"I've toyed around with how I want to treat the race this year. Do I want to try to crush it? Run it easy? Make it a training run? So many choices! I think I've finally decided that I am going to run it like a harder training run. I don't want to spend a few days recovering from the race, not with marathon training going on, so running the 15 miles at half-marathon pace isn't in the cards. My goal for my long runs this training cycle has been to keep them at a 9:15-9:30 pace. I've done a pretty good job at that. My time in the race last year was a 2:16 (9:00/mile pace). So, I am thinking I would like to have an average pace of 8:45/mile. That would give me a nice hefty PR of close to 4 minutes. I want to run it in a similar fashion to last year, with the first loop being easy but strong, and the second loop a bit faster. I'd love to get some marathon-pace miles (8:20/mile is the goal) for the second loop. I'm actually wondering how I will fair. I know that I am stronger both mentally and physically, and faster than I was a year ago, but I have not been training on the hills like I did last winter. My half marathon and marathon are very flat courses, and since those are my big goals (not this race), I haven't wanted to risk injury by doing hill repeats like I used to."
As you can see, I had honestly no idea what to expect from this race. Up until a day or two beforehand, I wasn't even sure I was going to run in it at all! The forecast called for sub-zero wind chills all day, and I just didn't know if I had it in me to do 15 miles in those kind of conditions. I've ran in colder, but not for 15 miles, and not on such a crazy-hilly course. I mean, seriously, look at this elevation map.
|Definitely not what I'm used to!|
Onto the race, then! Last year, my friend Jen (who has done FIVE of these runs) drove us to the race, but this year she is in the midst of training for an ultramarathon and this little race just didn't fit into her schedule. I had planned on driving by myself, but I was elated when my cousin Katie offered to come along with me. The race is only 30 minutes away, but it was so nice to have her along with me. Katie is an up-and-coming runner herself, and we have so much fun talking about racing and goals and such together. The trip went by very quickly and we arrived at the school where the race would start about 50 minutes before go time. I was a bit worried upon our arrival, as the roads didn't seen too wonderful (we had a couple of inches of snow yesterday and tons of wind gusts, and I was worried about slick spots). Fortunately my concerns were all for naught, as the roads were actually almost 100% clear.
Several of the mamas in my local chapter of Moms Run This Town were competing in today's race (either the 7.5 miler or the 15 miler) as well. It was great to have the school cafeteria to chill in before the race began. Indoor bathrooms were also a huge plus! I think I hit my pre-race eating and hydration spot-on... breakfast was a banana, eggs and toast at around 9 AM, and at around 11 I had another banana and a PB&J sandwich. I drank about 50 oz. of water prior to the race, stopping at noon so that I wouldn't have to make a pit stop during the race. It was comical watching us all starting to get ready for the race at around 12:40 PM. We all had on our base layers and a couple other layers on top and bottom, plus head gators or balaclavas, hats, ear warmers, sunglasses, two layers of gloves/mittens, hand warmers, and then of course Vaseline on the face... such a production! We giggled that the elementary school boys who were warming up for their basketball game being held at the school probably thought we were crazy.
|Lisa, Jackie and I before the race. We are so cool!|
|You can see what a small race this is... we're waiting at the start.|
The course starts with a few smallish hills just before the first mile marker, but the net elevation is mostly downhill until mile 3, when the true hills begin. Coincidentally, mile 3 was my slowest mile of the race. Either you're climbing a hill, or your running into a headwind. So fun... NOT. Most of the runners agreed when we talked after the race that the first part of the course is much harder than the ginormous hills in the latter half, due mainly to the wind. Miles 3.8-5.2 offer a wonderful respite from both the wind and the hills. I love this part of the race. We ran by a farm and the cows were a nice diversion as well. A diversion was what I needed, to be sure... I felt my right foot starting to fall asleep at around mile 4. I had thought I was safe as typically this happens shortly after mile 3 if it's going to happen. Not this time... even with my preventative efforts (deep pressure and calf raises pre-race, toe wiggles during race), the numbness was setting in. Thankfully, it didn't take over my entire foot like it usually does, and I was able to run through it without too much of a problem.
