I ran the Brooksie Way Half Marathon on Sunday. It was my third half marathon, and the largest of the three I’ve run so far. It was my first time running the Brooksie Way, and I was very impressed by it. I was very familiar with the course, but that familiarity didn’t prepare me well enough for the hills that started just after the halfway point and continued for the next several miles. I knew what to expect as far as the hills go, but they still whooped me! I set a PR, which was my main goal, but I didn’t do it the way I had planned.
I had a blast running the race, and I think it’s a great event. It was well organized and well supported, and everyone I encountered at the race seemed friendly and helpful. My wife and I also liked the expo, which was open Friday evening and for several hours on Saturday. The race shirt is a nice Brooks long-sleeve technical shirt and is one of the better race shirts I’ve received. While we were at the expo, my wife bought me a great-looking lightweight Brooks jacket with the race logo. We got to the Oakland University campus, where the race started and finished, around 7:00 – about an hour before the scheduled start. We’re very familiar with the campus, so we didn’t have a problem finding a place to park. Shuttles were available from some of the more distant parking lots, but we found a smaller lot that was within walking distance of the starting area and had a couple of Porta-Potties, so we just parked there and did a warm up jog to the starting area. The temperature was in the low 40s with a wind chill or “real feel” in the 30s, so I welcomed the opportunity to get moving a little bit with the warm up jog.
I thought the starting area was well organized, and we didn’t have any problem finding the gear check tent, the Porta-Potties, and the starting corral. The PA announcer did a good job of giving corral instructions for the various races, and there were flags denoting where people running various paces should line up. I was fortunate to find a gap fairly close to the start line so I didn’t have to feel like I was playing a demented game of Frogger for the first half mile or more. One of my running-related pet peeves is when people line up much farther toward the front than they should – for example, a 20:00/mile walker who stakes a spot two feet from the starting line in a race with 2,000 runners. So I generally look for spots along the side of the corral near the front, but far enough back so I don’t interfere with the fast runners who deserve the spots closest to the starting line. I didn’t get tangled up with anyone at the start of the race (always a bonus), and I was able to quickly find a spot along the edge of the course where I settled into a comfortable pace.
The only things that frustrated me at this race were two delays in the start time. Apparently there was a lot of traffic congestion in the area (understandable due to it being a large race), and the Sheriff’s Department requested a couple of delays (totaling 15 minutes) in the starting time to accommodate all that traffic. The reason the delays frustrated me is that I get really nervous before races – I wish I didn’t, but I can’t seem to help it. My nervousness always goes away as soon as a race starts, so I’m very eager to get started as soon as possible. At the time, I wasn’t too thrilled at the thought of standing around even longer before running, but in the grand scheme of things the delay was no problem at all. I’m sure many runners and walkers who were in the Porta-Potty lines and stuck in traffic were very thankful for the extra time! My biggest concern before the race (as it is before pretty much any race I run) was the threat of having stomach issues during the race, and being nervous beforehand doesn’t help at all. I didn’t have any problems during this race, luckily, and I took a ginger tablet before the race to try to keep my stomach calm (I took one for the first time the night before just to make sure it wouldn’t cause me any problems). It’s hard for me to know just how much it helped, but it definitely didn’t hurt and I’ll try it again before my next long run or race. Many thanks to Megan from Watch MeGo Run for the suggestion!
My plan was to run conservatively and consistently for the first half of the race, try to remain steady through the four miles or so during which the hills were the worst (miles 7 through 11), and finish strong. Instead, I started out way too fast, lost time during the mile or two before the hills started, lost a lot more time during the mile on which the hills started, and struggled to finish relatively strong by speeding up over the last couple of miles. My previous PR pace was 7:28/mile (an overall time of 1:37:55), and my goal in this race was to beat that pace. My first mile was a 7:10, my fourth mile was a 7:04, and I hit the 10K mark (just shy of halfway) in 45:05 with an average pace of 7:15/mile, which was too fast for me considering the upcoming hills. While those first few miles felt very comfortable at the time, I knew that comfort would disappear very quickly as the race progressed – but I have a very difficult time purposely slowing myself down when I’m feeling good during a run. I really need to work on that before my next long race! My average pace slowed down a lot during the hilly stretch between miles seven and nine, with the eighth mile being my slowest of the race (8:01). I would’ve loved to avoid going above the 8:00 mark for any individual mile, but I can’t complain…in fact, I’ll blame it on stopping to take a quick photo of the first big hill on the course, haha. My average pace climbed to 7:28 or 7:29 for a few minutes during the hilly stretch around miles eight and nine – that’s a pretty big slow down in just a few miles from my 7:15 average at the 10K mark. Slowing down so quickly was enough motivation for me to try gaining a little of that time back on the remaining hills, which weren’t fun but also weren’t nearly as tough as the first couple of big hills. Luckily, after that brutal eighth mile I ran each subsequent mile a little faster and finished with an official time of 1:36:39 for a pace of 7:22/mile – a PR by 1:16. My Garmin showed a distance of 13.03 miles for a pace of 7:25/mile. I was able to recover enough after the hills to run the last two full miles in 7:18 and 6:45, respectively, thanks in large part to some downhill stretches and being familiar with exactly how far I had left to go.
