Sunday, May 14, 2017

There is still time to earn a FREE 5k or Half Marathon through Race 13.1

Race 13.1 - St. Louis is scheduled for Sunday, May 21 and volunteers are still needed!  Course monitors earn $80 in credit which is enough for either a 5k or a half marathon (when you sign up before too many price increases).  Lead cyclists are also needed and they also earn $80 in credit for their shifts.  There are shorter shifts available too, but click here to sign up for a volunteer shift before they are gone!

Don't live in St. Louis?  No problem!  Volunteer shifts with the same great benefits are also available at other Race 13.1 locations.  Click here to find a race close to you.

You can read about my experience volunteering at last year's St. Louis race here.  More details about Race 13.1's amazing volunteer program can be found here.  I hope you will consider volunteering a few hours with Race 13.1 at a location near you!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Illinois Half Marathon & One America Mini Marathon recaps

Even though the wedding and honeymoon are over we are now in the process of planning our June reception, which means that I distracted and behind on race recaps.  Today's blog post will be a twofer covering both my 41st and 42nd half marathons.

Illinois Half Marathon - #41
After returning from the honeymoon sick and missing the GO! St. Louis half marathon as a result, the Illinois Half Marathon ended up being my first race as a married woman.  This was my 3rd time running the half marathon in Champaign/Urbana, IL but it never gets old or boring.  My step-brother lives in the area, so I always have a place to stay which makes the three hour drive worthwhile.  I always stop by the expo early in the afternoon on Friday and I always stop by one of the Za's locations for either lunch or dinner over race weekend.

After miserably running the 2016 half marathon entirely in the rain and in well over three hours, my goal was to redeem myself in 2017 and finish in under three hours.  For packet pick-up, I parked in the lot between State Farm Center and Memorial Stadium, which made it an easy walk to the expo at the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC).  There was no way to get lost in the ARC because there were signs everywhere, even on the floor.  This year we checked in with a scan code and your id and it was such a breeze.

After receiving your bib, you went to the gymnasium for t-shirt pick up and the expo vendors.  There were booths from other races as well as all the gear you can imagine plus items you never knew existed.  This year's t-shirts were bright neon and we received drawstring bags again too.  I had also purchase an ARC Shower Pass for $5.00 just in case my stepbrother was not home when I finished the race.  This is a great option for runners who may be driving straight back home and had to check out of their hotel before the start of the race.

On race morning, I parked in the exact same lot because it would be close to the finish line in Memorial Stadium AND most importantly, it was near the FREE coffee and tea tent.  I was in my parking spot by 6 a.m. just so that I would have plenty of time for caffeination.

On my way to the start line, I also passed by plenty of porta-potties and I had plenty of time to kill before my corral was released.

I only took a few pictures along the course, but it turned out to be a beautiful day for running!  The course winds through campus, commercial areas, residential areas, and parks.  In one particular area I remember signs along the route mentioning famous University of Illinois alums which is a nice distraction as your mileage increases.


What I love about this race is the amazing volunteer and local support in addition to finishing on the 50 yard line.  You receive your medal on the field and can even stretch in the end zone.  But if I were to ever run the marathon here, I would hate having to walk up the stairs to the concession stands for food after the finish, but that hasn't ever been an issue for me after running the half marathon or 5k.

Once you make it up to the concession stands, you are welcomed by volunteers with plenty of food which included bananas, cookies, pizza, pasta, and granola bars.  The medals this year celebrated the 150 year anniversary of the University of Illinois.

I will definitely run this race again and will probably park in the exact same parking lot and will visit Za's at least once during my racecation.  This is a great Midwestern race to run!

Indy Mini 500 Half Marathon - #42
This past weekend I ran the Indy Mega Mini Challenge in Indianapolis which included a 5k immediately followed by a half marathon.  Six months ago, this sounded like a good idea.  I had an hour to finish the 5k before my corral was even released, so I didn't think twice when I signed up for the challenge.  But as I am typing this, I am still sore.  But I actually felt much, much worse at the finish line on Saturday.  I guess more training was needed and I was blinded by the potential for additional bling!

This was actually my third time running the Indy Mini 500 Half Marathon.  As we came into Indianapolis on Friday for the expo, it was raining and rain was predicted for race day as well.  Because I have had one phone fried in the rain before, I decided not to take my phone on the course with me this time but you can click here to see pictures from the 2014 race.

The expo is held at the Indiana Convention Center which was connected to our hotel via a skywalk.  Much of downtown Indianapolis is actually connected via skywalks.  Our hotel, the Crowne Plaza Union Station, is in the shadow of the Lucas Oil Stadium.

