Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Martinsville Half Marathon Report

March 24, 2012

If you couldn't tell from my previous posts (here and here) I wasn't going into this race with the most confidence and I didn't have very high expectations. To be honest, I didn't have very much confidence or any kind of expectations for this race until about mile 6.  The week before the race my back was feeling a little off.  A few days before the race I also realized that the course was hillier than I thought. The forecast was calling for rain.  So my plan was sort of just to do my best and enjoy half marathon #3.

Martinsville Half Marathon Elevation Profile

My expectations were lowered even more when I woke up the night before the race with a headache.  I had this happen a few days prior (not sure why?), and it wasn't good.  So I got up, took 2 ibuprofen, and went back to sleep.  Thankfully I slept pretty well, although I was nervous.

We had to leave ridiculously early because the race was an hour away, so I was up at 4:30. When I woke up, my headache was gone (thank goodness).  However, it was raining. HARD.

I got ready without a hitch, although my stomach was a little upset due to nerves. We hit the road at about 5:50, which would allow plenty of time to get there and have a good amount of time to go to the bathroom and stretch out.  My husband is an awesome driver, but sometimes I have anxiety when we're in the car...especially when it's raining and dark (and really hard to see) and we're on a curvy road going 55+ mph. I was so tense on the way to the race and my legs were literally shaking uncontrollably.

About 20 minutes down the road, I gasped when I realized I FORGOT MY GARMIN. Andrew said we could go back, but I knew we didn't have the time. I would be running this one sans Garmin. This also made me feel less confident about the race.  How would I pace myself?  What if I started out way too fast and I bonked?  And dang it, these miles aren't going to count towards the Strava Gu 100,000 mile challenge and I won't get my free peanut butter GU!  

When we got there we found a parking spot and went inside the YMCA, which was the headquarters for the race.  I am so thankful that we all had somewhere dry to stay before the race.  This also meant we had REAL bathrooms to use before the race.  Since I like to go to the bathroom 928 times before a race starts, this was so nice! My stomach was pretty upset, which only made me more nervous because I didn't want to have to go to the bathroom out on the course.

8:00 finally came and everyone made their way outside into the rain to line up for the start.  They had a short delay which allowed me to make one last pit stop in the port-o-potties by the start/finish.

I was a little indecisive about whether or not to keep my long sleeve on. I had it on but took it off literally right before we started and gave it to Andrew (side note: my husband is seriously the BEST ever. He drove me to the race, waited with me and calmed me down before the race, sat in the car the whole time while I ran, and was completely there for me when I was done.  He's pretty awesome).  Anyways, I'm so glad I ditched my long sleeve because I was comfortable the whole time and I know I would have been so hot with it on.

waiting for the race to start

And finally, we were off. I started in the back and tried to keep a very slow and comfortable pace at first.  I just wanted to loosen up and not go out too fast.  I kept this easy pace for about the first 2 miles and then I just seemed to find a slightly faster but still comfortable pace, but I wasn't really thinking about it too much.

The course started in the downtown area and then went to the Dick & Willie Passage Rail Trail. The course entered the trail in the middle, went to one end, made a U-turn, went to the other end, made a U-turn, then came back and went back through downtown.  Since there was a lot of out and back, there were runners coming towards you most of the time, too. I really liked this because it was nice to have faces to look at and it was fun to cheer on other runners who were clearly way in front of me (and occasionally get cheered on by them, too).

It was also particularly interesting when one of the runners coming toward me ran over on the side of the course, pulled down his shorts, and took a poop. I turned to the guy running next to me and asked him if this was really happening right now.  Apparently it was.  The pooping dude finished his business before I got to him and explained to me and other runners coming toward him that there weren't enough port-o-potties on the course (there were plenty, in fact).  I guess when you gotta go, you gotta go.

Moving on...

Thankfully Andrew was wearing his watch, so I borrowed it so that I could know when to take a GU (every 40 minutes!). I figured they would have mile markers along the course, but I know you can never really trust those completely. Since I run around a 10 minute per mile pace (and was hoping to keep it at or below that), I figured the math on the pacing wouldn't be too hard to keep track of.  By mile 2, I knew I was around a 9:45 pace.  I kind of stopped looking at the watch so much after that and I tried to just run by feel and keep a steady, comfortable pace so that I would have enough juice to push it a little harder in the second half of the race.

At about mile 6 (maybe?) I overheard two women behind me say that they were averaging about a 9:23 pace at that point. My first thought was OH. CRAP. I thought that starting out a half marathon with that kind of pace would certainly mean disaster in the end.  When I heard this I was in the middle of a gradual downhill section, and if I was remembering correctly, I thought the downhill would last for another 2+ miles. So I kind of just said oh well, and kept my same, faster-than-usual pace, rationalizing with myself that I was making up time at this point should I have to walk towards the end (on the 2+ mile uphill section that I was running down at that point).

