Monday, September 30, 2013

Tommie Copper ActiveFit Review

Today is my marathon-iversary! One year ago today, I toed the line at the Wineglass Marathon. It did not go how I wanted it to, including a time above 5 hours and seeing Mike DNF (he stopped at 18.5 miles), but I finished and since then I have become a stronger marathon runner.

 Finishing up my first marathon

My Tommie Copper calf sleeves helped me get through my marathon, I love them so much!

When I found out that Tommie Copper has a new product line called ActiveFit I definitely wanted to try it out!

The ActiveFit line includes four products as of right now: a women's v-neck shirt, a women's tank top, a men's crew neck shirt and a men's sleeveless shirt.  The shirts in the ActiveFit line are looser than the regular compression gear from Tommie Copper but they are still made with the same copper-infused nylon fabric.

 Dressed like a watermelon

I immediately fell in love with the bright green v-neck shirt.  As with most of my running gear, the brighter the better! Mike was able to try the men's sleeveless shirt in grey.  We put the shirts to the test during our 18 mile mid-week run two weeks ago and we loved them! I also wore my shirt during a marathon pace 8 miler last week, it definitely helped me stand out as it started to get dark toward the end of the run.

The wicking fabric of the ActiveFit shirts helps keep you dry during your workouts. At the end of our 18 miler and our 8 miler last week, it was started to get cooler outside. I never felt chilly or wet since the fabric helped keep me dry!

I liked the looser fit of the shirt since I like my tops to move a bit while I am running. It isn't too loose, though, which can also be bothersome.

Handsome in his new sleeveless shirt!

Mike liked his new sleeveless shirt, he said that the moisture-wicking properties helped keep the sweat off of him and he didn't feel weighed down (he has only worn his shirt during our 18 miler, so far).  He also liked the new color selections and is looking forward to Tommie Copper adding more to this product line!

Since it is my marathon-iversary, I thought a giveaway of one of the four ActiveFit line shirts would be appropriate! Just enter through the Rafflecopter giveaway below and I will announce the winner on October 7th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
We were provided the Tommie Copper ActiveFit shirts at no cost in exchange for a review, all opinions expressed in this post are, as always, our own.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

My Life Through Instagram

I love Instagram. I love sharing photos, some are pretty cliche (yea I share photos of my watch, coffee, etc.) and others aren't.

I've done this before, but I thought it would be fun to share some of my most recent Instagram photos. Enjoy!

The day after a midweek 18 miler, cereal day at work was appreciated!

Team Carpe Ironman before HITS Hunter Mountain 70.3 relay

The swim start of HITS, I'm in the front somewhere

Mike checking out the buildings in Boston at night

The canal path after a 5 mile run

The bruise on my hand from getting hit/hitting someone at HITS

LOVE

Holding my fur baby's paw

After today's 20 mile run!

What are you taking photos of lately?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My First Marathon - Jess

This is the first post in a new series I am starting on my blog called, "My First Marathon". The concept is simple, write a post about your first marathon, a race recap, why you picked it, how training went, if you liked the race, etc. and I will post it on my blog. If you are interested in participating in the series you can email me at fromcouchtoironwoman@gmail.com.

The first installment of "My First Marathon" comes from a recent marathoner and our real life friend, Jess. Jess and I work together and Mike and I have had the pleasure of running with her while she was training for her first half marathon and her first marathon. I am really proud of her and I hope you enjoy her post as much as I do!

Hi everyone! I’m Jess, and I just ran my first marathon!

As I was debating which marathon to run, I was considering a few factors. 1) (Relative) proximity to family. I live in upstate NY and my parents live in Cincinnati, OH. I wanted it to be within driving distance for both of us, so that they could attend and cheer me on. 2) Size - I wanted my first marathon to be a small, “low-frills” occasion. I find large crowds to be overwhelming, and I didn’t want the number of people surrounding me to make me nervous. 3) Price - I didn’t want running a marathon to break the bank! 4) Time of year - I wanted to run a marathon that was early enough in the fall that I could focus most of my training in the summer.

