Amita Health/Fit America Half Marathon Race Recap

WHEN:  SATURDAY, 7/21/2018 – 7:30am

WHERE:  HOFFMAN ESTATES, IL

DISTANCE:  HALF MARATHON – 13.1 MILES

RESULTS:  1:38:53 – 53rd OVERALL, 7th in Age Group M 50-54

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I signed up for this race last week in hopes of improving my corral seeding at the 2018 Chicago Marathon (CM) this coming fall.  Otherwise, I avoid summer half marathons like the plague!  Too hot, muggy and miserable!  But I was on a mission.

Although I have legacy status for the CM which guarantees my entry, I ended up getting into the race based on a qualifying time from the 2016 CM race.  At the CM, they seed you into corrals, which are now separated into three waves.  Being in the first wave is pretty awesome, as you are with the faster runners who finish under 3 hours and 45 minutes, and generally with those that will be running the same pace as you.  In 2016 I was seeded in the B corral, which was like being an elite for me.  When the word got out that we had been assigned corrals for this years race, I found that I had been moved to the E corral.  Talk about a blow to my ego!  Still in the first wave though, which is really the goal.  Being in the first wave is preferred because there will be less people, less congestion, and no fear of the supplies of water, or Gatorade, or gels, or whatever running out.  But even so, my qualifying time of 3:25:08 should have put me in the D corral to begin with by their own time standards.

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2018 Chicago Marathon Corral Time Standards

I sent an email requesting to be moved to the D corral, and it was approved.  But I thought I would give it a shot at trying to get into the C corral, which would require me to run either a <3:20:01 marathon, or a <1:35:01 half marathon.  Since there’s no way I’m attempting to run a marathon in July, I found this local half marathon race in relatively nearby Hoffman Estates, Illinois.

 

Amita Health/Fit America Half Marathon Race Recap

PRERACE

Of course it was raining.  Since running the in pouring rain at the Boston Marathon in April, it seems like every race I sign up for is going to have rain.  I even skipped a triathlon in June because of the storms that morning.  But today it wasn’t too bad, just misty, and that only lasted for about 30 minutes.

I took my spot in the start corral area and found my pacer.  This guy and everyone around him all looked young, tall and thin and more than capable of being sub 1:35.  I tapped his shoulder and asked him what the 6.55 mile (halfway) split would be, just to see if he did his homework.  He did the math right there and I was satisfied.  He also had a pace chart on his wrist.  He did ask me if that was what I was intending to run, with sort of doubt in his expression, which always makes me chuckle when people doubt me.  I may look old, fat and slow, but there is nothing more pleasing than surprising them with my effort.  I said I was shooting for the stars today, hoping I would be able to hang until at least halfway.

Someone with a mic started a countdown:  10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3… and on 3 the guy with the airhorn started blaring the thing.  We all laughed and off we went.

(Note:  I’m a newer user of Strava and I find the data and info from it interesting.  I added screenshots of each mile split for reference and to help me recall things that happened during the race.)

MILE 1 – (7:13 Split) – I was afraid that 7:15 per mile was going to feel like 5K race pace to me, because I don’t normally train at that pace (usually I’m running 8:40 or so in training!), but our pack settled in behind our pacer.  I actually felt pretty good.

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MILE 2 – (7:12 Split) – By this mile my heart rate was in Z4 and I started to feel the intensity of the pace.  But still I felt good, hanging with the group and feeling and looking like I belonged.

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MILE 3 – (7:09 Split) – This split time is a little surprising, because Mr. Pacer was pretty spot on with his pace.  There was only a handful of times when the group slowed going uphill, but we all picked it back up to 7:15 pretty easily.  There were warnings of puddles to avoid, and I mentioned to the girl running next to me that Boston was all puddles, and she said she had run it too!  Conversations were happening in the group and I sensed the group was feeling good.

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MILE 4 – (7:16 Split) – This is where it all fell apart for me.  I hit a wall and I hit it hard!  Who hits the proverbial wall 4 miles into a half marathon?!  Me, that’s who.  I think the problem was I grabbed an energy gel at 30 minutes and started ingesting it.  Between that and a water stop, my heart rate soared and I could feel myself starting to struggle.  We were also starting to hit more of the hillier sections of the first half, and that was adding to my issue.  The group wasn’t too far ahead, but I didn’t think I could keep pace any longer.  I figured that the halfway point might be where I would falter.  I was a little surprised that it was hitting me now.

