Saturday, April 19, 2014

Marion Rotary Half Marathon Race Report - Yup, That Hurt

Note/Warning/Heads Up:  Early on in my triathlon journey I started writing up race reports after most races.  What time did I get up?  When did I have breakfast?  Did I eat too early or too late?  How many calories did I put in my water bottle?  Was it enough?  Did I take any calories in on the run?  If not, should I have?  There are so many details I forget over the next 364 days.  I frequently look back to them when getting ready for the current season races.  The below race report may seem a bit rambled, but so are the ones I kept to myself in the past.  The main difference between the blog post race reports and then ones I used to create are the addition of pictures.  

Not only was this the first race of the year, but also our first camping trip!  Last year we stayed at Squaw Creek, but they don’t open until April 15th (the race was a week later last year), but thankfully Palisades was open, which is only about 15min further from the race site.   We packed up the camper and were pulling out of the driveway in record time.  As I register our campsite, Wes finds a water pump to fill up the camper…and the water isn’t turned on yet.  Crap!  I had called a few days earlier and they said it would be on.  Quick call to coach Daniel who lives just a few miles away, and we rolled over to his house.  I had a few extra eggs from our girls, so traded 2 eggs for 30 gallons of water. 

It was almost 8 before we were setting up the camper, so I cooked up some dinner (chicken brats for me, veggie burgers for Wes, and roasted carrots with fresh sage as our side).  Just a bit of relaxing afterwards before heading to bed.   Not the best night’s sleep.  Our dog can be a bit annoying at times, and we were woken in the middle of the night by another dog at a not-very-close camper.  Damn yippee thing!  Wes was up early to be at work by 7am at ProFit.  As the truck left, the dog was woken again. 

With Wes gone and the pissant dog finally quiet, I fell back to sleep until almost 8am.  So nice! 

My scheduled workout for the day was a 15 mile easy bike ride (~100 watts) followed by a 3 mile run at 8:30-9:00 pace. The weather was beautiful out (70’s) and I hadn’t ridden outside yet, but the roads within the park are not ideal and outside of the park is a busy highway.  So, I set my bike on the trainer outside the camper and watched the Auckland Women’s UTC race.  Just a few odd stares by campers out for a walk.  Wes was back to the camper and joined me for the run. 

Enjoying the outdoors

After lunch (bacon-wrapped turkey tenderloin for me, free-range chicken breast for Wes, and grilled brussles sprouts for a side) we drove over to packet pickup, then to the Dreaming Bear to visit with the awesome owner, and finally a stop by a new brewery, Lion Bridge, in Cedar Rapids to continue the pre-race flight tradition.  The beer wasn’t anything special, but we also tried their Ginger Hibiscus Soda which they also brew. Good stuff!   We’d go back for the soda, but not the beer.

Continuing the pre-race flight tradition

The rest of the day was spent relaxing at the campsite and watching a movie before heading to bed early.  And, a lot of checking the forecast and hoping Mother Nature would cooperate for the race.

Sunday (race day)
We were woken in the middle of the night again, but this time for heavy rains and wind (and hail?).  The 4:30am alarm was not fun.  So early to be up on a weekend, but that comes with most races.  It was still raining, but looked like there was a chance of clearing up.

I made up our normal pre-race breakfast of coffee, egg/cheese/turkey bacon muffin, and cantaloupe.  I normally try to eat 2.5 hour ahead of time, but hoped 2 hours would be enough and feared the race might be delayed and didn’t want to have to get hungry. 

The rain turned to drizzle as we drove to the race site.  Our parking spot was near the finish area which is about a half mile from the start line.  My warm-up was 10min descending from 8-7:30 pace.  I wanted to wear different shoes for the warm up, but it was so close to the race start time, and such a distance from the truck to the start, that I just wore my race shoes, which meant starting the race with wet shoes.  I was very happy for the drainage holes in the Kawia’s, so they didn’t stay water-logged. 

Soggy race start.

The race has a 3:05 pacer for the full marathon, and based on my training I thought 1:32:30 was a good goal for the half.  I was happy to see Ross from We Run holding the pace sign.  I can’t imagine someone being fast enough to run a 3:05 let alone being a pacer holding a sign for 26.2 miles running a 3:05 marathon. Crazy!

Awesome picture of Ross towards the end of the marathon

The half stays on the same route for about the first 7.5 miles.  The first mile is mostly uphill.  It already felt like a little struggle, but I chalked it up to going uphill.  The next few miles were gently rolling.  We kept a nice, steady pace, and some runners who had gone out a bit fast were already starting to fall back to us then behind us.  There was one other woman with our pace group.  Another woman, Julie, fell back to our group.  She asked which race the two of us were doing, which we responded the half.  Julie told us there were two really speedy women up ahead, but didn’t know if they were doing the half, full, or team. 

So, up until a week ago I was just hoping to win by age group again.  I was surprised to win it last year, but figured most of the faster women were running the full marathon, which made it easier to win my age group.  But, then I learned there was prize money for the top 3 finishers.  I couldn’t find the results for the 2013 race, but heard it wasn’t all that fast.  I’ve never won money in a running race.  Hmmm…maybe it’s possible.

Knowing there were only two women ahead of me gave me a little motivation to keep with the pace.   The other woman that was running with the 3:05 pace group fell off after the first few miles, but I didn’t know if anyone was sneaking up behind, or if I’d be able to hold onto the pace for the rest of the race. 

