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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Race Recap: Loveland Half Marathon

This is a stock photo, but I swear the trail looked like this. 
The Loveland Half Marathon took place Sunday, October 19, 2014 at 8:00am. [The course]

Last week was the worst. (Well, the worst for minor issues that aren't important. Long story coming. Brace yourself.) I had a work trip to Dallas Tuesday thru Thursday. Unfortunately, we didn't have our normal direct flights and besides adding 2-3 hours each way, our homebound connecting flight through Charlotte was cancelled at 10pm Thursday. An airline worker clicked and clacked away to get us hotel rooms and new flights, so we grabbed a shuttle to the hotel and ate mac and cheese pizza with beer for dinner. The next day (Friday) we did a little walking tour of the area and ended up at a local brewery. While that was lovely, we wanted to be home. And of course, when we got to the airport for our rescheduled flight the line for security was ridiculous AND (!!) our boarding passes didn't work at the gate. We had to wait for everyone else to board and only two out of our group of three were able to go home. I got bumped up to first class, but in that seat where you can't keep your bags with you.

Saturday I spent 8 (fun) hours celebrating and watching OSU football (from the highest, coldest, and wettest seat in the stadium) only to have to ride an hour and a half to Cincinnati that night to check into another hotel in preparation for the race. Over five days I'd spent four nights in three different hotels away from my dog and bed, which made me VERY grouchy. In fact, I yelled at Alex for who knows what and it led to a mild freak out in which I said the race could one of two ways: great because I would finally be alone without any responsibilities or terrible as I would die on the trail from stress.

Guess what? It went really well!

Stylish lady. Spoiler alert: this is after.
Checking in + what I wore 
The race was advertised as "no frills" and it cost $38 with a Labor Day coupon code (!!!). I was a little worried it would feel disorganized based on Facebook comments from past races. I did not have any issues before, during, or after the race. My only complaint is super minor: I wish we had race-specific bibs. Instead, our bibs advertised their next race, the Undead 5k. While I'm sure that race is lovely, when you run a half marathon you want to be rewarded with as much crap that says 13.1 as possible. ;)

We got there around 6:30am. I was freaking out because I wanted to be there earlier, but it was fine. We found a killer parking spot steps from the finish line and were able to keep warm in the car after I picked up my bib and timing chip. The volunteers were mostly high schoolers and they were so cheerful for that early in the morning.

It was really cold: about 40 degrees. I'm not quite ready for chilly fall weather (let alone winter-like temperatures) so I layered up a bit more than necessary, but it worked out in the end. I wore gloves, capris, a tank top, a long sleeve shirt, and a free breast cancer awareness buff (Yowie) I got at the OSU game. I usually adhere to "nothing new on race day" but I wore the buff throughout the game, so I figured it was safe. In the end, I removed my gloves around mile 2 or 3 and tucked them into my waistband and I rolled up my sleeves after mile 5, but overall I chose a good ensemble. This outfit generator helped me a lot last winter.

The beginning
The start of the race went well considering there were no pace corrals and a fairly large crowd. I'm assuming the race director was the one giving us instructions with a bullhorn. Regardless, Bullhorn Guy did a great job getting everyone to line up by speed and warning us of the few narrow points along the course.

Once we set off I spotted people going at a moderate pace and latched on. I started Map My Run before crossing the timer strip, but I didn't switch on my podcasts as I normally do. Here's a pet peeve of mine: people running a race with music and no headphones. Who wants to hear your crappy music? (Hint: I don't.)

The first few miles of this course were HILLY. I suppose if you're from Cincinnati or Colorado these hills would seem small, but as I've mentioned before, my area of Columbus is pretty flat so any hill –no matter how small– is a workout. So, I'm truckin' along behind these moderately paced runners and my first mile is 10:22. Not bad - that would keep me ahead of my Cap City finish, or right on target if I need to walk later. But you know what? Deep down I felt like I could go faster. And on hills, if I amped myself up and chugged I felt better than keeping slow and steady. So, I suppose I started to run a little faster. It wasn't easy, but I didn't feel like dying.

About mile 1.5 some guy was at the top of a hill and said "you're done with the big ones! It's flat from here out!" At mile 2 a woman said something similar (after we'd finished a hill and could see another on the horizon.) While they were obviously a bunch of liars, I appreciated the sentiment. Around mile 3 there was a steep downhill. I felt like I was sprinting (with control). I ended up passing some people and set into the stride I would (somehow) maintain for the rest of the race.