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MILE 5 – (7:22 Split) – Okay, a little relief from the energy gel.  It usually takes about 5-10 minutes to get absorbed and it was starting to give me a boost.  I worked on trying to pull myself back up to the group.  We hit a turn around at this point and Mr. Pacer offered a thumbs up.  But the hills were starting to take their toll on me.

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MILE 6 – (7:33 Split) – Running alone again.  Every race, every time.  This middle mile of the race is like all middle miles of most any race.  It’s the point where I find myself running alone.  Although it was becoming splintered a little, the 7:15 pace group was a good football field or two ahead of me now, and there was no sign of anyone behind me.  This happens all the time to me.  The official timer had a split mat at 10K and I hit it at 45:51, which was still looking pretty good for me, but I had another half of the race to go.

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MILE 7 – (7:44 Split) – I don’t remember much about this mile other than it was the straightest of the miles.  Just doing the work at my new, more comfortable pace.

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MILE 8 – (7:47 Split) – This is the mile I had originally planned to start a finishing push.  You can see by the slower split time that it didn’t happen.  Interesting mile though.  I started eating my last energy gel, just kind of taking a small amount each time.  I wanted to make sure it lasted a little longer.

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MILE 9 – (7:37 Split) – I was starting to feel energized again.  A young college kid passed me wearing a UW Stevens Point shirt and he had the look of a classic cross country runner.  Tall, thin and running easily.  I figured he must be just pacing through a training day and not racing at all, because there was no way I should have been leading that kid through 8 miles.  But I was wrong.  I saw him and his mother at the finish and I asked him if he was just taking it easy, and he claimed it was his first half marathon and he didn’t run at UWSP.  Shame.  He definitely looked like he should have been in the top 10 today.  Looks can be deceiving.

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MILE 10 – (7:59 Split) – As I passed the 9 mile mark I noticed the ball of my foot was getting sore, and I guessed that I was starting to get a blister.  That was a little surprising, because I had lubed up my feet pretty good with Body Glide.  My feet were soaked however.  This was my slowest split and I’m not sure why.  There was a turn around, but I didn’t mess around there.  With only 5K to go at the 10 mile mark, I started to push again.  I was slowly starting to catch people.  I think I overtook 3 other runners in this mile.

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MILE 11 – (7:43 Split) – I wanted to keep pushing but the path started getting hilly and curvy again.  Hoping to push a little more but save enough for a strong last mile kick.  Definitely could feel that blister forming on my right foot.

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MILE 12 – (7:41 Split) – Just after passing the 11 mile marker you come to a turn where there is a water station, but I almost made a wrong turn there.  That’s the fear for me when I get stuck in no-man’s land.  Fortunately I chose correctly, grabbed some water and kept going.

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MILE 13 and End – (7:29 Split) – I finally got out of the forest preserve and back on the road heading back to the finish.  I had been looking over my shoulder and could see a guy in a blue singlet pulling me in.  I’m pretty sure he was in the early 7:15 pace group with me.  He caught me with a little less than a half mile to go.  I latched on and we paced together until we were handed American flags about 200 meters from the finish.  I was with him at that point and encouraged him to push.  He did and was able to beat me to the line.  I crossed the line waving that flag, relieved to be under 1:40 and to be done.  He congratulated me on a good finish, and I him.

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Overall I was pretty happy with my sub 1:40 time of 1:38:53.  I was hoping for that sub 1:35, and I was optimistic about it for the most part, but I really would have needed a perfect day and course to get that.  Corral D, here I come!

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My Garmin HR Zones for the race.  Z4 is hard, but over the years I have found how to exist there in races.  I never spend 95% of my time in Z4 in training.  More like 0%.

 

COURSE INFO

hoffmanestates_ffasf_halfmap – PDF of course map

The course was more challenging than I expected.  It had about 650 feet of elevation gain which is notable.  Rolling hills, but nothing too terrible.  The course is all paved, some on road but most on bike trail.  There were five switchbacks and a lot of turns.  I would rate it challenging, but still capable of producing a good finish time.  The race organization was outstanding.  The volunteers were plentiful and were awesome.  The medal seemed a little cheaper than other races I have been at that this race organization hosts, but I still liked it.  I signed up late and paid about $70.  I highly recommend this race and most races hosted by All Community Events.

