Tag: half marathon

F^3 Lake Half Marathon Race Recap

I signed up for the F^3 Half shortly after the Chicago Marathon. I wasn’t sure what my spring race schedule was going to look like and I wanted to have a race on my calendar to look forward to. I picked the F^3 Half because it really is the ONLY half in January (and maybe February) in Chicago and I had such a blast spectating last year. It didn’t even cross my mind that the weather could be bad on race day. Fast forward to the awful January we’ve been having. Freezing cold temps, gusting wind, and lots of snow. I kept my fingers crossed it would be tolerable (this has been redefined to above 0 degrees) on race morning and it was… barely.

The F^3 Half starts at 10:00 AM which is a bit of a challenge for me because I’m an early riser and I like to get up, throw back some food, and run. I scheduled my morning so that I slept in a little, had time to make almond butter and banana toast, and to plan what I was going to wear. Thankfully, Ian offered to drive me so I didn’t need to worry about freezing on public transportation and packing stuff for gear check. We also didn’t have to leave super early – definitely a plus. Even still, deciding what to wear was a challenge. The forecast at the start was for 15 degrees with 20-25 mph winds with a feels like temperature of 0. Yikes. I opted to layer up with my thickest tights (still not warm enough), a tank top, a sweat-wicking top, my warmest jacket, two pairs of gloves, an ear band, and a hat and risk overheating. I also wore my neck gaiter and put Vaseline on the exposed portions of my face. I felt like a greasy marshmallow.

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One of the worst parts of the morning was definitely standing around waiting for the race to start. The wind had picked up and was whipping snow everywhere. The race provided hot chocolate so I had a small cup to warm me up, used a porta potty, and then lined up at the start. One of my only complaints about this race was the start situation. The start line was small and didn’t have any pace signs and runners were backed up pretty far. I started maybe a third of the way back and had no idea what pace anyone around me was planning to run. I ended up passing people by running through the deep snow for the first mile as a result.

An announcement was made that the course was changed at the last minute due to drifting snow and then we were off. The first mile and a half was really challenging. We headed straight into the wind and I was doing a ton of weaving around people. The ground was icy and slick and I could barely feel my fingers or toes. I ended up stopping briefly after the first mile marker to touch my toes and make sure they were okay because they felt so weird in my shoes. I even debating dropping out. [Miles 1 & 2: 7:28, 7:31 min/mile]

Going into this race, I had one goal, run at least 7 miles at marathon pace or faster. I was barely looking at my Garmin (it was under a ton of layers) so I decided to run the first 7 miles fast and then see how I felt for the remainder of the race. Miles 1.5 – 6.5ish were actually pretty tolerable. We turned south and had the wind at our backs and I actually got warm! I took my outer pair of gloves off and opened the armpit vents on my jacket. I debated taking off my hat but it seemed like way too much work and I had nowhere to put it. The ground was not very icy but we were running on packed snow and in some cases mud so I paid close attention to my footing. I took an espresso GU at mile 5ish. I knew I was running faster than marathon pace but I was surprised by how easy it felt. I wasn’t focused at all on my breathing or whether or not I could finish the race, I was battling the elements (overheating at this point) and that’s all I could think about. [Miles 3-7: 7:21, 7:18, 7:25, 7:24, 7:29 min/mile]

We hit the turnaround at mile 6.5 and headed north back into the wind. It was definitely brutal. The path wasn’t nearly as clear heading north as it had been running south and the wind was really cold. A man ran up next to me and commented that the race started at mile 7. He was right. My legs felt fine but at this point, I was mentally ready to give up. I consciously slowed my pace and figured I’d coast in to the finish. I’d put in my 7 faster miles already so I didn’t really care. I ran two slower miles until I caught up to the man I’d seen (and talked to earlier). He was a chatter and while I’m normally not during races, I was so ready to be done that I appreciated the distraction. Without realizing it, my pace picked up as we talked about running in Chicago and why we’d decided to run this race. Eventually, I felt myself start to lose steam and he ran ahead. [Miles 8-11: 8:01, 7:51, 7:36, 7:29 min/mile]

