Sunday, June 23, 2013

Rock the Night Away Half Marathon RR

What: Rock the Night Away Half Marathon
Where: Lake Perry, KS
When: 8:30 p.m. on Friday, June 21, 2013
Weather: 86F with a heat index of 91F
Finish Time: 2:42

Race Week:
My running this week had not been going so well. I think it's mostly due to the humidity we had been experiencing, but am not sure. I did a short 2.8 mile easy paced trail run on Thursday night and could not get my breathing down. My legs were fresh, my HR was OK (high end of easy pace), but it just felt like I couldn't breathe.

I woke up at 4:00 a.m., packed my tent, beer, water, and food in the car and made it to work by 5:30. I was hoping to leave a bit earlier, but I ended up leaving work around 4:15, drove home, changed, loaded forgotten items, and drove to the race location.

I arrived at the location around 6:00 and relaxed for a bit. I finally decided to set up my tent around 7:00. I mingled with other runners including a trio who were running a 12 hour race starting at 7:00 in Omaha, NE on Saturday morning. Since my tent was near the starting line, I lined up when we had close to 5 minutes to go.

Facing the front of the line.

Facing behind me.

At 8:30, we were off. We start running down a dirt road and then turn into the trails. Once in the trails, passing was at a premium since it is mostly rocky, technical singletrack.

Unfortunately, I can not give a mile by mile break down, but I'll still provide details when I can.

The first mile I was having fun and felt good, but I knew I went out too fast when the first mile came in at 9:42. This, coupled with the humidity would lead to my disastrous first half, or at least that's what I thought.

Shortly after entering the trails. Yep, I'm happy at this point. (Photo courtesy of Rick/Kristi Mayo)

First photo I took while running. It was taken early in te first mile.

Miles 2-4 were mostly a blur as I alternated between feeling OK and feeling crappy all the time. I walked the hills and ran the flat/downhill sections. I was fighting with my hydration pack the whole time and was getting very frustrated with it. Plus, it seemed to increase how bad the humidity made me feel. I decided that I would ditch the pack at the staffed aid station before heading out for the 2nd loop. I won't lie though, thoughts of dropping to the 10K did cross my mind.

Early in Mile 2.

Around the beginning of Mile 3.

Early into Mile 3.

You can tell I was feeling crappy by the lack of photos during that section. I was just focusing on moving forward that taking photos never really occurred to me. The following photo should give an indication of how I was feeling, it was taken at around the halfway point as I was coming to the staffed aid station. We pass this station a total of 4 times as it is situated between the main trails and a 2 mile loop section. The photo was taken as I was exiting the 2 mile loop.

Photo courtesy of Rick/Kristi Mayo.

I spent quite a bit of time at the aid station. The volunteers were awesome and very much appreciated. Amber refilled one of my bottles and stored my pack as I mentioned that I didn't want to take it for the next loop. Shawn gave me watermelon and asked me multiple times if I was OK. After I recovered a bit, I took an S!CAP, drank some heed, and went back on the trail. Luke and another volunteer provided encouragement as I headed out for the 2nd loop.

Taken shortly after starting the 2nd loop during Mile 7.

I started off feeling better the 2nd loop and had renewed motivation, until I hit what I like to call the motivation killer. I was running along feeling good then BLAM, my left foot caught a root that was sticking up about a foot of the ground. It was about the diameter of a dime and just looked like a weed going across the trail. I stumbled forward, quickened my steps, and somehow managed not to take a spectacular faceplant. When I went back and saw the root, I could tell that others have tripped over it. I took out some of my frustration by ripping it from the ground to the point that it split in half. It would no longer be able to trip anyone else.

After the confrontation with the root, I walked a bit to make sure my ankle was fine as I have had issues with my left ankle in the past. I then started to notice some soreness on the left side of my upper leg. I took note of it and gave myself permission to walk if it ever worsened. At that point, I started running again. When I ran, I felt good and it felt like I was flying. Unfortunately, my mindset switched from trying to finish before 2:30 to just ensuring I finished. I say unfortunately, because I know I left a good 8-10 minutes on the trail, all during the 2nd half. I felt like I was running faster, but when I cam up to people walking, I gave myself permission to walk. Now I don't mean walking the hills, that was planned, these walk breaks were on the flat/downhill sections. I would eventually snap myself back to reality and pass them. This went on until I made it to the staffed aid station and began the last 2 miles of trails before heading back up the dirt road to the finish.

a dry creek crossing on the main loop, taken during Mile 7.

About halfway through Mile 8.

The next three photos were taken within close proximity to each other during Mile 8.

Near the end of Mile 8.

Near the beginning of Mile 9.


On the other side of the curve from the previous picture. I turned around to snap a photo of the log.

About halfway through Mile 9.

Somewhere in Mile 9, I passed a group of 4 or 5 young guys while they were on a walk break. Shortly after I passed them, they caught up and passed me. I would catch up to them again probably about 4-5 minutes before reaching the staffed aid station.

