Tuesday, January 11, 2011

First Light Half Marathon (Race Recap)

Sunday, January 9
Half Marathon #20/50
Weather - low 30s, windy, overcast

The drive from Jackson to Mobile seemed even LONGER during the day. We stopped a lot more often, mainly because I buy J a shot glass in every state that we visit and I was having the HARDEST time finding him one in Mississippi. Who knew it would be so hard to buy touristy trinkets?

Jill's battery died shortly before arriving in Mobile. We had a bit more difficulty finding where we needed to go. We were staying at the host hotel, and it used to be a Radisson. Apparently they took down all their signage and never bothered to put new signs up. If there wouldn't have been a banner for the race we probably would have been driving around for a while.

Then there was the problem in the parking garage. There were all these signs telling you different places to go. Well, we ended up a dead end of a one way only section. Had to back out a few blocks distance to park in the correct place. Annoying.

Get inside, walk up a REALLY long set of stairs, and get in line for our packets. Get our bibs, and also, the special commemorative plaque made for those of us doing both races. The First Light half marathon raises money for an organization called L'Arche Mobile, and the plaques were all hand-made by individuals who benefit from the organization. Really cool!!

It was about then that we discovered that the race was not being chip timed. In this day and age, I really REALLY don't understand why they aren't all chip timed. It completely changes my strategy for how I start, and I don't like starting so close to the front. But anyway.

Included in our race packets were tickets for a FREE pasta dinner across the street. FREE???? Yes, please. It wasn't anything too exciting, but it tasted decent, and again, it was FREE.

Free pasta dinner!
The coolest thing about the hotel room that we were staying at was our awesome view of the city. Well, that, and sleep number beds!!! By the way, I tested out 20, and it might have been a bit too soft :D

We sat in bed and watched tv for a few hours before headed to bed around 9:30. Since we were staying at the host hotel, and it was pretty much at the start line (less than 2 blocks away), we were going to get to sleep later. AGAIN!!! SCORE!!!

Alarm goes off right at 6. I slept really well, obviously I needed it after the sketchy sleep I got the night before. First thing I do is look outside and check the weather. Rain had been in the forecast all week, and I was pretty happy to see that it looked dry out, and that the rain wouldn't likely start until a few hours after we were done. Nice!!


I decided to check my email while I was getting ready. And I see this lovely gem in my email. Notice, the time of the email was the night before.

Stress. Level. Elevated. We have just over an hour until we have to head out for the race, and apparently 12 hours ago our flight was canceled??? They send an email like this and don't bother to call or re-book??? Sooooo furious by now. Get on the phone, and like the last time I had to call Orbitz, I'm on hold for a good 15 minutes. Get the woman on the phone. We are told that all flights out of Mobile have been canceled because of weather in Atlanta. Ok. Fine. We don't HAVE to go through Atlanta. We flew in through Memphis, so can't we just fly back through there? Apparently, no, you can't. You can fly through Memphis to GO to Mobile, but not to leave. After 45 minutes, she says there is absolutely nothing that we can do and maybe she can get us out of Alabama on the 11th. You know, two days from now.

We are out of time to be dealing with it. So much for a stress-free trip!! We don't have the time to or a computer to try and get on another flight. We figure "what's another few hours" we will just deal with it right after the race. Of course we are annoyed and angry by now :(

It is definitely cold, and I think it feels even colder, because the wind is blowing pretty good. We recognize some of the same people we had seen for the race in Jackson. With about 10 minutes to gun time, we are advised to head toward the start line.

Me and L
At the start line I hear someone calling my name. It's Elizabeth, a bloggy follower and a DM friend. Yay! I wasn't sure I would see her. We are freezing, and the only people wearing tank tops. And skirts. I at least have been wearing arm warmers. Notice that L does not. Brrr.

Start Line
I honestly don't even know where the start line is. There is no banner, so we just kind of keep heading closer to the front. We see the women dressed in the southern belle outfits and assume they are the start? Gun goes off and off we go.

Immediately this race is different than any other race I have done. I started off in front of L, and she never did get past me. Yes. You heard me. I started ahead of her and other than seeing her bright outfit out of the corner of my eye a few times in the first half mile, I never saw her again during the course. On one hand I was TOTALLY psyched about actually running faster! On the other hand, she has been suffering from an injury and most of the time I was worried that she had been hurt and was on the side of the road.

After the race in Jackson, I was relieved that the race seemed pretty flat. The course went through major streets and also tiny little residential streets. The bigger streets were better paved and much easier to run on.  The side streets were pretty torn up like the streets in Jackson.

Crowd support was pretty good on this course. I'm always amused by how much people are bundled up during these colder races, and then I run by in a tank and skirt. It's funny. I knew in advance that the first water station wasn't until about mile 2, so I settled in and tried to find a good pace.

The marathon and half courses weren't to split until approximately mile 8, so the it was nice to be running with a bigger group. It helped keep me warmer and block some of the wind.

