Tag Archives: Half Marathon

Expectations for the Louisiana HALF Marathon

This was the Hudson River a couple days ago. Brrr!

Long time no see!  I wish I could say that since my last post I’ve been busy running and getting super fit and being showered with puppies and lottery winnings, but alas, I’ve just been lazy and eating a lot of holiday candy.  As the weeks since the NYC Marathon ticked by I thought to myself, “well, it’s not like I haven’t run many a marathon undertrained…” and then “wow, this will be the least I’ve ever run in the 2.5 months before a marathon…” and then “oh god what am I doing?”  But then I got sick after Christmas, and when the congestion wasn’t letting up, I finally realized I had a marathon problem.


On advice from my cute PT, and because I’m not totally crazy, I’ve dropped down to the half marathon for this weekend.  Why not just skip this race entirely if I’m not going to be able to cross off a state? Because I did that sooooo much back in 2016 after I broke my ankle that it pained me to think I’d have to start 2018 the same way.


So while it will be a bit of a hassle to get to Baton Rouge (super early morning train to Newark, flight to ATL, then flight to BTR), and the whole weekend will cost more than it should (since I’m staying for 3 whole nights because I’m doing the “Deja Vu” double race – 5K on Saturday and Half on Sunday), I decided it was still worth going for my psyche, and to get in a couple of nice outdoor runs after we’ve had such bitterly cold temps in NYC, and because I’m always jealous of the half marathoners finishing so early that I think I’ll enjoy being one of them, especially since the race bib comes with six (6!!) servings of food and/or beer and I’d love the time and energy to enjoy those things.  Five beers and one food, please!*


So, even though the forecast for the weekend says it will be about the same weather in Baton Rouge as New York City, I’m surprisingly looking forward to the trip – maybe even more so because I don’t have to run a full 26 miles.  Granted, 13 miles will still be quite a challenge in my current state of fitness, especially if I decide at the last minute to go all out for the costume contest (ack, why didn’t I realize there was a serious costume contest before today!  is there any possible way I could win??).  I’m also really looking forward to the amazing medals (bottle openers AND spinners?!?!) and the silly crawfish tray award, which I assure you will be piled with lots of foodstuffs but almost certainly not crawfish.


Have you ever dropped down a distance for a race?  Did you run during the extremely cold temps?  What was the best thing you ate over the holidays?  Share in the comments!


*This is decidedly not the breakdown I will be doing.

Race Recap – Brooklyn Half Marathon, May 16, 2015

The post-race "party" at MCU park.

The post-race “party” at MCU park.

Although it felt like at least 40,000 runners, only a record-breaking 26,482 runners finished the Brooklyn Half Marathon last Saturday, the most finishers of any Brooklyn Half in the past and any half marathon in the US this year.  The best thing about the Brooklyn Half Marathon was the medal.  This doesn’t mean there weren’t other good things about the race, it’s just that the last time I ran the Brooklyn Half (in 2009, when it was still part of the NYRR “Grand Prix”), they didn’t give medals at all, and now they give really nice ones that are fancier than some full marathon medals I have.

Such a nice medal on such a nice apple.

Such a nice medal on such a nice apple.


The biggest lie about the Brooklyn Half Marathon was that they would close the corrals 20 minutes before the official start time.  I was in wave 1 that started at 7:00.  I positioned myself at the back of the crowd because I didn’t want tons of people running past me (both annoying to me and inconsiderate to them), but I ended up getting passed by a bunch of people anyway because they never seemed to close the corral.  I crossed the start at 7:20 and people were still just waltzing in from the subway.  It was annoying that I was basically penalized for following NYRR’s instructions, leaving my apartment at 5:30 am and waiting around in the corral when I could have left my apartment ten minutes before 7 and still crossed the start at the same time.  It was especially annoying because they should have just had those people start in the second wave.  Of course, I got passed by a lot of people in the second wave, too, but that’s just because I’m such a slow runner.  😛

The start of the Brooklyn Half Marathon is somewhere up there, to the left.

The start of the Brooklyn Half Marathon is somewhere up there, to the left.


As you might already know, the course starts near the Brooklyn Museum, does a loop through Prospect Park, then dumps out onto Ocean Parkway and finishes on the boardwalk in Coney Island.  The only hills are in the park, and they’re mild compared to the hills in Central Park.  It was overcast at the start but started lightly raining around mile 5 for me, then turned into a heavy downpour for several minutes.  It was the hardest rain I’ve ever encountered during a race (harder than the rain I faced in Vermont and much harder than the light drizzle in Portland) but luckily it was warm, the rain eventually stopped, and I only had to run another 8 miles instead of 21.

