A picture perfect day for running led to a great performance by almost everyone on my team, including myself. I’ll break the news early, now middle of the morning text messages here: I set a new PR, but about a minute and a half. Finally, after 3 years of trying I had a record setting half-marathon race! I almost didn’t go down but I am glad I did. My time for the 13.1 mile distance was 1:33:22 or 7:08 pace, good enough for 65th overall and 7th in my age group. All of this took place at the Rochester Half Marathon, in Rochester MN (home of the Mayo Clinic).
Now for all (that I can remember) the details.
Pre-Race I had been up late the 2 nights prior thanks to something called the Olympics, so having to wake up at 4:30am wasn’t easy. We were carpooling down so I couldn’t be too late. We arrived in plenty of time and actually by being so early we were able to get registered and use the restrooms before the large crowd came rushing in. Four of us rode down together and only one had pre-registered. They didn’t have any t-shirts for race day registrants, but the total fee was only $20 so that is a pretty sweet deal. We lounged around at the Holiday Inn Express which hosted the race and waited for the other cars to arrive before warming up. The temperature was maybe 60 degrees at the start with no clouds in the sky and no noticable wind at the start.
Race Time We lined up in the middle of Broadway Ave in downtown Rochester. I started a little farther forward than I should have, but I also know that sometimes in these smaller races (only 602 finished) that if you get to far back you’ll get stuck in the opening miles. I also kept telling myself to take it easy at the start and go out slow. After the race announcements off we went. We turned down 4th Ave and then turned again into a residential area before hitting the first mile mark. I felt comfortable and relaxed even as I tried to stay at the back of a small back, then I realized a teammate, Chris Taylor, was running in the pack and his goal was several minutes faster than mine. So I let the pack go. We hit the first mile mark in 4:41. Oh wait that was a marathon later in the evening. Seriously though I hit the first mile in 6:48. A little faster than I had hoped but nothing to panic about. My goal is to break 1:30 which is 6:54 pace. We continued through the residential area and jumped onto the Bear Creek Trail, a paved bike path which aptly runs along Bear Creek. The trail meanders along the river bank at this point in an open park but soon gets into a great woodsy area. This shade helps keep the pace moving and I went through mile 2 in 6:53. Still feeling pretty good I wasn’t worried about the pace. As we continued to twist through the woods we came to the first water stop around 2.5 miles. A local Boy Scout Troop did an excellent job with the water and Gatorade. They had a ton of cups lined up on the ground which would have made a great picture! As we came into the water stop I was at the back of a pack of 6 people, after the stop I was at the front of the pack. As we continued to meander I made sure to cut the straightest line possible between the turns so as not to add any distance to the run that didn’t need to be there. We continued on the trail through mile 3 in 6:54. Our first 5K was in 21:33. My plan for the marathon is to take at least on Clif Shot Blok every 5K so I did that during this race as well.
In the 4th mile we sadly (?) left the bike path and turned onto Pinewood Rd, a large country road. I said sadly, because the road had very little shade on it. There was also very little traffic which was nice, especially considering the fact that we weaved across the road several times. It seemed everyone was doing this as they were trying to “cut the tangents” but it was a little ridiculous. I lost track of how many times we actually criss-crossed the road. I doubt we saved much time and we came through mile 4 in 6:59. Along this long mostly straight stretch I was passed by several runners who were obviously starting out slow and picking people off. It also started to feel a little lonely as I was kind of stuck between two groups of runners. The sun was also starting to warm up, though it never really felt hot. I came through mile 5 in 6:59. The 5 mile mark was at the beginning of the next water stop so I almost missed it. The group was doing a great job of passing out water and Gatorade and I continued moving along. This was a pretty lonely stretch of road that was marked by a local radio station’s van blaring both country and rock songs and a lone porta-potty under a highway overpass. Around the porta-pot I started hearing footsteps and a guy caught up to me, we didn’t really chat – but did talk back and forth a little bit. We were a little suprised we hadn’t seen the leaders yet, but soon enough they started coming back to us. Right before mile 6 we turned onto a gravel road and started really enjoying the better parts of rural America (read: sweet smells of home – or pig farms!). The mile marker was on the wrong side of the road and I almost missed it and hit the lap button a few seconds after we passed it. Mile 6: 7:14. I ran with this black shirted guy for a little while longer, but he kept a strong pace and I let him go. I came through this 5K in 21:46 or 43:19 for the 10K.
