Monday, August 9, 2010

Half Marathon #4 - River City Ramble - Red Wing, MN (Sunday, August 8)

Runnin' Down a Dream and Being Prepared

It had been five weeks since my last half marathon, and in that time I had only logged one double digit training run. It felt like FOREVER since my last race, but I was ready for half marathon #4 - the River City Ramble Half Marathon in Red Wing, MN! We had an early afternoon flight out of Denver, and everything went very smoothly. I was pleasantly surprised to find out the flight was only 83 minutes long. Awesome! I haven't been to MSP since I was a kid, but it was certainly nicer and less crowded than I remember. A week or so ago I had been chatting with a fellow 50-stater (I'll call her Jo-Z) and she had expressed interest in joining us and asked if she could share our rental car. Our only real problem was meeting up with her... we didn't know there was more than one terminal (DUH). Welcome to Minneapolis!

We got the rental car with no problems at all and headed out of the city to Red Wing, MN. The drive out took us over the river on the Wisconsin side. About an hour later we are in the lovely city of Red Wing and found the YMCA with no trouble. The volunteers at packet pick-up were very friendly, and I was pretty impressed with the non-ugly race shirt.

We learned that there were going to be pacers in this race... wow! I have never run with a pacer before, it sounded like a pretty good idea at the time. They even had bracelets with the pace times on them. I boldly grabbed one for the 2:00 and 2:05 finishes, and after a few pictures with the pacer, we headed out. There was a "grocery" store across the street and we tried to go over there to get some food for breakfast but we didn't find anything of use, so we gave up. Jo-Z was not able to get a room at the hotel we were booked at, so we drove her to her hotel (only a few miles away) and she checked in, then we decided to all go out and get some dinner. We were walking around the downtown area... boots everywhere. Red Wing is the location of the manufacturing of Red Wing shoes - there was a museum housing the "World's Biggest Boot" but we didn't have time to go see it.

It was getting late and we were getting hungry so we decided to stop at a restaurant right down the street. Took some patio seating and waited. And waited. GUH!!! 20 minutes (probably not much of an exaggeration) before we saw our server, ordered everything all at once. Including a $6.75 "side salad" for me and my sister to share that we asked to be brought out first. Not even kidding that it took probably 30 minutes to get the salad (which, by the way, was nothing more than some lettuce, shredded carrots, 1/8 of a tomato, a slice of cucumber, and 2 onions... for $6.75?!?!) and almost an HOUR for our pasta. About 45 minutes after ordering Jo-Z asked if our food was almost ready and the server says "I don't know I'll have to ask." Um. You do that... and then Jo-Z says, "It's been 45 minutes, that's a really long time for pasta!" They honestly weren't even that busy, it was almost 8:00! Server says "Do you want the check?" We stare at her blankly. "Well, do you still want it?" Oy. Worst server ever. The food was... ok. I got some penne pasta with italian sausage and roasted red pepper sauce:

And of course my pre-race beer:

After dinner we decided to do a quick drive by the start line to make sure we knew where we were going in the morning. The volunteer at pick-up had said there were about 400 pre-registered for the half, a few hundred for the 5K and seemed to think the hour we wanted to allow was plenty of time. There was a festival going on at the park/marina so we couldn't get too close, but we were confident we knew where we were going so we dropped Jo-Z off at her hotel and then headed to ours on the other side of town.... where we find a Target and Wal-Mart. Score!! We try again at the W to get some breakfast food... but ultimate fail there too. Bah. Maybe since the race was starting so late we would be able to grab something from the hotel before heading out. Checked in at the hotel and... RAD!! Best place I've picked in ages. We each had our own King size beds... so comfortable! Lights out around 10 and I actually had a good night sleep - not even waking up until the alarm went off. Got dressed, and yes, I had decided to wear my new Newtons. I felt fine after the training run I did on Friday, and I figured, what's the worst that could happen? Then I confidently put on the 2:00 pace bracelet, grabbed my Blueberry Luna Protein bar and we headed out to pick up Jo-Z. Psyched that even though the hotel said breakfast wasn't until 7, it was already out so I grabbed a bagel and some peanut butter. Phew!

