Thursday, February 24, 2011

Race Report: 14th Annual Myrtle Beach Half Marathon

Myrtle Beach Half Marathon
Chip Time: 3:08:59
Myrtle Beach, SC - February 19, 2011

Michalob Ultra/Conway Bike Ride
14-miles: 60:00
Conway, SC - February 20, 2011

Executive Summary: 7th Consecutive Myrtle Beach Race Weekend - LOVE THIS WEEKEND!

Well another Myrtle Beach weekend has come and gone and it was WONDERFUL!  Perfect Weather, lots of time spent with both family and friends. This is one of my favorite times of the year, regardless of how my race day goes.

And this time, that is a good thing, because my Half Marathon was kind of *BLAH* from a race perspective. I'm pretty sure I know why the day went badly. It has everything to do with my current weight. You can't expect to run 13.1 miles easily carrying an extra 25 pounds - and I didn't expect a PR.


Based on recent training and the MS BLUES Half Marathon last month, I was expecting that a sub 3:00 finish was a given. And I was wrong. Oh well, at least I finished and have a fun day!

The race started out with the traditional early morning wake-up call (4:40AM) and obligatory "Goofy Pre-Race" photo with my sister Heather.  Then we made one last bathroom break, dropped out gear off at the Grand Strand Running Club tent near the finish line and then headed towards the START.

I got a chance to say Hi to several of Heather's friends, including Christine, and then we parted ways, since they were running the full Marathon and I was running the Half. While waiting for the start, I was happy to stand with my good friend Shawn and we talked about the upcoming VA Beach/Shamrock Weekend and her upcoming nuptials at the Las Vegas Marathon in December. I love waiting for race starts with Shawn and was so happy to know that I would at least see her ahead of me out on the course somewhere before the finish!

The race started at 6:30 and away we went.  I started out slow and easy and I felt just fine for the first 5 miles - I even ended up running the first 5K a little faster than I had planned (Sub 36) and maybe that is where the problem really lies.  By the time I was on my way to Mile 6 - got a rousing "Yahoo" from Shawn passing Mile 7 going the other direction - I just felt like I was dragging.

I just told myself "It's just a phase, it will pass" and continued to tell myself that for the NEXT 7 Miles!

Only, sadly, it wasn't just a "phase" and no amount of water or GU would fix my slow pace. So I did what I knew how to do, just kept on running.  And as my pace got slower and slower, I kept on making silly challenges in my head to keep myself from walking more than running. "Run 4 Light Poles - Walk 1 Light Pole" and "Catch the TNT Walker and then you can walk 1-minute recovery."

Finally, I was at the 12 mile marker and I just wanted to be DONE for the day.  So I told myself that there was no choice but to suck it up and "Run/Walk One Minute Intervals until the Finish Line was in sight" because I simply *had* to finish within a few minutes of Christine", who was running the Marathon and who I knew expected to finish between 2:45 & 3:00.

I had joked with Christine, before the race start, that if she saw me, she needed to "Pat me on the shoulder and tell me to Get Moving!" Little did I know that Christine had a bit of a rough day herself and was a few minutes behind her Finishing Goal.  As I ran into the last 1/10th of a mile to the Half Marathon Finisher Chute - along came Christine in the Marathon Finisher Chute running parallel to mine and true to her word, she yelled "Come On Holly, Let's Finish STRONG!" so I did my best to pick up the pace so that I could Congratulate her on the other side of the Finish Lines.

Coming into the finish of Myrtle Beach Half Marathon 2011

 Ron S., Shawn N., running friend of Heather,
Holly S. (me), Christine R. and Heather G. - Post Race
Nothing so humbling as meeting a friend at the Finish Line and knowing that in the time it took you to run 13.1 miles, she ran 26.2 miles, on a recently smashed big toe! I was honored to share the Finish Line with Christine and she was as kind to ask about my race as she was humble about her own day.

I met Jim and Ron and Shawn at the Finish Line, grabbed my bag from the Grand Strand Runners Club tent and got a little snack from the Finish Line Expo and then we headed back to the other side of the chute to cheer in my sister Heather, who had chosen to run the full Marathon this year.

