Tuesday, January 2, 2018

2017 Year in Review / 2018 Preview

It's that time of year again. Time for us to recap last year, and to make plans and goals for the upcoming year. 2017 saw lots of ups and downs, and highs and lows for our running.

In the beginning of last year, I was rebuilding my mileage after recovering from pneumonia. Alfredo was just beginning his Boston Marathon/Blue Ridge Marathon training. We didn't have a whole lot going on the first few months of the year, but Alfredo did the first race of the year (the Martinsville Bulletin Half Marathon) in March.

April was a big month! We did the Rock n Roll Raleigh Half and Full Marathon in April after I was fully recovered and he was in full-swing training. Later in the month, we traveled north for him to run the Boston Marathon, then 5 days later we did the Blue Ridge Half and Full Marathon.

In May, I hit a PR for the 8K distance in the Super Run and placed 2nd overall female! Then at the end of the month, we ran the Run for Kids 5K during Memorial Day weekend. I hit a PR and we both placed in our age groups. We also kicked off the Runner's World Run Streak for summer 2017.

The summer was more eventful running-wise than we predicted. We ran every single day from Memorial Day to the 4th of July and beyond for a 70 day run streak, and during the streak we did some races. We did our first 10 Miler in Baltimore, and he won the Danville Braves 5K and made his baseball pitching debut (lol).

Fall came round and we had plenty of goals for our running. He began his final season of cross country at Averett University, and I had begun training for the Outer Banks Marathon. We took our training very seriously and hit the ground running (hah). We also lucked into doing the Hokie Half Marathon in September, and Alfredo had completed 2 meets for cross country, which we never even did a blog post for! YIKES. During his second meet, he even set an 8K PR of 28:50, beating his previous PR by one minute and seven seconds!

Cross Country highlights

In October, he had another meet, and I did the Danville Half Marathon as part of a 20 mile training run, and I ended up hitting a PR of 2:12:33. I never ended up doing a post for this event either, because it was such a traumatic run. Ok so I'm being a little dramatic, but it was a terrible run. Then later in the month, I sprained my foot then made an awesome comeback just in time to finish marathon training strong. He finished his cross country season at the end of October at the USA South Conference meet. To top off a great month, he also found out that he was accepted as an Elite Honey Stinger Sponsored Athlete! Wowie!

Danville Half Marathon

November was tons of fun! Earlier in the month we traveled to the Outer Banks for our marathon weekend in November. It was great, we both set PRs, and he came in 3rd in his age group. Later in the month, we ran 2 Thanksgiving runs and had tons of fun.

My collage of monthly mileage totals
Then December. I had my highest mileage month of 124.11 miles, a result of kicking off my marathon training. I jumped right back into marathon training after just a couple of short weeks off. I decided to do this because as happy as I was with my marathon time from the Outer Banks, I just know I can do better. Throughout my Outer Banks training, I kept on thinking to myself, Dang, I should have done this, or I should do this differently next time. So, here I am. Doing the things I should have done, doing them the way I think I should have done them. I know I can do better, and I hope that I can meet my new dream-big goal for the marathon. I think I have decided on the Wrightsville Beach Marathon on March 17.

As for Alfredo, he's got some dream-big goals for himself this upcoming year. First on the agenda is the Martinsville Half Marathon. At this race, he wants to set a half marathon PR, which will keep him on target for the next goal of running a sub-3:05 marathon at Blue Ridge on April 21. Just in case you didn't know, this is America's Toughest Road Marathon! So this will prove to be quite the challenge. And finally, drum roll please.....

This year, the year 2018, will be the year that Alfredo Garcia Huerta will (hopefully) conquer the IRONMAN distance at Ironman Maryland in September! And to add some more pressure on himself, he has another goal that would require full attention and training. He not only wants to complete this Ironman, but he also is going to try to qualify for Kona, the Ironman World Championship. This is a crazy goal, but he is willing to put the in the work that is necessary to attempt this goal. Yes, people may think this is crazy. Yes, it may not happen on the first try. But he is willing to do what it takes to get there. In order to qualify for Kona, a triathlete must place top 3 overall (or top 3 in age group) in an Ironman-sanctioned event.

