Peoria Heights Half Marathon Conquered

Not sure if this is common with other runners or not, but I have a tendency to remember with quite clarity specific races.  This generally pertains to the ones that maybe ended in a personal hardship, celebrated a specific anniversary or was a personal victory of some sorts.  Yesterday’s race was actually a combination of reasons that I’ll always remember.  If you have been reading the blog for the last couple of weeks I’ve hinted that I was running a half marathon – specifically the Peoria Heights Half Marathon.  The goal this year was to get more halfs in and that meant starting earlier in the race season.  Typically the half target is early September.  This year the target was May, but found out two weeks ago that the Heights race was on (was given indications last year it was off due to the sponsor moving out of that city).  Went ahead and signed up figuring I could use it as an easy training run and wouldn’t have to bring my own fluids.  I was already at 12 miles having kept the training up through the Winter months – one more mile (point one) shouldn’t be that hard

Well, I can say with great pride the medal is now mine.

From a swag perspective, this one featured one of the nicest medals I have received and definitely the best shirt.   Kudos to the River City Race Management Team (Shazam Racing) for putting on another great race.  If you recall, they also ran the Screaming Pumpkin Race (link here)  which also had awesome medals.  We were unable to locate an ambulance, which is a little troublesome on its own, but we decided to take the traditional post race picture on a nearby wall – the best part being I was able to SIT.

Hit the jump to read all about what it took to claim this medal!

Two other reasons this race will not be forgotten is the fact it was definitely harder than anticipated and Murphy struck when I injured my foot on what was supposed to be the second to last taper run before race day.  After 12 miles on Saturday up at Chain O Lakes, there was suppose to a 6 mile Tuesday and finally a quick 3 miler on Thursday.  Well, that was the plan.  After Tuesday’s run the ball of my big toe was seriously messed up.  Hoping it was a light case of turf toe, the final taper was called off and instead spent the remaining days trying to ice/massage it back.  Saturday morning came and it was still hurting – not good.

Friday Linda took me to pick up the race packet and she drove the course so I could see what was in store.  Truthfully, this course (link here) was quite confusing and required us a couple of times circling the area trying to get the turns right – didn’t help that the course that was on the website was changed from the first time I printed the course a week ago.  For a runner, doubling back on yourself is very confusing so redrew the course with the mileage markers taken from the truck’s odometer.  If you look at the course map (link above) you will notice it first does an inner loop, then heads out to the right, comes back and goes out left, comes back and goes back right and then comes back to the starting street and comes down to the finish.  A big fear as a runner is you will get lost – this course definitely had a high probability of that which is why the time was taken to put it in a format that could be remembered easily

Since my personal photographer was going to be there I also wanted to give her some idea when to start looking for me.  With the mileage all laid out it was pretty easy to estimate the time ranges at each of the two positions she was going to be at – the times were based on an 8:30 and 9:00 pace. The goal was to fall somewhere in the middle of those two based on the current level of training.  The course gave Linda 5 opportunities to take shots – two at the starting location (since the inner loop took me back there) and then two at the 6.0/8.4 location and then again at the finish.

Here I am before the race trying not to dwell on the task ahead.  How about that shirt!  Wanted something so Linda could pick me out of the crowd easily – as you can tell, that orange (the traditional race day color) was nearly radioactive to the point it was even screwing with the camera sensors.  Heard comments throughout the race that I was easy to see hehehe.

Definitely easy to tell this was the START of the race.  This may be the first time I am not the one goofing around the most at the gun – that lady in front of me was having a blast and was busy letting everyone know it (I just ham for my photographer).  One thing of note, see that tube in her hand.. that means she’s only doing half the race since that is the relay baton.  Thinking her excitement was increased knowing that she only has half as far to go as those of us without the baton.  Me thinks the dude to my right in blue might have raced here before based on his expression of fear and concern.

So, thought I’d throw this next set of pictures  more for my own reference, but if you are a runner you might be somewhat intrigued.  It is well known by now that last year was spent changing my running gate – transitioning from a full blown heal strike to a midfoot land under/behind the torso.  This is something that preoccupies the brain cells during every run.  Lean forward, smaller strides drive through the strike.  This also means I get to assess myself against all the other runners that come into my field vision (either out on the course or driving by runners on the road these days).  Clearly there were at least two other individuals that are either natural at this or also spent a considerate amount of time working on their form.    Can you guess who they might be?

Any easier now?

