Saturday, April 24, 2010

Get In Gear Half Marathon (aka "The Race That Started It All")

Early in 2009, a coworker invited me to run Minnesota's annual Rite of Spring race, Get In Gear. This race had a 33-year history of being the largest 10k in Minnesota, and it supposedly places in one of the top 15 most-populous 10ks in the nation. Last year was the inaugural half marathon and a coworker wanted me to get in on the "Be a Part of History" action that consumed 2009. It was also a good way to shed winter hibernation pounds and get out for some spring exercise.

"Running is for people with OCD."

I was hesitant to sign up. Very hesitant. I had done my very first half marathon (Urban Wildland) the year before and thought I had trained hard -- nevermind the fact I trained as a nearly pack-a-day smoker -- but it just wasn't my day. I had no supporters at Urban Wildland, I had no idea what pacing or fueling for 13 miles entailed, and when an extremely overweight run-walker got ahead of me and told me that drinking water at the stops was slowing me down, I swore off long-distance running. With a finishing time of around 2:32, I was disappointed and decided I never wanted to do that distance -- or any race -- ever again. Running 13 miles was not my preferred form of masochism.

But the more my coworker talked about the historical Get In Gear race, the more interested I was in reuniting with the half marathon. When I broke down all the thoughts in my head, I had things I wanted to accomplish rather than the ability to simply say "I did it." I no longer smoked. I had a little more experience running and fueling, even though I still only worked out recreationally, and mostly on an elliptical glider before work. I secretly wanted to beat my coworker as she is one of the most competitive people I know. I had a time goal from Urban Wildland I wanted to better. And I wasn't going to let an obese walker tell me how to run as she waddled by.

I ended up finishing the 2009 Get In Gear Inaugural Half Marathon in 2:11:51, setting a new PR by an astonishing 21 minutes. I also passed my coworker at mile 6 with a smile on my face. And I didn't see any overweight run-walkers get by me.

"If I can improve that much, what more can I do?"

I signed up for another half marathon, Heart of the City, with a different coworker in May 2009, exactly 35 days after Get In Gear. I figured I was already in decent shape to cover the distance and being high on a 21-minute PR, I wanted to see if I could pick it up just a little more. I surprised myself by finishing in 1:58:58, setting another 12-minute PR from a month earlier. This was also the first time I vomited at the finish line, in front of my manfriend who flew in from California to surprise me no less; but I broke the 2-hour mark!

Puking aside, that's when I realized I had some talent deep inside. Not everyone can run a half marathon in less than 2 hours, and I actually placed above-average when looking at the average time of all racers, guys and girls.

After plenty of 5ks, 10ks, 15ks, and even a 25k, I decided five months later to run another half marathon, the Monster Dash. I cut off another 3 minutes from my time, and I did the race in 1:55:11 ... without puking. In the span of a year, I had shaved 37 minutes off my half marathon time and developed a full-blown obsession with the sport.

"Wait a minute; I have OCD!"

My coworker asked me again this year if I wanted to run the Get In Gear race. Like last year I turned her down, because this year I was focusing my attention on the marathon. She understood and didn't bombard me with incessant nagging to join the race. I am happy and content with my Intermediate II training plan and I love not deviating from my schedules and routines. In fact, I've come to live by and love them.

The Minneapolis Marathon training group was repeating 16 miles this morning and the half marathon training group was slated to run 8. My training plan had me running an "easy" 13 miles this weekend since it was a step-back week from the high mileage I put in over the past two weekends. I couldn't think of an easy way to incorporate a crowd into my 13-mile training run in case I needed emergency assistance (yes, I STILL worry about that), so I settled on running loops around the lakes by my apartment since there are water fountains and bathrooms and lots of people nearby.

I got up early this morning for my long run and saw it was raining out. And not just that fun little sprinkling rain -- it was raining HARD with cracks of thunder. Instead of heading out to the trail to suffer on my own, I scooted down to my car. I showed up at the Get In Gear 2nd-Annual Half Marathon and suffered through the rainy race with 8,500 of my friends.

Never in a million years did I think my life would come down to this. I can just run a spur-of-the-moment half marathon!

This morning was not "my race" in terms of a PR, but I do think of it as great practice. It could very well rain on the day of my marathon and I won't be able to back out of it. I didn't check my Garmin to monitor my pace because I was keeping it protected from the rain, but I did feel I was going at a good clip. The cold rain and blowing wind made for a challenging run, but I feel that I did well considering the conditions. This weekend was supposed to be an easy run for me, and while I felt like I put everything out there, I don't feel like I killed myself. My Intermediate II training plan would be as pleased with myself as I am.

As little as a year ago, I never thought running 13 miles could be "easy."
(Official race results and race recap coming shortly!)

13.3mi splits (Who measured this race?!!): 1:59:23
1: 9:09
2: 9:17
3: 9:13
4: 9:19
5: 9:12
6: 9:09 (breaking free from the 10k chaos at this point...)
7: 8:59
8: 8:48
9: 9:03
10: 9:02
11: 8:49
12: 8:53
13: 8:21 (awesome last mile!)
.3: 2:01
Air Temp: 52F and rain central


  1. Hi Average A,

    Nice job out there and good race report. Sounds like you've made some huge jumps as a distance runner over the past year. It is cool to read that.

    A quick comment about why the course seemed long. It actually wasn't. When a course is measured and certified by USATF, it is measured along the tangents, the shortest possible distance you can run the course. Between the twists and turns on River Road and the sea of humanity, it is absolutely impossible to run the tangents. Even if you were running by yourself it is hard to concentrate the whole time to run the tangents perfectly.

    So that is how you ended up running 13.3 miles. The course is legit and 99% of the people running probably ran about the same distance you did.

    Anyway, I write a weekly round-up of race results and reports for the MDRA blog, I took the liberty of adding your race report to the collection. You can see your report there as well as catch up on other runners' reports.

  2. Hi Average,

    I MEASURED THAT RACE! And like all USATF measurers I used the calibrated bike method, which is accurate to one tenth of one percent, or about 35 feet for a half marathon. I personally guarantee it.

    And Rocco is absolutely right - we do measure the shortest course that a runner could possibly run, which the leaders of the race probably DO run. That may account for some of the 0.2 difference.

    I imagine that you are using a Garmin to determine the distance you ran. Unfortunately, the Garmin usually reads a course a little bit long, because it accumulates distance as you go along, no matter the direction. Since the Garmin is attached to the body, and the body wobbles a little, that adds a little distance, especially if it's attached to the upper body.

    You have very nice, even splits. I wish I could do that. More power to you!


  3. Nice job on your half marathon! I ran the 10k and was ready to be done after 6 miles, way to stick it out for 13!! You had a nice time:) Congrats to you!