Monday, February 16, 2009

Last Chance for Boston Half Marathon: Race Report

Yesterday I raced the Last Chance for Boston Half Marathon as a tune-up for my upcoming marathon. I wanted a simple, no-frills, logistically easy race, something that would be be a good test of my fitness without a lot of extra factors, and that's what I got. Some of you may know that this race is known for being run on a one-mile loop.

Mark and I woke up early Saturday morning and ran with the Indiana Running Company group at 7:30. He ran about 8, and I ran 6 easy. Afterwards, we grabbed breakfast at Bloomingfoods with Jon, Jaylyn, and Jen. Then we popped over to the Bloomington Bagel Company and picked up a baker's dozen (including two red, heart-shaped bagels in honor of Valentine's Day). Carbo-loading, dontcha know. And then we finally hit the road around 11. Dublin, which is just outside of Columbus, Ohio, is about four hours away. After an uneventful drive, we arrived at the hotel, which was the host hotel and the site of the packet pickup. I checked in for the race while Mark checked us into the hotel. Ten minutes flat found us in our room, and it was only a little after 3. I am loving this race already.

After a while, we decided to investigate dinner options nearby. We jumped in the car and drove down the road. I wasn't feeling terribly hungry since it was early, but I wanted an early dinner so I could go to bed early as well. Finally we spotted a restaurant promising "Italian cuisine." We went in and it seemed to mainly a deli, with a counter and a couple of tables set up. There was a huge stack of cases of wine arranged in the middle. As we approached the counter, the girl warned us they were out of calzones.
Me: No problem. Can I have a turkey sub?
Girl: Sure. :pause: Oh, no, wait, we're out of bread.
Me: You're out of bread? Oookay. Do you...have anything we can eat?
Girl: Well, we have this stuff down here. :gestures to trays of different cold food:
Me: Okay, well, is this lasagna?
Girl: Yes.
Me: Is it cold? Can you heat it up or something?
Girl: We turned off the ovens.
Me: Um...
Girl: Sorry, we were really busy for Valentine's Day.
Me (thinking It's 5 o'clock on Valentine's Day; how could you not be prepared?): Um...well, cold lasagna does not sound very appetizing. I guess we'll be going.

SIIIIIIIGH. We were now feeling discouraged and lazy. When I spotted a Trader Joe's across the way, we decided to go in. We don't have a Trader Joe's in Bloomington, so it's kind of a big deal to go to one. We got some chicken salad, crackers, hummus, grapes, and baby carrots. I also got a quart of electrolyte water. So our Valentine's Day dinner consisted of sitting on the hotel bed munching on our groceries and watching Man vs. Wild. See how romantic we are? I actually hate Valentine's Day, so I guess it worked out for the best.

I got to bed around 10 and woke up at 5:30. I puttered around, trying to decide what to wear, and finally decided on capri tights with a short sleeve and a long sleeve shirt. I warmed up about 15 minutes, then, oh the joyness, went back up to my room to use the bathroom one last time! I jogged the tenth of a mile down to the start and a few minutes later we were off. The way this race is set up, you run a tenth of a mile, then 13, instead of the other way around. So I hit my watch as we crossed the finish line, 0:42 for the first tenth.

1 - 7:38
2 - 7:42
3 - 7:35
4 - 7:39
5 - 7:33

The first five miles felt good. I wasn't breathing too hard and I didn't feel like I was putting forth too much effort. I knew I had a good start. The question was, was I being too ambitious? Was this pace going to prove too much to hold on to? The good thing was, there were almost people to pass, which helped to pull me along. The bad news was, there were always people to pass, which meant some weaving. And unlike most races, the runners didn't thin out in the later miles, since we were all on the same loop. Although the slower 10K runners were done by the last part of my race, I didn't notice much of a reduction. Still, it really didn't bother me too badly. Only once or twice did I have to break stride to avoid someone, and that could have happened in any race. Most people were good about staying to the left as I passed on the right. I found myself on the outside for pretty much the entire time, as one of the relatively faster runners. (And there were a few guys who lapped me two or three times!) So sometimes I got passed on the left too. I think if this race were to get any bigger, it would be a giant cluster, but as it is now, it's still manageable. I don't know how I would feel about trying to run a 5K or 10K there though. The faster 1OKers in particular started two tenths behind the finish, and therefore had to catch and pass the entire half marathon field. Weird as it seems with all those loops, I think the two longer races are better suited to this style of racing.

6 - 7:41
7 - 7:43
8 - 7:43
9 - 7:37
10 - 7:45

I got some water at the beginning of mile 6. I think that was the lap in which I fell in briefly with a guy who asked me if I was running the full or the half. I told him the half, and he answered likewise. I asked him his goal, thinking it would be nice to have a running buddy to stick with, but he said it was a training run for him and he wanted to do 8-minute miles. I wanted to ask him what he was doing running 7:40s, but refrained. :) I just said I was hoping to run a little faster than that, and that hopefully I could hold on. A few moments later I pulled away. I was starting to feel it a little bit, and I thought to myself, "To work now!" It was easy to keep pace, though, since every quarter mile was marked. I checked myself at each one and knew I was staying in the groove. Mile 10 was a bit slower, but I got a boost when the announcer called out that I had completed 10 laps, confirming that I was counting correctly and that I just had three miles to go.

11 - 7:41
12 - 7:41
13 - 7:37

I seemed to have gotten a bit of a second wind. I didn't feel like I could really pick it up by that point, but I was able to keep my pace even, although I had to work harder to do it. I passed the half mile mark during mile 11 and thought in wonder, just 4K to go. Then I finished mile 11 and thought, only 2 miles to go, really? With a mile and a quarter to go, I spotted MothAudio, a RWOL forumite, and his two kids. I had seen pictures of him before, but I wasn't totally sure it was him until I glimpsed the signs his kids had: "Go MirRunner!" I called out to them and kept going. I got a definite boost from that!

By the last mile, I was sucking wind and ready to be done. But even this mile didn't seem too long. I kept passing people and presently I rounded the turn and ran in the last 10th. Moth and company were right there at the end cheering. I clicked my watch off at 1:40:24. Whoo! A 4:30 PR!

As I stood catching my breath in the chute, they told me I was second place female and handed me a plaque along with my medal! I was floored. I talked to Moth for a little while, then Mark and I headed inside and I scarfed up a banana, part of an energy bar, and part of a bagel. I gave the rest to Mark because he hadn't had breakfast. Then we headed back to the room where I took a shower and we relaxed for a little while. Then we packed up, loaded up the car, and went for lunch at the hotel restaurant, since we had been given vouchers for $10 off a meal there. To my pleasant surprise, their breakfast buffet was still open, so I had a yummy second breakfast of scrambled eggs, pancakes, fruit, and sausage. And about four cups of coffee because I was TIRED! Even that didn't prevent me from falling asleep almost immediately in the car.

We hit the road and stopped for gas about an hour later, and I got my traditional post-race McDonald's fries. Yummers. A great day all around!
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