Thursday, November 24, 2016

Route 66 Half Marathon

I shared some of my excitement leading up to the Route 66 Half-Marathon in a post here. I figured the nerves would kick in closer to race time but I never got nervous. I was just super excited and had a lot of faith in my training and what I could do. We had a lot of fun walking around the race expo on Friday evening. Ty even won a pair of shoes at the Brooks area! A couple years ago I decided not to run the Route 66 because I was pregnant with Elise. I wanted to run a half-marathon earlier on in my second trimester and call it good. Since we were in town and not running the race, mom, dad, and I decided to volunteer for the race. We did the water stop during the 5k on Saturday morning and then volunteered at a water stop for the half-marathon and marathon on Sunday. We were hooked. It was so much fun and we loved seeing the race from the other side! I realized that as a race volunteer I woke up earlier than I did as a racer. Then standing in the cold handling water rather than running and keeping warm is so darn cold! By the end I couldn't feel my fingers or my toes. But getting to cheer for the runners and seeing everyone go by was so much fun. We've volunteered for the 5k water stop each year since and then run the half on Sunday. The 5k water stop is sponsored by a popular Mexican restaurant nearby. The restaurant owner brought out breakfast tacos and mimosas for all of the volunteers. The water stop organizer gave us cowbells and I cheered my head off as I shook that sucker. By the time we left my wrist was sore! Since it was so cold and we were the last table passing out water I handed out fewer than 15 cups of water, but had an absolute blast! One guy came through running in a t-rex costume while carrying a flag. I cheered for him by chanting t-rex and the entire time I cheered, he danced through the water stop. That was the highlight of my morning for sure! We also made a friend who worked the table with us. She was wearing bunny ears and cracked us up by saying she couldn't feel her ears! The day was followed up by a 2 mile shake out run for me and a birthday party at McDonald's for one of Carter's friends.
Enjoying the race expo.
Dad, mom, me, and our new friend posing with our volunteer medals which are awesome, by the way!
Posing in our race jackets with mom and dad in their volunteer shirts.

Race morning temps were in the upper 20's and low 30's. I went back and forth on whether to run in tights or not and eventually decided on tights. The temps weren't supposed to get up into the 40's until after I finished so I figured tights would work the best. I just hate my legs being too cold when I run. After finishing when I took my tights off to change, my legs were bright red so I think I made the best choice. Plus I never felt too hot, but I think I also would have been okay in shorts. We headed out to the race with everyone at once. The kids both woke up early enough that we were able to get them ready and take them with us. We had planned for dad to stay home with the kids and meet up with us later if they didn't wake up in time. Jeremy, Ty, and I were all in the same corral so we walked there together. Ty stayed toward the back of the corral so he gave me a kiss and then Jeremy and I headed further up in the pack. Mom, dad, and the kids stayed to the right of the corral and we handed them our sweats before the race start. Jeremy asked me what pace I planned to run and I told him somewhere in the 6:58-7:08 range. He said he figured he'd be around 9 minute pace and said if he ran any mile too fast it would be a mistake. It was kind of crazy standing there with him because on one hand I knew it was pretty much an impossibility that he would be running a half-marathon less than a year after his accident. The orthopedic surgeon had said he thought Jeremy might be able to run again in a year just based on his femur and pelvic breaks without factoring in the traumatic brain injury. But on the other hand we were back to the way things had always been. Me and Jeremy standing in the starting corral together waiting for the gun to go off. On one hand it seemed like a different life and on the other hand it seemed like nothing had changed. Carter held up his sign and cheered for us as Jeremy and I danced to the music and waved at him and Elise.
Carter was so proud of his sign he made at the expo.

