Monday, June 4, 2012

Race Report: Hospital Hill Half-Marathon

Hospital Hill Half-Marathon

I registered for Hospital Hill about 2 days after last year's Hospital Hill event.  They had announced that medals for the 2011, 2012, and 2013 events would fit together as a puzzle with the 2013 event being the 40th anniversary of Hospital Hill.  I couldn't resist getting the second piece of the puzzle.  I've had a slow then hard approach to training for Hospital Hill this year.  Coming off of low volume months of February and March and a lingering knee issue, I took April as a slow base building month.  Slow as in I was running 9:30 - 10 minute paces the entire month.  Once May arrived, I started adding in some speedwork once my knee (and everything else) could handle it.  This plan has worked marvelously as I did not have a single knee related issue or any injury during and after Hospital Hill. While waiting until May to do speedwork may have hurt my time a bit, in the long run it will be much more beneficial.

Health Expo 
Last year they added a full on Health Expo to Hospital Hill and it continued this year.  Packet pickup was smooth.  Bib, Shirt, Socks, Reusable bag, easy enough.  I headed over to the Garmin Pace Group booth to pickup a pacing band.  I grabbed two, 1:40 finish and 1:45 finish.  Yes, I was still undecided; however, I wanted ensure I could get in the 1:40 pace group so I went over to the "Solutions Desk" and asked to move up to Corral "A".  I told the lady I wanted to be with the 1:40 pace group and she told me I was "right where I wanted to be", which I was pretty sure was wrong, but was late to getting back to work so I just left it.  When I registered last year, I must have entered an expected completion time based on the 2:00 hour finish for 2011.  Oops.

On my way out I walked by the Andrew J Somora booth when I heard someone call my name.  It was an long-time friend Jenny who was working the booth (and I really do mean long-time friend, I've known her since I was born).  She's helping her best friend put on a 5k walk/run in October to support Colon Cancer Research.  Her friend lost her husband to colon cancer last October and they started a foundation to raise funds and awareness.  TKB and I are signing up and trying to convince my parents to do the walk.  You should too!

Friday Night 
While I knew the weather was going to be perfect, I didn't want anything else to blame for my performance if it was sub-par.  I had a good bowl of pasta but, frankly, I had been eating carbs since Wednesday to slowly increase the glycogen levels.

My biggest decision was still to be made.  Which pace group to follow? Looking at the 1:45 and 1:40 splits, the average 8:00 pace for the 1:45 seemed very doable so I chose 1:40 (7:37 average pace) to give myself a challenge. Since this is my third year of HH then if I'm not there to challenge myself, then why am I there?  In addition, I figured having the pace group would push me through the struggles of the hills.

#1 or #2?

It took me a little while to get to sleep.  I was pretty nervous about this run.  First, I was putting quite a challenge onto myself with the 1:40 group AND it was the first time I really felt like I was "racing" the event to meet a time goal instead of running to "get it done".

Got up at 5:00am and made my breakfast.  I slept fairly well considering the nerves.  As usual, took my pre-race shower to hold off the Scotty-funk as much as possible.  It's my pre-race coffee, I guess.  TKB and I took off for the race around 5:45 or so to try to get a decent parking spot and take care of those pre-race necessities (port-a-pot stop, warm-up run, port-a-pot stop, final pre-race nutrition, port-a-pot stop, etc).  TKB and I met up with Joe VI, Lauren and Joe VII.  Lauren was running the 5k, wearing her "Pregnant, Not Fat" bondiband.  She's about 7 months pregnant. So if Baby Jeppson keeps up the Hospital Hill Runs, that will be one more than years she is old participating.

Joe and I moved over to the starting corrals around 6:50.  Just as I surmised, the 1:40 group was in corral "A".  I hung out in that corral with Joe VI as he flip-flopped between starting with me or starting in "A".  I kept urging him to start with the 1:40 and leave me behind.  I believe he was concerned that I would catch up to the 1:40 group and, therefore, beat him.   I assured him I was going by the 1:40 wrist band and he finally moved up to the pace group. I have no aspirations to race against someone else at this point, I'm focused on time.  If he started with me he was going to have more trouble catching up with the 1:35 pace group as that was his "ambitious goal".

