Monday, October 22, 2012

Race Report: Dayton River Corridor Classic Half Marathon

Back in July, a friend and I got a hare-brained idea to run a half marathon together. I had considered this before but always chickened out. To have a partner in crime was the push I needed. We registered and the training began. Wanting to train properly and remain uninjured, I followed Hal Higdon’s much-lauded half marathon training program. These programs are available for free online and I highly recommend them if you are a first-timer looking for guidance. He has two versions and I ended up combining both for my own custom plan. Novice 1 has you top out at 10 miles claiming adrenaline on race day will carry you those last 3.1 miles. Not wanting to risk it, I used the mileage from the Novice 2 plan, which takes your longest run up to 12 miles, and threw in strength and cross training for good measure. There were good runs and bad runs. Runs that gave me confidence and those that cast doubt. In the end,  I felt prepared and knew that at the very least I would finish. I tried not to go in with any designs on time accomplishments. Cross the finish line. That’s it. The rest is gravy.
I trained for 12 weeks and the day had finally arrived. The 36th Ohio River Corridor Classic Half Marathon was here. Although my friend was unable to run with me due to unforeseen job/training time constraints, John stepped up to the challenge. He had been training with me all along but going back and forth on actually racing. I told him to do what he wanted and that I was running the race for me, no matter what. He could run too, or he could come cheer me on. About a week prior, he registered. He had done all the runs, might as well toe the line. I knew all along he would end up running it too. You don’t devote that much time to something just to spectate.
The day before the race we went to pick up our shirts and bib numbers. Being a small, local race, there was no expo that you might typically find at a much larger, more well-attended race. That’s okay. At the running store, I also bought some Sport Beans. These would turn out to be a mistake but I didn’t realize it and broke one of the cardinal rules of racing: Never try anything new on race day. No new clothes, shoes, breakfast or fuel. Oops……
Two things I was looking forward to most about this race: finishing it and carb-loading. We went out for pasta the night before the race. I laid out all my gear so I didn’t have to scramble in the morning and loaded my race playlist on both my ipod and my old phone.

Then we turned in relatively early (for a Saturday night) but that was pointless. I was too keyed up and didn’t sleep very well anyway. My furry alarm clock woke me up before my actual alarm clock but I was up every hour the entire night. Nervous? Who me? YES! Very. I got up and let Sadie out, made coffee, got dressed and tried to choke down breakfast. I ate perhaps 60% of my peanut buttered bagel and knew that was all I could manage. This would also be a mistake since as we were lining up I turned to John and said, “I’m hungry.” Oh well.
The race started at the basketball arena on the University of Dayton’s campus. Two reasons this was awesome: AMPLE parking and actual bathrooms. No porta-potties and no lines. 
Running Skirt - The North Face, Wicking Top - Target, Shoes - Brooks Adrenaline

John and I took down some pre-race Gatorade and milled around until it was time to go. Nerves had not gone away by now either. I was jittery until the gun shot start. Right at 9:00 AM, all 630 of us took our first steps and were off!
As I’m imagining any race might be, the course was pretty congested in the beginning. There were no time corrals or even pace signs and everyone was kind of in a clump with only the fastest runners in front. I stuck with John for probably a quarter mile but only because he couldn’t weave through enough people to shoot ahead. He made his move and I didn’t see him again until the turn around later on in the course.
I had no idea how fast I was going. I passed some people, which felt good, but I also didn’t have a watch or GPS. There was no Mile 1 sign so by the time we hit Mile 2 I felt like we had been going awhile. So much so that I was confused by seeing that sign and thought, “I’ve gone 2 miles? Or this is the start of the second mile?” An old man running by me was also confused. He thought they mixed up the signs and said, “I hope I’m not running that slow.” “Me too!” I said. I lied when I said I had no time goals. I wanted to finish under 2:30. Later we would learn there was a mistake in the course route which accounted for this confusion.
The course dropped down to a bike path by the river and the field thinned out. There were times when the next closest person in front or behind me was at least 20 feet away. I guess that’s probably normal? Aid stations were plentiful and stocked with water and most had Gatorade. At mile 6 I ate 3 Sport Beans. They were watermelon flavored and were delicious. They also had caffeine. However, It was also about this time that my stomach didn’t feel great. I figured I’d taken too much liquid on and vowed to drink less at the stops. I also decided not to eat anymore beans. Lesson learned, Sport Beans with caffeine are not Ashley’s friend. Unfortunately, I probably could have used more calories. Oh well.
At this point we were running through a park and coming up to the turn around in the course. I kept my eye out for John and nearly stepped in a giant hole that likely would have ended the race for me. I’m clumsy enough on my own. Eyes forward! I saw John about mile 7 or so and that gave me a burst of energy for sure! He looked strong and I even sprinted to high five him. I had a big smile on my face after that for awhile. It should be noted that there is zero crowd support on this race. In a large race that takes place in a big metropolis, I’m sure there are more spectators. Here, there were a handful of people waiting for their runner and otherwise just standing there. A few volunteers were clapping and cheering but if I was hoping to get a burst of energy from the “crowd”, I was sorely mistaken. So, next time a runner says “hey – do you want to come cheer me on?” Please do it! Yes, you might be bored at times but it will help their morale and confidence tremendously.
OK – turned around and heading back to the finish at the point. The temps were in the low 60’s, overcast sky, no humidity. It was great. Until the winds kicked up…… It was around mile 8-9 that I walked for the first time. I had walked through each water stop but ran immediately after drinking. At this point, the course ran through a bit of construction and it had large rocks and rough terrain. Not wanting to fall, I walked through this section. (See above: clumsy.) It was also at this point, and for the remainder of the race, that we were running directly into 20-30 mph winds. Not an exaggeration. Any forward progress attempts were quickly smacked down by mother nature. It was pretty brutal and everyone around me was having trouble. The last 4 miles of the race for me were a walk/run effort. I did my best to keep running but perseverance is not always my strong suit. I knew I would finish but it would end up being a bit slower. The first half of the course for me was nicely paced. The last half was a teeth-gritting struggle.
Mile 11 – I got a rock in my shoe. How did this happen? I considered stopped to get rid of it but kept going instead. In fact, I forgot all about that rock until I got home. It’s possibly still in my shoe.

John finished well before I did (1:59!!) and was able to grab his phone to capture me heading towards the finish. I'm only smiling because I'm almost done!
And then I was at the finish line and crossed in 2:17!!!!!!!! I remembered to smile when I crossed because I knew they'd be taking my picture. The guy even thanked me for smiling. Well, wouldn't you know they had been taking pictures all along the last stretch when I was NOT smiling and didn't take a single one of my nice smile at the end. Pffft
But I collected my medal and found John, ecstatic. We did it! He had already eaten a piece of pizza at this point but I wasn't hungry at all. I wanted Gatorade and there was none. I settled for water and a banana. John then had pancakes and sausage too. What a machine! 
We hobbled to the car after a bit and drove 20 sweaty minutes home to discover those winds had knocked over our grill on the patio and blew chairs through our fence, breaking several slats. I told you they were no joke. Then it was time for some serious RICE  (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) and refueling. We treated ourselves to Chinese takeout and laid around the rest of the day. Sore and spent. I foam rolled, which helped but I should have taken an ice bath too. Next time.......
Oh, did I say next time? Yep, most definitely.

I mean, I've still never hit that elusive runner's high. Gotta keep trying, right?

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