Monday, November 26, 2012

Last Race of My Year, Plus Year Round Up

This past Saturday, I ran the Great River Road Run 10 Miler (sponsored by the Alton Road Runners). I finished this race with a chip time of 1:26:49, a new record for me at this distance, and quite an improvement from last year's time of 1:34:35.  Here's my race report, followed by my year-end wrap up.

1) A ten mile race is a rare and beautiful thing.
I really like this distance, but I don't know of many races at this length. There's something solid and impressive about saying "I ran ten miles." I ran this race last year and really enjoyed it, so I came back for another go-round.

2) Out-and-back is where it's at.
This race is five miles out, five miles back. The course is next to the Mississippi River. Runners start at Alton, Illinois and run to Grafton, Illinois and back. No getting lost and lovely bluffs and a majestic river for scenery!

3) I did my little warm-up dance again.
It was chilly at the race's start, so while others were doing their warm-up sprints, I was dancing. I find that shaking my groove thang is really helpful before a race, and I don't freakin' care if I look silly. Like high knees don't look silly? I do those too, but somehow turn them into a dance move.

4) But I ran without music.
Right before the race, I turned my headphones off to hear the national anthem, and didn't bother turning them on again. Instead, I fell into the rhythms of the footsteps around me, and concentrated on breathing. I forgot my Garmin (same thing I did last year), so I just tried to keep pace with runners ahead of me. It worked. I felt good for most of the race (mile seven was the biotch of the race) and it seemed to go by much faster than last year.

5) Not a big city race, but a race with history.
This was the 53rd running of this race. There weren't a lot of spectators, but there were volunteers at the water stops and along the course to guide us.

6) Will you marry me? No, I'm already taken.
Jon, my husband and race support, was at the finish line to try to get a finish line pic of me, but his view was blocked by large cardboard signs. The signs were there to help some guy propose to his girlfriend, but I didn't know that. All I could see were the blank backs of the signs, and I was like "what, what what?!?" It's a cute gesture, but it totally blocked anyone from getting a finish line pic of his or her particular runner.

7) Timing chip? What timing chip?
Before the race, when I picked up my bib number, I forgot to get my timing chip, so I had to dash back in and get it to make sure I got timed. After the race, I kept looking up my number on the Alton Road Runner website to see what my chip time was. For a long time, my race results were messed up (it kept saying 47.8 minutes as a time stamp). Now, I'd love to run 10 miles in 48 minutes, but that ain't happening in this lifetime. I began to fear that my timing chip had stopped. It took until Sunday evening for me to find my correct results and I'm still not on the overall finishers list. I was top 50 in my age group (at this race, only the top 50 in an age group receive medals).

And thus, my second full year of doing races ends. It was an up-and-down year, with an ankle injury in the middle of it to make sure I failed at the ambitious schedule I set for myself. But it was a year of PRs in both the half-marathon and the ten mile distance.

Here are my race stats for 2012:

Half Marathons:
Fly With the Eagles: 2:06:53
Berry College (GA) Half Marathon: 2:05:16
Saint Louis Track Club Half Marathon: 2:01:06 (new PR)

Ten Milers:
Ramble Into Spring Ten Miler, McKendree College: 1:34:05
Great River Road Run, Alton: 1:26.49 (new PR)

For Kids Sake 5K/10K: 57:03 (age group win)
ARMY ROTC 10K: 48:51 (age group win, but course was only 5.65)


Summary of races:
fave: STL Half, Berry College
least fave: Army 10K (it wasn't a true 10K, the distance was measured wrong).

Summary of year:
I ran, got hurt, cross-trained, got faster. See you at the races in 2013.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Eleventh Half Marathon (finally): Saint Louis Track Club Half Marathon

Today (November 4) I ran the Saint Louis Track Club Half Marathon in Clayton, Mo. I am thrilled to have achieved a new PR! I completed today's race in 2:01:06.

Last year this race yielded a half-marathon PR for me at 2:04:14. So as soon as they opened 2012 registration, I signed up. Little did I know I would hurt my ankle in April 2012, and not run a half marathon until today.

