Monday, April 29, 2013

Rivertown Races Half Marathon "Race" Report

Since I didn't have a cool new recipe to share today, I debated whether to write a race report for Saturday's half marathon instead.  Since I was using it as a training run, I hadn't decided if it needed a race report, but since it was an official race and I want a record of how the day went, I decided to try and write. I sat at the computer for a long time trying to put thoughts to words and I had to leave it and come back.  I really struggled with how I felt about Saturday's run and I didn't want the recap to be full of doom and gloom my tweeps got enough of that on twitter Sunday morning.  Race day really wasn't a bad day at all but how I reacted to it wasn't the greatest.  It was a beautiful day on a tough course and I got to share it with friends.  It just took most of Sunday to figure that out.

The 10 days before the race:  I'm including this time-frame because it's important.  I had a great run at the Martian Half 2 weeks before but then severely overdid it on my runs immediately after - to the point of injuring my calves and hamstrings 10 days before the Rivertown Half.  Ironically, that injury occurred only hours after I signed up for the race.  Dumb. I didn't run for 10 days, focusing instead on rolling and stretching my shredded legs, with only did a little biking thrown in here and there.  I figured I'd be fine considering I had a good base and had done a number of 11 and 12 mile runs, in addition to the 13.1 I raced my ass off in 2 weeks before.  WRONG.

The night before the race:  I had been hydrating like it was my job but when one of my coworkers suggested heading out for margaritas after work, I decided, "why not?"  I ran to the school hosting packet pick-up on the way to the bar since it was right around the corner from my school.  In and out in about 5 minutes.  I didn't even take a picture of the race shirt because I don't like it at all.  It's a long-sleeve tech shirt but seems really small for a medium and is my "favorite" color - white.  Seriously, race directors, NO WHITE SHIRTS! Especially ones so sheer that they leave nothing to the imagination.  I made it to the bar and had a nice time with my coworkers.  I had a couple big-ass margaritas and chips and salsa.  Carb-loading at it's finest, then came home and had my usual meal of spaghetti.  I spent the rest of the night running around like a chicken with my head cut off because I couldn't find half my race gear (since I hadn't needed any of it in over a week).  I also really struggled with what to wear because our weather decided to jump from winter to early summer literally overnight.  With as bad as my legs had been after my last race, I decided on my compression tights to give the hammies and calves as much support as possible.  I knew the temp would be in the mid-40s at the start and tights would be too warm, so I tried to dress lighter on top.  I went with a short-sleeved (brand new - yep, broke that rule for the first time) Nike top.  I decided since there would be aide stations every 2 miles I wouldn't carry water (mistake and "nothing new" rule break number 2) and only bring my shot blocks.  I also decided to not wear a hat (nothing new rule broken x 3) and wear new running undies (rule broken x 4).  Of these 4 major rule breaks, only the shirt would prove to be fine.  Oops.  Live and learn, right?

Flat Bari is ready to go!
Race Day:  I woke up before my alarm as usual and did my typical coffee, oatmeal, foam-rolling routine.  Because the venue for the race had to change due to all the flooding in the area, runners were asked to park at our middle school and be shuttled to the race site.  They had plenty of busses and there were 2 waiting when I got there at 7.  It was only about a 10 min ride to the race and I had plenty of time to finish a bottle of Nuun (I'm very glad I had that with me) and use the restroom.  I ran into a few friends who were running the 5k and then hung out with Mindy while we waited for Megan to get there.  It was a little cool in the morning but also felt oddly humid.  We waited inside the high school where the race would start and end until about 10 min before race start.

Beautiful morning, no clouds, lots of sun - we'd run into this after the turn-around.
Only in West Michigan will you get an honor guard and a prayer before the race.  It was actually very cool.  The race director also asked for 26.2 seconds of silence to honor those killed or injured during the Boston Marathon bombings.


It was great to see Megan and Mindy again.  We snapped a quick picture before we started and then waited for the gun.  There were pace groups with signs as to where to line up, but it seemed no one was really paying attention.  I think we lined up behind the 9mm sign but only because we really couldn't get back any farther.

Megan, Mindy and Me! (thanks to Megan for the picture)
The first half of the race felt great.  My legs were well rested from not running for so long and everything felt easy.  I knew I had to take things easy and was trying to run by feel, but was also keeping an eye on my splits so I wouldn't be running too fast.  Mindy and I stuck together and it seemed we were both doing quite well considering we'd each just set huge half marathon PRs just a week earlier (for her) and 2 weeks earlier (for me).  I was definitely feeling warm early on, which was a concern because I really couldn't shed any clothes.  Even with the hills and walking through each aide station because I wasn't carrying water, my splits were really good: 10:17, 10:46 (this was a dirt road with an aide station), 10:16, 10:18, 10:04, 10:14, 10:50.

