Sunday, November 6, 2016

Race Recap: Second Sole Made in America Half Marathon

I learned something about myself today.  I learned that I am full of crap.  Literally and figuratively.

Ready to hear about this?

Andrew (Andrew Runs A Lot), my friend and fellow Cleveland Marathon Ambassador, has been bugging his friends to sign up for the Second Sole Made in America Half Marathon.  I usually ignore Andrew because: dumb kid, but I had three other friends (Kirstie, Kevin, and Mandy) who were running that race.  I believe that I need to always try new things, and the race was cheap, so I signed up.

If you read last week's post, you know that I was going to decide during the race if I'd be running it or racing it.  Everyone said that the first four miles (the road part of the race) would be very hilly, but then the rest of the race would be on the Towpath, so flat. I thought that I'd decide how to attack the race after I left the road, where I'd be running conservatively.  This is a new tactic for me; I am not usually a negative split runner.  More on this later.

If you read my blog, you will recognize that I often brag write that I have a very strong stomach; I take pride in the fact that I can fuel on anything.  I often say that I'd love to find a way to fuel on burritos.  Whatever.

Who wouldn't want to fuel for a marathon on this???
Because I was ambivalent about today's race, I didn't really prepare for it the night before as I normally would.  Now, I've eaten (and drunk) some weird things before a race, and it has never been a problem for me.  I once fueled the Perfect 10 Miler on fried cheese and beer for dinner the night before.  No joke.  I PR'd, too.  So, when I ordered pizza the night before and ate it with salad and some red wine, I didn't think twice.

This morning I ate my usual bagel with cream cheese, but I did something different (a NO NO, as every runner knows): I used Pumpkin Spice creamer in my coffee instead of my regular Peppermint Mocha.  It was made by the same company, though, and let's not kid ourselves; all creamer is just harmful chemicals designed to give us cancer or turn us into zombies.  So, I didn't think about the number 1 racing rule: NEVER do something different for a race.  Another bad thing: when I opened the bottle (brand new, bought yesterday), there was no seal.  For some reason I shrugged this off and poured the creamer anyway.

I spent some quality time, more than usual, in the bathroom this morning, and that should have been my first warning, but it wasn't.   Why?  Because I'm not that smart.

I arrived in Massillon at 7:30, half an hour before the race.  Peeps, there were only FOUR port o potties there.  That is it.  There was a line a mile long just to get there.  I had driven half an hour to the race, so of course I had to use the bathroom.  It was nerve-wracking to wait in line up until the last second before the race.  I didn't get to meet up with any of my friends, and I was nervous the whole time.  Parking and bathroom issues are two deal breakers for me in a race, and this race had already failed with the bathroom. This automatically means that I won't run it again.  Sorry, Second Sole.  I love you dearly, but you failed.

The race started, and I took off,  making sure to hold back.  I know that I always get carried away in the first few miles of a race, so I made myself start in the back of the pack and run more slowly.  I was just over a 2-hour half marathon pace, and I knew that I could make that up later on flat ground.  The hills weren't really hills; b*tch, I'm from Akron.  They were gentle, rolling inclines, and I liked them a lot.

At 4.5 miles, I started thinking that I could PR this bad boy.  I popped a GU, and then all hell broke loose.  My legs immediately got weak, I started feeling cold, and I couldn't catch my breath.  "Son of a bitch," I thought, "it's the stupid heart palpitations again." I knew what to do, and I switched to run/walking.  I ran for a 1/4 mile and then walked for a minute.  Normally this does the trick, but this time it didn't.  I started worrying after a mile.  "What is wrong with me?" I thought.  Walking always gets me out of this, and it usually only takes a few minutes. I started thinking of a way to get out of the race because I couldn't see walking for the rest of the race. The problem is that this is a VERY small race; there were no volunteers or sweepers or medics to help me, so, I had to keep going.

At mile 7.5, I saw a lone port o potty by the side of the Towpath, and all of a sudden I KNEW what my problem was. The pain, weakness, shortness of breath?  It was stomach cramps, dammit.   I had to stand in line to use the potty, and while I did, I texted Andrew:

Me: Don't wait for me.  I may not finish.

I didn't want to sound dramatic, but I honestly was looking for a way to DNF.  The port o potty was absolutely disgusting, so while I was losing my sh*t (literally) in there, I was trying not to throw up, too.  Meanwhile, my stomach had incredible cramps.  And there was no sanitizer, so I looked forward to trying not to touch my face for the rest of the race.  You try not touching your face for over an hour.

I immediately felt better after the port o potty, and I was relieved that the problem was not heart-related, so I started reflecting on my eating/drinking choices during the past two days.  I spent a good two miles wondering if someone tampered with the creamer and I was going to die in the next copycat Tylenol scandal.  Then I remembered the pizza. Of course.  That was it.

I managed to pass most of the people who had passed me while I was walking or at the port o potty, and for this I'm thankful; however, I never did recover my half marathon pace.  I still had twitches of stomach cramps for the rest of the race.

As I approached the chute, I was disgusted with myself.  I saw Andrew, and he said, "Hurry up; I need a beer," so I managed to sprint to the end.  At least I did that.  Andrew had PR'd, which is awesome, so we had a beer and some rice chips together.

Budweiser: Made in America
After Andrew left, I talked to Kevin, Kirstie, and Mandy.
 Here we are in the corral before the race.

  I told Kevin about my stomach issues and that I attributed it to pizza I had ordered.  It turns out that Kevin and Kirstie had also ordered pizza from the same place, and he was having stomach issues, too.  And there you go.  It was the damned pizza.  And my stomach is not as strong as I claim it to be.

I've learned that I need to think more carefully about how I fuel before a race.  I've learned that I can make last minute decisions on racing ONLY if I treat my routine as if I will race.  I've learned that I'm old and I can't "gut" out everything, especially greasy pizza.

As for the race, here are my thoughts:

Parking: Great
Support: Almost nonexistent.  You'd better be ok with running for yourself.
Food: Meh.  Rice chips and beer.  Coupon for 6 inch sub at Subway (which I didn't use) is a bonus.
Band at end: Awesome.
Bathroom access: Terrible

Will I run this race again?  Hard to say.  There are so many races out there; I don't know if I want to repeat this one.  I liked the course a lot; the finish is super-strong. As I wrote before, though, lack of bathrooms is a non starter for me, and I heard a lot of people saying the same thing while waiting in line.

My last race of the year is the Gennesaret Home Run for the Homeless on Thanksgiving Day.  Will you join me? Until then, run happy, Peeps!

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