By this point, I was cold. I never run in sunglasses so I didn’t wear a pair during the race and my eyeballs were freezing. My legs felt numb in weird places and I put my second pair of gloves back on. I also started to feel myself bonk. I slowed up a bit, reminding myself that I just needed to finish when I saw an aid station with Clif gels. I grabbed a cup of mostly frozen Gatorade and a gel, drank some Gatorade and had about 1/4 of the gel and within a few minutes, I felt a lot better. I’m not sure if they actually helped or if it was a placebo effect but I felt awesome. We hit the northern part of the course, turned around and headed back south for the last mile, and I started to push the pace. The ground was icy again so I was careful but I was also so ready to be done and warm. During this point, I caught up to my friend and eventually passed him in the last stretch before I crossed the finish line.  [Miles 12 & 13: 7:49, 6:58]

Official Finish Time – 1:36:52 (7:24 min/mile) for what I think is 10th female overall (Active.com is being WEIRD with these results). Also, in full disclosure, my Garmin only logged 12.9 miles. Others had a full course though so I’m not sure if my Garmin screwed up or if the course was actually short.

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So, if this course was actually 13.1 miles long, this would be a PR for me and given that I ran in nasty conditions, I’ve decided to count it as a PR. I’m really proud of this race. I wanted to quit so many times but I didn’t and I ran a good time (for me). I also wasn’t too sore on Sunday and was able to log another double digit run. This means that my training is going well and I’m improving.

Overall, I’m glad I did this race… now that it’s over. It was pretty miserable while I was running but I definitely feel like a bad ass now. F^3 did a great job considering the conditions – the path was in decent condition and there were volunteers and aid stations throughout the course. I was also so surprised to see spectators out there. People in Chicago are crazy.

What are the worst conditions you’ve raced in?




Final Thoughts on the Goofy Challenge

Overall time (half + full): 5:35:27 (8:32 min/mile)
Overall place (unofficial): 329/8602
Gender place (unofficial): 45/4129

goofyfinish

I definitely underestimated the difficulty of the Goofy Challenge. I figured that if I trained for a marathon, the half marathon on Saturday would be easy and wouldn’t affect the full on Sunday. I was wrong- by Sunday morning, my legs were already feeling stiff and by the time I hit mile 15 of the marathon my quads were screaming.

Despite the fact that the challenge was hard, I actually really enjoyed myself. I was never running alone but I also wasn’t running in a huge crowd (I think this was because I was in Corral A, I heard it was much more packed for the other corrals). There was a lot of entertainment on the course and a water station, first aid tent, and porta potties at least every 2 miles.

I also learned a lot about myself over the two days:

  • I really like the half marathon distance. I hadn’t run a half since 2010 and I really enjoyed it.
  • I need to have something to eat within 30 minutes of starting a race. Preferably a Clifshot with caffeine. The Clif bar I had before the marathon did nothing for me.
  • I tend to underestimate my abilities as a runner. Both days I lined up in the second half of Corral A only to weave around a lot of runners for the first few miles.
  • I need to work on fueling during races. What worked for training runs did not work once I got hot and dizzy.
  • I am not a warm weather runner. Even 70 degrees really affects my pace and how I feel.
  • Using a porta potty during a race is not scary or super time consuming. I think it took me about 20 seconds TOPS.
  • I am smart about listening to my body during races. When I started to feel chills and dizzy I slowed down and walked most of a mile. If I hadn’t done this, I wouldn’t have been able to run the last 5 miles of the race.
  • I’ve grown a lot as a runner. In 2011 when I ran Chicago and it was warmer than usual, I remember wanting to walk off the course because I felt so miserable. During the Goofy Challenge, I wanted to finish and I wanted to enjoy the experience.
  • I can run through pain. I felt a blister form on my toe around mile 8 of the marathon and then pop and I also badly bruised my big toe/toenail somewhere near mile 20. However, I was able to finish the race without stopping at a first aid tent.

With my legs hurting and the warm weather I was definitely not running in ideal conditions but I managed to slow down when necessary, fuel properly (well… kinda), and hydrate so that I could finish the race with a smile on my face and I’m proud of myself for handling the challenge well :).

fullmedals

I was also incredibly impressed with how fast my legs healed. I was definitely more stiff and sore than I am after a marathon but within four days, my legs felt ready for a shakeout run. Unfortunately, my toe really bothered me all week so I ended up taking five days off and then lightly cross-training Saturday and Sunday. With Boston training starting this week, it’s better to be safe than sorry!

