Rocky Mountain Half Marathon Race Recap

I tend to underestimate myself. I go into a race and I often limit what I can do, not because of my training or physical capabilities, but because of my mind. So, when I looked at the 1:52:01 half marathon cutoff for the first wave corrals at Chicago, I figured there was no way I could ever run that time. I mean… that’s 8:30/mi for 13 miles! I figured that there was just no way, especially at 7,500 feet. Well, I’m going to just cut to the chase.

I ran the Rocky Mountain Half Marathon in 1:51:44. That was a huge PR and I am now in the first wave at Chicago!

Pre-Race

We drove out to Boulder on Thursday evening and made it in time for me to get a quick run in and some dinner. The next morning, Frank and I woke up at 4 am to get to the national park and reserve a campsite for the next few days. We did a little bit of hiking and went to Estes Park to pick up my packet. We hiked a lot more and drove around for a while.

Cold before the race!

Cold before the race!

So, I did all the pre-race stuff wrong. I walked A LOT on Friday, I camped on the hard floor, I probably didn’t eat or sleep enough. I had to wake up at 4 am, and I woke up like 4-5 times during the night. I tried to scarf down some food at our campsite, but my stomach was giving me some trouble. We got to the race around 5:00 am and hung out at the starting line until the race started.

The elevation profile for the race. This was not exactly an easy course.

The elevation profile for the race. This was not exactly an easy course.

Miles 1-4

The gun went off at almost exactly 6 am. The race had a few thousand people, but they did a good job keeping the corral small so that we didn’t have to dodge around people once we were off the starting line. The first few miles were pretty chill, although I took them fast because I knew that miles 5-8 had a huge hill. I felt pretty comfortable averaging around an 8:30 mile on the rolling terrain and was surprised at how quick the miles were going by. I just kept telling myself that I am a lot faster than I think I am, and that seemed to work pretty well. I had a pretty good feeling by mile 4 that I was had a shot at a PR but I tried to hold myself back. I knew the hills in the race would eventually wear on me.

Splits for miles 1-4

Splits for miles 1-4

Miles 5-8

Mile 5 was the start of a pretty substantial hill. I knew it was coming, so I decided to play a little game with myself to pass the time. Each time I passed someone on the uphill, I gave myself a point and each time I was passed by a runner, I lost a point. So, I just started reeling people in. I’d get my eyes on a runner who looked kinda tired and just started creeping up on them. By the end of the uphill I had passed 22 people and had only been passed by 1 (that’s 21 points!!!). I managed to keep around a 9:00/mi pace. At the top of the hill I looked at my watch and was pretty amazed at how fast I had gone. I think I knew by this point that I was going to PR for sure.

Splits for miles 5-8

Splits for miles 5-8

Miles 9-13.1

At the top of the hill I could see the finish line and I knew that it was all downhill from here (ok… there were a few surprise hills, but nothing too terrible). I just coasted on down and even squeezed in a 7:34 minute mile in there. I figured that if I could keep an average of 8:00/mi, I would have a shot at getting under the 1:52:01 cutoff for the first wave at Chicago. I knew by this point that I was going to PR… but now I really wanted to be in that first wave. So, I pushed a little harder. The end of the race was close to a beautiful lake in the middle of Estes Park. As I got closer I started to hear the announcer call out names of people as they crossed the finish line. I kept pushing and eventually heard my name as I crossed. Frank was not even there because he wasn’t expecting me to finish for another 10 minutes.

The downhill miles!

The downhill miles! Check out that 7:34 minute mile!!!!

My official time was 1:51:44 and I placed 7th in my age group out of 137… which is pretty freaking good. There was close to 1000 feet of elevation gain throughout the race… so this wasn’t even an easy course. Honestly, I’m still in shock that I ran that well.

A well deserved medel. I was pretty exhausted after this race.

A well deserved medel. I was pretty exhausted after this race.

I learned a lot running this race. My biggest problem as a runner is that I set goals that are not outside of my comfort zone. I don’t let myself think that I can do something really crazy because I don’t want to be disappointed. From here on out, that’s gonna change.

Immediately after the race, Frank and I went back into Rocky Mountain National Park, picked up our friends and climbed up Hallett Peak. This was a 10-mile hike up a 12,713-foot mountain. Doing this hike got me 50% off entry into the Rocky Mountain Half Marathon for 2016… so the soreness was worth it. I am officially in the Continental Divide Club!

