I’m going to sum up this half marathon race recap in three phrases—ears of corn, exasperation, and end in sight. I’ve seen a slight trend in signing up for full marathons and then dropping down to the half distance before race day due to lack of training. I’m placing ZERO judgment here—it’s no surprise that I did the same thing for the Monster Mash race in Dover, DE on October 21, 2017.
I trained fairly consistently throughout the weeks, since I ran during my lunch breaks, but it was nearly impossible for awhile there to get in my long runs on weekends due to scheduling conflicts (work, Angry Toddler’s soccer, and so on) and plain lack of motivation. My heart wasn’t truly into a full, and quite frankly, I was A-OK with that. There was a little pang of regret as I emailed the amazing race director, Kent Buckson, to drop to the half, but it was an extremely seamless process that did not cost any extra.
The day before the race, I went to packet pick-up, which was at a simple white tent set up next to Miles the Monster (see pictures below). The race began at the Dover International Speedway, so to get to the packet pick-up area, you had to drive around the perimeter of the Speedway. I frankly had no idea if I was going the right way, as I couldn’t see any other cars around, but I figured I’d take my chances. I finally found it; luckily the line wasn’t too long, since I took my lunch break that day to pick up my bib. I kind of wish they had a small expo set up with items to purchase, but they didn’t have anything at all to offer.
The goody bags themselves (not the contents) were from the Rehoboth Beach Running Company, which I found odd, since the race wasn’t put on by the RBRC. Nevertheless, the bags contained a full-size Snickers bar, an awesome car magnet, some cute gummy Halloween candy (which I saved for the Angry Toddler), and a few flyers. When I shuffled over to grab my race t-shirt, they didn’t have my size listed on my race bib, so I asked for a medium. The volunteer held up a shirt that looked just about the Angry Toddler’s size. I laughed sheepishly, turned a nice shade of maroon, and asked what an extra large looked like. It looked humongous, so I grabbed a large and ran back to my car.
Side note: I’ve been feeling that “I’m-not-a-real-runner” feeling lately—whether it’s because I dropped from the full to the half, or I feel like I need to lose weight, or I haven’t been running as much as I should—so I stupidly compared myself to other runners picking up their bibs, and I was nervous that the large t-shirt wouldn’t fit nicely. (It does fit, thankfully!)
My mom was in town from New Hampshire that weekend, so she stayed home with the Angry Toddler on race morning while hubs brought me to the starting line. We got up at 5:45 a.m., and we left the house to go to the Speedway around 6:15 a.m. The race was supposed to start promptly at 7 a.m., and we live less than ten minutes from the Dover International Speedway. It was pitch dark and around 50 degrees or so at that point. Here I am before the race posing in front of Miles the Monster.
Oh, did I mention that we danced the night away the night before at our annual Freebery family Halloween party?! I wore black heels, and of course one gave me a blister on my right heel. It hurt a little (even with a Band-Aid), so that was in the back of my mind on race morning for sure.
I used the porta-potty once before the race start, we listened to the opening ceremonies, and then I left hubs so that I could walk to the race starting line inside the Speedway. Hubs went home to go wake up the Angry Toddler and my mom to make sure that they were ready to meet me at the finish line. Here’s a picture of the race track as we walked inside the Speedway.
I saw a few pacers around and lined up a little bit behind the 2:15 pacer. My goal was to beat my last half PR of 2:15-and change, but I also knew that I hadn’t been running as much, so I just wanted to enjoy the race, since I’ve never run on this course before and it’s in my home city.
We started promptly at 7 a.m., and we ran the first mile on the track. I didn’t start my Nike+ Run Club app, since I’m still trying to do Tina Muir’s #NoWatchMe while racing. I quickly found the 2:15 pacer about half a mile in and tried to keep up with him and a few others following him. We ran out of the Speedway, down near where I live, around the center of the city, and then out toward what I’ll lovingly refer to as the “corn field area”. The entire course was flat (for the most part, but I’ll get into that later), and we were running into the sun, so I really wish I owned a pair of running sunglasses or had thought to wear a visor!