With all of these things in mind, I ended up running the Erie Marathon at Presque Isle. It satisfied all of my requirements: it was within driving distance to my parents and to me (only 2.5 hours for me), it was small (about 1,000 runners for the full marathon), it was pretty cheap (I think I only paid $40 for it), and it happened on September 15. An added bonus? Jamie, her husband Mike, and their friends Amber and Greg were already planning on attending as well! Mike and Jamie were running the half marathon, Greg was spectating, and Amber was being a rock star, and running the first 20 of the marathon with me as a training run. And not just run with me, but pace me, offer advice on when to pull back, run ahead to water stops to refill my handheld bottle and in general, be awesome. She was amazing, folks. AMAZING. Having her with me for 20 miles was one of the most precious gifts anyone could have given me for my first marathon.

My husband, son and I left for Erie on Saturday morning. We arrived around 1pm, checked in to our hotel, and spent the afternoon playing at an indoor water park, which was attached to our hotel. After our afternoon at the water park, we went to packet pick-up. I was kind of planning to look around at the course, but I got distracted by some gorgeous views of the water and the grumblings in my tummy telling me it was time to eat!


That night, we went out to dinner with my parents, Mike, Jamie, Amber, Greg, and Greg’s daughter Cassie to...um… carb-load (read: eat pasta and drink beer). All of the marathoners offered me their sage advice: just keep moving forward until you get to the finish line!

That night, I slept better than I would have expected. I woke up once in the middle of the night to pee, but I felt super well-rested when I woke up that morning. We all woke up and got dressed, and by 5:10am, we were out the door! 


We arrived to Presque Isle, parked, and I got to use a real toilet at the lodge near where we parked. (Fun fact: I NEVER had to use a porta potty that weekend!) Then, my family and I headed towards the start line. I glanced at the course map. The marathon was a two-loop course around the park. Obviously, the half marathon was one of those loops. The marathon started at 7:00 and the half started at 7:30. I was sure I’d see several half marathoners pass me during my race, but I wasn’t too worried about it. 

Photo courtesy of Greg

Anyhow, at 7:00AM, Amber and I were off! Other than me needing to stop and tie my shoe within the first mile (which is a classic ME thing to do), we fell into a steady 10ish minute mile pace (I’m not fast, but I’m a fairly steady runner, so we held that for a long time.)  Amber and I talked about life, laughed, chatted about her marathon training, and contemplated which spring marathon she should run in 2014 (I was waiting to finish my first before committing to doing another). It was a fantastically relaxing way to spend 20 miles of a race!


At mile 6, we got to see our fan club and get high 5s! Around mile 7, half marathoners started to pass us. It was fun to cheer for them as they zoomed by. We got to see our families again around mile 12. More high 5s! As we finished the first loop, Amber and I wondered if we would Mike finish his half. My half split was 2:09:35, and from what we could tell, he wasn’t there yet. Close though! 

Photo courtesy of Greg

Around mile 16, my body started asking me to slow to 10:30s instead of 10:00s. I happily obliged, as I had no time goal in mind. I simply wanted to finish happy and healthy. I have never *knock* been *knock* injured *knock* from running, and I certainly didn’t want to start on marathon day, so I didn’t push it. Amber ran with me all the way until the 20 mile split (3:20:58), gave me a hug, and sent me on my way to the finish line. I cried when she left, not because I was sad, but because I felt so touched that she would stay by my side for 20 miles of my first marathon. That happiness carried me all the way to the end! 

As in any marathon, the final 10k was tough. My body was now asking me to run closer to an 11:00 pace (again, which I happily obliged. Not trying to get injured here) and by this time, the crowds had REALLY thinned out. It wasn't necessarily discouraging, but it was a little bit lonely. I figured most of the runners had finished, as this is a popular race for marathoners who are chasing a BQ. There's a whopping 10 feet of elevation change throughout the race. Talk about FLAT and fast! Anyway, at this point in the race, all I thought about was putting one foot in front of the other, continuing to hydrate and fuel so I didn’t get sick, and making it to the finish line. At some point, I stood for a minute at a water stop while a volunteer filled my handheld and I walked for a few minutes while I took giant gulps of my water. Here, I clocked my slowest mile of the marathon (11:40). After that, I felt rejuvenated enough, and ran the rest of the way home. 


The benefit of this being a two-loop course is that I could tell how close I was to the end. After I went through the final water stop, I knew I was close. I picked up the pace. Spectators and runners who had finished were on the sides of the road cheering. I neared the finish line and saw Amber first, on the side of the road. I saw Greg and Cassie next. I gave Cassie a high 5, and then ran towards the finish line. I had done it! I finished my first marathon!!! My gun time was 4:31:05 and my chip time was 4:30:12 - an average pace of 10:18 per mile. I had no time goal for this race, but running a 4:30ish marathon absolutely shattered my expectations. I was so focused on running happy and taking care of myself that it never occurred to me I could also have a time that I would be so proud of. 


