Monday, May 6, 2013

Lake Minnetonka Half 2013 (Hilly Hell)


Lake Minnetonka Half Marathon (13.1 miles)
Average Pace 12:30/mile (blech!)

This past weekend I ran the Lake Minnetonka Half... or what I will forever think of as "Hilly Hell".  My short race report is: this wasn't my best performance, but I finished, which is more than a lot of people can say. 

My long race report goes something like this...

Yes, I know.  I live in Minnesota.  And it's been snowing.  Since last October.

So, why did I think it was a good idea to sign up for a half marathon that would likely force me into doing my training either in the snow, on a crummy indoor track, or even worse yet... on a treadmill? 

I don't know.  I blame my gym buddies.  Peer pressure.  You ladies know who you are.

Or maybe I'm just an idiot. 

(I know you are all voting option #2 on that one.)

Anyhow, here's how my training started:

(Keep in mind, I still do aerobic classes, hot yoga and other activities along with my running)
  • End of Feb - Wrap up Lazyman Ironman
  • First two weeks of March - run 4.25 miles, twice per week
  • March 16th - race the Get Lucky 7K (on sheets of ice, of course)
  • March 18th-21st - be lazy as hell
  • March 22nd pm - go "oh shit, I have a half marathon in 6 weeks!"
Here's how my real training started... waaaaay too late:
  • Training Week 1 (March 23rd) - run 7 miles Sat     Weekly miles = 7
  • Training Week 2 - run 3 miles Wed, run 8 miles Sat     Weekly miles = 11
  • Training Week 3 - run 4 miles Wed, run 8 miles Sat     Weekly miles = 12
  • Training Week 4 - run 3 miles Mon/Wed, run 8.5 miles Sat     Weekly miles = 14.5
  • Begin having knee pain from being stupid and not building base miles sooner
  • Training Week 5 - run 3 miles Mon/Wed, run a PR 5K race Sat     Weekly miles = 9
  • Have a family wedding in Kansas on Saturday night and "not feel" like a long run Sunday AM
  • Training Week 6 - run 9 miles Mon, run 10 Sun    Weekly miles = 19
  • Continue having knee pain from being stupid and not building base miles sooner, and be extra bitter about the damn ice storm you ran in Monday (thanks a lot, - great accuracy on your forecasts that day)
  • Training Week 7 - pray to the gods that you can finish the race, opt to rest the knee as much as possible with only a 4 mile gentle run on Wed, and start carb loading on the weekend
I knew weeks ahead of race day that this was not going to be a good race.  I started training way too late, my right knee was not liking me, and the ball of my right foot was having occasional aches as well.  But, I know my body, and I know the difference between aches and true issues.  So, I decided to just go for it, and walk it if things got bad ... or even worse, catch the sag-wagon if I HAD to (not that I wanted to face that defeat, but the course has a time limit, and I can't really say no if they catch up to me).

So, here comes the weekend.  I try to responsibly carb load with a bready breakfast, a large pasta lunch, and a mostly noodle based pad thai dinner.

Before my head can even hit the pillow Saturday night, it feels like my alarm is going off for race day - 6am.  I quickly eat a banana and splurge with a mini scone (the max I can handle pre race without getting gut rot).  I top that off with a cup of coffee and a few cups of water. 

My husband plays chauffer since it's a straight course from point A to point B (no round loop or out & back), and I hear parking is limited.  We pick up one of my running buddies at 7am and head off for the start line.

Driving in the area didn't seem too bad when we pulled into the neighborhood surrounding the start line.  Honestly, we could have found a reasonably close parking spot if we drove.  But no need, since my husband drove. 

Around 7:30 we hop out and head for the start line, with a brief stop at the porta-potties.  And amazingly, the lines are long but move quickly.  By 7:45 we're in corral 3 of 4, freezing our hineys off and waiting for the gun.

Side note - "Hi, I'm Ralph".  Ralph, love your t-shirt.

The race got started a tad late, but by 8:10 or so we've been allowed to jog up to the start... and then hold (bummer).  Finally, we're allowed to cross the start line ... and away we go.

I try to stick with my running buddy, but before the first mile is even half way through, I lose her in the crowd.  Just like about 30 people lost their energy gels off their race belts.  Seriously, folks.  Just get a good pair of running pants with a zippered pocket.  I saw like $50 worth of unopened energy gels on course before the 0.75 mile mark.  But back to my point.  This wasn't a particularly crowded wave, but people were zig-zagging all over the place, and I just gave up trying to keep my running buddy in my sites.

And then comes the first hill.  Yikes.  Pretty long, and definitely a surprise when you're not even warmed up after standing around in 45 degree weather.  But, surprisingly, I come out of mile one feeling great! 

Miles 2 and 3 also feel really good.  And fly by quickly.  I'm keeping somewhere between a 9 and 10 minute pace despite all the hills, which seem to be at every 1/2 mile (yuck). 

