Monday, August 31, 2009

Spirit of Columbus half marathon

I ran the Spirit of Columbus half marathon yesterday--my second half marathon. I improved by 4 minutes! I thought when I finished that I'd improved by 6, but my watch time didn't match up with my chip time apparently :o( At any rate, I finished in 2:23:10, a 10:55 pace. Still not great but I feel very confident that in other conditions I could've done still better.

At any rate, this race was a mess. I kind of want to write an email to the race directors, but I don't know if that would be appropriate or not: So we start running, and about 15 minutes in I realize I missed the mile marker for the first mile. I'm running with a pace group somewhat unintentionally, and this guy's pace is supposed to be 11:26/mile for a finishing time of 2:30. I feel like I'm running very fast, and quickly getting demoralized because I thought I could do well better than an 11:26 pace, especially at the beginning. Suddenly it's more than 25 minutes in and I also didn't see the second mile marker. A guy wearing a Garmin is right behind our pace group, and he starts yelling "You're going to kill these people! You're running a 10 minute pace!" The pacer himself wasn't wearing a watch at all, so I tend to trust the Garmin man that this dude was running WAY too fast. I didn't intend to go out that quick. I drop off the back of the pace group, feeling somewhat demoralized that I'm now behind the pace group for 2:30, but I have no idea at all where I really am because the miles haven't been clearly marked. The race info said the miles would be clearly marked. The first marker I encounter is at mile 4.

The race info said there would be water and sports drink at every mile from 2-13. The info also listed in detail various things that would be available at each stop (ie. cookies and candy at 3, 6, 9, 12; defizzled pop at 3, 6, 9, 12; oranges at mile 5; hammer gel at certain miles, etc.) Throughout the race, NONE of that energy stuff was available except hammer gel. Which, fine, I was looking forward to the oranges but I don't really eat stuff while running anyway, and I had some shot blocks with me if I needed them. But why on earth would you promise all of that stuff in such detail if you're not going to deliver it at all??

The real issue was that THERE WAS NO WATER UNTIL THE START OF MILE 8. Like, no shit, I ran an hour and 9 minutes with NO WATER AVAILABLE AT ALL. There wasn't a water stop at all until mile 3, where they had heed sports drink (which makes me sick, so I didn't take any, but as it turns out it would've been better than nothing). At mile 4 there was no water stop at all; then at mile 5 there was a stop and they were out of both water and sports drink. Mile 6 was also out, and I felt kind of bad because I yelled at a volunteer "Are you kidding me?? Where the eff are we supposed to get water??" I was dying by his point... we were lucky it was a cool-ish day, but it was quickly heating up. Finally I have some water at mile 8, my friend is on the sidelines iwth a water bottle for me at mile 9.5, and I kept going. Mile 11: sports drink only. Mile 12: No water, no sports drink, just cheering volunteers. Seriously, what the eff?

I swing into the finish and they hand me a vitamin water. I'm vegan, and vitamin water is not vegan, but I had some because I didn't think about it...I just started drinking what they put in my hand. I walk deeper into the finishing chute, looking everywhere for water. They had kiddie pools full of vitamin water and EAS recovery drink and NO WATER. All I want is some effing plain water and I can't get any anywhere! There is NO WATER AT THE FINISH!

At this point my muscles start cramping like crazy. I've never finished a run and had my legs cramp like that. Then my stomach starts cramping. I felt awful, and I really attribute it to the hydration situation. I drink a lot on my training runs, because I sweat like crazy in the heat. The last 5 or so miles of the race were on a wide 4 or 6 lane road, full sun, no tree cover anywhere. Very hot.

Meanwhile I'm thanking my lucky stars that this wasn't my first half marathon because I wouldn't have run another, most likely. There were also no port-a-potties along the course (and the info said there would be). Not a single one. People were running off into the bushes and the ditch on the side of the road.

There was very very little crowd support along the course and a very small group at the finish, too, but I expected all of that. My last race was just so well organized, so much fun, tons of support, plenty of water, everything perfect. Maybe I got spoiled by that. Is this normal to have a race without all the stuff they say you can count on, like water, energy snacks, restrooms? I thought maybe they just didn't care about the rest of us who were running slow, and just giving water to those who were ahead of us... but the cutoff was a 15 minute mile, so that means there were 4-5 minutes of people running and walking behind me with no access to water.