Even though it was a “low-frills” occasion, it was so much fun! I absolutely loved having friends and family there to support me. Seeing all of them at the finish line (as well as drinking the chocolate milk that they had so graciously provided for me, thank you!) was one of the best parts of the race! And in case you’re wondering… you’d better believe I’ll be running another marathon! I’m planning for marathon #2 to be in May 2014. And I already can’t wait! 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

HITS Hunter Mountain 70.3 Relay Race Recap

Last year I made my goals for the year and one of them was to do a triathlon as part of a relay team. Obviously, Mike and I would make up two of the team members but we needed a third. Enter, Crystal.

She willingly accepted the third team spot and team Carpe Ironman was formed! It was determined that I would swim, Mike would bike and Crystal would run. This worked out the best since Mike and I are similar in swimming speed, but he crushes me on the bike.

On Friday we made our way to Hunter Mountain, New York in the Catskills region and we found Crystal and Joe at packet pickup. We picked up our stuff as the pre-race meeting was going on and we stayed to have a few questions answered. Since we had never done a triathlon as a relay before, we wanted to make sure we were doing things the way they wanted us to.

We made Mike go ask our questions (who should wear the two body tattoos, how to get in and out of transition with one wrist bracelet, etc) and then we scoped out the transition area. Mike could have racked his bike but since there was the possibility of rain, he didn't.

 Swim, Bike, Run

We also went down to the water and Mike stuck his foot in, he said it was cold. Apparently it was 62 degrees. I didn't even stick my foot in, ignorance is bliss I guess!

Pretty, but cold

 Team Carpe Ironman

After checking into our hotel room, we found a place to eat. We stopped at Price Chopper beforehand and picked up some breakfast items, and some apple cider donuts!

Dinner at Slices of Saugerties was AMAZING! We ordered a huge order of garlic knots (which is kind of an inside joke between all of us), salad, pasta, stromboli and pizza. We were sufficiently stuffed after dinner!

 GARLIC KNOTS!

We got back to the hotel (after another stop at Price Chopper for some apple cider) and relaxed. We compromised on our wake-up time and leaving time for the morning and set the alarm for 4:50am. Our hotel was about 30 minutes away from the race start and the park was relatively small (though I didn't realize how small the race itself was) so I didn't want to miss out on parking. Mike and I also had to make sure we got a decent spot so we could leave to pull off the epic surprise for my mom in Boston immediately after the race!

The alarm went off in the morning, I slept decently well though I had a dream about the alarm going off and then woke up thinking we had missed the alarm! I got ready first and then everyone else followed suit. We were ready and out of there by 5:30am, the time I wanted to leave.

 Our fearless supporter, Joe

We got to the race start and athletes were setting up their transition areas. This was a different experience for Mike and I since we didn't have as much stuff to set up (since we were only doing one of the legs instead of all three). Mike got his bike stuff together and Crystal set out some of her stuff, and then it was time for me to put on my wetsuit.

 I'm ready to swim 1.2 miles!

We headed down to the beach for the pre-race meeting, which was basically the same as what we had heard the day before but they showed us which way we would be swimming (the typical keep the buoy on your left route). We had found out that there were some changes to the swim and run courses and we would be doing two loops (for the half) instead of one. In between each loop, we would have to get out of the water and run by a buoy on the beach (keeping it to our left) and then run through a coned off entrance back into the water a ways down the beach.

The way that HITS races work is that on Saturday the Half and Full distance athletes race and on Sunday the Open, Sprint and Olympic distance athletes compete. The Half and Full distance has a mass swim start, with everyone starting at the same time. I was a bit nervous about this since all of our other triathlons have waves. It was supposed to be a beach start (also new to me) but we were allowed to wade into the water (keeping in line with the people on the beach) if we chose to do so.

 We love each other and triathlons!

Getting in the water

Swim Leg (1.2 miles) - 32:20

I bid everyone farewell, Mike was going to watch my first loop and then book it up to transition, and got in the water. I lined up in the front (Mike told me to) and got ready. The countdown started around three minutes out and then I heard the race starter saying, "10, 9, 8..." and I got ready. The horn sounded, I started my watch and got to swimming!

Right before the start, I'm in the front

Here we go!

