Medina Half Marathon Recap

Last Saturday I ran the Medina Half Marathon, and honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect. After the HOF half, I had high expectations to continue on with a strong training period between then and the beginning of Akron training. But unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned. Between a week and a half with vertigo and finding myself in a running rut, my mileage was pretty low. Thankfully, Mallory, who was also in a running rut, agreed to run with me and we decided to turn the race into a fun run.

I got up around 4:45 Saturday morning, ate, got dressed and prepared for the race. The start time was moved back to 6:45 this year, which was nice. I left my house around 6:15, found parking and was on the square by 6:30. The 5 minute drive to the race, and multiple parking lots is always a huge plus in my book.

I met up with Mallory, we lined up and we were ready to take it easy on a 13.1 mile jog around town. Once the race started, we were off and tried to stay with a 10:00 minute pace. Neither of us had run any long runs since April, but we figured we could handle the pace for the distance we had ahead of us.

We stayed behind the 2:10 pace group as they started a bit fast, easy to do when the first two miles have some declines in them. We noticed right away that the air was thick with humidity and I was already sweating heavily by mile two. We kept an easy pace, talked and eventually were joined by Amy.

Mile 1-9:38

Mile 2-9:42

The course was a little different this year, so we ended up with more time winding through developments in the beginning of the course. It was a good way to keep my mind off the miles and rather the company I had while running.

Between mile 2 and 3, we ended up with Christy, who decided to join us for our easy run. We chatted for a while, and she kept reminding us how “cold and snowy” it was. Her positive outlook helped to keep my mind off the heat and humidity for a bit.

Mile 3-9:51

Mile 4-9:43

Our first rollers came on Reagan and just like always, slowed me down a bit. From here we headed toward Lake Medina, but unfortunately couldn’t use the new path, so we took to the roads and onto the grass path at the top of the lake. It was starting to heat up, and it was around mile 5 that I took my first Sport Beans. I took two, hoping that it keep me full for a longer amount of time than just one.

Mile 5-9:56

Mile 6-10:06

As we were leaving the lake, I stopped for a quick porta potty stop. There was a short line, so it slowed me down a bit. I was a little concerned I was dehydrated so early into the race because my mouth was so dry just 6 miles in. Thankfully I was hydrated, but instead, I was feeling the side effects of new medication.

From here we went up 18, giant hill included and back into another development before heading to Smith. I was starting to feel a little tired, but figured it was just leftover from the hill. Mallory was working on encouraging me to keep going and reminding me that we were more than half way there. It helped, but I was starting to hit a wall.

Mile 7-13:48 (potty stop)

Mile 8-10:35

From Smith we turned into some more developments, which was a new part of the course this year. I actually enjoyed this section, despite the rollers. The twists and turns kept it interesting and kept my mind off checking my watch. I took two more Sport Beans around mile 8.

Mile 9-11:27

Mile 10-12:58

I’m not sure when, but Heather joined Mallory and I between mile 8-10. It was also during this time that I really started to break down. My legs were feeling ok, but I felt hot, dehydrated, and sick to my stomach. I started to feel so guilty about bringing Mallory down with my negative thoughts and bad attitude. I told her to go ahead and I’d make my way to the finish line, but she refused to leave.

From then on, we walked the water stops and hills and would run the flat sections. I shuffled behind Mallory and Heather, going through moments of feeling fine to feeling sick to my stomach. I started to think I had too many Sport Beans, or maybe I should take a salt tab. Nothing was helping and the miles seemed to drag on.

Mile 11-12:33

Mile 12-12:50

We finally made it to mile 12 as we headed down South Court and back towards the square. I continued to shuffle along, dreading the finish line. We made our way closer and with about a half mile to go,we ran down the brick road. I always loved this part because it reminded me of Muskingum. But I also knew that after the brick finished, the uphill finish line was waiting.

Mile 13-12:49

Last .1 -11:33 pace

And then suddenly with about 400 feet to go, I started to feel light headed, and sick. I told Mallory and Heather to go ahead and I started to walk, getting a hold of my bearings. I slowly began to jog and made my way toward the finish. And as quickly as I felt miserable, I felt normal again.

Making my way to the finish

Making my way to the finish

I crossed the line of my 22nd half marathon, and regretted letting myself run so under trained. I felt like I had let myself down, the Medina Road Runners down, and of course Mallory. But I finished, and that was good enough for me that day.

Wouldn't have finished without her!

Wouldn’t have finished without her!

Thoughts-

Despite my less than spectacular attempt at running, I still love this race. The community support and cheering sections along the course are fantastic. The water stops were easy to navigate and each had their own personality. The new course is much better than last year, and even though I don’t think we’ll ever get rid of that hill on 18, it seemed to be a bit flatter. Well, as flat as you can get in Medina. And of course, the finish line support is the best. There are always so many people lined up along the hill, that you can’t help but dig deep for some kind of sprint.

Hills, hills, and hills!

Hills, hills, and hills!

I know exactly what went wrong to cause my horrible race, and I have only myself to blame. I slacked off a bunch in the past month, and was no way ready to run a half marathon, at least one that I’d be proud of. I also didn’t fuel as well as I had hoped.I need to take a break from Sport Beans because I still can’t figure out how to chew and run at the same time. I’m ready to try something new and I’m going to start incorporating Honey Stinger back into my training. But I’m also open to other options.

As far as hydration, I was a mess. I was not ready to run in the heat and humidity, so I second guessed everything. Combine that with the constant dry mouth due to a new medication, I had no idea if I was actually hydrated or not. I need to go back to drinking water at every mile marker, taking a salt tab every six miles, and throwing some Nuun into my water after mile 10. I know better, I just didn’t execute this properly.

After running this race three years in a row, I still love it. It’s a challenging course, but the crowd support and 5 minute drive are worth it all. I know I’ll be back next year!

Race swag

Race swag

 

Results

Official Time: 2:27:36

Age Group 25-29: 46/72

Female: 325/537

Overall: 607/886

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Park 2 Park Half Marathon Recap

Sunday I ran the Park 2 Park Half Marathon, a race I’ve wanted to run for three years, but never had the day available. This race has had my eye for years because it goes through two of the parks I grew up running in. I used to run at each of these parks at least once a week, so I had a bit of home team advantage on race day. To make things easier, the race was only about 5-10 minutes from my parent’s house, so I was able to stay with them and get an extra hour of sleep.

I woke up at 5am, got ready, stretched and was out the door by 6:30. My nerves were out of control, but luckily they calmed down once everyone started to line up. The weather was just about perfect and I made the decision to stick with a 9:30 pace, and hopefully finished between 2:03-2:05, but wanted to aim for 2:04.

We started in French Creek Reservation, and most of the first mile was crushed gravel and dirt. I hadn’t run on the path for years, but as soon as we were off,  I wanted to turn off and run every trail around me. I started with a conservative pace, and focused on not going out too fast. We turned out of French Creek onto Colorado and made our way past the entrance for James Day Park. It instantly brought back memories of playing in the fields with my babysitter when I was just a small child, and really made me feel like I was at home on the course.

I made sure to drink water every mile to make sure I’d be hydrated by the time the temperature rose. We turned into what I’ve always called the “Mars” section of the park, really called the Steel Mill Trail, because it’s always so desolate and hot. The mounds of dirt and steel mill trash make for a less than exciting view. There was a huge chunk of runners around me, so it wasn’t too bad, but it seems to be never ending any time I run it.

Mile 1-9:38
Mile 2-9:13
Mile 3-9:26

We hit mile three right at the entrance to Day’s Dam and were greeted with a nice long, winding downhill. The paved path was about three miles with some winding and smaller rolling hills, including a few bridges. As I made my way through the park, I couldn’t help but smile, thinking back on all those runs that I did over the years on this exact path. I tried to take in the views and reflect on the past. I kept wanting to sneak off the path and run the trails along the Black River, but I knew I had to stay the course.

I took a sport  bean at mile 4 and still felt relatively good. My pace was right where I wanted it to be, and even though some miles were under 9:30, I knew I’d need the extra time with the two major hills on the course.

