Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘University of Illinois Marathon’

Most of the Heartland Roadrunners that made the trip to the Illinois Marathon. Doug, Jeff and I missed the pre-race picture while we were stuck in traffic.

I wasn’t really sure where to go with this race report.  I didn’t personally run very well, and since a day after the race I was sitting on my couch with a sore throat and fever, and by Tuesday morning  I was at the walk-in clinic getting antibiotics for a  sinus infection,  I think the explanation for the slow run is now more clear.  So, I’m going to give you my impression of the Illinois Half Marathon and I-Challenge and I’m going to try to keep my not-feeling-good whining to a minimum.  Suffice it to say, I think I was on the verge of a pretty icky cold while I was running 16.2 miles in 12 hours, and that may have colored my experience a tad.

The Lead-Up

The days before the Illinois Marathon were simply full of obsessive weather-watching.  Was it going to rain? Storm?  I heard wind! Cold?  What am I going to wear?  Packing my bag on Thursday, I decided to not make a decision and just bring every piece of running gear I owned.

The Expo and Check-In

We took this photo at the expo…

I was super impressed with the organization of the check-in process.  I remarked to my friend Doug that it was easier to check in for this race of 20,000 people than it was for the comparatively small Turkey Run back in Quincy!  (No offense meant to the Turkey Run, which was also fairly quick!)   There were plenty of volunteers, the lines were organized by race and number, and there was really no wait when we arrived.

After we checked in, we headed over to the Expo.  As we were walking in, Ultra-Marathoner and Everest-Climber Marshall Ulrich was leaving.  I actually had not heard that he’d be there or I would have made a point to get there a little sooner- he’d be one inspiring guy to meet!  Anyway, Doug and I wandered around a while and looked at booths from other races and checked out some of the merchandise on sale.  The selection wasn’t nearly as large as the expo at the Little Rock Marathon, and I was disappointed that none of the vendors had any women’s trail running shoes, because I really wanted to try a few pairs on and take my favorite home.  I bought a poster and a pint glass and Doug got a new water bottle and then we were off to the hotel.

The Hotel

I only mention this in hopes of saving other people: do not stay in the Red Roof Inn in Champaign under any circumstances.   The beds were rocks, the highway was so close I thought a semi would come through the wall at any moment, and the whole place shakes when someone in another room flushes a toilet.  Worse yet, they charged $114 a night, with taxes almost $130… and that was just outright robbery.   Not a place for a pre-run rest.

The 5K

Some of the Heartland Roadrunners before the 5K. We were all participating in the I-Challenge by completing the 5K then a half or full the next day.

The skies were swirling and grey when Doug and I headed over to the 5K on Friday night.  It wasn’t raining, but it wasn’t pretty.  We met up with some club members and snapped a photo and danced to a Michael Jackson song playing over the loud speakers.  Someone said “Go!” and the 5500 participants all took off.  Most everyone in our club was taking it easy on this run since we were all doing the half or full in the morning, so a lot of silliness was in store for the 5K.

“The Dougster” goes off course… 🙂

I ran backwards underneath the Champaign and Urbana Fire Truck Arch (They actually had one fire truck from each township) and Ali snapped a picture.  The route ran through campus and the downtown area, and, at one point, Doug and I heard a big commotion off to our left.  To neither of our surprise, at the center of the cheering were 3 members of our club off of the course and on the lawn of a sorority house chugging beers.  I love our club sometimes…

After the 5K.

Running backwards under the fire truck flag arch!

Strangely enough, that’s really all that I found particularly remarkable about the 5K all the way to the finish line.  If there weren’t 5500 other runners, it would have just felt like any of the club runs we do in our town every day.   The finish line is pretty darn neat though!  After cruising through town, we headed back to the campus and toward Memorial Stadium at the University of Illinois.  We ran through the tunnel and onto the football field, sprinted the 100 yards downfield, and made a U-turn to run to the finish positioned on the 50 yard line.  There were lots of cheering spectators in the stadium, and as an alumnus of the University of Iowa Marching Band, it brought to mind my college days and the excitement of a Big Ten football game.   Doug and I got our medals, met up with some of the other club members near the food area, ate a banana and were on our way.

I guess the weekend was just not going my way at this point, because leaving the stadium my medal broke, we couldn’t find where we parked the car and had to wander 4 enormous parking lots for way too long, and it was almost 9 pm by the time we ate dinner.  And of course, after that, we were back at the hotel, and I’ve already mentioned why that was no good.

