Sunday, June 27, 2010

Race Report: Salute to the Troops Half Marathon

Race Goals
(written the night before race day)

The half marathon is my undisputed favorite race distance (with the 5k shortly behind it).  With this Saturday's race, I will have toed the line at 7 half marathons over the past 5 years.  In the past 9 months, I've ran 2 and PR'd in both of them (whoo!).  Without further adieu I would like to discuss race goals for Saturday.

Goal A:  Sub 1:50.  A year ago, I started training for the Sioux Falls Half Marathon for the 5th time in hopes of finally breaking 2 hours.  I ran a 1:54.  I think it'd be pretty neat-o to see a 1:4X next to my name.  To execute I would need to average 8:30 pace for the first 10 miles then 8:15 for the last 5k.  Totally doable.

Goal B:  PR (current PR is 1:53:09/8:39 pace).  Given the weather forecast for Saturday (low 90s, insane humidity, race start of 9AM--idiots), this may actually be the smarter goal for the day.  I would like start the race in the 8:40-8:45 range, and try to negative split the puppy.

Goal C:  Get through the race without being miserable.  Given the race conditions, this might not be possible. But I'm strong and healthy enough to wake up and do something I love. 

Subsequently, I also really want to shoot to win my age group and top 5 for females.  I've only done really big half marathons, so this has never been even a possibility, but it would be stellar to pull off this weekend.  Since I won the 5k they put on last year, it'd be nice to walk away with some hardware this time around as well. ;)  I may have checked out some race times, and there are a couple of girls who have done some higher 1:40 halfs, so it will definitely help to push me towards my goal times to stick with them.

Grab a cup of coffee and put your feet up, this might be long winded loves.  I woke up at 7am and started putzing around my apartment getting ready.  For some reason I had a great night of sleep and none of the normal insane nerves I typically suffer from.  When I woke up, I started to feel the nerves a little bit, but not for the race, instead for the race conditions.  The last I had checked the weather (before bed) it was supposed to be 71 at the start with 90% humidity.  Yes the humidity would suck, but at least it'd be cooler at the start.  Also, it said cloudy.  When I woke up to the sun streaming into my windows, I thought...uh oh.  The weather report had also changed it's tune:  mid 80s at the start with 80+% humidity.  FML.  I was still optimistic at this point, because everyone had to run in the same weather I was running in, so we were all at the same disadvantage.  Still wanted to PR.

I got to the race and quickly learned that no one there knew what was going on.  The people at the check in didn't know where the race started, where the turn around point was, where and how many water stations there would be, etc, etc.  Looking back, this is the point I should've dropped from the half to the 5k.  There was one port a potty.  I was sweating my ass off chilling in the sun waiting for the race to start.  They called us over to the start line AT 9am, and stood us there for 15-20 minutes.  The guy who was giving us the starting directions and doing the timing for the race (there was no chips) is actually the President of the area running club and is no way affiliated with this race.  I believe he was hired by the race to do the "hard part."  With his instructions, he warned us that we needed to be extremely careful because of the conditions and repeated several times to "not go for time today" and to try to enjoy the run.  As soon as he said this, I took it to heart and realized that even if I was in great shape, it could be unsafe to go for a ballsy time goal.

Finally when it couldn't get any hotter out (or so it seems) the race started.  I was all smiles taking off on half marathon #7.  I tried to take the pace at a conservative (or so I thought) 8:40 pace, thinking that maybe I could still eek out a 3 second PR.  I was sitting in about 7th place for women, and was happy with that, judging that 2-3 of them had started to fast and would die out.  My first mile came in at 8:44, and I was pretty happy with that.  It was here that I noticed that the course was already off for mileage.  I started with my foot maybe 6" behind the start line in the second row, and the 1 mile marker was at 1.1 according to my garmin.  I also noticed that the 12 mile marker was on the backside, so I thought maybe the mileage would even itself out somehow around the turn around.
1.  8:44

One mile in and I was soaked.  Literally spraying sweat as I ran, and I was thirsty.  I needed water NOW.  Since no one could divulge the great secret as to where and when the water stops would be or how many, I had started to freak out a little bit.  The part of the bike trail that we were running on is the absolute worst part of the trail.  Runners (and most cyclists) avoid that part of the trail like the plague.  It is ugly, there is no shade, there is no trees in the fields to block any wind, and it just plain sucks.  It is suuuuper flat.  So on a different day (or at a normal start time ie: 6am or 7am) it could've been blazin' fast, instead of just blazing hot.

