The Stillwater Half Marathon was a big deal for me. This was my first big race ever, and the longest. Since I started running in Dec. 09 I thought 13.1 miles seemed doable. So 4 days before the event I followed a strict meal plan (and managed to loose weight) and got up early on race day. My race day breakfast was Special K with 1 kiwi and 1/2 a banana. Shortly after that a peanut butter and jelly sandwich; followed by brushing my teeth, sticking on band-aids, applying Lanacane for chafing, and I was out the door.
Runners are not supposed to park in downtown Stillwater, so buses are provided from the High School to the starting area. Getting a buss was no problem as they had 5 picking up people when I arrived. As I came around the corner to get on a bus, the first person I saw was a friend from the gym. Bill was running the 12K. We sat and chatted on the bus and at the staging area. It was good to have someone to pass the time with. 45 min before the race I had a PowerBar Triple Threat (30g Carbs and 10g Protein) and Accelerade. I wanted something solid before the race, and knew if I was nervous the PowerBar would still go down easy, but talking with Bill kept the butterfly's away.
The pre-race staging area was great. A long line of porta-potties was center stage, but behind them was the St. Croix River. While waiting for the start I found a bench to relax on while watching the river flow by. It was very calming. After some light stretching I headed for the start.
I met Matthew Greeley, the 2 hour pacer for the half marathon. He was a nice guy who had at least 5 people to pace. After the crowd parted for a few last minute buses the starting ceremonies began. At 7:04 the race started. Race Map here.
Never having experienced thousands of people running together on a two lane road I thought the worst. However, everyone was moving orderly and I had no problems. The first aid station was near 2 miles and we lined up for a drink. It was going to be a hot day and the pacers were telling everyone to drink. I had water and a PowerBar Gel with electrolytes. I went with an electrolyte gel because I wasn't sure if I'd like the sports drink and I didn't want to spill the sports drink on me and be all sticky for the race. I had no problem getting water, taking one to drink and another to 1/2 drink, 1/2 pour down my back. My first real aid station a total success!!
I forgot to mention when I was getting the gel out of my shorts I dropped it. Everyone behind me jumped out of the way and I quickly retrieved it. Sorry about that.
Miles 2, 3, and 4 went by easy and people chatted. It was a pretty section but I wasn't looking or talking much. I concentrated on relaxing and keeping a quick cadence. We had some rolling hills that felt really good as my form feels much better on a slight incline. I started to pull away from the pacer but pulled back for fear of going out to fast. At the 4.5 mile aid station I took another PowerBar Gel and water. No accidents this time, feeling good.
At this point I thought to myself:
a - I've been eating really good for 4 days
b - I've tapered for this race
c - This is a race and racing is fun
d - I have yet to fully utilize all my ChiRunning knowledge
So I checked my form and leaned a bit (from the ankles). My speed increased but my perceived energy output stayed the same. I made sure my hips were rotating and slowly I pulled away from the pace group.
Mile 6 8:47
Mile 7 8:22
Mile 8 8:25
Mile 9 8:04
I was feeling really good going into the aid station at mile 9.5. I had overcome the hottest part of the race and now the shady streets of Stillwater awaited. As I neared the aid station I noticed another pacer up ahead. They would slow at the aid station and if I pushed it on the coming hills I could catch them. What a challenge!! So with renewed purpose I entered the aid station, walking like I did at the others. I had one cup to drink, one to 1/2 drink and 1/2 on back (I think this kept me cool as the heat never bothered me) and what the heck, lets take one more as I run out. That last one was a disaster.
I was running as I tried to swallow and it went down wrong, I choked and coughed. I burped and felt sick. It took about two miles for the effects to wear off. I was so out of it I missed the 10 mile marker, but still managed to keep miles 10 and 11 under 9 minutes (17:53 total).
Crowd support was great with people yelling "Go Thompson!!" and I realize they see my name on the bib. Then I hear go Mark and turn to see some of my wife's friends. It gave me just the boost I needed to crest the last hill and coast to the finish. I had my finishers medal put on by the mother of Jon Francis (whom the race is named after). A bagel, banana, pretzels, Propel and I am done!
The raced ended at Pioneer Park. A great spot with a view of the river and downtown Stillwater. A cool breeze kept things nice and the wide open space let people stretch and cool down with friends and family (complete with a playground for the kids).
Final time 1:53:38