The clock clicked 7:00am and Joe VI was off.  I was at the front of Corral "B" and there were definitely some people that don't understand the corral system as they took off past the timing sensors and then stopped when the emcee barked at them.  Oops.  A few moments later, we were off!

Miles 1 - 3:
 I always go out too fast and this was no different.  I kept forcing myself to slow down and I finished mile one 30 seconds faster than I should have. I honestly thought my watch was broken when it read 7:00 minute pace and I felt like I was walking.  The first mile does have a small hill but it's mostly downhill.  Miles 2 & 3 have nearly 200 feet of elevation gain, so I kept the pace right on target.

Miles 4 - 6: 
It was at about mile 4.5 that I realized I missed mile marker 4.  Normally this isn't a big deal but I had a specific pace goal and was trying to match specific mile splits; therefore, I turned the auto-lap function off on my Garmin.  I was manually hitting the lap button when I crossed a mile marker. It is extremely difficult to run a race as officially measured.  A course is measured with the shortest route possible in mind. Think of someone laying a string from corner to corner or straight through a windy road.  Since I'm not going to be able to run that route with people and pot holes to dodge, I should still adjust my pace to match those mile markers. It may take me 1.05 miles to from mile marker 3 and mile marker 4.  If I need to run that distance in 7:30 minutes, then I need to run the 1.05 miles in 7:30 minutes.  Clear as mud?  Why would it take me the extra .05 miles?  Weaving through people, going to the other side for an aid station, gladly giving high five to some familiar or unfamiliar faces in the crowd. Who knows, who cares, it's (a runner's) life.

So mile 3 was supposed to finish in 7:47 and mile four was supposed to be 7:12.  So I just made sure I finished those two at an average of 14:58 (which was the total of the two).  I hit it at 14:56.  Not bad.  The problem was I didn't realize I missed the mile marker until it was half a mile passed, so I used up extra energy to even it out.

It was at mile 5.5 that I saw those familiar faces.  My brother Mike, Amanda, and the kids were cheering from the sidewalk.  That was such a great pick me up!  High Fives for all!!!

Miles 7 - 9:
Even though this is where the course turns north, it was going south for me.  Reality of the hills and quickened pace were settling in and my legs were starting to yell.  It wasn't a  lactic acid issue, my quads were just not happy.  At this point I wasn't even near the worst hill, a 160 foot incline over 1.5 miles.  It feels never ending and starts in mile 9 and so I was holding back on the pace in preparation for the hill.  I was still hitting 8:00 minute miles at this point but that's because I was on the Trolley Trail route, which is mostly downhill (except Hospital Hill course planners figured out to put another short nasty hill in there).

Another set of high fives from Mike & Amanda and the kiddos here, too!  It was so nice seeing them on the course.  They had to have gotten up fairly early to get there in time for the race.

Miles 10 - 12:
My pace dropped to 9 minute miles for this section due to the nasty of the nastiest.  I walked through the aid station just to give them a little relief.  Near the top of this hill I heard someone say "Hi, Scott!"  It was Kyle from Twitter!  Kyle gave me some motivation to get through the top of the last two hills.  We chatted for a bit when Kyle took off in front of me on that last hill.

Miles 13 - 13.1
I was mentally ready to get this over with so I took full advantage of the downhill speed during the 170 foot drop in the last 3/4 mile.  I caught back up with Kyle and then I heard another voice from behind me, "What?  Is this a training run?" as Ryan from Twitter blows by.  I knew this guy was behind me and taking it easy as he was preparing for Ironman Kansas 70.3 the next weekend.  Sure, the 1:45 group caught up with me but I couldn't let Ryan catch me!!?!?!  Dang it!  Apparently he had an axe to grind since Jackson County Tri last year when I passed him on the bike course, so he finally got me back!!! Sure, it took him the full 13 miles to catch me this time while it only took me the first turn on the bike course last year for me last year.  haha. I jest.  Read Ryan's race report here (apparently I provided a lot of motivation for him!)

