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.