Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Madison Half Marathon Race Report!

Wow, what a race. I finished in 1:42:25, not quite getting my 'crazy' goal, but coming in just about at my secondary goal - and based on how I felt during the race, I am REALLY happy with that! Warning: this is a crazy, epic post...I like to ramble, what can I say?

The race started at 7 so I went to bed super early on Saturday but obviously didn't get a good night's sleep...I was tossing and turning like crazy like I always do before big events. I was probably awake around 4, so when my alarm went off at 5 I popped right up. I ate breakfast right away - orange Gatorade, a banana, and a black cherry-almond Clif Bar. It was super sticky and humid early, but it was supposed to burn off later in the day so I wasn't too worried about it. I definitely got a shot of adrenaline pumping through my system when I looked out the window and could see the cones set out for the course...
A bunch of them had already been knocked over, because besides being muggy, it was also windy...lovely! I decided I should probably just get going because I was pretty much just pacing around my house nervously, so I figured I might as well at least pace around with a bunch of other nervous people!

It actually turned out to be a good thing that I got to the start early, because no one had any idea where they were going. The parking lot was on the other side of the grounds from where the race start was, everyone was confused because the half marathon and marathon starts were at different places...basically everyone was just asking each other "what's going on? do you know where the start is?" and nobody knew. Eventually I figured out that the half start was by the runner's village, and the full was over on the other side of the parking lots, so I ended up in the right place. I was so early that there was NO line for the porta potties when I arrived - insanity! I just kind of wandered around for awhile, and then finally ended up running into the WTC guys which was sweet. They went off to warm up, I wasn't really too worried about that so I checked my bag and got to the start line - which was also smart, because the 10 minutes leading up to the race were absolute mayhem. The lines for the porta potties were so insane that a ton of people weren't in the starting area yet with only a couple minute to go, so I was really happy to have gotten a good spot. I lined myself up somewhere near the 1:40 pace group - I didn't plan on actually running with them, but I figured that the people nearby would be running about my pace. The UW Marching Band played the national anthem, the horn sounded...and we were off!

Miles 1-4
1: 7:26
2: 7:24
3: 7:35
4: 7:36
So I went out too fast. If you know me you know this isn't surprising at all...going out way too fast in races is pretty much the story of my life. I will give myself some credit - it could have been a lot worse, but the extra 12-13 seconds slower over the first 2 miles could have made a difference later in the race...or maybe not. I tried to fall into a comfortable pace right off the line and just focused on staying relaxed and remembering that this was going to be a long race. I also had to pee, literally as soon as we started running - I was like are you serious?? Luckily it didn't end up being a problem but I was still a little irritated. It was kind of funny because the marathon 1 mile mark was less than half a mile into our race, so everyone saw it and was laughing like "mile PR? I think so!" since it was like 3 minutes in or something. The starts of big races, especially early in the morning, are so cool - everything is ust silent except for the sounds of feet hitting the ground and breathing. The first mile was one of several moments during the race when I just thought to myself "you know, I am so lucky to be able to be a part of this elite group that can do this, that can have this experience." We came through the 1 mile and Poker Face was playing which made me really happy...such a good pump up song! I wasn't too happy to see a split under 7:30 since I knew that was too fast, but I just tried not to worry about it although I honestly already wasn't feeling that great. Fittingly, there was also a sign tied to a tree that said "this is NOT the time to set your 5K PR!!" Definitely a good reminder for me :P Around the 2 mile, a girl who ran for my high school passed me - she's a really good runner and finished in something like 1:30 - crazy fast! I got really excited coming up to my house - I couldn't hear the music coming out my window very well, but I caught enough to know it was Don't Stop Believin'! Which made me very happy. The BF cheered as I ran by and I gave him a big smile and blew a kiss - I'm glad he got to see me when I was feeling good enough to do that, haha. The first couple miles were really flat, so I wasn't that excited to turn onto Breese - not that it's even a big hill, but I already wasn't feeling all that spectacular. But still, miles 3 and 4 went by pretty uneventfully. There was a nice big downhill leading up to the 4 mile marker, and I tried to use that to really relax, relax, relax! That was pretty much my word of the day, because when I start feeling bad, I tend to freak out about how bad I'm feeling, then I start tightening up and hyperventilating and its just bad news bears. So especially everytime there was a downhill, I just told myself to RELAX!