How about now.. (note the lady apparently didn’t get the memo about which leg to lead with hehehe)

Talk about some exact same forms down to the same cadence and angles.   Pretty fascinating given the fact we were a little more than a mile into the race and already banded into the common pace groups.

This is my favorite photograph from my personal photographer (Linda).  This was at the 6 mile point and was feeling pretty good having made it up and back on the first loop down the huge Grandview Drive hill.  By this time it was very apparent the second time tackling that hill and back was going to be a personal struggle.

On a funny followed by very scary moment in the race, a little bit after the turnaround point down Grandview (~4.0 mile mark) a young girl (maybe 13) slightly ahead of me passed a older couple that was busy cheering her own.  Guessed it was her parents based on the guy calmly telling her to settle into a comfortable pace and stay in control (excellent advice from an obvious other runner).  She acknowledged and continued on.  While this interaction was going on, there was another very young girl (maybe 8 yrs) just riding her – yelling out boo’s, motioning both her thumbs down to ground and other disparaging comments and motions.  Guessing this was her sister which made me chuckle.  I decided it was my responsibility to help a new runner out, so gave a quick burst, caught up with her and asked her if that was her sister.  She frowned and confirmed.  To lift her spirits told her she will do just fine.  She smiled and I motored on ahead.  That was the funny part – the scary part is she was being guided away from the finish line barely able to walk and not exactly sure where she was.  Never want to see that, but she was clutching her medal and know she will never forget that accomplishment – don’t know who you are, but CONGRATS and welcome to the world of distance runners (just be careful from here on out)

Here I am at the 8.4 mile point looking a little worse from the trek up Prospect.  This didn’t have the big hills as the Grandview path, but it did have a small steady incline that drained some of the energy stores on the way out.  Distinctly remember going with Gatorade on that segment that was not mixed strong enough – yuck.

At least that meant a small steady decline to take me back to the start of the road which allowed for a small amount of recuperation – a small amount.  by the way, you will notice the lady in the gray running pants was done for the day (she was carrying the baton in the shot above so knew she wasn’t in it for the long haul).  Definitely starting to push that leg out a little farther than I wanted which tends to happen when fatigue sets in – start falling back toward the old form.

That turn led to the last loop of Grandview Drive.  Mile 9 went by okay thanks to some badly needed water half way down but mile 10 to 11 the energy drain was becoming apparent.  Mile 11 to 12 was a gut check.  The worst part of the uphill was at that point and the calves were protesting big time.  I didn’t help that halfway through that part, a huge black SUV came up behind me.  Not sure how it got on the course, but there was no place for it to go due to cones that were separating the downhillers from the uphillers.  Not liking that situation at all, took the next driveway wide and motioned for him to pass me which he obliged.  About 2/3rds of the way through that mile, I caught up with a guy and settled in behind for a few paces.  We passed a few onlookers at this point and they started cheering for him and yelling Go Marines.  He acknowledged by raising his arms, making his own cheer and thanking them.  That also gave me a little boost and started up the big hill with bit more pep.  This hill turned a corner and as soon as we were out of sight from his fan club.. HE STOPPED.  Now that was deflating.  Hard to knock him and appreciative of his service, but that was a small shock when trying to muster the strength to get through the toughest part of the race.  No worries, my one foot in front of the other motto got me to the top and eventually turned the corner to head for home.

A soft picture, but it cracked me up with that giant STOP sign in the background which admittedly tried to take over my thoughts more than once during those last two miles.  Now for the scary part of the experience.  once block after turning the corner onto to the finish line I was nearly hit by a car! … and by nearly, … that would be within a foot from being rammed by a car trying to come onto the course from a street on my left.  The brain registered a champagne colored car pulling up to the intersection, validated it was slowing down as expected and then check it off the threat list.  All of a sudden it executes a rolling stop and starts to take off just as I was entering the street.  Internal alarms went off causing me to stop dead in my tracks while yelling in unison with the race volunteers that was also just recognizing what was happening – add to that a number of gasps from those watching the race from the curbs nearby.  Too tired to get details, I proceeded on after the car jerked back and forth from the hard brake.  The minute I passed it apparently tried to take off again based on the amount of harsh calls that started up again.  It was time to get this race over with… thanks to the jolt of adrenaline, had an extra high step in my stride!  (note to self, get that stride shortened back up at the end of the race)

It was over, the Heights Half Marathon was MINE.  Recall earlier my pace window was in the 8:30 to 9:00 minutes per mile (with a definite edge to the latter).  Check this out….

8:45 – dead on middle of the window coming in at 1;54;28 – Score!  Pretty much knew things were going well based on checking the splits that were permanent markered on my arm.

