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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Flower City Challenge Half Marathon Race Recap

Two (ok three now) days later, I'm still having a hard time believing I actually did it. I've been working on this post for a while now, trying to digest everything. So lets start at the beginning.

The night before I laid everything out, and tried to go to bed early. I say tried because I was a giant ball of nervous energy, and I ended up sleeping fitfully. When the alarm went off at 6, I almost turned it off!

The morning was a lot colder than I had thought it was going to be, so I had to modify my outfit slightly. I added arm sleeves under my jacket and an ear warmer under my hat. Both were easily removable if I got too warm,

The Hubs got up with me and started getting himself and our daughter ready to go drop me off. Luckily the toddler was too sleepy to be the usual terror she is when you're trying to get her out the door. My stomach was not cooperating, and other than a few sips of coffee, I could not make myself eat anything. I have never been this nervous about a race before. When we got there, there wasn't anywhere obvious to park, so the Hubs dropped me off and headed to find a parking spot. I headed into the Blue Cross Arena to stay warm. I found some people from a running group I've run with a couple of times, talking to them helped calm my nerves down a bit.

When they announced five minutes to start time, I headed to the corral, and tried to find a pacer to follow. I had planned on trying to stick with the 12 min/mile pacer, however when I got out there, it looked like all the signs were by finish time. That early in the morning, with that many nerves, I could not do the math. So I picked one towards the back of the pack that sounded like it might be around where I needed to be. Spoiler, I choose poorly.

One of the pacers near me was dressed in a big italian flag chefs hat, and had a huge black fake mustache on. I also saw a couple people with I believe in the Blerch shirts.

The national anthem was sung, and we were off. There was the predictable stutter start, lots of chuckling, and then we were really off. I had some issues with starting my app right away, but it did start relatively close to the start line.

I was hanging with the pacer I'd chosen, but I was having a lot of coughing issues. I started to worry that my lungs were not going to hold up for the run. If I was coughing this badly at mile one, finishing the race was in serious doubt. Other than the coughing I was feeling good, although I could tell I was going a tad fast. When my phone chirped out my time into my ear bud, I realized why I was coughing. I had run an 11:12 min/mile. Waaaay toooo fast. So I tried to dial it back. I emphasize the word try there, because when we hit mile two, I found I had actually sped up, finishing mile two with an 11:06 pace. I blame the down hills.

At this point I made a concerted effort to reign myself in, tucking in behind a runner who looked like they were going the pace I needed to be going. It helped that the pack had strung out a bit by this point, and I wasn't constantly being passed by people. As soon as I reigned in my speed, my coughing stopped, thankfully. This mile flew by actually, as I settled into a comfortable pace.

Somewhere around here we exited the "city" city, and started running through more neighborhood streets. Right around the turn off of East and onto Park one of my Co-workers was out to see me run. It was great having someone cheering my name!

I need to note at this point that I wasn't really fueling constantly. I was nibbling at my Honey Stinger waffle occasionally, but my stomach was still unsettled, and would bother me every time I ate anything, so I was kind of avoiding it. I paid for this later.

I was still feeling good at this point, I had settled into my comfortable pace, and was just cruising. I walked through each water stop I came to (I think there was about one per mile, but it's a little fuzzy) so I could actually drink the water.

"Why Yes, I'm running up this hill!"
Walk break on the Hill'o'Doom
Right around halfway through mile six was when we started up the BIG HILL OF DOOM. Yeah I walked most of that. Except for the top
bit, where The Hubs, our Daughter and my Parents were out to cheer me on. I ran that part, cause you know, I'm showing off! You can see in my split pace that the hill really slowed me down. The hill was most of mile seven actually, and really took it out of me. By the time we'd gotten up the hill, I was warm enough to remove both my arm sleeves and the head band from under my hat. I started speeding back up on the back side of the hill though, and got back to close to a comfortable pace as we exited Highland Park and headed into Mt. Hope Cemetery.

The Cemetery is beautiful. I know it sounds weird, but it's kind of famous around here for being amazingly scenic. It's really old and has a lot of famous people buried in it. I was just kinda cruising and enjoying the scenery for most of the run through here. Towards the end of this section was when I started leap frogging with this guy, who was doing  run walk intervals that had him right around my pace. I would pass him when he stopped to walk, and then he'd pass me when he started running again.

I was still feeling ok when we exited Mt. Hope, although I had run out of water in my water bottle. I figured I would be ok with just water from the water stations for the rest of the race. I also realized around here that I had not been fueling enough. I'd nibbled at my Honey Stinger Waffles, but I had yet to finish a whole one.

