Race Recap: Ralston Creek Half Marathon

14 Feb

Since the race start was only 15 minutes away from our house, and the wave I was in didn’t go until 9:45, the alarm on race morning was pretty painless. I wanted to leave between 8:30 and 8:45 so I got up around 7:15 and ate a breakfast of 2 pieces of peanut butter toast, washed down with 1/2 cup of coffee and some water. I had done a pretty bad job of hydrating on Saturday and even woke up Sunday with a slight headache from being dehydrated. Whoops. But I also didn’t want to overcompensate by drinking a ton and then having to pee 10 times like I did during the Steamboat Springs Oly Tri. So I drank some water and hoped for the best.

After I got dressed and put my Shotbloks, phone and peanut butter sandwich into my jacket, I decided that it was too much stuff to keep in my coat. So I decided to use my Camelbak after all. I tucked the tube more into the backpack, so it didn’t hang down so low on the front and that actually worked out really well – my hand usually hits the tube and causes me to run weird but this solved that. Although in hindsight, keeping my Shotbloks in my jacket would probably have prevented them from freezing… but more on that later.

The temperature race morning was a balmy 9 degrees. Yes, nine. Nine degrees in a dry climate doesn’t feel as bad as 9 degrees in a humid one but still, 9 degrees is 9 degrees – chilly. I stuck with my plan of wearing my fluorescent yellow jacket over two long-sleeved running shirts on top; my UnderArmour ColdGear tights underneath regular running pants; wool socks on my feet; fleece gloves on my hands; and I went for the hat on my head. I didn’t buy a new one – I wore one I already that had soft fleece on the inside.

By 8:45, we were out the door. By 9:00, we were parked at the race site. By 9:10, I had my timing chip and bib, leaving me 35-40 minutes before our wave was supposed to leave. This race did things a little differently than usual – they had 2 waves, the first for those runners who anticipated finishing in 2:30 or slower, and the second for those finishing 2:30 or faster. I was on the fence when I was registering because I was hoping to do faster than 2:30 but my previous half times put me after that. I decided to go for Wave 2… which I kicked myself for later.

We killed time by going back to the car, standing in the portapotty line again (which was pretty long because there were only 6-8 of them), and I did some high knees and butt kicks. I didn’t do any running warmup – I never warm up before my long runs in training and I wanted to save my energy for the race.

Finally, it was time to go. I was actually feeling pretty nervous – not nervous that I wouldn’t finish but nervous that I would be really slow. That is often a worry of mine before long runs and races. Kind of like those nightmares when you’re running but your legs feel like they’re stuck in quicksand.

I lined up in the very, very back of the pack, knowing that there was no way I’d need to pass any of the people in front of me. And that was true. Within the first 50 feet, I was only near a few other women. Several people came up behind and passed me – they had been waiting for the bathrooms when the race gun went off. I hung with the other two women near me for the first mile. They were definitely running faster than I planned to but I just hated the thought of being dead last. I tried to keep up but when we hit mile 1 and my watch said 10:30, I knew I had to slow it down or I’d be screwed later.

So this was my reality for the first 2.5 miles of the race:

Running all by myself. But then…

My friend D joined me! And so did the course sweeper (you can see her on the bike behind us). I was pretty annoyed at the sweeper because having her ride beside me, or close behind me, made it impossible to forget that I was the last person. My legs were also not cooperating – they felt very heavy. But I’m pretty sure that was because the first 8 miles of the race were all uphill:

God bless her, D ran with me until about mile 6, even though it meant going up the first loooong hill. I couldn’t believe that the second hill could be any worse. Ha, was I wrong.

I saw Travis and D’s husband, Doug, several times throughout the course – the photo above is me throwing my sunglasses at Travis around mile 4. They kept fogging up and nothing annoys me more than foggy glasses. Shortly after, I ate 3 Shotbloks. I had been carrying them in my hand for about a half mile (you can see those and my gloves in my other hand) because they were hard as rock coming out of my backpack. I walked a little while eating them because running uphill + trying to eat frozen Shotbloks = no oxygen.

After D pulled away, the course flattened out a bit (which you can see on the elevation chart). The bike sweeper was riding right beside me again, but I was in a much better mood this time, and decided to actually talk to her. She mentioned something about having to go over the giant hill in front of us and I laughed. “Ha, no freakin’ way.” And then I looked and saw little people making their way along the switchbacks up the giant hill.

You’ve got to be kidding me. This picture doesn’t do it justice but I didn’t want to expend energy trying to take a picture with my camera.

I ended up passing an older guy right before the switchbacks started, meaning I ditched the bike sweeper (sweet!). I knew I needed some extra oopmh to get up those switchbacks so I pulled out my phone and started Pandora on the Lady Gaga station. I ran as much of those switchbacks as I could, but had to walk some. This course made me realize that what I thought were hills on my training runs, were definitely not hills.

One benefit from all the hills I guess was that I wasn’t counting down the miles or worrying about my pace at all. I was simply focusing on survival.

