Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Race Report: Avenue of the Giants Half Marathon

This race was a serendipitous event. I trained day-to-day, never knowing if my IT band would flare up and prevent me from racing. After I had to scratch from my race in October because of it, I didn't want to lose another entry fee. So, my training was made up, and my race weekend was made up. The Monday before the race I was frantically calling around to all the Hotels, Motels and campsites up and down the Avenue trying to find a place to lay our heads on Saturday night. I finally found a basic camping cabin on the Eel River about 30 minutes from the start.

Saturday I hydrated like mad, consuming probably 3/4 of a gallon of water throughout the day. I also ate really well, and feasted on veggie burger + curly fries + root beer for dinner. I was worried the greasy food would prevent me from 'going' in the morning, but all was well. I woke at 6 and made coffee and ate spelt bread with peanut butter and banana slices. I snacked on raspberries on the drive to the start.

The nerves really hit when we exited the highway onto the road leading to the start at 7:10 am, and realized it was bumper-to-bumper traffic for five miles. Woah. It took us an hour to go 5 miles - many people ditched their cars to run the 5 miles to the start (marathon began at 8). I jumped out of the car as soon as the Event site was in sight and registered. I had just enough time to grab my schwag bag (nothing to write home about) and head to the gates. I thought I didn't have a chip, and rushed back to registration because of it, and was told it was embedded in my bib. Oh.

10 minutes of milling around and we were off. Cheering and merriment ensued. At this point I wasn't nervous, just ready. I was feeling good, confident, but not knowing really what to expect. I started towards the end of the pack and it took 1:12 for me to cross the mats. We ran up an over two bridges within the first mile. The pack was still really thick, and I was having trouble passing many casual walkers, and was keeping pace with a few serious power walkers too.

I don't remember mile two but I do remember thinking it felt like 4 miles when I finished only 2. After mile 2 (or 3?) there was an Aid Station with water and gatorade. I passed, but realized I was hungry. I think at this point I decided to eat a few sugar coated gummy bears I'd stashed in my waterbottle holder. After 4 miles the Aid station appeared in the town of Weott with banana slices, watermelon and oranges. I passed. I ran for a while with a group of girls who talked the whole time. They decided to stop at the aid station and although they were entertaining, I knew I was going to keep moving. After about 5 miles we passed the first of the half marathoners coming back. We cheered, and the whole feeling of the race became fun for me. I was still feeling good, nothing hurt. Another aid station with H2O and gatorade at the campground. The turnaround.

At the turn I was still feeling great, unbelievably. I was enjoying the run and kept looking up at the ridiculously gigantic trees towering over me, lining the whole course. Beautiful. About every mile, sometimes more, I would eat two gummy bears and swig my camelback liquid. I was definitely hungry but keeping the pangs at bay. I was planning on stopping at the Weott station for a banana and a watermelon. I was really relieved when I saw it, and knew that if I could just eat those two things I would be able to give it a little bit more for the finish.

I ran for a while with a dude wearing sandals. Seriously, sandals. Like hiratchi sandals from the running tribe of South Americans. He had great form, but I passed him. The final three or four miles of the race I was just trying to keep pace with those around me, passing them on the uphills and downhills...letting them pass me. When we passed the 25 mile marker for the marathoners, I thought I only had 1 mile left so I decided to kick it into high gear. I realized I had enough left to bust some ass for a possible 8 minute mile finish.

So, my calculations were .3 miles behind, but it was all ok. I felt like I sprinted the entire last 1.3 miles. Then, they throw in the timing pad that apparently transmits your name +bib info to their computer in advance of your finish so they can call out your name as you cross. I thought that was the finish and almost stopped, but somehow realized I had to continue.

Funny as I crossed the finish line I looked at the Marathon clock which read 2:38:xx and I was instantly bummed... I couldn't figure out how I'd run so slow! Whoops! And the first marathoner finished 15 seconds after me.

We milled around, watched some more finishers, bought last years' t shirts, and decided to head out. We drove right to the Woodrose Cafe in Garberville for a delicious plate of huevos rancheros and smoothie. It was then time to soak my poor legs in the icy Eel River - an ice bath, if you will. We walked a bit, and then checked into our posh hotel on the river which we didn't leave again until 10:30 the next morning.

What an amazing experience!

I loved the whole race, and can't really describe it in as much detail as other long runs because it just seemed so easy. I am excited about the whole event and keep revisiting thoughts of adding another 13.1 onto my current distance record ;-).

1 comment:

  1. congratulations!!!!!!! what a great report.