least I'm ok with people laughing at me.

Trash bag aside, we made it to the start, where we all huddled up in the crowd and waited... and waited... and waited...

Eventually, the gun that was supposed to go off at 8:30 finally went off at about 8:40.  Since we were in about the 10:00/mile pace area, we slowly meandered up to the start in about another 10 minutes.  I wasn't terribly surprised by the 20+/- minute delay, races of this size never seem to start exactly on time... although the roll out process could have gone a bit more quickly.

Somehow, in the crush of people, I ended up losing three of my friends before I crossed the mat... and then promptly lost my last partner before I even hit mile one.  I can't imagine why that happened...


I mean, it's not like the crowd was more than... oh... 50,000 people??!!
All I could think was, oh well, I guess I'm running solo again.

No big deal, there were plenty of costumes to look at, so I wasn't too upset to have lost my friends.  After all, that's why we agreed to a post-race meeting spot.

Speaking of costumes, here are a few of my favorites that I passed along the way... (thanks to Facebook for letting me "borrow" photos others posted):

Yes, everyone above ran at least a 10 mile race, if not the half option, in those costumes.  And, the guy in the house costume?  Yeah, he BEAT ME TO THE FINISH of a half marathon.  *Face palm*

These ladies were a personal favorite of mine.  I ran behind them for about a mile or two.  Every time a young spectator was offering up high fives, they would toss the kid a mini whoopee cushion and yell "Whoopie!  Have a whoopie cushion!!"

Interestingly, I saw plenty of "minions" (from Despicable Me) this year - it must be the hot new costume trend?  Of course, there were also lots of Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman/woman, Skeletons, etc.  You know, the classics.

Another interesting costume I saw was a couple - the guy dressed as Richard Simmons, and the girl dressed in an obnoxious hot pink and blue 80's leotard outfit and wearing a side ponytail.  I know that description seems like no big deal... but imagine being the girl... and then imagine wearing the leotard over the top of running pants... and THEN imagine that leotard is a thong cut and is wedging your pants up your butt for a 10+ mile run.  I was so ... intrigued when I saw this ... that I didn't know what to say.  Luckily the woman running next to me did, because she looked at me, saw my face, and we both burst out laughing.  She added "Well, I wouldn't be doing that.  Not in a million years."  Ah, good laughs.

Because of all the costume gawking I did, I don't really recall much from one mile to the next.  I do know that the race started out VERY slow for me, since I was mentally tired from Mankato the week before.  Honestly, I started this race with the attitude that I wasn't in the mood to run.  But somewhere around mile 4 or 5 I passed the first on course "entertainment" (read: DJ), and they were playing "Thriller".  For some reason, I decided to start dancing, waving my flaming arms in the air, and my pace seemed to triple (as you will notice by my "fastest" mile in my split report below).  From then on, I just ran... and didn't think twice about being tired again.  Or at least not as much, anyway.

By the way, the course was pretty, if you're wondering.  It started by having us run down St. Paul's Summit Avenue, which includes lots of beautiful old houses and plenty of trees.  Eventually, we turned left and ran along the river, which was also very pretty. 

I did pity a private home along this stretch that was having construction done.  They had one lone porta-pot out front for the construction workers that was very likely "utilized" by no less than 1,000+ runners as the herd passed through. 

I can just about imagine the construction worker's reaction on Monday when the come back to work to that:

As we traveled along the river, the scenery eventually became more "urban" looking and less wooded the closer we got to the 10 mile finish line.  This area of the course is the least favorite of mine, but that's ok - I didn't mind PASSING THE 10 MILE EXIT and thinking in my head "lazy suckers" the entire time.  LOL!

Just past the 10 mile finish, you go through the tunnel on Shepard Road... I think it's under 35 or 94?  I'm terrible with directions, sorry.  Either way, that is FOR SURE my least favorite part of the course.  All the school buses that shuttle 10 mile finishers cruise through the far side of the tunnel while the half runners pass through, and the exhaust trapped in the tunnel is DISGUSTING!  I think I sprinted through that stretch simply so I could breath again!!

