Topeka to Auburn Half Marathon: Recap

“Race” number one is in the bag. It went both as planned and not as planned, and somehow was both a delightful amount of fun and no fun at all.

Huh.

I rose with LilRunr, who went to bed crabby, sniffly, and tired and woke up crabby, sniffly, and tired. The original plan was to drop the boy off with his grandma in Carbondale on our way to the race, but both of his paranoid parents felt that a fun (and nap-less) morning at grandma’s house was a recipe to push the boy from “mild cold” to “full blown sickness.” I know, I know. I already said we were paranoid. It was decided that the men would stay at home while mommy ventured out into the cold to run solo.

Off I went, chowing down on a banana, peanut butter crackers, and shot bloks as I went. By the way — it feels like Auburn is WAAAAYYYY out in the middle of nowhere, but I eventually found the town, the parking area, and the bus that would take me to the starting line. That’s one thing you have to plan for with a point-to-point course…a way to either get to the starting line or find a way back to your car. Since my original mode of transportation was at home perpetually cleaning snot off of a baby’s face, I opted for the transportation arranged by the race directors: parking at the finish and taking a school bus to the start.

30 minutes and one detour through a pasture later, I arrived at Fairlawn Plaza in Topeka. I picked up my packet and arranged for the bag o’ stuff to be transported BACK to the finish line. The swag for this race included a VERY purple, very oversized sweatshirt, some interesting socks, and a $10 coupon to use on a pair of shoes at Garry Gribble’s…handy, now that I’ve already bought my next pair of shoes. Phooey.

The race started on time, and in a matter of minutes I had no idea where I was. This is typical Megan — I dated and eventually married a boy from Carbondale, who has family living in Topeka. I have been to this town NUMEROUS times. The start of the race? Fairlawn Plaza? I’ve shopped there. I’ve had my hair done there. And yet, mere seconds after starting this race, I would be completely lost if it wasn’t for the crowd of several hundred people showing me the way.

This is the part where I was going to go split-by-split through the race, but I think I’ll skip it this time. My GPS was a little off of their mile markers, so I’m not really sure what to believe. Either way, I didn’t EXACTLY run a half marathon on Saturday. Nope. The GPS says I ran 13.49 miles and the race directors (who had to shift the finish line last minute) say that I ran 13.25 miles. Since this was an “if you wear headphones we reserve the right to pull you off the course” race, I couldn’t use the remote to start and stop Runmeter. That means that my “start” was a couple of blocks back from the actual starting line and a half a block or so past it. So…maybe the GPS is close-ish.

Here’s the overview: I went out too fast. The first couple of miles are largely downhill, so combine that with the crowd and you end up with something closer to 8:00 than 8:40. Oops. At mile three, I met the first real “hill” of the course. At mile six, I met the NAMED HILL of the course…which is to say, THE hill. The beast. Something both long and steep. Something that looks a lot like this, so long as you can imagine the hill CONTINUING after this picture:

Urish Hill...the course stretches back as far as the eye can see. (www.seekcrun.com)

Pretty beefy, right? They say this course is hilly, and they’re right. After the monster at mile 7, there’s a lot of downhill to lull a person into complacency. The last three miles, of course, revert back to being mostly uphill.

Oh, and this is me at Urish Hill:

Wow, do you look chipper. Suspiciously chipper. Weirdo. (www.seekcrun.com)

Let’s just say I was still feeling pretty good at this point. I spent most of the race trying to slow down. At mile 4, I thought, “hey, if I stick with an 8:10 average, that’s going to be sub-1:50:00!” Ugh. MEGAN! Nine miles to go, woman. Stay. Right. Here.

It became a mantra: stay right here. Maintain, maintain, maintain. Don’t do anything crazy. If you feel like this at mile 10, I’ll let you go.

Around mile 9, I started to get tired. My breathing was more or less fine, but my legs were really starting to feel heavy and the hip I have problems with was beginning to grumble. I walked at the mile 10 aid station to drink an entire glass of water, but all that really did was make me start feeling the cold. When the last mile proved to be more “up” than “down,” I had a moment where I decided that I hated running, this was a stupid idea, and the race was never going to end. Not one of my finer moments. Where you at now, little Miss Sunshine?

At this moment, I saw my friend Pete (who had finished the race about 15 minutes before) running back up the course. He helped me through the last half of mile 13 and through the final two hills. Now, all I had to do was run around a city block and down to the finish line. The photo, which captures me simultaneously attempting to rip off the bottom portion of my bib number and turn off the stopwatch on my iPhone, also does a tremendous job of capturing my general state of mind at this point:

Yikes.

Oh, finish line photos. Always so terrible. Also, my “official” time was 1:52:37…even though it doesn’t look like I’m 7 seconds past the finish line when the photo was taken. Weird.

It was also weird how extremely aggravated I was following this race. I think the main factor was the c-c-c-old. Runner Megan enjoys a nice sub-20 degree day…Civilian Megan does not. Civilian Megan also doesn’t enjoy traipsing a half mile to get to the Elementary school, where her sweats have been taken. Then, I had to assure Scott that I didn’t die because my poor, numb fingers had failed to hit “done” to broadcast my half marathon finish, at which point Scott explained to me that I had messed up the Twitter feed and it kept saying my split was “26:49” each and every mile. Huh. I don’t know how to explain that, but it was aggravating! Then, my stomach remembered that it’s usually upset during/following one of these events, so I got to spend some time tracking down an unlocked bathroom in the school. (Note to race organizers: ONE unlocked bathroom? With two stalls? And several hundred female runners and spectators?)

Let’s just say that Scott was very confused how running a half marathon PR (on a course that was a trifle long) could turn his wife into a steaming pile of rage.

It was weird. I think I sort of expected some kind of shining movie-worthy moment, where I surprised everyone by winning an age group award and breaking 1:45:00. Ah, well. I got over it when I regained feeling in my fingers and toes. Because you know what? My fastest half marathon BEFORE this was 1:57:06. I PR’d by nearly 5 minutes, on 4 days of running a week, 10 months after giving birth. That’s nothing to be aggravated about!

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