“At first an ordeal and then an accomplishment, the daily run becomes a staple, like bread, or wine, a fine marriage, or air. It is also a free pass to friendship.”
~ Benjamin Cheever, Strides

Thursday, April 11, 2013

ORRRC Half Marathon Recap

Race: ORRRC Half Marathon
Distance:  13.1 miles
Date:  April 7, 2013, 8:30am
Finish time:  1:58:36, 9:04 min/mile avg
What sets this race apart:  Inexpensive, small town race, good post race eats

The YMCA in Xenia, Ohio is approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes from my house.  When I heard about a fun half marathon that started there, taking place about a month before my goal marathon, that did race day pick-up, and the price was only $25, I took about half a second to decide to register.

As a nod to having fresh legs, I skipped Wednesday night speed work and decided to consider this race as my speed work for the week.  My somewhat secret pre-race goal was to run the half marathon in under 2 hours for the first time ever.  My belief was that I would need to have a fairly perfect day for this to happen: good weather, strong feeling legs, no tummy issues.

When I woke up that Sunday morning at 5 am, the temperature was already 55*F.  As a comparison, it was "feels like 20*F" for all of my morning runs that week, and the week before, and, well, you get the idea.  The starting temperature was already about 10*F warmer than my personal perfect running temperature, and 30*F warmer than what I'd been training in.  First strike against the perfect day picture I thought I needed.

I had already started psyching myself out the Thursday before saying things like "2 hours is really fast," "this goal is too ambitious," etc.  With the weather, and learning that there were hills on the course, I began mentally considering changing my goal before I even started the drive to the race.  I carpooled with several other ladies out to Xenia early for packet pickup.  With it being my vehicle, and all of us using it as a locker, I wound up not being able to run a warm-up mile as originally intended.  (Strike two against the perfect day?)  

As a result, I was wound up into a little ball of nerves, and probably not the coolest of friends to be around.  HA!  I did a lot of bouncing and knee lifts while waiting for the start to help loosen up my legs.  (And made two trips to the port-a-potties).  I also posed for a group picture with all my friends in Run DMC.
Most of us met through Dailymile!
Three of us from my car, pre-race, the fourth gal is taking the picture.  :)
This was a smallish race, only about 1400 participants, so there were no corrals or anything at the start line.  The race was chip timed though, very nice.  The start was low key and a big mass of people started running.  I tried to play it smart.  Meaning, I tried not to bob and weave to move up in the pack.  I stayed patient, and just gradually worked my way up the pack.  Already though, in my head, I was justifying not getting to my goal pace to beat the 2 hour mark.
The Start - courtesy of Facebook
Enter the amazing Brandon.  He belongs to the same local online running group (RUN DMC) that I do, but we'd never met in person.  
We're in matching shirts!
And no, I wasn't trying to escape him, I think this is a turn in the course...
We both were wearing our Run DMC shirts, so as I came up on him within the first mile, we struck up a conversation.  Somehow it came up that my goal was sub-2 hours, and that he was running Boston the next week.  We started swapping stories, and he took my mind off whether or not I was at the right pace.   Nonetheless, when I did think to check, I was right around 9:10 min/mile average for this stage of the race.
Looking good!
The first 4-5 miles or so of the race were a loop around town, complete with some gentle rolling hills.  A few sprinkles of rain came down during this section, but never enough that I was 100% positive about whether it was sweat or rain.  
We briefly caught up with another RUN DMC gal, Melissa
It was somewhat discouraging when the loop went back by the start/finish line (as in, we actually ran back across it) after about 5 miles.  Luckily, I had a buddy I was chatting with, and lots of friends were cheering and taking pictures to distract me.
Apparently, I am always stupid happy to see my friends.  :)
After we recrossed the start line area, we had to run across about 5 yards of grass to cross onto the paved bike trail that made up the majority of the course.  The great part about this making up the majority of the course, was that it made it fairly easy to run the course accurately.  I tend to fail at running tangents, so this was great news for me!  It did make passing a little more difficult, especially when people ran in packs, but the size of the race helped reduce this issue.
Miles 1-5 splits: 9:13, 9:05, 9:16, 9:00, 9:06

Miles 6 and 7 were essentially a long gradual uphill.  I actually felt really good here up until the very end of the long uphill.  Still, I kept chatting with Brandon and continuously thanking him for staying with me.  Somewhere in here I talked about the need for me to hydrate more with the heat and how my asthma tended to act up whenever I got dehydrated.  He commented on my asthma and I explained how much better it was since I started running.  Cue strange running guy.  A guy just in front of us, slowed down a bit to start explaining to me how much better my life would be if I could cut dairy completely out of my diet.  Dude, so not the time to push crazy diets!
Miles 6-8 splits: 8:54, 8:59, 8:59

We turned the corner to more uphill and wind in our face.  This was my first true indicator of how awesome a pacing partner Brandon was.  As if he could read my mind, he started talking about how awesome this wind would feel when we turned around and it was at our backs propelling us along to a nice steady downhill.  (The course was an out and back).  He also told me his stories about his first couple attempts to qualify for Boston.  This is when we started seeing many more runners on their return from the out and back.  My favorite part of an out and back (especially in race where I know at least 50 people running it) is being able to say hi and cheer those on the opposite side of the trail.  

