Archive for April, 2012

Kansas Half Marathon Race Report

Saturday was an extremely busy day, so I never did get in my short run. Curtis and I went out to dinner at Noodles & Company so I could get my carbs for the race. I had the pesto pasta with chicken breast, which was perfect.  We got home and I got all my stuff ready for the race and was in bed by 10 PM.

4AM came very early Sunday morning. Even Suli was still asleep, and not begging for food yet. 😮 I jumped in the shower for 5 minutes to wake up, dressed, and ate my oatmeal with half of a banana and some peanut butter. We hit the road at 4:50 and picked up my friend, Caitlin, who was going to ride with us and run her first half. We left Manhattan for Lawrence by 5AM and thankfully were able to get a few more precious minutes of sleep in the car. We arrived in Lawrence in great time at 6:22 and went straight to packet pickup. Despite being bundled, it was quite cold and still pretty dark that early in the morning with a good strong Kansas wind.

We went back to sit in the heated car till it was time to line-up for the race. The start was scheduled for 7:30, so we had about an hour to kill. I ate the other half of my banana and tried to relax, but was far too jittery for that! We made a quick porta-potty run, with perfect timing, as the lines were just starting to form. We also noticed that the packet pickup line was now stretched out the door and across the street! I was glad we had gotten there when we had even though time moves so slowly before a race and there was still so much time left before we could line up.

Finally, 7:15 rolled around and we geared up and headed to the starting line from the car. This race had pace group leaders for finish times ranging from 1:30 to 3:05. I had never run with a pace group before, and didn’t intend to do it with this race, but it seemed a reasonable idea to line up near the 2:25 pace group. My previous half-marathon time from April 2010 was 2:25:28 and my half-marathon time from the end of my half-Ironman in August 2010 was 2:37:51. My goal for this race was to beat both of those times. I knew I could get close to 2:25, but with the few bad long runs I have had lately, I was not feeling very confident about that.

Starting with the pace group gave me the opportunity to warm-up and hold back at the start. I am fairly good about pacing myself, but the adrenaline of a big race (~1500 lined up for the half) always makes it difficult to hold back at the start. Caitlin and I quickly realized that the 2:25 group was just a little slower than we wanted and joined the 2:20 group. The two group leaders had paced several races together this spring and had quite a rapport. They were friendly and talkative, keeping the group on pace with morale high. It almost felt like cheating! 🙂

My strategy was to stick with the pace group till the turnaround point (~7.5 miles) and then begin to pick-up the pace. Hubby was waiting for us around mile 5 to cheer, photograph and let us hand off our outer layer of clothing. It had warmed up quite a bit, since the sun came out. Around mile 6 we started to break away from the pace group and had completely lost them by the turnaround. Caitlin and I both felt great at this point and discussed trying to catch the 2:15 pace group for a strong finish. We knew we had the biggest hill of the race leading to mile 10, so we decided to wait till that point to drop the hammer.  😉

Mile 10 came and we were still climbing. Finally, we hit the top of the hill and started to pick up the pace. I was surprised by how strong I still felt at this point. I was guesstimating that we were still about 3 minutes behind the pace group, so it was going to be tough to catch them. We were going to try anyways! The last 5K went by really fast and soon we saw DH again near the finish line where he was waiting to run us in if we needed the moral support. I managed to sprint to the finish line for a strong finish.

My official time was 2:16:50.7, which is a PR of 8:37.3 better than my previous time!

This was a really fun race that I will definitely consider doing again. The course was beautiful and wound through downtown Lawrence as well as the KU campus. The only criticism I have of the course was that a significant portion was on sidewalks that were really too narrow to handle the volume of runners. This portion overlapped with the turnaround point and people were unprepared for the lead runners looping around, so were not getting out of their way quickly enough. Other than that, I thought it was a great course, quite well-organized and well-worth doing.

Now, I’ve got the racing bug. I really want to break a 2 hour half-marathon. I think it’s definitely doable, I still had a little left to give at the end of this race. Over the next several months, I’m going to try and work on speed and see how much more time I can knock off.

 

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Dog-N-Jog Race Report

My German Shepherd, Tara, finished her first race this morning! I had planned to run the 10K with her, but ended up only running the 5K since she’s still recovering from her dental work on Thursday. The vet had ok’ed her to run as long as she seemed like she was up to it. Last night she was still moving a little slow so I made the decision not to do the 10K. This morning she was full of energy and seemed to need a run, but I opted to stick with my plan.

