A couple months before the race, my long runs were going pretty well. I was increasing them by a mile every other week, with the goal of running 13 a couple weeks prior to the race. I was staying close enough to my 8-minute-mile pace that the goal felt reachable. Unfortunately, about 4 weeks prior to the race I came down with some body aches that finally morphed into a nasty flu, which then wreaked havoc on my digestive system. I went out of commission for about 10 days, completely throwing my running schedule out-of-whack. I did manage to get in a 9-miler (in 80-plus-degree heat and 90% humidity) the Sunday prior to the race. Still, I felt like my goal was going to be tough to hit, especially with the heat wave Indiana had been roiling in during late May and early June. I managed to stay in on a Friday night, and cooked a bunch of pasta with some sauteed oyster mushrooms and home-made basil pesto. Throw in some extra bread, and a big salad with strawberries soaked in balsamic vinegar and pepper...that was dinner.
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Rough route of the half-marathon. Running on the trails was a great idea...definitely the best part of the race.
The day of the race, the weather had cooled somewhat, and remained overcast (save for the last mile or two). Humidity was still high, but the temperature felt good to me (was probably close to 70). I think I was up at 4:30, warmed up some steel-cut oats that I had let soak overnight (I usually prefer cooking them fresh, but had to save a few minutes of sleep somewhere) with raisins, and cracked a hard-boiled egg as well. All that was missing from childhood camping experiences were the little salt & pepper packets that we'd hoard from various restaurant condiment counters. Drank the advised 20 oz. of water (I'd drank like a fiend the previous day as well), and finally made it out the door near 5:50 with Amelia, who was (un)happily going to pull an 8-hour shift after the race.
Got one of the last parking spots in the lot, pinned my number to my chest (wearing one of Dad's old Maconaquah track jerseys, from ~1974, with red & white vertical stripes topped with a teal letter "M" with wings), and walked to the start/finish line. The adrenaline was pumping a bit, dampened perhaps by the intermittent sprinkles from the gray sky. Oh man, now I had to pee. Real bad. There were lots of port-a-pots, but serious lines, so I waited for ~15 minutes (until they issued a loudspeaker warning to get to the starting area) to relieve myself, left the rest of my gear & a smooch with Amelia, and found the back-side of the 8:00-mile pace group. It was packed in pretty tight, though when the race started (after blasting a claustrophobic group of adults with "The Final Countdown") things spaced out almost immediately (to strains of Janelle Monae's "Tightrope", a perfect 2011 starting song).
I spent the first mile-plus being boxed in by a couple slower runners, maneuvering and accelerating around the catch up to the 8:00 pace runner (this was awesome, by the way, as I didn't have to think about how fast I was running the early miles). Since I always run by myself, it was actually pretty cool running with a big group of people (supposedly close to 5,000 registered for the 3 races combined). The runners began to string out pretty early, and I bypassed the first two early water stands, preferring to stay in the groove right with the 8-minute pack. A tall, older gentlemen asked me if I was wearing a North Central jersey, so I educated him on Maconaquah. He was running something like 9 marathons this summer, and soon zoomed past the group of 30 or so people I was running with.
Just past mile 4, the half-marathon split off from the marathon, while on a two-lane road just outside of town. I hit the turn-around, and proceeded to go back up the hill we'd just spent half a mile running down. I wasn't feeling awesome at this point, but managed to avoid getting a side ache on the hill, and at the crest, I caught up with a couple who were talking about their 8-minute pace (if my crappy $5 Target watch does splits, I can't/won't ever figure it out), so I proceeded to shadow them for the next few miles that wound through some (anti)scenic suburbs, albeit, with streets less pockmarked than my neighborhood. There were a fair amount of people and families in their driveways, which was pretty cool.
Feeling strong here...even if I had the crazy eye going on. May have been suffering from suburb-psychosis.
Passing through the suburbs, the field was pretty stretched out. I passed the couple I was drafting behind at a water stop (I just grabbed a cup and took a few sips at each, maybe tossing it on my head once), and after that it was fairly sparse. The course then exited onto a street, where I passed a few people on a hill before we began the trail section. This was the coolest part of the race by far, winding through some woods, over bridges, and in general cooler temperature-wise than being on the exposed asphalt. I was feeling extremely fast through this section, passing some runners, hugging all corners. Around mile 10, I had the thought that I might even approach the 1:40:00 mark, thinking I could run the last 3 miles in sub-7:00 time. Clearly, my brain was lactic-acid-addled.
David Rudisha of Kenya breaks the 13-year old 800m world record last year. Obviously lactic acid ain't bothering him a bit. I would describe my mood at mile 9 as "Rudisha-like."
Around mile 11.5, I knew what the oft-named "wall" was all about. The course had exited back on to the streets, and the sun was beginning to glow through the cloud cover. Add to that an obese woman in an SUV somehow exited (driving the wrong way down the lane) onto the course, and was doing a 40-point turn in the one-lane road...jackass. I hoofed it in the median for a few yards, then back onto the course, sucking down some exhaust and silently cursing. Right after this, it felt like all the muscles in my body congealed into one gelatinous, aching mass. "Oh, okay...this is the wall," I thought.
Simultaneously, the sun came out, the straightaways seemed to extend past the horizon, and to top things off, right before the finish there was a long, slow, excruciatingly boring Indiana hill. Powered through, somehow, and passed maybe close to ten people on the hill, rounded the final corner, saw Amelia & my Mom out of the corner of my eye, tried & failed to give a full smile, didn't collapse, and crossed the finish line.
Final results...118th overall out of 1000+. Most proud of my last 5K being a minute faster than my first, despite hitting the wall somewhere in the middle of those last few miles. Oh, and luckily I beat the 14-yr.-old right behind me. Phew.
Post-race, I consumed some Fritos, water, a pretzel and mustard at the Farmer's Market, then made it home just in time to lay around on the couch with a stomachache for most of the day, watching track-and-field and reading on-and-off. Hoping my next half-marathon will be the Monumental Half-Marathon in November, and I've been keeping a steady 5-days-a-week running pattern since the race, to which I'm hoping to add some light weights this fall.