We’re going to separate “Best Race Ever” from the Lincoln Half Marathon in the title because while this race had lots of victories, it’s not going on my list of best races ever. What were my best races ever?
– The Princess Half Marathon 2014: I can’t believe that was only a little over a year ago! This race continues to stand out in my memory because I still remember the feelings of joy and amazement that I was really doing this – I was really running 13.1 miles! Amazing and I hope I never forget that.
– The Peak 2 Peak 10 Mile race in 2014: This was the first race (and maybe only race) where I had a time goal in mind and managing to work HARD to get it. Every time I doubt that I really could run faster in a long race, I come back to this race and remind myself that I CAN do it. It was not a crowded course and was gorgeous weather, both of which helped tremendously. I was also really highly motivated because I was using it as proof of time for my Star Wars Rebel Challenge corral placement. 🙂
– Of course, emotionally, my favorite race day is my race at Boys Town with Oliver because he is such a huge motivation for me in my running. We’re both a little sad that he won’t be able to do it this year thanks to his leg (cast comes off today! Send us good vibes that all is healed up & we’re done with this!).
While the Lincoln Half Marathon didn’t make my list of “Best Races Ever”, I have a lot to be pleased with regarding the whole experience. This race is held in Lincoln, Nebraska, home of the Cornhuskers, and is insanely popular. There are about 12,000 slots and it sells out in hours which is crazy for a local race! Thanks to a little insomnia the day of registration, I got the chance to register this year when it opened at 3 am and had the chance to figure out what the hype was all about.
The race starts and finishes on the University of Nebraska – Lincoln campus and I think that, plus the crowd support, are the selling points for a lot of people. On the plus side, there is plenty of parking on campus and I passed the bag drop station on the way from my parking spot to the starting line. There were also plenty of real bathrooms at the starting line in the recreation center, which is always a huge perk. There was a very small town race vibe to the starting line, despite the fact that there were thousands of people. They released runners in waves based on their anticipated paces over about 45 minutes, so I had plenty of time to wander around and people watch. It struck me that this was the first race I’d run in a long time without costumes anywhere to be seen. 🙂
I got a laugh at the very small-town race announcer at the starting line, who told us to be sure to compliment our neighbors on the flowers in their yards as we passed. 🙂
With all of those people, it was really crowded for the first mile or so as we made a couple of turns through the city streets. There wasn’t a lot of crowd support for the first few miles, but there were a couple of climbs for what is reputed to be a flat race. There are definitely some long flat sections, but be warned that the course climbs between miles 1-3 and again at mile 8.5-9 (“the hill”). The first water station was around mile 3 and from that point on, there were a lot of spectators along the course which was fun. There were people with lots of signs (my favorite: I don’t do half marathons. I do half marathoners), dogs, kids, music and snacks. There were a couple of small musical acts as well. The crowd support is one of the things that people rave about at this event and it was nice to see so many people out cheering.
At several houses, people had water hoses out spraying runners in deference to the heat although as someone who a) didn’t want to slip on the wet asphalt and b) didn’t want to run wet for another 10 miles, I tried to veer around those guys. I should go back and look at my Garmin for my final distance – with the course crowding, really narrow congested water stops and things like this, I know I ended up at a lot more than 13.1 miles. One thing I was a little disappointed to see was that while they had emailed us several times through the week about the heat and the need to hydrate, they didn’t actually add any water stations to the original plan. The water stations they had were huge, but then you’d go 2-3 miles before hitting another one, which caused a lot of people difficulty. I was glad I had my own water bottle.
At around mile 6-7, we left the neighborhoods we had been running to run along a narrow path for almost two miles. This was easily the most frustrating part of the course for me, as there was no room to maneuver and people were starting to slow down because of the heat. With the spectators along the side (including a lady with goats on leashes!), it was even difficult to get off onto the grass to pass around people. I need to work on my ability to maneuver these tight spaces in races, for sure. I get caught behind slower people and don’t feel like I have the gumption to pass them. I need to learn to be more aggressive, albeit politely so. 🙂
After we left the narrow trail, we were again in neighborhoods (including one of my favorite houses, which was giving away donuts!). The crowds were lovely but there was definitely not much in terms of scenery or entertainment in this race. However, it’s probably really nice from a nostalgia perspective if you went to school here and were “coming home” as it were. There was one last stretch of hill around mile 9 and then it was blissfully flat until we hit the stadium.
