Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Illinois Half Marathon Recap

Spoiler alert: You've probably seen my facebook status updates and twitter feed, but I got myself a shiny new PR at this race.

With the race on Saturday, packet pick up was on Friday.  The original plan was to leave work early around 3 pm on Friday to beat traffic and make it to the race expo by 7 pm.  Unfortunately, that is not how things worked out due to a lost UPS package and the customer wanting the parts when I originally sent them.  I ended up frantically working to finish all the parts and sent them out by the end of the day Friday.

Good news: the parts got shipped.

Bad news: I didn't leave the office till 4 pm which meant much more traffic on the drive.

Good news: Laura picked up my packet for me.

Bad news: The race shirts were super small.  If you see a skin tight neon green shirt run past you, it might be me.

In the end, it all worked out.  I arrived in Champaign just in time for our take out order from Biaggi's.  Cheesy, chicken pasta, spicy pizza, and bread dipped in olive oil, and house salad with balsamic vinaigrette. Carbo-loading at its finest.  This dinner was seriously delicious and I had to stop myself from stuffing more food into my mouth once I was full.

The night ended by relaxing with some TV watching to aide in the digestion of the pasta and going to bed early for our 5 am wake up call the next morning.  We also heavily debated what each of us (Laura, her boyfriend Dan, and me) were wearing the next day.  The weather was going to be cold and crappy with a chance of rain.  In the end I decided on running capris, a short sleeve tech tee, and a tech jacket.

The next morning the weather didn't look any better, in fact, it looked worse.  The skies were cloudy and it was windy!  The forecast still looked like rain so we bundled up.  I ate my usual toast with peanut butter, honey, and a banana for breakfast but doubled it to 2 pieces of toast this time.  I also drank a small cup of coffee to kick my digestive system off, if you know what I mean.  I did other pre-race activities like pin on my race number and apply bodyglide (I didn't want a recurrence of my first half-marathon).

We left Laura's a little before 6 and were at the race by about 6:10 am.  It was cold and so we sat in the car for awhile to stay warm and I braided my hair to keep it out of my eyes.  We finally got out of the car and the other two decided to leave their extra layers behind while I kept my sweatshirt on and decided I would gear check it later.  We ran through a 5-10 minute warm up and stretch before hitting the port-o-potties.  The lines were pretty long and I was getting a bit nervous I wouldn't make it to gear check and back to the start line quickly enough.  But eventually I got in the bathroom and then jogged over to gear check to hand over my sweatshirt.  I decided to run with my Spibelt holding my phone, chapstick, a few tissues, and Chomps, and my Zune with my armband.  A little excessive for the race but I definitely needed all these things (except the Zune, but we'll get to that).

I swiftly walked back towards the start line and saw Laura one more time and gave her a final hug.  She was in a faster corral than me so I kept heading toward the back.  I squeezed in near the back of Corral E just as they were starting the first wave off.  It was probably about 15 minutes before my group starting making its way towards the start line and I just focused on staying warm.

Nervous before the race.
I honestly had no idea what to expect from myself in terms of the finishing time and ability to run the whole thing.  The croup I caught earlier in the week was still with me and it was moving to my chest.  I took a Zyrtec-D in the morning in hopes that it would relieve some of my sinus congestion and it definitely worked.  I could somewhat breathe through my nose but my cough was terribly rattly and gross.  I got super worried when I first started warming up before the race and my chest felt compressed like there was a weight sitting on it.  I knew that I would be able to finish the race but thought I would probably need to walk.

I decided to start out with the 2:10 pace group since I was near them in the corral.  The gun went off for Corral E and we took off but thankfully at a good easy pace and not at a sprint! I worked on making up ground to the pace group and thought about keeping my breathing steady and easy.  Around mile 3, I decided that I could run faster than a 9:55 pace and pushed ahead of the pace group.  I wanted to catch up slowly and steadily to the 2:07 pace group.   I was feeling much better than I had even hoped so I allowed my self to pick up the pace a bit.  I made a goal of finishing the race in 2:08 which was 15 minutes better than my first half marathon.

