Thursday, June 21, 2018

Race Report: Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon

We woke up at 4am to start getting ready for race morning. And I woke up to an email from my credit card company that someone had attempted to make an online purchase for $2200 overnight and was this possibly a fraudulent charge? Oy. After taking care of that, I was ready to focus on the race!

We quickly got dressed and headed outside to the buses. It took longer than I expected to board the buses, despite us getting out there at the earliest time they were available. And when we got on the bus, the temperature was no less than 1200 degrees. I quickly had a stream of sweat snake its way down my spine and was worried about how miserable and freezing I was going to be when I got off the bus and went outside in the 40 degree temps. I continued to sweat and freeze for the duration of the drive.

Once we arrived, I told Toni I NEEDED to use the bathroom, so we set out to find one. We only had 30 minutes before the race started, and I had thought we had timed it to have closer to an hour. Where had the time gone?! There were a ton of single porta potties with 20+ people waiting in line for them. Cue the panic. We moved closer to the starting line and finally found a bank of 4 porta potties with giant lines, and I figured that would be better than waiting for a single one, and I jumped in line.

The lines were not moving. Toni could sense my panic, so she offered to run ahead with our bags, utilize the bag drop and check on the one set of porta potties prior to the race start to see if the lines were better or worse. She came back and reported they were roughly the same. At this point, I had 15 minutes prior to the race starting, and had resigned to the fact that I wouldn't be starting on time. This bathroom trip was much more important than getting in my coral on time.

Just before it was my turn for the bathroom, the race started. While I was in there hustling, I heard a volunteer announce to the porta potty masses that there were banks of porta potties inside the corrals actually, her exact quote was "there are HUNDREDS of porta potties in the corrals!" Where was this information 30 minutes ago when this line was 50+ people deep??? I was fuming.

Luckily I was in and out of the bathroom lickety split and Toni and I took that opportunity to take a warm up jog to the start line. Except it wasn't the start line. Once we got closer there was yet another giant slow moving line of people being tunneled into an opening 2 people wide. Volunteers were checking bibs to make sure everyone was supposed to be in the race. Ok. So we waited in another non-moving line for another 5-7 minutes. I opted to take my first GU here based on how angry my stomach was that morning already. Once through we found ourselves in the massive corrals for the race. With, yes, you guessed it, banks of bathrooms, although hundreds is an extreme exaggeration. From what I heard from those in the corrals the lines for the bathrooms were just as long there, so who knows. Toni mentioned that maybe she now needed to use the bathroom, and I figured, hell why not? We're already late, and I ducked in too. I guess I was really well hydrated!

We finally got to the start line as the gun time read 14:30. I shouted to Toni good luck and kick some ass and we were off. Immediately it was very congested with a lot of walkers, which makes sense as I was catching up with the tail end of the race. I bobbed and weaved and kept a very positive and collected mindset. "This is great. Now I don't have to worry about going out too fast!" "Look at all of these people out enjoying a great day. Yay us!"

This was my 36th half marathon, and due to the size of the race, I expected it to be pretty congested for maybe the first 3 miles based on when I started, my pace, and the pace of the folks I was catching up and passing. It was kind of a fun game of frogger or something, and it took my mind off of my watch completely, which was great, as my plan was to not really look at my watch and just run hard, and see how that played out. I caught up to the 2:45 half pacer/12:30 pace around mile 3.

1. 9:35
2. 9:20
3. 9:08

Despite all of the mental maneuvering, the stop and go, and the strategic maneuvering in and out of people, I was shocked at how quickly the miles were ticking off. It seemed like only a few minutes would pass, and I would see one of the mile marker balloons just up the road. I was also thrilled that these low 9 minute miles were feeling effortless. In fact, I think the first 5k was done in my recovery heart rate zone. Granted I wasn't trying to keep it this effortless, but that was truly the fastest I was able to navigate the throngs of people.

Unfortunately, the congestion didn't ease up at mile 3 like I had hoped. But that was okay! I was going to continue to pick it up where I could, and with how great I was feeling, I can launch in a next gear around mile 5. I was calculating my finish time with 8:30s-8:40s for the final 8 miles, and was stoked to let loose. I took my 2nd GU during mile 4 and grabbed a glass of water at the aid station and quickly realized that the aid stations were going to add a good 15-20 seconds on to my time. It was essentially shoulder to shoulder people with water and sports drink on both sides and people walking and jogging here and there, and I was really nervous that I was going to collide in to someone who would stop abruptly in front of me. PANIC!

4. 9:11
5. 8:56

Around the half way point of the race, I checked in and was pleased to see that I was on pace for a sub 2 finish, with the hopes that I'd be able to find some space to pick up the pace and maybe still snag that 1:55 finish. It was also around this time that I passed the 2:30 pacer/11:30 pace.

