Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Iron Horse Half Marathon Race Recap

(photo courtesy Mike Zimmerman during the race)
This race was a big deal to me.  I have been training specifically with this race in mind, and despite doing the Black Mountain Madness ride last weekend, I had been really focused on having this be a great half marathon.  Thinking about it, it was my first half marathon of the year, which is unusual for me.  The past several years, I have run a half marathon in the spring in addition to the fall.  I did one 70.3 this year, but that doesn't really count because aside from my fueling strategy, the pacing is completely different, and my run mileage is typically lower because my bike mileage is higher.  Also, this was my opportunity to return to the same county (although not same road), where my crash had occurred earlier in the year at the Horsey Hundred.  At the Derby Marathon, I received an advertisement for this race in my goody bag, and when I rode through the town of Midway in the first part of the Horsey Hundred, I recognized the town name and put the two together.  It was beautiful out there, and I told my friends that there was a half marathon in this location, and that I wanted to do it.  This was before my crash.  After my crash, I knew I had to do this race.  I asked around a bit, and from everything I had heard, it sounded like a great race.  It is small (1500 runners), due to the fact the area cannot handle a lot of runners, and I was able to get signed up when it was about halfway full.  It sold out fairly quickly after I registered, but a friend from MI, who was my partner coaching a Girls on the Run team in Novi, was able to get signed up as well. 

Race day was approaching, and I made sure to get rested up from my ride.  I did a couple short light runs, and no more cycling.  I had one swim, and that was it.  The weather was looking great too.  I opted to wear my yellow Swirlgear top instead of my Aquaphor tee.  One of the perks of this race was unlimited downloads of race pictures, so I thought it would be nice to have some in my new tee.  It was also warm enough for short sleeves and shorts.  The race pics are not up yet, but I hope to have those soon. 

I woke up early and got on the road.  I  had wanted to be there early since I had to use race day pick up, and it sounded like it could get backed up.  I also wasn't exactly sure how far away I would need to park, and I would need to put my shirt and things in the car before the start.  Thankfully, I found a spot on street right in downtown Midway, which is adorable, and walked to race headquarters at Darlin Jean's restaurant.  It would be super fun to just come and visit here without doing a race, or be able to stay longer, but since the race was on Sunday, a lot of the places were closed.  It would be fun to come in the day before though.  Its just not far enough away to justify a hotel for me.  I found Ron, who is similar to my pace, and his wife Shawn, pretty easily.  Then I found Carla.  It was great to see her.  We took a few pictures by the caboose, and then walked back to the car one more time to put everything away, and then it was time to head to the start.

The course was two out and backs, running through Midway in the middle and the finish.  It would be rolling, and with the two out and backs, you would sort of get to preview the hills for the way back.  I usually start out a little too quick, and slow down a tad, so I figured I would go with the same strategy, but just start a little slower than a PR pace, but not too fast.  Looking back at previous race times, I can usually hit 1:42 fairly consistently.  I thought this might be a little slower, because of the hills, but then I had trained really well, so I just thought I would try to stay between 7:30 and 8s.  That should get me in below 1:45 I figured, and we would just see how fast I could do.  I felt great, and just tried to keep an even pace.  It was just really beautiful running through this area.  I recognized it from the Horsey Hundred.  Running by the horse farms was fabulous.  They loved us.  There were points when the horses ran along with us, inside their fences.  At the first turn around, I could see that I was around 20 ladies back.  I got passed by one lady heading back towards midway, but I felt like my pace was holding ok.  It was nice to be able to see my friends out on the course too.  I hit the halfway point in around 50 minutes, just a little over.  I really felt like I could hold onto the pace too, depending on what the second half of the race would have in store.  I wasn't on PR pace, but since I haven't had a PR at this distance in over 2 years, I was still on pace to have a really great time.  I also felt like the downhill portions let me speed up while recovering my legs.  I felt like I could push on the uphills because of the downhills.  On the second half, I felt like there was this huge downhill on the way out of town.  I was worried a bit about having to run back up into the city, and felt like I needed to save a little.  However, it was great running through the city.  There was tons of crowd support.  I saw an ambulance ahead.  It was the one I rode in, driven by the paramedic that tended to me on the side of the road.  I waved, but I don't think he recognized me.  I had thought on my drive out that maybe I should have worn the pink kit, but I was glad I went with the outfit that I did.  I was able to pass another lady who laid down on the side of the road.  That made me nervous.  I asked her if she was OK as I ran by and she said she was.  Thankfully, I saw her again running after the turn around.  I had one lady pass me on a downhill, and I was thinking that was probably a bad call on her end with the uphill ahead, and while it didn't seem as bad as I thought, I was still able to pass her.  I was able to have a really strong finish, and my official time was 1:40:45!  I was thrilled!  I haven't been this fast in over 2 years.  This was a minute faster than my fastest time last year, and close to a minute faster than my second fastest previous time from 2011, the year I ran my fastest time.