I really love this race, but it's deceptive. You start out going downhill on Forsyth Blvd, thinking that you are flying. You head into Forest Park, one of the largest municipal parks in the country. There's a lot of territory to cover in the park, but before you leave it, there's one gnarly little hill. If you get over that hill, you are still in the park for quite some time before you head back to Clayton. Heading back to Clayton, you pass the Washington University in St. Louis campus, and you are on an incline--not a steep one, but one that requires concentration and focus.

Last year, I had my first race sighting of a truly elite runner--Sammy Rotich, who won the race in 1:09. This year there were more elite runners, and Sammy's 1:09 this year was only good enough for fifth place! Such fast runners! This year's winner, Geofrey Terer, came in at 1:07:15. On the women's side, the winner was Jenny Schulze at 1:23:32.

Eight runners at this race were displaced runners from today's cancelled NYC Marathon. This race, however, is as low-key as the New York race is flashy, though there were a few more spectators than last year. Most encouraging were the volunteers and members of the STL Track Club who manned the water stations and held the impatient traffic at bay.

I didn't listen to music. My mp3 player didn't seem to want to work, so I just concentrated on my footsteps and breathing. I had my Garmin, but I never seem to get it to work right in actual race conditions. I was thrilled to see by the big race clocks that I got to the halfway point in one hour, and that I got to the 10 mile mark at about 1:32:30. I was following runner 1121--thank you, fast lady, for having your race number on the back instead of the front. That gave me a focal point, and I have you to thank for this PR!

Final Stats:
537th of 1071 total runners
179th of 552 female runners
21st of 72 runners in F 45-49 age group
63rd of 211 female masters runners
average pace: 9:15 min/mile

Saturday, October 27, 2012

ARMY ROTC 10K: Why mess with a good thing?

Today I ran the Army ROTC 10K on the campus of Southern IL University in Carbondale. I finished the race, but don't really know my finishing time.  My Garmin (old model: 301) said I ran 48:51, which would be ultra impressive for a 10K. But my Garmin also said that the course I ran this morning was only 5.45 miles!

Okay, let me backtrack.  This is the fourth year for this race, which is sponsored and put on by the ROTC unit at my university.  I ran this last year--it was hard, but I won my age group.  So I was looking forward to running it again.  I knew the organization and the swag would be good (and it was--tote bag, technical T-shirt with the names of last year's winners on the back, plastic drinking cup).

I arrived early, got my bib on, and danced to warm up in the cold.  First difference from last year was that the 5Kers and 10Kers started at the same time in one big group. Last year they separated the 5Kers and 10kers with a bit of space.  This struck me as odd. Because of the combined start, I ran faster than I would have normally. One man running the 5K next to me asked me "Are you a 9-minute runner?" I said "no!," since I usually run 9:30 to 9:45 min miles when I'm running my fastest in practice runs.  I ran past him and followed the signs that showed the 10K route (blue signs for 10K).

Several times, I lost sight of the few runners who were doing the 10K (there weren't all that many). I found myself pacing myself using a man in an orange shirt.  We crossed over one of the campus's pedestrian bridges twice and then found our way back to ROTC headquarters. I looked down to see the 5 mile mark on my Garmin and steeled myself for the last mile. But the finish line came much quicker than I expected. I went through and hit stop on the Garmin. It read 5.45.

Now was this a case of me not seeing all the blue signs or of the course being measured wrong. I don't know--I heard rumblings later of the 5K course being too long, so it's possible that the 10K course could have been measured incorrectly as well. No matter. The money raised from this race goes to the Anna Illinois Veterans' Home, so I don't really care what my time was.

The awards ceremony was a mess though. I won my age group (might have been the only woman in my age group) and was initially given the second overall place. I knew this was wrong. Two women came in before me.  We got together, figured out our true placement, and made sure the cadets in charge of the race knew that placement. I was the third overall woman, but I think there were maybe four women running the 10K overall. I'm not sure, because the timing was all scrambled. Somehow some 5K results got entered as 10K results (I don't think any woman there was capable of running a 27 minute 10K!)

Later, the older gentleman told me I ran that first mile at 8:45. But it doesn't really matter. I will still tell anyone that asks that my 10K PR is 54:03 . The course I ran last year was true to length, so I have to wonder why the organizers felt that they had to mess with a good thing.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Race Re-Entry: For Kids' Sake 5K/10K run

This morning was my first race since April 2012!  I ran the For Kids Sake 5K/10K run in Carbondale, IL. I did the 10K in a time of 56:34 (I think? Who knows?)

