This report is a few days over due, but better late than never....
The 45 mile bike ride 14 hours before a half marathon race may not have been the brightest idea I've ever had. Then again, racing 70.3 miles may take the cake for dumbest thing I've ever done, but I'm still going to do it just to find out.
The summary: Lake Minnetonka Half Marathon Course - Rolling hills Goal - Finish the race in a reasonable time (anything under 1:45 would have been fine with me) Results - 1:39:13, four seconds off my PR. Placing - 6th of 278 in my age group (F25-29), 39 of 1384 women, 209 of 2468 total runners
The race report:
Pre-Race: Late Saturday morning I headed out to the western suburbs for packet pick-up. I didn't really need to drive the 60 minute round-trip since there was an option to do packet pick-up immediately before the actual race, but I didn't really have anything better to do and it turned out to be a good thing that I did go on Saturday. First of all, I had no idea where I was going and ended up missing a turn. (Actually, I was rocking out to Usher on the radio and not paying attention to the Garmin.) I immediately realized my mistake except that I was out by Lake Minnetonka where there are absolutely NO places to turn around. Immediately to my right was a lake. Immediately to my left was a lake. I had to drive a couple miles out of my way before I could find a side street to turn around on.
I finally arrived at the mall where packet pick-up was held. It was PACKED! I couldn't believe the number of people standing in line to get their stuff. Apparently this is a much bigger event than I realized. It probably took me 30 minutes to make my way through the line to pick up my bib, timing chip and shirt. I was super excited to see that this race actually had extra small T-shirts! I can't tell you the number of race shirts I receive that go straight from my goody bag to my stack of things for Goodwill. It's about time someone realized that a lot of women runners are smaller than the size small shirts. If the race fees include shirts, it would be nice to receive ones that actually fit. I've gotta give the coordinators of this race major props for figuring that one out!
Race Day: The biggest benefit of going to packet pick-up the day before the race was that I now knew exactly where I was going, where I could find parking, and how long it would take me to get there. I was up at 6am for my pre-race breakfast of oatmeal and coffee and was on the road by about 6:35. I arrived at exactly the right time. I scored a rockstar parking place and watched the parking lot fill up almost immediately after that. The lines to the bathrooms were a little ridiculous. It took me 30 minutes just to get through the line. At that point it was 7:40 and my wave started at 8:00. (There were 3 starting waves. I was in the first one.)
I had a little bout of nervousness as I realized I had not trained at all for this race. I did a 75 minute run 3-4 weeks ago. That had to be at least 10 miles, right? Since then I haven't run more than 60 minutes at a time. I know I can run 13.1 miles, but there was a good chance it was going to hurt a lot more than I was prepared for.
I jogged around for about 10 minutes, stretched a little, checked my bag, and lined up with my pace group. My game plan was to stick with the 1:40 pacer (7:38 per mile pace) until mile 10 and then see if I could pick it up a little.
Miles 1, 2 and 3 - I tucked right in off the left shoulder of Pacer Brandon. The first mile had a little climb to it, but wasn't bad. It always helps to have a pacer on hills. I concentrated on staying right on Brandon's shoulder. The uphill in Mile 1 was offset by a long downhill in Mile 2. At this point we had run the first 3 miles in splits of 7:24, 7:02 and 7:27. Pacer Brandon was getting frustrated. Afterall, it is his job to run consistent 7:38's through the race. I was feeling great at this point, but was starting to worry that running too fast, too early would cost me in the later miles.
Miles 4 and 5 - Brandon was still ahead of his pace and needed to back off. I had a decision to make: Do I drop back with him and keep him as my pacer or do I keep my current pace and try to go it alone? I decided to go it alone. I was still feeling good but didn't feel like I was pushing myself too hard either. There were enough people in this race that I had plenty of other people to pace off of and try to hold onto to. I took miles 4 and 5 at a 7:32 per mile pace.
Miles 6 through 8 - By about mile 6.5, I was getting smoked. It seemed like group after group of runners were passing me. I figured these were probably people who were trying to negative split the course (run the 2nd half faster than the 1st half). I spent these three miles repeating over and over in my head: "Run smart. Run YOUR race." I kept my steady pace and let all those people run on ahead. My splits stayed pretty even at 7:41, 7:35 and 7:34.
Mile 9 - I was starting to hurt. I felt like I had picked up the pace a little on this mile but I was actually slowing down. My split for this mile was 7:41.
Miles 10 and 11 - My mantra changed from "Run smart" to "2 miles easy, 2 miles hard". I had four miles left and didn't want to push too hard too early. I was really hurting now. My new game plan was to try to hold my pace until mile 11 and then give it my all until I crossed the finish line. Splits for these miles were 7:37 and 7:46.
Mile 12 and 13 - I was in a world of hurt. My head was still in the game, but my quads felt like someone had stabbed knives into them. I could barely lift my knees. The hills were starting to annoy me. Thankfully I have always been a good hill runner, so it was good motivation to see how many people I could pass on each hill. I crossed the 12 mile mark in 7:43 and then tried to pick it up the last mile. The last mile was on a limestone path that was a nice change of scenery and felt great on my feet. In my head I was counting down the minutes it would take me to finish that last mile. Unfortunately, the last 600 meters or so included one giant hill. Again, I was thankful that I'm good with hills. I got to the top and then strided out to cross the finish line. My last mile took me 7:56. I was running on fumes! Thank God that was the end of it!
Overall, I thought it was a great race. It was very well organized. I would definitely run other events by this race coordinator just for the organization. The course was a little hillier than I imagined. I believe it was advertised as a flat and fast course. I believe it is definitely possible to PR on this course, but it is definitely NOT FLAT. At points, it felt like you were on a roller coaster with the hills coming one right after another. Even so, I think this may become a recurring race on my annual race schedule.
As for my training, I felt this weekend was a good test to see where I am at. My legs were pretty beat from Saturday's long bike ride, but I was still able to come within 4 seconds of my half marathon PR. That gives me a little more confidence that I will be able to finish the run portion of the half ironman in a reasonable time and gives me a lot more confidence that I should be able to PR at my next half marathon.
I've got a couple races that may work their way into my calendar in the next few weeks, including my very first bike races! Stayed tuned for more race reports!