I kept up with Greg (the 2:15 pacer) for about five miles or so. Come to find out, he’s part of the Smyrna Clayton Running Club! Our president, Sarah, was positioned along the course in a few spots to cheer us on and take pictures, so that was an awesome surprise. Thank you, Sarah! I’d love to see any pictures that you took!
Around Mile 4, we chatted for a bit, but I’m so not skilled in talking and running, so I tried to make my responses short and sweet. I’m so sorry, Greg! In my mind, I really wanted to talk more, learn about how you became a pacer, what races you’ve run, etc. but I was too afraid that would require me to respond back—hah! I really hope you didn’t think I was rude! I knew I needed to take my first Gu around that time too, so I used that as an excuse to slow down at a nearby water stop and take my fabulous S’mores Gu gel.
Around Mile 5, I just couldn’t keep up with the 2:15 group anymore. Only two or three people were around Greg at that point, and one woman dropped back with me, so I didn’t feel so bad. I knew that in my mind that was the definitive moment when I wouldn’t be able to get a PR, but there was so much race left that I couldn’t worry about it too much. I say that, but at the same time, I know I walked way more than I should have after that point. I wasn’t in pain (although my left hip was getting tight), I wasn’t completely winded . . . I was just well, lazy?
I’m beating myself up now thinking about this race, because I had so much more in me that I didn’t use. I didn’t push myself at all, and I didn’t run to my full potential. I have zero excuses for that, too.
Around Mile 8 I took my second Gu. I have no idea why, but I thought that chocolate mint flavor would be tasty. It was not. I actually felt nauseous, and it was way too sweet/sticky. The S’mores Gu before that was delicious, so I’m not sure why this one was absolutely revolting. I barely gagged it down, and I felt like I walked all the more to recover from it.
I was definitely playing mind games with myself at this point. Five more miles to go?! Why did it seem like such a long distance at that point? C’mon, Becky, you’ve run a full marathon before and used to do the half distance while training like it was no big deal!
Needless to say, I texted hubs around Mile 10 to make sure they had left the house to get to the finish line on time. I tried texting him before that in the land o’ corn, but I had no cell service! I—like many runners do—starting doing the math to see how fast I’d have to run to make up some time and possibly get close to a 2:15 race. I would’ve had to run sub-10-minute miles, which I knew wasn’t about to happen. Around Mile 12, I saw the woman who had dropped back with me what felt like eons ago, and we did the walk/run/I pass you/you pass me game for the rest of the race. Just before Mile 13, there was a bridge and the only hill/incline of the race. Of course I was flinging expletives in my head at the point, because all I wanted was a fast, downhill finish! I can’t complain though, because the rest of the course was nearly pancake flat. (Thank you, Delaware.)
At Mile 13, I finally gave it my all. I ran like my life depended on it, and I crossed the finish line in 2:21:45. Not my best half time, but not my worst either! My average is around 2:22, and I was 26 out of 43 women in my age group. Here I am with hubs and the Angry Toddler after the race.
The race medal was in the shape of a bat and absolutely huge! I love it! We couldn’t find any post-race food aside from water and bananas, but I didn’t feel like eating anything anyway, which is unusual for me. I sort of felt sick to my stomach still, and all I wanted was to chug some water. We walked around for a few minutes so that I could shake out my legs, and then we went home to eat breakfast. (Thanks, Mom!)
Overall, although I cursed the course (boring, too much corn, not enough spectators), I really do think I’d like to do this race again, perhaps as a redemption race. If I do it again, I’ll take my own hydration with me, bring different Gus, wear a visor or sunglasses, and play some music instead of podcasts. I’m not sure why I didn’t think to listen to music during my slumps, but it just didn’t dawn on me. Hey, lessons learned, right?!