This was probably one of the most fun races I have ever done. There were over 100 dogs in attendance, and surprisingly, they were all really well-behaved (Tara included)! Most of the owners were really good about keeping their dogs with them and not letting them greet other dogs without permission. There were several other GSDs there, one who we knew from our agility class last fall. We saw one woman pushing a jogging stroller and running with a GSD and another big dog, wow! I had Tara on her Gentle Leader for the event – keeping the pressure off her collar tends to keep her calmer around other dogs. She was really well-behaved today and even greeted a few dogs belonging to my friends very nicely. gsdsit

We all lined up at about 8:50 AM for the 9:00 AM start. I took Tara all the way to the back of the pack to give us both some space. I expected the crowd to break up pretty quickly as runners got into their paces. Well, starting a race with over 100 dogs was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. There is always a lot of adrenaline at the start of the race, and it’s always hard to fight that and get into my pace. With all those dogs, the energy at the start was probably twice as high as it is at a regular race of that size. In spite of that, there was really only one little barking dog – one of those mini aussies.

Tara was having none of being at the back of the pack, though and we moved through the ranks quickly. We had to run on the grass to get around the people and dogs, but Tara was a dog on a mission! One guy dressed as a superhero with his superhero dog were trying to sprint past us, but they passed a road sign and the guy went one way and his poor dog went the other way and they got completely wrapped around the pole. We made our way through the back of the pack into a comfortable place in the middle right before climbing our first hill. I had run this course from a different starting point last fall for a very small 5K so I was ready for it. It’s amazing how much easier it is to run it strongly with some company. smile Tara was still picking people and dogs off at this point, and we passed several more people on the downhill. Pretty soon we were at the home stretch and could see the vet school just ahead.

We finished in 28:26, which was my fastest 5K yet and much faster than the last time I ran this course (~2.5 minutes faster). I wish I had a photo to share, but all my friends who were there were either running it or working it and Curtis wasn’t home from a business trip quite yet.

We had a great time and it was so much fun to run a race the same way I train – with Tara! She ran right out in front of me just like always and never tried to “say hi” to anyone on the course, unlike many of the other dogs who were veering all over the place. She made me so proud today with how good she was with the other dogs and how well-behaved she was on the course. I can’t wait to do this race again next year!

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Brew to Brew 2012

I’m back! I never intended to leave this blog forever, but thought I wouldn’t have much time for races or training while I’m in school. On the contrary, staying in shape and running most days of the week has helped to keep me balanced this semester. I did not make an effort to do much of anything in the fall semester and I ended it feeling quite distressed with how much fitness I had lost. I resolved to do better this spring and wrote a training schedule with no end goal in mind, other than general fitness. Pretty soon, I got sucked into the training to race mindset once again and signed up for a 44 mile relay race, “Brew to Brew,” a 10K and a half-marathon.

The “Brew to Brew” relay was last weekend, April 1, and it was a blast! We formed two teams with my classmates and two husbands, including mine. 🙂  There were twelve of us all together, forming one team of five and one team of seven.

Saturday afternoon, we drove to Kansas City, since the race start was going to be at Boulevard Brewery. We stayed at one of our classmate’s family’s house and had a wonderful pasta dinner together and reviewed all the race day logistics. Because the race was headed west from Kansas City to Lawrence, we wanted to make sure to be organized enough to get all six of the cars back to the finish so that we could head back to Manhattan (west of Lawrence) straight from the finish. It took some doing, but we managed to figure out a schedule that got everyone to the correct exchange points and end up with all of us at the finish together.