Halfway through this three mile section lies the giant bridge. It’s always been a bit bouncy, but this time, my legs felt like I was in a bounce house. To me, this was the hardest part of the race. My legs felt like jello, and I had to stare straight ahead or I’d be sick. I knew what to expect, but the bridges have definitely gotten worse over time.

We had a few other bridges, but they were much more shorter, and stable. Once we crossed the last bridge I knew we’d have a decent stretch of flat pavement before we got to the large hill and halfway point of the race. I was still with a group of about 5, but we started to spread out more. This was also about the time that I saw Ryan on his way back to the finish.
Mile 4-9:21
Mile 5-9:28

After we left the Bur Oak path, we went directly to the large hill. It was about a half mile of a semi steep gradual incline. I took it a little slower than my race pace, and hoped my legs were ready for it. The guy next to me mentioned that he was having trouble, but I mumbled something about the hill not being so bad and pushed my way passed him. We finally got to the top, and surprisingly I felt pretty good. The hill was a lot easier than what I remembered, and I felt that running trails the week before paid off for sure.

I got to the turn around point and took a salt tab, water and a sip of Gatorade. I wasn’t sure if I could stomach it, so I didn’t drink much, but it helped to fuel me toward the second half of the race. Next up was heading down the long hill we had just climbed and I tried to use it to my advantage as best as I could. But I also didn’t want to wear out my legs with about half of the race left.

On my way down, a woman told me I was in first place for my age group, so that was a nice surprise and gave a little extra pep to my step. After the hill we went back into Bur Oak. The entrance to Bur Oak is one of my favorites and looks beautiful in every season. I knew what I had in store for me, I just had to make sure my legs were on board.
Mile 6-9:37
Mile 7-9:26

I started to pick up speed a bit, and took advantage of the flat sections of the paved path. I was definitely off in my own little world, chugging along and feeling at peace with my running. I was still making decent time, and I hadn’t had any issues yet. I crossed the bridge again, this time by myself, and that seemed to help the bounce a little bit. But the bounce feeling stuck with my legs for another half mile and slowed me down a bit.

I took another sport bean at mile 9 and started taking water every half mile. The temperature was starting to heat up, and I didn’t want to become too dehydrated with a decent chunk of the race left.
Mile 8-9:20
Mile 9-9:31

As I got to the end of the path, I knew that the hill at the entrance of Day’s Dam was waiting for me. I had done hill repeats on that hill no less than 40 times growing up, so I knew what to expect, and I knew the point on the hill that it would start to hurt. I pushed all negative thoughts out of my head and went for it, telling myself that it was only a little bit more. I got to the top and knew that all those years of hill repeats had paid off, even if they were miserable while running them.

I reached the water stop at mile 10, walked for about 10 feet to catch my breath and dumped the water on my back. I knew I’d be entering the “Mars” territory next and I wanted to be ready.

The next half mile went by quick, but I was ready to be back in the shade. Everyone was pretty well spaced out at this point and I didn’t have anyone in front of me that I could see. I followed the path, hoping this section would be quick and tried to make my way to the last water stop as quick as I could.
Mile 10-9:52
Mile 11-9:32

I came around back to Colorado Avenue and knew I had just a little over a mile left. I grabbed water and dumped it on my back, and made my way back into French Creek Reservation.

The trail was a little bit harder to run on at this point because my legs were starting to get tired, but I knew if I just pushed through I’d be done shortly. I followed the path, checking out all the trails that were calling my name. They’d be a lot more fun that the giant switch back I had coming ahead. My pace really slowed down during this section and I felt weaker than I normally did, but I kept going knowing I was getting closer to the finish.

Without fail, at 12.75 I started to feel sick. I knew it was from the heat and the nerves of having my parent’s at the finish line. I sucked it up and kept my head up, repeating to myself that I wasn’t allowed to throw up. I finally made it out of the woods and kicked it as quick as I could towards the finish line.
Mile 12-9:31
Mile 13-10:17
Last .1-8:56 pace

Coming into the finish

Somehow, despite the few hills and my attempt at almost getting sick near the finish, I came in right at 2:04, exactly where I wanted to be. I don’t think I’ve ever run a race where I hit my goal time right on the nose. And not only was my time perfect, but this was my second best half marathon time!

I ended up with first in my age group (25-29), but honestly I don’t know how many there were in the age group. Results haven’t been posted, but it was a relatively small turnout.

Post race sweaty smiles

Post race sweaty smiles

I had an absolutely great time running this race, but I think it’s mostly due to the fact that I was on home turf. I benefited greatly knowing every hill, turn, and type of terrain we’d be running on. I am so glad I was finally able to make this race, and plan on running it every  year I can make it.

Half marathon number 17!

Half marathon number 17!

Post race I talked with Ryan and Jess for a bit before I went out for a few impromptu miles. Since I had the chance I ran a few trails, all of which I somehow remembered from memory. It felt great to just get out there and zone out, enjoying a few miles by myself. I only went out for two miles, but it was good enough to put me at 15 for the day!

These old trails...

These old trails…

All in all it was a great day and the perfect finish to week two of marathon training.

 

*Official Results added after post published.

Time: 2:04:54

Age Group 25-29: 1/3

Female: 6/18

Overall: 22/39

Medina Half Marathon Recap

I wasn’t sure how to begin this recap. I spent 16 weeks training for Saturday, and a whole year counting down for the day to arrive. But after just 6 miles, my whole race fell apart, and it was as though all of that training was for nothing.

The week leading up to Medina wasn’t a normal week for me. My legs were still tired from Cleveland, I had the brilliant idea of starting a run streak during taper, I experimented with morning runs, and I ran hard 400s the Tuesday before a Saturday race. That right there was enough to know I was in for a troublesome race.

Saturday morning I woke up at 5, got ready and ate some breakfast before heading down to the square. I took a moment to reflect on my training, read last year’s recap, and think of those who helped along the way with Team JDRF. I wasn’t nervous, I was ready to run, I was excited to run what I had spent the last 112 days training for.

I found great parking in a near empty lot right off the square with about 5 port-a-pottys just about to myself. I made a quick stop, headed up to the square and made sure to take in the moment before taking my place in line. I saw many familiar faces of MCRR and we all wished each other good luck. I hopped in between the 2:00 and 2:10 pace groups, put in one ear bud and was ready to go.

The calm before the race

The calm before the race

We were off and I quickly got myself up next to the 2:00 pacers. I knew the first three miles would be the easiest and I wanted to take advantage of them. I tried to keep my pace as comfortable as possible, but I also didn’t want to pass the pacers. A lot of people were going out quickly and there was no clear group of people sticking with us yet.

We made our way away from the square and out towards some of the housing developments. It was all so familiar after running the course runs I was able to focus more on my breathing than running. We passed a few groups cheering and so far the temperature wasn’t too bad. Our pace was a little quick, but I knew we’d slow down once we made it to the first hill.

Mile 1- 8:47
Mile 2-9:06

Out of the developments, we made our way on Reagan. With the rolling hills, I tried to use the momentum from the downhill to push myself up, and not focus on how much effort I was using. I was still keeping a steady pace with the pacers, and while others spent time talking and joking around, I kept my silence and focused on the run.

We made our way on Granger and I looked forward to a bit of shade.  It was starting to warm up a bit, but not too much where I was uncomfortable yet. About 3.5 miles in we turned towards Lake Medina, and I mentally prepared myself for the small hill up towards the lake. My pace was still quick, and definitely a lot quicker than I had normally run around the lake. I tried to keep my focus and let the pacers lead me through instead of worrying about the run. The slight breeze over the lake helped to keep us cool and the views were gorgeous. I easily could have stayed there for an hour to sit back and relax.

Halfway through the lake, we made our way back down on the grass and out to the parking lot. I knew that the giant hill was coming and told myself not to worry, just take it a step at a time.
Mile 3-9:00
Mile 4-9:05

As I made my way up on the hill I started to fade back from the pacers. I wasn’t too concerned because this hill was tough. I tried to take advantage of the slight downhill afterward, but it wasn’t quite enough to get me back on their pace. I was ok with that, I wasn’t trying to break 2 today. So I kept a bit behind them and tried not to let the gap get too large. I could feel my body start to get a little tight from the hill and the slight inclines that followed, but knew that around the 10k mark I’d had a bit of relief.

