Big Beach Half Marathon- Two Thumbs Up!

Enough is enough.  The single digit temperatures that spanned several weeks drove us to begin looking  for some warm weather to pull us out of the Tennessee midwinter slump.  After researching many half marathons in the southern part of the country we decided to take on the Big Beach Half Marathon in Gulf Shores.   Day after day as we watched the forecast for race day we consistently saw rain and thunderstorms threatening to disrupt our grand plan of getting away.   At this point, all we could do was  hope and pray that we would have a sunny day. 

We arrived on Friday evening and took a quick trip to visit The FLORA-BAMA.  After a couple of bushwackers, we  enjoyed spending time with Big Earl and his band and the Foxy Iguanas  dancing the night away.   At one point, I looked down at my watch and low and behold- I hit my step goal for the day (which was quite amazing after sitting in the car for hours).  Good music will do it to you every time! Two thumbs up to Big Earl and his band- highly recommend if your down in Southern Alabama! 

On Saturday we took a trip to the Hang Out, Lulu’s (Jimmy Buffet’s Sisters Place) and Big Beach Brewery.   Although the weather was a little glum with little sun during the day, we made the best of it by hanging out with the locals.

 Sunday morning came all to fast.  As we looked out the window we still had high hopes of having a good running day as the rain had tapered and the starting time was an hour away.  We dawned our rain gear and headed out to the race start at the Hang Out – Yes, the race started and ended at a bar- our kind of race 🙂 

Along with our fellow runners we set out along route 59 which quickly took us to the trails in Gulf Shore  State Park.  A beautiful flat, fast and scenic course winded through the park providing a sense of solidarity in a sea of runners.   The towering trees and cloudy skies helped to provide some relief from the steaming 95% humidity of the day.  Even though we escaped the rain, our bodies ended up becoming drenched from the excess heat caused by the high humidity.   Thank goodness the sun decided to hide behind the clouds as I cannot imagine what it would have been like having the high humidity and the sun beating down on our bodies for 13.1 miles. 

At mile 11, just when we needed a laugh, we saw a sign that warned us to “not feed the alligators as a fed gator is a dead gator”- a perfect moment for a break, a picture and motivation to run a bit more quickly! 

One of the coolest parts of the race took us on the boardwalks over the swampy areas of the park.  Running on the wooden elevated boardwalks that went on for several miles  provided us with a better vantage point showcasing beautiful panoramic views of the park.     The last few miles of the race we ran down the blvd with the white sand dunes on the left side of our bodies providing us with a feeling as though we were running  on the beach (although without the sand in our shoes). 

After we crossed the finish line we spent time in celebration at the Hang Out enjoying a Tangerine IPA and talking to many of our running comrades that we met along the way.  Stories were shared about favorite runs and challenging runs, helping us to plan out our future races for 2018.  Sitting at the bar, we met Nancy from Baton Rouge.  Nancy shared with us her experience at the Biloxi marathon which also takes place along the beach and is a must run from her perspective- definitely one for our bucket list! 

Listening to our stories about running the seven continents together and finding out that the release of our book  TWO-GETHER was fresh off the press,  Nancy was excited and eager to be the first person to receive a signed copy.  At a chance to sell our first book, David made a mad dash for the car to get a copy before she could run away!  As he was returning, one of the spectators said to him “ if you still  have that kind of energy after running the half- you’re doing pretty darn good!”.   

 Holding the pen and looking at each other with glowing smiles on our faces; another first for us as a couple.    As the ink from our signatures was transformed on the title page it was like a new beginning of our next chapter- one that we hope will provide us with the opportunity to impact and change  lives along the way.  As we handed Nancy the signed copy the  smile on her face from receiving the book and now being able to embark on our journey through our words completes the joint goal we set together a year ago – from ideation (like standing at the starting line) to delivery of our story (like crossing the finish line).  

Our first book written and published-done. Our first half marathon of 2018- done.  Our first run in Alabama- done. So whats next? Who knows?  All we know is this:

                                                   “Life is Like a Marathon, Savor Every Mile”

Race  Comments:

-TWO THUMBS UP- Highly Recommended especially if you like scenic backwoods trail runs without the disruption from traffic. 

 We loved the fact that we did not have to deal with corrals, just the right size race with very enthusiastic runners.  Appreciate all the help from the volunteers and support from the spectators when they were able to “find us” on the path.  Loved the HANG OUT- nice open bar and restaurant on the beach with plenty of outside activities to keep the entire family busy and having fun together.  Great post-race food including boxed lunches, free drinks and plenty of cookies, bananas and everything one needs to replenish their bodies with the carbs consumed during the race.  Thanks to the Parrot Heads for making us feel right at home by placing the Hawaiian leis around our neck as we began our journey on the boardwalk.    Also thanks to the special spectator/supporters that brought smiles to our faces as they threw mardi gras beads at us making the last mile a very memorable one!  Lastly, thanks to the race director and team for insuring our safety and making this a marathon one that we will always remember and cherish.

