Sunday, September 12, 2010

Race Report: Spirit of Columbus Half Marathon 2010

Wow, am I a procrastinator or what?! It's been two weeks since I ran my first half marathon, and I'm just now getting around to posting my race report... so glad I already posted the pictures and video!

Race Week:
The week before the race, it was taper time. So, less running, rest, and lots of water and carbs :-) Since my right leg was bothering me (more on that later), I only ran twice that week and less miles than scheduled. Carb loading was pretty fun! To be cautious, I did my pre-race pigout two nights before the race at Hometown Buffet. Oh my, did I ever enjoy eating what I wanted and in whatever amount desired! I even drank regular Barq's rootbeer -- a favorite! Turns out that I only managed two plates rather than my usual three. But, I hadn't been to a buffet like that in ages. I guess I get full faster now, which is fine by me! The night before the race, I dined in and made a Macaroni Grill Basil Pesto Chicken meal with garlic bread but no salad (following the "no roughage or fiber before the race" rule). After laying out and preparing my race day outfit and gear, I sipped on water until bedtime. Surprisingly, I feel asleep faster than I expected considering: 1) I was nervous, and 2) it normally takes me a while to wind down. However, I seemed to stay in a light dream state the entire night, waking up every hour or so, which is not my typical sleep pattern since I normally sleep like a bear.

Race Day Morning:
It's amazing how fast I got up out of bed to turn my alarm off on race day. Nerves. I got dressed and had oatmeal, peanut butter on a banana, milk, and some coffee while nervously pacing the kitchen. Once I realized that I was pacing, I sat down to drink my coffee. It was the last moment of quiet I'd have before the race since I knew my mind would really start to race while driving there. Just before walking out the door I suddenly remembered to spray sweatproof sunscreen on my shoulders and arms (Good thing because I would've gotten burned those last 5 miles!).

The drive there followed part of the race course, so I passed a few water stations and mile markers. Despite the distraction and excitement of seeing the race setup, I couldn't help but notice how long the drive felt. Was I really going to be running this? 13.1 miles?! The most I'd run in training was 10 miles the week before, and that seemed like forever! I was really hoping that adrenaline would be my friend and get me through to the end. When I started to think too much about the miles, the drive there turned out to be my mental pep talk. I told myself the following: 1) I trained 3 months for this and was ready, darn it; and 2) I was going to walk through every water station and drink water, even if I didn't feel like having water or walking.

The race starting point was at a shopping mall. Luckily, since the race was small, there was ample parking close to the start. When I say close, I mean that I could've gotten out of my car when the gun went off and not lost any time ;-) It was 7:00 a.m. and I had a half hour till race time. After putting on my hat and grabbing my Shot Bloks and mp3 player, I headed to the porta potties on the opposite side of the road to stretch. Soon after I finished stretching, I noticed the porta potty lines getting longer, so I got in one. Relieved I got to pee, I headed over to the start and waited, occasionally chatting but mainly staying quiet and taking in my surroundings. There were no corrals since it was a small race. While shaking out my legs and loosening up my ankles in anticipation, I realized I hadn't put BodyGlide on my thighs. Oh freaking crap! This was 5 minutes before the start. I immediately hurried over to my car, got in, and furiously coated my thighs. There was NO way I was going to run 13.1 miles without anti-chafing balm on my thighs, unless I wanted to start a fire. Whew, that was close! When I got back to the start, the anthem had started, and then we were off!!!

Mile 1:
My little clip-on mp3 player was set to play all songs alphabetically. That way I could count the total number of songs after the race was over (35!). First song? "4 Minutes," the Glee version of Madonna and Justin Timberlake's song. Good way to start! I kept the volume low so that I could still hear nearby people talking. Even though we were under 1000, it was closely packed that first mile. The pace felt slightly faster than I intended and turned out to be 10:51. Oops, too fast!

