Saturday, October 15, 2011

Race Report: Kansas City Half Marathon

Going into this race I dropped all expectations.  Had I not been in a funk with training since the bike accident, I probably would have targeted a sub-1:45 finish.  With the emergency room visit on September 30 with a painful "snap" in my back, I almost completely dropped out.  After two weeks of continued timid training, my back was feeling much better.  I even got a 2000 meters swim on October 7!  The plan was set, I was going to do a long run on October 10.  If I survive that run (which followed a 43 mile bike the day before), then the race was ON!

October 10th came and I hit the road at 5pm.  The first 5 miles were OK with an 8:15 average but it went downhill to a 9:15 pace.  At 10 miles I met TKB for her run as she was training for the 5K and went another 2.3 miles.  That was marred with walking, as well as a couple phone calls from work.  Those phone calls turned into a week long sufferfest in front of the computer.  The plan was this... the half marathon was suppose to be a training run from my half ironman in two weeks and so that's exactly what I planned.  Run it in the upper-Z2 range (aerobic) and have fun.  I was even planning to run with the 3:55 marathon pace group as a friend of mine, Ashley, and her twin sister, Melissa, were leading it.  That was the same pace group (and leaders) when I did the full last year.  Obviously, I would turn back at the 7 mile mark and finish it on my own.

I could tell I was going to have trouble sleeping.  I had not gotten to bed before midnight since Sunday and the stress of the work week was still settled into my body.  I hit the bed a little after 9pm and decided to down a melatonin to jump start the sleep cycle.  The 5:00am wake up call from my cell phone came quickly.  For the marathon last year I had a protein fruit smoothie but have since dropped those from my routine.  It's now a toasted bagel with peanut butter and a banana.  I've never been an oatmeal fan and this seems to work just great for me.  For some reason I took a shower before we left for the race.  I think it helps wake me up even more and maybe keeps the Scotty-stink down.  At 5:50am, TKB and I left for the race.

We have learned a nice little tactic for parking at this particular event.  Park in the Lydia's and Jack Stack BBQ parking lot.  There is a pedestrian bridge over the train tracks that leads directly into Union Station, which is a block away from the start. We got there around 6:20am and stayed inside the Link for a while before migrating to Crown Center and Westin to find a bathroom.  This was mostly to avoid the 46° temps.  With long lines in the Center, we eventually went outside but found long lines there too.  (This is one reason I get to events an hour before the start, to get in line and not keep searching for the shortest one... which we should have just stuck with the first spot, frankly).  At least during our hunt I found Mark (or rather, he spotted us) and got to say Hi and wish him luck.

Waiting inside before the start.  Trying to stay warm.
Eventually I decided that I was fine and, in desperation, I could stop at the on-course Port-a-Johns.  I took off for the start.

I eventually found the 3:55 pace group and chatted with Ashley for a bit.  I did feel a little self-conscious about hanging out with the hardcore marathoners but decided to get over it.  I was "accepted" when Melissa gave me a 3:55 pace band.  OK, she gave it to me before I told her I was running the half.  They want to get rid of those things before the start so they don't have to contend with them during the run, so I'm happy to oblige.

One thing I've noticed during the National Anthem as it really should be renamed as the "Acquiring Satellites Anthem" since you hear hundreds of Garmin "beeps" go off during the song.

The start was pretty anti-climatic as you are a hundred yards away from the start line.  I'm sure had this been my first marathon or half or whatever I would have more emotions into it.  After a few moments of shuffling, we finally got across the timing mat and on our way!

Race - Miles 1 - 3
I chatted with a couple guys during the first two miles.  I actually started getting concerned about my race at that time as I was actually having trouble keeping up the conversation with labored breathing but I had to reinforce that it was just the warm-up miles.  I stayed in front of Ashley and Melissa during this time.  When I hit the aid station I had the choice to either slow down, continue my pace, or pick it up.  Looking at my heart rate, I decided to pick it up as it was in the lower-Z2 range.  Before the turn onto Pershing, I caught up with the 3:50 pace group and then heard "Scotty!".  I turned around and it was Drew from Twitter!  He had told me earlier that he was running 3:50 and I had forgotten to look for him.  We chatted for a few minutes and then I was off to go up Kessler, a 150 foot ascent in half a mile.

During the ascent I decided, per my usual mid-race M.O., to forgo the plan and just run.  Sure, I'll run by heart rate.  If Heart Rate > 0, then keep going.  I was in the 170s during the hill and feeling good.  My plan then changed to see if I could catch-up with Mark.  Unfortunately, I wasn't sure if he was in the 1:40 or 1:45 pace group.

