Love of the Half

It’s almost mid April, which means that half marathon racing season is upon us. It’s hard to believe but just about three years ago, I ran my first half marathon in Cleveland. With 14 half marathons under my belt and my 13.1 anniversary right around the corner, I thought it would be a good time to share why I love the half so much. Here are my 13 reasons why I think the half marathon is the best race!

  1. It’s the perfect race distance, just long enough to get a solid workout in, but not too long that you can still function for the rest of the day.
  2. New running routes. Training for the half requires long runs to be over 8 miles, so when you cover that many miles you have to be creative, and step outside your neighborhood.
  3. It’s a gateway race. The half can easily lead you to other races, such as the 10 Miler, and then the marathon.
  4. The mission to break 2:00. Plain and simple.
  5. Fun race swag. You usually don’t get anything except for a shirt when running a 5k, but with a half marathon, you usually get a shiny new medal to wear.
  6. Training can fit into a busy schedule and won’t ruin your weeknights/weekends.
  7. It’s an excuse to eat all the pasta! And then eat more when you’re done running.
  8. Runcations. Although I’ve only done a few, it’s nice to run a race and then explore a new city or state.
  9. Meeting new runners. I’ve met some amazing people from training through the online race community and my own MCRR group.
  10. The views. I’ve seen some amazing views while training and racing the half. My favorite still has to be the Rocky Mountains in the background while running Platte River Half.
  11. New clothes. Lots of sweaty morning/evening runs mean I always need new running gear, especially for race day.
  12. You learn about yourself. Every training run or race you discover something new about yourself. It’s my time for just me.
  13. Training for the half means I usually end up racing a half. I tend to run a few half marathon races, while training for my goal half. It gives me confidence on race day, and I earn a few medals along the way.

13.1

What’s your favorite race distance? What’s your favorite thing about the half marathon?

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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

 

 

 

 

River Run Half Marathon Recap

To be honest, I wasn’t sure I was going to run this race. I saw the t-shirt and medal a while ago and that was my single motivation, I’m a sucker for race swag. But as the day got closer, I knew I had to run the race, not just for the shirt, but because I knew I had to get my long run in. I ran it last year and I felt good most of the way. The end wasn’t my best shot, but I really enjoyed the race. I really didn’t know what was in store for me this year, but I’m glad I signed up. I was in the same boat as last year, coming back from an injury with limited training. I had hopes that the slight down hill of the race would be to my benefit and allow me to finish in one piece.

The day started off chilly and rainy, almost perfect weather. I tried to stay warm in my car as I mentally prepared myself for my longest run in 5 weeks. Even after a Clif Bar and some sport beans, I was still starving, so naturally I tried something new on race day with a Honey Stinger Waffle. It was delish, and lemon of course. My only hope was that it wouldn’t come back to haunt me later on. About 10 minutes before the race started it stopped raining, and I headed to the start line. I wasn’t nervous, just ready to run.

The first couple of miles felt pretty good. I started off at a slower pace, mostly because it was crowded. I made my way through the familiar path and was excited to head into the park. (Sidenote: I actually lived in Berea for a short time, I was right off the parkway, so running this course was a daily thing for me.) I was hitting the miles in a 9:30 pace and was feeling pretty confident that I could keep it up for a while. The sun was starting to peak through the clouds, and the views were beautiful. I’m a sucker for the bridges and leaves of the parkway, so anytime I run through it I make sure to take advantage of the sights.

I was coming up on mile 6 at 56 minutes. My time was much quicker than I thought it would be. I quickly starting counting miles and tried to figure out my estimated finish time. As quickly as I thought about it, I shoved it out of my mind. I wasn’t going to stress about my finish time, I hadn’t run more than 8 miles for quite some time. Who knew what would happened once I made it past that mark.

Soon enough I started to feel the effects of the winding path. I had tried to run along the center line, but with the course still pretty full I ended up all over the road. The biggest downfall of this race is that even though it’s pretty flat, the road is never even. Most of the way you’re putting stress on one leg or another and I was feeling it pretty bad. However, it didn’t slow down my pace too much yet. I was able to get to an 8:50 pace, but kept myself between 9:05-9:20. No idea where this speed came from.