The best part of the race start is the confetti that rains down when the gun goes off. I was excited to take off and was feeling great. I knew the first mile goes out fast because there is a decent amount of downhill during that first mile. Last year the first mile was my fastest mile of the race. My first mile split this year was 6:51 which already put me 11 seconds ahead of last year's time. The first water stop was right around the 2 mile mark which I hit in 7:00. The atmosphere and excitement of the water stop was so much fun. There were lots of cowbells and signs. I always like reading the signs as I run and there were a few with slogans I hadn't seen before which I enjoyed. Mile 3 stayed pretty consistent at 6:54. Then we went through Cascia Hall which has a bunch of speed bumps and another water stop. I had been running with a couple of guys. I got water at the water stop and they didn't. When I was done with my water they had a decent sized gap on me which continued to grow. I feel like I'm pretty efficient at grabbing water and drinking on the go so I think they also started to amp up the pace at that time. There was a pep band playing music which really got me pumped up and excited. I went through mile 4 in 6:59 and was really happy with where I was pace-wise. My goal going into the race was 7:00 pace and I was really hoping for 6:58 pace overall. I was adding up how much under pace I was and figuring out what pace that averaged out to. I knew I was at 6:56 pace at this point and was really excited about that. After mile 4 I was running alone which was hard.
These pictures from the race start came from the Route 66 Marathon Facebook page.

Mile 5 brought some big hills and I figured it would be a slower mile. I wished I had someone to run with and saw the guys I had been running with working together into the wind. I was hopeful I could catch back up to them eventually but didn't want to expend extra energy in attempt to do so. I was excited when I saw my split for mile 5 was 6:54, much faster than I had expected. Then I went through mile 6 in 6:50. We ran over timing mats shortly after the 6 mile mark which I figured were set up at the 10k mark. They must have been as the results showed my 10k split. I went through the 10k mark in 43:02. It's amazing to me to remember that last spring my goal was to run under 43 minutes in a 10k and my PR going into this fall was a 42:30 and here I was going through the first 10k of a half marathon in 43:02! And it wasn't even a flat or fast course! The group of guys I had been running with must have gone out conservatively while I had gone out on pace because they kept pulling further ahead of me. The next few miles were pretty lonely as far as other runners go. But the spectators were on point. Many of the neighborhoods we ran through had groups of people out and it felt like running through a party. One area had a sign that said, Jell-O shots ahead. Then they had a sign that said, no water at this stop, where they were grouped together passing out Jell-O shots. I didn't take one but enjoyed their energy and running through the balloon arch they had made over the street. Ty said he took a Jell-O shot when he ran through and really enjoyed it.

At 6.5 miles I pulled out my Gu and started to eat it. Normally around the half-way point in the race I start to get hungry and get a big pick-me-up after eating my Gu. I wasn't really hungry when I ate my Gu and didn't get that surge of energy after eating. I thought about it and realized this was the first half-marathon in 5 years that I had run not pregnant or breastfeeding. I think that was why I wasn't as hungry. We turned onto Peoria Street around mile 7. We ran a portion of the St. Patrick's Day 5k and I felt good about how I was faring. Just like in the Tulsa Run, I was in less pain than I had been during the St. Patrick's Day 5k. We went past a group playing loud music and riding stationary bicycles. It was just the energy I needed. I was starting to catch up to a guy running ahead of me and hoped when I passed him he would go with me, but no such luck. I went through mile 7 in 7:00. I kept telling myself I just had a 10k to go and I could give it my all for that last 6 plus some miles. We turned onto 41st Street and I knew we were headed toward Riverside which would mean a flat section for about half a mile at least. As I turned the corner there was a group of spectators out with signs. My favorite from the entire race was one I saw there, it read, "That's not me clapping, it's your thighs." I laughed as I ran by and kept thinking about it for a while as I went. I hit mile 8 in 6:58 and then we turned off Riverside for a while due to construction for the new park they are building called The Gathering Place. I was really starting to get tired and couldn't help but think how much easier the pace would feel if I was running with someone else. The closest person to me at this point had a very substantial lead on me and I couldn't hear anyone behind me. I went through mile 9 in 6:51 and started up the mantra that I was almost to the last 5k.