So this has been more of a race-rant than a race-report...but all in all I had a surprisingly good race. I had a sub-10 minute mile! And I ran several miles at a 10 minute pace, which is about a minute and 20 seconds faster than I usually run. I didn't even notice the distance or feel like I was struggling to run 13 miles, and I think that was a MAJOR hurdle for me to overcome. I can now run 13 without it seeming like OH SO FAR. And now I can focus more on improving speed. I ran substantially faster during the second part of the race than the first, but I was willing myself onward... there was a point where I realized, with 3 miles left, that a time of 2:20 was within my grasp, and I just RAN. (sadly I didn't quite make it, but I will next time!)

Most importantly I feel like a huge badass for overcoming thirst and having more mental focus than I thought I could possibly have. My friend/running buddy also had a new PR. Maybe lack of water leads to some kind of zen state. heh.

Here I am finishing!

Sam ran with me (well...AHEAD of me). Josh came out cus the course went right by his house, and he also met us at the finish. Mathias gave us a ride to the finish back to the start... and i guess my friend Matt was somewhere around mile 3 taking photos, though I didn't see him.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Sunburst Half Marathon - First half ever!

So I ran my first ever half marathon on Saturday--the Sunburst in South Bend, Indiana. I traveled there with Sam who's been doing long runs with me for awhile (he just did his first half marathon last month). I had so so much fun at this race!!! The time seemed to go by quickly, unlike training runs where I'm looking at my watch constantly, and it was just a ton of fun.

At the start of the race (730 am) it was about 55 degrees and sunny. The course was actually really nice. The race started at the College Football Hall of Fame (downtown South Bend), went around a block downtown, and then headed north toward the river. The bit downtown was when I was the most nervous. We were running on lumpy brick streets that had been patched with pavement, and the unevenness required more focus than I'm used to, and I was anxious because I was at the back of the pack. I'm not a very fast runner, and I lined up just past the 10 min/mile sign...and almost EVERYONE was before that sign. No joke. When I went to see Sam run the Flying Pig in Cincinnati, 11 minute miles put him squarely in the middle of the pack. I hadn't been expecting to be so near the back and I was trying not to let it break my confidence. On the way out of the starting line, I ran past Mark , which was entirely too coincidental... it just happened that I was on the right side and noticed him at the right moment.

After the downtown bit we followed the river for about 2 miles, went around a residential block, and then went a little further north before following the river back south again at mile 6. I was really unsure about the pace I should run, because I hadn't done the best job of training with a watch and figuring out my pace, and my longest training run had been 11.5 miles and I wasn't sure how fast I could go at the start and still have energy left to finish 13.1 miles. I felt like I was holding back a lot at the beginning, but around mile 6 I got a little tired. I took half a shot blok, ran past Mark twice at a turnaround/waterstop area, and then I really had a few good miles. I felt so good during miles 7 and 8, it was kind of crazy. The run back south along the river was really nice; the runners were more spread out by then, and the sun was shining, and it was shady on the path and there was no traffic or other noise. I was able to finally settle in and get more focused. The water stops on the course were unevenly spread out; at some points you'd go a half mile, then one mile, then sometimes 2 miles (because there were no water stops on the stretches along the river). This made it a little tough because I wasn't sure when I could plan on water, and around mile 9 it started getting really, really hot. I had to stop an strip off my shirt, and they started warning about heatstroke at the water stops. i was pouring sweat. It was kind of crazy that it went from 55 and cool to this incredibly hot that quickly.

Around mile 9 we left the river path and looped around some residential areas, at which point I started to get a little confused about where I was relative to the rest of the course. At several points I'd see other runners coming a different direction, and there were points where runners coming toward us were turning one way while we were turning another, and after a few of those moments I was totally lost. I still had the mile markers to go by, of course, but mentally it was harder to envision where I was relative to the finish. Overall though I felt pretty good until around mile 10.5 there was a pretty big hill (big for a midwesterner!) Approaching the road sign "Hillcrest" I had a feeling it was coming...I managed to run up it but my legs were really really hurting. At the top of the hill, I thought I'd made it...but the road curved and continued going up a bit more. After that hill I was wiped out. I made it to mile 11 and started panicking because I suddenly didn't know whether the "mile 11" sign meant I'd just FINISHED mile 11 or was STARTING mile 11, which was kind of silly. I just focused on putting one foot in front of the other, and looking around at things to distract myself. In this residential stretch a lot of people had hooked their garden hose to the sprinkler and put the sprinkler in the street, which was nice (and felt awesome). There were also a couple kids with squirt guns offering to shoot runners, which I thought was funny and it kept me going a little.

