Monday, November 11, 2019

Race Report: Good Life Halfsy

Last weekend, I ran my 42nd half marathon in Lincoln, NE, four weeks after the Twin Cities Marathon. I signed up last spring planning for it to just be an easy fun run. As the weeks went by after Twin Cities, it became more and more apparent that I needed to take it super easy to recover properly from the race. The weekend prior to Good Life Halfsy I was mentally preparing for a DNF the following weekend. My left hip flexor and right knee had been bothering me, and I hadn't run longer than an hour (with walk breaks) since TCM. Gulp.

We drove to Lincoln after work Friday night so we didn't get in until late o'clock and went right to bed. The next morning we woke up, checked the temp and decided we didn't need to do a shake out run. Can you see how committed to a solid race performance I was?? We found brunch and a pitcher of mimosas and all was right with the world.

After brunch we made our way to the expo (walking, see above: mimosas).

There wasn't much we wanted to see or look at, I debating buying a stocking hat but didn't want to spend $20 on a reminder of a terrible race (spoiler alert: I regret not buying that hat, UGH). And I was super excited to see that Jeri from six months ago went ahead and purchased a pint glass that came with a free beer at the expo. Since I was planning to buy one as soon as I saw the beer station, I was pretty excited. Melissa was feeling like crap from her cold, so we found a comfy spot on the floor to park ourselves while I drank my beverage.

We met some new friends that saw my TCM finisher shirt and wanted to chat, and before too long we were back on a walking mission to find coffee. Perhaps the shake out run should be replaced with walking to get multiple dehydrating beverages? Will continue to conduct research and report back.

We made our way back to the hotel, Melissa napped and I worked on coaching stuff, and eventually it was time for dinner. Possibly the best pizza of my life, and the slowest service. Uff da.

And then it was off to bed, with a late alarm that felt even later due to the time change. Yes please!

Before the race, I told Melissa that I expected to be around 2:17 if I was feeling good, but would probably be closer to 2:23. My plan was to take it as an easy long run, knowing that was my best chance for completing the miles without feeling like total garbage. She had been sick leading up to the race, and I just wanted her to run with me, but I knew, even if she was sick, she wouldn't likely want to run an 11 minute pace. Luckily for me, it was perfect race weather. Mid-30s, light breeze, sun while we were standing around (17 minutes!!) for the race to start and clouds during the run. Of course I was in shorts and a tank, and that was perfect. I was chilly standing around waiting to start, and was starting to get warm the last 5k. That's ideal for me.

We started off and I was thankful to be running and warming up finally. I had my watch on HR to just monitor that I was maintaining an easier long run effort, shooting to keep it in the 130s as long as I could. I was surprised at how many rolling hills there were the first few miles. So many people had said that it was a gentle downhill course that I was surprised by the rollers, but there wasn't anything crazy. My heart rate would go up a bit and then settle back down. After the first mile dinged, I consciously slowed down, knowing that I wanted to keep things closer to the 11 minute mile mark.

1. 10:24
2. 10:38
3. 10:45
4. 10:43

When I race a half, I usually break it up into 5 mile 5 mile 5k segments. When the first five miles were done, I was surprised that I was feeling pretty good. I don't think I picked up the pace on purpose, perhaps this was a decent downhill stretch, but somehow I felt even better with a little swifter pace. Ok then. At the halfway point I was at 1:09, putting me at a 2:18 finishing time if I evenly split the race. FYI I never evenly split a race. It's either negative or a monster blow up positive split, but always nice to have a bit of a check in here. At mile 7 I calculated that if I could run the final 6.2 miles in a 10 minute pace, I could run the same time I did for the Sioux Falls half, 2:12, or maybe even faster.

5. 10:35
6. 10:19
7. 10:16

I felt good enough and knew that even if my body wasn't up for it, with about an hour left in the race, I couldn't die that hard, right? It was around this time that I noticed how springy my legs felt. Like maybe I was secretly wearing a pair of Vaporflys and they were catapulting me toward the finish line. Nope, just my regular New Balance 880s..... Why couldn't my legs feel like this for TCM??

I continued to run by effort, my watch was still only showing me HR and I would see my pace for each mile when it'd ding off, although I did miss a couple of those because I was just having fun pushing the pace and taking in my surroundings. I realized during the run, I don't run a whole lot of "new to me" races. So it was interesting keeping my eyes up to see where we were running.