It always looks like some natural disaster happened at the finish line of a race.

It always looks like some natural disaster happened at the finish line of a race.


Overall, the race was harder than I expected, as I had both foot and knee pain especially after mile 10.  And while it was my Personal Worst for a half marathon (slower even than my first half marathon ever), I finished faster than I expected at a little under 2:30, and was pretty thrilled with my time at this point.

It's always olde tymey in Coney Island!

It’s always olde tymey in Coney Island!


The post-race “party” was very crowded with long lines for beer and/or hot dogs (neither of which were free, btw), and I was hungry (they only gave us an apple and bag of pretzels at the finish) and wet and cold and tired, so I left the stadium to head to the subway home.  Luckily I passed a large open storefront selling corn dogs & pop ($7) which I scarfed down with delight (lots of breading on the corn dog but it was delicious), then I got a caramel apple dipped in multi-colored sprinkles to take home ($4).  The ride home on the N train took most of my lifetime, but I managed to hold it together before collapsing at home and doing nothing the rest of the weekend.

It was hard to pick just one.

It was hard to pick just one.

Did you see a bajillion Facebook posts about the Brooklyn Half this weekend?  What did you think of the Mad Men finale?  Would you like to buy the world a Coke?  A corn dog?  Share in the comments!

Race switches for the 2015 Houston Marathon no longer allowed.

Houston DQ?

Race switches for the 2015 Houston Marathon no longer allowed.


I know I’ve said this before, but this time I really mean it – I’m totally unprepared for the Houston Marathon happening in 11 days.  My longest run was 12 miles on December 19th.  I only ran once during the 2 weeks I spent with my family over the holidays, plus I was mildly sick for most of those days, so I was more focused on not getting sicker instead of running.  I’m back in the city now, and finally feel mostly not sick, but it’s now negative 1,000 degrees outside and it’s too late to do any training that matters anyway.


It was a hard decision, but I decided to transfer to the half marathon (although I haven’t yet fully admitted I’m changing my 50 States goal to “half or full,” but it seems inevitable).  I logged on yesterday to pay the fee to make the switch, but I was greeted with the message above instead.  Turns out I missed the December 30th deadline!  I called the organizers today and a nice woman explained that the bibs and whatnot had gone to print, and with 25,000 runners they had to adhere to a cutoff.  While I totally understand that, it’s also a major bummer.  She explained that I could simply run the half course which splits from the full at mile 8, but I’d be disqualified.  That means my time couldn’t officially “count” for anything (plus I think it would show up online as a DQ, which is slightly alarming – I don’t want people to think I’m a Rosie Ruiz!).  I’d also only be able to get the full marathon shirt and medal, which again makes sense because of the numbers, but I’d still feel like a super huge fraud collecting them.


Since I’ve already purchased my nonrefundable airline ticket, I plan on going to Houston and making a game day decision.  That’s right, I’m going to decide at mile 8 whether to turn around and do the half and get a DQ (or a DNF, as long as I don’t cross the finish line), or run another 18 miles for the full marathon and all the painful glory that would entail.  Odds are good I’ll turn around even if it means a yucky DQ/DNF.  It’s funny how much a simple official transfer would have made me feel so much better, even though it’s just a meaningless time on the internet.  I guess without the transfer it feels like I’ll just be doing a lousy training run instead of a race, and I’ll feel apart from the other runners instead of heading towards a common goal.  Plus, of course, I would have gotten a legit bib, medal, and shirt.


This whole thing has gotten me a bit down, of course.  2015 was never going to be a good year of marathoning for me regardless, but now it’s going to be abysmal.  I’m slowly coming to terms with a major goal change (from completing a full marathon in every state to completing a full or a half), and that’s also depressing.  Plus of course I’ve been sick, not running, not posting, and now freezing.


My relentless optimism will still get me to the starting line in Houston (my first time visiting Texas!), and I’m excited for the overall experience regardless.  I always learn something new from every race, and I’ll certainly learn a lot from this one, whatever happens.


Did you think maybe this post was going to be about Dairy Queens in Houston?  What’s your favorite thing to get at DQ?  Have you ever cut a race short and/or had a DNF?  Share in the comments!

Blerch costume 2014

Race Recap – Beat the Blerch Half Marathon, Sept 21, 2014

Beat the Blerch 2014 Washington

I am The Blerch while I beat The Blerch.

Before my recap, I want to send my condolences to the friends and family of Evan Sebenius, the young man who passed away during the Beat the Blerch half marathon.  I stopped and left candy with the runners with him, but without medical training I couldn’t do anything else.  I never thought he would pass away, and it’s truly sad.  If you want know more and how you can help, read the Seattle Times article or visit Evan’s Memorial Race’s Go Fund Me page.


