Tag Archives: back to back half marathons

2016 Back2Back Challenge

The 2016 Back2Back Challenge was to complete two races in two states over two days.  First up was the 2016 Mississippi Blues Half Marathon with the 2016 First Light Half Marathon filling in on Sunday.  This was not my first experience with back to back half marathons.  I dipped into those last fall with the Hartford Half Marathon on Saturday and the Ocean State Rhode Race on Sunday.  While both outings on that trip were about the same, this round created two different tales and I learned a two important things.

The first thing I learned was I really need to plan my flight schedule better.  Instead of driving like I did to Connecticut and Rhode Island, I flew.  Turns out flying in on Friday for Saturday’s event wasn’t the best idea.  I was more beat up than I expected Saturday morning and rolling my ankle early on didn’t help much.  After a day to adjust, rehydrate and recover from being in the air, Sunday was a much better day for my legs.  I think I’ve finally admitted defeat when it comes to this and will definitely be giving myself an extra day to recover from flying in the future.  Good thing I booked flights for my next two long distance events (Rock the Parkway and Monumental Half) with that in mind!

The second thing the 2016 Back2Back Challenge taught me was that I’m actually probably ready for One City.  Not 2016 back2back challenge100% ready but I’ll certainly finish while maintaining my ability to walk the next day.  Struggling through the final eight miles of Race #1 on a hard course with a touchy ankle and a tired brain left me feeling unsure about how Sunday would go.  I knew I’d finish but I wanted to see how much I had, how ready I was to push my body to complete to long hard workouts in two days.  With a successful and solid performance in Race #2 I wrapped up the weekend on a positive note while looking forward to hammering out some long marathon training runs over the next few weeks.

The Back2Back Challenge as an event is great.  Both races are well organized though Mobile has better scenery and fewer hills.  The Blues Bus, which takes runners aiming for both races from Jackson to Mobile with little hassle was incredibly convenient.  Massive medals for both half marathons are nicely complimented by a special Back2Back participant medal and plaque that features images of both states and both race logos on a spinner.

I’m glad I completed the 2016 Back2Back challenge.  It was a great way to check off two more states, test my training with 9 weeks to go before marathon day and lots of fun.


Have you run the Back2Back Challenge?  Back to back races?  Which ones?

2016 Mississippi Blues Half Marathon

The first half of my second back to back half marathons weekend, the 2016 Mississippi Blues Half Marathon was a mixed bag of experiences. The event was very well done with great swag and lots of fun in spite of a slightly rainy day and a less than ideal race for myself.

I was traveling with three girlfriends and we arrived early Friday afternoon.  A quick check in at the Jackson Marriott put us on the short walk to the 2016 Mississippi Blues Half Marathon expo.  Number, shirt and goodie pick-up was fast and easy in the uncrowded convention 2016 mississippi blues half marathoncenter.  Along with tech half zip race shirts each race bag contained a BB King CD, a race logo-ed harmonica and coupons for some local spots.  I then picked up my pacer shirt and 1:45 stick at the Fleet Feet booth after winding through a hallway lined with more vendors.

A late lunch at Parlor Market was next then it was back to the hotel for a little R&R.  We scanned the race guide, came up with a plan for the morning and checked the forecast yet again.  It was calling for some serious rain Saturday morning.  In addition to the possibility of getting excessively wet while running the race guide mentioned that the streets of Jackson also had some blues and we would need to be on alert for potholes on the course.  Dinner at the hotel was followed by more R&R before bed.

We all poured out of the hotel room at 6:20 for the race’s 7am start to find the forecasted downpour was actually a light rain that wasn’t too bad.  The race did not have corrals but went off right on time.  Begin hills.  Right off the bat the course heads out across some slow climbs that only get tougher as the miles pass by.  I was right on track at the 5k mark but didn’t have anyone sticking with me as the crowd thinned out.  That turned out to be a blessing when I rolled my ankle in one of those aforementioned potholes that was masquerading as a puddle around Mile 4.  At that point I knew I wouldn’t be able to hit 1:45 and didn’t know what to do with no aid station in sight.

