Monday, September 17, 2012

Race Recap: Air Force Half Marathon

The Air Force Half Marathon, held at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, was a big roller coaster ride, full of awesome highs and then some unusual lows. I was looking forward to this race all summer, and came home slightly disappointed. In a year that I've been breaking PR's at every turn, this race was a slap in the face that left me stunned. Lesson learned.

Let me start with the good stuff...
We are an Air Force family and joined Team USO for this event. Thank you to all my supporters, we were able to raise $1118.20 for the USO. That is truly the highlight of this race. It was our honor to support this fabulous organization that assists so many troops and their families on the homefront and abroad.

I've been a bit enamored lately with the notion of 'endurance running' and reading books by the ultra-marathon man himself... Dean Karnazes. I was thrilled to meet him at the Air Force Marathon expo. He gave a nice presentation and graciously signed my book for me.

Hubby and I scored some last minute tickets to the pasta dinner at the Air Force Museum on Friday night. (If you ever run this one, don't delay - the pasta dinner sells out fast!)  As we entered the Museum, we were escorted back to the dinner by an extremely friendly Colonel (who we ran into again the next day again at the race). The food was great and we enjoyed our evening wandering through the neat exhibits.

On Saturday morning, we took the hotel shuttle to the starting line. This was truly the best way to go as the bus slipped right on base for dropoff within 10 minutes. It was a perfect morning for running, clear skies and slightly chilly. The finishing stretch was lined with planes and looked so serene in the morning light...

Before the start, I was able to meet up with bloggers Kim and Lisa. It's funny how "imaginary" friends feel so real once you finally meet face to face. I also felt really short... Thankfully Jill arrived!  And later we met up with Melissa near the huge rows of porta-potties. Seriously, I've never seen so many bathrooms at a race. No lines; just in and out. Sweet!
Kim, me, Jill and Lisa

There was a (very quiet) flyover before the marathon/10k start at 7:30am. Rather un-monumental in my opinion. The half marathon started an hour later. It was disappointing we didn't get another flyover, but there were some parachuters. I guess I'm used to the exciting flyovers here at home (loud, low and fast). I found the few flybys of the day rather boring. Were they even flybys or just planes in the sky? This is the Air Force, right?! I expected more on that end.

Kim and I lined up together for the start. I had taken ibuprofen earlier to dull the toe pain I've been struggling with (since my collision with a door). As we started running, I felt good and decided to run as normal. Let's just see what happens...

Mile Marker 1 - 9:02
Mile Marker 2 - 8:43
Mile Marker 3 - 8:45
These first three were the best miles of the race for me. I had a nice pace going and liking the scenery. Congestion was pretty minimal and everything was going smoothly. I pushed my pace a little faster to get away from some annoying chatty guys behind me... talking nonstop about their previous night's booty calls.

And then, it happened... the turn that would devastate many. The whole race took the wrong turn around mile 3.5. Seriously, how it happened still puzzles me. About a 1/4 mile after the turn, I see a mass of runners weaving towards us through the crowd, frantically waving their arms, "Turn around, we're going the wrong way!" I couldn't believe it and surely my heart wasn't the only one that sunk. As we turned around into the runners behind us, it was like one big traffic jam. I followed several others onto the grass to run along the golf course path. In an attempt to "catch up", I knew I was running too fast for this early in the race.

Mile Marker 4 (which was 1.5 miles worth after the "detour") - 12:15
Mile Marker 5 - 8:52
The wrong turn affected pretty much anyone running a 9:20 pace or faster (my guess). Suddenly we were behind the runners that we had already passed. Faster runners were scrambling, trying to get around and move. It was kind of a dangerous situation at this point because the roads weren't as wide as the beginning. The poor volunteers at the water stations were completely overwhelmed and slightly trampled by the mass the runners trying to squeeze down the street.  (The 1:45 pace group reports they ran almost 2 miles extra in this half marathon due to this mishap.)  These miles were kind of a blur to me as I was just trying to keep solid footing. I had stepped onto the grass several times to get around people and that made my toe injury suddenly noticeable again.

Mile Marker 6 - 9:17
Mile Marker 7 - 8:56
Mile Marker 8 - 9:42
The best part of the whole detour was that Kim, Lisa, Jill and I were suddenly all together again! We ran near each other for a couple miles, but my foot was hurting and I lost them somewhere in mile 8. I under-pronate in my natural stride (which means the forces of impact are on the outside of my foot, and in the push-off phase, most of the work is done by the smaller toes on the outside of the foot). Because it is my outer little toe that is injured, I was heavily altering my stride to reduce pain. I was trying to over-pronate, which in turn made my arches throb! I could feel every muscle in my left foot screaming at me. Honestly, this is the only time I've ever considered a DNF... but I kept on going.

