Monday, September 14, 2015

Hub City Half Marathon race recap

I'm going to go out of order recapping my events from this past weekend. Yesterday, thanks to Erica, I ran the inaugural Hub City Half Marathon in Crown Point, Indiana.


Prerace
Crown Point is about 50 miles southeast of Chicago. On race morning, I was in the car at 5:45 AM to make the trek. Thankfully I hit zero traffic and zero road construction enroute. I got treated to a beautiful sunrise along the way, too.

When I arrived onsite, I was thrilled to be able to park right next to the starting/finishing lines. There were zero lines at packet pickup and the portapotties, too. Smaller races rock!

A few minutes later, Erica arrived on site. She introduced me to her friends Wendy, Ryan, and Josh, who were also racing.

Wendy took this picture of Erica and me:

You can see Wendy's shadow in the picture. ;-P

The temps were in the upper 40s/low 50s, which was much colder than I had originally anticipated. I enjoyed being able to hang out in the warmth of my car while I was waiting for the race to start.

I was wearing capris and a short-sleeved short, and considered wearing my jacket and/or my arm warmers. I decided to ditch both - which turned out to be the right decision. Less than 10 minutes before the gun went off, I got out of my car and lined up.

The start
Earlier, I heard someone say they thought the race was being gun-timed instead of chip-timed. I thought this couldn't possibly be the case. My bib had a timing device, and the website said it was chip-timed. Unfortunately, it turns out the person was right. There was no starting timing mat. I was dismayed when I realized this. I had lined up pretty far back, and I knew that this would cost me at least 20 seconds right off the bat.
Sigh
Miles 1 - 4
After months of running in heat and humidity, the cool temperatures and shade were heavenly! I wanted to run by feel instead of relying on my Garmin. My goal was to run sub 2:10, which meant an average pace of 9:55 or better. 

When I hit Mile 1, I was shocked to look down and see 9:13. It felt effortless. I tried to slow down a smidge. I hit Mile 2 in 9:30, and then Mile 3 in 9:50. At that point, I tried to lock in my pace. 

The course ran through residential neighborhoods. It was very winding, to the point that you could never see more than two or three blocks ahead of you at any given point. This is what most of the course looked like:
Source
There were almost-constant rolling hills, but at that point they didn't scare me. I was enjoying the very-frequent aid stations and the wonderfully friendly volunteers and spectators.

Miles 5 - 8
There were about 200 half marathoners on the course. As you can see in the above picture, the streets were very open. We headed into a subdivision which I believe was called Wingate - and at that point the hills started getting more and more pronounced.

Volunteers were handing out PowerBar Power Gels at two points along the course. Since the course was an out and back, we had four opportunities to get gels. Many thanks to the woman who, when I missed a gel handoff, actually ran back to catch up with me and made sure I got one.

There were so many aid stations on the course. They were never more than 2 miles apart!

Around Mile 5 I saw Erica and Wendy tearing it up on their way back. They both looked fantastic!

I was still maintaining my pace, but the hills were making me fight harder and harder to do so. I hit the halfway point on pace for a 2:09 finish. I thought to myself how great it would be to run an even split and achieve that time. At that point, I believed I could hang on.

Unfortunately, the temperature was rising and I was starting to feel too warm. I hadn't brought any salt capsules with me. With the cool temperatures, I didn't think I would need them. That was a mistake.

Miles 9 - 12
Around Mile 9 was when the hills started doing me in. One of the volunteers told me, "The hardest part is over!" but the course was still plenty challenging. Every time I turned a corner, there was another hill. At one point, I actually said out loud, "Are you kidding me?" My hamstrings were screaming bloody murder and my paces were getting slower and slower.

I hit Mile 10 in 1:40:XX and knew that I didn't have it in me to finish sub-2:10. Mentally, I gave up. I told myself, "It isn't chip-timed anyways, so whatever." I hit Mile 11 in 1:50:XX and was hurting so badly that I wasn't even sure I could beat my previous PR (2:12:40 at the Sunburst Half Marathon).

I plodded along in a fog, lamenting the pain and swearing to myself that I would never run again, ever. I stopped looking at my Garmin since I figured it would only make me feel worse. My sole focus was how closely I could run the tangents to minimize the remaining distance. Every time a car or other object obstructed the tangent, I inwardly grumbled. 

