Monday, October 28, 2013

Detroit International Half Marathon Race Recap. Back to Back Halves- how to get it done!

Sorry this is late.  This past week was Oldham County's fall break.  We never had fall break in Michigan, so it is a cool concept to me.  We didn't bring the computer with us.  While we weren't entirely unplugged for the week, I just didn't get a blog post done.  We were plenty busy.

The Detroit International Half Marathon was a late addition to my schedule, because I won it the entry in a drawing.  It worked out nicely because it was during fall break, and we didn't really have any plans set in stone.  If anything, it helped us figure out our fall break.  I love this race, and have done the half 5 times now, and the full once.  I'm really glad I was able to have this opportunity to do it.  Since it was a late addition, it didn't really fit well into my schedule. Aside from being an open weekend, that was about the best that it fit.  I had the Iron Horse Half Marathon the previous weekend.  I have done back to back halves once before, and I love the half marathon, so I figured it wasn't a terrible idea.  With the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon (and Half) coming up this weekend, and then the LSC Half Marathon coming up next weekend, there is a good opportunity to try it.  I did this combo in 2011.  There are a few ways to look at the combo, and I thought about it a little (not a ton) in advance of the Iron Horse.  First, I could use Iron Horse as a training run, and race Detroit full out, Second, I could race Iron Horse, and do Detroit as a recovery race, taking it easy, third, I could take them both easy (this would be useful if I was training for a full marathon down the line and just needed lots of mileage), or 4th, race them both and see what happens.  Well, going into Iron Horse, the plan was to race it.  I had it on my schedule since June, and had been training specifically for it.  Racing it hard would still allow me to do the rest of my races (Iceman, LSC) with no problems.  It just might make Detroit a little tougher.  Its a unique course with large crowds, so PRs aren't super easy to come by there.  Plus, with the border crossings there is always the remote chance that you will get stopped.  So, the plan would be to take Detroit easy, and just have fun and enjoy the sights.  The sunrise over the bridge is pretty cool, and the skyline in Detroit from Canada is great too.  Plus, they break up the course into mental chunks pretty well.  I did two short easy runs between the two races (3 and 4 miles).

We went to the expo early on Saturday morning.  It was busy, as expected for a huge race.  I got a mediocre picture from the person behind me.   Keira was hanging out with her cousin for the morning, so Ryan was with me and Soren.  We were running out of time at the expo before we needed to pick up Keira, and Soren NEEDED a Talmer Bank shopping bag.  My kids love expo swag.  We thought he could spin a wheel over there, so I told them to check it out while I got my picture taken.  It was a bad call.  The picture wasn't the best, and there was no wheel to spin.  However, Soren did get his tote bag and I did get two white cowbells.

Also, I wasn't able to find everyone I wanted at the expo, but we did find Janelle from Ryan's tree farm team at the Level Multisport booth, Randy from Running Fit, and Dave from New Balance.  Dave entered me into the contest, and is a very experienced runner and coach.  I told him how well the Iron Horse went, and then he thought I should be able to beat my Iron Horse time.  What?  NO NO NO!  I was super tired still.  Yikes.  However, I have known Dave for a long time and really trusted what he said.  If he thought I could do, well, maybe I could?  I did some math on the way home and realized that a 7:38 pace would get me under 1:40, which is what Dave thought.  Eek.  But, it was only a couple seconds per mile faster than what I did at Iron Horse.  Not a ton.  I got nervous for the first time for this race.

The race bibs were MASSIVE for this race.  They were made to look like a license plate, and about the same size!  I am small, so figuring a way to pin it was tricky.  I had taped my passport inside a ziplock to the back of it.  I did it last year, and it worked just fine.  I trusted that better than trying to put it in a pouch.  I like my spibelt, and didn't want to try a new belt for the race.  I struggle with chaffing around my midsection from belts, and I know where I need my Aquaphor for what I currently use.  I didn't want to experiment with this.  I was happy to be in corral B.  That meant that I would at least have the 1:40 pacer available to me if I felt like it.  This was Detroit, and to quote Eminem, "Life's too short to not go for broke".  I was going to go for it.