I kept going, keeping the pacers slightly in front of me, every so calmly keeping an eye on my pace. I had been drinking sips of water after every mile, but it was around this point that I realized I had never taken my sport bean at mile 4. Now feeling a little tired, it made sense. I hurried up and fueled, hoping I’d feel better shortly.
Mile 5-9:14
Mile 6-9:33

Leaving the development, we started on Smith.  Having run these roads so many times last year, I knew the route like the back of my hand and that I’d be in for some decent shade within the next mile. But right before mile 7, I stopped to stretch. My hips were getting tight and I knew I had some more inclines that would need somewhat of fresh legs to tackle.

As I stood back up, a gentleman passing me asked if I felt ok. I was getting hot and tired, slightly faint, but overall, I didn’t feel horrible, just not myself. But I suppose I looked worse than I felt. I continued on my way and ran down the biggest decline of the race. We were in full sun now, and for the first time in a long time, I walked the water stop.

I started to run again, but I was starting to struggle. I slowed down a bit, hoping that maybe going out too quick was catching up with me. I knew these next few miles would be tough. Every time I ran the course, I mentally blocked myself from running as well as I could. Knowing we were over half way done, I started to countdown the miles, hoping they’d go by quick.

We made our way towards Sturbridge and I finally reached a breaking point. I started to walk. My legs were screaming and I was so tired that I just didn’t want to go any further. So I stretched and decided I’d run a half mile, then walk a tenth of mile, just until my body felt back to normal.
Mile 7-9:49
Mile 8-11:10

Still counting down the miles, I continued my plan of walking/running. I walked the water stops as well, trying to soak up as much hydration as I could. There were many times that I wanted to text Darren and tell  him I was done, to come pick me up on the course, but I thought of Team JDRF, and I knew I’d do whatever I could to cross that finish line.

Once I hit the 10 mile mark, I knew I had a 5k left, a very long 5k. The temperature was getting hotter and I was getting warmer. I took a sport bean hoping it would help, and starting drink water about every quarter mile. I continued my walk/jog, disappointed in myself that I had to walk, but I couldn’t keep up enough energy to run.

Knowing I had saved time in the first 6 miles, I knew I wasn’t too far behind where I wanted to end up. But just as I was trying to do math, the 2:10 pace group showed up next to me. I stayed with them until I found a port-a-potty. I stood in line for a good 3-4 minutes, second guessing if I really needed to use it. I was in and out as quick as I could, but I know that it added time onto my race.

Mile 9-11:19
Mile 10-14:52 (Bathroom stop)

With two miles to go, I knew I was falling way behind any goal time. I started questioning myself, only two weeks ago I was running a sub 2 half, and now I’d be lucky if I made it in under 2:20. I also started to feel sick, and started to worry if I’d spend the last part of my run throwing up again.

Turning on Oak to West Park, I was on roads I hadn’t run much, and they seemed to go on forever. I was getting closer and I could feel that every time I ran my pace was good, but I just couldn’t hold it without being in pain. By this point, everything hurt. My feet and legs were toast and I wondered how I’d ran those first six miles so perfectly.
Mile 11-11:47
Mile 12-11:41

The last mile was tough. I started to become anxious knowing I was getting so close. I made my way down the bricks and thought of last year, how happy I was finishing with Melissa, and this year, how I was letting my personal cheering section down.

As I approached the square I started to feel sick again, this time from nerves. I tried to pick up my speed but it didn’t help, instead I ended up on the side of the course coughing and gagging. A gentleman asked if I was ok, and helped me get back on course.

I moved as slow as I could with tears in my eyes. My race that I spent so much time and miles training for was finally over.
Mile 13-11:38
Last .12-13:25

Almost finished

Almost finished

After I finished, I grabbed my medal and met up with Darren, his cousin and my mom. The first thing I did was apologize. I felt so bad they came out to watch me, and I failed, miserably. We took some time for me to stretch, listen to awards and then walked the Farmers Market. I finally felt a little better, but I was still struggling with the heat.

This race was definitely a tale of two halves. The first half was amazing and I was running exactly where I wanted to be. But the second half, I fell apart. I know I have no one to blame but myself, and I’m still disappointed in how I ran the second part of the course. But know that I’ve had time to dwell on it, I know it was a combination of things that really led to my destruction. My legs were toast and my feet were sore as can be. I pushed my legs too hard in the week before, and my shoes were on their last miles. Even though I carried water, the heat and my lack of properly fueling led me to wear down way to early.

 

Half number 16

Half Marathon #16, by far my favorite medal

The course, the support, the volunteers, everything else was amazing. I absolutely love this race and I know it will be in my race schedule for years to come. And although I had a bad race, I know so many who had amazing races. Everything I did wrong was all on me, and sometimes we just have bad races. Not every race will be perfect, so I need to let go, move on, and prepare myself for the next one.

 

Race swag

Race swag

Results

Time: 2:18:37

AG 25-29: 31/69

Female: 271/581

Overall: 546/942

 

*Registration is already open for the 2015 Medina Half Marathon. With the current cost at just $45, I’d definitely recommend signing up for it now. I’ll see you out there!

 

Cleveland Half Marathon Recap

Running is all about the numbers. Distance, time, splits, mileage, pace, they all mean something. But one number stands out, a milestone, a goal, a number to crush. After 3 years and 15 half marathons, I finally met my goal. On Sunday, at the Cleveland Half Marathon, I finally ran a sub 2:00 half marathon.

After I ran the Medina Half course last weekend I had doubts about running sub 2. I had put in the miles, and I’d been faster in my races. But the Medina course had me second guessing everything I had done this year. So with the few days leading up to Cleveland, I decided my best shot at running sub 2 would be there. Inside I was bursting to tell everyone that I was going to give it my all on Sunday and hopefully see that little “1” on the front end of my finish time. But instead I kept it to myself, scared I was setting myself up for failure.

Friday after work I went to the expo, and quickly made it through with just a shirt and a few Sport Bean Recovery Beans. As I went down the last aisle, I ran into a familiar face, Coach Kara, my favorite high school coach, and pace coach for Cleveland Marathon. We spoke briefly, and I told her of my goal, hoping to get words of wisdom. She believed I could do it, and handed me two pace bands. If I stayed between the splits, I’d get it.

Goal range

Goal range

Sunday started at 3am for me. I already had everything laid out, so I ate an extra helping of breakfast, stretched, read my previous Cleveland race recaps, and may have shed a few tears. By 4:30, I was on the road and made it to Brunswick to meet up with Jeanne and her neighbor Laurie. By 5:15, we were on the road and making our way towards Cleveland. The drive was fairly easy and we avoided most of the traffic, but I couldn’t help but feel nervous the closer we got.

Accidental team neon green!

Accidental team neon green!

After we parked, we made our way to the bag drop and visited the port-a-pottys a few times to get rid of all last minute nerves. We lined up in corral C, mentioning the plan to possibly stay together, and hopefully get me in under 2. The gun went off and we walked toward the start until it was finally our time to run. This was it, I was going to give it everything I had in these next 13.1 miles no matter what.

The first mile, as always was congested, and we were dodging and weaving to find an open space in the crowd. We quickened our pace and tried to get to where we needed to be, instead of starting out too slow and playing catch up. I was a little nervous I was going out too fast, but I knew it was easier to slow down later than speed up when I was worn down.

Everything felt great, and I was keeping up with the pace pretty well. Jeanne was a little ahead of Laurie and I, but we had her in sight and I wasn’t too concerned about being left behind yet. I was taking sips of water after every mile, and by mile three, the crowd had started to thin out just enough that we weren’t running into each other anymore.

Mile 1-8:44
Mile 2-8:37
Mile 3-8:45

Laurie and I kept running together, checking our watches every quarter mile or so. We knew we were still ahead of pace, but I was feeling good, so we kept with it. I took a sport bean after mile 4 even though I felt I didn’t need it yet. It was around this point that I noticed I had pretty much zoned out on the race. The miles had ticked by quickly, but I hadn’t really been paying attention to them. I was so focused on staying ahead of pace that I blocked everything else out. It was a blessing really, I wasn’t analyzing every second of the race, instead I was just there, running it.

