Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Key West Half Marathon, Key West, Fl. 1/19/14

Key West Airport
 Why I love this race: My first race after completing cancer treatment:  The Key West Half means a lot to me.  Last year I wrote a lot about why.  The short of it is back in 2007, Sidney paced me through the race, which was my first half marathon ever.  I ran it 3 weeks after the last infusion of my cancer treatment.  I had a left mastectomy and reconstruction, 4 months of chemo, then a right mastectomy and reconstruction, and then a year of Hercepton infusions given every three weeks.  I had been racing 5k almost weekly since completing chemo, while getting Hercepton. I ran a 10k on Thanksgiving Day 2006, the furthest run of my life, and the next day ended up in the Emergency Room due to some cancer treatment-related immune system crash.  I have visited the ER about 6 times because my immune system crashes at random through the year. The Key West Half was my first race post-cancer where I felt strong. I was excited that I was finally done with treatment.  We ran a 2:01 and I felt like true survivor!

Renting a Plane and Flying with Enzo.
Rental car parked next to plane while Sid grabs some bags
Each year, with the exception of the one year we did not go and the one year the alternator died while we were in flight causing Sidney to make an Emergency Landing in Atlantic City, Sidney and I fly to Key West for this race.  We rent a small airplane, a Mooney, load up our luggage and our dog Enzo and head south for a week.  We stop somewhere in the Carolinas for a night, then make our way to South Florida for a few days so he can see his mom, and then we end up in Key West for the weekend.

Sidney spoils me whenever he flies me to races.  I will always appreciate how awesome it is to not worry about what I am allowed to pack and how easy it is to simply drive the car right up to the plane to load and unload.  I will forever be impressed by Sidney's skills as a pilot and how he makes things that seem so complicated to me look easy.  He is brilliant and I love that I get to be a witness to his talent and skill.

People Watching in Ft Lauderdale.
Enzo has been to Key West three times now.  Not bad for a dog someone dumped on the highway like unwanted trash.  He has developed quite a set of skills, himself, when it comes to flying and travel.  He is now able to board the plane on his own, waiting until we give him the OK and then he jumps up onto the wing, climbs inside and takes his seat in the back.  He allows me to reach back and stuff jumbo cotton balls in his ears, leaning into my pressure to assist me.  He leaves the cotton in until we begin our descent, no matter how long the leg.  As we begin descending for our landing, Enzo observes with interest and at some point before we touch down he will shake the cotton out of his ears.

When flying over water, the FAA requires life jackets to be handy for all passengers.  So of course,
"I dont think this "parachute" feels like it is packed right?"
Enzo has his own.  Rather than plan to fumble with Enzo's life jacket in an emergency,  I put it on him as soon we approach the Gulf of Mexico.  His life jacket is a huge pain to wrestle onto him and he helps me.  I assume hard to get on suggests it would be hard for him to slip it off if he needed to put it to use.  When it is time to put it on him, he stands up and allows me to pull and tug that jacket into place making it possible for me to get it on him while I remain in my seat up front.  He is such a great dog for flying.

Whenever Sidney files his flight plans, he always includes Enzo in the list of passengers.  Not all pilots do as it is not required to list pets.  The controllers alway ask us about Enzo as we get handed off along the way, usually asking how he handles flying or what he is doing.  Enzo usually is sleeping, unless it is bumpy then he sits up.  If it gets very bumpy like it did on our way down,  I may reach back and he will place his head on my arm until the turbulence passes.

So back to the Running:

Orthotics Free in 2014
This was the second race I have run without orthotics. It has been a little over a month since I got rid of mine. The transition has been smoother than I anticipated.  One issue is that now my shoes fit differently because the orthotics seem to both take up a bit more room than the standard insoles do as well as alter the way my feet fit and functioned within my shoes.  Not so much that feel I need a smaller shoe, but enough that I need an acclimation period because my feet are rubbing differently now.  As a result of this change in fit, I have noticed some hot spots where I haven't had trouble before, primarily on the balls of my feet. This happened, first, during my first long run in my training shoes. My long runs are not fast so this was not too big of a problem.  In about two long runs, my feet acclimated. I am still acclimating to my racing flats.

The first race I ran without my orthotic and in my T7s racing flats was a 5k.  I raced that 5k fast for me, so I did get up on my forefoot. I noticed my feet feeling tired and my plantar fascia becoming irritated at about two miles, but soon the race was over and there were no lingering issues. 