Since I got hurt in April, I've been doing a lot of different activities to keep in shape. I wandered into a spin class early one morning, and have been doing it twice a week at our campus rec center since then. I probably jumped back into running earlier than I should have ( I would have run with my stylish black cane if I could have), but you live and learn. You learn about massage, and what pain remedies work (I became quite the collector, amassing pain remedies with names such as Recovery Rub, Bio Freeze, Perform, Sombra, and my favorite, Voltagen (sounds like a comic-book villain, doesn't it). The only thing that healed my ankle was time, and it still acts up now and again, just to remind me to take it easy.

I learned that one thing my running was missing was the mental element. I've been researching self-hypnosis, meditation, yoga nidra (also called "sleep yoga") and all sorts of mental self-care strategies. The one thread through all these techniques is breath--sounds so simple, but learning to breathe better has been great for my recovery and for my own personal mental health.

So back to today's race. I did this race last year---a great community event designed to raise money to feed, clothe and educate orphaned children in Bangladesh.  The organization that puts on the race, For Kids' Sake, has both local and international ties.  I had a great time at last year's race, and enjoyed this year's race as well, though there were some glitches.

One of the frats on campus was working with For Kids' Sake as their community service project, so the guys set up a sign up table right near the building I work in. I figured that was a sign for me to get back to races, so I filled out the form, and handed it back to the guy behind the table. He took the registration form and my fee ($20, paid in full and in cash).

When I showed up to the race today (so great, right in my neighborhood so I walked), no one could find my registration form. Wonder if I bought that frat brother a six-pack? The folks from For Kids Sake believed me though, so I didn't have to pay an extra fee.

Most of the people there were doing the 5K.  I detest 5Ks. I'm the type of runner who would rather run 6.2 than 3.1--because I'm not fast. I'm always disappointed in my 5K times. So I lined up with the few folks who were doing the 10K. I knew I'd probably get an age group award, because I appeared to be only woman there over 45!

The race itself was a breeze. I never really pushed the pace, because I wanted to finish without hurting my ankle. Two loops of a neighborhood route that I know very well and I was done.

The award ceremony was very fun--a dj spun tunes, and there were a few songs that everyone did in group line-dance format (it's was like a wedding broke out). I waited for my name to be called--first place, 45 to 50. There was only one other person in the age group, but still.

I sensed that there was some anguish about the timing. So I went over to the timing computer to see my time. I thought I was in finish chute in the 57s, but the on-screen results said 56:34. None of the races around here are chip-timed, so the posted times are all estimates anyway. At least I was not in the position of one woman who ran the race and whose time did not register somehow. I'm no expert on race timing, but I don't know how she was not in the system, given that she had a race bib. I would have been pissed had I been her--meditation be damned.

So I'm not sure I trust that 56:34, but I do like the medal I got. I'm looking forward to my next race, which will be the Saint Louis Track Club Half Marathon in November.

Update 9/30/12: I was right about the timing being off. My official finish time was 57:03. Still won my age group (granted only one other person was in the age group).

Saturday, April 14, 2012

When You Can't Run, Volunteer

Today I volunteered at a race for the first time. Here are my observations:

1) Local races always need help: I am still tender in my right ankle, so though I was signed up for this local 5K race (sponsored by Carbondale's Neighborhood Food Co-op to benefit an area food pantry), I decided not to run it. I haven't gone for a run since I hurt my ankle at the Springfield Lincoln Presidential Half, and I didn't need to have my first run back after this minor injury be a race, even a small, local, friendly 5K. But I wanted to help, so I showed up (rode over on my bike). I was put in charge of course maps (no one seemed to need one) and was asked to help runners over a speed bump on the course. I was happy to do these small tasks to help the race organizers.

2) If you want sympathy after injury, show up at a race with a cane: Runners always seem to want to hear about other runners' injuries! So many people offered their sympathy when they saw me gimping about with a cane. They wanted to hear about how and where I suffered this injury, and wanted to know how I was taking care of it. This made me feel much better than sitting at home watching reality TV reruns.