Getting ready for my "Garmin Shot" at the finish line (Picture of me pressing "Stop" on my Garmin) #BlurryCam

Remember my diatribe about how to run a route on a measured course?  I ran 13.15 miles.  Pretty good, I'd say.

Joe was waiting for me at the finish line and I also caught back up with Ryan and we chatted for a bit.  Walking through the post-race grub was a bit disappointing.  While the pre-made sack of goodies was OK and there was also oranges (not sliced, btw) and bananas. The only post-race hydration option was water.  Yes, there was Michelob Ultra but that is classified as water to me anyway.  The food bag had various items, from pretzels, to some kind of rice crisp, protein bars, and dried plums (aka, prunes... nice try marketing department).  I echo Ryan's comments that Chocolate Milk should be at pretty much all races.  I have recently driven to grocery stores after my own long runs and bought chocolate milk (OK, maybe I was picking up donuts at the time).  Anyway....

While cooling down I also met up with Mark (yes, also from Twitter and the blog-o-sphere) and chatted with him for a while.  He had finished with a mind-blowing 1:26 and was waiting for his wife to cross the finish line.  Shane stopped by and said Hi.  He PR'd his half marathon time, but when you are motivated to not miss your son's tee-ball game, it helps!

We eventually took off for home. Shower, 1.5 hour long nap (niiiiiiiiiiice) and off to Oklahoma Joe's for lunch.  I bypassed the BBQ they had at the race and opted for tradition.

The more I let it sink in, I'm disappointed that I couldn't push through the last 5 to 6 miles to even finish under 1:45.  When I first put this race on my calendar, I was shooting for 1:35 but that was before my trip to Bangkok entered into the picture, so I'm totally fine with missing that mark by 10 minutes.  Chicago is 18 weeks away.  Can I get myself down to 7:14 average pace for 26.2 miles?  I'm not sure.  I have a lot of work to do in those 18 weeks.  My quads were a big factor in this race.  Two days later they are still sore.  I need to strengthen them.  While Chicago has an elevation gain of 512 feet over 26.2 miles with Hospital Hill having 713 feet gain (according to my Garmin) over 13.1 miles, the pounding they are going to take at that speed is going to hurt.  Enough on Chicago, I'll work on a separate post for that.

The one shining light is I smashed my Hospital Hill PR by over 8 minutes and I only missed my PR by 25 seconds.  When you consider I was in half-ironman shape (albeit with a broken rib) on a much more forgiving course at the time of my PR, missing it by such a small margin is pretty satisfying.  (Yes, I consider myself in better shape last October).

Congrats to Joe for finishing just a few clicks over 1:40.  That's freaking awesome!  I've got a lot to do to catch up with him.... or rather stop pushing him to train.

Lauren in magenta coming into the finish.  #BlurryCam

Apparently Joe reached Pace Group 1:30, beat them up and stole their pace flag.

Me in orange, Ryan in yellow shoes, and Kyle is peering over the shoulder of the guy wearing the white shirt on the right.  Kyle is in blue.

Mark! (if you couldn't tell by his bib)

Today's Crew


I stole this off of some guy on Facebook.  It's the "Puzzle" board.  I suppose it works but the puzzle could have been a bit more creative.
Additional Note:  I love reading signs that people hold up during races. They are motivating and a lot are extremely funny; however,  I saw the worst sign ever on a half-marathon course.  "Chuck Norris never ran a marathon".  Yeah, no one on Saturday ran one either. OK folks.  If you are going to go through the trouble of making a sign for a race, do a little research.  We don't call running races "marathons" here unless they are truly 26 miles, 385 yards.

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