At mile 11.5 we joined this huge mob of walkers. The one thing I don't know if I liked about this race was how they staggered the start times and had all of these events at once. Near mile 3, the 10k leaders with police escorts cut right through all of us running the half. There were people finishing a full marathon mixed in with us doing the half, and I felt bad being in their way (and for being so exhausted and wussy when they were on mile 25 of their runs). And at mile 11.5 we joined this crowd doing a family fun walk or something. There were signs that said "runners right, walkers left" but the walkers were crowding the line a lot, and the long straight road we were on was slightly uphill, and I was starting to feel like death a little. I looked at my watch and realized I wasn't going to make it under 2:15 which had been my "ideal" goal...a little disheartening. There was a ton more crowd support during this part of the race, which was nice though, as tons of people were out along the course cheering and a lot of the walkers were cheering for us too. To this point there had been very very little crowd support; a few people here and there at water stops, and a few people out in their yards in the residential parts, and no one at all along the river stretch.

The killer was mile 12. The race finished in Notre Dame stadium, and we were in sight of the stadium, but we had to pass it and go down to run around a cone and back to add distance. I had to start mixing a little walking with running, I tried another half a shot blok, but was just tired. I was getting more and more upset because I kept looking at my watch and I just couldn't seem to maintain the continuous running during mile 12, and i was SO CLOSE to the end. Finally after adding the extra distance we started toward the stadium and I just forced myself to RUN... I was so excited during this part. I passed my parents and Mark again, and went into the tunnel in the stadium. I actually managed to sprint to the finish, but it was mostly just adrenaline at that point.

Sam finished about 3 minutes better than I did. I finished in 2:26:50, which I was decently happy with for a first half marathon (my goal was to get in under 2:30). The crazy thing is though that this was really really bad relative to the other runners. I was 1028 out of 1260 runners, relative to women I came in 424 out of 583, and in my age group I was 92 out of 111 (that's the statistic that kills me...ugh). I keep reminding myself that I was competing against myself more than against the others, but I wish so much I was faster, and I really am gonna work on speed for my next race.

I feel like I was pretty well trained since I didn't get REALLY tired until after that big hill around 10.5 miles. I've been more sore than the usual long run, but not a wreck or anything. My biggest problem was blisters; I had a couple on the inside edges of my foot, and my middle toe on the same foot is probably going to lose a nail. It's not black yet, but my toe is swollen and the nail is raised. (ack)

The Sunburst was all in all a lot of fun and I'd totally run that race again.

Things I need to figure out by my next race:
*pacing: looking back, I wonder if I would've been better off running faster during the beginning when I had more energy, and then just pushing myself mentally through hell at the end of the race. I was tired at the end, but I probably could've still finished if I were more tired. I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel at various points during a 13 mile race. When I feel good, like I did around miles 7 and 8, should I just run as fast as I can, or do I hold back? Also, it seems odd that I kept getting exactly 11:03 and 11:17.
My splits:
mile 1: 10:58
mile 2: 10:50
mile 3: 10:56
mile 4: 11:17
mile 5: 11:03
mile 6: 11:17
mile 7: 11:03
mile 8: 11:03
mile 9: 11:15
mile 10: 11:42 (hill)
mile 11: 11:28 (post-hill omg)
mile 12: 11:05

*do I over/underpronate? My parents were at the race taking photos, and in several of the photos it looks like I'm running on the outside edge of my foot. Each time I've been fitted for running shoes they've looked at my wear patterns and said I needed a neutral shoe. I always get a lot of wear on the outside edge of my heel, and then in the middle of the ball of my foot, an I'm getting that line of blisters on the inside edge of the ball of my right foot. I don't know if this adds up to anything, or if the photos were all taken from weird angles, or what.

*speed: I KNOW I can beat this first time. I just have to figure out what kind of speed training to do. I have just under 2 months until my next race, unless I find a sooner one (which I'd like to).

Man, this was awesome. I can't wait to run another. Compared to the 5 miler I ran last September, this was a million times better. I felt awful during and after that 5 miler, and I think it's just because I'm simply not good at short distances and running really fast.