Thursday, November 15, 2012

City Of Oaks Half Marathon Race Recap

It's finally here - my recap of the Raleigh City of Oaks Half Marathon, which I ran on November 4th.
all my race gear, laid out Saturday night
race morning photo - all smiles!
To get ready for the race, I made sure to eat plenty of carbs on Saturday, but nothing that would upset my stomach.  I tried to go to bed at 9pm, and then woke up around 11pm and had trouble getting back to sleep... womp womp!  Sunday morning my alarm clock went off at 5am, and I woke up EXCITED and ready to go.  I had a bagel w/ peanut butter and gatorade at 5 and then got dressed/ready.  I started off with an old zip up sweatshirt, arm warmers (made from old oscks!), gloves, shorts, and a t-shirt.  Marissa came over at 5:40 and we hit the road!  Around 6:30 I had a little more gatorade and a honey & oats bar and more gatorade.  When we finally found parking (it was a bit of a mess), we found a secret bathroom spot (porta potty lines were so long!) and then headed to the start line.  We found the 2:00 pae group and started a little behind them, but in front of the 2:15 pace group.  The race started with the YMCA playing, so Marissa and I entertained ourselves by dancing until we got closer to the start (subsequently, it was stuck in our head for much of the race).  By the time the race started I was warm enough to ditch the old sweatshirt, so I tossed it right as we crossed the start line.
NC State Bell Tower - the start and finish of the race
Annnnd we're off!
Miles 1-3 (splits: 9:30, 9:23, 9:45):
I started off excited and feeling really good during the first mile.  We were holding around a 9:30 pace which is pretty much what I wanted.  It was cool but not too cold, and there wasn't rain (which had been in the forecast, so I was glad it had cleared up!).  I knew the first place Scott was spectating would be around the half mile mark, so I started looking for him.  As soon as I spotted him, I also saw two girls holding signs with my name.  Uhh, what?  It was Sabrina and Monica (my ADPi grandlittles!!), who had driven down from Maryland to surprise me and cheer for me!  SO awesome.  Not as awesome: right after that I realized my watch had not started, so I was missing about a half mile.  Womp womp!  I started my watch then, but I was still annoyed.
Unfortunatley, shortly after seeing them (probably right around the 1 mile mark), my stomach started hurting. I tried to just focus on running, but it really didn't feel great.  There was a hill around 1.5/2 which I expected to be bad, but it didn't end up being TOO terrible.  Then, Sabrina, Monica, and Scott were waiting to cheer again around mile 2.5, so that lifted my spirits a little.  Then, at mile 3, my knee started hurting!  At this point, I was just mad.  Stomach ache AND knee pain?  This early on?  WTF.  I knew I had a lot of miles left and I started to wonder how well this race was really going to go for me.  We started to slow down at mile 3 as you can see in the splits, but were still doing okay.
This is me looking REALLY confused the first time I saw Sabrina & Monica!
Excited to see them all again!
Miles 4-7 (splits: 10:07, 10:06, 10:17, 11:03):
If I had to sum of these 4 miles with one word, it would be hell.  I was feeling naseous, and started contemplating the pros and cons of throwing up.  On one hand, sometimes throwing up makes me feel better when my stomach hurts, right?  On the other hand, if I threw up I would have no food in my stomach and 10 miles ahead of me.  There seemed to be more hills than the elevation profile suggested, and I kept getting annoyed every time we turned a corner to find more hills awaiting us.  My knee pain was also getting worse, so somewhere between miles 4 and 5 I stopped sto stretch, but it really did not help.  I was really, REALLY unhappy.  I thinks Marissa asked me what my mantra was (after some guy yelled "one step at a time") and I grumbled something about how I had no mantra, didn't want one, and nothing would make me feel better.  Luckily, Marissa was having a good race and was willing to stick with me.
So - something kind of annoying about this race.  It was a 10k, half marathon, and full marathon.  All three races started at the same time, and the 10k finished at what was mile 6.2 for the half and full.  They just had cones to split the road in half, and the 10k runners ran through the finish line, while the rest of us ran past it and continued on.  Basically, I got to listen to lots of people cheer and be excited about finishing a race, only half way through my own race.  This did not lift my spirits.  I suppose the music and increase in spectators was kind of nice, but mostly seeing all those people FINISH when I was only about half done was not fun.
Shortly after the 10k finish line was yet another hill, and I contemplated pretending I had only signed up for the 10k.  I did get to see Allison, Elena, and Ryan around 6.5 (grad school friends - cheering for me/Marissa AND two other girls in our program who ran the full marathon!), but I could barely put on a smile for them.  Mile 7 was the absolute worst.  I was pretty much the most miserable possible.  Towards the end of 7 miles I stopped and stretched again.  I'm surprised looking at the splits that I really didn't fall apart pace-wise until mile 7.  Not sure how I managed to stay that strong through miles 4, 5, and 6, haha.
