|The most beautiful medal in the world. ;)|
I signed up for this race because of the medal. Silly, I know. I saw it during the March Madness medal competition on Run the Bluegrass's Facebook page and fell in love. Originally, I couldn't do the race because packet pickup only went til 7pm Friday (lame for out-of-towners with 9 to 5 jobs), but I was talked into it via twitter. Alex was able to get off of work early and I found a cheap hotel. All together, I think this "destination" race set me back about $100. Maybe $115 with the Chipotle dinner. Not too bad.
I've mentioned this a few times, but I'm not a fan of expos and bigger races. I generally buy my running stuff at Fleet Feet or online – usually on sale – and I don't believe in new stuff on race day, so I don't care about expo swag. The Medina expo was filled with friendly folks and there were a few tables of things I actually use and wanted to talk about! Case in point: Sweat X detergent. I'd just used a sample pack and it worked really well but I wasn't sure if I wanted to buy an entire bottle. The table attendant gave me three packs to try! (I'm way more excited than I should be.) I was also able to try several flavors of Nuun and see some metal medal racks in person.
|Swag laying on the hotel bed. I got a votive candle, too!|
We arrived around 6am and parking was a breeze. I took advantage of nearby porta-potties and also had time to use the brand new public restrooms across the public square. Medina is cute. I've been watching a lot of Gilmore Girls recently and it has that small town charm, complete with a central gazebo and a diner (or two). Alex took some photos with me, then I went to line up and wait for my Garmin to connect.
I knew this course would be tough for me so I tried to keep my goals realistic. I made a mental time table of mile goals (fast at the beginning, slow during the steady inclines from mile 5.5 to 12.5), but ultimately I wanted to finish faster than my Cap City snot disaster (2:22). I knew I wouldn't break my PR, but I thought I might be able to finish between 2:15 and 2:20, which is better than my very first half a year ago. Knowing how goofy pacers can be at the beginning, I lined up between 2:00 and 2:10.
I was right: the pacers were goofy. They should have been running a 9:10 pace, but instead my first mile was 9:18 and they were nowhere in sight. Awesome. Some older dudes nearby had an entertaining conversation about pacers. Apparently a few pacers relayed their plan at the expo: run the first few miles quickly then slow way down on the hills. The guys were in agreement: that's a stupid plan for a pacer. Shouldn't they run a consistent pace and let racers decide their own strategy?
The first few miles were fine, as always. I even saw a deer around mile 2! It was really humid and warm and I was already sweating buckets, but thankfully the sky was overcast. The entire course had so many turns and wound through several neighborhoods with motivational quotes written on the asphalt in chalk. That was a nice touch. (But I swear there was one around mile 10 or 11 that said, "You are NOT near the end!" – maybe it said "NOW" – and I know there was one after that that read, "This was a mistake!" It's really sad after all of the nice ones that those are the ones I remember!!)
|Lots of turning|
I knew I was going to run in the 9s for the first five miles then take it back to 10 when we hit the hills. Around mile 3 a woman asked if she could run with me. She started chatting and soon I was talking and running – not something I do during a race. It made the next two or three miles go so much faster mentally, but as soon as we started to hit a slight incline I knew I couldn't do it anymore. I tried to be polite, but eventually said I couldn't talk and keep the pace. It was her first half and she was doing so well maintaining a conversation and running a great pace. She stopped around mile 6 for a bathroom break, warning me that a big hill was coming up (she was from Medina). I told her she'd probably catch up with me (she did. And she started to run with me again, but I was honest and told her to go on.) So, while I made a new friend, I think I may have used a bit more energy than I'd expected and miles 3 thru 6 were just a touch slower than intended. But, whatever. I was still upright and doing better than Cap City.
At mile 6 I ran over a timing strip and saw I was at about 58 minutes. I was feeling good until I crossed the street, turned right, and saw a gigantic hill. Now, this hill was only a half mile and maybe a 60 foot incline, but you have to remember: Columbus has, like, four semi-impressive hills and I trained on all of them! The tallest one is 80 ft. (Thank goodness I did hill training ... three times.) So many people walked up the hill, and while it felt cool passing them at snail's pace, I totally walked as soon as we turned the corner into a neighborhood. I only allowed myself a tenth of a mile break as I ate a gel, but I think this was where the 2:10 pace group passed me. Meh.
|I studied this elevation chart before the race.|
After the hill and the walk break my legs felt like Jello. Even though I was tired, I didn't feel nearly as awful as I did at Cap City. This course was really demanding, but I knew I could finish.
The rest of the course wound through other neighborhoods, all at the same steady incline. There were plenty of chalk quotes, water stops, and crowd support. I walked again at 9, two times during mile 10, and one last time during 11. I'd like to say I didn't walk, but I needed it. At one point the humid air got to me and I had to catch my breath. But overall, I didn't feel defeated; just challenged. There were about 10 of us spread out over a tenth of a mile who walked on and off so I didn't feel too mopey about it. They all looked fit and the hills were tough for them, too.
|It felt like a fast finish, but it wasn't really.|
Post Race and More Swag
As I crossed the line I was loaded down with so many freebies: water, banana, apple, Subway sub, chocolate milk (much needed), chips, and a granola bar. Alex found me as I ran over to the grass to lay down. I was beat! (But honestly, I recovered very quickly. There was still gas in the tank!) We talked about the race and he congratulated me on my time. After sitting for a while we decided to walk around and I met up with my new running friend and her daughter. (She finished in 2:05 for her first half! Imagine if she ran a flat course!) We then wandered over to the after party for my free drink and pizza. Instead of beer, I chose red wine and the woman poured me almost three glasses worth. (Somehow I didn't get drunk.) Alex and I hung around a little longer, cheered on some of the final runners, and eventually headed back to our hotel for late check out.
|Mmmm... free food.|
My time was nowhere near a PR, but this is the first half marathon where I've felt like I really earned my medal. It was tough. It was so humid and hilly, plus it felt like were were always turning a corner, but I really enjoyed the race – even as I wished for it to end.
Final Time: 2:18:00
Overall: 488/885 (55%)
Gender: 241/537 (45%)
Divison: 36/73 (49%)
Overall, my stats are pretty good considering my weird training schedule. I wish I'd been healthy at Cap City to see what I could do on a flat course, but honestly I think my training in May was more consistent and challenging (with the extra hill training) than normal. If it weren't so hot in June I'd try to find a flat half to attempt a PR. As it stands, it'll have to wait for October! (Oh man, can I wait that long? And wasn't I just talking about needing a break from running? Ha!)
Medina is a cute town and the race was well organized and had tons of crowd support. I would recommend this race to anyone. I'm tempted to sign up again, but wowee it was tough. I may stick to flat courses for a while (/forever). ;)
Up Next: A free 5k for Alex's work (City of Columbus). Nothing else on the calendar until August!