Friday, May 23, 2008

Race Report: Marine Corps Historic Half

Let's get this started!

After the race, showing off some of my race swag.

At last, at long last, race weekend had arrived. I started training for it in January, and I was quite ready to get on with it and see if my goal of a sub-2:00 half marathon was indeed going to happen (all suspense in regards to this is nonexistent since in my previous post I revealed the results).

Friday the 16th in the afternoon John and I headed down to the Cleveland area where we spent the night at my parents'. Saturday morning we were up early and ready to hit the road for the 400-mile trip to Virginia. I took the morning driving shift until we reached Somerset, Pennsylvania and stopped for lunch. After our lunch stop I took over the back seat of the Jetta and John took over driving duty with my dad in the passenger seat. We arrived in Fredericksburg around 4:00, checked into our hotel, and then went to the Healthy Lifestyle Expo at the convention center to pick up our race packets. While there, I saw Kathrine Switzer, who was signing copies of her book Marathon Woman. I also stopped at the Bondi Band booth where I was unable to contain my excitement at the discovery of new and heretofore unknown patterns, whereupon the sales girl pulled out A GIANT BAG FULL OF BANDS from under the table and told me I could rummage through it. I bought three more bands (I now have 16). These are the headbands you see in all of my recent race pictures. I love them. I have very unruly hair and these babies keep every strand in place. Plus, they're great for sweat control!

We watched TV for a little while and then went to sleep around 9:30 with a projected wake-up time of 5:15. I didn't have the most restful night; the room was stuffy, the bed uncomfortable, and as a general rule I never sleep well unless I'm in my own bed at home. Nonetheless, I got enough sleep to feel confident about my energy level when we awoke the next morning. It wasn't my less-than-ideal sleep or the glass of red wine I had with my spaghetti at dinner the night before or fussing with my race gear that had me in a panic in the morning. No, it was because I had an earplug stuck in my ear. Yes, dear readers, you heard that right. Like a 3-year-old who stuffs a jelly bean in his ear, I had gotten one of my earplugs (I never leave home without them) jammed too far into my right ear. Compounding this was the fact that I didn't bring my tweezers (my normal method of stuck-earplug extraction...yes, this was not the first time this had happened) and I had just cut my fingernails. Frantic scrabbling at my ear only managed to push the plug in further. I finally said, "I'll just go into Wal-Mart and buy a pair of tweezers. We're going to park in their parking lot anyway."

Post Wal-Mart shopping trip, pre-earplug removal. One hour to race.

After a successful operation in the back of the car I could finally hear properly and I wasn't going to be forced to run the race with an earplug stuck in my ear. Commence normal race morning routine.

Fussing with race bib. It has to be exactly centered, you know.

Walking to the starting line in the dawn's early light.

Probably the most vital prerace activity.

Contemplating the task at hand.

After standing around for a while, my dad and I eased into our respective start corrals and John went off to spectate. The moment was upon me.

The starting line.

My plan was to start slow and build to my intended cruising pace of 8:30-8:40/mile. I wanted to run the second half of the race faster than the first like I had been doing in training. I knew it was going to be tempting to start fast, given my excitement and the overall downhill trend of the first 10 miles. I kept myself in check for the first mile but once I got warmed up I found myself running much too quickly. I remember looking down at my Garmin and saw I was running at a 8:30 pace during mile 2. I had to slow down or I was going to flame out and not have anything left for the later stages of the race. It took me a few miles but I finally got myself under control.

Mile 1: 8:59
Mile 2: 8:40
Mile 3: 8:45
Mile 4: 8:47
Mile 5: 8:55
Mile 6: 8:58

At mile 7 we were in lovely downtown Fredericksburg, and John had taken a shuttle bus from the starting line so he could see me go by. Of course our stupid slow digital camera couldn't focus fast enough so John didn't get any pictures of me midrace. We saw each other, however, unlike at the start when I ran past him, waving and yelling, and he totally missed me.

Once I reached the halfway point of the race I told myself that now, now it was time to go faster. I felt great: very strong, not tired at all, very energetic, fresh, nice slow, deep breathing. I sucked down a Gu and some Gatorade and quickened my pace.