After clearing the tunnel of death and getting about 1/2 mile down the road, it came - my nemesis.  Although this course is mostly downhill, right around the 11 mile mark, you have to climb a hill on your way through to the final stretch.  In 2012, I remember bonking just at the base of the last "hill" on course.  Right around mile 11.

This year, I came to the base of the hill and said - F YOU! 

And I climbed it without breaking stride, continuing straight on to the finish.  Didn't.  Even.  Stop.  Running.

PRIDE!  I haz it!

Using the 12 mile water stop as my motivation, I kept powering through after the hill.  I knew my gym was sponsoring that last water stop, and I couldn't wait to cheer at them as I ran by.

But wait a minute - when I got there I was rudely surprised.  I thought they were going to put something special in my water.  What's special about putting water in my water? 

Losers!!  WAY DISSAPOINTING!!  (Kidding - and given that the 5K runners independently rerouted themselves in order to have a second water stop at the 12 mile marker, which is very obviously not part of a 5K route might I add, my friends unfortunately had a surprise rush of an additional 1000+ "runners".  So, I'll forgive the lack of "special".  This time, anyway.)

Besides, I realized I had no time to spare on yelling at them for that... because I was calculating in my head and... even though I wasn't trying to, I thought I might PR again!!  Onward! 

Mile 12.5...

I start looking around me to celebrate with my fellow runners and become vastly disappointed.  Everyone is plugged in and listening to music.  Do they realize how much they are missing by doing that?!  Bummer.  Regardless, I am still super excited.

Mile 13...

Just before I pulled into the finish area, I pass a group of 4 girls dressed as firemen.  I couldn't have planned it better myself.  Four firemen chased a girl on fire to the end of a half marathon.

And then...


You know - a lot of people didn't like this medal.  I kinda did, sorry!!  And speaking of swag, I also kinda liked the sweatshirt this year (that, again, many did not like) - with the exception of the crappy thumb holes that looked like someone just used a razor blade to create. 

And you know me and skulls... so I did something I NEVER do and actually bought an additional race shirt at the expo.

But ok, back on topic.  No more swag talk. 

Let's look at my GPS reports instead.


Not too shabby, eh?! 

If you compare my GPS to how I did in Mankato, you'll see at Mankato's mile 13 I clocked in at 2:13:02.  Therefore, I think it's fair to say that although my final time is "estimated" due to the "electrical interference" at the start, I got a PR.  My true time might not quite be what the chip time shows, but what's a few seconds margin of error, right?

After I grabbed my medal, I manged to snag a snack bag that is definitely not up to Team Ortho par.  One small bag of potato chips, a mini nut roll and ... two rolls of smarties candies, seriously?  Gross.  What about a healthy banana or apple... and why isn't there a bottle of water for me at the finish?  A shot glass sized cup of water after running a half marathon is definitely not enough...

No matter, because as I pulled into the finish line, I saw one of my friends who ran the 10 mile, so I hustled over to her and then we squeezed into the nearby Caribou to warm up and await the rest of our group. 

BTW, she didn't ride with us.  But check out the costume.


As "Carrie" and I warmed our cockles in Caribou, the rest of my carpool gang trickled in.  Sadly, although my friends all seemed to have fun during the race, they mentioned that the finish line had totally run out of food and that dampened spirits at the finish.  (I hear shortly after we left, they ran out of finisher medals as well).  At least we had snacks and water to fall back on in the car - which is where we promptly headed, and then packed up for home... celebrating two potential PR's in a car of 5, and laughing about costumes and mishaps on course as we chattered on the way home.

And that's the story of how race bib # 37 joined my collection.  Here's to another race soon... but I don't know when because winter is coming to Minnesota sooner than I want to admit... what will I do until next year?!


Before I go, I'd like to add to the food shortage comment above with this statement:

As far as I know, the finish line supplies (food and medals) for this race ran out with 1-1.5 hours left of open course time.  While I was not personally impacted by this error, I do find this to be extremely poor planning.  For the premium price we paid for this race, Team Ortho should have done much better.

Unfortunately, the supplies running out was only one of the many blatantly apparent issues with this race, all of which I omitted from this recap but did document in my post race feedback forms (I add the "s" because I have filled out other feedback forms for races they held earlier this year). 

