Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Mississippi Blues Half Marathon (Race Recap)

Saturday, January 8
Half Marathon #19/50
Weather - 32 degrees, chilly

If you'll recall, I had a bit of  last minutes stress over this trip (that I booked WAY back in July). Our flight was due to land in Mobile, AL as part of a back to back weekend, and we were planning on driving to Jackson to run the 4th annual Mississippi Blues half marathon. Apparently there was no race day pick-up, and the drive looked to be pretty far and we weren't entirely sure that we would even be able to get our bibs. I really have GOT to stop cutting stuff so close when I book flights (but part of the reason I do this is to shorten the amount of time that we are gone by as much as possible).

Anyway, this weekend was a bit intimidating. We hadn't raced in a month, and for the first race back to do two in a row? Tough. My training has been going well, I've been getting the miles in, and once I found out that for special circumstances there WAS going to be race day pick up, well, my stress just melted away.

We got up at pretty much our regular time on Friday morning, dropped the kids off at the parents house, and then stopped at Subway to pick up lunch to eat on the plane. Nothing went wrong at the airport. Nothing. And if you follow my trips, something ALWAYS go wrong. So I made mistake #1... posting a status update on Facebook to the effect of "suspicious when nothing goes wrong at the airport."

Our flight left on time, it was shorter than we anticipated, and before we knew it, we were in Memphis, TN for a very short connection before being on our way to Mobile, AL.

Art in Memphis Airport
Even MORE excited when we found out that our flight to Mobile was going to be SUPER short... 45 minutes. The flight was also uneventful, and we landed a few minutes later than we were scheduled, but the car rental also went suspiciously well. I really enjoy it when they don't try to sell all their services, recognize that you have places to go and just get you on your way. This time we had the pleasure of driving a Nissan Versa.

We had a new gadget to help us on our travels. J was a bit tired of me listening to me complain about how terrible the GPS map app is on the iPhone, and for Christmas he got me a GPS unit. So we pulled Jill out, and off we went. The drive to Jackson is on back state highways, and it was already starting to get dark when we headed out. Based on Jill's estimated arrival time, there was a SLIGHT chance that we would be able to get the expo right as they were closing. So, I did my best. There wasn't much traffic, and we managed to get to our destination only 10 minutes after the expo was scheduled to close. It was being held at the Jackson Convention Center, and I literally was able to drop L off at the door, drive across the street and get a FREE parking space about 4 spots in. Huh. So far things are working in our favor. The expo was still open for packet  pick up, but the vendors were all putting their stuff away.

We were staying less than a half mile from the start line, so getting our packet early meant that we could sleep later. And that ALWAYS makes me happy. Thanks to Jill, we also knew that there was an Applebee's only a few miles away. Our streak of good luck was continuing, we had a non-idiotic server and everything came out as we ordered it and it was FAST. Awesome. Love that.

Then of course we finally head to the hotel. Start unpacking at getting everything ready for the morning. We decided to go down to the hotel bar so I could have my pre-race beer. Lots of other runners down there. I don't think that we were staying at the host hotel, but there were a TON of people there. Talked to a few people, and it turns out a lot of them were also doing the race in Alabama. A few months ago, they actually advertised it as a "special back-to-back" weekend, offering a special award and discount on entry fees to those doing both.

We ended up not getting to bed until close to 10. Gun time set for 7:00 am, so we set the alarms for 5:45, giving us enough time to get ready and walk the 5ish minutes to the start line.

I didn't sleep well. I woke up around midnight because I'd cranked the heat up in the room too high and I was too hot. Then I was waking up every hour or so after that. With all the iPhone glitches I keep hearing about, I was SURE that we were going to oversleep and miss the race.

Of course we didn't, and we got up, got ready. It was going to be pretty chilly, as there was a cold front coming in. But of course we always run in a tank and skirt regardless of the weather.

After we are ready, with about 20-25 minutes to the start, we head down to the lobby. It is BEYOND crowded. The hotel had actually opened up their breakfast a few hours early, and it was PACKED. Of course we got comments about our clothes and how we were going to freeze, blah blah blah. I grabbed a small cup of coffee, and with about 15 minutes until the start, we walked over to the start line. I thought this was a cool shot, and when I looked at it later, I really REALLY don't remember there being any people in it. Weird.

We made it to the start line with a few minutes to go.

I had L take this picture of me. I've been informed that I need to work on my "rock on" face and I probably suck at playing air guitar. But it's 32 degrees and look how I'm dressed. I'm hard core!!

More pictures at the start line.

Me and L

I  liked this shirt!
 And just a few minutes to go...

For only the second time, I didn't take any pictures during the race. The beginning of the race was nothing too interesting. We mis-read the elevation profile (again). I swear I should just stop with even looking at them. I was thinking it would be "mostly flat" and I was thrown off by the description of the course being "challenging." What made it the MOST challenging was how torn up the streets were. Lots of potholes and I spent a lot of the race looking at my feet.

