Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon Race Recap

I can’t believe that the Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon was almost three weeks ago!

Publix Savannah Half Marathon

Both my mom and I enjoyed the inaugural race so much that we’ve decided to do it again next year and sign up for a few more half marathons between now and then. The entire race weekend was one of the best I’ve experienced. The expo was fun, the course was gorgeous, the race provided plenty of bathrooms and fuel for participants, and the finishing area included mimosas, music, and relaxation. Not to mention the gorgeous medals and the New Balance swag. I can’t recommend this race enough for women of all abilities.

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The purpose of today’s post isn’t to continue gushing about this race, as you all know by now that I loved it. Instead, I’m going to share race day my experience as well as a few valuable lessons learned along the way.

Going into the race, my coach, Jess, warned me that she wasn’t sure I was in PR shape. She recommended that we use the Publix Savannah Half Marathon as a diagnostic race to see where I stood. She recommended I follow a conservative, progressive pace plan, starting slow and improving my pace as my legs and body allow.

Deep down, I felt like I should be able to achieve more than that. Over the past five years, my half marathon time has gone from a 2:29 to a 2:00. Why shouldn’t I expect to achieve another PR after eight weeks of training?

I decided that against my coaches best wishes, I would seek out the 2:00 pace group and use the group’s energy to lead me across the finish line in under two hours. In my head, the plan was brilliant. I would surprise my coach by exceeding her expectations.

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Or, I’d prove that there is a very good reason I pay Jess to be my coach. Coaches often know best. They know when corners are being cut in order to make room for weekend ski trips. They know when the paces are slower than prescribed because legs are tired from three days of skiing. They know when a 10 mile long run suddenly becomes 9, because squeezing long runs in before work often means they are compromised.

The purpose of this half marathon, as it turned out, was to teach me two valuable lessons.

  • The longer I run, the harder it becomes to make significant progress. In order to reach those “big, hairy audacious goals” I will have to prioritize running.
  • Each race, regardless the distance, can still be enjoyable even if it doesn’t include a PR.

I was smiling, ear to ear, during each of the 18 miles I completed on March 28th. The miles with my mom were the most memorable, as this is a moment that I never imagined we’d share together.

The other 13.1 miles when a little something like this:

Mile 1-3: I am ecstatic to be running through downtown Savannah. The roads are peaceful, and the only sound is that of a few sole spectators and our pace groups footsteps, pounding the pavement. I wave to Bo and my dad as we pass the first mile marker, then wave to Caitlin as I see she and other 5k runners sprint past.

Mile 3-5: Our two pacers do a great job keeping the group’s energy up by asking each woman what our goal for the day is and what brought us to Savannah. Running with them is like running with a celebrity as so many spectators recognize them, waving and screaming.  It turns out both of these women lead many local running and training events through Fleet Feet Savannah.

Mile 6 – 7 – We cross the 10k mark at a sub nine minute pace and almost immediately my body begins yelling. My quads and legs become heavy, and I find myself dropping back from the group. I grab my Salted Caramel Gu, hoping that it will give my legs the energy they are craving.

Mile 8 – I spend this entire mile a few feet behind the pace group, doing my best to stay within earshot. I figure that I can give my legs and body this mile to recover before picking the pace up again. I curse myself, realizing that Jess’ initial assessment was correct. I was in half marathon shape, but not PR shape. My legs weren’t able to sustain the sub 9 pace. The miles through Daffin Park, one of our large Savannah parks, go on forever as we loop in and out of the park’s shaded path. I quickly change my mindset and focus on all the positive things. I’m in my hometown, running a half marathon, am blessed to have family members cheering and am going to walk with my mom as soon as I finish. This race and day are about so much more than my pace.

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Mile 9 – As I cross the mile marker and lose the pace group, I start to focus on choosing a new goal for the remaining miles. I decide that my sole goal is to continue moving. Historically, I stop to walk when the going gets tough. While a walk-run method works for many, it hasn’t worked for me historically. I turn my focus to the gorgeous Live Oak tree lined streets, bright row homes, and wonderful spectators. I give high fives to local school children as I run past.

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Mile 10 – It’s 70 degrees and I’m overdressed. I wish my bib wasn’t pinned to my long sleeve top. Just as I start to fumble with the pins, I hear cheering and someone screaming my name. I quickly give Bo and my dad sweaty hugs and throw them my long sleeve top. I ask them how mom is doing, and they tell me to hurry and finish. It turns out she is walking alone and needs company.