3) Finish line applause is always welcome: After the racers left Evergreen Park, the park became oddly silent. I'd never been at a race when I wasn't part of the pack setting off on the course. The big timing clock looked awfully lonely! I started chatting with a man and his wife who just happened to be visiting the park, explaining what the race was for (charity), how long (3.1 miles), how soon the runners would be back (fastest man was around 17). We formed a little cheering squad for the incoming runners. I had no problem cheering for people I didn't know, and if I knew the person, I'll yell out his or her name ("Go Marla! Go Judy!"). Some folks looked like they really appreciated the support at the end.

4) Even if you aren't running, come by for your T-shirt: This race has great giveaways, if you are patient enough to wait around until after the kid races (which I discussed at length with a little blond boy who was waiting for his father to finish the 5K). It was so cute to see him and his brothers cheer for their dad as he crossed the finish line. Again I assumed my position as "Speedbump Girl" as the kids ran laps around the park (one lap for the littlest kids, two laps for the in-between kids, three for the oldest kids). It was not timed, and everyone got a ribbon for completing their laps. After the kids were through, there were prize giveaways, massages from students at the local community college, and an awards ceremony. Last year at this race, I hung around because I was pretty sure I had gotten an age group award. But this year, I stayed through the whole ceremony and cheered for every person who received an award. It was a fun way to spend the afternoon, and honestly, I didn't miss running.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

When A Half Marathon Becomes a 10K: Lincoln Presidential Half Marathon

Today I started the Lincoln Presidential Half in Springfield, IL but I didn't finish the race. I can tell I've matured as a runner because I am not upset. My observations from today: This is a great fun race. Since Springfield is the capital of Illinois and linked with Abraham Lincoln, this is a history-themed race. I am a history buff, so it was fun to run at the start of the race through the Lincoln Homestead and past the Illinois Capital Building (the state may produce corrupt governors, but the building's still impressive). The race medal is a giant penny, and after the race, finishers get to post for a picture with Abe and Mary Todd (impersonators, of course). The race course also takes you through the streets and parks of Springfield--I passed the Pizza Machine (you may have seen it on tv--they make pizzas so big they use a crane to get them to the tables) and the Holy Land Diner (heard their food was great). I made it into Washington Park and a little beyond before I had to surrender for the day.

I was having a great day--3 miles in at a 9 min pace, 58:30 for 6.2. I noticed in mile five though that my right ankle was a little queasy, not terribly painful, but definitely uncomfortable. I made it to 6.2 okay, but in later in mile six and in mile seven, my ankle was definitely hurting me. I couldn't put weight on my right foot, could not push off, and therefore, my whole stride was out of wack. Right then and there, I had a decision to make. Keep walk-shuffling as the pain grew worse? Grit it out? Flag someone down to help me? Waves of runners were passing me, and I didn't see the point of trying to run through the pain, which was not severe, but plenty annoying.

After mile eight, one of the race volunteers (many of them on course on bikes) spotted me and asked me what was wrong. I hobbled over and sat down. Race was over for today. I told Derek (a local high school track coach, and might I add, quite a handsome young man) that I thought I had an ankle sprain. He called for help, and I sat and waited for one of the personal trainers who was also a volunteer to arrive. Derek asked if this was my first half; I told him, "no this was supposed to be my eleventh." We talked running for a bit and he filled out a report on me, but knew I was not in trouble from the heartbeat/blood pressure perspective. I was not in massive pain, just in the kind of warning signal pain that said to me, better stop now and take care of this. The trainer (whose name I have forgotten, forgive me, handsome trainer man) helped me peel off my compression sock (he noticed that I wasn't yelping in pain while taking it off, a good sign) and checked my ankle and got me ice for it. No massive swelling but definitely tender, pretty much only in one spot (on the right, just below my ankle bone). I got a van ride back to the starting line at Prairie Heart Hospital.

Back at the start, in the medical tent, another volunteer taped my ankle. I could see all the bright shiny penny medals around finishers' necks, and felt a twinge of jealousy. But there's always another race (in fact, I'm signed up for races in May and June). I think this is a relatively minor injury, but I knew deep down that I was taking a big risk toughing it out. And what would be the point of that? One of the reasons I run is that I enjoy the sensation of my body in motion, and to run a race where something was definitely out of wack was not what I was up for today. Now I'm back home, and I'm resting and recuperating with more ice. And chocolate. If this had been last year, I would have been mega-disappointed and filled with anger at myself and other factors(did I run too much this week and make myself susceptible to an injury? Were the brick sections on the course to blame for my unstable ankles?) The answer to both questions is probably yes, but there's no use getting mad at myself (or the brick streets of Springfield) for this injury, which I hope won't take long to take care of. I hope I get that finish line penny-pic with Abe and Mary Todd next year!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Race Day at McKendree: Ramble Into Spring 10 Miler, Lebanon, IL

Today I ran the McKendree University Ramble Into Spring 10 Mile Race. I finished at approximately 1 hour, 34 mins (official race times to be posted). Here are my observations for the day.

