Monday, October 20, 2014

2014 Prairie State Half Marathon race recap

Sorry for falling off the planet again over the past few weeks. Quarter-end is an extremely busy time for me in the office, and I haven't been feeling overly motivated to blog these days, to be honest. But more about that some other time.

Before I begin, my congratulations to everyone that has run marathons over the past few weeks! Way to go and way to push through! Very special congrats go out to the first-timers, including MeghanIrina, Agnes, and Natali. Welcome to the club. =)

Two Saturdays ago, I ran the Prairie State Half Marathon for the second consecutive year.

Last year Kim paced me to a goal time (recap here), and in 2012 she also helped me achieve my best half marathon result of that year (recap here). Therefore, when I decided to sign up for Round 2 of Prairie State, I asked Kim if she'd be up for joining me again. I was thrilled when she said yes - especially given that she was running the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon the weekend prior. The woman is a powerhouse!

I planned on this race being a PR attempt. However, when it came down to it, I didn't train much beyond the minimum. In the month leading up to the race, I was much more focused on using my ClassPass trial membership to cram in as many barre classes as possible. From a running perspective, all I did was one 10-miler and one 12-miler, plus one or two shorter runs each week. Nevertheless, my long runs felt good amidst the glorious fall temperatures, and my hips and core were feeling stronger from all the barre classes. I was still feeling fairly confident.

Things were harried on the morning of the race. Last year, parking at the race was a complete disaster. This year, the race organizers banned on-site parking, instead implementing off-site race parking with a shuttle bus to/from the race site. While I appreciated the attempt to alleviate parking congestion, it didn't work very well. Basically, it just shifted the parking disaster from one location to the other. It also added undetermined wait times for the shuttle buses. Thank goodness this was a chip-timed race.

After I finally arrived onsite, I found Kim and then scurried to use the portapotties and gear-check my belongings. Apparently the organizers were asking everyone to place their stuff in clear plastic bags, and then attach a tag with our bib numbers. Gear check was pretty harrowing (and was very disorganized at post-race). Kim helped me as I was fumbling around trying to pin my bib, put on my knee straps, and adjust the layers that I was wearing. The race had already begun at that point, and we noticed that the course crossed right in front of the portapotties. That could have made for some unpleasant surprises!

We finally crossed the starting line about 8 minutes after the gun went off. I tried to settle into my pace but my Garmin was showing very different numbers than Kim's was. We decided to go with Kim's Garmin instead of mine, which turned out to be the right decision. My Garmin's numbers ended up being vastly different from hers for almost the entire race, sigh.

When I ran this race last year, I was so focused on my footing, my pacing, and running the tangents that I barely noticed the course scenery and had trouble keeping up conversation with Kim. This year, that wasn't the case! We were gabbing away and I was enjoying the fall foliage against the blue sky. The weather conditions were absolutely perfect for racing. Here's a picture with some of the foliage colors in the background:

Here's another picture with some of the scenic water views that were visible along the course:

I wanted to run the first 6-7 miles at around a 10:15 per mile pace, and walk through all of the aid stations. If things felt good, then we'd speed up during the second half.

I took my first GU around Mile 4. Around Mile 5, I started feeling worn down, which wasn't a good sign. I told Kim that I didn't think it was in the cards for me to run a negative split for the day, but hopefully I could hang on and run an even split?

This race has minimal spectators other than at the start/finish and at the turnaround point. My mom was going to be at the turnaround point, so I was holding out for that moment. We saw Erica tearing it up on her way back. Then we did start seeing spectators, which perked me up. I was really happy to see my mom, and we even got to see a surprise spectator in Bobbi! So awesome!

The path got crowded along the turnaround point. I embraced the forced opportunity to slow down for a few minutes and to ham it up for some of the cameras.

I slowly started feeling better and more energized. This made me a lot more optimistic. I mused to Kim that maybe I just needed the GU to kick in? I was wearing a 2:15 pace band and our splits were indicating that we were about a minute ahead of pace. I was all set to revel in this cushion. However, both of our Garmins were also registering that the course was at least a tenth of a mile short. Kim smartly said that we should be cautious of trusting the mile markers lest we receive an an unpleasant surprise at the end. I agreed, albeit reluctantly.

Kim and I had some passing conversations with a few other folks along the course, which was fun. In between, she was telling me to pump my arms because my legs would follow, etc. Some runners asked if she was my trainer. This made me grin. Other folks mentioned that they were also taking advantage of the advice she was giving me, too. This picture probably wasn't taken during one of those exact occurrences, but I like to think that it epitomizes the spirit of Kim's advice helping everyone!