My friends and I at the top of Hallett Peak!

My friends and I at the top of Hallett Peak!

The race (and hike) was a huge success. But… now the Chicago Marathon countdown really begins.

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Hospital Hill Half Marathon Race Recap

There was one word to describe the Hospital Hill Run: Hilly. Oh boy was it hilly. I can confidently say that this race was the hardest one that I’ve done.

No, I did not PR. In fact, this was my slowest half marathon that I’ve run… and that is totally okay. In fact, I am sure that if someone PR’s on this course, they have a much faster PR in them on a flatter one. Even though I didn’t run this race as fast as I wanted, I still did my best and ran a pretty good race.

The Hospital Hill Run was in Kansas City, MO, which is about two hours away from Manhattan, KS. Frank and I left town after work on Friday to pick up my packet and check out the expo. There was a 5k on the Hospital Hill course that night, so we watched the winners cross the finish line. The winning woman finished around 21 minutes and looked unbelievably spent. That was when I knew I’d be in trouble on those hills.

Frank and I at the start line. I was pretty nervous.

Frank and I at the start line. I was pretty nervous.

I woke up in the morning at 5:30 am, ate some food, had some coffee, and quickly made it to the start line. I love how runners are the only group of people that have their biggest parties at 6 am. The music was blasting and there were people EVERYWHERE. Hospital Hill is a pretty big race with about 5000 people who run the course (there is a 10k and a half marathon).

I lined up right next to the 1:55 pacers and talked a little to some of the runners around me. The race began and we were off. The first three miles feature Hospital Hill, the biggest and longest hill of the race. I just ran comfortably with the pacer and felt surprisingly good. I was surprised at how well my body felt at this pace climbing these big rolling hills. At the top of the hill, we took off on a quick and rather fun downhill.

Normally, when I run with a pacer, I just trust them and try not to even look at my watch. So that’s what I did… I felt good, but a little too good. So around mile 5, I sneaked a look at my watch. We were about 30 seconds off pace, and I started to get worried. I had heard that the last hill at mile 10 would be a crawl and that I would need extra time for that mile. But, I decided to trust the pacer and figured we’d make up those seconds later.

The miles went on, and the pacer looked a little tired. I looked at my watch and we were now almost a minute off. Then, another pacer came up from behind us and took over our group. He stepped up the pace, told us we’d have to shave off 10 seconds every mile, and that was when I knew my 1:55 hopes were not going to happen. He took off with the group and I just couldn’t keep up.

This was when things took a bit of a rough turn for me. Suddenly, I was running alone. I no longer had the pace group to talk to and there were not very many spectators to keep me grounded. I was watching the people around me and they were TIRED. People kept stopping to walk on the uphills. To add insult to injury, a pretty scary storm swept through around mile 9. It rained pretty hard for the rest of the race and there was lightening all around me. In fact, I was pretty surprised that they didn’t pull me off the course.

Mile 10 was the start of Broadway Hill. This was by far the roughest part of the race. I was already on tired legs and this hill seemed to go on forever. I stopped to walk through one of the water stations and texted my mom to tell her how hard this race was. I don’t like to walk, but Broadway Hill was killing me. Then the 2-hour pacer caught up and I knew I was in trouble. I think the thought of having a “2” in front of my time gave me the final push I needed to kick me into gear. I gave it my all and tried to put some distance between me and the pace group.

Um... are these the worst splits ever? Possibly.

Um… are these the worst splits ever? Possibly.

At the top of the hill, someone was holding a sign that said “it’s all downhill from here”, and I breathed a sigh of relief. I was so tired that I practically threw myself down the last hill towards the finish line. I had about a mile left, but I found the determination to eek out a mile at 8:28.

After I crossed the finish line a wave of nausea came over me but someone handed me a cold wet sponge. I’m pretty sure this was the best idea anyone has ever had. I put the sponge on the back of my neck and instantly felt better.

Obligatory finish photo!

Obligatory finish photo!

My final time was 1:58:25… pretty far off my insane goal of under 1:50 and still off from my second goal of 1:55. Honestly, that is totally ok. Hospital Hill is a hard course with close to 800 feet in elevation gain. I know that I have it in me to run a faster time, but not on Hospital Hill. This is a race where you have to adjust your expectations and be happy with just having a strong and happy finish. Maybe I’ll run it again next year and go for a course record… but I’ll never come to this race with a PR in mind.