Mile 2:
I didn't want to tire out too early, so by the second mile I managed to slow down and get behind a pair of younger women who held a steady, comfortable warm-up pace. We turned onto a quiet road that went downhill with houses on one side and a mist-covered field on the other. I made sure to enjoy the shade and cool temps, knowing that later, the last 5 miles of the race were out in the open sun -- this on a forecasted 90-degree day. (The sun is my kryptonite, so I cherished the shade I got in those first 8 miles!) I didn't look at my watch at Mile 2 because we had our first water station. Since I didn't turn down my music, I accidentally grabbed Gatorade. Oops! I took a sip and tossed my cup, then grabbed some water. After a few small sips, I started running again. Small sips and very brief walking were the norm at these earlier stations. I wanted to follow my water station rule, but I also didn't want to waste time either while I still had lots of energy.

Mile 3:
After that first water station, the course took us another easy mile to the bridge that crosses the Scioto. There were a few residents standing at the end of their drives watching us pass by while they enjoyed their morning coffee. Most politely smiled, but there were also a few who cheered us on. That felt nice because I knew there wouldn't be many spectators until the finish due to the race course logistics. After all, this was a scenic race course that didn't have many safe places for pedestrians. After turning to head toward the bridge, I walked and sipped some more water and took off. This is where the pack dispersed!

Mile 4:
Oh, yeah! Downhill time! It turned out to be the biggest downhill we had. Many runners, including myself, took advantage and flew down to the river. When I got to the bridge, I normalized my pace and looked ahead to the hill taking us back up. No problem! It wasn't as steep or as long as the downhill. We turned right onto Riverside Drive, which would take us the remaining 10 miles into downtown. No more turns - this was it: Now we were following the Scioto the rest of the way. I was looking forward to this stretch between the bridge and Griggs Reservoir at Mile 5. There were going to be some really pretty views of the river and a small inlet. When I got to the stone-bordered inlet, I saw some great blue herons and ducks. A few of the early morning sun's golden rays pierced through the dense mantle of trees surrounding the inlet. As I stared at the mist-covered scene, I took in a deep breath and closed my eyes for a second. I think that's when the first race photographer, unseen by me, took my picture. Instead of looking peaceful and content, as I knew I was, I looked like I was asleep! I don't remember where the Mile 4 water station was, but I do remember realizing that I was going to make it 5 miles without walking (between water stations, that is). Woohoo! I felt pretty good! Near the end of this mile, I caught up to and followed an older man who looked to be well over 70. I stayed behind him until the next water station and never saw him again since he skipped it and I did my usual walk-and-drink routine. Beat by a 70+-year-old man! Oh well, good for him!

Mile 5:
As the older man passed by the water station, I decided to take both water and Gatorade. I still only sipped, but I made sure to drink both. I could tell it was getting warmer. We were now in Griggs Reservoir: a 2-mile park along the Scioto River. This is where I began mentally breaking up the course into segments. I'd just done 3 miles to the bridge and 2 miles to Griggs. Now I had 2 miles through Griggs. My time was 55:something, approximately an 11:00-min mile. Well, all right then!

Mile 6:
I was still feeling good, although I could tell that I needed to get my Shot Bloks ready soon. There was GU at the last water station, but I declined it since I'd brought my own energy chews. My family would be near Mile 6. So just before going under a bridge before the water station, I stopped to walk and chew a couple of Shot Bloks. When I'd finished chewing, I reached the water station. There was another race photographer taking pics at about 5.5 miles. I wasn't expecting him and stepped in a rut right before he snapped my photos, so you can toatlly see my reaction. Oh my, my race photo prospects weren't looking too promising at this point!

Mile 7:
After running about a half mile past the water station, I saw my husband with our 5-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son. They were near the relay exchange point at Mile 6.55. I waved hi and grabbed a quick sip of water (an extra station!), this time while running. Only a half mile more of Griggs! There was a water station at the top of a short but steep little hill when exiting the park. I didn't let myself stop running until I got up to the station.

Mile 8:
Now came the one hilly portion of the course. It was gently rolling hills for exactly one mile. Believe it or not, this felt pretty good on my legs. As I mentioned earlier, I'd been having issues with my right leg: medial tibial stress syndrome, otherwise known as shin splints. Going uphill stretched out all the right muscles, so I didn't mind breathing harder to enjoy a good stretch. The biggest and last uphill of the race, right before the Mile 8 marker, turned out to be not scary at all. I quite enjoyed it! Why? Besides getting a good stretch, there was a water station at the base, and my family passed me by in their car just as I started to ascend (while running!).