8. 10:06
9. 9:25
10. 9:24

With a 5k to go, I really tried to turn up the heat, but I quickly learned it was already on high, so I focused on just continuing with the effort without fading. I took my second GU around mile 9 and hoped that give me the extra boost necessary to push me to the finish.

My heart rate was getting pretty high the last 4 miles, which makes sense because I had really picked up the pace. Usually when it hits the 170s my body and brain are like, holy shit, pull back. But for some reason it didn't feel terrible. I suspect the cooler temps had me handling it better than normal. Heat+high heart rate=death, quickly for Jerbear.

11. 9:32
12. 9:34

The final mile there was a pretty big climb and I vaguely remember Kristin telling me about this hill when she did it last year. I was committed to coming as close to 2:12 as I could so I powered up the hill, dodging walkers to the best of my ability. We got to the top of the hill and I took off like I was running the 200 meter dash. It was probably obnoxious to see, but I really wanted to finish strong and I knew I was going to be super close to being under 2:12.

13. 9:23
.12 :47 6:38 pace

I stopped my watch and chuckled, as this is the second time in the last year ish that I've had a dead 6 minute pace sprint to try to come in under some arbitrary time on the clock.

2:11:58 for a pace of 10:04.

Shortly after crossing the line I found Kristin and Melissa waiting for me and we got to take some pictures.


I had wanted to get my free beer after, but I started getting REALLY cold now that I had stopped moving and I knew Melissa would be turning blue before too long, so we took off.

After changing quickly we found a place to get tacos and margaritas, and then picked up some more coffee to keep me awake on the drive home. 

I love race weekends! Oh, for the record: I beat my SF half time by 9 seconds, but who's counting. :P


Monday, October 14, 2019

Race Report: Twin Cities Marathon 2019

The morning of the race, we woke up at 5:30 a.m. and I started eating my Picky Bar breakfast. I was really thirsty throughout the night, but avoided drinking when I'd wake up because I didn't want to have to pee constantly. I was pleasantly surprised at how well my stomach was. Maybe my focus on my stomach issues the last couple of weeks was paying off!!

We got on the bus to the start line at 6:30 a.m. and it took less than 15 minutes to get there, which led to 75 minutes of waiting around to the race start. I was pretty excited and was okay being there that early, but I think Melissa may have froze to death waiting.

I wore my sweats while we hung out and tossed them in my bag to be dropped after I found one final bathroom and did some glute activation drills. Melissa and I got in our starting corral and were ready to rock! She had planned to stay with me for a mile or so just to make sure she didn't go out too fast. I had gone back and forth about whether I should let my watch auto lap like normal or if I should manually do it at the mile markers. Last year it got pretty messed up within mile one, but I opted to leave it. When it beeped way before the mile marker, I opted to lap it again when I actually hit mile one so it'd beep closer to the mile markers going forward.

I was so hungry early on, while we were waiting to start I actually had hunger pangs. Yikes. I opted to take my first GU at mile 2 because of this, and was nervous if that would make my stomach feel not so great. I skipped the first few water stations since it was pretty cool to start, and found a glass shortly after I took my first GU. And just like last year, I developed a side stitch on my left side. Last year, this side stitch developed into a whole host of digestive issues, so I was hoping for the best, but fearing for the worst.

It was around this time that I ran into a fellow blogger, Heather who ran up to me and asked if I was Jeri and introduced herself on the run. I'd been following her training on Strava, and was really excited to see her out there. Her goal was quite a bit quicker than my A++ goal, so when she was ready to run ahead, I let her.

Melissa had left me shortly after mile 1 as I expected and I was running an easier pace than I had expected. While trying to find a rhythm, I saw my HS BFF Nikki and her family around mile 4 or 5! I knew they were planning to be out spectating, but I wasn't sure where they'd be on the course. At the same time they were cheering for me, Melissa came up behind me. Without thinking I blurted out, "What the hell are you doing behind me?!" She had stopped for a bathroom break and had caught up to me, she quickly went off again ahead.