The inaugural Beat the Blerch race had just about everything it promised.  It had cake, it had Nutella sandwiches, it had couches at the water stops, and it had nice medals (and a surprisingly nice long-sleeved 1/4 zip tech shirt).  We lucked out on the weather (sunny and in the 60s to low 70s), and overall it was a beautiful day in Washington state.  Yes, there could have (should have?) been more water stops (they were about 3 miles apart), but for an inaugural race I thought it was very well-done.


Me and Ben at Beat the Blerch 2014

This is my friend Ben. This was his costume for the race. Ladies, I think he’s single right now…

For those who don’t know, The Blerch is a fat little winged character created by the comic artist known as The Oatmeal (aka Matthew Inman).  It essentially represents the fat little beast inside all of us who tell us to eat more snacks and to skip that run.  My Blerch is particularly large, particularly loud, and particularly convincing (as a lawyer’s Blerch should be), so the concept immediately resonated with me, and when my friend Ben told me about the race, I set my alarm for the registration time and was one of the few (approx 1,700) lucky runners to snag a spot before the race sold out in 30 minutes (they ended up adding the exact same event on Saturday so twice as many people could partake, plus they had a virtual option where you got a goodie bag and medal and were supposed to Beat the Blerch on your own time and without the travel).


I planned the trip months ago (mostly to visit my parents), so when I realized my injuries weren’t going to let me run the full marathon, I was disappointed but dropped down to the half instead of canceling the whole thing.  I was impressed and glad that the option was available (you could also transfer/sell your spot, which very few races allow).  There was is a very active Facebook group for the race, too, so even though I typically never Facebook, I was checking it frequently for info about the race, weather, costumes, etc.


Blerch goodie bag and shirt

The race shirt, magnet, & sticker from the goodie bag. Really nice shirt but not a lot of “goodies.”

On Saturday my parents and I drove up from the Portland area straight to the packet pickup location in Seattle.  At least, the address was technically Seattle, but it felt like the suburbs to me.  The pickup was quick and easy, and the shirt is really nice (some people mentioned it runs a bit small, which maybe it does, but these days womens’ XL t-shirts are tight on me, so I almost expect it by now).  The author wasn’t at pickup on Saturday to sign his books since he was running the race, but he did sign after the race on Sunday (I didn’t stay because of the enormous line and my weary legs), and he signed at packet pickup on Friday (at the end of another enormous line, or so I heard).


We stayed at Hyatt House in Redmond, next to a ton of “mushroom” apartments (apartments that look like they sprang up overnight) and enough chain restaurants to satisfy any car-less New Yorker (we ate at Red Robin and Claim Jumper, my first time at either of those establishments, and they were both delightful).  Because of the late race start time (9:00 AM for the Marathon, 9:30 for the half, and 10 for the 10k), I was able to grab some yogurt and a banana from the free hotel breakfast (which had a lot of other food, too, and was nicer than most free hotel breakfasts).


Blerch costume 2014

Getting my costume ready for the next day. I ate all of that candy and more over the weekend.

I haven’t travelled for a non-full marathon in a long time, and while I did spend an absurdly long amount of time getting my costume together and laying out my stuff for the next morning, I noticed I was much less than half as nervous for the race than I would have been for a full.  A half marathon I can finish without much worry and know that I’ll be able to walk and drive and shower and go out again without a problem.  For a full marathon I’m never 100% sure I’ll be able to finish, let alone do anything afterwards besides lie on a hotel bed flipping through bad TV.  The relative ease of half marathons makes me both want and not want to change my 50 states goal – running half marathons would be a relatively simple task, but maybe too simple.  But it would allow me to run in more complicated costumes, so there’s that, too…


Porta potties at Blerch

Some of the porta potties at Beat the Blerch. Only some.

After breakfast, it was an easy 20-25 minute drive to the race in Tolt MacDonald Park in Carnation, Washington.  There was ample parking with many helpful parking attendants directing the cars.  The start/finish line area had lots of Blerchandise for sale, a photo backdrop with giant Nutella jar props, a foam rolling area, plus lots of porta potties.  One runner saw The Oatmeal taking a picture of the long line of porta potties and saying to himself “I created an event that requires 40 porta potties.”


Matthew Inman and WTFinish at Beat the Blerch

Two Blerches about to run a race.  Yes, he wore that the entire 13.1 miles, and ran much, much faster than I did.