The water stations were all very well supported, although a few times I had to grab a cup off the table because the volunteers weren't able to get them handed out fast enough.

Course weaved through old/new and rich/poor areas, and this is the only race picture I took - about mile 4:

I was starting to feel tired, but being worried about how we were going to get out of Mobile occupied my thoughts and the miles just sort of crept by. Just past mile 6 I got a high five from an older gentleman who told me "You have the best outfit of the day!"

The course was flat, and that helped rest my legs. Shortly after the marathon runners split of the course there was a weird little turn around and I honestly thought I would see L right behind me. But I didn't, and so then I was thinking about her and wondering if she was ok. The field was really thinning out, and I was obviously not passing anyone. I was running a lot by myself, and I made sure to still stop at every water station (to be honest, day 2 of a race weekend, I REALLY look forward to those tiny walk breaks). I would get passed by people who weren't stopping for fluid and then I'd pass them again a few minutes later.

I was really happy when I started seeing the double digit mile markers. It was getting colder and windier and I was just wanting to be done.

The last section of the course runs through a cute section of downtown that has a "small town" feel to it. Shops and restaurants on the sides although everything seemed to be shut down. I decided to put everything I had into that last mile and ran as fast as I felt like I could without cramping or burning out. I haven't been looking at my Garmin during races, and I honestly had no idea I was so close to getting a PR... I saw the finish line ahead and sprinted for it. I can't believe I got a PR on day two of a back to back weekend. AND finished faster than L! Crazy. I got my emergency blanket and drank a small glass of water then stood by the chute to watch for L. I saw Elizabeth at the end, and we talked for a few minutes. I was very relieved when L came across the line!!

The medal was also made by the L'Arche Mobile:

Official time - 1:58:30
Overall - 182/508
Division - 12th (not sure out of how many)
Garmin time - 1:58:23
Garmin distance - 13.15 miles
Garmin pace - 9:00
Mile 1 - 8:34
Mile 2 - 8:39
Mile 3 - 8:47
Mile 4 - 8:55
Mile 5 - 8:54
Mile 6 - 9:05
Mile 7 - 8:58
Mile 8 - 9:25
Mile 9 - 9:15
Mile 10 - 9:14
Mile 11 - 9:19
Mile 12 - 9:19
Mile 13 - 8:43
Mile 13.1 - 7:39

Me and Elizabeth post-race
We talked with Elizabeth (and I think her parents?) after the race, discussing options for how we maybe could get out today. She had heard the same thing about Atlanta having really bad weather. She gave me her number if I needed additional help, and we walked back to the hotel. We got a little lost since the finish line was a few blocks away from where the start was.

Thought this was neat looking!
Then came the time to deal with all the annoyances. I decided to bypass Orbitz altogether. They were completely unwilling to do anything for us, and again, prove that they have absolutely NO liability for anything. Their solution was either for us to stay until Tuesday and then MAYBE get out, or spend $700 out of pocket to switch to a different airline and connect in Houston.

I contacted Delta, and the agent assured us that if we were to drive to Pensacola, FL that we would be able to get to Atlanta (which made NO sense to me since we were told all flights were being canceled) and that we would be able to make our same connecting flight to Denver. I was able to contact the rental car company and they only charged me an additional $28 to drop off in Pensacola instead of Mobile. So... off we go.

We stopped along the way to get lunch. I'm minorly addicted to the Mac & Cheese bread bowl from Domino's.

We get to Pensacola, we are able to drop off the car with no problems, get our tickets printed, and we have a few hours to kill until we need to get on the plane. We are very anxious sitting there waiting. I'm not entirely optimistic about getting out of Florida, but the flight left at 4:10 as promised, and we were able to land in Atlanta. It was cold but dry for the moment. Problem  was that we had almost FOUR hours until the flight was supposed to leave for Denver. We needed to do SOMETHING to kill time, so by now it was almost dinner time and we stopped in at TGIFriday's for a burger.

It was totally packed in the restaurant. Probably partially because of the weather and the number of flights that had already been delayed or canceled, but also because the Packers/Eagles game was on. We decided to take our time getting to the gate and didn't take the train to our concourse. We get to the gate and everything appears to still be fine.

A called to talk to me and around 8:45, and at that point, everything was still on schedule. While I was on the phone I happened to look outside and saw that it was snowing. Hard. And quite a bit had already come down.

Not more than 5 minutes after I hung up with Ariel, our flight was delayed from 10:00 to 11:00. Not a good sign, but better than being  canceled. Then about 45 minutes after that, the flight was delayed again until midnight. As soon as I saw that, I knew we were screwed. The snow was coming down harder, and I had seen most of the ground crew walking through the airport. The crew that WAS outside was busy having a snowball flight.

