Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Securian Winter Run 2015 - Half Marathon - Race recap

Securian Winter Run 2015 was my 2nd Half Marathon of January 2015. And this is my second time with Securian run. I ran a 5K last year. It was sub-zero last year and most challenging hills in this course lie in the first & last 3 miles, within the downtown. After that, it is the super smooth Shepard Road.

This year I was ambitious and registered for the Half Marathon in the Fall of 2014. I had the scary visuals of last year’s freeze, yet went ahead with the longer stretch. (I need to stop being so anxious. Agree every race happens in a different weather and different course. And inspite of 1 year cycle, the same race doesn't come off as the year before. Yet I should believe in myself & my training. Even if my training was below par). So I had to do this race. Even though they do not give any medals. The swag this year included a Winter cap, Coffee mug and few other goodies. This race is special because it’s close to or on a celebratory date.

I left early from home so I could find a convenient parking. This is one of the best parts of race. Leaving home while it was ink dark and slowly watching the sky lit up with sunrise flames. And watching other cars and knowing there are others who have an important mission too, at this time of the day. It’s the same feeling any early risers gets when she steps out of the house. With no rush traffic, I reached my destination pretty soon. The Parking directions were correct to the tittle. I exited the I35E and smoothly swished to Securian’s parking. This time I put my faith in the exact parking instructions instead of Google maps path and thus was saved from getting trapped in blocked roads.
This year I decided to leave my "official cheering squad" home and go to races by myself. We did it successfully for like 10 races last year. But now with my increasing run times, it was not a good use of their time while they wait. We agreed it was time for me to do this by myself. So I went early, picked my packet, checked-in my bag and waited in the Securian Center.

Crowd grew slowly. And the Half marathon started at 9:00 AM. The 10K & 5K yers started 5 minutes apart and gave us back-packers company till a few miles in the Shepherd Road. It was only once they turnaround, and I went ahead for half-mara course, that I realized how far behind I was ! 
The course winded through the downtown in a few loops, before heading out to Shepard Road. It went via the Ice Sculpture show, part of the Winter Festival. And then … how I hate those hills of Jackson Street, Broadway Street and 5th Street E. They are very own version of Boston’s “Heartbreak Hill”. They were steep down, on our way out. I felt like I will roll off and let out a mumble-scream, and someone was like “isn’t it ?” And on the way back, when we are practically dead, it’s like climbing a mountain. Add the heat of 30F.

Here is my run gear for this race – along with the wrong choices pointed out, so I/we know better during the next race at 30F temp:
  1.  2 tech shirts and Columbia Thermal Jacket. Definitely never wear this jacket for any run at above 15F. I should have gone with my trusted lightweight green jacket.
  2. Lightweight C9 cap & headband to protect my head. Wizened after the restrictive ski cap in my last run (Polar Dash 2015), I stuck to my lightweight cap & headband for anti-slip support. Perfect choice for this weather.
  3. Neck gaitor – was useful while waiting. Because its cold when standing. But it was incredibly heavy and useless after 2 miles. Just added weight for me to carry.
  4. C9 compression pant + Extra layer of pant (which was totally not needed. I meant the extra layer, not both).

Eventually I was the last 4th. Other 3 were using the walk approach. I am sure I was running most parts, tried speed & stride when I could; of course combined with walk breaks. But it’s still a mystery how I maintained pace with them ? My end time was 2:58 which was 20 more minutes than my previous times; and my worst including training runs.

It was easy for the bags check-in folks to find my bag; because there wasn't any other bag around ! And the food guys opened the counter for me to pick as much I could. Volunteers were cheerful everywhere. Medical and Water stops were spaced every 3 or so miles and it was in small bottles. This helped me as I was trying not to drink as often as I do usually (out of anxiety) and so this spacing was really good. I did not crave water so much. I just realized I don’t need water for atleast 5k. But after halfway mark, I sorely missed Powerade. I had taken this nutrition for granted with every race and missed to check this detail for this race. By the end of the race, I was literally screaming for  “Salt … Salt”, gobbled as many chips packets I got hold of and continued eating chips for few days at home. My brain kept asking for salt for days.

Lessons Learned
1.       Clothing for sub-20F and over-30F are different. I wore my really warm jacket and was hot from mile 2 to 13. Like REALLY HOT ! And I could not afford to discard my jacket, neck-gator and gloves. As they say,  it’s cold when you are still - or even for 2 miles. Note to myself –
a.       learn to be without this extra gear for 30 minutes outside. In hindsight, I did not run outside enough this winter.
b.      And also do not be shy about giving a 2nd bag at checkin – those containing the things you changed your mind about 5 minute before start time.
2.       Salt. I missed it so much. With only water at the water stops, I missed the electrolyte of Powerade. I did not carry any beans or salt-tablets with me coz I was used to Powerade in all past races. I should have paid attention to this details of the water-stop rather than focus on other goodies.
3.       Hills in the StPaul downtown turning towards Shepard Road. Gwad are those killers ! Only other hill in this course is the bridge on Shepherd Road.
Overall, should not be confident based on last year’s performance, but should train atleast the month before the race. Though in my defense it was very unpredictable this Jan. Just 2 days before the race had been hovering at 0F.

Or I guess, no race is ever perfect. Some things work and some don’t. And that’s how things are.
This summary is soothing, but the above details will come handy next time ;)

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