Monday, October 21, 2013

Race Recap: Susan G Komen Promise Run 13.1

This Sunday, I ran the Susan G. Komen Promise Run (half marathon) in Peoria, IL. Before I even get into the race details... let me cover the most important part of this run. It was a charity event, first and foremost...
A run against breast cancer.
A run to honor survivors.
A run to support the current fighters.
And a run to honor the memory of those passed.

In the months leading up to race day, I did my share of fundraising to support this inaugural race. Through personal donations and a variety of events, including the Virtual 50K Ride and Spin for the Cure, I raised $1,173.09. Thank you to everyone who made that possible. I mainly use this blog to connect and help motivate others with my running ramblings. However, my heart is always proud when I can also use it to do some good for a charity. So a big thank you.

Pink ribbon cookies
from my Grandma's recipe
On Friday, I put in a good hour at the local Komen office, stuffing race goodie bags. I also decided to make some cookies to hand out after the race. These cookies had special meaning - as they were cut from my Grandma Lillian's recipe. I named my first daughter after G'ma Lillian and she was my source of inspiration for this run, as she died when I was 3 yrs old from breast cancer.

On Saturday, I worked the Sole Sisters table (aka the Bling Booth) at packet pickup. The race bibs were a beautiful pink, so we offered rhinestones and all kinds of glittery stuff to decorate them even more. The ladies loved it and it was a busy busy table at times. I also made some "I Run For..." bibs that runners could pin to their back to honor someone during their run.
Adding BLING to their race bibs!

I started off race morning around 6am, dropping off a plethera of signs at Bradley Park, where fellow Sole Sisters would be hosting a Cheer Station.  From there, I made my way downtown for the early 7am start (just how I like it).  I met up with the running Sole Sisters outside near the start (although most people were huddled inside the warmth of the Civic Center). I'm a Wisconsin gal and built for this weather. I absolutely love the upper 30's-low 40's, which is exactly where it stayed the whole race.

And we're off!! Starting in downtown Peoria, we ran over the bridge into East Peoria for the first of three out and back's.

The highlight of the East Peoria stretch was definitely crossing the Bob Michel Bridge. It's always a pretty spot to run in this town, but today had a pretty sunrise. Unfortunately, the volunteers didn't show for the water stop along this first stretch, so the table sat unmanned in the middle of the street. Self serve I guess, but I think it pretty much went unused this early in the miles.

Carried my camera in the first part just to stop and get this shot on top of the bridge;
then I tossed the camera to the hubs and ran hands-free for a nice change.

I knew this course had some major hills in the first half, so I kept my pace comfortable. My mantra for the first half was STRONG BUT CONSERVATIVE. The first 2.5 miles included a climb up and down the bridge (twice)... and then we made our way through downtown Peoria.

downtown Peoria

It took another two miles to get to the top of Main Street hill. On each of the major hills (Main St being one of them), I set my sites on a point halfway up the hill, ran to it, took a walk break, and then continued my run to finish the hill. That was the plan and I pretty much stuck to it this whole race.
Mile 1 - 9:02
Mile 2 - 9:09
Mile 3 - 9:39
Mile 4 - 10:12

We then cruised a flat mile through Bradley University. By now, I noticed more cops than I've ever seen on a race course before. Several cops even had police dogs with them. For the number of runners in this race, the big police presence actually seemed a bit odd... but I guess we were safe.

By mile 5, the leader was already pushing up the big Farmington Road hill as I coasted down. Yup, he was nearly 3 miles ahead of me already! He finished in an unbelievable 1:11 for the half.

When we hit Lower Bradley Park, there were my girlfriends... the Sole Sisters who were not running. Oh my goodness, they were cheering so loud for all the runners that I heard them at the top of Farmington Rd hill! What a fun spot to run through, by far the most ENERGY on the course!

photos from my friend Colleen
Yup, I was indeed having fun on this run!
Next up was the big Park Road hill. This baby is just plain evil. I stuck to my 'hill plan' and got up it... whew! At the top, I nearly collided with another runner coming at me. For some reason, runners had to "swap sides" of the road for the relay exchange up ahead at Shea Stadium. Very odd and dangerous - especially if the race had been bigger. This needs correcting before next year.