I shook my ankle out with a stop and lowered my sign.  Soaked from the rain and bent from the wind, it ended up snapping shortly after.  I carried my broken sign and fought to get back on track when I stopped at the Mile 6 water station to see if there was a way I could get in touch with the race director.  I ditched my stick and debated removing my pacer shirt.  With no option but to continue, I rolled on at a slower pace with guilt weighing heavily.

After another ankle breather walk break things took a turn for the better around Mile 7.5.  The 1:55 pacer was ahead of his time and we settled in next to each other passing Mile 8.  We chatted a bit when he told me he was looking to hit the final 5k hard.  I told him I would rock on with the 1:55 sign, taking full advantage of the chance to finish supporting other runners while protecting my ankle for the next day.  I was back in business when he handed me his sign, let me know what his watch read and took off.  Immediately I had two runners with me.  It felt great to be cheering them on as we entered the last stretch.

The last four miles were filled with more hills but my ankle started to feel slightly better with some chatting, left side of the road running and a few walking breaks to eat up time.  At Mile 10 a few runners checked in with me to see how we were doing time 2016 mississippi blues half marathonwise.  I was happy to hear everyone was well on their way to hitting their goals.  At Mile 12 a girl who had been right with me since Mile 10 started to struggle.  I stuck with her to the end and even with two short walking breaks she broke 2 hours for the first time.  Another runner, Eric, was happy to speed past me at Mile 12.5 to come in under 1:57 with a big smile.

I crossed the finish in 1:54.49.  After a rough start to the 2016 Mississippi Blues Half Marathon it was rewarding to gather a group in the last few miles and watch them succeed on such a tough course.  The rain had held off, the finisher medals are huge, the challenging course was a great workout, I nailed my second chance pacing time and by the time I showered my ankle felt almost normal.  Course support had been solid with water stops every 1.5-2 miles, Cliff shots at Mile 9 and several cheer groups.  I would have liked more music on the course, especially since this year was dedicated to B.B.King, though with the wet weather it might not have been the safest thing.  I definitely recommend this event but recommend even more being prepared for the difficult course.  Great organization, super friendly people, awesome swag and solid course support make it worth the trip.


How do you deal with getting injured during a race?

Marathon Training Run 2 (17 miles)

Marathon training run 2 is all finished.  I ran 17 miles on Sunday in support of the 30,000 people rocking the Marine Corp Marathon, including some of my Team RWB friends.  After a solid marathon training run 1 and a disaster with my last attempt at going over 15 miles, I took a rest day Saturday to be ready for a good performance over my 2+ hour run.

The truth is I got ready for marathon training run 2 without any serious plan.  I’d run at least 14 but if I felt good, roll on for more and planned a 15 mile route.  Low pressure is right where I need to be at this point in my training cycle.  In my pockets were one pack of fruit snacks, one GU, my ID and a house key.  The water fountains of the Boardwalk are still on so I knew my hydration plan was safe for marathon training run 2another week.  My goal pace for race day is to average 8:00 miles and that’s what I set out to practice.

Off I went on a perfectly overcast, not windy, cool day.  My legs felt great settling in at 7:55 for the first two miles.  I was on the Boardwalk at Mile 3 knowing I’d have lots of opportunities to grab water and waited until I hit 30 minutes to down about four ounces from a fountain.  Everything was going well after that water stop when I chose to skip the fountain at Mile 6.  I had covered some slight elevation changes over soft little hills between Miles 4 and 7.5 and I hit the turnaround point right on pace at 1:00.26.  To start determining my marathon fueling plan, I downed my fruit snacks even though I wasn’t feeling tired or hungry.

