Okay boys and girls…here is part 2 of 2 in my Rock CF Half Marathon recap story. Sit back and get comfy, it’s a bit long.
So, the morning started out bright and early for me with a 4:30 a.m. wake up call, mainly because we were leaving the hotel at 6:15 a.m. and I had to get in a 5-6 mile run BEFORE we left for the race so I would hit my mileage for the day. So, I got up, did 5.5 miles and then went back to my room to clean up and change into my race gear. We left at 6:15 a.m. as planned since all the parking lots close at 7:00 a.m. The 5k runners had a different starting point than the 3 of us running the half so we dropped the 5k runners off at the airport hangar where their race started (so cool and different) and then Chelley, Dee and I drove to the Grosse Ile High School for our start. We got pretty lost since it was so dark out, but thankfully I was able to pull up directions via the GPS on my phone and we ended up finding the high school. We parked at the high school instead of the Middle School (where our race starts) because the 5k racers would be ending at the HS and it was easier for them to get to the car that way and grab their warm clothes. Plus, the high school let us all stay inside and keep warm before the race, which was a huge plus because it was FRIGID outside and so dark when we arrived. They also offered a gear check, but we left all our warm stuff in the car and it was easy for us to get to post race so we didn’t use the gear check.
After hanging out for about an hour in the high school, we made our way outside and started walking to the middle school. It was about a 5 minute walk and was very well labeled with signs everywhere.
At the start line, they had music blasting from huge speakers. We tried to get close to the start line, but the crowds were pretty thick.
We were so happy it was light out now and hoping it would warm up a bit. We got in one last team picture before the final preparations were being made.
At about 8:10 a.m.we did the national anthem and then the race director, Emily, did a short speech, mentioned that there were runners and walkers from over 21 states in attendance, the highest in the history of this race, so that was incredibly motivating!! At around 8:15 a.m. or so, I started my Garmin and music and we were off. My biggest goal was to just enjoy the scenery and use this as a training run for Boston, not a race. My plan told me to start at long run, slow pace and then progressively lift the effort.
My first 6 miles were all in the low-mid 9’s. My calves were a bit tight but I just tried to work through it and the tightness lifted around mile 4. I was super proud of myself for keeping myself contained and not letting the excitement of a race get to me. The course was seriously incredible. I loved that we got to run around the island and for most of the race, we had a view of the water and absolutely breathtaking waterfront homes. The course was very flat and flat and is billed as a PR course. It was still very cold and windy, but I felt comfortable once I got running, as my body has acclimated to running in the freezing cold weather. The first few miles had some pretty big potholes and some ice that we had to navigate around but after the first 2 or so miles, there were no more issues like that.
Throughout the race, each mile was clearly marked and there were lots of hydration stations throughout the course and the volunteers, which looked to be mostly students, were fantastic. They called out which areas were water and Gatorade, they were cheering us on and giving big smiles all around. They made sure the roads were free and clear of used cups and around the 4 or 5 mile mark they were giving out lots of gels. I didn’t use their gels because I had my own on me. I took a gel at mile 5 and that was it. I was alternating water and Gatorade at the water stations and I did something I have never done before in a race, I stopped at every water station. Since Boston has changed their rules this year, I cannot use the Hydrapak that I have been training with all Winter long, so I needed to test out a new hydration strategy during this race. I held a small bottle of water in my hand during the race and stopped at every water station for a drink. I think it worked out well for me.
At mile 7 or so, I looked down at my watch and I hit my first sub 9 min mile and I told myself I needed to slow it down. I was running purely on feel and at a comfortable pace. I didn’t feel like I was exerting myself and felt relaxed and comfortable. This happened to be around the relay team split off point, so I was looking around, seeing how that was working out. It seemed that it was very organized as they were calling out race numbers and had all the second runners in a corral out-of-the-way of the course. There were a good amount of spectators in this area, which was nice. Throughout the course, there were pockets of spectators cheering us on, but overall, the crowd support was pretty small, but when they were there, they were so enthusiastic and motivating. I hit mile 8 and I was in the very low 8’s for a pace and started to panic a bit. I HAD to pull back, but why was I feeling so good? I slowed down a bit and tried to focus. Again, I didn’t feel like I was flying or going too fast, clearly I was delirious. I knew it was okay to pick up my pace a bit, as my plan said to progressively increase the effort, but at that point, I didn’t want to increase too much and crash and burn. We hit mile 10 and got to run through the Grosse Isle Naval Air Station Airport (where the 5k runners started) and it was REALLY cool. I had never run through an airport before, so it was exciting to do something new and very unique.
The last 3 miles went by in a blur and then I noticed we were making a turn into the high school and then the final turn onto a track. A track? I was very surprised that we were ending on a track and I LOVED it. It was so awesome to come into the home stretch and see the fences that kept the spectators off the track and see the huge finish sign. I still had my headphones is so I was in my zone, but apparently they were calling out names and hometowns, which is how my team knew I was coming in for the finish, and then I saw them on the left screaming for me.
I didn’t push it hard at the finish but I felt that I finished strong and I felt incredible. This was by far the best I had ever felt during and then after a half marathon. I literally felt like I could have kept going. It was a huge confidence boost that I so badly needed, knowing this was my last really long run before Boston in 3 weeks. I walked over to get my medal from one of the volunteers who gave me a high five!
Then I grabbed a bottle of water and snapped a quick picture of my unofficial time.
They had this great PR Cymbal set up to ring if you had PR’d in the race, so you heard it going off quite a bit. I wasn’t sure what my official time was or if I had PR’d so I just smiled and watched others ring it for a minute or two and then I went over to the rest of my team to cheer on the rest of the runners. Thankfully one of my team members went to the car and grabbed me my fleece as once I started to cool down, I was FREEZING again. The one thing I really wish they had when you finished the race was space blankets. It was a cold and windy day and that small addition would have helped to trap some of the heat for a bit, but other than that, I really could not think of anything that was missing from this race.
After everyone had finished running, we quickly made out way inside the High School. At this point, I was so cold I could barely feel my fingers which is why it looks like it hurts to smile in this picture.
They had a great spread of food that included bagels from Panera, hundreds of homemade cookies in every combination you could think of, chips, and a lot more. I grabbed another water and a peanut butter cookie and called it a day. I am not hungry after running, so I just nibbled on the cookie as I was waiting for the others to get their stuff. We quickly gathered up our stuff as we had to race to the hotel to shower before check out at noon and then it was off to the airport for our flight at 1:45 p.m.
It was a whirlwind trip, but overall, this is an incredibly organized race. Everything from the email communications prior to the race to the volunteers, the course, the food…everything was stellar. It was by far the most organized and best race I have been to yet. That fact that it was for an incredible cause just added to an already amazing race. This race not only drew a record number of racers, but they raised over $77,000 to support the Rock CF Foundation’s mission!! I am SO incredibly proud and honored that I was able to be a part of this amazing event!!
Once I landed back in Boston, they had posted that the official results were up. I ended up with a PR. It was only by a few seconds, but considering I was not even thinking about running a PR race and hadn’t felt like I was racing this event at all, I am really happy with it.
Finished in 1:55:48(official chip time), Age Group(F30-34) 15/77
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous to tell my PT this on Friday during our session, but it is what it is. I really did try to run a slow, easy race and I did a great job until I hit the half way mark, and even then, I didn’t feel like I was really pushing myself out of my comfort zone, so we will see how it goes….eek!
Question of the day
What is the best race you have ever run?