Sunday, May 16, 2010

Grand Valley Half Marathon Review

First half marathon? Completed.

I kept meaning to make posts on my blog about things that were worrying me leading up to the race; parts of my training that didn't go quite as planned. By the time the race got here, I figured they could become part of a longer entry of survival and accomplishment.

Now, I've been running a pretty consistent 12 minute mile. Ryan Hall, I am not. But, I can keep that pace over the distance and that works for me. The great thing about the town where I live is that there are hills *everywhere.* We live in a valley, so in order to get out of it you have to climb somewhere! I didn't realize just how important those hills would be in my training.

Worry #1: I haven't driven or run the course.

Friday night, we went to go pick up my race packet. We made our way to the Twisted Brick Studios in Palisade (which is very cool inside). I had been trying to pull up the race map on my computer for weeks now, and every time I went to the site all I would get was a map of Palo Alto, California. Pretty, but not western Colorado. I tried my husband's computer only to get the same result. I did the normal techie things (cleared cache and cookies) and tried again. . .only to get the same result. I tried my work computer only to get a map of Mount Vernon, New York. I e-mailed the race director to let them know of my issue; they could not recreate it.

I finally tried M's iPhone on Friday night to see if I could get the race map to pull - success! I knew there was one substantial hill around mile 4, so I found it on the tiny screen and asked M if we could drive it. We made our way to 38 Road and made the turn. This is a winding road with a small 2-3% incline that is covered in trees, so you really can't see beyond it. "This is the hill? This can't be the hill."

It wasn't.

We made our way past the trees to see the hill in front of us. I don't remember exactly what I said, but there was swearing involved. M's response to me was, "it's not that bad." Really husband? Because you're not the one that has to run it tomorrow! It turns out my husband was just trying to make me feel better. We drove to the top and turned around so I could map the distance with the car - 1/2 mile from top to bottom. I didn't know the grade, but it certainly reminded me of the widowmaker from the Highline Hustle Triathlon.

I woke up at 5am on Saturday morning, ate half of an english muffin with peanut butter, grabbed my stuff and we were out the door by 6am. M took the required "before" picture, which really looks like the pictures your mom took of you before the first day of school. I started to take in a Clif Shot as we drove the 30 minutes to Palisade. I didn't end up taking another one for the entire race, but I did have some Gatorade with me in my Nathan hand held bottle.

We parked, walked around, and I warmed up and stretched. We arrived just as the marathoners were starting at 6:30am. The wind was blowing something crazy, so most of the half-marathoners were hiding behind a set of buildings on the opposite side of the street. Looking at the race results now, the half was the most popular event and doubled its number of racers from last year (from 80 something to ~160).

M was kind enough to fill a Shuffle with new music for me. This Shuffle had been sitting in the closet for over a year now; my dad got it when he opened a checking account and gave it to me. I have a Sansa that I like, but needs to be cleaned out. For the past 2-3 months, I've been running with M's iPhone, which is great because I can turn to Pandora and hear new stuff I probably wouldn't have heard otherwise. Because of this, I now have some mad love for Owl City. I asked M to put a bunch of music on there, preferably Christian, and fast tempo. I listened to his efforts about 4 days before the race.

David Crowder Band? Gone.
Casting Crowns? Love them, but too slow.

He added a couple of songs I specifically requested, along with some other albums and called it a day. I really had little idea what was on the Shuffle, which to most people might be off putting as they begin a 2 1/2 hour run. The funny thing is, if I could have written a soundtrack for the race, it would have been the same songs I heard. I queued up my music player to get ready for the start and began to hear Every Little Thing by Hawk Nelson. This song holds special meaning for me and was the perfect way to start my journey.
With a minute to go, we lined up, I kissed M goodbye, and the air horn went off. The first 2-3 miles weren't bad at all. I average running a 12 minute mile, but was posting consistent 11:40 splits. All the while I was trying to pick a pacer, but everyone kept running away from me! It appeared early on that I would be one of the last to finish, and I was okay with that.

Worry #2: My longest training run was only 8.8 miles.

I had planned on my last big run being 10.4, since I ran 8.8 the week before. It was the day before my friend Stacie's wedding, and to be honest I waited until far to late in the day to go out. It was a warm (for running) day, I was under a time crunch, and because of the weather and stress my heart rate shot up and would not come down. I finally cut my losses at 8 miles that day, and started tapering the next week. I was worried I would hit mile 9 on the course and be done. Well. . .I made it to mile 10 before my legs gave out. I still finished the race, but those last three miles were more brutal than I expected. My real race began at mile 10, and I feel like I didn't do as well as I should have. I did finish however, within the 10 minute range I said I would.

Miles 1-4 were great. I heard The Bird and the Worm by Owl City around mile 3 and was literally bopping my head back and forth while running. I'm sure I looked like an idiot, but I loved it. The weather was great, and for those who have ever been to Palisade, we ran by 14 different wineries with the Grand Mesa and Mount Garfield as our backdrop. I don't know how you can get much more beautiful than that.

Mile 4 was the hill. Remember the one I told you about earlier? About 30 seconds into the climb I made the decision to save my legs and walk it. I don't regret doing it; I'm sure had I ran up that hill I wouldn't have made it as far as I did before I had to walk. Of course, as I'm starting up the hill I begin to hear Forward Motion by Relient K. That was pretty timely, if I do say so myself.

Cause I struggle with forward motion
I struggle with forward motion
We all struggle with forward motion
Cause forward motion is harder than it sounds
Well every time I gain some ground
I gotta turn myself around again

The course was an out and back, so on my way down the hill at mile 8 I notice a yellow warning sign for trucks that gave the grade of the hill. . . drum roll please. . .fourteen percent! I'm very thankful I didn't know that going UP. The big hill on the Bay to Breakers course is only 12%, and that almost killed me.

Miles 9-10 were spent mostly running with a couple of walking breaks. Miles 10-12 were spent mostly walking with a few running breaks. Mile 13 I did my best to run so I could finish strong. At the beginning of that last run, I began to hear a song I still can't find (and haven't heard on my Shuffle since); all I remember is the first line being something to the effect of, "I'm so tired of running." Like I said, I couldn't have written the soundtrack to this race better if I had done it in advance.

I saw M at the finish and he took a photo of my crossing. He hugged me and told me how proud he was of me, and didn't make fun of me when I started to cry. I had finished my first half marathon, and no one can take that away from me. My final time was 2:47:58, which I'm happy with. I expected to finish between 2:40 and 2:50, given my twelve minute mile and a little bit of cushion time. That put me at an average of 12:48 per mile. With the first few miles at a consistent 11:40 pace, the walking is what did me in. Oh well, there's always next time.

"Next time?"

Yes my dear readers, I am doing this craziness all over again this Saturday. I'm running in the Geist Half Marathon in Indianapolis. If I'm stuck here for work, I might as well get something enjoyable out of it. As my co-worker Jen from Phoenix told me, "I'll be running the other half of my marathon." I just hope they don't count the lag time.

1 comment:

  1. So timely of you to post today- on my way home from swimming tonight I was thinking about your marathon and wondered when it was, if it already happened, how you did, etc. :)

    Way to go! That sounds like a great time to me. And I share the same strategy as you- I walk the big hills when I run. I wouldn't go up them much faster jogging anyway, so why not give myself a little recovery??

    Great job!