Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Hospital Hill Run Half Marathon Recap

Hospital Hill Run Kansas City, MO
Field: ~9,000
Spectators: Very enthusiastic. Probably fewer than normal because of the weather.
Start/Finish: Crown Center
Course: Loop course. They don't call it a hill run for nothing. I tried to count the hills, but I ran out of fingers.
Schwag: This year participants got a backpack as well as a pancake breakfast post race (in addition to the usual post race foods).
Other: There is a 10k as well as a half marathon. In addition, there is a 5k the night before and runners can participate in multiple events through the ReRun challenge. They also let you download your race photos for free, making them the awesomest Race Directors ever.
The awesome backpacks they gave us!
When we were planning our trip to Kansas, the Jayhawk was nice enough to pick a week that had a race I wanted to do. Having spent part of his childhood around KC, he was really excited for me to participate in one of the quintessential KC races, the Hospital Hill Run.  Now in it's 41st year, the Hospital Hill Run is the oldest race in KC and has grown to include a 5k, 10k, and half marathon, with a ReRun option for those who run the 5k and either the 10k or half. Given that the focus of our trip was to visit family, I decided to only run one race, the half marathon.
The runner-less start line; Ready to run when they gave us a thumbs up!
I really didn't know what to expect from this race going in. I knew it wasn't going to be flat considering that it had 'hill' in the name and I also found out that it wasn't even in Kansas (that whole one city in two states thing confuses the heck out me).  The Jayhawk had run the 10k years ago and warned me that it can be a hot one, making the hills even more challenging. With my increase in mileage lately, I wasn't sure how much bounce my legs would have, so I decided that it sounded like a great chance to explore the city and get in a long hilly run with no real goal in mind.
The scene when we parked at the start. Puddles on top of puddles.
And then race day arrived. Remember how I joked after the Jailhouse Brewery 5k that "with the Wizard of Oz like weather conditions, I feel ready to take on Kansas."  Well, Mother Nature must have read that one because at exactly 5:30 on race morning, the house began to pitch. Ok, not really, but the lightening and hard rain began. By the time we got to the start line, there was actually localized flooding. We stayed in the car as long as we could closely watching social media updates and weather radar. About 15 minutes prior to gun time we ventured out to the start line just as they announced that we were under a 30 minute weather delay.
Smiling out the weather delay; hanging with the other runners under a bridge
Looking at the radar, I really didn't think we were going to get the race in. It was all kinds of ugly with a big old red and yellow blob approaching. Though one band of storms had passed, another, even bigger band loomed. It was so precarious, that they announced several times over the PA system to seek shelter. These Midwesterners don't mess around when storms come in.  By 7:15ish the rain had lightened considerably and I wondered out to find a port-a-john (no lines!).  By the time I returned, they gave the official announcement that the race would go at 7:30ish and everyone quickly scurried into their corrals. This is when I realized my garmin was dead, so I tossed it to the Jayhawk and prepared to run on feel (not something I've done in a race). With a quick  warning that strong rain would return in about 30 minutes (but no more lightening), they fired the gun and off we went. The hard rain came right as planned around mile 3, so it was soggy sneaks and slippery roads the entire way.
Somewhere on the course
I decided to start the race with the 1:55 pace group and told the Jayhawk to expect me at the finish around the 2 hour mark. Even though it was hilly, I wanted to make sure I still pushed the pace a little and didn't completely relax into long run mode. I figured I'd hang with the pace group for a while and ease off if my legs didn't have it. In true EB fashion, I didn't stay with the pace group long. By 1.5 miles in, I decided I didn't like the pace, and went out on my own. My legs felt sluggish, but it was probably due to standing around so much at the start.
Totally checking out the clock as I come to the line.
A large chunk of the first half of the race is uphill and that is really where all my training in Atlanta paid off. I pushed on the uphills and relaxed into the downhills, hoping that I wouldn't pay dearly for this strategy in the later miles. The mile markers were nice and big so I always had a good idea of where I was mileage-wise, but there were no clocks on the course and I was garminless, so I was running completely on feel. I knew I was ahead of the 1:55 pace group, but I expected them to come along and catch me at some point during the race.
Coming through the finishing stretch. Smiles!
Around the halfway point, I was really feeling in the grove. I noticed I was passing more and more people, and I figured they went out a little fast or I was severely underestimating what was still in front of me. Since I still felt strong, I decided to stick with my pace, whatever it might be, and if I needed to ease off later, that was fine because I wasn't running for a time goal. Then around the 9 mile marker, I passed one of the 1:50 pacers. And then my brain turned on and I started to think: Was I going to fast? Were they running a slow 1:50? What kind of catastrophic collapse am I about to have?
It's heavy and huge. I checked it for the flight home because I was worried they would think it was a weapon.
I tried my best not to over analyze it, took another Island boost (I fueled twice at miles 5 and 10), and did my best to keep strong for the rest of the race. There were still some major climbs to contend with, a long one through the Westport area (miles 10-11ish) and a short and steep one during mile 13. After that it was all down hill to the finish. I passed the second 1:50 pacer around mile 12, and that really motivated me to get in the last 1.1 miles. Knowing that I was on track to PR, I really tried to let loose on that last downhill, enjoy it, and smile big for the cameras. My biggest worry was that the Jayhawk wouldn't be able to find me because I was far ahead of schedule. Luckily, he is a wise one, and he and his brother ventured out of their dry spot in Panera early just in case I was ahead of schedule. They were out there in plenty of time to see me cruise down the hill and into the finish. MVFs for the day (Most Valuable Fans)
All smiles at the soggy finish. Yes, the medal is so big it almost covers my bib!
Even without my garmin, I knew I had PR'd the race by my clock time alone.  I had to wait until the official results were posted to find out exactly how much I time I knocked off with my chip. The two hills splits are for their King and Queen of the Hill contest. Fastest ones up the hill got a whole basket full of goodies, including a new garmin.  I really could have used it.
Yay for negative splits and races that give details for people without garmins.