I approached the staffed aid station for the 3rd time and was actually feeling good so I just ran through to the encouragement of my friends who volunteered.

A little more than halfway through Mile 10 after starting the 2 mile loop section.

A little more than halfway through Mile 10 after starting the 2 mile loop section.

Taken along the 2 mile loop section of trail during Mile 12.

About two minutes after entering the 2 mile loop, I passed another runner. He tagged along for a bit and we chatted, but I eventually pulled ahead and didn't hear his foot steps.

I came upon one of my friends, Danny, and walked for bit as it was a much needed break. I then heard foot steps approaching and started running again. Shortly after I started running I came to a hill and walked. During this point, two of the group of young guys that I had passed before the staffed aid station, passed me by as words of encouragement were shared.

I came down the last hill and passed by the aid station while thanking them for their help. They cheered me along and I was soon walking up the last hill. About halfway through the hill I started running again. I finished the hill, turned and headed toward the finish line.

The following pics were taken by Rick/Kristi Mayo, as usual, they did a great job taking photos!

Yes, my eyes are closing. I am relieved to be done!

I am clenching a driver's license that I found shortly after starting the 2nd loop.  Thankfully, I found the person who lost it as they didn't even realize it was missing.

Exhausted and receiving the finisher's medal from the race director, Bad Ben Holmes.

Although I did not achieve my original goal, I am still pleased with the race. I struggled mentally during the 2nd half, but would eventually snap myself out of it and continue on. In the past, I would have just walked the remainder of the race. Heck, I would have stopped and dropped down to the 10K. So to me, just pushing through to the finish is an accomplishment. I celebrated that accomplishment with some well earned beer!

Thanks to Ben and the stellar volunteers for putting on another great race! Now it's time to hit the trails as I try and train for my first 50K in October.


Saturday, June 1, 2013

Hospital Hill Run Half Marathon RR

What: Hospital Hill Run half marathon
When: Saturday, June 1st, 2013
Where: Kansas City, Missouri
Weather: 62-64F with 72% humidity @ start and 54% at the finish.
Goal: Sub-2 hours
Finish: 1:53:52 (6 Mile: 52:36; 9 Mile: 1:18:04)
O/A: 1147/4239

This is race could be considered my "white whale." It is was the only road half marathon that I have not finished in under two hours. In 2012 I finished in 2:22:46; 2011 - 2:03:43 (my previous best at this race). The website didn't have links to the results from 2010 or 2009. Some issue always seems to raise its ugly head during the race. In 2012 I had both ITBs scream no joy; 2011 - I had to walk some hills due to the heat; and in 2010 I had ITB issues.

This year, I really thought that sub-2:00 would be extremely difficult since I have not trained on any hills. I take that back, to get in some hill work, I ran the Rock On, Lake Perry trail half marathon and then 1 week later ran the KC Corporate Challenge half marathon (05/18/31). During both previous half marathons, I fought off cramping issues during the last half mile. I decided to make changes to my racing strategy and see how it paned out.

The race started at 7:00 and I had about 20 minutes to drive to make it to the starting area. Since I work near the start/finish line, I decided to leave my house around 5:00 and just relax and listen to some tunes in my office (cubicle). Another bonus about working near the start/finish area, ready access to real restrooms.

After listening to some tunes to get me pumped up for the race, I headed down to the start area at about 6:30ish. There was already a lot of people lined up in the various corrals. I made my way to Corral C and looked for the 2:00 pacer. They ended up being in Corral D, so I decided to line up in the back of Corral C and try to keep the 1:55 pacers in sight. Shortly after I lined up, Karina, a friend from Nebraska found me and we chatted for about five minutes before wishing each other luck.

With about 15 minutes before start time, I turned on my Garmin so it could lock on to the satellites. While waiting, I decided to snap a few photos.

    Standing at the back of Corral C, facing the Start line.

    Facing the runners behind me.

    Showing how the line of people continues around the corner,

After a moment of silence for the Boston victims, and the victims of the OK tornadoes, a gal did a good job singing the national anthem and then the wheelchair racers started at 6:55. My Garmin still hadn't locked on to any satellites, so I turned it off/on to start the process again. Corral A started at 7:00 and I again turned my Garmin off/on to attempt to get the stupid thing to work. Corral B left about 2-3 minutes later, followed by us after another 2-3 minute pause.

Since I had to fight off cramping issues during the last two half marathons I decided to start using S!CAPS again. I stopped because I would drink way too much water when I took one every 30 minutes. I decided to only take two during the half marathon and see how that worked for me.

Since my Garmin still hadn't locked on to satellites after about 3 minutes of running, I turned it off/on one more time. As soon as it was turned back on, it locked on to the satellites. Since I couldn't rely on my Garmin for the first mile, I caught up with the 1:55 pacers and decided to let them do the work for me. The first mile starts with a gentle half mile downhill, then is level to a slight incline for the rest of the mile. As soon as I started running, I started getting tightness in my left heel. The tightness finally went away at the end of the first mile. Since my Garmin started late (about 0.35 miles late) I don't have an accurate time for the first mile. As soon as I hit the Mile 1 marker, I pushed the lap button so I could get an idea of how the miles were going.