After finishing, I got a very nice commemorative medal and grabbed a popsicle, a banana, some chocolate milk, a bottle of water, and a bottle of SoBe. I’m rarely hungry right after a race, but I know it’s good to refuel as soon as possible after running and they had some good stuff available for runners after this race. I’m always thirsty after running, and it was nice to have several choices available. I then got my bag from the gear check tent and went to the finish line spectators’ area to look for my wife, as well as Megan and a couple of other friends who were running the half marathon. Having the PA announcer read off the names of finishers as they approach the finish line is a big help, but unfortunately in a race of this size it’s virtually impossible to call out every name when several people are finishing around the same time. I was very happy to see my wife approaching the finish line shortly after I started waiting for her – she set a PR by about three minutes (awesome job!). I met her back at the finishing chute and we heard Megan’s name announced a few minutes later, so we said hi to her and met her friend and running partner, Erika (from This Spartan Will!). It was Megan’s first half marathon, and Erika paced and encouraged her throughout the course. Megan and Erika kicked butt and they beat Megan’s goal time – excellent job, ladies!
We ended up seeing the other participants we know a little later while we were wandering around the post-race festival – it’s nice when you’re able to find people you know in a crowd of a few thousand people! They also ran very well and enjoyed the race a lot. We stuck around for a little while and then went to an after party hosted by a couple of my wife’s coworkers who are also runners. Although they didn’t run the Brooksie Way, they did an awesome job of participating by encouraging runners along the course and helping stock a
water beer station brilliantly located near the end of the hilliest part of the course (thanks Jeff, Bridget, Jackie, Clint, etc. – you all rock!). I don’t eat or take energy supplements during races and barely even drink anything while I’m racing, so I wasn’t brave enough to sample the beer this year. But it was a great option to have , and maybe I’ll stop by that hydration station the next time I run the Brooksie Way.
The crowd support was great! I don’t think it quite beat the overall support in the Borgess Run for the Health of It! Half Marathon – that course had supporters along almost the entire course, which would be difficult in the Brooksie Way because of the trail and dirt road portions of the course. But the Brooksie Way support was awesome and very fun, and it seemed like there were people cheering us on at all of the tough spots along the course including the hills and the final couple of miles. While many of us runners are focused and/or in pain and/or lost in our own world while running, I think we all sincerely appreciate the support more than our mid-race smiles, high fives, or head nods could ever indicate! There was also some good musical entertainment along the course, including Stephen Clark – WXYZ-TV Channel 7 news anchor and maestro of Twitter’s #backchannel – and his band The Trending Topics. Stephen and his band are great guys, and it was a very pleasant surprise to see them playing along the course during the fourth mile.
Every race I’ve run has been a big learning experience and this one was no exception – I have a lot left to learn about racing and race strategy, though I have no complaints about the end result. But I really need to learn how to develop a race strategy and follow it. It’s one of those things where I’m happy with the result, but the means of getting there was pretty ugly…kind of like when a quarterback goes against his coach’s wishes but somehow manages to score a touchdown and the coach says, “Great job – but don’t ever do that again.” I think the course was very scenic and challenging, but not challenging to the point of being unbearable. Well, it might’ve seemed a little unbearable during some of the hilly miles, but it really wasn’t that bad. I think that running a challenging course helped motivate me to try setting a new PR, yet took away some of the pressure I put on myself to set a PR because it’s not the type of course where one should feel disappointed about not setting a PR or running a fast race. I’m not sure yet what, when, or where my next race will be, but whatever it is, I’m already looking forward to it! I’ve been taking it pretty easy since the Brooksie Way, and might wait another day or two to resume running. In the meantime, I’ve gotten reacquainted with my bicycle, which I had ignored for far too long while I was training for this race and other races earlier in the summer. I love cycling on the local trails, but I can’t wait to get out and run again!
Chip time: 1:36:39 (gun time: 1:36:43)
Age group: 21/192
Slowest mile (per Garmin): 8:01 (mile 8)
Fastest mile (per Garmin): 6:45 (mile 13)
Did you run this weekend? If so, what kind of run and how did it go?
Do you eat anything (such as energy gels) or carry a water bottle during races? Do you eat or drink at predetermined points in the race, or just whenever you feel like it’s necessary?