We turned onto 21st Street heading back toward Riverside at mile 10 which I went through in 7:09. I knew mile 10 was my slowest mile last year and I kept telling myself, just a 5k to go. When we turned onto Riverside I started catching up to the guy ahead of me and as I passed him he made no attempt to go with me. Now the closest person to me was even further ahead but was a woman so I told myself to try to make a move for her. Mile 11 was a nice flat mile on Riverside and I was feeling strong and like I could really kick it in the last 5k but I was also tired and I knew it. I went through the mile mark in 6:48. When I saw the clock at the mile mark I knew if I could maintain 7 minute miles for the last two miles I could finish in under 1:31:30 as I was giving myself a minute to complete the last 0.1 of a mile which I wasn't thinking would probably be over 0.1 since the course had so many turns and it is impossible to run the tangents perfectly. I was getting really excited at the possibility of running a PR. I wasn't sure what my fastest half-marathon time was but I knew it was somewhere around 1:31:30. I went into this race really wishing I had a chance at a PR but knowing the course wasn't conducive to running your best time. I got really excited at the chance of a PR and felt like I definitely had a few more 7 minute miles left in me! I became pretty confident I would be in the mid 1:31's and for sure under 1:32.

We came up to the first hill in that last stretch and I pushed up it pretty well but I could feel in my legs that I was going to struggle to get back down to pace after making it to the top. Then we turned left onto Southwest Boulevard and I was hit with huge gusts of wind. After making it to the top of the hill and then battling into the wind my spirit was broken a little bit. At that point my mind went more from running a PR to surviving those last two miles. The people ahead of me had made it out to the turn around cones and were headed back in the other direction. I could see the woman I was making ground on and noticed her bib was red which meant she was in the full marathon. I knew even if I caught her she would be splitting off course soon to follow the second loop of the marathon and I would again be running alone. I made it out to the cones for the turn around back toward Riverside and toward the finish line. Once I had the wind at my back I tried to rally back. My legs felt dead but I kept repeating to myself, whether this is a PR or not will be decided in these last two miles. I knew I had done exactly what I needed to the first 11 miles of the race and all I needed to do now was hold it together and I would have a new half-marathon PR. Heading up past the Route 66 bridge I could see our next hill looming ahead of us and I started having flash backs to my demoralizing last mile of the Tulsa Run 15k. We were going up the same hill we did during the last mile of that race, but we were going up it from a different angle so it wasn't quite as steep. I felt like I was really pushing and giving it all I had and was disappointed to see my 12 mile split pop up as 7:16. I needed to get back 16 seconds in the last mile and I knew I still had a few daunting hills ahead of me.

We went past the BOK Center and I could see what I remembered as the last big hill coming up. Around that time a guy passed me really cruising along and I tried to go with him but then he turned to the right for the marathon. Going up that hill and turning to the right I knew we were close to the Guthrie Green where we would finish. I was trying to push as hard as I could but my legs just weren't responding. A guy went blowing past me and I didn't even make a move to go with him, he was going way too fast. I could feel my PR slipping away with each step I took. I was in quite a bit of pain and was just trying to push forward as much as I could. Then I turned a corner right before the 13 mile mark and there were my mom and dad with Carter and Elise. It was exactly what I needed. Up until that point it had been a quiet and lonely trek with no spectators or runners around me. I saw Carter and Elise both out of the stroller. Elise started squealing when she saw me and Carter was yelling for me. Carter was proudly holding up his sign he had made at the expo which he told me was the course map in case I needed to know which way to go. It was adorable. My dad yelled out where I was as overall female but I didn't hear which place, I just heard him say overall female. My mom was cheering and I could hear her even after I turned the next corner. I wanted to run over to high five Carter and Elise but I knew if I slowed down there was no getting back into rhythm at this point because I was struggling so much. I just waved and smiled instead. I pushed to the 13 mile mark which I ran in 7:07. At that point I knew my PR was gone but I had pushed too much and trained too hard to just coast it in. Once I turned the corner toward the last tenth of a mile I gave it everything I had. I heard the announcer say, "And here she comes, 3rd female finisher! Making it to the podium!" For a second I thought he was announcing for me just a ways out. Then I realized the person finishing closest ahead of me was a woman and she was crossing the finish line. He announced her name and I knew who she was. She had won the Zoo Run 10k where I placed 2nd and she beat me at the Tulsa Run 15k by almost 3 minutes and here she was finishing just under a tenth of a mile ahead of me. I finished the last portion of the race at 6:04 pace which I'm pretty darn proud of considering how much I was hurting! It definitely helped that the finish was flat! I could see the clock as I was finishing and knew I would be well over 1:31:30.

