Race Report: Milwaukee Running Festival Half-Marathon

There was never a question that I COULD finish the race… the question was more about whether I would be able to run the race I WANTED to run.

This was 4th half-marathon and the first one that I actually planned to train to run for time. I put together a great training plan and even though the plan would be longer than a traditional half training plan, I was ok with that. Slow and steady

But then I got injured 8 weeks prior to the race. I continued to run for two weeks before the pain became unbearable and I knew it was time to seek some help. I did just that and started physical therapy again.

Still… losing 6 weeks of a training plan right before a goal race… and a goal race that is a pretty significant distance is nothing to snuff. I lost 4 weeks of aggressive training and two weeks of taper that would have allowed me to maintain the mental edge I had built for myself

Instead, I went into this race knowing that mentally a 2:15 race would be difficult and knowing that physically my body wasn’t where it needed to be for a 2:15

Wanting this race and that 2:15 was what I held on to and it was what I used to carry me through the race on Sunday…

But I am getting a little ahead of myself here

Friday after work, I headed home and grabbed my stuff and changed before heading over to Eric’s so we could drive up to Milwaukee together. Luckily the drive was uneventful and we made it in good time. After checking into the hotel, we went in search for food but managed a wrong turn out of the hotel so didn’t quite end up on the area we wanted to be in. Eventually we settled on a place but it was more of a last resort than a place either of us truly wanted to eat at… oh well… While at dinner, we learned that Tiffany and Harry were also in town to run. So that added to the fun for the weekend.

The following morning we woke up and Eric headed for the workout room for a streak keeper while I showered. The weather was already miserable and it was not going to get any better… raining, windy and chilly. We grabbed a quick bite before heading to Walgreens for water and some snacks. I then wanted better coffee than the watery hotel stuff so we started to walk towards packet pick-up and ran into Harry on the street.

We chatted for a bit and decided on a loose dinner plan before I got my coffee (mmmmmm) and headed to the expo.

Mo was there working the Ragnar booth so after getting our packets and while waiting for Chris to arrive, we all chatted. Mo has been chasing a goal time for a marathon and felt like she was in a great place to achieve it this weekend… and I felt like I was hoping for unicorn wings…

1 MKE Half 11-1-15

Chris found us and got his packet. After a quick trip around the expo (small races makes for quick expo trips) we used our free passes to go to the Harley Davidson Museum. I don’t own a motorcycle and doubt I ever will but it was neat to see the history behind them. Chris then drove us to one of his fav spots for a quick bite and then back to our hotel so we could drop all of our stuff off. The weather was still awful so we wandered around the “mall” for a bit trying to kill some time.

Eventually Eric and I went back to our hotel so Chris could check into his and take a nap… and not going to lie… I took a nap as well.

That evening we met Chris, Tiffany and Harry for pizza dinner and then grabbed a drink at a local bar. And yes, I did have ONE drink… and two glasses of water. That one drink also allowed me to fall asleep easily and mostly stay asleep… thank goodness because race anxiety was high for this one.

Turn back the clocks and wake up the next morning (thank you extra hour of sleep) we greeted with sunshine and warmer temps… and some wind… could have done without the wind.

Luckily I thought to bring some “ditch clothes” to wear at the start so I never actually got cold waiting to start… there also wasn’t too much time I had to wait because we got there decided very quickly the port-o-potty lines we were WAY too long, did our gear check and lined up… less than 10 minutes later, the gun went off.

I did snap two pics before the race started… All of us lined up and a selfie

2 MKE Half 11-1-15

3 MKE Half 11-1-15

I hung back for about a minute hoping to find Chris before starting the race because we were going to run together but I decided to go ahead and just start knowing he would be able to find… if he wasn’t already ahead of me..

The calf was feeling good but the butt/hamstring were already angry… and I knew it was going to be a LONG race. I also managed to NOT hit the button to turn on my watch hard enough and didn’t notice until about half a mile in… Oops…

For the first few miles I just enjoyed the pretty scenery and ran at a comfortable pace… whatever that may be because I didn’t allow myself to check my pace by looking at watch (which is why it took me half a mile to notice it wasn’t on).

Three-ish miles in and we came to a nice big hill… Ummm… This flat Chicago girl wasn’t having that… not when I was already in pain so I walked up it… This was the first of many hills… all of which I really loathed by the end of the race

The course then started going through a neighborhood with some very lovely older homes which I enjoyed looking at. Around mile 4 or so, Chris popped up on my left side… We chatted briefly before he went back to his music (which I did hear blasting from his headphones the entire race… it was a good distraction at times) and I went back to trying to convince my body to cooperate.

Around mile 6 (and a few hills later) the outside of my right knee started hurting… I think my IT Band got angry but I am not entirely sure it is my IT Band… At this point I am walking all the hills because I just can’t handle them. I know by all the clocks on the mile signs that I am already 5ish minutes off my goal time.