View of the finish line

View of the finish line

Well, this race is done and now the real work begins. Today officially starts my training for the Chicago Marathon. I’ll post about that soon, but I am glad to have gotten through Hospital Hill.

Race Recap: Holy Half Marathon!

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After finishing the Holy Half Marathon, I think I can confidently say that I really love the half marathon distance. I was a little worried that A1A was a fluke, in both performance and enjoyment, but I ran almost the exact same time at the Holy Half AND I had fun doing it. And plus I eeked out a tiny PR too!

Lizzy and I picked up our packets the day before and attended the spaghetti dinner with all you can eat carbs to get us ready for the race. It was pretty nice and relaxing. Honestly, after having such a terrible workweek, I really needed some chill time to think about anything else but work.

I managed to get to bed pretty early, but I wasn’t feeling quite right. …and then I remembered why this race couldn’t be a goal race. I was supposed to get my period on race day. Ugh. I was ok with it when I signed up, but now that it was happening, I was a little less happy.

I woke up the next morning, and sure enough, I had my period. I felt pretty icky and really didn’t feel like running. I had some coffee, ate some breakfast, and tried to get myself jazzed about race day. Lizzy, Frank, and I took off to get to the race a little early and meet up with a friend of mine who was running her first half marathon. It was crazy cold, so everyone was huddled up in the Stepan Center, an awkwardly shaped building used for tennis practice in the winter. It took quite a bit of coercing for the announcers to get the runners to brave the cold at the start line. Luckily blue skies and sun kinda helped the situation. The start line was crammed, and there were way too many people for such a tiny race. They capped it at 1500, but most of the course ran through sidewalks and trails causing there to be a lot of bobbing and weaving around people.

The course had a crazy amount of turns, but it was really pretty!

The course had a crazy amount of turns, but it was really pretty!

I didn’t even hear the start announced, but people started moving, so I did too. The first mile or so was so crammed that I was running pretty slow just to avoid tripping. The course was two loops with an out and back at the end. Everyone, and I mean everyone, I saw on the course was under 30, and Lizzy and I were probably some of the oldest people there. From the very beginning, we could see that the students were definitely struggling. People were walking by mile 4 and it was clear that a lot of the people on the course were just young students who figured they could run 13 miles without training.

The first loop went great. Lizzy and I ran together and we took a pretty conservative pace. We were passing lots of people and I just generally felt strong. Lots of people were saying dumb things like, “you’re almost there”, when we had only run 4 miles, but I was cheery enough to not want to kill them (that was not the case later in the race). We got to mile 8, and I was starting to fade a little. My cramps were getting bad. I rallied for a bit, but Lizzy ended up taking off while I tried to keep it slow. I had a random mile at 9:11, but besides that, I kept it at around 8:40-8:50.

Lizzy and I running around the lake. I think I was starting to hurt a little at this point.

Lizzy and I running around the lake. I think I was starting to hurt a little at this point.

At the end of the second loop, there was a rather demoralizing out and back section. People were trying to take it way too fast, since we couldn’t see the end of it until the turn around. Even though I was feeling a little sick, I was still passing people like crazy. The students were pretty much dropping like flies. Lizzy said someone even had to be taken by parametics at the end. Finally I could see the finish line, and I sprinted to the end. I was just happy to be done with it. I got my medal, sat down and tried to chill for a bit. Honestly, I hadn’t even thought about my time. I figured I had majorly biffed it, so I even forgot to turn off my Garmin. We looked over at the results sheet and I was pleasantly surprised. I ran the course (which was around 13.5 according to my watch) in 1:56:46, two seconds faster than A1A. I had run 13.1 in 1:54:44, which was under my top goal, to break 1:55:00! I had been worried that A1A had been a fluke, but I can set that aside now. I think this race really helped with my confidence. At least I know I can be consistent!

I had a smile because I could see the finish line! Haha!

I had a smile because I could see the finish line! Haha!

After the race, I chilled for like an hour and then Frank dragged me out on a 10-mile mountain bike ride. It was pretty tough, I was tired, but there were tacos at the end, so I was pretty ok with the situation.

Lizzy and I at the finish with our medals!

Lizzy and I at the finish with our medals!