Mile Marker 9 - 9:53
Mile Marker 10 - 10:07
Mile Marker 11 - 10:17
Mile Marker 12 - 9:50
Then came the constant little hills of this last part (I thought this was advertised to be flat?). I was cranky and just unhappy to be running. This doesn't happen very often to me. I turned my music on to dull out the pain and negative thoughts rumbling in my head.

13.1 Finish Line - 11:09
We made the final turn into the finish area and I tried to give a little push to the finish. The last mile seemed so so very long. The final stretch was pretty neat with the planes and flags on both sides. My face must have portrayed my pain because I heard a lot of "Go Jessica" cheers as I sprinted down the finish. By far, the worst feeling I've ever had crossing a finish line. Even the Air Force officers draping the cool medal around my neck couldn't fade the disappointing feeling I had at that moment. Not that I ran a "bad time"... a 2:06 is respectable indeed, but it certainly is not my potential right now. Most of all, it was a painful and miserable run. I should not be running on an injured foot. It's just not worth it.

Official Chip Time 2:06:47
With the "detour", I ran approx 13.6 miles, which puts my pace about 9:19
Overall  #1548 out of 5447
Females  #532 out of 2990
Age Group  #120 out of 507

Afterward, I wobbled across the field to wait for my hubby to come in... He was running his very first half marathon. I relaxed in the grass, tore my shoe off, massaged my foot and cheered for runners coming down the final mile. Unfortunately, my hubby wasn't having a very good run either with calf and knee pains. What a crew we are, huh?!  As he came down the stretch, I slipped my shoe back on and jogged with him to the finish. 

State #7 OHIO is done on my quest to Race All 50
The run is one I'll be happy to forget, but at least I walked away
 with a neat finisher's medal, a cold beer, new friends and
a great fundraising effort for Team USO!


  1. Well done Jess! Sorry you had to deal with the pain and discomfort, but look at you! Never giving up... you're a star! Congrats! And congrats to your hubby too :D Take care of that toe, ok?

  2. Sorry to hear it didnt go the way you would of liked. But you still did awesome. Congrats to finshing it with a bad toe and that detour would of totally messed with my mine. Your still ROCKING IT JESS.

  3. I'm just thinking how difficult it would have been to overcome the problems in the beginning. Sounds like your time would have been pretty good if things went the way they were supposed to. Good job!

  4. Sounds like a rough race for both you and your hubby. Hope the rest of your races this year are more enjoyable and pain free. My big toe joint has been bothering me for a couple weeks and I hope it quits before my half next month.

  5. Good job for finishing and making the best out of a crappy situation. Congrats on finishing and for your husband to have completed his 1st half!!! :) I hope that toe heals quickly!!

  6. JESS,
    I think you did great!! You DID finish and #120 in your age group! Every race is different and you shouldn't beat yourself up for falling short of your goal while doing your best under the circumstances! In the picture of you with your medal on you have a big smile and you raised $ for a great cause so I think you won as soon as you laced up your sneakers that morning! You have a big heart and that's why you have so many followers, you put your sneaker back on your painful foot to finish with your husband...says it all!!

  7. Well done! Sorry about the detour (craziness) and the toe pain... but way to finish strong. :)

  8. While it may not have been your best, you did awesome pushing through. Way to go girl!

  9. Great finish even with the unexpected detour. I've always heard great things about this race, so it's a surprising mishap!

    I usually feel like the tall girls in your photo ;)

  10. Oh man, I didn't realize you lost a whole half mile in that detour. So frustrating. Melissa went an extra 1.5 miles!!! Such a fricking bummer.

    My fav was the guy that called you Captain America as you ran into the porta potties before the race. Awesome.

  11. You ran my pr! You're awesome great job.

  12. I think you did a great job despite the crazy detour and foot pain!

  13. I have never heard of an entire race taking the wrong route -- what a disaster! I can't even imagine how crazy that must have been. Congrats on finishing it despite your injury. And you get to check of another state! :)

  14. Congrats on your finish, despite the toe and detour issues. Rest up! Hope that toe starts to feel better soon :)

  15. Jess You rock as always!~ Get that foot taken care of!

  16. WOW i would be SO MAD if that happens, sounds like a jumbled mess. It sucks when pain shows up on race day and ruins the day.. congrats on finishing and congrats to your hubby on his first Half..