I find that Team Ortho is having a lot of reoccurring problems from race to race, and that has become a large enough issue for me that I'm re-evaluating if I ever want to participate in a Team Ortho event again.  In fact, in the 2013 racing season I've come to wonder if Team Ortho really cares about the quality of their race as much as they do the quantity of participants they have.  I can only say this fairly because I completed two of their races last year and three this year, and I have noticed a significant decline in quality, and yet a tremendous push by them to register more, More, MORE participants. 

I know they are aware of the issues because I've seen racers post constructive feedback and complaints on their Facebook page race, after race, after race - and yet the problems seem to be getting worse rather than better. 

What upsets me most is that Team Ortho does nothing to acknowledge the problems or state how they will improve them for future races.  Which leaves me to wonder if they have their head in the sand or if they simply just don't care.

So, while I don't want to let this negativity distract from the fun I had at the race, I do think it's important that I add this to my recap in case someone is considering booking this race in the future. I also did not want to relive this negativity while remembering the fun I had at the race - which is why I saved this until the end.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Normal Barbie & Real Man

Yep, I ran my second half marathon in less than 6 days over the weekend. 

Yep, I survived. 

Nope, I'm not ready for a recap... and may not be until Friday (TBD).  I want to put some good photos in this one, so it might take me a little more time.

While you sit tight for that recap, here's a fun one to consider instead...


Have you heard of artist Nickolay Lamm?

He certainly does some interesting work, let me show you a few of his pieces.

Meet "normal" Barbie:

"Normal" Barbie shown on right in both photos,
next to a commercially produced Barbie doll.

Per this article:

"Using a 3-D model, Photoshop and the Centers for Disease Control’s measurements of the average 19-year-old woman, artist Nickolay Lamm has created a rendering of what a Barbie doll would look like if it better resembled an average woman. He used the CDC measurements to make a 3-D model, dressed it up like a Barbie using Photoshop, then photographed a standard Barbie doll next to his model to show the difference."

"Lamm wouldn't mind if the dolls went from beyond the prototype stage to an actual product sold in stores, saying 'If normal Barbie can be made, I feel she'll have a more positive influence on girls than Barbie in its current form.  Normal Barbie shows that you are beautiful, just the way you are.'”

Now, let me introduce another of his works, "real" man:

A computer-generated illustration of the shape of the average 30- to 39-year-old man, from left to right:
Netherlands (BMI 25.2)
U.S.A. (BMI 28.6)
France (BMI 25.5)
Japan (BMI 23.7)

Per this article:

"The artist stated 'Rather than explaining it in bar graphs or pie charts, I thought it would be a lot more powerful to visually see what we look like compared to other countries.'  Beyond crunching height, weight and waistline stats, Lamm also crafted his models by looking at numerous photographs of actual men whose BMIs were reported in the pictures' captions. The work took two months."

"Lamm sees the body shape project as a 'reality check' for American men. 'We have the biggest cars, the biggest houses. But I’m sure we don’t want to have the biggest waistlines.' he said."

I'm not going to add any commentary today, because I'm a huge believer that art is meant to be interpreted by the beholder. 

However, you may feel free to discuss below.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Paralympian Owns Halloween

I'm just going to straight up steal this article, because I love it so much.

You already know how much I love dressing in funky outfits.  And people that have a sense of humor.

Plus, I'm running the Monster Dash Half this weekend.  More on that next week, but for now let's just say, expect more great costuming.

In my opinion, these photos could not be more timely. 



Josh Sundquist is a Paralympic skier who lost his left leg to cancer at age 9. Many people in his position would feel sorry for themselves, and no one would blame Sundquist if he did after being dealt such a tough hand. Instead, the 29-year-old has a tremendous outlook on life. How do we know? Look no further than the Halloween costume he has put together this year.

For the past several years, Sundquist has been using the fact that he has only one leg to his advantage come Halloween. In addition to his hilarious flamingo costume, he also put together these masterpieces for past Halloweens.

