Sunday, April 17, 2011

Race Recap: Oshkosh Half Marathon

This race was one for the book, and not likely to be forgotten for a long time.  In fact, you'll probably overhear me telling the war story in the future... "This one race was so bad that..."  The battle was not without warning.  The forecast was dismal all week, but I hoped, prayed, for a break of sunshine.  I did not get it this time.

Friday afternoon, hubby and I mingled around at the race expo.  We picked up our swag bags and bibs... #2146.  I even scored a good deal on a new pair of Asics Keyanos that felt like butter on my feet.  I reunited with my childhood friend Dani and got to meet her 8 yr old son Carson (who ran his 5K in 31 minutes!)  Seeing them was perhaps the best treat of the weekend!  We decided to skip the expo speakers and drove the course route instead.  At home, my mom had a huge pasta dinner waiting for us.  With questionable weather looming, I was still undecided on my race outift.  So I put on a little fashion show, and we narrowed it down to two outfits - one to look good; the other for rain.  We settled into bed early with the sounds of whipping wind and pouring rain outside.

Unfortunately, it was still raining as we headed out in the morning.  Our one relief was that the wind had settled down to only 17mph, instead of the 35mph from the previous day.  In the car ride, I reviewed my tiered goals, and pretty much dismissed Goal A...
Goal A - ideal race conditions, run a 9:09 pace to finish under 2 hours.  1:59
Goal B - feels good, but incur some drawbacks - finish under 2:05
Goal C - fight the conditions and beat my previous Half time of 2:09
Goal D - struggling, don't walk, just run it through to the finish.

Hubby and I before the start
Racers huddled to stay warm and dry at the start.  I met up with a high school friend, who was attempting to pace both myself and his training partner to our first sub-2.  The gun was about five minutes late according to my watch, but fairly smooth start.  According to race results, less than 1300 finished the half-marathon, so congestion wasn't an issue... but the puddles were.  Since it had been raining all night, water filled the potholes and sides of the road, making for a lot of jumping and jotting to keep the feet dry. I'm feeling the after-effects of that jumping today in my ankles.

The first two miles went quickly through the UW campus, but felt slow.  Shortly before mile 3, we hit the gravel trail.  When we previewed the course the night before, I told my hubby, "This is gonna be a mess if it rains all night."  Sure enough.  The gravel trail was complete mud and many parts of the trail completely under water.  Runners joked around about running a Muddy Buddy or Warrior Dash.  I just tried not to fall down!  It was slick and not much option to move around the narrow trail.  In ideal weather, this trail would have been gorgeous traveling along the Fox River, but today my eyes were glued on the muddy steps ahead.

Mile 5.5 - We finally break out of the muddy trail and back to a cement path, which was under water in some places.  At this point, I wasn't feeling too bad physically... actually a little bad-ass for what I just ran through!  And the race photographer was right there to capture the feeling...

At this point, we turn to cross the bridge over the river and the wind slapped the rain against my face.  I had temporarily forgotten about the wind, but the next couple miles would be heading directly into it.  At mile 6, I got a pick-me-up when I saw my parents and kids waiting for me.  My girls were so excited to see me.  I just love the boost cheerleaders give you along the race.

By this time, I was way off-pace for a 1:59... but still hoping the 2:05 was within reach.  The headwind suddenly made me feel just how wet and cold I was.  By mile 8, my pacer decided to step up the pace and challenge us a bit.  My feet were so heavy that I watched the two of them fade into the distance.  

At mile 9, I got another boost from my little cheerleaders.  Big girl ran out to me and exclaimed, "Mom, I've seen you THREE times now!!"  It's typically difficult for my family to move around a race route to catch me in multiple locations.  That's one of the benefits of a smaller race... the roads are only partially closed so spectators can easily drive around. Plus my parents knew these roads quite well. 

We had a nice run through South Park, and before I knew it someone yelled "Just a 5K left!"  My mind had been focused on math/pace calculations, avoiding puddles, the squishing in my shoes and my cold fingers, that I didn't even realized we were this far along in the run.  Breathe. Only 3 miles left.

Mile 10 was kind of a blur through some boring neighborhoods.  At mile 11, my family was waiting for me again.  This time, my husband had joined up with them after completing his first 5K.  It was the first time he actually saw me race, and it felt good seeing him.  The next mile went through neighborhoods with some "college houses".  They had big groups on porches yelling at runners and music blaring.  It made a typical tough #11 easier for me.  