I like running through the relay exchange zones. There are lots of spectators and runners waiting for their run partner. Plus there's a sense of pride when you bust through the exchange... "Not me, I'm running the whole damn thing!"

I knew this area well as I run often through the adjacent Parkside Cemetery. I was kinda bummed that the course didn't veer past Susan G. Komen's burial site. It would have been a nice touch to offer flowers or something to drop near the memorial.

By mile 7, I was all smiles, now cruising down the Park Road hill. Sole Sisters at the bottom and then one more big hill to climb. I got this!
Mile 5 - 9:20
Mile 6 - 9:43
Mile 7 - 9:25
Mile 8 - 10:04

By mile 9, I was back on Main Street when my friend Cassie veered off the sidewalk and appeared by my side. She was just 'out for a run' and chatted with me a bit. It was a great surprise and perfect timing during a quiet stretch of road. All I had on my mind was the big downhill coming up...

The downhill on Main Street wasn't nearly as much fun as I had hoped. By now, my quads were getting tired of all this elevation change. A steep downhill didn't help. But I knew the worst was behind me and that made me happy to continue.

At mile 9.5, we turned left to begin our final out/back towards Springdale Cemetery. I've run this route too many times to count, as it's the popular course of the Steamboat Classic. I saw my hubby and kids as we left downtown, and it gave me steam to push the last four miles.

The final out/back of the course was flat, but yet it seems deceivingly long. Miles 9-12 are always the toughest miles for me in a half. With the hills in my rearview mirror, I decided to drive forward. My goal was to make the last four miles faster than the first four. I plugged my earbud in and searched my ipod shuffle for some hard tempo songs.
Mile 9 - 9:36
Mile 10 - 9:19
Mile 11 - 9:28

I hit the turnaround and was hating the little incline up and around the Sonnemaker statue... but elated to be headed in the right direction of the finish line. As I passed friends on the out/back, I resorted to hand gestures for communication. I needed every last breathe to hold my pace in the low-9's. One by one, I picked off runners in front of me. (The end is always so more fun when you run the first half conservatively.)

With less than a mile to go, I found a worthy adversary... All I remember is a pretty ponytail and a white shirt. I struggled to pass her. I could hear her footsteps right on my tail. My only goal was to stay one step infront. I can't even describe how hard that was at this point of exhaustion. As we made the turn onto the final stretch, my legs just quit and she zoomed by. Ugh, I was so disappointed with myself. I tried to grab ahold and trail behind with her, but she was now out of reach.
Mile 12 - 9:20
Mile 13 - 9:28

I had no time goal on this race - but I'm always striving for a good run. As many races as I've run, I'm still playing around with strategy - how to pace myself through the miles. I like to finish strong with just enough gas in the tank. Today, I was pretty close to that. I didn't look at my watch all morning. So as I approached the finish line, I was literally shocked to see 2:04... With those big hills, how on earth did that happen?

One of the benefits of a small race... my hubby positioned himself right inside the finish line. 
I ran right into BIG HUGS from my LITTLE GIRLS. An Absolutely Perfect Finish!!

Official Time 2:04:38
average pace 9:31 min/mile

I am proud of this run. Not only did I help the fight against breast cancer, but I also proved a lot to myself. With the climbs involved, I wasn't expecting much of a performance... but a 2:04 is pretty GOOD for me right now. It's what I ran a month ago on the flat Fox Cities course. It gives me cause to evaluate my goal for the Marshall University Half in three weeks. I'm going to give myself a couple weeks of "real training" to try and pull off a sub-2 to end the year. There... I said it. Now I gotta do it.