More photos from his website:

And larger photos of his older Halloween costumes:


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Mankato Half Marathon 2013 (Running Because .... Racing)

Mankato Half Marathon (13.1 miles)
2:15:03 PR!
Average Pace 10:18/mile

For most runners, I suppose the Mankato Marathon weekend was all about the big day of event.  But for me, it was way more than that.  Before I get into a race recap, let's start from the beginning... which would mean training. 

If you want to skip this part and get to the beef of race day, just cruise through the areas marked with a ---- symbol, ok?


OK!  So, what did I do to train?

Since I was already trained for the Chicago Half in September, this was a different situation for me... I didn't really have to "train", per se. 

Instead, here's what I ended up running to stay conditioned (plus my usual cross training stuff):

September 8th - Run the Chicago Half
Week 1 - Wed 3, post half break - week: 3 miles / accumulative: 3 miles
Week 2 - Mon 5, Wed 4, Thurs 2, Sat 10 - week: 21 miles / accumulative: 24 miles
Week 3 - Mon 5, Wed 4, Thurs 2, Sun 12 - week: 23 miles / accumulative: 47 miles
Week 4 - Wed 4, Sat 8, planned rest week - week: 12 miles / accumulative: 59 miles
Week 5 - Mon 5, Tues 3, Wed 4, Sat 8 - week: 20 miles / accumulative: 79 miles
Race Week - Wed 4, Thurs 3*, Sun 13.1 - week: 20 miles / accumulative: 99 miles
*More on this 3 miler below.

Ah shoot!  I'm just now realizing I should have put in 1 more mile, and I would have hit the 100 mark.  Dang!  Oh well!  On a more serious note, you can see in the above mileage log that I'm testing some new tapering strategies, which seem to be working for me.  Here are my ideas:

     - Every three weeks or so, I'm trying to do a lower volume week to let my legs rest and
     - Two weeks prior to a race, I'm trying to keep up my volume, yet do shorter "long" runs,
        thus helping my legs get ready for the big 13.1.

These theories seem to be working, since I am having far less aches / pains / muscle tightness, and the knee issue that almost knocked me out of Minnetonka this spring has seemed to be remedied - knock on wood.  I think I will continue to try this type of training schedule next year as my race season is quickly drawing to a close (boo Minnesota snow!!).

Anyhow.  The 5 weeks leading up to race week went well.  So, fast forward to race week.

In attempt to keep my legs "fresh" for Sunday, I had only planned to run a 4 miler on Wednesday, that's it.  And then ... peer pressure.  LOL!

This is where I need to state that I am a "pseudo" member of my gym's run club, although I hardly attend training runs with them.  Unfortunately, I'm not a morning runner and I attend group fitness classes when the club meets on Tuesday/Thursday night.  It's ok, they still love me... I think.  *wink*

Since I don't attend training runs with the group, when I got the race week email that they were having a "final training run and pasta feed" on Thursday night, I figured I shouldn't go.  But as soon as a few of the runners caught wind of this, peer pressure was the name of the game.

You can see where this is going.

Of course I ended up attending the pasta feed, prefacing it with a 3 mile run, and recreating this for my contribution to the pot luck.

I say this like it's a bad thing that I caved to peer pressure.  But how could a group like this be bad?!


So, on to race day!

Well, that starts out on a GREAT note!  Check out this weather forecast as of Saturday night.

What could be better than freezing temperatures, high winds, and chance for rain?  Hmm...

FYI, this is the point in racing where I always start to panic, since I never know how to dress for race day when it's cold.  Which means, of course, that I spent the evening asking for suggestions from no less than everyone I knew who was running, PLUS googling cold weather running dressing suggestions.  I finally settled on wearing my new Ink N Burn Skeleton gear, plus a zippered wicking jacket, wicking gloves, and a wicking neck gaiter.

Anyhow!  Race day.  Wake up call at 4 am.  Wahoo!

Why the early rise for an 7:30 / 8:00 am race?  Well, Mankato is one of the two events my gym offers a shuttle for each year (the other being Get Lucky in March), and we were required to board the bus at 5:15. 

Hooray - you know how I love getting up so early.  And even better when I am getting up prior to 5 am.  At least the friendly company on the hour long bus ride made up for it.  That... and a good cup of coffee, duh.