Sure enough, just after our flight was originally scheduled to leave, they canceled our flight. We immediately got in line, and the Delta agent re-booked us for an 11:09 am flight that he was "99.9% sure would get out."

Cranky and annoyed, we found a small bar across the hallway. Julie, the AWESOME bartender agreed to stay open past her 10:00 pm closing time until the airport forced her to close at midnight. A lot of stranded passengers shared drinks and stories. I had a few beers and got a bottle of wine to go:

I was still up until probably 1 or 2 in the morning, but the alcohol helped me to sleep. I woke up around 7:45 in the morning when I heard L talking to a Delta agent. Apparently while I was sleeping our re-booked flight had been canceled and we had already been re-ticketed twice and MAYBE we were going to be able to get out on the 10:00 pm flight. I walked by the board, it was NOT looking good.

I was feeling VERY cranky and annoyed and hung over,  and decided to walk to the other end of the concourse and get a Starbucks. On my way there I noticed there was a flight going to Salt Lake City that was boarding. I recognized a girl standing at the ticket counter and decided I'd talk to her on the way back. I got my coffee and found out that for some reason this flight to Salt Lake was pretty much the only one that was getting out of Atlanta all day. I said to the agent, "I wanna get on this flight!" It was the same agent that had been helping L with our re-ticketing all morning. She said, "go get your sister, I'll get you on here, there is a few connecting flights in the afternoon to Denver."

We were put on standby for a flight out of Salt Lake at 12:40 and had confirmed seats for a 1:50 flight. We boarded the plane around 8:20 am. At 9:15 we finally started to taxi out. After more than an hour of de-icing, we actually got off the ground at 10:45 am.

SO. FREAKING. HAPPY. to get out of Atlanta. And only by PURE chance did we get on that flight. It was a super long flight - four hours. Including all the time at the gate and on the runway, it was as long as it takes to fly from Honolulu!! We landed on time, got to the gate, confirmed we were still good to go, and got some lunch.

Our flight to Denver was pretty short, just under an hour. We landed at just after 3:00 in the afternoon. So only about 15 hours later than planned, but at least we got out. Later I checked to see what happened with the flight we WOULD have been on.

Yep. It was also canceled. If I wouldn't have found that flight to Salt Lake we would STILL be in Atlanta. Blah.

I think it's all my fault. For two reasons:

  1. Suspicious when nothing goes wrong at the airport
  2. My second comment that we need a "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" trip...
Happy to be home, and NOT happy that I'll be RIGHT BACK IN ATLANTA on Friday. I pretty much wore the same clothes for four days (When I travel I pretty much only bring race clothes and comfortable outfit for the plane). I have never been so psyched about a scalding hot shower.


  1. What an adventure!

    First, I love that plaque and medal. Very cool.

    Oh man, having flight after flight canceled sucks. I would have just sat in the airport crying. I'm so glad you were able to get on the flights that made it out!

  2. ohhhh Atlanta sucks for traveling :( Glad you finally made it back home but sad you have to go back! Good job on the race~!

  3. so nice to meet you and glad you finally made it home! congrats on your PR too (right?)! and yes, that was my dad and stepmom. :)

  4. wow waht a weekend.
    thats is crazy. icant believe u did 2 back to back half marathons! yay
    and u got under 2 hours. congrats.

    ps. that cheese bowl looks awesome

  5. Dang girl-what a day! Boo for cancelled flights! :(

    You did fabulous on your half though! I saw someone with he 50 in 50 shirt on running our half marathon in Boulder City, NV.

    Safe travels!!!

  6. I think I'm going to start posting my deformed race face pictures from now on, to show people that there's no shame in look awful as you cross the finish line. Well, maybe a little bit of shame, but GOOD shame. If there is such a thing.

  7. Wooo a PR- awesome x3 (its a pr, its 2nd day of back to back, and no chip timing)
    Congrats on an awesome weekend

  8. Girl, you make me want to never travel east in the winter. Congrats on that PR! So jealous that you got to meet some DM buddies.

  9. 1. Yay on the PR! You're speeding up, missy! :)

    2. What a trip! What the bleep! I guess Orbitz only employs complete morons, right? Good call to get yourself on that flight!

  10. You have once again confirmed to me that I seriously hate Atlanta!! I have flown from Portland to Atlanta way too many times, and it is too freaking long. And then you get to Atlanta and it is just miserable in that airport! Ugh. I really hope the next time through for you goes as smooth as can be!

    Boo to no chip timing. I don't get that at all! I'm not going to win any races, but I like my time to at least be accurate. If I have to wait to cross the start, I don't want that time counted against me! I'm anal like that.

    The race itself does sound nice though - and I really like that medal! And how nice that you were told you were the best dressed! For me, since I'm not fast at all, I figure I may as well be one of the cutest since I can't be one of the fastest! But look at you - you get to do both!

  11. Congrats on your PR!!! :)

    Wow, you were really lucky with getting out of Atlanta!!


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