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Mile 11-13 – These are my favorite miles of the race, even though the course makes multiple turns as we run through Savannah’s squares and historic cobblestone streets. Focused on finishing strong, I put on my headphones and listen to music as I take in the sights.

Mile 13 – I hear the cheers of the finish line and enter the finisher’s shoot towards the picturesque Forsyth Fountain.  I cross the finish line in 2:04, very proud of myself for running a mentally strong race. 

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Do I wish that I could have run a PR race in my hometown? Sure. But, would I give up the amazing ski weekends to do that? Nope, not a chance. I’ll take the lessons learned instead.

The longer I run, the harder it becomes to make significant progress. In order to reach those “big, hairy audacious goals” I will have to prioritize running.

Each race, regardless the distance, can still be enjoyable even if it doesn’t include a PR.

Thank you to the Savannah Sports Council, Publix, New Balance and Fleet Feet Savannah for hosting an incredible race and allowing me to serve as an ambassador! While I was compensated for my travel to Savannah and race bib, the opinions are all my own.

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New Balance Fashion Fitness Expo

After a visit to the expo, flat Ashley and flat Deborah are ready for 13.1 fun-filled miles tomorrow!

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I enjoyed some sunshine and humidity during a quick, easy two mile shake out run this morning. Any run that includes palm trees, majestic live oaks and sunshine is a great run.  I used the run as an opportunity to take my New Balance gear for a test run before tomorrow’s race. My mom and I are both wearing hot pink so it’ll be easier for our spectators to spot us amongst the other 2,500 women!

IMG_8024After a quick breakfast we headed downtown for a quick coffee and expo date. Mom and I love The Collins Quarter’s walk-up coffee bar which includes more than twenty delicious drink options ranging from their specialty, the lavender mocha latte to cold pressed coffee.

The Collins Quarter coffee barThe Collins Quarter

Coffee in hand, we crossed the street towards the race expo which was held at the Hilton Savannah DeSoto hotel. Unlike any expo I’ve visited, this expo was aptly named the New Balance Fashion Fitness Expo.

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Our first priority was picking up our bibs. As this was mom’s first race expo experience, we had a blast going by all the booths and talking with the volunteers. Everyone was very supportive, helpful and knowledgeable! The swag for this race is not your usual t-shirt or technical t-shirt. Instead, each woman receives an awesome New Balance gym bag! With four outside pockets, one outside zip pocket, and an inside zipper this bag is the perfect gym bag! The gray color and fun purple and green detail put a feminine spin on it. All you heard near the bag pick-up was shouts of glee and lots of compliments!

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Our next stop was the Corona and Natalie’s juice booth where they checked our identification before giving us post-race wristbands so we can enjoy mimosas or beers after 13.1 miles!

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There were booths from all of the sponsors including Fleet Feet Savannah, Leopold’s Ice Cream, Publix, St. Joseph’s Candler, Savannah Bee Company, Byrd’s Cookies and Optim Orthopedics. Fleet Feet allowed visitors to spin for prizes and discounts while Optim Orthopedics gave runners race kits including Sport Beans, lip balm, and blister kits!

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Within the expo, New Balance dedicated a section to their expansive women’s wear including Publix Savannah Half branded items and pieces from their yoga, lifestyle and running lines. There was so many adorable pieces that mom nor I could resist buying a few pieces of branded gear.  The local touches including a New Balance fountain of shoe laces and shoes, which looks like our iconic Forsyth Park Fountain and cobble stone walkways and artificial grass. IMG_8049

I had the chance to catch up with my New Balance friends who were kind enough to send me home with a new pair of Fresh Foam Boracay shoes as part of our race ambassador partnership. The New Balance and Fleet Feet Savannah staff working the expo were absolutely wonderful today. Everyone was very helpful, happy to answer questions and look for sizes while also explaining the difference between their many lines of apparel and shoes. My mom snagged a pair of the New Balance Well2Go flats which will be perfect for their Europe adventures next month!

