Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Race Recap: Fox Cities Half Marathon

This past Sunday, I completed my 20th half marathon at the Fox Cities Marathon (Appleton, WI), wrapping up a 4-in-4 series (4 half marathons in 4 weeks). The weather was amazingly perfect and I thoroughly enjoyed the run. I wanted a strong, pain-free run that was preferably faster than Wichita's 2:05 - that was my goal.

As you know, I've been battling a mild case of PF (plantar fasciitis). For the most part, it's minor discomfort that is more nagging than painful. However, I've been nursing it with massage, rest and ice to nip it in the bud. I ran very very little last week before the race (once!). I entered race day feeling unbelievably rested with a great desire to run.
Pre-race meetup with some Wisconsin bloggers and friends. They all went 26.2!
Note - the great $2 throwaway (blue shirt) that I scored off the Target clearance rack. It was so comfy that I hated to toss it! 
The start was quick with very little congestion. It was cold (38˚), but the sun came over the horizon in full force, making the early miles difficult to see. My sunglasses went on early and I kept my eyes down on the road. Once running, I warmed up quickly and tossed my shirt before we even hit the first mile marker. Underneath, I had arm sleeves with my tank top, which proved to be the perfect race attire.

I tried to hold myself back in the early miles. My legs were so fresh from a light week that they just wanted to take off! I concentrated on my breathing, trying to stay in an easy zone. If I can keep the first 3 miles at a (perceived) comfortable pace, it's a good indication what pace I should shoot for during the rest of the race. I was easily hitting low-9's and it gave me early hope of a possible sub-2.
Mile 1 - 9:03
Mile 2 - 9:11
Mile 3 - 8:59

I like the early part of this course, winding through nice neighborhoods. For a race this size, I think the crowd support is really good.... lots of families and a ton of signs.  In the next couple miles, the two-hour pace group clipped at my heels. It's always a huge group, especially in the first half of a race. I try to distance myself from the pace groups because it's so congested. The past few races however, we've tangled a lot. Because they run as a pack, it's easy to get trapped... and frustrated. The pace group would slow/stop at water stops and I'd pass. A mile later, I'd hear them gaining behind me once again. This went on for the bulk of miles 3-6.
Mile 4 - 9:11
Mile 5 - 9:10
Mile 6 - 9:17

Right about mile 6, we turn onto Plank Road. It's a long stretch that is necessary to get us from Appleton into the Neenah/Menasha area. There were more spectators this year than I remember from 2010, but it's still a flat-out boring stretch. Unfortunately, it's also the mileage that I start to get tired. The run becomes work - with very little distractions.  I walked at the mile 8 marker to take a GU gel, wash it down with water and remove my arm sleeves. Once I stopped, my legs thought we were done. I just couldn't get my rhythm back, and any notion of a sub-2 slipped away pretty quick.
Mile 7 - 9:09
Mile 8 - 9:44
Mile 9 - 9:40

We ran through Menasha's Jefferson Park and got our first glimpse of pretty Lake Winnebago. The sun glimmered on the water and I found it so peaceful. Too peaceful in fact -  my pace dropped into the 10's for my slowest mile of the race. Shortly after mile 10, we crossed over bridge #1 onto Doty Island. I swear the route changed here from several years ago, but I was quickly distracted by a women offering oranges up ahead. Sweet YES! My #1 craving while I run! At this point, I became focused on just looking for the next mile marker... "looking for 11" I'd repeat in my head. I was now grabbing water thru each aid station, but drinking on the run. I knew if I stopped to walk again, it'd be difficult to restart.
Mile 10 - 10:10
Mile 11 - 10:00

Before I knew it, we were crossing over bridge #2 into Neenah. I stopped at the top to take a photo. Across the water was the park that held my finish line.
Yes, I'm one of those runners who take pictures in race. Sue me. There's been a lot of b*tching about it lately with the recent news from the Hong Kong Marathon... I even heard people talking about it in today's race.  I step off the course and never interfere with other runners when I snap photos. The only thing it hurts is my race time... so don't judge.

