AG (F35-39): 24/25
Distance: 13.41 mi (not sure what the culprit was here)
Heart Rate: N/A
What I ate the night before: Jersey Mikes #13 sub, homemade chopped salad with homemade peanut dressing, homemade apple pie
What I ate on race morning: bagel with cream cheese, part of another bagel with nothing on it
What I carried with me: 3 gel packets (I ate 1)
What I wore: t-shirt, tights, hoodie, buff, gloves
Gadgets: GPS watch, fitness tracker
I finally ran a road half marathon! Hooray!
I got a great night’s sleep the night before (okay 5 hours, but for the night before a race, that’s amazing). I find this ironic considering this is the least prepared I’ve been for a race in a long time, with the exception of Surf the Murph. I didn’t do any specific training, most of my runs lately have been half-assed treadmill efforts, and I’ve been sick. I guess my brain was like “okay, it’s ‘just’ a half marathon, you have training runs longer than this.” Yeah I do, brain, but I also don’t try to run fast in training runs. I would like to know what was different about this race. Logistics were very easy, but I have had many races with easy race day logistics (like Superior – literally roll out of bed, walk to bus, get on bus), plus I did worry about finding parking and stuff so it’s not like I was super chill. I’m very happy I slept well, but I wish I could recreate that for future races.
The weather was really terrible on Friday. I had a great run in the early afternoon; I ran across the High Bridge in St. Paul for the first time. It has been closed since before I moved. I didn’t consider that there was a Wild game that afternoon, so I ended up dodging earlycomers (WordPress spell check says that is not a word!) while running along 7th Street.
It was really warm! Like in the mid 40s F, and there wasn’t much wind so it felt really mild. I wasn’t sure what to wear to the race as a result – I was overheated in a hoodie and t-shirt, but the forecast was for a colder day on Saturday.
An hour or so after I finished running, it started to rain, and it rained all afternoon, all evening, and well into the night. Concerning! I thought it might get below freezing and then I might need to bring my skates to the race instead of my shoes. I went shopping (for records and for a new laptop, which I am using to type this!), then went home and did laundry. Most of my running gear was dirty and I wanted to be able to wear my favorite stuff to the race. The tights that don’t feel like they’re falling down, the hoodie with pockets, etc. Also I needed to wash my gloves since they were covered in snot from my run on Wednesday when my sinuses were emptying.
Back to race day, now. I set my alarm for 6:30, hit snooze, and then got up at 6:50. Clothes were all laid out (in a heap on the living room floor, not in a nice pretty flat lay), so I got dressed quickly and then ate a bagel and cream cheese, much to the chagrin of my friend Alan who (rightfully and kindly) points out my race day nutritional miscues. But I love bagels so much and I almost never eat them anymore. I stuffed a couple gels in my pocket, grabbed another bagel and some water to sip on in the car, and headed out the door. I left my race bib in my car after I did early packet pickup on Wednesday at Mill City Running, which is a great “life hack” (I hate that term – a tip to make things easier or repurpose a thing is not a hack!) for people who are very forgetful.
Getting to the race was very easy – they provided a suggested address for people to use in their navigation apps, since the start didn’t have an address. I parked in the parking ramp at St. Anthony Main, although there were likely other parking options that did not cost $7. On a Sunday! $7! Madness. Whatever, I wanted the convenience. I sat in my car for about 15 minutes dinking around on the internet (checking the paces I needed to hit for each of the goal times – that didn’t take 15 minutes but it was one of the things I did to pass the time) and then walked down to the start/finish area. I did a very short warmup, about 0.6 miles, but it was enough.
The 10K and the half marathon start at the same time, which I find a little odd as it must be a little crowded at the front for the fast people. I’m sure they’re very glad I’m considering their feelings. I got completely confused as there appeared to still be half marathoners on the sidelines when I crossed the start, and I thought I was in the wrong spot. Nope, there just weren’t nearly as many half marathoners, and there were probably fewer back-of-the-packers in the half than in the 10K. It was nice to have more people running my pace in the first 4 miles.
This course is very similar to the course for the Hot Dash 10 Mile, although it starts at St. Anthony Main instead of Boom Island Park, and of course continues a little farther south on West River Parkway before turning around. It has the same hills, though! This is actually a pretty challenging half marathon, because although it’s nice to bomb down a few big hills, it sucks to go up them.