One bright moment during this time were volunteers handing out cold towels near Mile 11. Again, I missed the hand-off and again, a volunteer ran back with me to make sure I got one. Much appreciated!

The finish
Around what I thought was Mile 12.5 or so, I saw Erica and Wendy. They had come back on the course to cheer me on! They both ran with me for a bit, which was awesome. I was really, really grateful for the distraction. I found out that Wendy was the Overall Women's winner, and Erica was the Master's winner and 3rd overall female. HOLY SPEED DEMONS!

They told me that the finish line was just up ahead and to the left through some grass. Was I really that close??? When spectators or volunteers tell me I'm almost there, I usually don't believe them - but I knew Erica and Wendy wouldn't lie to me. This lifted my spirits.

Erica said she would get some pictures of me at the finish line, then she and Wendy sprinted ahead. Sure enough, I turned the corner and there was the finish line. I looked down at my Garmin and realized I could still PR. I picked up the pace and was surprised how much my legs actually still had in them.

Erica got this shot of me shortly before I crossed:
The race photo body spasm lives on.
My final gun time was 2:12:30. Comparatively, my self-chipped (aka Garmin) time was 2:12:04. Either way, I did manage to earn a small PR on an unexpectedly very hilly course!

Had I not given up during a few of those final miles, I could have done even better. And honestly, had I known in advance how challenging the course was, I don't know if I would have tried to achieve a time goal. More lessons learned. =)

Post-race
A swimming pool was right near the finish line and was open for runners to enjoy post-race. That was a fabulous perk.

Everyone just wanted to refuel, though. Erica, Wendy, Ryan, Josh, and I went for brunch at the Main Street Cafe, a cute little restaurant in downtown Crown Point. 

Great food, great company! At brunch, I learned that Josh and Ryan both also placed in their age groups. Talk about a speedy group of folks, eh?

Afterwards, I hit the road back to Chicago, enjoying the beautiful day while listening to the Bears radio broadcast. Ahhh, life is good. =)

Thanks again to Erica and the race organizers and volunteers for a fantastic time at the inaugural Hub City Half Marathon! It was an amazing event!

Linking up with HoHo and Tricia for the Weekly Wrap.

My next race: Probably the Prairie State Half Marathon on October 10

32 comments:

  1. Congrats on the race! I am always so inspired by your running posts :) I feel like such a bum running around here when I hear others running with hills haha IL has spoiled me.

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    1. Thank you so much, Alexandra! Likewise - all my friends from Pittsburgh or other hilly regions laugh at how much I struggle with hills. I was really surprised how hilly Crown Point was. Isn't a city that is within shouting distance of Chicago supposed to be flat, too!?!?!?

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  2. Nice work! What a way to kick off your fall racing!!

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    1. Thanks Natalie! Fall weather is truly a gift to all of us runners!!!

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  3. Hey that was a great job! Especially on a rolling-hills course!

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    1. Thanks, Amanda! We are definitely very spoiled in Illinois where most courses are pancake-flat. =)

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  4. Way to go on the PR. I've also said "are you kidding me" at certain points, whether it's training or on course.

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    1. Thanks Lesley! I think I've mentally decided to retire from running while in the midst of every single race I've ever run, regardless of length or condition. =D

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  5. Congrats on the PR! How awesome that they had a pool post-race :-)

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    1. Thanks Victoria! It was definitely a treat to have the pool right there. It was a toss-up between refueling and wanting to relax in a makeshift ice-bath of sorts. =)

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  6. Way to pull off a PR on a tough course! Sounds like a great inaugural race. I've never run a half that small and the only race I do that still goes by gun time is March Madness. The parking sounds wonderful! Congrats!

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    1. Thanks Marcia! There are definitely some really great things to small races - the easy parking being the top! But Erica mentioned that it felt less competitive since we were so spread out - we weren't really challenging each other very much. Nonetheless, the race was really well done. I think you would enjoy it!

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  7. Small races are the bomb! The volunteers were awesome. Way to hang on and get a PR! Sometimes I think ignorance is bliss. I would have psyched myself out knowing there were a lot of hills to worry about. I love your finish pic. It says it all! I really appreciate you linking up with us today!

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    1. As always, thank you to you and Tricia for hosting the link-up! Ignorance is TOTALLY bliss when it comes to a lot of these races and to our training, LOL. I think if we all knew how tough it gets, we would be scared to try! So ignorance is really a good thing, in may ways. Thank you for the kind words!

