Kansas Half Marathon

A local running organization put together a race series called the Heartland 39.3— three half marathons in one month, all within 50 miles of the Kansas City metro area. These races include last weekend’s Rock the Parkway, the Kansas Half Marathon, and Running with the Cows, which is in two weeks. I registered for the series back in October and got a steal for the races, it cost me $39 per race since I signed up so early. I figured it would be a fun challenge, but at the time I didn’t realize how amped up my spring race schedule would be.

Going into this weekend, I had no idea what to expect. I’ve run marathons, but never back to back half marathons before. I didn’t know if I would be sore from pacing Austin in his half on Saturday, if my allergies would subside,  or how fatigued my body would be. When I got home from the race on Saturday, I slapped on my compression sleeves and pants, hydrated and stretched like a champ, and relaxed, trying to do my body the best I could with hopes of waking up feeling alright on Sunday.

It worked! I popped out of bed at 4:30am on Sunday and was pleasantly surprised with how fresh my legs felt, which raised my hopes for the day! My baseline goal for the race was to run it in under 2:30, but I really wanted to shoot for another sub-2:20. Having been on my feet for 13.1 miles the day before, I wasn’t sure of how attainable this goal was, but it was still what I was aiming for. I did my usual pre-race routine, water, bathroom, breakfast, bathroom, brush teeth, bathroom, you get the idea. The race was about 30 miles from where I live so I hopped on the highway at 6am and rocked out to my running playlist on my iPhone the whole drive. My adrenaline was definitely pumping and being able to crank my music super loud and dance in my car helped get the nerves out.

The temperature was perfect for racing, in the upper 40’s, but the wind was not. Upon arriving to Lawrence, I was greeted with 20-25mph winds…brrrrrr! It still wasn’t going to get me down, it’s not like I haven’t ran in the wind before! However, I was very thankful I packed a throwaway long sleeve shirt to wear for the first couple of miles and a pair of gloves to wear during the race to keep my fingers warm!

My friend Jacob made a 3-hour drive to Lawrence to run his first half marathon! We rowed together at Wichita State and it was great getting to see him again! I found this picture from back in the rowing days…which feels like a million years ago!

He was pretend napping and I was not-pretend bothering him 😉

He was slightly freaking out before the race started as we were huddling with other runners in a bus waiting area in attempt to block the wind and noted that I was, “Cool as a cucumber,” which puzzled him. I realized that I like spending the last 10-15 minutes before a race soaking everything in–the people, the moment, the start line…I love it. I love being able to stand there silently and totally be in the moment. This race wasn’t huge (less than 2,000 half marathoners) and was incredibly organized; normally I like being at the start line about 20 minutes before a race starts, but due to the wind, all 2,000 of us corralled to the start line together about five minutes before the gun went off in efforts to stay as warm as possible.

Jacob and I agreed that we didn’t want to hold each other back, so we didn’t plan on running together. We stayed together for the first couple of miles and he took off ahead of me after the first aid station. I had situated in with the 2:20 pacers who were so fantastic, they were great pacers and really nice people. I didn’t study the course beforehand, just the elevation, and knew to expect huge hills at miles 4 and 10, other than that, I was cruising right along with my group and enjoying the run. My legs were so cold due to the wind that it took several miles for them to finally warm up and not feel like wooden boards, which is a feeling that I absolutely hate. So finally, when my legs got warm, they were rudely greeted by said monstrous hill. It was on the University of Kansas campus and I wish I had a picture of this thing because it was such a beast. My breathing efforts had really increased and I had to work mentally and physically to keep on running up the hill while keeping my breathing intact. Finally when we got to the top of the hill we were greeted with a cold rush of wind and I was so thankful to be back on flat ground.

This portion of the course was an out and back, and after mile 5, we started seeing the leaders of the race heading on the back portion. It was cool getting to cheer them on, but a big con was that we were running on a wide sidewalk, literally right next to these people going in the opposite direction. I feel like it was more of a con for the faster people because if they were wanting to make a move to try and pass someone, it was nearly impossible due to the mass of slower people going in the opposite direction. This race has also never had as many people run it as did yesterday, so I’ve got to give them that. I feel like if it retains popularity (which I think it will) then they will/need to alter the course to be accommodating to more runners.

