October 14, 2011

Mother Road Half Marathon Recap

I've been putting off writing this because I felt like roadkill on the Mother Road last weekend. I ran this half as a training run with Trea, Jennifer and Lori, and it was definitely my worst race experience to date. Also, it was not what any of us expected it to be.

We arrived in Joplin early Saturday evening and went straight to packet pick up at City Hall. The "expo" consisted of about four tables in a small room - two advertising other races, a chiropractor I think, and a group of ladies who asked us to donate $1 toward the production of a Route 66 quilt. Um, no thank you. Luckily, the local running store, The Run Around {which happens to be awesome}, was just across the street and having a sale, so we scored some good deals.

I thought the "expo" was odd, but that was nothing compared to our goodie bags. Ladies and gentlemen, prepare yourselves for...the horse head necklace. {Which I graciously left behind for the hotel maid. You're welcome.}

Before we settled in for the night, we drove the race course so we'd know what to expect Sunday. It started in Baxter Springs, Kansas and followed Route 66 back to Joplin, Missouri. This race was advertised as following the "mother road" through two states {three states for the full marathon}. So in every email from race organizers and all over their website, I've read that I would be running down a highway. But, because I'm stupid, it didn't really sink in until I was driving the course that I would be RUNNING DOWN A HIGHWAY. A big, four-lane divided highway in KANSAS, kind of like an interstate -- with absolutely nothing to look at -- for 13.1 miles. Awesome. I thought even though Kansas would be boring, it would at least be flat. Wrong. Giant hills. And I mean giant. They weren't terribly steep, but they were long. The kind where you look toward the horizon and all you see is more hill and it ends in the sky.

If you'll recall, I got sick on my runniversary, stayed sick the whole week leading up to the race and was still under the weather on race weekend. {Side note: There will be no weekly training recap post for week 8. I trudged through a grand total of about 8 miles for the week before this race and spent the rest of the time clutching a box of Kleenex.} I was very worried about how I would do and was concerned about even being able to finish. I was also nervous about getting ready and dealing with breakfast in a hotel and freaked out about it in this post, but everything went fine leading up to our arrival at the starting line.

There were about 260 runners in the half, and we all lined up in the middle of nowhere on a narrow country road - the historic part of Route 66. I planned to keep an easy pace the whole time and just focus on finishing -- no PRs and no race paces. But just two weeks before, I had reached 13.1 in about two and a half hours -- 4 minutes faster than my time at the Bentonville Half Marathon -- and I wasn't really trying. So even though this wasn't a real race for me, in the back of my mind, I hoped I could PR by a minute or two because I had already done it in training. Silly me. I started out way too fast, and I knew my pace was going to come back to bite me, but I felt good and just kept going. I kept checking my watch, and my pace was below my 10K pace, which is pretty stupid since I still wasn't feeling well and wouldn't have been able to maintain that pace for 13 miles even if I had been at 100%.

The first few miles stayed on a country road, and it was actually really nice. I had been dreading this awful course after we drove it, but it was cool outside, the sun was shining, I could hear cows mooing as we passed by, and I was having fun. Since I had decided not to care about my finish time {even though I totally cared about my finish time} I slowed down to take some pictures.

Somewhere along the way, maybe around mile 3 or so, a girl ran right up beside me and started staring at me. I just kept running, thinking maybe she was looking at something in the distance on the other side of me. She kept running with me and kept staring, and finally she said, "Are you Anna?" I said yes, and then she introduced herself -- it was Amy of Amy Does Life, one of my friends on Twitter and Daily Mile who I had never met in real life! She recognized me and Trea and asked if I was feeling better after being sick all week. It was so funny to me to just start talking with someone I've never actually met, but who knows a thing or two about me. I guess I will always be amazed by the internets. Amy ran with us for a while until my pace started suffering on a huge hill. {Amy, it was great to meet you, and congrats on your PR and your first half marathon!!} 

There was a massive hill just before the 6 mile marker, and I walked when I got to the top. This was the beginning of the end. I started walking at water stops. Then I would walk through water stops and just keep walking. I could not find the energy to make my feet run again. Trea kept urging me on with pep talks like, "There are only 12 people behind us. We're gonna finish dead last." Thanks a lot. These pep talks don't help AT ALL.

At mile 8, I was seriously struggling. Trea had issues of his own. He hurt his ankle a couple of weeks ago and was running in a brace, and he started having a lot of pain. On top of that, he had forgotten to wear band-aids and had to take his shirt off so he wouldn't end up with bloody nipples. It was miserable. By this time, it was also hot. And we had seen about 5 spectators along with a whole lot of nothing.

By mile 10, I stopped caring. I just wanted to be done. I was running with my phone in my SpiBelt, and I was seriously trying to put together a plan to quit and have someone come pick me up. Race exhaustion makes you really dumb. All the miles started running together, and I don't remember how much I walked or ran at this point. I know I walked a lot, and the more I walked, the more discouraged I became. I was eating ShotBloks along the way, but I was feeling nauseated and couldn't stand to eat or drink as much as I should have. I ended up being very dehydrated. Trea was ready to hustle to the finish just to get it over with and also because his ankle hurt and he didn't want to prolong the pain, but he stayed with me and walked when I walked.

I was almost in tears when we got to the finish line because I was so embarrassed by how much I had walked and how poorly I had done. But my time was only about 4 minutes slower than my PR in Bentonville, and after being sick and feeling so awful, I was just happy I hadn't barfed on my shoes before I reached the end. I felt like I had been running all day, but we FINALLY made it.

This was not a fun race, but I wasn't prepared to race either. I was still weak from being sick, and since I hadn't been feeling well, I did not hydrate well enough at all in the days leading up to the race, which we all know is super important. So running directly into the sun, into a 20 mph wind, climbing a total of about 400 feet in 13.1 miles with a tummy full of antibiotics was kind of a perfect storm for disaster. The Mother Road was...a mother...but I lived to tell the tale!


  1. I'm so sorry you didn't enjoy your race. You do have a way with words, though, so I did enjoy your recap! I would rather a race have no Expo if they are going to have lameness there...same goes for a goodie bag. I think you get the prize for the weirdest contents of a goodie bag! I have often thought about escape routes during races, but I never carry my cell so I never really have an option. Hope you get to feeling better and congrats on finishing your race!

  2. I have been anxiously awaiting this race report! What a crazy weekend... all I can do is laugh about it now. I do wish they would have removed the roadkill from the highway before the race... AND it would have been nice if the volunteers weren't SMOKING as they directed us on the course. What an odd, odd race... but I had lots of fun with you all! :)

  3. "Race exhaustion makes you really dumb." True that. Been there girl.
    I'm sorry you had such a poor race experience, but lady, you were really sick leading up to this race! Considering that AND the conditions, you kicked some serious horse head necklace @ss!!! Only 4 minoff your PR? Incredible! There is more than one way to PR. Consider this your "ran sick as a dog but still stiuck it out" PR!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...