Right around mile 7 I heard my name being called, it was Heather! Seeing her for a few minutes helped to keep me motivated to continue on and hopefully make it past that 8 mile mark. And once I got to mile 8, I took a  break. Not a short one, but I walked while I took some sport beans, and tried to shake out my legs. I was at 1:18 (I think) so I had some time that I could use to make sure I’d have enough energy to get to the end. I knew the hill was coming up, and it would be tough. My strategy going in was to attempt to run as much as I could and walk what I couldn’t run. I’m not sure if it was the fear of the hill or all the hills I have to run in Medina, but I made it up didn’t have to walk a step.

But once I got up the hill, it all went down hill from there. My legs started to really hurt and my pace slowed down. I took advantage of the water stops, and I even walked a bit in mile 11. I swear that is the longest mile of the entire race. I knew my time was somewhat still decent, but had no idea how well I had done until I crossed that finish line. I finished at 2:08, just three minutes off my PR and 13 minutes faster than last year. I honestly didn’t think I had it in me, and I’m still surprised with Sunday’s results.


River Run was by far not my best work, but I don’t think I’ve ever worked that hard for a race. I had a strong start and got my pace down to where it should be to go sub 2. Even with limited training and sore legs, I know that I can still bounce back and prepare for Columbus. Racing this past weekend gave me the confidence I needed for marathon training. And maybe that sub 2 isn’t that far off…

Half Marathon #8

Cleveland Take Two

Before I start on my race recap, let’s back up to Friday and the expo. Outside of the whole parking ordeal, I was pretty excited to get my race shirt and see what other items I could live without needed. I got there around 6, so I only had an hour, which was probably better on my wallet anyway. I saw a few familiar faces, but I was on a mission to get to the pacers booth. One of my coaches from high school just happened to be in town for the race. In fact, the same coach that encouraged us to run with Second Sole back in high school. We spent a good half hour catching up and discussing a number of topics. She gave me great tips, and told me I could definitely go sub 2 soon. Encouraging, but it didn’t cross my mind for Sunday, or even this summer. More importantly, she agreed to help me pace my marathon in October. Seriously, I couldn’t ask for anything better. It was a great start to the weekend.

An inspiration

So fast forward to Sunday. I was feeling pretty good when I woke up at 4:30. I was nervous though, after running the 5k on Saturday, I was concerned on how I would handle 13 miles in the heat. I still had the words “it’s ok if you don’t finish” stuck in my head from my dad. He told me not to go all out, and just take it easy. I continued to get ready and was headed down town early enough that traffic wouldn’t be an issue. I had a parking pass, so I easily found a spot next to Brown’s Stadium and I was ready to go.

I spent the next hour trying to calm my nerves and prepare myself for the heat. I made a quick decision at bag check to run with my fuel belt. It would be my first time using it, and after a quick few steps of warming up, it was already bouncing around. Should I use it, should I go put it back, should I wear it as long as I can handle and then just toss it somewhere on the course? This became my new stress for the next half hour.

Finally the race was ready to start, I decided to use the belt for as long as I could handle it. When that moment came where it was too annoying, I would figure out what to do then. I started out behind the 9:30 pace group. If I could start faster while the weather was cooler I knew I had a better chance of finishing. The first mile was slow and congested, and the heat set in as soon as we turned the corner. I  immediately thought of last year in Columbus where I was mentally done in the first mile. But I didn’t let that thought last long, I had to stick it out, I couldn’t give up yet. Until mile two, I felt off. My fuel belt was slipping and one of the bottles was leaking. My left knee was already stressing from the few smaller hills and I started to think I’d feel this way the entire race. Soon enough I got my belt into the perfect position, just seconds before the first water stop. I grabbed a cup and noticed a familiar form running past me.

Lucky for me, my aunt was just feet from me, so I sped up and tapped her on the shoulder. My intention was to say hi, run a mile together and fall behind her quicker pace. Things didn’t go quite like that and we ended up running together until mile 10 or so. The miles in between were probably the toughest and most rewarding.

