Happy Monday! How was your weekend? Are you ready to kick off another week? It’s the last full week of summer vacation for the kiddos around here and I’m kind of sad about that. I look forward to the routine of school, but not so much the rigidity of the schedule and enforcing homework time and stricter and bed times. School starting also means regular season football and pumpkin spice lattes are not far behind, so overall, I’m in favor of it!
This past weekend I ran the Amana Colonies Back Road Half Marathon and set a new personal record! Woohoo! It was a brutal course and I didn’t make my goal time, but considering all the elements, I’m incredibly happy with my performance. Here’s the breakdown (over time I’ll get better at these recaps and will try to be more thorough!):
Cost: I honestly can’t remember what I paid to register–it was maybe a month ago–but a friend of mine signed up the day of and paid $60. There was also a 5k offered, but I’m not sure the cost of that.
Location: This race started and finished at Millstream Brewing Co. in Amana, IA. If you’re not familiar with Amana, it’s a quaint, tourist town filled with little shops and family style restaurants just outside of Iowa City (and near my hometown of Cedar Rapids).
Logistics: Both the half marathon and 5k were set to start at 7:30am, but we didn’t take off until just after 7:40am. There were three port-a-potties at the start and the lines were fairly long. A few extra would’ve been helpful, as the lines were part of the reason for delaying the start of the race. There was no chip timing, but being that it was a relatively small race, I really didn’t mind. 161 people finished the half marathon and 58 finished the 5k. The 5k peeps and half marathon peeps ran together until about mile 1.5. The course was well marked and had aid stations about every other mile offering water and Gatorade.
I had concerns going into this race that it would not be well organized. The Facebook page showed the incorrect date and time, and another website also showed incorrect information. Being that this was the first year, I wondered if the aid stations would be adequate and if the race would start on time. Aside from starting late, it was pretty well run and I felt like I got what I paid for.
Swag: Cotton t-shirt, race medal, free beer. I was definitely a bit disappointed when I picked up my “packet” as there was no packet/bag, but was just handed my t-shirt (cotton and too big) and my bib. However, the beer at the end was super delicious, and given the small size of the race, I didn’t have to wait long to get it. I wasn’t expecting a finisher’s medal, so that was nice surprise upon crossing the finish line.
The Course: Whoa. Given the name of the race, I expected a few rolling hills and maybe some gravel roads. I looked at the map on Friday and still wasn’t quite prepared for just how brutal it would be. Clearly, there were hills, but I can never fully grasp what that will be like actually running when I’m looking at an elevation chart. I usually feel pretty strong on hills, so I wasn’t overly concerned about that. Upon arrival, there was a lot of chatter about the route and that 90% of the race would be on gravel. I felt okay about that too, I thought maybe it would be easier on my knees and legs, as long as it wasn’t too loose. I was wrong. We were warned at the start about the hill at mile 8, but the brutality really started at the hill going into mile 6. The gravel was a bit treacherous and there were also potholes and some sections of road, especially on curves, were drastically slanted left-right or right-left. There was little shade along the way, but the temperature was relatively mild.
My race: Based on my performance at the Fifth Season 8k Race on the 4th of July, I was hoping to finish between 1:45:00 and 1:50:00. The 8k race was a very flat and easy course, so I wanted to give myself some wiggle room here, knowing this course would be tougher. My previous PR for a half marathon was at the Des Moines Marathon last October where I ran 1:58:01. At the very least, I wanted to beat that time. This is the first half I’ve run feeling good about training and not overly concerned about my knee, so I knew a PR was possible and even likely.
I started off wanting to hold a pace of around 8:10-8:15. After the first mile I settled in with a couple other people and we all agreed we would stick together as a sort of pace group, aiming for close to 1:45:00 as a finish time. That was super helpful. I’ve never really run a race “with” someone and it was nice to chat and push each other. However, I was unable to keep up after the hill going into mile 6 and lost them. I knew there was a long way to go, and more hills ahead, so I wanted to try to just maintain a good pace and not waste a lot of energy trying to chase them down. From there I just focused on my race and consistently checking in with myself and my pace. I drank at almost every aid station and alternated water and Gatorade. I took a Gu around mile 8.
The hills were tough, but I managed to run all of them without walking any portion. The gravel was actually really hard for me to manage. I felt mentally drained by concentrating so much on the road and where I was landing with each step. It also did not allow me to take full advantage of the down hills, for fear of falling or twisting a knee or ankle. The sections where the road was slanted I was all over the place trying to find the flattest path I could, and when the road was even, the loose gravel hurt my feet and I found myself moving side to side trying to find the smoother surfaces to run on.
There was a huge down hill going in to mile 11 and from there the course was relatively flat and paved to the finish. I knew I was close, but I was just spent and couldn’t speed up. I kept telling myself I would speed up at mile 12, or 12.5, at the next road sign, etc., but it just never happened. I expected my watch to be off, but it was off by quite a bit, and that threw me off as well. I knew I should be able to see the finish by mile 13, but when my watch beeped it wasn’t yet in sight, and that was defeating.
I saw my husband and Rossi as I neared mile 13 and the turn for the finish. It was nice to see them, but I was so over the race at that point I didn’t get any burst of energy from seeing their sweet faces. My parents were at the finish line cheering for me and it was great to have that support as I crossed the finish line.
I didn’t think I would want to drink a beer after running a long race, but man did that hit the spot! It wasn’t part of my August Challenge, but my friend and I agreed this was an allowable exception. Btw, I’ll have an update on the August Challenge for you later this week!
I didn’t expect to win anything, and we needed to get back on the road to go home, so I didn’t stick around for any post-race awards. We did have breakfast in Amana at a nice family-style restaurant and got to enjoy some time with my parents before heading back to Des Moines.
Overall, I’m super proud of my performance and feel confident in my training. I’m hoping my body tolerates the increased mileage and long runs coming up and that I can go into Chicago feeling strong.
Thanks for reading this incredibly long post!
What do you do with your race medals?
Do you sign up for races that have challenging courses?