IMG_8045Just as we were leaving I saw two friendly brunettes, Claudia and Victoria, who are also race ambassadors! These lovely ladies are integral parts of the Savannah running community and have been huge supporters of this race on a local level. Victoria is pacing the 3:00 run/walk group tomorrow. IMG_8047

After the expo Mom and I enjoyed a celebratory birthday lunch. We met Ryan, Madeline and my dad at Lili’s on Wilmington Island to catch up with my brother and his girlfriend while celebrating her birthday.  The seared shrimp salad is my new favorite. Filled with tasty shrimp, fresh blueberries, couscous, feta cheese, and crushed pecans this salad will fill you up and cover all the taste buds!

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Less Than 10 Days

Less than ten days from now I’ll enjoy running my first race in downtown Savannah. The course winds runners through many of the historic sights including Forsyth Park and 12 city squares. Though I am a Savannah native, I haven’t had the opportunity to run through downtown, enjoying the parks, squares, historic sites, and moss-covered trees. Keep in mind that I didn’t start running until the age of 22, just as I was graduating from The University of Georgia and moving to Philadelphia. In fact, I’ve only run one race in Savannah, a Turkey Trot four years ago

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It’s a bit of a crazy course with all the twists, turns and out and backs, but this will hopefully work to my benefit. The out and back course means that I’ll get to spend to see my dad, brother and Bo cheering at least two times AND I’ll spend the second half of the race trying to spot my aunt and mom. I am SO proud of their training and can’t wait to celebrate their achievement of walking the half marathon. In fact, I think I’ve convinced my mom to do a guest post reflecting on her training and experience. My mom’s walking and endurance has evolved so much in just ten weeks! She is now averaging 25 miles per week, more than triple what she was walking previously!

At this point, I couldn’t be more excited for next Saturday. Even though training has not been perfect, I’m looking forward to racing. It’s been a while since I went into a half marathon this excited. I have the opportunity to run as a race ambassador in my hometown. The azaleas will be in full bloom, greeting us as we turn through the parks.

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Our healthier lifestyle and my strong training these past two weeks have changed my mood, moving me from apprehensive to over the moon with excitement! Jess told me to spend these final few days focusing on my current week of training versus rehashing the past ten weeks of training. She couldn’t have been more right! Focusing my nerves and energy on my training has helped give me the extra boost to push the paces. Seeing faster than normal paces has helped boost my confidence going into next week’s half marathon.

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My goal between now and then is to maintain my workout momentum, continue eating clean, limit my alcohol intake in Edinburgh this weekend and get plenty of sleep.  The excitement of running in my hometown and having amazing spectators cheering along the race course is all the momentum I need to give this race every ounce – mentally and physically!

Your turn: How do you handle race courses with lots of twists and turns? How do you psyche yourself up for a successful race?

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My New Favorite Group Workout

For years, I thought that the only sign of a good workout was being drenched in sweat. I spent my time taking high-intensity workout classes, Bikram yoga or sprinting on the treadmill. When Bo and I would come home to Savannah for the holidays, instead of going on long walks with my mom or Mimi, my mother-in-law, I’d head to the gym or out for a run.

Since my mom is training to walk her first half marathon, the Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon, I promised her that I’d lace up my shoes with her during our vacation.  (If you want to register to walk or run this half marathon or 5k, use the code healthyhappierbear for a discount!)

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After four long power walks which have left me tired and sore, I’ve realized that walking can be a great workout and help me stay in shape while we’re home. Walking has more benefits than weight loss and maintaining physical fitness. The walks are far more relaxing than my typical workouts and have a mind-clearing benefit, similar to yoga. There is so much valuable conversation enjoyed during a two-hour power walk through our neighborhood and views of the marsh and local wildlife only add to the experience. Today my sister-in-law and mother-in-law ended up walking together for almost two hours while chatting about upcoming travel plans! On Friday, my mom and I explored parts of the neighborhood we’d never seen, using Google Maps to navigate our way when needed.

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While long walks can’t fully replace my typical workouts, they are a great workout to include in my routine while we’re home. I joked with my mom today that long power walks are my new favorite group workout. While I can easily take a long walk solo, with Serial or another podcast keeping me company, it’s far more to pass time chatting with friends, similar to a long run.

If you’re at home for the holidays with a family who likes to walk, lace up your shoes and give it a try. It may take a bit longer than your typical workout, but you will have the opportunity to catch up with loved ones and have a great workout.

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