Monday, August 11, 2008

Gopher to Badger Half Marathon Race Report

562 Rachel Heiman 23 F Minnetonka MN 2:16:33 10:26

I should call this one a "What you shouldn't do" report. Rather than a race report. I know I could have done much better. And it is kind of disappointing to know that I finished 562nd out of 685 finishers (I say finishers because it appears that they were announcing 1300 runners and if you add the 5k and the half marathon together that only comes to 906). But anyways, expected finish wasn't quite what I expected. Here is my story:

The night before the race, I was extremely tired. I actually was starting to think that I had been drugged and was a little worried. I even made Andy check his carbon monoxide alarm. I was exhausted at about 6:00 PM and started to get rather dizzy by about 8:00 PM. Needless to say, I slept well that night. I woke up Saturday morning at 5:00 AM and started the routine feeling refreshed. Got dressed in my NF shirt, put on my running skirt. I was ready. I was more than ready. I knew that this race was technically a training run for my big day so I wasn't too nervous. I woke Andy up and we were on our way.

It is a long drive to Stillwater and Hudson from Andy's house in the northwest suburbs. It gave me plenty of time to choke a blueberry bagel down and drink plenty of water. They had announced that there would not be bathrooms at the start, so I decided I would quit drinking an hour before the race. We were told to go to Hudson (finish line) to register/pick up packets and if you wanted get on a bus to take you to the start. Well I'd already picked up my packet but I decided to go to Hudson anyway to figure out if there was any other need. And there were bathrooms there. The line for the bathrooms was huge. They had both port-o-potties and a beach house with regular restrooms. I chose the beach house. Got in the stall, used the restroom and realized there was no toilet paper. Not good. There was no way I wanted to run 2 hours having not had any toilet paper! I sat there for awhile contemplating my situation and then finally some lady next to me shouted "Hey can someone get me some toilet paper?" At which point I screamed, "Yea me too!". I was relieved that someone else spoke up amid my panick to figure out what I was going to do.

Anyways, after the bathroom fiasco, Andy and I decided to drive to the start line because they had nothing for me to do at the finish. Upon arriving, I had to use the restroom again. Too much water. Luckily, they had broken down and put up port-o-potties at the start. I stood in another long line for about a half hour before the start of the race. After I left the good ol' porto, the race director was trying to call all of the runners to the start. While standing in line for so long, I had noticed that everyone had their I-Pods on. I had originally thought that I'd run it without but after standing in line so long, I had convinced myself otherwise. Ran back to the car, got the I-Pod, Andy took a quick picture, and then headed to the start line.

MISTAKE #1. I was trying to figure out where I should line up. There were no pace groups and I unfortunately have a hard time gauging where the slower runners are and where the faster runners are by just looking at a sea of faces. I chose to stand somewhere in the middle of the pack. I figured that is probably where I was. Middle-of-the-pack right? WRONG. This pack was a speedy pack. The race was started, I was off and so fast that my parents and Andy missed my picture. Actually, Andy got my backside. But anyway, that was probably because there so many runners. So a quarter of a mile into the race, I check my Nike+ and it says my pace is 8:40. I'm pretty sure that is WAY faster than I wanted to be going. That was close to my 5K pace and I had 10 additional miles to run. And even though I was going this fast, there were still huge amounts of runners passing me. I wasn't passing a single runner so I knew that I must have chosen the wrong spot to start. Anyways, I did my best to try to keep my pace low but it is so hard to do that when you are running in a crowd. We had a few hills near the start and after the 2nd mile, I had finally started to keep my 9:30 pace. Everyone around me was still passing me, but I knew I needed to keep pace.

When the course was described as "hilly", I pretty sure they should have said "mostly down-hilly" with a little bit of "up-hilly". I did get a little bit of hill training in prior to the start of this race, but most of it included more up-hills than down-hills. And I think I've said before, I hate down-hills. I'll tell you more on what happened with this later. Anyways, I was trudging along pretty well. It was fairly warm out--the official race report says 75 degrees but I swear it had to be hotter than that. Anyways, I was doing pretty well for the first 5 miles. I even followed behind some interesting runners. I was right in the same pace range as a "Galloway" runner. But she wasn't an ordinary Galloway runner. She did this strange hand cranky thing as she ran. When she ran, she turned her right arm like she was cranking her window down in a car. I passed her a few times on her walks, but she would always pass me during her runs. It was good though because then I knew that I wasn't just being passed.