Even though I didn’t feel great during the race, I am pretty happy with how it went. I think I can enter future half marathons with more confidence and I feel pretty ready to crack 1:55:00 on the next course I run. Thanks everyone for your support! It was a bit of a rough week, but I am so glad I did this race! Now that I ran the Holy Half, I think I can go to Kansas without having any races in Indiana on my bucket list.

A1A Half Marathon Race Recap: I crushed it!

Some days you go out and they are perfect. Perfect weather, perfect energy, perfect race. The A1A Half Marathon was just that and I killed it. My goal was really just to finish, and in the back of my head, I wanted a sub 2-hour half, which I thought was impossible.

My time was 1:56:48.

The race was in Fort Lauderdale, Fl, which is a solid 3 hour drive and a 2.5 hour plane ride from South Bend. With delays, I was traveling for close to 12 hours before I made it into bed on Friday night. The next morning, my mom and I headed over to the expo, picked up my bib and some free stuff, and then took off to teach a guest yoga class.

Pre-race yoga with my mom. Also, we got my personalized bib!

Pre-race yoga with my mom. Also, we got my personalized bib!

I got to bed pretty early Saturday night for a 3:45 am wake up. I slept ok, but not great, since I still had a ton of anxiety about even finishing. I had never run that distance before, and I figured I would struggle. My breakfast was an a luna bar and a banana, which did not go down too well. My stomach was doing flips and I was nervous. My parents and I hopped into the car and headed to the start line at the Broward Museum of Discover and Science and there were TONS of people. Like I have never seen so many people up at 5 am in one place in my life.

My dad and I chillin' before the race. It was COLD (for Florida). Perfect race day weather.

My dad and I chillin’ before the race. It was COLD (for Florida). Perfect race day weather.

Standing at the start line, I still had no idea what my strategy or my pace would be. I was considering going with the 2:00 pacer or the 2:15 pacer… but I was also thinking about doing it alone. I felt good, and as they started the race, I walked up towards the starting line, looked behind me, saw the 2:00 pacer and made a last minute decision to commit to running with her.

Hanging by the start with anticipation and a little anxiety.

Hanging by the start with anticipation and a little anxiety.

The start was still pretty dark, and I was running with a rather large group of runners. We were trying to get through the crowds of people and set our pace comfortably just over a 9 minute mile. The pacer was really nice and we chatted a bit about Notre Dame and the weather up there. I talked to some of the other people in the group and they were all pretty excited that it was my first Half Marathon. My plan was to run with the pacer and at the half way point if I was still feeling good, I’d stick with her.

The course was beautiful and took us down Las Olas Blvd (which, honestly, I don’t even remember running on), then north on A1A to Birch State Park and finally up to the Galt Ocean Mile before taking us south to South Beach Park in downtown Fort Lauderdale. There were ocean views and a pretty rockin’ sunrise.

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At Birch State Park, we started to see the potential winners of the half marathon heading back to the finish line, and they looked awesome. I was still feeling good and was really enjoying being with a pacer. Giving up control of the race to someone who can definitely run it is actually pretty wonderful. I felt like my usual mental battles were being fought by someone else and all I had to do was follow that person.

However, just after mile 8, I went to a water stop and lost the pacer. I knew I was ahead of her, and as I was about to head into the Galt Ocean Mile, I looked behind me and couldn’t see her carrying the sign. I figured I’d just run and if she caught up, I’d know that was the 2 hour mark.

I looked at my watch and noticed that I was running at 8:42, and I just kept going. And then I ran another 8:42, and another. And before long, I knew I was minutes ahead of the 2 hour pacer.

Negative splits... like a boss.

Negative splits… like a boss.

Suddenly, mid-race, my goals were changing. I was not only looking to break 2 hours, I was looking to crush 2 hours. I have never run (before today) a race at a negative splits. Usually, I go out too fast and get really tired. I knew that in order to reach my new goal, I’d have to dig deep and do it.

And then mile 13 happened. I got there and was dying. I was looking to the crowd for help and I was really thinking I was gonna have to walk or something. I kept taking water at the stations, but nothing was helping. An older guy came up from behind me and said “you’re doing great” and I told him that it was my first Half Marathon, that we were way past the furthest I’d ever run and that I was really struggling. He looked out in front of us, saw an overpass in the distance and said “that overpass is your goal, just make it to there”.

So I ran to the overpass with him.

He then spotted another landmark ahead, told me to run to that… I continued with him. Suddenly we were a half mile from the end, I was dying, but he just kept talking me through it.