One thing I noticed that was new from the last we stayed at the Crowne Plaza was this handy running route guide for Downtown Indy, conveniently located near the water in the lobby.  I really love downtown Indianapolis because it is so clean, pedestrian and bike friendly, and it feels really safe.  If I had more time, I would definitely explore these running routes.

Packet pick-up at the expo was a breeze here too.  I didn't have to wait at all!  Next to the bib pick-up was a t-shirt exchange area.  Then you walk through the race merchandise area of course before you enter the main part of the expo.  There were many other races represented at this expo as well as a wide-variety of products.  I ended up signing up for the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon again because I just could not beat the price, plus I have a reason to visit Indy again this fall!

The Mega Mini Challenge meant three shirts and three medals.  The 5k and the challenge shirts were short sleeved while the mini marathon shirt was long sleeved.  I really loved the shirts this year but the women's sizes do run very small!

5k Shirt

We also received a running cap in our packets.

We spent the rest of Friday in the far northern area of Indianapolis shopping and watching a movie.  On Saturday morning, we woke up around 5:50 a.m. but since our hotel was so close to the start line, we didn't leave until 6:35 a.m.  We could have taken the skywalk to the Convention Center and then over to a hotel right at the start line, but we walked outside instead.  The morning was crisp and cool, so luckily I had packed gloves and a long sleeve tech t-shirt.  It was sprinkling a bit as we approached the start line, but it wasn't anything that would prevent us from running.  We made it to the start line of the 5k with time to spare and then we were off!  

The first part of the course took us past the Indianapolis Zoo and then through parts of the Indiana University - Purdue University - Indianapolis campus.  I only ran for a half mile or so at the start of the race just to get around the slower walkers, and then I walked the remainder of the course since I knew that my corral would not even start the half marathon until 8:00 a.m.  I ended up talking to a woman for the last mile or so, which made the time fly by.  Before I knew it, we were at the finish line.   

I proceeded past the medal volunteers who told me there was no sticker placed on challenge participant bibs this year and just to proceed back to the half marathon start.  I followed the signs back to the start and got to my corral just as they were preparing to start.  Whew!  Then I was off again!  

It was still misting during the first few miles, but as we approached the Speedway the sun finally made an appearance and stayed out through the finish.  This race is one of the larger half marathons that I have done lately and it is nice because you are constantly surrounded by people, no matter what your pace is.  Volunteer support at this race rivals Disney races and water and Gatorade seems to always be available.  I couldn't even tell you how many water and Gatorade stops there were, but they were plentiful and well-staffed.  Another great feature of this race, PLENTY of porta potties.  Plenty at the start, some very visible with others tucked in alleys, and plenty along the course.  

Do you remember how Rock 'n' Roll races advertised music every mile,  well the Indy Mini Marathon had music much more frequently than that.  You would barely pass one band before you approached another in some areas, it was great!  There were also several dance performance groups which made runners want to dance along, and some actually did.  While you are running on the track, music follows you the entire time.  I didn't stop to kiss the bricks this time, but plenty of others did and I do recommend stopping to do that if you haven't before.  I just knew that I would have difficulty getting back up if I dropped to the ground this time.

So what was predicted to be a miserable race day turned out to be an absolutely beautiful day and I wish I would have had my phone with me to capture more of the course and downtown Indy along the way.  Maybe next time, because I will run this race again and hope to drag my husband along next time too.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Carnival Vista Cycling Classes

Now that the honeymoon is over, I am back to reality, and finally healthy I wanted to post about my amazing experience with the cycling classes on the Carnival Vista.  I have to admit that my expectations were quite low since I had just taken a class during opening week at the brand new CycleBar studio in Chesterfield, MO the weekend prior to the wedding.  Despite the fact that Vista is Carnival's newest ship, I still expected lower-end bikes and a less-than-stellar instructor.  But what I got, ended up blowing me away!

The first cycling class of our 8-day cruise was at 8 a.m. on the first sea day, which was also the day after our wedding.  Needless to say, I missed that one.  But because I could not get my butt out of bed that early, I missed out on the best deal for cycling classes that cruise which was buy 3, get 1 free.  Oh well!

This was the class/lecture schedule for our cruise:

I didn't take advantage of the cycling classes until the day we were in Curacao, day 5.

As a result, I did not get any discounts and paid the full price of $20/class plus gratuity.  Now let me just tell you that even at full price, these classes were TOTALLY worth every penny!

