Jeff Winters City of Lakes Half Marathon {Race Recap}

I knew I shouldn’t run it. When I woke up after only three hours of sleep. I knew. When I was having bad cramping from the cyst, I knew. When I felt cloudy headed and nauseated, I knew. As I drove to the starting line with a pounding headache and upset stomach, I knew. I just was being stubborn old Jess, justifying my bad decision by telling myself I would just being throwing money away if I didn’t show up, run the race and get my medal and beer glass. I knew these were stupid reason. Still, I lined up at the start and was off with the gun.

This was a small race and started fast. I got caught up in the crowd the first few miles, which were too fast for how I was feeling. But then I thought, the faster I run, the sooner it will be over and I can go back to bed. I knew better than that. I stayed in the 7:25-7:44 range for the first four miles.

That’s when the headache really started pounding again and my stomach started churning. I started to slow down. I even took a gel at mile five, which is long before I would normally take one. I also started to think about stopping around the half way mark when we ran by where I parked. This was the first time I’ve ever thought about just dropping out of a race. It would have been the first smart decision I’d have made that morning. Instead, stubborn Jess won out. I continued to slow down mile by mile (7:50, 7:56, 8:08, and 8:15).

Just after mile nine I had to stop. I wasn’t sure if I was going to throw up or poop, but I had to stop when I saw a porta-potty. Luckily I did neither but I gave myself a moment to regroup and figure out if I should just turn around. I was super hot, but had the chills. I wasn’t sure what was going on. That mile was obviously my slowest at 8:55. Still I trudged on.

At this point I just wanted to be done. I told myself just to run, not walk. Walking would make this last longer. The hills were getting more difficult. None of them were huge, but big enough to irk me. Mile 10 was my fast mile of the second half of the race at 7:58. Much slower than I started off but I was giving myself pep talks to get through to the end. At least I was closing in on the finish line, the last three miles at 8:08, 8:11, and 8:05. When I saw the finish line, I knew I had just enough left to sprint through. I flew past a man running in which elicited a laugh from the announcer as he announced me coming through the shoot.

My official time was 1:44:46 which is about an 7:59 avg pace. Definitely not a PR, but very respectable, especially for how awful I was feeling.

I grabbed my medal, beer glass and a cookie as I started the walk to my car. When I got in my car, I had to sit for a while. I had horrible cramping, nausea and dizziness. When I got home, I took my temperature to find I had a fever. No wonder I was super hot but had the chills. I was pale as a ghost and felt awful. I spent the rest of the day on the couch in and out of sleep. We were a little worried that I had gotten an infection from the cyst rupture, but when my fever finally broke, we figured I was in the clear. The next day I was still down, but felt like a new person a few days later.

Lesson learned, running post cyst rupture, is a bad idea.

Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon {Race Recap}

It was 2 am. In a fog of Advil PM, I wasn’t sure if I had actually slept yet or just shut my eyes willing my body to go to sleep. For the second night in a row it looked as though I wasn’t going to be sleeping. I did know that the Wild Beaver Saloon was really loud outside of our hotel room window. I got up, closed the blinds and tried to get some rest. Still no luck by three when I turned down the temperature in our room. Finally sleep came for a whole two hours before my alarm went off at 5:30 am.

My mom, Rachel and I got up, ate and lounged around our room until around 7:25 when we met Kelly (my mom’s friend and one of my trainees) in the lobby. I was so tired and trying just to put on my tough runner face. We made our way to the starting line where we huddled together outside my corral to keep warm. With about 10 minutes to go until the start we all wished each other luck and parted ways.

14947688_10209292149798351_2526282135325467196_n

I found myself in a crowd of anxious runners. I chatted with a marathoner coming back from injury and was trying to qualify for Boston again. A few minutes later, our entire herd started walking to the starting line as we began our journey.

The first mile was a bit rough. I was happy that it forced me to start slowly, but it was frustrating just how packed it was. I saw the 3:20 marathon pacer, but decided I was not going to follow a pace group. I was going to run purely on feel. It was a good thing because he flew by me with a pretty good size group by the second mile. By the 5k point I had pretty much settled in.

Splits: 8:18, 7:40, 7:44

After the 5k mark, I was feeling pretty good. My lungs weren’t burning as expected due to that darn cold and though my legs felt really heavy, I was easily keeping a sub-8 pace. I was pretty surprised it was feeling so easy. That might be why the second three miles leading to the 10k point were some of my fastest during the entire race.

