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The Long Winded Race Recap

06/27/2011

I’ve been in a post-race possible-injury funk all day so I am finally getting around to my 1/2 Sauer 1/2 Kraut Half Marathon recap now. I’ll try to keep the pity party at bay…

I entered this race on a whim a couple of weeks ago when I realized that 1 more half marathon would qualify me for the Half Fanatics (you need to do 3 in 90 days to join; I did 3 half marathons and 1 ten miler in less than 90 days not including the Warrior Dash and a 5K. Hmmm… Wonder why my hip hurts so much today…?). It’s difficult to find a half marathon in the summer months because the heat can make long-distance races dangerous, especially with the influx of novice runners tackling halfs and fulls. So I was pleasantly surprised when I found one right in Philadelphia at the end of June!

You know a race is going to be a good one by the communication from the race director. If she/he has a sense of humor and openly takes pot shots at runners, his/her event is going to be really fun. Immediately I knew the 1/2 Sauer 1/2 Kraut was one of those races because runners were encouraged to run in lederhosen. YES! This race has a small field (about 600 for the half and full marathons combined) and took place entirely within the confines of Pennypack Park. The post-race party boasted Bavarian sausage platters and beer served by women named Heidi. Sign me up!

As soon as I arrived at Pennypack I noticed that this race attracted runners who loved running. No one was there to show off their newest hi-tech gadgets and gear. No one was there because Timmy from the mail room bet him he couldn’t conquer 13.1 or 26.2. It was simply runners who purely wanted to run. And there is a certain camaraderie in a field like that. Everyone was chatting at the start. There were very few iPods. And there was an energy on the course that can’t be created from music bands and all the other silly pomp and circumstance that you pay for at the “big” races.

The course was an out-and-back entirely in the park, and after the brutal Buffalo Half Marathon course (which is not scenic at all, to say the least) I was in heaven. Much of the course was run along Pennypack Creek and there was nothing but foliage everywhere you looked. The paved bike path was about 8-10 feet wide and serenely wound its way up and down and around. Although the race was billed as “mostly flat,” I would have to disagree and call it “mostly hilly”; they weren’t mountains, but they were enough of an incline that you had to work. Just after the 6 mile marker, you entered a grassy field and looped past a man in lederhosen playing an accordion, which immediately brought a smile to every runner’s face. On the far side of the field you cross the half-way point (6.55 miles) and enter the trail portion. This was my favorite part of the whole race–down and dirty cross country running. For a little over a mile, you jumped over logs, rocks, and piles of horse manure (you read that right! I’m enthusiastic about hurdling dung in the woods!). Many parts of the trail were single-track which was fine–no one was out to set a PR (Personal Record) or to BQ (Boston Qualify) on this day on this course so there was no jockeying for position. In fact, the race director warns “Is this a Boston Qualifier? Hell no!!!!!!!! This is a summer race, there is a good chance that high temps will make this harder than you anticipate!!!” And he’s right! The mile on the trail was the best part of the run and recharged my batteries, but it was also my slowest mile clocking in at 10:09.

Once you get back to the bike path there is a little over 5 miles to go to the finish line. Despite the hills I was feeling good. I think my decision to carry water for this race (more on that later) and my mindset going into it contributed to that. The past two half marathons (Long Island on 5/1 and Buffalo on 5/29) I put a lot of pressure on myself. I had very specific time goals (1:45) and thought after the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run on April 3 (1:19:44), I would easily meet these goals. So after disappointing finishes for both (1:48:16 and 1:49:52 respectively), I decided to run this last-minute race for fun. I publicly declared I didn’t have a time goal but secretly I wanted to finish under 1:55 (I’m competitive, I can’t help it!).