The beginning of the first loop was a little crazy. Everyone was veying for a spot and I was actually pushed under in the beginning! Luckily I am a swimmer, but I do understand how this causes panic attacks for people who aren't as confident in the water. I got away from the person and then I still had to push my way through the crowd. Someone was right on top of me and I wanted her to get away from me (later on I saw a bruise on my hand and this must have been when it happened, either I hit her or she hit me).

 Just keep swimming

I got around the first buoy and I was feeling a little bit better, I felt tired the first few minutes but that was probably due to the cold water and the mass start. In all honesty, I've only swum once a week for the last few weeks prior to the relay.

I was sighting really well and eventually I made it to the second buoy. The sun started to come up at this point (the race started at 7am) and it was a little bit harder to see the beach. I passed a buoy in the water and I knew I didn't have much left of my first loop.

I swam toward the beach and after my hands hit the bottom twice, I stood up and ran out of the water. As I was rounding the buoy on the beach and running toward the entrance back into the water, I heard the HITS guy say, "first female!" I thought to myself, "huh? who is he talking about?" I thought I had seen a female pass me, but the problem with swimming in wetsuits and caps is that we all look alike!

Crystal and Mike cheered me on as a ran by them, and Crystal said, "keep up the female lead!" I guess I was the first female! I cleared off my goggles, ran through the coned off chute and jumped back in the water.

I passed a guy or two in the beginning but then the rest of the second loop I was on my own. There was no way someone was passing me though. I got to the first buoy (which was like a magnet and I had to swim under it a little bit, oops) and then pushed it to the second. The water was peaceful now that I was all alone and then I made it to the second buoy.

 Mike waiting for me

The sun was out in full force now and I had to sight off of the few people's splashes that were ahead of me. This was a little difficult but I knew once I passed the buoy in the water that I was swimming relatively straight. I got to the beach and ran up the hill to the transition area. A woman was standing right outside of the transition area and said, "you're the first female!" I told her I was part of a relay and ran on in to transition.  The transition guy said, "hello to my first female!" and again I said I was just on a relay team.

Transition 1 - 00:55

 Here I come!

We were set up in the back corner (from the swim entrance) and I got to my people. I took the chip off of my ankle and handed it to Mike. He put it on and took off. The other two relay teams (yea there were only three) hadn't left yet so we were in the lead! My time was 32:20 and I was the first female and NINTH overall!

 Quickest transition ever

Bike Leg (56 miles) - 3:01:55

After finishing, I dried off and then went and changed. While we were waiting for Mike, Crystal, Joe and I chatted, ate some food and wondered how Mike was doing. I was worried about the course (we thought it was a different way that would have been a lot scarier) and his not so great track record with flats recently.

 The fog rolled in

We also cheered on other triathletes and chatted with one of the other relay teams.  Eventually, around 9:45am we saw a motorcycle and a bike coming in from across the lake. The first guy was CRUISING! He crushed it, seriously!

 Wearing the tri tat proudly

Transition 2 - 00:36

Crystal started to get ready for her half marathon run and around 10:30am, I saw Mike coming in! I breathed a sigh of relief and got the chip off of his ankle as he came into transition. I passed it to Crystal who booked it on out of there.

 Smiling even though it was tough!

Crystal's turn to run a half marathon

Mike crushed the bike course, it was so HILLY, with an average speed of 18.5 mph and a time 3:01:55. You can read about his ride, here.

Run Leg (13.1 miles) - 1:55:51

Mike and I packed up our stuff, after he changed, while we were waiting for Crystal to come through one of the four times we would see her on the run. We saw her come in about 45 minutes after the exchange had been made and she looked strong! The run course was really hard, but I had confidence in her.

 Getting rid of her arm sleeves

We waited for her to come through again, which was at the half way point and she pushed on.  We had some more time to kill so we just walked around a little bit and made sure we had everything taken care of. We chatted with Joe and then Crystal came through again! She gave the thumbs down signal, but I still thought she was doing really well.

Since the next time she would come through would be when she could make her way to the finish line, the three of us walked up to the finish and waited for her arrival. We got to see some people finish their races, with big smiles on their faces, and then Crystal came running up the hill! Since we were a relay team, we wanted to finish together and we got in swim/bike/run order. Crystal crushed the run with another sub-2 finish, with a time of 1:55:51.

<3

We held hands as we crossed the finish line and we were done! We had come in 2nd place for relay teams and had finished in 5:31:39!

 All done!

