Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Race Report and Nerd Alert: Valley of Gold Half Marathon

I went into this race with the goal of crossing the finish line in 1:39:59. :) It was a big goal for me, but after hearing from my coach that it was indeed a realistic one, I decided to go for it. Sometimes I think all it takes is for someone to plant the seed. Or maybe you need to plant the seed? Wait. Did I plant it or did my coach? 


If  you *believe* that you can do it and the training is there to back it up, go for it. 

Plus, my coach threw down the gauntlet with his half marathon splits from his race the previous week. I do love me a good challenge. Not gonna lie. 

So let's start with the day prior...

We had dinner the night before the race at around 5:30 pm. 

MISTAKE #1-I gorged myself. I couldn't help it. Brio was sooooo good. I figured that we were eating early and it would digest, so I didn't cut myself off when I should have. More bread and butter? Don't mind if I do. 

The alarm went off at 4:50 am race morning. I woke up and immediately started eating my pre-race meal and hydrating according to the plan that Jackie and I had discussed.

I had a cinnamon raisin bagel, a banana, 8 oz. of sports drink mixed with PreRace (which now comes in pill form in addition to GACKY powder form) and another 6-8 oz. of water. The goal was to have this ingested 2 hours prior to the race. I finished all of it around 5:30 am. The race was to start at 7:00 am. I was about 30 minutes behind.

MISTAKE #2-I should have gotten up slightly earlier and had food/sports drink/water consumed by 5:00 am. 

MISTAKE #3-We left a shade too late + the drive took longer than expected + everyone was looking for parking at the same time.  Ooops. We parked the car 15 minutes before the race started, I jumped out and grabbed another 6 oz of sports drunk, chugged it, and then we jogged to the porta potties. 

Good news. I didn't have to sit around in the herd waiting for the gun to go off whilst I played head games with myself.

Bad news. I got into the porta potty line 9 minutes before the race started. Crap!

Yes. I really was praying for the poky pee-ers/poopers in front of me to hurry up. In and out, people! It's not that hard!

I ended up peeing during the first 1/3rd of the National Anthem. I'm not proud of that and felt really guilty, but it is what it is. I hurried up and got out of there as quickly as I could so I could be respectful. I'm sorry, America! 

Afterwards, I had to work my way through the crowd. Too late. The gun went off right as I lined up with the 2:30 pacing group. That's as far as I could squeeze through before I ran out of time.

As I crossed the starting line, I remembered my strategy. As I am not one to do a ton of mental math during my races (I'm an English major.), I decided on a basic strategy to get me where I needed to be:

Run as close to a 7:40 pace as I can until I get to Mile 10.  From then on, gun it and run a 5K. 

Would I have it in me? We'll see... 

Mile 1: 7:44-Lots of weaving in and out going on, but I was able to get past the herd somewhat. 

Mile 2: 7:57-Thinking to myself, "This hill sucks. My legs feel HEAVY already. Boo."   

**Ok, I'll interrupt here with the nutrition/hydration plan since we are at the first aid station (Mile 2).**

Aid stations in this race were at: 2.0, 3.8, 4.8, 6.6, 8.4, 10.4 and 11.9.

Based on this set-up, Jackie and I decided that I should aim to take 3-1/2 ounces of sports drink at each aid station. She's big on calculating your "sweat rate" so that you know how many oz. to take at each aid station. Since I haven't done this yet and I told her that I was not a heavy sweater, she decided that 3-1/2 ounces would suffice. Because it was going to be a warm day, and I am a "salty" sweater, she recommended all sports drink *except* for the 
Mile 8.4 aid station where I'd be taking my PowerBar gel with water. My ultimate goal for this race, nutritionwise, was to consume about 45-60 grams of carbs in the form of sports drink/gel per hour of running. The gel, combined with the 3-1/2 oz. of sports drink (water with the gel) at each aid station, should provide me with the proper amount of carbs and hydration to keep me going.

