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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Cap City Half Marathon Recap

This race recap is months in the making. Better late than never, but unfortunately I've probably forgotten some of my stronger feelings from the day.

The Cap City Half Marathon took place on Saturday, May 3, 2014 in Columbus, Ohio. [The course.]

Setting the scene:
This was my first half and my first time running 13.1 miles. My training plan had me up to 12 miles a few weeks before, but that was my distance PR until race day. About six months before the race, I'd only run 5 miles!

My running group met up before the race, so I was able to see a lot of friendly faces and get pumped up. It was hard for me to eat my breakfast (my normal pre-run toast and peanut butter), but I forced it down and took a few bathroom breaks before we walked to the starting line. I did my long runs at an 11 minute pace with a social group, so race day brought a new challenge: pacing myself.

Some of my Winter 2014 running buddies
I'm a pretty terrible self-pacer. I tend to run 9-9:30 miles when I'm running anything under 5 miles during the week. This is not a sustainable pace for me across a long distance. Luckily, I realized that. According to my running group, on race day you should run 1-1:30 faster than your Saturday long run pace. That would be about 9:30-10:00/mile. I knew I wasn't ready for that, so I chose to stick with the 10:20/mile group and aim for a 2:15 finish.

I did really well for the first 6 miles. In fact, I got a bit ahead of the pace group miles 1-6 (whoops) and my 5 mile time was 51:37. Not a good plan, but at least they were just a bit behind me. Miles 5-8 made up a long straightaway down High Street (with a bit of a hill). I knew Alex would be around mile 8 to cheer me on, so when it started to get really tough around mile 7, I kept thinking about seeing him at mile 8! Coincidentally, this is about the time the 10:20 pace group passed me.

Mile 8, still smiling!
As I passed Alex around mile 8 he whooped and hollered and took a few photos as I waved. I was so happy to see him! About a mile before, the quarter marathon folks had rejoined the half course and I found myself dodging and weaving around some walkers. I also found myself very jealous that they were about to split off again and head for the finish!

When I got closer to mile 9 it dawned on me that I've NEVER run farther than 5 or 6 miles on my own. Any distance PR was with my running group... I was starting to get lonely and I knew I still had 4 miles to go. (Longest 4 miles of my life!)

Crossing the highway and heading into German Village was a bit of a downer. I was beat. I saw a guy from the running group a few people ahead of me. We didn't know one another so I didn't feel comfortable saying hi (if I could talk), but I aimed to keep him in my sights. The weather shifted and it started to sprinkle. I was so thankful for the cool down, but it was still getting harder and harder. I hadn't memorized the map for miles 9-13.1. I had no idea we were going so far south! It started to dawn on me how much farther I had to run.

The slow down:
I saw a water stop on the horizon as we came down 3rd Street. I didn't need it as I had my own bottle (though my reserves were running low), but I kept hearing some running group advice in the back of my mind: "walk the water stops." Well, I walked that water stop and it was a MISTAKE. I lost my mojo. Looking back, I wish I'd kept running, even if it was hella-slow. At least I'd keep my rhythm. Going around Schiller Park was one of the longest, most terrible run/walks of my life (dramatic!). I forced myself to run, but I also allowed myself to stop and walk for 30 seconds to a minute every so often. Again, big mistake!

Finish line. Happy to be done.
Once we turned the corner to Front Street I wanted to dieeeeee. I knew I still had 2 miles! Normally I can break a run down into manageable mental chunks, but by this point I wanted to be finished. I think I ran most of this stretch, but there may have been a tiny walk. I noticed a lot of fellow runners having a tough time, too. That actually helped. I knew I'd see Alex again on reentry into downtown (around mile 11.5) so I tried to focus on running for him. This time, I didn't smile as much and instead yelled, "this sucks!" or something similar. But he cheered me on and made me run for a while longer than I would have if I was out there alone.

Another challenging stretch was on the horizon. We turned left to cross a windy bridge instead of going straight into the finish. I could hear the finish line!! I was so close, yet had another mile and a half to run!!! And did I mention the race photographer was parked on the bridge? Those photos were pretty bad! (In fact, my official finish line photos were terrible. I am so happy Alex took nice ones.)