Finally, I made it to the top and I knew from D that the course was all downhill from there. Hallelujah. I passed mile marker 8 and got out 3 more Shotbloks but after holding them in my hand for a while, they were still pretty hard so I just decided to eat my peanut butter bread instead. I took small bites of that for the next mile while I cruised down the downhill. My legs felt great – tired but so welcoming of the downhill after 8 miles of uphill.

This shows it well – mile 8 was a 13:14 pace (killer!). Then miles 9 and 10 were 11:05 and 10:36!

D joined me again around mile 9.5 to mile 11. I realized that even though I wasn’t going to beat my PR, I could still beat my Heart and Sole half marathon time (2:33:50). But I was getting tired but trying not to think about how ready I was to be done. After D left, the wheels fell off. I wanted to turn Pandora on again for that extra motivation but my phone was running out of juice and I wanted my splits more than I wanted music. And I couldn’t get my d@mn earphones untangled. So back in the pocket they went.

I started doing run/walk intervals. My legs, specifically my hips and glutes, were just so tired and so sore. By mile 12.5, my entire body was in pain. I’d run until I couldn’t stand it and then walk until I couldn’t stand it. Doing either hurt. I just kept focusing on running to a landmark, then walking to a landmark, running, walking. Little by little, I was making my way to the finish line. I didn’t care about time anymore. I just wanted to be done.

Finally, I was. My time was 2:38:24. But I didn’t care.  I took my medal and collapsed on a chair near the finish line. Doug was there to congratulate me (Travis got lost in suburbia and was still getting back from trying to see me on the course) but I was so exhausted and delirious that I told him I couldn’t talk.

I was starving so I went over to grab some food. They had chocolate chip banana bread, which I had been looking forward to since reading about it in the pre-race email. But since I’ve had bad experiences with sweet things after races, I grabbed a piece to eat later.

Travis showed up and I handed him my banana bread while I went to get a breakfast burrito. I wasn’t a fan, so then I went and grabbed a couple of orange slices. They were absolutely amazing. I ended up going back to get about 10 more. I just couldn’t get enough.

After I had my fill of orange slices, we headed home for me to take an epsom salt bath and then meet D and Doug at Denny’s. The bath was wonderful but it used up all of our hot water. Poor Travis didn’t get a shower.

At Denny’s, I had a giant glass of chocolate milk and the Super Bird (grilled turkey, bacon, tomato and cheese) with fries. But after my milk, half the sandwich and some fries, I was so ridiculously full that I thought I might puke. It was the weirdest thing. I’m never that hungry the day of a hard workout like that but still, you’d think I’d be able to manage a bit more than that.

I was planning to take a nap but ended up watching TV for a couple of hours and then around 5:30, I decided that I needed to clean, do laundry and go grocery shopping. So I did. I was amazed that I had the energy but getting up and moving around helped me feel less sore. Today, I feel pretty good – not really that sore, just pretty tired.

Official Race Stats:

Time – 2:38:24

Age Group – 30/37

Gender – 184/228

Overall – 369/421

So that’s the story of Half Mary #4. My best time is still from Half Mary #1. I’m thinking I might just have to run the Colorado Half again next year to beat it… that is, if I don’t beat it in the Platte River Half on April 15.

I do feel good that I beat my time from the Malibu Half, which was 2:44:44. I think this course was the hardest race I’ve ever done. Holy hills batman.

14 Responses to “Race Recap: Ralston Creek Half Marathon”

  1. becca February 14, 2012 at 8:46 am #

    Great job! That elevation looks like a killer! You finished standing up straight though, that’s what matters. It must have been tough being so close to the sweeper, but great job at pushing through!

  2. B. in the Know February 14, 2012 at 8:52 am #

    I love the yellow against the snow – good choice on the purchase!
    Much love,

  3. herrsolera February 14, 2012 at 9:24 am #

    Hills can be backbreaking and a 9* start is just awful. I thought I had it bad with a 15* start a few weeks ago, but at least I had double-digits on the mercury reading. Congratulations on surviving a brutal race!

  4. Lisa February 14, 2012 at 11:23 am #

    I’m so proud for you and of you! Sounds like a brutal race course, but you stayed strong. The terrain you run through makes mine look pretty wimpy. 🙂 Should be great training for the marathon.

  5. Mel February 14, 2012 at 2:39 pm #

    New jacket is so cute!

    The Colorado will be my first half, too! Love the elevation profile. You’re a bad ass for running up those hills.

  6. Ana Helena Campbell February 14, 2012 at 2:59 pm #

    Congratulations!!! You are amazing:)

  7. bearrunner February 15, 2012 at 5:40 am #

    great job! Sounds like a tough race… Congratulations

  8. Heidi Nicole February 15, 2012 at 8:31 pm #

    You did awesome! It was so freaking cold out that morning…and I did NOT realize there was so much up hill! Kind of glad I ended up at work… 😉

    My fastest half marathon is still my first half too, silly how that works!


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