Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Biggest Loser Half Marathon and 5K

Last Sunday my family and I participated in the Biggest Loser Run/Walk in Mobile. Ali, Darby, and Tyler all ran the 5K, and I ran the half marathon. All four of us had a great time at this awesome event. 

I was a little nervous initially as I'd not done any real training for this event. I know Ali was a little apprehensive as well as he is still having trouble with his knees. One of my favotite things about this race, is that there is very little pressure with time. I knew going in that I could practically walk the whole race and not get swept to the end. Knowing that I could walk when I needed to helped me to relax, and I focused on my goal: just finish the darn thing!! Ali decided to let his knee set his pace, and he'd decided that if that meant walking the 5K, so be it. Lets just say that come race morning, the Stevensons were cool as cucumbers! Haha!

I met up with Larisa and Jennifer at the start. Larisa and I planned on running together and just having a great time. We didnt really have a goal time in mind, other than to just beat our Rock-N-Roll Relay time of around 3:30. Before we knew it, it was time to head to the starting corral. I was eager to get going as it was pretty cool that morning. 

Notice we put ourselves into the 13:00 minute/mile pressure there :) 

The elite runners were sent on their way, and soon it was our turn. Previous contestants on the Biggest Loser were on hand to cheer us on our way. 

Here we go!!!! Whoooo-hooo!! 

Larisa and started out together, but sadly she decided to head back to the finish. I hated to see my best friend in pain and not feeling good, and was glad she made the decision to listen to her body. This left me pushing on for the remainder of the course on my own. I do not run with music, so I took to sight seeing instead. I loved how so much of our course had us running under the beautiful old oak trees that Mobile is known for. I also enjoyed seeing some of the older homes downtown. It was a very pleasant course. 

About 30 minutes after I started on my journey, Ali and the boys were starting on theirs!! Ali ran the first mile or so with Tyler to help him keep pace. It was around this time that Ali decided that he was feeling pretty good and decided to run ahead. 

Darby wasn't far behind. He was having a great run of his own. His running practice with the Allentown Running Club has helped him get his 5K times down too. 

At one point along the course, the half marathon course and the 5K course merge into one another and then split apart again. It was great for me to have more people to run with, but the split was a little confusing for some people. This was really a problem for the people leading the 5K and made it to the split early on. They were directed to turn down the half marathon course!! Ali and the group he was running with ran a few miles off course before they realized they were on the WRONG course. They turned around and headed back, though their lead was lost by this point.

Tyler was the first in our family to cross the finish line. He came in around 26 minutes! That is his fastest official 5K time!! He was flying!! He settled himself in the grass to rest and waited for the rest of us to come in.

Ali was the next one to cross the line. You can see he was hamming it up as he came in, giving out high-fives along the way. It was one of his slowest 5K times (a little over 32 minutes) but, hey, you've got to allow for those extra unexpected miles in there! Haha!!

Darby came in next at around 36 minutes. This is a personal best for Darby too! He was so excited to finish with such a great time. It did a lot to help boost his self confidence. He can't wait to break his new PR now.

While the guys were finishing their runs, I still hadn't made it half way around mine! Ali called me at around mile 6 and I was still feeling pretty good. I was running quite a bit, and walking through the water stops. This all changed around mile 8 when me legs decided they were no longer going to run. Ha!! I decided to walk it out a bit and pick back up around 8.5. I did some walk/run intervals for a couple miles. Around mile 11 I hit an emotional wall. I very nearly started crying when I saw that mile marker. I kept telling myself, "Only 2 more miles, only 2 more miles, only 2 more miles!!" 

I was just about completely walking by this point. I was averaging 14-14.5 minute miles by this time. My new goal: try not to crawl. 

Running back into downtown did a lot for my spirits. I knew the finish line was near. I was inching along when I heard a familiar voice yelling at me and telling me to RUN!! I saw Larisa in the distance and knew I'd better not let her see me walking. Reluctantly I forced myself into a slow run. She met me at the turn, and pushed me along the last straight-away to the finish line. I was soooo grateful for the push! I saw Ali and the boys cheering me on from the sidelines and I felt so good to see them there supporting me.

I crossed the line in just over 3 hours!!! I beat my original goal of 3:30 by nearly 30 minutes! Talk about excitement. 

As I made my way down the finishers' chute, my precious Tyler came running in to give me a plate of food he collected for me in the VIP tent. This very thoughtful act by my baby almost brought me to tears. He was thinking of me and knew I'd be hungry after running all that way. Bless his sweet heart! Let me tell you, that was the BEST food I'd eaten in a long time. 

After the race we were able to refresh in the VIP tent. It was stocked with drinks, fresh fruit, salty chips,  Subway sandwiches, and more! It also had a private port-a-potty (no lines!!) The VIP experience is definately worth the extra charge. 

Another perk of being a VIP is that you get to meet and hang out with previous Biggest Loser contestants. It was great to see that they are still making healthy lifestyle choices even after the show. 

The highlight of the day was when Tyler received 3rd place in his age group for 5K runners. He was so proud of his accomplishment! 

The Biggest Loser Run/Walk was a perfect family event. Even if you are not a fan of the show, this event is fabulous. We loved how the race caters to people of all ability levels. 

