Here are a few notes/observations/questions about today: my second half-marathon, May 21, 2011
1) Choosing your second half is as important as choosing your first. This new race, sponsored by the YMCA in Collinsville/Maryville Illinois, was perfect for me. Not much bigger than the races I run further south, and only 2 hours from home, an area of the state we're familiar with. Jon (husband and runner support) got us a room at the Doubletree and since he's a Hilton Honors member, they gave us late checkout. Very important, since it allowed me to nap and shower after the race.
2) The race was about 300 people, not bad for their first time, not bad at all. Lots of it took place on the MCT Trail (http://www.mcttrails.org/index.aspx), which is beautiful this time of year--lush and green. I would urge anyone who runs, bikes or walks in the Collinsville/Maryville/Troy area to get familiar with the trail. Lovely, just lovely. And I would urge anyone living in this area to become part of the YMCA of Southwest Illinois. If I lived in this part of the state, I would totally take advantage of their half-marathon and marathon training. The volunteers were plentiful, enthusiastic and very helpful to me (see next note).
3) There were plenty of aid stations with volunteers offering water and gatorade. I am stubborn, and so I wouldn't stop running to properly drink the water or gatorade, so as a consequence I was probably dehydrated. I kept thinking," well, I didn't need water during my first half." But race comparisons are not always useful. My first half was in February in the cold; my second in May in the humidity and heat. I definitely needed more water. Since I was probably dehydrated, I bonked.
4) In runner's parlance, "bonking" means you run out of gas, you hit the wall, you reach your limit. This happened to me in mile 12. I was shaky during the latter part of 11, but during 12 shaky turned to full-on weaving, dizziness, and a case of the jelly legs. I was like a drunk driver up in this piece. Up until mid-11, I was doing pretty well. But 12 was the first time ever in a race that I've experienced the bonk. Fortunately, it must have been obvious, because a series of race volunteers helped me through that mile. I am stubborn, and I didn't want to walk, but walking was forced upon me by the bonk!
5) Could the bonk have been prevented? Yes, I believe it could have. I had gels (which are gooey packets of sugar that endurance athletes use so they can, well, endure), but I didn't use them during the race. The bonk forced me to use one AFTER the race. If I had used the gels, I would not have experienced the drop in blood sugar that accompanies the bonk. But again, I'm stubborn: I don't use gels on long practice runs, I thought, why I should I use them now? Well, I'm learning again that training and racing are two different things. I usually avoid sugar like the plague, but now I'm thinking it's infinitely useful on race day.
6) The course was basically flat except for a "hill," a pedestrian bridge we had to pass over twice. So cute--the race organizers had cheerleaders from Collinsville Middle School there to cheer for runners on the bridge. Passing over it twice was challenging!
7) I ended up with a PR (personal record) for this distance: 2 hours, 4 mins, 56 seconds. A full five minutes faster than my first half (2:09:58). I am proud of both times, but I've learned comparing them isn't all that useful. During my first half, I was dealing with ice, gravel, mud--winter. That really isn't the same as a race that is on a paved bike trail with just a few moments of running in a residential neighborhood.
8) Since I had that shaky mile 12, I let the EMTs file a report on me. I did not feel so bad that I needed to go to the hospital, but I let them check me out. I'm stubborn, but I'm not stupid. I checked out totally okay--130/60 BP. Both the EMTs staffing the race and the race volunteers were surprised to learn my age. I was not so out of it that I couldn't appreciate the compliment! Again, big ups to the YMCA of Southwest Illinois for their great handling of my situation.
9) Would I trade that new PR for no bonk? Hmm. Let me get back to you on that one. The bonk is something every runner needs to learn to deal with, whether you are doing 5Ks or marathons or ultras. Now that I've experienced it, I'll be better equipped to deal with it when I know it's happening.
10) I hope that the YMCA gets to do this race again next year--I know I'll want to participate. And I'm pretty certain that with another year of running under my belt, there will be no bonk.