Half Marathon #34
SC Half Marathon #26
Spinx Run Fest Half Marathon #3
It has been quite a while since I have written here. As I mentioned before, teaching takes up a large majority of my time. For that reason, I had to look at my normal routine and cut the extra things that I was doing just because I had gotten into a habit of doing them. One of the things that got cut was the weekly recaps. Another thing that fell a bit by the wayside? Racing. I did “race” once in September. (There is no way I am letting a month pass without pinning on a bib.) That race was the Race for the Cure which I walked with my dad and a few other people in honor of my grandmother who celebrated 10 years cancer free.
Back to the race…
When I first registered for this race, I thought that it would be really cool to do the marathon relay with Mom. She was on board as well. That was back before I got a new job that involves copious amounts of work on the weekends. I started to become concerned about the amount of time the marathon relay would suck out of my Saturday. Additionally, I really enjoy running with Mom. I always thought that I was a solo runner. Turns out, I just needed to find the right running partner.
I thought about suggesting a switch to the half for a while before I finally mentioned it to Mom on Monday. She had said something about needing to work on getting her head in the game since she would have to run the race by herself. That answers that question. One easy switch later at packet pick up and we were all set to run the half.
Our build up to this run was less than stellar. I have still been working on building up after the injury that just kept lingering. Turns out, fixing a problem that’s existed for a few years, might take a little time. Things are feeling good now though. That being said, our longest long run before the race was just last week at 11 miles. This race was only my third double digit run since July.
I set no goals other than to run strong and focus on form. I also, once again, avoided looking at my Garmin throughout the race. Pace was not at the forefront of my mind. Instead we ran based on effort.
The race started on the other side of the stadium this year. As we approached the stadium I thought that was odd. However, once we entered the stadium and I saw the construction area on the opposite side of the stadium, I realized that this change was likely prompted by the construction.
A minute or two after 7:45 we were off.
With the half marathoners and 10k runners starting at the same time, the start was quite congested. We couldn’t even really start walking until a few steps beyond the start line. Thankfully we had positioned ourself close enough to the start that the congestion dissipated fairly quickly.
I felt really good when we started, strong and confident. I even started my formerly usual daydreaming about future athletic exploits. (The thing I keep imagining is an Ironman but who knows when I’ll be able to find the time for that.)
Mile 1: 9:23
One thing I knew from a quick glance at the course map in the truck on the way to the start was that this course was completely different from when I ran it two years go. That course was significantly different than the first time I ran the course four years before that. Of the three courses I have run, this one is hands down my absolute favorite.
I love how the organizers made a concerted effort to connect with the community. I don’t know how the process worked but many of the houses had large white signs in their yard proclaiming that they were “Spinx Run Fest Fans!” Most of these yards also held the occupants of the house who were out cheering for the runners. That reminded me of my favorite marathon, Twin Cities.
Also in this section, my favorite race sign: “Run like it’s November 9th.”
These houses were amazing and most were completely decked out for Halloween. I had to admit that the frugal weirdo in me spent some time fixated on how much all of those decorations cost and how much some of those houses might possibly cost. I fully claim my weirdness.
Mom and I settled into a pretty good rhythm and kept rolling through all the rolling hills. This course is most certainly not easy but I absolutely love it.
Mile 2: 8:20
Mile 3: 8:38
Mile 4: 8:27
Mile 5: 8:38
Mile 6: 8:34
Mile 7: 8:26
Somewhere between miles 5-7 we left the neighborhoods and entered Cleveland Park and a bit of the Swamp Rabbit Trail. I realize that’s a wide margin but I was not really paying attention to the mile markers. That’s big for me.
Also some time in that section, Mom said that she was probably going to need me to stick with her and not go on ahead towards the end. I had already planned to run the whole thing with her anyway. She struggled a bit mentally but that’s the brilliant thing about running with someone. You don’t have to do it alone.
Some time after mile 7 Mom got a massive side stitch. I had one just like it a couple weeks ago. They are no fun. These aren’t the tiny ones that you can just breathe through for a hundred yards or so. These are the ones that feel like a knife is stabbing you in the abdomen with every step. I haven’t had one of those for years and have no idea what brought it on. I know it sounds weird, but I’m thankful I had one so recently so I could better empathize with Mom.
We had to walk a couple times but then spent the next mile running through the side stitch to gradually work it out. I remember it taking about a mile to get rid of mine as well.
Mile 8: 8:28
Mile 9: 9:29
I continued to feel great if not a bit sweatier than I expected to be. The weather was almost perfect for this race.
Mile 10: 8:56
While I continued to feel strong, Mom struggled a bit mentally with the run. I know how much these long runs and races can mess with your mind and how easy it is to let the negative thoughts overwhelm. I succumbed to that more than a few times in the past.
Today, I wanted to do whatever I could, share whatever helpful mantras I could, to help Mom make it the remaining few miles to the finish line. It’s an aspect of our running together that I absolutely love.
We had a few rough patches over the remaining miles but I knew we would make it to the finish line very close to a PR for Mom if not in an almost guaranteed PR time for her.
Mile 11: 9:16
Mile 12: 9:08
Then came the last mile. My legs were definitely letting me know that this was longer and harder than I had made them work in a while. At the same time, I knew that the end was just around the corner.
Mom was struggling too. We walked a few steps at the start of the last mile but then kept running. In my head I made the decision to keep running through that last mile. Most of the time I don’t put the pressure on her to keep running. In the last mile? She wasn’t going to walk again in the last mile.