The race is started in waves with the first one at 6:00 AM and the last at 10:00 AM. The 6:00 AM folks were mostly solo runners doing the whole run as an ultra-marathon. The relay was broken into ten legs with some people running more than one leg. We had a nice early start at 6:30 AM, which was perfect since it was going to be a HOT day, so we were all up around 5:00 AM and in the car by 5:30 to get to the start before 6:00 AM. Somehow we all managed to meet up on time and get everyone to the right vehicles. We watched the 6:00 wave start, had some pictures taken, tasted some of the free Boulevard beer and sent our first two runners off at 6:30 AM. As soon as they were off, we hopped in the car and headed to the first exchange point. The first runner for our team was lightning fast and was one of the first from the wave to reach the exchange point. I was running the second and third leg, so I was waiting for her at the exchange to take over. The running surface for the first leg was quite nice – mostly crushed limestone/gravel, but we did have some strange parts where we were running up and down the embankments to various roads and bridges and we even ran up a spiral cement staircase to get to one bridge. There was also a short bit of “trail” running over rocks through a muddy dirt trail. I got through the 5.4 miles of leg 1 just fine and ran into the aid station.

The other team cheered me in as they were waiting for their first runner who had run leg 1 and leg 2. She was still behind me, but would get to the exchange soon. I grabbed some Gatorade from the aid table and started on leg 2. Leg 2 crossed some railroad tracks, and of course as I was running up to it, the gates came down and the bells started ringing to signal the oncoming train. I got an unexpected three minute break and then continued to finish my leg. Unfortunately, this leg was all on the shoulder of a boring, straight flat road with nothing to break it up. There were also several “fake-out” points that looked like they should have been an exchange point but you couldn’t tell until you got right to it that it was not. This wasn’t my favorite leg and I struggled with my mental state throughout. I just had a really hard time convincing myself that I should keep running. My mantra for this portion of the race was, “Tired is just a state of mind, keep going.” I repeated this over and over. Finally, the real exchange point came into view and I ran into, only to find it was the “B” exchange point and I was supposed to be running the “A” course so I had a little farther to go. I finally finished my second leg of 5.6 miles for a total of 11 miles, tagged our next runner, who would run legs 4 and 5, and got my break.

My day was not over yet though! I took over driving my car, while our next runners (legs 6 and 7) headed in a separate car to the next exchange point. I had to go pick up the gals that had driven the extra cars to the finish line to get them to their legs (8, 9 and 10). Fortunately, despite a little confusion, both girls parked relatively close to each other so I was able to pick them up without a hitch. We headed straight to the exchange point ending leg 7 and starting leg 8. Curtis, my hubby, was the leg 7 runner, so we were watching for him. I started to get a little nervous that we were in the wrong place because I had lost track of our timing while I was driving to Lawrence. While we were waiting, the other team caught up with us and assured us that we were in the right place and the runners were not too far off.

We finally saw Curtis coming up the hill into the exchange point and our next runner got ready to head off. She hit the road and we hung around with the other team to cheer in their runner and see of their next teammate. When we finally thought we saw her coming up the hill, we were unsure at first because her shirt appeared to be a different green than we expected. As it turns out, she was just soaking wet! This leg had the option of a stream crossing in a boat or the runners could run an extra mile to avoid the boat. Well, our runner, also an avid triathlete, had opted to swim across instead of waiting for the boat! 🙂

Once she got to the exchange point and rested a bit, we headed to the next exchange point. We would send off our leg 9 runners who were also both running leg 10. Our final runner had been sick with a bad cold for several weeks and by this time of day it was nearly 90 degrees and humid. We were a bit worried about her being able to finish because she had a terrible cough and no voice that day, so we decided to drive toward the exchange point between leg 9 and 10 in case she couldn’t finish. She called us partway into her run to let us know it just wasn’t going well at all, so Curtis took over the final leg for her. We hurried to the finish line and just barely made it in time to run Curtis into the finish line.

There was a “dinner” with gumbo and fresh fruit and bread after the race, along with beer from the two end point breweries – Boulevard and Free State. We sat and ate and then went to get ice cream before heading back home to Manhattan.  All in all it was a whirlwind of a day and a complete blast. I am already looking forward to next year!

One thing I will definitely want to remember for next year is to have matching shirts in a unique color because it was so helpful that we were all wearing matching lime green shirts at the exchange points. It just made it so much easier to see our exchange runner. Although this year was unseasonably warm, it does not make sense for runners to have multiple legs later in the day and it’s probably a lot better to have only one runner per leg or to break up the legs so they’re not consecutive. Also, we should definitely bring beer in the car for waiting at the exchange points after our legs. 🙂

Overall, things went pretty smoothly despite some creative car moving. I would like to be able to have an entire team use just one vehicle in the future if we can get a big van or something.

 

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