So here we go..... we're taking on 2018 head on! Wish us luck!

Alfredo's best nine posts from Instagram in 2017

My best nine posts

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Thanksgiving Runs 2017

Well I had the goal of getting this post out before the end of November. Clearly seeing as the date is December 3, I have failed. Regardless, here is our recap of our Thanksgiving runS (yes we did 2!) for this year.

One Tough Turkey 5K (Danville, VA)

First on November 18, we did the One Tough Turkey 5K in Danville, VA. This small, low-key run was held at Angler's Park, which is a place that both Alfredo and I run fairly regularly, but the route for the race is all of the hills in that one little area all at once. Hence, the TOUGH turkey. The concept of the race is interesting, too. It had no shirts, finisher awards, or entry fee. All that was required is that you donate a can of food to participate! I didn't feel ready for this just a few short days after the Outer Banks Marathon, but hey, a free 5K? Gotta do it! And to make it even better, the running store where Alfredo works was hosting the race. So of course, I ended up doing it. Even though I knew those hills would get me.

Showing off
1st place trophy!
The run started at 8:00 am, then after just a short distance, the course began up a hill. A huge hill. One that I feel like even my car struggles up. (Ok so possibly some over-dramatization. Maybe.) But regardless, the whole first half was straight up it seemed. The second half was rolling hills (rolling mountains?), which was kind of confusing. I was wondering how we went straight up hill the first half, and in the second half we had some downhill, but there was also some uphill left? Even though it was run on a loop and we were ending up exactly where we started? Whatever, it will never make sense to me, even though I have examined the elevation map. WHATEVER. Moving on, Alfredo ended up winning with a time of 18:46, and I met my goal of running the whole thing, which may seem like I set the bar kind of low, but I knew those hills would make me really want to walk. I ended up doing that and exceeding my expected finish time of 33 minutes, and I managed to surprise myself and break 30 minutes with a time of 29:56 (unofficial). And it was all for a good cause-- feeding those who need it during the holiday season!

This is what he did when he came back for me
and the photographer said "Act like it doesn't hurt!"

He's such a ham....

Gobble Wobble 5K (Auburn, GA)

The event shirt was super cute!
The second Thanksgiving run we did was in Georgia while visiting my family. We found the Gobble Wobble 5K in Auburn, GA. This one was on Thanksgiving Day, November 23. This run was only 20 minutes or so from where we were staying with family, so we didn't even have to get up super early for the 8:00 start time! We got up, ate breakfast, and were on our way. First of all, I checked the weather forecast while we were still home in Virginia, and it was saying high 40s/low 50s that morning so I packed a couple different options in case the weather changed. I packed short sleeves, long sleeves, shorts, and capris. I felt like between these articles of clothing I would be able to dress myself for a Southern, late-fall morning. I WAS WRONG. It was only 43 degrees, which doesn't sound like that much of a drastic difference, but it was very cloudy. I opted for the long sleeves and capris, and I bout near froze! Usually my fingers regain feeling after a mile or so, but fingers stayed frozen until I went to go get my big fuzzy jacket from the car!!!

Anyway, Alfredo ran this one too. He started at the front of the pack to take off on this unknown course ahead of us. The race was held in Little Mulberry Park, which was a cute little park with a paved walking trail that went up through the woods and around a pond and a lake. It was surprisingly hilly, but nothing we couldn't handle. We went up, we came down, we went up, we came down, etc etc, and we went around the various loops of the park. Alfredo came in a solid 3rd place overall with a time of 18:32. Unfortunately, this race only recognized 1st place overall, then 3 deep in age groups, so he ended up placing 1st in the 25-29 age group, which is almost better??? Great time regardless!