Miles 5-8
5-6: 16:00 (I didn't see the 5 mile marker)
7: 7:45
8: 7:56
Clearly, my plan of running even or even negative splits was going out the window pretty quickly. We ran past the Nat, home of basically all of my classes for the past year, and there was a nice flat part which gave me a boost, but I was starting to feel tired - not good, since I wasn't even halfway! I hadn't stopped at a water station yet so I figured that would probably help me out. Running along the lakeshore path was probably one of my favorite parts of the race. It was shady, it was flat, it was glorious, and best of all, the trees blocked the wind, which had been pretty unpleasant for the first part of the race. I grabbed some Gatorade when we came out of the woods by the Union - I really, really wish someone could teach me how to drink while I'm running! Even though I tried really hard to pinch the top and get as much into my mouth as possible, like 80% of it ended up on my face...gross. Nothing like sticky Gatorade drying on your face as you run. But hey - it did its job - it was like a shot of pure energy straight into my system. Although I definitely wasn't feeling that great by this point, and we were coming up on an insanely hilly part of the course. Right before I headed up the first big hill, I saw Jade cheering from in front of her house which also was also sweet - pretty much, seeing anyone you know along the course is such a pick me up. The crowd support in general was AMAZING - there were so many more people out than I ever would have expected! It was so cute to see some of the little kids getting super excited about the race - my favorite was a couple of kids who had done chalkings all over the street that were just adorable and it made me really happy as I ran by. But you know what didn't make me happy? The hills of Langdon Street. Leading up to mile 6 was when I started getting worried about how the rest of the race was going to pan out. The 1:40 pace group passed me somewhere around there, but I had honestly given up on my crazy goal within the first 4 miles - if I wasn't feeling good running that pace at mile 3, there's no way I'd be holding it at mile 13. So the hills. SUCKED. Mile 7 was not fun at all...my legs were really starting to feel the constant uphills. But 2 great things happened during mile 7 - I saw Claire, who had also chalked some great "GO WTC" things on the road, and I saw a group of people drinking (keep in mind, this is before 8 am) and offering beer to the runners. I wanted to take some just for the hilarity of it, but I wasn't feeling good, and I felt like that might not be the best choice. I guess my friend Ben took some (he would NEVER pass up a beer, not even mid-race) and Dallas got handed a cup but didn't know what it was, and got really mad when he found out it was beer. By the time I came along, the people were just screaming BEER! BEEEEER! and it was definitely good for a laugh. I would say mile 8 was the point when things really started to go downhill. I was getting really, really tired, and my legs were starting to send out the signals that this was no longer fun. I wanted to walk. I wanted to stop. When I got to mile 8, I was honestly amazed that I was still under 8 minute pace. At the water stop just past mile 8, I decided to walk through just so I could actually get some hydration in my mouth, as opposed to on my singlet. This turned out to be a great idea because when I started running again, I felt infinitely better.

Miles 9-12
9: 8:06 (walked through water stop)
10: 7:58
11: 7:53
12: 8:15 (walked through water stop)
So this is definitely where the race really started. It turned into a complete battle of my legs wanting to give up versus my mind forcing them to keep going. I forgot how half marathons are so different from 5Ks or whatever in that it's not that you're breathing hard and running super fast, it's like your muscles just eventually fatigue and give up. My quads were cramping up pretty bad (partially because I was dehydrated I think, since water seemed to help that a little) and it was just painful to continue...but I did. Because I knew I would NOT be happy if I didn't at least get close to my 'realistic' goal. I honestly thought I was running a lot slower than I actually was through all this - it just felt like I was plodding along. But I think what was really happening is that it was just taking a LOT more effort to run at the same pace, just mentally tough to not give up and stop. But every time I really wanted to, something would perk me up and I would just push on. A lady with a dog who was barking, and the woman was like "see, Molly wants you to run fast too!" People actually yelling my name because it was on my bib. An adorable little girl handing out water at a water stop. A couple of hippie guys in ponchos playing guitar and flute at the top of a hill. The fact that despite how crappy I felt, I was still passing people. I remember feeling this way last time I did a half - that each individual mile just seems to crawl on endlessly but the whole race itself seems to be over in a flash. I found myself just living from mile marker to mile marker and playing stupid mental games like "ok, you can walk at the next mile mark" but then not actually allowing myself to do it. Tricky mind, tricky. :) We finally came out of the neighborhood and onto the bike path that goes around the lake towards the finish, and the 10 mile marker was there, and it was just like - OK, 5K to go. That's no big deal, right? Ohhh but it was a long and difficult 5K. I saw Claire again around mile 11, and she told me she had tried to catch up with the guys but they were too fast. All I could yell back was "I'm SO TIRED!!" Which, I was. 2 miles to go. Come on legs, don't fail me now! We came around a bend and I saw a professional looking dude with a camera. Since I know my mom is going to order probably 50 pictures from my race (that's how she rolls) I was like - OK, I can't look like I'm dying in my race pictures! (PS - why on earth would you put the camera at mile 12?? For the love of god, go to mile 4 or someplace where everyone looks like they've been running for a bit but isn't dragging themselves across the ground looking like death. Nobody wants to buy those) Anyway, I put on my best 'determined' face, lengthened my stride a bit, and passed a pack of about 6 people as I passed the camera. I can't wait to see how those pics turn out :P Just before the 12 mile I walked through the last water stop - I really wanted to finish strong and I was feeling super dehydrated, so I figured a quick break and some water would help me do that. One mile to go...lets do this.