Last year, I had trouble with severe blistering on the balls of my feet at this race. I attributed it to me racing in a new pair of Drifts, which had an extremely roomy toe box.  That coupled with the high humidity and heat causing me to douse myself with water, my feet and socks ended up soaked and slipping in my shoes. The course has many tight turns, which really irritate hot spots and encourage them to develop. This year was cooler and less humid.  I didn't anticipate a blister issue. 


Last year we were trapped in the crowd at the start where it took about a minute to cross, so this time we tried to get up front.  However, due to this race growing too big for its own good, and the starting line being on a dead end street, runners for both the 5k (which is supposed to start 5 minutes after the half) and half marathoners need to enter the corral from the front. Runners can't seed themselves, because it becomes impossible to push into a crowd of 3000 runners. We didn't do too bad this year, and it took us about 5 seconds to get to the start mat. Once running, the crowd was thick and boxing in was a big problem again. I am not very patient and worked to get out from behind groups of slower starters to find some room to settle in to my pace.

The night before, Sid had asked me what my plans were and I told him that this race is never a goal race for me, although I want to make a genuine effort. It would depend a lot on the winds and the humidity.  My plan would be the same no matter what the weather brought, to start just sub-7 and see how long I can hold it. The weather was wonderful this year.  

Gun Goes Off
I get out of the crowd after about 45-60 seconds.  I find my pace, but I noticed my asthma was really effecting my ability to take full breaths today.  I could only fill my lungs in part but I was able to hold my pace, so I just proceeded hoping it would get better. It did. M1: 6:50 

The course routes us through the old town section but involves many turns as we weave across town. I was cruising a long at about a 6:55 pace when a runner comes up beside me and asks me "So is this your normal pace? Do you normally go out at this speed?" I thought that was an odd thing to ask and I took it as suggesting he thought I was working too hard.  So I said (with a smile and a wink), "No, I normally don't go out at sub-7, but today I am hoping to save a little something for the way back" ;)  I had noticed my pace had crept to 6:47 so I wished him a great race and I settled back down. M2: 6:55

As we crossed the island, another guy caught up to me and got in stride with me. He commented, "You run just like my daughter." Again, I thought this was an interesting comment and not sure how to respond. so I said "How's that?" He was sweet.  He said,"You look strong. You have the same form"  I thanked him and told he looked strong too. M3: 7:02

I dont look at splits until after the race but I could feel like I was slowing up. Together we hit the 5k mark and I called out "21:30".  He asked how fast that was. I responded, just under 7. He said "Really?" He slowed a bit and I picked it up a little. 

As we turned onto the 3.5 plus mile stretch along the water, another guy cruised up and said, "Now the torture begins. Nothing but cement for a while." He was right about the cement. The course was all sidewalk from just past 3 to the turn around and back. He tried to say in the street, but I could hear his feet slipping over the sand that had collected in the shoulder. This made me wonder whether from a physics perspective, hard concrete with less spring than asphalt was faster than asphalt covered in sand. The guy popped back up on the curb. I shared, "I think it might be faster up here. I could hear you slipping." He kinda shrugged and pulled off ahead. M4: 6:51

Because there was a long stretch to view, I tried to count ladies. I could see two ahead in the distance moving well. Then out of nowhere another chick blew past me and then settled in a little ways ahead. Not close enough for me to run with her.  Her form was interesting and a little inefficient. I wondered if I look like that too because I know my right leg always kicks out to the side in race photos, while my left seems better behaved.  I wondered if the crazy stride meant she was working too hard. However, after watching the NYC marathon women's winner, I know you can never underestimate someone with funky form. I decided to stay on my sub-7 plan, observe, and not make any decisions until 4 to go.  M5: 6:54
Lovely hotspot-turned blister. 

I wondered if I could be in 4th. It is hard to tell with the winding streets and not starting at the line. But since this is an out and back, I would get my answer soon. Leaders were on their way back and within in the top 5 was the first woman. A minute or so later was the second.  That put me in 6th. It was here I started to notice the blister forming on the balls of my feet. Crap.  M6: 7:04

As we approached the 10k mark, I managed to reel in and over take one of the ladies ahead of us.  I didn't see any other women ahead that I didn't account for and that put me in 5th with work to do.  Half way: 45:30

I was happy as I still felt strong and in control. We went over a little bridge, hit the turn around where that first guy, who asked me if I normally go out at sub-7 saw me and gave me some encouragement which I returned. That was nice. The tight turn just tore up my feet and I knew I was in trouble. I passed the second place hand cycle guy and cheered him on. He reeled me back in and cruised next to me. I commented that hills must be tough. He said "Not really." I still think it looks hard to crank yourself up hill by hand. I have tried to ride a bike uphill and that was hard. As we passed the 7 mile mark he told me to try to catch the girl up ahead, the one with the crazy form. I told him I was going to try but it was too soon.  M7: 6:56