After 6 years of running the Half Marathon distance together, she decided to do the Marathon distance and was going for a solid PR effort.  It was an honor and a thrill to yell and scream as loud as I could as I watch Heather cross the Marathon Finish line with a solid 11-minute PR. (Read her Race Report HERE)
With Heather, showing off another year of Finisher Medal Bling!

Sunday's original plan was to ride the 33-mile Bike ride with Ron S. and Jim.  However my quads and IT band were having none of it, so I left the longer bike ride to the guys and did a nice easy 14-mile bike ride. It was the right choice and the guys had a great ride themselves!
Finishing up 14-miles - Zone 2: 60:00

Ron S. and Jim - looking fresh after a quick 33-miles at the front of the pack!

 Watching Heather finish strong, knowing that just 7 years ago, in 2005 the Myrtle Beach Half Marathon was her first road race ever! I was inspired.  I have decided that every 10th Anniversary of our Myrtle Beach Race Weekends, I will go ahead and run the Marathon distance. (2015)

However, for now, keep those Myrtle Beach Half Marathons and Bike Rides coming! There is no better way to celebrate my "LiveSTRONG - Cancer-anniversaries" than this race!

Bring it on 2012 - I'll be coming for you, minus 25 pounds (or more!) - There's got to be a PR on this course for me someday!  I'll just keep running until it comes!

Next UP: VA Beach/Shamrock Dolphin Challenge: 8K & Half Marathon with Team Z - Bring it ON!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

MS BLUE HALF MARATHON: Race Report - 01/08/2011

Authors Note:  I know I am way behind on posting this but better late than never! I wanted to get this race report on the record before Myrtle Beach Half Marathon this coming weekend! Enjoy!

Mississippi Blues Half Marathon
Jackson, MS - January 8, 2011
Chip Time: 3:04:07

Summary: Who knew they had hills in Jackson, MS? Even a 2% change in elevation from sea level is UP my friends!

Race Report:

I signed up for the MS BLUES Marathon back in August 2010. It was my "excuse to keep consistently training through the winter." Sadly about 2 weeks after registering for the Marathon, I spent about 4 weeks going through some issues with undiagnosed pain in my back and abdomen (still undiagnosed but now gone!) and I missed the first 6 week of what would have been "early Marathon training".

I had two choice:
1.) Downgrade to Half Marathon distance or
2.) Not Race at All.

Of course, the choice was easy. There was still plenty of time to get in the quality milage necessary for a Half Marathon and the goal to "keep consistently training through the winter" still very much applied. So I wrote the race director and had them change my race registration from MARATHON to HALF MARATHON and spent Oct/Nov/Dec working on my milage.

This was to be my first race, of any kind, in Jackson, MS and I was looking forward to running in my husband's home town. The race expo was very well done and the race swag (free stuff) was simply excellent. There was a t-shirt, sling pack, "Elvis" gold sunglasses (complete with sideburns), a CD of classic MS BLUES music and a genuine harmonica.

The awesome race swag!

Genuine Harmonica and "Elvis" Gold Sunglasses with Sideburns!

This was no "toy" harmonica that made sounds like an "angry cat"!! With barely any experience at all, I was able to make pleasant, on-pitch music with this harmonica - something my parent can verify has never happened with the toy models I have had through the years. As my husband is my witness, I spend nearly the entire 20-minute car ride home from the expo saying "Look honey, I am making nice sounds - just like music" and wheezing in and out, happy as could be.  LOL

Race morning started out early (6AM) for a 7AM start and the weather was great for an early january race - mid 40s at start with Sun and a high of 55 for the day. Jim (my husband) and I joked about the people around us talking about how "hilly" this course was. "Hilly?  Jackson, MS? - yeah right - How Hilly could 2% about sea level really be?" The walk up a very steep hill to the race start should have been an "warning" but we simply thought it was the anomaly - the one "Hill" in Jackson.

We were WRONG!

After some quick photos of me channeling Elvis (it was his 75th Birthday after all) with gold sunglasses and sideburns at the Start Line, I ducked into the Port-o-Potty for a quick stop and joined the crowd for the race start. 7AM and we were off, after the National Anthem.

Channeling "Elvis" with my Gold Sunglasses with Sideburns!