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Most ‘Murica thing I’ve done ever!

 

RACE RESULTS LINK

All Community Events 13.1 Race Results – Overall Results

Fit America – My Results

 

 

 

2016 Frankfort Half Marathon Race Report

4/30/2016

I’m not even the fastest Old Guy!

I ran the Frankfort, Illinois Half Marathon today and found myself really questioning my sanity. First of all, I am in the middle of training for Ironman Lake Placid, and I usually avoid racing any distance road race to avoid doing something stupid and end up injured. But my training plan tapered this week with the instruction to do an Olympic distance triathlon on Sunday. Seeing that it is April in Illinois, good luck finding one. So I substituted the half marathon on a Saturday to end the week.

Second, this race seems doomed weather-wise. It was 40 degrees and pouring last year (I didn’t run it last year), and this year was predicted to be more of the same. I have never not started a race that I signed up for (and paid good money), and I really didn’t like thinking that I was going to blow it off. Fortunately, the rain held off at the start and I took my spot in Corral A. I found it slightly humorous that I was seeded in the first corral of this little local race.

So the gun went off and I found myself running along the guy holding the 1:30 pace group sign, a sign basically made from a dowel rod, two paper plates, and plenty of clear tape. We chatted for a while, but I knew that I would probably be better off not trying to stay with him. We passed the first mile and he said our split was 6:51! Okay, definitely need to back off the gas a little. I mentioned to him that I was surprised the big guy in green was ahead of us, holding that sub-7 minute per mile pace, but that guy started to slowly pull away. Pacer Guy said he had to pick it up in order to stay on pace. I found this particularly funny, because he basically had no one with him to pace! Maybe he grew tired of me, I don’t know. I do know the 2 hour pacer guy came in a little late and the guy with the microphone was razzing him a little. Maybe 1:30 pacer guy didn’t want to suffer the same indignity! Pacer Guy didn’t have a bib, and wasn’t racing because I asked him. So I let both the Pacer Guy and Green Shirt Guy go and I fell into a more comfortable pace, because I knew what was coming.

After a few minutes I found myself running alone. The Pacer Guy and Green Shirt Guy were at least 100 yards ahead, and there was no one immediately behind me either. I find myself in this situation all the time and it puzzles me. I guess it is a matter of perspective, but I can either say I am the slowest of the faster group or the fastest of the slow group. Maybe mid-packer is what I truly am. But it is tough to be in the mid-pack WHEN YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE! Trivial, I guess. The loneliness of a long distance runner.

I also realized at this point of the race, I was slightly overdressed. I took off the ear wrap and gloves and could feel myself cooling down. I thought about tossing the long sleeve shirt but kept it, because I remembered during my warm up that the wind would be blowing in my face on this out and back run. Glad I kept it on.

Standing in the elite (!) Corral A, I took notice of the competition. There was the typical thin twenty year olds who look like they just finished their college running careers, the backward hat guy, a couple of girls who I could tell had “game”, the guy with some race team singlet, and another guy who clearly didn’t belong in Corral A because his number was 438 or something, and we were all wearing very low numbers. Plus, he kept asking questions about the course. We racers in Corral A never come to Corral A without knowing the course and how to attack it! SMH, dude.

But the most interesting aspect of my fellow competitors in Corral A was that many seemed to be in my age group by the look of their greying hair and fuddy-duddy race outfits. I had looked at last year’s results and figured if I had a good day, I might win an age-group award, but looking at these guys I wasn’t so sure. They had the look of confidence, and well the look of fast, old guys.

Back to the action – At about four miles into the race, we turned off the mostly flat bike trail and headed into the nature preserve. Since I live in this area, I consider this area my home turf. I know every little hill, bump, crack, twist and turn as I have run this trail nearly every run since it opened in 2001 or so. I knew what was coming, about six miles of very difficult hilly terrain. So I paced myself up the hills and flew down the other side, over and over again. At about Mile 5, a group of volunteers were passing out water so I took a cup to wash down the gel I just ate. As I was doing that, the volunteer said “You’re looking good!” I replied, “Lady, I’m not even the fastest old guy!”