1) Don't underestimate a 10 miler. If you do a lot of half-marathons (13.1), you might fall into the trap of underestimating races that are slightly shorter (like 10 milers and 15Ks). I did not underestimate this race located on the campus of McKendree University, a liberal arts school about an hour and 45 minutes from where I live. The reason? I ran the Harvest Challenge Half Marathon at McKendree back in the fall, and I knew the course would have hills. The half-marathon was challenging; there was no reason to believe that the 10 miler would not be as well.

2) A bunch of races: Actually, there were three races this morning: a 5K run/walk, a 10K, and the ten miler. They all had the same 8 am start time, and they shared the first 2 miles. Despite this, all the various courses were clearly marked and there was no confusion.

3) For cheapskates like me: The price tag of this race appealed to my cheap side: $13 if you registered beforehand, $18 on race day. For your $13, you got a t-shirt, a car decal, and some flyers for upcoming races in the area. Medals and trophies did go to overall and age group winners, however.

4) A friendly group of volunteers, students, faculty and staff: This is not one of those big city races where there are bands and music and a lot of distractions. There were however friendly folks at each water stop--I never had to fight to get a drink. In addition to water, the five-mile stop had GU (Tri-Berry flavor), and several stops had Gatorade. I used some of the Tri-Berry packet, but before I got most of it down, I dropped it at one of the water stops. Immediately one of the student volunteers said, "Don't worry, we'll get it." So even though there were not a lot of cheering onlookers, I appreciated the work of all these volunteers.

5) Hills, hills, hills: This was not as hilly as the Harvest Challenge, where there's a section dubbed "Hill Country." But there were quite a few rolling hills, especially out on the country roads. Because we were running on one-lane country roads, the race director cautioned us at the pre-race briefing about listening to headphones. I did not listen to music during this race, and it's a good thing I didn't, because I was the one yelling "Car!!" when cars would come up behind us. A girl running in front of me was so into her music that she didn't hear me, so I kept yelling "Car!!" until she moved out of the way of the oncoming vehicle. No, she did not "Thank Me Later."

6) I was overdressed, I admit. I am constitutionally cold, so I had on more clothes at the race start than I probably needed. I was in a pink jacket, pink long-sleeved wicking shirt, long compression pants with compression socks underneath. and a sturdy pair of Asics. As the day warmed up, I slightly regretted my choice to wear the jacket, but I didn't take it off and tie it around my waist (too much time would be wasted by that).

7) I want to thank Jon, my husband and runner support, for getting me to this race. Jon has not been feeling great lately, so he didn't get a finish line pic of me. No problem though, this race was chip timed (the disposable kind that you tie on your laces), so the results will soon be posted at
Race Day at McKendree. If you are in the Saint Louis/southern Illinois area and you are interested in the races at McKendree, visit that link.

Update 9:03 pm: race finish times now available

finish time (chip): 1:34.05
overall finish position: 94 out of 178 10 mile runners
age group (F, 30-49): 26 out of 62
average pace: 9:25/M

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Tenth Half Marathon: Berry College Half Marathon

Today I ran my tenth half marathon, the Berry College Half Marathon, in a time of 2:05:16. I'm away from home on a slow internet connection, but will post a full race report when I return to my own laptop, which I didn't bring :(
But I will say this was a great race in a beautiful setting!

2/20/12: After getting home, I now have time to reflect and write my race report!

1) Destination race: For most runners, a destination race is an event in an exotic faraway place, or maybe is a race set in a place with warmer temps and luxury shopping. Doing the Berry College Half Marathon was a destination race for me. I had the good fortune to visit Berry, a beautiful college located an hour outside of Atlanta, GA, several years ago when I was a visiting poet. This time I again had the opportunity to give a poetry reading. The day after my reading, I ran the half marathon, and later in the day, I met with Berry students for a Q&A session about poetry and writing. This may not be someone else's idea of a destination race, but for me, a poet who runs, it was perfect.

