Tuesday, February 15, 2011

2010 in review - Part V The Half Mary

Post-race photo in the Marshall University Stadium
Since the Dirty Dog race the May prior, Jay and I were hooked on stretch goals.  This new addiction got us signed up for our first Triathlon, and we had now registered for the Marshall University Half Marathon in Huntington, WV.  The race was November 17, and it was a nice flat course around campus and along the river in the city of Huntington.  Perfect timing and a perfect course for our first half.

We trained using Runner's Magazine 10-week beginner's training plan.  This plan required that we run every other day, and do aerobic intervals during our runs.  The intervals were designed to make your normal pace feel "comfortable" so that you can keep it up over the 13.1 miles.  Long runs were scheduled for the weekends, and mileage was stepped up each week.  This training plan worked well for us.  We plotted our runs and workouts on the calendar each week and purposely set aside the time to get it done.  We ran every other day, so one of us was pretty much running every evening.  One time we had Grandmom and Poppy watch the kids so we could do our 10 mile training run together.  We felt ready for our first half marathon.

Race day weather was the exact opposite of the 10-10-10 10K.  It was extremely cold.  The Weather Channel had been calling for this freezing weather for about a week and a half, so I had time to research our clothing options for the cold morning.  Unfortunately, we have very few outdoor retailers in our area, so most of my research had to be done online.  This was a challenge, since clothes can't be tried on and can't be felt for weight or thickness.  I finally decided to go with what I knew: my favorite fleece of all time, the Patagonia R series.  This is not technically a running fleece, but is made for strenuous outdoor cold weather activities, such as skiing, hiking, or snowshoeing.  My mom purchased me a Patagonia R jacket in Montana about 8 years ago, and I still wear it on a regular basis.  The deciding factor was the grid fleece technology that Patagonia uses to allow heat to escape, but keeps just enough heated air on the body to keep you feeling warm.  Hence the R, "regulator."  It really is magical.  So I ordered us some fleeces from MooseJaw, and they arrived just in time for a test run a few days from the race.  We also purchased Under Armour gloves and wicking fleece headbands for the race.  We were geared up at last.

On the evening prior to the race, our family of four attended the spaghetti dinner and picked up our race packets.  We received a really nice technical long-sleeved tee and our shoe chips.  Before leaving Huntington, we drove the course so that we knew what we'd be in for the next day.  As promised, the route was completely flat, save for a few underpasses.  Easy peasy compared to the route we had been running.

Finally, race day had arrived.  I set my phone to wake me up at 4:30am.  We had laid out our clothing the night before, so we quickly dressed and set about getting our race day breakfast: coffee, Kashi cereal, and a Clif bar and Red Bull to eat on the way.  I wore a technical tee-shirt, my Patagonia R1 fleece, a pair of Mizuno knee tights, Wigwam marathon socks, and my trusty Asics Gel-Nimbus 12s.  Accessories were my UA fleece headband, Nike running visor, Ray bans technical sunglasses, and my Nathan gel pack, filled with chapstick, Gu, and a snot rag.  Jay's run kit consisted of a pair of UA tights, Nike shorts, a wicking running tee, and his R1 fleece.  I think his accessories were identical, although Jay also likes to carry his cell phone, a $20 bill, and his ID with him.  He also is in charge of the vehicle key.  I cannot be trusted with such things.

Grandmom and Poppy showed up to watch the kiddos at promptly 6:00 am while we loaded up and headed for the race location.  They were to get the kids up later and make their way to the course to cheer for us as we ran by.

The only mishap of this event preparation was Jay's unfortunate placement of his nipple tape.  Yes nipple.  Tape.  He had experienced chafed nipples in the past, and wanted to avoid the "nipples of fire" problem of distance running.  We had heard horror stories of those with two rivulets of blood running down their shirts as they crossed the finish line.  I think the tape he purchased adhered with Super Glue.  He decided against the tape as we were getting our shoes on in the car in the parking lot of the event.  Unfortunately, this tape removal had the same effect of waxing the nipple hair.  Yes nipple.  Hair.  He squirmed and cussed as he pulled off the tape.  I, on the other hand, laughed hysterically, causing many fellow runners to stop and look at our vehicle to see what was going on.  This sight played back to me in my mind several times during our race and was met with more laughter from me.  He didn't think it was funny.  Personally, I think men should just suck it up and wear a sports bra.  Problem solved.

