Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Race Recap: Alpine Runners Half Marathon


Truth be told, I didn't know much about this race when I signed up. I was looking for a half that would fit into my training plan 4 weeks before the marathon. This one not only fit that requirement, but it was 10 minutes from my home. My friend Sara was running it too, and that was more incentive for me to sign up.

Pre-race optimism! And we were freezing!
We met in the parking lot across the street from the park where the race would start. Interestingly, I parked right in front of Sara, and she greeted me (actually made me jump out of my skin!) as I was gathering all my race stuff. We walked over to the starting line, and Sara was shivering. It was a cool, 48 degrees, sunny morning. We caught up while we waited for the race to start, and made a couple trips to the portapotties, to avoid any issues if possible, on the race course.

This is a small race field, maybe 450 runners, and I crossed the start line shortly after the gun went off. For the first couple of miles, the course meanders through the neighborhoods that border Lake Zurich. I had heard that the course had rolling hills, and that's what I encountered in those first few miles of the race. There were a  few big downhills, and I reminded myself that I'd be running up those on the way back. I fought with a side stitch for about a mile or so. I don't know why I keep getting them, but I was glad it went away.

Sara kept saying this to me after the race. Yeah, I'll give you opportunity...
Then we headed into the rural parts of the area. We ran through some really nice neighborhoods with huge homes. The hills became steeper and more frequent. I was able to power up them without any problems. I sipped my Tailwind every 5 minutes or so, and I felt pretty good. Since it was an out and back course, we started seeing the front runners about mile 6 or so. Those guys were flying!

I stopped at mile 8 to refill my Tailwind bottle. The Tailwind took its sweet time to come out of the package, and I probably was at the aid station for over a minute or two. That's something I need to figure out for the marathon.

About mile 9, after all those hills, my hamstrings really started to talk to me. I continued to power through the pain, but I started to feel kind of weird. Not really nauseous, but just a little unhinged. I tried focusing on my music. I smiled at the volunteers along this very well supported race course. I counted down the songs to the finish. I continued to power up the hills. And thought to myself, isn't Illinois supposed to be flat?

This is what I SHOULD have told myself. Rolling hills, my ass.
In spite of my efforts to stay focused, right before mile 11, I hit yet another a big hill and I had to stop and walk for a minute. I felt so badly at this point, I just wanted to quit. I may have uttered the f-word. I started having a lot of negative thoughts. I started to talk myself into first not going for my sub-4 marathon, and then eventually these thoughts morphed into me telling myself I wasn't going to run the marathon at all. I felt like I was going to cry.

A woman who had been pacing with me for the last couple of miles talked me into running again, and I stayed with her. I told myself how close I was to the finish. I thought about my son, who went back into his rugby game the day before in spite of taking a knee to the abdomen and vomiting on the field. I couldn't face him, knowing that I quit. So I kept running. Until the next hill, where I stopped to walk briefly again. I hated to do it, but I also hated how I was feeling. When I started to run again, I caught back up with my new friend, and ran with her to the finish line.


I was so glad to be finished. I caught my breath, and a volunteer put my medal over my head. I wandered around the finish area, looking for Sara. I looked for food, and didn't see much of anything. There was a 5k earlier, and I assumed that maybe the 5k runners took all the post run snacks. I grabbed a cup of water, and found the woman who ran me in. I thanked her.

Sara was watching her kids run the kids' race, and I stopped briefly to congratulate her on her AG finish. Isn't it funny how one runner can have an amazing run and another not so much?


But later when I reviewed the splits on my Garmin, I saw that I was pretty darned consistent, even when I stopped to walk. That was really encouraging to me. I placed 5th in my age group, and the 3rd and 4th place women and I were less than a minute apart. If only I hadn't wasted all that time at the aid station refilling my bottle...if only I hadn't stopped to walk...if only...


This race was a training run, and there was a lot to be learned from this run. As much as it sucked, I think I needed a run like this. When I first finished, I felt like my confidence had been zapped. But when I looked at my mile splits, and how I powered through all those hills at marathon pace--well, come to think of it, there were a lot of good things happening at this race. I just let those hills get into my head, and that's something I need to continue to work on. I reminded myself that these were great splits for such a hilly course--imagine how I would have done had the course been flat, like the Chicago marathon course! Of course, I am glad that the weather was so cooperative. If we had had the conditions from the previous Sunday, where it was 90+ degrees...I don't even want to think about how things would have gone.