    Shortly after starting.

    Near the end of Mile 1. I am catching up with the 1:55 pacers.

Mile 2 is generally uphill. I worked my way up to the 1:55 pacers and ran alongside the lead pacer for a while. I started focusing on my breathing, shortening my stride up the hill, and taking stock in how I was feeling. The humidity seemed high, but since it wasn't really hot, it wasn't affecting me much. I finished Mile 2 at about a 9:11 pace.

    Near the beginning of Mile 2.

    Near the end of Mile 2.

Mile 3 starts uphill, but most of it is completely downhill. I slowly picked up speed and hit my groove. Some people flew down the hill, but I ended up passing most of them back during the later stages of the race. I believed that if I ran hard downhill, I would use up energy that I needed later in the race. So I pushed the pace a bit, but let gravity do most the work for me. I finished Mile 3 in roughly 8:35.

    Near the start of Mile 3.

    Near the start of Mile 3.

    Near the end of Mile 3.

Mile 4 continues downhill which is shown in my pace. I finished Mile 4 in roughly 8:14. I believe it was during this mile that one of my friends, Scott, came up alongside me. We ended up chatting off and on and pacing off each other for most of the race. It definitely helped pass the time. We started near the lead pacer, but decided to ease up a bit. We still stayed between the two 1:55 pacers. It was during this mile that I started dumping water over my head at the rest of the aid stations. I had a waist belt with two bottles on and used that for any water I wanted to drink.

    Near the start of Mile 4.

    Near the end of Mile 4.

Mile 5 starts uphill, then goes downhill for about a half mile, then goes uphill for the remainder of the mile. I started focusing more on running my own race and less with keeping up with the pacer. I figured as long as I could keep the 1:55 pacers in sight, I would finish in under two hours. I finished Mile 5 in roughly 8:21.

    About halfway through Mile 5.

Mile 6 is basically a gently rolling section of the course. It was during this mile that I took my first S!CAP. I also let the 1:55 pacers get a little further ahead and started to walk for a short time at the water stations. Due to walking at the water station, I finished Mile 6 in roughly 8:58.

    About halfway through Mile 6.   

Mile 7 starts downhill for about the first half mile, then starts to climb back up, dips down, and finishes uphill. The pacers were pulling a further ahead, but I decided to stick with my plan and run my own race. Since my main goal was a sub-2:00 time, I was still well on track and didn't worry about the 1:55 pacers pulling further ahead. I finished Mile 7 in roughly 8:28.

    Near the end of Mile 7.

Mile 8  starts uphill, but goes downhill for the majority of the mile, with a little hill towards the end of the mile. I started feeling a little bit tired here, but still not too bad. I finished Mile 8 in roughly 8:47.

    Near the start of Mile 8.

    Near the end of Mile 8

Mile 9 is a gentle downhill mile and I took advantage of it to make up some more time. I finished it in roughly 8:19.

    Near the start of Mile 9.

    About 2/3 through Mile 9.

Mile 10 continues downhill, has a small gently rolling section, then ends going uphill. I finished in roughly 8:43.

    About halfway through Mile 10.

Mile 11 is completely uphill and was also my slowest mile. Every other time I've ran this race, I had to walk the majority of the mile. This time, I ran it all except for a small portion during the water station. I finished it in roughly 9:31.

    About halfway through Mile 11.

    About 2/3 through Mile 11. I got a chuckle at the sign as I have always felt like a zombie during     
    this mile.

Mile 12 is basically a gently rolling mile except for a short, but steep hill at the end of it. I walked the hill at the end and finished in roughly 8:51.

    About halfway through Mile 12.

Mile 13 starts with a short uphill section, but then is downhill for the rest of the mile. I picked up the pace to catch the 1:55 pacers. As they came closer into view, I really started picking it up and caught the first pacer near the end of the mile. I finished the mile in roughly 8:03.

    About 1/3 through Mile 13.

I was closing in on the lead 1:55 pacer and somehow found another gear. I ended up passing him about 150 feet before the finish line. According to the Garmin, I finished the final 0.2 miles at a 5:53/mile pace.

After finishing I grabbed some water, gatorade, and chocolate milk. I stretched a little, ate the post race BBQ (which was edible, but not what I would call good), went up to my office and stretched the calf muscles, then finally went to the beer garden. I was given an extra beer ticket from some random gal and ended up having 2 beers. Well, it might be stretch calling it beer since it was Michelob ultra. I ended up running into several friends in the beer garden (imagine that). As usual, a few of us Trail Nerds were basically the last people to leave the beer garden.

    Drinking the post race beer and chilling with one of my friends, Jason.

I am very happy with sticking to my race strategy and crushing my goal. It was a fun race and I feel I have finally turned a corner with my running. Now it's time to turn my focus to more trail running in hopes of running my first 50K in October. At least I know that I'll enjoy the training.