One reason I did love this out and back portion was because you got to see everyone in passing, so I got to cheer on and high five several friends, plus the people watching made the miles fly by! We came up on the 9-mile marker and I could hardly believe we had been running that long…that’s when you know it’s a good time! My left shoe lace had been getting looser and looser, and around 9.5 I had to pull over to the side and retie my shoe, I knew I couldn’t make it to the end without doing so. This really messed up my rhythm and even though I was able to catch back up with my pace group, we were about to hit a sucker of a winding hill at mile 10 and then I really started to feel it. Fatigue was setting in and I had to take a short walk break. I wasn’t happy with having to do this, but my legs needed it.

The race was happening so fast, after climbing up that last hill there was an awesomely long downhill to mile 11, and the rest of the race was flat to downhill. I vowed to run the last 2.1 miles with all I had and I knew my time would be at least under 2:25 and I went with it. Kids had their hands up for high-fives coming into the final stretch and I fived maybe 4-5 kiddos which was so fun, my legs were cruising me right into the finish and I crossed with a huge, goofy smile on my face.

I seriously felt SO. GOOD. Maybe it was the runner’s high, or accomplishing something I wasn’t sure I would be able to do, or having a time I was happy with, or knowing I poured my all into it…but was so stinking happy! These feelings are what make me love running. My official time was a respectable 2:23:17 and I am completely happy with that.

Jacob finished in 2:19 and it wasn’t as pretty for him as it was for me. Let’s just say he spent some time praying over the porcelain gods a short while after the race…

Pre-pukefest

Two half marathons in two days, check! This experience reaffirmed to me how important it is to believe in yourself and that the seemingly impossible is quite more attainable than we may realize. Like I said on my Facebook, you never know what you’re capable of until you test the limits, and then push past them. The end may not always be bright and clear, but you’ll never know what it looks like until you get there.

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Rock the Parkway 2012

It’s funny now that I’m repeating some races, that recaps now need to include the year.

In the days leading up to Rock the Parkway I began to feel anxious–something I haven’t felt before a race in quite some time. The last two halfs I did were both while training for my first full, so I didn’t have any ‘real goals’ for those races. When I ran my first marathon my goal was to finish alive (check) and my goal for the second was to enjoy it (check).

Last year, I set a half marathon PR at Rock the Parkway and I did, at 2:20:18. I didn’t break 2:20 but I was very satisfied with my efforts at that race. Every half I ran last year was slower than that time, ha! But it was because my goals had shifted to a marathon, which I run at a much slower pace than half marathons or any distance shorter than that. Basically, I had gotten really good at running slowly for stupid long amounts of time, but had to fine tune my speed before lacing up for RTP.

Friday night I fueled up with lots of hummus and a huge Greek salad at a new-to-me Greek restaurant with my friend Shelly to plan our trip to Minnesota next month for Med City (she’s on her way to running a half in every state)! It was fun and delicious, and I was at home in bed promptly passed out by 10:30pm. This is the first race I’ve been able to sleep in my own bed the night before in 6 months! It was glorious! I loved being able to set out all my things where I wanted, and not having to check out of a hotel at 6am.

I wasn’t totally sure what I was going to have for breakfast race morning, but 5am on Saturday rolled around and I scrambled up some egg whites and two slices of Genesis 1:29 bread, with a large iced coffee (which I NEVER do before a run) to get my nervous poop out, because I knew otherwise it wouldn’t happen. At 6am I was out the door and a good thing too, because though RTP is only in it’s third year, the popularity of it has grown exponentially! They had to cap the race at 4500 half marathoners, up 1000 from last year, and it showed in parking!

This was Jen’s first half marathon, and Bridget came down from Omaha so her family (who lives pretty close) could all finally see her race! They came in VERY handy too in cheering me on at the race course when I was feeling like death multiple times, but onto that later. After doing the standard 2+ pre-race potties, us ladies headed to the start line and said a pre-race prayer and were herded in like a bunch of cattle. Moooooo.

The forecast had predicted some possible storms for Saturday morning, and I prayed for no lightning and no hail. I should have been more specific and asked for no humidity too–I forgot I live in the humidity capital of the world. It was around 60* which was perfect, but about 85% humidity. You could cut it with a knife. We were also so packed in at the start line that we were very close behind the 2:15 pacers, which is what I secretly wanted. My baseline goal was to break 2:20, but if I could run faster than 2:15 I was going to be elated. It was ambitious, but I was willing to put up with the pain and effort to reach my goal.