Splits: 7:38, 7:39, 7:38.

10k Official Time: 48:19

I was starting to think about taking a gel. I was watching people around me, including one man who flipped off house after house that had political signs he disagreed with. Classy. There were pockets of cheering squads and many beautiful homes. I knew the split for the marathon was coming up, so just past mile 7, I awkwardly fumbled with my fuel belt to get out a gel and water bottle. Not going to lie, because I hadn’t been taking gels during training (they are too dang expensive) I was a bit nervous my stomach would revolt. Luckily as I turned away from the full marathoners and finished my gel, there was no GDF rumbling in my stomach. Miles eight and nine are total blurs.

Splits: 7:40, 7:45, 7:43

The home stretch. I only had four miles left. I ran by a group offering Pabst Blue Ribbon and immediately thought that I would definitely vomit if I attempted to drink one. I wasn’t sure where the family was going to be, so I was scanning the increasing crowds for a friendly face. By mile 11 my legs felt like bricks. I was calculating in my head how much I could slow down and still PR. I figured I could slow down to a 9-10 min/mile and still be ok. If it wasn’t for a guy right at mile 12, yelling at me that he could tell I was contemplating slowing down, and not to do it, I probably would have slowed just because I was feeling lazy. I was mentally tired and the lack of sleep wasn’t helping either.

As we turned the final two corners of the race, I picked it up. When I saw the finish line, I did my best to sprint, to empty my tank as my Orangetheory coach would say. I crossed the finish line, feeling good, great actually. I had surprised myself once again.

Final Splits: 7:37, 7:43, 7:40, 7:29, and 6:25 for the last 0.2

Official time: 1:41:10          Average Pace: 7:44 min/mile

I did pretty well working my tangents, running only about a tenth of a mile longer than 13.1. I think my new post-Boston goal will be to run a sub-1:40 half marathon.

I was shocked at my overall results for the race. I finished in 698 out of 8116 finishers, 33 out of 732 in my division, and 178 out of 4796 in my gender. That put me in the top 8-9% of all the half marathon finishers and the top 3-5% of finishers in both my division and gender. Never thought that would happen.

My stepsister Rachel killed her first half coming in just under two hours. My mom did amazing coming in at 2:16 and Kelly set a new PR! I’m so proud of all of us.

This race was nice, well organized and a pretty flat one at that. I would consider doing the full at some point, but we will see. I have others on my bucket list when I’m ready.

 

Chicago Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon {Race Recap}

I did everything I could do blow this race for myself. I ate like crap, drank a ton and spent hours and hours walking around Chicago. So obviously, I went into the race expecting a horrible race. While it was definitely not my strongest performance, it could have been worse.

We walked over to the starting line with plenty of time to drop our gear bags, hit the porta potties and find our ways to our corrals. With a whole four hours of sleep and an upset stomach, I was not at all looking forward to running. It was also about 70 degrees and humid. Blah.

IMG_4601

The race started on time and about four minutes after the start I crossed the starting line. The first mile cruised by. I obviously didn’t look too closely at the course map, because I mistakenly thought that we’d be running much of the same course as the marathon. Not so much. We ran maybe a few blocks of the same course.

My watch distance was off by the second mile likely due to going under lots of overpasses and the buildings of downtown. I realized I should just not look at my watch because it wasn’t reliable as far as distance or pace. With no goals in mind for the race, other than to finish, I just trucked along.

The course was boring but the music, when there was actually a band, was nice. It was pretty warm out, but I was doing my best to re-hydrate. I carried my fuel belt with my water bottles filled with Nuuns and took water at every water stop. A few sips in my mouth and the rest of the water over my head.

I was doing a pretty decent job of holding a steady pace. According to my results I was averaging about a 7:45 min/mile pace. As I got to the 10k mark, I started wondering how many more miles I was going to be able to go before I had to make a pit stop. Turns out two. At mile eight I veered off course to the lone porta-potty. Much to my dismay it was occupied. I took a gel and anxiously waited for the person in it to leave. Finally they did, I popped in and ran out as quickly as I could.