                                                                          Two-Gether Runners 












Napa Valley Marathon Completed- Overcoming Adversity Two-Gether!

NapaValleyfor Blog Completing the Napa Valley Marathon together definitely demonstrated that if you set your mind to anything you can accomplish it!   Although we did not prepare and train the way we normally would for a marathon (typically 16 weeks of training) we were able to overcome adversities (including weather, work, and demands on our time) and challenges during training as well as on marathon day to once again, cross the finish line two-gether! We travelled to Napa Valley on Friday, February 27th and spent Saturday visiting the Expo as well as Hanna Winery with my sister Kathy and her husband Mike. It was a gorgeous day with temperatures in the mid 60’s – a perfect day for outdoor wine tasting! It was also a great break from the winter weather we have been having back in Nashville this year! That evening we decided to eat early and therefore took advantage of the Pasta Dinner provided by the Marathon. It had everything we needed to carb load and had quite a variety of pasta and desserts. After the dinner – we were ready to get to bed early and rest up for the big day. Marathon Day We woke up at 4 am to a frigid morning with temperatures around 37 degrees. We went through our usual routine of getting ready and headed over to the high school to catch the shuttle bus to the start line up to Calistoga. We had the opportunity the day before to take this same ride in the daylight so we had a glimpse of what the elevation was going to be like as we ran from Calistoga back down to Napa Valley. We arrived at Calistoga about an hour early and luckily were able to stay on the bus to keep warm until about 10 minutes before race start.   The race start was surrounded by grape vines which immediately put us in the environment we would experience all day as we ran throughout the Napa Valley Wine Region. Don’t Ever Change Your Training Prior To a Marathon ! I have been told this several times however the week before the marathon I decided to try something different. I wanted to run faster and therefore started to read up on the elite runners and their form and running styles, etc. I read that most great runners ran at about 180 steps per minute (SPM) and that you should as a runner strive for a high spm between 170-180.   I reviewed my spm over the past year or two years from the data collected on my Garmin watch and found out that my average was around 140-150 spm. So I thought to myself, “What if I can just improve by 10 spm before the marathon?” So for my training the week before the marathon I tried increasing my spm (shorter steps) for my 3 mile training runs. I actually found it to be quite enjoyable and found that it took less energy than my normal stride. I also found that my heart rate stayed lower than normal therefore I must not have been exerting as much energy as I had with my normal stride. My stride over that week increased to about 164 average spm, gaining about 10 spm. I was excited to see this improvement and decided that I would try this out on marathon day. The Problem– Remember, I ran 3 miles (5 times that week) doing about 160 spm. I did not move into my normal stride after that as I ended my exercise at 3 miles each day. As I started out on Marathon day with the 160 spm stride I realized rather quickly that I was not going to be able to keep up that stride. Changing your stride takes a lot of practice and a lot of time to re-train your body. So when I figured out that I would not be able to keep up with that stride – a little bit after mile 1, I decided to move back into my normal stride. Guess what? My body did not know what to do. It did not know how to get back into my normal stride because for the past week all I did was the smaller stride. Big Problem! My feet hit the road hard as I tried to get back into stride (runners were looking at me wondering why I was running so funny and making so much noise). The energy that I expelled to try to get back in stride was overwhelming, my breathing became very erratic, and my mental state was really going downhill quickly. Remember, we were not allowed to wear headphones in this race – so when I hit my problems, I was very concerned that I would not make the finish and I was vocal about it. David heard me and decided to run a bit in front of me to give me a target to run after and so he would not hear my negative comments about not finishing. He also knows that I like to work through my running issues by myself at times. I have to do this on my own at my own pace. I have always succeeded in getting through my issues and yes I am negative for a bit (I am working on this) but always manage to pull myself out of it. I knew that if I did not get back into my regular stride, I would not be able to complete the marathon. The way I was currently running was already impacting my body in a negative way and would end up doing some serious damage to my legs within the next 6 miles if I did not get it fixed. I knew that there was a high likelihood that I would not even make it to mile 13. I continued to struggle for a couple more miles. At four miles I was able to start to move into stride but my left foot (front of foot) was scraping on the ground every time I put that foot forward. I struggled for a good 1.2 mile with this until about mile 5 when I fell! My shoe scuffed on the ground and took my whole body down! I hit pretty hard and felt the impact mainly on my knees. I knew that I would probably be bleeding or have some damage but I also knew that I had lost some time through all this and just needed to get up and get running. David did not know that I fell as he was in front of me and I picked myself up rather quickly. He was surprised later on when I told him because he was continually looking back at me to make sure I was making it okay (he was only about 50 feet in front of me). One girl stopped and asked me if I had new shoes. She had been running by me the entire way and heard the noise my feet were making from trying to get back into normal stride. I explained to her that I was stupid and tried to change my stride the week before.  