During the last few miles, my right IT band was starting to bother me. Being the flatlander that I am, I was subdued by some of the gentle hills along the course. Beyond that, though, I felt solid. I took my second GU around mile 9.

Normally I am really feeling the exertion by Mile 10 or Mile 11, and craning my neck to see the next mile marker. This day, I didn't feel much different during that stretch. At one point I actually had to ask Kim which mile marker we had just passed because I forgot what mile we were on (in a good way). It was encouraging to be feeling so much stronger overall. For once, I was actually enjoying my surroundings instead of ignoring everything to focus on putting one foot in front of the other.

Obligatory race photo body spasm

As we got closer to the finish area, Kim told me that she knew I had a kick in me after running two other races with me. Though I was feeling comparatively good, I couldn't quite find it in myself to sprint. Then, I saw Adam along the course waving his Terrible Towel. What a boost it was to see him! As I passed him, I yelled, "I am going to PR today!" and he said, "Run it home!" I told Kim, "Let's do this!" and at that point I finally got myself to sprint for the last tenth of a mile.

Here's a picture of Kim and me crossing the finish line:

Just for giggles, here's a quick throwback/side-by-side comparison to last year's finish line picture with Kim:

My final time this year was 2:13:51. This was an improvement of 90 seconds over my previous PR. Yay!

Here are some post-race pictures:

Adam, Kim, and I had a great brunch afterwards to celebrate. Super fun times!!!

Speaking of which, congratulations to Erica A. for winning her age group, to Erica H. for PR-ing, and to Jennifer for completing her first half marathon! Kim also mentioned that amidst her marathon recovery period, she felt great running this race (read her recap here). It was a great day of racing for all!

Thanks again go out to Kim for helping me achieve yet another time goal! It was so much fun catching up with her, and I know that I will always be in good hands with her help. It is definitely going to have to become an annual tradition for us to run at least one half marathon together every year, and then brunch afterwards. =)

My next race: the Carrera de los Muertos on November 1


  1. Congrats on the massive PR! You look like you're having an incredibly fun time in all of your pictures. I guess there is something to the mantra of having fun makes you fast (or something like that)! Don't tell me you are dropping out of blogging! It seems like there has been a rash of my favorite running bloggers are either considering dropping out of blogging or have already done so. I did read somewhere that the average blog lasts 30 days, so I can't expect them to all last forever, but it kinda makes me sad. Oh well there is always twitter! :)

    1. Thank you, Pete! Congratulations to you too on your AMAZING Chicago Marathon performance, and BQing AGAIN. =)

      Holy cow, 30 days is the average life of a blog!?!? I have actually been thinking a lot about the fact that so many of the bloggers I follow are stopping, too. It is sad, because I enjoy keeping up to date with how everyone is going. Alas, it is much easier to read others' blogs than it is to write my own, you know? Blogging takes SO. MUCH. TIME!

    2. Thanks! One good thing about your forties is that the BQ standard starts gradually moving upward! Yeah, that 30 days probably includes the people who start a blog to track their progress in a certain area of their lives and then they quit making progress, so they quit their blog as well. Also, there might be lots of people who only do one post on a whim then forget that they have a blog! That weights down the days. Understand about the time aspect. I used to blog a lot, but now that there is twitter so I can get my shorter thoughts out there, without having to write a blog entry.

    3. It's funny - several folks and I have joked a lot about how the only way we'll ever be able to BQ is when we're in our 80s. But hey, if I am still able to complete a marathon when I'm a senior citizen, I'll be happy enough just for that, let alone to BQ! =)

      SO TRUE about folks that probably quit their blog when they stop making progress. The biggest plus/minus about blogging is that it keeps you very publicly accountable!

      I do like Twitter but get constrained by the character limit! I'm liking Instagram a lot. Are you planning on joining Facebook one of these days? =)

    4. I am thinking about joining fb. Both the WRCE and BRC organize all of their events on fb, so I am in the dark most of the time as to what's happening unless someone makes the post public. Maybe I don't like fb because it's a walled-off world. I like the "openness" of blogs and twitter. :)

    5. Join FB, Pete!!! Do it!!!!!!!!! At a lot of the WRCE events, folks will post things like, "If Pete would ever join Facebook..." =)

  2. Way to rock the PR Emily! You had such a gorgeous day and how fun to run with Kim!

    1. Thank you, Marcia! I can't remember if you said that you've run Prairie State before or not? It's so close to where you live! I know you're in the heart of NYCM training this year but I think you'd enjoy Prairie State!

