Race Report: Harder ‘N Hell Half Marathon

Official Results:
Time: 3:51:24
Pace: 17:40 (Assuming 13.1 miles)
Overall: 118/142
Gender: 54/72
(Updated to include official results)

App Results:
App: Strava
Time: 3:52:18
Pace: 17:04
Distance: 13.6 mi
Heart Rate: N/A

A: 4:20:00
B: 3:59:59

What I ate the night before: Chicken tenders and fries
What I ate on race day: Large latte and bagel with cream cheese
What I carried with me: 2 handheld water bottles, fun size Snickers bars

What I wore: Long sleeved tech tee, short sleeved tech tee, shorts, buff (as headband), over the calf socks (which fell down immediately), gloves
Gadgets: GPS watch, iPhone with Strava and MapMyRun running

What a great race. I am thrilled!

Race day I woke up before my alarm and tried to go back to sleep, but couldn’t. I got up around 7 and my friend (who was also running the race and who was staying with us) and I drove to get coffee. He was planning on leaving at around 8:10 to leave his car at the finish and take the bus to the start, but he couldn’t find one of his gloves, so he decided to ride with me to the start. I wanted that little extra bit of control, plus if it was cold then we could huddle in there. He drove to the finish line, I picked him up there (after making two wrong turns, one because I was zoning out and started driving to work, and one because I didn’t realize a street was closed), and we made it to the Spirit Mountain trailhead at about 9:05, giving us 10 minutes before the race briefing was scheduled and 25 minutes before the start. It was cold but not overly cold, and I realized I probably could have gotten away with a short sleeved shirt plus arm warmers. Eh. It wasn’t like it was the difference between winning and losing or anything. I didn’t do any warming up, which was dumb, but I don’t feel like it was a big deal.

The race briefing actually began right before the race was scheduled to start. I started my phone apps in advance because I didn’t want to be messing with my phone while running, especially since the pockets attached to my handheld were jammed full of stuff and my phone had to be wedged in. I didn’t realize once we went to the start, we would just… start. So my watch wasn’t ready, and it took forever to get the GPS to find a satellite, and then I realized at some point I hadn’t started it. I think I was about 0.4 miles into the race at that point but I had no idea. So the start was a bit rocky.

Mile 1: 18:30
This is a little messed up because as I said, I started the app before I walked to the starting line, so it includes that walking time. That means the distance is a little messed up, too, but the data from my watch is all kind of messed up since I didn’t start it on time and it was underestimating the distance. My watch had me running several 20+ minute miles and had an average pace of 18:17, which would have had me finishing in 3:59 (for a true 13.1), so that data is basically garbage. So, Strava it is.

Anyway the first mile was typical of a trail race, I gather, in that we were all bunched up. The stairway to hell was no problem because everyone else was going up it slowly, too. I let people go by me and went along at my own pace, and pretty soon I was basically in last place. Not a problem, someone had to bring up the rear.

Mile 2: 16:41
There’s a big descent here so it went by pretty quickly. I was a little bummed because there’s a couple of gentle descents/flats that I like to let loose on, but I couldn’t because we were bottled up, but I guess I made up for it by scaling the hills more quickly. I ended up in the middle of a running group somehow, which was awkward. Their leader told me they were aiming for a finish time around 4:30, so I told myself I hope I didn’t see them again. (Spoiler alert, I didn’t, but they were a fun group having a blast and I wished their time goal had been closer to mine so I could have joined them.)

Mile 3: 17:25
Uneventful. I was following a woman in blue patterned running tights and trying to keep her in sight the whole time. I think I might have had my first candy bar here, or slightly after. I felt a little gaggy from the bagel and cream cheese, which weren’t very good (from Starbucks. God I wish there was a Bruegger’s up here.) I had taken a couple of Pepto Bismol tablets pre-race as a precautionary measure but they hadn’t kicked in yet, I guess. I took my gloves off during this mile because my hands were getting warm and I’d need my hands free to unwrap my Snickers. I stuffed them down my shirt into my sports bra, so I am sure I looked a little lumpy for most of the race. Oh well.

