Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Race Report: Mississippi Blues Half Marathon

I made it to Mississippi!
I didn't even bother to really prepare to pack, LOL.  I still had a suitcase with a few running items in it from when I went home two weeks ago and ran the disastrous Operation Jack KC Run in the Snow, and I never really unpacked.  So, the morning of Friday, January 9, I woke up and took some things out and replaced some items, probably overpacking (which, I did... there were a few items I didn't even wear over the weekend!) for the Back2Back Challenge weekend running the Mississippi Blues Half Marathon in Jackson, Mississippi on Saturday and the Servis 1st Bank First Light Half Marathon in Mobile, Alabama on Sunday.  Literally, got up at 8am, threw stuff in my bag, and then was out the door by 8:45.  Being so close to LaGuardia, I knew I'd get there quickly - but not realizing, "oh... it snowed an inch this morning."  Nevertheless, I schlepped my rollaway bag six blocks to the bus stop, where, just my luck, a Q70 was waiting for me, and we were whisked off to LGA.  The security line was minimal so I got through in less than three minutes, and I made it to the my gate maybe 25 minutes after leaving my apartment.  Yet another score!

Pre-race dinner with 50 States HM
and Half Fanatic Clubs -
here are members of both...
dubbed "Team Renegade"
And then... a delay.  The inbound aircraft was a bit delayed getting back to NYC due to the weather, so we were now slated to leave an hour later at 11am.  But, no biggie - I scheduled my layover in Atlanta with some padding, just for an instance like this.  My flight to Jackson left around 3PM and arrived less than an hour later, and shortly, I was picked up by my friends Donna, Hema, and Lynn, who had arrived earlier in the day, had already gotten their bibs and other race accoutrements at the small expo at the Jackson Convention Center, and managed to fit in lunch and even a 45 minute drive out to Vicksburg, Mississippi, to grab a photo of the state signs of Mississippi and Louisiana at the border!  Efficient folks, my friends are :)


Great friends at the Fifty States dinner!
So, after picking me up, we headed to the hotel to check in, drop our stuff off, then headed off to the expo so I could pick up my bib and goodie bag, and then walked over to the Marathon Maniacs/Half Fanatics Meeting and Dinner at the Mississippi Museum of Art.  After eating and visiting with friends, many of whom I had never met but had only interacted with on Facebook, we scooted off to another meet-up with the Fifty States Half Marathon Club folks, who were meeting another short walk away at a local restaurant, Hal and Mal's.  Our small group of four had grown to seven, adding Kimberlee from Idaho, Loan from Texas, and Maria from California - and while all of us were Half Fanatics, we were also members of the Fifty States Club... so we dubbed our group, "the Renegades."


At the start... very cold!
We had a blast at the smaller meet up with the Fifty States folks, and got to chat about upcoming races and suggestions for future races to check off states from our lists.  At 9pm, we headed home, feeling like it was midnight - probably all exhausted from the travel.  Either way, we had an early morning ahead of us on Saturday, so it was best that we get back to our hotels to rest up for the first half of the weekend.


With members of FRNY
in Mississippi!
5am came far too quickly, but I got all myself ready for the race.  It was going to be a COLD one, very unusual for Mississippi regardless of the time of year.  The temperature was well below the freezing mark (low-mid 20s), and it was smart to be wearing several layers - I went with a short sleeved tech tee under a long sleeved heavier-fabric half-zip, with my FRNY tech tee on top of that; and two pairs of tights, but since this was a race in Mississippi, I went with my jean leggings (or "jeggings") layer on top, for some southern style :)  We got a few photos with the Half Fanatics and Fifty States groups, and I also got a pic with five other fellow FRNY members who made the trek down south to run both states' races before the gun went off to start the race.

The Old Capitol Building
(photo by Kimberlee Lafferty)
And man, was it a hilly race.  It started forgivingly, running westward on Pascagoula Street and onto the campus of Jackson State University.  I ran with Donna and Hema for the first mile or so, before I decided to take off on my own to manage the hills as best as I could.  When we made the first loop  back eastward along Banks Street at mile 2, we got the first taste of Mississippi hills.  We progressed back down Pascagoula Street eastward, past the startline and then turned onto the rolling hills of North State Street, as we passed the Old Capitol Building, Millsaps College, Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium, and the University of Mississippi Medical School.  Just after Mile 5, we passed "Jackson Brace and Limb Co." which I thought was ironic to be running by on a half marathon/marathon route.


The course along the Frontage Roads of I-55.  Not the most scenic.
(photo by Kimberlee Lafferty)
I ate one.  It was good.
(photo by Kimberlee Lafferty)
We turned at about mile 6.5 onto Lakeland Drive and then proceeded onto the Frontage Roads of I-55.  It was like a wind tunnel here, as we ran along the frontage road northward before crossing underneath the overpass to the southward-bound frontage road.  Unfortunate that we had to go through some not-very-scenic areas for nearly two miles of the race, but alas, there were still a few folks who came out to cheer us on, braving the cold weather.  At mile 9, we had to cross the busy Lakeland Drive, which had backed up car traffic both eastbound and westbound due to the race.  Sucks for those drivers.  We then skirted the edge of Lakeland Park before crossing a bridge over the highway into a residential area.  Here is where we got more of the spectactors along the route, with people sitting in front of their houses cheering us on - some leaving food out (which I took advantage of... can't pass up a free donut hole or oreo!) and some even stoking a firepit!  By mile 12, we were headed southward on North Street back toward the Art Museum, and made our way to the finish line to grab our spiffy medals!

We all finished!  And we got this spiffy medal!
#victoryheadstand in Mississippi!
I finished in 2:19:22, negative splitting each of my final two miles!  After finishing, I came around to the finish line to cheer on my friends as they each finished their first half of the weekend - and then proceeded to do my customary #victoryheadstand... on concrete nonetheless!  Once we all arrived, we headed back to the hotel for much-needed showers and to pack up and check out.  We grabbed food at a delicious barbecue place (Pig and Pint... go to it if you're ever in Jackson!) and then proceeded on our way to Mobile for race #2!

Gosh, what a gorgeous medal...

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