Mile 4-8:42
Mile 5-8:32

By mile 5, I started to wonder what exactly I was doing. My pace had been under 9 for the entire race, yet my legs were feeling great, and I felt oddly comfortable. It was a surreal feeling, but knew that it could change at any mile. As we checked our pace, I mentioned that I’d rather have a little extra time, than cut it down to the wire at the finish. So we would keep going until we needed to slow down.

We were approaching the 10k mark, and I saw Sarah out of the corner of my eye. I yelled hello, and waved, and went on my way to the 10k mark, hitting it at 55 minutes. We continued on our way, half of the race behind us, hoping my legs could keep up for the second half of the race. Any while my splits were still sub 9, I was completely surprised at the times I was hitting. I was well ahead of my normal pace, and still 4 minutes under the 2 hour mark splits on my pace band. We caught up with Jeanne, but after about a mile together she veered off towards a port-a-potty. I was nervous to be left alone, but Laurie stayed with me, and kept me on pace.

I took another sport bean at mile 8 and noticed my hips had a small twinge. They were starting to get sore, but I tried to block it out. I couldn’t let anything get it my head. Eight miles down, five to go, the countdown was on.

Mile 7-8:41
Mile 8-8:35

I was finally back into familiar territory in this part of the race. I enjoyed the moments of shade and tried to keep my pace consistent. I couldn’t help but think back to the Hermes 10 Miler and the Flap Jack 15k, I had done great until the end, and hoped that my body wouldn’t start to shut down by mile 10. I hadn’t pushed myself this hard in a race of this distance before, I was starting to enter the unknown and I had no idea how my body would react.

That thought left my mind as I saw Elayna and Marissa on the side of the course between mile 9 and 10. I was beyond excited to see them, and was quickly overcome with emotion. I started to cheer up and before I knew it, I was running over to see them. I attempted a weird side hug, but my legs steered me back on course. Not even a minute later, my emotions got the best of me and I started coughing and gagging. I couldn’t throw up, not with so much left in the race. I did whatever I could to get back into a normal pace, and about a half mile later, I was finally good again.

It took a while, but I was back on pace. At this point, my hips started to ache more and I was concerned as we approached the last two miles. I knew there was some incline, but my legs weren’t ready for it. I tried to focus on my watch, telling myself that I’d come so far, I couldn’t let the last few miles break me down.

On a mission

On a mission

Mile 9-8:44
Mile 10-8:53
Mile 11-8:48

The next two miles were hard. For the first time all race my pace was over 9 minutes, and by a lot. The combination of the inclines, my sore hips, and running a pace I wasn’t used to for 11 miles hit me hard. I mentally started to break down, questioning if I could do it. Every time I reached the top of the hill, I’d see another. Laurie helped to push me along, and it helped me more than she could ever know. I didn’t want to give up, but it was hard. So I kept telling myself, I’m going to do it, I’m going to break 2. I had to do whatever I could to keep the momentum up.

As we reached the last hill, I could feel my pace start to pick up, and after two incredibly hard miles, I finally felt confident about breaking 2. I had worked so hard for the first eleven miles, I wasn’t going to let the last two get to me.

Mile 12-9:48
Mile 13-9:31

I took advantage of the decline and the straightaway as much as I could. The crowds were getting louder, and I could feel the city pulling me in. Knowing the course showed up long on my watch, I kept staring down to see what I hit when it turned over to 13.1. When 1:55 was on my watch, I couldn’t believe it. I had never seen those numbers together, and honestly never thought I would. I couldn’t help but smile.

I started to pick up my pace, knowing I was so close to the finish, yet I still wasn’t done. I started to fade and veered off to the right of the crowd. I didn’t feel myself, and couldn’t control what would happen next. Instead of running towards the finish with a smile on my face and hands up in the air, I was throwing up, over and over as I made my way to the finish until I finally got there.

Don't puke, don't puke!

Don’t puke, don’t puke!

Last .3-9:06

I got sick again, but I was finally able to walk it off. I grabbed my medal, met up with Laurie, and finally looked at my watch. 1:58:00. I had done it. I broke 2 and ran a 7 minute, 55 second PR. And I had left everything I had on the course while doing it.

Happy as can be!

Happy as can be!

We found Jeanne and got a group picture before grabbing food and taking a seat in the sun. And although I was excited, it hadn’t quite hit me yet. But I soaked in the moment as much as I could. After a while we made our way back to gear check, then the car, and we were back on the road towards home. I made sure to stop at Panera on my way home to grab a cinnamon roll that would be my reward for making it through another long run. It wasn’t until I pulled in the garage and turned off my car, that everything hit me, and I finally cried tears of joy.

I couldn’t have asked for a better day on Sunday. The weather was perfect, the course was greatly improved and for most of the race, my run felt effortless. I didn’t know what I’d feel the first time I broke 2, or when it would happen, but I’m glad that I did it at the race that started it all.

I can’t help but admit that there is a feeling of what now. This number that I held up with so much admiration and fear is no longer there, a feeling of being a little lost. I don’t know if I’ll break 2 again, or if it was a one time thing. But one thing is for certain, I’ll never forget the day I finally broke 2 hours.

Race swag

Race swag

Official Results:

Garmin Time: 1:58:00

Age Group 25-29: 148/726

Gender: 652/3589

Overall: 1752/6113

Heart & Sole Half Marathon Recap

I wish I could say that I’m excited for how well I ran, or how strong I felt. The truth is, I probably shouldn’t have run this race, and feel guilty for thinking of the positives from this day. The Buehler’s Heart and Sole Half Marathon was a race I wanted to do last year, but because we were moving that day, I was out. This year I knew I was going to run it, so I pre-registered to ensure I wouldn’t back out. The race took place in Wooster, and I was familiar with most of the course. It was an out and back with a loop on the side and I knew it would be hilly. I originally planned this race as a training run, to see how well my legs could handle the hills, but also, how evenly I could keep my pace for each mile.

With the race slated for 7:30, I woke up at 5am. I was feeling a little off, but figured it was just nerves. How I still get nerves before a half marathon is beyond me. My foot didn’t hurt, so I figured I’d make the drive down to Wooster. I left the house around 6:20 giving myself about a half hour to get ready once I got there. On my way there, I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful the sunrise was, it definitely made the 40 minute drive a lot easier.

Worth the 5am wake up

Worth the 5am wake up

I got to Wooster at 7am and headed to the start to get my bib and shirt. I jogged to and from my car and didn’t have any pain. I figured I’d give the race a shot and see how I felt. Once I got  back to the start I took my place in the very long bathroom line. Time was running out and it was 7:26 once I got inside the porta potty. A few seconds later, I got out and stood in my coral of the 2:10 group. Yes, they had pacers, which was such a great feature for such a small race. With a minute to go, I remembered that I forgot to put Body Glide under my arms, and knew I’d pay for it later.

We started off on our way out of town and were quickly met with some incline. We went off to a side street and made our way to Christmas Run Park and met one of the biggest hills on the course. We were still within our first mile, so I tried to keep it easy, knowing more hills were on our way. Our pacer had us a little quicker than the 9:55 average pace we were supposed to keep, but knowing it was a training run, I tried to focus on my own miles, and not the ones she was setting for us. Over the next few miles we were on Oak Hill Road keeping a steady pace at around 9:38. I was still feeling good, but realized I’d need to use the bathroom at some point. There were no actually race porta pottys, but luckily there were two construction spots along the course that had some available to us.

Mile 3 we were making our way to a development that has a pretty decent hill. I could feel the incline more in my legs and noticed that my foot started to hurt. I was still feeling strong, pushing up the hills and keeping the same pace of 9:38. The development was over a mile long, so the entire time I debated if I should stop or keep going. One the way out, I found the porta potty, made a quick stop and began running again. This time the force on my foot hurt a lot worse. It still wasn’t as bad as it has been, so I continued to go. Mistake. The next two miles were a slight incline up Oak Hill and over to the park. I was still keeping a great pace, and event started to move down towards 9:30.

