Sunday, May 7, 2017

Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon

When you call it a miniMarathon it seems to me that you're making it sound like it is less than - which yes, a half marathon is technically less than a marathon, but mini sounds so tiny. And there ain't nothing tiny about 13.1 miles.

Now that I have that off my chest, here is the recap of this race that was at times totally frustrating, a lot of fun, hot, humid, rainy, thunderstormy, delayed and a whole host of other things.

Several weeks ago one of the running girls asked if anyone would be interested in going on a running trip. We settled on the Kentucky Derby Festival half marathon and 12 of us signed up for the race - we did have one late drop out due to life circumstances - so 11 ended up in an airbnb in a cute little neighborhood.

Leading up to this weekend, we all knew the race was going to be a hot one. Each day the temperature seemed to go one degree higher with the average being in the mid-80s. Since it's still in the 50s in Chicago, I wasn't planning on having a stellar run. I had wanted to try and PR but I gave up on that when it looked like the temperature was going to be 88 degrees. Added to that, the forecast was calling for thunderstorms - so we weren't really sure what to expect come race day.

In fact, the morning of the race sometime around 4 or 5 am the race director emailed letting us know that the race start has been delayed from 7:30 to 8 am due to threatening thunderstorms. None of us were too sad about the prospect of getting another half an hour sleep - but soon enough we all piled into the cars and headed downtown.

This is where we ran into our first snag of the day. With roads being closed and the GPS being wacky, we all ended up going the wrong way down a one way street. But a nice (or slightly annoyed) police officer helped us out and we found parking. We made our way over to the start line and took up residence on steps in front of a bank. The clouds looked pretty ominous and we weren't surprised when they delayed the start another half hour. The bank's awning was getting pretty crowded with people trying to get out of the drizzle, and we were starting to wonder if they would just cancel the race all together.

Finally ready to start!
There was a massive storm system sitting just North of Louisville, and I'm sure the race directors didn't want to let loose a bunch of runners just to have the race called when it decided to make it's way further south. Of course, they couldn't just keep delaying it. Even though the temperature wasn't the mid 80s, it was still in the 60s and getting warmer. Plus, they couldn't keep the streets closed forever. I was beginning to hope they'd just cancel - though I did feel bad for the marathoners.

We finally started a little bit after 9 am in a mild drizzle.

Originally my plan was to try to stay with the fastest in our group, Aliza. But since I was no longer set on getting a PR,  I let her go and stayed with Staci and Suzanne for the first couple of miles. But in an effort to get past all the people going slower than me and the crazy amount of walkers I seemed to be running into, I lost them. Even still, the first couple of miles were a bit slow because the course was so crowded. Miles three-six I picked up the pace and ended mile six with an overall pace of 9:51. I knew maintaining this pace actually would get me a PR, and under my coveted 10 min mile 1/2 marathon pace.

But it was not to be...because by mile seven I could no longer ignore the fact that I had to pee.

I had to go before we started, but I had already made a trip to the portapotties, and I figured it was just nervousness and would likely go away. But with the humidity, I certainly didn't want to skip any water stops and soon I was pretty sure I couldn't get through another five miles without going. So between miles seven and eight I stopped losing about three minutes.

While I felt better after visiting the portapotty, the heat and humidity was starting to take its toll. After we rounded Churchill Downs (which was way cool) around mile eight, we split from the marathoners and headed back. I was pretty much running from water stop to water stop. I took my last Gu around mile nine, which helped, but overall I slowed down to just above a 10 min pace for miles 8-10.

The last three miles I did manage to speed up a little bit, and even for a minute forgot that my watch was about three minutes behind my chip time (I have my watch on autostop for when I train, but forgot to switch it - so it automatically stopped when I went to the portapotty) and thought I still had a chance to get under 2:10. Even still, I did hold about a 10 min pace for the last three miles. Finish time 2:13:49, 106/523 in my age group, 1288/5010 women, 3145/8737 overall. Of course, my watch says I finished in 2:10:55 which is a 9:57 pace. If only I hadn't stopped for the bathroom I'd have written an entirely different post.

In the end, I did a lot better than I thought I would. I dealt with the humidity and delays and ran a good race. I'm still on the hunt for that elusive 2:04 half marathon that my speed in other distances seems to indicate I can run...but it seems that mother nature might be against me.