I retraced Miles 6-7.5 in the other direction before deciding I felt good enough to go for my longest run yet.  No time like the present!  To get to 17 miles, I added a shoot off where I’d run the next 5k as an out and back at Mile 9.5.  I made my second water stop at that point, had a quick stretch and about four more ounces from a fountain.  There were a few more low rolling hills as I ran out to hit Mile 11 then back on the same route for more water at Mile 12.5.  I was feeling great on still solid legs logging miles between 7:55 and 8:02.  Turning south into Mile 13, I sucked down a GU while making my way back to the Boardwalk.

I had some post-GU water as soon as I could then got back to nailing the last 30ish minutes of my run.  The last four miles of marathon training run 2 were some of the best.  Back on the Boardwalk with two to go, a dog friendly 5k kept me smiling while I cruised through Miles 14 and 15 at 7:58.  Hearing my watch beep for Mile 16 was very motivational and I knew I’d have a strong finish to my longest run yet.  Another 1200M on the Boardwalk, I turned inland towards home.  Seconds later, I looked down to see 17.02 on my watch.  I was excited to be finished but even more excited to feel like I could have kept going.

I owe part of marathon training run 2’s success to having never preemptively eaten something on a run before.  Eating something before I feel like I need it is definitely the answer.  My energy level stayed steady throughout marathon training run 2 and I owe that to keeping my belly happy.  Figuring out my fueling needs will definitely help me have better training runs and eventually, the best One City Marathon I can.


How did you figure out your marathon fueling plan?  What’s your longest run?

Thoughts on Back to Back 1

I’ve been so busy sharing race reviews since my first back to back half marathons two weekends ago that I haven’t really had the chance to sit back and think about how it went and what that means for my marathon training.  Back to back 1 was definitely my first foray into running two back to back 1higher mileage days in a row.  I’ve done 15 and 16 miles with a light day between but never so many in 36 hours.  Here’s what I learned!

I’m glad Back to Back 1 is under my belt.  I have number two coming up in January but it leads with the hills in Mississippi where I’ll be pacing the 1:45 group.  My initial thoughts were Hartford was flat-ish and the 500 feet of elevation gain in Narragansett were tough.  Looking back at my Garmin, it claims Hartford was home to 400 feet of elevation gain itself.  No wonder those hills in Rhode Island seemed challenging.  At least for back to back #2 the 500 foot elevation gain comes first and First Light is, comparatively speaking, super flat.

Bring on marathon training.  I had a rough patch before back to back 1 and wasn’t feeling too positive about the long marathon training runs I have on my schedule (like this back to back 1week’s 18 miler).  Having success running 27.5 hilly miles in two days for the first time flipped my switch.  I took recovery as seriously as I could after both races and have felt great since.  My legs weren’t ready to go hard right away but I jumped back into running after only one day off with a easy five mile jog and followed that with a very solid week of training.

Thank you, Crossfit.  Virginia Beach has no hills.  On long runs up to 16 miles, my average elevation gain is between 10 and 15 feet.  In 16 miles, 10 feet.  Back to back 1 featured 400 feet and 509 feet in 13.1 miles, respectively.  Back to back 2 has 500+ feet on day one but much on day two (phew!).  That being said, there are a few places to run hill repeats here, which I do occasionally, and I’ll find a way to work those hills into my long run route but it’s just not the same as having a variety to train on.  I owe Crossfit for making me strong enough to rock up and down hills without too much trouble.  Thanks to the squat rack, bumper plates and box jump for quads, hamstrings and calves that are used to doing serious work.

I’ll be taking this good back to back 1 experience with me into January’s back to back 2 and March’s One City Marathon.  Bring on the miles 🙂


Have to run back to back half or full marathons?  What did you learn?

2015 Ocean State Rhode Race

The 2015 Ocean State Rhode Race was a series of firsts for me.  It was the second half of my first back to back half marathon weekend, the race’s inaugural running and the first time I had absolutely no idea what would happen.  The good news is everything went really well over the hilliest course I’ve seen yet.