For the first few miles, I was ahead of the 2:30 pacer, and I felt pretty good about that. I thought if I could just keep her behind me, I’d be set for my main goal. I was running a bit too fast out of the gate, although I don’t really know how fast I was going because my watch was likely off already. It felt good so I went with it. Same as TCM. I figured I’d be slowing down a bit later because of this, but having never run a half marathon before, I didn’t know what to shoot for as far as intensity. I mean, I had a general idea of pace, based on my TCM half split (which I came within seconds of hitting!), but pace is only one part of the equation. Pace means nothing if, on race day, it’s harder/easier to hit it. I still don’t have a good idea of what kind of intensity I can sustain for 13.1 miles, since my pace fell off at the end (spoiler alert!)
The first few miles went by pretty smoothly. We crossed the Mississippi River right away, on 8th Ave NE, so there was a nice little incline to start off with, but I ran it even though my legs aren’t very accustomed to running hills right now. So many lazy 0% incline treadmill runs. I had a few issues with my glasses fogging up, thanks to the humid, just above freezing conditions. After a few miles of running, a car came up behind us and told us to look out for the 5K leader. Well, that was a bit demoralizing, since the 5K started 15 minutes after the half. The leader came through a bit after the warning. I was amused because I saw him at the start and thought “Hmm, that guy must be fast.” Even though he looked like a cross between Steve Prefontaine and a young David Crosby (I mean this in a good way), I just had this sense about him, and I was correct. He and his thick, long, luscious hair (unrestrained by any elastic or headband) blew by the rest of us schlubs.
We hit the first water stop at just under 4 miles – one thing I like about this race is they give out bottles of water instead of cups. They do this to avoid spillage, as the race has the potential to be run in sub-zero temps. If it’s really cold, it could get slippery out there. I loved it because I didn’t have to gulp down cups, I could sip as I went along. It was a little bit annoying to hold the bottle while also holding my gloves, but it was still way better than overhydrating at cup stations.
Once the 10K runners peeled off, I was pretty much on my own. There weren’t many people around me, although I kept leapfrogging with this couple who was running with a stroller, because they kept stopping to do god knows what. The guy was actually banditing the race and was doing the stroller pushing. I didn’t understand the point of what they were doing, but perhaps it was their first time doing a race with a stroller and they wanted to see how it went. It was kind of annoying, but mostly because I find leapfrogging with people in a short period of time very annoying. Pick a pace, please. I think the banditing guy eventually peeled off.
About 5 miles in, the 2:30 pacer got ahead of me. I was kind of bummed about it, but I figured I’d keep her in my sights and then hunt her down if I could. According to my watch, mile 5 was my second slowest mile. Yikes! I was feeling a little warm at this point, even after pushing back the buff (I was wearing it as a headband), removing my gloves, and unzipping my hoodie all the way to the top of the bib. But I had read the weather report and seen that it was going to continue to cool off throughout the day, and I was right. After the second water station (which I skipped, I still had a little bit left in the mini bottle I’d grabbed at the first station), I put my gloves back on.
I managed to get myself back up to pace again by the halfway point so I could keep trailing the pacer. My legs felt a little tired and what I should have done is gotten a fresh water bottle at the 6.5 mi water station and then eaten a gel. I didn’t feel hungry, but I should have taken one proactively. I didn’t do that, and once I reached the turnaround, I started to slow a lot. The turnaround is nice because it’s at mile 7.3 or so (not quite sure), which means there’s less than half the race to go at that point. Somehow that’s mentally comforting. I kept thinking the turnaround was coming, only to go around another bend and see it was nowhere in sight. There was a timing mat there, and I was hoping to see what my split was at that point, but the timing mat is marked as 6.55 mi, even though it was nowhere near there. So it shows a 13:22 pace to that point. Nope.
The race course is pretty lonely. Beyond the scattered police and civilian volunteers who are guarding the blocked off streets, there’s not much for crowd support. I didn’t mind, it was nice and quiet. I didn’t even get stuck with a group of talkers on my tail. It was actually very peaceful, much more like a trail race. I don’t feed off crowd support the same way; I’m more energized by periodic support than a constant stream of cheering, although the nice thing about a constant stream of cheering is that no matter what, if you need a pick me up, someone is there offering it.