still trying to wave, but clearly in pain
awkward face, mostly full of pain.
Miles 8-11 (splits: 10:13, 10:28, 10:01, 10:00):
After stretching again, I actually did feel somewhat better.  My knee pain went from signficant to mild, and my stomach calmed down.  Then we got to a part of the course where I knew I would be able to Scott, Sabrina, and Monica three times, because there were three spokes going off one intersection and we went down all 3.  I perked up a bit.  Then, the 2:15 pace group passed us.  I think that lit a fire in me, and I became determined to finish ahead of them.  Somewhere in between miles 8 and 9 I really hit my stride, and in mile 10 we left the 2:15 pace group in the dust as we tried to pick up the pace a little bit.  The last spoke of the out and back (around mile 11) was by far the longest and hilliest, which I found very obnoxious.  Somehow I pushed up my way through, and saw Scott, Sabrina, Monica, Elena, Ryan, and Allison for the last time just before the mile 12 marker.
a genuine smile, hooray!
I like to wave?
Miles 12-13.1 (10:01, 9:34, nubbin 7:34):
At this poinst, I was finally feeling good.  My knee didn't hurt, my stomach didn't hurt, and although I was a little tired, I was ready to RUN.  I let race adrenaline take over and really started to push.  Somewhere around mile 12.4 I started picking people in front of me and setting goals to pass them.  Around mile 12.6 or so, I realized Marissa was no longer with me (sorry M), but I was totally in the zone. I later described this to M as "picking out targets and going after them - kind of like you are shooting them, but instead you are just passing them).  As I hit the 13 mile marker, I pushed myself even harder into an all out sprint, and passed a bunch of people as a crossed the finish line.  The time said 2:15 something, but I knew it had taken a few minutes to get across the start, so I really didn't know what my time was at that point (stupid watch!).
we finished! (but my face shows my pain, haha)
best grandlittles EVER!!!
my amazing husband is a professional race-watcher
Post Race:
Marissa came across the finish line just about a minute later, and we got water, space blanket, and our medals.  We waited by the Bell Tower for Scott, Sabrina, and Monica.  As we tried to walk/stretch, I realized that I was in tremendous pain.  Probably no more than when I ran my first half, but WOW, it was hard to walk, and I was definitely limping.  It was sooooo amazing to have Sabrina and Monica there, and after we made it back to Durham I went out to brunch with them.  I didn't find out my official time until later that night (like 10pm) when it was posted on the website.  I officially finished in 2:13:21 - 6 seconds short of a PR.
You get medals even when you don't PR.
I cannot express how frustrated I was to have missed a PR by 6 seconds.  At the same time, I had a miserable race, and the fact that I was even close to PRing demonstrates that I have made progress as a runner in the past year.  My first half was picture perfect: I was never in pain, the weather was great, etc.  So if a miserable half can produce the same time, logic would tell you I'm better off fitness-wise.  It definitely took me a few days to get over how mad I was at (a) not PRing and (b) not being able to have a good race. But guess what?  Just like every run isn't great, every race can't be great.  And there's really only one solution to a bad race: signing up for another one and hoping the next one is a good one.  So, that is exactly what I've done.

Probably related, I have been really unmotivated to run for the past ten days.  I intentionally took off 6 days (although I went to 2 spin classes that week), and M and I went on our first post-race run on Saturday when Kimmy was in town.  That run was actually really nice.  Then this week I planned to get back to regular running, but M has been sick and cancelled on me.  Not that that is an excuse - I should go on my own - but I just haven't.  Hopefully I can get back into the swing of things as I began to train for my next half and work towards that elusive PR... details on all of that soon.

Have you ever had a bad race?  How did you handle it afterwards?


  1. It was awesome to see you run this and I'm super impressed! Love you sis!

  2. You read my blog. You know that like 75% of my races are bad. Ultimately, you never know what is going to happen on race day, so the best thing you can do is just try to have fun and remember why you are doing it in the first place. Not every day is going to be a PR day. Sometimes everything comes together and sometimes everything falls apart. I just try and do the best that I can do on that particular day. If that means a PR that day, great! If that means I barely finish and spend half the race throwing up, then so be it. Like you said, you came within 6 seconds of a PR in a race that was awful for you. That definitely means you have made huge strides in your fitness and that is something to be tremendously proud of! Plus, that medal is sweet.