I only stop to walk at the water stop at 3, where the cutest little boy is eagerly waiting for someone to grab his water cup, despite being hidden way too far back from the crowd.  I always seek out the little guys - they're scared by the crowd, but oh so excited when you seek them out for water.  He beams, and I run off.

Miles 4, 5 and 6 go by... not quite as easily as 1-3, but still feeling good. 

Yes, girl at mile 4, you are correct.  I AM awesome!  Thank you!

Somewhere around mile 6 the 2:15 pace group passes me.  Dang!  The hills are definitely harder than I expected.  But I feel good.  I walk the next water station, and I have to say - I LOVE THESE PEOPLE!  Wow, what a great job they did in picking water stop helpers for this race.  Everyone was cheering, calling you by name (printed on the race bib), and plenty of drinks to go around.

Miles 7 and 8... this is where I started to ache in my training.  And I'm feeling it now, too.  Not as bad as in training, so I'm feeling confident.  I'll make it to 12 for sure, I tell myself.

Kids are cheering from their driveway somewhere in these miles.  They are eagerly waving signs, trying to collect high fives, and screaming "You've been running a long time".  Yeah, I know!  LOL!  I give them high fives - thanks for the motivation, kiddos!

Mile 9.  I decide although I'm feeling good, I better savor this water stop and have an energy gel lest I regret not fueling later.  Big mistake.  I wish I would have risked the fuel, because stopping made my knees ANGRY!  I do a few stretches and get asked by a passing runner if I need medical attention.  Seriously? I'm just stretching my knee!  Oh well.  I sit down and do one more stretch, then decide to start walking.  Somewhere just after the 9 mile mark, my running buddy catches me, says hello and passes me.  DOH!

At about 9.5, I decide I'm feeling better.  I make a deal with myself that I'm going to run to 12.  I push through, and start to feel my knees loosen up.  I tell myself - I CAN DO THIS!  I chase my buddy for the next 1.5 miles, I am about 3 city blocks behind her but never quite catch up.

The 2:20 pace group passes me somewhere between mile 10 and 11.  Double dang.

I am feeling tired, but think I might make it to 12 ... until I see the 11 mile water stop.  Only mile 11?!?!!?!  My running buddy cruises through and I lose sight of her.  I slow to a walk to get some much needed water.

Drinking my water, I realize I will need to call lost in found after the race... because I just lost my will to live.  My feet are on fire, my legs feel like lead.  I seriously consider calling my husband to bail out. 

I yell at myself for being so stupid as to consider quitting, and channel my inner speed walker (who's legs are also like lead).  I start walking again and imagine if I swing my arms a little faster, my legs will be forced to at least walk a little faster.  And so I try to cheer myself along, even if I am walking.

The final transition starts - turning onto the crushed gravel trail that is the last major segment of the race.  There's about 1.5 miles left to go, maybe a tad more.  And then, something magical happens.  I'm passed by a group of three runners.  Two ladies and a man... who is running with 1 and 1/2 legs.  He's got a "blade", and is doing amazing!  I almost want to cheer for him myself.  And I think of all the Boston folks, who I hope can continue to run just like this man has.  I wish them the strength to do it.  My legs lighten a bit.  Not enough to start running, but enough.  The thought of bailing out doesn't cross my mind again.

I spend most of my last mile being cheered on by supportive folks who are passing me, finishers who have come back down the course to cheer us stragglers on, and... being whapped in the face by an American flag?!??!  WTF!  While I appreciate the patriotism the guy in front of me has, and though I give him huge props for running a half with a flag on a pole, I REALLY have a hard time appreciating the gesture when it's hitting me in the face after I've traveled almost 13 miles.

And then I hear it.  The crowd.  I know I'm close.  I get ready to turn the final corner, and see a surprise - my husband is looking for me in the crowd, camera on the ready.  I put on the best happy face I can and give him a wave:

But the smile doesn't last long.  As soon as I am out of camera range, I grimace and push myself to run to the finish line.  At every race I run, when I am at the finish and need that extra push, I remind myself of where I was 3-4 years ago:

And then I think about where I am today, 60 lbs lighter and 100 times happier/healthier:

And then I get teary eyed thinking about how proud of myself that I'm out there, and just say "Screw it, screw it!!!  Even if I'm slow - I'm doing this, dang it!"  And then, all the sudden, there's the finish line.  And like that, I add another tally to my list of races.

An extremely hefty medal is thrown around my neck and I'm herded to a tent full of water, potato chips, bananas and nut rolls - yum!  I find my running buddy and my husband, and I hobble back to the car.  I can't get home for a shower fast enough!

Race bib # 25 is now in my collection. It reads "Lake Minnetonka Half Marathon, #414".

And despite my troubles, I can still claim PR.  2:43:29 compared to my fall Monster Dash Half at 2:43:41 means I beat my last half marathon performance by a whole 12 seconds - WOW!  LOL!  But given the hills of hell, the poor training, and the stretch break... I say that's pretty dang OK with me!

Here's to another race soon... actually, next weekend.  Yikes!  Heal fast, sore knees!

UPDATE!  Here's the finisher video!  :-)

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