6. 9:00
7. 9:01

The course was perfect. Honestly. It felt like there was a good amount of elevation change, but it was such a gentle up and down that it was exactly what the legs needed for a little break. Our first hill was during mile 8 and it felt like I was up it in no time. I discovered pretty quickly that it is extra hard to bob and weave around people on an uphill, especially when they come to a screeching halt without checking to see if someone is trying to power up behind them. uff da. With 4 miles to go, I was ready to rock and fly. I just could not believe how packed in we all still were. Whenever you could see off into the distance because there'd be an incline up ahead, you could see people still just shoved in like sardines from one side of the road to another. At the one moment I felt like I finally had a little extra space, they narrowed us down into half of a roadway. GAH!

8. 9:15 (hill)
9. 8:51

Mile 10 brought the "big" hill. I ran up on a lady who was decked out in purple for Project Purple, the group that raises money and awareness for pancreatic cancer. I thanked her for raising money and told her that my mom passed a couple of years ago from pancan, and she responded that she was running for her, and for me, and I thanked her and then I burst into tears and had to sprint ahead of her so I could collect myself. Uff da. Someday I will run a race with Project Purple, but maybe that time will be when I can get through a race without crying that my mom isn't there cheering me on.

The good news is, I flew up that hill with tears streaming down my face. The bad news is, we were at the point in the race when a lot of people were really tired and walking, so the charge uphill for me was significantly harder with everyone that I was trying to weave around. I was closing in on the 2:15 pacer, so my 9 minute pace was jostling around with the 10:30 ish folks.

10. 9:04
11. 9:00

Finally with a couple of miles to go, I realized that the course was never going to open up to allow me to run as hard as I wanted to, which was such a bummer because I felt phenomenal. Mentally, I was gassed from being so "on" and strategic with weaving in and out of people and being on high alert for crashing into people, but my HR was hanging out in that, "oh hey, Toni and Jeri are going for a nice casual long run together" zone, and just wanted to gun it. We hit mile 12 and I started calculating my finish time, and was a little worried that I might not make it under 2 hours. How the heck had that happened? Most of my miles had been pretty significantly under 9:09, the pace for a 2 hour half, and last I had checked were around 9:04. And then I remembered: BOBBING. WEAVING.  Good god, I was so far over in distance from all of my frogger that I might not come in under two. UGHHHHH.

During the final mile, we were running on the construction/re-routed part of the course. And you could tell. We had so many twists and turns in that final mile. One of the first greeted us with a giant Hoka archway. And my brain immediately thought, oh! the Finish! Except it wasn't. It was just a Hoka cheer zone. In the final half mile. Harumph. So then I picked it again, and then we went round and round several more turns finally to turn onto the finish. Which had 2 or 3 more archways before the finish. I tried to round out a final sprint and a dude kept creeping to the right cutting me off, and I was finally done fighting it and just finished.

12. 8:42
13. 8:36
.23 1:49 (7:55 pace)

I crossed the finish line in 1:59:33, in a pace of 9:02 for 13.23 miles.

I found Toni shortly thereafter and was excited to hear she ran another strong 1:44. And then I immediately felt bad, because surely she could've ran way faster if she had started where she was supposed to and didn't hang out with me making sure I didn't panic while waiting to use the potty. We made our way to the bag pick up and proceeded to freeze our asses off as the wind was coming off the lake and we were soaked to the bone. Plus the smell of the porta potties at the finish were atrocious. After 30 minutes we finally got our stuff and made our way to the buses. I had REALLY wanted to watch our friends finish the full marathon, as well as the elites come through, but I was so grouchy about the race and had blue lips and fingernails and just needed a hot hot shower.

I'm super bummed to have not been able to run as well as I think I'm currently in shape for. Perfect weather, amazing course, felt strong. But I refuse to dwell on the negative of this race. So I'm thankful that during this run, my heart rate zone stayed in my long run zone. That bodes amazingly well for my fall marathon with a BIG goal of a PR and maybe possibly a #sub4 time. Eeps. A few more months of training, and that might seem like a less scary goal.

I'm also really proud of my mental state during the race. I feel like normal/regular Jeri would've PANICKED that she a) didn't start the race on time and b) that she was incapable of maintaining a regular stride without running people over. I think it would've been really easy to mentally give up on this race, knowing my goal wasn't happening, but I really just kept telling myself that eventually I'd be able to pick it up. Now knowing that wasn't a possibility, I'm glad that I didn't let the sub 2 finish pass me by. I could've easily run a 2:05 if my head hadn't been in the game, so I'm thankful for that!

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