Monday, February 16, 2015

A1A Half Marathon - My Birthday Weekend

I originally wanted to recap my birthday weekend separately from the race stuff because a post about both threatens to be really freaking long...but everything is kind of intertwined so one mega-post it is!

When I first signed up for the A1A Half Marathon, Matt and I were excited to spend the weekend with Oden, who lives in Ft. Lauderdale; this was made even better when we learned Rob would be in town from Atlanta and was going to join us! Then we convinced Mark and Shane to drive down and the next thing you know, birthday/race weekend became a mini-college reunion!

Rob, Matt and I arrived at Oden's and we went out for dinner. I had a fantastic burger with red onion jam and smoked Gouda with a flourless chocolate cake for dessert. I was all about indulging this weekend.
I knew I wouldn't be drinking Saturday, so I enjoyed a dirty martini with dinner Friday. I was trying to get some salt into my body to retain water and combat any dehydration
It was as good as it looks.
Matt and I went to the expo Saturday morning and met up with Chris from Sub30. (She wasn't running the race but drove over just to say hi at the expo and offer some moral support!) The expo was really nice - large and spread out, not too crowded, and full of free snacks and goodies! We bumped into Meg while there and she and I confirmed that we'd meet at the finish line on race day.
Another Sub30 friend, Daniella, was running the race too.
After the expo, Matt and I went back to Oden's and we all went out for lunch at Blaze Pizza. Their gluten free crust was very good and I was impressed with their commitment to avoiding cross-contamination.
I had the Art Lovers - ricotta, mozzerella, garlic, and artichoke hearts. YUM!
From lunch we headed to the movies. We saw Kingsman: The Secret Service, which I had no idea was originally a comic book. Halfway through the movie I was thinking the plot was getting campier and campier; I won't spoil it, but I will say that if you like over-the-top ridiculous action movies and don't mind some gore, I highly recommend it.

Although it was out of character for me to go out the night before a race, it was too soon after lunch to have dinner and go to bed, so we spent some time of the Funky Buddha playing giant Jenga.
Clearly Matt couldn't pick just one beer so he had a flight.
Jenga before we got started on it.
Look how tall our tower got! (You can't really see it but the Jenga blocks had graffiti all over them and the one I'm holding said "Ali was here"...I swear I didn't write it!)
Then it all came crashing down!
Our night ended with PDQ for dinner (complete with free milkshakes) and some last-minute planning for race morning.

I was up at 3:50 feeling well-rested and anxious. Oden's condo is very close to the starting line, but after some debate Matt and I decided to drive rather than walk. We arrived just after 5am. My biggest complaint about this race was the start; there weren't enough porta-potties and the starting chute seemed extremely narrow and packed.

While I was in line for the toilets, Matt ran into Sean, who gave him these really nifty hand-warmers for me to use, and then he ran back to the car to get the sunglasses I had left there. By the time he got back we were in the last couple minutes pre-race. I had the worst nerves I have ever had for a race. I don't know why...maybe my lingering cold or my lack of real training lately? But I was literally shaking as I prepared to start.
In the corral...I had cut-up tube socks for arm-sleeves and they worked perfectly.
I put on some mellow, enjoyable music and committed to running easy. I lined up near the 11-minute mile corral and ended up crossing the start line about five minutes after the gun.
At first, my legs felt a little cold and achy, but I was determined to enjoy myself and take in the atmosphere. It did take awhile to feel good, but around mile 1.5 I saw Meg ahead of me and then I felt better; just knowing I had a buddy on the course wearing our matching shirts really helped. Around mile 2.5, we ran up the drawbridge on Las Olas. People stopped to take selfies of the view and the burgeoning sunrise. Stretching my stride to eat up the bridge, I finally felt warm. 
Sunrise greeted us on the other side of the bridge.
From that moment on, I had a smile on my face. In fact, I choked up multiple times in the first half of the race as I realized that 1) my legs cramps were totally gone (my theory about Mucinex seems spot-on); 2) I felt downright good; 3) this was my first half of 2015! And then, around mile 5, I remembered it was my birthday!

Yes, in the anxiety and excitement of the race morning, I totally forgot that it was my birthday.
We ran down the beach and into a park. Everything seemed beautiful and perfect. I took off my "arm sleeves". I thanked volunteers. I ate my Gu. I began to push my pace as I realized my lungs and legs were holding up well.
The park was shady and cool, but a little congested in spots.
Around mile 8 I saw Sean and, not far behind him, Meg. At mile 10, I couldn't believe how quickly the race was passing by and how painless it all seemed. I pushed a little harder.
Around this time the route narrowed and walkers were eschewing all etiquette and blocking the path; I slowed down as I dodged around them.
Around mile 12 my Nike+ began to malfunction, but I caught it in time to avoid having to stop/restart it like I did for Space Coast.
Then I was near the finish; I could hear shouts of, "Happy birthday!" and there on the sidelines were Matt, Oden, and Rob...and my sister! Steph had planned to come for the race but I wasn't sure if she'd make it. It was the perfect surprise!
They wore birthday hats!!!
Near the finish! I wore my skirt and was so happy that I didn't have to wear a belt or armband because of all the pockets...I carried my Gu, inhaler, iPhone, tissues, gum, and lifesavers and still had room for more!
My goal for this race was somewhere around 2:30. I finished with a chip time of 2:18:00 (gun time 2:22); of the 226 women in my AG, I placed 100th. I was beyond ecstatic!