The next few miles I slowed down a bit and thought about making a sub 2 hour finish my goal.  I trotted along passing a few people who were running out of gas, and prayed for water.  At one point I saw an orange flag in the distance and thought it HAD to be the water stop.  Until it started moving closer to me, and I realized it was a crazy restructured inclined bike with a flag on it.  FML.  I saw my buddy Jeff zoom by us as the first place guy for the 10K and cheered super loud for him.  And at mile 3 there was the glorious water stop.  They were handing out dixie cups.  One dixie cup.  To be exact.  I apologized and said, "Sorry, I need both."  And I really did feel bad because I knew there were people close behind me, and they didn't have a table full of water cups, they were filling them up (2 of them) individually and handing them out.  After two shots of water, I was back out there.

2.  9:06
3.  9:12

And straight in to the wind.  Since the course was just on a field with no tree in sight, the wind was intense.  Since the field of runners was so small, I had no one to tuck down in to.  In hindsight, I should've started to run walk with some sort of strategy here to save myself.  Scratch that, in hindsight I should've said Eff you and quit. :p  At mile 5 I started to lose my hearing which is always a sign to me that I'm getting ready to pass out, so I freaked out a bit and slowed down even more.  This is the first time in a race I thought about a DNF.  The conditions had become scary and without another water station in sight, I didn't know what would happen.  However, I also knew that there was no access to the bike trails from the roads, and there was no one from the race course on bikes to check on the runners to see if they were ok.  So if I did stop, I would just have to walk the 5 miles back to the start anyway.  So I trekked on.  At mile 6.1 there was water stop #2 and also the turnaround.  Um.... 6.1+6.1 does not = 13.1.  I stopped and took a GU, and chugged a lot of water.  And dumped some water on me.  And grabbed too more cups of water to go.  I probably stopped for at least 2-3 minutes but at this point time was no longer relevant and survival was.

4.  9:28
5.  9:52
6.  10:05

I started walking with the guy who was at the water stop with me as we were finishing up the last of our water.  After awhile I left him behind and continued on.  When I came up to the next mile marker (8) and my watch was at 7.1 I knew the course was going to be waaaaaay short.  I praised the Lord for their inability to do math, because I was barely surviving as it was.  However, if it had been a day with good weather, I would've been pissed if I had ran a rockin' race, and then have it be one whole mile short.  I would still count a race as a PR being .1 short or maaaybe even .2, but a whole mile would be another story.  I was doing a major walk run strategy for these next few miles, trying to allow myself only 30 seconds of walking whenever I felt like it (which was a lot because I was effin' zapped).

During one of the many walk breaks, a guy caught up to me and walked for a while and we had Bitch Fest 2010 about the race.  He was actually going for a 1:40 finish so I didn't feel nearly as bad anymore. We walked and jogged and walked and jogged together for awhile.  I was basically counting down to mile 9 and it's glorious H2O that I would consume.  We got there together and sucked down a lot of water.  Hung out there for probably 6 dixie cups of water.  I told the lady on a walky talky that she needed to get someone on a bike to be out on the course with a walky talky because I knew there were a lot of people at the back of the pack and a lot of non-runners out there who would surely be struggling much worse than me.  She never responded to me.  I'm not sure if she was ignoring me or what, but honestly, it's this kind of poor planning that equates to runners getting seriously sick or even dying during races.

7.  11:16 (water stop)
8.  10:20
9.  11:31

My new buddy and I continued on and picked up some more road kill along the way.  She was touting a camelbak and also looked like she was on the verge of death, so that was neat.  Go team road kill!  We walk ran together for awhile until I started to get a cramp so I told them that I would hopefully see them at the finish!

It was close to this time that I saw a florescent orange beacon in the distance.  I started waving my arms and got some energy to run.  JENN!!  She was spectating the race, and was going to watch our friends finish the 5k then the 10k, then she was going to walk/jog along the course to bring me water.  I caught up to her and immediately started walking.  Apparently I said something along the lines of, "My life is effing (not censored in real life) $h!t right now!"  Haha.  Sometimes I tell it like it is, you know?  I told her Goal A was to cross the finish line, and that I was extremely close to my PW which happened when I was 30 lbs. heavier and decided to run a 1/2 after doing maybe 5 training runs over a 3 month span.  Yikes.

