After three weeks off since my last Half Marathon, I was starting to get worried. As I whined on and on about in my last post, my last couple of weeks of training have not been what I would call “ideal”. The weather has been a mess (still is), my schedule has been hectic (that’s not gonna change til May 23rd), and my body hasn’t been cooperating (sinuses, allergies, muscles… whine whine whine…).
I went to bed early on Friday night after an afternoon of tennis practice and
fixing the tire having the tire on the car fixed because somewhere along the line, we picked up a nail. I woke up at 4:00 a.m., grabbed a peanut butter sandwich, cleaned up, and left the house around 4:30. The two and a half hour drive to Lawrenceville, Illinois really only took about two hours. As I pulled up, I wasn’t sure that I was in the right place. Had it not been for all the signs, I would have left. I was, of course, the first person there. I arrived at 6:30 for a 7:45 race… what did I expect? So, I got great parking, made my way inside, and picked up my race packet. I headed to the locker room to change into my racing (running) gear and go through the running packet. Inside, I found a long sleeve technical shirt, some advertising for local businesses, and a ribbon in memory of a local woman who was killed in a car accident by a drunk driver. We were all asked to wear a yellow and purple ribbon in her memory.
The bag it all came in
The long sleeve shirt (I ordered a size too big)
Ribbon in memory of Amy Thomas
After changing, I took my clean, warm clothes out to the car, and realized that it was going to be a chilly morning. So, I held onto my gloves and hat, and went back into the building where it was warm. I had plenty of time for a nap. (Didn’t take one, anyway)
This race was a pretty neat event. It was a local fundraiser for something called the “kids shopping day”. The way I understand it, they have a fund devoted to taking less fortunate kids out shopping shortly before the start of a new school year. They buy them backpacks, school supplies, clothes, and anything else they’ll need for the new school year. It gives every kid the pride and confidence they need to fit in and feel normal on the first day of school… and beyond. This is something that really makes a lot of sense to a guy who is a school teacher. So, kudos to you, Lawrenceville! Anytime I can run a race, get all the goodies, AND it helps a good cause… totally worth all the effort!
The race starts by the elementary school, where they kick off a 5k and the Half Marathon at the same time. The first 3 miles of the race go through the town of Lawrenceville. I was fairly impressed by the scenery around town. Nice, old homes with a couple of small parks. We also ran by a few dilapidated, run down areas. But, it’s a small town and in three miles, you can expect to see a little of everything. Around mile marker #2 was the first water station. The table was set well off the road, and neither of the two volunteers were close to the road handing out the water, so I had to climb up onto a curb to grab my water. This was my first of many disappointing experiences with the water/gatorade stops. My cup was also too full. I took a big swig and tried to toss the leftover back to a volunteer who didn’t look too interested in picking up trash that was too far away. Well, upon tossing, it went straight back to the runner behind me… who CAUGHT IT and threw it off to the side. Although impressed, I apologized to the guy profusely.
At mile 3, the 5k course breaks off and heads to its finish line as the Half Marathoners head up a nice long hill and out into the country. For me, it was also when my race started to flash before my eyes. I started having some strong shooting pains through my right hamstrings and my glutes. Realizing I was headed out to the woods and corn fields, and knowing that there weren’t going to be many runners or volunteers around, I started thinking about drop-out strategies. Could I get online on my phone to find the director’s phone number? Would I just call 911? I mean, my right leg was hurting BAD to start thinking those thoughts. At about mile 4, the pain started to relent, very slowly. Shortly before that, between miles 3 & 4 was the one and only positive experience I had at a water stop. This table was set up on the corner of a turn, and on the inside corner, where it should be. Most of the tables were set up on (what seemed to be) the wrong side of the road. This one had a port-a-potty along side which I considered using, but with the feeling in my leg starting to come back, I figured I didn’t want to risk that getting worse.
At mile 5, the course turned out of the woods and into the corn fields. The sun had finally come out, and the temps were starting to rise. Heading into the wide open areas of flattened fields, I feared the wind was going to be a major issue. Not a breath. Not one hint of wind. I was so relieved, and therefore, removed my hat and gloves.
To this point, I was running pretty well. Slightly faster that my other races, AND my mile times were staying consistent! I could tell by mile 6 that, even though my
butt leg had given me some fits, the rest of my body was cooperating. That’s when my mind took on some challenges. At mile 6 was the first water stop where they had put out some energy gels (these are little packs of gel with a big shot of carbs, sodium, and other nutrients to give you a jolt of energy, sometimes including caffeine). At this stop, the 2 volunteers (gotta love volunteers, without them, this stuff wouldn’t get done, but…) were Jr. High or High School kids, one boy, one girl. The boy was not handing out water or gels. In fact, he was just in the way. I literally had to stop, reach around him to grab a water, BACK around him again for a gel, and then dance with him to get back on my way. I was so frustrated pissed off!! DUDE! MOVE!