By Mile 11 the pain started. We had turned to run along the river, and while it was very pretty, it was windier, and I felt colder. Not cold enough to put my headband or sleeves back on, but enough that I could tell if I slowed down too much, my legs were going to start locking up on me. I had to start a run walk of my own. It wasn't a Bonk, per say, just, I had very little left in the tank. I was thirsty, and after this point, there was only one more water station. I tried to start in on my GU at this point (yeah I know way late in the game) but without water I couldn't force myself to actually eat anything.

The only thing keeping me going at this point was that guy in the Orange shirt. We were still leap frogging each other through out the long rolling path along the river. He started to pull away from me as I slowed down, but keeping him in sight kept me moving. I owe this guy so much for keeping me moving. I hope he had an awesome race!

There was one last sharp uphill as the path corkscrewed up onto a bridge to cross the river, and then the last long push back into the city proper and the finish line. My legs felt totally dead at this point, and it was a mental game to keep myself going.

Most Adorable Cheering section ever.
As I got close to the finish line, the crowds were bigger, and I could hear the cheering and the announcer at the finish line. I was able to pick my pace back up, and empty the tank, pushing through the finish line. About a block from the finish line, this guy leans over and says "You see that? What does it say?!" I smiled back "It says Finish", "That's right!" He yelled "It says FINISH!" I kind of half laughed and say "Thank god!" I wouldn't have believed it before this race, but having that crowd at the finish actually energized me! I could feel myself picking up as I got closer to the finish line.
My cheering section, Braving the cold!

My Parents, Hubs and our Daughter had circled around and were waiting right before the chute to cheer me on. I had enough left in me that I could wave, smile and flash a thumbs up.

The Announcer called out my name as I crossed the finish, which felt awesome, and I caught a glimpse of the clock. I was startled to see I had come in under three hours!

I had to convince my body to stop pushing once I'd crossed the finish, I actually kind of half jogged up to the volunteers. As the lady put the medal around my neck I felt myself starting to tear up. I was just so happy to have actually finished.

I grabbed some water, and went to meet up with my family. We went inside the Blue Cross arena to warm up (it was really cold out at this point) and I grabbed some pizza and more water from the recovery zone. I was bummed they were out of bananas, but my Parents had brought animal crackers for me too. There was a 40 minute wait for the massage people, which I decided was too long. Apparently at this point I was kind of focused on sitting down, and ended up grabbing some floor. I stretched a bit, ate my pizza and tried not to cry from joy.

You can see on my Splits that I totally forgot to stop my app until I was actually sitting down scarfing pizza! I had a good laugh about that one. I was a little punchy at that point!

A few things of note about the race, which was awesomely run, the spectators were awesome. Seriously, it was not nice out, and yet there were tons of people out with funny signs screaming their heads off. There were four or five groups of musicians scattered around the course, everything from a high school orchestra to bag pipers to a drum circle.

My two favorite signs: "May the Course be With you" (complete with a drawing of Yoda), and "Run you Clever Girl, And Remember!" (With the name of the woman they were cheering for at the bottom).

I look like I'm in pain,
but I'm just tired
Race Bling!
I actually recovered really quickly from the race. After a hot bath and some stretching, I wasn't that sore. Mostly hungry and sleepy. I'm still hungry and sleepy. I learned a few very important lessons from this race. I need more water, I'm going out and buying a hydration belt asap. I need to focus on making sure I fuel as I run, I'm 90% sure the awfulness I experienced after mile 11 was fuel related.

And the most important lesson, one I totally wasn't expecting: I want more. I want to beat this time. I want to go further. I am totally, absolutely, addicted.

You can see the Hill'O'Doom on the elevation chart.
Another action shot of me running up the Hill'O'Doom


  1. YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I must be some weird kind of runner....when I eat during a run, I have to slow myself down so I don't eat too fast. I'll eat an entire waffle in a quarter mile. yum yum yum.

    Excellent job. My race has a hill of doom at almost exactly the same spot on the course....it looks like your pace didn't waiver too much...and you actually got faster in parts!

    Congratulations. You should be proud.

    1. You know, usually, I'm the same way with the waffles. I was eating two on my long runs before the race. I think the nerves just got to me!

  2. Oh man, this makes me so darn happy! Congrats on an awesome race!!!

    Yes, yes, yes to the fuel! You'll notice a complete difference in your next race if you're properly fueled and hydrated.

    I'm so glad you're excited about this and ready for more! GO YOU!

  3. Wow wow wow! Congratulations!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What an awesome race and those signs were PERFECTLY nerdy! That makes my heart happy! LOL
    What a wonderful job and a excellent recap!