Birdtown Half Marathon – Race Recap

One of my favorite things about small local races is that we can arrive a half hour before the start and have plenty of time. That’s exactly what Josh and I did yesterday in Robbinsdale. We got to the park where we’d be starting about 7:30.

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We both had time to hit the porta potty and meet up with a couple of the Mother Runners who were also doing the half, 8k or 4k.

MRTT Pre-race

Once we snapped our picture we walked over to the starting line. It was on a bike trail at the park. Just a simple spray painted start line with a timing mat. After the national anthem we were off. I had lined up near the 1:50 pacers just so I didn’t go out too fast and I thought it would be feasible for me to keep an 8:24 pace at least until the hills. I was told the course was hilly which I thought would probably make my legs want to fall off.

We weren’t even to the first mile when we saw a huge group of runners coming back towards us. Turns out they’d missed the turn! I didn’t see Josh in the group so I was worried he’d dropped out due to hip pain. I later found out, he and about 10 other people that were in the lead (he was fourth at the time) never turned around at the missed turn and kept going none the wiser.

We made the turn and kept on chugging. Luckily from then on the course was fairly well marked with volunteers who were paying attention. Just before mile three we turned into another park where we had to run on grass for about a quarter mile. I was not excited about that. Once we were off of it, we were on a beautiful, tree-lined gravel path. It was humid out and I was starting to get hot so the gentle breeze through the trees felt great. My watch was telling me I was about .15-.20 miles off of the mile markers. When we hit the fourth mile, I was showing only 3.88 miles. I figured either I was working my tangents well or the course was going to be short. (First four mile splits: 8:15, 8:19, 8:30, 8:19)

Somewhere around our grassy area, I had lost the pacers. I was feeling good at the pace I was holding and decided to just go with it. If I had to slow down at the end so be it. We hit a big hill about mile five. It just kept going. My head was telling me to walk but I ignored it and powered up the hills. Because it was rather humid, I was taking water at every water stop. I was carrying a gel with me, but decided that I better wait as long as possible to take it, not wanting to risk stomach issues. The nice things about big hills is you get to go down them. Unfortunately at the bottom of this hill was another hill. I was happy when the big hills were over. (Miles 5-7 splits: 8:27, 8:23, 8:18)

Around mile eight I calculated that I should get a new PR even if I slowed down to a 10 min/mile pace. I tried not to look at my watch at all until I passed mile markers. Apparently around this mile, Josh and another group of runners missed another turn. Again cutting the course short. I’ll get back to that in a minute. I had been chasing a woman for a few miles and finally caught up to her around mile nine. We chatted briefly until the next water stop where I lost her. When I got to mile 10 I thought about taking my gel. My energy was starting to lag but there was a serious lack of porta potties. I put the gel in my sports bra and decided I’d have to go without it. (Miles 8-10 splits: 8:22, 8:13, 8:19)

At mile 11 I caught up with another woman I’d been behind most of the race. It was just the two of us on the street for a few minutes. Again we chatted and lost each other at the next water stop. I will say this race did well having water stops every few miles. I never did see the stop where they were supposed to have gels, but that’s why I always bring my own. The mile 12 marker was just behind me and my watch was still telling me about .20 miles behind that. Now I knew I was going to PR. We had one more little hill before heading down to the finish line. I was able to pick up the pace in the last few miles, especially the last mile and cruise across the finish line. (Miles 11-13 splits: 8:20, 8:15, 7:48)

Jess and Josh post race

Garmin Stats:

Distance: 12.90 miles      Time: 1:47:04       Pace: 8:17 min/mile

So if I add the rest of the distance at my 8:17 pace, my finishing time would actually have been 1:48:35. Still a PR by a couple minutes.

Official Stats:

Distance: 13.1 miles        Time: 1:47:05       Pace: 8:12 min/mile

I was satisfied with my race and was thinking, I might even have a chance to place in my age group. Of course it wasn’t until I found Josh that I learned what a huge disaster the race was for the first 10-15 runners. Thanks to missing the first turn, Josh and at least 10 other runners skipped about half a mile. The second missed turn added another half mile or so of missed distance. Josh was running down the finish line, heard them say, here comes the 4th half marathon finisher, but he turned around because his watch only said 11.XX miles. He ran the extra distance and then finished, which put him in 10th place overall.