The halfway point of the race was a loop in the park. Driving past it seems pretty flat, but the back has some pretty quick inclines that can be a little tough sometimes. As I was approaching the park, I knew I needed to take some Sport Beans, so I slowed down just a bit, to conserve energy. But as I turned in, I felt something pull in my foot and knew that it wasn’t a good sign. The closest water stop was back around mile 5, which would be mile 8 on the way back to town. I decided to just slow things down a bit and keep going until I could get to the water stop.

The next two miles, the pain was off and on and I wasn’t sure if I was feeling better or worse. I knew I needed my Sport Beans and salt tab, but other than that I still felt strong. I attempted to slow my pace, but even when I was going “slow” I was still at 9:44. I filled up my hand held, stretched and tried to decided if I should keep going or stop right here. I probably should have stopped, but I didn’t. I just kept going, knowing that it would mostly be downhill, so hopefully less pressure would be on my foot. And because we were on our way back, we had to run through the hilly development again. I struggled this time, and walked a bit after mile 10. It was at this point, that I knew I had made a huge mistake. I shouldn’t be running and I may have just thrown my entire training for the marathon out the window. At this point, I didn’t care about my pace, or what time I finished. I decided it didn’t matter if I didn’t reach 100 miles in August. All I wanted was to be at the finish line and off my foot.

So I started running again, this time at a much slower 10:15 pace. I took advantage of the water stops and all of the downhills, hoping to coast on whatever pull they could give me. I started to feel better after mile 11 and knew it was an easy coast in. At the 11.5 mark a huge group of spectators were cheering and it definitely helped to boost my spirit. As I turned into the development, I realized for the first time that I was alone. I couldn’t see anyone in front or behind me. I tried to remember where the course was on our way out, and hoped I wouldn’t get lost. The last mile was quick and I started to pick up speed. The sooner I got through the course, the sooner I’d be done. I finally saw the finish, and let my legs go at it. I opened up my stride and sprinted in to the finish line of half marathon number 14.

I had a mix of emotions when I finished. I felt so strong, and so prepared for the half that I knew I could have gone faster. But I was also aware of the pain in my foot and how much of an impact this could have on my next 6 weeks of training. After I came home, I checked my stats and realized this was my 4th fastest half marathon, which is great. Knowing that I hadn’t given it my all and I was still in the top half of my halves was surprising.

Overall this was a great half marathon. The race fee is only $30 for the half, less for the 10k and 5k options. The course was marked out well for the most part, but I knew my way around so I didn’t focus on the markers as much. There are rolling hills and a few steep ones, but that’s what makes it challenging. The support on the course was great and the finish had a ton of support and vendors. Overall winners won custom metal plaques and age group winners won custom drinking glasses. The weather was perfect this year, which was a surprise, with an abnormal 57 degrees at the start, it couldn’t get much better. I’d definitely recommend this race and hope to do it again in the future.

Half Marathon Number 14

Half Marathon Number 14

Results:

Garmin: 2:11:27

Overall Place: 122/150

Female Overall: 44/63

Age Group 25-29: 7/8

Medina Half Marathon Recap

Months ago I found out Medina would be hosting a half marathon through the Medina County Road Runners. I joined the club a few months ago and I am so glad that I did. Not only have my eyes been opened to a bunch of races that I never knew about, but I’ve been able to meet a whole new group of runners in my own backyard. Because this year was a preliminary race to the inaugural race being held in 2014, the half marathon would be free! The event was supported by volunteers, donations through wonderful local companies and help from the community. It was original capped at 350 runners, until a higher than expected 450+ signed up to run. This made my heart smile, knowing that Medina welcomed a running community.

The course was a tour of Medina, starting in the square downtown, running through neighborhoods, around the lake, and back through more neighborhoods before finishing on the square. I had run most of the course many times throughout marathon training, so I was excited that I’d know what to expect. This gave me an extra boost of confidence that would definitely help me out on race day.

Course Map

Course Map

About a month back, I had convinced a friend and fellow Muskie to run the race with me. She had paced me to a PR at St. Malachi in 2012 and I hoped that she could help get me out of my funk for this race. Friday night we picked up our  packet at the new Second Sole location and drove the course. This wasn’t something I’d normally do, but I wanted Melissa to be familiar with the course because I had no idea what I’d be feeling the next day.

Saturday morning rolled around, and I was up bright and early. The race started at 8:00, and luckily because of the cool weather, this wasn’t an issue. It was 35 degrees and Memorial Day weekend, I probably couldn’t have asked for better racing weather if I tried. We headed down to the square around 7:30, another perk of the race being so close. We found parking right away and got in line at the start. About a minute before the start I realized that my bladder was full, but there was no chance to get to the porta  potty before the start. I knew that there would be one at mile three, and it would be a very challenging three miles.

I didn’t have a goal for this race, well, a dead set goal. I knew that my last three halves had been awful time wise. Last year at this time I was running 2:05, and this year I was lucky if I got under 2:30. I knew my training was a big part of this problem, but I didn’t want this to go on any longer. I wanted to enjoy the race more than anything. This was my new “big” race of the spring, my Flying Pig redemption, I just wanted to be happy running it.

We started the race and we were quickly ahead of pace. I tried to slow it down, but I was just too excited. We finally slowed to about a 9:00 minute pace. I felt good, but knew I couldn’t keep it up the entire race. I figured I’d just go with what felt right and see where that took me. Besides for chatting throughout the race, I wanted to dedicate each mile to each of my half marathons. Coincidentally, Medina would be my 13th half, and I was running with a friend who was there for my first, who had helped me train, and was a big part of my running family. It really all seemed fitting, and it helped to keep my mind off of my Garmin. It was also a great way to reflect back on how far I’ve come, remember the good with the bad, and what I’ve learned over the past two years.

So back to the race, we started on the square and went North to some of the older neighborhoods and wrapped around Regan Parkway. This area has a few parks off of it and has a few rolling hills. Luckily it was under construction, so I found a porta potty and felt like a brand new person, possibly a minute or two wasted with the line. We turned on to a back road that led to Lake Medina. This is probably one of my favorite places to run because it is absolutely beautiful in all weather. By this point, it was getting warmer and I was started to heat up. I also took some sport beans to keep my energy up. We wrapped up around the lake and headed on Rt 18 to the first big hill of the race. Because this was so close to my home, I knew what to expect and charged the hill, feeling great.

All smiles around the lake

All smiles around the lake

At this point we made it to mile marker 5 and I knew Darren would be out watching. I didn’t see him until I finally found him sitting in his car in the parking lot. I waved to him, and Melissa dropped off our cold weather gear we didn’t need. A woman behind me commented on how lucky I was that he came out to support me. Lucky I am. We continued up a gradual incline and made a left into the housing development that I’ve run almost too many times. As we approached the development, I noticed Darren’s car stopped in the middle taking pictures. I quickly ran up to him, gave him a kiss and thanked him for waking up “so early” to watch me.

So many happy pictures, best race photos

So many happy pictures, best race photos

We approached mile 6 and I took my first Gu. I knew that I had been losing energy in the second part of my half marathons, so I needed to make sure I took this now before it was too late. We were at the one hour mark, but I wasn’t concerned. I was feeling great and I felt like I could still keep going without any worry. The second half of the race was pretty much all housing developments. They were mostly shaded which wasn’t necessary but will help a lot next year if it’s hot. It was generally flat with some rolling hills, but honestly I’ve become used to them so I don’t even notice them. We kept things at a 10:00ish pace and were able to talk without losing breath most of the time.

The crowd support was awesome along this part of the race, so many people came out of their houses to cheer us on, held up signs and one water stop even had chalk notes written to the runners on the ground. There was no shortage of volunteers or spectators at any point, which really helped to keep up the motivation.

With one mile to go, I knew that nothing else could help or hurt this race. I was on a great pace, and decided I wanted to beat 2:15, my first half marathon time. I could feel myself getting excited and had to calm myself down so I had something left for the finish. We turned a corner and started running on brick road. Instant flashback to Muskingum and I had even more energy to finish the race. I started to push it just before the finish and completed my 13th half marathon, in 2:14:13.