  17. Great example of adapt and overcome! Great job! And beautiful post.

  18. You did an awesome job ESPECIALLY considering the pain and injury. Glad you stuck with it and finished. Congrats!!

  19. your photos are amazing! To be honest I don't know if I even saw any flyovers during the whole race. I had no idea you were in that much pain during the race- way to pull through and finish strong. Congrats again to Dave for his first 13.1 finish!

  20. way to go love...I have always wanted to run this race, and you ran like a champ!!!!! xoxo

  21. You still did awesome! That would be so disheartening for everyone to run the wrong way-and then you with a hurt toe having to go extra! You are a super star in my eyes!!


  22. You know what? You gave it your all. I'm proud of you. And you raised an awesome amount!! Go you!! I tell you what, I was devastated when I read that so many runners were going the wrong way. That almost happened to me and a friend when we were doing a 5K (not quite on the same level as a halfer, I know), I know it almost threw me completely off. It was only my second "real" 5K and it made me a little cranky. I can only imagine how it felt for all of you. Even though you didn't PR and you had some pain, you have to be proud. You did it, even with that sore little piggy. I'm proud of you!!

  23. I ran the race, too. And was among the first to get turned around on the wrong path by the shouts of "You're running the wrong way!" Unfortunately, when the few of us running together, not with an official pace group, managed to find any signs, it pointed us down the continuation of the course and toward mile-marker 6. I looked down at my watch ... 5.65 miles at the 6-mile mark. *sigh* Having no idea where to go, I just decided to continue on. In the end, my race was short about a quarter of a mile (my Garmin says 12.84 miles for my half-marathon. Still a wicked fast PR pace, but it won't count and that frustrates me. Guess I'll just have to make it official in Greenville, SC, in about 6 weeks). Immediately when I finished I headed over toward the results booth, and I wasn't the only one complaining about a short race. Many more showed long, but a bunch of us also showed short. The results volunteers couldn't do anything about it, so I'm going to let things calm down a little bit then email the race director later this week to rectify it. I feel horrible for everyone who ran a 15-18 mile half-marathon. I feel doubly horrible for some of the military guys who were also going to try to count their race for physical training (one of the active duty soldiers was saying he was required to maintain a specific pace for the course and that chip time would be all that was counted. Add 4 miles to your half-marathon and see if you can still get your required time. That sucks.)

    I don't understand entirely how things went wrong, and in the end it's all volunteers and people need to remember that "these things happen." I do, however, know that all it takes is the lead lemming to start down the wrong path and the rest of us lemmings follow, and I'm pretty sure that's the crux of it.

  24. Sorry your race wasn't what it "should" have been. Glad you still had a smile in your pics though:)Seems like I've had several of those runs lately, not what they "should" have been. Hooray for Hubby's first Half!! Wish I could get mine to join in on one! That really sucks about the course, it would really upset me as well.

  25. Wow, I can't believe a well established race like that had that kind of issue!! That is just crazy! I bet those really fast runners were really ticked!! Well really anyone who was out for a PR or whatever!! But at the end of the day you and your hubby both finished!! Awesome job!

  26. AHHHHH! I can't believe you ran extra! Even though it wasn't what you thought it would be, you're an inspiration!

  27. Wow a wrong turn in a race of that size?? Weird and unfortunate. Sorry it wasn't the race you're capable of. Excellent you had a good blogger meetup though!

  28. I've become slightly obsessed reading everyone's personal stories from the race mixup! When my group turned around, it was still just a bunch of us turning, not a whole mass, I bet that was intimidating! And your right, this course is not flat! I swear every year I run it the mile 8 and 10 hills get bigger!

  29. I love reading your recaps, but how frustrating for you! Running injured and the wrong turn??? You still did great, so don't beat yourself up too much!

  30. Sounds like a fun race! great job! Sometimes those bad things happen in a race to show us how good the other ones are. :)

  31. It was so great meeting you! I have to say, you have an energy and enthusiasm about you that is contagious! I hope to meet again one day when we might have a chance to talk more :)

    I'm sorry the race didn't go better for you.

  32. It was so great to meet you! I am so behind on my blogging and reading. I just got to my recap of this race today. I loved your outfit, and I am glad you didn't get as lost as I did! Gosh, there was a whole group of faster people that merged in with my group, which was slightly ahead of the 1:45 group, and I thought, oh, sucks to be you, you go lost, but then ALL of us had to turn around soon! Argh! My season has been full of strange things happening beyond my control, so this was just more of the same. I got one of my races cut by 6.9 miles, so I just felt like I was making up some of them. It would have been a fabulous day for a PR, but it wasn't not meant to be. It will be a memorable race for me for sure!


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