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  8. Congratulations on your race. I would be mad about that gun time too if I thought it was suppose to be chip instead. Great job on your PR. What a nice perk to be a able to use the pool afterwards.

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    1. Thank you so much! The gun time vs chip time was tough, mentally, but thankfully the rest of the race was so well-done that it made up for a lot of it. =) Wouldn't it be great if all races had swimming pools right next to the finish line, especially during the dog days of summer? Sigh...!

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  9. Congrats on a great run and a PR :)
    It is hard to stay "on" for 13.1 miles...so much happens and can change. I totally relate, I felt exactly like you did at my last half. It was nice to have friends to cheer you on and give you a boost at the end!

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    1. Thank you so much, Karen! It really is crazy how much the mentality can swing from one extreme to the other during the course of a race. Having moral support at a race makes SO much of a difference! I didn't realize until I started running how helpful the spectators and friends can be when we're pushing through those final tough miles!

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  10. Congrats on a strong finish. Sounds eerily similar to my race! LOL!

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    1. Thanks Wendy! AGREED - our race experiences were so similar that it's almost like we wrote the same recap but just interchanged the race name! =D

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  11. Congrats on the PR! That is fab! This sounds like a hard course. Those constant turns would get to me! I don't want a long straight away either, but too many turns makes tangent running hard.

    What do you think happened at the end that you felt so blah? The lack of salt pills? What hurt? Maybe it was all 12395989 races in the span of 2 days? LOL!!!!

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    1. Thanks Kim! By my standards, this was the hilliest course I've ever run. I was debating whether it's tougher to have short, sudden inclines vs long, rolling, hills. At this point I think the latter are more challenging. At least with sudden inclines, you can walk them, and then you're done! You can't do that with long, rolling hills! YES on the constant turns, too. I like knowing what's ahead of me and not having to always worry about tangents.

      I think the two things that contributed to the blah was my complete and total lack of hill-training, and the lack of salt pills. My hamstrings and lungs were both on fire. And long story short, my 5K the day before got cancelled so I can't blame that. =D I'm on the lookout for future FLAT courses, armed with lots of salt pills!!!

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  12. Oh man I do hate when it's a gun start time instead of chip-timed! You may have had some hiccups during the course but you finished strong and you did not give up! Hills like that just suck the life out of you! Way to keep going! How cool they have a pool at the end! I appreciate you linking up with us this week! :)

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    1. Thanks Tricia!!! Thanks to you and HoHo for hosting this link-up, as always! Yes, this was my first experience with a gun-timed race and it was really tough to battle through, mentally, knowing I already lost so much time just getting to the start line! Hills are really no joke, too. They just build up on you over the miles! The pool at the end was a fabulous perk. If the weather had been warmer I think more people would have taken advantage of it!

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  13. Ahhhh congrats congrats congrats on your PR!!! That's SO exciting and I'm thrilled for you, especially since I believe you wanted to PR something this weekend, yes? Woohoo!

    Bethany @ Accidental Intentions

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    1. Thank you thank you thank you so much, Bethany!!! I did want to PR this weekend! I was putting some pressure on myself, since I don't have a ton of races left this year. So it felt great to hit the mark, even if by a small amount. =)

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  14. Congrats on the PR! I love the pic of shortly before you crossed.

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    1. Thank you so much, Sara! Big cheers to Erica for taking the photo - I look a lot happier there than I was feeling about 2 minutes prior. =)

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  15. PR!! Woo hoo! Think how fast you could have run without all of those darn hills! Was anyone swimming in the pool after the race? Did runners jump in with their clothes on or did they remember to bring swimsuits? :)

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    1. Thanks Pete! Yes, I have started looking for more FLAT half marathons to run to gauge how well I'd do on a nonhilly course! Sadly I didn't see anyone in the pool after the race. I really think everyone was just focused on refueling! That, and the temp was in the low 70s, which is a little cool for the pool. If it had been a midsummer race like RnR Chicago, though, you better believe I would have taken full advantage! =D

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  16. Congrats on your PR!!! Who still has races that are gun timed instead of chip timed? So weird. That was so nice of Erica and Wendy to run with you.

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    1. Thanks Zenaida! I was surprised, too. I can't ever remember running a gun-timed race before this. Noted for next time! Yes - it was so great to see Erica and Wendy at that point on the course when I was dying!!! Friends make such a difference!

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