Thursday, May 26, 2011

Belated Kalamzoo Half Marathon Report

Short version:  Chip time 2:04:05, a nearly 5-minute PR, and one hell of a fun weekend!

Long version: This race was not on my schedule until a few weeks ago.  I had planned to go watch since so many people I wanted to see were running, but since my "goal race" for the spring is Memorial Day weekend, I was not planning to run a half three weeks before it.  Eventually I decided I didn't want to just watch and just about convinced myself to run the half.  Because of the craziness that is the end of the semester I couldn't commit for sure, but took note of the online registration deadline and decided to make up my mind by then.  The night before the deadline it looked like my grades would be done in time, and I signed up.

Grades were posted Friday afternoon and I took the rest of that day and Saturday morning to just chill and enjoy being done with the semester.  Then, I headed to K'zoo to celebrate!  E and her family were kind enough to host me.  When I got to their house (after spending 45 minutes literally sitting still on a freakin' interchange), we headed off to the expo, picked up our packets, and drove around the course a little.  We took note of two big hills and I commented that the first looked just like the overpass I run here - Sunday I remembered that hills always look smaller in cars.

Normally I sleep ok the night before races but Saturday night I didn't.  Chalk it up to semester-end stress, a strange place, and lots of cats.  At 4:20 I finally called it good and stumbled out to the kitchen to find E and her dad - her dad making coffee.  Hallelujah.  We all got ready and headed out to the race around 5:45.

Once at the race site E and I headed inside to find bathrooms. We waited too long to jump in line, I guess.  I left E somewhere near the 2:30 pacer and tried to get up between the 2:15 and 2:00 pacer but gave up when I wasn't even close to the 2:15.  Whatever.  The guy next to me was also trying to get to the 2:00 group and we decided it would be fun to pass a few hundred people in the first mile.  I quietly worried that it meant I would go out way too fast.

Finally the race started and we walked...and walked...toward the starting line.   Then, we were off!  The first mile was pretty flat, maybe a slight downhill and I probably did pass a few hundred people. The second mile featured a very nice downhill, which I tried to enjoy to the fullest while being careful not to stumble over people as the field was still pretty thick here.  Near the bottom of that hill I blew past the 2:15 pacer and started to worry that maybe I was getting a little ahead of myself.

Mile 1: 9:10 (hmmm.  That was nice)
Mile 2: 8:34  (uh oh.)
Mile 3: 9:00 (geez.  Slow the eff down already!)

Just before the 3 mile marker, I caught the 4:15 marathon pace group.  Their pacers started calling out mile times in the 9:30 range and when I saw the 9:00 on my watch, I decided to hang with them for a while.  I've never run a negative split in a half but I HAVE burned out in the last few miles, and I really didn't want to use all I had in the first few miles.  I'm absolutely horrible at maintaining a constant pace and I always get all swept up in the excitement.

Unfortunately, the half split off from the marathon around the 4-mile mark.

Mile 4: 9:07 (hmm.  Ok)
Mile 5: 9:19 (That's better)
Mile 6: 8:05 (shiiiiiiit)

Up through this point I was feeling really good.  I think it was somewhere during the 6th mile (when I was apparently running far too fast) that I decided to get out of my head and just run.  What if I really was capable of running that pace and was just holding myself back?

Mile 7: 9:29 (baby hill here)
Mile 8: 9:28 (hey, this is going ok!)

Around mile 8.5 we hit the first of the two big hills.  This is the one I thought was similar to my overpass. Let me tell you.  It was not.   It was steep.  And long.  And it sucked.

Mile 9: 10:35 (yeah)

By this point I had blisters on both feet.  I spent the majority of the 10th mile trying to decide if it would hurt more to run the rest in bare feet (never having run barefoot) or to continue running in my shoes.  Naturally, I stuck with my shoes.  It did hurt though.

Mile 10: 10:19 (sigh)

Around this point I finally did the math and realized that once again, I would not get the elusive 2-hour barrier (clearly - did you see those splits?) but I knew that I could still PR and had quite the time cushion with which to do it.

Mile 11: 9:56 (Hey!  That's a little better!)

The rest is kind of a blur.  Just after the 12-mile mark we turned a corner and climbed another big hill, which also sucked.  Not long after the top of that hill I could actually hear cheering from the finish - or at least I decided it was from the finish - and that helped me get through.  Much to my dismay we sort of ran around the block (I think) so we weren't quite as close as I thought, but whatever.  I clicked through my playlist to find a high-energy song to finish with and did my best to kick into the finish.  My pictures will probably be terrible - I had the side stitch from hell there at the end.  When I turned the corner into the final stretch I saw the time and felt a little pang - I'd gotten so close to that darn 2-hour mark!  But I did get the PR that I had no right to run, based on my piss-poor training this last semester, so I'm very happy with the day.

Miles 12-13.2: 21:00

Final (watch) time: 2:04:07
Chip time: 2:04:05

Good for an almost 5-min PR (old one was 2:08:58, set in October)

In closing, I have to recommend this race.  It was really well organized and it was clear that the town was really excited.  The half has been going on for a few years now (not sure how many) but this was the inaugural year for the marathon - people were clearly pumped.  There was great crowd support throughout - not constant, but frequent enough.  The course was well-marked, start and finish were well-organized, shuttles ran really well....all around it was just great!  We also had a fantastic weather day, which we've been starved for around here.

Next up, Bayshore Half Marathon on Saturday :)

Thanks for reading!

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