1st place age group medal
I ended up finishing (frozen solid) with a time of 28:04. I was pretty surprised by that time, as I was expecting closer to 29 minutes since I was still recovering from the marathon and I was recovering from a particularly hard few days at work. Would it have been nice to finish in under 28 minutes? Yeah, but I was still happy with what I was able to do! Also, I came in 5th place in my age group out of 29 people, so I was near the top! So even though I didn't place, I am still happy with that.

Me crossing the finish line (blue shirt)

Then we got to go to see my family and eat tons of delicious food at our Thanksgiving lunch! So what a great day it was, indeed!

Look we made a new friend!

Our new kitty, Norbert, didn't run any 5Ks
but he did participate in Thanksgiving
by having his own feast--
apparently he likes pumpkin??

Monday, November 20, 2017

Outer Banks Marathon 2017

As you may recall from previous posts, I was torn between the Richmond Marathon and the Outer Banks Marathon as my fall race. Ultimately, I decided on Outer Banks due to a few different factors, like the date and the course (specifically elevation!). The moment we'd all been waiting for (ok... I had been waiting for) was finally here! November 12: RACE DAY!!!!!

But let's back up a couple days. Let’s do a RUN through of the weekend of events, shall we?

On Friday, November 10, we hit the road after work to make it to the OBX that night. We were fortunate enough to be able to stay with a friend at his family’s beach house down there! We got in kind of late, but we were rested and ready for the expo and other preparations on Saturday.

On Saturday, we got to sleep in and relax a bit, then we hit up the expo and got our swag. After the expo, we went to check out a couple of spots on the course. We wanted to see the trail section of the course that we were warned about, which was at the Nags Head Nature Preserve. We checked it out, and were only mildly intimidated. But it allowed us to make a plan of attack for race day. After we checked out the area, we went to a local park to do a shakeout run. We only did about 2 miles, plus the distance to and from the park. When we finished our shakeout, we took some downtime. We rested/napped for a little while before it was time for dinner. Fortunately for me, I had won a gift card to a local restaurant at the expo, so we got to hit up the Tomato Patch in Corrolla Beach for a cheaper dinner!!! So that was nice. We loaded up with spaghetti (me) and a calzone (him). After dinner we went back to the house, got ready for the morning, and hit the hay.

Post-shakeout run

Shirt + bibs

Sunday morning! Race day! I woke up (too) early and started my pre-race rituals to be ready for the 7:20 AM start. We were fairly close to the start line (like 10 mins!) so we had plenty of time to get ready. We ate our oatmeal and bagels and bananas and headed over to Kitty Hawk for the start. He got in a 1.5 mile warm up, and I got only enough warmup to get me from the car to the porta-potty.... anyway.... then we made our way to the actual start and got in our corrals, ready to start!

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for race day! Or something!

Alfredo was very unsure of how he would perform at this race. He has been working very hard for his college cross country season in training for the 8K (spoiler alert: he did very well, post to come!). But he hasn’t been training distance as much as he would have liked. He got in two 20 milers with me at my pace, one 20 miler by himself at his own pace mostly, and a few 15 milers. These runs were all for the sole purpose of building endurance to hold a fast pace for shorter distance, which really affects the way he was running them. So with this, he didn’t know what to expect. He was telling people he felt like he could do sub-3 all the way 3:15, or anything in between. So stepping up to the start was a crapshoot. His goal was to stay at a comfortable pace of 6:40-6:50, and if the pace felt too hard to maintain he would slow up. The mindset was to go in, have fun, enjoy the race, and do his best.

