Sunday, September 27, 2015

Akron Half Marathon Recap

Friday afternoon we started our journey to Akron. Akron is only a few hours away from Pittsburgh so it was a nice easy ride. Once we checked into the hotel Joe, Natalie and I went to the expo. 

Packet pickup was super easy. We walked around the expo and met up with another Volée member, Sarah, before we headed back to the hotel for a nap before the pasta party. We had a great dinner and a fun evening. 

After dinner we went straight to bed. Around 2am I woke up with terrible stomach issues. This continued every hour until we left for the race. As if I wasn't already freaking out, let's add feeling like crap (literally). 

So we all headed to the corrals. Most of us were in corral A so we stayed together. Nathan stayed with me for the start. Sarah was running the relay and her foot was bothering her so she decided to stay with 35 week pregnant Natalie, her hubby Jimmy and Jeff. Sarah's fiancée Matthew was suppose to do the race, but he had been up with stomach issues all night and passed out. 

Nathan had been dealing with a bum foot, so he told me he would not stay with me, just start. We gave each other a hug and 27 seconds after the gun, I was off. 

Mark gave me an awesome plan that I taped to the back of my watch. My mental goal was to keep the 3:35 pacer in my sights. I didn't want to be near him, just see him. The first half mile was exactly the same as last year, then I quickly learned how much the course had changed. Very quickly. Luckily I was feeling good. 

The tag line for the Akron Marathon is that you get to run the blue line. The blue line is the tangent of the course. I glued myself on that line. For the first three miles, my watch was pretty on. Off about .02 which is pretty good! I am starting to cramp at this point, since I have nothing in my system. I decided to take a chew and it helped. 

Mile four was weird. There were people handing out milkshakes, which had another runner scream some very funny things. I also started uncontrollably sweating. It was a little humid outside, and I'm not a dripping sweat kind of runner. Even in the summer. Something is not right. To my surprise, I still feel good and I'm hitting my splits. It was also around this time that I saw another Oiselle singlet. I made sure I cheered on my teammate as she quickly left me in the dust. 

At each relay exchange was a timing mat for runner tracker. The first was at mile 5.8. I was happy to see one so Joe could do some math and maybe see me finish. 48:09 was my split which would have put me at a 1:48:49 half marathon. I'm on! 

At the 10k mark I noticed my watch is off by .1. How is this possible? I'm running on the freaking blue line! Even though I'm hitting splits on my watch, I now need to take into account the distance. Math is not my strong suit, but I'll give it a shot. 

The biggest incline of the half course was around the 6.5 mile mark. I was ready for it. This hill was a freaking monster. It never ended. Luckily, Mark accounted for the hill in my pacing. I was very happy for that. The biggest problem now was my quads. Everything was so tight, and I really needed to use the bathroom. There were port-o-potties at every water stop. Too bad I had just passed a bunch. My seven mile split was about 58 minutes and I was still on plan. 

Mile eight was very downhill. It was my best feeling mile mentally and physically. I saw during that mile a sign that water was a head. Thank goodness I could pee soon. I had some time built in from some faster splits so I wasn't concerned about stopping. My stop was about 10 seconds and I was on my way.

Very soon after that, around mile 9.5, everything came crashing down. I went to take my mile nine chew and I bit into it and instantly spit it out. My stomach couldn't take it. I could not take any fuel. I was feeling very terrible. Through my entire training I only hit the wall once, and it was after mile 11 and it was close to 90 degrees. I was not ready for this. 

Mile 10 I noticed my watch getting further off. I made the decision to not look at it again. I should have been there at 1:22:28, I hit it at 1:24 even. At least I can do math at this point. On a very narrow downhill, I hit the side of a curb and almost went down. I was legit a hot mess. It was fading away and I was trying so hard to hold it together. 

Mile 11 was a wonderful sight for me. When you looked to you left you could see the baseball field we would finish in. I knew the marathon split was coming up. I just needed to hold it together for a few more miles. There was another relay exchange which meant another split. 1:37:13 with an estimated finish time of 1:50:49. I knew I was slipping away. 

When I got closer to mile 12 I saw people walking toward me with medals. It was a good feeling knowing I was almost done. I can't drink anymore water, my quads are screaming at me and the mile 12 clock didn't work so I had no idea what I'm doing. Luckily there was a bank clock and it said 8:48. Since we started a little after 7, I knew my A goal was gone. I didn't know how close I was, but I was almost to the finish. 

I turned into the baseball stadium and saw the mile 13 marker. I made the turn on to the field and started crying. Like UGLY tears. All I could think about was spending the last 16 weeks training to not get my PR. I was crushed, my legs couldn't move anymore and my stomach was in a knot. 