The race continued on the dirt road and I was now seeing lots of runners who had turned around already. The turn around was marked by 3 orange cones and a guy saying something like, “slow down and turn around.” I came through the half-way point around 46:44. This also marked the highest point on the course, but it wasn’t all downhill from there. Now I was seeing large groups of people running towards me as I ran back out of the dirt road. Immediately after the turn around I was hit by a head-wind. Nothing too hard, but enough to be noticable in your race pace. I tried not to worry about it and to stay focused. Two other guys caught up to me and we ran together for awhile. I start to cramp a little bit in here. It felt like it went across my whole diaphram. I tried not to let it slow me down too much as we ran through mile 7 in 7:07. As soon as we turned back onto the paved road it seemed to go away – weird. Our small group continued running together, pushing each other along through mile 8 in 7:14. I think they guys were local because they were getting lots of cheers from the oncoming runners. We went through the 3rd water stop, this time I took some Gatorade and tried grabbing a water. The girl wasn’t looking at me and so we weren’t able to make the exchange, but that was fine. As we started heading West again the headwind picked back up and I tucked in behind guy #1 and guy #2 tucked in behind me. This proved quite fruitful, I know the more proper etiquette would have been to arrange some type of sharing agreement where we’d trade back and forth for the wind breaking duties, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it – so I said nothing. Meanwhile guy #1 broke wind in more than one sense of the word! Yes, he loudly farted not once, but 2x’s and they both reeked almost making puke. At the first whiff I quickly pulled out from behind him for a few strides then tucked back in. I guess in some ways, that is justice for drafting! We came through mile 9 in 7:02! This 5K was 22:08 while the overall 15K was 1:05:27.
We continued along Pinewood Rd, this time not switching sides of the road very many times. To point out how ridiculous it was, right before the turn back onto the bike trail a group in front of us crossed the road and almost immediately crossed back over to our side. A little silly. I some how missed the 10 mile mark, but according the the mile splits that Garmin is able to reproduce we came through the 10th mile in 6:57. Almost as soon as we turned back onto the bike trail and I no longer needed the wind blocked – but maybe also due to have just run 2 miles at sub-7 min pace I couldn’t stay with guy #1 or #2 anymore and off they went. Now I was alone again meandering through the woods. The winding trail also made it hard to see where people were in front of me to see how close I was. I occasionaly caught a glimpse of someone up there. At the final water stop I again took some Gatorade. I came through mile 11 in 14:26 WHAT??? Oh yea I missed mile 10! I felt pretty good that I just ran 2 miles under 7:15 pace – not so good according to Garmin because mile 11 was 7:31. I guess I fell off pace quite a bit after the guys left me. At this point it was more of the same from the start, except now in reverse. I don’t think anyone passed me, nor did I pass anyone during this stretch. I tried to dig deep for motivation, not really sure where I was at overall pace-wise (I could have just looked at my Garmin and realized where I was, duh!). I came through mile 12 in 7:41. This 5K was 23:08 and through 20K in 1:28:36.
Ok, only a mile to go, suck it up. You can do this. We stayed on the bike trail instead of going back on the streets through the residential area. This made for a few short ups and downs as we went from river level to street level a couple of times – nothing major at all but I felt them a little bit. I got passed by a group of 3-5 runners which was a little frustrating, especially since I didn’t have enough energy to even try to go with them. I did pass a guy who was stretching out his leg on the side of the trail. I felt like I was picking up the pace, but in reality, I was probably just maintaing it. I was finally able to see the finish area! Wait, I started hearing footsteps. This was the motivation I needed and I picked up the pace a little bit. We came up to the street level and crossed a bridge – there was the crowd and lots of balloons. I hit mile 13 in 7:33. A quick turn and a wide turn and there was the clock. It said 1:31 something, I got excited and took off. When I crossed it said 1:32:24, then I looked at my watch and saw 1:33:22. A little disappointed but knowing either way it was a PR I was excited. It turns out the clock had stopped earlier and they must have reset it wrong. My Garmin time ended up being the same as my official chip time (full results).
Post Race As I caught my breath – got the chip removed – and received my finisher’s medal I made my way towards the food and drink. I took a Gatorade, Water, Orange, and Banana. I would have taken some of the rolls, but my hands were already full. I caught up with some of my teammates and we chatted and waited for everyone else to come in. After eating some of the food and stretching I hit up the Kemps Ice Cream truck. Nothing like a free Orange Cream Bar to help with recovery! We waited and waited quite awhile for the awards ceremony as several of my teammates got awards. I also finally met Chad Austin having read his blog for awhile.
Team Round-up: (If I screw this up guys, just remember I’m the New Guy)
- Kirk Walztoni – 1:15:45 3rd overall and 2nd in his age group plus a PR
- Paul Lamere – 1:27:06 1st in his age group
- Chris Taylor – 1:28:11
- Marty Humphrey – 1:34:31
- Anne Walztoni – 1:34:43 2nd in her age group (8th overall woman)
- Deb Humphrey – 1:36:44 3rd in her age group
- Carolyn Fletcher – 1:42:40 3rd in her age group
- Ann Choiroloff – 1:43:12
Race pictures are available here.