Despite it still being dark, the ride went by quickly, and it was about 6:30 or 6:45 by the time our bus got parked.  Yes, that arrival seems early for a race that has start times of 7:30 and 8:00.  But then... when you take into consideration that I didn't have to wait in line for the porta-potties... well, I'm definitely not going to complain.

Side note - I thought using a porta-potty in the dark was interesting.  Yeah... add cold to that equation.

Additional side note - there is something somewhat depressing about being up over 3 hours prior to sunrise.

Back to the story.

At 7:30, those of us running the half wished our 10K friends good luck, and cheered them on as they ran past us on the first 1/2 mile.  Then, we promptly scurried back onto our bus to warm up (as did a few crashers, who totally did not belong on the bus, but ok... we tolerated them).

Finally, it was time.  Minutes before the 8:00 gun time, I squeezed in between the 2:00 and 2:20 pacers, crossed my fingers, and tried to think of warm tropical locales...

Bang!  Time to run.

Amazingly, despite the rather large crowd and somewhat open corral system, plus the mix of half and full marathon runners, the race started of VERY smoothly.  It only took me 2 minutes to cross the starting mat, and I never felt like I was stuck behind a crush of slow moving people. 

Note: Apparently Mankato thought I was hot stuff
and put me on the front page of their website.

In fact, the first three miles of the race went extremely well as we coasted through residential areas and what appeared to be the main in-town area of Mankato. 

In those first three miles, however, I did notice my ankles and knees bothering me, which made me a little nervous.  This is when I made the decision that I was going to take the run mile by mile, instead of dwelling on the 13 miles ahead.  I usually try not to think about what mile I am on until 6 or 7, so this approach was very different for me.  (Which actually worked out well, because I now remember what strange things happened at which miles later in the race).

I was also trying, for the second time, a different pacing and fueling plan.  Since I learned in Chicago that I could for sure maintain a 10:30/mile, walk the water stops, and fuel with energy drink sips at each aid station, I decided to follow this plan as well for Mankato. 

Except that I ran my first three miles at what my watch instant read as a 9:30 pace. 

On the plus side, that meant I was warm enough to take off my gloves by mile three, and my jacket at mile four (which I tied around my waist for the rest of the run).  Also, all that blood flow must have been good for my ankles and knees, because they didn't bother me the rest of the run.

Somewhere in this stretch, those of us running the half proceeded to split off from the marathoners.  Around this time, I was pleasantly pleased that I had decided to forgo music for the opening of the race.  There were tons of people cheering, with crowds still heavy well into mile 4 and 5, a big surprise and something I never would have expected at a small town race.

In fact, at pretty much every mile marker through out the race, there were sizeable crowds with signs, cheering and yelling out inspirational things.  And being that I was dressed in a somewhat... recognizable outfit... there were a lot of things called out to me, which of course was great.  I heard lots of:

"Go Skeleton!"
"Great costume/outfit!"
"Nice bones!"  (This one I wasn't too sure about... seems a little dirty?? LOL!)

I even exchanged some words about my boney butt with a fellow gym runner, who leap frogged me a few times on course. 

Hey - anyone who tells me my butt looks boney (thus skinny) is DEFINATELY a friend of mine!

As the course progressed, I really began to appreciate whoever planned the route.  I loved running down the long hill around mile 5, and proceeding onto the trail surrounded by the occasional woods at mile 6-8.  The beautiful fall colors were breathtaking... even if it made my GPS watch cranky (you can see the odd effects on my splits below).  Whatever, it was worth it.

Just before we exited the trail, somewhere at about mile nine, I noticed that PFLAG was in charge of a cheer station there.  Seeing those rainbows just made my heart explode.  I'm so happy to know that a smaller town like Mankato is welcoming to that organization.  I also realized I must have been running shoulder to shoulder with a friend of the group - a young man I guessed to be high school aged.  As we plodded along the trail and prepared to cross the street by Burger King, I knew we were about to enter the most difficult part of the run - the dreaded out and back.  I decided to joke with the young man, and said, laughingly "Hey, I think I know a short cut at the Burger King!"  He responded with a "Yeah, if only I was carrying some money!"  We both chuckled, and I think both secretly wished we could make the stop, and then carried on.  I eventually lost the young man in the crowd.