I crossed the finish line and stopped my watch. I didn't want to see it. I just stood there. A volunteer grabbed me thinking I couldn't move. He asked how I did. I looked at my watch and it said 1:51:05. I actually PRed by 43 seconds. My previous PR was 1:51:58. I told the man I PRed and started crying again. 

I walked to bag check to grab my stuff. I held it together pretty well. I called Joe and lost it a little. Luckily I saw Nathan on my way back to the stadium and pulled myself together. My stomach still felt terrible and I couldn't eat anything or try to drink either. 

I texted Carrie, Tara and Cecilia to tell them how it went and I fully lost it. I can't believe this happened. I trained so hard for this and my PR time still says 1:51. I just couldn't deal with it. I didn't want to post on social media at all. I wanted to just go home and puke. 

I ended up going down on the field to welcome Natalie, Jimmy and Jeff back to the stadium. Home girl is 35 weeks pregnant and finished a half marathon! 

I greeted them by the finishers chute and Natalie gave me a huge hug and told me she was proud of me. Cue UGLY tears. This woman just ran a half marathon with baby and I was so proud of her. I just couldn't talk about it anymore. 

I waited for Joe to finish the relay. He did a really awesome job. I am so proud of him and the hard work he has been putting in. 

Final remarks: I'm still trying to process this. Yes, I accomplished the ultimate goal to PR. I knocked 2:19 off my last two half marathon times. The problem is, I wanted to see a 1:4x so bad. Still saying my PR is 1:51 pisses me off. No, I have not celebrated it. When people congratulate me, I try not to cry. Mark got a lovely verbal diarrhea email recap about the race and I still don't feel any better. I'm sure in a few days I'll be happy, but I'm not happy at all. Plus, my stomach is still messed up and I've sworn off eating anything but chain pizza before a race ever again. 

I have already decided I'm going back to Akron next year to run the marathon. It is such a great race. The volunteers are great. There are tons of water stops and the finish line area is awesome. I know I won't be going for a marathon PR, but I want to finish all the Akron races. 

How do you bounce back from a rough race? 


  1. I know you wanted the 1:4X time but you still hit a PR and that is something to be proud of. Look at this way, you did a PR and felt like shit for part of the race. If you don't get the stomach problems you would of crushed that time. Keep your head up

  2. Oh man, that is tough! Is there another half you can try in the the next month or two? You are in top shape and if it weren't for your stomach problems, you would have crushed it.

    When I had a bad marathon earlier this year, I took the summer to just run for fun. I felt a little lost running without a goal, but now I know it was exactly what I needed.

    1. I actually have another race on my radar to give it another shot. I owe it to myself! Winter is my less competitive season so I am looking forward to a wonderful marathon training!

  3. You're probably so tired of people congratulating you and saying you should be happy just to PR. Trust me, I've been there and know how personal a time goal can be (particularly when you publicize your goal) and put in all the work. It hurts so much now, but I know you'll use this disappointment to keep fueling you and keep reaching for that goal. This wasn't your race, but that doesn't mean that you won't get there. You inspire me so much Steff, and I'm really proud of you (probably something else you're sick of hearing). Can't wait to keep following along with your training and celebrate with you when you reach that goal!!

  4. Steff, that was definitely a tough day all around; I'm so impressed that you stayed with it and finished the race, because I'm not sure I would have been able to do it. The fact that you STILL managed a PR is quite incredible, but I know that's not really the point and that your expectations were different for this one. There are things that are just out of our control...and they suck. You're race is coming and I'll be cheering for you and waiting for that celebratory text message! Love ya!

    1. If you guys would have been sitting next to me in those bleacher I would like to believe you would have been laugh at my hot mess. I love that I can share this all with you! Thank you for being a wonderful support system!

  5. Congrats on the PR! That was a tough one.

    My last half was tough too, and even though I finished with a good time, I didn't finish feeling strong. In fact, I felt like you did--pretty sick. Since then, I've scaled back my marathon goals. I was hoping for a sub-4, but now I just want to finish feeling good. Last year I did 4:17 and felt great after. That's much better than wanting to puke for hours after a race, IMHO.

    1. Thanks Wendy.

      I agree with you, racing sometimes isn't all it's cracked up to be!

  6. Well, this recap pretty much sums up how all my races go, so I can relate, believe me. It's especially hard when everyone is congratulating you and telling you how happy you should be to PR, or to finish, or to do all that training or whatever, but our goals are so personal and meaningful to us that it's hard for others to understand. I once read an article about how to deal with a tough race, and it said to think about what you were in control of and what you weren't. In your case, it sounds like the stomach problems and humidity were out of your control, leading to not being able to take fuel, also not in your control. That's a lot of elements out of your control, and it truly sounds like you did amazing given the tough hand you were dealt. I know you will get your PR, and soon!