Matthew (we’re on a first-name basis) wore a giant inflatable green Blerch costume for the race and posed with fans before it started.  I was able to get a picture with him and he commented on the Grape Hi-Chews pinned to my shirt.  I told him it was my magical grapey beverage substitute.  Then I ran away because I was afraid of seeming like a crazy fan, because even though I was wearing fairy wings made for infants, duct tape nipples and fat rolls, and candy pinned all over my shirt, I thought I would seem not crazy if I quickly ran away from our brief interaction.


The course started on asphalt but quickly turned into a mostly flat trail that featured only a few larger, sharp rocks, but those few rocks had an excellent ability to find their way under runners’ feet.  One woman said “if I step on another sharp rock I’m gonna…!”  Unfortunately that was all she said and she was faster than me, so I never found out what she was going to do nor if she ever stepped on another sharp rock again.


Cake and Nutella at Beat the Blerch race

They never ran out of either.

I ate four pieces of cake during the race and one more large piece plus three Nutella sandwiches after the race.  I drank two small cups of magical grapey beverage (which I think was purple Gatorade) and lots and lots of water at each water stop.  Even though it goes down easy and was surprisingly tasty and desirable during the run, cake makes you thirsty.  I did not eat any of the many proffered gels, and one of the gel distributors bemoaned “I can’t give these things away!”  No sir, no sir you cannot, not as long as there is cake and Nutella as the other options.


When the race started I was still a little bummed I wasn’t doing the full, but at mile 10 I was about ready to be done with running for the day, and by mile 12 I was very ready to be done and could not imagine having to run another 14 miles.  It definitely made me nervous about Chicago, because I don’t know how long it would have taken me to cover another 13 miles that day, and it wouldn’t have been pretty.  Plus, they would have run out of cake.  But I managed to finish, and spotted both my mom and dad at the finish, and overall it was a great day to Beat the Blerch.



Thinking of Running Beat the Blerch?

Back of shirt and medal for Beat the Blerch Half Marathon

The back of the shirt and the medal (for the half marathon, obviously).

If this race continues (there are rumors they might bring it to other states), I’d recommend trying it out.  Obviously if the race is in a different location it might be a very different experience, but it’s clear that Matthew Inman knows his races and knows what makes for good ones, so I’d imagine any Blerch race would be worthwhile.  They are doing a free 4 mile fun run in Central Park on October 8th, and I will be there (but will there be enough cake??).


All categories on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best.

  • Getting There (Transportation & Walkability) – 5/10 – I flew into Portland’s PDX, but most would fly into Seattle.  Either way, you’ll have to rent a car to get around, and Carnation is as much in the middle of nowhere as you can get only 45 minutes outside of Seattle.  Being near Seattle also means a lot of traffic, which we seemed to hit no matter what time of day.
  • Staying There – 6/10 – There aren’t a lot of hotels in Carnation, so you’ll probably have to stay in a neighboring town like we did in Redmond, and while I love chain restaurants and such, if you’re looking for something unique you’d be better off exploring Seattle (which will involve traffic).
  • Cost & Registration – 5/10 – Registration was probably the most stressful part.  The site kept freezing and crashing and it was pure luck that I got through and was able to register before it sold out.  They did add Saturday for people on the wait list, and besides a lottery (which I hate), I don’t know how else they could have done it, so it is what it is.  It was $100 for the full marathon, plus $5 for a parking pass and another $15 in taxes and fees (so about $120 total), plus $12 to transfer from the full to the half.  The shirt and medal, as I mentioned, were both excellent, and the cake and Nutella were really tasty.  Oh, and all the race photos were free!  Huzzah!!
  • Organization – 8/10 – All the necessary info was online, packet pickup was simple, parking was great, and the aid stations were well-run (even though they were packed with runners eating cake and taking pictures).
  • Course – 8/10 – Beautiful course and the easiest “trail” race ever.  Crowding was surprisingly not a problem (there were 208 full finishers, 816 half finishers, and 636 10k finishers – and they started the larger races in waves).  The race was chip timed so it didn’t matter when you started.
  • Crowd – 1/10 – I think I saw two people along the entire course (not counting volunteers).  It was as expected for a trail race.
  • Other Factors – 8/10 – If you are a fan of The Oatmeal, you’ll want to do this race.
  • Overall Rating – 8/10 – It was a great race with a lot of little touches that I’d want to include if I ever create a race (e.g. free race photos, race transfers available, multiple distances, chip timed, mostly shady, costumes, nice personalized shirts and medals, cake) and I’d do it again.


What sort of foods have you eaten while running?  When is the last time you had Nutella?  Did you know they have a Nutella-esque Pinkberry flavor and that I ate some tonight?  See the site for more photos & share in the comments!