I took my first GU at mile 5, just as planned. My water bottle cap had already frozen, however--something I had NOT planned. I was able to get it unthawed by sucking on it for a minute so I could wash down my GU, but I realized I would need a plan B for the remainder of the race. It was also at this time that I felt something hitting my bib (which was pinned to my left thigh). I looked down and saw my iPod Shuffle hitting my bib. It had come detached from my waistband, ugh! I grabbed it and tucked it into my pants, at the same time losing my gum, double ugh! I have become a true gum-chewer whenever I run, and I was so annoyed to see my gum fall to the ground. I looked up to see that I couldn't dwell on this misfortune, as the next round of hills had arrived. These were the "big ones"... 125 feet of elevation rise over 1.25 miles (from mile 5.25 to mile 6.5). I used a trick my friend Andrea had taught me--never look at the top of the hill; always focus on a spot about 10 feet in front of you. This worked very well for me, and I was actually surprised by how well I handled each hill. The final mile of the first loop is virtually all downhill, and you can see the school the entire way down. It's hard to control yourself on downhills, but I felt like I did a good job just flowing and not really pushing the pace. Just before we got to the school I struck up a conversation with a few runners who had been ahead of me most of the race. Sadly, none were going 15 miles. I hate running alone, and had hoped to make a friend or two on the course. These peeps were very nice though, telling me how awesome I was to be doing 15 on a day like today.
I was super-excited when we approached the finish (for the 7.5 milers at least) and I saw Kate at her car. I yelled her name and she ran over and started to run next to me. Meanwhile, I crossed the halfway point at 1:05:21, and set a mental goal of going sub-2:10 for this race. Prior to the race, I would've been quite happy with a 2:12, but I realized that I had taken the race out quickly enough that I could actually go sub-2:10. Kate stayed with me for about a half-mile--this was the most fun part of the race! We have only ran together a couple of times but I've known her for much longer as she's my little sister's pal. She actually WON the women's 7.5-mile race, so her legs were very tired and she was ready to head home. It was still great to even get a little running in with her, though.
|You can see how happy I was to run with Kate, even for just a half-mile!|
I was happy to get to the "lollipop" part of the race at mile 10.5, when I knew that 1) I'd be almost out of the wind and 2) I'd hopefully see some familiar faces. #2 happened before #1, and I high-fived Jackie and Lisa, who were both a few minutes ahead of me. When I turned around and headed back to the loop, I only saw two other runners behind me. I knew that most of the runners had dropped out of the 15 miler, but I didn't realize how few were actually participating. The road stretched very long ahead of me, but thankfully I was in the "good part" again--wind-less and flat. I was able to push my pace a bit here, but still felt very much in control of the race. I also grabbed another cup of water at mile 12.5 and took a quick walk break to down it.
I continued to feel very good heading in the final round of hills. I kept wondering if I would see anyone else, and was pumped when I caught sight of two runners about quarter-mile or so ahead of me on the hills. Again, I was pleasantly surprised with how good I felt on these hills. I could feel my glutes engaging, and my core felt strong. That being said, I was super happy to reach the crest of the final hill at mile 14! I was ready for this race to be over. My final mile was the only one that was sub-8-minutes for the race (and seeing as it was mostly downhill, that makes sense!), and I was able to sprint into the finish to the cheers of... a few ;) My cousin Katie and my friend Jackie were there yelling loudy as I crossed the timing pad in a time of 2:08:57, and I saw Lisa there as well; she had just finished her own race.
|Powering into the finish :)|
|Some of the awesome mamas who braved the elements to race!|
|Half-Marathon split was a 1:52:24 (about 6 minutes faster than last year)|
I didn't over-extend myself during any part of the race--well, except for maybe the first mile, when I got a bit carried away with the other racers. And, of course, I got my mug :)
|#letmetakeaselfie with my mug!|