After falling I was scared to keep running and I will tell you that my mental state was the worst it had been in a long time. I did not think that I would be able to break out of this bad form that I was currently in. But I DID. I cannot tell you exactly at what point I was able to get back into stride. I remember David saying after our first 3 that we needed to get back into pace as we were way behind our time that we were targeting. As I started to focus more on the 5min run/1 min walk my body started to just started to get back into form.   Thank Goodness! David and I were back running side by side by about mile 7 and I was feeling much better about the run in general. After we were past 13 (at 2: 40) my mental state started to take a much more positive turn as I felt good about coming in at that time for the half when we were targeting 2:30. From mile 13 to mile 17 we kept up the 5/1 pace.  From mile 17 on we went into a mode where we walked, ran, walked ran in shorter increments with each mile coming in at about a 12.9 minute pace. At about mile 18, David saw a runner drop a plastic card on the road and continue running. David decided to pick it up and sprint up to her to return it. While that was a nice gesture, when he turned around to find me, I saw the pain on his face. Especially when he figured out it was a hotel room key that she probably could have just replaced anyway. At another point, we stopped to use the restroom – David said just run ahead as soon as you are done and I’ll catch up. When he caught up to me, he remarked, I didn’t think you’d be able to get that far away, that was tough catching back up with you! Maybe that was a much needed break because I really did increase my pace at that point. At one point we followed this runner that had a pace announcer on and told us what pace we were all running at. David told me that we need to stay close to him if we were going to make it in on time. So we ran by him for a good two miles or so. Funny thing is we ended up passing him at some point and never saw him the rest of the race.   I had also fumbled with my watch trying to change my intervals from 5/1 to 3/1 which entirely messed up my watch and wiped all intervals out. From this point on it was all about running as much as our bodies would allow us and David was the one who kept us on track to insure that we finished on time. I had no clue as to the time and I did not want to know. In fact, I asked David at one point how we were doing and what time we would get and he replied – let’s get to Mile 20 and I’ll tell you. I forgot about it for a while and when I asked again – by then we were at mile 23. That time David smiled at me and said “you are doing fine and we are going to make it under the required time – now all that is left is to see how much under the time we will be. Let’s just run as much as we can – but don’t hurt ourselves.” We crossed a bridge at mile 23 and there were some very friendly people waiting on the other side with little cups of sorbet. Wow as that good! It was getting pretty warm by that time and the sorbet definitely hit the spot. Thank you Oak Knoll Inn for the great Sorbet! Another important thing that volunteers at the marathon provided were bananas and orange slices. I can’t recall at which mile markers they were at – but we had them at 3 or 4 stops. They helped tremendously as well. The last three miles were very pleasant and we really had the opportunity to enjoy them together.  There were several photographers along this portion and we hammed it up each time, running vigorously (at least in front of the cameraJ). During these last three miles, David did have some lower back pain and now we had traded places somewhat. I was there to encourage him and make sure he knew we were going to make it together.   It was now my turn to run/walk a bit ahead of him to give him the target to run after. This continues to work for both of us. I kept communicating with him to make sure he was okay and he replied that I should just keep going as fast as I could and he would make it. It’s funny how we both play our roles at different parts of these marathons – but two-gether we always make it! About a block from the finish line, we could hear the spectators cheering. One of the best feelings in the world is hearing the announcer saying as we were approaching the finish line together “Here comes David and Cynthia Hanna of Murfreesboro, Tennessee – you may know of them as Two-Gether Runners” and the announcer went on to talk about us for a few minutes and even gave out our website address. This is one of the moments that made all the training and time spent working towards this goal all worth it.   We finished the race in 5:46 making it in prior to the 6 hour cut-off! I cannot say enough about the staff and volunteers at that Napa Valley Marathon. This was an extremely well organized event that took safety very seriously. From the point that we were informed about the regulation to not wear headphones to seeing the many medical aid stations along the course as well as having all the law enforcement along the course making sure we were okay– we felt very comfortable that we were being looked after during this run.   Thank you Napa Valley Marathon – we truly enjoyed it. Memories:

  • All of the support and publicity from Mark Winitz and the Napa Valley Marathon! – Thank you Mark!
  • Spending time with my sister and brother in-law before the marathon at Hanna Winery- Thanks Ted at Hanna Winery for making our day a special day!
  • Keeping warm on the bus and hoping that they don’t make us get off and stand in the cold for an hour- Thank you Napa Valley Marathon!
  • Beautiful Scenery throughout the marathon course- We have never experienced such a beautiful course!
  • The challenges put before us and the ability to figure out how to overcome them together!
  • Having each other’s support the entire way!
  • Great fueling stations- especially the sorbet- Thanks to Oak Knoll Inn!
  • Realizing at mile 23 that I had not thought about missing my music the entire marathon until David said something about headphones.  I looked at him and laughed and said “I did not even think about this the entire race- is that not crazy?”  I guess my mind had other things to worry about!
  • Wearing our medals to the wineries after the marathon and sharing our stories with others!
  • Once Again, Crossing the Finish Line Holding Hands TWO-GETHER!

We highly recommend this Marathon to anyone considering running a marathon. It is a great beginner’s marathon and is well organized! It does fill up early so you will need to register early! Registration is now open- [CH1]<