Finally the turn home... At mile 12, we hit Lake Winnebago like a wall.  The wind was again at our face, and many runners dropped to a walk.  I was pretty drained and freezing cold at this point, but kept an eye on my watch... and debated Goal C or D?  I pushed on and never stopped running... "Empty the Tank" as my mantra at this point.

I crossed over the final bridge and took one last glance at my watch.  DO IT.  Goal C.... beat the 2:09:13 from last fall's half marathon (in perfect running conditions).  I broke into an all out sprint for the last 1/4 mile.
Finish 2:09:02 (chip time)
I PR'ed by 11 seconds... does that count?!?  Hahaha!
And again, the photographer captured exactly how I felt at that moment... complete anguish.
I was #716 out of 1241
#6 in my division

By the finish, the temperature had dropped almost 10 degrees from the start.  It had rained the whole race; but now it turned to sleet, and then quickly snow.  We snapped some quick post-race photos, grabbed some food, and were loading up into the car before the finish clock even hit 2:35.  I was freezing wet and shaking cold beyond anything I had ever felt before.  

Here's how I felt...

Hmmm, was it worth it?!?!

You betcha!

Not the race I dreamed and envisioned during the last four months of training.  But I'll get another shot on April 30 at the Illinois Half-Marathon.  And on the way home, I warned my hubby... you know I could always do another one in May... How quickly we recover!


  1. Totally counts! Awesome recap! What a race!
    Congratulations on the hard-fought PR!

  2. It counts in my book. Great job being out there in the harsh environment. I enjoyed reading the recap.

  3. I love reading your story! You and I are exactly the same pace, with the exact same Half PR to beat! How funny is that!?? My goal is to sub 2 hour as well. Might happen for me in the fall. I'm still recovering from IT Band.

  4. Given all that Mother Nature through at you, I'm pretty impressed. Still a GREAT run!

  5. Great race report!!! That weather was crazy! Hope you managed warm up. I've been lucky enough never to have bad weather during a race. Now I'm even more thankful!

  6. Hell YEAH that counts! Way to PR in crazy conditions!!

  7. Your PR totally counts and think how much better you would have done if the weather hadn't been so crummy! Awesome!!!

  8. Heck yeah that counts! Way to push through in challenging conditions.

  9. YES it counts!! Way to go!! Great job in crap conditions. I'm really happy for you Jess!

  10. Nice finish in less than ideal conditions!!

    Definitely a PR!

  11. Congrats, a PR by one second counts, by 11--of course!
    I'm so impressed you did so well in those horrible conditions!

  12. Of course it counts!! Sounds brutal with the weather. Congrats on the PR!!

  13. great recap! and of COURSE it it counts!!! congrats!!

  14. Way to PR! I know you wanted to much more for your finish time, but WTH! The outfit you had to wear tells the story of the tough conditions you ran in.
    I'm realizing that "A" type goals and times are achieved with a lot of help from mother nature.

  15. Congrats on your PR. Those condition are rough to run in. GOOD JOB.

  16. Great re-cap & fantastic job on the PR! I can't believe you managed to PR with such horrible conditions - wow! Ok, so definitely looking forward to another PR at your race in late April when the weather will be perfect :)

  17. Congrats on your PR! And even more so on running in that weather. Ick.

  18. This was a totally bad-ass race so it definitely counts! Way to go.

  19. Wow... what a trooper you are for running in such crappy weather! Congrats on the new PR!

  20. oh wow!!! You did AMAZING in those conditions! Congrats andd awesome job.

  21. Those hard runs are really what make us such resilient and flexible runners... congrats on finishing better than your last half!!

  22. Congrats! Setting a PR in less than ideal conditions is awesome! And just think how tough you are - not many people would stick it out in conditions like that!

  23. Way to go! That's awesome!

  24. You are AWESOME!!! LOVED reading your recap! Congrats!

  25. I ran that half marathon too, how cool! My hometown is about fifteen minutes away from Oshkosh.

    My mom kept trying to talk me into sticking around and taking advantage of the massage folks on hand, and I was just shaking my head and pointing to the warm car.


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