I Slept Through NYE

We pulled into our driveway yesterday just before the sun came up and our road trip was officially over. The drive to/from Florida was done without stopping for the night and it was certainly an experience. The dogs surprisingly handled the trip really well despite the fact they were sharing a bench seat of a F-150. Instead of a 9-post series on detailing every minute of the trip, I’ll sum it up in one. You’re welcome.

Florida: Part I

Coming back to the state I called home for seven years was somewhat traumatizing (yes, I’m dramatic) as most days I struggled to keep from melting into a puddle. Sunday was spent doing last minute Christmas shopping, taking the dogs to the park, and laughing our asses off in the air conditioning while watching Anchorman 2.

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Because apparently we’re gluttons for punishment, Amy and I set early alarms for Sunday morning to meet up for a run. Alarms on vacation? We must like each other. Thankfully it was a breezy morning and a lot of the waterfront trail was shaded. The views were great and the company was even better – the miles flew by!

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That afternoon Brad and I took the dogs up to Juno Beach. The water was a little rough (very unexpected – it’s usually pretty flat) and Sox wasn’t really a fan of the waves. Brad carried her in a few times and she swam fine, but when it came to going in on her own? Didn’t happen.

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Monday night we had dinner with a couple friends at Tryst in Delray. The food was incredible and I fell in love with Sixpoint Resin Double IPA. And a bottle of Epoch red. The entire night went undocumented somehow, so no pictures for you.

New Jersey

On Tuesday I flew up to NJ to visit my family. One of my favorite things to do when I’m home is spend time in the kitchen with my mom. On Christmas Day we cooked so many meals that the dishwasher had to be run three times. Ridiculous. Make this risotto – you’ll be really happy you did.

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Wednesday and Thursday nights I spent with my best friend from high school. She always rearranges her schedule to see me as much as possible while I’m in town and I love her for that. We hit a few local bars and caught each other up on our lives. And I harassed her to book a flight to Austin ASAP. It totally worked, the flight itinerary was in my inbox last night.

Florida: Part II

The “perfect” direct flight with free bags I booked for Saturday morning ended up coming back to bite me in the ass as I set my alarm for a 2:30am wakeup. Ouch. I also managed to forget to check in for the flight and was one of the last people to board the plane. Aisle seat = crappy sleeping situation. Once back in Florida, we went back to Juno Beach with the dogs again to meet up with one of my best friends and her dog.

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Then we packed all of our crap back into the truck and drove north to Orlando to see Paula. Her and her man took us barhopping to their favorite spots downtown. That early morning wakeup call was kicking my ass but thankfully a little Red Bull (& vodka) saved the day.

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Sunday morning we went to brunch at Maxine’s on Shine with Paula before hitting the road. And Bo blocked the front door so no one could get by without petting him.

Maxines on Shine - Brunch

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That afternoon we headed across the state to Spring Hill (Tampa-ish) to visit another one of my best friends (hi, Mer!) and her family. I give her a lot of credit – taking care of twin babies (plus another child) is no joke! We spent the day watching football, eating pizza, drinking wine, and catching up. Pretty damn perfect. It was wonderful to see everyone and hopefully we won’t wait as long in between visits next time.

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Monday morning we packed all of our crap into the truck for the umpteenth (and FINAL) time and jumped on the Suncoast Highway to begin the journey home. The plan was to drive straight through and just get the F home. Our erratic sleep schedules and general disdain for driving in general made the trip down I-10 a little challenging and required more caffeine than the first leg of the trip.

We ambitiously went grocery shopping on 3 hours sleep yesterday which ended up being a HUGE mistake because it was absolutely slammed and I wanted to run everyone over with my shopping cart. Or my car. Definitely one of those. We ordered a pizza for dinner and rented Prisoners. I think I made it mayyyybe 10 minutes into the movie before I passed out hard on the couch… at 8:30. And when I woke up it was 2am. Whoops – missed New Year’s Eve! It’s virtually impossible for me to fall asleep on the couch so I had to have been super tired. Brad tried to stay up but only lasted until 11. Super exciting night over here.