Pace - 10:00, 9:21, 8:33

Race - Miles 4 -7
This section of the course is pretty much downhill or flat and I picked up some great time with splits of 7:46, 7:23, 7:24, 7:09.  By the time I hit mile 7 I had already passed the 3:35 marathon pace group but had only caught up to (and passed) the 1:50 half-marathon pace group.

I was beginning to feel the pains of my faster than normal pace while on 47th street through the Plaza.  Cardio-wise I was doing well, mechanically the legs were starting to speak up.   I took a Gu in the 5 mile area.

Race - Miles 8 - 10.5
The last major hill of the course as you are pretty much ascending nearly 200 feet for this entire 2.5 miles.  There are no flats or downs, you just have to do it. I began thinking about the "Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional" quote to get me through it.  The heart rate was actually lower than I thought it would by being in the upper 160s (upper Z3 for me -- anaerobic).

Pace: 7:32, 8:09, 8:16

Race - Miles 10.5 - 13.1
Finally, pretty much all downhill.

I figured by now I would see the 1:45 pace group and I think I saw the pace sign waving in the distance.  I didn't figure Mark would be with this group anyway, regardless if he started with them or not. So I just kept focus on my breathing, which was surprising calm.  I wasn't breathing like it was my last breath but my legs really weren't happy with me.  I'm sure if my legs could control my arms they would have slapped me.

During one of the sections I saw Coach Eladio Valdez of The Runner's Edge.  He was also the designer of the course.  He had a megaphone and actually congratulated me by name (because it was written on my bib... outside of meeting him at Hospital Hill in 2010 for one of his speeches, he wouldn't really recognize me).  I'm thinking that Joe VI and I might want to participate in the Runner's Edge next year.

After the final turn I could see the finish line and tried to take off.  I crossed the finish in 1:45:51 minutes!

Kickin' it!
Pace: 7:30, 7:15, 7:37, 7:23

After getting my timing chip cut off by some kid who probably held his breathe the entire time, I ran into Mark in the finish chute.  He had finished a few minutes ahead of me with 1:42.  Pretty darn good for a first half marathon time! We walked up through the food area and I grabbed whatever I could, 'cuz I'm greedy like that.  Mark took off to watch his girlfriend Rachael cross the finish line.  She was also running her first half as well.  Congrats to both of them!

After catching up with TKB and Megan, we walked around a little bit and then took off for home.  After showering and then a cat nap, we discussed lunch options.  We had a friend who was running the marathon and we realized that if we left pretty soon, we could actually catch him finish.  Hopped in the car and back down to the finish line.  We were able to watch Ben finish in 5 hours and 35 seconds.  Congrats Ben!

Of course the real post-race meal was about to commence as we went to Oklahoma Joe's for lunch.

Considering I wanted to go sub-1:45 before my training trailed off, I'm pretty happy.  Joe VI and I are planning a 55 mile ride on Sunday.  I plan to follow that up with a 2000 meter swim on Monday, so that should be my last big training push before the Half ironman on October 29.  I'm in great spirits for it now!

  • Perfect weather for running.  I almost put on my Under Armour base layer shirt for extra warmth (it's actually not for cold weather so it's pretty thin) but I think I would have over-heated.
  • Health Expo - I think they do a pretty good job with the booths, although it's pretty standard stuff.
  • Packet Pickup - Quick and painless.  If you forgot to print off your receipt before arriving, you may have had to contend with a pretty long line to get one there.
  • Post-Race - Lots of fruit, yogurt, chocolate milk, rolls, pretzels.  They had beer but I don't know what kind as we decided to skip that.  This was much improved than last year.
  • Course - This is a challenging course but it's well stocked with aid stations.

To be honest, I couldn't think of anything bad.  I know I complained earlier about not making it to the port-a-potties because of the lines, but I think that was my fault for not getting there soon enough.  They had a bunch of port-a-potties, plus the Crown Center holes.

TKB (right) and Megan (left) waiting for me to finish.
Yeah, it's upside-down.  It's an artsy photo, you figure it out ;).
I feel sorry for the rest of the world who doesn't get to enjoy Oklahoma Joe's BBQ.  Beef Brisket Z-Man, Fries, Burnt Ends. 


  1. Eladio is the man! Rach and I have gone to 5 or 6 of his free running clinics at Gary Gribbles, and have found them really helpful. Plus, if you are looking into his running groups, he will let you try them out before you purchase a package! Thanks for the mentions! I know Rach appreciates it too... Nice RAce!!!!

  2. Great report! It was perfect weather for a run, and a really great course to showcase KC, and not too many hills. Te downhills make up for Liberty Memorial hills. I thought the pacing groups were awesome and really true to time. Finished right under 2:15, a 15 minute PR. Congrats on the great finish despite the injuries. Good luck on your upcoming tri!

  3. "Acquiring Satellites Anthem." So awesome.