The reality is setting in that today is not a day for a 2:15

So I start coming up with second and third choice times…

We arrive at mile 9 and are running through the Marquette campus… to which Chris is getting a lot of cheers because he is running in his Marquette jersey (and pink knee high compression and USA shorts… he never disappoints with the race attire)

And this where things turn ugly… FAST

The course splits and the marathoner’s climb a nice big hill (and I am think thank F*cking hell I don’t have to take on that hill right now) and the half marathons start making our way back to the finish line…

We get a little ways away from the split and it happens… pain so intense on the outside of my right knee that I immediately stop running and can barely walk. I double over trying to just focus for a minute. Chris asks me if I am ok and I tell him that I am not.

I try taking a few steps but I am limping and seem incapable of walking normal. Tears come to my eyes as the severity of what is going on with a little over three miles left in the race

There is no way in hell a 2:15 is happening and visions of my second and third choice times are quickly slipping away. I keep trying to run but my knee refuses to let me. I am cursing like crazy and as we pass the 10 mile mark, I comment that the next three miles are going to be F*cking hell since I can barely walk right now. Chris tells me that I will just do what I can… which was so beyond greatly appreciated because he is sticking with me which is sacrificing his time as well.

I keep trying to push myself but my knee is NOT cooperating… at one point I stopped running and doubled over again and a women goes running by and says “you got this ladies keep going”

Not only was the encouragement what I needed right now but I also realized suddenly that Chris was referred to as a “lady”… Perhaps it was the pink socks?

And I burst out laughing… which was welcome compared to the tears I had just moments prior

Still trying to push myself… and the 2:30 pace group pacing me… which gets me VERY angry and I start running again

The pain is intense and I know it won’t go away but getting pissed off that the 2:30 pace group passed me helped fuel me… and so the game of rabbitting begins.

I would stay ahead of the 2:30 pace group but not enough for them to NOT catch me… Trying to stay ahead of them and getting angry each time they passed me fueled me for the rest of the race and I focused on the anger

At some point the pain subsided enough to where I could run more but my legs were completely trashed and pushing the pace wasn’t much of an option.

The pace group was right behind me and I didn’t have enough in me to run long chunks at this point so I took short walk breaks… at some point after passing the 12 mile sign, I started to get nausea

I knew I was pretty dehydrated and probably REALLY needed some food but I have run while being nausea before… never thought THAT would have ended up being good training…. So I was able to deal with that

I was still ahead of the 2:30 pace group and I was passing other runners that had already finished and came back along the course to cheer us on… each and every one said my name (it is printed on the bib in case you didn’t notice) and said something encouraging… I can’t recall what any of the words were because I was focused on anger, pain, being nausea, and trying with all my might to cross the finish line by 2:30

I had absolutely ZERO idea where Chris and didn’t have the energy to turn around and look

Once I saw the 13 mile marker I tried to run faster and I think I did but I honestly had nothing left and I was in so much pain…

I saw the finish line clock read 2:32 and change and I knew it was a massive PR for me but it was also so far away from my goal time.

There were so many emotions going through me… anger… pain… happiness… self-loathing…

Oooo… A Chocolate Chip Cookie!!!!

Hahaha… needless to say seeing cookies and knowing I was still a bit nausea got me out of my head a bit

Chris and I went to grab our gear. I had already planned with Eric that I was going to head back to the hotel right away to shower knowing that we might be cutting it close to showering and getting out of the room before check-out time.

Chris’ hotel had a shuttle running and his hotel was only a couple blocks from mine… walking a few blocks was a MUCH better idea than walking the mile or more back. So we went to head back toward the shuttles

But first I saw a results tent and veered over immediately knowing that my watch was off by half a mile and at least 5 minutes…

4 MKE Half 11-1-15

2:30:55 is my time… a far cry from 2:15

But it is also about a 15 minute PR

I really shouldn’t be angry and upset about this race. A 15 minute PR is HUGE and I know that. I AM proud of that accomplishment… especially considering how much I fell apart on the back side of the race.

This just was not the race I envisioned and I know it is not what I am truly capable of. Sure, it was ALL I was capable of on THIS day… The immense amount of pain I was in during and after the race… and still am in proves that I wasn’t capable of anything else. I know I left everything I had… and quite a few tears out on that course. But it is just not the race I wanted to run.

I know there will be other races and I know 2:15 is a goal I will chase until I nail it. There is a LOT I need to do to get my body ready to train at that level and I know what needs to be done.

I still have faith in the running portion of the training plan that I put together… I still believe THAT plan would get me where I need to be to run the race I want. I just can’t get injured and have to kill 6 weeks of training. I also know that I need to make strength training part of any future half marathon training plan that I have. The injury is caused by weaknesses that I have… tight calf muscles being a life long weakness that I am going to have to work on. I have other weaknesses too and I know what I need to work on (and have already started with physical therapy).

My running IS where it needs to be and I have full faith in the plan I had… I just need to do more.

It’s time to put together my new plan and figure out another opportunity to run a half for time… until then… I will just put in the work… and perhaps add a few more weeks onto physical therapy…

5 MKE Half 11-1-15

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