In the end, I PR'd by 2:10 (exactly 10 seconds per mile). My time was completely unexpected, and it was really fun to feel so strong and consistent during a race. The rain kept the temps cool throughout the race (60s) and running on feel allowed me to not fixate on numbers. Post race, I felt really good, and was able to have a large coffee, beer, full plate of pancakes in the finish area (I think that is probably a PR as well). It was definitely a soggy one (my sneakers were so wet I could feel my insoles sliding in my shoes on some of the downhills), and there were several moments where I didn't think we were going to get to race, but in the end, half marathon #21 was definitely one to remember.

Have you ever had a weather delay at a race? Any stories of surprise PRs?

27 comments:

  1. Great job. It looks seriously wet in your pictures!

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    1. Thanks! It was one of the wettest days I have run.

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  2. Congrats for getting a PR on a hilly course and for completing 21 half marathons! That's a lot!

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    1. Thanks Tina! They've just kind of added up over the years!

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  3. Congratulations on the PR. That is awesome about the free race pics and it is cool that they give out backpacks. It rains so little here in the desert that I always try to run in it when I can.

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    1. Thanks David! I can imagine living in the desert you would try to time your runs for the rain. I wish I could send you some of ours!

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  4. That's so awesome you Pr'd in the rain! Something to be even more proud of then just a regular PR!

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    1. Thanks Courtney! I've had good luck in rainy races. Maybe it's a good thing for me?

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  5. So awesome, totally motivating. Hills and rain and you still got the PR, you definitely killed that race.

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    1. Thank you! It was a challenging course, but things just clicked that day. :)

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  6. Hills and rain AND you PR'd? You are so amazing!! Wow.
    I love your skirt!

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    1. Thank you! :)

      It's a new skirt. I'll try to get a better picture when it isn't soaking wet.

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  7. CONGRATS on your PR and your sub-1:50 finish in tough conditions and on a tough course. Can't imagine what you could do on a flat course with perfect weather. Awesome, awesome job. Hope you are still celebrating! We need to get together for a run soon :) xoxo

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    1. Thanks Jesica! I might look for an easier course for a fall half. Definitely need to get the girls together soon. Maybe something before Peachtree?

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  8. OMG! how in the world did you do that?!?!?! hills. rain. while traveling. you are amazing! you are some sort of half marathon ninja.

    what an awesome medal for your PR race :)

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    1. Haha, thanks Dawn! It was a great a race and they did a great job evening with the weather challenges.

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  9. Oh my goodness, another rainy run! You are a rock star. :)

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    1. Thank you Sharon! It was rainy from the start at this one. Luckily Donna was only towards the end. Hope you are doing well!

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    1. And it's rather heavy! Thanks Angela!

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  11. Wow. What a tough course to PR on. Amazing job!

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    1. Thanks Abby! It was a well organized race and they did a great job even in the rain.

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  12. Google just ate my comment, so I will try again... lol I am so impressed you pulled that time off in such an environmental challenge and seriously who looks that cute in the rain! I love your skirt :) Congrats on a great "naked" run :) The purple mile eaters are paying off!

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    1. Darn google.... :) Haha, thanks Karen! Maybe I should run naked in the rain more often. It's a new skirt. I'll try to get a better picture of it when it's not so soaked. I think the purple mile eaters have a little luck in them. :)

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  13. Nice time! My fastest 1/2 is 1:53... I'd love to get under 1:50. Those medals are HUGE. I think it's a good idea you checked it. You totally could use that thing as a weapon.

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    1. Thank you! My previous best was just under 1:52 so it was pretty exciting to break the 1:50 mark. You are totally within reach! The medals were enormous. Could probably be used in the discus throw.

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  14. That race is a tough one! Congrats on your PR. I live in KC, so I decided to check out your recap. I'm at a 1:52 pr right now and hope to break into the 1:40's soon. Sounds like you did great!!

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