And before you know it, it’s a new month! Greetings all, it has been awhile but that is mostly due to some very productive birding outings with my brother and the official opening of the 2015 race season. I would be underestimating the blog fodder to say I’m covered for birding posts for the rest of the year thanks to those outings. Since I ended April with a bird themed post, let’s go with the race season to start off the month of May. April 23 was the beginning of the Illinois Marathon festivities. It started with an evening 5K run to get the kinks worked out and the muscles warmed up.
Unfortunately, the weather really wasn’t cooperating with us that weekend with a heavy dose of rain scheduled for that Friday as well as the rest of the weekend. Figures the wet stuff would come down after a string of nice days leading up to it. Oh well, that’s how the weather gods treat us runners. We pretty much lucked out for that 5K. It was nice and cool and besides being overcast, the rain basically stayed away until after we had finished. Oh, forgot to mention there was a “we” this year. My running buddy Sung signed up for the festivities as well. It is ALWAYS funner when you can run with someone especially someone that you have been training with through the cold snowy days of Winter. Here we are before the start of the 5K – relaxed and focused on not getting hurt during this short 5K run. I can’t remember the last time I entered a race under 7 miles – general rule, if it takes longer to take a shower than run, might as well just take a shower. However, this was a special 5K and trust me, worth skipping the shower .. at least until after the race.
One of the cool things about this race is it ended up on the 50 yard line of Memorial Stadium. Even after going to the U of I for four years, this is the first time I’ve ever been on that field. We started together in the first corral thanks to Sung having a small math mix up. The first corral was meant for 27 minutes and under. That fit well within my expected time and easily in the expected time for Sung. Only problem was, he did the conversion from kilometers to mileage incorrectly – simply halved it so 27 minutes for 2.5 miles … oops, 3.1 miles. I think he was a little concerned about his start position after I reminded him how far it really was – NO WORRIES. We carried an 8:34 pace through the course – congrats to Sung for owning that course. Granted, there were a couple of incentives during the race – like the rabbit in the orange shirt with the number 5 on it and the frequent course crossers in very attractive dresses and high heels. Guessing there were sorority activities going on which we both agree should be made a requirement for all future races!
Final numbers – 26:39 42 for 45-49, 544 for males and 741st overall. All this fun and they even gave us a medal for completing the short run. Here we are for the official post race shot – happy faces and most important no injuries.
Hit the jump to see what the race weekend really had in store for us!
I mentioned this was not your ordinary 5K. Truth is, this was just a prequel to the larger event we were participating in the next morning. That event being the Illinois Half Marathon. That’s right, another 13.1 miles the very next day. Sung had no problems understanding that distance, it would be his official first Half and would be the farthest distance he had run to date. He originally was thinking about doing the mini (10K) but with a little coaxing from me and a confidence building long run the week before, he stepped up with the big boys and put the “challenge” in the I-Challenge. They basically had a race within a race they called the I-Challenge – compete in the 5K on Friday night and then compete in the 10K., Half or Full Marathon the next day! This was why it was imperative we didn’t get hurt during the short run – we needed to be in the best condition to take on the bigger challenge.
As bad luck would have it, it rained heavy overnight and continued through to the next day. The day started out dark and overcast – no getting around the wet stuff today, so on came the rain clothes. A few more running accessories this time, but still feeling good about the race – just noticed Sung’s bib was clipped a bit – too funny.
