Friday, May 16, 2014

Festival Foods Grandad Half Marathon and Riverside Youth Races

It has already been two weeks since we did the Festival Foods Grandad Half Marathon and I am finally getting around to posting about the race!
We did this race two years ago when it was called the La Crosse Fitness Festival Half Marathon. It also had a different route at that time. Last year they changed the course to start at the top of Grandad Bluff and the first couple of miles is all downhill so we opted to skip it due to our first marathon being a couple of weeks after it. We volunteered at the first water stop at the bottom of the hill instead. This year Tim won a free entry last fall so we couldn't pass it up!
Lots of rain and cool temps leading up to the weekend made us worried about what race day was going to bring. It was pouring on Friday when we made the trip to the La Crosse Center to pick up our packets. The packet pick up process went smooth and quick. There was a small expo set up that we spent some time checking out while we were there as well. I really enjoy having an expo to help get me excited for the race!
Saturday morning we got up early and ate our normal pre-race breakfast (oatmeal for me and pb toast for Tim) and headed off to catch our bus to the start line. Buses started running at 6:15 and we made it to downtown La Crosse shortly after that. We were able to park just a couple of blocks from the finish line area.
We loaded the bus and tried to enjoy the 20 minute curvy ride to the top of the bluff where we would start. Once we made it to the top we made a quick potty stop since the lines were short and then we headed to the overlook area to enjoy the views while we waited for everyone to get bused up.

In the distance you can see the blue bridge- that is near the finish area. To get there we first would have to run down the road leading up the bluff and we would also have to run around the south end of the city before ending up at Riverside Park.
After getting a few photos we started to get ourselves ready while we waited for a friend to message us that she was there. We pinned on our bibs and made the final decision on what we were wearing and then dropped off our bags as we made our way to the start line to find our friend. Now that I no longer had my sweatshirt I started to get a little cold while we waited.
We found our friend and got a few photos while we all tried to locate our satellites! It wasn't long and we had the National Anthem and then we started moving.
From where we were at it didn't take long and we were off and running. Once we were through the start chute we were able to spread out across the whole road and it didn't seem that congested.
It was hard to not go out too fast considering we were going down the hill. I kept getting ahead of Tim and he kept asking if I was in a hurry. I was trying to hold myself back but it was hard! Between the adrenaline of being in this group of people and going down the hill my body wanted to just go. 
Mile 1- 8:46
Mile 2- 8:14
When I saw each of these splits I knew we needed to take it easy or the last few miles were really going to be bad! We passed through the water stop that we worked last year and we talking about how much better the weather was this year. Last year we froze!
Mile 3-8:36
Oops! Guess we still need to pull back!
Mile 4- 9:10
Now that is more like it. This is where we would like to be.
At this point we were running through neighborhoods. There were a few small hills but nothing like the ones that we run in our normal routes. We agreed that we would walk through the next water stop and eat some of our Honey Stinger Chews. We made the mistake of not doing this during the Vetfest Half a few weeks earlier and wanted to make sure to do it right this time.
It wasn't long and we were now running on a paved bike trail. There were lots of spectators all over the course which was really nice! It really helps to keep you motivated and I always love reading all of the different signs.
Mile 5-8:59
Somewhere around this point we went right through a water stop- the one we planned to walk through. It wasn't well marked and was pretty small so we didn't even realize what was happening until we were through it. There were people handing out gummy bears and orange slices along the course and that is what I thought it was- not one of the official stops with water and Gatorade. We decided to keep pushing on and pay closer attention for the next one.
Mile 6- 9:12
We hit the 10k mark and I remember looking at my watch and telling Tim that I think this is our fastest 10k ever!
Mile 7- 9:31
Between these miles we made a sharp turn and headed up over a viaduct along the narrow sidewalk and then started making lots of turns as we zig-zagged through more neighborhoods. Shortly after mile 7 we came to our water stop. As we were getting close I commented to Tim that we needed to walk through the stop, grab water/Gatorade, and eat our Honey Stinger Chews. He commented back that he HAD to walk and that he was struggling. We walked through the stop as we ate and drank. My body was feeling really good! I was feeling strong and felt so much better than I did just a few weeks ago at this point at Vetfest.
We came to the end of the water stop area and I asked Tim if he was ready to run and he said he wasn't. We kept walking just a bit further and I asked again. He was hesitant but said yes.
Mile 8- 10:04
It was near the 8.5 mile mark when Tim said that he needed to walk again. He was feeling like his legs were going to cramp up. He told me to keep going. It was hard to just leave him and keep going but at the same time I was having a great race and was feeling really good!
Mile 9- 9:26
Mile 10- 9:35
I tried to just zone in, listen to my music, and enjoy the race. Around the 10 mile mark I walked through another water stop and got another glass of water. As soon as it was gone I was running again. At this point we were in the area that we recently ran when we did the group run with Grand Bluff Running. I really enjoyed this area when we did the group run and was glad that we had done it because now I was familiar with this part of the course and knew what to expect.
Mile 11- 9:35
Around mile 11 I hit the wind head on and it was tough to push through! I also started to feel a side-ache coming on. I forced myself to take slow, deep breaths and tried to make it go away. I continued to fight it for the next mile or so.
Mile 12- 9:26
I knew at this point that I was getting close! I really was running alone for much of the time after Tim fell back and this stretch was no different. There were even volunteers that commented to me- as they cheered for me- that I was by myself in the middle of two packs of runners.
Mile 13- 9:21
I was feeling strong as I made my way into Riverside Park and tried to pick up my pace as I closed in on the finish line. Now I finally had people that I was running with and there were spectators all along the sidewalks which was so motivating!
As I got closer to the finish chute I saw my friend Shelby who had already finished and she was cheering me on! Then I  glanced off to the left and spotted my mom and my boys!! She decided to come up on Friday afternoon at the last minute and she brought the boys to see us finish! Seeing them there brought tears to my eyes and made me choke up! We have never had family at the finish line of a big race before and it was amazing to have them there! I pushed back the tears and tried to get rid of the lump in my throat as I pushed through the finish line!
Photo Courtesy of the La Crosse Camera Club
0.17- 8:22/mi avg pace
Total time per my watch- 2:01:25
I really wanted to finish under that 2 hour mark but was super happy with my finish! I really felt pretty good through the whole race. I think this is the best that I have felt for a half marathon. I felt strong and didn't let my head get the best of me!
I got my medal and a bottle of water and tried to make my way to find Shelby, Mom, and the boys. I ran into another friend and stopped to visit and before long Shelby found us. As we were talking we heard the announcer say Tim's name as he was finishing. We all gathered at the finish line and said a few words before our friends had to take off.