  • This was the inaugural year for the Komen Promise Run & Relay in Peoria, and I have no doubt it will get bigger and better every year. I've worked with the folks at the Komen office and they are good people, dedicated to making this a long-standing event for Peoria.
  • I liked the course... more than I thought I would. Initially I was disappointed when they released the course (3 out and backs?), but it turned out to be a lot of FUN. I saw so many friends throughout the run. I loved all the cheering and jabbing back and forth as we passed each other. It made this the quickest (mentally) half marathon I've ever run. And when you're running, sometimes it's all about the mental games in your head.
  • I personally loved the New Balance sleeveless tops. I wish more races did tank tops since that's all I wear. Plus I love the fit of New Balance. Although, I did hear a lot of suggestions that long sleeve seemed more appropriate for the time of year... and they ran out of sizes.
  • There were no finisher's medals. There's been a finisher's medal (of some sort) at every half marathon I've run (22 before today). So it was odd to finish and not be handed anything but a bottle of water.  To put it mildly, there were some upset runners. For the price tag of this race, I think finisher's medals are a must-add in 2014 if they want the participation.
  • There was an adequate breakfast spread in the Civic Center afterward... muffins, doughnuts, bagels, fruit, juice and coffee. The exhibit hall was decorated nice with pink lights and pink flags. A complimentary photo booth was a fun touch on the post-race celebration.
  • Unfortunately, the awards ceremony didn't go quite as planned. First, it took forever for the awards to start (especially when you're sweaty and cold). Then once they started handing out medals, the results were wrong and winners mixed up. Technology... it happens but still frustrating. Official results and correct age group winners can be found here.
I have high hopes for this race in the future and hope my schedule allows a 2014 repeat. It's an important cause and we can't quit the fight.


  1. Sounds like a good race overall, but yeah I would be pretty upset at not getting a medal.

  2. Thank you for all that you do for Breast Cancer awareness. As breast cancer survivor I truly appreciate it.

  3. I'm a little torn on the medal issue. As a runner, who runs 1/2's, yes I want a medal at the end. But, as a long standing volunteer with the American Cancer Society (Relay For Life event chair) I understand that charitable events, especially cancer related ones, want every penny possible to go towards finding a cure. I don't know anything about SGK and the financial expectations that go along with their events, but I know that for ACS there is a standard that .90 of every dollar raised goes towards cancer research, on top of that as a non-profit there are federal guidelines to adhere to. because of that we have to skip some of the nice touches at Relay For Life so that we can donate the most money possible and keep the focus on why we participating in the event/fundraising. Again, I don't know how SGK operates so maybe they were just thoughtless and didn't think about medals, maybe they wanted the money spent on medals to go to breast cancer treatment/prevention etc. Whatever the case they should have been up front about that during the registration process. Let runners know there isn't a medal, and know why. Chances are if you care about the cause you won't mind skipping the medal, if you know ahead of time and know why.

  4. I love any race or sporting event that benefits breast cancer. Last week, I played in a golf tournament and my only complaint was that they gave prizes to the winners (and my team tied for first place) I felt all the money should go to the cause that there were plenty of times to win golf gear or pro shop credit. I think the no medals policy is actually a good one for charity events. My older sister who ran races 35 years ago never got medals, even for the Boston Marathon. (unless you were a winner). My favorite race medals that I have earned are those that were AG medals. Yes, they are not nearly as pretty as my half and full marathon medals, but they are more important to me. I hope this doe not come off as preachy, because I truly love race day medals but with a charity like breast cancer, I can understand no medal.

  5. Looks like a fun race but I also would be upset if I didn't get a finishers medal for a half!

  6. Amazing! I ran the Detroit half in about the same time of 2:03:42 :)

  7. Congrats! That's awesome, especially with so many hills!

  8. Congrats on a tough race for an awesome cause. There's are half here in VT I've done that doesn't give medals and every year we comment on the their surveys, haven't gotten one yet.

  9. I got an email from SGK last night that said "ALL participants will receive finisher medals by mail." Maybe they either forgot them or there was delay in the shipment or they initially decided not to do medals so more money could go to research and then now have changed their minds due to feedback. But I agree, it was a weird to cross the finish line and only get a bottle of water. Would have felt a little less odd about the situation had it been presented up front that medals were going to be withheld to reserve more money for the organization (if that was their original intention). And I also loved the shirts. I know it was odd to give tank tops in the fall, but this is the first race that I have got a tank top from and it was a nice change and I know I will wear it again! So good to see you many times along the course and thanks for the cookie! Hope to become a Sole Sister this spring when it warms up.

  10. You look like you are having so much fun in all the race photos-awesome race!

  11. I really hope they do one of these in Maryland or close by. I am an avid participant in other Susan G. Komen events and would love it if they did a half locally. Thank you for sharing your experience, Jess!


I appreciate your feedback and comments!