I did realize that I'm pretty good at beating myself up.

Oh, and guess what song was playing when I crossed the finish line? None other than Don't Stop Believin'. Coincidence? I think not.

Onward and upward.

Have you ever had a race where you wanted to quit? What did you do to keep yourself on track? Hills? Yay or nay?

I'm linking up with The Silvah Lining and her Race Recap linkup! Check it out!

45 comments :

  1. That's an amazing finish time, especially considering how many stops/walks were involved. Chin up, my FrIeNd! :-) I was really bummed (for a few minutes) when I finished my half on Saturday. I felt strong and (somewhat) fast the entire race. No walking (except for a few of the water stations), and no doubts looming over me. But those last few miles, I noticed my pace was consistent, but somewhere it was like an entire mile had gone to pot...and I can't figure out exactly where it happened. I finished strong, feeling on top of the world....only to see my time was NOT the coveted PR that it felt like. Then.....reality smacked me in the face. This was the best race (and run) I had had in almost a year. No aches or pains. No tummy probs. And no doubt in my abilities. And, the fact that I am still rallying back from all those glutes & hammies issues made me realize I actually did pretty well. My 2:01:44 is still a decent finish time, regardless of how fast I have run 13.1 miles before. So yeah. That's what I'm taking from this. I'm celebrating the good, and not dwelling on the what if's :-) I have a couple more halfs this fall, and I'm hoping I can up my pace and finish those feeling great, too. Rock on, Wendy! You're gonna smash your sub-4 goal!!!

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    1. I had a race like yours a few years ago where I felt great and everything fell into place. But I finished 2:05! For the life of me I don't know why, but I was happy that I felt so good that the finish time was no big deal. This past Sunday, I didn't like how I felt. I always like to feel strong when I'm running and I didn't. I think that's what bothered me (even in spite of the good finish time).

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  2. You're definitely beating yourself up more than you should! You did great!!! It is always discouraging to feel like that during a race but to look back and see that you were consistent despite walking is pretty amazing! Way to finish!!! You'll rock your marathon :)

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    1. I'm blaming it on the hills. If the course had been flat, I think I would have felt much stronger. Chalk it up to experience!

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  3. First of all I loathe hills. Second of all, you and I have the exact same brain, or maybe it is what every runner thinks? It is not easy for me to run, I have to work hard to run. I think about all the people who sit around and make excuses as to why they don't run and then I feel good about myself.
    We are fighters, and we usually beat ourselves up. Weird. Anyway thanks for sharing.
    bakingrunner.blogspot.com

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    1. This was a mentally tough run for me, no doubt. Looking back at it, I'm actually glad I ran this one. I'll need to dig deep in those final miles of the marathon, and hopefully I can draw on this experience to get me to the finish line.

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  4. Hills suck. I have to have my head around them and train for them to run them well. I think you'd have been less unhinged had you known the course better, but most important, you hung in there and powered through. Did not realize how small the field was at that race. Bummer about no post-race snacks.

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    1. I saw people eating bananas and yogurt but all I could find was a table with water cups. This race is pretty bare bones, which is fine. And now I know about those hills!

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  5. I think you did a great job!! You still had an awesome tme and most importantly you listened to your body and stopped to walk when you needed to. I know you'll do great at your marathon!

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    1. I hope so! At least the course is flat (and familiar!)

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  6. Kudos to you for not giving up, and for not letting those hills defeat you. Even with having to walk some of them, you finished the race, and that's what's most important. Way to go!

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    1. I wanted to give up, but that would have been horrible!

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  7. Congratulations and way to push through! Your recap sounds SO MUCH like my own experience at Hub City on Sunday. I completely relate to everything you went through! And YES - think about the glorious flatness of the Chicago Marathon course in comparison to this! If you put forth such a strong result on a tough, hilly course, imagine how much you are going to crush Chicago. GREAT JOB!!!

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    1. I'm thinking of how that Chicago race course and so glad I picked it again. Except for Mt Roosevelt...

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  8. Awesome pace on a hilly training run!! Nice work, Wendy!