After getting our medals and taking a few finish line photos, we grabbed some food and then got ready to leave. Unfortunately, Mike and I had to leave almost right away so we could get to Boston in time to surprise my mom at the Red Sox game. Crystal was nice and stayed for the awards, since we got one, and we bid farewell to our friends.

Luckily, we get to be reunited again for the MDI Marathon in one month!

 Jump if you love tri relays!

I had a great time doing a triathlon relay, and I would love to do one again in the future!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Surprise

Back in June, my dad called me the day after Father's Day. I thought it was a little weird (since I had just talked to him), but he told me about an idea he had for my mom's birthday in September. He wanted to get all of us (me, my brother and Mike) to surprise my mom at a Red Sox game. The only problem is that my dad suggested a weekend we had a race (the 100on100 relay).

A few days later he called back suggesting another date, but it was the same weekend as the Erie Half Marathon. I thought the idea had been scrapped but then my brother texted me asking about THIS weekend and the game was at 7pm in Boston on Saturday. I said we had a race, BUT that I thought we could make it work so we went with it.

My brother gave my mom tickets to a Red Sox game for her birthday, Monster seats and all, and arranged for the hotel room, and my mom thought that it would just be my dad and her at the game. Little did she know that we would be there too! (Mike and I are Yankees fans, the reason for the first two suggested dates: Yankees/Red Sox games, but the chance to surprise my mom was too good to pass up).

Yesterday after racing our 70.3 triathlon relay with Crystal (recap to come soon, still waiting for official results), we drove from Hunter Mountain, New York to Boston. (Now if you have been following along this is the reason we ran our 18 miler earlier in the week). We got to the hotel and saw my brother and dad and my mom still had NO CLUE. Even after the front desk guy messed up and said that my brother had an adjoining room (she did test the doorknob I guess and asked my dad if my brother was there but she believed my dad when he said no he wasn't).

My mom had been texting Mike and I about the shirt she was going to wear for the game and had been following along with our tri relay (the perfect alibi). She had also been texting my brother a play by play since he had gotten her the tickets. Hilariously, she had sent him a picture of the view from their room while my brother was in his room!

Mike and I quickly showered, since we didn't have the opportunity to after the race. And then the three of us walked to Fenway before my parents. Mike and I hadn't been to Fenway in forever and we walked around a bit before my brother got the signal that we could go to the seats to surprise my mom (she sent him a video of the field). We could even see them sitting in the seats while we were over at The Pesky Pole (Mike wanted to touch it).

 The Pesky Pole

Our seats were right under the Advil sign

We walked over to the Monster seats and when we got there we walked up behind my mom and said, "excuse me, I think you are in our seats."

The look on my mom's face when she figured out we were there was priceless. She kept saying, "what are you doing here?", "did you fly in?" (to my brother), "didn't you race a triathlon this morning?"

 The perfect reaction

I am so glad we were able to do this, and that it worked out so perfectly. The Red Sox didn't win (which Mike and I didn't care about but would have been nice for everyone else), but we all had a great time. We all went out to breakfast this morning and then Mike and I headed home.

We don't get to see my family often, other than for holidays and short visits here and there, since they are so far away. When we get together we make sure to make the most of it!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Determination

If you asked me a year ago if I thought I would willingly plan to run an 18 miler after working 8 hours on a Wednesday night in the fall, I would have told you that you were crazy! However, that's exactly what Mike and I did yesterday.

 Boom!

Due to our race this weekend, we had to move our 18 miler to sometime during the week. The only day that I am done "early" is on Wednesdays. I had suggested it at first, not really thinking we would do it but then I knew we had to if we wanted to get our long run in this week. Mike agreed and at 4:50pm we set out for 18 miles.

The route was somewhat hilly in the beginning, and we kept up a really good pace! I told Mike that it was hard to remember that it was a long run since it was so late in the day, so I worried that we wouldn't be able to hold on to our 9:30ish pace. I also had been freaking out about the run all day at work, so I was afraid the run would blow up in our faces.

Surprisingly, it didn't! We held onto our pace and only slowed a little bit in the end (mostly due to losing daylight and the quality of the sidewalks/roads that we were running on at that point). We finished the run with an average 9:30 pace, and we never walked once!

I kept telling myself during the run, "don't walk, you don't need to walk" and my body believed me! With 2.5 miles left I told Mike I was tired, rightfully so, and he said, "only 2.5 miles left". We pushed on and finished strong!

