You might want to settle in with a beverage, this is gonna be a photo-filled long one :)
About 19 weeks ago, I started blogging my training for the Bayshore Half Marathon, but the race prep really started back on Dec 1st when registration opened (and then sold out in about 1 hour and 20 min!). I skipped a training run that day so I could sit at my computer at 8 am and try to get one of the coveted 2000 slots in the half marathon. It's a small race, in a beautiful location, it sells out every year, and I had decided that this would be my "A" race for 2013. Over the course of my training, I ran 4 races in the last 2 months of 13.1 or longer, including setting a 17 minute PR at the Martian Half 8 weeks ago and an 11 minute PR at the 5/3 River Bank Run 25k 2 weeks ago. I was afraid going into this weekend that I'd already peaked. Martian was pretty much at a 10 m/m pace on the nose and I didn't think I had 13.1 miles of sub-10s in me. Seriously - if you think running 4 races in 8 weeks is a good training plan...think again. I was tired and burned out and really just wanted my spring racing season to be DONE.
This being Michigan (and northern Michigan at that), the weather decided to take a very cold turn in the week leading up to the race, so I completely re-thought my race gear as I was packing Thursday night. I still packed my skirt and tank, but decided the capris and t-shirt were definitely the way to go when I saw it would be 40 at the start (and in the 30s while I was waiting around).
The drive up to Traverse City could not have been more beautiful. My daughter drove the entire way (yeah for teen drivers) and I was able to relax (as much as you can with a 15 year old behind the wheel) and play on my phone. She really did a great job driving and will be more than ready to take her driver's test this summer.
|blue skies the whole way|
We rolled into Traverse City right around 11:00 and were more than ready to hit a couple of the MANY breweries/brewpubs in the area. If you love craft beer, this is a place to visit - after you stop in Grand Rapids - 2013's Beer City USA - first, of course!
|The beer in TC deserves it's own post. (FYI - this app is called Find Craft Beer)|
We hit up Right Brain Brewing for a few samples and then tried to go to Brewery Ferment but they were closed. We ended up at The Filling Station for the most amazing pizza lunch and more samples. I played it safe, though, and probably only had a pint total between the two breweries.
After lunch, I wanted to drive the course since I had never run here before and don't really like surprises. I'd been told by some people the course was "pancake flat" and others that there were "rolling hills". Basically, they were both right, but what was most impressive was that this view was basically 12 miles of the 13.1 mile course. Most of these pictures were taken around what would be about the 5 mile mark on my race. (The race is an out-and-back for marathoners but half marathoners are bussed to the turnaround and we just run back to town.)
After we'd toured the course with 2 other cars that were obviously runners since they were doing the exact same thing I was - stopping and taking pictures and turning around when we got to the start, we headed to our hotel. As soon as I'd gotten in to the race, I hit up Expedia and booked a Wolf Den Suite at Great Wolf Lodge. I figured the water park and bigger room would be more fun for the kids than just hanging out at a basic hotel. Because I booked so early, we got a decent rate, but it was still WAYYYYY too much to spend on a room. Lesson learned.
|Water park at Great Wolf Lodge|
We hit the room and then the water park for awhile. My teens got bored pretty quickly and we ended up back in the room with them just watching TV and playing on their devices. At least it kept them out of my hair though. I got changed and headed to packet pickup - which just stressed me the FFFF out because traffic was a nightmare. Having this race in a resort town on Memorial Day Weekend is either f*cking brilliant or the dumbest thing EVER. Still undecided. Packet pickup was very well organized and easy. Numbers were assigned alphabetically, you got your bib and then walked over to another table for your shirt. I must have an uncommon last name because there was no line for me. Other numbers/names weren't as lucky. I met up with my friend Megan for a couple minutes, but being bad bloggers, neither of us took a picture. Next time. Driving back to the hotel was just as stressful and I was ready to pull my hair out by the time I got there.
|My kids want me to stop taking pictures of them. Too bad.|
I called dibs on the bottom bunk in the Wolf Den so I could have a quiet and dark place to sleep. We found a Subway restaurant in the local Walmart and I had the pre-race dinner that worked for my last 2 PRs. We'd see if it would work again. I was back in my room and lights off by 9:30 pm with alarms set on my phone, iPad and daughter's iPod for 4am. Surprisingly, the whole family went to bed at the same time instead of playing in the hotel. Another reason to book the Super8 next time.