Coming up to the finish

Coming up to the finish

I loved this race, there is no doubt about it. It  wasn’t by best time, but I felt great the entire time. I didn’t have the stress of a PR, and I was about to run with a great friend. This half was exactly what I needed to get my confidence back to where it should be. I know I can run fast and I know I can run a half without having to walk in the later miles. MCRR did a fantastic job of putting on the race and I am so proud to be part of this group.

I highly recommend this race for anyone looking for a half after Cleveland next year. The scenery is great, the course is unusually flat for Medina and it’s perfect timing after Cleveland for either redemption or a casual run. I’m sure to talk about it more than once within that time frame, but I can’t help to share it now. Next year’s race will be on May 31st and start at 7:00am. Next year will also include chipped times and an awesome medal (seriously). Registration right now is only $40 so sign up!

Half Marathon #13!

Half Marathon #13!

And that Flying Pig redemption….24 minutes shaved off my time.

 

*Official Results*

Overall: 227/324

Female Overall: 104/182

Age Group 25-29: 7/18

Flying Pig Half Marathon Recap

It’s done. The hardest race I’ve ever ran, and it’s complete. I don’t think I’ve ever been more relieved that a race and training cycle is over. I really stressed about this race, the hills, and the weekend. I wasn’t really prepared, and even though I was injury free, I knew I’d be hurting. I should have done more long runs, and probably hiked some mountains in preparation. As I made my 3.5 hour drive home after the race Sunday, I had a long time to reflect on the race and the weekend. It wasn’t my prettiest, but I finished, and sometimes that’s all that matters.

I drove down to Cincinnati on Saturday afternoon. I was road tripping solo, so I wanted to make the trip as quick as possible, hence such a late start in the drive. Luckily I was able to break up my drive by the 30 minute pit stops, thank you over hydration, and by visiting  a friend who PR’d at the Cap City Half that morning. After that, I made my way to Cincinnati and got to the expo around 6:00. I picked up my number and walked through the entire expo just to get my shirt. It was a little odd to have things spread out, and a lot of walking back and forth to do. I took a quick look through the merch and picked up two Flip Belts and a top and jacket from Asics. Not too harmful on my wallet.

I finished up my expo experience and headed towards the hotel. I booked a room in Kentucky, because it was the only place close enough or semi reasonable on price. To keep it short, I had a horrible hotel experience. The AC didn’t work, there were people knocking on doors and partying in the hallways until 3:30am and when runners came back after the race, the hotel was trying to hurry them out, telling us that we didn’t have time to shower. So if you run Flying Pig, book your hotel early and don’t stay at the Comfort Suites in Newport. Dinner wasn’t that good either. I went to the restaurant next door and they never put in my order so dinner was delayed an hour, it also made me feel sick throughout the night. I didn’t think you could make bad pasta, but apparently you can.

Sunday morning I woke up at 4am. I was exhausted, I hadn’t slept much and I was really nervous. I had my normal Clif bar, water and stretched while I was getting ready. I didn’t hear any rain, but took a garbage bag just in case. I wanted to park close to the start and finish, but not being familiar with the area, I ended up following a car with a 26.2 sticker on the back. Usually a good idea, but not this time, because once I parked, I realized we were still in Kentucky and had to cross the Ohio River to get to the start. I already had a feeling that this wouldn’t be my best race.

The start line was divided into “Pig Pens” and they were blocked off pretty well, sad, but understood. There was a ton of security all over, including local police, K-9 units and from pictures I saw on Saturday, some heavy artillery. Needless to say, I felt safe. Each pig pen had someone checking  your number and corral to make sure that you were where you needed to be. They also had port a potties in each corral, which definitely helped cut down the lines inside. I stretched, stood in line for the restroom and was ready to go by the time we had our moment of silence for Boston.

We started, and just like always I stumbled with my Garmin, so I knew I’d be off by a few second. I made a note to remember this throughout the race, and I’m glad I did. The course was actually a little long, even on my delayed Garmin. I tried to find an easy pace that would last me through the race. I knew that the second half would be hard, so I wanted to make sure the first half was solid. The first couple miles weren’t much to look at, we headed through an industrial area and made our way across the first big bridge. This was neat, but not too welcoming on the legs. I noticed the humidity was creeping up and tried to focus on staying cool. We headed into Kentucky and my pace was right around 10:00.

I honestly don’t remember much from this part of the race. I know we ran along some trains and would be heavy traffic roads, but it was pretty much the same for the next couple of miles. I made sure to drink from my handheld at every water stop and I took some Sport  Beans at mile 4, with the plan to take them every 40 minutes. I remember I went from being hot to cold and started regretting wearing long sleeves. Right around mile 5 it started to cool off, so I felt somewhat back to normal. Physically, my legs were feeling ok. They were a little sore from the rolling hills, but I tried to ignore it, knowing that my worst hills would  be coming at mile 6.

Right around mile 5, I noticed a big hill, and it came as a bit of a surprise, I couldn’t remember it from the elevation chart and thought maybe I had missed a mile marker. Nope. I didn’t have a set plan for the hills, I just knew that they would be hard and on going. I decided that I would attempt each hill as much as I could and if I had to walk up it, then ok. I would run once I got to the top and take advantage of the downhill. I ran about half way up the hill and started to “speed” walk up to the top. Once I got there I felt exhausted and worn down. I started to feel a little nauseous and lightheaded. Ok, maybe I went too hard on the hill, just try to keep an easy pace and you’ll be ready for the next one. But I just couldn’t shake it. I walked some more and took some Poweraid/Gatorade from the water stop. Luckily it was Lime, my favorite, so I didn’t expect anymore issues.

I started to perk up and continued to run. The next few miles had hills and and plateaus, running through downtown and neighborhoods. The feeling of either throwing up or passing out kept coming and going, and I relied on the crowd support to keep me going. I hit mile 6 at 1:03, and was surprised with how close I was sticking to the 10:00 pace. Between mile 6 and 7 we entered a park and it was a great distraction from the rest of the race. The grass was so green and fountains were flowing, it felt like an ordinary run, I felt good for about a half mile. And then I got to the top of the hill. I stopped at a porta potty and struggled to stand, I knew the awful feeling I had for the last two miles wasn’t going away. I felt weak, but I knew I couldn’t stop. I had seen so many posters to run for Boston, that I couldn’t just give up. After a 5 minute stop waiting at the bathroom, I started going again. I came around a turn and saw the beautiful views of Kentucky from the hill. I remember someone telling me to take it in and wished that I had my phone. The only time I left it in my car for fear of rain, and I would have given anything to take a picture of the view.

I kept trotting along, jogging and walking, at this point I wasn’t sure which was quicker. I followed the same plan on each of the hills, run half, walk to the top and take advantage of the downhill. I took another handful of Sport Beans at mile 8 and hoped I’d see a water stop with Gu so I could get something into my body. At one mile volunteers handed out bananas and orange slices, but I was too afraid that it would upset my stomach more so I passed. Looking back, I should have taken it anyway, it probably would have helped a lot.

Somewhere on course, sums up exactly how I felt

Somewhere on course, sums up exactly how I felt

I made it to mile 10 and knew that I had a little over a half hour left of running. My pace and time were all over the place. I no longer focused on getting in under a certain time, I just focused on finishing. I was relieved to know that for the most part the hills were done, and that I had a nice 3 mile decline coming up. I saw people sprinting down the hills and knew better. I had to be careful if I didn’t want to destroy my legs. These next three miles went by slow, and almost as a blur. My legs felt ok, surprisingly, but the rest of my body was done. I continued to walk/jog these miles to make it to the finish. I think I ran most of mile 12, but only to get me to the finish line quicker. I came around the last turn and finished up the absolute worst race of my life.