Ready for a nice 13.1 miles through Jackson, MS!

In general, Jackson did a great job with the Marathon/Half Marathon course. There were plenty of aid stations and both courses were well marked! I had nothing to complain about and even the HILLS - that I really didn't anticipate - were not enough to make my race day a bad one.  I just took them, one at a time and really had a fabulous time, in general.

Honestly, I am not lying, for the FIRST TIME that I can remember, the hills really didn't upset me or piss me off, as they usually do. I just accepted them for what they were, and kept putting one foot in front of the other.  

Now while the "hills" didn't seem to give me any problems, I just about had a "Hissy Fit" when I saw Jim at Mile 8 and realized that "Not only am I passing within 2/10th of a mile from the the finish line (up a hill that I was very, VERY happy we did not have to run up) but I was passing my car!!!  WHAAAA!!! No Fair, Race Directors, No Fair!"

I got over it quickly enough and settled into my own for the last 5.1 miles. 

Mile 8 - where we passed by both the finish line and the car - HOW RUDE!

My overall goal for this race, since it was the first race of my 2011 season, was simply to start race morning well prepared for the distance (which I was) and have a strong solid day. I was not looking for any PRs (personal records) - I simply wanted to start and finish feeling strong and fit.  And that is exactly what I did.  My pace slowed as the miles increase but I never felt like I had to give up and walk for any length of time - nor did I ever feel like I couldn't keep going.

The biggest treat for me, was actually the last mile of the race. The last mile went down State Street in Downtown Jackson, past the "Old Governor's Residence" which was the location for my Wedding Photos in April 2009.  To be able to run past the intersection of State Street and see the finish line at the top of the hill, was simply wonderful!  I smiled nearly the entire way up and simply focused on what a beautiful run I had and how I was nearly done!

 Finishing - Up Hill - Fun and Done!

Of course the race had an excellent Finisher Medal, which always adds to my personal joy along with a lovely "Congratulatory Finisher Kiss" from my husband, Jim! With those two things waiting for you at the end of 13.1 miles, how can any race be bad?

Finisher Photo with the great Finisher Medal!

Close-up of the MS Blues Half Marathon Finishers Medal 

It may not have been my fastest Half Marathon to-date (that's 2:43:19 at Myrtle Beach in 2005) but it was definitely up there as of my favorite races for sure!

Life is Good! LiveSTRONG!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Three Little Words...

On Valentine's Day, we are told via Hallmark, Kay Jewelers and FTD and many, many other retailer that the Three Little Words of the day are "I Love You."

But Valentine's Day has a completely different meaning to me since 2005 because on that day as I sat at my office desk, the phone rang, and I heard the Three Little Words that nobody ever expects nor wants to hear:

"You Have Cancer."

Not quite the same ring to it, huh?

So every year on Valentine's Day, since 2005, I celebrate my personal "LiveSTRONG Anniversary."

Six years ago today, I was diagnosed with Nodular Melanoma. It would be another 4 weeks and Surgery #1 before I would learn that I was actually Stage III, Metastatic Melanoma and looking at a second surgery and a year of chemotherapy.

My life changed, on that day. I understood, suddenly, in a way that I never could before, that my life could end. That time was precious. That family means unconditional love and support, no matter how far the physical distance. That friendships could be fleeting but that true friendships will weather the storm. That true love means not having to worry about your boyfriend (now husband) going anywhere, ever, no matter how bad things seemed or how much hair was on the bathroom floor.

And I learned that both "Strength" and "Hope" come from deep within. That emotions can be harnessed and transformed: Anger, Fear, Pain, Sorrow...into what you need on any given day.

I consider myself "a lucky cancer survivor" in three ways:

1.) I was in peak health and fitness at the time of my diagnosis. I was 34-years old, had been doing long-distance road distance cycling, racing triathlons and running for over 4 years.

I tested the limit of every suggestion my DRs gave me in terms of keeping my fitness up while recovering from surgery and going through chemo.  I was very in tune with my body, and what it could handle, so that even early in the hardest part of treatment, I would walk the 2 miles from my house to the hospital to get in my daily workout while I still felt "good".  After all it was May in VA - Springtime Morning are not to be wasted!  It drove my Chemo nurses nuts, because my heart rate was always elevated and I was sweaty when I arrived for my daily infusions and they simple couldn't understand "why" I would want too continue to exercise - They dubbed me their "crazy runner girl" and I wore that name with pride.