Race Day

At about 4:50 am- ten minutes prior to our alarm- torrential rain, thunder and lightning woke us up.  The first thing I heard was Jeff laughing.  That’s just what we needed… a thunderstorm.  When we poked our heads out the door of our hotel we saw many other poorly rested runners looking out at the same thing: a cold and soggy race day.  There was nothing for it except to get ready and head back to the starting line though.  I fussed over what to wear and finally decided to go with pants, an Adidas technical short sleeved shirt and my windbreaker jacket.

Doug crossing his first half marathon finish line!

Since everything had conspired to be more difficult than it should be, we managed to make the 3 mile drive to the stadium take 40 minutes.  We finally gave up on the traffic, pulled the car in to a hotel near the congested intersection, and started walking to our corral.  I think that’s when I noticed that it was only 8 minutes to the start of the race and that we were nowhere near where we were supposed to be… so we started running through crowds as best we could to get to the start line.

The Half

The sprinting to the start, as it turns out, was really unnecessary.  We were in the second to last corral based on expected finish time, and by the time we crossed the start, we’d been waiting about 17 minutes.  17 minutes was just enough time for the wind to make us really cold after our warm-up sprint…

I don’t want to sound so terribly negative about the half.  All I know is that I couldn’t get my head in the game.  I wasn’t feeling really ill (like I am today) but I also couldn’t get excited to save myself.  Was it the weather? The hotel? The lack of sleep? Was I starting to get this chest cold/sinus infection so my energy was just low?  I have no idea.  I don’t want to make an excuse.  I just didn’t feel real good at the start of this thing and I didn’t feel better as it went on.

The Prairie path was at about mile 9. This is where the wind really kicked up for us.

The rain had tapered off by the time the race started, but I think the weather still kept many spectators at home.  The ones that braved the elements were enthusiastic though, and they cheered as we ran down the main campus area.  I could tell Doug felt pretty good at the start of the race and was enjoying the feeling of his first big event.  It was only a few weeks ago that I had that rush of adrenaline for my first big race at Little Rock, so his enthusiasm made me smile.  We trained together for this race and had decided long ago that we were going to stick together for it.  Even though I wasn’t feeling great, he honored that plan and stayed right beside me the whole time.  It meant a lot to me that he stayed, and there was more than one moment where having a friendly face made all the difference to keep going.

Lots of hardware to bring home.

Let’s see… highlights of the spectators included a pair of signs that read, “Go Faster,” and “That’s What She Said,” and a stop for beer and bacon.  There was a little brass band huddled in a bus stop shelter to keep out of the cold wind but playing a jaunty little polka, and later a kid with a trumpet playing out of his pep band folder, which were both fun.  There was a spectator holding a sign that said, “Worst. Parade. Ever.” And Doug really got a kick out of that one.  The best water stop on the course was one where everyone was dressed like pirates and called us “matey.”

Logistically the course was fine.  It seemed like water stops were well-placed, there was GU available, and there were bathrooms at water stops.  There were lines at all the bathrooms though, so I’m glad I didn’t have to stop.  They could probably double the number of porta-potties and help a lot of people out next year.

Doug and I celebrating completing the I-Challenge.

Scenically, this was (and I’m really sorry Champaign…) sort of a dull course.  While other race courses cross rivers, go through historic neighborhoods or pass important landmarks, this one just kind of meandered through the campus and some subdivisions.  There was a mile or so of the course that went through a restored prairie park which could have been neat, but the plants aren’t high yet, so it was just a windy, cold grassland.  If you’re looking for a flat race, this one is for you.  If you’re looking for a scenic one, maybe not so much.

I was really tired… 🙂

The course once again ended on the 50-Yard line of the University of Illinois stadium.  It was somewhat less exciting to be doing that for the second time in 12 hours, but still neat.  I was completely spent by the end and glad to grab my medals, snap a couple of pictures and get going.  Probably the biggest highlight of the day was crossing the finish line with Doug for his first half.  We trained together and it was great to share the moment.    Our time was a 2:51, which is a slower per-mile time than all of our training runs and which is completely on me.  I guess it was just a confluence of circumstances that led to a crummy run.