Miles 3-5 were quick. We kept up about a 9:00 minute pace and even had a chance to talk. At this point though, my left arch and knee where letting me know they were already getting tired. I could also feel a blister start on my right foot. I told her I may not finish the race, but I would hold on and see how I felt. Mile 6 came and went, and we were under an hour. The temperature was rising and shade was minimal. I had taken advantage of some Gu, all of the water stops, and my water/nuun combo I had in my fuel belt. By the time mile 8 rolled around, I was in shock with how quick the race was flying by. We were a little slower, but still bounced around a 9:30 pace. Not bad, considering everything that wasn’t on our side that day.

Mile 9 has always been my check point. If I’m over 1:30 I know I’m in poor shape, if I’m under 1:30, I better hold onto what ever I have and just run with it. We came in under and started counting down the miles. Running was getting harder, our pace was slowing at points, but we still kept going. Until the hill. This was new and I was a little hesitant on the down hill part, because when you go down, you have to get back up. I looked up and everything was in slow motion. No one was running, everyone was moving at a snail’s pace to get up there. So I shuffled as slow as I could, only to hear two phrases that sent chills up  my back. The man left to me yelled out “I think I tore my Achilles” Ouch, I could feel his pain. Then the lady next to me yelled out, “Call 911” I turned around and saw a gentleman pass out. Everyone was pretty much in a panic and just wanted to get to stable ground again.

Mile 10, just a 5k to go. I checked my watch and I was at 1:35, still at a good pace but I knew that one last bridge was ahead of me before I was home free. Half way on the bridge, my aunt told me to go on without her. She wasn’t feeling her best and didn’t want to hold me back. I felt bad, I was in her same shoes last year at the same exact point on the bridge. So here I was, alone for the last 2.5 miles, it was either fade into the crowd and coast in or see if I could keep this pace for the rest of the race.

A lot of thoughts went through my mind in these last miles. I quickly did the math and knew that I would be finishing in under 2:10. I wanted to keep my pace, I wanted to finish strong. This was the first race that I didn’t rely on my watch or iPod, I just ran. I spent a majority of the race not stressing about time or where I should be with my pace. I was like everyone else, making my way through, hoping to cross the finish line. A mile to go, and I was under the 2:00 mark. I wanted to quicken my steps, but I knew I could easily ruin everything I worked for if I went in too strong. Following everyone ahead of me, I knew we were getting close, I recognized some of the streets and that final turn would be any second. And it was there. The sun was shining, the crowds were cheering and I could taste the finish line. With less than a quarter mile to go I saw my uncle. I sprinted up to give him a high five and told him my aunt was on her way.  This was exactly the encouragement I needed. The winding finish felt like it would never end. I kept checking my watch thinking that seconds were flying by. In those moments, I wanted a number, I needed that number. I was suddenly on the heels of a PR.

PR Party

Crossing the line was surreal, emotional and unbelievable. A year ago I was finishing my first half. In the same place that it started, I ran a new PR. Looking back, I honestly don’t know how it happened. I am not a heat runner at all, I struggled the day before in a 5k. All I can think of is that I had the motivation of running for Team JDRF on my mind and the support of my aunt along the way. We both had low points, but we needed each other. Neither one of us would have made it if we ran it alone.

Race partners

So here I am, my second shot at Cleveland, and a completely different experience. Not only did I experience my first half here, but I ran my best half under crazy conditions. I find it bittersweet. As much as I’ve loved my Cleveland Experience, I knew it would be my last CLE half for a while. I love everything about Cleveland Marathon weekend, but my love for Green Bay wins this next round. Instead of lining of outside Brown’s Stadium next year, I’ll be outside the greatest place on Earth, Lambeau. Thanks Cleveland, for giving me my first and best.

Results:

Official Time: 2:05:55-PR!

Overall: 2593 / 14635

Gender: 1045 / 8262

AG: 139 / 898

Half number seven, The Cleveland Half Marathon

Lucky Number Seven

A year ago today, I ran my first half marathon. On Sunday I’ll be running my 7th, right back where it started, in Cleveland. This time around is a lot different. I’m not terrified or concerned I won’t make it to the finish. I’m relaxed, in control of my running, and most importantly, running it for a reason.