Mentally, I started struggling more after the turn around.  It didn't feel like the wind was really at my back, and it was slightly uphill.  I felt slightly winded and could tell I hadn't been drinking enough.  I took a GU and looked for my friends on the other side of the trail for more inspiration.

Then, we turned the corner for the part I'd been looking forward to mentally, the part that should be slightly downhill for a couple of miles.  We turned this corner directly into a 20 mph headwind.  Mentally, this was just devastating.  The hydration was bothering me too, so I actually came to a stop at the last two aide station to make sure I got more than a sip of the watered down Gatorade.  Again, Brandon showed himself to be the PERFECT pacing buddy, he stopped with me, and always had the right thing to say when I needed it.

Just as we passed mile 10, he said "only a 5K" to go.  Mentally, I thought "longest *&$%# 5K ever."  I confessed to Brandon that I was struggling mentally with this headwind, trying to keep the same pace, and trying to breath all at the same time.  I asked him nicely demanded that he tell me a story.  Without missing a beat, he told me a story about entering a lottery to do this awesome hike.  He continued to tell me stories for 3 miles.  Did I mention that we'd never spoken to each other before this race?
Miles 9-12 splits: 9:08, 9:21, 8:59, 9:02

In the last mile, he edged just a step ahead of me, subtly urging me to keep pushing.  We passed the grass part and were on the streets again.  I almost didn't need a watch, because he told me where we were, and when we had only 0.2 miles to go.  I glanced at my time, and thought, "I have to push, I am so close, I can't miss it".  Somehow, I pulled out a bit more speed.  (A few seconds later, I did worry that I pulled out too much, too soon.)  And, like the perfect pacer he was, Brandon commented on it immediately, "you've got quite a kick there!"
Mile 13 and last 0.14 splits: 8:34, 7:18
Coming around the corner to the finish chute!
Did I mention that Brandon was running as a bandit for this race?  He checked with the race people and made sure as long as he didn't interfere with the finish chute that it was okay.  He just wanted the fun group run experience for his last long miles before Boston.  As a result, he pulled aside just before the finish chute and watched me sprint in.  He met me on the other side.  I'm not going to lie, I totally gave him a BIG hug.
Definitely under 2 hours!
As I ran past the finish line, I saw the official clock time said 1:59:xx.  Thus, I knew there was no way I had missed my sub 2 hours goal.  My official chip time was 1:58:36.  

After I got my medal and had my overly clingy moment giving Brandon a celebratory thank you hug, we went to the front of the finish chute and joined some friends being cheerleaders.  We cheered in the many others we knew running that day.  It was awesome.

I really don't think I would have hit my goal that day without Brandon.  He kept me from walking when, mentally, I wanted to.  I'm not sure I can express or explain my feelings of gratitude for everything he did to help me on the course.  He banked some serious good karma for when he runs Boston in a few days!
Perfect Pacing Buddies
The post race food was inside the YMCA.  They had three different soups, apples, bananas, small containers of peanut butter, cookies, every kind of soda imaginable.  Awesome.  Just awesome.

At the end of the day?  Fun with friends, a new friend for life, a medal, a shirt, great post-race food, and a KICK ASS new half marathon PR, all for the low, low price of $25.  Worth every penny.

I repeat, "Awesome.  Just awesome."


  1. Just amazing! Sounds like the perfect race, with such consistent paces! The last half where I pr'd I also think it was due to the company that kept me distracted. Really makes a difference. Congrats again!!

  2. Great job!! You definitely looked in the zone when I saw you!

  3. Wooohoooooo!!! You did soooo well! My half-marathon PR is 1:59:27 - I might just try to beat your's next time...! ;)

    1. That's fantastic!!! I'll be cheering you from afar! :)

  4. You had a race angel!!! Just like my Detroit half last October!! I so totally get it!

    Yay Mandy and yay Brandon--I loved this story. And think what you'll do on an ideal weather day and on a fast course. Congratulations again!

    1. Race angel. That is the term I kept mentally searching for. I can't think of a better phrase for Brandon. :)

  5. WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Also, I want to be a bandit. And wear a sweet mask.


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