As we started up the final hill before we turned left at the stadium, she said that she needed to walk again and even dropped back and walked a few steps. I slowed down a little but called back to her encouraging words something to the effect of “You’ve got this. Don’t stop. Keep going.” (I don’t remember exactly what I said.)
Mom started running again. We made our way to the top of the hill, turned left and I could tell that something had shifted for Mom. She was now close enough that there was no way she was going to give up before the finish.
We turned onto the track. I told her “No holds barred, now!” and took off. I wanted to pass as many people as I could in the final few meters. As I increased the pace, made the final turn and headed towards home I could hardly believe how fast I was going.
There was one more woman in front of me before the finish but I didn’t start the sprint in time. I finished one second behind her. Of course, she was in my age group. 🙂
Mile 13:> 8:50
Right as I crossed the finish line my Garmin put up the split for mile 13. I know that I pressed the stop button but I suppose that it doesn’t work if it’s on the split stat screen. I discovered a few minutes later that it hadn’t stopped. I got the time figured out though.
Final time: 1:54:39
I am absolutely thrilled with this race time. I love the half marathon. I really love the challenge it poses.
Mom finished about 9 seconds behind me in a time of 1:54:47, a new 30 second PR! I knew she could do it!
Registration and packet/bib pick up:
Registration through go-green was painless and easy as always. Race transfer went smoothly as well. Mom and Ellis picked up the bibs and shirts so it’s hard for me to review that.
I do not like these shirts at all. The main problem that I have with these shirts is that they are white and almost completely see through. That may work for guys but about half of the people who ran the race were women, some of whom may not want their sports bras to be seen when they run. (Yes, this is exactly what I wrote in the review of my last race but it’s still valid.)
Pre-Race/Race Morning amenities:
As I mentioned earlier, the staging of the start was different than in years past due to the construction changes going on at Flour Field. Other than that, it is a fabulous set up. There are three inside bathrooms to choose from.
The half marathon course is absolutely fantastic. Please GTC, change absolutely nothing about the half marathon course. For all the turns and hills, the course support and scenery were well worth it. There was constantly something to look at and engage my mind so that the time passed faster.
The marathon course? No, I did not run the marathon but I did look at the course map this morning when I was reading the last minute details. The entire course save a mile at the start and finish is on the Swamp Rabbit Trail. Really? I remember when I ran the marathon. (In fact, I ran the marathon 5 years ago today!!) The portion on the SRT was the lowest point for me. I stand by my opinion that it is a great resource but should not be used for an entire marathon course.
(I do not know anything about this year’s 10k course or the 5k course.)
If I had to point out one negative thing about the half marathon, it would be the number of water stops. This seems to be a common problem for GTC races. I think it may be due to the difficulty they have in recruiting volunteers. That’s unfortunate.
The half marathon had a total of 3 water stops. The first water stop did not come until mile 4 or 5. I’ve learned my lesson and now always carry my own water but if Gatorade is offered, I will partake.
While the number of water stops was lacking, the volunteer support at these water stops was absolutely fabulous. My favorite was the one that came around mile 11. I think the course goes behind a school and a plethora of the students were out manning the water stop. They formed a tunnel of cheers and shouts of “water!” and “Gatorade!” Mom and I both smiled so big. So awesome.
One other note about marathon course support. I as I read the “Last Minute Details,” I noticed a point that stated “B.Y.O.G: Bring Your Own Gels.” Spinx Run Fest would not be providing and gels or other fuel on the course. I honestly have no idea why not. Yes, most marathoners bring their own. However, there has been more than a few times where I either forgot my fuel, dropped some or ran out and was thankful to partake in the “free” fuel provided by the race. I think some of their money would have been better allocated to buying a few boxes of gel/chews instead of boxes and boxes of glasses.
Finish line and post-race amenities:
As an avid baseball fan, I have always loved the finish on Fluor Field. There is nothing better than racing around the warning track and finishing by crossing home plate.
The food was plentiful as well. I helped myself to four cups of grapes. I have a problem. 🙂
Due to the construction it was in a different area that did not flow quite as well. However, I’m sure that things will be back to normal next year.
There were photos taken by Pace Magazine, as usual. I continue to be incredibly grateful for this free service that this free local running magazine provides. I also continue to think that the GTC relies too heavily on this free service to provide race photography. For most of its smaller races, this is the only photography provided. Since Spinx is the marquee race of the GTC’s event calendar, there were other photographers. However, this photographer was stationed behind the finish line which results in most of the shots being of runners walking or about to collapse in exhaustion, not the final sprint. Also, all half marathoners who finished between 1:37 and 2:37 have no finish line photos. I do not know the reason for this. Since Mom and I fall into this group, we have only the two photos from Pace Magazine.
I have no idea how the social media was managed for this race. Social media has been one of the things that I have been weaning myself off of so I have to admit that I did not pay any attention to this. I did pay a little bit more attention after the race as I went back to the Facebook pages (both of the GTC and the specific event page for Spinx Run Fest) to look for pictures. As has been the case in the past, the only post on race day was posted early in the morning. While not everyone can be as good as the Tobacco Road Marathon, I don’t think it would be too much to ask for the social media coordinator (if they even have that position) to make post throughout the day at least acknowledging the winners of each race.
I love when a race director uses racemine because the results are available almost instantly. It is so easy to find official times and stats. Speaking of which, Mom snagged second in her age group! I was 15th although if I had run my PR time I would have made it onto the podium in third.