I finished the race in 1:31:49 which my Garmin showed as 6:58 pace per mile. I hit exactly what my secret hope was for the race even though I thought it was too lofty of a goal. I was hoping to equal the 6:58 pace I had run in the Tulsa Run 15k but felt like I'd have to have a perfect race to do that. I was really thinking I'd be more in the 7-7:05 range. My Garmin showed I ran 3.18 miles so I did a little bit better running the tangents this year as last year I logged 13.19 miles. As I walked through the finish chute I started to process my finish a little bit. I didn't really feel anything at all, no excitement, no disappointment, just exhaustion. I knew I had been just over my previous PR although I wasn't sure exactly what my PR was. I also knew I had killed the race and ran faster than I had expected. I was pretty proud of what I had been able to do. I picked up everything available to eat in the finisher's area other than the spaghetti they were passing out as I ended up just wasting it last year. I figured by grabbing stuff even though I didn't want it, I'd have enough food so the kids could have some too. I walked down to where I had seen mom, dad, and the kids watching the race and they weren't there. I thought maybe I had gone to the wrong spot and started searching up and down the sidewalk. There was a family standing near me and they asked if I was looking for a guy in a turkey hat. I said I was and they said they had just left and then congratulated me on a great race. I walked back toward the finishing area and found mom with the stroller and was shocked to see Jeremy standing with her. I looked at the finishing clock and it was showing 1:45. I knew 1:44 was around 8 minute pace so I asked Jeremy if he had been under 8 minute pace and he said he'd averaged 7:40 pace for the race! I grabbed the dry clothes I had packed under the stroller and headed to change before I got too cold. After last year's experience of getting a migraine due to remaining cold for so long after the race I wasn't messing around and even brought a scarf to help warm me up faster. We went to the grassy area to play while we waited for Ty to finish. His PR is 2:08 but he hadn't been training and this was his first run since the Tulsa Run 15k so we knew it would be pretty slow for him. I was estimating he'd finish in around 2:30 but I headed over to the finish area to watch for him at around 2:15. Carter wanted to come with me but would then want to go back so I kept walking back and forth. With all that going on I was worried I had missed Ty finish. Finally as the finishing clock started approaching 3 hours I was certain I missed Ty finish. I went over to the tent where you could get a print out of your finishing time and gave them Ty's bib number. No results, he hadn't finished yet. At that point I started to get really worried. Mom and I discussed it and decided Ty would walk the whole race before he'd ever run hard enough to injure himself or die. Finally I decided to call Ty and he texted me a little bit later that he had finished. We found each other and headed home. It turned out Ty had some serious stomach issues and had to stop at the porta potty for major emergencies 3 times while out and said his Garmin showed he spent a total of about 15 minutes not moving at all, which would have been when he was in the porta potties. It sounded brutal but I was just glad he finished and was okay!
My baby birds mooching food.
Dad fist bumping Jeremy after hearing his awesome time!
Elise helping push the stroller.

