Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Indy Mini Race Report


I went into the Indy Mini this past weekend with no expectations.  My friend Mandy and I both signed up for the race and wanted to finish in under 2 hours.  Since this was my fourth distance event in six weeks, I was tired.  Dead tired.  I had yet to meet my goal of under 2, but after the long week of work, school, and other things, my legs were feeling like heavy lead and I was just wanted to be done.  In fact, the whole way up to Indy the morning before the race I yawned and complained about being tired.  So, at that point, I set my goal to just finish with a decent time. 

I couldn't sleep the night before the race, which is unusual for me.  I had even taken some Tylenol PM to help me sleep, but it didn't work.  I tossed and turned until about 2am and was up again at 4am thinking it was time to go.  It was a little early to start getting ready so I laid in bed for another hour and got up around 5am.  I did my normal pre-race prep and because it was cold, even took a hot shower to warm up.  We headed up to Indy and battled the traffic trying to park downtown.  It would be helpful to have police directing traffic, especially considering all the people who have no clue where they are going, which makes things even worse. Thankfully, we decided to preserve and parked in the garage near the post-race party.  With less than 30 minutes to start time, we hit up a local hotel to use the facilities, stretched for 2 mins (yes, I know this was not good, but we were running super late!), and made our way to our corral.  Thankfully we had both submitted other race times and qualified for a seeded corral.  We were in E, pretty much behind the elite people.  It was nice to be up front because when the race started it only took us a minute or two to get to the actual start line and we had to waste very little energy weaving around people.  In years past, before I had a seeded spot, I was all the way back and it would take 10-15 minutes just to get up to the start line.  So annoying!!

Once we got going, Mandy made sure I didn't start off too fast (definitely a problem in the last race).  We ran together for the first couple of miles.  The weather was very cool (somewhere in the 40s) and overcast with gusts of wind up to 30mph. Minus the wind it was actually ideal running conditions.  I was actually feeling pretty good and avoided the wind by staying in the middle of the pack, so I ran ahead a bit and then we split up around mile 4.  I was cruising along until somewhere around mile 5 when all of the sudden I ate cement.  Yes, I was running along, taking everything in, checking out the signs for the upcoming water station, and keeping my pace when all of the sudden I was on the ground.  I apparently hit an uneven piece of concrete that I didn't notice and went airborne before landing on my left hip and skidding across the road.  I don't know how, but I was not seriously injured in the fall, nor did anyone trip over or trample me.  I also don't know how long I was down, but it wasn't long.  Before I knew what was happening, someone had reached down, picked me up off the ground, and set me on my feet.  He asked if I was okay and I was able to nod before he took off down the road.  To the guy in the red shirt who pulled me off the group, THANK YOU!  I don't know who you are, but you definitely helped a klutzy runner girl out!  As I started jogging again, I could feel a lot of pain in my left hip.  Since I could see the water station ahead, I decided to jog to that, get some water, and walk through the station to see how I was feeling.

I decided that I felt okay and would just keep going at that point.  I was definitely banged up, but the pain seemed to subside as I kept on running. Miles 6-9 include 2.5 miles around the Indy 500 Speedway.  Normally this is the worst part of the course for me.  When the sun is out, it is like all of the heat is trapped in the cement in metal the racetrack is made of.  In the past, I have always crashed about this point because the heat would do me in.  This year, the weather conditions were great and I had no problems.  In fact, I think I ran a couple of my fastest miles on the track.  I didn't even feel like I had done the whole track, but before i knew it, we were back on the streets of Indy.

Miles 10-11 are pretty boring as you run back toward downtown through a lot of run down areas.  Things start to pick back up around mile 12 as more friends and family line the track to cheer on the runners.  This is probably my favorite part of the course because there is actually some crowd support (very little support on other areas of the race) and you head back through the IUPUI campus and downtown, which is a lot prettier than most of the other parts of the course. 