What this is all means is that the winners and some of the top age group finishers only ran 11+ miles, not even close to the 13.1 they were supposed to. Josh was pretty pissed. I can’t say I blame him. As we looked at the results when we got home, it’s pretty obvious that the winners missed an entire mile. I guess that’s a possibility in these small races.

My official finishing information put my as the 33 of 230 finisher. I was 5th in my age group of 54 and 7th out of 109 women. Still very good, especially since I just ran a marathon, but I’m irritated with the skewed results thanks to missed turns.

This race has the potential to be great. The course offered a lot of variety and was pretty. They need to measure it longer than 13.1 rather than right at it to prevent it from being so short. They also need to have more volunteers and mark the course better. A leader on a bike directing the front of the pack is a huge necessity. The race director could also use a public relations person or at least a lesson in appropriate tone and content of communication. It was awful.

Anyway, that’s the last of my races for a while. I think that I’ll find a half marathon to do some time late summer to gauge where my speed is at during the Chicago training cycle. Josh was encouraging me to do a 10k next weekend, then a 5k the next just as a step down every week in the month of May. It’s not going to happen though as he and I will be out of town the last weekend of May (first trip alone!) and next weekend there are a bunch of 5ks but not 10ks.

Recovery Week

recovery [ri-kuhv–uh-ree]

noun:

1.an act of recovering.

2.the regaining of or possibility of regaining something lost or taken away.

3.restoration or return to health from sickness.

4.restoration or return to any former and better state or condition.

Recovery seems to mean something different for everyone. For me, it typically means doing as little as possible the week after a marathon. Usually I’m sore for days and walking like a duck up and down the stairs…very slowly. This time around, I decided to have a more active recovery.

Sunday morning I woke up pretty sore. It took me a few minutes to get down the stairs and once I was sitting, getting back up was a little rough. After breakfast with the family I packed up my gym bag and headed out for a swim. Swimming became my favorite workout to do after longer runs over the winter. i knew it would feel good to stretch my legs without any impact. i swam for about a half hour and when I got out of the pool, i felt great. Later in the day I was treated to a Mother’s Day 60 minute massage.

Monday morning I woke up feeling like a new person. My quads were a little sore but I had no problem with stairs or getting up or down. As per my usual routine, I took a full rest day. I drank (and ate) a lot while just hanging out with the kids. I swam again on Tuesday and felt good enough to ride a stationary bike on Wednesday before Anderson’s early childhood class. Today I really wanted to run, but instead I went for a swim and a short bike ride. I really think the swimming, plus massage has help immensely. I think it will be my new go-to strategy.

We were able to find a babysitter and I’m feeling so good, that I decided to run the half marathon Josh and I signed up for months ago. Obviously I’m not going to run really hard because I just don’t think my legs will carry me. I’m just going to run it for the fun of a small town half with Josh.

Fargo Marathon – Race Recap

It’s hard to believe that I just ran my fifth marathon. An unplanned marathon at that. I’d like to say it went as expected, but that isn’t the case – both in positive and negative ways. Let’s back up a second.

We were in the car as planned at noon, headed to Fargo. Just over three hours later we arrived at the Fargodome to pick up my race stuff. The expo itself was small but the race gave out some nice swag. I got this awesome bag and long sleeved tech pullover.

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With race gear picked up, we met Jim and Nancy at the hotel. After getting settled the entire group went out for a tasty dinner. I was feeling great when we got back to the hotel. I knew I was well hydrated and I had eaten smartly all week. We all got in our pjs and got ready for bed…at least I was ready for bed.

Ella didn’t fall asleep until oh about 10 pm. Anderson, so sweet, decided he would not sleep unless he was touching me…all night long. I ended up sleeping for only three interrupted hours. It’s a good thing that I got a good night of sleep on Thursday night and took a nap on the ride up. At 5 am I was in the hotel breakfast room eating my toast. Being paranoid, I brought all my stuff with me: bread, peanut butter and jelly. We left for the race about an hour later.

The races all started inside of the Fargodome. I was really appreciative of this because it was only 28 degrees. We had just the right amount of time to hit the bathrooms, drop our bags and take a quick picture before lining up. I decided to listen to Josh and just start out with the 3:40 pacer.