A trick I like to use to catch and pass a competitor just ahead of me is to focus on catching anyone I can see ahead of her.  In this case the woman in orange was about 30 seconds ahead but I told myself that I had time to reel her in. As we approached mile 8 I thought to myself "ok, 4 to go... If I want to negative split this I need to move!" I picked up, passing the chick ahead of me with authority. She cheered me on. I returned the encouragement. I focused on trying to gain ground on the woman in 3rd, but she was moving well.  It took me until about 8.5 miles to realize that 13 minus 8 is 5. Not 4. Oops. Lol! 
M: 6:51

I was working to close the gap, but I wasn't sure I could catch her. My pace felt strong but my burning feet were getting worse with each step. Any turn in the course was just tearing things up. I new I didn't have much straight away left, so now was my chance to make up some time. M9: 6:47

And then she looked back. Yes! She looked. This means if I can catch her I will most likely take her. Accept the hurt.  Run.  I tried.  My legs were starting to feel spent and I realized I never took that gel I carried and I had not even seen any sports drink yet on the course.  I took it and tried to convince myself that in 10 minutes I will have a second wind. She look back again and then she sped up and widened the gap. Crap.  M10: 6:55

I maintained the fastest pace I could sustain and reeled her in more than she pulled away. Then again, she looked back and widened the gap again. It felt like some unfortunate magnetic pull. I make up ground, she'd widen the gap back, then I would shrink it by more. I was reeling her in but she was making it really hard. M11: 6:49

We hit the residential streets and it was back to twists and turns, which just burned my feet. I couldn't get up on my toes like I wanted to. I tried to ignore the pain. I was still getting closer. M12: 6:53

One mile to go. And the worse weaving and turning was before us.  Sharp turns through the harbor, over cobblestones (come on!) and around street corners. I was slowing down on the turns. She was holding the gap. M13: 6:55

I kicked. She kicked. Where the heck is this finish line. I caught a guy he told me to catch her. Man I was trying. Jello legs. Blistered feet. I had nothing left to shift into. I tried. Last 0.10  0:41 (6:00 pace).

And then she was done... 5 seconds later I was too. With a negative split and a new PR. I never PR in Key West.  

Man, what a great race! I tried but I would be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed that I didn't get her. When I looked at the net time, she got me by a second! So close!  But I know I can't be too bummed. I ran my fastest race with a 35 second negative split. I had no real kick, but I didn't train to run this well.  I hope this means that with some focus, some half marathon specific training focus, that I may someday have a shot at breaking 1:30. 
Leaving the Keys

But for now I am thrilled with what I have accomplished.  A new PR and it wasn't even a goal race.  What a great day! 

Time: 1:30:26 (6:54 pace)
Place 26th overall of 1904
Gender: 4th
Age Group: 1st


  1. What a great read.......enjoyed it so much. I almost felt like I was there. You are such an inspiration to me. I hope we will be able to meet in person one day.

    1. Jim! Thank you so much :) You are such an inspiration to me and so many others! :) I hope, too, to meet you! :)

  2. Awesome race report! People say some weird stuff while running, don't they? And I had to laugh at your Running Math Brain. I can't add 2 + 2 while running! What causes that?

    Congratulations on a GREAT race and a new PR!

    1. LOL. I just really wanted it to be 4 left... not 5 :) If you think people say crazy stuff in road races, just wait until your first 50 miler. If you find yourself running with anyone for any extended period of time, the conversation will likely deteriorate to a discussion about poop... I do not lie. You will see. Ultrarunners have no boundaries. :)

  3. Loved the pic of Enzo enjoying the view. The pic of your blister…not so much.
    Miss you. Hope all is well, Cheryl (the dietitian)

    1. I miss you too! Enzo is a sweetie. I wish I got a photo of him in the jam-packed crowded elevator. He was so cool and collected with a big grin. I think he felt special being the only dog amongst people in there. :)

  4. Thanks for sharing this site, it is very informative for the business personals.Keep on continuing with this.Also visit my site Miami Moving Company Welcome to Forward Van Lines. Since 1994, our family owned and operated moving company has provided residential, commercial, and industrial moving service in Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, and the surrounding areas.

  5. Long distance movers moving Florida and the East Coast. Call Moving On Up for office moves, home movers, moving storage and car relocation. http://www.movingonup.com/
    full service moving companies florida