All along, I knew I was keeping a pretty good pace.  I wasn't able to start my Nike+ on time as we crossed the start line and I wasn't sure how long it took us to get from our corral to the start.  So, at each mile I looked at the race clock and tried to estimate my mile splits as a way to stay on track knowing the actual time was not really correct for me.  While I was running on the track around mile 8, I knew I was on target to finish under 2 hours if I could keep my current pace.  So, I kept reminding myself to run my race and not worry about the others around me.  As I got to miles 11 and 12, I started to get a little tired, so I walked through the water station at 11 to give myself a little rest.  At that point, I knew I had 20 minutes to complete the mini, so a few seconds of walking wasn't going to set me back too much. 

When I hit mile 12, I knew I had at least 10 minutes to complete the last 1.1 miles, but I was getting pretty tired.  Worry started to take over, but I just tried to keep my pace and a positive attitude.  I saw the signs as I ran along showing there was 3/4, then 1/2, and finally 1/4 of a mile left.  But, I couldn't see the finish line.  I was so confused.  I finally got to the finish and my only clue it was the finish were the people ahead of me who abruptly stopped and started walking.  As it turns out, the wind blew down the finish line banner and metal scaffolding the night before, so they did not put it back up for safety reasons.  Makes perfect sense, but it was very confusing and this is my 4th Indy Mini.  I am sure all the newbies were really confused.  Anyway, I was so concentrated on figuring out what was happening at the finish that I missed seeing the clock as I crossed over the sensors on the ground.  As soon as my feet crossed the last sensor, I hit my Nike+ and heard a time around 1:55.  I figured that couldn't be right because I started it late and my previous best was just over 1:57 and I didn't think I could run anything faster than that.

After collecting my medal and grabbing some food and water, I headed into the post-race party to meet up with Mandy and others at our designated spot.  I couldn't find the tent we were to meet at and ended up stumbling upon one of the official race tents.  I decided to stand in line and get my official time.  I got to the table and the guy entered by bib number and printed out a label with my time.  I took one look and about freaked.  1:54:46, an 8:46/mile pace.  Holy crap!  I could not believe I my time.  I made sure it said my name and bib number and it was all there.  I was literally walking on clouds.  I had beat my personal best half marathon time by 3 minutes. Saying I was pumped is an understatement.  I don't know that I will ever repeat a time this good in my life, but coming in this much under the 2-hour mark, is a huge accomplishment for me.  I am not the fastest runner, but I do try to train well and eat well (minus all the candy I somehow inhale between the salads I eat).  I will definitely remember this race forever!

After I came down off my high, I finally found our meet-up tent, but none of my people were there.  I waited a few minutes and still no one.  I decided to walk around a bit and come back.  I did that and waited some more, but no friends!  I was starting to get nervous, so I decided to head back to the car just in case.  I had the key and new the parking spot, so I figured it couldn't hurt.  Plus, I was freezing!!  I had run with a long sleeve shirt I later tied around my waist.  I put that on and had a pair of gloves I had worn at the start.  Thank good because it was freezing and the wind was gusting!  I grabbed my pants, fleece, and phone from the car.  After a few texts with Mandy, we decided that we must have missed each other by literally a minute.  Ugh!  But, I was able to grab some clothes for her and go back to meet her at our spot.  We didn't stay long at the party.  I would have loved to walk around and explore everything, but it was so freaking cold!  Unreal!  We headed back to the car which was parked about as close to the finish as possible (thankfully) and headed home to take a nice hot shower (yes, I know this is like the worst thing you can do post-race, but it was freezing!).

Mandy and I post-race (yes, I was lame and refused to take off my warm clothes for a photo).