Before I signed up for the half, I mapped the elevation so I knew it would even out around mile 5. After the steep downhill at 3, Map My Run kept telling me my splits were under 10 min/mile. There was a little voice inside that thought maybe I couldn't maintain that pace, but another voice won out:  it was the "trust your body" / "run what you feel" voice. I read a blog post last year from a woman who said when she stopped using GPS and started listening to her body, she started getting PRs. Obviously, I was feeling good, so I wanted to roll with it.

The middle to the end
Honestly, I can't tell you to much about this race. I didn't have my normal inner turmoil or desire to walk. Yeah, if someone said, "Hey we're not timing you and Map My Run stopped working and this isn't a race anymore" I probably would have walked, but as soon as I hit the bike trail at mile 5 and realized how fast I was going (relative to previous half marathons) and how good I felt (relative to every run ever) I knew I would try to run the whole thing, no matter what.

Turning onto the bike path was cool because it was a straight shot and very pretty. Fall colors abound and a river on the side made for a scenic vista. Earlier that morning I was pretty bummed I wasn't at the Columbus Marathon with everyone else. By mile 2 I knew I'd made the right decision. I prefer nature and quiet to asphalt and crowds.

Anyway, the leaders had already made it to the turnaround and were running by. They were roughly four miles ahead. The first woman was around 8th place and got a lot of cheers from the runners around me. Everyone was doing a great job staying two wide and it reminded me of Saturday training runs. Mentally, I pretended we were training and stayed with the group. I used bursts of energy to pass a few times and was constantly surprised every time my mile pace was announced. I was maintaining about a 9:45 pace! And somewhere along that straightaway, before the turn at mile 7, I thought, "if I keep this up, I can get a PR. If I decide to walk I will always wonder what could have been. This is the best I've felt and I have to keep it up." (Only it sounded less like a Hallmark movie.)

I was breathing hard after mile 8. Normally I think, "Oh my God there are still 5 miles left" but on Sunday I changed that to "Five miles? I can do that!" And with every mile I thought about the remaining time in ten minute chunks. And, you know, running at a quicker pace made those miles go a heck of a lot faster. (duh)

I took this photo before mile 10. I was behind that guy for a while. (Thanks for setting a good pace, guy.)
At 11.75 I texted Alex to let him know I was getting close. Inside I was thinking about the remaining miles. I wasn't maxed out. I was tired and I'm sure I was a freaky-breather someone had to get away from, but I was truckin.' Alex texted back, "Wow! You're flying!"

The last half mile was strange because I could neither see nor hear the finish line. I kept looking at my phone and the tenths of a mile ticked up until we arrived at the trail end and I could see the arch over the finish line. I sped up and breathed even heavier, but I didn't quite sprint in. In fact, I was passed by another girl... but whatever. When I came towards the line I saw 2:09 on the clock and Alex off to the side whooping and I knew I'd done a great job!

Final [random] thoughts
I didn't listen to any music, audiobooks, or podcasts!

Near the end I wondered if I would run another half. I figured I would finish under 2:15 and possibly under 2:10, but could I do that again? Should I quit while I'm ahead? But... I RAN 13.1 miles! All of it! It helped that my 12 mile training run went so well. It was easy and I knew I could keep going. After finishing this half I also felt like I could keep running for at least a few more miles. Which makes me wonder, can I get even faster....? Could I break 2 hours (next year)? Before you ask, I have no desire to run a marathon.

Obviously it was a good day. Those don't come around often, so maybe having a craptastically stressful week helped?

Mile splits 
1 mi        10:22 min/mi
2 mi        10:29 min/mi
3 mi          9:45 min/mi
4 mi          9:39 min/mi
5 mi          9:37 min/mi
6 mi          9:48 min/mi
7 mi          9:39 min/mi
8 mi          9:47 min/mi
9 mi          9:32 min/mi
10 mi        9:52 min/mi
11 mi        9:40 min/mi
12 mi        9:41 min/mi
13 mi        9:39 min/mi
13.2 mi     8:19 min/mi

Final time: 2:08:52!
By comparison, my previous PR at Cap City was 2:19. Second goal of 2014 accomplished!

Overall: 247/463 (53%)
Females 30-39: 19/47 (40%) 

No longer grouchy and mean.
Up next
Hot Chocolate 15k on November 16 followed by the Powell Turkey Trot 4 Miler on Thanksgiving. My half marathon training is officially over until December, but I'll probably write up a nice training year summary instead of cramming it into this post.

See other race recaps here.

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