Monday, June 26, 2017

Glacier Half Marathon

we continued climbing after we went around that curve

Saturday I ran my 7th half marathon, which also happened to be the 50th and final race in my 40 by 40 goal 50 by 40 goal that I embarked on two years ago. I'll do a post on my 40 by 40 goal soon.

The Glacier half is one of the most challenging and beautiful courses I've run. I was better prepared for this race than any other half marathon I've run, and my time shows that preparation. However, it was not all smooth sailing.

The first 5 miles sucked. The middle 4 were good. The last 4 were rough.

my sister and I trying to stay warm while we waited for the race to start

The first mile or so were flattish, leaning to slight uphill, with some rolling hills thrown in for variety.

Then we turned onto 49 and started climbing, relentlessly climbing, until mile 5. We only gained 900 feet in altitude, but it was never-ending.

We finally hit the summit and started an equally relentless descent for the next 4ish miles.

Between miles 9 and 10 the course leveled out, with rolling hills mixed in until the finish.

beautiful scenery as we climbed

I ran the first mile or so, then had to alternate running and walking until I reached the summit. I may have run several hilly races this spring, but it’s hard to prepare for 5 miles of hill climbing. The walking portions did give me some good photo ops, though.

Once I hit the descent, I picked up the pace and ran hard. I’d tried to keep my pace up while climbing, but it was still slower than I’d hoped for. I used those downhill miles to make up for some of the lost time. The only problem was that I ran them a little harder than I should have and paid the price during the last portion of the race.

looking back at how far I'd already come

Momentum helped me descend at a faster pace than I normally can maintain, but once the road flattened out I was on my own again. By that time my legs were tired and I just could not keep the pace up.

I’d been doing mental math and during the downhill portion I realized that if I kept my pace up, I could beat my current (nearly 9 year old) half marathon PR of 2:29:46. I even had a couple extra minutes of buffer that would allow me to slow down once I hit the last hill that I knew was still to come.

some of the runners around me saw a bear down in this canyon, but I couldn't see it right off, so I kept running rather than slow down even more while taking the time to look for it

In the end, the buffer wasn’t quite enough to see me through the amount of walking I had to do the last three miles. I was just too tired to run those last miles and had to stop and walk more times than I wanted to.  I missed beating my PR by just over a minute.

Honestly though, I’m only a teeny bit disappointed about missing that PR. I always knew it would be a long shot for several reasons:
  • 1.     I’m not getting any younger
  • 2.     The elevation difference
  • 3.     The challenging course
  • 4.     Cutting back on my training due to plantar fasciitis
  • 5.     The early taper in my training due to travel. I had planned on running while we traveled, but the reality was that there just wasn’t time.

more beautiful scenery

The fact that I came so close is actually very encouraging. I may be getting older, but that doesn’t mean I have to get slower. Being smarter with my training and being in better health and shape (2008 was pre-gluten free) meant that even though this course was significantly more challenging than the course I PR’d on, I was able to come very close to setting a new PR.

2:30:54 (2017) on a challenging, hilly course versus 2:29:46 (2008) on a course that was all downhill or flat and specifically chosen because I knew I could get a good time on it. Yeah, I'm happy with how I did :)

pretty lake
I ran 13.0 miles in 2:30:54. My mile splits very much reflect the terrain we were covering. Slower while going uphill, faster while going downhill. One benefit of so much climbing in the first half of the race is that I ran the second half faster than the first half and finally managed negative splits on a half marathon. I also managed to run a 5k in the middle faster than I've run one since high school cross country. Though running downhill is the only thing that made that possible :)

  1st mile: 11:51
  2nd mile: 12:26
  3rd mile: 14:00
  4th mile: 14:23
  5th mile: 14:16
  6th mile: 9:58
  7th mile: 9:43
  8th mile: 9:11
  9th mile: 9:11
  10th mile: 10:50
  11th mile: 12:55
  12th mile: 10:48
  13th mile: 11:17

first half of the race (6.5 miles): ~1:21:51
second half of the race (6.5 miles): ~1:09:03
fastest 5k (miles 7, 8, and 9): 28:05

in the runner's area at the finish line, waiting for my sister

Other thoughts:

I slept horribly, as I usually do before a race, especially if it’s a big one. I’m always afraid of sleeping through the 4 am alarms, so I end up waking up multiple times to check the time and then lay in bed awake for the last half hour or so before the alarm goes off.

Getting to sleep was further hindered by fireworks being set off until 1 am and River waking up around 2, right when I was falling asleep again, because he was cold. And I’d drunk a lot of water that evening to try to make sure I’d be well hydrated in the morning, so I had to make several trips to the bathroom. I’ve never been so grateful for a bathroom at the foot of my bed, rather than having to walk a quarter mile to the row of outhouses at the other end of the campground.

the race hosted a campground that we stayed at (really it was a borrowed field)

It was really cold. 40 degrees I think? There was no cell service out there, so I couldn’t check. I’d worn layers so I could decide what I wanted to wear for the race, and ultimately went with the short sleeve shirt rather than the tank top. While I was cold at the beginning, I would have been fine in the tank top, as I warmed up during the race. Thankfully the temps didn’t climb too high until after the race was over, so it never got oppressively hot.

The altitude wasn’t an issue. We arrived out west two weeks before the race, so I had a decent amount of time to acclimate to the higher elevation. I ran a 5k a week before the half and completed a number of hikes (some strenuous, some not) during the two weeks leading up to the race.

doesn't Ocean look like he's in jail? 
he got a bit bored waiting for my sister to finish 

Something in the air violently disagreed with me after the race. Walking back to the car I started sneezing violently and by the time we got back to the campground my head was all congested as well. My usual post-race asthmatic cough was worse than usual immediately after the race, though it did calm down after awhile. The sneezing worsened when we drove up to Waterton Lakes, and a local said the white fluff floating around was aspen seed (I thought it was cottonwood fluff), so apparently I'm allergic to aspen seed. Good to know, I guess.

my sister and I 
we ran the Great Smoky Mountains half together a couple years ago, also hosted by the same race company

While my legs were very tired and sore from how hard I pushed myself in this race, I didn’t really suffer any injuries. I liberally applied body glide and moleskin to my feet (mostly around my toes and other known problems spots) so I didn’t get any blisters. My plantar fasciitis acted up later that day, cutting short a hike we’d planned on, but the PF has been an issue for several months now, so I knew my foot (my right is by far the worst) would be hurting. It didn’t hurt during the race though, so huge win right there.

Between the half marathon, 5 hikes, and two walks, this was my highest mileage week yet.

the post race snacks came in a recyclable, grab-n-go box (though I could only eat the Craisins)

Weekly Mileage
Tuesday: 1.6 miles walked around campground
Wednesday: .8 miles walked around campground
Thursday: 4.0 miles hiked
Friday: 4.29 miles hiked
Saturday: 13.00 miles run in half marathon + 4.07 miles hiked over two hikes
Sunday: 1.83 miles hiked
       total mileage: 29.59 miles

27 hikes towards #52hikechallenge
351.45 miles towards #365milechallenge
50th race towards 40 by 40 goal 50 by 40 goal

a fun graphic with all the runner's names
the lighter blue shape is in the shape of Glacier NP

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