The last mile was hard, but maybe better than miles 10-12. I walked another water stop (I was pretty much out of water by then), but I forced myself to run when I knew there was only a half mile to go. And on the final straightaway I was able to pick up the pace and SMILE. Alex yelled for me again and it really helped me cross the finish line with a spring in my step.

Post race blues:   
After crossing the finish I was corralled into the receiving line. My legs were tired and feet were sore. I was hungry (I ate energy chews along the way), but my stomach felt kind of gross. I met up with a woman from my running group. We ran near each other from miles 2-6, but she got ahead of me. She admitted to slowing down a lot at the end and having a tough day. I'd asked her before how many half marathons she'd run and there'd been so many she couldn't keep track! It was nice to see I wasn't the only one struggling, but also made me realize distance running never gets EASY -- some races are great, and others are tough. It depends on the day.

#1 Running buddy
I picked up all the freebies I could handle (and my medal) and headed to my designated meeting spot to find Alex. It started to drizzle and get very cold (now that I wasn't moving). The crowd was epic and it took me a while to find the meeting spot. Alex had my extra clothes and my phone. I didn't have anything except some water and snacks. All of the sudden I felt very lonely and very nauseous. I sat on the grass and kept looking for Alex. I was dead. I think I even saw spots at one point. I needed to refuel but I didn't feel like eating! (I did it anyway.)

It felt like a million years before Alex showed up. Apparently he couldn't get across the finish line and over to the park. He had to take some convoluted path that took him through the statehouse and a giant crowd. When I finally saw him I was weepy: "Where were youuuuu???" At that point I would have NEVER signed up for another half. Probably after mile 10 I kept thinking "this sucks! Why am I doing this?"

After changing my clothes, my closest running buddy appeared. She was so happy and cheerful and brought my spirits up immediately. We posed for photos, then Alex and I headed off for my free sparkling wine, beer, and chocolate milk. I've had a post 5K beer before, but post half marathon drinking is crazy. I'm not sure how people had the stomach power to drink... but the chocolate milk was amazing.
Who can drink after a long run?!

At home and beyond:
I don't remember much about the rest of the weekend. I think I sat around after my shower. I don't think I took a bath.... Maybe I should have. I don't remember if I napped. I do remember being sore through Monday, but it wasn't unbearable. My toes were probably more sore than my legs. I do remember that even with my 1300 calorie deficiency, I wasn't very hungry after the race. We didn't go out to gorge on a large feast like I saw some facebook friends do. Maybe next time!

Final time:
Oh yeah! You probably want to know my time. I get so disheartened when I read a race recap and the blogger doesn't post their time OR it's something insane like, "Gosh, this was the hardest day of my life. I ran so slow. My final time was 1:35:45. I wish it was faster." BARF.

My time was 2:19:56. I aimed for 2:15, but with my issues at the end, 5 minutes slower than my goal isn't too shabby! I really wish I could do a sub-2, but that's not realistic for a loooong time.

I ran 10:20 pace until mile 9. I WISH I had used my phone and Map My Run. I thought it would freak me out to know my times, but I knew my rough time anyway since there was a timer at every mile marker. I wonder if having MMR would have kept me motivated in those last miles. I'd be curious to see how much I slowed down from 9-13.1 because my final pace was 10:40.

Things I've learned:
  1. For me, walking the water stops is not a good option. MAYBE if I had started walking them near beginning. I don't know. 
  2. I should use Map My Run. If only to learn more about my slow downs.
  3. Next time I'm going to try the 10:20 pace again. I'm a bit worried because it will be August and HOT. 
  4. Try not to walk because I KNOW I can run 12 miles at an 11 minute pace. (I guess we'll see how my 10 mile race this weekend goes.) 
  5. Get a larger water bottle for summer (I did). 
  6. Bring a change of clothes, flip flops, a towel, and Gatorade for after.
  7. I should really practice more.... I tend to leave off one run per week and I don't tackle hills so even teeny tiny hills are tough for me. I'm just about the laziest moderately-paced middle-distance runner there is.
Next up:
August 3, 2014: Scioto Miles 10 miler
August 24, 2014: Emerald City Half (This will probably suck because my training schedule is shorter and I took off May and most of June.)
Fall: TBD. Looking into a trail run (5K or 10K depending on my agility) and another half. Not interested in the Columbus Half in October, so looking for alternatives.

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