Side note: It's actually ok to race 2-3% dehydrated and may even be a little adventageous. What I wanted to avoid was being overhydrated and having to stop to pee. That's what happened in my last marathon. 

Do I seem like a total nerd with this or what? I know, I know. But seriously, hydration/fueling stresses me out. I just want to make sure that I am doing what I need to do to: a) not bonk and b) not end up wasting time on the toilet

Continuing on...

At Mile 2 I took my first 3-1/2 oz. of sports drink. How do I know it was 3-1/2 oz? Well, apparently a mouthful is approximately 1 oz. Did you know that? So three big gulps and one little one seemed about right to me. For this race, I actually decided to walk through the aid stations. I venture to say that most of the time during races, I spill most of the cup on me while I continue trying to run. Today, I decided to walk so that I could get most of it down the hatch. I was really happy that I did, as it started to get very warm the second half of the race. My sweat rate was picking up!

For Miles 3 and 4, which were flat/downhillish, I knew that I needed to make up for the not 7:40 paces of Miles 1 and 2.

Mile 3-7:31
Mile 4-7:36

At this point, I felt something at the back door. It was the "kids" hassling me to be dropped off at the pool. Know what I'm sayin'? It wasn't a full on emergency situation, but it was starting to be a nuisance. 

I took another 3-1/2 oz. at the Mile 4.8 aid station and then ducked into the porta potty. I regretted my ENORMOUS 5 pound dinner and not eating breakfast a little sooner (hence Mistakes #1 and #2)

Mile 5-8:25 (Ouch)

Miles 6, 7, 8 were nice and flat, so I tried to play catch up for my lost time without blowing myself up, of course.

Mile 6-7:25
Trying to be slick here and steal Brightroom's picture of me without paying for it. If I make it bigger, however, it's even blurrier. 
Any tips on how to "borrow" pictures for your blog?

Mile 6.6 was the turnaround point. I looked at my Garmin and it was about 50:30ish if I remember correctly. I thought to myself, "Yikes. I need to tighten it up the second half." I would describe my effort thus far as being "comfortably hard," and I knew that soon it would be time to ratchet up my effort to "uncomfortably hard." 

Mile 7-7:21 
Mile 8-7:25

I was SO ready for my PowerBar gel at Mile 8.4. This was the first time I'd used a PowerBar gel in a race. Normally, I'm a GU gal. I remember in Carlsbad, however, being overwhelmed with the thick consistency by the end of the race. It was extremely difficult for me to suck it down around Mile 23. I thought for this race, I'd try a PowerBar gel since it's a lot runnier and would likely go down easier. Additionally, PowerBar gels have more sodium (200 mg) than GU gels (50 mg). This could be more beneficial to me as Jackie pointed out (electrolyte loss from my salty sweat).

I feel the need to say PowerBar gel just one more time, so there it is.

Mile 9 is where I hit my slump. The gel hadn't kicked in yet. It was getting hot, and  naturally now is the time to go up the hill that I was gliding down during miles 3-4 (out and back course). I had to start the "mental stuff" at this point. 

"You can do anything for 4 miles. That's it. About 30 more minutes, and you're done. You can do anything for 30 minutes. Don't slow down."

I started thinking of all the hill training I've been doing this cycle. 

It was working!

The hill was exhausting, but I continued to surge past people.

If you were thinking about leaving out hill training for your cycles, DON'T. That shit works! We don't have an abundance of hills here in Yuma, but the ones we do have, I work like CRAZY on my Thursday runs. 

Mile 9-7:41
Mile 10-7:34

Did I make my move after mile 10 and shift into 5k mode? NO. I wasn't ready yet. I continued a slight climb up the seemingly neverending hill and decided that when I got to the apex, I'd pull out all the stops and finally pass this chick that had been killing me the entire race. She had been a few yards ahead of me the whole time, and I could never seem to catch her. But the dress, and the fanny pack, and the fact that she was 62 years old (I looked up her results afterwards... she finished only 6 seconds behind me!)... 

I'm sorry. I just couldn't let that happen. Call me a big, fat, elitist, unbloggerly snob if you will, but I couldn't.