After the turn around in the middle of the 7th mile, I realized we had the wind at our back for the first half.  Running into the breeze made the run a little more challenging but also helped with the over-heating.  I was really feeling the sun beating down and now I was running INTO the sun - with no hat or sunglasses.  It sucked.  The main road we were running on was not only hilly, but had a pretty significant slant.  My right hip (the one on the higher part of the road) was starting to hurt. A lot.  Every step - especially on any downhills - felt like my femur was being jammed into my hip socket.  I started doing a little more walking after the aide stations but I wasn't going to let the hills beat me.  I ran every freaking hill.  I was starting to struggle mentally as well.  Somewhere around mile 8, I saw one of my coworkers.  I've worked with her for 4 years but I could not remember her name for about 2 miles.  My brain was going to mush.  I did something else new on race day mid race because I felt like my 2 shot blocks every 3 miles were not cutting it.  I started taking Gatorade at the aide station around mile 10.  I NEVER drink Gatorade because I can't stand it, but I knew I was sweating a ton and was getting very depleted.  I wanted to make sure I didn't start cramping up.  There was a ton of walking through miles 9-11.  I started to question my ability to run 15.5 miles in 2 weeks on another hilly course.  I was hurting and I didn't like it.  My splits when to hell and I knew it was going to be a struggle to not push too hard and hurt myself.  Mindy and I stuck together until mile 11 when she told me to run ahead.  She was having some knee issues and we both just needed to run our own races at that point.  I hit the dirt road section again and walked through the last aide station, but then decided I wouldn't walk again until I crossed the finish line.  Frankly, it just felt better to keep running.  I picked it up and finished very strong, passing at least 7 or 8 people in the last 1/2 mile.  Splits in the second half showed how much I struggled but also that, even with the wheels falling off, I was able to pull my shit together and finish well: 10:47, 11:41, 12:05, 11:26, 11:11 (back on the dirt), 10:11, :27 (7:12 pace!)



I finished in 2:20:29!  Even with all the struggles in the 2nd half, I managed to pull off my 2nd fastest half marathon on a tough course in warm and sunny conditions that I hadn't had a chance to train in.  I had told one of my friends I would be thrilled with a 2:20, but was ok with 2:30 because I knew this needed to be a training run.  I hit my goal :)

Megan rocked her race too and her hubby got a great shot of us at the finish!
Mindy finished strong and we found a nice, shady spot to stretch and cool off.
I definitely learned a few things from this race.  Signing up for another half only a few days after setting a PR (and still riding the high) was probably not the smartest move.  I wasn't 100% healthy and in denial about it.  I think I did a good job of listening to my body during this run, though, and not pushing too hard (except I probably did go out too fast).  I know trying new things on race day isn't smart, and luckily all I ended up with was some chafing in an uncomfortable location, dehydration, and a sunburn. I think I need to carry water at longer races if the temp is above 40.  I also need to wear shorts if the temp is over 40.  It was almost 60 by the time I crossed the finish line and tights were HOT.  Sunglasses or a hat are also a must if it's sunny.  Sunscreen probably would be a good idea too.  I was really disappointed in how I hit the wall only 8 miles into the race, but the fact I was able to pull it together and still finish strong just shows how much I've grown as a runner.

I also learned I need to take race results with a grain of salt.  When I saw the official race results Sunday morning and where I placed (overall 231/290, women 103/145) and in my age group (16/22), I was really upset.  I had just run my 2nd fastest half in less than ideal conditions and thought a 2:20 was a good race time.  I bitched and whined on twitter and to my BFF about how seeing the rankings took the wind out of my sales.  The responses were pretty awesome and I'm doing my best to take all the positive comments to heart.  The fact is...there will ALWAYS be people faster than me and comparing myself to them is only going to hurt me.  I am currently running in a crazy fast age group (in this race, the top 10 in my age group were all under 2:05) and many of those women have probably been running for more years than me.  I can't control who shows up for races, what their running backgrounds are, the conditions of the course or what the weather will be.  2:20 is still a great race time - especially when you consider where I started and the times of my other halves.  I've improved a ton in only a few years.  I'm coming back from a major injury and I'm stronger and faster than I've ever been.


The Rivertown Races Half Marathon was a very well-run race, especially when you consider this was the inaugural year and all the natural disasters going on all around the race location.  Needing to move the race literally days before could've been a mess, but the race directors did a fantastic job communicating with runners via email and their Facebook page.  Shuttles to and from the race were great and the bus drivers were very nice.  The aide stations were well staffed and there was plenty of water, Gatorade and gu (for those who wanted it).  They had portajons set up at one spot on the out/back course as well.  Even though the road was open and traffic was moving along the course, I felt pretty safe (this was definitely a concern of mine when I drove the course a couple days before the race).  Police and EMS were visible and the race volunteers were awesome.  They even had 2 bands playing music.  I had to smile when we came upon the first band about 1.5 miles in and they were playing Mumford and Sons.  You know it's going to be a great day when you hear Mumford and Sons :)

I hope Rivertown Races will be back again next year - it's not often I get the opportunity to be a streaker!