Since this was Sung’s first half and wanted him to have the best experience possible, I opted to fall back a few corral position so I could run the race alongside him – I remember my first long run and trust me, I wish I had someone there with me as well. Besides, for my own safety I had to make sure Sung made it through this event still vertical or his wife would have beaten me to death. We made our way to the start and settled into the prep routine. Note to self – don’t skip the traditional pre-race trip to the porta-potties. I had hit them earlier, but forgot I was back a few corrals so the wait was longer than usual. Add in all the effects of the rain visuals and well, let’s just say by mile 2 I was noticing every porta-potty on the race course. There were a couple of things that caught our attention at the start. The first of which was Sung getting caught up in a stretching faux pas. While he was stretching in place the guy in front of him bent down for his own stretching resulting is a little cheek to cheek action (the worst kind – face cheek to butt cheek). Sung was shaken – to bad I didn’t have a cigarette to offer him. Another site worth mentioning were all the fan signs both at the start and pretty much all along the course. A common topic for those signs were .. wait for it… pooping. The sign at the start said “1-100 end up pooping themselves, might as well do it now” – eesh – Sung was now visibly concerned but not nearly as much as we were shocked by the final visual before we started. As the corrals emptied out, those individuals that couldn’t fit into the area were shuffled in. A young girl came in alongside me wearing a pink hoodie, the capri running pants, pink shoes and I think a pink hat. I didn’t think much about it until I looked over and Sung was starting at me with that “did you notice” smirk. Uhhhh what’s up? Not really on the same wavelength I hesitated at the same time the girl bumped into me. To her credit she quickly apologized with an Oh, sorry about that. Except it wasn’t an Oh, sorry about that in an expected female tone – nope, this was full on low, manly voice. That intrigued me enough to take a second look and noticed the heavy 5:00 shadow contrasted with the pretty makeup. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but wow – my days of getting caught wearing jeans on “Where jeans if you support Gay Illini day” came flooding back (sorry for the weather pun). Oh well, hope she enjoyed the race – we quickly passed her a couple of miles into the race.
As if the weather gods didn’t think my training runs were worthy of their challenge, the rain started the minute we hit the starting mats… for the next 13 miles it rained, and rained and rained – sometimes light, sometimes heavy, sometimes mixed with wind and sometimes mixed with a welcome chill – regardless of how, it was WET. The wind breaker beat back the rain for most of the race, but eventually it made it to and through the shirts – the new running paints held up awesome – it even felt dry for the entire race (good investment), but the core was wet and that makes for an uncomfortable race – did I mention the bladder was being hypnotized by all the water? I must stop looking at the porta-potties – I must!
Things went pretty smoothly for the first part of the race. Noticed an Asian lady running alongside her friends taking pictures which drew a chuckle and stereotype comment to Sung. The dude that had inadvertently butt-faced my friend kept passing us and then stopping which has a tendency to annoy the crap out of me – hey, maybe that wasn’t inadvertent hehehehe. Note I mention the passing/stopping has a “tendency to annoy” which translates to I HATE IT every time except now in one condition – a rather attractive, tall lady kept passing us in bright blue volleyball type stretch shorts and then stopping to stretch her arms down to her feet. Sung and I would both like to say thank you for the continued mid-race motivation. For the record, we passed her good end.. oops, we passed her for good. AT THE end before we made our way into the stadium. Other notables along the course.
- The lady who turned her head to the side and threw up on the run ahead of us around mile 11 – thank god Sung didn’t see that, but I did have to pull him out of the vomit path.
- I got to see parts of Urbana I’ve never seen before
- The narrow path through the park is pretty annoying especially when the grass is wet – Ryan had warned me about this, but I didn’t realize how long that stretch was.
- Quite the interesting exit to the park marked by a large naked statue of a lady – even Amby Burfoot (Runner’s World editor and race guest) commented on it during the post race interview.
- Sung apparently does not buy into my “no surprises” theory when it comes to race routines. First he gets caught up in a donation scam when he reached for an open box of cookies – as soon as he picks it up a lady runs over and says those are for donations – he was shamed into giving them a book for the cookie and continued to eat it (later during the race it occurred to him there were probably tons of people who picked up that very same cookie and put it back once informed of the scam. Next, he eats a breakfast bar right before the race he received at the expo the night before and to top it off, opts for a GU gel 2/3rds of the way through the race – having never tested how his stomach might react to it – nothing like taking risk after risk on your first half marathon!!
- The sign at mile 12 that said, “Your nipples are bleeding, you toenails are black, all that’s left is to poop yourself” – eesh
- We followed Batman for long time in that race – we heard him mention his padded muscles were starting to soak up a lot of water making the overall suit muuuch heavier.
- Definitely appreciate having your name on the bib – strangers were calling out my name which is a definite boost to the psyche
- I ended up stepping in a large puddle of water at mile 11 – dammit, the shoes had stayed mostly dry up to that point and now they’re a squishy mess.