My usual list of observations:

  • The Indy Mini course is not that great.  There is not much crowd support except at the very beginning and the very end.  Also, there is no crowd allowed on the track and they substitute with local high school cheerleaders.  A nice touch, but not the same as the average crowd support.
  • I feel like there was a lot of Gu at this race.  They were everywhere and I had to dodge them to avoid getting the bottom of my shoes all sticky!  While I was unable to avoid the uneven concrete, I was apparently able to avoid a zillion packets of Gu.  It just seems like more than any other race I ran this year.  Personally, I hate the stuff.  I've tried it all, including a package of sport beans during a race without any practice runs with them.  Yeah, that did not turn out well.
  • There were lots of people running in just a t-shirt and shorts.  While this would not normally be an issue, I cannot imagine running in anything other than technical running gear.  I probably have more tech gear than anything else.  I could never run in a plain old cotton t-shirt that doesn't breathe and weighs 5-lbs after only slightly sweating.
  • The post-race food at the Indy Mini is crappy!  I've been to a lot of races and some 5Ks have better post race food than this.  I understand they have a lot of people to feed, but a banana and a cookie after 13 miles is not much.  The Illinois mini had bagels, pasta, pizza, candy, pretzels, cookies, rolls, etc.  It was a ton of food and it was all yummy!  Not so  much for the Indy Mini.  (Yes, if you serve candy at your race, I will be there because that is how I roll.)
  • On the other hand, I will admit the Indy Mini has the best water stations.  They are very organized, well marked, and there are lot of them along the course.  That is much appreciated and probably more important than the post-race food. 
  • Running towards the front of the pack coming from a good corral seeding is much different than running from the back of the pack.  First of all, these runners are semi-serious.  No one really stops to walk.  No one is goofing around.  These are the people who trained and who have run a few minis, so they are focused on doing well.  The back of the pack is more like a party.  People dressed up in crazy costumes, people running with groups, people yelling and cheering each other on, and people stopping to walk all over the place.  It is just a huge difference, not good or bad, just different.
  • That said, being at the front and not having to dodge people is worth its weight in gold.  Seeded corrals rock!!
  • And my last observation is that a lot of people have throw-away shirts.  It was crazy how many shirts were flying all around me for the first two miles!  People were wearing them to stay warm at the start and then used them until they warmed up after a couple of miles.  At that point, the shirt was taken off and ditched along the road.  I think someone comes through to collect all of this and donate it to charity.  But still, it is crazy!  I cannot just throw clothes aside like that.  It just isn't me.  I had a running shirt that is lightweight and ties around my waist very easily, so I often wear that to stay warm.  The funny thing is I'm sure all of those people were wanting their throw-away shirts back after the race.
I should probably end my mega long post.  Bottom line, at this point in my running career, this is the best race of my life.  (Side note: Does a non-competitive runner have a running career?  That may need a whole separate post.)  I could not believe my time.  I still can't.  I think I am definitely a cold weather runner.  I cannot take the heat, it just kills me.  I think this means I should only sign-up for fall halfs or something.  Also, the cooler temps and my attempt at better hydration seemed to work.  I had minimal cramping and was able to run through it all.  Thank goodness, because it helped me complete my Best.Race.Ever.  Now I am resting.  Four distance events in six weeks was a little much.  I am up for some fun running and 5K races instead!


Anonymous said...

You absolutely do have a running career. Whn you signed up for your first race, you made one. I'm so proud of you for rocking this race. It's almost as good as if it had been me! Congrats - you'll only get better and better here on out. I'll be looking for you at 3:40 next year :)

illinigirl said...

Nice job, Christan!

Great recap post! it's crazy how well it went when nothing seemed to be going your way. . . including FALLING! :(

Amazing work!!!

Andrea said...

GREAT JOB, CHRISTAN!!! It was neat reading about your experiences during the race. I am like you - I have a real problem with throwing a shirt away. I was going to try it at the Evansville Half Marathon in October and couldn't bring myself to do it! I tied it around my waist until I saw Karl at mile 8 and threw it at him! haha

Also, that's very cool about the Half Fanatics. I don't think I could do 3 in 36 days so I will likely never qualify for that group.