Monday, May 21, 2012

Race Recap: Armed Force Day Half Marathon

Race Day - 5/19/12

Race Day -1
This race was kind of a last minute decision. It wasn't until the day before that I actually made the decision to participate in it even though I was tired (exhausted is more like it), and both knees and feet were still hurting from the Hope & Healing Place HM the previous Sunday. I packed all my gear up and a quick overnight bag and headed for Albuquerque at about 2pm. I started the nearly 4 hour drive with nearly a full tank of gas thinking that I had plenty because it usually takes less than half a tank for most trips. That turned out not to be such a good thing. Between the 80+° temperature I had to use the A/C, then on I-40 I was being buffeted around by the big rigs and drove the majority of the interstate into a strong headwind. When I was about 28 miles out my gas light came on and the needle was just barely above the bottom mark on the gauge. Of course, I had just passed the last big town and had thought to myself that I should stop to fill up, but convinced myself that I'd have just enough gas to make it to the very edge of Albuquerque. Well...nope, that didn't happen. Luckily within 5 miles of the light going on there was a single gas station. I ended up getting there pretty much on fumes. The gauge was below the bottom mark and since the gas was almost $4/gallon I decided only to put $10 worth in so that I could get to Albuquerque and some cheaper gas (usually about 20¢ cheaper than at home). After putting the gas in, the needle went just barely above the line on the gauge.

I returned to the interstate and finished the slightly over 20 miles to Albuquerque. I  had scouted a new restaurant, Johnny's Homemade Take Out, Delivery and Dine In, on the east edge of town and decided to try it based on the good reviews. I was not disappointed. I had the Mediterranean Alfredo which had mushrooms, fresh roasted garlic (a lot) and shrimp in an Alfredo sauce over fettuccine accompanied by 4 pieces of garlic toast. The bread served pre-meal was mini sopapillas with honey...kind of different because those are usually served as a dessert. Great food, I'll be going there again!

After dinner I had thought about hitting the mall, but decided to just go to the hotel and get my gear ready and hopefully get a decent night's sleep. So after lugging my bag and gear bag upstairs I was in bed by 9:30pm and fell asleep shortly afterwards awaiting a 3am alarm and a 3:30am wake up call.

Race Day
1st time running a race
 in shorts.
I was awakened by my alarm and promptly hit snooze...three times. It's a good thing that I arranged for the 3:30am wake up call as well. I finally got up, showered and dressed when I realized that I had left my toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant at home. Luckily the hotel I stay at in town has a courtesy supply of these things at the front desk. I decided to just clean my teeth/mouth the best I could with the tip of a washcloth for now and then stop by the desk to pick up these supplies after breakfast.

I walked over to the opposite side of the hotel and across the parking lot to the Village Inn for breakfast. Typically I'd have the free breakfast at the hotel but it was still only 4:50am and too early for that, plus I had forgotten to bring my own bagel, peanut butter and banana with me so I ended up spending $10+ for OJ, hot tea, bagel with cream cheese and vanilla yogurt. Ooops. After I finished I headed to the front desk and got my supplies which included a men's Speed Stick Deodorant...I don't know if the guy thought I was a man or if he just didn't realize that there were women's and men's versions. I went with the flow because just as long as wouldn't stink I was good. After taking care of the last minute hygiene needs I was off to Kirtland AFB where the race was being hosted.

I arrived at packet pickup at around 5:40am. Now, packet pickup and race day registration was supposed to run from 5am to 6am but even when I arrived they were not accepting money (cash only) because they didn't have the receipt book. After 10 minutes of  waiting they finally got the book and I was able to purchase my registration. The other thing I noticed about packet pick up's poor organization was that they were missing a guy's bib number and bag and it took them over 15 minutes to rectify that situation. They built a bag for him and almost sent him away without a bib. They didn't seem to know where spare bags/bibs were a box just to the left of the table where I was able to see them. Also packet pick up was supposed to close at 6am but at 6:45am people were still showing up to pick up their packets. As I was waiting to get my packet I got a quick peek at the half marathon list and saw that it was going to be a small field...I wouldn't realize how small until after the event.

A really small field of starters (34 total) for the HM start.
The only organized team running for A1C Baker.
 Since it was so early still after I got my packet...almost an hour before the race start...I headed back to the hotel which was about 2 miles away, then it happened...that gas light came on again! Whoops! At least I knew that I'd be able to find a gas station easily since I was in town so I put off filling up until after the race. At 6:35am I headed back to the base and got ready to run. I was just in time for the instructions and a quick real bathroom break...I hate port-o-pots. After a few words and the national anthem it was start time. I made sure that I had my GPS set and then we were off. Since I started in the back as normal I was already nearly last from the get go. I trotted along trying to do a 5 min run/1 min walk interval which I was able to maintain for about the first 3 miles. After that I shortened the intervals to 3:1 or so.