Well, now we have an extra bottle of champagne for mimosas. Never a bad thing.

Happy New Year!

2013 Long Branch Half Marathon Race Recap

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The Long Branch Half Marathon was initially slated to be my spring goal race. I ran into an issue with my arch in March and scaled back on running so things wouldn’t get worse. Obviously it was a disappointment to realize Long Branch wouldn’t be a PR race, but I was happy to be returning to run the shore nonetheless.

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Race day started super early with a 3:30am wakeup call. The half kicks off at 6:45am and traffic starts to build pretty early on local roads. I made sure we were out the door, hit Dunkin Donuts (one of the 35 trips I made while visiting NJ) and on our way to Oceanport by 4:45am.

We hit traffic. It wasn’t terrible. I read plenty of complaints on the Facebook page about how traffic was horrendous and some even said they’d never run the race again because of it. Had they been paying attention to the many race director emails and daily (seriously, DAILY) posts on FB to arrive early, maybe they wouldn’t have had that problem. Just sayin’.

My longest run prior to race day had been 10 miles during the Austin 10/20 a few weeks earlier and I was oddly okay with it. Usually I’m antsy at the starting line of a race I don’t feel particularly prepared for. Instead of antsy and nervous, I was completely at peace and actually excited to hit the streets and run 13.1 miles through Monmouth County.

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By 6:35 I was tucked into my corral, thankful for body heat from fellow runners that kept me warm on the chilly 40 degree morning. Starting around 6:50 (slightly late start), each of the five corrals were sent off with the traditional bugle Call to Post (since it started at Monmouth Racetrack) followed up with Sweet Caroline (for Boston) and Born to Run (by Bruce! for Jersey!).

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My race strategy was to run 3:1 intervals and simply take it one mile at a time. No need to go crazy and push the pace. My only goal was to enjoy the miles and wrap up spring race season with a smile on my face, on the Jersey Shore where I grew up.

Most of the half is on residential streets…

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and over a couple small bridges.

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The course support was great! So many families were out very early Sunday morning to cheer us on, offer us screwdrivers/mimosas/jello shots, and blast Bruce Springsteen + Rocky from huge speakers at the end of their driveways. Race volunteers were amazing as well, positioning themselves before each water stop with a megaphone letting runners know which tables had water and which had Gatorade.

My father works near Mile 10 so my family was able to park there and walk to the mile marker to wait for me. I thought I’d be sad to have to wait so long to see them but it actually helped since it gave me something to look forward to! By that point my Nuun water bottle was empty and I was DONE carrying it. I tossed it to my mom, thanked her, and kept running.20130505_091045

The half/full split. I let out a little sigh of relief to be heading to the left of the barricades as we made the turn onto Brighton Ave.

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Once on Brighton I knew it was only a matter of minutes before I’d see the wrath of Hurricane Sandy. The boardwalk portion of the final miles was no longer intact, the beach had shrunk, and many homes had been destroyed due to the massive storm that hit my home state last October. IMG_20130505_093257_082

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The headwind on Ocean Boulevard was pretty brutal so I tried to keep my head down and hold a steady pace.

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Half marathon #13 – DONE!
Spring race season – DONE!

NJ Marathon Finisher

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After last year’s DNF in the full marathon, I really had no desire to return to this race. This year’s race had a different feeling to it. It could have been returning to the hometown race post-Sandy. Or maybe it was the way all of the runners banded together that day dressed in blue and yellow, with “Boston Strong” and “Run for Boston” shirts, singing the lyrics to Sweet Caroline. Maybe it was that I toed the line without an ounce of stress weighing on my shoulders. The only thing that showed up that morning was my desire to run.