1. 10:22
2. 10:01
3. 10:20
4. 10:08
5. 10:06

After the first few miles were slower than the 10:00 pace that I had planned for, I tried to speed up a little bit closer to goal pace. And my side stitch was just unrelenting. Usually when I get a side stitch it's because I'm dehydrated, so I decided to take 2 water cups at the next station. When I glanced at my HR at mile 8 I was a little startled at how high it was. I had expected my heart rate to be in the high 130s or low 140s based on the easier pace I was running, but it was 160. Uh.... usually my heart rate doesn't ever get above low 150s, even for a 3 hour run. Maybe it'll get in the high 150s if we're doing a cutdown with the last few in the 9's...... I tried not to panic, but let up off the gas at that point... I still have a long way to run! I decided that going forward, I would walk through the water stations to make sure I was taking in two full cups of water in hopes that would help with both my heart rate and this darn side stitch. I took my second GU and first salt tab at mile 7.

6. 10:11
7. 10:10
8. 10:10
9. 10:29
10. 10:27

I don't remember exactly where I saw Nikki and her family next but I did make a point to joke with them that I was able to pick them out of the spectating crowd by seeing Adam's grey goatee on the course. Hah. It was around this time that I realized that today's race was just going to be a finish 26.2 miles sort of day. I was calculating a finish time but knew if I was feeling this cruddy this early on in the race that it could be a very long day.

I switched my focus for the day to just having fun. Chatting up other runners. Commenting on people's signs. Giving high fives to any and all children along the course that wanted them. I took my third GU and second salt tab at mile 12. I also decided to throw the chance of digestive issues to the wind around this point and took a shot of pickle juice as my calves were starting to feel on the verge of cramps. It tasted heavenly.

11. 10:18
12. 10:48
13. 10:59

Around the halfway mark, I realized that I needed a walk break more regularly than every water stop, as the stations were still every other mile at this point. I gave myself .05 walk break at the top of every mile for quite a while, which led to two walk breaks for the miles that had water stations in them.

14. 11:02
15. 10:55
16. 11:39

This stretch of any marathon is hard. You've already ran for 16 miles and you STILL have another ten to go. I started taking walk breaks whenever my heart rate would feel really high and yucky, which was way too often. In hindsight, I should've brought enough salt tabs to take two every 45 minutes like I typically do for a long run. The cooler temps that were forecasted were basically negated by the intense sun as soon as it was up and in full force. I also should've brought an emergency GU. I usually take a GU about every 45 minutes on a run. I equated that to every 5 miles based on my goal pace for the race, but really ended up taking them every 55-66+ minutes as the race went on and my pace got even slower. But hey! I didn't have any stomach issues AT ALL so I'm going to celebrate that win!

17. 12:14
18. 12:20
19. 12:21

The fun hill started at mile 19 and I made myself run up most of them. Of course that meant I would have to walk when I got to the top so my heart didn't explode, but I could actually hear my running buddy Chris tsk tsk me for walking up the hills, so I tried really hard not to. Around this point I ran back into Heather, and could tell she was having a rougher day than she had hoped. I got a second wind, even though my splits don't really show it, and enjoyed running over the bridge toward St. Paul. Most importantly: THERE WAS A WOMAN WITH A PUG ON THE BRIDGE. I repeat: A WOMAN ON THE BRIDGE WITH A PUG. So obviously I stopped and asked if I could pet her pug. And then there was a whole team of guys cheering people on, so I hammed it up like crazy and let their cheers propel me for quite some time.

This right here... is a cooked Jerbear. Uff da.

And THEN, possibly the only reason I finished the race, honestly, there was a spectator handing out small gatorade bottles shortly before mile 20. I chugged half of it, and thought about tossing it, but decided carrying it, as annoying as that would be, would probably pay off. I drank the whole thing within a mile's time and that coupled with some shade and the quick math that if I didn't pick up the pace, I'd be looking at a marathon finish time that started with a 5, gave me the kick in the pants I needed.

20. 11:21
21. 12:36
22. 11:50

By kick in the pants, I should clarify that I didn't actually speed up at all, so maybe I should rephrase it to the will to live?? Or maybe I used up that kick in the pants busting out some choreography to N'Sync's Bye Bye Bye, I'M NOT SURE!

Hah, I knew I'd see Nikki around mile 24 so I just put one foot in front of the other to try to get to her. This is the part of the course where there are spectators lining up on both sides of the course, honestly that can be said for almost the entire course from start to finish, and so many people were cheering me on by name, since it was printed on my bib. I tried to thank everyone and I so appreciated the encouragement, because I really needed it.