Support on the race was pretty good. Some of the water stops could have been better staffed, but they had plenty of stops and added a couple because of the projected heat. There were a lot more spectators on the course that I figured they would be since we were delayed so long. Afterwards they had lots of food, other vendors and of course a free beer. So now I can check Kentucky off of my list of states I have run at least a half marathon in. Not that I'm going for a 50 states thing, but you know, it is pretty cool to say I've run in Michigan, Texas, Illinois, Wisconsin and Kentucky.

And in a couple of weeks I'll be able to add Ohio to that list. I am running the Cleveland Marathon on May 21. It'll be the first spring marathon I've run. I'm not really sure what to expect and so I waver between having a plan and just going out and running to finish.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Good Life Race

Even though I look hideous in this photo,
that's fine because everyone who runs hard looks hideous.
I'm not entirely sure why they call this the Good Life Race - there must be some story - but it's not on the website.* Anyway, I ran this CARA Circuit race for the 2nd time. And, spoiler, I PR'd.

I thought I might be able to shave a little off my PR since I have been training well and am feeling pretty good. But I wasn't going for a specific time; I just wanted to go out there and have a good time - in both senses of the phrase.

Because I'm a doofus, I didn't sign up for the race in advance. So I went with my sister to packet pick up where I signed myself up for the 5k and the little guy for the 1 mile run. The only issue we had with packet pick up was that the website said it was supposed to be at Lively Athletics, which sister said it was at before, while I maintained that no it was (at least two years ago) at Fleet Feet. Anyway, we get to Lively and yep, the website had it wrong. But no matter, we totally spent time looking at all the cute stuff at Lively and I ended up buying a new version of a bag I used to have but then didn't and it's a really long story, so let's just say if packet pick up was correct on the website I wouldn't have gotten a new bag - which is both good and bad.

On race day, Mr. H. had to work the CARA tent, so we head out early, and get there around 7:30 am. The kid's 1 miler doesn't start until 8:45 so we have plenty of time to hang out, visit the vendors, say hello to the Lively Athletics ladies and let them know how much I love my bag, which I have with me. After 'helping' set up the tent, we head over to the packet pick up area because I noticed that they didn't give me a youth shirt for the little guy, but a small men's shirt. They let me know that they can't switch it out until after the race, which is fair enough, but I had thought they made a mistake when they gave me the larger shirt, but it was really because they weren't sure if they'd have enough kids shirts. In the end it didn't matter since we were able to switch out the shirt and they are super cute and soft and he wore it the rest of the day totally impressing his friends at the birthday parties (yes, more than one) he attended later with tales of his 1 mile run.

Since the kids mile was first, I ran with S. He ran for about an 8th of a mile before complaining his
back hurt, so we walked. After a minute or so, he decided to run again for a while, and we did this pretty much the entire mile. He didn't complain so much as just not want to run the whole time. Which I totally get because I often want to stop in the middle of my runs no matter how I'm feeling. He finished in slightly over 12 minutes and was X in his age group - 6 and under.

The women's race (they split this race between men and women for some reason) started a few minutes after the kid's race ended, so I was nice and warmed up for my race. I seeded myself with the 9 minute pace and waited for the gun to go off. Which it did without much fanfare and we were off.

My first mile I weaved in and out of people who either weren't running at least a 9 minute mile, and then those who were running a 9-minute mile but since I was running closer to an 8:30, I obviously had to pass. By the end of the first mile I was in a pack of similarly paced women and settled in. First mile: 8:31.

The first time I ran this race two years ago, I had a good first mile, and then a much slower 2nd mile. I tried to remember this as I paced myself to not slow down too much. Most of the 2nd mile is on the same street, so I just concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other, breathing and telling myself to not worry about going a specific pace. After turning west, we head up a slight hill with the water stop at the top. While I didn't 'power' up the incline, I make it to the top, skip the water and look for the couple of turns before we get to head for home. Second mile: 8:47.

So while I did slow down my second mile, it was no where near what I had slowed down to before (for comparison, I did somewhere around a 9:05 the second mile 2 years ago). They say that racing a 5k means you have to be uncomfortable the entire time. This is where I run into problems. I don't like to be uncomfortable - ever really. I mean who does? I got through the second mile being kinda uncomfortable and now it's the last mile. I figure I can do anything for a mile, even be uncomfortable.