Once I found my buddy to talk to, I walked a lot more.  I kind of forgot I was running a race, to be honest, so every once in awhile I'd be like, "Oh hey, maybe I should run for a little bit!"  She told me how our friends did (first in the 5k and first in the 10k! Way to go boys!)  And that everyone looked like trash.  She also said that when the 5k-ers got done there was no water for them.  WTF?  There was an overpass that we were supposed to run up on to get back on the road towards the finish, and of course they all look the same, and I was delirious, and they weren't marked (obviously) so I had to slow way down (meaning stop walking, ha) and ask the dude behind me which one we were to go up on.

Once we did I realized that my good friend Melissa and her two little boys were waiting at the top for me:  TEAM GREEN!!!  YAY.  I had started running moments before since I had realized we were 1/2 mile from the finish, and they all started running with me.  It was pretty stinkin' cute.  I crossed the finish line just shy of my PW (would've been a PW if it had been the full 1/2 distance) and grabbed an ice cold water and started to chug it (probably not the best idea, but it was just so fabulously cold!!!).  I immediately felt like I was going to vomit and tried to decide if I was classy enough to do that in public or not.  :p  I think I finished in 9th for women, but have yet to see the official results.

10.  13:58 (water stop)
11.  13:53
12.  13:45
.15  1:23 (9:26 pace)

12.15 miles in 2:12:39 (10:55 pace)
Just a reminder that my marathon pace was 9:37 for well over twice the distance. :p

I think I finished in 9th for women, but have yet to see the official results.

I was super annoyed, but so happy that my family and friends had come out to cheer me on, and hadn't given up on me when I came in 20+ minutes after I thought I would.  Of course a photo shoot had to occur.

My grandparents and Great Aunt Dee.

Jenn and I were getting ready to take a picture but I started to feel really sick.  Here she's asking me if I'm going to puke, and I'm trying to decide the answer to that question.  FUNNIEST PICTURE EVER.
Jenn & I since I'm not going to puke apparently.
Me and TEAM GREEN!  How stinking cute, yes?

Negatives of the race:
  • 9am start time. This is the time we should've been done.  Better yet, 6am start time because unless you're an idiot you know that it's effin' hot and humid in SoDak AT THE END OF JUNE.
  • 3 water stops.  You've gotta be kidding me. Most races have them every 1 1/2 - 2 and those are the races that start at an intelligent time.  Water stops could've been every mile and that wouldn't have been enough.
  • No one knew what was going on.  I couldn't find anyone to answer my questions about where the race started, what the course was, where the turn around, where and how many water stations where there.  I even sent an email to the "contact" person on the website at the start of the week with the same questions with no response back.
  • The race cost $40 for early bird and $50 for anyone registering late.  That is very expensive for this area.  The major one I do in the fall is only $35.  For $40 we got a crappy cotton t-shirt and water at the finish.  No timing chip, no nice shirt, no food at the finish, no sports drink at the finish.  I've yet to see what they spent their money on.
  • Since no one knew what the race route was, there was zero support on the course.  Not a single spectator to cheer us on.
  • The course was a mile short.  This was fine since I was on the verge of death anyway, but like I said, if I would've been on pace for a 1:50 finish and had to have a PR* distinction for the race I would've been pisssssssssed.
Positives of the race:  
  • I got a nice tan.
  • I got to catch up with Jenn on a leisurely 3 mile walk.
  • I am not sore in the slightest today so my legs should be 100% for my hometown 5k next weekend.
  • I lost so much water weight during the race I was able to see my hip bones for the first time since 2001. :p

My text message response to how the race went pretty much sums up the day, "It was a brutal mind fuck shit show."  Well put, Jerbear.

Editted to add:  Yes, I look sickly in these pics.  I am not making myself sick, that's how dehydrated I was.  Really scary, and I've been eating cookies for the past 24 hours to beef back up. ;) Seriously check out the pre and post photos.  Siiiiick.


Anonymous said...

Oh that sounds awful.

I give you major props for finishing given the disorganization and weather. Summer halfs are dicey in general (last one I ran well started at 6:30), and far worse with a 9am start. Its frustrating as all hell, but I suppose the best way to think of it is....a character building workout? Because you KNOW the next one won't feel so bad. ;p

J said...

That's a total bummer. Hey, but at least you came up with some good things- LOL about seeing your hip bones! I thought you were looking super lean in those pictures- didn't realize you were super dehydrated!!

Anonymous said...

sounds like a miserable race. I ran a half marathon in the fall that was similar - really disorganized and I remember as I was running the last few miles I kept thinking "I HATE RUNNING. I AM NEVER RUNNING AGAIN!!!!!" Of course that didn't happen.