Photo Courtesy of the La Crosse Camera Club
 Mom and the boys made their way to us and we got all kinds of hugs! That was such an amazing experience- I loved having my mom and the boys there to see us finish! I don't think I could ever express to her how much that meant to me!!
We got some post-race pictures and headed off to find some food. We hung out in the park and enjoyed the live music while we ate and visited.
I love that we finally have a post-race picture with the boys!
My mom (Jane) and Riley were such great supporters for all of us!
 After eating and enjoying the music we decided we better head home so we could shower and put on warmer clothes before we had to be back to the park in the afternoon for Aidan and Isaac to participate in the Riverside Youth Races.
Aidan- 100 yd dash (21.53 sec)
Aidan participated in the 100 yd dash and did a great job- second in his heat. He was so excited to get to run in his own race.  
Best buds!
Note: For anyone that has their kids involved in these types of races, don't have them wear the shirts they are given- all the kids wear them and then you can't find them in the group when they run. Put them in something bright like Aidan is wearing and then you have no problem picking them out in the group! This is something that we have learned through the years and my mom commented on how nice it was that we could easily spot him!
I have also learned this trick is helpful when out and about at my older boys baseball games. He likes to run and play with the other kids and when he is wearing bright clothes I can always pick him out and see right where he is.
Isaac participated in the 400 yd dash and did and awesome job- third in his heat!

Isaac- 400 yd dash (110.19 sec)
 Overall, this was a great race weekend! The first couple of miles down the bluff were not as scary as we initially thought they were going to be. This is a beautiful course and is a great way to see the area! It sucked that Tim ended up having trouble and we weren't able to finish together but we both finished and that is all that matters!
We both learned valuable lessons- I learned that I can push myself and that I don't need him there to get me through those last miles and he learned that sometimes you have to listen to your body and take things in stride- not every race goes like you plan!

My Race Stats:
Official Time: 2:01:26 (9:16 avg. page)
Overall Place: 416/1083
Sex Place: 203/?
Div. Place (F35-39): 19/83

Tim's Race Stats:
Official Time: 2:06:17 (9:38 avg pace)
Overall Place: 520/1083
Sex Place: 239/?
Div. Place (M35-39): 36/58