|perfect race-time temps!|
Because I never sleep the night before a race, I was awake before any of the 4am alarms went off. I made myself some coffee at the hotel and because we were in a suite, I also had a microwave so I was able to make my usual pre-race meal of oatmeal. I wasn't going to be running for another 3 hours though, so I wrapped the container in foil and saved it until I was on the bus heading to the race site.
|line of busses waiting at 0 dark 30|
A school bus picked runners up at my hotel at 4:55 and then dropped us at the high school where the marathon and 10k would start. We loaded another bus at 5:30 for the 20 min drive to our starting line. I was chatting with a woman on the bus and we both remarked it felt like Disney needing to be up and on a bus so early. I wish I'd sat on the other size of the bus though, because the sunrise over the East Bay was absolutely glorious. We got to the field where we'd wait and I walked over to the bluff for a picture.
|not even remotely close to how beautiful the sunrise really was|
I won't lie. Waiting around for 1.5 hours in mid 30* temps in a frost covered open field is COLD. I was bundled in my daughter's sweatpants and 2 hoodies while sitting on my gear check bag. I had plenty of time to hit the bathroom a couple times and get in a warm-up run. My warm-up wasn't what it should've been though because my feet were ice cubes and I decided 10 min before the start that I really had to pee again. I made it out of the port-o-john and to the starting masses just as they were finishing the National Anthem. Whew - cutting it a little close.
Right on time, the crowd started moving forward and we were off! I lined up between the 9:30 and 10 m/m signs (the farthest forward I've ever lined up in a race) and prayed I wouldn't go out too fast. The race starts on a bit of a downhill and I didn't want to burn out my quads in the first 3 miles. I did a lot of weaving though in the first mile which slowed me a little, but I was still going faster than my planned 10:15/10:20 starting pace. My friend Jenny caught me right at a mile and we ran the 2nd mile together. We've never run together in a race so chatting with her for a mile was really nice. She took off ahead and I settled in. Little rollers that were enough to make it interesting but not big enough to kill you. I was liking this course. Right around mile 4 or so, the lead marathoners came through with their police escort. Holy Crap! They were already at mile 9 and only had a 15 min head start over the half marathoners. So awesome to see but I made it my goal for him to not pass me on the way back :) By mile 5, my legs were already screaming at me to walk. I was very afraid that I'd gone out too fast and blew my chances at a PR because I was already TIRED and SORE. I was trying to drink at every mile (I carried water) and I took 2 shot blocks every 3 miles (except for mile 12 because I was so close to being done).
Splits: 9:50, 9:37, 9:34, 9:45, 9:47
It was in this section that we saw the most marathoners coming from the south. I managed to spot a few of my friends but missed the majority of them. A few of them also saw me and it was cool to hear my name - thanks Mandy, Dan, Tim and Glenn! My legs were really screaming at me but I told them to STFU. I couldn't believe I was holding right around a 9:45 average but I was starting to feel like I was slowing WAY down. I figured I'd ride it as long as I could and hopefully bank some minutes in case the wheels fell off at the end. Somewhere around mile 7, I stopped at my only aid station. The signs said "Beer Ahead!" and "Not Water...because we care!" Yes, 2 guys had a pony keg set up at the end of their driveway. I had about a shots glass worth of really bad (read - Miller Lite or something) beer and it tasted AMAZING! I hit mile 10 and kept telling myself that at this pace, I had less than 30 minutes to go and I could do anything for 30 minutes.