2) A scenic race in a scenic place: Berry has one of the most beautiful campuses in the country, with ornate gothic buildings and acres and acres of green space! This race essentially had two components--the first part led us up to the mountain campus, where the school's original buildings are, and the second part brought us back to main campus via the Viking Trail, a flat, somewhat narrow paved path with Georgia pines on either side. Up to the mountain campus was tough--I saw a lot of folks walking. I did not, because of my fear about not running again if I start to walk!

3) College spirit: I love doing races on college campuses. There are always a lot of volunteers, and there's a real community spirit on race day. In addition to the half marathon (which was the sixth one done at Berry), there was a 10K, a 5K, and a fun run for the kids. There was an all-you-care-to-eat pasta dinner the night before the races, and abundant post-race reception food. Out on the course, there were six water stations. Gatorade, GU and shot blox were also available on the course. The only glitch was that they ran out of safety pins for the race bibs!

4) This was not a huge big-city race (about 600 did the half), but there were a lot of nice touches nonetheless: a medal for all half finishers, a wicking t-shirt, lots of freebies in the goody bag (including a coupon for money off the GA marathon). Timing was quick and efficient due to built-in chips on the race bibs. You went to a little table, gave your bib number and a few seconds later, you received a little print out with your chip time--very efficient.

5) The race did not have pace groups, but just before the race began, I was handed the 2:15 pace sign and told to stand there with it. So runners proceeded to line up behind me, asking "are you the pace runner?" I quickly corrected anyone who thought I was going to lead them to a PR! I thought back to my race in Madison, and how the two runners who lead the 2:10 pace group had to hold that sign high for 13.1 miles (they did switch it back and forth between them, but still). As soon as the race started I handed the sign off to a volunteer!

6) Travel considerations: This is the first time I've travelled alone to a race. I'm actually more tired from my travel on Sunday than from the race on Saturday. I want to thank my friend, poet and Berry professor Sandra Meek, for taking my race photos. If and when I travel solo to another race, I will make sure I have the following things: a rolling duffel bag (carrying my duffel by hand quickly got old), noise cancelling headphones (in addition to whatever headphones I use for the race itself), earplugs and eyeshades (sleepmask). All of those things would have made my travel more pleasant.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Fly With the Eagles Half Marathon: 2/11/12 (Ninth Half Marathon)

Today I ran the Fly With the Eagles Half Marathon--my ninth half marathon and the first half marathon I have run twice. I finished with an unofficial (Garmin) time of 2:07:08. (Official time posted on 2/14: 2:06.53) Here are my race observations from earlier today:

1) Support your local running club and its signature race.
This race is put on by my local running club, River to River Runners. This was the sixth time for the race--the first time the race was held there were 78 finishers. Today there were over 200. Great growth for a small town race.

2) The race itself takes place in the beautiful Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge. We had a tiny bit of snow last night, so trees, branches and both the gravel and paved roads in the Refuge had a light coating of snow. I had to watch my footing. It was so cold at the start of the race (20 degrees, but wind chill made it feel like 14). Fortunately I was dressed for the weather with lots and lots of layers. I even had "hot hands" in my gloves, gloves which were then topped by mittens. Mittens always make me feel like a little kid!

3) Since this is a small town race, there's not a lot of "bling," but there was more than last year. Someone must have got money from the local tourism bureau because this year everyone got a finisher's medal, which didn't happen last year. We also got a very warm sweatshirt hoodie and a drawstring bag. What to do with the hoodie and the bag became a problem because Jon (husband and runner support) had already dropped me off. I put the sweatshirt on over my long sleeve wicking shirt and put my zip up jacket over the whole array of layers. I folded up the drawstring bag and put it in my waist belt. I feared for a moment that I'd be too hot, but I'm constitutionally cold. I'm cold in regular clothes. So I looked a little like the Stay-Puf Marshmallow Man in my layers, but I never got too cold.

4) This is the first half that I have done twice. I finished last year in 2:09:58, so this was quite an improvement. One thing that had taken on mythic proportions in my mind was the hill between mile 7 and 8. Last year it seemed so huge. This year I looked at it and thought, "well you're not so big." I even wondered if this was the same hill. Well, of course it was. I've just become a stronger runner. I dealt with the hill and with the wind--it threatened to push me off the course at several points. Winter running is not for the meek, no matter how fast or slow you are.