Here's why:
  • The bikes on Vista are the same as CycleBar, minus the tubes on the front of the CycleBar bikes that hold the weight bars
Vista's bikes

CycleBar's bikes
  • Cycling shoes and towels were provided
  • You get a MyZone heart rate monitor to use during class which not only tracked pulse, but also calories burned

  • Have you ever ridden above a level 15 resistance in any cycling class you have ever taken?  Me either, until my first cycling class on Vista.  The instructor took us above level 20 resistance!
  • The instructor didn't ride his bike much at all.  He mostly went bike-to-bike and pushed riders beyond any limit they thought they had.
  • I sweated so much during class, that I convinced myself that I was sweating away all the calories from the tropical drinks and amazing, yet high-calorie foods that I was consuming.
  • I am attributing my lack of weight gain to these three super-sweaty cycling classes
There were six - seven of us at each of the three classes that I went to, with half being male and half female.  The camaraderie was actually better than any other class I had taken, probably because it was boot camp style and a consistently small group. 

At the end of the last class, I asked the instructor why he thought there were only ever six or seven of us in class on a ship that holds nearly 4,000 passengers.  He said it was because Carnival is known as having the fun ships, which means plenty of food and drink....everyday.....all the time.  He previously worked for Royal Caribbean and even though their cycling classes were essentially the same, they had better turnout because their passengers tend to be more health-conscious (his words, not mine), BUT they also charged $30-$40/class.  So considering that CycleBar charges a drop-in rate of $22/class, Vista's classes (even with gratuity) were really a great deal and time WELL spent.  

Outside of paying for classes, there are also free lectures throughout the cruise and you can use the fitness center for free.  Here is what the fitness center looked like:

I especially liked the LifeFitness recumbent bikes because you could choose routes to ride, like this one in France.

We re-entered the real world on Sunday, April 2 and I ended up returning to St. Louis with a cold/ upper respiratory infection/sinus infection that took me almost two weeks to overcome.  That meant plenty of rest, several packs of Alka-Seltzer Plus liquid gels, and missing the GO! St. Louis Half Marathon.  I was completely bummed, but I also knew that I needed the time to get healthy again. 

Finally today I feel like myself again and am ready to jump back into exercise classes and running.  My new reality is actually pretty great!

If you would like to learn more about the Carnival Vista, check out these blog posts from 
I Run For Wine.  She really does a fantastic job of documenting the food experiences available on the ship:

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

St. Patrick's Day Parade 5 Miler

Despite the face that I have been running fairly consistently since joining the Galloway Method Training Group in December, the St. Patrick's Day Parade 5 Miler was my first race of 2017.  The last time I "officially" finished this race was in 2011.  In 2016, I attempted the race and then had to walk from mile two - the finish due to the pain from a recent back injury.  I finished un-timed because I had ripped off the timing chip from my bib because I knew my time would be horrible.  My finish times for races weren't any better the remainder of Spring 2016 either but since then, I have slowly been working my mileage back up to where it had been and I have been incorporating more cross training and stretching into my routine.

I felt prepared for race day as it approached and I kept an eye on the weather since it has been so inconsistent this winter in St. Louis.  Snow was in the forecast for race day this year, but the race and parade that followed would be held regardless.  Packet pick-up was held the week of the race at several local running stores, so I picked mine up on Monday at Big River Running - U City. It was quick and easy!

Pre-race communication was timely and detailed.  It included information about parking, road closures for the race and the parade, and information about packet pick-up.  I could have paid for premium parking at Ballpark Village, but I wanted to get in and out of downtown easily, so I just parked at Union Station on race day.  Union Station is by no means the closest parking lot, so my walk to the start line served as my warm up.

There were plenty of porta-potties at the start/finish line area and lots of excitement and music.  Not long after I arrived at the start line, the race started.  That was probably the closest I have ever cut it!  I ran the first mile before the mob of runners thinned out enough for me to run intervals without tripping anyone.  The remaining four miles were run using 30:30 intervals which seemed to work well for me.  My finish time this year was exactly one minute slower/mile than 2011, but I was still happy because I finished WITHOUT pain and WITHOUT feeling exhausted!  After the race, I quickly grabbed water and headed back to Union Station so that I could meet my parents for lunch.

What makes this race worthwhile:

  • Plenty of porta-potties at the start/finish and on the course
  • Well-placed water stops
  • Great course through downtown St. Louis
  • The parade starts at Noon and there are plenty of food vendors along the parade route
  • Easy packet pick-up options throughout the metro area
  • Ample parking on race day
  • Great pre-race communication
  • Nice t-shirts

I also ordered Race Dots a week or so before the race, and they arrived just in time for race day.  I have been coveting these for probably a year now, but I finally decided that I didn't want to mess with safety pins and the holes they leave behind any more!  Race Dots offers many different designs and colors, so be sure to check out their website for more information.  

Due to my upcoming wedding and honeymoon, I will be taking a few weeks off from blogging.  
See you again in April!