Thursday, April 17, 2014

Race Recap: 2014 Gazelle Girl Half Marathon

Let's preface this post by stating this was a race I was not planning to run.  That being said, I've never been one to back down when motivated my amazing women and uber awesome bling is at stake.  Some may even say this is my downfall, but that's the topic for another post :)  This is going to be a long post, so you might want to grab a beverage and get comfy.

My race actually started at the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon Expotique.  I was given the honor by Another Mother Runner to represent them at Gazelle Girl as an AMR Ambassador.  My friend Tami and I, along with my daughter, staffed the AMR booth, selling their super-cute shirts, hats, visors and copies of their 2 books.
Our AMR Booth!
I had an amazing time networking with women from all over Michigan.  So many had a running story they wanted to share and talking to a bunch of first-timers had me really itching to run.  I even got to meet up with Heather from Michigan Runner Girl.  She writes for AMR and we've been chatting since she profiled me on her blog awhile back.  It was like meeting up with an old friend.  That's one of the things I truly love about social media, just falling into conversation with someone like you've known them forever.  Another highlight from the expo was meeting long-time blog reader, Lisa from A Happy Little Family!  We had a great time chatting as well, but bad bloggers - didn't get a picture.
Thanks for the pic, Heather!
Back to the race, I'd said "no" several times in the weeks leading up to the race when asked if I was running.  I had just come back from vacation (where I ran almost 20 miles!) and I knew I'd be on my feet all day at the expo.  Well, as luck would have it, I was blessed with the opportunity to run the race thanks to Another Mother Runner.  I registered at the expo and then tried to fuel and hydrate as well as I could beginning at 3 pm the afternoon before a race.  I got home from the expo kind of freaking out about what I was doing.  My longest run since the Jax Bank Half at the end of December was 7 miles.  My training schedule called for 7 or 8 miles on Sunday but I'd just decided I was going to attempt to run 13.1 with basically no training.  I texted with a good friend about possible race/running plans and we decided my best bet was to run/walk the race.  I was in no condition (thanks to undertraining and injury) to even attempt to run the entire thing.  I was given a couple options: 1. Run/walk intervals by mile (run a mile/walk a mile) to get 7.1 miles of running and 6 miles of walking, or 2. Run 7 miles and then run/walk what I could to the finish.

Race Day

I woke up race morning to the sounds of thunder and lightening.  I had set out Flat Bari the night before, so I just got dressed, ate my usual pre-race breakfast of a bowl of oatmeal and cup of coffee, and headed downtown to meet friends at S-bux.  I decided to pay to park in the ramp right at the start so I wouldn't have a huge walk after the race if I wasn't feeling it. This was probably the best $15 I ever spent. My fueling plan was water in my fuel belt and 1 packet of Honey Stinger chews.  I took 2 or 3 chews every 3 or 4 miles.  This has worked well in previous halfs so I figured it would be fine today.  (In hindsight, I didn't drink nearly as much water for as humid as it was outside.)
Could we be any cuter?
Jenn and I made our way to the start around 7:45.  Her BF, Glenn, had bought out CVS in rain ponchos for all of us and even thought it wasn't raining, it was nice to throw over my clothes at the start because I was a little chilly.  I told Jenn that my plan was to run/walk by miles and that when she was ready to take off to just go.  There was quite a bit of excitement in the crowd.  We lined up (as a group - many of my Fred Relay and Wine Trail Half friends were running) with the 10:30 pacers.  I figured this was a good pace to aim for on my first walk segment, hoping to get faster on the runs as the race went on.  Temps were in the 50s but it was strangely humid thanks to the threat of storms.  It seemed like it was going to rain, but the rain never came.  I was happy with my clothing choice (Jax Bank race t-shirt, Athleta skirt, AMR "Run Like a Mother" hat and Fellow Flower "Believe" flower) but later in the race was really wishing I'd gone with a tank top.

The course itself highlights many Grand Rapids landmarks:  Rosa Parks Circle, the Grand Rapids Art Museum, 6th Street Bridge, Riverside Park, Ah-Nab-Awen Park, and the Gerald R Ford Presidential Museum.  Throughout the race, runners cross the Grand River 4 times.  Take a peek here if you'd like to see a map of the course and descriptions of all the sights.  Because my computer is currently being an a-hole, I can't get data off of my Garmin other than splits, so no elevation charts or anything. No worries though, this course is pretty darn flat except for that silly hill at the end of mile 12. Whose idea was THAT?