This is not really the best race strategy at all, but I just decided to go with it. The really awesome thing is that, for the most part, I didn't feel the need to walk for long sections. I walked twice to eat a GU, and slowed down a little bit at a few water stops for people to dump some water in my bottle.  I also walked up one last very steep (and short) hill in the end.  There were a few points where I began to slow to a walk, but I immediately told myself to just keep running.

It was around mile 9-10 that I was looking at the mile markers, glancing down at Andrew's man watch, and doing some bad math in my head (I'm so bad at doing math with paces when I'm running) that I realized I was well on my way to setting a new PR (my previous PR was the time for my very first 1/2 in November 2010, which was 2:13:49, or a 10:13 pace).  So anytime I felt like walking for more than just a little bit, I kept thinking about how awesome it would be to PR in the rain on a hilly course without my beloved Garmin.  And I just kept running.  

In all three half marathons that I have run, the last 2-3 miles are always the hardest because they just seem to just keep going on FOR. FREAKING. EVER. I felt like we just kept taking turns through downtown and I felt like the finish line would be right around the corner, and then it wasn't. I kept slowly gaining on some people in front of me and I used them as motivation to keep running. I caught up with one girl and we both said something like WHERE IN THE WORLD IS THE FREAKING FINISH?! She slowed down a little at that point and I kept pushing my pace and praying that the finish line would be around the next corner.  Finally it was there and I gave it all I had with a good sprint to the finish.  I spotted Andrew and gave him a wave and then focused my attention on the clock. It was about to click over to 2:04 so I kept bolting towards the finish.

still heel striking

My final time was 2:03:58 (9:28 pace). A PR by nearly 10 minutes. In the rain. On a hilly course. Without my Garmin. Five months after I hurt my back and couldn't run for six weeks. I was elated.

I grabbed a few snacks, took a quick shower (thank you, YMCA, I love you), and put on some clean, dry clothes.  I stretched a little bit and stuck around for some of the awards just to make sure I didn't win anything. I was 4th in my AG by about 5 minutes, 39th out of 117 women, and 125th out of 254 total runners.

We hit the road for the hour long drive home. Just in case you're wondering, sitting in the car for an hour after running a half marathon is not a great idea. I tried to stretch and foam roll a lot when I got home, but I was still pretty sore for 2-3 days after the race.

 Nice technical race shirt (women's fit, too!)

I really loved this race.  The course was great.  Although there were some hills, they were very gradual. I loved the long downhills (for obvious reasons) and the uphills were gradual enough that they didn't require significant walking breaks. The portion of the course on the Dick & Willie trail was a little secluded so it wasn't very spectator-friendly (there were a few spots along the course where there were spectators, though). However, this portion was also very scenic and there were runners going in both directions, so I didn't think much of the lack of spectators (it was also raining, so I didn't expect much anyways). Of course getting a PR on this course also adds to my love for the Martinsville 1/2 course.

There were plenty of volunteers and everyone was very friendly. There were port-o-potties along the course about every 1.5-2 miles (contrary to what pooping dude said).  The water stops were plentiful, especially with the course being an out and back in two directions.  I also really loved how the race was headquartered at the YMCA.  It was so nice to be able to use a real bathroom and take a shower after the race.  The technical race shirt was very nice and the medal was also very well-designed.  We also got a small towel with the race logo on it which was also a nice touch (I'm holding it in one of the pictures above).  I really don't have anything negative to say about this race and I am really hoping to be able to do this race again next year.

Breaking 2:05 in the half marathon was one of my goals for 2012, so I can now cross that one off my list! My next race is the Mill Mountain Mayhem 10K (trail race) next weekend, followed by the Blue Ridge Half Marathon the following weekend on the 21st. I'm not expecting to set any new PRs during these races, but I'm definitely looking forward to both of them.


  1. That is so awesome! Way to go and OMG I am laughing so hard about the pooping guy .. like outloud. YOU ROCK!

  2. Holy wow! Way to go!!! Awesome race!

  3. AHHHHHH!!!! CONGRATS!!!! this is amazing! a wonderful PR! and after so many "bumps" in the road! seriously love this!

  4. Wow, what a HUGE PR!!! I had my best races when I had the lowest expectations!! I believe sometimes we just think too much and forget to run and just have fun!

  5. Woo hoo!!!! Congratulations!!!! That is a great time, especially with that incline in the second half! Well done. I've seen plenty of guys pull to the side to pee - but having to squat on the side of the race - oh my ...

  6. Melanie here! I enjoyed this piece, please email me--I have a question about your blog. MelanieLBowen[at]gmail[dot]com

  7. I'm running this tomorrow and loved reading your recap. I'll literally follow the exact same schedule in the morning since we're leaving from the same place and am also freaking a little bit about the elevation chart. I'm kind of tempted to try running without a Garmin but that idea scares the crap out of me! Hoping the snow holds off til sometime after the race :)


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