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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Race Recap: Autumn Blast Half

I'm linking up with Hoho Runs and MissSippiPiddlin to recap my latest race. The Autumn Blast Half Marathon took place Saturday, October 15 at 8:00am in South Lebanon, Ohio.

Pre race
Proud of my tiger gloves
Alex and I went down the night before and met our friend Angie at our shared hotel. It was a spacious 2 bedroom 2 bath suite with a kitchen, so we made a big pasta dinner with salad and watched HGTV until it was time to go to bed. Once I finally fell asleep after midnight I got some restful sleep (no dreams about running or failed alarm clocks!). Wake up came quickly (5:50am), but everything went like clockwork and before I knew it we were on the road. 

As mentioned in previous posts, the race was moved due to construction. The new start/finish was in a park that left a lot to be desired compared to Loveland's charming downtown. Regardless of the location change, the race was still well organized and had a good turnout.

We picked up our bibs and timing chips, then went to the bathroom and stood around as the sun rose. It was chilly, but not cold (low 50s and 78% humidity). I'm so used to 30s and 40s for this weekend and the warmer temps threw me off a bit. The race was delayed a few minutes because of the bathroom lines, but soon we were lining up. At the last minute I decided not to use my headphones (they were "strongly discouraged") so I was scrambling to wrap them up and hand them off to Alex when the race began. I never heard the start!

I planned to start slow, make it through the hill(s), then re-assess my race goals after the downhill. I don't really remember mile 1 besides turning to see a hill right off the bat. When that was finished I concentrated on keeping an easy pace. The big hill came at 1.9 and even though it was over by 2.5, it was steep and knocked me out. My legs were super tired, but I didn't stop to walk and even passed some people. We coasted along the top of the hill for a bit, then it was time to come down. There was a gorgeous view from the top (cows, hills, fall color) and I decided to speed up on the downhill to make up for my slower mile 1 and 2.
Miles 1-3: 9:25, 9:17, 8:57

This is a screencap from Google street view at the top of the hill. It was pretty.

Miles 4 and 5 were nerve-wracking: the streets were not closed to traffic. Normally this isn't an issue, or at least runners are encouraged to stick to the shoulder. However, there wasn't a shoulder and we were taking up the entire right lane, so cars would speed around us in the left lane. At first I thought there must be a flagger directing traffic because folks were driving around us in no passing zones, but then oncoming traffic came. At one point I was running with a car directly behind me, waiting for oncoming traffic to pass. I was not wild about this section and very thankful when we crossed the river and made our way onto the bike path. I ate my first gel around mile 4.5, but I was already starting to feel weird. Definitely tired and a little weak.
Miles 4-5: 8:57, 9:11

This part was nice because we began a short out and back segment and could see the race leaders. It was starting to get tough. Looking back, I probably should have slowed down a bit, but I really wanted to make it to the turn around at 7 and keep banking time. When I got to the turn around I tried to keep myself motivated by running until I saw Angie. Along the way, a guy came up behind me and said, "I've been trying to catch you this whole time!" Instead of saying something nice, I was in such a state of exhaustion I said, "oh no! Well now you're going to pass me!" I quickly added, "but that's really cool!" before he passed. Ha! I saw Angie - she looked great - and said something about feeling terrible, then kept on trucking... until the mile marker at 8. All of the sudden I started to feel terrible and could not keep running, so I walked!
Miles 6-8: 9:03, 8:53, 9:08

Map and elevation
I texted Alex as soon as I started walking... then started to run again. I decided to run til mile 9 and was trying really hard to split the race into chunks (which normally works), but I was defeated. I wish I would have had my headphones. I don't know if the distraction would have helped, but as soon as I started walking, I didn't want to stop! My walk breaks were very short, but they did their mental damage. I ate my gel during one of my two mile 9 walk breaks.
Mile 9: 9:55

Just after that mile another weird thing happened: a group of us (4 ladies) approached a road crossing with a policeman. A truck was coming through and I think we all assumed he'd stop the traffic after the truck, but he didn't. He made us stop! What!? I've never experienced this in a race. He said, "Sorry. I know you all hate stopping." and that was it. It didn't last too long, but 3 vehicles went through before we were allowed to continue. Boo.

I took this while walking. See? Lovely!
After the police stop I was able to regain some mojo and run the rest of the mile. I decided during that mile that I'd run the rest of the race, even if it was super slow. I was also trying to calculate my finish time, but it seemed ridiculous: I was at 1:32 at mile 10 -- not very far off sub-2 pace. No way. I calculated a finish time with a slow-ish final 3.1 and I knew I'd be under 2:05 even with my difficulties. On a normal day I think this would have motivated me to keep running and stick with it, but I was done both mentally and physically.

