Hello! Yesterday I competed in the Council Bluffs Half Marathon. The race ended up being MUCH harder than anticipated, but I am happy to have completed my third half marathon!
I woke up between 5:00 and 5:15, rolled out of bed, and got dressed. I made a breakfast of an English muffin with almond butter, a banana, coffee, and water.
I finished getting ready, including putting on sunscreen. This felt weird because it was still dark out! I'm sure you can tell from my pictures that I am VERY fair-skinned. Going without sunscreen is just not an option for me!
I checked the weather before I left the house. It was already 78F at 6:00AM. I find the perfect running temperature to be about 55F, so this was not a good sign! The sky was cloudy and grey, but it was still predicted to be sunny during the race.
I arrived at the casino with plenty of time to spare. I stopped in the restroom and then headed to the start line. You could tell just by glancing at the size of the crowd that this race was smaller than the others I've done. It also seemed a little more low-key, which put me at ease. I knew going into this race that a PR was out of the question (my personal record is 1:55:27) so I was trying to treat this race like a training run.
The gun went off, and immediately it started to drizzle. Little did I know this was the best weather we'd experience the whole race...
Two races started at the same time - the half marathon and a 5K. I found it a little odd that we shared the course for the first 1.5 miles. I'd say a 5K is much faster paced than a half marathon. I guess if it had been more congested it might have been an issue for the 5K-ers, but it didn't feel too crowded. In fact, the 1st 2 miles felt great to me! There were enough runners around to keep me distracted. During races, I like to listen to other runners' conversations for entertainment!
For the first few miles, I focused on keeping each mile under 10 minutes (my usual training run pace). I was able to keep this up for 5 miles, and then things started getting hard. The clouds broke, the sun came out, but the air stayed thick with humidity. I am a sweaty runner as it is, but with that much humidity it doesn't evaporate and you just feel...heavy.
- Mile 1 - 9:44
- Mile 2 - 9:58
- Mile 3 - 9:56
- Mile 4 - 9:56
- Mile 5 - 9:52
Miles 5, 6, & 7 were along a lake, which I thought would be a nice distraction. Unfortunately, it was pretty smelly. I got into a bad head space, and started doubting if I could finish. I put in my headphones (I save them for times like this) and tried to zone out for a while. I ate a few of my Sports Beans, but what I wanted was water. Luckily they had aid stations at the even-numbered mile markers, so I grabbed a water and a Gatorade at mile 6.
- Mile 6 - 10:09
At mile marker 7 we turned onto a dirt trail and I thought, "I don't remember hearing anything about this!" and got a little excited for a change of scenery. I was in for a big let down...the 'trail' was only about 100 yards long, and then we turned onto a paved bike path with no shade. It was out in the wide open with only telephone poles and grass to look at. You turned the corner, and all you saw was a long line of runners stretching as far as you could see. It was heartbreaking.
- Mile 7 - 10:45
I had no idea how I was going to complete this. I thought about doing a run/walk pattern using the telephone poles as markers, but I just wanted to get these 2 miles over with. You could tell everyone around felt the same way. Many people were walking, and everyone was in a single-file line. There were no spectators cheering us on. There was no more chatting with your friend or neighbor. Just chug, chug, chugging along.
I started getting annoyed by people around me. There was a guy with a shuffle in his step, and the sound of it was driving me crazy but I couldn't break away from him. There was a kid who would speed up, pass me, and then stop to walk...over and over and over again. Maybe I was helping him out somehow, but I just wished he'd leave me alone at the time.
Since mile marker 8 was in the middle of hell and they wanted to torture us nowhere, they didn't have a water station set up there. I ate my Sports Beans. They gave me calories and sodium and something to do, but they were no replacement for water. It had to have been close to 85F at this point. Almost everyone I passed was walking.
- Mile 8 - 10:44
- Mile 9 - 11:02
Finally, we turned off of the trail and hit mile marker 9, as well as an aid station. I downed a cup of water and a cup of Gatorade, then turned back and got one more of each. Then I did something I've never done in a race - not even during my 4.5 hour marathon - I stopped to use a porta potty. Sorry if this is TMI, but I usually have a bladder of steel. I think my muscles must have been weak, because I saw the porta potty and my body said "go there now!" Or maybe I just needed a break from running.
The next water station was somewhere weird, like mile 10.5. I asked the volunteers if there would be another aid station before the finish, but none of them knew! I don't blame them, but it's probably good feedback for the race director. I decided better safe than sorry and doubled up on my drinks again.
- Mile 10 - 10:59
Around mile 11 we started down another path, but this one was shady, pleasant-smelling, and pretty much felt like heaven on Earth. I commented to the woman next to me that it was a nice break from the sun, and she said the trail should take us fairly close to the end. This perked me up! She made a comment about any time goals being shot for this race, and I agreed, saying "finishing with a smile on my face is a big enough goal for me!" Unfortunately, I saw 4 ambulances that had to come to people's aid during those last 2 miles. I really hope everyone is doing ok now.
- Mile 11 - 11:04
I gave myself 'permission' to walk if I felt too bad. The only thing I have against walking is that it is hard for me to start running again, and I just wanted to finish the darn race. There was one small hill at the beginning of mile 12 that I walked up, but other than that I finished feeling pretty strong.
- Mile 12 - 11:15
- Mile 13 - 11:08
- Mile 13.1 - 1:14
My official time was 2:19:13 which translates to a pace of 10:38 per mile. (This might not align with my Garmin because I have it setup to stop timing when I stop moving...like while I'm in a porta potty ) I finished in the top half of my division and under the overall average time. I'm not sure how these stats line up with my other races, but they sound pretty good to me!
The course was not difficult in a technical sense, but it was the most mentally challenging for me to date. I have never thought about quitting as much as I did during that race. I think if Katie would have pulled up next to me at mile 8, I would have climbed into the car and said "take me home" without looking back. Of course, I'm proud that I finished, and I've blocked most of the pain from my memory, but it's hard to have a bad race experience. I hope it just makes me appreciate the good experiences even more!