The first few miles (like usual) flew by pretty fast. I had finally started to warm up a bit. The course pretty much went everywhere. From neighborhoods to running on the ramps of a highway. I never pulled out my camera because there wasn't really anything that jumped out at me. I still should do it though, I'm kicking myself now for NOT doing it.

The half marathon and full marathon split around the 5K mark. Of note, I really didn't lose sight of L until maybe 5 or 6 miles into the race. That hardly ever happens. Normally I lose her in the first mile.  As I said, I wasn't expecting the course to be that hilly, so when I first started seeing these STEEP and LONG hills I was caught off guard. The only good thing about the hills on this course is that there were also some downhills to correspond with the uphills (unlike Atlanta).

There was a hill around mile 5 that I was moving SO slow going up I half contemplated walking (like a few people were... already). And with what seems to be a new pattern in my racing? I really needed to use the bathroom again. I started feeling it around mile 4, and promised I'd stop the next place. Which turned out to be right before the GU station at mile 7. I lucked out and there was no line. I still walked through the GU/water station, and from then on the rest of the race went pretty well.

There were more water stations than I remembered, and walking through those gave my legs a break from running up those crazy hills. The course finally started to level out with 3 or 4 miles to go.

The last few miles reminded me of the other "big city" races I've done (like Hartford or Chicago), and the crowds were a bit thicker, and the streets seem a lot wider. Not that it mattered by now. Sometimes the way I pace I literally end up running by myself. The last  mile or so of this course was like that. The closest person I saw in front of me was probably a minute ahead, and not sure about how close they were behind me. The very last tenth of a mile was uphill. I ran the best I could, and considering the course and the bathroom stop, I was feeling pretty good about my time. I think a good way to gauge the toughness of the course is to see how high up I placed overall. Normally a time like this will barely have me in the top 50%.

Official time - 2:02:25
Official pace - 9:21
Overall Place - 287/912
Division Place - 11/442
Gender Place - 71/442
Garmin Time - 2:02:24
Garmin Distance - 13.18 miles
Garmin Pace - 9:17
Mile 1 - 9:02
Mile 2 - 8:47
Mile 3 - 8:39
Mile 4 - 9:02
Mile 5 - 8:58
Mile 6 - 9:43
Mile 7 - 10:40 (bathroom stop)
Mile 8 - 9:38
Mile 9 - 9:12
Mile 10 - 9:38
Mile 11 - 9:31
Mile 12 - 9:19
Mile 13 - 8:38
Mile 13.1 - 8:38

Pleased I managed to kick up the pace there at the end. I was just ready to be done.

L told me that the race day also happened to be Elvis's birthday. There was even a cake at the finish line (which I also did not get a picture of). But the medal is pretty neat! (The full marathoners got one about three times this size. It looked like one of those gold records. HUGE).

After the race ended, we ended up running into Lisa (or DM/FB/Bloggy friend) after the race, and we chatted for a few minutes (no picture, again, I suck). There was actually some really good post-race food of Little Caesar's pizza, sandwiches, cookies, but I really can't stomach eating right after a race and I didn't want to carry anything. We were starting  to feel the cold, and started to head back to the hotel.

Saw this SUV on the way back to the hotel and I had to take a picture. The guy had about a jillion more stickers on the side windows. Funny story, we actually saw this vehicle on the highway on the drive back to Mobile.

Cool looking church
Made it back to the hotel, and we had plenty of time to shower and get checked out. And we were in no immediate rush, since packet pick up for Mobile was open until 8:00 pm. So we relaxed as best we could, and then of course... time for lunch!!!

One thing I'll say about Mississippi? It might just be the friendliest state I have ever been too. Seriously. Every single person we dealt with was friendly, efficient... it made for a very good experience. Which is something I honestly don't get to say that often.

With that said. We were wanting a Starbucks and we had not seen a SINGLE one since arriving. We managed to find one in a Target, and then we started the drive down to Alabama.

... to be continued ...


  1. Nice race! The people who own that car are definitely runners, don't think there is any question there.

  2. You and your last minute expo arrivals!! You aren't doing that at Disney, are you? I mean if ever there is occasion to show up early and enjoy your surroundings, it is in Disney World!

    You realize your pace for the bathroom stop is hopefully my average pace overall?? Some day I want to be fast like YOU!

    I'm already stressing thinking about your part 2 and the airport debacle that is sure to ensue!

  3. Great job! The MS folks are very friendly! I ran the marathon last year and you're right, the course is more challenging than it looks on the map. Great rock face too! Congrats on crossing another one off the list!

  4. Good job on a challenging course! glad to meet you at end of race as well.

    side note- I tried to get Becca to go to whataburger too, I got shut down :(

  5. Yeah! I"m so glad you had a good experience. BUT one thing...HOW WAS THE MUSIC?!?!?!!! I totally want to do this race someday for the music but maybe there weren't any bands???

  6. Awesome time for a challenging course!! LOVE the medal :)

  7. Sweet medal and great race! Congrats!


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