Prior to this midweek long run, the longest we had run midweek was 8 miles. I never thought I would be a double digit, let alone almost 20 miles, midweek runner, but I am! If I put my mind to something, I can accomplish it.

I have said that MDI Marathon is all about fun and enjoying my hometown marathon, but now I have some more goals in mind (don't worry Isaac we will still have fun!) I want to PR, I know it will be hard with the hills and elevation but I know I can do it.

 Sometime during Erie Half Marathon

 So happy to finally be sub-2!

The same thing happened last weekend when I PR'd at the half marathon and finally got my sub-2 half. I put my mind to it and I was determined that I was going to do it, and I did! Now I am scheming for when I can potentially try for a sub-1:50 half marathon, because I know that with determination and hard work I can do it.

 Mike floating during the race, he'll get sub-1:40 soon!

 Us after the half

This 18 mile run gave me the confidence I needed to finish out this training cycle strong, and I am determined not to let my mind weaken and sabotage the rest of training and the marathon!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Erie Half Marathon Race Recap

I'm sure most of you already know the outcome of this past weekend's half marathon in Erie, Pennsylvania at Presque Isle State Park BUT now you get to read all about it!

Mike and I ran a 2 mile shake-out run on Saturday morning, brought Bernie to boarding, packed and then hit the road. Erie is about 2 and a half hours away from our house so we weren't in that much of a rush. We went to packet pickup first, it went smoothly and quickly, and then we checked into our hotel.

 The bib

We were meeting up with some of our friends who were also in town for the race for dinner. Our friend, Jess, was running her first marathon and Amber and Greg were there as well. Amber was going to be running 20 miles with Jess, I just can't say enough how amazing Amber is! The 10 of us (including some littles and Jess' husband and parents) enjoyed our dinner together and we gave Jess some last minute advice: basically just keep moving no matter what!

Mike and I took showers when we got back to the hotel and then went to bed. We had set the alarm for 5am because it was recommended that people get to the entrance of the park by 5:45am (there is really only one road in and out of the park, it's a loop, so it was a bit crowded). We got to the park around 5:50am and got a parking spot pretty easily. We sat in the car for a few minutes, it was still pretty dark, and then we made our way over to the start/finish line area.

We found Amber, Greg and Greg's daughter as soon as we got over to the start. Jess had texted me letting me know she was there as well and Amber and I went to look for her. We didn't find her at first, but then we went back and eventually found her. She seemed calm and ready for the long day ahead of her!

Soon it was time for Jess and Amber to line up, the marathon started at 7am and the half started at 7:30am, and I got in line for the bathroom. It took FOREVER (though I could have saved time if I used the port-a-potties but if I have a choice I will use a real bathroom)! I finally got through the line and found Mike, Greg and Jess' husband, son and parents.

I listened to Amber and Greg who both told me I needed to do a warm-up before the race and I did approximately a .5 to .75 mile warm-up (I didn't turn my watch on). I felt good but immediately after I finished my calves tightened a little bit.

Mike and I said goodbye to everyone and we went to find our places at the start. All week Mike had been waffling back and forth on whether or not he was going to run with me or run his own race, and he decided to run his own race. He wasn't sure if he was going to PR or not but he would try and said he wouldn't be disappointed if he didn't do it.

After a few announcements, the countdown began and at 7:30am we were off! We crossed the start line with the song "Hit the Road Jack" playing and I just told myself not to dodge people (that song was stuck in my head for the first few miles of the race).

 The course

The race course is a loop, the half marathoners did one loop and the marathoners did two loops, in Presque Isle State Park and it is really pretty but everything looks the same. It is hard for me to remember exactly what happened during the race because there were so few landmarks to distinguish memories in my mind. I zoned out in the beginning, skipped the first water stop and started to take my energy chews at mile two (I took two honey stinger chews each time).

The first few miles came in at 8:29, 8:27 and 8:27. Keep in mind that I intended to run at 8:40 pace, but I kind of threw that out the window in the beginning and just told myself to go for it (within reason). I tried to pull back but at the turn around (mile 3) I got a high-five from a volunteer and another volunteer said it was a nice day for a run and this caused me to pick up the pace, mile 4 came in at 8:21 pace.

 Mike looking strong in the middle of the race

I knew I had to reign it in, so I slowed a little bit. I had taken my second set of energy chews at mile 4 and things were working out nicely. There were water stops every mile and I took water at most of them. Miles 5 and 6 came in at 8:26 and 8:30. I think I took a third set of energy chews at mile 6 and then I got THE WORST stomach cramp I have ever experienced while running.