I got in two more miles before I had to stop again. Luckily there was one available and it was the last time I had to stop. The last few miles felt long. We went through a really dark tunnel under the Solider Field (I think) that was filled with potholes and so dark I was worried about tripping and face planting. They definitely needed more light there. When I came out of the tunnel we were near the lake as we approached the finish line.

I was so glad to be done when I finally crossed the finish line.

Official Time: 1:45:29       Avg. Pace: 8:03 min/mile

For a standalone half marathon, I set a new personal record. But this was about a minute slower than the second half of Lake Wobegon. I’ll take it as my streak continuing.

IMG_4602

Those two bathroom stops really slowed me down. All things considered, little sleep, bathroom stops, warm/humid weather, lack of training, boozing and eating like crap, I did pretty well.

Shortly after I finished, my girls finished just as it started pouring rain with some crazy thunder and lightning. With a small break in the rain we went back to the hotel for a little R&R before the Cubs game.

Would I do this race again? Not so much. Will I consider doing the Brooklyn Rock N’ Roll Half next fall as an excuse for another girls weekend? Absolutely.

 

Urban Wildland Half Marathon {Race Recap}

Until the Friday night prior to the race, I wasn’t even sure that I was going to run it. We were flying out to Colorado around lunch time and unless we had the help of our friends Peter and Rachel, there was no way I could make it work. Luckily for us, they are awesome friends. We decided that Josh and the kids would meet me at their house which was about 10 minutes from my race site and only 15 minutes or so from the airport. From there someone would take Josh to the airport (he was on an earlier flight) and then the kids and I would go later.

I woke up about 4 am to get myself ready for the race. I ate my chocolate chip cookie dough Larabar and grabbed some graham crackers for the road. The race was about 35 minutes from our house and I had to do day of packet pick-up so I gave myself plenty of time. My favorite thing about small races is how easy it is to pick up your stuff and get to the starting line. It took me all of 15 minutes to pick up my packet, hit the bathroom and drop my stuff in my car.

This was supposed to be a training run. A nice break from the really long ones, my shortest until taper. I wanted to see where my speed workouts were getting me and had some unspoken goals: A. Run sub 1:50 (most likely to achieve goal), B. Run 1:45 or faster, C. Run a sub-8 pace.

I lined up with the 1:45 pacer and called it good. We started almost right on time and were off. I’d say this race was a mixture of road and trail. In the first three miles I felt pretty good. The first two miles were sub-8’s and felt pretty easy. It was around the third mile that my knee started feeling off. I’ve been having some pulling thanks to a little bone fragment from fracturing my femur when I was 13, that has been floating around near my knee cap. Every once in a while it lodges itself in what feels like a ligament and causes a pulling sensation. I worked it out and got back on track.

The first thing I did wrong was not bring my own water. As we passed that third mile, the high school billboard noted that it was already 76 degrees. I grabbed a water at the stop and drank it quickly. Mile four was fairly shaded which was nice but I was getting hot. By mile five I was starting to overheat. At that water stop I grabbed two cups. One to drink and one to pour over my head. I was trying to do all I could to bring my core temperature down.

From about that point on I was basically running from water stop to water stop. When I got to the next stop just after the seventh mile, again, I poured water over my head and drank some as I walked for a minute, not wanting to spill any drop of the much needed water. I also took a gel to give me some energy. It don’t know if it didn’t work or I was just so damn hot that nothing was going to make me feel better. I knew the next water stop was around mile nine and then there would be a stop every mile until the end. I told myself to keep those feet moving. The faster I ran, the sooner I would be to the next stop.

Mile nine came and I wanted it to be over. I got some ice cubes to put down my shirt and hold in my hands. It helped momentarily. This was the first race, other than my first marathon, that I thought about dropping out of. That is how awful I felt. When I was running, I was killing my pace. My slowest mile of the entire race was an 8:30 and five of the 13 were under 8. I kept walking through the water stops, taking my time drinking water. I new I’d be worse off it I tried to skip it.

When I could see the finish line I sprinted the best I could to finish strong. I was so happy it was over.

11796396_10102340521952233_3199946639484886523_n

Official Results:

Time: 1:46:32 Avg. Pace: 8:08 min/mile

Even with all the walking I did, I was pleasantly surprised by my time. I was 16th out of the 126 women in my 30-39 age group and 173 out of 718 people who completed the event. I know that a sub-8 half is in me. Next time I’ll pick a half in cooler weather!

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.

IMG_1238

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.