When the gun went off, he immediately settled into his pace, and as runners, we know how hard it is to maintain pace and hold back when people are passing you with the adrenaline of race day pulsing through your veins. But, he was able to restrain himself and let people go do their thang. He kept telling himself, Run your own race. Despite him feeling like he could have gone faster in the beginning, he stuck to his plan. Mile by mile, his body was still feeling great. It also helped that he made a running friend who was pacing with him until mile 9, so it made those first miles feel effortless. After that, his new running friend convinced him to stay on pace and go on ahead. And so he did. This was the section through the Nags Head Nature Preserve with the trails. After getting out of the woods and getting to the half marathon checkpoint, he noticed that the clock said 1:29 and some change. So this was the part that got to him the most because he knew that in order to beat his first goal, he needed to run that again, and that was very stressful. His body was still feeling good, so he still continued persevering. At this point he began passing other people who had begun slowing down, because he was sticking to his target pace, just like he had been throughout the whole race.

Fast forward to mile 19. He started feeling like he had to actually push to maintain target pace, which was ok still. Around this time he was able to see the first place woman, which made him realize he was maintaining a very good pace, and his plan was actually working. Then, mile 22 came along and the bridge came into view: the bridge that everybody was talking about. This was going to be the hardest point on the whole course. He knew that he needed to slow down going up the bridge, but not too much, since he knew he could pick the pace up going back down. After that, it was only 2.2 miles left. And he found out that these miles were the hardest. Mile 24 seemed to be pretty hard on him, but he got through it. Mile 25 was a challenge since he was so close to finishing, and he was having a hard time holding the pace. Even after seeing mile 26 and being able to hear the announcer at the finish line, it was still difficult to pick the pace up, until he saw the finishing chute, that is. When he saw the clock in the finishing chute, it read 2:58:20, and the first thing that came to his mind was, I have to make it under 2:59! His body was able to give him an extra kick to run as fast as he could at this point. He was very surprised that he was able to dig a little deep and pull a little extra energy out of nowhere and cross the finish line with a time of 2:58:50, which gave him a PR of less than 30 seconds but he was super excited because he was not expecting that.

I started out feeling fine, and I had a goal pace set for me to stick to. I wanted to hit 10:45 min/mile average for the first part before going into the trail section between miles 10-13. I totally did this (no thanks to the fact that I dropped one of my Humas and almost had an anxiety attack because of it) but when I hit the trail I kind of forgot everything I had set out to do. I tried too hard to keep my pace through the trails and so that definitely wore me out. I also had irritated my foot sprain from last month, probably from running on different terrain than I’m used to. Anyway I popped out of the woods and hit the half checkpoint, right on target! I slowed a bit, but I managed to keep my overall goal pace until about mile 18 or 19. When I hit the 19.3 checkpoint I was already slower than my goal pace, but I kept on trucking. I knew I just had to keep on running, tackle the bridge and I would be at the home stretch. So I did. I kept going with any other goals in mind besides my ultimate goal of 4:45. I wanted to finish the darn thing first of all, and I wanted to go under 5 hours again like I did at the Marshall University Marathon, and I wanted to PR (under 4:56). I was still on pace for all of those things, so that kept me motivated. After going over the bridge, I found my hubby waiting for me, ready to help me run in the last 2 ish miles. And I managed to keep on going to cross the finish line in 4:54:53 which met all my other goals! I PR’d by 2 minutes!

All in all, we really enjoyed this race. The fact it was point to point was nice because we didn't have to repeat any portion of the course. There were plenty of water stops, and tons of "party stops" along the way (official and unofficial stops) that had sugary options and other race staples. We really liked it, and it still had that small town race feel even though it was a decent size. It was well organized and well sponsored too. We highly recommend it for any future marathoners that want a warmer fall race late in the season. As for what's next, we're not sure. We are already scouring the race calendars to figure out where to go from here. But don't worry, we'll keep ya posted!

Now for the miscellaneous pictures!

Driving around on Saturday-
we got a sneak peak of the Wright Brothers Memorial

After CRUSHING the bridge! (approx mile 24)

My boo came back for me! Like always!

Alfredo and Joel-
11th and 10th place marathon finishers!


He loves his Honey Stingers!
Especially now that he is an Elite Sponsored Athlete for them!

We had a photo shoot on the beach on the way back from the finish line!