Around mile 5, I remember thinking "okay, only 8 more miles" and then I thought about how intimidating 8 miles is and decided to not think about how much farther I had to run.  I hit the 10K mark with a time of 59:50 and still felt strong.  I could see the 2:07 sign off in front of me and was closing the gap.  I was taking water at every aid station because my mouth felt so dry!  I also grabbed a packet of vanilla Gu right before mile 7 and held onto it a mile later.  I took about half of it and washed it done with some water.

From mile 8 to 9.5 we were on a trail through a park.  Although it was nice for a change of scenery I did not like this part of the race because it made the race a lot more crowded.  My gain on the 2:07 pace group was halted and I could feel my pace slowing down.  I was still passing people but it was much more difficult.

Once we were out of the park I could feel my body start to get tired.  I took the second half of my Gu packet right before the aid station near mile 10 and pushed on.  I checked off mile 11.  By mile 11.5, I was hurting.  My hands were freezing and I felt like there was too much water sloshing around in my stomach.  I took one 30 second walk break and then vowed to keep running.  I remember looking at my watch and thinking that if I pushed it I might be able to finish in under 2:06.  Screw 2:08!  I was feeding off the energy of the runners around me and the crowd.  I checked off my 12.  I knew we were getting close.

Just after 12.5 the full marathoners split from the half.  I pushed my legs.  Here is where a cruel race course set up took place.  We had to run down part of a street and make a 180 before running back up it.  I so wanted to just cut across the barricade and run with the runners on the other side.

I really didn't spend very much time checking out the course map and only knew that we finished at the 50 yd line of Memorial Stadium.  I thought we had about one more turn and we would be to the stadium but little did I know, we had about half a mile left.  I picked up the pace and when I realized I wasn't quite to the stadium, I started to mentally give up.  I had to work so hard to remind myself that I could still get that 2:06 goal.

We turned another corner and I could see people running into the stadium. I pushed and my body pushed back.  People were cheering and I could see the entrance into the stadium.  Once I hit the turf I picked it up even more and gave it all I had.  I probably passed about 10 people in those 50 yards.

I crossed the finish line and my watch said 2:06:38!

Once I crossed the finish line I was immediately freezing.  My hands had been getting cold during the last part of the race anyway.  I went straight for my medal!  A very nice lady gave me my medal and I tried to say thank you but my voice had stopped working.  Darn croup.  I grabbed a bottle of cold water which, even though I was so cold, sounded incredibly awesome because my mouth and throat were so dry.


I was looking around like a lost puppy and had no idea where to go.  All I could think about was that I just wanted to be warmer.  Another lady commented on how much she liked my braided back hair.  I am about 90% positive that it looked like a sweaty mess at this point.  I decided to climb up the bleacher stairs because at least there would a covered out of the wind area at the end.  But I climbed up the wrong side and had to walk all the way around.  This is sad when all I wanted to do was sit down.  Once I got near the food area I called Laura and we eventually found each other.  I started to warm up during this time and was feeling a little less nauseous.  I sort of snuck into the food line and gathered up my piece of pizza, a vanilla cookie, a granola bar, a banana, and a roll.  I managed to stuff both the pizza and the roll down in about 5 minutes.  They were both delicious.

Gear check was next and I was so very happy to put my sweatshirt back on.  It was cozy.  Laura and I then tried to start the impossible task of finding Dan.  At first we thought he might have left with his roommate Rob but a few texts confirmed that didn't happen.  She made me walk down the stadium stairs which was a very slow process to look for him and then we walked back up.  We looked for at least 10 minutes and then decided to go back to the car to see if he wandered there.  He wasn't.  But we sat in the car with the heater on anyway to warm up.  After about 10 minutes, Laura's phone rang.  Dan couldn't find us and certainly couldn't remember where Laura parked so he walked home.  Sucks for him but that meant we got to go home.

I was so excited to go home and be in the heat.  I drank some warm coffee and took a warm shower and put on warm clothes.   I came out of the race relatively unscathed with just one nasty blood blister on my left big toe.

Most of the rest of the day was spent drinking beer, eating, napping and drinking some more.  I should tell you about how I am not a college kid anymore later.

My official finishing time is 2:06:36 which is an average pace of 9:40.  This race went so much better than I could have imagined and I couldn't be more happy with my time.  I shaved over 15 minutes off my previous half marathon time.


A sub-2:00 time is now a twinkle in my eye.

Take that croup.

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