My little flying pig

My little flying pig

This race was hard. Even if I had my best training cycle, the course would have still eaten me alive. The hills are tough and can definitely put a damper on anyone’s race, but that wasn’t what got me. My legs for the most part felt ok. I had some hip pains, but my legs never held me back. I felt like passing out or throwing up from mile 5 on. I could never shake the feeling and I think that’s what really held me back from running harder than I did. Yes, my heart and mind weren’t 100% in this race, but I did expect a better race out. I’m disappointed in myself, but I know I’ll come back from this. One thing I’ve definitely learned from this training cycle is that I need to focus more on keeping mid race energy levels up. This hit me hard on Sunday. But of course, those hills didn’t help either….

Check out those hills

Check out those hills

Overall, I’m glad to be done. I have about a month off of official training so that I can actually enjoy runs and do what my legs want to do. Even though this training clycle was tough, I’m looking forward to my next big race. Number 12 may have been my toughest, but I certainly won’t let it keep me down.

Half Marathon Number 12

Half Marathon Number 12

Official Results:

Time: 2:38:05

Overall Place: 7637/11046

Female Overall: 4250/6951

Age Group 25-29: 858/1164

Tree Trotter Half Marathon Recap

I knew I’d be running a half marathon this past Saturday, but Tree Trotter Half over in Wellington wasn’t my first choice. I had originally planned on running Run to the Beach over in Portage Lakes, but with my lack of long runs and last minute registration, the cost wouldn’t be worth my attempt at a half. I looked for other races over the weekend, and found Tree Trotter, a half I had my eye on last year. It was through the metro parks and it was much cheaper, a decision I hoped not to regret.

I got up Saturday feeling pretty good, my legs weren’t tight from Yoga and I was hopeful for a long run. I drove over to Wellington Reservation and noticed there weren’t many cars. The event offered a 3.5 mile run and the half, from what I could see, most people were running 3.5 miles. When I got out of the car, it was a pure white out. I questioned whether I should drop down to the shorter race or if I should sneak away. I was here, and I needed the miles, I had to suck it up and do it.

10 minutes before the start

10 minutes before the start

Right before the race started, the sun came out and the wind died down, just about perfect weather. We started off on the first loop, 3.5 miles of soft trail. It was relatively flat with just a few rolling inclines. The views were beautiful as we went through the woods and around ponds. My pace was between 9:30 and 10:00 and I felt pretty good. Everyone seemed to be trudging along at the same pace and there was no urgency to speed up or pass anyone. I was pleased to find a few volunteers on the course making sure we followed the path and handing out water. We started to head back in and I noticed my pace dropped and would be the last time I was ever under 10:00.

I was doing ok, but I knew that I had to go slow if I wanted to finish. I was nervous how far I’d be able to go before I hit the wall. After the first loop, we headed towards the up ground reservoir.  The half marathoners turned off and suddenly everyone disappeared. There was one girl in front of me, and hopefully someone behind me. From this point on, I knew it would a  mental game between me and the road. Heading down the reservoir the wind started to pick up and once I got to the top I could barely catch my breath. I took a moment to take some water and sport beans and attempted to run with the winds pushing against me. The loop around the reservoir was about 2.5 miles and was a grassy path. There was no shelter from the wind, and it seemed to always be pushing against you. These were some of the hardest miles and I knew I was using too much energy in my legs that I’d need later on in the race. When I stopped to take some sport beans, a woman passed me. I was finally able to catch up with her around mile 6, and she too was struggling against the wind. We ran next to each other in silence, glad that there was someone else on the course. Before we headed to the next part, I looked around, only seeing two other people out there running. We really were out here on our own.

We passed another water stop, they were really great about these by the way, and headed into a housing development. It was a shock on the legs to go from trail, to grass and now cement. My running partner stopped to get water as I went along with my hand held. About 150 feet into the development I heard a dog bark, to my right a woman and her dog were getting the newspaper. The dog sprinted across the street and ran in front of me. I stopped, let him go around me and continued to run. Thinking he went back to his owner, I continued on my pace. Then suddenly I felt him jumping up my calves and back. I screamed and turned around, not sure of what the dog would do. The owner started hitting her dog with the newspaper and took him across the street. She never asked if I was ok or apologized for what happened, which I found personally to be rude. I was shaken up and started to run again. My lower back was a bit sore where the dog hit his head into my spine, so I tried to stretch it out a few times. I made it to mile 8 and stopped.

At this point, my legs were getting tired and I hit my wall. A few moments later my running buddy caught up to me. She saw the dog jump at me and asked if I was ok, knowing that If I hadn’t been there, she would have been attacked. We continued to walk and talk, talking about the race, Flying Pig, and our favorite races. We were both exhausted and mentally drained from not seeing anyone else on the course. We finally made it out of the development and headed back to the originally loop on the trail. We passed another water stop and she stayed behind as I kept going. I had 4 miles left, and I knew I could run them.

I was looking forward to the trail because I knew it would be easy on my legs. By this point I was feeling sore and knew I had pushed my limit on miles. Between miles 11-13 I ran/walked hoping to run more than walk. I used most of my energy on the reservoir against the wind and I knew the constant change of running on different paths wasn’t helping. More volunteers came out to push us on and I finally saw a few more runners on the path. By mile 12 I was ready to finish, I kept telling myself a little bit further, but that seemed to go on forever. As I came around the last turn, I couldn’t have been more excited to see the finish line. It was getting colder and the wind was started to pick up, but nothing was going to stop me from getting there.

I crossed the line at 2:22:47. Not my worst time, but no where near my best. I finished 9th out of 13 and completed my 11th half marathon. I was more than under prepared for this race, but I was glad I stuck with it and finished. There is no shame in walking during a race and I knew if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to finish. Despite such a small race, I definitely recommend this one. The course is great, mostly flat, and could possibly be a PR course for some runners. The only challenge would be that it’s a small race, so you’re mostly out there by yourself. With two weeks until Flying Pig, I think this was a great way to get myself ready.

 

Half Marathon number 11

Half Marathon number 11

 

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3M Half Marathon Recap

It’s taken me a week and a half, but I finally have my race recap of the 3M Half Marathon. This race was a different experience to me in more ways than one. I had a lot of factors, some on my own terms, that made this weekend a challenge. But for once, my emotions and my personal experience had no impact on my overall thought of the race. In fact, it was quite the opposite.

Before I dive in, let me catch you up. I was in Austin Friday through Sunday, and I promise a post of my visit will appear soon. During this time I was lucky enough to have a bit of the flu. So. Much. Fun. And my training? Non existent.

Sunday morning was race day, and since the race started at 6:45, wake up was at 5:00am. I was sharing a hotel room with Courtney and Luke, and somehow we had a pretty smooth morning. Nerves weren’t too much of an issue, but I was starving. We were out the door by 5:30 and headed downtown to find a parking spot. There was some wind and the temperature had dropped 20 degrees from the previous day. Coming from Ohio, 40 degrees in January isn’t bad, especially considering it’s in the single digits now! We were thankful that it wasn’t raining. All week there was a good chance we’d be running in pouring rain.

We got in line at the port-a-pots, dropped off our bag and made our way to the start. We were part of the few crazy people wearing shorts, everyone else was bundled up in cold weather gear. I won’t lie, this made me feel tough, or maybe completely stupid.

Right before bag drop.

Right before bag drop.

Courtney and Luke were way up front. I stood by the 2:10 pacers knowing it wouldn’t be a fast day. Just before we started, my stomach turned. I already knew it’d be an interesting race, but my new race plan was to make it through without embarrassing myself.

The first mile was rough, we ran straight into the wind and everyone was still pretty close together. Once we got closer to the second mile, things started opening up and it was a little brighter out. There were a lot of water stops along the way, probably every 1.5 miles, which was perfect because that meant a lot of bathroom stops. My stomach held up pretty well, but I kept myself at a slower pace. I was averaging 9:58 pace per mile. I knew that if I kept it slow I had a better chance of making the entire distance. My goal was just to finish the race now that I had been able to start it.

I made it to mile 5 without any problems, I had been drinking a sip of water every couple of minutes and I hadn’t felt hungry enough to use any Sport Beans yet. At this point, I made a precautionary stop at the bathroom. And then I spent 10 minutes waiting in line. 10 minutes! Any chance of a good time was now gone. I then made the smartest decision of my entire race. I would no longer check my watch and I was just going to enjoy the experience.