A lot has changed in the past year. I find that running 13.1 miles is comforting, almost the perfect distance. I’ve learned how to better pace myself throughout a race and how to control my breathing. I’ve tried new things, like Gu and Nuun, wearing a race belt, and using compression gear. I’ve gotten the hang of running a half marathon, and now I’m on my way to getting better and faster. So what do I expect come Sunday?

No goals. This race isn’t for me, I’m not trying to get a PR or take revenge on last year’s race. I’m running it for Team JDRF and everyone affected by Type 1 Diabetes. I just want to go out there and run. I ran about 3 days in the past two weeks to let my body recover and get over the nagging pain in my knee. I’m not expecting to wow myself out there. I want to enjoy it, I want to take it all in. I want to have fun.

But… I can’t help but have a competitive side, so of course I want to beat last year’s time of 2:15:47. And it would be even better if I got down to my current PR or better. However, the weather isn’t looking ideal for Sunday and I’m not ready for heat just yet. But overall, I’m ready to run Cleveland again. I love this city and everything about it.

Earth Day Challenge Half Recap

Months ago I came across this race and was pretty pumped that it was on my birthday. What better way to spend your birthday than running, right? The race was on part of Kenyon College’s campus. I’d never been there before but waking up at 5:15 to get there was no picnic. I arrived about 45 minutes before race time, picked up my race packet and did a little warm up. Surprisingly I wasn’t nervous, I felt relaxed and I was ready to give this race a shot. I saw Molly right before the start and was excited that I’d have a fellow Muskie out there! (She ran awesome btw, finished 1st female overall and PR’d!)

Muskies!

We started the race on the track and ran about a lap before we headed off into town. The path was pretty crowded but I quickly found a pace I felt comfortable with. Unfortunately this pace was 9:00, and I knew I had to slow down if I wanted to make it through the race. Suddenly a “small mountain” appeared and we ran uphill for about the next half mile. Definitely slowed my pace down!

The next couple of miles were rolling hills, which I normally hate, but after my long run in Wooster a few weeks back I felt a lot better. Once we hit mile 4 we started the out and back in the woods. It was a paved course, and very peaceful. At this point in the race I really took time to reflect. I never really set a goal for the race. I honestly didn’t know what to expect. The last time I ran back to back half marathons I felt the pain early in the race, so I was almost expecting to feel the drain in my legs at any moment.

I checked my watch about every five minutes and noticed that my pace was still a little quicker than what I was used to. I bounced around between 9:25-9:40. I came in at mile 6 right around 55 minutes,  but I was actually feeling pretty good about it. At this point, I decided to just let my legs do the work, I kept telling myself don’t think, just run. I wasn’t going to let my watch control my race. I kept a pretty steady pace throughout the next four miles and pretty soon I was closing in on the last 5k. By this point my knees were hurting and I could tell I was in need of a major water stop.

I kept checking my time, but I reminded myself that anything could happen. I was still ahead of my current PR, but I tried not to let it get to my head.  I was starting to think that all of the hard work I had put in this year could finally be paying off. I made it to mile 12 and I was right around 1:56-1:57. I knew there was no way I’d make it under 2:00, but I felt I could score a big PR. I picked up my pace by a few seconds and just let my mind go blank. I saw the finish line, and knew I was there. I still had a lap on the track to do before I could stop. By this point I had nothing left in me, no kick at the finish, just a steady pace until I crossed that line.

I could not stop smiling. I got a 9 MINUTE PR!!!!!

New 13.1 PR

Words can’t even describe how I was feeling. I couldn’t believe I knocked so much time off of my race. I didn’t expect I would do that well, this early, especially coming off a race the previous weekend. Colorado must have been good for me. It was the perfect race and the perfect day, and I couldn’t be happier.

Finishers mug and tree

After this weekend, I feel so much better about the rest of the year. I don’t feel pressure to really knock off the minutes, I can relax, enjoy the races and have fun. But this doesn’t stop me from setting up my next goal, to eventually break 2:00. If I don’t do it this year, it’s ok. I’m proud of my running and all that I’ve accomplished so far. It’s still early in the year and anything could happen. In the meantime I have the Love-A-Stray 5k Fur Fun Run this weekend followed by the Cleveland Half a few weeks later. I’m so excited to see what these next few races will bring, it truly is the year of races!

Half Marathon number 6!