- Had to listen to a total jackass go on and on about how even though he is overweight how much better shape he was than a woman at work who refused to accept his multiple challenges to prove how much better he was than her. This discussion went on waayyy to long especially about a no-win situation – he wins, yawn, he’s a guy, he loses, he’s a loud mouthed pussy. What a jackass!
- Kudos to the dude dressed up like Elvis at one of the music points. Sung mentioned before we saw him that the singer better be dressed as Elvis singing like that .. confirmed.
- Big thanks to the lady with the shirt that said “I like to do it in the mornings” for giving us quite the chuckle when the weather was starting to get the best of us
- Really appreciated the orange slices at the midpoint of the race. First time I’ve ever had that offered up and it really hit the spot. Unfortunately, it ended on a sour note when I finally threw the rinds to the curb only to find out there was a garbage can for them a number of strides away – note to orange stop coordinators… put another one closer so I don’t feel so bad.
I have to give total credit to Sung who fought through these conditions and ran one hell of race. In fact, up to the last two miles he we were clocking in the 9:55 range which was well ahead of his previous training paces. He did start to really feel it in the last couple of miles and dropped a bit, but he hung in there, didn’t stop and never gave up until the finish. His first ever Half in less than ideal situations with an impressive time. If you haven’t run this far, it is hard to appreciate the willpower it takes to get through your first.
As with all races you commit to, eventually you make it to the finish line. Sung mentioned it was a little disheartening to get to Memorial Field only find out you had to enter in from the other end – just a few more tenths. We finished under the rain, stadium lights and the glow of LEDs displaying our finish on the jumbo screen at the end of the field. We did it and best of all … we finished ahead of the elite marathon winner who entered the stadium not too long after us. Official numbers: 2:11:30, 123 in my division, 1382 gender and 2517 overall (pace 9:50 at 10K mark, 10:02 at 10 mile and 10:01 finish).
That earned us our second medal of the weekend – this one even better than the one they had for the 5K. Two days, two medals. Not a bad way to start the running season.
BUT WAIT…. remember me mentioning that doing the combination of runs meant you completed the I-Challenge!?! Guess, what, you get a medal for that as well – a BIGGER medal.
How cool is that. The first race event of the season netted us not one, not two, but three medals. This was actually the real tipping point for Sung to enter the race. We are not bashful in saying we are medal whores and three medals is hard to pass up. Three very nice medals to hang up on my wall so early in the year. Sung pointed out that he more than doubled his race medals to that point.
Let’s all congratulate Sung on his accomplishment and welcome him into the Half Club. Kudos to the coordinators of the race as well. For the most part, this was one of the best run race I’ve participated in – full expo, everything well marked, on time and plenty of fluids and energy on the course. There was one aspect that might have ticked me off had I chosen this course to be my first marathon (which was bantered around when considering signing up). Sometime after we were done and off to a dog show (that was the catalyst for me being there in the first place), we learned that the race was canceled at 10:15 due to lightening. They closed the course on about 300 marathoners who had not made it to within a mile or two of the finish after 4 hrs – this could have been me had I entered the marathon – it would have been close since I would have shot for just over 4 hrs on a good weather day. Holy crap, run 20 or so miles and get nothing for it – shudder to think, but understand the scary position the lightening would have put the race coordinators in.
That’s pretty much my summary of the race. Maybe you’ll join us next year – pretty sure I’ll be back and think Sung is hooked as well. Go ILLINI – another challenge successfully in the books.
UPDATE: I was talking to Sung today and he mentioned another aspect of the race I forgot to comment on – the post race chill down! After we crossed the finish line I noticed everyone was getting their mylar wraps. I figured those were mainly for marathoners so at first I didn’t really think much about it. After a while I noticed a lot of Halfers were partaking as well so went with the flow. I was feeling pretty warm from the race and didn’t really think I needed it. To add to the annoyance, I had to keep taking it off for our post race pictures so opted to just toss it in the garbage – those thing are like trying to wrap yourself in clingwrap. Let’s just say I learned something about long cool, wet runs – it isn’t the minutes immediately after the race you need to worry about – it’s the 20+ minutes that make you WISH you had not thrown away your mylar – crap – man, I got cold, and I mean super cold to the core. Sung had me hold his drink for him while he was calling his wife – his characterization of that was I looked like a paint store shaker – glad there was a lid on that thing or my shirt would have been purple! Lesson learned.