As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I ran the Valparaiso Half Marathon on Sunday!
I absolutely loved the Valpo Half Marathon and want to run it every year if possible. The course was flat and fast, the race was well organized, and the community was so supportive! They even had a band (in the photo below) playing on the course! It’s a great race to run if you want to PR in the half marathon. I want to run it every year I can.
On Saturday morning, Ryan, Charlie, and I headed out for a 20 minute shake-out run (more like 25 minutes if you count all the puggle potty breaks). I spent the rest of the day off my feet as much as possible—Ryan even got me a chair so I could sit as much as possible at the soup cook-off fundraiser we participated in. We went to Saturday evening Mass and came home by 5:30 to relax for the rest of the evening. In the last weeks of training I discovered that egg and cheese sandwiches on plain bagels are an amazing dinner for the night before a long run, so we had those sandwiches for a delicious, carby, but not too heavy dinner. I drank three liters of water at least over the course of the day and snacked on some Chex cereal before going to bed at 10 p.m.
The race was at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday. I woke up at 6 a.m. to eat a plain bagel and drink some water before getting ready for the race. The forecast for the race anticipated temperatures in the mid-to-high 30s and it was supposed to start getting windy around 9:30 or 10. Throughout my training I’ve learned that I run best when my arms and core are warm and my legs are cool, so I dressed in shorts, a light-weight technical long sleeve shirt, a zip-up running jacket, and the fingerless running gloves I made. I French-braided my grown-out bangs and braided the rest of my hair. I swear by braiding for when I run; as long as the braid is tight enough and I use bobby pins, my hair does not tangle or get in my face. I wore my Merrell Bare Access Arc 2 shoes, my Garmin Forerunner 10, and a shiny pink headband that I save for long runs and races.
I bundled up in sweatpants and my favorite Eddie Bauer coat to stay warm before the race. We were out the door by 7:15 and shortly arrived at the race after stopping at Dunkin Donuts for some coffee for Ryan. I passed on coffee even though his big cup smelled soooooo good. It was super chilly out, but luckily the pre/post-race tent had a space heater! Almost all the runners hung out in the tent before hand. I warmed up with five minutes of easy jogging and some dynamic stretches, especially leg swings to loosen up my hips, about 30 minutes before the race.
Ryan took all the photos which was super sweet of him! It’s much easier to run in 35 degree temps than to stand outside in them!
The race started right on time, which I loved. I was able to line myself up near the front of the pack for the starting line, since I was aiming for a faster time and it was a small race (386 runners finished). The first ½ mile I struggled to settle into my pace, since I got swept up with a bunch of faster runners and started out a 6:30 min/mile. Luckily, I found my groove quickly and finished my first mile in 7:49 before setting into around a 8:00/mile pace.
The race began with a couple loops around the starting area (which was at the local community college) and I was able to see Ryan at the first mile! After the loops (about 2 miles in), we started on straight aways. The course only had maybe eight or ten turns total and was an out-and-back course. There were water and Gatorade stops every two miles and I made sure to drink water at every stop (I stopped drinking water an hour before the race except for a few small sips).
I kept a strong and even pace for the first 8 miles of the race. I hung on to the back of a pack of runners that all seemed to be aiming for around a 1:45 range finish. By mile 5 or 6, there was a huge gap between me and the next runner behind me, so I just focused on staying with the pack. I took a Hammer gel around mile 6, which helped me feel strong and avoid early fatigue. I passed mile 8 at 63:xx and realized I was well ahead of my 1:49 goal. The winds starting picking up significantly at mile 9 and definitely affected my pace—I quickly dropped to 8:18/mile for miles 9, 10, and 11, but that was ok because I was still ahead of my goal pace. I ate half a gel at mile 10 or 11 to give me a bit of a boost. Mile 12 was rough, as the wind was really taking its toll on me and my legs were feeling super tired. I was in a pack of a few male runners at that point and focused on staying in that group. I covered mile 12 in 8:41, which was by far my slowest mile of the race.
Luckily, we turned out of the wind for the last mile. I mustered everything I could and passed a few men with about ¾ of a mile to go, but then got passed by them all in the last ¼ mile. I need to work on my finishing kick! I pushed as hard as I could in the last few meters. I focused everything I got and picked up my pace to around 7:10/mile (still, all the guys around me were pushing even faster to finish!) and narrowed my gaze on the finishing chute. I didn’t even hear Ryan cheering my name because I got so focused (and was so tired!).
When I crossed the finish line in 1:46:06 (8:05/mile average pace!), it took me a few seconds to register things. A lady practically had to shove the finishing medal under my nose for me to pick it up and then I grabbed some water from another volunteer. Ryan came over to hug me and I was almost in shock. I finished 3 minutes faster than my goal, and I thought my goal pace was aiming high! I had been so worried about not finishing under 1:50.
The fun thing about this race was seeing college friends. Around mile 2 or 3 I heard someone cheering my name, and it was a friend from college who was there to cheer on her fiance, who happened to graduate the same year as Ryan. Several times during the race, I passed and then later was passed by a man about my age, who turned out to be a friend of my husband’s from engineering at VU. I also saw a bunch of VU students who I knew from my honors college when I taught a class senior year. That’s one thing I love about Valpo—there are always familiar faces!
Ryan and I went to the post-race tent after I finished and soon discovered that I had finished second in my age group! We stuck around for about an hour afterwards so I could get my age group medal. There was tons of food from local restaurants, but it was mostly pizza, pasta, some cuisine from a local Spanish restaurant, and chili, none of which sounded appetizing to me. I drank a bottle of water, had a small glass of hot apple cider, and then I forced down a banana and half a donut (I just didn’t even have the appetite to finish it). It was super cold and the windy only continued to get worse. I changed out of my sweaty race clothes and into clothes that Ryan brought for me (best husband ever!) and still got the shivers! As soon as they handed out the awards for my age group, Ryan and I headed home – we got home around 11:30 or so. He then made me a breakfast of toast, bacon, and super salty eggs, which tasted amazing. For some reason I need plain and not-too-sweet or heavy food after a hard effort. We watched the Dr. Who finale while eating—I won’t blab on about it but neither of us were really impressed with it, especially compared to how the finales were during the Matt Smith season.
The rest of the week I’m taking off a few days from running and sticking to yoga and walking with Charlie. Even though I don’t feel super sore, recovery is important after 14 weeks of training and the hard effort of racing. I already have my eye on my next half, probably the St. Louis Go! Half Marathon in mid-April.
Congrats to all the runners who finished the Valpo Half Marathon this weekend!