This past Sunday (10-10-10!) I ran the Tyler Rose Half Marathon. It made for a fun weekend, a great racing experience, and I got a cool medal at the end.
When I ran Tyler last year, it was my first ever half marathon and I trained for months. I finished in 2:09, which I was thrilled about, and I was excited to run the same course and see how much I had improved. Well, the organizers added a full marathon to the event this year and ended up changing the routes. I actually liked the new route better (it went through more neighborhoods and didn't double back on itself) but still. The planner in me was a little annoyed.
Since Tyler is about a hour and a half away, we decided to camp in Tyler State Park the night before the race. We dropped off the dogs at Amy and David's, got smoothies, and had a great drive. Registered for the race and picked up our packets, then drove to the park - only to discover that the park was totally full, and had been booked solid for weeks. We've camped their numerous times over the years and never with an actual reservation, so needless to say this was a surprise. It was nearly 6pm at this point, and we had a RACE in the morning, so we ended up driving another 20 minutes to a lake that had some primitive camping. After paying $10 to man with no teeth, we were able to finally set up camp and crawl into our hammocks at the responsible hour of 9:30pm.
One of the main attractions of this lake, we soon discovered, is that directly across the street is a biker bar. Which meant that from 9:30 to about 1am, I laid in my hammock and listened to the sound of loud, drunken bikers having what sounded like drag races up and down the road. Clearly, they were not running 13.1 miles in the morning. I managed to fall asleep eventually, but 6am came way too soon. Luckily, we were able to pack up our stuff quickly and slip out of the park long before the sun came up, and we made it to the race with time to spare. Whew!
My half marathon PR is 1:58, which I set last April, at the end of the racing season, on a very flat course. Tyler boasts a pretty hilly course and 13.1 miles would be my longest run since... well, since I set my PR! Needless to say, I was not planning on breaking any records this time around. My goal was to beat last year's time, and I thought keeping a 9:30 pace would allow me to do that without killing myself. I was treating Tyler as a training run for San Antonio.
Elevation chart from ye olde Garmin.
My first mile was 8:55 - way too fast. This is normal for me. I always start out too fast, and I always pay for it later. But I can't help it! I get excited! Miles 1-7 flew by and I kept a fairly steady pace, walking a little only when I took water from a volunteer, because I cannot run and drink from a cup at the same time. Even though it was a smaller race, enough spectators lined the route with signs, cheers and cowbells to keep me energized and excited. While there seemed to be less steep hills than last year, there were a lot of long, steady inclines, which are almost worse. My new mantra for hills is thus: "What goes up, must come down." I said this many times to myself through the race.
At mile 8, my calves started to cramp up and I felt myself slowing down. I ate a Clif shot (mocha!) and drank some more water. The next few miles were not as easy as the first seven, but they weren't that bad, either. I had a bunch of other mantras I was waiting to pull out and I never needed them (which is good - I'll save them for the marathon!). Overall, I felt strong and capable the whole 13.1 miles.
At mile 12.5 I turned a corner and saw the finish line straight ahead. I picked up the pace and ran towards it... only to be directed down a side street! Why do races do this? Let you glimpse the finish line, but then make you take the long way to get there? So annoying. After a few more turns, I saw the finish line for real and sprinted towards it. I heard someone yell my name and that only made me run faster, and then I was crossing the finish line and nearly ran right into Nathan, who had been waiting for me. My official time was 2:06:51, even though my Garmin said otherwise. Here's what else Ms.G had to say:
Mile 1: 8:50
Mile 2: 8:53
Mile 3: 9:31
Mile 4: 9:38
Mile 5: 9:21
Mile 6: 9:33
Mile 7: 9:48
Mile 8: 9:54
Mile 9: 10:09
Mile 10: 9:32
Mile 11: 10:13
Mile 12: 10:09
Mile 13.1: 9:48
After walking around a bit, drinking water, and watching a few other people cross the finish line (including the first marathoner - he finished in 2:44:34!) we left the race and found possibly the only Indian restaurant in all of Deep East Texas. I inhaled about 10 pieces of naan and chana masala, and then we were back in the car and driving home to pick up our dogs, eat more food, and relax. Seamus and Calvin were exhausted from their extended play date and pretty much did not wake up until this morning. You'd think my dogs were the ones who had run a half marathon!
Today, I feel great. My legs feel fine, I feel rested and rejuvenated, and I'm looking forward to going to yoga tonight. I've said this before, but just in case you missed it I'll say it again: half marathons are my favorite distance to race! The training doesn't take up all my free time, the recovery is fairly painless, and it only takes two hours to finish. And racing in general is just a really fun time. For me running is a very solitary activity, so racing makes me feel part of a community of runners. Also, I am a sucker for a medal and a race report, as you may have realized by now.
Moral of this story: Yay for half marathons! Yay for running! Yay for community! Yay for shiny medals!