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.