It is always hard to just barely miss out on a PR and I think this one was even harder because I had such a good race and just couldn't hold it together those last two miles. I was trying so hard but my legs just weren't responding. But in the end, I am so proud of what I accomplished. I finished 54th out of 4,941 total finishers, 4th out of 3,215 female finishers, and 1st out of 480 women in my age group. That's pretty darn impressive. I didn't decide to really push for a fast time at this race until after the Zoo Run 10k at the beginning of October so I know I can train harder and knock more time off my pace. Jeremy finished the race in 1:41:23. He was 145th out of 4,941 overall and 14th out of 216 men in his age group! The fact that he was even able to run is amazing and how well he did is just unbelievable! Ty was able to finish the race in 2:50:42. He was 3,496th overall and 194th in his age group. The race results had some really cool features that showed you how many people you passed vs. how many passed you. It was pretty cool to see that during the first 10 miles I passed 88 runners and was passed by 2 runners. I'm sure most of that was in the first 4 miles as I spent the last 9 miles of the race running pretty much alone. Over the final 3 miles I passed 3 people and was passed by 1 person.
Screen shot of the race results.
We kept discussing whether I had run a PR or not. I knew I had run 1:31 something and was pretty certain it was around 1:31:30 back in 2007 for my first half-marathon. Ty felt since I didn't know for sure my time, I should count this race as a PR. Obviously I couldn't do that because I'm a perfectionist. Mom was awesome enough to pull out an old photo album and search through it when she got home. Even more awesome, she had taken a finish line photo of me as I crossed the finish with the clock to the side. So I now know my official half-marathon PR is 1:31:35. I missed out on a PR by 14 seconds on Sunday. While I was initially disappointed that I had been on pace to run a PR and lost it in the last 2 miles, I was also really proud of myself. I had beat my time from last year by 4 minutes and I had narrowly missed a PR from 9 years ago that I had run when I was training for college cross country and putting in anywhere from 50-80 mile weeks. In preparation for this race I had maintained 40-50 mile weeks for only 7 weeks leading up to the race with only two 50 mile weeks and only 3 weeks over 40 miles. I was pretty proud of what I was able to accomplish with the kind of training I had put in. I had exceeded my expectations for the day but I couldn't help but wish I was able to do a little bit more. It's so hard to be on pace for a PR and lose it right at the end. I contemplated what I could have done differently. Last year I knew the last couple miles were two of the hillier miles of the race so I held back a bit early on in the race and was able to hold on during the last two miles decently well but still fell over pace during those miles. Since I had held back more last year I remembered thinking the hills weren't as bad as I expected. So I decided to just go out at what felt right and run my race without worrying about the hills. And this year the hills killed me, putting me way over pace and losing a total of 23 seconds just in those two miles. But the more I think about it, the less I feel like I would change anything about the race. Had I gone out slower and then not been able to pick up the pace quite enough at the end to make up for it, due to the hills, I would have wondered if I should have gone out faster and if that kept me from a PR. I know if the course had been flat, the PR would have been there, but I knew that going into the race. Had the PR been what the race was about, I would have chosen a flatter race to run before this one. I didn't think I had a shot at a PR even a month out from the race and I definitely wasn't planning on shooting for a PR when I signed up for the race. But now I know what I can do off mostly 40 mile weeks and am excited to see what I can do in the spring off mostly 50 mile weeks!
Me finishing my first half-marathon. Thanks to mom for digging this out and for taking it in the first place!
A few days after the race Jeremy had an appointment with his orthopedic surgeon. Dad came up to go to the race with him and Jeremy was released by his doctor. Afterward they visited the Route 66 founder, Chris, who suffered a TBI in March. It was awesome to see the pictures and notice the race signs in the background. Chris had just received news that he will be moving to TIRR for rehab. That's where Jeremy went so he was able to discuss it with Chris a little bit. I'm excited to follow his progress and I hope that TIRR is as successful for him as it was for Jeremy! If you are interested in following his progress, his family has created a Facebook page which you can follow here.
Read about last year's race at the Route 66 Half-Marathon here.


  1. Great read! I felt like I was right there with you, and completely understand the feeling you described with, "I could feel my PR slipping away with each step I took." You did amazing and were so very close to your PR on a course that isn't easy, so no doubt you'll get it in the spring. But 13.1 miles with an average pace in the 6s is something very few people ever do, so definitely be proud of this one too! I'm glad your mom found that picture so you know exactly what you PR is. I am also so amazed with and happy to hear about how well Jeremy is doing!

    1. Thanks, Sara! That is true. It is crazy to think about it when I realize I ran under 7 minute pace for over 13 miles! My mom has always been awesome about going to races and taking pictures. I love that she now runs too!

    2. I love that your mom is running now too! She seems to really enjoy it, and what fun to do all of the events together like your all do.
      When our local running club posts the info about that spring half I was telling you about, I'll send you the link so you can see if you're interested. It's an out and back course, which I love because you don't lose time or rhythm turning. It's also flat aside from mild incline/decline in some parts. The weather is always a roll of the dice at that time of the year, but odds are it will not be too warm!