At this point in the run, around mile 10 or 11, my body felt ok but my brain started to tell me that I could take a walk break and not lose too much time.  However, a part of me knew that although I lost the 2:00 pacer somewhere around mile 3, the 2:20 pacer had still not caught me... which meant I was on track for my dream goal - 2:15.  Knowing that 2:15 was in my sights, I refused to allow myself any unwarranted rest and carried on.

I enjoyed running through what appeared to be a petting zoo (no animals?), but did not enjoy the hills afterwards... or being on top of the levee with the wind blasting me.  BRR!

As I came back again to the Burger King, I heard my favorite cheer of the entire race:

"Why did the skeleton cross the road?  To finish a half marathon!"

Heck yes!  And with that I knew, I was going to do it.  I was going to run the whole thing.  Less than a mile left!!

Ok, ok, yes - this is when I started talking to myself.  Out loud.  I think I was mumbling a lot of incoherent jibberish that included "run... just run... keep going... almost there... come on... come on..."  At which point I noticed I began passing a lot of runners. 

My sister, upon discussion of my race the next day, claims I was likely only passing people because they feared the crazy lady talking to herself might shank them from behind, and thus they slowed to let her pass. 

Hmm... I suppose at mile 12 of a half marathon my hair would be a bit wild, and with the muttering to myself...

Interesting theory.

Since I had made it this far, I refused to ruin the streak by adding music.  I just continued muttering my incoherent, rambling mantra, and desperately searching for the finish line.

And then... the clouds parted and angels started to sing.

I could see the word "finish".

I yelled "YES" so loud that the guy next to me, in a running stupor, asked me if we were at the finish.  I sheepishly had to reply no, but that I could see the finish, and we were almost there.  We both smiled and fist pumped in victory.

As I approached the finisher chute, I saw some of my gym friends, cheering and waving.  I smiled, cruised by with ease, and kept on going.

And finally, there I was, pounding the mat with 2:17 on the clock.  With a 2 minute delayed start, I knew I had my 2:15 dream goal in hand and started to hyperventilate at the finish.  I had done it!!

When I walked through the finish chute to the medal station, a few medics gave me a sideways eyeball because I was panting so funny.  I tried to scurry out of their view and hustle to get some water.  No need for race day drama, I just needed a minute to catch my breath, anyway.

As I fought to get my breathing under control, I wandered around the finish line / party area and hoped I might see the infamous "wedding party".  Apparently, a couple was slated to run the half this year and go straight through the finish line and onto the announcer's stage to get married.  I never saw them, but I was able to find this photo online:

Once I caught my breath and grabbed every type of drink they had to offer (one bottle each of water, Gatorade and chocolate milk), I wandered back to my gym friends at the 13 mile mark and cheered for the rest of the finishers.  Amazingly, the first marathoner came in just behind me at 2:34.  Insane... but I sure am glad they didn't lap me on course!

Eventually, my gym friends and I wandered back to the bus to enjoy some post race chatter, a few final photos, and a long ride back home... with trivia games and prizes.  Wahoo!

Although the bus ride home was fun, I was certainly glad when it was over and I could proceed home to a hot shower and short nap.

Well, a nap, and a review of my GPS reports. 

Look at that steady pace!  Almost no red!

A nice downhill run.

I question these splits, since 1/3 of the race my watch was freaking out between
a 9:30 and 12:00 pace (due to the wooded areas of the run).  Also, my official time yielded
a pace of just over 10 minutes.  So, I think these splits leave something to the imagination.

Well, that's about it!

Before I go, since I didn't have many selfies in this recap and don't always get a medal post race, I thought I might yuck it up this time. 

Let's meme it!

Thanks for the idea, Ryan Lochte.  And yes, I own a grill.  Are you really surprised by that?

And that's the story of how race bib # 36 joined my collection.  Here's to another race soon... the Monster Dash Half next weekend, yipes!

***Also, FYI, there is a video of the race course on YouTube if you'd like to see it, just click here.