Mentally and physically I felt the best in this half than I did the other two. And at the water stop just before the 10 miler mark, I decided to take some Gatorade. Those 2 sips were like drinking a magic elixir! I charged up the next hill and ran my third fastest mile of the day (8:09). I felt so good! I felt indestructible! I felt like training for a full marathon was not such a stupid idea after all! I was king of the world!… And then the pain started. At almost exactly 11 miles, the pain in my hip that has been nagging me since the Warrior Dash became pretty acute. I was surprised by it, but I was finishing this race no matter what! Whether I had to walk back or run, it was going to hurt, so run it was! I still felt good mentally and even passed some runners during this final stretch. As I crested the last hill and saw the 13 mile mark, I was elated, and the path around the bend was lined with spectators on both sides cheering the runners on! I saw my family, gave a big wave, and chugged on home to cross at 1:53:46. Not only did I feel that this was my best half of the three, Brian’s first words were not the usual “How’d you do?” but “You did great!!!” And I guess I did. I hit my time goal, I wasn’t dehydrated, I was in a good place mentally the whole 13.1, and I finished 116 out of 386 runners. Not too shabby!

Now back to the hydration: I have been known to mock fuel belts and Camelbacks especially when carried by runners in 5Ks. It’s part of my running snobbery–I am trying to get over it. I also don’t like to have “luggage” with me when I am running; I don’t want anything in my hands or strapped to my body. Even my teeny tiny can of pepper spray for pre-dawn runs drives me crazy. But I knew that if I was going to train for a fall marathon during the hot and humid summer months, I was going to have to give in and learn to hydrate on runs. This was even more apparent when I finished the Buffalo Half Marathon very dehydrated. After months of deliberation, endless Internet searches, and trips to 4 separate stores, I found a hand-held water bottle that I could live with.

I was so happy with it during Sunday’s half marathon. The strap fit comfortably and the 10 ounce water bottle rested on the heel of my hand, so the rest of my hand and fingers were free to hit the splits on my watch or even scratch an itch. It was not constricting at all. In fact, it was so non-intrusive that I mostly forgot it was even there! It didn’t leak or bounce and wasn’t too heavy. I love it!

Overall, despite the hip pain, I was really happy with the race and my performance. I am going to take 2 weeks off from running because I don’t want to be sidelined for 12 weeks like last summer. Hopefully 2 weeks will give me enough time to rest and rehab my hip, and I will be ready to start marathon training by mid-July. The only other race I’ve pre-registered for this summer is the Midnight Madness 8.4 miler along the Schuylkill River. I’m hoping with plenty of ice, anti-inflammatories, foam rolling, and cross training, my hip will be up for it because it sounds like a blast and my running sole sista, Sue, is running it too. It’s not until July 18 so I do have time and if I play it smart, I’ll be at the starting line! Until then, I’ll just chase away my No Running Blues by polishing my uber finisher’s medal:

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Kristen permalink
    06/28/2011 2:16 AM

    Suzanne,
    Nice piece on the 1/2 Sauer 1/2 Kraut Half Marathon! (And way to go on the run!) It was very entertaining to read because you expressed how much you enjoyed this one. I am not an experienced runner like you only having done a few 5Ks and the LI Half. I can relate to you on one point. I stopped at most of the water stops during the half just to take a sip or two of water because I was so afraid of getting dehydrated. I would take a gulp and toss the cup. However, when I got to the Gatorade stop right after the Wantagh PKWY, I was in heaven. It really was an amazing cup of Gatorade. I drank the whole thing! My mouth woke up, my body regenerated and I felt great. So as I read your blog I smiled. It took me right back to that moment during the LI Half. I’m glad you are enjoying your runs, and thank you for sharing your stories. You must really love it to conquer all of these feats in this hot weather.

    • Suzanne permalink*
      06/28/2011 8:21 PM

      Thanks for the comment, Kristen! My first one! When I started running again after a 3-year break I decided I wanted to pick events that were fun and different instead of running the same old boring road races again and again. This was definitely in that category! And it gave me another taste of trail running which I’d like to transition to once I move to Rochester next month. Trail and cross country running is amazing–you feel like you are flying as your traverse the terrain, jumping over logs and climbing rocks! You feel like a kid again, and mileage and splits and PRs don’t matter. It is just the pure love of running which is exactly what I want and need at this stage of my life. Thanks again for reading and keeping running!

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