The finishing chute was ridiculously crowded; there were booths set up to hand out free swag, but it just seemed like a terrible place to put everything. I escaped as quickly as I could to meet my cheersquad and take photos.
Sean raced this one on little training and finished around 1:53. I could only dream...!
Meg's "something crazy"? A finish-line engagement!!
Me and the newly-engaged Meg post-race!
I know spectating a race isn't the most exciting thing and it involves waking up early, so I was extremely grateful and downright verklempt that Oden and Rob joined Matt at the finish line.
The boys did a good job with the signs and totally surprised me. They said quite a few runners laughed out loud and thanked them!
Best surprise of the day!
Kristina and I had been in touch throughout the weekend and we were able to meet up at the HOF sign just as planned! It was really nice to meet her in person. We're not all that far from each other; hopefully we can run another race together someday!
After a shower, we walked to Las Olas for yes, my actual distance today was around 15 miles. Post-race food was brunch at Rocco's Tacos before our drive home.
Now THAT is a good birthday brunch!
I cannot tell you all how relieved I was after the race. Last time I ran a half while sick, it was 90 degrees out and I was so dehydrated. That was a really rough experience. Considering I haven't been running long at all since the full, and I've been sick for two weeks, I was expecting a repeat performance...I'm so glad I was able to race well and genuinely enjoy myself the entire time.

Thanks to cool weather and an adjustment in how I was treating my cold, I was able to run a race I felt really proud of! This half is actually my third-fastest time, and I wasn't even aiming to be competitive today. Honestly, the race felt almost easy...If I had been healthier, I would have decided to go for a PR. (My lungs just weren't up to it yet.) I never hit the wall or struggled at all. I just ran.

I loved everything about it - the course, the weather, the location...I will definitely plan to be back!
This medal seriously puts even the Space Coast medal to shame! I mean, those marlins spin and everything!
Last year I ran a half for my birthday and PR'd. This year I ran one and proved to myself that I am, finally, a seasoned runner. I think I like this half-on-my-birthday tradition!


  1. YAY! You had a great race and it was so awesome to finally meet! I can't believe I forgot to mention that we met in my post today! I had such a bad sinus headache after the race yesterday... I wasn't thinking clearly. I hope we can meet up again soon!

    As I was running down the finisher's shoot I was like, "omg there's Ali in her cute black skirt!" I had been looking for you on the course. I thought I might see you after you made the turn on A1A back to the finish, but I must have missed you. I'm so glad you had a great birthday race!

    1. I'm sorry your head was bothering you! Running with sinus headaches is the worst! I'm so impressed that you still ran it....I may have taken a DNS!

  2. Great pictures!! Congrats to your friend Meg. So awesome you got to meet Kristina, and your post race brunch looks sooo good!

    1. It certainly was yummy! It was the best way to finish the morning!

  3. Congratulations on your race! And I hope you had a happy happy birthday! :-) I think it is so cool that you got to meet Kristina after your half marathon! I love your medal that you got from the race and I am totally envious that you can wear a running skirt and a tank top, LOL. We are still digging out here in Nova Scotia and some peoples' cars are completely covered in snow. I want to come to Florida!

    1. I can't believe all the snowy images I'm seeing from up north! When does spring start for you guys?!

  4. Congrats on your first half of 2015! What a great birthday it seems you had! Like Heather said...I am so envious of you standing on a beach in shorts/tank as we dig out from over 12 inches of snow, freezing rain, and rain.

    1. I'm sorry you're still getting such nasty winter weather! I'm thinking warm thoughts in your direction!

  5. Such a perfect birthday celebration! Congrats!

  6. Strong run and great splits, Allie!!! The signs are hilarious. I love your tactic with the dirty martinis. I love those. :) Sooooo cool you got to meet Kristina and she got to meet you. My two favorite Sunshine State bloggers!!!!! :) I am glad you had such a great bday weekend. You don't look a day over 17! (seriously, you are beautiful!)

    1. Thanks Meg! I think the dirty martini did its trick!

  7. Great job!! That's an awesome time! And I love the pink sleeves of course :-) The signs are hilarious- I would love to see those at a race! So glad you enjoyed your birthday and had a great run! :-)

    1. Thank you! Yeah, the signs were definitely a perk of the whole day! I'm glad other runners were able to enjoy them, too!

  8. Sounds like you had a great race and a fun weekend!!
    That medal is awesome!!
    Happy birthday a little late!!

  9. Wow awesome job on the race! That medal is amazing. I love that the guys wore birthday hats, and the signs are so funny! I love The Office, so the "that's what she said" sign is hilarious to me :D Also, seeing the picture of you + Kristina is kind of mind boggling haha! Very cool that you guys met up.

    Side note- your hair is really cute! I'm thinking of chopping mine off some time this year so I've been paying extra attention to cute short hair styles...Love how you style it!

    1. The birthday hats seriously cracked me up! I have such a funny picture my sister took of the boys walking through the crowd with these hats on, all serious and nonchalant. It's so funny!

      I was SO HAPPY to finally chop my hair! It was a relief for it to finally be short after literally 4 years of growing it out.

  10. CONGRATS on a great race, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, lucky you on that free milkshake and the awesome medal, and I'm so jealous of you getting to meet Kristina haha :D oh and congrats to Meg! Sounds like a brilliant weekend!:)

  11. That looks like an awesome weekend. I hope it was as fun as it looks! Happy Birthday and congratulations on a good race despite residual sickness!

  12. Major congrats on your half :D Your time is amazing for being sick (and just in general .... :))

  13. So happy you got the leg cramps worked out - that you had a great half - that you had a great birthday!