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And for all those reasons, I ran one of the best races I’ve had in a long time. This is probably the worst time of year for me work-wise to take a vacation, but I’m almost positive I’ll be back to run this race again in 2014. And if the stars align, I will be running alongside my sister during her first half marathon! Ahem, Kylie, go register. NOW! Please and thank you.

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Long Branch, I hope to see you next year.

Run. Restore. Rebuild.

Jersey Strong.

New Jersey Marathon Expo

After a 3am wakeup call, two flights, and a minor nervous breakdown in Newark Airport over a lost suitcase, we finally arrived at the New Jersey Marathon Expo at Monmouth Park in Oceanport.

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The expo was a bit smaller than expected, but had all of the staples you’d expect to find at many other race expos.

First order of business: packet pickup!

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Personally I thought the shirt ran a little small, but the people working the shirt booth were extremely generous and offered to swap out sizes for me without a problem.

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Since the race shirt has long sleeves and Texas temps would allow me to wear that oh, mayyybe twice, I decided to invest in a short-sleeved shirt as well.

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Due to the aforementioned lost suitcase, I replaced a few packs of Gu Chomps and Shotbloks, and picked up a new stick of Body Glide. Other than that, the wallet stayed shut. I know, I was shocked too.

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I almost picked up a pair of heavily discounted Newtons at the Road Runner Sports booth, but unfortunately my feet were a tad too big for the only size they had out on the table. Bah!

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And that was that. New Jersey Marathon Expo, done and done. We were in and out fairly quickly, which is definitely a plus. Sure, there could have been a few more booths but I think it would have cramped the space a bit. There were a good amount of vendors for the space Monmouth Park provided.

Side Note: Road Runner Sports, can you please open a store in Texas? Or make appearances with your $50 shoes at Austin race expos, at the very least? I promise to give you lots of money. Thank you!

NJ Marathon: The Plan of Attack

Well, it’s no secret I’m registered and training for the New Jersey Marathon on May 6, 2012.

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Marine Corps was a phenomenal experience and the best race I’ve run to date. I’ve been back and forth hundreds of times whether or not to run it again in 2012. I know there will be extreme race envy when registration opens in a few weeks and I don’t sign up. That weekend in DC wasn’t exactly easy on the wallet, and the thought of training through a Texas summer again doesn’t sound terribly appealing.

One of my friends suggested I run the New Jersey Marathon, and the more I thought about it, the more the idea grew on me. I’m looking to shave some serious minutes off of my race time from October, and this flat, fast course is the perfect place to do it.

More importantly, this is essentially a hometown race for me so I’ll get to spend a lot of time with my wonderful family and friends. Also important: Wawa Subs, Dunkin’ Donuts on every corner, and Pork Roll, Egg & Cheese Sandwiches. AND It’ll be Brad’s first time in NJ; he’s already practicing his Jersey Turnpike. Clearly we watch way too much Jersey Shore.

I found this gem when looking for a Jersey Turnpike photo:

Deena Cortese demonstrates the Jersey Turnpike on Ed Helms

You’re welcome. Ed Helms is such a trooper.

Anyway, back to that massive marathon PR I’ve got my eye on. Given my performance at 3M at the end of January, obviously the speed work I’ve been doing is working. As much as mile repeats leave me gasping for air and wondering why I chose running as a ‘hobby’, the results speak for themselves. Speed work + tempo runs + long run = The Return of FIRST Training. I used FIRST for the Marine Corps Marathon, but my speed work and tempo paces weren’t aggressive at all. Welp, they are now.

I present to you, Operation PR in New Jersey.

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Ambitious you say? I concur. This plan definitely has wiggle room, and I don’t doubt there will be some tweaking along the way (I’m looking at you, 11 mile tempo run in week 12!)

The next few months are going to be TOUGH. But you know how you learn to run fast? You train fast. I know I need to push myself and run paces outside my comfort zone. If I don’t test my limits, how will I ever know what I’m capable of?

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Let’s do this.