Ten minutes into the race I was already sweating and running at a faster than what is comfortable pace, which I knew would bite me later in the race. I was with Jen for the first 5k, but knew she could pick it up and I lost her at a water station. I didn’t want to hold her back and knew that I needed to run my race. Regardless, I was still right behind the 2:15 pacers which I was okay with. Here for a portion of the run I just let my mind go. That’s one of the things I really like about running–it let’s me turn my brain off and I don’t think about anything. At all. Right after mile 3 there was a slight incline, but running around a 10:20 pace I was really feeling it. I thought several times, “There is no flipping way I can hold this pace for 10 more miles. No way.” But I couldn’t let myself get down about it, I just kept pushing.

We passed the 5th mile right before 53 minutes and that’s about what I run when I’m on my own, and the 10k mark at 1:03 which I was actually pretty proud of. They changed the course from last year and added a loop around a downtown park, which consequently added a couple of more inclines. I was silently cussing out the inclines and trying to keep from getting frustrated. I was giving it my all, but I still felt like it wasn’t going to be good enough, then I realized there was still half of a race to go which made me feel a little sad, I didn’t know how much more I had left.

Earlier in the morning I stuck a gel in my bra just in case I wanted to take it, and after mile 7  I was thankful for thinking in advance. At that point I would take any extra boost of energy I could get. By this point I was also ringing my shirt out of sweat, my clothes were absolutely dripping (literally, dripping), and made sure I took at least 2 cups of water at each aid station. The course is an out and back, a beautiful one, and at this point we were now on the ‘back’ portion, which was thankfully mostly flat. My aunt surprised me at mile 9 and it was so good seeing a face I knew, even though I could just muster out a ‘Love you,’ as I passed by, with a totally off center high five.

Three thoughts were going though my mind: “Four miles four miles four miles,” “I can’t do this. What was I thinking. Is this goal even attainable?? I’m going to die.” and finally, “Kelsey if you don’t freaking believe in yourself you WON’T reach your goals. BELIEVE in yourself, woman and get it!”

Honest to God, I took more walk breaks than I imagined I would (uhh…3 between miles 9-11) but was okay that I was moving forward. I had to convince myself that I would be happy no matter what because I knew I was giving it my all and leaving everything out on the course. A few familiar faces and cheers later and after the 10 mile mark, I convinced myself I just needed to run the last 3 miles as fast as I ran the first 3 and I would be done.

I allowed myself a final walk break up another dang hill at mile 11 and promised myself no more walking. I can go balls to the wall for two miles. Even if it means feeling like you’re going to pass out. I kept looking at my watch…I knew I was going to PR. I didn’t know by how much, but knew it was going to happen. After 12.5 I picked it up, and it helped to have other racers who had finished cheering me on because they could tell I was going for it. I ran harder in the last .6 miles than I ever thought I could–I couldn’t feel my legs, but I knew they were pumping. I’m not sure I was even breathing, I don’t really remember. My aunt snapped this beauty…how was I smiling while in so much physical pain?

I’m happy that at least my form wasn’t absolutely terrible. I don’t know how it wasn’t, but I’ll take it. And then I finished.

My head was spinning, I wanted to keel over, but knew if I could stay on my own two feet I would be alright. I got my water, timing chip off, and medal and then miraculously found my aunt and sat on a rock. I wanted to puke, every inch of my body was sweaty and I just needed to sit with my eyes closed. I missed out on the runners high on this one, and I wasn’t even as happy as I imagined I would be to have a new PR.

The one thought that can encompass my race was, “I have never ran that hard in my life.” And in that, I am happily satisfied with my new half marathon PR of 2:19:35.

Jen did amazing and pulled out a sub 2:10 for her first half, and Bridge gave her absolute best (overcoming injury, sickness, and oh yeah, she’s a mom too) and ran faster than her last half!

Then I realized I’m doing this again next weekend. Twice. Three half marathons in nine days…I clearly did not have my brain plugged in correctly, and sometimes I wonder if it’s plugged in at all. I’m gonna love it anyways! Maybe I can set a new PR next weekend too, ha!