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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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

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

 

3M Half Training Week 1 and 2

It’s the start of a new training cycle, and I almost hesitate to share how my training goes. A majority of this training cycle is spent throughout holidays, travel plans, and a pretty busy time of year. But I am sharing it, more of a way to make sure that I do get my workouts in. I set some pretty high goals for this race so I’m determined to make sure that every run counts. I’ve also never run a big race this close to the beginning of the year, so the whole training through the holidays is new.

Let’s take a look at the last two weeks. These were all about the base miles. I took two-three weeks off after the marathon. I needed it, my body needed it. I was mentally worn out and my knee was in the worst pain I’ve ever felt. But I’ve been refreshed and now I’m ready to run, and I’m, dare I say it, pain free. Sure these past two weeks I didn’t get a lot of runs or a lot of mileage, but I’m back at it, and you have to start somewhere. More importantly, I’m running on a treadmill, and I think that explains all lack of motivation for weekday runs.

Week 1

Monday:

Tuesday: 1.5 Miles-Treadmill

Wednesday:

Thursday:

Friday: 2 Miles-Vail

Saturday:

Sunday:

Total Miles: 3.5 Miles

This week was spent mostly traveling to Colorado. And we did a bunch of walking, but luckily I was able to get a beautiful run out in Vail. Notice below the elevation difference….7000+ ft change is quite a bit and makes for hard running.

8000+ ft elevation!

Normal elevation

Strangely enough it was the first time I noticed my pain was gone, so I guess I should do all my running in Colorado.

 

Week 2

Monday:

Tuesday: 3 Miles-Treadmill

Wednesday: 3 Miles-Treadmill

Thursday:

Friday:

Saturday:

Sunday: 3 Miles-Outdoors

Total Miles: 9 Miles

From week 1 to week 2 I was able to add mileage, work on my weight training and get a few miles outside. It’s far from where I probably should be, but I’m working on it.

 

With only 8 weeks to go, I’ve got a lot to accomplish. Here are my goals for the 3M Half Marathon:

  • Sub 2:00
  • PR
  • Sub 2:00
  • Stay injury free
  • Sub 2:00

Notice a pattern? I want to run sub 2:00 so badly, you wouldn’t believe. It’s a downhill course so I’m hoping this will be to my benefit. It’s also in Austin, in January, so snow or cold weather shouldn’t be an issue. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me, but there couldn’t be a better way to start of 2013 than running a PR!

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!

Platte River Race Recap

Yesterday’s post explained my love affair with Denver. Today I’m excited to share my first experience of an out of state race. To catch you up to speed, I had a minor set back on Saturday when I had the joy of feeling full altitude sickness. We drove into the mountains, and a combination of curvy roads, altitude change, and dehydration caused me to be out of commission for 2-3 hours. I still wasn’t feeling up to par by Saturday evening, but I knew if I stayed in bed all weekend, I would feel even worse.

This is where I started to panic. Weak as can be, I was somehow supposed to run a half marathon the next morning. How is this even going to happen? I honestly regretted the race and trip at this point. I was pretty sure I wasted time and money just for me to end up sick. Darren wasn’t going to let me waste any more time. So after driving all over to find me food and drinks I could keep down, I was finally able to get out of the hotel and we kept the night low key, and I made sure to over hydrate.

Sunday morning came, it was race day! Good morning to an early wake up call, nervous stomach, and over thinking. Luckily I was feeling better, at least I thought I was, I always feel like a train wreck race mornings, mostly due to the nerves. One less thing to stress about was the weather, it was perfect, almost too good to be true. A little bit of sun, a little bit of a chill, and not a drop of rain or snow in sight!

Perfect weather!

How could you not relax driving towards this on the way to the race?

We got to the race early, and I took my first steps in the parking lot. My pace was slow, but I wanted to shake my legs out. I decided to wait until race day to do any running. If I had a bad run on Saturday, I knew I would worry about it right until the start and even during the race. I took my spot in wave 3 (2:15 and above) I wanted to make sure I’d start with a comfortable pace and wouldn’t try any 8:30 miles.

Ready to go!

The race started off at a good pace, and I quickly found a comfortable spot. With every turn the mountains were in the background, almost surreal. There were many times in the first mile that I still couldn’t believe I was out in Denver running a half marathon. Am I crazy?

Quickly after mile one we headed to a paved path which immediately made for a very tight run, there was even one point where we were stopped and walking because there were so many people. Water stops were every two miles, which I made sure to take full advantage of. I was already thirsty before the first stop, and I knew staying hydrated would be key to making it to the finish line.

The first couple miles I spent figuring out my pace, checking over my body to see how I felt, and trying to find my place in the crowded path. I decided beforehand I would take some Gu at mile 4 and 8. Well, it must have helped because when I got to mile 5, I was at a 9:30 pace. Whoah! Slow down and don’t get ahead of yourself.

Miles 6 through 9 I kept a pretty even pace. I stopped at all the water stops and took my Gu at mile 8. At this point in the race I felt comfortable, my body felt good, my pace wasn’t too quick and I was just taking in the moment. The wind started to pick up, but I tried not to let it get to me, and I kept pushing on. I even passed people, something I have rarely done in a half. The course up to this point followed the Platte River and we had multiple bridges to run over and under. Including a few that shook and reminded me of running at Bur Oak. There was even a dirt path next to the pavement that gave provided some relief throughout the race.

Right around mile 10 the path opened up a bit and I could tell we were getting close to the finish and into the city. The sky also darkened at this point, and it became a race to get to the finish without getting caught in a storm. Lucky mile 11 came and I started to cramp. I knew by this point I was a little dehydrated and my pace started to slow. I started checking my Garmin about every ten seconds. Throughout the race I had been on pace to PR, and like always I knew it would come down to the last two miles.

Mile 12 finally showed up and it was the mile I had been dreading the entire race. There was a “small” hill right at the finish. This hill lasted what felt like a half mile and once everyone made it to the top, the wind took full force. I was blown around multiple times, I started to think I was going to get blown off the bridge and wouldn’t make it to the finish. Coming down the bridge, I knew I was close, and as we turned the corner I could see the balloons at the finish line. My first thought was, “OMG, it’s finally here! Just keep moving, and the cramps won’t kill you” I was so excited for this moment!

Fact: I never remember the finish to a race. I get into a weird sprint the last 50 feet and black out everything. But, I actually remembered this one, and I was thrilled to see Darren on the side, taking pictures, so of course I had to smile. I glanced at the clock and saw 2:16. I missed it. But….Garmin said 13.2, and by my calculations for a 13.1 race, I got a PR by a few seconds. WHAT!!

Couldn’t have done it without him

Here I am, in Colorado, running my first half of the year, and I ran a PR for 13.1 miles. I never even dreamed this would happen. Throughout the race I knew I had the chance of getting close, but after the last two miles, I gave up the idea of finishing strong and just wanted to finish. I don’t even know how it happened, but I felt great during the entire race. Even with cramps at the end, I couldn’t have asked for a better race. I was relaxed, and just let my legs lead the way. I was so excited to say that I finished and I had half number 5 under my belt. Half number two in the 25 challenge was in the books! I ended up placing 727/1421 of all the lady runners, and 64/110 in my age group. Not bad.

This race was exactly what I needed to jump start half marathon season. I fell in love with the distance all over again, and I can’t wait to enjoy so many more this year. Colorado, not only did you give me an amazing experience, but you’ve given me a whole new meaning to the words, I love running.

Love.

Up next is the Earth Day Challenge Half Marathon in Gambier, Ohio. Molly will be dominating the race, and I’ll be celebrating my birthday! (and running of course)