The final stretch of the Fox Cities Marathon is my favorite part of the race. We turn onto Wisconsin Avenue and it seems like the finish is "just ahead", but in actuality, there is a good 1.5 miles to go yet. I tried to hold myself back, but the abundance of spectators and signs in this stretch definitely gave an added pep in the step.

Once we hit the lake, we made a U to the finish. That little U felt like the longest stretch ever. I tried to take in the pretty water views (took more pictures) and focused on just reaching the lighthouse.

Mile 12 - 10:05
Mile 13 - 9:39
Right when the finish line came into sight, my phone beeped with a text. I glanced down to see an encouraging message from my hubby (who was following me via race tracking).
It gave me a good laugh and I picked it up all the way to the finish.

Official Chip Time 2:04:30
average pace 9:30
Overall  #1138 / 2776
Female  # 535 / 1805
Div F35-39  #119 / 389
*Note if you ran this event and received your official time at the results tent, re-check it online. My time seemed a bit 'long' to me; and sure enough, the online results are more accurate with my own watch.
Official Race Splits
5K mark - 28:11 (9:04 pace)
6.9 miles - 1:03:06  (9:08 pace)
11.9 miles - 1:52:49  (9:29 pace)

I didn't stick around long after my finish. First, I got cold almost as immediately as I stopped running. Second, my 93 year old Grandma was watching my kiddos for me. (Bless her!)  I grabbed a turkey sandwich, some cheese and more oranges. I sat down to eat and listen to the band, but wasn't really hungry. I ended up tossing my sandwich and decided to head out.

 As I walked back to my car, retracing part of the race route, I got to see the lead male (full) marathoners coming down the final mile. Even more notable, I watched as slower, larger athletes finished their half marathons. Some were smiling and laughing; some were wincing, struggling to finish. Some walked while other ran. It made my heart glow to see people of all shapes and speeds participating in events like this... and complete strangers cheering them on. No matter what the reason that gets people out here (competition, comradery or health), I think marathons are BLESSINGS for any community. They give me HOPE in people. The Fox Cities is where I grew up, the place I'll always call "home", and I couldn't have been more proud today...



  1. Congrats on that race. Beautiful day! And keep babying that PF, I've been dealing with it for 2 years now. Rolling out the calves has made a big difference for me.

  2. Sounds like a great race! Awesome job =)

  3. Love when the shirt says Finisher! Great race report.

  4. Wish I could have stopped to say "hi" before the race, but I was busy prepping the water station at mile 4. I was impressed by this race and am certainly thinking about running the half myself next year!

  5. That looks like a beautiful area to run in! That's great you had nice weather for it too!

  6. Whoop! Whoop! Awesome job!!!

  7. Way to go! I was handing out GU at Jefferson Park -- it's very inspiring to see all the people running....slow, fast, big, small. My goal is to do this half before I'm 45 (I'm 41 now!). And you were right, the view of Lake Winnebago from Jefferson Park that morning was awesome!!

  8. glad you beat your time from Kansas. I didnt' realize you ran with phone in hand? Or did you just happen to take it out to check. Awesome for the hubby to encourage you during the race (and that it worked!)

  9. I love that your hubby texted to you pick it up! hahahah! I had a congratulatory text on my phone waiting for me after Kev got the final update. ;)

    I like the bright green shirt for the half. The fulls is a greyish and not my absoulte favorite. I guess I'm a neon girl!

    So glad you see you again this weekend!

  10. Great job, Jess! Congrats on a great race! :0)

  11. congratulations on a great race!!! green superfeet inserts have saved my poor feet from PF woes, they're controversial (in that some people like them and some don't) but they might be worth a try?

  12. Congrats! That's lots of racing for you lately! Impressive times too!
    I've taken pictures during trail races before but never during a road race. I don't think there is anything wrong with stopping to take pictures but it is really important to move out of the way and be aware of others around you. But you should do that any time you want to stop like tie your shoe or walk and take your fuel! It's hard to avoid someone who stops right in front of you!

  13. AWESOME JOB!!! Impressive time too! So much racing from you lately...you inspire me!


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