Monday, August 22, 2011

13.1 Minneapolis Race Recap

Go out relaxed, finish the strongest in the last 5k

~2.5 miles warmup, strides, drills. 
Race in 1:18:52
with splits of:  1- 607, 2 - 604, 3 - 600, 4 - 600, 5 - 549 (downhill), 6 - 606 (hilll), 7 - 603, 8 - 555, 9 - 602, 10- 602, 11 - 608 (hill), 12 - 559, 13 - 554, 38
4th place, Results

I think this is the first half marathon that did not own me.  Let's take a look at my past two half marathons.  I've always faded, and faded BAD, in the last four miles of the race.  Take, for instance, the Half Marathon Champs this past January.  I ran a couple of 6:11s and a few 6:14s in those last four miles.  Even the half marathon in OBX 2009, I ran a 6:33 and a 6:20!   The only half marathon that went well for me was the second half of my marathon at Twin Cities. 

This brings me to my goal for 13.1 Minneapolis.  I really just wanted to have fun and finish feeling pretty good about myself and I accomplished just that.

Going into this race, I really had not researched much about the race besides how to get to the hotel from the airport and the course map.  I did not know how many people had registered or who my competition was.  All I knew was that I was staying with Meagan (for free!) and that I would figure the rest out once I got to Minneapolis.  I approached this race with a laid back attitude to help me keep the race plan in sights - to have fun!

With a sore shin, Meagan was out as my fellow comrade during this race, so I was left to compete on my own.  Meagan was probably more bummed than me that she couldn't race, but it would have been very hard for her logistically to have made the race fit in since she has to set up at the event as well.  Perhaps another time we'll toe the line together at a 13.1 Race to push each other to a nice half marathon at Miami in 2012 where the 13.1 Series Championship will be held.

With Meagan out the door to set up the Craft tent before 5AM, I eventually pulled myself out from under the covers and got myself race ready.  With Body Glide and water bottle in my plastic race bag, I ran 3/4 of a mile to the start line.  Feeling like a normal runner again, I waited in line for the rest room and to check my bag.  The biggest perk of getting an elite entry typically is the private rest rooms, which wasn't necessary at this race because they had TONS of porta johns so the lines weren't bad at all. 

Beforehand, Meagan had informed me that some Team USA Minnesota girls would be running, so I knew immediately that winning money was no longer a reality.  Once the gun went off, I settled into my own rhythm as the pack of lead men took off immediately and a pack of 3 accomplished women including Katie McGregor and Michelle Frey follwed as the second lead pack.  Within 800m, they already had a sizeable 50 meter gap on me, and they would continue to gradually pull away from me until mile 5, when I would no longer even see them. 

Needless to say, it was definitely going to be a lonely one.  To prove how lonely it was out there, you can examine the results.  In the results, you'll notice that the closest person behind me was about 2 minutes back (1:20:45) and the closest person in front of me was about 90 seconds ahead (1:17:11).  I am not counting the guy that I finally caught in the last mile of the race because he was only motivation for about 2 miles.  Now, you might ask why I didn't try to run with the person who ran 1:17:11.  Because she went out like a bat out of hell in the first five miles with that second pack of women!  Not to mention that running with her would not have aligned to my race strategy, which was to go out at marathon pace.

Good thing I incorporated some mental tactics into this race to keep myself focused.

Through the first 5 miles, things were going great.  I felt smooth, relaxed, strong.  I really thought that I was going to run a 1:17:5x half marathon.  Then a hill came in mile 6 and I started to become painfully aware of the fact that there was no one in front of me nor behind me and that there were practically no spectators on the course.  After 5 miles, I decided not to look at my watch splits any more and to just focus on the overall time.  Admittedly, I am a smart cookie sometimes was still able to determine when I was running 6 min pace and when I wasn't...but it helped mentally not knowing exactly what pace I had just hit. 