And that was true. I hadn’t caught any of the old dudes that had started with me in the race. I had a good idea of where I stood, about 14th overall, when I had the opportunity to count the lead out pack earlier in the race. At the halfway point, I had only been passed by two runners – the two girls with game – and that was it. I also saw Race Team Singlet Guy walking on the side of the trail after getting through Round 1 of the hills. As I hit the turn-around and started back into the fury of hills, I could see that he dropped out. Yes! I made up a position! But I could also see how far the Fast Old Guys were ahead of me. Way ahead of me.

Back into the hills and that’s when the rest of the racers got a view of the awesomeness of the Corral A starters! Out and backs are interesting, as you get to see the lead runners and how far ahead of you they are. I got a little depressed when I saw the leaders already heading back while I still had a half mile to the turn-around. I wonder if the back of the pack runners get that too. They and I shouldn’t, we’re awesome too!

The trail got pretty crowded and I was no longer able to take the straightest line and run the tangents. But I got plenty of “great job’s!” and I returned the complement. I have been running since the late 1980’s, and truthfully I think this is the biggest running boom that I have seen in a long time. Glad to see so many others taking up the sport, especially the longer distance stuff. The lone runner that I actually know personally, Holly, saw me and we exchanged hello’s!

At Mile 9 I caught Green Shirt Guy, and as we continued leaving the hills behind us, he didn’t seem to want to keep up. But I didn’t get to enjoy passing him for too long, because within a mile I got passed by White Shirt Guy. I had dismissed White Shirt Guy earlier because he didn’t look the part of my other Corral A competitors. We were wearing real running shorts and looking every bit the part of running legends, and this guy had a pair of baggy shorts pulled over some tights. And he was wearing earphones! I got to say, I see people wearing head and earphones in races all the time. I never take them seriously because I think its a crutch for them, like they can’t do such a boring activity without music! And if they can’t run without music, my thinking is that they probably aren’t doing intervals and hill repeats either. But maybe I misjudged White Shirt Guy and his earphones.

White Shirt Guy passed me quickly as I was trying to down my second and last gel, but he was panting pretty hard and I felt like I was floating along. My immediate thought was that he is kicking way too early. I grabbed a water from another volunteer and said something that I would quickly regret: “That guy sounds like he’s suffering.” He wasn’t.

We turned on to the path and briefly headed west until a quick turn around and then it’s a 5K or so straight back to the finish. It was then when I saw the pack starting to form behind me, and the lead that White Shirt Guy was building. I figured I better keep pace with White Shirt Guy, and focus on the race ahead instead of what was behind.

The wind was now blowing straight into our faces. It wasn’t that strong, but it was cold and it made me duck my head a little. It had also started to sprinkle just a little. As I crossed Wolf Road one of the ESDA volunteers shouted my name. It was a kid that I had coached and had on my baseball team when he was about 11 or 12. I tell you that really gave me a pick-up! I actually had a little adrenaline flow through me from that. Glad I made an impression on the kid. And I am thankful that he was impressed.

I kept the pace until Mile 11 and started to draw White Shirt Guy in slowly. I could see the big bridge that goes over Route 45 ahead at about 12.5 miles and knew I would pace up it and try to fly down it. I made up some space on him and it was then that I knew I probably had him. As we came upon the 13 Mile marker, he took a quick look over his left shoulder, but I don’t think he saw me as I was running far right. I made my move and passed him quickly. I don’t think he even heard me, because he didn’t make any sort of effort to match my effort. Another reason not to wear earphones in a race! I heard him struggling and finally give an exasperated sigh, and I kicked to the finish line with what I had left. He kicked too damn early. And he wore earphones. I don’t get beat by runners wearing earphones.

I walked to the car and grabbed my sweatshirt and sweatpants to keep warm and then I walked back to the finish and watched quite a few runners finish. The race directors Jim and Bev own the little running store near the finish line. My son worked for them last summer. I spoke with Jim and he reiterated how great of a kid he was. Even though he has told me that once before, I still beam with pride. (Note to my son – use Jim as a reference on your resume!)

Bev walked up and had the current list of finishers and she let me have a look. There it was: 12th place overall. 4th in the 50-54 age group. I finished in the top twelve and didn’t even medal.

I’m not even the fastest Old Guy.