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  9. way to push through when you wanted to quit. i have been trying so hard to work on my mental game. it is tough!!! you are going to crush chicago, though - i know it!

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    1. That mental training is the hardest part, isn't it?

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  10. Ahhh, freezing. How wonderful! You did great! That's a great pace. You ate those hills for breakfast, my friend.

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  11. Great recap and a great race for you. Ahhh so what you didn't feel like you nailed it, you did, it was a great pace and a great finish. Now take it and apply what is needed to prepare for you marathon and YOU WILL do GREAT!!! You've put in the training the over the top training, it will all come together! I though you looked very strong in your pictures!!!

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    1. *thought you looked very strong...

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    2. Thank you, my friend! Once I recovered and absorbed the race, I was a little happier with how it went, altho I think i ran too fast at the end. I probably wouldn't have had to stop to walk...

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  12. Look at that time. You are amazing! I'm sorry you struggled in parts of the race but it still shows how amazing you are to get at the top of the leader board!
    How do races not have food for people who just ran 13.1 miles? That's crazy stupid.

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    1. This was the first race I've ever run (and it was half marathon #14) that didn't have food at the finish. Very weird.

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  13. Good job powering through! I think as runners we are SO hard on ourselves when we really shouldn't be. I have wanted to quit in most of the marathons I have run! I mean, I can think of one or two where I was still happy around mile 22, but for the most part, I am dyyyyyyyying by then or well before then!

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    1. I hope to not be dying at mile 22 in a couple weeks. I wasn't last year, and I hope my training prevents it again!

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  14. Great job pushing through when you wanted to bail. It's often hard for me to get back mentally when I go there. The "if only" talk is something I need to stop doing!

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    1. Man, oh, man! That negative self talk was tough to push away!

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  15. I don't know that stopping to walk necessarily works to your disadvantage...there are all those people that do regular run walk intervals for an entire race and it works for them. And under 2 hours (by 5 minutes) with hills is a great pace!!

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    1. You are so right. But what it tells me is that I was running too fast, which is why I had to stop to walk. Still working on pacing...

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  16. Great job! We all beat ourselves up sometimes, but we shouldn't. Keep it up, you will rock a sub 4 marathon!

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    1. I sure hope so! If the weather cooperates, it will be all good!

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  17. You had such a great finishing time for such steep and hilly course. Seriously. Great job! What a great training opportunity for your Marathon. I was jealous about your temperature:) I pretty much felt the same way about my own race on the weekend, I felt like quitting at some point during the race. I loved reading how thinking about your son's strength and effort helped you to push through. Nice job! Way to Go!

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    1. I just didn't like feeling so defeated--I'm glad I could push through and have a strong finish but still...this was tough!

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  18. Don't beat yourself up too much! You place great and now you know what you need to fix for the marathon. It's better to find out what's doesn't work now then to find out during the real deal. This post was very inspiring to me. I'm just getting into training for my first half and it's awesome to see how you pushed through and finished when times got tough!

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    1. It's not all about finish times...I'm also about finishing feeling strong. What can I say?

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  19. Yes. I think there has been a point in every race where I thought I wanted to quit... but I kept pushing myself and moving forward. :)

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  20. Congrats on the great finish time!! That is very impressive, considering you had some rough moments, and took a few quick breaks. I have had a really tough half in the heat and I melted down, ever since that race I have done much better managing the unexpected things that can come up in a race. The if only moments teach us something we need to remember :) at least that what I tell myself..look out Chicago, Wendy is coming !

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    1. As long as the weather cooperates, I think it will be a fun day!!!

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  21. Girl you totally rocked it. I think the mental part is harder than the actual physical part...in fact I KNOW it is. Way to keep going and finish strong and something to be proud of!! Trust me I have doubt every day. We are both shooting for a similar goal. It's going to be tough, but we CAN!

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    1. I"m going to channel my inner cupcake over the next couple of weeks!! :)

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  22. I still think you did a GREAT job! I hate hills too. I don't care that they only make you stronger, blah, blah, blah. I still do not like them. Think about how flat the Chicago Marathon course will be. :-)

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    1. Thinking about that flat Chicago course was all I could do during this race. I really think that's what got me to the finish line!

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