My favorite thing about running new or out of town races is that I have no idea where I am, I just follow the course, check in at the mile marks and take in what’s around me. Austin is the perfect place to do this. We ran through industrial areas, housing developments and shopping areas. Each section was unique in it’s own way, something I saw throughout the weekend visit.

I managed to keep a decent pace going until mile 8. I started to do the walk jog thing, running more than walking. The course was pretty easy, and mostly down hill. Even a small incline was nothing and I kept my feet going in the right direction. Around mile 10 I started to get really hungry, and realized I hadn’t snacked all race. I started popping Sport Beans and was quickly back up to my normal self. I was even greeted with some Lemon Lime cup of Heaven shortly after this, which gave me a sign that I could do this. I only had three miles left. What I didn’t realize is that these three miles had hills.

All downhill, until the end

All downhill, until the end

It happened to be move in weekend and the University of Texas, so instead of running through the campus we ran around it. Which wouldn’t have been bad if there hadn’t been hills with false summits. This also caused us to hit a strong head wind right at the finish. But instead of letting that ruin my finish, I went with it. It was tough, but what race doesn’t make you work.

I finished those last couple of miles with heart and gratitude. I looked around and saw the most beautiful views of Austin (still kicking myself for not taking a picture). I was finishing my 10th half marathon in under two years and running in my third state. I had run the race without checking my Garmin every two seconds, I wasn’t stressing about my splits, and I wasn’t nervous if I’d miss my PR. I was happy that the friends I had running on the course were doing amazing things. I was enjoying the 40 degree, beautiful Sunny weather. I was running, something I had separated myself from for the past couple of weeks. I was back doing what I loved.

Lucky number 10

Lucky number 10

Official Results:

Time: 2:36:27

A hard earned medal

A hard earned medal

I finished far from my PR and breaking 2:00, but I was ok with that. I had an amazing experience that I couldn’t have enjoyed more. Not every race is going to be perfect or even good. You encounter those tough courses, race plans, and injuries to make yourself stronger. I’ve run 10 half marathons and at least three other 13 mile runs during my marathon training. That distance can bring something different each and every time.

I honestly have no complaints about this race. It could have very well been the perfect race. The start went smooth, water stops were plentiful and the spectators along the course were wonderful. The grab bag was packed with great items, the t-shirt was unique and the medal was neat. This is a great race to PR and I would completely recommend this race to any runner looking for something fun. I plan on coming back down someday to run 3M again. And there is no doubt that I will be breaking 2:00 on those same streets of Austin.

13.1 on 1.13

13.1 on 1.13

 

 

 

 

Tour de Ashland Half Recap

Where do I even begin with this recap? Let’s start with a month  before when looking for races for 2013. I found this one, it was close, it was a challenge, and I thought it would be good for next year. Next year. And then a week before the race I decided why not try it this year. I wasn’t completely sold on the idea, but I had a free weekend, registration was cheap and I needed a long run. I think I spent the entire week worrying about the elevation chart they provided….

This my friends would be a hilly race.

Their elevation chart

Their elevation chart

And so the day before the race, as I was scrolling through the website, I noticed that they alerted runners that there would be no port a potty stops along the course. Umm what? I’ve never run a half that didn’t have bathrooms. Que instant stomach ache and fear of 13 miles of stomach issues. But it was ok, because there would be water stops every two miles in case something really bad happened. And the weather would be warmer, so all would be just right.

I woke up at 6:30, packed my bag and ate a quick snack before heading down to Ashland. It was a 45 minute drive and my stomach was turning with nerves. Once I got there, I picked up my bib and tried to stay warm in the car. I was still nervous about the hills, and wasn’t sure if I was ready for 13 miles. The longest I had run since the marathon was 6 so I knew it would be an interesting race.

I went over to the start line and found Molly! I knew she’d be running and it was so good to see a familiar face. It calmed my nerves, and reminded me of the hills of Muskingum that we’ve both run many, many times. If we can handle those, we could handle this course.  We began the race, and I struggled to find a good pace. There were pacers for each group, but the 2:00, 2:05, and 2:10 pacers sprinted ahead. I kept checking my Garmin to see we were at a 8:30 pace, I knew this was way too quick and backed off. After the first mile, I found my groove and was ready to take on the hills. We already experienced a few rolling ones, but I knew the hardest part was yet to come.

At three miles the 5k runners, who started ahead of us, turned to the finish. We came across the first water stop, as well as the pace leaders role change. The 2:10 pace leader threw his sign and sprinted ahead. Apparently we would not be using them for the rest of the race.

We started on our loop around town and were heading up and down side streets, I was feeling pretty good, and felt I was keeping a pretty good pace. And then we hit mile 5. I remembered from the map that this was a big hill, and it was. I powered through at a slower pace, but I never felt the need to walk. I was going to beat these hills and prove to myself that I don’t hate them, at least as much as I used to.

After the hill I was still feeling good. I hadn’t taken any sport beans yet and there hadn’t been any water stops. Luckily I had my handheld and made sure to keep hydrated, I wanted to listen to my body to find the perfect hydration strategy. Mile 6 and I came in under and hour, 56 minutes I think. Still on a decent pace, but no thoughts of a PR or a time in general. I just wanted to run for the miles.

And we would run, up hill. These next few miles were brutal. The next three miles would be a constant up hill battle. We would change streets so you could never see exactly what was coming next, hoping for some sort of plateau to stretch. Mile 7 had a relay exchange zone and a water stop, the first one since mile three. We were in an industrial part of town, running with traffic, with limited volunteers, runners or anything. Cars didn’t have to stop, they didn’t know there was a race. For the first time, I didn’t feel safe. I was also hurting. The hills were doing a number on my knees and I hit my wall. I didn’t feel like running anymore. I was over the hills, and over the race. If I stopped to stretch, I didn’t know if I would begin running again.

I made it to mile 8, and stopped. I stretched, took some sport beans and tried to walk the negative feeling out me. I started counting down the miles. 5 more to go, I had to do it, there was no one out there to pick me up if I stopped. So I kept going, hill after hill, each one getting harder, but I kept going. Around mile 10, the hills broke and it was more of a rolling elevation. All that was left was a 5k, easy. My pace was still decent, and I knew I’d break 2:15, this was a confidence booster on my already broken spirit.

Mile 11 and all I could think about was Cleveland, and how long those last two miles always feel. I knew I was getting close, we were starting to get near the track and the start line. A half mile later, I had my breaking point. I was attempting to cross a fairly busy intersection, and traffic wasn’t stopped. Two lanes of traffic in each direction passing by, the officer in the middle had her hands up trying to stop  people. I started waving at the lane next to me, yelling at them to stop. I was furious. No one was stopping, and no one was paying attention. I nearly got hit by a man texting and driving. Finally traffic started to slow, and eventually I had a path to run through. I told them they were all a bunch of idiots. I was so fired up, my pace quickened as soon as I could start running again. I wasted so much time at the intersection and I was so close to the finish.

I kept going and hit mile 12, I came up behind the pacer that threw his sign and sped up from earlier. I passed him and never looked back. Despite my pace, the last mile was hard. I was upset about being stopped and my body was begging to be done. I came up on the track and knew I had a lap left before I could finish. It was the longest lap of my life, but it never felt so good to be finished. My time was 2:11. It wasn’t my best time, but despite the hills, the stops and the negative attitude I acquired, I was pleased. I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard for a half or beat myself up that much during a race.

Afterward I went home and collapsed on my bed accidentally taking a 2 hour nap. I awoke to hunger, and pain. Not only were my legs feeling torn up, but my chest felt heavy. It was the worst I’ve ever felt after a race, even worse than the marathon. This feeling stuck around for quite a while, and is something I’ll discuss in my weekly training recap.

As for the elevation, the true course wasn’t far off what I had expected. Tour de Ashland can now be named my hilliest half, and my hardest.

I love hills...said no one ever.

I love hills…said no one ever.

Results:

Overall – 155/191

AG – 13/19

Gender – 43/61

With that my 2012 race season is over, and my 9th half marathon is in the books.

Half Marathon Number 9

Half Marathon Number 9