This post is a quick review of my least favorite race of the year, and a recap of the challenges I’ve faced in running TEN Half Marathons so far!
Upon registering for this race, I became excited. This race looked fun, exciting, flat, and like a great set-up. Running through 4 cities, over 3 bridges and 2 states sounds like a really cool race! It even gave me the opportunity to explore the area where I was born and see some of the places that my dad experienced during his college days. The night before the race I had the chance to eat at his favorite college pizza place. It WAS pretty good pizza!
I stayed at a Holiday Inn and was in bed by 7. Asleep by 9. I drove around Saturday evening looking for something fun to do or to see. The Iowa side of the Missippi River was much nicer than the Illinois side. But, that was the extent of my evening. That was how exciting the Quad Cities were for me.
I woke up around 6, showered, ate my bagel and cream cheese with a side of banana, and headed toward the start line for a 7:30 start. It was cool, the temperature around 55 degrees. The start area is where I found my first flaw with the race. First, there were no starting corrals. This means ANYONE could line up ANYWHERE they wanted. Not to mention problem #2: All runners started together. Full Marathon, Half Marathon, 5k Runners, 1 mile runners, grandmas pushing their grandkids in strollers through the mall… EVERYONE! For future reference, this is a great way to not allow one to get off to a comfortable start.
The race starts headed North toward I-74 and up onto the onramp and to the Interstate. All of the runners within 1 mile are squeezed into one lane of interstate traffic. Apparently, closing down the interstate is an impossibility (understandable), and heading in the other direction is also an impossibility (not as understandable). You see, when the squeeze is at the beginning of the race, runners are not as spread out as they would be if the one lane were used at the end of the race! Just the 3rd problem with the course before the end of mile one, that’s all.
The website for this race promotes the race, as most races do, as flat and fast. Through the first 3 miles I wished that I wasn’t blessed with the ability to read. With the slowdown on I-74, the hill up the onramp, the inability to gain speed coming off of the bridge (due to congestion), and the hills rising above the floodplain through mile 3 and into mile 4, I was already defeated. Phyically from 9 prior Half Marathons, and mentally having prepared myself for a “flat and fast” course that was mainly uphill concrete roads. The concrete pounded my body unlike what gravel or blacktop would have. The downhill at Mile 4 helped, and even got me back on pace through mile 5 for a 2 hour Half Marathon, but I was already mentally defeated. I wouldn’t shake the negative feelings that I already had for this race.
It’s a shame, too. From Mile 4 onward, the course was beautiful. The Missippi River surrounded by beautiful homes and rolling hills in the distance was a wonderful site. We passed through Rock Island Arsenal, which I hear has the country’s largest stockpile of ammunition. The race went through beautiful neighborhoods and ran past the national cemetery, where many of our heroes are laid to rest.
But, there were too many negatives. The River Walk path about as wide as a golf cart where I was passed by the 2 hour pace group, and pushed aside into the grass. The steel grated bridge to the Arsenal Island which, even with the carpeted runner, was difficult for my feet to navigate. The total of 5 water stations with only 4-6 volunteers at each, one of which spilled water down my left side and another which I totally missed due to the crowd of people and the small size of the stop. With a couple thousand runners passing, there just wasn’t enough water ready as I went around. Even the spectators seemed to sit on their hands. It was rare that I heard cheering for the runners. It seemed like they were all waiting for their family members to come through, and they weren’t going to cheer for anyone else. It was almost surreal, the quiet that could befall the large groups of people standing around on city sidewalks and corners.
I want to be clear: the people that volunteered for the race seemed to be working hard. There just weren’t enough of them. They were overcome by the sheer number of runners and didn’t have much chance to cheer or motivate the runners. A few smiling faces made it easier, but my attitude had been determined.
I haven’t even mentioned how I ran…. it wasn’t bad. My final time was 2:05:24, which isn’t terrible given the circumstances. I wish it were better, sure. But, yet again, I’m happy. I don’t like making excuses, especially after I finish another 13.1 mile race. There are excuses to be made, but I’ll spare you. It wasn’t my best day, it wasn’t my worst day. I’m sure both are still out there for the future to see.
Anyway, on to the finer points of the race… the Shirt and Medal! Really, the medal was the best part of the race. Probably one of the best medals I’ve received. Ya know, a nice ribbon can really fancy up a medal. Thanks, QC Half, you got something right!
The t-shirt was nice, too. Not my favorite shirt, but it fits, and it’s a nice material!
Will I do this race again?? Nooo… But, if you’re in the area, it was pretty cheap…
Anyway… I’m 10 races in now. I’m averaging about 2:01 per race. I’ve learned a lot about running and what I’m doing wrong. There’s a lot of that. My nutrition has been atrocious. But, part of the challenge to this thing is to properly fuel myself to be ready to finish these races. So what if I’m ALWAYS carb-loading!? Another issue I’ve faced is properly recovering from one race while preparing for the next. I’m currently in the midst of a streak of 4 races in 8 weeks. That’s 2 weeks off between each, and the 5th race is only 3 weeks after the 4th. I try to take some time off, run every other day, and do a long run of about 7-8 miles on the weekend between. Is it working? Kinda. I’ve had the strength to finish the next race without cramping or pulling a DNF, but at the same time, with each race it takes more of a perceived effort to even run the times that I am. Is that lack of training? Is it over training? I don’t know. What I do know is this: I can do it. Anyone CAN do it. Yeah, at times it sucks. The worst of it is time away from my little family here. I wish my wife would go along on these trips, but I understand her need to be home and taking care of our animals, the laundry, and herself. The travel has worn me out almost as much as the races. I don’t want that for both of us, we’d probably be killing each other if we were BOTH stressed from time away from home.
Anyway… I took a couple pictures that represent my chase for 13 in ’13. Here’s the bibs:
And, here are ALL of the finisher’s medals I’ve earned so far, including a 5k medal, a spartan medal, and the medal from the Half that wasn’t a Half…
Thanks for reading! Just 3 more races left, or as my friend Eric reminded me, “less than 40 miles to go!” That sounds amazing… but, then, it’s time to get faster!!
Leave me a comment! What’s your favorite race story so far? What’s your favorite race that YOU’VE run?