I just hung with Ross, dropping back a little on the uphills and catching up on the downhills.  When the race split, there were three of us together doing the half.  The guy ahead of me was doing well at keeping the same pace, so I just followed him.   After another mile or so I felt I could go a little faster pace, so slowly went around him.  Miles 10-11 were not fun at all.  I just kept thinking it was less than a 5k left. That’s nothing!  I was slowly catching the next guy ahead of me, so tried to use him as a rabbit to keep pushing forward.  The mile marker for mile 12 was way past where my watch beeped for mile splits.  WTF?  The last mile has a chunk of uphill to it to get back to the high school parking lot, then downhill to the stadium and part-way around the track.  My rabbit was picking up his pace, and I was losing ground.  I didn’t have the energy to stay with him, let alone try to catch him.  I let him go.

As I was rounding the track towards the finish line, the announcer was stating the finish number of the athletes.  I was #21.  I gave all I could at the finish, which wasn’t much, but I wasn’t about to let up after going so hard for over 13 miles.

The mileage on my Garmin said 13.34 miles, which was fairly consistent with what other people had.  It may not seem like much, but it’s almost a quarter of a mile long. At 13.09 miles I had a time of 1:32:06, and over a 3-minute PR.   My finish time this year compared to last year was 10 minutes faster.  I’m happy with where I am in my running, but know it can be better. 


The race conditions were just a little wind when we were out in the country for a few miles, temps in the mid 50’s, and no rain (for us, the marathon was not so lucky).  I felt hydrated enough that I didn’t take in any water or nutrition on the course, which is typical for my training at that distance as well.  I did wish I had a bit more time between breakfast and the race, as I could feel it still sitting in my stomach for most of the race.  I did have a slight fear of it coming back up.

I wore shorts, a t-shirt, and a hat.  At the start of the race I had knee-high men’s socks (grey and purple argyle…I picked out pretty ones) that I had cut off the toe to use as arm warmers.  I ditched them at the second water stop.  I did get pretty warm during the race and considered ditching my hat.  I think a visor and tank top would have been better options. 

During the race I never looked at my watch.  I was happy to have a pacer push me for the first few miles.  If he wasn’t there, I’m not sure I would have kept up the pace as long as I did.  My heart rate data in my Garmin file confirms my thoughts that I was running on the edge most of the race.  Not sure if I’ve ever kept my HR above 170 that long.  My pace was pretty consistent, with a slight push at the end.

The results originally showed me as 2nd place for the women, and then later in the afternoon had me dropped to 3rd with a new chick showing up in first with a time of 1:22.  That night I was back to 2nd.  Not sure what was going on, and it shouldn’t matter to me, but of course it did.  I still randomly check to see if I’m still sitting in second.  I’ll believe it for sure when I get the check in the mail.  It’s nice to get a little kickback from a race to help with all the costs associated with training and racing. It’s definitely not enough to cover the expenses of a year in the sport, but any little bit helps.  And, now I can say I won money at a running race!  Never thought that would happen.  And, yes, I do know this is a small-town race.  I’m sure if it was a Rock ‘n Roll half, I’d just be happy placing in my age group.  I still have work to do.

A few thank you' my coach Daniel Bretscher for pushing me beyond my mental limits, Zoot Sports for the great clothes and awesome shoes, We Run for hosting group runs so I don't have to run by myself all the time, EpiCor for keeping me healthy and for quicker recoveries from hard training days, Core Fitness for having classes that help with injury prevention, and Wes for waking up early for sherpa duty on a not-so-ideal weather day.

Up next is the Scheels Lake MacBride Duathlon on May 11th.  

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The 2014 Season Begins, Hopefully

I didn’t start running until shortly before I got into triathlons.  I didn’t see the point of it…and it hurt.  I couldn’t run more than a block without stopping.  Then, one day, I decided to push myself to keep moving forward.  I ran a block, walked a block, ran a block, walked a block, for a mile.  I kept at it and I could finally run a mile without stopping. My goal for my first triathlon (Cy-man in 2005) was to run the entire 5k without having to walk, and I did it!  At the Run for the Schools in 2006 I did the 10k.  Shortly after the half-way point, there is an out and back section in which the 10k turns around, but the half marathon runners keep going. I had a friend doing the half, and I remember thinking she is amazing!  I couldn’t imagine running over twice the distance of the race I was doing. 

I gradually increased my running and the following year I decided to give the Pigman Long Course a try, which has a half marathon run after completing a 1 mile swim and 56 mile bike.  While training, I injured my adductor and spent the next two and a half years recovering with most of the time not being able to run.  It was very frustrating, but I learned to appreciate running. 

Of the three disciplines in triathlon, running has always be my weakest.  It’s very rare that I pass someone, and not uncommon to be passed.  I’m usually spending the entire run wondering how close behind me my next competitor is and if I will be able to hold them off from passing me.

So, this winter Coach Daniel and I have been working on my running speed (and a small attempt at my shuffle form, which I didn’t realize was so prominent until I saw a film of me running...Ugh!).  I have been putting in more run miles than in the past, and increasing my pace on speed work.  Most weeks the team meets up for track workouts which have really pushed me not only physically, but mentally as well. 

The first ‘test’ of my fitness is tomorrow at the Marion Rotary UICCU Half Marathon.  I ran the race last year with a finish time of 1:42:51, which is a pretty typical time for the amount of training I put into it.  My PR is 1:36:11  from the 2011 Race for the Roses in Portland when I was gearing up for Kansas 70.3, which is early in the season, and is the same year I did Ironman Wisconsin. Up until very recently I assumed that would always be my PR.

Hmmm…what will tomorrow bring? Whatever it is, I hope it doesn't include the 70% chance of thunderstorms which would postpone or cancel the race.