I came through the 6 mile mark in 34:04 which is almost 6:00 pace - perfect.  Through miles 7-10 I decided to really focus on running the shortest tangents as possible (side note - I did run them pretty good because my garmin had 13.15 for my distance!).  I smiled at a group of little girls in a cheerleading uniform and waved.  That resulted in a burst of giggles and screams - quite possibly the highlight of my race.  The hardest part about this section was trying to make myself feel like I was competing.  Really, I felt like I was just competing against myself. It felt like a tempo and that it was really all just up to me to keep the pace honest and strong.  No one else was there to help or to motivate me; all the power was within me.  Yes, this should always be the case, but it's much easier to compete when you have people around to beat! 

The final 5k was the toughest mentally, not just because it's the final 5k of a half marathon, but because mile 11 was all uphill like Morehead Street in Charlotte.  On miles 12 and 13, all the racers had to turn around at the 12 mile mark, awarding you with the agonizing opportunity to view all the people who are ahead of you! 

The finish seemed like forever, but fortunately I had finally caught this guy who had fallen back to me.  I passed him and gained a sizeable lead on him in the final 800 meters.  Then he saw the finish and got all macho on me and passed me.  Probably because I am a girl.  I finished with Meagan standing right in the finish chute.  That was really cool and fun to see a familiar face in a city that I'm entirely not from. 

I chatted it up some with Meagan and hung out for a little while at the Craft booth before heading to the shuttles to attempt to make it to the amazing and free breakfast the Residence Inn has to offer.  On the bus, I was able to reflect on the 13.1 Series and the organization of the event. 

From my experience with one 13.1 Series race, I can now conclude with confidence that they do a great job creating a successful event.  The course was very scenic and rolling just enough to keep it interesting but not too challenging as we traversed along the Mississippi River and then into one of the 10,000 lakes in Minnesota.  The race medals are really cool - so cool, in fact, that I'm going to keep it.  The announcer said my name and the city where I'm from when I crossed the finish line.  There was free beer (not that I drank any because I didn't have my ID).  They started on time and the results were posted in lightning quick speed.  Best of all, my race t-shirt is Craft so that automatically means it's better than any other race t-shirt I've ever received. 

When analyzing my own performance, I come away feeling positive about my mental tenacity and the ability to stay focused throughout the entire half.  For both of my two slowest mile splits, I was running up a significant hill so the times are reasonable considering the incline and the lack of competition to movitate me to push it harder.  I didn't ever feel the desire to drop out, which has come over my mind in the last two halfs I've done. 

On a final note, I am grateful that Meagan was kind enough to let me take over part of her hotel room for two nights.  It was fun to hang out with her and observe her as she did her job...which she's quite good at I might add.  She definitely has a knack for selling Craft gear and Karhu shoes.  Shoot, I even ordered a pair via email to Melissa Bell at Inside Out Sports after she gave me the Fast to try on!

Some highlighted mental tactics utilized throughout the race.  Exclamation points infer the level of excitement I was trying to create in my mind. 

Mile 1:  Great start!  This is easy.  Easy peasy.   Meagan might not be here, but this will still be a lot of fun!!!!
Mile 3:  Three miles in!  Only 60 minutes (or less) remaining - that's NOTHING!!!!!
Mile 4:  Wow, there's a person in front of me.  Let's get him! You are going to run sub-1:18!!
Mile 5:   Okay maybe this isn't as much fun without Meagan here.  Focus on the tangents instead.
Mile 6:   This hill is shorter and less steep than the Twin Cities hills...or is it?  I can't remember.  Either way, pretend like you feel as awesome on this hill as you did at Twin Cities. 
Mile 7:  I'm over halfway.
Mile 8:  Maybe I'm not going to break one to compete with.  Okay, run like you are competing. 
Mile 11:  Are my legs tired right now because I played golf for the first time in my life on Thursday?  My fingers are sore.  Probably not, you're making up excuses Caitlin!
Mile 13:  This is the longest last mile EVER.  At least I caught that guy!!!!

Yeah - that's not me.  It's Katie McGregor winning the race. 
But we're both redheads so I thought I'd give her tribute! Go Gingers!
And Meagan is in the picture on the right. 


mrn said...

fantastic performance and great race recap as per usual. i wanted nothing more than to hold hands with you and cross the finish line together, but the delayed gratification will make it that much sweeter the next time. wish we could've hung out more but i had a lot of fun with you this weekend! see you back in the queen city tomorrow.

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