I went to bed early, and then got up crazy early on Sunday.  I texted our friend Austin from the parking garage (I actually got into my first choice garage this year for the first time ever!!!).  Turns out, he was still at home!  Lol!  I like being to races early.  I crashed my friend Randy's party at Cobo Joe's for his running class.  Running Fit offers a couple classes, and they typically have someplace reserved for the class participants and their families to hang out that is indoors, warm, close to the start, and with flush toilets.  I have been fortunate to take advantage this the past 3 Detroit races.  Its been a lifesaver.  I even took advantage of the "gear check" there, despite the fact that my truck was next door.  I hung out there and had my picture taken, plus took advantage of the restrooms. 

Before leaving Cobo Joe's, I wrapped up in an old mylar race blanket for the walk to the start.  I planned to throw it away before the race started so that no one behind me would get caught in it.  It was 39 degrees at the start, and would stay cold for the less than 2 hours that I would be running.  I opted for tights, my Detroit race shirt from LAST year (never wear the race shirt from the current race in the race), and my Aquaphor singlet on top.

The nice thing about being in Corral B is that I have pretty clear view of the start line from the front of it.  I got this picture, which is also not so stellar, at the start, before moving back to a better position.  I did meet a Swirlgear teammate, Angela, so that was fun. She went on to have a killer marathon time, and was ahead of me the entire race.  I couldn't find Austin in my corral before starting.  Since I am short, I'm not the easiest to find or the best at finding people in crowds.  I heard them play Eminem's Lose Yourself, and the Kiss's Detroit Rock City and we were off, crossing the start line. 

I felt great!  It was still very dark, with the race starting at 7am and sunrise not being until 7:48am.  They had helicopters with searchlights shining on us (probably for border security) and it was hard to read my Garmin.  I clicked off a couple miles in the 7:30s, and then started to head up the incline to the Ambassador Bridge.  One of the highlights of this race is that the sun starts to rise over the Detroit River while most people are on the bridge.  I arrived a bit early for it, but the sky still looked pretty.  My college friend Fred Felter took several awesome pictures during the race. He gave me the OK to use his photos.  I had considered running with my camera until I spoke to Dave at the expo, so I am especially thankful that he took these and allowed me to use them.  I got a chill looking at the bridge picture.  Its crazy to come around the turn and get ready to run up it!!!
Here is Fred's sunrise on the bridge.  It is awesome. It was a little darker when I went across.
Crossing into Canada on the Bridge:
 The tunnel is hard, but not terrible.  The worse thing about it is that you go from the cold to warm, and then you have a long uphill out.  People have asked if I felt claustrophobic in it before.  Um, no, not until you mention it!  I guess I have run this race so many times before I had the idea to be freaked out about running UNDERWATER for a MILE that it is no big deal.  Its cool!  You do have to take the autopause feature off your Garmin, otherwise you lose a mile of data.  You don't get pace in the tunnel, but since it is pretty much a straight line, you come out and it picks up the difference where you lost signal.   Going into the tunnel (from Fred still)
 The tunnel pretty much  looks like this for a mile.  Its hard to gauge how long you've been in there because it looks the same.
 Cool shot of the border in the tunnel.  This one I think was photoshopped to remove some people
 Coming back into the USA!  This is such a great feeling.  I saw some guys wearing IMKY finisher gear on the side, cheering, and they saw me notice (I had my IM visor on), and got some cheers.
Then, you are out of the tunnel and run around a bit.  This is where I really started to feel slow and heavy.  I lost the 3:20/1:40 pace group here.  I just looked forward to seeing friends, Amy and Anna, at the finish.  I knew I had them waiting for me, because they are volunteering.  Anna has volunteered with her mom for years.  This year she was bringing Amy with her to volunteer.  Last year, when I ran this race, I ran it with Amy in my heart because we still didn't know much about her condition.  Now, a year later she was going to give me  my medal.  Its crazy what can happen in a year.  I also know that every start is a blessing.  Its such a gift to be out there racing and doing what I love.