Mile 11-7:35
Another teeny picture just to break the dialogue up. And because I like my crazy ponytail and the cacti in the background. Cool.

And now I present to you, HOT MESS MODE.

With 2.1 miles to go, I knew I had to gun it. I had no idea exactly how fast I had to run those last couple of miles, but I didn't want to leave anything out on the course. If I didn't break 1:40, I had to die trying!

I picked up the pace, blew past grandma, started shotgunning my iPod for the perfect song (they were all getting on my nerves), started hurting, tried to control my breathing, tried to relax, found myself having "mantra ADD" as I looked for the right phrase ("faster, stronger, keep going, almost there, catch this next chick, get her, don't stop, make it hurt, hurry up"). Hilarious. I think I wanted out of my own mind at this point. The music and the mantras and the PAIN. I felt sort of insane. But a fairly controlled insanity, if you will.

Mile 12-7:10

Total boost at Mile 12 as I passed another woman and saw the name "Bridget" on her race number, which was attached to her fuel belt and spun around so it was placed on her backside. I started grinning from ear to ear!!! Bridget is also the name of one of my tremendously talented and speedy running buddies. We ran our first marathon together and in a couple of weeks, she's going to kill it at Boston! I felt like *my* Bridget was there with me during that last painful mile, which I ran at a suicidal pace (for me... at the end of a half marathon).

I turned the corner and bolted down the LONG straightaway. Oh, that is after I tried to take a wrong turn, of course. I'm telling you... I was losing it. 

Mile 13-6:47 

Last .07-5:59 (near death)

Finish: 1:38:41 (1:38:38 and 13.07 by my Garmin)

Really happy. Other than the pit stop, it could not have gone any better.

And my coach is so cute. He didn't stop for any aid or a toilet during his race the week prior, so he considers it a tie when you factor in my stops. I love it!!


  1. WOW!!! 1:38:38 with a pit stop??? You are my HERO!!! I love your fuel break down - I'm not a sweater either - I never thought about salty sweat but ... that's me all over! I'll try a PowerBar Gel with my next 12 and see how I do (I also gag on the consistency of Gu).
    Love the pics - those are the mountains and saguaros of my youth!

  2. First: CONGRATS on a HUGE PR!!!
    You are too funny about mile 4 and the little "analogy" you came up with. haha...OK so breakfast caught up with you. DRAT. So, you rolled with it and came back to catch your super speedy friend!

    I like those powerbar gels because of the consistency too. Much easier to gulp for me.

    Awesome job, friend!! I want to come race with the cacti!

  3. That's incredible. Your coach is totally right--without the pit stop, you'd have been the winner in that little contest. (The pit stop thing petrifies me, but maybe it's good you had all those carbs in your system??)

    Congratulations on smashing your goal!

  4. Congrats on the race! Sounds like overall it went perfect! With a pit stop that is a phenomenal time!

  5. Love this recap... you ran that race so smart. Look at that final mile! You're amazing! I am hoping for a sub 1:40 on my next half too, whenever that may be... you're right too, that it has SO much to do with your mental game and what you expect you can do. Awesome race, Allison!

  6. Look at you... Queen of the negative split!! Awesome job pulling it together there to get the result you wanted! Talk about determination... And pulling out a sub-7 13th mile?!! Great race!!

  7. Love the paragraph right before mile 12. It perfectly describes how I feel at the end of every race. No matter what order my playlist is in, I will hate every song during my last mile or two.

  8. wow, allison!! you are killing it!! sorry for the late comment but what a great race!!! My play list always bugs the crap out of me at the end of a race too and I work like crazy to find the 'right' one!! You are inspiring!!! I feel like my coming marathon is getting my mind back in the game and then it is time to WORK again. Your 'work' has obviously been paying off. Way to go!!

  9. Those last two splits are incredible. You were sprinting at the end!!! That little piece of extra fuel at the end are totally going to break another PR next time. Way congrats on this fantastic race