Greetings everyone. It seems out of place to make a post about a personal event on this day of remembrance. Therefore, let’s take a moment to send our thoughts and prayers to the victims of that fateful day 10 years ago. I refuse to give the perpetrators the satisfaction of their actions and instead of focusing on the fear and uncertainty of that day (as every local newspaper and program I’ve come across today) I remember it as a day America came together. There were no petty squabbles between neighbors, no politicians slandering one another in hopes of getting an extra vote and absolutely no uncertainty regarding the love for the best country in the world. We were bound by a common cause and mad as hell. To those that experienced a tragic loss I express my deepest sympathy. To the heroes of that day and those who took up the fight I forever owe my gratitude with special appreciation to Seal Team 6 who demonstrated the inevitable outcome when mess with the Red, White and Blue.
As alluded to, this day also marked a big event on a personal front. After 3 years of hard work and countless setbacks I had an opportunity to put another check on my Life List. Some of you may know and some of you may not, but I have had a goal to run a half marathon for some time now. With the accomplishment of the 15K under the belt (link) the next evolution of the challenge was the daunting half. It doesn’t seem like much considering it is a just under 4 more miles but that itty bitty distance became my nemesis. It seemed like every time I set out to prepare, something happened that cut that opportunity short. The latest battle was with my torn hamstring which cost me all last year. Thanks to a heavy regiment of therapy my leg problems were mostly brought under control requiring continual training consideration, but finally strong enough to take the pounding. It was also evident some other things had to change to get in front of the numerous other injuries. I dropped 16 pounds (as of weigh in before the race) and retooled my body for the requirements of running (translated .. core, core core). This year’s racing circuit was geared to preparing for the this day – The 4 mile Chase warmup, the 15K Steamboat and the Bix7 all went well so optimism was in the air. Through all this was a steady diet of short and long runs (practically every other day including training runs on vacation) to get me prepared for the extra 4. As the days started clicking off I hit my distance marks culminating in the final 12.6 mile training run last Sunday. I can honestly say the way I felt after that run left me a little skeptical I could pull it off.
Hit the jump to read more about the event .. with pictures!
The time to back out was past. I was committed to running the IVS Half Marathon held in Springdale Cemetery, Peoria IL. Note, that was Peoria and NOT Naperville as some of you out there had incorrectly speculated for some unknown reason – do you really think I would travel to a half marathon with all the setbacks I’d experienced – this way I could wake up and decide to hit the snooze if something was seriously wrong. I should probably comment a little bit on this particular race. It is indeed set in a cemetery which takes on a unique mood during the race. This, however, is not the defining characteristic of the race and thus not the primary reason for picking it as my first. This particular cemetery is in the hills making for one of the more challenging half’s in the area. Hills are my strength and I wanted to make my first (and possibly only) half marathon something to remember and something to challenge me. My Life List items are not intended to be easy. this is why the Steamboat and Bix 7 races were so important since they prominently featured hills as well. The tipping point for this race was when I read the race comments from last year and one simply stated “It was brutal” – I signed up immediately after reading this. To learn more about the race, check out their site (IVS link). Take special note of the course which can be found here (IVS Half Marathon Map). Since the moment I saw the map I was concerned (Linda refers to as fretting) that I was going to get LOST! I was assured by multiple people this was impossible but I was not convinced. Needless to say, the 2D version of the course doesn’t look that bad, but I can assure you there are hills all over the place with the worst two being located just after the 8 mile indicator following to the right to the water station and the other starting near the water station up past the 11 mile marker (actually all the way up to the top of the page). Note those are 2nd loop mile markers, you have to run this course TWICE! … b r u t a l.
Early to bed the night before, up at the butt crack of dawn (Linda’s colorful term), pre-race prepping and a 30 minute drive into Peoria got me here.
It was 55 degrees out when we left and it maybe made it to 58 by the time we got there but the sun was on its way up. I’ve ran in rain, I’ve ran in >105 heat index and I’ve ran in a “feels like” 36 degrees this year. Trust me, there was noooo complaining about the weather today. I refer to this as my “concerned” look. I was still concerned about getting lost and this would be the first race I had not trained for at least 2 miles over the distance – quite frankly I had never ran the 13.1 distance in my life.
We eventually made our way to the starting line which was also a little different from my other races this year. To put it in perspective, the Chase had >30K runners, Steamboat was in the ~4K runner range and the Bix7 was in the 18-20K range depending on how that counting goes. This race had around 300 entries in it so there was no staging and I could see the starting line from where I was standing (towards the back of the pack). Here is the amazing thing, even though there was a relatively small number of runners, it is the most memorable to date and likely far into the future. We had a moment of silence in remembrance of the victims of 9/11 followed by the playing of the National Anthem. Well, that was the plan, they had a technical glitch with the anthem playing and the announcer wasn’t exactly sure what to do. After about 20 seconds a beautiful rendition of the anthem rang out from all the runners straight through to the end. I told myself at that moment that I wasn’t going to ruin that amazing moment with a DNF.
Soon after we were given the green light and we started on our punishment… I mean journey. Oh, as if you didn’t already guess, I once again I had brought my personal photographer to capture my determination, my razor focus and my intensity…
hey I’m over here.. Linda yoo hoo.. look at me I running.. yippee.. ummmm yeah, that stuff before was BS, if you can’t have fun when you’re being tortured, why bother. Linda likes to point out I’m usually the one with NO focus in the middle of people who take it serious. Actually, this is not entirely true. Let me provide a visual demonstration. This would be my serious runner face
Notice the focus, the take no prisoners attitude, the I’m going to make this course my umbrella bitch statement. Now contrast that with my hey, how’s it going, would you like to join me for some tea and crumpets and maybe a nice little stroll look.
