Wednesday, February 22, 2017

2017 A1A Half Marathon Recap

This was it. The big race we'd been training for. Elizabeth's first half marathon! Our birthday race. To say we had high expectations would be an understatement. Despite lingering calf issues and a minor cold, I was feeling ready and excited!

Unfortunately, this race went the way running things seem to be going lately for me. I was chock-full of Sudafed and Advil and race day dawned hot and humid. This was going to be a battle.
I should've taken this more seriously.
But let's start at the beginning.


Matt, Elizabeth and I arrived in Fort Lauderdale around 1pm.
Five minutes after being in the car: "By the way, I'm going to make you take tons of pictures this weekend! Smile!"
We dropped our things at Oden's and then went to lunch, then finally to the expo. The A1A expo is always excellent, and this year was no exception! I made sure to stock up on free samples and half-priced Gu while dragging Elizabeth into a million photos.
Of course, finding our names on one big wall wasn't enough; we had to sign another! We also found our names on a Lexus, but I didn't get a picture of that one.
After the expo, we relaxed at Oden's until dinnertime. I had a huge baked potato and chopped salad and felt full and well-fueled. We laid out our things for the morning and got to bed at a decent hour.
Yes, our outfits were accidentally opposite-coordinating colors. We did not really plan this.
Elizabeth is new to "flat runner" pictures and was perplexed when I added all my accessories, Gu, etc. She asked, "So, should I put everything I'll use on race day?" and tossed the box of anti-diarrheal into her pile. We died.


I woke up easily at 4am and drank a Starbucks Espresso Doubleshot in bed. When I felt a little more awake, I made my UCAN and had most of a pop-tart. We were out the door by 4:50 and by 5:05 we were parked in our usual off-site spot.
Oh. Great. 100% humidity and actually partially cloudy was a dirty, dirty lie.
After a long wait for the bathroom, Elizabeth and I packed our pockets and gave Matt our castoffs. He left us before the start gun because he was going to put Skirt Sports discount cards on cars before he went back to rendezvous with Oden and get a bike, etc.
Ready to go!
Still waiting for the countdown!
Elizabeth and I made one more bathroom stop and then the race began! The beginning was so crowded that we had to dodge, weave, and sprint a bit to stay together. It was frustrating. Although we started closer to the front than I usually do, we were still behind a lot of people who were walking within the first quarter mile...many of them did not use proper etiquette, which aggravates me!
Just getting ready to run with 4000 other running buddies!
My calves felt a bit tight but not bad. At mile .19, we had just crossed the train tracks when we heard the train! A loud whistle sounded not far from us and the crossing lights and bells went off. Yes...a train cut through half the runners less than a quarter mile into the race!

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(I borrowed this video from a Sub-30 buddy. Those runners waited 10 minutes for the train to pass, then got a second start with adjusted times. I'm so glad we were past it when it happened!)
Here we go!
By mile 3, my legs felt great. The humidity was making it hard to steady my breathing, but for the first six miles everything felt doable. We were keeping a good pace and the crowds had mostly cleared up, so there was no more dodging.
We passed Matt and Oden around mile 4; Matt had his OneWheel and Oden had rented a bike.
Mile 4 and feeling fine!
See ya!
Around mile seven the humidity and all the unintended fartleking caught up with me. I couldn't get my heart-rate under control and I felt sick. I had goosebumps even though I was really warm; my stomach hurt; I felt dizzy. I had told Elizabeth not to let me walk if my calves were "annoying" but not painful. But this was different.

I hated to do it, but I had to walk. I had a Gu, hoping the sugar would help, and it did, but it also made my stomach hurt more. We were pouring water on ourselves at every water stop but I was fried.
Bye, wheels.
I feel very guilty about all this. Elizabeth was great. She offered to call Matt to see if he could get my inhaler to me, but the issue wasn't really asthma-related. I kept apologizing and she finally told me to just STOP and have fun and let's do this together, who cares what happens to our goal? She was the best, but I felt so defeated. We had started out with lots of cushion to meet our goal, but I could see it slipping away from us...and it was my fault.

Around mile 9 I stopped at a medical tent for ice and shoved it down my bra.
I can't imagine I really looked strong but she is really nice for saying so!
Around mile 10 I saw an old college friend volunteering at a water stop and forced a sweaty hug on her; she and I were English majors together and since then have bonded a bit over running, and seeing her brought back to me all the beautiful, empowering ways running has changed me, and that helped me mentally the rest of the race.

Around mile 11 we saw Matt and Oden again and I asked them to get us Coke if they could. I also realized I had somehow managed to get gum in my eyebrow.
I am grinning because I am about to yell, "BRING US COKES AT THE FINISH!"
And then, finally...oh god, FINALLY, we got to mile 13. Steph and Oden and Matt were there. Elizabeth and I finally picked it up and "sprinted" through the last 10th.
The finish is in sight!
Finishing this thing together!
I immediately got a giant bag of ice from the medical tent and put it on my neck, then chugged the Coke the boys had picked up for me.
As usual, our support team was amazing. They got up early, carried our stuff, rented bikes, saw us multiple times on the course, and managed to buy us Cokes and get to the finish line in time to see us cross. I couldn't ask for better and I am so grateful for them; I know how lucky we are!
I honestly don't know what happened to me out there. I mean, I know the heat was no joke; we saw a handful of runners pulled off the course on stretchers, but I've never experienced those symptoms before. Maybe the Sudafed had dehydrated me more than I expected? Maybe I was just not as strong and prepared as I thought?

What was so tough mentally was that my legs felt good and when we were running, they wanted to run fast, but my body just couldn't take it. My heart-rate would skyrocket after just a couple minutes and I'd have to walk again.