Evolving Through Running said...

Sorry it was such a mess, but if you can make it through that race you can make it through just about anything.

I think your text message sums it up pretty nicely. Perhaps they can adopt that as their motto for next year.

Jamie said...

What horrible conditions and just as bad race support. Sorry it wasn't the race you were hoping for. And I hope the race directors learn from their mistakes today.

Love that text message!

..:danielle:.. said...

holy f**king s**t show, batman. seriously, how stupid do people have to be to allow that race to even occur.
im still laughing about the distance being short. get it together, haha. maybe they will use all the extra money to get an accurate milage recorder for next year.
nice job on finishing though. youre a tough cookie :)

and yes, you should have done the 5k. duh.

Heather said...

Yikes, what a horrible race. Glad you survived!

Julie said...

Hi Jeri,
I am so afraid that my next week's half marathon will be just as hot! I think you did great for how flipping hot that it was:) Way to hang tough and finish! I had to laugh at the "bitch fest"...I would of probably done the same thing:) Think of this race as character building and now you have a story for the hottest race ever! Nice work Jeri!

Susan said...

Sounds like the 2007 Chicago Marathon! 95 degrees! They ran out of water for people (those people were behind me...oops) and such. Glad you made it through okay...the pictures at the end made me laugh.

You'll get it next time!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on finishing your race!! There seemed to be a lot of negatives that you'd had to battle through, but you did such a great job on focusing on the positives. You're a great example and I'd love to be able to run my first half-marathon soon!!!

Anonymous said...

GOOD Lord - this definitely tops any "worst race organization" story I've heard, to date. I can't imagine planning a race with NO water at the finish (regardless of distance) and No water stops in the SUMMER?!! WTF?! Insane.

I do LOVE that Team Green pic - thats absolutely adorable. :) Great Jerbear-fans are everywhere! heh

baker said...

3 water stations! wow! that's crazy. nice work on 9th female! the 'almost puking' photo is very funny. it's been really hot here for racing too and I'm actually excited for Fall marathon season.

J said...

Does not sound like a fun race at all. It has been so hot lately that racing after 9am is really hard. Hope you are feeling ok and recovering well!

X-Country2 said...

How miserable. (Although the "are you going ot puke" picture is pretty funny. :o)

Way to tough it out!

Anonymous said...

Disorganized races are UGH! but way to tough it out!

Ps- love your outfit!!!!

Generation X (Slomohusky) said...

Wow! Sounds like the race from $&@$! Race Director needs to get a clue. Just because you (runner) sign a waiver in your registration - doesn't mean you give up ALL responsibilty to ensure a safe and healthy running event.

Great effort though Jer, and really great pix. Even though you do look pasty and pukey in one or two of them. Sorry for that! Still you should feel very proud of your effort. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

I love the green outfit!! I always love when I match :)

Glenn Jones said...

You do not look like a happy camper Jeri! Even here in California where it doesn't get that hot and *definitely does not get that humid, a race would *never* start as late as 9 AM! Of course, an inexpensive race would be $65.

Way to finish a tough race in even tougher conditions!

Glenn Jones said...

You do not look like a happy camper Jeri! Even here in California where it doesn't get that hot and *definitely does not get that humid, a race would *never* start as late as 9 AM! Of course, an inexpensive race would be $65.

Way to finish a tough race in even tougher conditions!

Anonymous said...

You are a rockstar for finishing that race. I probably would have just thrown in the towel. Props to you!

HUGE bummer on the poor organization (or lack thereof) of the race. What idiots. I could rant about this all day. They better either hire a race director that knows what they are doing or not attempt to put on another race next year. You should definitely write them a letter or something.

Aron said...

that race sounds like my personal hell. way to stick through it and finish!!

Dom and Trey said...

You painted a picture of hell. That race sounded terrible! I cannot believe how disorganized the race was, I feel your frustration. And the whole thing about water...I would have seriously had a panic attack. So, sorry. If you are looking for another small half marathon, look into (i'll send this to you later via twitter). It's small, affordable, very organized, and you would probably place. It was my first half, last year and I really enjoyed it! The best part, it's a winter race!

Rad Runner said...

Wow even with all the battles of the race you seemed to still rock it! Good job! and uh- HELLO cute outfit I love the matchy-mck-matcherson Team Green!

KovasP said...

Completely unrelated to your post, you won one of the GoLite caps! Send me your address and I'll get it out to you pronto.

Anonymous said...

cute face!! :)