Many people have asked me if I would run the challenge again and to be honest, I’m not sure. I know for a fact that I wouldn’t run it alone again. I’m glad I ran it and I proved that I could do it but if I’m going to do another high mileage “challenge” I’d much rather it be an ultra. However, I can’t say I’d turn down a friend if she or he wanted to run Goofy in a few years for fun. I can only imagine how much fun it would be to run it with a friend and stop for character pics.

Do you want to do the Goofy Challenge? What have you learned about yourself as a runner?




Walt Disney World Half Marathon Race Recap

Both the half and the full marathon started at 5:30 and as the half was the day before the full, my friend and I decided to use the half as a test run for full marathon. We woke up at 2:45 am (1:45 Chicago time), got dressed, grabbed our pre-run meal, and headed downstairs to the shuttle bus.

prehalf

I had originally planned on wearing my arm sleeves but I ended up leaving them in gear check because of the abnormally warm weather last weekend (when we left our hotel room it was almost 65 degrees!). One of the nicest things about staying on Disney property was the free shuttle that we could ride right to Epcot. It was really nice to sit back, think about the race, and eat my rice cake with peanut butter without having to worry about driving and parking.

We got to Epcot with more than enough time to spare and ended up sitting down and enjoying the pre-race party for about 20 minutes before heading through bag check into the runners-only area. [One thing I have to say about the Disney races is that they were both SO well organized. Runners had to walk through bag check to get to the start/runner's only area and after the finish to get to the spectators. This made it so easy to check a bag and there were so many volunteers that I never waited in line. Amazing.] In the runners-only area, we used the porta potty and then hung out until we were cleared to walk the 20 minutes to the start area.

We arrived a few minutes before 5 am and I hightailed it over to my corral which was supposedly closing at 5:00. Once inside Corral A I sat down, stretched, had a Clif Shot (it had been 2 hours since I’d eaten) and then before I knew it we were off.

A lot of people complain that the Disney courses are boring, a lot of the mileage is on highways and back roads and very little is through the parks. However, I didn’t really seem to mind it. There was a lot of highway running but there were so many people running around me at all times plus the race had done an awesome job having some kind of exhibit, character (for pictures), or other entertainment at least every mile that I really didn’t mind the course. I kept telling myself that I couldn’t believe I was running in shorts and a tank top in January!

halfcourse

Like I mentioned, the race started in Epcot and then headed 5 miles north before we entered Magic Kingdom. We ran in through the main gate and then down Main Street U.S.A and into Tomorrowland. Main Street was all lit up and looked so pretty (it was still dark out). I also got a huge kick of energy from all of the spectators. We took a turn into Fantasyland, ran through Cinderella’s Castle, then went into Liberty Square, Frontierland, and then exited the park. We ran south another 5 miles, entered Epcot, ran to the lake, turned around, exited the park, and finished.

Besides having to pee for most of the race, I felt really good. I kept thinking to myself that I wished the marathon had happened first because I knew that I had a PR in my legs. I ran a strong half but kept my pace very comfortable so I wouldn’t be too tired on Sunday and even though I didn’t stop for any character pictures (I needed to run the entire half for a confidence booster after being sick all week), I was smiling for the entire race. It was an incredibly fun time!

My official finish time was 1:43:45 (7:55 min/mile,12 in my division). Which I think was the perfect pace for this race– it was fast enough that I really enjoyed myself but not too fast that it tired me out for Sunday.

I absolutely loved the half marathon and would highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a fun, relatively flat course. I think it would be a wonderful first half marathon to run or a great race to run with friends. The field is less competitive and more fun-oriented and the characters really make the time fly! Plus, you get an awesome t-shirt and a finisher’s medal!

halfmedal

The bling makes it all worth it :).

Also, the course/race was incredibly organized, the volunteers were super friendly, there were plenty of porta potties and good post-race snacks. What more could you ask for?

recovering

After the race, I sat down, put on my compression socks, and my mom and I waited for my friend to finish. Once she was done, we headed back to the hotel and relaxed for most of the day. I tried to put recovery first and even wore my compression socks down to the pool– I was starting to get really nervous about the full marathon!