I must say I was a bit bummed to see that I was only 6th in my age group with such a stellar time.  What?  My age group is so dang hard!  What the heck! I was the 19th female, which meant my counting was about right.  This is a prime example how having a goal based on other people's performance is not always the best.  I was still thrilled with my performance.

Ron finished a few minutes after I did, and we went back to Darlin Jean's and the car for the camera. We got a few pictures, and I stocked up on Honey Stinger Waffles and a custom 13.1 sticker.  I didn't win a cool mug, so I bought a cup.  I should have bought one beforehand, because they were sold out of the ones that looked like the awards, but I got a slightly different style.  

I had to head back home pretty quickly since it was Sunday, and Ryan had a meeting before church at 11:30.  I was pretty confident that I could be home in time for this.  It was also the Primary Sacrament Program Sunday, which meant that my children had speaking parts in the service.  It's pretty much the best Sunday all year to hear the children, because they have generally written the parts themselves.   I arrived home just in time for Ryan to head out, and the kids were super happy to see me.  I had told Soren that I would bring him a poster, (we had gone to the train festival in La Grange on Saturday, and come home empty handed), so that was the first thing he asked to see. 

The medal for this race was awesome.  It is HUGE, and I love the logo.  They have the logo for next year already posted on their facebook page.  I must say, I am partial to this year's logo. 

There were so many positives to this race.  It was just beautiful.  The course was fantastic.  Seeing the horses and the pretty fall colors in the countryside was breathtaking.  It was a nice size.  I don't always need to do the huge races, and this was a nice middle ground.  The swag was great.  The shirts were gender specific, with the race logo on the front and no other logos.  I know I will wear this one.  It was quiet out there.  I like quiet.  It really helped me focus on my running and having a good race.  The medal was great, and they had ice cream at the finish!  There were only a couple things that I thought were missing.  The first was that I couldn't find any bagels or cookies at the finish.  They did have the Honey Stinger waffles, though, and those are amazing.  Also, I always carry my own nutrition on the course so it didn't affect me at all, but they didn't have a gel station on the course.  I would love to do this race again.  I think it would be fun to have some more friends doing it, but it was amazing that Carla came down, as well as Ron and Shawn.  If I have friends that want to do it again next year, then perhaps I will do it again.

Looking ahead, I won a free entry into the Detroit Marathon that is next weekend already, and chose to do the International Half Marathon.  I'm all signed up, and I just raced a great half marathon.  This week I did one hard cycling workout, because Iceman is my next really important race.  Detroit will be for fun, but I still want to do well.  I'll take Wednesday off, and then on Thursday, do a short run, and that will be it I think until Sunday so that I can rest up.  Hopefully that is enough rest.  Detroit is very high energy, and so I think even if I am going slow, I will still have a great time.  I love that race, it feels like coming home.  I'll have lots of support from friends out there.  My friend Anna and her mom always volunteer at the finish, and they are bringing Amy too!  Yay!  I am also officially registered for the LSC Half Marathon too.  Its going to be a busy fall for sure, but it should be a blast.  The LSC half is a week after Iceman, so I will likely do a similar plan for the week between them as I am this week, except I won't mountain bike, but maybe the time trial bike outside or a spin on the trainer.

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