Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Race Report: Illinois Half Marathon (warning...long-winded)
The Illinois Marathon/Half Marathon takes place each year down in Champaign-Urbana, home of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (UIUC), my alma mater. The race is in its 5th year and it already seems pretty popular in the community. People were out along the course cheering, businesses had signs up (both on and off the course, for the record) and the general atmosphere was one of support for all runners—the speedy ones and the “penguins.” BB dropped me off close to the start line, and by close I mean, I walked less than half a block and was at my corral. ?!?! Never experienced that before! I immediately thought “I may never race in Chicago again.” I’ll spare the description of race day in Chicago…I’m sure I’ve talked about it in past race reports. Before parting ways he reminded me for the 100th time—because I needed reminding for the 100th time--“No negative self talk. All positive.” “Yes.” (He knows me.) So anyway, I waited around, trying to decide if the regurgitation of Boston this, Boston that bothered me or not. Speaking of that, I noticed a bit more security, cops milling about looking serious. Eventually my girl HD, also UIUC alum found me and we chatted until the race began. The Marching Illini played…somebody sang. Somebody said “OskeeWowWow” and I tuned out because I’ve never been a fan of the whole “Chief” mascot shenanigans. HD and I talked and talked until our corral, the last one, was ready to go. I barely noticed we’d been inching up to the start line, so I had to quickly start my Garmin. As the run began we continued to chat during the first few minutes. It was HD’s first half marathon ever (and one I’d talked her into doing last fall.) I told her I was doing a run/walk 5:2 ratio, and would try to catch up with her later, even thought I really didn't think I would. So 5 minutes in, I walked. It felt weird to walk when I didn’t necessarily need to, and I wondered if I would hate my watch by the end of the race, but I did it for the sake of the future me at Mile 10 who would curse the undertrained past me. Around the first mile I turned on to Green Street. “You’re fine. You got this.” I noticed a rather old gentleman…smelled him first. He was running in cotton shorts (like regular shorts) and a t-shirt…but in some old dress shoes. At first I was all like WTH, but then I thought…this dude is out here running, who am I to judge what he’s wearing? During the stretch heading east I bumped up against him (ran ahead/fell behind) due to my run/walk. (Especially who am I to judge when this dude at least 30 years older than me was at the same pace as me.) Maybe about 2.5 miles in, I noticed myself feeling winded at around 4:30 for each of my 5:00 run stints, so without much thinking I simply decided to change my run/walk ration to a 4:2. Whatever…one foot in front of the other, right? This WAS NOT a race about time today. The miles started to go by and I felt decent. This run/walk think ain’t half bad. Shortly after the 5 mile mark I got a text. Because I was walking at the time, I looked and it was BB wondering where I was. Traffic around the course was not easy to navigate, apparently. Halfway to Mile 6 I saw him pull up, so I grabbed some of my favorite Gatorade, chatted for two seconds, then off I went. I started to get a little tired after about 6.5, so I turned one of my walks into a fairly long walk break. Not sure how long, but “up ahead at that turn” was longer in distance than it initially seemed. Whatevs. This part of the course was ok. I could tell that there had been more people out earlier in driveways with the discarded signs and lawn chairs still out, but only a few remained. I said thank you to everyone within earshot, and refused to leave any kid hanging that had his hand held out to give runners a high-five! Soon we were upon Meadowbrook Park, and after a quick 2nd sip of Gatorade from BB, I wound through this lovely park. I was a little teeny bit sore at this point, my knee was feeling funny. Not horrible, just like a “hello, I’m your right knee. Just wondering if you knew that you are pounding me into cement and asphalt? Ok, you do? Ok…well carry on then.” At the southern end of the park there is a cool woman statue and somebody…race organizers or humorous vagrants…had wrapped her in a mylar marathon finisher blanket. Made me smile. I love runners—we’re a special kind of dork. I took a few more extended walking breaks of 3 minutes each or so, and up ahead I saw HD walking. Came upon her