Mile 9:
With my spirits buoyed, I experienced a second wind. I hadn't noticed I'd lost any pizzazz until this happened.  8 miles was the last distance I'd run solidly in training (10 being my longest long run). So from here on out, I didn't know what to expect of my performance. Since I felt great at this point, I decided to go with it and pick up my pace for the next mile. When I got to the end of this mile, I planned to eat some more chews and follow it up with an easy mile. Mile 9 felt awesome! The best and fastest mile of the race! And then I noticed the sun...

Mile 10:
This is when I started to slow down a bit. I'd already planned to, but I also felt like I needed to due to the rising temps and sun. I don't even remember which stations had sponges, but I took them all when I came to them! This mile was slow and, for the first time, I walked once between water stations for one minute. Time to reserve some energy. When I neared the Mile 10 marker, I wondered if I could pick up my pace again. As I thought about this, I realized I had a possible blister developing on my left foot. Really?! After all the BodyGlide I slathered on my feet? My mp3 player, which was still on songs beginning with B's, started to play "Blister In The Sun." Now that was funny! Oh, the irony! I got a mini third wind from the hilarity and picked up my pace as I crossed over Mile 10. Blister schmister!

Mile 11:
Energy renewed, I decided to do this mile at a faster pace, but with a few 1-min walking intervals. Luckily, I was running when the third race photographer snapped pics. I didn't even see him/her. As I approached the water station at Mile 11, my family were all shouting at me across the busy road, but I didn't see or hear them. Fortunately, I was running when my husband was taking video with our camera, unbeknownst to me. A lady at the water station shouted, "Just 2 miles to go!" I got excited, but I also realized that this would be a trying 2 miles. I didn't have much energy left. I would be running in spurts.

Mile 12:
The mile that lasted an eternity! I walked a lot more than I wanted to and dearly hoped that adrenaline would kick in when I got near downtown. I could see the skyline at this point and was nearing the big highway loops. This is where I looked at my watch and knew that, if I pushed it, I could make it under 2:30:00. I had 25:00 to go 2.1 miles. So doable, if only I hadn't just run 11 miles. If only there were shade! It was getting hot, and at this point I was double fisting the water and Gatorade - chugging, not sipping. This was the hardest mile. Make it end, I thought! When I reached the last water station, I strolled while finishing off my Shot Bloks and drank every last drop of water and Gatorade. There were sponges! I took my sponge, lifted my hat, and squeezed water on my face. Then I squeezed the rest down my back, holding the cold sponge at my neck. Stupid sun, I'll show you!

Mile 13:
This was it! The last mile (and a 10th)! Finally, I got some shade by going under the big highway loops. This helped a great deal. I was able to run in spurts of about 2 or 3 minutes. When I finally saw the last landmark, a train underpass, I decided that I wouldn't be walking after that point. There was a slight uphill, but I knew the finish line would be visible at and not far after the top.

Finish Line:
As I neared the finish line, I could hear The Blackeyed Peas' "I Got A Feeling" playing. The MC was calling out the names of finishers. Oh, cool! I didn't know that they did that at half marathons. Once more, my family was there to cheer me on and take video. After passing them, I had about 100 yards to go. I sped up just a little, sticking to my habit of finishing every run strong. I didn't feel the elation or sense of accomplishment until 10 yards before the finish line. It hit me all at once, and I did a little fist pump before I crossed over! I also remember saying, "Woohoo!" I got my finisher's medal and put it on immediately before grabbing some Myoplex and water. Before my family caught up to me again, I remember thinking to myself, "I did it!" Just then, I recognized the next song that had started playing as my family walked toward me. It was "My Hero" by Foo Fighters, which happens to be one of my favorite Foo Fighters songs! It was so fitting because my daughter's first words to me were, "You won, mommy!" You know what, I felt like I had won: I'd completed my first half marathon!

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