By the time I hit Mile 7, I swore that we were at least at mile 8 or 9. I was exhausted. The hills and that quick start had really killed me. When I saw mile marker 7, I'm pretty sure I wanted to cry. I thought for sure that we'd been further. I checked my I-Pod and yep...Mile 7. Anyways, that was my one and only breakdown during the race. I stopped, drank the water at the water stop,and continued on my way. Around mile 8 or 9, my legs were hurting a bit so I stopped to stretch. The water stops were pretty efficient. Although I will say it was a bit confusing because they only filled the cups halfway and so you had to grab two as you went through (or I did anyway).

Miles 9-11 flew by fast. I had finally picked my pace back up. (At Mile 7, it dropped to an 11 min/mil (youch!). Anyways, I was flying by around miles 9-11. I was focused on the last leg of the race--the I-94 bridge across the river. I'm not sure if it was before the bridge or after, but at some point we went through a wooded area with a single sidewalk. There was little room for more than one runner and it was all downhill. This is where I believe the worst of my knee pain occured. As we were headed down this hill, my right knee was having a fit. It hurt pretty bad and felt like I could lose control of it at any minute. I decided to walk down the hill. Not a good spot to walk because there were runners coming up behind me, but I didn't have another choice.

I walked to flat ground and then took off running again. The last mile was probably the toughest out of them all. I was more than ready to be done. It was really hot outside by then and my knee was hurting and I wanted to be done. The course crew directed us through a grassy area that led over to the finish line and shouted "follow the cones, almost there!". By this point I was running pretty slow I'm sure. All I wanted to see was the finish line. I could care less about the cowbells. I could care less about the nice people telling me to keep it up. I wanted that finish line. Finally, I could see it ahead of me. One runner who had already finished saw me struggling up the last hill over to the finish line. She shouted "Come on-make it a strong finish!" So I picked up the pace a little and kept going. Andy took my picture, then my parents took my picture, then I heard my name..."Rachel Heiman from Minne--Minnetonka". Getting across the finish line though was half the battle. Immediately upon walking, my chest was thudding faster than I'd ever felt. I was extremely dizzy and my dad was chasing me with a camera screaming "Rachel". I was so dizzy, I didn't know what I needed or wanted but it definetly was not to stop in front of a camera. I continued walking and my family and Andy chased after me. "Water." was all I could muster. They had put the water down the hill and in a tent that was difficult to see. So I walked around for a good 5 minutes saying "water" and feeling like I was going to crash to the ground before we finally found it. And it wasn't bottled water like I'm used to at a finish. It was more half filled cups. I was thinking, these people are crazy! I grabbed two moderately filled cups and then told my fans that I needed to get in line for food because I wasn't sure what my body was saying...but I needed to try to get something in to it. I stood in line for about 3 minutes and then the blood started to rush in my head. I decided that standing might not be the greatest and got out of line. I plopped down in the grass and stretched. Eventually everything seemed to go back to normal (minus my knee which was stuck in pain). We headed to the food line and I filled up on fruit and some crackers. We sat for awhile next to the river watching the people and before we knew it, the race crew was taking everything down. It was time to go home, take a nice long shower, and rest.

My knee hurt really bad going up and down stairs for a few days. Today it is much better but I'm still going to take a rest day. I don't want to aggrivate it any more. Tommorrow I will begin running again as long as my knee wants to cooperate.

Note: I will be posting pictures later tonight. I don't have them on me at the moment.


SueBob said...

Yay!! Congrats on your race - you did a great job! I agree with you on the downhills...they are harder than you would think! I think they are harder on the body than uphills...not that I am a big fan of uphills either :)

Also, you should be glad that you learned those lessons now, not during your full marathon.

EmLit said...

Sounds like a harrowing experience (and an under-organized race...)! Downhills are extremely hard on your knees due to the fact that your entire body weight (and then some) is coming down on your joints because of gravity.

As suebob points out, though, it is really good that you had this experience before the full so that you can work out the kinks before then. Did you refuel at all during the race? That may have contributed to your difficulty afterwards (and during).

Above all, though, congratulations! You should be super proud of yourself even if it was a tough time!!

Ray said...

Congrats on the great race! Great report! Thanks for posting it!

I hope you knee feels better soon!

*jen* said...

Congrats, Rachel! Great race report - although it was unfortunate to read about the disorganization and your knee pain. I hope you have a speedy recovery!

Anonymous said...

First of all, Congratulations on finishing your first half!!! And as everyone has said so far, it's better that you had the bad experience now instead of on the full...
Although I don't think there's much you can do differently, there's not much you can do about the down-hills. Probably tapering for longer can help you, but I'm guessing that's already part of your training plan for the full.

So congratulations on your accomplishment, now you've done something most of the people will never even thing they're capable of doing!!!