I hope that they decide to return again next year. I have a new time to beat!!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Rock-N-Roll New Orleans Half Marathon Relay

Two years ago I ran my first half marathon in New Orleans. Finishing the The Rock-N-Roll half marathon was an accomplishment I once thought impossible. I cried as I crossed the finish line with my friend Megan, and I was super excited to see Ali at the end. He ran the full marathon, yet he was waiting for me at the finish of my half!! Haha! This was the race that earned Ali his spot at the starting line at the Boston Marathon. It was a wonderful day for both of us. 


Last year I was registered for the half, but had to sit it out due to my knee injury. I was relegated to being a spectator, and I was excited to cheer on my husband and friends as they competed. I didn't plan on running this year because I just didn't feel quite ready to run 13.1 miles. My training has been hit and miss since the Disney Wine and Dine in November. 

My plans quickly changed when my best friend, Larisa, called me one night asking if I'd be interested in running the half marathon relay with her. Of course!!!! She would run the first leg of the half (7.5 miles) and I would run the second leg (5.5 miles). I could do that! She got us registered and I must admit, I was super excited to be running in this race again. 

On Saturday we met up at the expo to pick up our race bibs and our drum sticks. Relay runners are given drumsticks to act as the relay baton. 

The expo was smaller than it has been over the last couple years. Sadly I missed some of my favorite vendors like KT Tape. That meant I'd be taping up my own knees!! LOL

We did get to stop by the Swiftwick sock booth though!! You may remember that these are the socks that Ali wore while competing in the Louisville Ironman. We are both die-hard Swiftwick fans. They have socks of every length, but my favorites are the 12" compression socks. I wear them ALL the time to work. I spend so much of the day on my feet, and the compression saves my calves and ankles! I'm not going to lie, these socks are a little pricy...but they are the BEST sock ever and they are worth every penny. 

After the expo Ali and I met up with Larisa, her husband, our friend Mindy, and some fellow bloggers for a pre-race carb loading dinner at the Louisiana Pizza Kitchen. If you've never eaten here you are really missing out!! It is located right at the end of the French Quarter.

Now, don't get this pizza confused with the typical greasy pizza you get from a common chain pizza place. This pizza was fresh and light. We ordered the roasted chicken pizza which was topped with black beans instead of the traditional red sauce. It was very different, but very delicious. We also ordered some stuffed shells, but Ali and I agreed that the pizza was the winner of the night. 


After dinner we decided to take in some of the sights of New Orleans. We wandered down Bourbon Street and enjoyed people watching. There were some characters out that night! It was nice to be out with friends the night before a race and not be stressed out about having to get back to the hotel early. 

No trip to New Orleans is complete without a trip to Cafe du Monde. Their beignets are worth every powder sugar coated calorie. Sooooo good!! Just be careful eating these. That sugar gets everywhere!! I knew I'd run these little babies off on Sunday. 

After our bedtime snack, it was time to call it a night. We knew 5:30 a.m. would be here before we knew it. 

Sunday morning we awoke and got ready to head to the starting line. At the expo on Saturday Ali won this Team Geico shirt. They said if I wore it during the race, I'd get a free massage at the finish. Yeah!!! Who would turn down a free post-race rub down? Not me! 

Here we are before the race....


Ali dropped us off at the start and Larisa was first up to run. I had to make my way to the transition area about a mile away. There wasn't a shuttle to transition, so I walked/jogged to my designated hand-off point. There I was able to watch the race while waiting for Larisa to tag me. It was great to see my friends who were running both the half and full marathons as they made their way to the finish. 

I was so excited to see Larisa coming down the transition chute. The weather was starting to get worse (drizzly and colder) and I was ready to get moving so I could warm up. I took off on my leg of the relay. I had to run through the French Quarter and down to the park to the finish line. It was getting pretty foggy and it made for a spooky run in some places. As I ran past Cafe du Monde I had to resist the urge to snatch a beignet off someone's plate!! They smelled so good and I was getting hungry. Just a few more miles to the finish! 

I felt really good and I ran for the first 3 miles. After a bathroom break I was slow to get running again and I walked a bit of mile 4. I was so afraid that the rain was going to start at any moment, and that gave me the encouragement I needed to run in the last 1.5 miles. I hate running in the rain! There is nothing nice about soggy sneakers. 

I was very excited to round the corner to see Larisa, Ali, and Donald at the finish line. I may not have run all 13.1 miles, but I was DONE.  I got my relay medal and grabbed an icy chocolate milk. Yum!!


Of course I had to find the Geico tent so I could get my massage! My lower back was hurting, and the lady who gave me my massage was wonderful!!! I will definately wear this shirt in future Rock-N-Roll events so I can claim another pampering session. 


I was so thankful that the weather held off and we didn't get soaked. Running the relay was a much different experience than running the half marathon. I loved the shorter distance, but I kind of felt out of place among the half marathoners. I actually felt bad passing up people as I took off on my fresh, rested legs. Some of them were hitting the wall and I was just getting going. Regardless, I had a great time. 

Relay runners were given a special medal. It will look beautiful on my medal hanger :)


Overall I really enjoyed this Rock-N-Roll experience. I would even consider running as a part of a relay team again in the future. BUT, next year I want to run the New Orleans Half again and see if I can't set a new PR :)