Once I turned around, I noticed the wind. It was really starting to get cold, and I was glad I hadn’t worn shorts or gone with a t-shirt/arm warmer combination. I never got chilled, so I think I made the right choice for clothing. Plus, my hoodie has 2 zippered pockets, so I put gels in one and my phone and car keys in the other. I finally started eating a gel somewhere between mile 8 and the water stop, because my legs were really starting to get tired (my quads were getting sore, as were my hips) and mentally I was starting to say “hey, I could just walk now,” especially on the hills. I took little bites of gel and then grabbed a water bottle to wash down the last few bites. No stomach issues at all!
I tried to use any downhill to make up time on that orange pacer balloon that was getting farther and farther away. I reeled in a few people in this time frame (including one in my age group, taking me from last to second to last in my AG), but the balloon escaped me. The wind just broke me; it started to get really bad in the last 4 miles, especially once down at river level. I planned to walk part of the last really big hill to save my strength, and I think it worked out great for me. I walked for about 2 minutes, then ran (slowly) up the rest of the hill. The rest was enough to give me energy for the end. The 12 mile mark is just at the end of that hill, and then I knew I was going to have enough legs to finish strong. Once I reached the turnaround, I’d been counting down milestones, like “Oh, only a 5K to go… now only 2 miles to go, that’s not bad.” It definitely made it easier to keep going.
With about half a mile to go, I turned onto the Stone Arch Bridge, which was full of people. Well not full, but there were plenty of people taking selfies, milling around, getting engaged, etc. as I slogged on by. I was trying to speed up, but I also wasn’t sure quite where the finish line was. Once I got across the bridge, though, I saw that I’d be running off the bridge right into the street where I’d done my warmup, and I knew I was close. I passed another woman right at this point, and she started to run too, but she ran on the sidewalk while I ran on the cobblestones (the actual course). I was a little annoyed because that was definitely “cutting” the course, but seriously, what does it matter? I just didn’t want to have someone start running right at the end thanks to me passing them, only to finish ahead of me because they cut the route. Those little competitive things that come out in those last moments in the race…
I managed to speed up once I was off the cobblestones and onto the brick, which was much more even, and finished slightly ahead of the other woman (actually several seconds ahead, because she must have started before me). I saw the clock said 2:32:XX and tried to get across the line as quickly as I could, because the “fake” PR I had in the half was 2:32:08, and I wanted to beat that/make it official. I didn’t know how many seconds behind the gun I’d started, and my gun time was 2:32:58, so I was a little worried I wasn’t going to make it.
I got my medal and my post-race water, but there didn’t seem to be any other food or snacks. I walked up the hill to 2nd St, where the post-race festivities were being held. It was crowded and loud inside and I felt a little anxious. I also didn’t see any food there! I went up to get my free drink, but they didn’t have any non-alcoholic options. So my choices were a free beer, which I didn’t want, or nothing. So I paid $85 for no food and a free drink I didn’t want (yeah, it’s my choice, but I almost never drink alcohol and certainly couldn’t stomach a beer directly after a race, sorry I’m not “cool”); that was a little disappointing. I wouldn’t mind if I knew that almost all of my race fee went to cancer research, but it’s so hard to tell where that money goes. So I left, walked back to the parking garage, walked up the stairs to the fourth floor (#cooldown), and got in my car. I made a quick stop at Starbucks for an eggnog latte, something I don’t usually drink because it has one bazillion calories. The only danger to getting it after the race was it might destroy my stomach with its richness. It didn’t, it was delicious, and I probably won’t have another one this season.
I am not sure if I would run this race again, but only because there are so many other races that go on parts of this same course (e.g. Goldy’s Run, Hot Dash, TCM). It’s easy to get sick of, especially because of the hills. So I don’t know if I’ll ever make it a goal race, but it’s nice to have it there at the end of the year as one last longer distance race option.
I’m pretty excited to get a PR, have an overall great race, finally be healthy, and put myself in good standing toward meeting one of my big goals for the year (beating last year’s mileage – it’s gonna be tight). I think I still want to run a 5K in December just to try one more time for a PR, since I feel so speedy now.