See, totalllllly different…
Since the course is two loops, Linda was actually able to snap some shots at the halfway point. Here I am at the 6.55 mile mark. I was still feeling relatively good and glad two of the four hills were down. At the same time it was occurring to me I was ONLY half way done and there were two more large hills standing between me and my goal. I do recall commenting to Linda as I ran by “I have to do this AGAIN!?!”
I did not take my hydration belt on this race opting instead to use the course stations. I missed the convenience of taking fluids on my schedule, but the course layout took me by a number of stations at about a 1.5 to 2 mile gap which was adequate to forgo the extra weight of the belt. Instead I just took a small belt with some Chomps and Jelly Belly energy beans for the later part of the race – I also had my bib number attached to it which is why you didn’t see it in the early pictures (it also has a tendency to make me look fat). Thank god I had that, because at mile 10 I was draining fast. The third hill took a significant chunk of my energy reserves and my legs were starting to get heavy. A quick look at my split and I decided it was time to try and get some energy back. One Chomp later I was feeling a little better, but the calves were starting to stiffen up. At about that same time my right foot slipped on a piece of the broken asphalt tweaking it a tad. This is probably a good time to mention that the course included rocky paths, bridges, broken pavement (they were actually filling pot holes the night before) and welcome pavement. This variety demanded attention and care. I was coming back on my second loop when I saw an oncoming girl try to high five a lady that was in front of me. A stride after slapping hands, the oncoming girl stepped in a pile of broken asphalt and just about went down. Based on her grimace she was probably wishing she had simply gone with verbal encouragement.
Finally at the bottom of the fourth big hill I took some fluids and gave some firm pushes on the foot to confirmed that the tweak didn’t do any serious damage. All that was left was to really conquer this damn hill which just happened to be the longest one of the course. Having to walk would negate the Life List checkmark so I looked down at my left arm and got to work. One foot in front of the other, the exact mantra I used during every training run in the steep hills at Jubilee. It was a struggle, but the feeling of reaching the top without stopping was worth it. A quick loop at the top (with a smaller incline) and I was on the downward path out of the cemetery. Now, I cannot remember when I have been passed going up a hill – that includes the Steamboats and Bix7s and pride myself on that. In fact, while powering my way up the third hill another runner commented “You’re a great hill runner” which brought a smile to my face and, of course, equal encouragement back to him. Now that does not hold true for the flats and downhills. I control my downhill speeds for safety and flats just suck so the ends of races in these setting can cost me a couple of places. This was no exception. During the second loop I got passed by two people around mile 10 and an older lady (definitely a marathoner) took me at mile 12. I tried catching up to her on the small hill that leads out of the woods to the finish line, but she had trained harder than I had (she did get me past two other runners that I ran down trying to catch her so a big thanks to her.. next year though…
So here I am coming out of the woods with about 2 tenths of a mile left to the finish. Not looking nearly as fresh as the first loop, but vertical (had tuck my shirt in so they could see the number at the finish which allowed the announcer to call out my name to the crowd which was pretty cool.) Keep in mind this point is further than any run to date. As expected, the excitement of the finish kept me going. Keeping tradition, I sprinted to the finish line with everything I had left in the body.
The race was over, the goal had been met and and and oh crap, the calves are cramping up.
Wow, those hills tore up my calves pretty good but some hydration and quick stretches got those puppies settled down.
I noticed something a little disturbing at the end of the race. Linda and I were looking for an ambulance to take the traditional post race picture. There were no ambulances to be found. Are you serious. I just ran 13.1 miles, the farthest in my life and there was no life saving vehicle to toss my broken body into? We were later informed by Linda’s friend that there was a fireman on the course to help people… but he was busy taken care of a fire that broke out in the prairie grass at the top of the first hill. I smelled something burning on the second loop, but I didn’t see the fire engines that were taking care of it. We had to resort to taking the picture at the finish line.
I was kind of expecting a larger finisher medal, but it is pretty cool since it has the 13.1 symbol on one side and a remembrance of 9/11 on the other. It was definitely something I had to work for and will always cherish. Wondering why I looked down at my left arm before taking on the fourth hill? I thought I might need some motivation on the course (the word “brutal” echoing between the ears) and decided I could use any help I could get. Just in case I forgot what the punishment was all about, I added a reminder that this was a 3 year battle to check off another Life List item.
In case you are interested, my bold goal was to come in at 2 hours our less. The chip time ended up being 1:52:11 smashing my prediction! How is this for consistency
First Half – 56:21
Second Half – 56:51 (even with the fatigue)
Splits (I opted to not go with the GPS so I was relying on mile splits to manage my pace):
0.11.76 Gun to Start
9.41.87 (includes the extra .1)
The sweet taste of victory. Do not get any crazy ideas that this means a full marathon will be added to the list. I am not sure there are more half marathons in my future and the thought of doubling all my training runs leaves me stunned…. truth be told I’ll likely consider another go at this race next year – that mid race split of 8.57.65 has some room for improvement!
Now time to find that foam roller.