From mile 10 or so on, I and lots of other people really starting feeling the heat. I had a lot of mental conversations about whether I wanted to walk more because my body really needed it with the heat or whether I was mentally giving up because I have a tendency to do that in races. Given that my A goal was effort based (a really good thing given the heat it turns out!), I didn’t want to give that up if I didn’t have to. I had a little lightheadedness but it was brief and better after a Gu, so I decided to slow down but still keep up my running intervals rather than just walking as much as I wanted. I decided that a strong finish in these conditions was a) letting myself walk an extra 15 seconds of each walk interval (so a 2:45 run/:45 walk pattern) and b) hit any water station I happened to pass, rather than only partaking if I happened to be in a walk interval when I hit it, which I’d done up until that point. My own water bottle was nearly empty and I didn’t want to let my stubbornness about sticking to my intervals get me in trouble. My pace slowed A LOT from 15K to the finish, but I still managed to pass 199 people according to the race results, so that’s a good thing. I definitely felt like I was holding fairly steady as passed a lot more walkers and more than a few unfortunate souls on the sidelines with the medics or throwing up. I am super proud of myself for gutting it out (safely) at the end despite the conditions. Apparently there were 29 people who ended up in the ER thanks to the heat. Temperatures in the 70s and rising humidity when we’d all been training in cooler weather without time to acclimate to this just made this tough.
Coming into the finish line, you run into the football stadium and across the field to the 50 yard line. At that point, I was so ready to be DONE that it was not as exciting a moment as it could have been. I probably would have soaked it up more had it been Kyle Field (Aggie class of ’00 here). 🙂 I didn’t meet either of my time goals, sub-2:30 or a PR, but I’m proud of my 2:35:55 in that heat and humidity and I’m really proud of finishing strong.
The post-race situation was more than a little chaotic. There were a lot of people immediately stopping for pictures after the finish and unlike RunDisney, there really weren’t volunteers moving people along. I nearly plowed into a group of girls! I had to weave through several of groups to find someone to give me a medal.
Finishing in the stadium
I was a little dismayed to see that we all get the same medal, so I technically now have a marathon medal:
That’s the stadium on the medal.
Even the ribbon was the same for all racers, even though they could tell which race we’d run and were distributing these as well:
This was a nice touch and yes, I put it on my car before I left the parking lot that day.
Volunteers were directing people off the field and into the shade where there was water and snacks. Unfortunately, that area was not particularly well organized. There were a ton of people and no signs indicating what was where in terms of water, gatorade, etc, so I couldn’t see until I was at the tables that apparently the tables on the right side of the space were all soda with no water or Gatorade – those were all over the left. I waded across and had to reach over to try to at least snag some Gatorade before moving ahead to the snacks, which included orange wedges, banana halves, bagel pieces, bags of SunChips, yogurt tubes and chocolate milk baggies. There was also soup, which I had zero interest in thanks to the heat. Definitely not as much in terms of post-race snacks or hydration options as I’d experienced in Des Moines and the lack of signage or people offering direction was a real problem. I’m not sure why water and Gatorade weren’t set up on both sides if they weren’t going to offer signs?
There were also no signs at the exit pointing you back around to the bag drop area. Several people asked me if I knew which way to go and as a newbie to the race, I couldn’t help them. It’s probably not an issue if you’re local or someone who has run this before, which encompasses most of the people there, but again, a little sign at the exit would have saved my tired legs a lot of extra steps! I eventually found someone to point me in the right direction after about 20 minutes of wandering and was able to get out and head home.
All in all, it was a successful race for me in terms of mental toughness at the finish, which is what I really wanted. I’m actually really okay with not hitting my time goals and am looking forward to tackling them again in the fall in Des Moines. I don’t think I will return to this race unless someone wanted me to run it with them. There just isn’t much in terms of scenery or entertainment and I found the organization really lacking on the course in terms of water stops in the heat and in the post-race area. While it is relatively flat, it’s just too crowded to be a good PR course for me. I can totally see why locals love it though – the crowd support was really nice. I don’t have any official race photos to share and was too busy running to take many along the way, but I’ll have to finish up here with my favorite sign that I saw near the finish as I was returning to my car. It totally encapsulated how I felt when I was wandering hot, sweaty, tired and LOST. “I have no idea what is going on.”
There were definitely a lot of canine supporters, including this cutie with a sign near the finish.
What was your best race day ever? Thanks as always to April, Patty and Erika for hosting Tuesdays on the Run. Be sure to check out the link up for everyone else’s great race experiences!