On the way out...hills.
Damn, I'm going the wrong way again!
The first two finishers on the return trip.
By the end of the third mile I was already feeling like I had concrete legs and hips. I kept trudging along, knowing that in such a small field I'd likely be last or very close to it. The course was scenic in as much as it could be in the New Mexico desert. The actual busy part of the base was flat as a pancake and then we headed out towards the golf course. Since I had never been that far out on the base I didn't realize that there were hills...not big ones, but feeling the way I was it was not something that I was looking forward to.  I tried to let gravity take me on the downhills and I made sure to move towards the middle of the road or to the lower side on the cambered turns so as not to aggravate my already unhappy hips/knees. The view was nice with the dry, brown desert being prominent but with a view of the mountains in the distance. As I got past the 6 mile mark I had to pull off and do some stretching of my piriformis/ITB...the sag wagon drove up (they were following the girls in back of me who were the last runners) and asked if I was okay and after I told them that I just needed to stretch they went on their way.

View of the hills on the return trip.
As I made the turnaround it was nice to look out and see that, at least from my vantage point, things seemed to be more downhill than up. I picked up my pace a little trying out the  30sec sprint/walk technique that Jeff Galloway and Hal Higdon talk about. It kinda feels silly sprinting and walking that much, but I did feel a little more relaxed. By the time I hit the hills on the return trip I was walking quite a bit to get up them. I didn't even have the energy to run down the hills much. Since I looked back and saw that the girls were still a ways behind me I decided to walk the majority from about the 11.5 mile mark to about the 13 mile mark. I finished the run actually running and was just so glad to be finished. Also I was thankful that I had again avoided being last! lol!

The director had all the medals out and there were a lot of them with very few people hanging around so I think most people had already left. They handed out the last two awards for the older division male finishers (who both beat was 77 years old and beat me by 30 minutes) and then began closing up shop. I wasn't sure of how many finishers there were in my division so I asked to see the overall results. I found that they hadn't included my gender and when I counted up my division there were only 3 of us. That meant I got a medal! I quickly contested the results and got my bronze. Yeah, it was a gimme medal but I medaled all the same! When the timing company posted the results online they hadn't made the changes yet so I sent an email and things got fixed. All in all it was a decent a medal and wasn't last...the two things I want in my race.

I headed off to the base shoppette for some chocolate milk, teriyaki beef jerky and a 20# bag of ice for an ice bath. I probably should have filled up there but since I was on a limited budget I was forced to wait until I could get to a Shell station for gas. I headed back to the hotel and immediately got into my ice bath. Sooooooooo cold! But after 20 minutes the pain in my legs and hips was better. A warm shower followed with a liberal application of BioFreeze on my left hip. I was out of the room by noon and headed out to find a Shell station to gas up at. After gassing up I decided to have some sushi/sashimi for lunch so I headed over to Japanese Kitchen and got the sashimi lunch special (I prefer straight up sashimi over sushi) which included 8 pcs of sashimi, salad, vegetable tempura and rice. Yum!

I had originally planned to be on the road right after lunch but decided to check out what the running stores had...specifically looking for a bright (not neon) yellow running bra and bright yellow running shorts. I ended up buying red Saucony running shorts for $15 (normally $36) and some Anti-Monkey Butt Powder to help avoid chaffing in my fat upper thighs when wearing shorts. Yeah, I've been using Body Glide there but that just seems so sticky. As I was leaving the last store I decided that I wanted some gelato so I found a nearby place that made handmade chocolates and gelato, Chocolate Cartel, where I had a large Ultra Dark Chocolate gelato. Again, yum! This is another place I'll be coming to again. My last stop was at a nearby Sonic to get my Real Fruit Lemon Slush for the road. I'll never come back to this particular store again. After deciding to just park in a stall since the drive thru was 8-9 deep with cars I waited 5+ minutes for someone to take my order. I noticed that other people who had parked around the same time I did were leaving without getting their orders taken as well. I decided to just get out of the car and go to the walk up stand to order but there was someone there already also having problems getting her order taken. Finally I just got back in the car and 20 minutes later (after getting back in the drive thru) I finally left with my slush. I got back onto the interstate and had an uneventful drive home. There must've been a bit of a tailwind because I made it back in 3 hours and 18 minutes including a 10 minute rest break to stretch my legs. It usually take me about 3 hours and 40 minutes on the return trip. Yay?

What I liked about this race: Relatively close to home in Albuquerque.

What I didn't like about this race: Lack of organization at packet pick-up. They even announced that non-military folks who tried to come on base early on Friday to pick up packets couldn't because they didn't have the visitors list ready for the front gate. Seriously? This is at least the 4th or 5th time holding the think they would have known.

Would I do this race again? Probably not. Between the lack of organization and the extremely small field I'd be afraid that it wouldn't count against my Half Fanatics race requirement.

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