Post-Race

Medals from Left to right: Half Marathon, I-Challenge, and 5K

I don’t want you to come away from this race report thinking I’m really down about the whole thing.  I didn’t run great- but you know, sometimes that happens.  Doug was emboldened by this first finish and we had only been home a few hours before I got a text from him saying, “You wanna sign up for Tulsa?”  I laughed to myself and replied back, “I probably do, but you need to let me eat my chicken before you ask me to sign up for another race.”  (btw- Mr. Bills fried chicken is an excellent post-race reward.)

So there you have it.  It’s a tale of perseverance mostly.  I’m glad, low energy or not, that I didn’t quit.  I’m glad Doug finished his first half.  I’m glad lots of Quincy runners completed I-Challenges, Halves and Fulls.  And I’m glad that I run, even on days where it’s hard to find the sunshine.

Read Full Post »

(and other pre-race thoughts)

Well here I am again, dear readers, sitting just days away from my second half-marathon.  This weekend, 20,000 runners will be gathering in Champaign/Urbana for the Illinois Marathon, and among them, about 30 runners from the local Heartland Roadrunners and Walkers Club.

Many of these members of the Heartland Road Runners will be participating in the Illinois Full and Half Marathons this weekend!

I’m trying to decide if I feel more or less nervous going into my second half-marathon.  As you might recall, it was only a few weeks ago that I ran my first half marathon (13.1 miles) in Little Rock, AR.  That event went relatively well.  I had friends start the race with me, found a groove, and (except for a leg cramp in mile 10) the whole thing went off without a hitch.  I had a lot of worries going into that race: crowds, nutrition, hydration, sleeping in a hotel the night before…finishing.  None of that really ended up being a problem though.  I guess I had good coaches, because I seemed pretty prepared and the race went just fine.

My training partner Doug and I after the St. Louis "Frozen Buns Run"

For this Illinois Half, my worry list looks different.  I’m not so concerned about finishing it- seeing as I’ve got several more double-digit mile runs under my belt now.  I am running it with a partner, which will present its own challenges and advantages.  Doug and I have been training together for quite a while now, so we’re used to running as a pair.  When we run though, we tend to chat, and the cumulative effect can be somewhat bad for our overall time.  Talking and laughing does make miles go down easier though, and that could be good for our time!

And while we’re talking about time- I think that’s my biggest worry.  I don’t need to smash my Little Rock finish, but I certainly would like to think that I could shave off a few minutes this go round.  I didn’t have expectations in Little Rock.  Illinois is billed as flat and fast, and I’m going to be bummed if I can’t do at least as well as Little Rock.

One interesting wrinkle in the story for Illinois is the I-Challenge.  The challenge is to run a 5K the night before the half marathon (or the 10K or full marathon, depending on your entry).  The main reason to do this? The Bling.  You earn a medal for the 5K, the half, and completing the challenge, for a total of 3 pieces of bling to wear home. The real dilemma is how to run the 5K.   I’ve really, really wanted to clock a time of under 30 minutes for a 5K this year.  I’ve come close, but haven’t broken it in a timed event yet.  I don’t think the I-Challenge is the place to go all out though…  I can’t imagine that it’s a good idea to push myself too hard the night before a half-marathon.

Adding to the worries of Illinois is a weather report that seems to be in constant flux.  First it was going rainy and warm.  Then they’re calling for dry and chilly.  I checked this morning and now we’re talking about 17 mph winds with race temps in the low 40s and a 50% chance of precipitation.  How’s a girl supposed to dress for this!?  *Ugh* I would really rather not deal with wind.  (And on a personal note: 50% chance of precipitation? I feel like that’s a terrible forecast.  I’ll give you 50% chance of precipitation every day guys! Tell me something I don’t know!)

Anyway, I imagine this will go just fine.  These events usually do- regardless of how worked up I get about them beforehand. I hope Doug and I and the rest of the club all have great runs, reach our goals, and get to enjoy the fruits of all of our hard training.  When the going gets tough at this race, I’ll try to remember the advice of my friend Jared:

It’s about not quitting.  It’s about continual forward progress.

*Speaking of Jared… I’m headed out to Vermont to be a crew member for his attempt at the 200 mile McNaughton Trail Ultra Marathon early in May.  Expect a pre-race blog on this soon, and updates throughout his event.

** And speaking of Half Marathons!  Good luck to my friend Jennifer who will be running a half in Nashville this weekend too!  Maybe I can talk her in to doing a race report.. hint hint!

Read Full Post »