I am frustrated that I couldn't power through and hold onto that 2:20 goal. This feels like BDR all over again; I feel fired up to run another half at a pace I know I can feel proud of. And I hate writing race reports that sound like they're full of excuses, but it is what it is. We got out there. I did the best I could and Elizabeth stuck with me when she could have easily powered through faster on her own.
2:28:47...I've run faster and I've run slower, but this race will always be special because we ran it together.
We finished. There were times I thought I might DNF but we finished. And what's more, we finished together, just as we planned.
My mom asked Matt to get us flowers so Elizabeth could have the "full race experience." She is SO thoughtful!
After we made it back to Oden's and showered, we went for brunch at the Original Pancake House, where I had a plate of blueberry pancakes and Elizabeth had a giant apple crepe. Food makes everything better!
Full disclosure: I took this picture after already having eaten one pancake.
This may not have been my best race, but I think Elizabeth feels accomplished for finishing. She does seem a little dubious about my insistence that we do another. Although it was a far cry from my past performances and downright painful at times, I'm already thinking about signing up for A1A again next year! I just can't stay away.

Oh, and here is a video of us at the finish because I know some of you like that!



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  2. I think you did great pushing through a tough race. I ran one like that in West Palm. I have a half in Stuart on March 5. I train in the NE temps so I am worried about the Florida weather. I will try just to finish and not focus on a good time.

    1. I think in early March, most Florida weather is still good. Stuart is a little farther north, right? So that could be lovely! I usually stop running half marathons in March though. These days I think January is the only safe month! I hope you enjoy your race!

  3. I'm sorry to hear you were not feeling well, that really sucks! But I am so proud of you for sticking with it and finishing. You are amazing! I love your race outfit! I need to get one of those skirts!

    Those pictures of you running by the ocean are perfect!

    1. Oh thank you, Ana! I do not feel like I deserve a lot of pride here, but I am glad I stuck it out!

  4. Those are all signs of heat exhaustion - I'm glad you DIDN'T try to push through and got the care you needed. My guess would be that the Sudafed etc. messed with your electrolytes. A salt tab might have helped. But you finished - that's an accomplishment. It never hurts to have reminders of what you can do when it feels awful and you know it's not going to be what you hoped for. In life as in running!

    1. Yes, around mile 9 or 10 Elizabeth said she thought I might be getting heat stroke. That was worrisome lol! I mean, I've never experienced those symptoms so it was pretty scary. I should have thought of salt!

  5. I'm sorry it wasn't the race you wanted, but not everything is under your control- you shouldn't beat yourself up. You did the best you could under the circumstances. I had a really crappy race last year due to heat and humidity- it definitely wasn't the race I wanted or trained for but I know the heat was out of my control. I understand feeling like you want a redemption race- I felt the same about the race last year and plan to do another one as soon as I can so I can kick the courses ass!

    1. You're right - we really cannot control race day factors and weather is a REALLY big factor, especially in Florida.

  6. Way to go Ali and Elizabeth! 13 miles is FAR, and it looks like your overall pace was pretty quick despite the slower miles. I understand that kind of frustration after a race that didn't go the way you wanted; speculating about what went wrong and wondering if you could have pushed harder. But I think that post-race analysis can be an important part of the cycle of thoughts and actions that contributes to your enjoyment of and progress in the activity. One thing that I might consider fiddling with would be the amount of caffeine in the morning. I know I have unpredictable and usually bad race results if I have more than a little bit of caffeine beforehand. The caffeine related jitters/crash/dehydration seems to hit me especially bad if it's hot.

    1. I am pretty much immune to for me, I know that's not the factor. But it is important to figure out what caused my symptoms. I think it was the Sudafed I was taking all Friday and Saturday. I won't be doing that again!

  7. Congratulations on your race and finishing together! I hope you're feeling better. Running a half in the heat in the humidity is definitely my Kryptonite, so I can imagine how challenging it was that day, definitely not from a lack of training!

    Oh and if a train ran through my race, I'd be SO mad!

    1. Thanks Janelle! Yes, I think I'd be really thrown off my game if I had been trapped behind the train!

  8. Ditto what Annie said! No doubt that was heat exhaustion, likely caused/enhanced by the meds on top of the weather. It's good that you found the many positives of this race. You really did great given all that! It sounds like a great experience overall for Elizabeth too. Congrats!

    1. Oy, yes, I won't be taking Sudafed before a run again! That was a rookie mistake.

  9. I am sorry you were experiencing the signs of heat exhaustion! I don't know how you runners do it. I'm glad you got the care you needed and were able to safely make it through the race. Finish line videos... they always make me cry!! I'm glad you and Elizabeth have such a great friendship and could experience a half marathon together! :) <3

    1. I honestly think if global warming keeps getting worse, I'm going to have to give up running or move up north. This year, we barely got any cold weather and it was only in January. I guess that's the only "safe" month in Florida for long races these days!

  10. I'm sorry that you didn't have the race the you were hoping for. I know that can be so frustrating, especially because you were well trained and didn't reach your goal because of factors outside of your control. Hopefully you rested up this week and are feeling better!

    Our "unseasonably warm" winter has been really unfair. I feel like most days it's just downright hot and I'm mad that we're already having highs in the mid-80s. I'm afraid of what that means for our summer!

    1. Yes, this weather is NUTS. I just commented above that I think January is our only "safe" month or long races in Florida these days. We simply can't count on cold weather any other month!

  11. I wish I could have made it out there to see you again! It sounds like you had a really crazy day. I had some stomach problems at A1A last year and it totally wrecked my race. It sounds like your conditions were much tougher. Congrats on finishing!!

    1. Thanks, Kerry. It was definitely a tough day, but I can't help but love this race lol!