  3. Congrats!!! You look so happy in those photos.

    And once again I failed to register for the Carrera de los Muertos race before it sold out. Dang it!

    1. Thanks so much, Erin! Kim and I were talking during the race about how both of us haven't seen you in forever! Everytime I read your blogs, it sounds like your schedule has been insanely crazy. I hope you are getting some time to relax here and there!

      ARGH!!!! BUMMER about the Carrera de los Muertos! I think it sold out even earlier this year than last year. =(

  4. Whoop! Happy PR! But I'm also bummed, now you're a minute faster than me. ;-). I better start working!! Lol.

    And what's this about not blogging anymore?!

    1. Thanks Natalie! And a minute is nothing when spread out across 13.1 miles. It's amazing how much a few seconds per mile can really add up!

      I do enjoy blogging but it takes SO. MUCH. TIME. In the past, I couldn't understand how people could be bloggers on a full-time basis - but now I get it! Blogging is a really big undertaking for being a hobby, you know?

    2. I understand. I'm just selfish. ;-)

    3. BTW - are you still putting those Sriracha leggings to good use? I can't wait to see what kind of outfit you come up with for Halloween!!!

  5. Congratulations on the PR!!! Despite a few minor setbacks/worries, it sounds like you had a phenomenal race overall. Seriously, you MUST purchase some of those official race photos because you look so good in all of them! And plus, it's a great race to remember ;)
    Also, it's amazing what some fuel can do to our bodies (in a good way), right? I can usually feel the noticeable effect of Shot Bloks about 0.5 miles after taking them.

    Please don't stop blogging!!! I always look forward to reading your will be missed :(

    PS - thanks for the shout out :) I'm happy to finally be part of the marathoner's club!


    1. Thank you, Irina! Very much appreciate the kind words and compliments! I have a special fondness for fall races because of the gorgeous foliage colors. Backgrounds like that help to make all race pictures look so much prettier. =)

      It is amazing how much fueling can help! I wonder how much of it is the caffeine vs everything else, but regardless, fueling works miracles. Before I started taking GU, I would feel like death after about an hour of running and couldn't imagine how anyone could run longer than that. Fueling really does open up a whole new world of endurance!

      Thank you for being such a great blogging friend! I always look forward to reading your posts, too! Actually, it's to the point now where I think I enjoy reading others' posts more than I enjoy writing my own, you know?

      HUGE CONGRATULATIONS on tearing it up at your first marathon!!! It sounds like you had the best experience anyone could ever ask for. I AM SO HAPPY FOR YOU!!!!!

  6. Great job on your PR! I ran Prairie State in 2012, and I loved the course... we were also allowed to park at the race site that year, so that helped a ton with my views on the race itself, lol.

    1. Thanks so much, Mo! I think that Prairie State has expanded a LOT in the past few years, which is now giving them growing pains. Would you consider running it again in the future, or once was enough for you? Independence Grove is really a hidden gem, though. I wish I lived closer to the Des Plaines River Trail to be able to take more advantage of using it!

  7. Wow that's awesome! Congrats! You are on a roll!

    1. Thank you so much, Amanda! HUGE CONGRATS to you too on your new marathon PR at Grand Rapids!!! Can't wait to read your recap!!!

  8. I am so proud of you! You rocked this race and finished STRONG! So happy I could do it with you! This is such a fun tradition, hee hee :)

    And I totally LOL'd at that pic of you and the other girl with her hands up. Ha! Your pics turned out so great! Do you think you will order any? :)

    Ahh, ACE. They just seem to be a bit unorganized, overall. I hope they keep improving this race each year! My neighbor really loved it. I think the scenery definitely helps! :)

    Congrats on your PR!

    1. Thank you so much, Kim! Thanks again for pacing me - I had a blast running with you. I can't wait to pick out what half marathon(s) we'll run together next year!!!

      I got a huge kick out of the picture with the girl behind me, too! I could totally imagine her listening to your advice in that scene. Sadly, I probably won't order any pics because they are so expensive - I'll just enjoy the screenshots. =D

      I am so happy for Jennifer's great performance at Prairie State! She tore it up for a first half marathon! Yes on ACE being a little disorganized - but at least their race fee was affordable!!!