The last mile has three turns, which makes it interesting. I try to take the tangents so I'm not wasting steps. My legs and lungs aren't 'screaming' but it's not like they're saying 'wow, this feels great - keep going!' either, and I figure I'm going to reach my limit any minute. But then in my 2nd to last turn I see the pig tails belonging to my niece. I figure it can't actually be her because she usually runs faster than me. But as I ever so slowly gain on her, I realize that nope, it's her. As we round the last corner, about half a mile away from the finish and for one fleeting second I have an image of gathering all my inner strength and whizzing past to the finish line. But of course, her legs aren't hurting anywhere near what mine are, so she see's the finish line and starts to speed up too. Oh well, I didn't really think I could catch an 11-year old. Third mile: 8:40

And then less than a minute later I am crossing the finish line with a new 5k PR of 26:55.5. And I finished in the 9th in my age group! (I just want you to know that I so rarely use exclamation points outside of work because 1. I am forced to use them at work for things that I do not agree need them and 2. Unless I am shouting, do I really need an exclamation point? But, I really do feel like a 9th place age group finish is worth it.)

Up next, the Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon. I'm all ready to set a new PR - except maybe not since it's supposed to be 85 degrees and possibly thunderstorming in Louisville on Saturday. So, you know, we'll see.

*Note: I emailed Good Life and their official story is: Years ago the title sponsor was an area hospital and the race was called "the Race That's Good for Life." We shortened it a few years ago to Good Life Race because it was easier to remember.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Lakefront 10 Miler

Before the race - I like to stand out in all pink!
I've said it before and I'll say it again, there is nothing stopping me from running a sub-10 minute mile half marathon except myself.

Once again I had a good race at the CARA Lakefront 10 Miler and 5k. I finished in 1:33:34 with an overall pace of 9:22. According to my good friend McMillan, I should be able to run a half marathon in 2:04:48 or at a 9:32 pace. That's great - but that's about eight minutes off my current PR of 2:12:12 which is a 10:04 pace. So clearly McMillan knows something my body (or head) doesn't.

The Lakefront 10 was a good race - even though it was a bit chilly - or maybe because it was a bit chilly. This year we once again ran up Cricket Hill twice. But in a new exciting twist, we finished on the Wilson track. Finishing on the track is run, it gives you that "I'm a real runner feeling" - it was also easier to know when to really start sprinting because you know exactly how far away the finish line is.

Before the race we all stood around on the infield. There were the usual pre-race pictures and discussion on everyone's expected pace. I didn't have a specific pace I wanted to run, I just figured I would run at least a sub-10. I've had some pretty decent mid-week runs these last few weeks, so while I wasn't setting out for a PR - I had looked at last year's time several days before the race, but of course I had forgotten what it was - I knew I should be able to run a good race. We made our way over to the starting corral on Wilson, which was thick with kids from Chicago Run doing the 5k.

As Aliza, Adrienne and I made our way past a bunch of kids the first couple of miles, I mentioned how cool they look in their matching sweats and then have the brilliant idea that our group totally needs matching track suits! We're working on a team name and logo now.

I assure you that is a grimace - not a smile on my face.
I managed to run the whole way up the hill - the first time.
We headed north first and then turned back south along the inner gravel path before swinging over to the path by Montrose. Up until this point, Adrienne and I had been keeping up with Aliza, but at a water stop around half way we decided to slow down a bit and let her go. The turn around is at Fullerton, and of course the minute we turned back north we feel the wind. It's not terrible, but it's there - a seeming constant this last few weeks.

At mile 9 we started to push a little bit, which was good because unlike Adrienne, I couldn't charge up the hill a second time. I made it about a quarter of the way before I started to walk. But once I got to the top, I sprinted to catch back up with Adrienne. As we made our way onto the field I realized that yes, we do have to go around more than once. As we are close to the finish line the first time, I saw a friend who I know runs faster than me just completing his second time around. He happily let me know that we have one more time around to go. But that's not what's on my mind - I was just astonished I was so close behind him.

I put it all out the last 100 meters - huffing and puffing my way across the finish line. My watch said I ran a 9:17 pace, but had the distance at 10.08 miles. Even with the distance adjustment, I was ecstatic that I ran a 9:22 pace - and set a new 10 mile PR by three and a half minutes.

Adrienne and I met up with Aliza and my sister and then cheered on all of our other friends. All in all it was a great race - even if we did have to go up that damn hill twice.

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