Mile 4: 16:47
As I was crossing Cody Street I passed a woman who was cheering people on. She said “I’ve seen you out here training, great job!” It made me smile, it was a nice thing to say. I guess I am pretty distinctive looking since most people do not run wearing glasses, I’ve noticed.

Mile 5: 20:26
Yeesh. I tried eating another candy bar and nearly threw up. It was rough and I was slowed to a walk for quite awhile. I was pretty low for this mile, though I faked it for the race photographer. I thought oh man, I’m going to barf all over the trail, I won’t be able to eat anything the whole race, I won’t make it. It was depressing. The first aid station was at the end of this mile and I walked right through it, since I hadn’t consumed much of my water and I couldn’t imagine eating anything else. This ended up being a good idea because I got ahead of a bunch of people that way. I just kept moving and tried to will my stomach to calm down.

Miles 6 and 7: 17:50 and 17:06
I started feeling better at this point and the race turned around for me. I got passed by a few people fresh from the aid station while I was walking, but I ended up passing a couple of them when they stopped to pee. Another one followed me for awhile and didn’t pass me despite the multiple opportunities I gave her to go by. She finally rushed by me on the side, which was kind of annoying. I passed her when she stopped to take a photo, and but she seemed to keep me in her sights.

Mile 8: 16:47
I was still being pursued by the woman who rushed past me, and she got pretty close as I’d slowed down to eat a Snickers and I took the descent to Haines Road carefully. There were a couple of really slippery spots on the trail (like the first mile or so, which was covered in wet leaves) and the rocky descent down to the tunnel under Haines was one of them. I went slow and still nearly biffed it. In the tunnel I tried to really hit the gas and that was the fastest little snippet of the race, according to my Strava results. I was passed by a couple of mountain bikers on the gravel on the other side of the road. My pursuer was absolutely killing herself to catch me, which made no sense. I looked over my shoulder as I was heading back up into the woods and saw her bent over, hands on knees, stopped, at the edge of the gravel road and the woods. That was the last time I saw her. I did hear someone coming up behind me at one point but it turned out to be the winner of the 50k.

Mile 9: 18:07
Uneventful. Passed by the 50k 2nd place runner. I think I had another Snickers here, the last one I ate, and then I had a mint.

Mile 10: 16:24
Passed by the 50k 3rd place runner as I was crossing Skyline. Started to realize I wasn’t as far off my goal as I thought. I still thought I’d be over 4 hours, but I really couldn’t tell. I ran alongside a guy with trekking poles for awhile and we chatted. We talked about how nice the new boardwalks were; they had just been added in a few weeks ago by some fabulous volunteers. I asked him about his trekking poles and he said “They saved my life.” He had a total knee replacement and this race was the longest he’d run since then. I might have to look into them since he said they lessen the impact of downhills and my knees are pretty creaky today. He got ahead of me as we hit 10th street, but I caught up with him at the aid station at 24th Ave W.

Mile 11: 17:55
I stopped at the aid station at 24th Ave W to fill up one of my water bottles, and then I kept on going. There was food there but I decided I wasn’t going to eat anything else. I saw the woman I’d seen earlier (the one who’d seen me training), she appeared to be a friend or family member of the guy I’d run with. He stayed at the aid station a little longer than I did but he was soon coming after me. I thought he would get by me but he didn’t. I saw him finish and he told me he ran out of gas in the last few miles. I got passed by the 4th place 50k runner (who looked really miserable), the last one to pass me for the day. I really started to pick it up out of the aid station, I really wanted to get to Enger Park and start the downhill part of the race. I drank a little too much water and felt sloshy for a few minutes but my stomach calmed down.