and she told me that her Achilles and IT band were hurting…such runner terms for such a newbie runner! Impressed!! So I asked her if she wanted to run/walk it in with me, and we could go at whatever she felt comfortable with. Eventually we settled into what amounted to about a 3:2 ratio, although sometimes I let it go longer on either end. Whatever…just moving forward was the modus operandi. The aid station right at Mile 10 was the best by far. Zombies at the “zombie station” handed water and Gatorade out with bloody faces, half eaten flesh and tattered clothing. Do they do this every year? Do they come up with something different and equally creative each year? Don’t know, but it was a nice diversion at that point in a half marathon distance when you sometimes start to question “Wait…WHY am I running this again? And we PAY to do this?” We kept going and came across Mile 11. BB was here yet again, cheering me on. Sigh. Told him I’d see him at the finish. And after heading off again, just for a brief moment—and this doesn’t count as negative self talk because I wasn’t beating myself up—but just for a moment I threw a mini silent temper tantrum. “OH WTH I don’t wanna run 2 more miles! No!!!” but then I got a hold of myself and said “It’s two goddam miles, STFU, you can do that even if you crawled.” That silenced the thrashing and flailing of limbs during my silent, internal temper tantrum. The frat house blasting Gangam Style also helped silence the inner monster, too. Back on the campus now, there was more to look at. More to reminisce on. Suddenly we were at Mile 12. Passing by the Education Building where I took Educational Psychology and loved every minute of it, and emptied trash cans during my 3am to 7am shift for the physical plant that paid a whopping $8/hour. That was some serious loot back in 1990. I’m just sayin. Next came one of the College of Business buildings where I took Econ 101 and 172 and knew I’d never ever really have a shot at being a numbers girl. There’s the Armory and why are those ROTC sailors ringing that damn bell so loudly???????? Crossing over 4th street, we reach the Champaign dorms, where I lived in not 1, not 2 but FOUR different dorms as well as an apartment building across the street. Scott, Van Doren, Garner and Clark to be exact—yes, Clark was a dorm at one point. I moved a lot, like once a semester, practically. Nostalgia took over and graced my every step. Next thing I know we’re finishing our last walking break and running down the side of Memorial Stadium, where football dreams come to die. (I kid, I kid! Please don’t be mad at me, my heart always lives with the Orange and Blue.) Anyhoo, I crossed the finish line on the field, which I doubt is EVER something that would get old, got my medal and nixed post-race snacks because I didn’t really feel like climbing stadium stairs at the moment. (UGH.) Besides, BB, the blessed saint, had my favorite post-race snack: CHOCOLATE MILK!!!!!!! (Not that I knew he would, but I didn’t mind so much having missed the post-race vittles once he handed me that.) All-in-all, I thoroughly enjoyed this race and will definitely do this one again. Told BB I could see doing this race every year. The organizers put on a well-organized race, and it’s not too crowded but yet not so slim in numbers that I’m the very last slow runner out there. Getting to the race was easy like Sunday morning (only it was Saturday.)The course is nice and I suspect as the race becomes a mainstay in the community, it will only attract more supporters. The course traverses through a nice balance of campus, residential and parks that is refreshing. Just when you’re tired of the scenery, it changes. Plus, they don’t gouge you in race fees. I don’t recall ever having graded a race before, but I’d give this one an “A” in my book. Last but not least, my run/walk mile splits are as follows…I just looked these up and while I guess this is fairly obvious, I really dig how my race reports in text are clearly reflected/verified in the mile splits as well. They ain’t pretty, but at the end they result in the completion of my 10th half marathon: Mile 1-11:55 Mile 2-12:39 Mile 3-13:39 Mile 4-13:27 Mile 5-13:30 Mile 6-14:55 Mile 7-14:59 Mile 8-13:43 Mile 9-14:03 Mile 10-16:40 Mile 11-14:46 Mile 12-15:27 Mile 13-15:44 .1-10:30 Total 3:06:39. 14:14 pace. Nowhere NEAR my PR from last September (10:49 pace) and Nowhere near my worst half marathon time ever, when I walked 9 of the 13 miles. Now On to appropriate training (like more than 28 days for a half marathon) and my next race. I’ll be back in running shape soon.