5) Though I have improved a lot from last year's running of the race, I was shut out of the age group awards (this was my first half in my new age group). I was prepared for that, however. I know, from reading race results, that many of the really fast women in this area are in the 45-50 age group. But what impressed me was that everyone seemed to have gotten faster from last year. Lots of folks I spoke with talked about PRs and minutes shaved off. Since the conditions were not optimal, I can only conclude that the more you run, the faster you get.

6) I had a weird mantra throughout the race. The word "walk" kept going through my head, not as in "I'm so tired that I'm going to walk" but more "this is easy, this is a walk." I would breathe out on that one short syllable---"walk"--and feel calm and centered.

7) The only rough spot was the .1 back to the finish. Last year was warmer, so the area was a muddy slog then. This time, it was rutty, bumpy, uneven terrain. I kept stumbling, but since it's only .1, it was over faster than I knew. This patch would be grass in summer, but in winter's end, it's a crusty little piece full of tire tracks and bunchgrass.

8) I don't have a post-race photo because I thought I'd be slower than last year because of the weather and because I didn't give my self enough credit for the work I'd done in preparation. I hadn't done a long run of 13 in a while, but I've been running consistent 28-30 mile weeks for quite a while. So I told Jon to look for me at around 2:15. He missed me.

9) I'm very happy with my finish time and plan on giving myself more credit for my hard work in the future. Next week I run the BCEMS Half Marathon in Rome, Georgia on the beautiful campus of Berry College. I hope it's warmer there!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Half Marathon Checklist: February 7, 2012

My first race of the year, the Fly With the Eagles Half Marathon (Marion, IL), is this Saturday (February 11)! I can feel my anticipation and excitement growing. On today's training run, I thought it might be a good idea to make a list of everything I'll need to make this race a happy experience. So here's my list for a happy half--your needs may differ:

1) Attire:
I need compression tights and socks, a good supportive bra, a wicking t-shirt, and either a long-sleeved wicking shirt or a zip-up jacket or both. I like a knit cap (usually self-made) for winter runs and a baseball hat for summer runs. I tend toward being cold, so I dress warmly for winter runs and races. The weather looks really good for this Saturday so I'm hoping I won't have to do too many layers. I wear gloves (cold hands, runny nose).

2) Shoes:
I would not call this a trail race at all, but it does take place in a national wildlife refuge. I remember last year the really fast folks had mud all over the backs of their legs! I had some mud myself. I will wear a pair of Asics that are pretty sturdy and mud-resistant.

3) mp3 Player:
I've done halfs with and without music. This is a rural race, so I'll use music. I like to zone out with some steady-paced music and look at all the trees! I use crappy headphones because I sweat all over them! I use the over-the-head or behind-the ears kind of headphones because I can't stand anything stuck in my ears for any length of time, much less two hours!

4) Waist Belt:
Yes, they look dorky. But they are where I stash my gels (which I usually break out at mile 7), my phone, and anything else I might need. I don't use a water carrier belt for a half, but if I ever run a full, I'll definitely use one. If my mp3 player doesn't have a clip, it goes in my waist carrier.

5) Watch:
You can go old school with a regular watch or fancy with a Garmin or Polar. I've done races with my Garmin but I have had times when I've forgotten any kind of timing device! It's great to have a watch on just to know what your pace is.

6) Duffle Bag:
This bag has my own stash of safety pins (after enough races, you end up with a bunch of them), vaseline (body glide if you want to spend money), a change of clothes and shoes for after, a snack for after (lots of races have great post-race food, but bring your own if you are picky), a towel, and wet wipes and/or cleansing pads. It is also good to have a duffle along for any t-shirt or other freebies given to you by race organizers. Some are generous with free samples, etc. And leave room for your medal!

1) A training base:
I've been logging 28-30 miles a week. For me, this is enough mileage to know I'll finish my halfs pretty comfortably. It's also do-able given my teaching schedule and other weekly commitments.
2) Racing weight:
I race best at 132-133 lbs. I don't freak out if I'm heavier, but if I'm lighter, I feel too fragile.
3) Confidence:
I know I've worked hard and whatever finish time I get, I'll be proud of my achievement.