We got to the start a little over an hour before gun time, and we were able to park literally just a block or two away. Another positive for a small town race! Easy to get to everything! Everyone was super friendly and nice, and seemed flabbergasted at why we had picked THIS race as our Minnesota race. Well... I don't even remember, I booked back in March, but it must have just fit with my schedule. Port-o-potty lines were so short, we were able to cycle through twice before heading to the start line. It was starting to feel REALLY hot already, and checking my phone I knew it was going to get miserable pretty fast...

94% humidity???

Big TeePee right behind the finish line

We decided to line up with the 2:00 pacer:

At the start line... just a few minutes to go!

Wearing my new Sweaty Band!!!!

The gun went off, and off we went... within a few minutes I was already regretting my decision to start out so fast, but since one of the girls we lined up with claimed the course was "flat and fast" I figured I'd hang out with the fast people for a bit and start to pull back when I couldn't handle it anymore. The first water station was less than a mile out, but I didn't stop, it seemed too early. All the runners started to break up and it wasn't nearly as crowded. I was never able to run next to L, there were too many people staying right with the pacer, but I got this shot:

We had these shirts made for our team in our first half marathon and wear them to almost every race

The course was more hilly than I had anticipated. And it was FREAKING HOT AND HUMID. I started feeling light headed a bit and even though most people from my pace group did not stop at the water station, I did. I grabbed a gatorade and a water (the cups were SUPER tiny), walked a bit, and spent about a half mile "chasing" the pacer. I looked down and noticed my heart rate was hovering in the mid 180s... uh oh. I had to slow down and walk a bit. I was working way too hard, way too early. Shortly after hitting the 5K mark, I heard the 2:05 pacer (who we had talked with at pick-up) yelling "You can do it Becka!!" - But... I really couldn't. I was really really REALLY struggling and having a hard time. Physically, as in getting my legs to move, I felt ok. But the heat and humidity were really getting to me and I was mentally crashing pretty hard. I had to take my first unscheduled walk break about 4 miles in and took this shot:

My damn Garmin wasn't working again. It's keeping time, but the bezel doesn't work at all, and the start/stop and lap buttons don't work either. I don't know if it's because of moisture, but my solution (hopefully) will to be wearing a wristband under the watch to keep the back from getting wet? That better work or Garmin is gonna hear a piece of my mind.

The sun was beating down. I was sweating so much and it was so humid I couldn't even wear my sunglasses because they were fogging up too badly. I was feeling dehydrated and totally drained. Somewhere between the five and six mile marker I took my GU (I was really glad I had brought that, there were no gels on the course). I literally was ready to cry by the time we hit the halfway point - there were a lot of people there because there was also a half marathon relay option. I got another gatorade and water and then started the second half. I was shortly passed by the 2:10 pacer... Luckily I had already mentally changed that part of my strategy, and my two new goals were 1. To not be as slow as my Canyonlands time (roughly 2:21) and 2. Just to cross the damn finish line.  The second half (thankfully) was way more shaded:

It was a beautiful course but I really could not enjoy it. I was struggling so much with the heat and humidity. The miles 7-8 seemed mostly downhill, which helped a bit. I was chasing half naked man and he was struggling just as much as I was. He would run for a minute and then have to walk, then he would pass me... and so on. For miles. He finally said to me "Don't worry, I'm not chasing you, I just can't pace for shit!!" I know what you mean, half naked man. By about the 9 mile marker I was seriously ready to give up. I was seriously wondering what would happen if I fainted (good thing I was wearing my Road ID) or fainted, or threw up... or just gave up and sat on the side of the trail. There were bicyclists patrolling the course and I was tempted to yell at them to send someone to come get me because I was so thirsty and so exhausted from the heat.

I have no idea how I kept going. I really don't. Maybe it was because I kept telling myself... "I don't want to do this again" and "I came all the way out here, just freaking finish." Water station around mile 9, took 2 waters again. Struggled all the way to what I knew was the second to last water station with around 10.75 miles. I took a gatorade and water AND grabbed a full bottle of water. That full bottle was gone in less than a mile, even WITH trying to ration. I still felt dehydrated but that definitely helped to keep going. I actually started to pass a few people (how??? I don't even know how my legs were still working, and my brain had pretty much shut down). Get to the last water station (less than a mile to go!!!) and I realized that somehow I was actually going to finish. I heard a guy yell "Way to go Becka! Nice jogging pace!" - EFF YOU!!! I'm working my ass off here. Jogging pace??? GRRRRR!!! Somehow, I don't know how, I managed to keep going that last mile without walking. I have never in my life been so happy to see a finish line. I clicked the Garmin at the 13 mile marker and sprinted... passing 2 or 3 people in the chute. (haha :D ) Crossed the mat, got my medal (boy, did I earn this one!) and grabbed a water - slammed it. Grabbed a Powerade and took a few swigs. Finally I was done. This was by far the hardest race I've ever done, and overall, probably the worst RUN ever. I have no idea how people train to run in humidIty, but between starting out too fast, and not having enough fluid, I completely failed at this.