Joel had to get in the ridiculously cold water
because he bet that Alfredo couldn't PR! YIKES!

Alfredo's medal with his 3rd place age group pin!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Hokie Half Marathon

So, September is almost over, as it turns out. Tomorrow, to be exact. And I have realized that we didn't do a recap of our biggest event in September! OMG. So here goes:

We were planning to travel up to Blacksburg, VA on the weekend of September 17 to visit our running buddy friends that moved there not too long ago to spectate the Hokie Half Marathon. Turns out, some other friends of ours got hurt/sick and couldn't run the Hokie Half Marathon that they were already signed up for. Long story short, we ended up wearing bibs that said MIKE and NICK even though our names are neither Mike nor Nick. They were able to transfer their registration to us so we were able to not only spectate, but we were able to run the half marathon!

We went into this race with very different expectations, respectively. I am in the middle of marathon training and I had (spoiler alert: unrealistically) high expectations and hopes for a personal record since I had PR'd in April. People had told us that the course was surprisingly flat (psych), so I was like "I'M GONNA GO FOR IT!" Mr. Marathon just wanted to use this as a fun training run since he is focusing on the 8K distance for his cross country season (post on his first 2 cross country meets coming soon.... clearly I'm failing at being a blogger LOL SORRY).

Race morning!
We ended up traveling on Saturday for packet pick up for the Sunday race. We arrived fairly late, picked up our packets, and met our friends for dinner. I had my usual pasta, and mister had a pizza. I was real jealous. Then we headed back to our friends' house to get some sleep because we knew that the 7:00 AM start time would come really early. It was dark and cool when we got to the starting area on Sunday morning, and the sun was just coming up as we lined up in the starting corrals. I was supposed to start with Wave 2 at 7:02 but I accidentally got swept up in the Wave 1 runners... oops.

For me, this run started out amazing. I was maintaining right at my goal pace (actually faster by about 10 seconds per mile) and I was feeling great! It was at about the mile 6 water stop that everything fell apart. And I can pinpoint the exact second that it did. I always carry my handheld water bottle. I do it so I always have access to water and I carry my inhaler in the pocket of my water bottle in the event of an asthma flare up. This means that I don't get water at water stops. I will stop and get Gatorade in the second half of a half usually, but we were still at mile 6 and I was doing just fine. This particular water stop had tables on both sides of a rather narrow trail, so I didn't really have anywhere to go if I didn't want water besides straight down the middle. So that's what I did. Except, there were 2 people who had gone off to their respective sides to get their hydration, then they both decided to merge into the middle at the exact same time, and neither of them seemed to notice me. So they sandwiched me in between themselves, pushing my shoulders in and giving me an intense pain in my chest. Yes, it hurt, but not super badly. I was still able to breathe, but I was having some pain from it. The real issue occurred when this made me emotional. I get very emotional very quickly. My emotions began to run off without me, which set off my anxiety. I began thinking tons of anxious, irrational thoughts. I'm not going to be able to keep my pace anymore. They have ruined my race. I can't breathe right anymore. My inhaler can't help this. Oh crap, now I'm going to cry. Crying makes it impossible to breathe too. And once I start crying I can't stop. AHHHHHHHHHHHH. 

Be thankful that you can't read my thoughts in this picture...
There would be a lot of censoring needed....

It also just so happens that the hills pick up in the second half. There were also several spots of gravel trail in the second half which really slowed me down. It took everything I had to keep myself calm(ish) or at least to keep myself from crying. I came close several times but I managed to maintain my composure (outwardly at least... refer to the thoughts above). I ended up finishing begrudgingly with a time of 2:16:51, which was 3 minutes off from my PR.