After a fun time pacing Hartford on Saturday, I showered, downed some fluids and carbs then hopped in the car with Mom.  We traveled from Hartford directly to packet pick-up for the second half of my first back to back half marathons in Narragansett, RI in about two hours.  Packet pick-up was uncrowded in the quiet Narragansett Theater with no expo and it was easy to grab my number, tech shirt and goody 2015 ocean state rhode racebag packed with snacks like Clif Bars and three QuicDisc tubes I’m excited to try.  A five minute drive later, we were checking into the Hampton Inn South Kingston and prepping for dinner in nearby Newport.

I wasn’t sure how good my recovery from Hartford could actually be after sitting in the car pretty quickly after running for over two hours so I threw in a pre-dinner foam roll and stretch session.  As my Mom and I walked around Newport, my legs felt better than expected.  While chowing down on a tasty dish of lobster mac from The Barking Crab, I started to feel positive about hitting my 2015 Ocean State Rhode Race goal of breaking 1:45.  After dinner and a bit more walking on a gorgeous fall evening, it was back to the very comfortable hotel for relaxing and an early bedtime.

My alarm went off at 6:20 for the 8am race and I made my way downstairs to enjoy the Hampton Inn’s fantastic breakfast buffet that had started at 5am.  I downed a bowl of cereal, a banana and half a buttered bagel as I stretched and foam rolled legs that felt really good.  Driving to the start at 7am, we made the 3.5 mile trip in roughly 8 minutes.  Once arriving, race day packet pick-up was under way, runners for the full marathon, which started at 7:30, were warming up and a big bank of Port-a-Potties stood at the ready.  A smaller race, roughly 700 runners in the half, meant no backups at the Ocean State Rhode Race Port-a-Potties and plenty of room to move around.

As I milled around, chatted, stretched and stayed warm for the next 40 minutes, I felt 100% ready to rock.  The marathon took off and I locked in my goal to finish under 1:45.  I had been wary of setting any goal at all because I had no idea how I’d feel after getting beaten up in Hartford or exactly how hilly the course would be but during those 40 minutes, I felt good.  With legs itching to run, I entered the corral-less starting area.  A minute later the national anthem was played and right on time, the gun went off.

I enjoyed rolling hills, perfect weather and great scenery as the first miles flew by.  My legs felt good powering up hills of various sizes and floating down with a little help from gravity.   I grabbed water at Mile 4, chatted with two other runners while we ran miles six and seven as a group then separated when I walked through a water station at Mile 8.  By this time, the rolling hills from early in the race had given way to some big climbs with not-so-much downhills and I started to feel the previous day’s 15 miles right around the one hour mark.

As the race continued, beautiful scenery kept coming and so did the climbs.  I was running again on the right side of the road and my knee started to bother me a little bit.  Knowing I was on track to hit my 1:45 goal, I ended up taking a walking break to eat a CarbBoom gel in tasty Pomegranite/Grape flavor I had picked up earlier on the course after Mile 9.  My knee began to get worse by continuing to run on the right side of the road and between Miles 10 and 12, I took a few more 30 second walking breaks to shake it out.2015 ocean state rhode race

In the final mile I was able to run on a flat surface.  My knee immediately felt better and I knew I would have a strong finish.  I cruised in with a ‘let’s see what’s left’ kick for the last 400 at 1:43.16.  There was more than I thought in my tank for those last 400 meters but after 15 miles Saturday, over 500 feet of elevation gain Sunday and a grumpy knee, I was very happy to have anything at all.

The post race area was very nice with tons of food and hydration options.  The medals are nice though only the first place finishers in age groups were recognized.  Hopefully as the race grows this will change.  I also hope that in the future at least one side of the road will be completely closed, giving runners a chance to get off of an angled surface.  In summary, the 2015 Ocean State Rhode Race was a solid inaugural event with great weather, a challenging course and friendly runners.


What’s the hilliest course you’ve run?  Do you like flat or a little change over a race course?