Sunday, June 29, 2014

Race Report - Biggest Loser Half Marathon

Not sure if this is actually a race report or a guide on how not to run a half marathon.

I went into Saturday's race totally and completely unprepared to do a half marathon. I hadn't run more than 3-4 miles in the same run since the Dirty Dog in May; hadn't run over 10 since since the Princess in February. I wasn't ready; I knew I wasn't ready; but I did it anyway.

I almost didn't. Back when I was still in the "debating whether or not to register" stage, they released the course map.  Said course map was terrifying - big ol' gigantic monster hill in the middle.  I realize that I live in the Mountain State (it's hard to find a course around here longer than a 5k or 10k that doesn't include a hill or two), but really, they had to choose that hill, of all hills?  "That hill" being the Spring Hill Cemetery hill.  I've lived here my entire life and never been up there; but I'd heard stories, seen pictures of runners attempting to conquer just part of it... My mental picture wasn't pretty. But with thoughts of "it can't be worse than White Hollow on the Dirty Dog can it?"* running through my head, I hit the submit registration button.

And registration is about where my preparation for the race stopped. For various reasons and excuses (some legitimate, most not) I skimped on my training.  Let me just say, if you're thinking about doing a half - don't do that.  Training is important.  Your body - your muscles, your joints, even your brain - it needs it.  Even if you've done one before; even if you've done seven, you need to train.

However, if you're going to run a race you're not really prepared for, a Biggest Loser Race is the one to do. While the pre-race banter betweeen the 2 guys on the stage can be a little over the top and annoying at times, it does have its motivational moments. Like when they remind you that it's not about winning; it's about being there; it's about trying; it's about starting; it's about finishing. The race atmosphere is definitely one of "you can do this!"

So with that thought, and my race day mantra of "Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up”* running through my head, I hit the course with my garmin set for 1:1 run/walk intervals and a new peppy playlist on the ipod.

Miles 1 through 4 were mostly flat and went really well.  At mile 4, we hit the dreaded hill.  Up, up, up and up some more.
Quotes from the hill:
  • Runner 1: "this is ridiculous; i'm from Minnesota we don't have hills like this." 
  • Runner 2: "Forget Boston; this should be Heartbreak Hill"
  • Runner 3: "is this a trick? seriously? it goes higher?"
  • Runner 4: "you gotta be kidding me?"
  • Runner 5:  "What is this an 8 or 9 percent grade?"
For about 3 miles, we wandered up and up and through the cemetery. Call me morbid, but I love old cemeteries (this one's on the National Register of Historic places, so it's been there a while).  Looking at names and dates on headstones is fascinating for me; who were these people? what was their story? who did they leave behind? Looking around at all the stones and monuments took my mind off the scary hill; made it not so daunting. Despite the comments above (and my pre-race fears), I didn't have that much trouble with the hill. Granted I walked most of it; but the environment was distracting enough that I wasn't really thinking about the climb.

Elevation profile

No, my problems on the course started after I was off the hill and back on the flats.  At about mile 9, my legs decided they were done. They hurt - my hips, my thighs, my ankles, all were really unhappy with me (slightly baffled at why, with the rest of my legs so sore, my knees didn't join the party, but they were fine throughout.)  Running hurt; the transition between running and walking hurt; but walking itself wasn't quite as bad. So, I threw the run/walk out the window and just walked. Not wanting finish at a walk, I started running again when the banners and finish arch came in sight.

And ran across the that line. I did it.  Again.  Another half marathon done (#8). I showed up; I started; I finished...

Race Stats:
Biggest Loser Half Marathon
Saturday, June 28, 2014
Finish Time: 3:02:55 (garmin);  3:02:34 (official)
Pace: 13:55mpm
Place: 26 of 37 age group; 184 of 248, overall

*For the record, White Hollow is worse
*race day mantra quote by Dean Karnazes