I was taking random splits based on landmarks and mile markers but here were some of them

10.19.77 was the first loop time which was actually much faster than expected (early race energy)

6.0.1 (16.27.75) somewhere around the 2 mile mark

42.12.44 (58.34.19)  this was past the 6+ mile point which would have put me near the turn to prospect

8.48.42 (1:07.22) 7 starting to feel the toll

8.52.80 (1:16:15) 8  near the return point from the Prospect loop

8.56.91 (1:25.12) 9  on the way down

9.19.28 (1:34.31) 10  starting uphill

9.31.50 (1:44:03) 11  death mile!

7.47.73 (1:51.50)  to prospect

2.38.39 (1:54:29 ) – finish

Oh, by the way, the back of the tech shirt was equally nice.  Nice job on the shirts – maybe the Bix 7 could take some pointers on their shirt design.

Well, that’s it for the Half – guess who gets to do it all over again in a month.

2 thoughts on “Peoria Heights Half Marathon Conquered”

  1. “guess who gets to do it all over again in a month.”

    Me? Oh, right, NO.

    Congratulations on your race! I thought you would have to skip it because I saw mentions of your foot injury before. I would have advised against it.

    In all seriousness, I thought you and those two other guys were doing a spontaneous synchronized street dance (a flash mob) at the start of the half-marathon. Seriously, I did.

    The mention of Gatorade reminds me of this from a Wall Street Journal article on marathon pain that appeared two days ago (at ):

    “Gatorade and other sports drinks have electrolytes, but pickle juice has about as much concentrated sodium as any liquid on the planet that athletes have been able to stomach during intense exercise. Pickle juice isn’t widely available at most marathon water stations, though drinking it isn’t a new strategy. The Philadelphia Eagles drank it during a 2000 game against the Dallas Cowboys when temperatures climbed to 109 degrees Fahrenheit. The Eagles won.”

    About that lady that you almost killed by telling her she would do just fine, so she shouldn’t worry about anything–she will never listen to anyone ever again!

    You know, I don’t like to think about this at all, but if you had been hit by the car everyone would have said, “Who was hit?” and people would say, “The guy in the orange shirt” and everyone would have said, “The guy in the freakin’ opti-hell orange shirt?!? How ironic is that!?”. Just sayin’.

    That does remind me of being inside a long Chinese dragon in an Illinois College homecoming parade, hearing shouts, and having a car bumper come though the sheet around me and stop three inches from my leg. That was close. And how could you miss a huge 50-foot long dragon with fire extinguisher breath, anyway?!

    So congratulations again. I agree, the shirt and medal are awesome, give them to me. I would probably have run in the race but it makes me seasick to zig-zag like that at high speed.



  2. Thanks.. and the Vegas odds were a billion to one it was you .. just saying there was a chance! Synchronized flash mobs are strictly forbidden at ALL races – you don’t want to surprise runners, they can fall over dead at any moment – since you are not a runner I understand the confusion. Now, running hurt, that is entirely acceptable and my theory is every single person toeing the line that day (and any race day) is hurting from something thanks to what it takes to actually prepare yourself for that hel.. I mean experience. Yeah, experience, that’s it. I would have stopped if it got too serious but for the most part it stuck it out. The week off afterwards has helped tremendously.

    There is no way in hell I’ll ever drink pickle juice. I’ll never forget your friend from college (Dave I think) who told us his wife craved that during her pregnancy – yuck.. although thinking she could have run a half marathon after drinking a jar of that eesh .. still makes me cringe.

    As far as the girl goes, I think she will always remember the kind person who gave her the strength to finish something she will never ever forget. Every time she looks at that prize medal she will look up and visualize that angel who sat on her shoulder the whole way allowing her to conquer her fears – she’ll probably be the first female president and you can thank …this guy!

    Holy crap, 3″ from getting creamed in a car – was this another Sigma Pi wild ass idea to be in a homecoming parade? was alcohol involved? … or was this the work of Barker? Anyway, that was damn close and would probably make me ward off Chinese food for the rest of my life – definitely an omen in there somewhere. … was the driver of the car a member of Sigma Pi?

    Sorry, you can’t have my medal but I will run with you if you want to run it with me next year! (might want to start training now though – it took me 12 years to get here and still not feeling the greatest after one of these halfs.. hey wait a minute, maybe I’m just getting dizzy from the zigzags.. you might be on to something here heheheh

    Thanks for making your way all the way through that post – it was pretty long and made a long comment as well .. uber-thanks


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