Anyway, somehow, I did get back up to speed, and even ran the next mile a bit faster. A mile and a half down the road was the next water stop… on the OPPOSITE side of the road. I accidentally grabbed a Gatorade (poorly mixed and unmarked). I like water on my runs, unless it’s hot. But, I digress. I hate complaining too much about volunteers at a small race, or about water placement, but it just seemed like there was no rhyme or reason as to where they were set up.
Shortly after that stop, the course turns back toward the north and down a big hill. I picked up some good speed down that hill and passed a guy that I had been chasing for quite a while. I always love to have a rabbit to follow that can keep me motivated to push myself. This guy did a nice job:
After the big downhill, we turned back to the east to start the slow march back toward the finish line.
Hey, remember early when I said I was fearing the wind in the corn fields, but there wasn’t a breath of it the whole time?? Yeah, found it. Turns out it was at my back the whole first 8 miles.
Cold. Uphill. Into the wind. This was the rest of my race. And, where was my rabbit who I could follow and use as motivation?? Behind me. Smart. Now he had a wide shouldered wind barrier to follow until he could make his move.
The course did go uphill for a bit once we turned east, but it flattened out pretty well from miles 9-10. At mile 10 was another infuriating water station. As the course turned to the left, the water/gatorade/gel station was to the right. And, WAY to the right. Grabbed myself a cup and a gel, and guess what… GATORADE!!! AHHHhhh…
So, I took the gel, drank the poorly mixed orange concoction, and calmed myself down. And, just as I did, I looked up to see the runners ahead of me doing circles above my head. No, I hadn’t passed out. The course was only heading uphill and to the right. I was about to experience my biggest uphill of my running year. From mile 11-12 was my slowest mile of the race. And, I was pushing it.
As a runner, I like to do math in my head. What’s my time now? What’s my average mile? What do I need to run to get a PR? What do I need to break 2 hours? What about 1:55? At mile 11, as I was headed up and around a hill that seemed to curl off into the clouds (it didn’t actually, I was just getting mentally fried), I realized I was running my fastest race of the year. I only needed to finish the last 2.1 miles in 25 minutes to have my 2nd fastest time ever! (My PR is way above my head, I don’t know if it’s even possible that it actually happened in the real world or if it was some other dimension that I entered when I ran it.) And, I knew that in order to reach that goal of running my fastest race of the year, I was going to have to act like those hills weren’t there. They stayed.
Good life lesson: For every uphill, there’s a downhill. I used the downhill here, again, to pick up some speed. Mile 13 ended up being 13 seconds faster than mile 12. And, I was back on track. As we got close to the finish, I could see the crowd and the track that we would finish on. They wound the course up around a few more corners just to mess with us, and into the football stadium. At this point, I thought: “Sweet, 100 meters to g…WHAT? We have to go all the way around the track?! S#@T!!!”. I also thought “Hey, there goes Rabbit boy, passing me in the end just like that little snot in Little Rock”. I took the “Victory Lap”, and cruised toward the finish line, looking for the clock. Sure enough, some volunteer was standing in front of it. Perfect.
Looking back toward the finish line
I crossed the finish line without seeing the clock, stopped my Nike+ app, and headed to accept my medal.
Pretty happy looking for being so angry the whole race
Small, but VERY good looking medal
I finished with a time of 1:53:26. Pretty good time for me. It becomes my second best time by two and a half minutes. I thought that the course might be a bit short, but I noticed that my GPS cut off a couple of corners due to crummy cell service. So, I’d say, it was measured correctly, I ran the tangents as well as I could with the placement of the water stops, and it was overall a pretty good race!
After getting some water and a banana that was nearly as green as (SPOILER ALERT) Mila Kunis in her latest movie, I headed back up to the school to change clothes and partake in the pancake breakfast. I had some pancakes and some biscuits and gravy. Both very delicious and much appreciated!
Also, I took pictures of some special guests of the race:
Overall, it was a good race. The people that ran it were very friendly, and the people at the packet pick up were very helpful and nice! The course was challenging and on fairly well maintained roads. My only true complaint about the race was the water stations. I think if they had more runners giving the volunteers exact directions on where to place the tables, it would have worked out.
On my ranking scale of 1-10, where “1” means I’ll never do it again, and “10” means it needs to be an annual tradition, this race probably receives a 4. Lawrenceville isn’t really near anything where spending the night in the area would be beneficial. So, it’s quite the drive for an early race. On the other hand, it was a cute town with lots of nice people, and for a great cause! Thanks for putting on a great race, Lawrenceville!
Coming Up: 2 weeks from today, I run in the Go! St. Louis Half Marathon. Wish me luck! Hopefully, this weather we’re having will cooperate and the day of the race won’t be 70 degrees for the first time all year!