Mr. Marathon was running all footloose and fancy-free for the first 7 miles. He was just taking it easy like Sunday morning (oh wait it was Sunday morning...). But then, a spectator told him that he was in 39th place overall and he decided that he was going kick it. He wanted to pick his pace up since he was feeling so great, so he took off. He passed people left and right, and managed to move up about 20 places according to his calculations based on the information given to him by that spectator. Unfortunately, the spectator had apparently been wrong about his placing earlier because he ended up in 25th place rather than 19th place, which is what he was expecting. But still, he managed to finish with a time of 1:29:12, which was an awesome time that he wasn't expecting (he had told me he was aiming for an hour 45 minutes that morning)!

All in all, we had great fun with friends, we ate great food, and we ran some miles. It was a great weekend, and it was a fun way to get a long run in for my marathon training and it was an easy way for Mr. Marathon to get in a long run for his cross country training. He has had 2 meets so far this season (like I said- post coming soon.... ish) and he will have at least 2 more meets this season, possibly more. I will continue marathon training for the OUTER BANKS MARATHON (YES I HAVE DECIDED!!!!!!!) but other than that, I don't have anything major on the docket before then. So stay tuned for more ridiculously late blog posts about things that happened several weeks ago!

Hanging with the running buddies in Bburg

Swag.... and an identity crisis! All in one!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

#RWrunstreak 2017 & Danville Braves 5K

Last year between Memorial Day and the 4th of July, I had completed the Runner's World Run Streak (or the #RWrunstreak), which was just a little challenge set out by Runner's World to encourage runners to run at least 1 mile every day between the two major summer holidays. This was meant to help runners keep running through the summer. It is so hard to get motivated when spring racing is over and fall training hasn't quite started. So I needed this kick in the rear to get me into gear! Last year, Mr. Marathon did not join me due to a busy schedule. This year, we both completed the 37 days in the challenge, and then some! We both have officially (as of today) made it 70 days!!!!!!!! Let's look at the mileage:
HIM: 335.5
HER: 249.65
Danville Braves 5K
Mr. Marathon also completed a 5K during his run streak. This race was on July 15 in Danville where he works and goes to school. This race was hosted in conjunction with Danville's local minor league baseball team on a Saturday morning before the Braves played that night. Mr. Marathon has been working on speed training so he was very excited to see what he was capable of at this point. He went out racing and hit the road. His biggest competition were 2 teenage guys who were leading for most of the race. He hadn't been feeling that great, so he was having a hard time breathing, which is kind of important for running. DUH. He ended up pulling away in the last mile and one of the 2 guys was still right by his side. The course finished unfortunately on an uphill, which he was thinking that would be where he would lose the race. However, the other guy apparently had the same thought. Halfway through the hill, he wanted to slow down, but just as he was thinking that, the other guy stopped because he got light-headed (Mr. Marathon looked back to make sure he was ok!), and a course volunteer went over to help him. This gave Mr. Marathon the lead and the extra motivation to kick it and finish strong. He took 1st place overall with a time of 18:50! A great time! Even better, the overall male and female winners were given the privilege of throwing the first pitch at the Danville Braves game that night! So that was a fun experience! And he got a cool bat trophy as his award. All of this, just to find out 2 days later that he had BRONCHITIS..... for the past FOUR WEEKS. 

Back to the Run Streak
This all being said, we made it past the 37 day mark, then I wanted to go further than last year (42 days), and then we decided to just keep going until the end of my summer before I start teaching again this school year. This is the end of our intentional, official #RWrunstreak. If we keep on streaking from this point on, it will be unofficial and unintentional. We made this conscious decision because today is a very important day for me. It is Day 1 of my MARATHON TRAINING PLAN! I am now IN TRAINING for a fall marathon! I am still undecided which one. I am torn between the Richmond Marathon and the Outer Banks Marathon. They are on November 11 and 12 respectively, so my 14 week training plan kicks off today regardless. 

Last year, I took a picture and posted it on Instagram every single day. This year, I tried to take a picture most days, but some days I was just not feeling it. Sometimes I took a billion pictures and hated them all at the time so I didn't post them. So here you go, you can get some inside scoop, never before seen photos of my #RWrunstreak! A picture for every day!

Days 1-25

Days 26-50

Days 51-70