Mile 13.1
13.1: 8:25 (7:39 pace)
So with 1 mile to go, it was time to just push through the pain and get to the finish line. I didn't immediately pick it up when I saw the 12 mile mark, but I tried to anyway. The 13th mile was by far the most unpleasant part of the entire race. Not only was I really tired, and my quads felt like they were ready to explode, but it was the ONE part of the course with NO crowd support! We ran through this park with no shade next to what looked like a garbage dump, and then turned onto - what else? - a hill! Getting up that hill without stopping was possibly one of the most difficult things I've done during a race. People were walking all over the place but I just absolutely refused to allow myself to do it. After what seemed like forever, we finally crested the hill, made a quick left turn, and got to see the most glorious sight any distance runner can ever see - a big downhill leading straight to the finish line. That was really all I needed - I took every last ounce of energy remaining in my legs, and I kicked with everything I had. I saw the 26 mile mark for the marathon, had no clue where the 13 mile mark was, but I wasn't going to worry about splits at that point. The clock started to come into focus and I saw 1:42 and it was just like....yesssss! It had been such a long race, and I had doubted being able to get even my secondary goal so many times, but at that moment I finally knew I was going to do it. I came across the line with a big smile on my face (again, good pictures please! :)) I was happy I was done, I was happy with my time, I was just plain happy.

After the race
The 'recovery lane' as they called it after you cross the finish line after a long distance race is kind of weird. I was really in a daze and people just keep handing you things - here's your medal, here's some water, here's a banana, do you want some pretzels?, here's a Sobe and you keep taking them because you don't know what else to do. Pretty much the last thing I wanted to do right after finishing was eat, but the water was deeeelish. Amazingly, I found my mom almost immediately after getting out of the insanity of post-race food. She was excited and glad I was happy with my time, even though I was still having trouble putting together coherent thoughts at that point. I decided to go get my bag so I could get my camera and I ran into the guys over by the gear check. Dallas ended up finishing 8th, although he wasn't that happy with his time, and I think the other two felt similarly. We all grouped up for a WTC picture:
Then the guys split off to see someone finish, and Kaitlyn, Vanessa and I wandered around trying not to fall over. I saw a Michelob tent and decided I just had to have a post-race beer:

I mean, Michelob Ultra is practically water, so I didn't feel toooo bad. :) We met up with the guys again by the results tent, where you could get these fun little printouts with your time on them. We stood around there for awhile and I made the mistake of sitting down on the ground...ouch...getting up was NOT fun. Actually, doing much of anything the rest of the day wasn't fun. My quads felt like they were pretty much giving up on life anytime I tried to walk, stand up, etc. But in a way, I love that feeling...its how you know you really accomplished something.

Well I will try to wrap this up because this is the longest post EVER. Overall, I'm really happy with how the race went. I was really in no shape to run 1:40, especially since my last run over 10 miles was over a month ago, and I didn't do anything specifically to train for this race. That being said, I would really like to actually train hard for a half and see what I can do! There's a new half in Madison at the end of August, the Madison Mini Marathon, and I think I might incorporate that as a goal race for the summer. It goes along well if I'm training for a marathon, and it would be a nice farewell victory lap through Madison before I move to Boston in September! Don't worry though, I've got plenty of 5K PRs still to set too. I just want to do it all. :) Still, this race is just another indicator that showed me how far I've come as a runner..it amazes me that I ran this race over 6 minutes faster than I did 2 years ago. And I'm ready to just keep on running faster. :)

1 comment:

Lindsay said...

congrats on a great race! loved your race report - very entertaining and well-written :) felt like i was there! funny comment about the photographers at mile 12. i usually get a little extra motivation near them too and pass the people in front of me, but that usually results in the camera guy missing me b/c he's shooting the group of people. lol. i hope that wasn't the case with your pics! a 1:42 is awesome especially since you pointed out you didn't really train for the race, hello speed! congrats on an awesome race - hope the legs are feeling good.