Mile  11 had some Rage Against the Machine playing at the DMC medical station with water bottles.  I drank a water and it helped a little.  But by 12, it was starting to get really hard.  I was just wanting to be done.  Then I heard someone call me.  I looked back and I saw an Aquaphor teammate behind me.  Then, I looked next to me, and saw someone who shouldn't have been there.  Needless to say, it kind of shocked me, and we chatted a bit about how I was almost done and why talking to Dave is dangerous before a race.  He'll have you trying very hard.  I said my goodbyes with a fist bump to this runner at the marathon/half split.  I was able to bring my pace back down to where it should be for the last mile, but I had done enough damage during miles 10-12 that I finished with a course record for me, 1:42:28, by 7 seconds from 2011.  It seems like I end up in the 1:42s quite often.  Upon crossing the finish line, I immediately stopped and gave Anna's mom a huge hug.  I saw her first.  She directed me to Anna, who got another hug, and I asked for Amy, who got a third hug.  Anna and Amy together gave me my medal, and I got a quick picture with them before walking into the actual finisher's chute.  Last year I kept getting asked to move down as I looked for friends finishing up.  This year I tried to avoid that.  It was colder and I needed my foil blanket too.

I lost the teammate in the finish area.  I looked and looked, and he probably passed me during my stop right at the line.  I did find Austin!  Yay!  He finished about 4 minutes ahead of me, and said he passed me in the tunnel, which looking at our splits, was right.  He was able to hold his pace better and even pick up speed at the end, where I faded the last 3-4 miles.  Very typical me, but I was still very pleased with the way I did based on the fact that I didn't train specifically for this race, and I had raced my heart out the week prior. 

I did try to find my teammate one more time, and instead found teammate Kevin! I initially thought that lost teammate was Tim, but looking at results, that doesn't seem possible.  I have no idea who I was looking for now!

I'm really glad I went for it on this race.  Last year, I was more conservative to start, and finished worse here, and I really thought that I might be able to have a better race on a flatter course.  Since it was a late addition with little expectations, it was fun to just go out there and have a great time.  I felt strong in the early miles, and I always feel good knowing I left it all out there and did the best I could.

The medals were pretty much the same as they have been for the past three years.  In fact, the fact that they had a Camaro on them was initially a deterrent for me to sign up, yet as the race grew closer, I wanted to do it more and more, but the price had gotten insane, and I already had Iron Horse.  When this contest came around, I just knew I had to enter it, and that I would win an entry.  I'm so thankful for this opportunity to run my heart out in Detroit. 

Since I waited so long to do this post, the professional race pictures are available.  I don't typically copy the professional photos from their site to use here, but this one was just too funny to not share.  Since it is funny, I'm not going to be buying it though.
 The poor dude has the worst expression. Then there's me.  Super happy and smiling, as usual, when I see the finish line.  Now, to give this man the benefit of the doubt, I did have one pic where I was in a blink and looked funny too, but the contrast in expressions is what made it so funny.  When I was first looking at the photos, I wondered why this one was in "my" photos, but then realized that it was hysterical.  The folks at finisherpix must have a sense of humor.  They did do a really nice job with the pictures, though.  I'm not going to steal the good ones.  If I buy them, I will post them.

Also, I want to offer you a peek a the medal for the LSC Half Marathon!  It is AWESOME!  I just love Fleur de lis, and I even hand cut my own vinyl stickers to decorate my aero box on my Trek Speed Concept for IM with them.  This medal is made for me.  I just can't wait to earn it, and I hope to see you there!  Hopefully I live through Iceman first.  Eek!


(Just) Trying is for Little Girls said...

I want to run the Detroit Half! We may end up doing a different race for Michigan to coincide with the Ducks playing MSU in the next few years. Dang.

Luke Powell said...

Nice race Melissa! That race bib IS makes you look tiny. Goof luck in the LSC Half as well.