This has happened to me a few times and I know that they go away eventually but it was the first time I truly worried about my sub-2. I focused on deep breathing, and slowed down a bit, and told myself, "it is your day, no one can take it away from you including yourself". Mile 7 came in at 8:50 pace.

I skipped my next round of energy chews, while still taking water at the water stops, and the cramp did go away. I was able to pick up the pace a bit and mile 8 came in at 8:39 pace. I knew I had it in the bag then, I just didn't know what my finish time would be. I really hoped I could continue with sub-9 minute pace the entire race.

As we approached the back end of the park, I noticed that it was windier. The sun had come out so some breeze was welcome but it was a bit of a headwind. This is the one part of the race that looked a bit different from the rest because you could see more of the water. Presque Isle State Park is truly beautiful! I took more energy chews around mile 9 and that mile came in at 8:49 pace.

I should mention that at this point I saw the 15K marker and looked at my watch. I was at about 1 hour and 19 minutes, which is a SEVEN minute PR! I was running so fast that I PR'd every distance (5 mile, 10K, 15K, 10 mile) during the race (except the 5K distance) and I actually have a new official 10K PR. There was a timing mat at the 10K point and I crossed in 52:18, which is a 2 minute PR!

Around mile 10, I started to slow. I hit mile 10 still at sub-9 minute pace at 8:57 and knew I had it even if I slowed to 10 minute miles. There was a slight uphill at the back end of the park, which was welcome because I had to use different muscles, and I just kept pushing.

The last three miles are my biggest disappointments of the race. I wish I could have mentally pushed a little bit harder to keep my paces under 9 minutes, but I was starting to fatigue. As we got closer to mile 11, we apparently passed the lighthouse and I didn't notice. Though in my defense it is on the beach so it is harder to see from the road!

 The lighthouse from the beach

Mile 11 came in at 9:06 pace and now I really knew I had it. I just kept pushing to the finish and one spectator yelled to another runner, "you've got this, sub-2!" The entire race I never wanted to prematurely celebrate and I still didn't at this point, you never know what could happen! I took my last energy chew (just one this time since I was so close to the finish) and pushed on.

Mile 12 came in at 9:11 pace and I told myself to pick it up. I focused on putting one foot in front of the other and I high-fived a kid at the last water station (where I took water) and he told me he liked my shirt. I was wearing my "I <3 Sweat" shirt and it always gets recognized during races!

I skipped the last water stop, it was only .6-ish miles away from the finish and rounded the last corner. I was a little annoyed I couldn't see the finish line but I just kept pushing and looking for Mike on the sidelines. Mile 13 came in at 9:06 pace.

As I got closer, I could see it! I pushed and then I saw Mike! He cheered me on, and told me to get my butt in there, and then I saw Greg. He had a huge smile on his face and told me that he was going to go get my juice (Amber and Greg were nice and got all of us drinks for after our races). The last people I saw on the sidelines cheering me on were Jess' husband and son, they pointed to the finish line and I ran as hard as I could! (The last .13 miles were at 8:07 pace).

I had done it! I was FINALLY a sub-2 half marathoner! I had achieved my goal and I finished in 1:54:22 which is 8:44 pace! I was really close to running 8:40 average pace and I was thrilled!

I got my medal, some water and my photo taken and then I found Mike. We went back in and they let us take a finisher's photo together! Mike told me he had PR'd as well and he ran a great race (and helped another runner accomplish his goal)! He finished in 1:43:31, I am so proud of him and happy that he ran his own race instead of running with me!

 Finally part of the sub-2 club!

We found the rest of our group and then went to cheer for Jess. Amber would be almost done running with Jess at this point. About 20 minutes after we got to the spot, we saw them! Jess looked great and still had a smile on her face. Amber kept running and then we saw her turn around, we thought she had decided to stop early but she came back and asked me, "how did you do!?" I told her my time and she gave me the biggest hug and then ran back to catch up with Jess.

Amber came back a little while later (she ran with Jess until mile 20 and then had to turn around to get back to us). We all went to the finish line and waited for Jess to finish her first 26.2.  Eventually she came through and CRUSHED it!!! She did amazing and I am so proud of her!

This weekend was amazing and I am so happy that everyone achieved their goals in Erie.

I am, however, now dreaming of a sub-1:50 half marathon!