Then I saw my mom, who didn’t think I’d be coming in that early, so she wasn’t paying attention to the racers. I ran over to her, grabbed her and yelled “I’m about to break 2 hours!” …and then I sprinted and gave it my all. I passed the finish line, looked at my watch and saw 1:56:45. I couldn’t believe it. My reach goal was just to break 2 hours… I broke it by over 3 minutes. I had never run negative splits, and my 2nd half was close to 4 minutes faster than my first.

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Running with the pacer was the best decision I could have made. Even though I eventually took off ahead of her, she really helped me remain on time and stable. Usually my mind does a lot of fighting in races, and there was none of that (until the last mile). This race could not have gone better.

At the finish line my parents, cousin, and in laws were there to cheer me on. We walked around the vendors and watched the marathoners and half marathoners come in. I even saw Kristina from blogaboutrunning.com cross the finish line. She looked awesome!

Thanks to everyone who helped me get through my training and overshoot my goals. I had a blast and I can’t wait to do it again.

The Holy Half Marathon is in 41 days. Now I have a time to chase.

Race Recap: Muddy Monk 10K

The race on Sunday wasn’t quite what I expected. The Muddy Monk 10k was less of a trail run and more of a mud run. Although I was not really ready for that, I still had a ton of fun. Did I hit my goal time? Nope. I ran it in 1:01:20, so I guess if I had done one of the six river crossings a bit faster and maybe didn’t get my shoe stuck in the mud so many times, I would have hit my time. Oh well though. It was pretty freaking fun, regardless.

The day was beautiful with blue skies and crisp 40 F air. We got there quite a bit early to pick up our bibs and chill out a bit before the race. People were dressed in tutus and santa gear, which gave the race a bit of a relaxed feel. I had a cup of coffee and a Luna energy bar for breakfast and was ready to go. My stomach felt good. I was pumped. I was ready. I figured I finally got my race day meal right and might not have to deal with mid-run stomach problems. However, as we were standing at the starting corral, the announcer warned us of river crossings and climbs where we would need to use our hands. My stomach started to flip and I had trouble until about mile 4.

Kelly and I before the race. We were ready for some serious trails to run and boy did we get it. We were pretty covered in mud by the end.

Kelly and I before the race. We were ready for some serious trails to run and boy did we get it. We were pretty covered in mud by the end.

After the race had begun, it didn’t take me more than two minutes to realize that my stomach cramps would plague me in this race too. So far, in every race I have run, my stomach has cramped up on me and I can’t quite take full breaths. It slows me down a lot, and I race about a minute slower per mile than I expect to run based on my training. My intention for this race was to finally beat it so I could confidently go into the A1A Half Marathon, knowing that I could get through a race without the cramps. I guess I’ll just have to wing it and hope it doesn’t happen again.

The race was pretty muddy from the start. My shoes were covered and I had quite a few river crossings (six total, I think) to contend with. The course was an out and back, so as I ran through the mud on the way out, I knew I would be seeing a worse version of it on the way back. For the first few rivers, people hesitantly jumped across. By the end of the race, people were just running through, full blast. It was pretty great to see people getting so dirty. Some seemed to be enjoying it and others… well not so much.

Rivers and downed trees were no strangers to this course.

Rivers and downed trees were no strangers to this course.

The course eventually lead to a long paved path out into a field. I was starting to see the fastest runners coming back, so I figured the turn around was close. At the end there was just a single dude standing there with a beer telling people to turn around. Like I said before, the race was pretty chill. The way back was nice, and I was hoping to run negative splits, but my stomach wouldn’t really give me a break. The course was muddier, just as I had suspected, but I cared much less about mud and water, since I knew the end was near.

There I am, jumping across a river like a real champ. This part was probably the most fun.

There I am, jumping across a river like a real champ. This part was probably the most fun.

This was my trail run before the A1A Half in February and it didn’t quite go to plan. I was pretty disappointed about my stomach problems and time. I had not followed through on either goal, but that’s ok. I am going to continue to train after eating what I plan to at the A1A Half Marathon, in hopes that I can figure it out before then. After the race, I got my vegan hotdog (what do you think is in a vegan hotdog? I have no idea.) and we took off to hike a bit and get some more food. Overall, I had a great day and a fun race, even if things didn’t really go as planned.

Post race vegan hotdog!

Post race vegan hotdog!