Birdtown Half Marathon – Race Recap

One of my favorite things about small local races is that we can arrive a half hour before the start and have plenty of time. That’s exactly what Josh and I did yesterday in Robbinsdale. We got to the park where we’d be starting about 7:30.

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We both had time to hit the porta potty and meet up with a couple of the Mother Runners who were also doing the half, 8k or 4k.

MRTT Pre-race

Once we snapped our picture we walked over to the starting line. It was on a bike trail at the park. Just a simple spray painted start line with a timing mat. After the national anthem we were off. I had lined up near the 1:50 pacers just so I didn’t go out too fast and I thought it would be feasible for me to keep an 8:24 pace at least until the hills. I was told the course was hilly which I thought would probably make my legs want to fall off.

We weren’t even to the first mile when we saw a huge group of runners coming back towards us. Turns out they’d missed the turn! I didn’t see Josh in the group so I was worried he’d dropped out due to hip pain. I later found out, he and about 10 other people that were in the lead (he was fourth at the time) never turned around at the missed turn and kept going none the wiser.

We made the turn and kept on chugging. Luckily from then on the course was fairly well marked with volunteers who were paying attention. Just before mile three we turned into another park where we had to run on grass for about a quarter mile. I was not excited about that. Once we were off of it, we were on a beautiful, tree-lined gravel path. It was humid out and I was starting to get hot so the gentle breeze through the trees felt great. My watch was telling me I was about .15-.20 miles off of the mile markers. When we hit the fourth mile, I was showing only 3.88 miles. I figured either I was working my tangents well or the course was going to be short. (First four mile splits: 8:15, 8:19, 8:30, 8:19)

Somewhere around our grassy area, I had lost the pacers. I was feeling good at the pace I was holding and decided to just go with it. If I had to slow down at the end so be it. We hit a big hill about mile five. It just kept going. My head was telling me to walk but I ignored it and powered up the hills. Because it was rather humid, I was taking water at every water stop. I was carrying a gel with me, but decided that I better wait as long as possible to take it, not wanting to risk stomach issues. The nice things about big hills is you get to go down them. Unfortunately at the bottom of this hill was another hill. I was happy when the big hills were over. (Miles 5-7 splits: 8:27, 8:23, 8:18)

Around mile eight I calculated that I should get a new PR even if I slowed down to a 10 min/mile pace. I tried not to look at my watch at all until I passed mile markers. Apparently around this mile, Josh and another group of runners missed another turn. Again cutting the course short. I’ll get back to that in a minute. I had been chasing a woman for a few miles and finally caught up to her around mile nine. We chatted briefly until the next water stop where I lost her. When I got to mile 10 I thought about taking my gel. My energy was starting to lag but there was a serious lack of porta potties. I put the gel in my sports bra and decided I’d have to go without it. (Miles 8-10 splits: 8:22, 8:13, 8:19)

At mile 11 I caught up with another woman I’d been behind most of the race. It was just the two of us on the street for a few minutes. Again we chatted and lost each other at the next water stop. I will say this race did well having water stops every few miles. I never did see the stop where they were supposed to have gels, but that’s why I always bring my own. The mile 12 marker was just behind me and my watch was still telling me about .20 miles behind that. Now I knew I was going to PR. We had one more little hill before heading down to the finish line. I was able to pick up the pace in the last few miles, especially the last mile and cruise across the finish line. (Miles 11-13 splits: 8:20, 8:15, 7:48)

Jess and Josh post race

Garmin Stats:

Distance: 12.90 miles      Time: 1:47:04       Pace: 8:17 min/mile

So if I add the rest of the distance at my 8:17 pace, my finishing time would actually have been 1:48:35. Still a PR by a couple minutes.

Official Stats:

Distance: 13.1 miles        Time: 1:47:05       Pace: 8:12 min/mile

I was satisfied with my race and was thinking, I might even have a chance to place in my age group. Of course it wasn’t until I found Josh that I learned what a huge disaster the race was for the first 10-15 runners. Thanks to missing the first turn, Josh and at least 10 other runners skipped about half a mile. The second missed turn added another half mile or so of missed distance. Josh was running down the finish line, heard them say, here comes the 4th half marathon finisher, but he turned around because his watch only said 11.XX miles. He ran the extra distance and then finished, which put him in 10th place overall.

What this is all means is that the winners and some of the top age group finishers only ran 11+ miles, not even close to the 13.1 they were supposed to. Josh was pretty pissed. I can’t say I blame him. As we looked at the results when we got home, it’s pretty obvious that the winners missed an entire mile. I guess that’s a possibility in these small races.

My official finishing information put my as the 33 of 230 finisher. I was 5th in my age group of 54 and 7th out of 109 women. Still very good, especially since I just ran a marathon, but I’m irritated with the skewed results thanks to missed turns.

This race has the potential to be great. The course offered a lot of variety and was pretty. They need to measure it longer than 13.1 rather than right at it to prevent it from being so short. They also need to have more volunteers and mark the course better. A leader on a bike directing the front of the pack is a huge necessity. The race director could also use a public relations person or at least a lesson in appropriate tone and content of communication. It was awful.

Anyway, that’s the last of my races for a while. I think that I’ll find a half marathon to do some time late summer to gauge where my speed is at during the Chicago training cycle. Josh was encouraging me to do a 10k next weekend, then a 5k the next just as a step down every week in the month of May. It’s not going to happen though as he and I will be out of town the last weekend of May (first trip alone!) and next weekend there are a bunch of 5ks but not 10ks.

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