Mile 7: 8:40
Mile 8: 8:25
Mile 9: 9:14 (this is where I had to make a pit stop. It probably cost me 30 seconds off my finish time, but it was imperative.)
Mile 10: 8:44
Mile 11: 9:12
Mile 12: 9:17

Shortly after mile 10, the hill appeared. This was one long uphill climb from the Rappahannock River plain to higher ground. It wasn't particularly steep, just long. It lasted for almost the entire mile. At this point in the race it was taking a toll on many of my fellow runners. There were a lot of people who had slowed to a shuffle and a lot of people walking. I put my head down and ground my way up that hill without stopping. At the top there was maybe a half-mile of flat and then around mile 11.5 the final hill, which was really just a freeway overpass bridge, was in front of me. This one was by far the worse of the two major hills on the route. It was much harder. I knew, however, that once I reached the crest of the bridge and crossed the Mile 12 marker on the ground that I only had a mile and change left and why not give it everything I had? I checked my Garmin. I was on track to finish in under 2 hours. I had put enough time in the bank during the first half of the race that my slowdown in the second half would not affect me. I told my weary legs they were almost done, could they please go just a little faster and finish strong? They responded.

Almost at the finish!

I pulled out an 8:28 mile for Mile 13 of the race and ran the final 0.1 at an 8:00/mile pace. I crossed the finish line, triumphant, in 1:56:46. I had done it! I had finished in under 2 hours! I had also set a new half marathon PR; my previous half time was 2:07:30. I moved on through the finish area, collecting finisher's medal, bottle of water, commemorative towel, and got my timing chip taken off my shoe. I wandered over to the family reunion area and John joined me shortly afterwards.

In a postrace daze. I think we've all felt like this from time to time.

My dad finished in 2:07:44.

My dad and I. He's been running since before I was born and ran 5 marathons back in the 1980s. If it wasn't for him I probably never would have taken up distance running.

Once we were both done there wasn't much else to do but walk back to the car, go back to the hotel, get cleaned up and packed up and hit a nearby Waffle House for a greasy postrace breakfast (after looking over the menu I whimpered that all I wanted was a fruit salad and a bowl of oatmeal to which both John and my dad just laughed. I compromised with a veggie omelet and some whole-wheat toast). We were on the road shortly after 11:00 for the drive back to Cleveland. I zoned out and promptly fell asleep in the back seat. I definitely wasn't as tired after this half as I was after the Detroit half last fall but I was still tired. I just ran 13.1 miles, after all.

Our day's adventures weren't complete, however. Once we reached Hancock, Maryland, where I-70 comes down from Breezewood, we took a short side trip to one of the greatest road cuts known to man (or geologists, anyway): Sideling Hill. Yes, John and I got our nerd on in a big way. This road cut reveals a spectacular syncline, formed during the Alleghenian Orogeny 230-240 million years ago.

Nothing makes a couple of geologists happier than a big pile of rocks next to a highway.

Once we had gotten our fill of roadside geology, it was back to the car and homeward bound. We arrived back at my parents' around 7:00 that night and the next day John and I returned to Michigan.

Final stats:
  • 1:56:46 chip time
  • 8:55/mile average
  • 45/279 W 30-34
  • 269/1794 all women
  • 1046/3826 overall
Now what do I do? I won't start training for the Detroit Marathon until next month. I've registered for the Dexter-Ann Arbor Run 10K on June 1 (anyone else from the area planning on doing something that day?). I guess I'll have to...RUN FOR PLEASURE! Oh my. I plan on doing so tomorrow morning.


Laura said...

Congratulations!!! And I think I like that strategy of waiting till the halfway point to allow yourself to speed up... might have saved me in a recent half I did.

chia said...

Great job! You beat your papa :-).

We're heading over to the Dexter->Ann Arbor run as well - I'm not sure what distances we're doing though. Good luck!!

Anonymous said...

Great job! I love reading your race reports. I feel like I was there (but my legs don't). :)

B. Kramer said...

Great job on the race. And the ear plug extraction.

Anonymous said...

You are awesome. And hilarious. Way to go!!

Anonymous said...

Sarah, way to go. I actually heard your race report over on Fedip before I made it here to your blog... I gave a big whoop for you in the middle of my long run thismorning when Steve announced your finishing time. Fabu, as we say in New York.

So, what was it like to meet Kathy Switzer? I am a huge fan of hers; I hope to meet her one day myself and have her sign my copy of her memoir.

Thank you for sharing that you got your earplug stuck in your ear. The other day at work one of the rubber tips from my earbuds got jammed in my ear and I had to buy a pair of tweezers and ask MY BOSS to extract it. How humiliating.

You are going to kick ass at your marathon this fall. When are you coming to NYC?