Mile 12: 16:55
I realized at this point that 4 hours was within my grasp and I was really motivated. I knew the last bad hill was ahead of me heading into Enger, and I was ready to attack it. I passed a guy on the hill who was absolutely SUFFERING. I felt really bad for him, and told him it was the last bad hill and then it would be all downhill. I wanted to ring the peace bell at Enger but this tween girl seemed to be hogging it so I just kept going. She rang it as I ran by. I passed Twin Ponds and had a moment of sadness for the woman who was struck by a car and killed there earlier in the week. I didn’t know her but many people I know did, and it was a sad, preventable accident that has resulted in criminal charges. I passed a guy here as we crossed Skyline and started to open up a bit.

Mile 13: 14:15
I was flying at this point. It is a fairly steep descent but it was manageable and I was running it perfectly, no tripping or slipping. I passed a few other people here, including the only half marathoner to pass me back. A friend of mine lives just down the road from one of the road crossings, so I’d told him to be out cheering, but he wasn’t. Oh well. I didn’t need encouragement at this point, I was practically grinning. I was checking my watch to see my pace rather frequently, and I knew I was going to make it under 4 hours. I checked the actual time just to be sure, and confirmed it. The only thing I wasn’t sure about was where the actual finish line was. I mean, I knew it was in Bayfront, but where, and what was the path to get there? I was flying over the pedestrian bridge across the highway, but started to lose energy a little bit (and got passed) when I was running along the train tracks.

The rest (0.5 miles according to Strava, who knows what it really was): 11:40 pace
So the finish line wasn’t visible until the very, very end. That was a little bit annoying. I ran along Railroad St, turned at 5th Ave W, turned again and starting running through the Bentleyville tunnel, and then FINALLY saw the finish line. Since I was so far ahead of my expected finish time, no one was expecting me. In fact, my husband said that my friend’s parents had just asked when they expected to see me finish, and he said “Between 1:30 and 2… or right now” as I had just come into view. I saw the clock, saw I was well under 4 hours, and blew through the finish line with a smile on my face.

I wrapped up in a blanket right away to keep warm, even though I hadn’t felt cold at all during the race. I sat down for a little while and heard about how the race went for my buddy. He said he finished in about 3:02, which was a little over his goal, but he had a blast just as I did. He reminded me to go get my swag, which I hadn’t noticed. Instead of medals, we got a mug with a little spoon, which I used to get DELICIOUS chicken wild rice soup. I should have eaten like three more helpings. I felt pretty amazing right after the race and was surprised to see how easily my stomach accepted the soup and bread. My husband drove me back to Spirit Mountain to pick up my car, and then I went home to shower and get the snot and salt off my face.

I was pretty tired the rest of the day, probably because I needed more food. I had another latte (pumpkin spice, because I’m unashamed to be basic) while I was picking a friend up from the bus station (he was covering the Bulldogs-Gophers hockey game Saturday night) but I was really dragging. I tried to nap, but I couldn’t. I barely made it to the hockey game (UMD shut out the stinkin’ Gophers, so that was great!), but once I ate some glorious fries, I perked up again.

I am pretty pain free. Only a minor blister or two, no chafing, no muscular soreness, but some joint soreness and stiffness. My hips and knees aren’t pleased. I thought my back would hurt more since I didn’t do a good job working my core during this training cycle.

I am really glad I put in all that grueling training. I felt really prepared for the race, took all the hills in stride (huffing and puffing, but considering I barely made it up some of them during the first few weeks of training, it was an improvement), had plenty in the tank at the end, overcame nausea, and didn’t bonk. I’ll recap the training cycle in a later post, but suffice it to say, while it wasn’t perfect every week, it did the job.

I will definitely run this race again. It’s very low key, the volunteers were great, the trail is gorgeous, and it’s a perfect way to wrap up a distance racing season. (Of course I only ran one longish race, but that won’t always be the case.) Maybe next year I’ll run the 50k! Or try to beat this year’s time in the half, I don’t know. Thank you, Wild Duluth Races, for a great race!

3 thoughts on “Race Report: Harder ‘N Hell Half Marathon

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