Finally I saw Nikki, and said something along the lines of "You're coming with me, let's go!" So she joined me for a block or so, and I'm so glad I asked her to jump in. I was struggling so hard and told her that, and she told me I was amazing, and I was going to finish and she was proud of me and it was everything I needed to hear in that moment. I gave her a big hug, knowing that they weren't planning to go to the cluster F that is the finish (I did not blame them, and needed them at mile 24 much more!)  and continued on.

I love that our running form is in step 100%. Before running was my favorite thing ever, Nikki and I lived in our gym playing basketball, practicing so many hours of the off season. <3

23. 12:10
24. 12:13

The final two miles seemed to stretch on forever, and I swear my mental math was telling me I needed to run 10 minute miles to come in under 5 hours. Well apparently my brain was lacking some very important oxygen, because I did not run 10 minute miles to finish yet I came in just over 4:50. And I'm really good at math, not to brag.

Around this point, I saw a spectator holding a sign that said "YOUR MOM CALLED. SHE SAYS SHE'S REALLY PROUD OF YOU!" And I started crying, of course. The amount of voicemails I have saved on my phone from her saying this after races she couldn't attend is kind of obnoxious and I cherish them dearly.

I really tried to pick up the pace during the last 5k, and I probably did, but I kept having to stop to get my heart rate to come down. It was really annoying. I was leap frogging with lots of people and could've swore that they put the finishing stretch much further away than last year. :P Finally we approached the final stretch. The final mile of the race was probably the first full mile I had run with no walk breaks since mile 8 or 9. I didn't have my usual sprinter's kick, but I think I was just enough freaked out about how poorly my body was feeling, I didn't want to be that headline in the next day's paper about a runner collapsing just before the finish line. Is that too dark??

25. 11:27
26. 11:35
.5 4:32 (8:50 pace)

I finished my 9th marathon, 26.5 miles in 4:52:57 for a pace of 10:59.

Once I finished, I could not wait to get my shoes off. My feet hurt so bad. I think they were super swollen from whatever was going on with my hydration/electrolyte situation. I was so incredibly sore. I couldn't find Melissa and almost had a breakdown on the phone because I just wanted to sit down. Luckily I found her, and plopped myself down on the hill I would call home for what felt like hours after.

This little lady almost snagged another PR (just a minute shy) after a major medical set back late this summer. I'm so proud of her and can't wait to be there when she PRs by 20+ minutes next year. For real.

We attempted to recreate the post-Skedaddle race photo once I was back to standing again.

And I made Melissa take a picture of my face so I could see if it was as salty as it felt. The answer: yes.

And eventually meandered over to the beer tent to enjoy our post-race beers. My. mantra for the last 14 miles of the race was essentially, "this is a lot of work for a free beer" so it seemed only fitting to cash in on that hard earned beverage.

And then it was time for our walk back to the hotel. I love staying at the finish line. It's so convenient!

Some reflections:
  • I am so thrilled that my stomach felt good all of race morning and throughout the race. I was diligent about taking my daily probiotic for 10 days leading up to the race, and really cut out foods and beverages that tend to upset it--caffeine and Qdoba's quest, namely. I also cut out my night before beer as I've suspected that may have contributed to issues in the past.
  • I'm not sure if this is why I was so hungry at the start, but I didn't eat a ton the day before the race. Again, I think I was so nervous about upsetting my stomach that I may not have eaten enough to support the energy I needed for 26.2 miles! 
  • I don't think I was hydrated well enough going in to the race. I brought my water bottle to the race start, but barely drank anything. Because I had to use a portapotty at mile 2 in 2018, I think I was afraid that would happen again. I was really amped up on the forecasted cool temps and neglected hydration, especially with how thirsty I was when I woke up. I think next training cycle, I will experiment running with a hydration vest so I can take fluids whenever I need it and can tell how much I'm taking in throughout.
  •  Sometimes you just have a bad day. And that's okay. I really made the most of my experience trying to lift up others and just have fun. When I first started running marathons, if I had a day like this I would've had a 26.2 mile pity party for myself and had been devastated for months after. I'm bummed, but I do know that my training will come together on a most excellent day, and I'll earn a shiny new PR! Hopefully next fall! :)