Splits: 9:57, 9:50, 9:40, 9:46, 9:46
My legs were toast. I was beginning to cramp up and this was probably one of the most painful 5ks I've ever run. There was another beer station in here but I was afraid if I slowed down for the beer, I'd just want to sit there and drink. We started to move away from the water's edge, too, which made this section even more difficult mentally. I'd been relying on seeing that water to my left and taking in the beauty of the course. I was also very focused on my playlist and it seemed songs played exactly when I needed them to. Every song is there for a reason, be it pace or the message or because it reminds me of someone. On Saturday, they WORKED. I kept looking at my watch. I knew I was going to PR at this point but I didn't know by how much. I told myself "NO 10s" and if I saw a 10:xx pace on my watch I made myself speed up, no matter how badly it hurt. I wasn't going to lose my PR in the last 3 miles of this race when I'd run so well up to this point. I'd read on someone's blog about the uphill at the end and they weren't kidding. Still - my fastest mile of the course!!!! The final .1 is run on the high school track and I channeled my track-running daughter and sprinted to the end. I think I heard the announcer read my name but I was so focused on the finish line that I wasn't really listening. What I did hear right after I crossed was him announce the first marathon finisher was coming up the track - That guy finished in 2:25:11 - unreal.
Splits: 9:40, 9:43, 9:26, :54.9 (for .11 - an 8:09 pace)
I looked down at my watch after I crossed the finisher's mat and about cried! I'd just set another PR by 3 minutes!!!!! I felt like I left it all out on that course and I could not have been more proud of myself. My "A" race really was my "A" race after all :)
I found a backdrop and had my picture taken. The nice girl even took one with my phone - but I hope the professional one turns out better.
Snapped a selfie and posted my happy smile to twitter and facebook. The race timing tracking system was not working very well and it didn't show I finished until about 3 hours later. If I hadn't posted this picture, those tracking me would've thought I'd fallen off the bluff or something after mile 8!
I got a couple things to eat and drink but really didn't want any of it. This is typical for me after a long run but I forced myself to drink a little chocolate milk, eat a few potato chips, and eventually drink some more water. I even found my other half-crazy friends and we snapped a group picture before heading over to the ice cream tent.
|Jenny (who I ran a bit with at the beginning) is in the blue shorts and Molly in the other yellow top. Molly took 5th in her AG!|
After getting some ice cream, we headed back out toward the finish line to cheer on the marathoners. I had a bunch of friends running and it was so incredible to watch them all finish. I'm proud of each and every one of my friends who ran that day. Lots of PRs were set and everyone did a fantastic job.
I'm absolutely thrilled with how well I ran on Saturday. I wanted another PR, doubted my ability to get it, but then sucked it up when the going got tough and ran my fastest half ever (and only about 30 sec per mile slower than my 5k pr!). I even managed to end up in the top 50% (even a bit better - 42% in my age group and 39% women)!
How else did you think I'd celebrate? After meeting up with the family, we went to North Peak Brewing for lunch and I had a couple of beers and my first buffalo burger. All delish. Then we headed to Ferment where my husband had a few samples (I wasn't a fan of the beers there but that might have been because I was just DONE).
Overall, I don't think I could've asked for a better day. I would recommend this race to anyone - awesome volunteers (and unofficial volunteers) on the course, it was well organized, and the course is hands-down the most beautiful course I've ever run. The swag is pretty decent too.
I think back to the runner I was when I ran my first half marathon and set my original PR of 2:27:52 back in October 2010 and I realize how much I've changed - not only physically but mentally. That runner from 2010 would have walked when the going got tough rather than sucking it up and pushing through. In fact, she wouldn't have tried for a PR at all because there's no way she would've believed it was possible. The really crazy thing? I was just out of my boot a year ago. In fact, I "ran" a virtual 5k last Memorial Day weekend and it took me 40:51 to finish (a 13-something min/m pace) and this weekend I ran 13.1 miles at a 9:42 min/m pace!!! That half PR from my very first half marathon stood until April of this year when I shocked myself and ran a 2:10 at Martian. To take another 3 minutes off 8 weeks later was a bit surreal. In this midst of this training, I also managed to shave 11 1/2 minutes off my 25k time and even ran a couple sub-28 minute 5ks in training. To say this has been a great spring would be an understatement. What's next? Lots and lots of rest, cross training, a break from running (we'll see how long it lasts - my goal is at least a week, maybe 2). I have a few more races on the schedule but not until later in the summer and the first is another sprint tri, so goal numero uno will be to get brave enough to ride my tri-bike with the new shoes and pedals I got for Christmas somewhere other than my basement. I'll keep you posted!