Miles 1-6:  Jenn and I started running together and as we'd discussed, my plan was to walk at the first mile marker so she picked up her pace there.  Mile 1 came and I felt like I was just getting my groove, so I made a game-day decision to keep running.  I did some math in my head (yes, you can laugh) and figured if I ran intervals of 2 miles running and 1 mile walking, I'd hit 9.1 miles running for the day.  I felt pretty good at the end of 2 miles, where I saw my friends Glenn and Tim working the aide station, but slowed to a walk.  A bunch of my friends who I had passed in the first 2 miles were now passing me and everyone was asking if I was OK.  The mile long walk seemed like an ETERNITY!  But, I was being a good little BAMR and sticking to my revised plan.  My watch beeped at the end of mile 3 and off I went running again.  The 4th mile takes runners on a little out and back and I was able to see some of my faster friends.  I felt a little bad that I was leap frogging with slower runners because this is one thing that has really gotten in my head before.  I'd hoped I wasn't causing frustration for anyone.  Another aide station came at the end of mile 5 and this one was staffed by friends Molly and Susan J!  I also saw my friend Megan there.  She had been gunning for a huge goal and sadly, Sunday was not her day.  I stopped and talked to her for a few minutes and even stood in a port-a-potty line for awhile because I'd had to pee for miles, but the line wasn't moving and I wanted to get going.  Splits: 10:32, 10:28, 13:55 (walk), 10:30, 10:42, 17:58 (walk and talking to my friends at the aid station).
Still smiling around mile 5.5.
Miles 7-13.1:  After I decided the bathroom was not going to happen at mile 5, I REALLY had to go.  You know how that can complete consume you?  Yah, that. Miles 7 and 8 were running miles and they passed a bunch of warehouses and whatnot.  I kept trying to figure out if I could get behind any of them to pee without being seen.  At mile 8 we head south back towards downtown and I got another walk break.  At this point, I'm sad to say, I was starting to need them.  I hate that I was looking at my watch 1.5 miles into a 2 mile run and thinking, "thank God, I can walk in about 5 minutes".  The run/walk plan was keeping me alive, but it was also screwing with my head and my identity as a "runner".  The walk segments were still feeling too long though and I was trying to at least keep a decent pace while walking. Remember when I said I was hoping my run paces would get faster? When making that run/walk plan, my friend and I were talking about me running at a 10mm down to 9:30mm pace and walking about a 17mm pace.  This would get me to finish in under 3 hours, which was my goal for a completely untrained race.  I knew my run segments weren't anywhere close to 10s, much less mid-9s, so I needed to make up time in the walks.  In the middle of my mile 8 run was another aide station. I HAD to stop.  There was a relatively short line and I chatted with one girl and held up another woman who was having some bad leg cramping. I got in, peed as fast as I could, and then took off running again, but the damage was done, I'd screwed up one of my run miles.  I contemplated skipping the next walk segment, but I took it anyway.  This walk took me through most of Riverside Park so I had a chance to take some more pictures.
Inside Riverside Park
Downtown Grand Rapids and the 6th Street Bridge in the distance.
I ran until mile 11 and then started walking again.  I texted one of my friends and said I was getting tired but my plan was to walk mile 12 and then run it in to the end.  I got a pep talk and was told to make the race my bitch :)  Coming off the 6th Street Bridge I saw Glenn and Tim again, plus my friend Susan L was there.  Three friendly faces I really needed at that moment.  I got a trifecta of hugs and I told Tim I was really tired.  I was starting to get a little weepy and he told me "Just keep moving forward."  That became my mantra for the rest of the race. I made it to the top of the hill at the end of mile 12 and I took off.  Just keep moving forward.  I actually saw some 9s on my watch for a few minutes!  This last 1.1 miles is tough.  There are lots of turns and street crossings.  Running past the Ford Museum is always really cool and I kept trying to keep my pace, but as I made the turn into town and across the Blue Bridge, I felt like I couldn't hold the pace.  At least I thought I couldn't until I saw the kick I had left to finish the last .1 miles up a little hill of cobblestone!  Splits: 10:37, 14:39 (emergency bathroom break), 14:59 (walk), 10:38, 10:41, 15:38 (walk), 10:31, :56 (8:51 pace for last .1!)
Happy little bling whore :)
I crossed the finish line tired but with a smile.  I grabbed a banana, orange slices, a bagel and my bling. I talked with Tami and a few of my other runner friends, then found Jenn and Glenn and we watched a more women finishing. One woman literally sashayed her way across the finish line at about the 3 hour mark.  I was so proud of these women - many of whom were first time half marathoners and ones I'd met at the expo the night before. 

Takeaways?  My legs were sore but I think the run/walk plan I stuck to was probably the only reason I actually finished.  Should I think about some sort of run/walk plan for my fall marathon?  At this point, it's too early to say, but definitely something to think about.  The walk breaks gave me a chance to shake my legs out and catch my breath, but I'd need to run the running segments so much faster to meet my marathon goal.  Also, the walking seemed to aggravate my heel since walking is inherently heel striking and I run more mid-foot. I averaged about a 10:35 pace on the 8.1 all-run segments on Sunday and around a 15:30 pace for the 5 miles of walking/bathroom stops.  Using a run/walk plan is definitely a possibility but 2 miles run/1 mile walked probably won't be the interval.  Also, this was my first women only race and I have to say, it was pretty cool.  I loved the course and I think it has potential for a fast finish with some training.  Gazelle Girl will be on my race radar for 2015.

My finishing time? Not my worst half marathon and I crushed my 3 hour goal, but it's still hard to see what my average pace was.  I've worked so hard to become a faster runner but that wasn't the point of Sunday's race.  The point was to have fun, run with a couple thousand amazing women, clock at least 7 running miles and get some pretty bling, all while not ending up any more injured than I already was.  Mission accomplished.

2:42:40 (12:25 pace)  
1301/1774 women 
182/219 in my age group

Considering I spent all day Saturday on my feet and hadn't run a long run of more than 7 miles in over 3 months, I think it's ok.  I was extremely tired the rest of Sunday and even felt pretty fuzzy driving home.  I think I was extremely dehydrated since my 2 water bottles were both almost still full at the end of the race.  However, adding that little Mitten State charm to my necklace Monday morning after walking down the stairs without too much pain was worth it.

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