Last Saturday, I ran the Annapolis Half-Marathon, and got another PR! However, this PR has to have an asterisk next to it.
This year was the inaugural running of this race, and I knew going into it there might be some issues because it was a new race. But I really wanted to do one more half this fall, to try for another PR and to give me a goal to keep training through the fall. Annapolis would be perfect since it was not far from DC and the organizers arranged for runners to pick up their packets the week before at lots of satellite locations in the region, including a metro-accessible spot in DC, making it possible for me to run the race without having to get to Annapolis the night before to pick up my bib. Since we could use Zipcar to just travel to Annapolis for the day, it would be cheaper than my usual out-of-town races. Plus, Andy and I figured it would be fun to explore the town after the race.
This fall, I started doing more speedwork and hill workouts and really focused on getting faster. When I first started running, I just wanted to complete the distances, and kept it pretty slow and steady. As I’ve gradually gotten faster, chasing PRs has become more important to me. I went into Annapolis pretty confident that I could beat my Philly Half time and break 2:10, and was even thinking I could go lower than that. My A+ goal was to break 2:00, but I knew that would be a reach, especially since it was a hilly course.
On race day, I woke up around 4:30am, had some black coffee, a mini bagel, and some Clif Shot Bloks. We headed out around 5:15 and picked up the Zipcar. The drive to Annapolis was quick and easy, until we got to the exit at the Navy stadium, where the start line was. Traffic was all backed up and I tried not to stress as 7am, the start time, approached and we sat in gridlock. This was the first indication that there were clearly some rookie mistakes associated with the race organization….
As we pulled into the parking lot, I hopped out and went straight for the start. Because traffic was so backed up on the actual course route, they ended up delaying the start time by about 20 minutes.
It was cold! I wore some layers and a pair of gloves and a headband that goes over my ears. As I ran, I warmed up, and it was a beautiful, clear sunny day.
The course was partially an out-and-back that winded through some residential neighborhoods, through the historic colonial downtown, across a large bridge, and along a paved trail through a woodsy area.
The whole time, I felt pretty great. The big bridge was intimidating, but I was ready for it. There were lots of other small rolling hills, which I found a little tougher because I didn’t know when to expect those and they got a little wearisome. At times, the course was really narrow and made for some crowded conditions, especially along the trail. I was worried about tripping, but I was feeling good most of the time and happy about passing people.
I tried hard to pace myself, to figure out that balance between not burning out too fast yet pushing myself to hit my goals. Around miles 5, 6, 7, I realized that it helped to set mini-goals for each mile. I would calculate how long it would take to finish each mile if I wanted to hit my goals, and that kept me motivated and on pace.
However…this is where we get to the biggest problem, and the reason for the asterisk. There were no mile markers along the course, so I was relying on my Garmin. I knew from studying the course map that the turnaround point would be after mile 9. However, when we turned around, my watch said 8.5 miles. I thought maybe we would make it up later on the course, that there was a mistake. Then I heard a volunteer say we were at mile 10, when my watch said 9.4. I started stressing out, wondering if the course was wrong. I told myself not to worry, just focus on running.
After we crossed the bridge for the second time, I was feeling great. I hadn’t let myself walk at all, not on any of the hills. I tried to keep calm, telling myself there was still over a mile to go. I knew I was on pace to finish around 2:07.
We approached the stadium, and the crowds got thicker, but I couldn’t see a finish line yet. Then I saw Andy, cheering me on. I thought there was about half a mile left.
And then, we crossed the finish line.
My watch read 12.66 miles. Umm, I’ve often had my mileage on a race be a little long, by as much as 2 or 3 tenths of a mile, but never short, and never by that much. It might sound hard to picture this, but there wasn’t much of a display around the finish line, so it was kind of hard to realize you were even there until you were right on top of it. Had I seen it, I would have sped up even more at the end.
I collected my medal, my water, my banana, and found Andy. Lots of other runners were talking about the distance too; everyone I talked to with a Garmin also had around 12.7 miles. My official time was 2:03:50, but I’m not using that. According to my Garmin, my average pace was 9:47, so I know I was going to get a PR, but I also know that I didn’t run 13.1 miles.
Some of my splits show some slower miles above 10:00; those were hills or water stops. I know I walked a bit through one water stop, and I stopped at one point to pull up the legs on my capris. But I was pleased to see most of my miles in the 9s.
It’s a bummer about the distance, but I didn’t want to get too upset about it. I’m still happy with my pace and I had a great time. I feel really bad for people who won or placed in the event, or people for whom this was their first half.
But what really does make me mad is that the organizers haven’t made any statements about this. Not on the race website, not by email, not on their Facebook page, where lots of people have posted questions about it (and surprisingly, lots of other people claim that all of our Garmins must be wrong “because of the hills”; umm, no, Garmins know how to account for hills).
So, I won’t run this race again, but I also don’t regret doing it. Annapolis is a beautiful town, and after the race, Andy and enjoyed breakfast and wandering around the downtown. It’s historic and scenic, a fun short getaway.
I had one other problem after the race. First, I was annoyed that they were not giving out Gatorade after the race, only water, bananas, and ham or sausage breakfast burritos. No sports drinks, no vegetarian options, no salty foods? I tried to step up on a low wall to meet Andy, and I collapsed, because my calf seized up. I got another calf cramp, like I did after the Frederick Half. Luckily, I knew how to massage it out this time, but I had to sit there for a while, massaging my muscle, in a lot of pain. This is the second time this has happened, and I think it’s partially a salt/dehydration issue, but I had taken in water, Gatorade, and Gu while running, so I think there’s more to it than just that. I know trying to step up high on that wall was a bad idea, when I hadn’t cooled down properly yet, while my muscles were still shaky. But I can’t let this keep happening. It was scary, and it hurt like hell. What could this be, I wonder if it’s a circulation issue?
My calf was really sore all last week, and my hips have been feeling sore and tight, so I’ve only run once since the race. My next race isn’t until the Rock N Roll National Half-Marathon here in DC in March, so I’m going to go easy between now and January. I want to maintain and build on my current strengths, but also give myself a chance to recover and repair, so I can go strong for races in 2012. And of course, I want to focus on yoga and strength training, something I’ve been neglecting!
I’m so happy to have ended my last race of the year feeling strong, despite the issues with this particular race. I’m proud of how far I’ve come. I can’t wait to see what I can do next!