2.) I was already aware of the "then" Lance Armstrong Foundation "now" prior to my diagnosis so I had instant resources available to me.

I have been wearing a LiveSTRONG band since Summer 2004 and our trip to Le Tour de France - I was a fan of LiveSTRONG - the concept - long before I became a survivor myself.

3.) I have continued to survive my diagnosis and each year, I come one day closer and one-percentage point further away from the "Guarded Prognosis" that accompanies Stage III Metastatic Melanoma.

The current statistical average for survival of Stage III Metastatic Melanoma is 63% survival at 5 years post diagnosis and 38% survival at 10 years post diagnosis.

For each survivor, there comes a moment when you decide how you are going to approach your survivorship - are you going to keep it personal or are you going to respond to what some call the "Obligation of the Cured" and I call the "Obligation as a Survivor."

I chose to go public with my Survivorship and my way of giving back to the cancer community is through the development of the CANCER to 5K Training Program.  I wanted to make sure that other cancer survivors would have the opportunity to continue to train and stay fit, during or after, their cancer treatment.  Because for me, Running and Exercise were my "therapy" from a bad day, week, month, year of dealing with cancer and I knew deep in my heart that if I felt this way than there would be other survivors out there that felt this way and I wanted them to have the program that I wish I had available to me.

The CANCER to 5K Training Program has helped over 30 cancer survivors train for and complete a 5K race and more importantly, given each of these survivors a chance to gain/regain fitness, in spite, of a cancer diagnosis, through support, encouragement, and more than a little "cowbell" on the side.

CANCER to 5K is how I define my continued survivorship and how I continue to look forward to every Valentine's Day - not for candy or kisses or declorations of love - but as a chance to say:

My name is Holly, I am a Melanoma survivor and I LiveSTRONG!

I hope you never forget:
 Life is GOOD! LiveSTRONG!


Friday, February 04, 2011

The Way Ahead: My 2011 Season

Before I post the race report from my first race race of the season (since I am still working on downsizing the photos!) I figured I would share the 2011 Races that currently are on my calendar.  There are some "life-changing" events on the horizon (another post about that later and NO, I am NOT pregnant nor are we planning to be...) that are forcing me to be very conservative about my race schedule this year so even my season is pretty tentative after July 2011.

Holly's 2011 RACE SEASON:
Note: Green Races are Tentative Races: I have not yet Registered nor have I cleared my calendar with Jim, who's life if greatly impacted by my constantly growing race calendars!

Mississippi Blues Half Marathon - 01/08/11 - Jackson, MS

Myrtle Beach Half Marathon - 02/19/11 - Myrtle Beach, SC (7th year in a row!)

VA Beach 8K and Shamrock Half Marathon: Dolphin Challenge - 03/19-20/11 - VA Beach, VA

Gulf Coast Half Marathon - 04/10/11 - Pensacola, FL

****NOTE that at this point I will have officially qualified to be a HALF FANATIC by racing 4 Half Marathons in 4 consecutive months! I have not yet decided if I want to actually sign up or just be happy knowing that "I could sign up if I wanted too!" LOL****

Kid One SPRINT Triathlon - 05/14/11 - Pike Road, AL

Capital Crescent 5K (with VA CANCER to 5K Team) - 06/05/11 - Bethesda, MD

Dragonfly SPRINT Triathlon - 06/18/2011 - Sardis, MS

Vineman 70.3 Ironman (Half Ironman distance TRI) - 07/17/11 - Sonoma Valley, CA

Revolutions3 South Carolina (Oly or Half - not decided yet...) - 10/08-09/11 - Anderson, SC

Now somewhere in-between April and July, I would like try to find an OLY distance TRI to race in preparation for Vineman, preferably something with some hills but for now, this is the tentative schedule.

One race down (Mississippi Blues Half Marathon - race report the weekend - I promise!) 5 more to GO for sure...the rest, well let's just say we "winging it" this year!

Life is GOOD! LiveSTRONG!