Pre Race with Nancy

The first 10k

Starting inside meant that my Garmin wasn’t going to be quite right as far as mileage, but since I was with a pacer I didn’t care. I hit the lap button once we hit the first mile so I could see my mile splits. Our pacer was pretty amusing and made me think of guys that would live in Boulder. We spent the first 5k trying to get on pace after the slow, crowded start. We also made a lot of turns. I believe we turned about 11 times. We hit the 5k mark at 26:18 (8:28 min/mile).

I was feeling so good. I was even chatting with the pacer a bit. He said when he isn’t a pacer, he usually runs marathons closer to the three hour mark. No wonder he was so talkative. The only thing I really remember about this portion was thinking, man this is super flat and these turns are ridiculous (Someone told me that there were 70 turns total). My 10k time was 52:13 (8:24 min/mile). Woohoo for a negative split for the second 5k.

Miles 7-13.1

I took my first gel at mile 7. I didn’t really feel like I needed it yet, but during marathons I try to refuel every hour. It went down fine and I carried on. It was about mile 10 that I started to feel my hydration kicking in. Even though I only had a gulp of water with breakfast and a swig with my gel, my bladder was ready to explode. We didn’t get to porta-potties until just before the half marathon point. I really did not want to stop, but I had to, or pee my pants. I stopped as quickly as possible and carried on, but lost my pacer. I crossed the half way point at 1:50:58 (8:28 min/mile).

Miles 14-17

We were on a very curvy bike path but I could still see the 3:40 pacer. I was probably about a minute behind him when I took my second gel at 14. This is when the problems began. By mile 15 my stomach was telling me that it was unhappy. By 16 I had to take a few walk breaks in an attempt to keep it together until I could get to the porta-potty. Finally, just before the 17th mile marker, like a mirage, the porta potties appeared. Lucky me, there was one open. I’ll spare you all, but I lost a few minutes. I was pissed. I was cursing myself for not taking gels more often during my non-training training. I ran from the john and tried to regain my speed. The 3:45 pace group had passed me when I was taking care of business and I didn’t want to lose any more time. Josh called right about then and told me they’d see me in a few miles.

Miles 18-20

I was finally feeling normalish again. I was keeping a steady pace and feeling great energy-wise. Josh called again to tell me that I was going to see them in a few blocks. When I saw them I was so excited.  He yelled to me that I was only about two minutes behind the 3:45 pacer.

Jess Running

It gave me the boost I needed to keep  get rid of my sour mood and try to keep my pace below a 9 min/mile. I crossed the 20 mile point at 2:52:02 (8:36 min/mile). My overall pace was slowing but considering my porta-potty stop, not too much. I calculated in my head that I should still come in around the 3:50 mark.

Miles 21-26.2

The final stretch and the introduction of a nasty headwind! I took my final gel just after mile 21. I was nervous that my stomach would sideline me again, but to my relief it was feeling ok. The race had been pretty flat, with a few tiny hills up until this point. The biggest hills were in the last few miles. They were still small, but unexpected because someone did not really look at the course map. Josh called to see how I was doing about mile 22 after he had seen Nancy run by. He gave me some encouragement and told me they’d see me as soon as he could get to the Fargodome.

Around mile 23 my stomach started acting up again. Not horribly, but enough that I walked through a water stop drinking a cup and a half of water. That seemed to do the trick. I ran with a woman for a few minutes who told me she had seen me earlier in the race and congratulated me on doing so well. She must have seen me as I was questioning whether or not I was going to make it to a porta-potty. It was very nice of her regardless. I told her she was looking strong and I continued on.

I knew that there was one big turnaround at mile 25. When I could see the runners turning ahead of me I wanted to jump for joy. I looked at my watch and realized I was definitely going to come in under 3:50 unless I had to stop again. I tried to pick up the pace a bit, though my legs were getting tired. When I saw the Fargodome I kept telling myself to go go go. We ran partially around the dome before running down the ramp into the dome. As soon as I hit the door of the dome a wave of hot air rushed over me. I pumped my arms running through the finish line. I looked down and saw 3:47 on my watch.

As I hobbled towards medals and refreshments I found my father-in-law Jim. He was all smiles after running a great 10k.

Jess finish line

I stopped to take my finisher’s picture.

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Official Time: 3:47:12 (8:41 min/mile) New PR by 3.16!

Then grabbed chocolate milk, cookie dough and a donut hole on my way to sit down. Josh called as I was trying to get to a spot to rest and I was so desperate to sit down that I couldn’t even talk to him on the phone. Once I was down, I had to stay down for a bit.

