This past weekend I got a step closer to one of my goals for 2016! I completed my eighth half marathon (the 2016 goal is to complete my tenth half marathon and second full marathon).
Join me for the race recap!
I’ll save the zany tale of travel for Weblog Wednesday, but I’ll just say here that I basically had to pull an all nighter to catch a crazy early flight. By the time Dear Fiance picked me up at the airport at 8 AM his time, I had been up for 9 hours already… Needless to say, I was exhausted!
On Saturday we made the 3.5 hour drive to the race city. We had to arrive in time to head to the race expo before it closed, plus we had reservations at Fleming’s (one of Dear Betrothed’s favorite steakhouses) that evening for an early Valentine’s dinner.
I wasn’t the only one with travel craziness, though. We were supposed to stay with Dear Father and his wife, but they got stuck in Israel for an extra two days. So, at the last minute, we snagged a room in one of the race’s host hotels.
What made this particular race unique is that this was actually my second time running this half marathon. I recalled the race expo last year being pretty uneventful, no big giveaways or entertainment. I also recalled the course being pretty uneventful, though that is not a bad thing! It was decently flat, with a few rolling hills, and so-so crowd support. So I was eager to see how my memories of last year’s race compared to this year’s experience.
Last year I used a Nathan handheld water bottle, and it chafed against the back of my hand so much that by the end of the race I had a nasty cut. This year I decided to use my new Camelbak, even if 1.5L is a little excessive for a half marathon in the cold weather. I really dislike having to stop at race hydration stations, though, so I didn’t mind the weight on my back.
The host hotel is attached to a convention center, where there were apparently a couple of unrelated conventions going on. It was a zoo checking in!
Once we put up our suitcases and I changed into a nice dress for dinner, we walked the few blocks over to the expo center.
I wish we had had more time to check out some of the vendors, but we were in a hurry to get to Fleming’s on time. So all I had time to do was grab my race packet and hustle out. One thing I found cool that I do not recall from last year (or any other race I’ve done) is a track pad you’re forced to go over as you exit the packet pickup area, with a screen nearby that shows your name, gender, race distance, and age. This is to verify that, 1) they put the correct person’s bib in your packet, and 2) they got your info right.
After dinner, we popped into Whole Foods to pick up my race day breakfast. I always eat a bagel with all natural peanut butter before my races, and Whole Foods has an awesome make-your-own-PB station.
Back at the hotel, Dear Better Half kindly rinsed out my Camelbak bladder and filled it with Powerade for me, while I laid out my race clothes and plugged in my Garmin.
We crawled into bed, and I dug into a book (shocker) while he turned on the NBA All Star three point and dunk competitions. Still exhausted from all the traveling, I nodded off quickly.
My favorite thing about staying in the host hotel is that the start line was literally a block away from the hotel, which meant I got to sleep in and not have to stress about catching a race shuttle or making Dear Valentine have to drive me somewhere at the crack of dawn.
The race started at 7:03 (wheelchair participants begin at 7), so I set my alarm for 4:45. Being the coffee
addict aficionado that I am, the very first thing I did was brew a cup of Pike’s Place. Not my first choice in roasts, but it’s better than most hotel room coffee, and I wasn’t about to go pay an exorbitant price at the restaurant or cafe in the lobby.
This was a fancy pants hotel, which of course meant the WiFi wasn’t free. So I couldn’t blog like I wanted to. Instead, I just munched on my honey wheat bagel, sipped on my black coffee, and read.
It was pretty cold, about 30 degrees Fahrenheit, so I wore a pair of tights underneath my Nike running pants. On top, I layered two tech tees over my sports bra and added my Brooks jacket on top of that. Thankfully the race packet included a pair of cheap gloves sponsored by a local running store. The idea is that, if you warm up enough, you can toss them to the side of the course, and they will be collected and donated to a homeless shelter.
Last year I tossed my gloves around mile 3 in this race, but this year I kept them on the whole time! Before the race, we all camped out inside the civic center by the start line. I really appreciate it when race organizers have a warm place open before a race, so that you can stay warm and use the restroom.
We all finally made our way to the start line, and I positioned myself in a conservatively slow corral. I was still feeling congested and achy from being sick this week, so I set no expectations on a speedy finish.
The air horn blasted, and off we went! A local DJ was hyping up the crowd and blasting “Uptown Funk” as I crossed the start line. Definitely got me in the mood to move! 🙂
As I was telling Dear Significant Other after the race, I really underestimated how nice it was to already know the course. I found myself instinctively running the tangents since I already knew where we’d soon be turning, even if the next turn wasn’t in sight yet.
Maybe it’s because I’m better at mentally zoning out now, or maybe it’s because halfs no longer seem so long to me, but the miles flew by. Before I knew it the sign splitting the half and full marathon courses was in sight, and I actually found myself wishing I were doing the full.
As I recalled from last year, the hills (if you can even call them that) were minimal. Which is probably a good thing since the winter weather has kept me treadmill training a lot lately.
The crowd support seemed less than last year, but I didn’t care. I don’t run with music. I actually enjoy the quiet pounding of thousands of sneakers, the sound of my own breathing, the occasional train whistle or bird chirp. Maybe this is bad of me, but I also really enjoy listening to the conversations of the runners around me. A dad giving a motivational speech to his daughter to not give up on her first race. A pair of friends complaining about the hills (?!? … to be fair, they did say they were from Indiana and had never trained on hills).
I did intervals for the first nine miles, then pushed myself after that. I was very pleasantly surprised by my pace, especially given my lingering chest cold and lack of aiming for PR. I ended up crossing the finish line only 2 minutes away from a new PR!
Dear Biggest Fan met me at the finish line, where I gladly wrapped the silver Mylar blanket around my shivering shoulders.
I was really happy that he got to sleep in, which he never gets to do on my race days, since I always need him to drive me to the start line. I think we’ll make a point of staying at the host hotel from now on!
Despite the frigid weather, it was a fantastic race, a fast course, and an awesome start to my Valentine’s Day!
Tell me, for those readers who have done the same race more than once, how did it affect your experience? Did you feel better prepared or find it less exciting?
Happy running to you all!