Things I learned from this:
1. Even though I would LOVE to break the 2:00 mark, even under IDEAL conditions, I simply cannot start out at that pace. It is too fast, and I'm working WAY too hard. **NEVER EVER EVER RUN WITH A PACER, RUN MY OWN RACE**
2. I have got to start wearing my belt. I train wearing it anyway. Having a 20-40 oz of water on me probably would have helped a lot - both physically and mentally.
3. I need to continue to bring my own GU - just in case.

Of note:
1. The sweaty band was awesome! It did not move at all - even with all the sweat (I could actually wring out my clothes when I was done, and my paper bib was starting to dissolve it was so wet). The sweaty band does NOT actually keep sweat off my face, so I will continue to wear a visor in the future. Worth the money though.
2. My Newton shoes are freaking awesome. My feet/calves/legs did not hurt at all. Score!!
3. I will bring my leg sleeves again - I wore them all day after the race, and even though I had tons of people staring at me - my legs feel great a day later.

Apparently the timing chips failed (HUH??), so all official times are gun time. I was about 15 seconds "faster" but I'll take it. There was also a LOT more elevation gain than I realized (I was so miserable with that heat I honestly never really noticed). If nothing else, this is all good training for Hawaii!

We met up with Jo-Z, checked our results, and headed to the car. She wasn't able to get a flight out of MSP until Monday, and we had to shower to and head out to catch a 2:30 flight. She met another 50 stater who offered to take her to the airport. Here is all of us leaving the race:

L, Jo-Z, 50 stater guy (I'm sorry, didn't catch your name), Me
I may have suffered through the race, but I had a great trip to Minnesota, met an awesome (crazy) runner friend that I will hopefully see at other races. Most importantly, I think I learned a few things ;)


  1. That's my shoe you're sitting on! Was looking for that. Please ship to big-footed Dutch girl. The delivery guy will know who that is. ;)

    Congrats on the race; good thing you struggled through it and crossed that finish line! And blah on the Garmin; can you get if fixed?

  2. I bought it through an online retailer, so I would have to send it back to Garmin. Last resort for me as I don't want to be without one for so long, but if I have to...

  3. The heat and humidity really make for a much slower race...but you did it! and you have some lessons learned, which is always a good thing for the future. Congrats!

  4. That's a great medal and boy, did you earn it! Sorry it was such a suffer-fest, but YAY for you finishing strong!!

  5. Way to go Becka! You could have quit but you didn't. I am so initimidated by doing my first half in October but excited too!

  6. The heat and humidity can definitely be killers. Great job on sticking it out!

  7. Congrats to you for finishing! I had a rough time back in Pittsburgh and May, and I think you end up learning a lot more from the races you struggle through.

  8. Really, that's the world's biggest boot? I'm disappointed.

    "I know what you mean, half naked man." Hahahahaha!!!!

    I'm so glad the Newtons worked for you. I just did an easy 3 miles in them and my calves started hurting just near the end. I don't think I can run over an hour in them yet so I'll wear my other shoes on Saturday.

    I know you are disappointed, but that's a great finish for such a hard race. Especially when you look at Canyonlands - cool and no humidity and you crushed that time.

  9. W - that is not a picture of the biggest boot. The biggest boot was actually IN the Red Wing plant/museum and we didn't have time to see it. That's just one of the random artsy painted boots. They were all over the city with different designs painted on them.

    I'm just happy I didn't have to have the ambulance come get me :D

  10. Oh Becka,
    See what kind of crap that I have to put up with on a daily basis!?! Welcome to Minnesota:) I think that you did great for the yucky elements that you were forced to run in! finished and in my book that is success! Nice work:)

  11. Wow, I live in Texas and have thankfully never run an actual race in that bad of humidity. Way to power through it! I think you did an awesome job- and now you don't have to go back to Minnesota :)


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