Gu'd up and geared up, we made our way to the starting line (after several pit stops, of course).  It was a beautiful foggy and cold morning.  Our car temperature gauge said 12 degrees when we left the house, but it had warmed up to a balmy 19 degrees by race time.  Walking through the parking lot, many folks were going through their preparation routines.  Some were sprinting around, some stretching, and some had a full-blown tailgate party going on, complete with loud music and party atmosphere.  I was getting caught up in the excitement, and I loved it.  Why race?  This is why.  Getting pumped for something is an addictive natural adrenaline high.  Lindsey and her dad, Marshall, were also in our midst, with Marshall running the full marathon, and Lindsey running the half.  They had been training together for this race.  Of course, they would beat the pants off of us, and had probably spent about 5% of the time we did in their gear preparations.  Clad in shorts and a sweatshirt, Lindsey would tough out the cold temperatures and smoke us all.  Vance was on the bike, running support for us, ready to take anything we needed to discard along the way.  Our team was set.

The starting line was crowded.  It was our biggest race to date and we were very excited.  As in every starting line, lots of nervous jokes were being made, and people were jumping up and down to keep warm.  The gun went off and we were off, jostling about in the crowd, being swept into a 7:15 mile pace (fast for us) for the first mile.  After that, the crowd thinned out, and we settled into a steady 9:30-10:00 mile pace and went about clicking away the miles.  The race rules banned ipods (not everyone adhered to that one!) so Jay and I ran music free.  Running without music is refreshing, especially during a race where lots of crowd noise and conversations surround you.  It somehow makes the miles go by faster.  For a solo run, however, I always run with an ipod to keep me motivated.

Lindsey zooms past the cheering section & team photog
Some of the things that surprised me about the race crowd: many many people took bathroom breaks.  Pretty much anywhere.  I personally was relieved that I didn't have to relieve myself during the race.  Also, lots of people walked, and two women ran-walked, alternating running with walking every 100 yards or so.  It was irritating to pass them, then they would pass us, then we would pass them, etc. etc..  We finally just stepped up the pace and sped past, putting them safely behind us.  Also, lots of people met each other while running.  Someone would run up beside someone else, and they'd introduce themselves and talk about their running career.  This banter was very interesting to eavesdrop on.  Jay and I were convinced that one man and woman were going to hook up for a date after the race.  We felt like we were listening in on two people drinking at a bar, not running a marathon!  But, I'm pretty sure I would definitely rather meet someone while running than drinking any day...you get a much better look at the raw product.

Aside from some very cold body parts that will remain unnamed (ask Jay for details), Jay and I felt pretty good in our race day outfits.  The visor kept the sun out of our eyes, and the rest of us were perfectly regulated...not too hot, not too cold.  It was so cold out that we had frost on our shoulders from the releasing heat.  A little over the halfway point, we saw Marshall heading towards us on the full marathon route.  The halfers and fullers ran the same route for the first 7 miles or so, and then the fullers turned back and ran a portion of the route in the opposite direction to connect to a longer loop.  He looked strong, fast, and in good spirits.  We were impressed.

Waving to our biggest fans
Soon after the Marshall sighting, we went through and underpass and on our ascent, I caught a glimpse of a pink-clad toddler tooling around, looking much like Ralphie on A Christmas Story.  Sure enough, it was our cheering section, with 19 month old Caitlin out front, waving.  Six year old Alex and Grandmom and Poppy cheered and took pictures as we ran by, waving back.  Apparently Lindsey had zoomed by (much) earlier and they got some shots of her dust.

Handing back our footballs
The longest-seeming part of the race came next miles 9 through 11, with a pass back through our starting route.  We took a turn and headed through campus, where a volunteer was handing out flowers for the runners to carry through campus and place at the Memorial Fountain, which memorializes the 1970 plane crash which claimed the lives of most of the Marshall Football team and its staff.  Soon after our jaunt through campus, we came to the last leg, past the stadium parking lot, where we saw our cheering section again, and into the stadium itself.  It was an exciting finish to the race, and runners were handed a football to carry as they ran down the field and crossed the finish line.  As you can imagine, lots of Heisman poses were struck along the way.  Race officials asked us not to spike the balls, taking some of the fun out of it.
The approach to the finish line

We crossed the finish line and felt great, and relieved, to be finished with the furthest run of our lives, the Half Marathon.  We were half marathoners!  And the best part was that we did it together.  We met up with Lindsey, who won her age group with a time of 1:40 and ran a blistering 7:39 pace, and Vance and Grandmom.  Unfortunately our finish line photos weren't great, since we crossed at the same time as another odd-looking couple, but we did get a great shot of the four of us post-race.  Our time was 2:12 and a 10:08 pace.  Jay graciously slowed at the finish, allowing me to cross first by a few seconds.  

Yay! Our first half complete!
Vance and Lindsey headed out to cheer on Marshall, and we took the kids and headed home for an afternoon of rest.  My recovery/reward meal was a hot chocolate from McDonald's and a sausage McGriddle.  Yum!  

No comments:

Post a Comment