I walked again at 10.4 and texted Alex. My stomach was cramping and I wondered if eating 2 gels was to blame, but I also felt dizzy and little lightheaded which usually indicates I should eat more. I was pretty defeated and tried to go through all of my mantras. Nothing stuck. I just wanted to be finished. I even found myself thinking, "I'm so glad this season is over. I don't want to run 13.1 again for a long time." My breaks didn't last longer than a minute, but between mile 10 and the end I walked 5 times. I kept looking at my watch during this section in disbelief: I was still going to finish under 2:05! I can't believe I walked during mile 12, but when we emerged from tree cover into full sun, my stomach pains worsened and I was taking loud, ragged breaths. I took one final walk break at 12.5 to concentrating on my breathing and told myself to suck it up and finish. I was embarrassed to walk in front of the other runners (there was another out and back from 11.7 to 12.7), but even those feelings barely convinced me to run.

My last run from 12.5 to the end included some encouragement from volunteers and one final hill over a bridge. As I came into the park Alex was cheering for me and when I turned the corner to the finish I was so shocked to see 2:01 on the official race clock.
Miles 10-13: 9:10, 9:38, 9:35, 9:56

Running in & posing at the finish line
Post Race + Real Pain
I collected my medal and got my timing chip chopped off, then went to find Alex. He was so supportive! From mile 8 to the end he sent nice texts as I updated him on my progress. We waited a bit for Angie (who had a 4 minute PR of 2:14!!), got some snacks (I ate more than usual), and hung around for a while before we went back to the hotel to clean up.

After checking out of the hotel, we went to a local brewery (MadTree) and my stomach still felt terrible. We ate pizza and shared a flight. I was in good spirits, but still felt gross. If I'm honest, the pain felt like lady cramps, and they ended up lasting the entire day and into Sunday. I truly thought I was imagining the pain during the race, but I guess it was real. Looking back, I remember my stomach hurting a ton on Friday at work, but I attributed it to nerves at the time.

Final Stats and Thoughts 
I won't lie: this race felt like an epic meltdown. I was not "in it to win it" mentally. I convinced myself the pain was all in my head and that I was a big failure who needed to take a break from distance running. But man, I cannot believe I finished in 2:01 with all the stuff I was going through. Of course I'm completely (and irrationally) bummed I didn't get a sub-2.

Official Time: 2:01:02
Overall: 96 / 239 (40%) - walkers are sorted into a separate division
Gender: 32 / 121 (26%)
Age Group: 6 / 15 (40%)
Mile Splits: 9:25, 9:17, 8:57, 8:57, 9:11, 9:03, 8:53, 9:08, 9:55, 9:10, 9:38, 9:35, 9:56

Here we are again!
Misc Thoughts:
  • Somehow this was still my 2nd fastest 13.1. WHAT?!
  • I didn't really love the new location. The course was gorgeous, but the start/finish wasn't great compared to the last two years. Alex didn't have anywhere to hang out and ended up driving to a Starbucks to kill time. If I lived in Cincinnati I would be back in a heartbeat. However, the 90 minute drive and hotel makes it a "destination." If they move it back to Loveland I'll probably return. 
  • I wish I would have carried my headphones. My podcasts could have saved me. 
  • I didn't have a game plan and that didn't work. 
  • If I'm honest, I'm thinking about signing up for a "redemption race" in early November. I mean, I'm already in decent shape... What's three more weeks? 
Up Next: Bridge to Bridge 5k next Saturday. We're going to a wedding in Alex's hometown and there's a (flat) 5k the same weekend. Lucky coincidence?

Have you ever had a race meltdown that didn't affect your time that much?
How do you get over a mid-race meltdown?
Do you believe in redemption races? 


  1. Congrats on the race. Even though you had a minor set back, you still pushed through and finished strong. You got your 2nd fastest half! Something to be proud of. I contemplate running with headphones at some races, but always opt for them and am happy I do. They have saved me a bunch of times.

    1. Thank you! I'm glad I finished strong, but of course wish there was one less walk break. ;) Next time I'll take the headphones: just in case!

  2. I can't help but smile just when we think everything is going to hell in a hand basket, we find out we were so dang close to a PR!
    I'm glad you pushed through and it rewarded you for it! Enjoy your wedding weekend and yes do the 5k, then you can eat all the wedding cake guilt free :)

    1. Thank you! The 5k was fun and we got apple cider donuts. ;)

  3. Too bad about the traffic troubles. Congrats on your finish! 2nd fastest is great!

  4. I know you were ecstatic to see the clock after struggling toward the end! Awesome finish time! I've been stopped by a cop. I think I yelled "Are you kidding me? I'm trying to race here!" Didn't help. I've also run a few open to traffic, which can be downright scary. Oh, and meltdowns? At my last race! LOL. I love the medal. Thanks for linking, Elizabeth!

    1. This medal was so cute! They do a nice job with the leaf theme every year.


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