Post marathon

After a little bit of stretching I went to get my bag. Walking around made me feel so much better. A little while later Josh and the kids arrived. Ella and Anderson enjoyed the pizza, cookies and chocolate milk while I had a beer as we waited for the rest of the group to finish.

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Nancy was a bit wobbly after her finish and was taken over to medical to be warmed up and checked out. She was fine, thank goodness. We all got together for a picture before we went back to the hotel.

Post Race Group

Little rest later we all went to out to dinner – I ate way too much. Another few pictures of everyone cleaned up with medals.

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Then ice cream… because you know.

The three hour car ride home was painful. I could not wait to get out of the car. I do not recommend driving home the same day as the race. I’m so excited for Chicago. I’m feeling good about the chance of another PR in October. Hopefully with a normal training cycle where my stomach can get used to gels again, will help me avoid mid-race GI issues. I’m coming for you BQ. It might not be my next race, but I’m going to get there!

Race Prep – Fargo Edition

Well, here we are, a few days until race day. Typically I’d be nervously pacing around my house gathering up all my things and studying the course map. This time around, I’m just not feeling anxious, not yet anyway. I’m sure it will kick in as soon as we get in the car Friday afternoon.

I am however, carb loading like a champ. After reading more about how to create a carb store more effectively, I’ve taken a new approach. Rather than depend on one large pasta meal the night before, I’ve been adding a few more carbs to my daily diet all week. Toast or oatmeal for breakfast, turkey sandwiches or (like yesterday) a Chipotle burrito for lunch, and stir fry with rice, kebobs with pasta salad, etc. for dinner. I’m trying to make sure that I get a decent amount of protein along with all my carbs, but trying to watch my dairy and fiber intake. 

Thanks to my awesomely sensitive stomach when I do long runs, for the past two weeks I’ve also had no caffeine or alcohol. Tonight we had a big spaghetti dinner. Leftovers will make a tasty lunch. We’ll be eating out Friday night in Fargo. I found a restaurant where I can get some chicken or pork tenderloin with a sweet potato and green beans. Stomach friendly!

Other than eating, hydrating as best I can. I’ve been addicted to LaCroix water lately. I’m cutting it out this week though as it makes me kind of burpy and I feel like I don’t drink as much water when it’s carbonated. I alternate with some Nuuns and bought a couple bottles of Smart Water for our car ride.

I ran my last, very humid run tonight. A whole 24 minutes of running. I was only supposed to do 20 but accidentally ran 12 minutes out. I foSm rolled a bit and am feeling decent.

Ella has been helping us make signs. They are works in progress but she was very proud that she came up with my sign. I think she did well.   

 The weather is looking questionable. Right now the high is 66 degrees. The low is in the 40s which is nice. The eh part is the forecasted winds of 15-20 mph. I can only hope they are primarily a tailwind. I know I’m dealing but with a looped course at least a portion of it should be.

I don’t really have goals per se. I would love to run under 3:50. I’m thinking about starting with the 3:45 pacer and seeing how it feels. Josh is encouraging me to aim high and go for 3:40. I just don’t think I’m in good enough shape. After all, I didn’t really train for this race.

We will see how it goes. If nothing else it will be s good benchmark for where to start for my Chicago training.

Three Things Thursday – middle of the night edition

People say years go by fast but weeks feel long. This has been a long week in good and bad ways. I thought I’d share some highs and lows.

  1. I have woken up at 3:24 am every single day for the past week. Some times I’m up for two minutes, others two hours. I have no idea why. Anderson is sleeping through the night (finally and please don’t stop!) and I’ve cut all caffeine until after the race. My internal clock needs to be reset. Now that AJ is not nursing at night maybe I should take melatonin again.
  2. Spring appears to be here for good. The sunlight and fresh air has been good for all of us. We’ve been making good use of our swing set, the park and taking evening walks around the lake by our house.   Everyone, myself included, is in a much better mood after spending time outdoors. Ella is especially excited she can wear this killer look:  
  3. Anderson has been into jumping lately. This week when I put on Raffi out of desperation to make dinner without him attached to my leg or hip, I saw that he is ready to dance. “Knees Up Mother Brown” is his favorite. I captured him on video without him stopping the moment he noticed me filming.

Looking forward to weekend. I have my last longish run of 10 miles before Fargo, we are planning to go to a baseball game and it’s supposed to be summer-like!